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.

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Faith is important to me., Gratitude, Virginia Pillars

Update to What’s Next?


One comment to yesterday’s post reminded me of a truth I needed to hear, “as GOD writes the next chapter of your life. HE has a plan for you….” It didn’t take long for that message to sink in.

Only minutes after I clicked Publish, my phone rang with my mom’s number on caller ID. This sends up a red flag each time she calls. She turns 93 next month and lives in an assisted living home near me. I see her several times each week. As I conclude each visit, I remind her, “Call me if you need or want anything.” She rarely calls. So when she does, I go.

Yesterday, she had a concern and I assured her I’d be there in 20 minutes or so. Because my hubby knows I’m a baby on wintery roads, he offered to take me. And because I appreciated his offer, I accepted.

It wasn’t an emergency, but it caused my mom to feel apprehensive. I’m grateful she reached out to me. Together, we came up with a solution that I think will ease that worry for her. Four hours later, hubby and I went home.

My lesson in all of this? I don’t need to know what’s next. I need to stay open every day to where I can serve God. When I write, sew, clean the house, wash laundry, or spend time with my mom, if I do it with love and to the best of my ability, this is how I can serve God.


As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied gracee 1 Peter

I know God will turn the pages to reveal the next chapter in my life as I continue to serve him.

Bye for now.

Virginia

Faith is important to me., Gratitude, Virginia Pillars

What’s next?


I don’t know. This journey called life has lots of curves and I’m on one now. I think I’m experiencing the proverbial empty-nest syndrome. Granted, my youngest child graduated from high school twenty years ago so maybe I’m a late bloomer. Back then, I charged ahead with my embroidery business that I had started five years earlier. It doubled in size over the next year. I had no time to think about what to do. For the next twelve years, I expanded, hired part-time employees, and filled my days from early morning until late at night. I didn’t have time to lament about the change from ballgames, after-school chats, and endless laundry to a quiet house day after day. My in-home business supplied me with a steady stream of conversation partners.

In late 2004 through 2009, my business shifted to focus on my daughter to help her through mental illness to achieve recovery. Business limped along until it could return to full speed ahead as she moved on with her life. By 2010, it was back to busy, busy, busy.

In 2008, I had an inkling to explore writing after two strangers suggested I write our story. It shocked me. I hadn’t considered this as an option for my life. Me, a writer? I jumped in and spent time with other writers. I learned so much from them. I gradually shifted my focus from a full-time businesswoman to part-time business owner and part-time writer. I took fewer orders and returned to my original business plan of a one-woman show. During 2015-2018, I spent more time writing, speaking, and social media interaction than I did with embroidery. I intended for my business to fade away a little each year.

It worked. After twenty-five years, my embroidery orders are sporadic instead of multiple ones each day. The doorbell stays silent and the machines beg for my attention. This resulted in a feeling I haven’t experienced before – empty-nest syndrome. If I’m honest, I miss the excitement that came from another order, a box of clothing to embroider or the companionship from customers. I’ve learned a huge lesson about me. I liked the uber-busy pace I kept for the last forty-four years. I always had a to-do list each day, a revolving door of people (I’m an EXTROVERT) and the satisfaction of feeling needed.

So what’s next? I don’t know. Last fall, I sent a book proposal for a daily devotional to a publisher. A few weeks ago, I received a “This doesn’t work for us at this time” email. I fell into a slump for a few days. I moped around the house and noticed the empty rooms, the lack of people, and wondered what to do.

I don’t want to stay in this frame of mind. Since I don’t know what’s next, I set some goals. As I place my trust in God to show me the next step, I’ll pray and:

  • Sew each day. This relaxes me when I create something from a piece of fabric.
  • Join a group that sews for charity. This helps me be around people plus I can give back using one of the gifts God gave me.
  • Write a reflection each day and pray for discernment: should approach a different publisher, self-publish, or post it on this site for anyone to read?
  • Organize things that got neglected for the past twenty-five years as I managed my business.
  • Eat nutritious food and walk more. I want to send those endorphins to my brain to help me have a more positive attitude.

I appreciate your prayers as I write the next chapter of my life.

Bye for now.

Virginia

Faith is important to me., Gratitude, Virginia Pillars

Bucket list or answer a call?


Was a radio interview on my bucket list as a youngster? a teenager? a young adult? how about during my “middle ages? “

No. I never had the desire or inclination to talk about my life for strangers to hear. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to tell stories – to friends and family, especially funny things that happened to me. So, no, I didn’t see a radio interview in my future. But, writing and publishing the book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith, was not on my bucket list either.

Even though radio interviews were not on my bucket list, I welcome the chance. The latest one happened last week after I met the host, Tony Agnesi, last summer at the Catholic Writers Guild LIVE conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (The conference was a blast!) When he asked me for an interview for his new radio program, I felt honored and excited.

Fast forward a few months. Tony and I chatted over the phone as he recorded our interview. On January 8, his new program, The StoryTellers debuted. When I learned our conversation was the first program, I sat in disbelief as the news sunk in. Last week, I listened to it through my computer as it broadcasted on the radio. (Isn’t online listening the greatest?) Now you can listen to it because Bread Box Media made it available for you to listen to it when it works into your schedules. Thank you, Bread Box Media and Tony Agnesi. I’m grateful! I hope you enjoy it.

What’s next for me? I’m not sure right now and to tell you the truth, I am praying for discernment. I continue to write, but I’m not sure where it will lead me. I guess, when I think about it, I didn’t know where writing my first book would lead me, either. For now, I will pray, study, write and listen for his call.

Bye for now.

Virginia

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.

Faith is important to me., Gratitude, Virginia Pillars

A look back, a look ahead.


January 4, 2019past present future

My house still looks like Christmas. Decorations adorn the mantel, the lighted trees still bring a smile to my face, and the nativity sets remind me why I celebrate Christmas. I bask in the joy of the season until January 6, the feast of the Epiphany when my faith remembers the three wise who came bearing gifts for the infant, Jesus.

I remember a past Christmas as I look to the new year ahead.  Now, I see it with clarity. I understand why things happened the way it did. I can see how my actions affected the situation. Let me explain.

Fourteen years ago, the joy of the Christmas season eluded me. Our daughter lived in the clutches of schizophrenia as her brain betrayed her. She lived in a world of paranoia, fear, and confusion. We’d moved her back home with us, but we didn’t understand what she faced. Our Christmas celebrations teetered between explosive and devastating as her brain disorder caused her to fling unfounded accusations at family members. Fears of a disjointed family unit swirled in my thoughts. Would our family unit survive? How do we survive?

We sought help from others who’d walked a similar path before us. We didn’t turn against each other. Instead, we worked together to find her the treatment and support she needed. Friends and family lifted our spirits as they assured us of their prayers as they visited us and Amber when she spent weeks in a hospital, brought her small gifts, and someone even brought a casserole to lighten our load.

As I look back, I know God worked through them and we weren’t alone, even though I felt like it.  Over the next few years, Amber learned about her illness, accepted it, and the treatment she needed for long-term recovery.  Fourteen years later, and I continue to thank God for the miracle of her recovery. She works full-time, has a social life, and makes me proud with her determination to give back to the world around her.

Because of my experience, I developed a new purpose. I want to reach out to other families caught in the snares of mental illness. I want to walk beside them and give them hope. This month, support groups resume in our area and I plan to attend the sessions. Together, we can learn more about the brain and how to help our loved ones – and ourselves in the process.

In a quest to grow as a person, I set some goals for 2019:

  1. I continue to write a daily devotional book where I deal with mental illness. In it, I think about Bible verses and the lessons I’ve learned about faith as I struggle with the messiness of life.  I strive to steady my gaze on the Lord and invite readers to join me. I don’t know if a publisher will pick it up. I hope it happens. Plan B and Plan C bounce around in my head if it doesn’t.
  2. Last year, I started my first novel. I vowed to finish it this year. I’m excited to see how the story ends.
  3. My TBR (To Be Read) pile looms above me on my bookshelf by my chair. My list to read this year includes biographies, fiction, and spiritual enrichment.  Nonfiction/Biographies: Crazy by Pete Early; Fiction: a couple of  novels by Lisa Wingate that I picked up at a yard sale, Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Relly, Orphan Train, and Last Girl Seen by Nina Laurin; Spiritual Enrichment: Thomas Merton, Miracles in Our Midst,  Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Having a Mary Spirit in a Martha World, and several books of prayer reflections. When I read a variety of authors, I learn more about the craft.
  4. Last month, I started on an organization spree for my house. It’s something that no one else notices, but it sure makes me feel wonderful to have nooks and crannies in a neat order. I plan to continue until I make it through each closet. It may take more than this year, but I’ll stay calm and carry on.
  5. I want to improve my stamina. My children gave me a wrist device to check my steps, etc. I get up and walk when it tells me I’ve sat too long. My last goal for 2019 is to meet the daily challenge it gives me in steps and stairs. So far, so good. Only 361 days to go.

Thanks for stopping.

Bye for now.

Virginia

 

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.