Gratitude, Virginia Pillars

Gratitude – November 3


Yup, I wear glasses. Over the past 55 years, a pair of something similar to the photo has rested on my face. When I look back at old photos, I can tell the style of frames for the time period. I laugh at some of the ones I wore. One especially reminded me of a fly – huge eyes for the rest of my head. But hey, that WAS the style.

I’m grateful to have a pair to wear every day. They are the first thing I grab in the morning, and the last thing I touch at night, if I take them off before I fall asleep.  Many nights I wake up and I still have them on. They’ve become part of me and I can’t imagine life without them. I couldn’t do the things I love to do if I didn’t wear glasses. The world would be a big blur of shapes and colors.

Once I investigated the possibility of contact lenses. At the time, the industry didn’t make a lens suitable to correct my vision issues. The eye doctor used his magic machine to show me  how the world would look to me with contacts. When he finished, he asked my opinion. I replied, “I might be vain, but I’m not stupid,” and laughed. I didn’t think about it again.

I would wager the lens exists now, but I reached the age of bifocals long ago.  And, I’m so used to my life-long “fashion statement,” I can’t imagine life any other way.

I’m grateful to use them to read, type, watch TV or a movie, thread a needle, enjoy a landscape,see a friend in the distance, or many of the countless things I see every day. I’m grateful for my glasses and the gift of vision. I know not everyone in this world gets to see the world the way I do.

Four eyes sounds like a compliment to me. Always has. What makes you smile today?

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Gratitude, Virginia Pillars

Gratitude – November 2


When the world around me feels like a hurricane, or when I’m feeling a bit lonely, or just too tired to do one more thing, I know I can find another world and escape. Even if it’s only for an hour or two, I can join someone else in their world and forget my troubles.

When I look at it that way, it does seem bizarre. Leave my own problems only to immerse myself in a different one? The difference is – mine are real, but I can escape into a world created in the imagination of someone else. I can walk to my bookshelf and find a book, and relax.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved books. Mom took my brothers and me to the library in a near-by town almost every week. I always checked out a stack of books. I devoured them, often by the light of the lamp beside my bed. In the morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed, so I often skipped breakfast and dashed out the door just in touch to catch the bus. Read. School. Repeat.

Today, I’m grateful for the world of books that have surrounded me since I can remember, and the authors who wrote them. As a young girl, I solved mysteries with Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown. I went to the circus with Toby Tyler, plus I had an eclectic collection of other adventures. As I grew, so did my interests. I found biographies, and autobiographies. I felt inspired by the qualities exhibited through the lives of strong-willed people.

As a young mom, with four small children, I had a little time to read, except stories to the children. Once they all went to school, I carved out time in January and February to “indulge” in my passion. I took a “stay-cation” with my books long before someone coined the phrase.

I’ve had a friendship with books throughout my entire life. Today, I’m grateful to all the authors who’ve accompanied me through the years. Now, I collect books signed by the authors. These books feel extra special. I hope to continue to meet new friends and books as I move forward.  My list of “Want to Read” books grows taller by the day.

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

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

My first award!


Last year I joined the Catholic Writers Guild after I attended their LIVE conference. This is a professional group of writers, artists, editors, illustrators, and allies whose mission is to build a vibrant Catholic literary culture (taken from their FAQ page.)

logo color CWG SOA - CopyEarlier this year I applied for their Seal of Approval. On March 30, an email gave me the wonderful news that my first book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith received the SOA. Basically this means that my readers  can read it with the understanding that this book will not offend their Catholic faith or annoy the grammar police.

Knowing I have the approval of my fellow Catholic professionals means a lot. I want to thank all the people who helped with my faith formation over the years and the editor who worked with me at Familius,  Lindsay Painter Sandberg.

Let’s continue to talk about mental illness. My journey through the scary world of schizophrenia is similar to almost every family that I’ve met. When we talk about it, we give them permission to share their pain and ask for support. I know I felt alone when I first discovered schizophrenia had invaded our daughter. I found help through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) , this group of wonderful, supportive people.

I couldn’t write my story without including my faith journey, too. It’s part of who I am and how I made it without complete despair. So let’s continue to talk about that, too.  NAMI has an organization, FaithNet  for all those who wish to keep the two connected: mental illness and faith.

I hope one day those families and individuals who battle mental illness can feel comfortable going to their family, friends, and their church community for the support and prayers they need. I also hope for a culture where we talk about mental illness the same way we discuss cancer or diabetes. For it’s a biological disorder, not a character flaw.

 

 

 

Guest Blogs, My thoughts about Mental Health, Uncategorized, Virginia Pillars

Blog Review from Mary Potter Kenyon


Thank you, MaryPotterKenyon for your wonderful review of Broken Brain, Fortified Faith: Lessons of Hope Through a Child’s Mental Illness. Your words made my day. Our journey through schizophrenia was probably the hardest path I’ve ever had to take. But out of that period in my life came a resolve to reach out to other families who face a similar road. I like to bring hope that recovery is possible. Mental illness can be a life-long journey, but those affected can resume a lifestyle similar to others around them. It takes a tremendous amount of support, love, and dedication by the individual and those around them. I found help through NAMI, a wonderful organization providing support, education, and advocacy for mental illness.

I read with eagerness the latest news from Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, where money is distributed with grants to scientists who study the brain to unlock the mysteries of mental illness.

It’s also left my heart in a different state. I’ve become more compassionate, more mindful of the words I use, more deliberate in the actions I use on a daily basis. I practice the art of finding something each day to make me smile and try to bring the same facial exercise to those around me. Whether it be the person who checks me out at the store, a server at a restaurant, or any numerous places I encounter people, I try to bring joy.

Let’s work together to bring hope, healing, and faith to those around us. For I believe with all my heart, people who suffer from mental illness have a brain disorder – not a character flaw. They didn’t choose this for themselves. Science shows us again, and again the biological reasons for the illness. Let’s treat it as such.

 

My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

RAISE awareness about R.A.I.S.E.


July 2015

RAISE Awareness about R.A.I.S.E. What does that mean?

In April 2015, I watched a webinar conducted by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation that released the findings for a study called R.A.I.S.E. (Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode). The research project originated from NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health).

After watching it, I felt empowered. I felt validated. I felt humbled. As I listened, I heard the doctors and scientists discuss what I call the village approach geared for persons enduring a  first episode psychosis. (FEP) The goal: recovery.

First, R.A.I.S.E. involved a team that met on a regular basis. The team consisted of specialists who work with the patient on a personalized plan for treatment. The study called it Coordinated Specialty Care. (CSC). The specialists offered psychotherapy, medication management,  tailored to the patient, education and support for the family, case management, and work or education support for the individual. Shared decisions were made between the team, the individual and family members, when possible.        Another goal of the study was to work with the team as soon as possible after the psychotic symptoms appeared. SEE (Supported Employment/Education) was encouraged for the individual to work towards recovery.

Why my feelings of empowerment, validation, humility?

The study used a model that appeared somewhat similar to our approach with our daughter Amber after doctors diagnosed her with schizophrenia. She had exhibited many of the symptoms: delusions, hallucinations, distorted thinking, difficulty finishing a task, trouble focusing, and reduced speaking. This was not how our twenty-four-year-old daughter acted in the past. We sought help as we did the following:

  1. We had her in treatment almost immediately.
  2. We found the NAMI organization just in time to enroll in a class immediately and began our education.
  3. Although all those involved in helping her move into recovery didn’t meet as a team, our family kept the communication between the therapist and the doctor up-to-date. I kept a diary of Amber’s daily emotions and faxed it to them prior to her appointments, usually 24 hours in advance. At times I advised her therapist of changes in her medications.
  4. Amber became part of the process. She wanted to recover. We worked at home daily with games that exercised her brain. Word games, number games, card games – anything that I thought would engage her broken brain and encourage healing.
  5. We contacted our local Vocational Rehab office and Amber trained for a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and then later studied nursing. She found part-time employment when she felt able to handle the work.

As I watched the webinar presented by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation in 2015, I realized we had used many of the same components implemented by the R.A.I.S.E. study which began in 2009.

But why, the feelings?

Amber received her diagnosis in January 2005, four years before the study began. By 2009, after four years of working toward recovery, she had moved out of our home. In 2009, she had a job, she shared an apartment with friends and led an active social life. We still helped her manage her finances, but she had almost reached full independence.

Now, eleven years later she continues to live in recovery.  She continues to work full-time, manages all her own affairs/finances and leads a similar life to others her age. Her social calendar seems to burst at the seams. She also manages her medications and her appointments. She understands her illness and her need to take care of her health.

When I listened to the study, I felt validated, I felt empowered, I felt humbled. We had approached her schizophrenia in the correct manner. And I thank God that we did. I’m grateful I was given the graces I needed to guide her on her road to recovery.

I live in hope that one day all those affected with schizophrenia, or any of the mental illnesses,  will experience a similar outcome. Until then, let’s reach out to those hurting, and to their families, with all the compassion and understanding we can muster.

RAISE Study

NIMH

NAMI

Find our story at Amazon or Barnes and Noble

 



Author In Training, My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Welcome to Virginia Pillars’ blog.


Welcome to the thoughts and musings of Virginia Pillars. My goal for this site is to share with you, my readers, my journey through an extremely difficult time in my life. And like most experiences in life, it changed me. But for today, I want to share my incredible, and exciting news.

My book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith: Lessons of Hope through a Child’s Mental Illness is complete. The release date is September 6, 2016, although at this writing I know Amazon began shipping copies last week.

You may be asking, what’s the book about?

It’s about my journey into the world of mental illness with my daughter. In 2004, her brain broke and I didn’t know what happened or how to deal with it. The book is my story, how I coped, what I felt, and what happened to our family as we learned of her diagnosis, schizophrenia and entered her world, so much different what we perceived it to be. We had to learn about mental illness, about her specific brain disorder, medications, therapies, and all the things that accompany schizophrenia.

But how did my story get to this stage? How did I go from a confused, and sometimes angry mother to a published book?  I have been given a gift, a wondrous, incredible, unexpected gift. I’m excited to share this with my followers, as well.

Thank you for visiting. Please check back again.

Virginia