Why is mental illness a dirty little secret?

girl whispering
Why is mental illness a dirty little secret?!
Why is it that when we suffer from mental illness it is something that is kept in the closet and kept quiet?  When someone has cancer or has had surgery a community knows about it.  Not only do they know that someone is suffering from cancer but what type of cancer it is.  But when someone is suffering from bipolar or depression nobody knows.  It is kept quiet and if it is spoken about it is whispered like it is a secret.  It is an unfortunate badge that 1 in 5 people suffer from but nobody knows.  A Scarlett letter.  

We need to level the playing field.  Mental illness is a serious disease just like cancer and heart attacks.  So why is it kept in the dark?  Why are people embarrassed to admit that they suffer from a mental illness?  We have to end the stigma.  

When a community member is recovering from surgery or going through chemo, most people spring into action to set up meal trains, complete household chores, help take care of their kids and pets.  But when your community member is having a terrible time with their bipolar or depression nobody knows.  It is kept quiet.  We have to change this.  What do you do?  What do you say?  It is simple.  "Hey Sally, I see that you're having a hard time with your depression right now.  We have set up a meal train for you for the next two weeks and we will be coming by to tidy up your house for you."  Simple.  

But first, we must know that someone is struggling with a mental illness in order to help them. We have to ask the questions.  We have to talk about it.  We have to check in with our loved ones, neighbors, and friends.  

We have to end the stigma, talk about mental illness like you talk about diabetes or cancer.  Where are the meal trains for those that suffer from mental illness?  

Let's all cheer...casseroles for all!  

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10 things to do when tragedy strikes, how can you support your friend/family?

10 ways we can support our friends and family when tragedy strikes.
When you have a loved one or friend who is grieving or has just had a tragedy it is hard knowing what to do to help.  What do you say? What can you do?  You feel so helpless when someone is suffering.  Here are 10 things you can do to support them.  
  1. Just be there and lend your ears.  This is one of the most simple things you can do but has the biggest impact.  Your loved one or friend may want to talk, cry, scream, vent and you can be the person to listen.  
  2. What do you say? "I don't have the right words for you other than I am so very sorry." That is it.  The truth is that there are no right words.  Your words are powerful!
  3. Be their house assistant and housekeeper.  Yes, be their hands and feet.  They will most likely be receiving lots of food.  Be there to answer the door, heat the meals for them, clean up after they eat, do a few loads of laundry, tidy up.  
  4. Be their record keeper.  During this time they will have to make decisions that they are not wanting to make.  Funeral arrangements, death certificates, and more.  Take copious notes.  At this time their brains are most likely on overload.  Write those small details down for them.  
  5. Talk about their lost loved one. Sometimes we feel like we don't want to bring it up or talk about their loved one that has passed.  We think that bringing it up will make it harder for them.  This is not the case.  Share a memory that you have with their loved one.  If you feel that talking about it is not the right time, then write it down for them.  
  6. Use their name.  This goes hand in hand with number 5.  A big fear that grieving loved ones fear is that the memory of their lost loved ones will be forgotten.  Their life matters.  "Do you want to talk about <their name>?
  7. Remember them.  Christmas, birthdays, heaven day, Thanksgiving.  Just about any holiday where you will be gathering with loved ones, remember them.  Send them a card, a text, or an email.  "Hey, a friend I was just thinking of you and <their lost loved one's name>.  
  8.  Research.  Offer to connect them with someone that may be in a similar situation.  Whether is it a sudden tragic death like a suicide or something else, it is comforting to talk to someone that has been there.  
  9.  Just do it.  Don't tell them "Hey reach out if you need anything."  "Let me know how I can help."  Chances are they don't even know what day it is.  If they have kids tell them "Hey I am picking up Sally at school today and will be dropping her off after we have a happy meal." Or mow their lawn.  Pick up their dry cleaning.  Don't ask, just do!  
  10. Lastly, acknowledge of painfully shitty the situation is.  Don't ever, I repeat ever say things like "oh he/she is in a better place." This will sting so badly because to someone that just lost their loved one "a better place" would be here on this earth with us.  Instead, something like "This sucks and is so shitty and I am so very sorry." 
Tragedy happens inevitably.  Wouldn't it be miraculous if we could wipe tragic events off the earth?  Unfortunately, this is not possible.  I hope that if you have a loved one struggling with something tragic these 10 tips will help you not feel so helpless.  

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Suicide Prevention: What to do when your loved one says "I'd be better off dead"

Hearing your loved one say that "I wish I was dead." is the most jarring thing to hear.  Here is what to do if your loved one says this.  

What is mindfulness and what can it do for you?

What even is mindfulness and why do I need it?!

The best strategy for helping kids cope with anxiety.

The best strategy for anxious kids, a toolbox!
Worrying is a normal feeling that we all have.  It is a natural response to stress.  However when your anxiety takes over your daily thoughts and impacts your everyday life then it could be something more than just worrying.  

When my oldest was 4-5 yrs old I remember her complaining a lot of stomachaches.  All. the. time. We did countless numbers of tests and every test result came back normal.  Finally, a doctor suggested to me that she could have anxiety.  At 3-5 yrs old, it is difficult for a young toddler to articulate how they are feeling.  Often anxiety can manifest in physical symptoms.    

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Biting nails
  • Picking at skin
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Tantrums
  • Crying
  • Avoidance
  • Irritability
Now I know that some of these "symptoms" are common for this age group, however if you have more of these symptoms on a regular basis it's a good idea to chat with your doctor.  

After 15 years of helping my daughter manage her anxiety, I have learned a few tips and tricks.  

A toolbox for coping with anxiety.  

A few things you need in your toolbox are feathers, bubbles, a pinwheel, a weighted blanket, and a teddy bear.  One of the best things you can teach your anxious child is how to breathe.  Deep belly breaths are the best thing to slow down your racing heartbeat which will help calm your mind.  

Teddy Bear: I always suggest starting with a teddy bear or their favorite stuffed animal.  Have them lay down on the floor on their back.  Place the teddy bear on their belly.  Take a big belly breath and make the bear move up while your breathing in.  As you exhale watch the bear go down.  This is a perfect way for kids to learn big belly breaths.  

Bubbles: Practice taking a big belly breath and slowly blowing bubbles.  If you blow too hard or fast the bubbles pop, so big slow belly breaths are perfect.  

Feather: Practice taking a big belly breath and try to blow the feather up in the air.  

Pinwheel: Practice taking a big belly breath and slowly blow the pinwheel and watch it spin.  While it is spinning talk about the colors and what else can you name with those same colors.  "I see orange and blue.  What else is orange and blue?" 

Coloring: Print out their favorite coloring page and color.  coloring is very therapeutic.  

Learning breathing techniques is so incredibly helpful for kids that are feeling overwhelmed. The key is to practice them daily.  Don't wait until they are already very worried.  It is much harder to calm down.  

My last tip to help manage anxiety is a distraction.  I would have to say that breathing techniques and distractions are my daughter's best coping skills.  Her favorite distraction tip is the 5,4,3,2,1 technique.  It is very simple but has a huge impact.  It serves to somewhat "snap" their mind out of what is worrying them.  This is how it works.  

If after going through the 5,4,3,2,1 and they are still feeling anxious repeat it but have them go a little slower.  Ask them to elaborate.  

These are a few of our tried and true coping skills for when anxiety gets to be overwhelming.  Give them a try and let me know which is your favorite.  Anxiety does not have to take over your little ones' days.  

I am not a doctor.  This blog was created to share what I have learned as a mother to 4 kids.  2 of which suffer from generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks and major depressive disorder.  This was created for informational purposes only and should not be used in exchange for medical advice.  

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