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.

 

 

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My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Typical behavior for an adolescent or a reason for concern?


October 12, 2018

It’s Friday of Mental Illness Awareness Week. Several days, I posted reviews on books about mental illness, both nonfiction and fiction.  I find when I read books and talk with people affected by mental illness it broadens my knowledge. I also read online research and listen to webinars and videos. Each time I do, I realize how much I don’t know. I promise myself to keep my education on this important subject in a forward motion.

As I visit with groups, I’m asked often, “How can I tell if it’s typical teenage behavior or mental illness?”

Typcial behavior or something of convern_2 (1)In 2016, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation published a blog about this subject. In this article, they focused on Bipolar, which is a mood disorder.

The next few paragraphs came from their blog:

Advice on Caring for Children and Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder

Some typical teen behavior—such as unstable moods and risky behavior with drugs or sex—can also be expressions of bipolar disorder. How can a parent tell the difference?

This is one of the toughest problems for parents. The key is the clustering of unstable moods with other symptoms. Let’s use the example of a child who goes snowboarding, jumps off a cliff, and breaks his leg. Is that a manic symptom? Well, does he also have a decreased need for sleep? Is he saying grandiose things like, “I’m the best snowboarder in the world?” Is he staying up late at night and talking faster? Does his behavior stand out, even among his friends?

If parents suspect a problem, they should first talk to the child and say, “Here’s what I’m seeing. Do you think you need to talk to somebody?” The child will probably say no. Then you go a little further and say, “Why do you think you’re more irritable? It must be hard to get through the day with such little sleep.” If you suspect that he or she does have a mood disorder, get an evaluation with a psychiatrist or a psychologist—a diagnostic evaluation that includes a full medical history. Ask for recommendations on next steps— knowing that no one doctor has all the answers.

If there are questions about whether your son or daughter’s behavior is healthy or not, it may be best to just do “watchful waiting” for a while, before insisting on medications or therapy. If your child has expressed any suicidal ideation and depression, get rid of any weapons in the house and make sure alcohol or prescription medication are not easily available.

To learn about the difference in adults and youth, monitoring their moods, should they tell their friends, how to find the right doctor, among other topics, read the rest of the article.

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.

ABOUT, Author In Training, Faith is important to me., Gratitude, My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Podcast on the Curiosity Hour


A huge thank you to Dan Sterenchuk and Tommy Estlund for the invitation to join them for a podcast on the Curiosity Hour.

Unless you come to hear me speak, you only know me through the words I type on Facebook, on this blog, on Pinterest, Goodreads, and comments on Amazon. Here’s a chance to hear my voice.

 

I love to talk about our story, mental illness, and my faith. I speak with libraries, organizations, churches, and book clubs.

Contact me to schedule an event.

virginiapillars@gmail.com

Author In Training, Gratitude, Virginia Pillars

Gratitude – November 22 – Thank you to my mentors!


Today is a repost from a previous gratitude post. I believe in saying “Thank you.” 

What’s a mentor?

I looked it up on the Merriam-Webster dictionary website and found:

A: a trusted counselor or guide

B:  tutor, coach

Next, I looked up tutor: a person charged with the instruction and guidance of another

I’m glad I found the definitions, but mostly I’m glad I found my mentors.

This wonderful group of people guided me as I learned about writing. I entered my first writers workshop with no knowledge about the craft or the skill needed to put my thoughts to paper (actually to the computer screen.) The first pieces I shared with them had lots of mistakes. My mentors gave gentle,  yet constructive criticism. I considered myself an infant in the life of an author. They took my hand as I grew through the toddler stage, entered “school” and worked my way through the lessons they provided.

Within the confines of a supportive community of trusted guides, tutors and coaches, I gained confidence and learned from them the correct procedure to submit the things I’d written. When it came time to write my first book query, and then my book proposal, experienced eyes found my weak areas and offered me suggestions for improvement.

I recently attended the conference that I feel gave me a solid start, the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop. On my way to the first day of the three-day conference, I stopped at the post office to pick up my mail. I marveled about God’s timing. For you see, my recently won award plaque had just arrived – the 2017 Selah Award for memoir writing. From an “infant” to “I’m not even sure what grade I’m in these days” in six years!

I remember May 24, 2017 – the night the awards were announced through a live Twitter feed. I sat in my home, alone as the words, “Virginia Pillars winner of the Selah Award for Memoir” appeared on my screen. I covered my face and cried – “I never thought it would be me.” May 24 is also National Schizophrenia Awareness Day. My book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith tells the story of our family’s experience with schizophrenia. I still tell others to pinch me – wake me up from this dream I didn’t know I had.

I want to say, “thank you” to those who helped me. If you follow me, you may know that I write under a pseudonym at the request of my family. They fear stigma will re-enter our daughter’s life, so I honor them by keeping them out of social media. I don’t publish photographs of me, or my family for this reason, but I can share the photos of my mentors. Through them, I learned to write, publish and speak about my story through schizophrenia with my child. 

I’ve asked them to hold my award, for I believe some of the credit belongs to them, too. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Mary Kenyon

 

 

Mary Potter Kenyon writes and speaks on the subjects of grief, cancer, friendship, the word of coupons, and writing for publication. She is currently working on her fifth book.

 

 

Shelly
Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach is an award-winning author, founder of the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop, author of six books and frequent speaker on PTSD.

Jolene
Jolene Philo

Jolene Philo has a passion for those with special needs, especially our youth. She’s written many books and speaks extensively on the subject.

Wanda
Wanda Sanchez

Wanda Sanchez and Shelly Beach work together in the field of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.) As co-authors of an award-winning book, Love Letters from the Edge, they speak nationwide. Reach them at PTSD Perspectives.

Mary Humston
Mary Jedlicka Humston

Mary Jedlicka Humstom co-authored Mary and Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink with Mary Potter Kenyon. It tells their friendship of over thirty years through the art of letter writing.

Missing from the line-up is Jocelyn Green. I can still remember her critique on my first piece, “Show not tell.” She taught me how to accomplish this with her gentle guidance. I wish I had her photo to share with you, my readers.

And last, but not least, these are some of the group who meet regularly and have taught me, challenged me as we shared our writings, and heaped out large scoops of encouragement. If I overlooked someone, it is not my intent. I appreciate each and every person I’ve met along the way.

writers group

I’m still a work in progress. To all my mentors, past, present, and furture, I say, “THANK YOU!”

 

 

Faith is important to me., My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

I hugged a stranger in a bar…


This is almost an oxymoron for me – the words “in a bar,” not that I hugged a stranger. Let me explain.

My body doesn’t handle alcohol well. It causes migraine headaches and so I made the decision years ago to drink water, coffee, milk, and an occasional orange juice. So for me to sit and sip with friends in a bar is an unusual event for me. For the record, I sat with fellow writers in the bar/grill at the Renaissance Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois at the Catholic Writers Guild LIVE conference.  After a day filled with new friends, learning, and sharing our faith, we gathered to share food and stories.

Because of the size of the convention center, there were other groups sharing the beautiful facility. By 9 o’clock, the bar appeared to be the destination spot for a large sampling of the various organizations that held their meetings here.

Because I’m an early riser, I knew my day needed to end. I sang “Good Night, Ladies” to the women at my table and squeezed my way through the crowd. I had almost made it to the exit when I bumped into a young woman who grinned at me. “Are you looking for a drink?” she asked.

“No, I’m looking for my room.”

She laughed and the conversation began. I inquired which group she represented. She mentioned the business, and I countered with “I’m with the writers conference.” She wanted to know what I write and of course I brought up my favorite topic – mental illness. And the bump into a stranger morphed into a connection that illustrates a sobering statistic  – one in four families deal with mental illness.

Within minutes I knew about the death of a neighbor/friend to suicide after a battle with depression. We shared grief, hope, and the cultural reaction to it. I understood the pain for I’ve experienced the loss of someone I love who suffered the same illness.

“I want to buy your book,” she mentioned. I happened to have a copy of my book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith in my tote bag because a fellow writer asked me to bring her a copy. We hadn’t connected yet so she could purchase it. I told the young woman and she whipped out her wallet. I signed the copy as we stood in the crowd. I finally knew her name as I wrote it in the book.

We hugged and parted with a promise to reconnect via e-mail.

This is not an isolated incident. It doesn’t matter where I am, who I’m with, or the circumstances of our encounter, I meet companions on this journey.  At least twenty-five percent of people I meet have dealt, or are currently in a situation that involves mental illness. I meet people in church, at parties, while I shop, and now in a bar. I smile as I think about it. I want to be a disciple of Jesus, to take His love to all those I meet. I just didn’t think it would be in a bar and I smile at the irony. God must have a sense of humor.

And so I continue to open the door to meaningful conversations with everyone I meet. I want to share our common human experience, support others in their struggles, pray for them and their loved one. I want to bring awareness to the epidemic of mental illness, donate to the research we need to understand it more and change the culture of stigma that surrounds it. I want everyone to live in hope, that recovery is possible and that maybe one day it will happen for everyone’s loved one. We’re all in this together.