Archive for August 2010

Notes from Along the Road: 8/30/10   Leave a comment

I wanted to take just a few moments to step back and reflect on the journey that has been the Road to Recovery Blog over these last five months. As the days have gone on, and with each new article written, I have realized how much I thoroughly enjoy this endeavor. As I complete and post one article, I am anxious to begin working on the next. However, at the same time I can’t help from wondering, “Are the people that read the articles actually benefiting from them?” “What do they think and feel about the material?” More importantly, “What thoughts and feelings do the articles invoke in them?” With that in mind, I ask that you help me in my journey to become a better writer by giving me feedback. You can do so in a number of ways:

  1. Use the “Like” button (it has a star beside it).
  2. Rate the Post (line of stars at the conclusion of each post)
  3. Leave comments on the comments section each the post.
  4. Join The Road to Recovery Face book Page and leave post and comments there.
  5.  Finally, send me an e-mail to rd2recovery@heartshines.com

 In addition, if there happens to be a specific topic or question that you would like me to address, please let me contact me, and I will at least to address it as best I can.

 Also if you truly are enjoying the posts, please share them and the link with your friends and others to whom you know the information might be helpful.

 When I set out on this journey, I never would have guessed that after 5 months, I would have written 9 full length articles and 3 other shorter ones. I am a work in progress and consider it an honor that you read. My hope and prayer that through these words and you can be enlightened, encouraged, inspired and empowered as you continue along your Road to Recovery.

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Faith   Leave a comment

I have long avoided discussing this very delicate but important subject.  I think that in a sense it is because of my many years working in the public (state funded) sector, I am limited in what I can and can not say regarding spiritual issues in respect of the “Constitution.” As a result, in my teaching I have often “white washed” spirituality and faith out completely, so as not to “step on any toes.” That being said, I strongly believe that faith and a personal relationship with a Higher Power”, as AA calls it, is paramount for one to succeed in this journey. I reference that title, “Higher Power”, only because it is so widely used. However, I personally believe that there is only one true HIGHER POWER, the God of the Bible. However, though I acknowledge this as my personal belief; I do not wish to make this post or any found hear to sound like a “Turn or Burn” message. I have my opinions and beliefs, but at the same time, I respect that you have your own as well. That being said, believe faith is one of the foundational, concepts that we MUST have in order to truly be successful in our recovery.

 In my previous post regarding hope, I stated:

 Hope is that unseen, unheard, and often even unfelt force that is within every human being that keeps “life moving”. That force that gives us the strength and courage to be who we are, ourselves, despite our weaknesses and faults we can be ourselves and have strength and faith to keeping moving forward in spite of our past, our hurts, our mistakes and circumstances. In spite of it all we must “still have a dream”, some thing to hope for, something goal some expectation that we set our hearts, our minds, our entire being towards achieving.

 My question is, “Where does this Hope come from.”  There is truly only one source of hope, GOD.

He is that “force” and “life” that resides within us. He is our strength in the midst of our weakness.

 Joel 3:10 “…let the weak say, I am strong.”

 The humankind is unique from all other creatures in that we are Body, Soul and Spirit. Healthcare, including psychiatric treatment, has often depended purely on the medical model and for the most part ignored the spiritual component of the human psyche. However, over the last several years, as our society has turned more and more toward materialism and possessions for personal fulfillment, ironically, there has been a significant increase in the interest in the “spiritual”.

 Is it a sign of the times?

 A indication that these “things” aren’t truly fulfilling, and we are still left with something missing?

I found that my own spirituality is not some vague, abstract, esoteric concept. It is a day to day journey and relationship with my God. It is not some mysterious ideal or a simple emotion it is REAL.  It is the essence of knowing that I am a part of something greater than the flesh and bones, breathing and reacting to the world in which I reside. 

I believe that it is this very “connection” with something that is bigger than oneself, something that gives a purpose and gives value outside of our own skin. That being said, if I am connected in this spiritual force, God, and I believe that my fellowman is as well, then consequentially I am connected in this way to my fellowman. Thus, the spirit that is within me desires to relate and share my spirituality in my relationships with others. In our shared faith, we grew deeper and stronger in our faith and in our interpersonal relationship. As each of these relationships is strengthened, with both God and Man, I am stronger and better equipped in coping with my day to day issues and challenges, including my mental illness.

Don’t take my word for it, put it to the test.

In addition, here is a little bit of reputable, published research that supports the benefit that spirituality has on physical and mental health:

  • Canadian college students who are involved with campus ministries visited the doctor less, scored higher on tests of psychological well-being, and coped with stress more effectively. 
  •  Older women are more grateful to God than older men, and they receive greater stress-buffering health effects due to this gratitude.
  • Those with an intrinsic religious orientation, regardless of gender, exhibited less physiological reactivity toward stress than those with an extrinsic religious orientation. They were also less afraid of death and had greater feelings of well-being. (Those who were intrinsically oriented dedicated their lives to God or a ‘higher power,’ while the extrinsically oriented ones used religion for external ends like making friends or increasing community social standing.)   
  • Prayer works for young and old alike. Prayer and spirituality have been linked to: 
    • Better health
    • Less hypertension
    • Less stress, even during difficult times
    • More positive feelings 
    • Less depression  
    • Greater psychological well-being
    • Superior ability to handle stress

So ultimately, I believe that our faith/spirituality is the foundation from which we must build the rest of not only our recovery, but our lives.  Briefly, returning to the Road to Recovery… Our faith is the engine of the car, without it in good working order, we ca not go anywhere.  And if you don’t put good stuff in it, it does not run well either, if at all!

So whether, this article, stirs you to start your spiritual journey; sparks a rediscovery of lost roots, or is simply food for thought, I hope and pray that you find it first and foremost encouraging and hopefully inspiring!

 Until next time, may you find your potholes repaired, and your crooked places straight!

I’m not sick, I have an Illness!   8 comments

The stigma of mental illness is one issue that ANY individual with a mental illness will have to face. It is such an issue that major nonprofit mental health organizations and government agencies, such as NAMI and SAMSHA, have developed policies and programs to battle it is society a whole.

I contend that there is an even greater stigma that an individual with a mental illness must address, the stigma and limitations which he/she places on himself/herself as the result of this diagnosis.  Many individuals, whether they are newly diagnosed or one who has battled mental illness for years, allow their mental illness to be the center of their identity. It is the “colored glasses” through which they look at the world and thus react or respond to it.

Let’s look a little closer at the statement that entitles this article, “I’m not sick, I have an illness.”  When you here someone say, “I’m sick”, what are they saying? I identify myself by my illness. My being “sick” is the defining characteristic of who I am.” “I’m sick”, so I can’t take care of myself or the house. “I’m sick”, so I can’t go to work today. “I am sick”, so I need someone to take care of me.  In other words, because “I am sick”, I make judgments regarding what I am capable or not capable of doing without even attempting them. “I’m sick” implies that I am powerless and I am the victim of my situation. I have heard it said that when someone says “I’m sick” it is like giving up and not believing that treatment and recovery are possible.

“I’m sick; I have depression, so I can’t find and keep a job.”

“I’m Sick; I’m Bipolar, so I can’t control my spending and risk taking behavior.”

On the other hand, if “I have an Illness”. The illness is something that affects me, but is not something that identify as defining who I am, or what I am capable of doing. By acknowledging “I have an Illness”, I admit that I need treatment and I need help, but it does not mean that I am the stuck in this condition forever. “I have an illness” implies that with treatment recovery is possible. “I have an illness” means that the illness is simply a part of my current state; it is not the totality of who I am.

When we maintain an “I’m sick” mentality, we often do not give ourselves the credit for the strength and abilities that reside within. We allow our “sickness” to steal our self-esteem and confidence and when we feel weak and vulnerable, we had rather limit our potential than to try ANYTHING and fail.

I have seen so many individuals who were much stronger and capable than they were willing to give themselves credit. Think about your own friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances who have a mental illness, how many of them do you know are stronger than and more capable than their choices and behaviors demonstrate? Have you limited yourself, due to your illness?

Please don’t get me wrong, mental illness is a great foe and can and does affected all areas of our lives: home, relationships, school, friends, work, etc. It is not an issue which we can simply do lip service and “sweep under the rug.” However, it is not the sole characteristic that defines or personality and identity. Let me illustrate.

In the first circle you can see how ones mental illness, is the focus of and individual’s identity and everything else about them is in seen through the illness. However, on the other hand, in the second circle we can see that the individuals Mental illness is still a part of the individual, but it is just that a characteristic or component of the identity.

We must grasp the control and power that we have given to our illness and choose apply it as we strive for the hopes and dreams that have long existed in our hearts and minds, but we would not allow ourselves to believe that we were capable of achieving them.

Once we begin to master the stigma within, then we actually become more comfortable in our illness and we are not ashamed or reserved in our interactions with others. We can openly and honestly provide education to those whom we encounter which treat us with stigma and discrimination because the are aware of our mental illness.

Education and open communication are the BEST weapons that we have as we battle the stigma that is without; but we must first and foremost conquer the stigma that is within!

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