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

 

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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

My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Linda’s Story Illuminates a Cultural Crisis


God Knows Where I Am (1)This powerful documentary, God Knows Where I Am,  pulled back the invisibility cloak on the life of one homeless woman who battled untreated mental illness. Through Linda’s journal found beside her body in an empty farmhouse in New Hampshire, viewers lived in her world as she struggled to survive in an unforgiving environment.

Linda Bishop, a daughter, a sister, a mother, had people who cared about her. They knew she needed help, medication, and treatment. Unfortunately, during an in-hospital stay when Linda adamantly refused treatment, the hands that wanted to help her were slapped away.  Loved ones petitioned for guardianship to ensure treatment for her, but the court denied their request.  Laws set up to protect the rights of the patient allowed Linda to choose her own treatment plan.

The clear mind that guides most of us to make informed and calculated decisions on our health care had fogged over for Linda. Her brain convinced her she didn’t need medicine. Unable to help her, the staff released her, but privacy laws prevented them from notifying her family.  Linda walked through the door of the hospital, through the door of the abandoned farmhouse, and into her personal prison as her mind imposed a death sentence on an innocent inmate.

I cried as I watched Linda’s final months of life. I cried for all the Lindas with an untreated mental illness that takes their lives. I cried for their families. I cried for the pain endured by all of them. I cried because I don’t know how to protect the rights of the patient when their minds prevent them from accepting the necessary treatment that might return them to a life with loved ones.

At one time in our country’s history, people lost their rights and found themselves in an institution and no way for parole simply because another person said they had a mental illness. I don’t want to see that inflexibility ever return.

I know people who chose to walk away from treatment and live without hurting themselves or others. Can we take away that person’s right to choose?

But, what about the Linda’s?

How do we know which ones need treatment to survive and which person can manage their illness?

What if the courts had granted Linda’s family guardianship? Would treatment have helped her come to terms with her mental illness?

Would mandatory outpatient follow-up care prevented her from disappearing into a place where no one found her until it was too late?

What if the hospital had notified her family of her imminent release and the family had the opportunity to support her as they guided her into wellness?

As I said, I cried because I don’t know the answers to the hard questions. I cried because I wrestled with the memories of our family’s journey – the denial of the illness, the refusal to accept treatment, the appearance in court for committal for treatment and again for guardianship and conservatorship. I know – if things had gone differently for us…if we had been denied…and I cry for all the Lindas and their families. I want different outcomes for them. I know recovery can happen. However, it takes a village of support.  Research shows early intervention and a treatment plan help people resume productive lives.

I spent two hours last night watching this documentary on my local public television station. I encourage everyone to spend time with Linda Bishop through her written words, her sister, her daughter, and others who appear in this film. Rated TV-PG, it may give you a new glimpse into the complicated problem of mental illness, treatment, and homelessness.

Let’s keep the conversation on mental illness alive. Let’s support the people afflicted and those who love them. Let’s educate ourselves and encourage others to do the same. Let’s work together to find the answers for all the Linda Bishops in our world.

 

 

My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars, Virginia's Reviews

Book Review: Flight from Reason by Karen S. Yeiser


October 9, 2018 

Flight From Reason

After I read Mind Estranged: My Journey from Schizophrenia and Homelessness to Recovery by Bethany Yeiser, I picked up the companion book written by Bethany’s mother, Karen S. Yeiser, Flight From Reason: A Mother’s Story of Schizophrenia, Recovery, and Hope.  I wanted to learn how this family coped with the devastating illness schizophrenia. I wondered –  how did this other mom cope with the pain that came with her daughter’s journey through schizophrenia?

I’m glad I read it. I enjoyed this book, if “enjoyed” is even an appropriate word to use for a book about schizophrenia. I did find that I wanted to get into the meat of the story sooner and so I skimmed the first few chapters of family background. After that, Karen’s deep faith came through loud, clear, and consistent as she and her husband watched helplessly while Bethany turned away from them during the progression of her illness. Like me, they tried to reason with her, but they found out quickly the futility of it, as most of us parents do.

Through prayer, Bethany’s parents placed their trust in God and focused on keeping their lives intact. After four years, the situation changed enough for them to reach Bethany and help her. Because they’d kept their marriage stable and their faith strong, they welcomed her back and helped her.

I rejoiced with Karen as I finished the book and Bethany made it to recovery. This mother understands the heartache of a loved one’s mental illness and knows the relief when the recovery comes after a lot of hard work.

I recommend this to everyone who wants to understand how one family played their hand as life dealt their daughter the illness, schizophrenia.

Thank you for stopping. Check back later for more reviews on books about mental illness.

My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars, Virginia's Reviews

Book Review: Mind Estranged


Mind Estranged 2I met Bethany Yeiser last summer over brunch after we found each other on social media. After I visited with her, I purchased her book, Mind Estranged: My Journey from Schizophrenia and Homelessness to Recovery.

I felt compelled to learn about her descent from a college student with a promising career to a homeless person, and back to a strong, courageous woman with a future.

I gained more insight into schizophrenia. I struggled as her mind turned against her and told her things that weren’t true. I knew my daughter’s brain did the same thing to her.  At times I had to reread it to follow as her brain misinterpreted things. But it made sense to write the book in this way because it gave me a true picture into her thought process as the illness kidnapped her ability to reason.

As she turned against her parents, I wanted to weep for them all. I couldn’t imagine the pain they must have endured during those years. When schizophrenia manifested in our daughter, I feared she’d run and we’d lose touch with her. I wanted to gather Bethany in my arms as I read how she lived on the street, scrounged for food as the delusions took over her thought process.

Bethany gave us all a window into her world as schizophrenia took over her life. She also detailed how she made it into recovery so others can live with hope.

I recommend this book to everyone. Professionals can learn, as well as the general public, what happens to the mind and the individual when schizophrenia is not treated.

I rejoiced as Bethany recovered as only a mother whose daughter shares the same diagnosis can rejoice.

Since her recovery, Bethany became a champion to help others understand. You can read more about this remarkable woman, her illness, and schizophrenia by visiting her foundation, CURESZ Comprehensive Understanding via Research and Education into Schizophrenia. There you can also read stories of other survivors.

If you need support for your family, contact your local NAMI organization (National Alliance on Mental Illness). A map will help you find your state and county.

Thanks for stopping by. More book reviews about mental illness to follow.

 

 

 

My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Mental Illness Awareness Week


October 7 – 15, 2018 is National Mental Health Awareness week.

IntoMH-Facebook-TimelinePeople with serious mental illness die on an average fifteen to thirty years earlier than the those without. What’s the difference for this disparity that’s higher than gender, racial, social economic factors?

October 7 – 15, 2018 is National Mental Health Awareness week. People with serious mental illness die on an average fifteen to thirty years earlier than the those without. What’s the difference for this disparity that’s higher than gender, racial, social economic factors?

One common misconception is that they die earlier because of suicide, overdose or accident due to their mental health condition. However, similar health conditions take their lives, just as with others in their age group. Illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, pulmonary disease, and diabetes are responsible. Why do those with mental illness die from these at a higher rate? Just like with all medical issues, the answers are not one-size fits all.

  • Risky behavior is higher for those with mental illness, such as the use of tobacco products.
  • Research continues to explore why those with a serious mental illness have a higher rate of diabetes, strokes, or cardiovascular disease.
  • Often those with a serious mental illness receive their general health care from a public mental health service or a psychiatrist as opposed to a primary health care physician.
  • Bias from those who provide health services has a couple of segments that change the treatment suggested.

1. What’s the point? Some believe those with a serious mental illness won’t recover, so why bother to treat them.

2. Failure to listen to symptoms by professionals because they attribute the complaints to the mental illness and not as a serious concern. As a result, doctors are less likely to order cardiac catheterization for symptoms associated with a heart attack. They are also less likely to order cancer screening or follow-up treatment than they would for the general population. (National Council for Behavior OcHealth, 7/10/18)

The above statistics make me sad. I’d like to see everyone make it to recovery and live a life similar to others in their age group. I’d like to see this change in my lifetime. If not, in my daughter’s.

Let’s continue to talk about mental illness. Let’s work together to help those who struggle with it. And let’s champion for our loved one to ensure they get the care they need when they need it. Sometimes, we have to act as their voice until they can speak for themselves.

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Each day this week, I hope to post a book review about a book that deals with mental illness. I hope you stop back.