How 1 Family Struck a Chord

Hello world!

Stacy’s Flutterings is back! I took a hiatus from the blog because, in all honesty, I thought the blog had run its course. That was then. This is now, and this 1 mom is back. It hasn’t run its course. Rather, it has just begun. I want to share what we have been up to as a family because what we are doing is so different than the norm, and I’m extremely proud of that fact. And what brings it all together is our unconditional love for one another and music, yes music!

If you are just now joining us…

I started the blog back in August of 2011. That year, for me and my family, was a time of healing. We had experienced the near fatal suicide attempt of my daughter Kim, and we were learning how to cope with the ramifications of that. We were also learning how to support her on her journey to wellness. Also, about a year prior to her last suicide attempt, she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder so we were busy learning how best to support her during this time as well. She likes to say that I was her voice at a time when she struggled the most with her illness. Fast forward to today, and she is doing remarkably well. I’m thrilled, and thankful, as her mother, to say that she has her voice back in more ways than one. She has always been known as our songbird, and once again she is singing too and pursuing her dream of becoming an established singer/songwriter.

Now that I’ve shared a little about how the blog started…

I’d like to share with you why I stopped blogging back in 2016. I felt that my daughter was doing so well that it was detrimental for me continue the blog. I was worried that I was somehow defining her with the use of the blog. I also felt that it was time for my girl to fly as an independent young woman. I didn’t want to stunt her growth as an individual. My thinking was that the blog had served its purpose, and the last blog post that I wrote, titled “An Open Letter to My Adult Child, Now a Mother Herself, Who Still Lives at Home,” marked the end of Stacy’s Flutterings as I knew it. No longer did this beautiful young woman need her mom to speak for her. I set my daughter free. This was an extremely significant time in my life too because after finding her after her last suicide attempt, that ended with her on life support, I clung to her because I feared that I could lose her, literally. It took a lot of healing to get to the place that I was the day that I wrote what I thought would be the last blog post. What I didn’t know was that the last blog post wasn’t the last.

What is different now is that…

it’s not just 1 mom writing, it’s 1 mom and 1 daughter. Kim has decided to join me, and I couldn’t be happier! We are 1 multigenerational family making it work, and music really is at the heart of what we are doing. Don’t get me wrong, mental illness still is a part of our story, but we’ve learned, and continue learning, how to cope individually and as a family with the challenges that accompany mental illness. Mental illness does not define us. We define us. And what’s really cool is that Bill, my husband and Kim’s dad, has joined Kim on her singing journey as her guitarist! I took the picture above last week while they were loading the Jeep with equipment for a gig Kim had that evening. She was actually teasing Bill and pretended she was helping him load the Jeep, when in all reality, he loaded the Jeep! I’m excited to share that he’ll start performing with her at her next gig!

The blog has a new look and vibe as we begin this next chapter…

and we hope that you will follow us as we chronicle our unique family story that involves mental illness, mental wellness, awareness, support, the ups, the downs and ultimately, phenomenal music by Kim and 1 cool dad!

~ Stacy (1 Mom)

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You Are Not Alone

I imagine that you are reading this blog because you, just like me, have an adult child who lives with mental illness or maybe it appears to you that your adult child may be living with an undiagnosed mental illness. Perhaps you are a relative or a friend who knows someone who has an adult child who lives with mental illness. Maybe you are a professional. Regardless of who you are, I’m glad you are here. To parents of adult children who happen to live with mental illness, you are not alone.

To those walking a similar walk to mine, I can empathize with you.

I am so sorry for any challenges you have faced past and/or present. I know what it is like. If you are not familiar with my story, I encourage you to read the “Welcome” page on Stacy’s Flutterings. You will see that I can empathize with you. I have been there, and I am there now.

How do I know that we walk a similar walk?

The proof is in the numbers. If we just look at how many people are affected by bipolar disorder globally, the numbers are staggering. The World Health Organization notes that about 60 million people worldwide are affected by bipolar affective disorder (World Health Organization [WHO], 2015). Can you imagine the number of people affected by mental illness if we add in all of the other mental illnesses? It is eye opening, isn’t it? And each one of these millions of individuals, living with bipolar disorder, has a parent. I am not saying that the parent is involved in their lives or anything about parenting other than the fact that each person has a parent, biological or not and absent or not. Therefore, parents too are affected.

If we are not alone then why does it feel as if we are?

Over the years, as we have coped with the illness of our loved one, we have felt very alone, and to some degree we are. Of course, no one can live our lives and therefore experience what we experience. In all honesty, there have been times, throughout the years, that I wish others could experience what we experience just so that they can empathize with us, not sympathize, but truly empathize. This is not reality though. The closet we can come to garnering true empathy is to share our story with others living a similar story and to those willing to listen. And this is precisely what I am doing. However, it is not just empathy that I seek (so that we can erase the stigma, prevent suicide and make positive changes to our mental health care system), but I do not want other parents, walking a similar walk, to feel any more alone than I did. If you are one of those parents, when times get tough, and you are feeling isolated, remember that you are not alone. Join me as I continue to share more about our experience. I have so much good news to share with you. When we think we’ve reached the end of the story, it really has only just begun…


This blog post contains an excerpt from Simply 1 Mom’s Thoughts About Coping When an Adult Child Lives With Mental Illness.

References

King, S. A. (2015). Simply 1 Mom’s Thoughts About Coping When an Adult Child Lives With Mental Illness.

World Health Organization. (2015). Mental disorders [Fact Sheet]. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs396/en/

Hot Topic Tuesday | Gun Violence and Mental Illness

StacyFlutteringsCupwithSteamToday, on Stacy’s Flutterings, the hot topic is gun violence and mental illness. I can’t imagine a hotter topic. Emanuella Grinberg points out in CNN article that despite the gun debate nation wide, there may be agreement, no matter which side you are on, regarding the “need to keep firearms out of the hands of people with serious mental illness” (Grinberg, 2016). Would you believe me if I told you I’ve been on, and seen, both sides of the fence, and mental illness exists on both sides of the fence I’ve seen?

This topic touches painfully right at the heart of our home

I can’t begin to tell you how close this topic touches home for me and my family. My husband was shot in a drive by shooting that took place in Wichita, Kansas back in the 1990’s. He was among 8 survivors. Sadly, one man died in the shooting spree. Our life at that time was turned upside down. Now, years later, I usually choose not to think back on that horrific day, but I want to share with you that I’ve been there, and it was life changing. Gun violence changes people. Imagine:

  • A dear, loved and beautiful person, my husband and my children’s father, chased down while driving to work by a shooter in another vehicle
  • The man of my dreams injured by gun fire that grazed his ear and skull
  • The car, our only car, with the passenger side window blown out from bullets
  • The news that others had been shot
  • The announcement of the death of one of the victims
It does something to you. And can you imagine how Bill feels? Interestingly enough, the shooter lives with bipolar disorder, and from what we understand, he wasn’t taking his medications at the time. You can find more details about the shooting spree in the AP News Archive and in a previous blog titled Aurora, Colorado Theater Shooting: The Million Dollar Question from a Family Affected by 1990 Wichita, Kansas Shooting Spree.

Now for the other side of the fence

Would you believe me if I said that my daughter, who was 5 months old at the time of the shooting, lives with bipolar disorder? She does. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her late teens. Talk about being on both sides of the fence. I’ve felt, firsthand, the impact of gun violence, and mental illness was a part of the picture. I’ve also felt the impact of mental illness from a parent perspective, and I know that violence isn’t a part of her diagnostic picture nor a part of her story, ever.
Whose side am I on?
Due to my experiences, do I side with the National Rifle Association (NRA) or do I side with the opposition? And do I think that those with serious mental illness shouldn’t have access to guns? For now, I’ll wait on sharing my political views, especially since I respect that we each have a right to our own beliefs. However, I do want to thank Emanuella Grinberg for her thought provoking article. I encourage you to read it. Whose side are you on?

Growing stronger…

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Grinberg, E. (2016, January 25). Gun violence not a mental health issue, experts say, pointing to ‘anger,’ suicides. Cable News Network, Inc. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/25/health/gun-violence-mental-health-issue/

The Curveball: Stepping up to the Plate

DSC_0022A group of people, from all walks of life, linger in a dimly lit hall. The shadowy walls in the hallway are lined with life sized, black framed photographs that are hung in a straight line at eye level. Each photograph is gently lit by a beam of light. The light baths and envelopes each photograph highlighting them as if they are something cherished. The objects in the photographs are larger than life. The room feels cool and comfortable and looks remarkably professional, modern, clean and masculine. The photographic images of singular items like a worn baseball glove, a frayed belt and a well-used wallet evoke a plethora of feelings and create meaning for those who take the time to view them. Meaning is discovered where there was none.

So, who’s art exhibit am I describing? Is it real or is it some image I’ve conjured up? To help me answer that question, I’d like to explain that in addition to being a natural born art enthusiast, I’ve actually taken art appreciation classes in college, and I’ve walked art exhibit hallways. My husband and I actually have had the privilege of visiting The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York as well as other art laden museums. Therefore, I do have an understanding and deep appreciation for art in all its forms. My favorite fine art piece is The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh. When I saw The Starry Night painting for the first time my breath was taken away. I had been walking with my husband, looking at the awe-inspiring art that surrounded us, when my eyes saw The Starry Night painting for the first time in person. At that moment I left my husbands side. It is rare for me to leave his side. It was like I was in a trance. I gasped when I saw it, and I excitedly said, as if I were a child seeing Disney World for the first time,  “Starry Night!” as I headed in the direction of the historic painting. My husband quickly caught up to me, and we both stood in the MoMa hallway staring at the painting in amazement.  It was a once in a lifetime experience, one I will never forget. So, the art exhibit I described above is an imagined setting with a twist. I combined my love of art and my experiences with art with a real setting. The real art exhibit that I’m talking about is one that you may not have heard of yet.  It is an art exhibit with photographs that showcase the unique personal belongings of one man. Who’s this man? Keep reading…

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Jay Sullivan and his fine art photography exhibit “Glove.” I highly encourage you to visit his website, and while you are there, just like the people lingering in the art exhibit hallway I described above, you are invited to view “Glove.” His fine art photography showcases particular items that he attributes to his father. When I discovered his exhibit I also learned that his father lived with bipolar disorder. (Sullivan, n.d.). The mere fact that he had a loved one who lived with the same mental illness as my loved one was interesting to me. Also, I learned that as Sullivan grew up there was a role reversal. He ended up taking care of his father who had succumbed to his mental illness. Sullivan’s father’s behaviors such as drinking, yelling, sleeping the days away, to name a few, indelibly marked Sullivan’s childhood and the very person he grew up to be. What I find fascinating is that after all Jay Sullivan has been through he connected with me through Stacy’s Flutterings blog. Instead of creating fine art, as a way to cope with my loved one’s illness, I write. How coincidental that we met as we tangle with the illness of our loved one’s.

Once I learned of Jay Sullivan’s story I decided that I wanted to share his story with you. In doing so, and as part of the process, I reached out to him and asked him, What are your hopes in regard to sharing your story? He said, “The question you posed is interesting.   I was clear on why I created the work — to reconnect with my father— but why share it with others? Ultimately it is about encouraging sons and daughters to reconcile with their estranged fathers. Many men are cast adrift by their families because of illness, divorce and other events. I hope that my work will help sons and daughters understand how much their fathers have contributed to their lives and in turn it help them overcome barriers to reconciliation” (J. Sullivan, personal communication, June 2, 2014).

Sullivan’s response resonated with me in a way that I didn’t expect. His response to my question is powerful and one to admire and respect. It’s humbling to say the least. I hadn’t thought about reconciliation barriers between fathers and their children when I viewed his work. It’s difficult at best to comprehend what his childhood must have been like. What humbles me is that Sullivan took an unhealthy relationship, between his father and himself, and literally reframed it in a way that others can learn from it. And he himself has learned from his work. It intrigues me and gives me hope that we can reframe our experiences in such a way that we can actually develop new and refreshed relationships with those we love and/or those who have hurt us and that perhaps we don’t like. His artwork invites you into his world and literally shows you, through photographs, that you can regrow broken relationships. His photography is evidence of that fact. And…in an odd juxtaposition…the mending is beautiful.

In reaction to Jay Sullivan’s fine art photography, I’m going to throw a curveball back to Jay. Here goes…with a brand-new, white baseball with red stitching  on the seams in my right hand I turn my body slightly to the right…I step back with my right foot… my right arm raises up slowly as I prepare to throw the ball…my right shoulder turns slightly to my right side…and with that I quickly throw the ball forward…

Jay Sullivan, thank you for explaining the meaning behind your fine art photography and the reason why you are sharing your story. In addition to reconnecting with your father and encouraging sons and daughters, whom have had a similar experience, to reconcile with their estranged fathers, through your work, I’ve discovered a powerful element to your work that sets it apart from many fine art exhibits, and that is the power of humanizing persons who live with mental illness. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary humanize means, “a: to represent as human: attribute human qualities to…” (Merriam Webster Dictionary, 2014). Your expressions, through your fine art photography and writings, humanize mental illness, and for that, I throw my baseball glove in the air as I celebrate yet another victory, the victory of progress in the ballpark of mental illness. You father was so much more than his illness as you shared.  From the heart, thank you Jay Sullivan. I wish you the most success and look forward to hearing how you are doing as you continue to share “Glove.”

All the very best,

Stacy

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Resources

Humanize. (n.d.). Retrieved June 7, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humanize 

Sullivan, J. (n.d.). Retrieved June 7, 2014 from http://jsullivanartist.com

Are We Enabling? Walking the Tightrope

photo (6)Have you heard the word enable yet in regard to parenting?  If you find yourself wondering what enable means, according to Khaleghi, enabling means “… lending a hand to help people accomplish things they could not do by themselves.  More recently, however, it has developed the specialized meaning of offering help that perpetuates rather than solves a problem” (2012).  Honestly, I hadn’t really thought about whether or not I enable as a parent until it was brought up at a support group meeting for families affected by mental illness.

There I sat at the meeting an exhausted and heartbroken parent with my shoulders slumping forward as if gravity had wrapped around my shoulders like a shawl and attempted to pull me down with the guilt of unsuccessful parenting.  Whatever my husband and I were doing, at the time as parents, didn’t seem to be helpful to our daughter in regard to her behavior.  At the peak of her illness her behaviors seemed out of control.  For instance, she self-medicated.  Even though we tried to stop her from abusing substances it didn’t seem to matter.  Try as we might, and try we did, it seemed that we were ineffective as a parents.  It was confusing because we have two other children that we seemed to raise just fine.  However, with my middle child, we were faced with challenges that we did not expect.  When she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder we had to figure out what that meant.  We had so much to learn.  It seemed that we were in survival mode.  We didn’t even think about our parenting skills.  It didn’t come to mind in the beginning.  Why would it?  We were busy trying to figure out what type of help would benefit her, what type of medications she needed as well as how to cope with her symptoms and the ramifications of her illness. Our parental skills were the last thing on our mind and yet how we parent has become such an important tool as we journey forward with her.

In regard to the meeting, when the word “enable” was said it got my full attention.  I sat up in my chair, leaned in towards the group and intently listed.  As a result, I learned that enabling our loved ones can actually do more harm than good.  Tom Smith, President of the Karla Smith Foundation, noted in his article “The Fine Line: Between Supporting and Enabling a Loved One with a Mental Illness” that enabling can interfere with self-sufficiency (Smith, n.d.).  Temporarily, the weight of parenting a loved one with bipolar disorder lifted.  It’s as if I tossed the heavy, gravity laden shawl of guilt I was carrying on my shoulders aside.  When I heard the word “enable” I thought, “Maybe this is what we’ve been missing all along.”  I felt excited for the first time in a long time because I realized that there was still hope in regard to our parenting abilities.  Perhaps we were enabling our daughter’s behaviors.  I found myself thinking, “That’s it!  That’s the answer!  We’ll stop enabling her behaviors, and things will get better!”  However, since that “aha!” moment things haven’t really gotten any easier.  In fact, I think it actually got a little tougher because now we have to think about how we are going to approach certain situations in regard to our loved one’s behavior and whether or not the boundaries my husband and I set either enable or support her.

As a consequence, knowing whether or not we enable our daughter feels like walking a tightrope.  As we attempt to balance our parental boundaries we find that we are still left wondering whether or not we are enabling.  If we lean just a little one way we could lose our balance and potentially create a situation for our loved one that may be harmful.  On the other hand, if we lean to far the other direction we could be helping her greatly.  There seems to be little room, if any, for inconsistency.  To tell you the truth, knowing whether or not we’re enabling her behavior seems difficult to say the least.  One way that my husband and I stopped enabling certain behaviors includes the fact that we stopped the flow of money.  Without realizing it we were actually supporting our daughter’s self-medicating behavior.  Each time we handed her money it allowed her to self-medicate.  Thus, we were in essence saying,”Don’t drink, but here’s the money you asked for, so go for it!”  How confusing is that?  I know it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, but we were so overwhelmed by her illness and just trying to survive as well as keep her alive that the concept of enabling escaped us.

Since that meeting, we have approached parenting our daughter a little differently.  We now ask ourselves, “What is in the best interest of our daughter?”  And, “What might be the consequence if we support her actions or draw the line?”  Usually, what helps us make a decision is that we also ask, “Will our actions hurt or help her?”  For us, asking ourselves the question, “Are we enabling?” hasn’t made parenting any easier.  We are making progress though!  I guess that’s all we can do as parents.  And so, we continue to put one foot in front of the other as we walk the line together.

If you would like more information about enabling I encourage you to check out Tom Smith’s article “The Fine Line.”  You can access it on the Karla Smith Foundation website at: http://www.karlasmithfoundation.org/THE%20FINE%20LINE.doc.

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Khaleghi, K. (July 11, 2012). Are you empowering or enabling. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-anatomy-addiction/201207/are-you-empowering-or-enabling

Smith, T. (n.d.). The fine line: between supporting and enabling a loved one with a mental illness. Retrieved from http://www.karlasmithfoundation.org/THE%20FINE%20LINE.doc

Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music – Wake Me Up

DSC_0160-004While driving home the other night, after picking up dinner at a nearby, favorite restaurant, I heard the new song “Wake Me Up” by Avicii.  I really like the song so of course I had to turn it up!  While keeping my eyes on the road I quickly reached for the volume button.  As I turned the music up, I started to sing, “So wake me up when it’s all over…”  I paused for a moment and listened to the lyrics, and then I continued to sing, “…So wake me up when it’s all over, when I’m wiser and I’m older, all this time I was finding myself, and I didn’t know I was lost…”  As I neared my neighborhood the song of course came to an end, but the lyrics stuck in my head.

With the lyrics still playing in my head I started to think about my daughter, who lives with bipolar disorder, and our experiences due to her illness.  She is 24 now and has a child of her own.  Due to her illness she currently lives at home with my husband and I as she works diligently to get back on her feet.  I have two other children, a son who is 26 and a younger daughter who is 22.  However, they both live on their own.

With that in mind, I have had moments when the stressors are so great that I’ve wondered if things are ever going to change.  It would be easy to just say, “Just wake me up when it’s over!”  That way I wouldn’t have to face the challenges that parents of a child with a mental illness face on a daily basis such as the perpetual, emotional roller coaster ride in regard to my daughter’s moods, the financial strain of taking care of an adult child with mental illness, the wear and tear on my relationship with my husband and other children, and the nagging concern I have in regard to whether or not my daughter has made it to her appointments and whether or not I should get involved in how she conducts her life, as well as other unique challenges.

After pulling into the drive-way, and turning the ignition off, I sat for a moment in my car with silence surrounding me.  I sat alone thinking how nice it would be if everything my husband and I are working towards just fell into place.  The picture I imagined in my mind was my husband and I sitting down to a celebration dinner.  I imagined that as we talked we congratulated one another on a job well done, as far as raising our children.  As we smiled at one another we clinked our wine glasses together and said, “Congratulations!  Now it’s time for us!”  With the blink of an eye the image faded, and I got out of the car and headed inside the house.  That’s not our reality, at least not yet.

And it was as I ran up the steps that I realized that I would never want to wake up when it’s over!  Imagine what I would miss!  I now have a beautiful granddaughter that I get to help take care of!  Additionally, I believe that it is in experiencing that we live!  Yes, some days are difficult to get through, and there are times when things just don’t make sense.  And then there are those moments that I want to hold onto forever, like the moment I saw my daughter hold her daughter for the first time and the moment when I realized how far my daughter has come in relation to her illness.  She is an amazing mother and headed down a very healthy path.  Our family has come far as well, and that my friends is enough for a celebration!  We are not lost.  We are right where we are supposed to be!

So, I have to ask, would you want to wake up when it’s over?

Growing stronger…

DPchallenge

Oh! How We Have Grown Through the Support of Organizations like The Balanced Mind Foundation!

Today marks the beginning of the Chase Community Giving Program!  They are donating $5 million to local charities across the country!  Wow!  This is exciting news!  And you can participate!  All you have to do is vote for the charity of your choice!  It’s that simple.  Voting is open Thursday, September 6, 2012 to September 19, 2012.  All it takes is 5 minutes to vote!  Before you vote I encourage you to read on…

I know who I am voting for, and I’d like to tell you a little about them…I am proudly voting for The Balanced Mind Foundation (TBMF) formerly the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF).  They provide resources and support to families and children living with bipolar, depression and mood disorders.

I aligned with TBMF a little over a year ago when I met program manager Nanci Schiman in Ottawa, Kansas at the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition build for the Hill Family.  I was familiar with TBMF based on my personal search for information months prior regarding the bipolar illness of my daughter.  You see, when my daughter was initially diagnosed I had very little information if any to go by.  There I was…a mom dizzy from the events that led up to my daughter’s diagnosis.  I had been in survival mode.  Once we had a diagnosis the question became, “Now what?”  Thank goodness for TBMF!  After researching their website I knew that I had landed in a virtual treasure of abundant, credible and reliable resources.  I learned that I am not alone, and I had at my fingertips information that I could trust.  You can imagine how excited I was months later to meet Nanci at the build!  I am happy and proud to share that now I am an active volunteer with TBMF!  I love it!  It is one way that I can say “thank you” to them for all they do.  And if affords me a wonderful opportunity to help others on a similar journey and to let them know that they are not alone.

I invite you to check out The Balanced Mind Foundation website if you haven’t already.  And please take a moment and vote for The Balanced Mind in Chase Community Giving!  Your vote matters!  Let’s help The Balanced Mind Foundation continue to provide vital information and resources to children and families affected by depression, bipolar and mood disorders!  By voting for TBMF you will help to ensure funding for their support programs for the next year!

Check out The Balanced Mind Foundation flyer for instructions on how to vote!  You can also vote using Facebook!  Just go to fb.chasegiving.com/charity/view/ein/36-4302941.  You can also go to chasegiving.com to vote anytime during the voting period.  Happy voting, and thank you from the heart for supporting great organizations like The Balanced Mind Foundation!  Together we can make a positive difference, and we are!

Growing stronger…

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

Guest Speaker Kim Talks About Strength…

Today, I have a special guest speaker!  Her name is Kim.  She will be sharing her thoughts about what it means to her to be strong, especially during some of the most challenging of times.  Thank you Kim for your insight!  I admire your strength and courage!  It is healthily contagious and to be commended!

“A thought came to my mind today…be strong.  Even though you may be down you can still overcome and pick yourself back up.  The ups and downs may seem like they take over your life, but in reality they don’t if you choose to be strong and move forward.

I have come face to face with my bipolar, depression and anxiety.  I have faced my demons.  And I have looked both God and the devil in the eyes.  Even though I feared both, I chose to be strong and stand up for myself.  My soul is strength.  My mind may contain racing thoughts, but it is strength.  When you choose, you choose either to face down those you fear or back down and let them control your mind, body and soul.  Be strong and live on.  Be strong for you.  For you are worth only what you believe you are worth.”

~ Kim

Growing Stronger Through Awareness

What does a mom do when night falls with darkened skies comfortably blanketed by grand, glittery stars and she can’t seem to catch any z’s?  This mom decided to do a little research.  I came across an informative and helpful caregiver guide from the University of Melbourne and Orygen Youth Health titled “A Guide for Caregivers of People with Bipolar Disorder.”  I just had to share.  It is too good not to!

I appreciate the disclosure on page 2 that states that the guide is not a replacement for medical advice.  And the authors recommend that the person with the mood disorder and/or the caregiver discuss treatment with their clinician.  This is excellent advice, and I am passing that on here.

I like the aesthetics of the guide because intertwined with the information is artwork created by persons with mental health problems and caregivers as well. Works of art like “Hues of Mania” by Natasha Simon and “Melancholy” by Edvard Munch capture with wonder and beauty the intensity and depth of which moods can be experienced with varying shades of color.  The viewer is offered the unique and privileged opportunity of a glimpse into the thoughts of another.

I think what drew me in were the brief, specific pieces of information.  The topics covered are vast from the definition of bipolar disorder to dealing with stigma, discrimination and disclosure.  Also, based on the reference list, the information compiled comes from sound, scientific based research.

The section titled “Causes and Triggers of Bipolar Episodes” was particularly interesting to me.  Regardless of education and therapy, I experience guilt as a mom wondering what I did to cause the mood disorder of my loved one.  It is helpful to relearn that the bipolar disorder of my loved one has to do with a  combination of biological factors, personal stressors as well as environmental stressors.  For now, the mommy guilt thermometer registers a low reading. However, I can’t help but wonder if there was something that I did or could have done different because I am mom…

And a side-note: I did manage to catch those z’s, and I slept rather well!

Growing stronger through support, awareness, education, understanding, open minds, open hearts…

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The University of Melbourne & Orygen Youth Health. (n.d.).  A guide for caregivers of people with bipolar disorder. Retrieved from http://bipolarcaregivers.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/guide-for-caregivers.pdf