My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

The Flu, Hygge, and Almond Biscotti


We (hubby and I) planned a trip several months ago. Mid-January, we would fly to west and spend time with a special cousin and her husband. Then, we’d hop on another flight and go spend a few days with an aunt, uncle, and their family in another area on the west coast. After a few days with them, we’d fly to Florida and spend time with friends who winter there.

Sounds like a perfect plan for two people who are of “near retirement” age, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, life has a way of throwing curve balls into the best laid plans of mice and men. Hubby got the flu. Not Influenza A or B, just some generic version with the same, nasty symptoms.

This past Sunday, he developed a headache. By Monday, the fever, chills, and body aches invaded. On Tuesday, we canceled our flight to the west coast. Now, I could wail and gnash my teeth, but what good does that do for my emotional health? Nothing.  So, I am taking each day as it comes.

Enter a “new to me “ concept covered in our Seasonal Affective Disorder discussion during a recent NAMI support group – hygge. (pronounced “hoo-gah”) It’s a concept from Denmark and Norway. The people in these countries adopted this lifestyle to help cope with the long, cold winter with limited daylight hours. I would describe hygge as a conscious effort to surround themselves with the things that make life good. Such as a secure, content mindset focusing on friendship, laughter, plenty of light, a hot cup of coffee or tea, a warm blanket, and rest when tired.

Basically, it’s an awareness to enjoy the moment. I can see a lot of good coming from adopting this mindset year-round.

Since my travel plans dissolved yesterday, I decided to practice the art of hygge. I can’t change the fact that we have to stay home. Nope, can’t. Disappointed? Yes. I decided to foster a sense of well-being for myself. I ate my last treat yesterday, so I decided to bake a batch of almond biscotti. I love to savor a biscotti with my afternoon latte. Most purchased ones use sugar and wheat flour and I try to avoid both. Therefore, I’ve been tweaking a recipe for almond biscotti for several months. I think I’ve almost got it the way I want. First, I substituted almond flour for the wheat flour to lower carbs. I also changed the sugar amount by using 2/3 erythritol (sugar alcohol) and a scant 1/3 white sugar. This lowered the carbs even further. Why do I want to lower the carbs? My body doesn’t process them very well and I battle blood sugar fluctuations. Mostly, it dips too low. I feel so much better since I significantly reduced my intake of carbohydrates.

Back to the almond biscotti. They were like “Mary Poppins” – practically perfect in every way. They just got a little too brown. I think I need to lower the oven temperature for the final bake. (Biscotti requires two sessions in the oven.) I hope one more attempt and then I’ll master it. When I do, I’ll post the recipe on my blog. Stay tuned.

And in the meantime, consider the idea of hygge for yourself. Accept what life throws at you. Find things that make you feel secure and content. Take care of yourself. And count your blessings.

Bye for now.

My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Bad days happen


Yesterday, a post on UpJourney published. What to say when someone is having a bad day.

I am always grateful when my thoughts get included in articles designed to help. Here’s my submission to the article:

When someone is having a bad day, it’s important to acknowledge the feeling they are having

First, mention that they don’t seem like themself. Then, listen. And listen some more as you pay attention to what they tell you. It’s helpful to repeat what they said so they know you heard what they said. This validates them and they know you really heard them.

Acknowledge their feelings by saying, “I’m sorry things feel hard right now,” or “That must feel scary or whatever emotion they shared.”

Encourage them to talk about it with someone they trust

If you have established trust with them, it may help them if you affirm you want to help them. “I’m here for you,” or “I’ll listen if you want to talk,” gives them permission to name the reason they are having a bad day. The person may not want advice, so don’t offer it unless they ask for it. Questions can help them sort things out as they talk. Some examples are:

  • “Has this happened to you in the past?”
  • “Did anything help you handle it then?”
  • “Is there something I can do to help you?”

If each answer is negative, follow up with, “I’m here for you,” or “I’m here to listen if you want to talk about it.” Sometimes, people just need someone to care about them and listen without trying to fix their emotions.

Virginia Pillars

If you’d like to read the entire article:

What to do when you know a friend is having a bad day.

My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

The Golden Rules for Postpartum Depression


Your support mightbe the difference

August 16, 2019

Postpartum depression – sometimes refrerred to as “Baby Blues” can affect up to 1 in 5 women. It’s upsetting to the new mom who questions, “Isn’t this supposed to fill me with joy?”

It gets hard to get out of bed. Guilt feelings arrive. Am I a terrible mom? More guilt feelings. Exhaustion. You want to cry all the time. And the negative emotions pile higher and higher.

What can we (family or friends) do to help?

WholeMamas.com asked me to write an article for loved ones who want to support a woman suffering from this. I entitled it, The Golden Rule for Postpartum Depression. It’s my one of my goals – to strive to treat others as I wish to be treated. This article posted on July 25, 2019.

Thanks so much for stopping.

Bye for now,

Virginia



My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

To medicate or not to medicate? That is the question.


I hope Shakespeare fans don’t roll their eyes because I changed his famous quote from Hamlet. It fit my thoughts perfectly today.

Yesterday, a photo of my book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith posted to a group I belong to on Facebook. Below the photo, the moderator added a synopsis of our story. In one of the comments, I read a negative opinion about medications. This helped me remember that we don’t all agree that medicines help someone with mental illness. The person who posted the comment seemed against them and listed their reasons.

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My opinion is different. And since this is my blog, I will share my thoughts about medication and mental illness. I believe the correct medications helped my daughter get her life back.

In 2004, my adult, college-educated daughter, Amber began to act differently from her usual self. It quickly spiraled into a world of fear for her as paranoid thoughts overtook her. At first, I thought it would pass. It didn’t. Instead, it got worse and worse. Eventually, she lost the ability to communicate with us.

It wasn’t until we got her into treatment with a psychiatrist (M.D. with additional education in psychiatry) that things improved for her. He diagnosed her with schizophrenia. He prescribed medicine and recommended therapy. We moved her back home. I helped her manage the medications and took her to see a counselor until she felt well enough to do it for herself. This treatment plan helped her brain form the proper connections again and I saw improvement come at a slow, but steady pace. It took several years of her hard work and patience but she regained her independence.

I believe the medications that Amber took then and still takes today are the reason she lives a life similar to other people her age. At one point, while under the care of her psychiatrist, still in our home, and in therapy twice month, she stopped taking the anti-psychotic medication. The symptoms that plagued her earlier returned with a vengeance. This convinced Amber (and me) that she needed the medication.

Today, she works full-time, lives on her own, and manages her illness with ongoing treatment while she leads a busy social life.

Since this happened in our family, I like to read about scientists who study the brain and what occurs during mental illness. Brain imaging helps them track the processes both with medication and without. They continue to discover new treatments such as magnetic therapy as well as the effects different medications have on the molecular processes in the brain. I live with the hope that through research, treatments become even more effective with fewer side effects. If you want to learn more about medications, the National Institute of Mental Health discusses medications, what they do, and the side effects caused by using them.

My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

A time to weep, and a time to laugh.


January 9, 2019

This morning, as I drank my coffee and read my devotional books, one of them had a reflection on Ecclesiastes 3:4,  A time to weep, and a time to laugh;  a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Fourteen years ago, I went through a time when I forgot how to laugh. Life had heaped stress upon stress upon me as our daughter battled the symptoms of schizophrenia. She didn’t act like the daughter I knew and loved. Uneducated, I didn’t know how to deal with it, so I worried. The more I stewed, the more the life-giving human emotion of laughter floated away from me out of my reach. I had a choice before me: wallow in my misery or change my situation. I chose the latter.

First, I educated myself about the brain and what my daughter endured -what she could face in the future. Once I had a basic understanding of this, I moved forward so that when a humorous situation happened, I could once again catch it and tuck it away to lift my spirits in the days to come.

As Roy and I checked Amber into the third hospital in six weeks, the nurse asked her where she lived. “Here,” Amber said as she glared at the woman.

“No, I mean before you came here.”

“Covenant, ” Amber said defiantly. (We had just transferred Amber from Covenant, a hospital near our home town.)

Roy laughed. I snickered. The tense feeling that made my palms sweat and my heart race eased for just a moment. Amber’s answer, meant to protect her personal information from this stranger, had a lot of truth behind it. She had indeed spent her last few weeks living at Covenant. Her flippant answer showed me that schizophrenia hadn’t stolen Amber’s personality. It was still there.

Let me explain. In our home, laughter, sarcasm, and affection mingled to form a foundation as solid as the concrete in our basement walls. Roy and I met as teenagers and had built our relationship on shared laughter and faith. As our children grew up, affection mixed with sarcasm became a part of their personalities. To see this snippet still there in Amber gave me hope. Even though parts of me wept, I had a moment when I laughed.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh. I could continue to move forward.

My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Take my hand, help me stand.


 

Hand upLast Friday, Whispers in the Pews: Voices on Mental Illness inWhispers in the Pews 3D photo the Church released.

I feel grateful today for the people who shared the link on social media and encouraged others to read it. I feel grateful for those who read it and posted reviews on Amazon. I feel grateful for the conversations that I know will take place in our church communities, around the water coolers, one on one over coffee as a result of the voices who shared their stories and bared their souls.

I understand the concept of time. Any change in attitude takes time. A young woman recently shared with me it takes seven years from the first time we hear something to have a change of heart. In those seven years, we need to hear the message repeated by different people in different ways.

Perhaps this book will help pave the way for the subject of mental illness to go from “we don’t talk about it” to a genuine understanding and compassion for us all.

Mental illness is not a weakness in a person’s faith. I’ve met countless people in the past fourteen years whose faith can move a mountain. Mental illness struck anyway. It’s a brain disorder, not a character flaw.

Mental illness can’t be prayed away. This is not to say that God can’t work a miracle. I know God can heal mind, body, and soul. I do believe, however, that often times God works through professionals who assist those who seek recovery by:

  1. Provide medications that assist the brain to make the proper connections so it can function as it should.
  2. Provide therapy in various forms – again – to assist the brain to react differently to outside stimulus.
  3. Provide a safe space to discuss the issues that accompany mental illness.

We, as a community can help by:

  1. Provide a listening ear, without judgment. Sometimes, that means not saying anything, just listening.
  2. Help them find the professional help they seek.
  3. Treat them as before illness struck. They want acceptance and don’t want to feel set apart because of a biological illness.

Let’s offer everyone a hand to help them stand. We’re all in this together.

My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

“Shhh.” – “NO! I want to talk about it!”


How many times have we whispered about a mental health issue as our eyes dart around the crowd to see if anyone else heard us?

When mental illness blasted into our family, I reacted this way. I lowered my voice when I spoke about it. I felt embarrassed – like our family did something to cause this. Through education I received from the National Alliance on Mental Illness organization, I changed my attitude. They taught me about the biology of the brain and how to be a helpmate to those who battle it. I learned support plays a major factor in the recovery process. Yes, I said that right, recovery process. I’ve rejoiced more than once as people I love work to recover from their illness and go on to lead a fulfilling life.

Now, I’ll talk about it with anyone and everyone who will listen. I also write about it every chance I get. I want everyone to understand the difficulties that face families in the clutches of mental illness. I want our culture to react in a helpful, not a hurtful way. This means compassionate understanding.

And I learned that I’m not alone in this new way of life. Countless others have the same goal. Chris Morris from Llama Publishing brought us together to write about our Whispers in the Pews 3D photoexperiences in the church as we dealt with mental illness. He compiled and edited, Whispers in the Pews.  He explained why he began this project and how he accomplished it in this 2-part interview at InspireChristianWriters. Part 1. Part 2.

I feel honored he chose to include my essay in this important book. I hope one day everyone can go to their faith community and find the support they need when they need it. It makes a difference in their recovery process.

The book releases today – November 16.

Thank you for stopping.

Bye for now, Virginia