Helpful Words

A touching poem x

Mental illness

People assume you aren’t sick
unless they see the sickness on your skin
like scars forming a map of all the ways you’re hurting.

My heart is a prison of Have you tried?s
Have you tried exercising? Have you tried eating better?
Have you tried not being sad, not being sick?
Have you tried being more like me?
Have you tried shutting up?

Yes, I have tried. Yes, I am still trying,
and yes, I am still sick.

Sometimes monsters are invisible, and
sometimes demons attack you from the inside.
Just because you cannot see the claws and the teeth
does not mean they aren’t ripping through me.
Pain does not need to be seen to be felt.

Telling me there is no problem
won’t solve the problem.

This is not how miracles are born.
This is not how sickness works.”
Emm Roy, The First Step

Black girls Smile

Your SMILE Can Help Fight Mental Illness

logo BGS

By Kristina Denise

 

We often associate the Christmas holiday with red, green or gold, but there’s another not so cheerful color many connect with the holidays, I’m talking about the Holiday Blues. As much as we sing about good cheer, sometimes we don’t feel so cheerful. The holidays are a bit more stressful and hectic; we often set unrealistic expectations around shopping and events. It can’t always look like the movies, where you meet Mr. Right on Thanksgiving and he proposes on New Year’s Eve, right after you get a promotion, with a raise, that has you working in Italy! Sometimes it looks like too much eggnog, holiday shopping credit card bills and family fights over the dinner table! Also holidays can bring up memories of loved ones who are no longer in our lives.

 

Holidays can be especially hard on people who already have a mental health condition. According to a survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people with a diagnosed mental illness report that the holidays make their symptoms worse.” -There are a number of ways to beat the holiday blues; Dr. Ken Duckworth provides tips in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REOPKqTYKeo

 

I also discovered, one powerful way to help fight mental illness- SMILE, more to the point, Black Girls Smile, Inc. (http://blackgirlssmile.org/)

 

I recently joined the advisory board of Black Girls Smile, Inc. I’m happy to be a part of a program bringing mental health awareness to the forefront. You could say I’m ecstatic and all smiles.

 

In July Black Girls Smile, Inc. launched a multi-platform mental health advocacy campaign – “Together We Smile.”  The purpose of “Together We Smile” was to unite communities during the month of July for Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, named in honor of Campbell, for her efforts to improve access to mental health treatment for people of color. The goal of  ‘Together we Smile’ was to get the topic of mental wellness/health trending throughout major social media platforms. But we can’t stop there. According to Nami.org “1 in 5 adults experiences a mental health condition every year.”  So please share these mental wellness resources this holiday season and throughout the New Year. Remember, sometimes healing starts with a SMILE.

 

  1. Be Educated:  Become a trained crisis counselor through Black Girls Smile’s partnership with the Crisis Text Line! Email… http://fb.me/4YAlcxPhU
  2. Get involved: Stand with BGS and other (http://blackgirlssmile.org/links/outreach-and-activism-organizations/))  to be a positive force for change in the dialogue surrounding mental wellness and join
  3. Contribute:Donate (https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_flow&SESSION=21vw79wOptNVfzyAfTibsVoO1o8yj-HJnqUPjPs64qNJDNpbCveh5hIlzfa&dispatch=5885d80a13c0db1f8e263663d3faee8d64ad11bbf4d2a5a1a0d303a50933f9b2) to BGS and help raise funds to further the mission to promote programs, events and initiatives that help ensure we ALL SMILE!
  4. Focus: Here’s a list of African American Focused Mental Health Organizations http://blackgirlssmile.org/links/african-american-focus-mental-health-organizations/

 

If you or someone you know needs help with a mental illness or psychological trauma, please click here for a help guide. http://blackgirlssmile.org/links/helpline-and-support-lines/

 

You can follow @blackgirlssmile on Twitter and Instagram.

You can follow blogger Kristina Denise on CurvyGirlChronicles.net , where she blogs about body confidence, healthy curves and encourages women to show confidence using the hashtag #fortheloveofcurves.

 

 

 

Exams aren’t for everyone so stop making us believe they are !

I’ve always been what one would consider a smart girl. I was good at school, never got into trouble, loved to read and all that jazz. But one thing that is becoming more and more prevalent to me is that there is something  wrong with a school system. In actual fact there are a  lot of things wrong from the  Euro- centric  curriculum  to the rising cost of higher education. One thing in education that we seem to  be constantly obsessed about  is this idea of religiously measuring our level of intelligence.

Intelligence  is a wide scope factor and people are intelligent in many different ways. So why do we do we think that the fact someone can memorise something and sit in a silent room for around  3hrs  is a measure of how smart or capable  they are.  It s all good when people  say that education doesn’t really  define you and life start one you enter the work whelm . I for one can mention tons of people famous and non famous that have excelled in life  without  doing well in school or even  finishing school.  Regardless of that  there is still a massive element of  elitism in the case of education .  We still judge people by what school they went to what uni they got in and what  grades they get.  And that’s all fine I for one would never want to  take way that many people do really work hard for the grades they get.  But what about if the  school system just isn’t for them. Those who have too much going on home for them to  focus properly. Those who had to drop out of school to get a join to support their family. What about those who suffer from anxiety disorders and panic attacks where exams can cause them to vomit and faint.

From my experience  and what I’ve seem amongst my friends and family is that exams  cause a lot of unnecessary  unhealthy stress young kids.  Especially when it been shoved down our throats that they maybe be the most important things we ever do. The stress plus added pressure from family to do well can actually be devastating . It is not uncommon for students to have committed suicide after failing  an exam.  Not only  is there a huge pressure that certain exams will dictate your future but there is never a alternative offered. The  narrative  is if you don’t do well in exams you never  get a job and be poor and reck the rest of your life. Students aren’t properly told about alternative option such apprentice ships and internship, online classes ect .  In certain cases all it take it for someone to take a step back or year out and try again. There also a stigma that those who do take the alternative above are less smart  than someone who goes to uni.

The truth of matter is is as I say  all this to really say in the end  that I do not  have one bit of the slightest answer on how to tackle this.  I wouldn’t even know where to begin  on how  to make out  educational systems to be less exam and competitive centric in the ever going harder times.  What I can do is bring encouragement  to those who feel like they may never equate to something  because  they aren’t academic. Being academic  does not  necessarily  correlate to being smart.  I believe that everyone is smart in their own way, just find out what your good at and passionate about and  run with it till l you drop.  Grades do not defy  you as a person . Nor do they defy your potential or rule it where you going to go in life and never let any body tell you other wise.

Exams  are stressful for us all but there’s always little things you can do to  make that  bit more manageable  just prepare yourself to best of your ability  and remember  that  this is not the be all and end all .

What’s opinion of exams, comment below I want to here your thoughts and opinion son the matter x

Children of the Mentally Ill

Guest blog post

Jeweled Dowry: 3 Struggles of Children With Parents Who Are Mentally Ill and How To Create Your Own Inheritance

I knew that my father was “sick” from the time I was a little girl. I knew it because it was the label, the blanket large enough to cover any conceivable behavior from violence to uncontrollable crying, to shhh’s because daddy’s mania hadn’t allowed him to sleep in 3 days and he had finally collapsed into a coma-like sleep, to the seemingly turn-style routine of visiting him on this wing or that wing of a mental institution.  Yes, my daddy was sick.  And so were we.

It’s manic depressive disorder, they said.  I heard those words whispered into phones with a hand cupped secretively over the receiver. I heard them (family and doctors) even though it seemed that every adult in my life took extreme precautions to keep the very thing (the sickness) that modulated the very fibers of my childhood routines tucked behind a wall of secrecy– petting the hidden thing with their left hand while waving and smiling to me with their right.

But, I could see it. Even if I couldn’t touch the sharp lines of the illness, I could feel all of the shadowy edges of being a child of a man who drowned repeatedly within the flood waters of mental illness. These shadowy edges become the gems of the treasure trove for the children of the mentally ill.

Here are three inherited jewels that many children of the parents of mentally ill have tucked within their treasure chests:

  1. We are soul-weary before we hit adulthood.Yes, we feel the guilt of wanting to be protected from the daggers of mental illness. After all, we know that we are in a family system that is being heavily impacted by legitimate biological conditions beyond our parent’s control. Yet, that knowledge doesn’t do anything to mitigate the crippling anxiety that the roller coaster of inconsistency plants within the fertile soil of the young soul. We never know if a neighbor or a church member is going to pick us up because there has been another episode, and even then, we are constantly wondering if someone is dead…was today the day that dam broke? We endure the onslaught of emotions that accompany trying out the next cocktail of medications. The doctors painstakingly explain (to the adults at least) that finding the right formula is more art than science, so we are perpetually on a wait and see plan. Well, at least until the patient becomes so fed up with having his body pumped with drugs and weathering the side effects that he decides to stop taking them all together. They don’t help anyway, right?And, you know what comes after that decision. The police…and ambulances…and more late pickups from school.After the episode, the home is weary from too much intensity in such a small span of time (even if the parent struggling with the impact of mental illness is no longer in the home) and the recovery of the mainstay parent is tough to watch. It is difficult to witness the labored naps, to see the barely managed cereal box tilted to spill much too loudly into the bowl, to hear the phone ringing constantly while each family member tries to get a handle on what happened this time. To hear the weariness within the explanation.Children may not know the details, but we endure the violent stabbing of the family through the aggressive energy that accompanies fear of the unknown. Riding the highs of “we’re back on track” and the lows of “all is lost…again”.

It is a deep, swirling, anxiety producing sadness that we swallow while slurping down the milk at the bottom of our cereal bowls.

Our treasure trove is filled with agate-wrapped numbness and crystallized detachment.  It is our inheritance.

  1. We are a seasoned secret keepers.

Whether explicitly stated or implied, we know not to talk about the impact of mental illness in our homes. At least not in any real detail. School counselors might make phone calls home and that would just stir an already simmering pot, or make the mainstay parent feel even more guilty and powerless than she already feels.  After all, that parent is carrying the heaviness of being a perfectly supportive spouse while basically raising a family on her own.  That parent’s weariness is palpable.

Some random family friend in line at the local grocery store might ask, “How is your father doing?” And we all know the right answer is “fine”. Even though nothing is ever really fine.

Even as children, we learn to keep our own secrets. After all, the pot on the stove has been simmering so long it is burned to a charcoal black that can never be scrubbed clean.  And so we tell ourselves that whatever little problems we may have swirling around in our adolescent world is too trivial to rise to any real level of significance ~ never important enough to disturb the tumultuous waves churning on the family’s surface.

We tell ourselves not to bother anyone. Fool ourselves into thinking that we have experienced so much “grown up” stuff already that we can handle our own problems.  Go on our own “fix it” binges.

And so we take our child/adult selves out into the world pretending that we are equipped to make our own decisions regarding our own welfare. The outcomes are sometimes positive but mostly devastatingly detrimental.  And we tell no one. They are too overwhelmed anyway, we think.  Keep quiet and all will be fine.

Add a sapphire of insignificance and a few emeralds of evasiveness into that treasure chest. It is your inheritance.

  1. We have a skewed sense of what is acceptable.There are truly dreadful and life altering diseases that rock millions upon millions of families across the globe every day. I am in no way discounting the devastating pain those families experience. The fear of death and the fracturing of families is inconceivable to many of us. However, I would like to point out a few nuances for families impacted by mental illness.

There are few, if any, scheduled 5k walks to encourage us to keep fighting the good fight, no colors to wear to signify that we are members of a tribe who shared a special kind of pain and loss, no adolescent 12 Step meetings to share our feelings and to hear from others walking the same path. We receive no special hats or gloves knitted by nice, little, old ladies who have infused their prayers within the loops of the yarn, no casserole dishes from neighbors because the latest relapse put the family back on the hectic loop from hospital to home. No teacher extends your deadlines or pulls you to the side for check ins.  We live within a shame-based paradigm. And, unfortunately, there is no public empathy for shame. Sorry…it just doesn’t fit.

Only silence. Silence and constant reminders that your parent is sick ~there goes that blanket label again.

And so, since there is silence around something so controlling in our young lives, we learned to call it normal. Just what people go through.  There was no dial that showed us that we were actually living in the extreme range and that softer, quieter options were available in the world.

Living this way created a very skewed since of normal.  We define what and how we live from a very wounded space and it is difficult for disrespectful or painful experiences to rise to the level of what we have seen and experienced (i.e. ambulances, police, physical restraints) thus far. And so our ability to absorb the unabsorbable and to explain away the unacceptable is often unreasonable.

Boundaries around what is appropriate were demolished a long time ago for most of us.

Open up that treasure trove and drop in a few pearls of diminished value and a garnet of feelings of invisibility. It’s your inheritance

The Take Away:

For the parent interested in mitigating the stress on your home when a family member floats in and out of crisis:

  • There has to be an acknowledgement of the shattering impact of mental illness on the family that goes beyond your parent is “sick” and Ms. Trudy from church is picking you up this afternoon.
  • I admonish you to work with professionals who are well versed in this type of work to consider a plan to protect the fragility of your children and to seek an approach that promotes balance, to the extent possible. This is easier said than done and I am not claiming to know how to structure this exactly. But, there are professionals who can offer such assistance. Seek them out and tell them your need.
  • Consider being honest with close friends and family about exactly what is going on in your home so you may receive the empathy and the open support of people who love you. Respond to the illness as a long-term battle and not just unfortunate episodes.
  • Carve out opportunities for uninterrupted conversations with your children so you might grasp the happenings in their lives, even while you are buried within your own. I know that feels impossible given the weight that is already on your shoulders. But, they need this time with you for their own safety and protection. They still need you. Again, I don’t know the how’s involved here either, but a professional can definitely help you. You don’t want to lose your kids while you are saving your partner.

For the adult children of parents with mental illness:

Yeah, I know a lot about you.  You do any and everything you can to ignore the treasure trove that is strapped to your back like a tortoise shell.  You shellac it and make it pretty, marvel at how the light bounces off of it in the sunlight. You do exactly what you were trained to do, live with it.

Well, consider this your invitation to examine the jewels of your inheritance ~ the soul weariness, the secret keeping, the skewed sense of normal.

Many of the norms you learned while living in that stressful and often chaotic environment were etched into your soul and into your behaviors.  Isn’t it time to choose your own path instead of blindly following the seduction of your inherited gems?

Though you are dripping in agate, crystal, sapphire, emerald, and garnet stones don’t you want the opportunity to enjoy a journey without the detachment, numbness, and warped since of worth that was carefully laid within your jewelry boxes? Don’t you want your own chance?

As a fellow traveler with my own treasure box, I can tell you that it took a serious commitment to my own emotional health to unearth the sparkling jewels buried within my heart, and some remnants still remain. They seem to have cozied down too deeply for my reach thus far.

But, I’m still digging and I will continue to dig even as I clumsily learn to live without those familiar jewels dripping freely from my finger tips and clanging loudly on my wrists.

I feel naked sometimes. Naked but free to pick out my own stones now.  To decorate my soul as I wish. To fill my own treasure chest. Join me….


#4 [1414]

About Portia x

Portia Bates has spent the majority of her professional career as an educator with a primary focus on educational leadership. In 2014, Portia determined to direct her energies toward her life’s purpose, which is to touch the lives of others by sharing deeply personal experiences through her down-to-earth, slightly flinching writing style. God Is Not Pixie Dust is her debut project. She is currently writing her second book, Grace: The Architect. Portia lives in Maryland with her two daughters. When she is not writing, she enjoys nurturing her little family and hanging out with her girlfriends eating salty, rich food and enjoying waves of full-body laughter. She is spunky and adventurous in spirit and is committed to healing and continued growth.

For more information on the author, visit www.portiabates.com and contact  portia.s.bates@gmail.com

The Facts of life

Here are some interesting facts and stats about mental health to set the record straight.

Around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems.

About half of mental disorders begin before the age of 14.

Most low- and middle-income countries have only one child psychiatrist for every 1 to 4 million people.

Regions of the world with the highest percentage of population under the age of 19 have the poorest level of mental health resources.

Over 800 000 people die due to suicide every year and suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

75% of suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries

Rates of mental disorder tend to double after emergencies and war.

Mental disorders increase the risk of getting ill from other diseases such as HIV, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and vice-versa.

Globally, there is huge inequity in the distribution of skilled human resources for mental health.

Shortages of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists and social workers are among the main barriers to providing treatment and care in low- and middle-income countries. Low-income countries have 0.05 psychiatrists and 0.42 nurses per 100 000 people. The rate of psychiatrists in high income countries is 170 times greater and for nurses is 70 times greater.

The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness.

People with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.

Only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20% of children and adolescents receive needed treatment.

Women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men.

Suicides rates show that British men are three times more likely to die by suicide than British women.

Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population.

Depression is one of the most common conditions in young people and increases during adolescence.

When its not just you

Mental health can be tricky when it comes to all aspect in your life especially relationships.  It is very important for a healthy relationship (and more importantly a healthy you) that you set out good foundations. It’s not uncommon to unleash all your frustrations onto your partner which can often leave someone feeling hurt and confused especially  if they are unaware of why you may act in a certain way. Not everyone is so acquainted in proper way to be a support system to some one else with mental health so its up to the both of you to make sure that you set things right in your relationship. However, there is no reason why you can have a loving, successful and joyful relationship like any other person.  If you take anything away from this post it is communication, communication, communication.

  1. Tell them about your issues – It’s really important that  you open up and let them in on what your dealing with.  It  is nothing to be ashamed of and if you keep it a secret it will end up biting you in ass in the later run.  Plus if you tell and they don’t react well then you saved your self a lot of time and heart break.
  2.  Be honest –  Realistically  the person you are in a relationship is the one person you should feel comfortable to tell anything and everything.  Be honest with them to the extent of your feelings and well as to when your feeling certain emotions, most likely they would want to be there to support you.
  3. Open up –  It can be very frustrating for someone when all they want to do is be a supportive  to someone else and they won’t let you.  Open up about how you are feeling and coping . I’m sure they will be  grateful for this.
  4. Give them time–  Take note that it is  important to understand that not everyone will be so aware of what your going  through as you think they are.  Be understanding and know that it might  take your partner  little time to adjust/figures things out.
  5. Make sure you can trust them – If you don’t trust your partner  then maybe you shouldn’t be with them full stop. Trust is so essential in a relationship. If you don’t trust your partner your never feel comfortable to open up to them.
  6. Don’t blame yourself if things go wrong–  It’s easy to feel like when things go bad that its automatically  your fault , but that not always the case.  So don’t let your  significant other treat  you like it is. At the end of the day you deserve to be treated with nothing but respect and love.

You are always loved and never alone x

The Stigma

stig·ma

[ˈstigmə]

NOUN

a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person “the stigma of mental disorder” ·

One of the main reasons why people don’t talk  about mental health is the stigma.  It is  a complex issue that your can’t see  in an x-ray or fix with a cast like a broken  leg.  To this day there are people who still  don’t feel like it even exist.  It  has long been associated with the violence of  crazy killings,  suicides, mental intuitions  and straitjackets .  Thanks to the media and Hollywood it’s very hard not to think of this when mental illness is concerned. Stigma can effect people in different  types of ways whether its self stigma where you begin  to believe the negative connotations about your own illness or discrimination  and prejudice all having a great affect of your work and social life making you fee isolated and worthless.

Yet many people with mental illnesses  can still  live long successful healthy lives with getting the help they  specifically need.  The stigma of mental of health is still so prominent that sometimes it becomes very hard not to be consumed in what people will think of you and how they would treat you differently.  You become very scared that they  will think  of you as ” weird, crazy and  unstable”. This in turn makes you internalize everything and want to hide it. You become ashamed, ashamed of what you are, who you are.

The hard thing to grasp is that mental illness doesn’t define you. It does not  make you so don’t let it break you, you are more than your sickness and stronger than your suffering.  You didn’t choose to not to be well its something  that nobody choses it. In all honestly it is nothing to be ashamed of.  You are not a bad person because of it. However, this is something you have to come to realise on your own ,you have to  understand that yes you maybe different from others but you still deserve  to live a happy life , free from judgement too.

And for those of  you who don’t really understand what it feel like to live with  a mental illness. Don’t judge, don’t assume.  Have some compassion. No one mental illness  case is like another there are tons of factors that make  someone who they are. Take time to know that person they are more than just an illness.  Just by changing  one thing like not using words like crazy, nutter or psycho can make you much more sensitive to the issue.

 


On a wider scale we need accurate representation of mental illness in the media and in Hollywood and things like depression and anxiety should be taught and openly discussed in schools but thankfully there are many organisations out there that are working towards the goal of breaking the stigma.  Unfortunately many people do miss out on jobs or are wrongfully treated just because thy have an illness . It  is important that people know that it is not okay.  If you or anyone you know has suffered from  discrimination because of an illness or you would just simply  like to get more information on the matter then check out links below.

Mental health foundation UK

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-a-z/S/stigma-discrimination/

Time to change

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/what-are-mental-health-problems/stigma-discrimination

Government of Western Australia  Health commission

http://www.mentalhealth.wa.gov.au/mental_illness_and_health/mh_stigma.aspx

Mayo clinic

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/mental-health/ART-2004647

SEE ME

https://www.seemescotland.org/

Like Mind, Like Mind

http://www.likeminds.org.nz/