A Time to Sing: Coping with Mental Illness

About two years ago our beautiful daughter Kim, who is our songbird, almost lost her life when she attempted suicide.  Miraculously, she survived.  Once she got her strength back she started the process of finding a healthier mental health balance.  Of course there are a multitude of ways in which a person can cope with the challenges of a mental illness, but I want to share with you one of Kim’s methods of coping.  I actually like to think of it as an extension of her desire to sing.

To give you a little background, Kim grew up dreaming of becoming a singer.  Throughout the years she sang in school plays and talent shows.  She competed in American Idol tryouts around the country.  She auditioned in states such as Florida, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.  She was a member of her high-school Chamber Choir.  She was also a member of several musical groups such as Encore, Madrigals and Show Choir.  Additionally, she performed freshman year through senior year in the February Frolics annual talent show.  She also played a part in the musical “Beauty and the Beast.”  She participated in a televised singing contest in St. Louis.  In addition to singing she wrote music and poetry.  We have very fond memories of her singing with her family and friends.  She recorded a  few songs and even uploaded them to YouTube.  She had plans to start a band, and then…the unthinkable happened…

By the time she was 19 years old mental illness had made its grand entrance into her life as well as ours in the form of bipolar disorder.  Then on May 21st, 2010 at 7:20 am our songbird temporarily ceased to sing after a second suicide attempt.  And with a humble and graciously thankful heart I share with you that she is once again singing.  This time she sings not only with her voice but through her creativity as well.  And she desires to now use her voice to help erase the stigma of mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) “Coping Strategies for Bipolar Disorder” brochure, “Leading a balanced lifestyle can help make living with bipolar disorder more manageable” (14).  Furthermore, NAMI suggests that one way a person can lead a healthy lifestyle is to get involved in something like a hobby (15).  That is just what Kim has done.  She has found that creating jewelry is a great way for her to cope!  Of course there are other ways that she copes, but making jewelry is now one of her favorite hobbies and methods of coping with the challenges of living with bipolar disorder.

While it is a constant balancing act – Kim has found a healthier mental health balance and recently has started to sing again.  In fact, about a month ago while sitting in my office writing I heard from a nearby room Mandy Moore singing, “Only Hope” from the movie “A Walk to Remember” or so I thought.  As I listened to the soft, soothing voice sing, “There’s a song that’s inside of my soul…
it’s the one that I’ve tried to write over and over again…I’m awake in the infinite cold…but you sing to me over and over and over again…so I lay my head back down…and I lift my hands…and pray to be only yours…I pray to be only yours…I know now you’re my only hope…”  I soon realized it was Kim!  I sat in my office and soaked up her voice – relishing in the fact that she is singing again!  How blessed and thankful we are that our songbird once again sings.  Months before she couldn’t put pen to paper because her thoughts came so fast.  Now, she is singing and writing again.  And she is creating beautiful jewelry.

Regarding Kim’s jewelry, in an attempt to help erase the stigma of mental illness she has created a butterfly necklace that she wants to share with anyone who wants to help her spread the word that mental illness is just that, an illness.  It is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of.  I have included a picture of “Kim’s Erase the Stigma Butterfly” necklace above.  She is selling the necklace for $15.00.  She is donating a portion of the proceeds to the Karla Smith Foundation who supports families and loved ones affected by mental illness and suicide.  If you are interested in purchasing a necklace you can contact me by clicking on the “contact” button above for additional details.  I don’t usually attempt to sell anything on the blog, but as I advocate for my daughter I thought that helping her launch her product and idea would be a great way to support her.  We hope that soon her jewelry line will be on Etsy as well.  Until then…

From tragedy comes growth.  With time, treatment and support a beautiful songbird sings again…

Growing stronger…

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National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.).  Coping strategies for bipolar disorder.  Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/Bipolar1/Coping_Strategies_for_Bipolar_Disorder.htm