The 6 Blessings of Mental Illness

I ran across this article today and thought it was interesting enough to share. The article can be found here.

Written by Jonathan Friesen

Yes, you read that title correctly.

I could not have written those six words 30 years ago, when panic episodes, anxiety disorders and Tourette’s syndrome clouded my view. But now I see that though the fog was exceptionally dark, good things were developing, good things inside of me.

Conventional wisdom states that certain environments lend themselves to the formation of certain character traits. Team sports, for example, are credited with fostering cooperation and commitment. In exchange for service in our armed forces, soldiers learn the essence of duty, honor, sacrifice and discipline.

In recent years, we have expanded our understanding of “formative experiences” to include seasons of medical struggle. We honor cancer survivors for their dignity and strength, while young children living through childhood diseases receive recognition for their tenacity and resilience.

And they should.

What we are really acknowledging is that during the intense and painful parts of life, some very good qualities are born, qualities that don’t just occur on their own.

However, when we speak of mental illness, there is no talk of a formative experience. The identified mental disorders carried by many, myself included, are not credited with creating anything of value in us. Our lives exist under different headlines, where we are seen as weak and unfortunate, fragile and unpredictable. Granted, many of our behaviors are.

But when there is a call to count blessings, do not imagine for an instant that we have none to number. Within the mental health community, we too have discovered that our storms have silver linings. Our “weaknesses,” like battlefields, create in us the realization that we can more than survive mental illness.

Mental Illness has its blessings.

1. Generosity

Think of the most generous friend you have. I will tell you what you already know: They are not proud or self-important. What they have, they can give because unlike the self-important person, they don’t view their possessions and time as personal entitlements. Mental Illness shatters the altar of self. When minimal mental stability is hard to grasp, of what use is this item or that? Besides, when I give, for a little while, I control the direction of my world, and control is not something I often feel.

2. Spirituality

True spirituality begins with one of two desires. We are driven either by the longing for a transcendent experience or the desperate hope that someone greater than ourselves exists to meet our needs. Those struggling with mental illness rarely question that they are needy. Life makes this rather clear. This allows us to reach out our hands without reservation.

3. Empathy

The phrase “hurting people hurt people” rings true. So does this corollary: “Those who know they need know when others need.” The experience of helplessness is one of the most universal realities of the mentally ill, and meeting a perceived need in another is one of the most potent ways to feel empowered.

4. Accepting spirit

It becomes quite difficult to condemn when it is consistently obvious that my own life is not all together. Awareness of my own confusion allows me to accept you freely. Ironically, although I can accept you with ease, I don’t show the same grace to myself. Here is where I need you to help.

5. Courage

Many formative experiences create courage. But few of them involve Herculean steps of courage before your feet hit the floor. Getting out of bed to begin the day can be a sweet victory, and strings of victories create confidence. Courage to wake. Courage to rest. Courage to live in between. It isn’t a bad mantra.

6. Creativity

There are societal norms for living. We call people who adhere to them “normal.” I sincerely doubt the presence of normal actually exist; nonetheless, those of us who clearly live outside the lines find our square-peg existence in constant conflict with how the normal operate. Living, then, becomes an exercise in creativity. If the world walks from A to B, but my mind doesn’t allow me to, it takes creativity to reach my destination.

If you could be guaranteed that your child would grow up to be a generous, spiritual, empathetic, accepting spirited, courageous, creative adult, if only you would consent to their experiencing this formation through mental illness, would you make the deal? I believe few would. But this I know: Those of us already on that road can be grateful for our blessings.

Well what do you think? Can we be grateful for our struggles with mental illness or as the author states… our blessings? I think I have definitely grown from my struggles. I am not quite sure I am ready to call my struggle a blessing though. However, I do believe that things happen for a reason…


How Long is Too Long in Psychotherapy?

I must admit I have wondered how long is too long in therapy? Is there a time limit? I started therapy last year because I felt better than I had in a long time and I wanted to keep it that way. So I guess in a way I viewed therapy as a wellness program. Is that the right way to think about therapy? I decided to see what info I could find on the topic and ran across this article:

How Long is Too Long in Psychotherapy?

Mailbag: quality vs quantity in therapy

Dealing With Holiday Depression

Dealing With Holiday Depression

9 Things To Do Or Say When A Loved One Talks About Taking Their Life


Re-posted from Huff Post. Originally posted on 11/15/14.

By Lisa Esposito for US News

Caring is key to your response. This is what you should do if someone you know talks about taking their life.

Take people seriously and let them know you care.
When someone tells you he’s thought of suicide, it’s scary. Or when a friend confides she’s an attempt survivor, you may not know how to react. At times that could mean coping with a person in crisis, but often it’s more about listening, encouraging him or her to get help and supporting their long-term efforts to stay safe. Here’s how to be there for a family member or friend.

Know when it’s an emergency.
Call 911 in an immediate emergency – when somebody is about to hurt themselves or someone else. Or if possible, get him or her to a hospital emergency room, urgent care center or walk-in clinic. You also can call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-8255. They can help you figure out what to do.

Show compassion.
It takes courage for someone to reveal that they’ve considered suicide or survived a past attempt. When you’re the person they trust with this information, how do you respond?

“Show them you care about them,” says Shelby Rowe, education and prevention manager at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “That’s the most important thing.” Just as you would with any other secret — such as a possible job change or relationship issue — listen with compassion and without judgment.

Staying connected is key, Rowe says. “Encourage them to get help. Encourage help-seeking behaviors.”

Talk to someone who’s struggling.
If a person you know appears to be struggling with depression or anxiety, “don’t assume someone else will reach out,” the AFSP advises. Its Talk Saves Lives webpage offers five steps for this crucial conversation:

  1. Ask if you can talk in private.
  2. Ask questions to open up the conversation (such as “You haven’t seemed like yourself lately. Is everything OK?”).
  3. Listen to their story and express care.
  4. Ask if they’ve thought about hurting themselves or ending their life.
  5. Encourage them to seek mental health services.

What Not To Say

When someone confides they’re in emotional pain, avoid these responses: Minimizing their feelings, offering advice to fix it, debating about the value of life and offering clichés.

“When someone is reaching out to you in intense pain, telling them they’ll be ‘just fine’ is not helpful,” Rowe says. And don’t debate or bargain, she adds, or say “I think it’ll be better. Let’s just wait.” Think of acute emotional pain as you would physical pain, she suggests. Similar to someone doubled over with a kidney stone, “next week is a long time away,” she says.

When someone’s struggling with thoughts of suicide, it’s unhelpful to ask, “Well, how is this going to affect everyone else in your life?” Rowe says. “At that moment, [he or she] is feeling like such a tremendous burden on everyone else in their life. They’re tired of everybody else having to worry.”

Listen to unspoken messages.
People have different ways of letting others know there’s a problem.

“Most people talk about suicide directly or indirectly within the weeks and months before they take their lives, though not necessarily at the moment at which they are about to act,” says Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research at AFSP.

Talk of killing themselves, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped or having unbearable pain all mean that a person is at higher risk for a suicide attempt. Indirect statements could be “I don’t care if I die” or “I wish I wouldn’t wake up,” Harkavy-Friedman says.

Most people who talk about suicide do not kill themselves, she notes. However, talking about suicide and death are signs of emotional distress. Asking about suicide will not put ideas in someone’s head or make them suicidal, she adds. Instead, asking “will most likely will provide relief.”

Help people find help.
Mental health treatment is essential to help people deal with their problems and feel better. Encourage the person to seek services and help him or her locate a mental health professional. Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses and counselors with specialized training are good sources of treatment. Campus health or counseling centers can provide therapy and referrals, and school guidance counselors can point students and families to resources.

Be aware of risk factors.
Certain mental health conditions increase the risk that a person might try to take his or her own life. These conditions include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and types of personality and anxiety disorders. Substance abuse disorders also increase the risk.

Getting and adhering to treatment for these conditions helps reduce risk.

Other risk factors include previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide attempts, serious/chronic health conditions and prolonged stress. According to the AFSP, the more risk factors a person has, the higher their risk.

Having access to lethal means — such as firearms and drugs — is a risk factor. If people have a plan for suicide, ask them what they intend to do. Work with them to limit access to deadly means.

Watch for warning signs.
Things people say, their behavior and mood can all serve as suicide warning signs. The more signs someone has, the greater the person’s risk.

Certain behavior changes — especially when connected to a painful event, loss or change — are cause for concern. These include: increased alcohol or drug use, searching online for materials or means to kill themselves, acting recklessly, being aggressive, withdrawing from activities, isolating themselves, sleeping too much or too little, calling or visiting to say goodbye, and giving away prized possessions.

Moods tied to suicidal thoughts include depression, loss of interest, rage, irritability and anxiety.

Create a safety plan.
If you’re worried about someone, help or encourage him or her to fill out a patient safety plan, such as the model plan on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center website. Action steps include listing personal warning signs — such as specific thoughts or moods — that a crisis might be brewing, along with coping strategies, distractions and professionals to contact in a crisis. Safety plans also include listing three people to call for help. “As a friend, you would want to be one of those three people,” Rowe says.

What do you all think? I don’t like the statement above that says “most people who talk about suicide don’t kill themselves.” I think it may cause people to minimize or ignore someone’s situation and that person may not get the help they need. Anyone who talks about suicide should be taken seriously until the risk that they will end their life has been diminished.  

10 Things Depression Doesn’t Want You To Know

10 Things Depression Doesn’t Want You To Know!


Hello, my name is depression. You know me by many different names, including dysthymic disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression and so forth. I am an insidious in nature, sneaking up on you when you least expect it.

If left unchecked, I grow in power and have the ability to bring you to your knees. I can lie to you, twist your thoughts and make you disconnect from everyone you care about. When I am super strong, I can even make you take your life.

What you may not know however, is that I am vulnerable to 10 specific things that weaken my intensity. If you engage in any one of these, you chip away at my strength. When you combine several together however, you cause me to lose my grip and become smaller.

I shouldn’t be telling you this information – but I am going to do it anyway.

Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!

10 Things Depression Doesn’t Want You To Know

1. Circle of support

When you call upon your circle of support, like friends and family members, I start to cower. Reaching out to others means you are not isolating. This in turn makes my presence weaker.

2. Talk Therapy

When you visit your therapist to engage in talk-therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy to address your sadness, you cause me to lose my reign of terror. Choosing to bravely work through your feelings is one of the things I fear most!

3. Physical Activity

When you embark on an exercise program like strength training or involve yourself with other forms of physical activity, you prevent me from taking a hold of your body and mind. One of the things that repels me from you is your commitment to self-care, particularly during stressful times.

4. Mindfulness

Because you engage in mindfulness based living, I don’t have the ability to sneak into your mind and make you ruminate about the past. Mindfulness robs me of my most powerful weapons; guilt, shame and fear!

5. Acceptance

When you embrace the various parts of your life, including my presence, you paradoxically make me smaller. That which you fear controls you but that which you confront, you begin to control. I can’t tell you how much it upsets me when you do this!

6. Happiness

When you make the conscious choice to have a happy day, you seriously mess with my plans to wreak havoc upon you. Simply put, when you decide to choose how your day will be, I start to melt away like snow in the sun.

7. Laughter

Oh how I despise it when you laugh! Any time you seek out forms of humor therapy or engage in things that are fun, I start to shake in my boots! Watching a funny movie or making light of something serious really gets under my skin.

8. Healthy Diet

I love it when you stress eat and gobble down food that causes my powers to grow! On the flipside, I absolutely hate it when you choose to eat healthy meals that cause me to lose my grip. Making the deliberate choice to care about what you put into your body sends me running for the hills!

9. Medication

When you consult with your doctor and decide to use anti-depressant medications, I get really freaked out. I don’t like it when you become educated on the different types of anti-depressants. I get really scared too when you ask your physician questions about potential side effects. All of this means you are actively doing things to drive me out of your life.

10. Patterns of time

When you recognize that I often visit you on a seasonal basis, particularly during wintertime, you start become empowered with knowledge. I particularly despise it when you are aware that I am a temporary presence in your life. Oh how I hate it when you say to yourself: this too will pass. Your ability to rationally look at who I am and my patterns really dis-empowers me.

Final Thoughts

There are lots of other things that you can do to repel me away but I have said far too much already. What you choose to do with this information is up to you.

Remember this – I’m always here – lurking in the darkness and just waiting to grow. I generally give you warning signs before I kick in to full gear. Oh yeah – it bothers me that you know this too!

Originally posted at: