Mental Health Awareness Week, And 4 Things That Helped Me

“Hole” by Grafontour on Pixabay

CS Sherin, 10-10-2018

NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) designates this week as “Mental Illness Awareness Week,” with a goal to promote “CureStigma”, which illuminates the needless stigma people with mental health issues face in our culture.

Mental health and mental illness are important, huge issues in our world. There are so many aspects we need to address, I cannot begin to elaborate on it all here and now. All in all, we need to create systems that are healing and healthy for people, communities, and nature — and dismantle the corrupt, abusive systems, which contribute to trauma and mental health disruptions.

From a personal perspective, mental illness shaped my early life, as my father was mentally ill. In fact, he was a sociopath and/or narcissist. You can be sure there is a stigma to those words. And this is the first time I have said it in public. The repercussions of his mental illness, and the actions he took while mentally ill, are still felt in my life to this day. It has always been hard to deal with, whether he was present and alive, absent and alive, or now absent and deceased. In short, he was a product of an institutionalized infancy (state orphanage till the age of three) and institutionalized systems, like the military. Many institutionalized systems that care for children can create narcissists and sociopaths.

Beyond that, I faced my own mental health issues as an adult. I had a traumatic childhood, and faced unfriendly peers and teachers in elementary and middle school. As a young mother , I experienced a trauma that caused me to have PTSD, which I saw a therapist to treat. That was the trauma that was the tipping point of traumas, a culmination that started in childhood. A couple years after that, I became severely ill from Lyme’s disease. It was not diagnosed right away, and I ended up not being able to work for three months.

This caused what the doctors diagnosed as mild depression that was joined with IBS, anxiety, and panic attacks. After slowing recovering, and having taken the medications and therapy that I could from western medicine, I sought deeper and more empowering methods to heal my inner wounds and traumas.

That started me on the path of spiritual work like reiki, and holistic wellness in general, which I applied to myself before sharing it to help others. Looking back at all that I went through related to the spectrum of mental health to mental illness, I can tell you some of the key things that really helped and made a difference for me. We are each unique, and we each find our way to health and wellness in our own ways, but perhaps some of the following things we have in common. Here are four things that helped me the most as I climbed out of the dark abyss, known as a mental health crisis, back in the early 2000s:

  1. I asked for help. I knew my brain chemistry had literally changed from the trauma and illness, and that I couldn’t help myself this time, no matter how independent and private I love to be. I asked for help, and I needed it. I went to my doctor. I went to a therapist. I took an antidepressant for a period of time, and it helped. I was dedicated with a strong desire to find myself and climb out of the dark abyss I had fallen into of panic attacks. The most important and helpful thing that the therapist told me is that: my reactions and mental health crisis had to do with things happening to and around me that weren’t normal or healthy. Therefore, my reaction was healthy and normal, and my mental health crisis was a part of that health. That was a big relief, and goes a long way to removing the stigma.
  2. I read a book that helped me to see that the terrifying panic attacks that made me feel like I was dying a horrific death were actually an opportunity to connect with a deeper and truer part of myself. The panic attacks were an opportunity, it said, to face fear in order to rise up stronger. That book is called, Riding The Dragon by Robert J. Wicks. Books, dancing, and music have always been lifelines for me. That was one of them.
  3. I found life-giving support from people who know, love, and support me — people I trust and feel safe with. For me, that was my husband, sister, mother, and a close friend. The faces of the people in our lives may change at different stages in life, yet the important thing is to find at least one or two people, who are safe, healthy, loving, supportive, kind, and honest. When there is no one that comes to mind, that is when finding help and community through support groups and counseling can be the best alternative.
  4. I used the free tools that I had been taught as a teen and young adult. I had an unusual childhood, and not all of it was bad. I had some unusual, stellar, rebellious-in-a-good-way mentors, friends and family who taught me skills and tools that serve anyone well: breath work exercises, exercise/walking daily, singing, dancing, meditation, yoga, art/creativity, retreat, positive visualizations, prayer, healthy diet, avoiding toxins and chemicals, and spending quality time with loved ones, animal companions, and in nature.

The truth is, mental health issues affect everyone.

We are all on a spectrum of mental health to mental illness, and it fluctuates according to our experiences, environment, and many other factors.

There are few if any people I know who don’t experience some kind of mental health issue in some way, at some points in life. Grief, genetics, disasters, violence, war, abuse, corrupt and broken systems, institutions all play a part in how our brain chemistry balance fluctuates, and our in our ability to manage in insane conditions.

“Stop the Stigma” by Geralt on Pixabay

What helps me to speak up now is knowing that I was lucky to have the help and the tools. I was lucky to find a way through it. I was lucky to know I needed to ask for help.

Now, like too many other Americans, I don’t have and can’t afford health care on a regular basis. I may not need it now, but that doesn’t mean I can count on that always being true. I am proactive, and use the holistic tools that have served me well. But that isn’t always enough.

Not only that, some mental illness needs ongoing treatment and care from doctors and therapists. Our healthcare system is broken, and people who need help aren’t able to receive it.

We cannot remain silent. Not only do we need to dispel the stigma of mental illness, we need healthcare and insurance to serves a higher purpose of wellness with ethics, inclusivity, accessibility, and transparency.

If you struggle with mental health issues, the stigma of it, and in needing help but not being able to afford it, you are not alone.

If you need help right now, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to find support and help. They provide resources, hotlines, and a lot of the help is free.

Wild Clover News, And A Key To Greater Fulfillment

CS Sherin, Aug 30, 2018

Some news to report, and then the main thought for the end of summer….

The end of a huge project:

It is the end of Summer here in the Midwest of the US, and here I am to update you on all the news here at Wild Clover. I have been absent from my posts both here and at the Recipe For A Green Life blog. The reason? Last week saw the completion of the second edition of my book, Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Sustainable Living Handbook & Recipe Book, written by me, edited by Charish Badzinski (who also wrote an amazing Foreword), and published by Wild Clover Press. For those who don’t know about this, or are confused, here is the genesis of this huge project, summarized:

  • January 2016 — I wrote and released a draft publication called, A Green Lifestyle Recipe Book (paperback, 5.5×8.5, 135 pages, ISBN: 978-0-692-58700-3).
  • Shortly after that was published, I found an amazing editor to take that draft publication to the next level.
  • May of 2017 — Recipe For A Green Life was published (paperback, 7×10, first edition, 470 pages, ISBN: 978-0-692-79614-6).
  • After the paperback was published I pursued getting it into E-book format. There were a lot of challenges to that, (a year’s worth) which I won’t get into here, but that led to the next big step…
  • May of 2018 — Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Sustainable Living Handbook & Recipe Book, 2nd edition premiered in E-book format.
  • And finally, August of 2018 — the second edition of Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Sustainable Living Handbook & Recipe Book (7×10, 2nd edition, 488 pages, ISBN: 978-0-692-11083-6) was released in paperback with a new cover and all the updates!

That was the biggest, most demanding project I have ever worked on! 10,000s+ of hours went into it, over-time without pay, and many things I have passion to do went on the back burner for so long. Making note of these facts, I looked at the result–what I accomplished, and I feel it was worth it! It has been pure joy and relief to be done with the writing, research, editing, formatting, and publishing for this huge undertaking. Saying I am really pleased with the final outcome and what the book has become is an understatement. It isn’t perfect, but it is the best I could possibly do, and it is done! 🙂

A Key To Greater Fulfillment

It’s all in your mind, body, and present moment

Wm. Morris, 1860-66, PD. Google Art Project

Sometimes hearing someone state the obvious can be annoying. Other times, hearing someone state the obvious can be a revelation, which awakens us to a simple truth we somehow lost sight of. The details and harried pace of life too often push us into unnatural and unhealthy positions, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. We spend our days at a pace and itinerary that we may not really want or choose, despite our gifts for scheduling and pacing ourselves.

It is the old trick of life: we make plans, pursue our goals, work hard, do our best, and then life happens to us, again and again. And life doesn’t care in the least that we had plans, great plans. Life has other ideas, and they are often bigger and stronger than ours.

So much of life is what we didn’t plan, didn’t intend, don’t want, or didn’t know we wanted — and it shows up, trashing our idealized path forward. Maybe because of this, with the pressures of daily obligations and duty added in, we lose sight of simple truths, which can free us anew. Those simple truths grant us breathing room that ushers in more flexibility and adaptability, and healthier, well-rooted positions — as we keep moving towards worthy goals.

Stating the obvious as a revelation goes something like this:
The present moment and day is all we ever have. We don’t “have” the past or the future.

The past and future are both alive to some extent in our thoughts and being, but what we really truly have is each passing moment.

What is happening now? What isn’t happening now?

What isn’t happening now can be obvious, yet still lost on a frantic mind. In fact, when I was in therapy many years ago to treat the PTSD I was experiencing, it wasn’t the therapy that became my major breakthrough to relief and greater wellness. It was claiming over and over again the obvious fact that even though my brain kept flashing back to the trauma, that wasn’t what was happening now.

When my brain got caught on a loop of worry, stress, or anxiety, my mind was manufacturing more stress, and I wasn’t able to center myself or really deal with all the emotions — until I dedicated myself to returning to the present moment, using my breath to manage and release the built-up stress.
In meditation the idea is: to clear the mind, focus on reality without attachment, and stick to simple truths and facts, like breath. I am breathing. That is a fact. It happens without my effort. It brings me health and life. Breathing in certain ways, from deep in the belly, helps to relieve stress, stuck emotions, and physical tension. Breathing in peace and relaxation, and breathing out fear and worry, becomes a way to come back fully to be in the present. Getting all the mental and emotional obstacles out of the way, then we can actively build on a present, open, relaxed and adaptable mental state.

It is important to grown a particular awareness. That is of the part of our consciousness that observes our own self breathing. This is the same part of our consciousness that observes a candle flame, or our rampant thoughts scattering in and out of meditation time. It is a quiet, matter of fact, kind, yet neutral awareness.

The conscious observer within harbors zero judgement and worry. The quiet, peaceful observer within is the part of our being that is meditation, health, and the key to true wealth, which is inner peace and freedom to be.
The part of us that is able to observe and name things without affect is the inner peace, the voice of reason, the deeper self that recognizes that we possess nothing (except our own being), and have no real security (everything changes, there are always things out of our control), and that being aware and present is the greatest power and asset we have in this life. In meditation the inner observer names what it observes rather than fighting, resisting, or focusing on a thought. That is worry. That is fear. That is a random thought.

Probably most of the stress and problems, that we dwell on and sometimes create in our thoughts, are happening now.

The difficult part of life in the era we exist in, is that we know what is happening in our city, state, country, and world daily and weekly. When we carry that awareness with us, it can be too-heavy of a burden to process. We cannot fully process or answer to all the world’s conflicts and tragedies at once, in a day, week, month, or year.

The meditative practice of letting go and clearing the mind — in order to connect with a deeper consciousness within (that is synced with the present moment) — is the most healthy and dynamic action we can take, for our own health and for those around us. It can lead to solutions that we may never have opened to otherwise.

What is happening now, in this moment? Right now, when I am first writing this, I hear a migrating bird singing a really sweet little tune outside, and it is a cold dreary day in the Driftless region. My fingers are a bit cold. I hear my cat in the window looking at the bird. I hear the sound of my fingers on the keyboard. I feel my breath growing shallow as I focus on writing, and I remember to take a deep breath from my belly. As I do, I feel the tension leave my upper chest, that is still faintly present, from a cold virus that is mostly gone. That is all there is to be with, and deal with now.

Each now is different.

Each now depends on each of us.

If you have the power and mobility to do something for someone else, and you have the energy and many resources as well, then your present moment includes a longer reach than many in this world. Best to connect with that deeper self as much as possible to make the most of it! When we are relaxed and centered we can make better decisions and more efficient and meaningful actions.

Checking in and remaining present in the now tunes us in to reality, and realities, around and within us. It plugs us in to: inspiration and connections that we couldn’t have accessed when we were lost in endless mental loops of worry, fear, blame, anger, self-consciousness, past memories, future aims, etc.

For many of us, the present moment is breathing, being, and responding to what is in the space around us in the best ways possible, or taking a break to find space within, in order to respond or begin responding when we are really ready.

The Most Valuable Currency We Possess

Roses in Seattle WA. Photo by CS Sherin

Being fully present in the current moment means we are contributing our most precious and valuable currency in this life — our presence.

Our personal resources consist of: time, energy, and presence — primarily. We each have unique contributions to make, yet we all have those foundational currencies in common.

Personal resources are personal forms of currency. This includes health, values, and well-being.

What are we giving our personal currency, our presence, to? Self, loved ones, friends, clients, animal companions, nature, the phone, social media, or…something else? Or, are we really present very much at all? Are we distracted, lost in thought?

The best we can do is to refresh ourselves and our presence regularly, so that we are able to contribute to our lives and others’ in the best and most effective ways possible.

Reality of the present moment can often mean that all we have energy for is a meal and a nap.

We are animals too. We human animals have to find a balance of need, want, creating, and being

For those who depend on us, we have an added responsibility to really be present at important times. The gift of presence isn’t just our thoughts, feelings, or physical body. It is all of those, and none of those dominating.
Presence is without judgement, and is aware. Presence is without overt emotions — compassionate, without enmeshment. Presence is the physical body actually present, but also with complete relaxed attention. Being truly present can usher in amazing movement. No wisdom has to be uttered. Being truly present can be profoundly healing for self and others.

The heart and mind become grounded and saturated in a profound peace as this practice becomes habit. It doesn’t isolate us from reality, it allows us to be grounded and centered enough to deal with reality and difficult changes and feelings. The body is listened to, and can become a beacon of presence.

Putting a stop to unhelpful thoughts running amok happens through observing them without reactivity or judgement. Part of that a thought go after it is named. That takes practice and dedication. It is worth it.
For myself, and many other people, spending time in nature and/or with animals connects us immediately with the present moment and grants us access to sometimes hard to find emotions like: joy, gratitude, and unencumbered love — absent of control or ownership.

With practice, it becomes easier for the mind to automatically let go — particularly as we observe the patterns, beauty, and details of nature; or the earnest love and entertainment found in the company of animal companions.

Another easy access to meditation and present moment facilitator is through creativity, like: making soup, baking, washing the dishes, walking/hiking, weeding, and gardening. There is a certain meditative quality to these that assists the mind in letting go and being.

Before PTSD I was able to be present naturally as a child. Most children naturally have this, if they were allowed to. Presence and present moment awareness isn’t alien to us. It is simply that the cultures and systems we grew up in conditioned and programmed us otherwise.

In the deepest of ways, in these times that numb the mind, bear down on the spirit, and break the heart, this practice of being present to the simple truths (being, breathing, observing) and best free tools (breath work, meditation) is essential.

Well, that, and good humor. I always like to remember humor, and music, and movement too. Engaging the senses, movement, and activating humor can help to shake loose stagnant thoughts and feelings too.

Ongoing creativity leads to freedom and wellness. There are many pathways. That is one. Creativity and the present moment are synced, in my experience. We engage creativity when our minds are present and free. And often, we can free our minds through creative action…

For all our lives, the core truth is that: we only have ourselves, our being and body as a constant. Therefore, it is wise to be kind, present and true to self first. In doing this, life and personal goals flow more harmoniously, like creativity in the present moment.

Futurism

We look forward — to plan, to build, to dream, to meet, to move forward. Looking forward, as long as we are not obsessed, is natural and good, just like looking to the past is. In fact, understanding and remembering the past is essential to moving forward into the future with greater wisdom and health.

We don’t want to get stuck in the past, or be on a repeating loop of unfortunate patterns on into a bleak future.

We do need to make new and different choices. We need to take well-thought out and reasonable risks. We need to make sure that we don’t keep repeating what is comfortable and familiar, just because it is that.

At this time we are being called to remember, learn, be, move forward, act, and create something new. Each moment is an inner and outer now. Be brave enough to release what is getting your way to being true to who you are. But first, learn to clear your mind and connect to your deeper self and deeper knowing.

Beyond this, it is essential to observe and evaluate how you spend your most valuable currency — your presence, time, and energy. Make adjustments. Keep at it. Then, trust the flow of being and creating, and make the most of each now.

all my best,

Chandra
Wild Clover