Yesterday, as I planned to write my first blog ever, I had a title “How to Keep your Cool in the Summer Heat” and I had notes about the pros and cons of summer. I had read and downloaded facts and figures about mental wellness and summer time heat. All very practical information, but anyone could have easily pieced together that blog. Instead I want to share with you when the unexpected happens in life.
There’s a beautiful poem written by Mary Elizabeth Frye in 1932. Many people heard this poem for the first time about twenty years ago, when the father of a dead soldier read it aloud on the BBC, having found it in his son’s personal items in an envelope labeled, “To All My Loved Ones.” Here are the words:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
According to the song “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” the winter holidays are the hap-happiest season of all, with parties for hosting and much mistletoeing and hearts glowing while loved ones are near.
Not everyone sees the Christmas season as hap-happy. For many, it’s a painful and difficult time of the year, bringing up thoughts of fractured families, memories of lost loved ones, and feelings of loneliness while everyone else seems to have someplace to be and someone to be with. The pressure to buy gifts adds financial stress; those who can’t afford to shower their loved ones with the latest toys and gadgets may feel guilt and shame, while those who do buy worry about the mounting bills. And there’s pressure to do, do, do without stopping, from shopping to cooking to attending parties to delivering cheerful holiday greetings to all and sundry.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, according to Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu. In the case of the Mental Health Association in Greensboro, the journey to our new home began with about a thousand steps between our former office space at the Community Foundation building and our new digs at the Dorothy Bardolph Center at 301 East Washington St.
We had an exclusive Greensboro showing of New York Times Critic’s Pick, Winner of the International Film Critics (FIPRESCI) Prize and Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Award, ROCKS IN MY POCKETS, which we brought on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 to the Carousel Cinemas-Battleground at 7:00pm.
In the new animated gem ROCKS IN MY POCKETS, Latvian-born artist and filmmaker Signe Baumane tells five fantastical tales based on the courageous women in her family and their battles with madness. With boundless imagination and a twisted sense of humor, she has created daring stories of art, romance, marriage, nature, business, and Eastern European upheaval—all in the fight for her own sanity.
September is a transitional month, part summer and part fall, its days shifting from warm to chilly.
How fitting, then, that September is Recovery Month. During September we celebrate individuals’ recovery journeys—how they’ve created full, satisfying lives while recovering from mental health challenges. Recovery is all about transition and transformation.
This marks the 25th year for Recovery Month. The theme for 2014,“Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out,” encourages people to speak openly about their mental health experiences.
That’s exactly what we do at the Mental Health Association in Greensboro. We encourage peers to share their struggles and triumphs, their pain and joy. By sharing, we bring mental illness out of the shadows and into the light.
In the spirit of Recovery Month, here are some thoughts from MHAG staff members.
When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with agoraphobia, severe depression, and anxiety. For me, recovery has meant the luxury of time to work through issues, along with lots of empathetic, loving, nonjudgmental care from family and friends. I believe in taking life one moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time—all the while remembering: this too shall pass. ~ Susan Ball, Executive Director
After experiencing postpartum depression with my second daughter, I have a greater understanding of what other people may be going through. Once you have felt clawing depression even when it appears that all is well in your life, then you realize that depression is an illness, not a bad mood or a conscious choice. ~ Jan Cooke, Accounting Manager
At 15 I was diagnosed with severe depression, though I’m pretty sure it started much younger than that. By the time I was 30, they had developed my diagnosis to be Bipolar Depressive Disorder, Mania Type II. I am much more self-aware now than I used to be. I know that I’ve survived this far, and it makes me feel more capable of surviving further and better. It has made me look at the world with a sense of compassion that is farther reaching than it used to be. ~ Nellie Cooper, Office Manager
I was diagnosed with depression in the fall of 2004. I had battled it without recognizing that that’s what was wrong since 1967. I only knew sadness and tears and just assumed I would always feel that way. Once I knew I could feel differently, I began to own my own voice, and I learned to speak up for myself. I was able to stop feeling overlooked and angry with others and turning that anger inward. I began to embrace life and look forward to things instead of always looking backwards. ~ Myla Erwin, Director of Programs
Dealing with and overcoming anxiety and depression has made me a much stronger, more confident person. I’m able to respond to the challenges that life brings without feeling overwhelmed most of the time, and I’m able to enjoy being with people and the great variety of emotional experiences they bring into my life. ~ Craig Pritchard, Peer Support Specialist
Mental health issues touch all of us, even those we idolize as celebrities or read about in history books. In many cases, their mental health challenges—think Vincent van Gogh and those swirling starry skies—seem to go hand in hand with genius.
Below is a slideshow of famous people with mental health conditions. Some may come as a surprise; others have been vocal about their challenges.
As you look, remember that one in five Americans experiences a mental health issue every year. Celebrities and regular citizens, old and young, male and female—mental illness does not distinguish. Please play your part in reducing stigma and advancing mental wellness.