Author Archives: Jill

About Jill

Author of books and articles on support and experiences of living with a mentally ill family member. 'the blogging grandma.'

Speaking about mental illness …

It’s never easy to speak about mental health issues so remember, it doesn’t always have to be a long conversation. There are other ways of showing support. One can send an email message. One can send a message on face book but not on the public page, of course. One can simply call and ask; ‘How are you doing?’ Small gestures like this can make a big difference.

If you think that someone is behaving differently from their usual manner of behavior, that person could be unwell so how about making it clear that you have noticed that he doesn’t seem his usual self at that time and wonder whether there is anything you can do to help. Make it clear that if your friend ever wants to talk you will be there for him or her. Or, offer practical help. Try not to avoid the subject. People with a mental health problem often mention the fact that friends and colleagues avoid them simply because they have no idea of what to say. You can ask how things have been and how they are doing, you know. They might even welcome the attention. If that person is returning to work or to your social group after a period of illness, let him know how glad you are to see him return and maybe even suggest a further chat at a later stage as it is so important to the person concerned.

People want someone to listen to and not necessarily to give advice. If you jump to conclusions and give advice, it is equivalent to not listening to that person. If you are sure that the person needs urgent help, turn to a professional for advice.

It is important to empathize but saying that you felt equally sad when your dog died, will most definitely sound like the most trivial comparison in the world. You can of course say that you have no idea what it must be like for that person as your experience cannot possibly be the same as theirs.

On no account tell that person to pull himself/herself together or that it will seem better in the morning. A  person in trouble is good at picking up body language so try not to keep glancing at your wristwatch or smartphone too often to check the time.

                                                                                    travel alarm clock

 

 

 

Alzheimer’s disease has a stigma too …

Did you think that there was a stigma about mental illness only? Well, click on this link to hear about the stigma accorded young-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

http://alz.org/i-have-alz/overcoming-stigma.asp?WT.mc_id=enews2014_06_08&utm_source=enews-aff-&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=enews-2014-06-08

Where is our compassion? What has happened to us?

Crisis Intervention Team

CIT LOGOHow Michael Woody became president of the Police Crisis Intervention Team.

 

Click once on the link, ignore the very short commercial, then listen to the story Michael Woody has to tell :-

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=322008371&m=322008372

CIT in action

Ralph Aldo Emerson said; Sanity is very rare. Every man and almost every woman has a dash of madness

Today, most people with a mental illness are out in the community and the scandals reported in the press are no longer about the bad treatment they receive in psychiatric hospitals but about attacks by them. As a result, journalists regard them as being quite different from the rest of us. This is an issue all over the world.

I remember reading what Ralph Emerson said; ‘Sanity is rare. Every man and almost every woman has a dash of madness.’

 Aristotle wrote: ‘Nobody is exempt from a mixture of madness.’

 Nietzsche wrote; ‘Insanity in individuals is rare, but in groups and in nations and epochs, it is the rule.’

So the idea that bizarre beliefs are not common in normal people is incorrect. If you follow the horoscope in the Sun Newspaper, you might have read under  Aquarius somestatistics on insanity saying that one out of every four Americans suffers from a mental illness. Well, I am Aquarius, so I decided to do a simple test. I thought about three of my best friends …. and as they were not sufferingfrom a mental illness, I realized that the the fourth one could be me.

II asked a psychiatrist to explain a hallucination to me. I was told that it was something one hears in the absence of a stimulus. ‘So,’ I asked, ‘does the Pope hear the voice of God or, is a person who hears the voice of God only hallucinating?’ No reply.

Then I asked whether a delusion were a false, fixed, unshakeable idea in which people invest a great deal of emotion; like ‘My mother is poisoning me,’ or ‘they planted ideas in my coffee.’ When someone has a bizarre delusion or an unusual hallucination, it is easy to make a diagnosis but when it is not so clear, it becomes problematic.

Traditionally, psychiatrists thought that schizophrenia was a brain disease and did brain scans showing that people with schizophrenia have slightly less grey matter and that their hippocampus is 5% smaller. It is not something gross like in Alzheimer’s disease but people tend to think that these changes are partly developmental and that the disorder runs in families to some extent like heart disease or diabetes. One does not inherit it directly but one can inherit a predisposition toward schizophrenia.

When the world worried that Iraq was stockpiling mass weapons of destruction, it seemed a fixed, unshakeable belief which was held with great conviction;  yet it turned out to be a false belief. But, despite this, it was NOT a delusion. Why? Because it was shared by a great number of people. What would happen if someone told me today that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; would it be a delusion? It might well be because I would have great difficulty finding anyone else who believed me. So, to some extent, a delusion is diagnosed when one cannot persuade other people to believe one’s belief.

 I remember another example; Mohamed Al Fayed had the belief that was widely reported in the press that princess Diana and his son Dodi were murdered as a result of a conspiracy masterminded by the Duke of Edinburgh. Is this belief within normality – or not? There does not seem evidence for it yet he has maintained it with unshakeable determination for a long time although, as far as we can tell, it is false. It is however, understandable.. His son was on the verge, so he thought that an important relationship with royalty imight have been the cause.

So I would like to conclude that the general population is ‘sane’ and that there are only a few people with schizophrenia who are in hospital or, who should be there; then psychiatrists began to think that maybe some people who are a bit paranoid should  be part of the spectrum; and now we think that a considerable proportion of the population probably have minor psychotic ideas the way we  place people being somewhere on the distribution of diabetes or obesity.

Therefore, maybe we should not think that people with schizophrenia are something like an alien race and very different from the rest of us. In face, if we are given the right environmental circumstances, most of us have the capacity to develop psychotic ideas and have hallucinations as well as delusions.

Waking up with pain as your bedfellow

‘Mental Illness fills my brain. It takes over completely .There is no escape. The voices! Oh the voices! If you could live in my mind for just one day, you would not think I was okay. You might understand what it is like, to have no peace of mind. I get tired from simply trying to do regular things, tired from simply trying to live my life. The medication I am given does not seem to help. I don’t know what to do.’

Chronic pain fills me inside and takes over my body. There is no escape. It is crushing. If you could live in my body for just one day, you’d never think I was okay. You might understand what it’s like to be tired from simply trying to live and do what’s required. I wish I could explain the depth of my pain It’s never-ending, so hard to explain. I’m aching inside, not easy to hide. I wish I could tell you how I honestly feel. But would you believe that my pain was so real?’

                                   flowering bush

So remember: Your life may not be tied in ribbons, but, it is still a gift.

So many people wanted to comfort me …

  SO MANY PEOPLE WANTED TO COMFORT ME.  SO FEW SUCCEEDED

People aim to comfort a parent who has lost a child. So few really know what to say.

Our son, Doron, was a healthy, strapping young man who loved sport, particularly surfing. When he was drafted into the military and into a fighting unit, the last thing we contemplated was illness. He was far too healthy. Sometime during his military service, something happened to his mind and much later, long after he completed his three years compulsory military service, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Then, before his 34th birthday, he released himself from a mind that tormented him and as his mother, I was released from watching him suffer. We were parted forever . I mourn him, I miss him, I’m angry and sad, particularly because he ended his life to quiet the voices in his head that no modern medication managed to alleviate. It took a long time for me to forgive him for taking my son away from me. I wondered when and whether I would ever be happy again.

Few people knew what to say to us grieving parents, particularly because suicide was concerned. What does one say to grieving parents? What does it mean to offer condolences? Well, all I can tell you is what we didn’t want to hear.

I would die if I were you: This is only a manner of speaking and not remotely true. Human beings are built to withstand all kinds of calamities and they survive although probably changed forever. However, they continue to live. When we heard the above, we felt as if this person were predicting that we would never be happy again and that if we do manage a semblance of happiness, we should really feel guilty. Believe me, I felt cursed and didn’t need anyone to make it worse.

So what could that person have said? This must be the hardest thing in the world for you. Remember that I am thinking of you.

I can’t imagine how you must be feeling: This didn’t work either because if the idea of losing a child couldn’t be so terrible unless you could imagine it. Grief is isolating. I felt as if there was an unwritten line drawn between the rest of the world and myself. I felt so very alone and vulnerable. I needed empathy, not pity. So, what would I have preferred to hear? I feel so sad for you and your family. What can I do to help you?

I have no idea what you are feeling: But you do. You feel sadness because the death of a child by suicide after a long illness is one the saddest and incomprehensible things in the whole world.
I feel so sad would have sounded so much better.

While growing up, we were taught rather shallow, standard things to say when people die but most of what we learned lacked emotional engagement which is the very thing that grieving people need – in fact, it’s what they long for particularly in those early days when the grief is raw.

We should think deeply about what they would most like to hear. I have seen grieving parents actually cringe. I believe that the best way to comfort somebody is to listen to them because in this situation, it is not about you, but about them. That person has a great need to talk so let them. Allow them to say what they feel. The flags below show the stages that grieving parents will go through.

Grief tags 2

I will not have lived in vain

flowers 4

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I will not have lived in vain.

If I can help one person who is aching, I will not have lived in vain.

 If I can help one mother with mental illness in her family manage to get help or give comfort of sorts, I will not have lived in vain.

If I can ease one life the aching, I will not have lived in vain. If I can help someone cool just one pain, or help any person do his best again, I will not have lived in vain.

If I can help someone who’s feeling low get help with his/her mental illness, I will not have lived in vain.

I gave a talk on mental illness one evening and a psychologist told me later that something I’d said had given her an idea of how to help a patient of hers with schizophrenia. So, maybe I haven’t lived in vain after all.

A drop of humor is in place here maybe…

 Advice: ‘Beware, never return to a doctor who had dead plants in his clinic!’

 AND – this is what I found on a tombstone when visiting a cemetery:

‘I told you that I was ill, didn’t I?’

Being with you is like opening a can of springtime …

oceanSERENADE 2 SENIORS

To celebrate having reached the grand old age of 75, I would like to share some of my life’s lessons.

‘Being with you is like opening a can of springtime,’ is what my late husband often told me,’ and you can imagine how that made me feel.

I visited my 88-year-old mother with my five-year-old granddaughter, then, the three of us popped in to see one of my mother’s dear friends who recently celebrated her 96th birthday. My granddaughter sat very quietly while studying my mother’s friend. After a while, she climbed onto my knee and whispered; ‘That lady is very, very old. Can I ask her a question?’ ‘Sure you can,’ I replied. She approached my mother’s friend slowly then asked; “I want to know, I mean, did you start from one?”

Over the years, I discovered that crying with someone is far more healing than crying alone.

I learned that life isn’t fair but it can be good, so enjoy every moment you can.

I learned that it was a good idea to pay off my credit card every month and save for retirement starting from my very first paycheck.

I learned the hard way that I simply had to make peace with my past to stop it from screwing up my future.

I learned that it’s okay to let my children and grandchildren see me cry.

Unfortunately, I discovered that resistance to chocolate was futile.

I learned not to compare my life with that of others as I could not possibly know what their life’s journey was all about.

 It’s a good idea to remember that your job will not take care of you when you are ill;  family and friends will do that.

If a relationship has to be kept secret, get out of it now.

When you are feeling anxious, take a deep breath.

I learned to get rid of everything that was not useful.

I learned that it is never too late to be happy.

When it comes to going after what I love in life, I learned that it was a good idea not to take no for an answer.

I tended to keep my good things for when I had guests but have since learned to light the beautiful silver candles, use the good sheets and wear my best clothes, even when alone.

When I tried on a bathing suit, one of my granddaughters exclaimed in horror; “Grandma, are you going to let people see you in a B A T H I N G  S U I T?”  “Yes,’ I said and continued folding a beach towel to put into my beach bag. All the while she watched in horror.

I learned that I was in charge of my happiness and not anybody else.

I have become a bit eccentric instead of waiting until I am 90 to do so unusual things like ride a motorcycle.

I’ve learned to frame every disaster with ; ‘Will this really matter so  much in five year’s time?’

I now try to forgive whenever I can.

I learned that it’s none of my business what others think of me. I can only do my best.

Yes, I now believe in miracles as they do occur occasionally.

I would like to share this with all young mothers. Your children only get one childhood so make the  most of it. Spend as much time with them as you can, hug them and tell them as often as you can how much you love them.

Envy is a waste of time. I have learned to accept what I have and not yearn for the things I don’t really need.

 No matter how you feel on any particular day, GET UP, DRESS UP AND SHOW UP! It works, you know.

 Life isn’t always tied with a bow but life is still a wonderful gift.

What truly matters to me is that I am loved.

I want to share my late husband’s favorite prayer with you all:-

Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

It works, you know.wisteria 6

 

 

WHAT EXACTLY IS SANITY ?

imagesFESHEPA2What exactly is SANITY?

 

Sanity refers to the soundness, rationality and healthiness of the human mind, as opposed to insanity.

Sanity is something that we take for granted and I believe that sanity is lost on the sane.

My son lost his sanity and grieved for his loss. We all did.

 

Bizarre behavior, once limited to adolescents, like weight loss, public temper tantrums and exhibitionism, are splashed across the front pages of leading newspapers and glossy magazines. Very often, this kind of behavior is the start of a mental disturbance.

 

We have to Break the Silence and get mental illness into our school systems so that teachers might be able to identify the first signs in their students and guide them toward the help they so badly need.