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“Horse therapy treatments for mental health issues”

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This April 24, 2015 St. Louis Fox2Now article talks about the therapeutic benefits of using horses in mental health therapy sessions.

“Here’s something you can feel good about”

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This February 15, 2015 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article talks about a conflict that never happened over a community garden.  Neat story to say the least.

“A short film about Mental Wellness through Peer Support” [Video]

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This video was uploaded to YouTube on February 5, 2012 by Martin Haythorne and offers some thoughts on how something as simple as having a cup of tea with friends in the middle of nowhere can be a form of Peer Support that promotes mental wellness and recovery.

“Are You Getting Enough Vitamin M?”

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This post found on The Unbound Spirit website talks about Vitamin M and how many health benefits one can get  from it.  Enjoy!

“10 Tips to Fool Yourself Into Getting Fit: How to trick yourself into exercising when you’d rather skip it”

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This February 21, 2014 Next Avenue article talks about ways to help overcome our desire to skip exercising on days we don’t feel like doing it.  The tips are actually pretty simple and as I read over them I realized I already do a few of them myself.  The tip about keeping workout videos in plain sight is one I’ve done for a long time, only in my case its my “Wii Fit Plus” and “Walk It Out” games for my Wii that I keep out in plain sight.  I use walking to the store to pickup one or 2 things as an excuse to go for a walk on days I don’t feel like doing it, and as suggested in the tips, I find that if I set a goal of a specific destination to walk that I will get creative and my impulsiveness kicks in and I find myself taking a different route because I’m bored with the usual route (having ADHD can be a benefit sometimes when it comes to walking different routes).  Other things I do, is since I’m huge on using my tablet pc to help keep me on track with appointments, I’ll include reminders on it to go for a walk or have my ride drop me off further from the entrance to a building I need to go into, and even things like reminding myself to drink enough water.  I also will put little notes of encouragement for myself with little things like “If you exercised today, Keep it up!” or asking myself “How far did you walk today?”  simply putting those questions in are helpful to me in reminding myself to exercise.

 

English: Logo for Wii Fit Plus.

English: Logo for Wii Fit Plus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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“Pa. managed care entity lauded for using collaborative care tool”

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This November 7, 2013 article on the Mental Health Weekly website talks about Community Care Behavioral Health (CCBH) and how they have helped to increase recovery oriented treatment with Common Ground software at 12 locations.  Common Ground was designed by Dr. Pat Deegan and her team.  The software encourages two-way communication between patients and the psychiatrist about things like medication use/concerns, how the person is doing overall, if they have any concerns or questions about their medications or treatment in general.

The agency I receive my mental health treatment from is one of the 12 locations using Common Ground, and to be honest, I love the software.  I am able to have remote access to the common ground library, and can update things like medications, personal medicine and my power statement from home.  I am not able to do a health report from home, but that is done before I go in to see my Psychiatrist and they schedule my appointment to make sure I have time to do the report and see my doctor in a reasonable amount of time.  In general my appointment takes about an hour and includes my use of Common Ground, seeing the Nurse, and seeing my Psychiatrist.  One thing that I find helpful about Common Ground is that with me having ADHD, I often forget or lose things, so before Common Ground, I would write a list of things I wanted to discuss with my Psychiatrist, and 9 chances out of 10 I would end up losing the list before I got in to see him, so I would then forget to ask about things I felt were important.  With Common Ground, I still risk losing my list, but the approach Common Ground uses by asking questions about various things that are important for me to discuss with my doctor, it seems to help get my mindset in a mode where I not only remember more of what I wanted to ask or mention, and I feel like my appointment is more productive than it use to be before Common Ground.

On behalf of the folks who have benefited from Common Ground so far, I would like to say thank you to Pat Deegan and her team for the work they have done to help me and many others like  me feel like we really truly have a voice when it comes to our mental health treatment.

I once saw a video where Pat Deegan was talking about why she created Common Ground.  At one point in the video, she said she started her work on improving the mental health system to “save myself”.  I would like to once again, thank Pat Deegan for taking a risk and trying to save others while she saves herself.  The work she has done has made a huge impact on my life and the quality of my mental health care, but I’m sure that I’m not the only one that has benefited from her efforts since many others also use Common Ground.

I’m Blogging for World Mental Health Day October 10

I have worked on developing and enhancing my list of items I use as personal medicine.  For those who aren’t familiar with the term “personal medicine” let me explain it a bit.  Pat Deegan describes personal medicine as things we do that make us feel better, and reminds us that medication prescribed by our doctor is not the same as personal medicine.  Medication or pills are something you take.  personal medicine is something you do.

Here’s a list of some of my personal medicine items and how I benefit from doing them.

  • Bicycling
    • Riding my bike helps me manage my anxiety by giving me an outlet for some  of the anxious energy
  • Blogging
    • Blogging helps me feel connected to the world around me and at the same time gives me a sense of purpose
  • Playing video games
    • When I play video games, I am able to take a step back from things that may be overwhelming me, and I get an opportunity to regroup before trying to face whatever is overwhelming me again.  I also use gaming as a way to practice social skill in an environment that is less threatening to me then face to face encounters with other people tend to feel.
  • Knitting
    • Knitting helps me in a few ways
      • gives me a creative outlet
      • helps me quiet my mind by doing something that doesn’t need lots of thinking, and I can sort of meditate a bit
      • allows me to do something nice for other people and when I see people smile when I give them something I have knit, I get a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of warmth that helps take the sting out of the rough patches I may be experiencing in my life.
  • Researching
    • Researching or learning more about whatever I happen to have as a pressing question on my mind, helps to quiet my mind, and satisfy my hunger for information.  I will often have a question or idea on my mind that seems to almost take over my brain and make it tough to think about anything else, and I found that simply taking a little time to do a little research into the question  or idea helps me settle my mind by giving me information to satisfy the thoughts.  It’s kind of like if you have a baby that is hungry who is crying and fussy because of being hungry.  Once you feed the baby and satisfy the baby’s hunger, the baby will generally settle down and be more content overall.  In many ways that’s what my mind is like but instead of being hungry for food,  my brain gets hungry for information, and the questions or ideas are like the fussy baby.  I feed my mind information and the fussiness dissipates.  So while I do realize that most people don’t do research for fun, it is something that I not only enjoy, but am able to use to quiet my often noisy brain.
  • Journalling
    • Journaling helps me sort and organize thoughts, feelings or ideas, and gives me a second option for handling the questions and such that often become overwhelming to me if left unchecked.  If I don’t have time to do research right then, sometimes just the act of writing down the question, topic, idea or whatever it is that seems to be taking over my mind, it allows me to in a sense say ok, I recognize that this is on my mind and needs to be further considered, but I’m going to table it and deal with it later when I have more time.  In short, it’s like I’m emptying my brain a little so I can focus on the thing I need to be focused on at that moment.
  • Walking
    • Walking, like bicycling helps me manage my anxiety, my weight, and helps me kind of clear my mind by getting out and enjoying nature a bit
  • Interacting with my Service Dog
    • Interacting can be playing, training, working, or simply cuddling, but the thing all these forms of interaction do for me, is divert my attention off myself and help keep me from dwelling on things.  I also get to explore the world around me much easier than I could on my own.  The world is a very scary place for me, but using my service dog helps me manage the fears and anxiety I have about the world around me that pretty much paralyzes me if I’m left to handle things on my own without my Service Dog’s help.  I get a sense of joy, accomplishment, and am more likely to interact with people around me then I would on my own.  My service dog bridges the gap between  my world and the world around me in a way that in some ways is almost magical, as well as being very difficult to put into words.  She has the ability to make me laugh or smile at times when no human has been able to succeed, she gives me comfort, bolsters my braveness, and even though she is the one being trained, our training sessions give me a sense of accomplishment and pride when I see her begin to master a skill I’ve tried to teach her.  She’s learning to help me, and I’m learning to reach beyond myself.

All the things I listed above are things that help me in many ways, but they all are able to have a positive impact on my mental health and even my physical health and by doing things that impact both my mental and physical health, I feel more like a complete or whole person who is better equipped to face the world around me and everything it has to offer.

Image I'm Blogging for World Mental Health Day on October 10

I’m Blogging for World Mental Health Day on October 10

 

Tough times in my world

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rather then post a news article, I’m opting to get a little personal and share some of my recent struggles, but in addition to my struggles, I wanted to share what I’m doing to work through them in hope that others might get ideas of things they can try if they are struggling as well.

Here’s some of the highlights of what has happened with me.

  • During the last week of July 2013 I made the tough decision to Retire my Service Dog, “Tippy”  I saw she was developing cataracts, and she has battled a chronic skin condition for about 5 years, on top of developing bladder stones over the past year.  Initially I thought maybe I could retire her, she could stay with me as a pet and I would just not work her, but I quickly found that going places without her, even those places that I am comfortable being, were extremely difficult to go to.
  • The first week of August 2013 I broke the news that I was retiring Tippy to my friends and family
  • By the end of the 2nd week of August, I realized without a doubt I needed to replace Tippy so I got in contact with the organization I got Tippy from to see if they had any dogs that were close to being ready to be placed, or had washed out of the program because of a refusal to retrieve or something along those lines that wouldn’t be a problem for me with the type of work I needed Tippy’s replacement to do.
  • Things progressed and on September 11, 2013, I dropped off Tippy with the organization, and came home with “Ora” who later got renamed to “Orca” because even though I really like the name “Ora” I kept calling her “Oreo” which is my cat’s name, so for my sanity I added a letter to her name and made it “Orca” which has been simpler for me.
  • September 18, 2013 I had spent the day with my Mom getting some items for Orca, and enjoying a nice meal out in a resteraunt, we had an awesome day.  I got home that evening, and was checking my email since I’d been gone all day, and the first email I spotted was one from a friend telling me that Rachel Freund had passed away that morning after battling cancer for some time.  I was devastated by this news

Since early July 2013, I have been on an emotional roller coaster to put it mildly.  Retiring Tippy has been very difficult, but I feel like it is the right decision, Orca has helped to fill that void but she has lots to learn, so training with her has helped me to keep my sanity on some level.  Losing Rachel, while on some level I’m not surprised, because of the severity of her cancer, I feel a huge sense of loss because she was one of us, she was a mental health consumer, and advocate not only for herself, but for many others, and the world lost one of the most awesome people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.  She inspired me to develop an interest in politics and I was one who when I met her really didn’t want anything to do with the political realm.  I still have a lot to learn where politics are involved, but Rachel gave me a good foundation to build on.

So, with all the struggles I’ve had since probably June when I started noticing Tippy’s health was deteriorating and retirement was likely going to need to happen, what have I been doing to help keep myself from sinking too deep into depression or otherwise getting overwhelmed by circumstances?

Well, here’s a list of things I’ve done, maybe it will give others ideas of things they can try as well.

  • Bought a mountain bike
    • I have loved riding a bike since I was a kid, but hadn’t rode in about 10 years.  Retiring Tippy was a seemingly odd motivator to get the bike, but my idea in getting it was that it would not only help with my weight loss goals, but also would allow me to be a little more independent and need to rely less on others at least during the times when the roads aren’t icy.  In addition to being transportation and exercise, it is also something that has proven to be awesome for helping me to manage the stress I’ve been under
  • Training Orca
    • I would be doing this even if I wasn’t stressed, but training with her has helped to keep me from getting stuck inside my head by keeping at least some of my focus outside of myself and on her needs
  • Gaming
    • Gaming has been a HUGE help through everything, there was a period where text just wasn’t making sense to me, so I wasn’t able to do any blogging, but I found that not only YouTube videos that were educational in nature were helpful, but also gaming was as well.  I’ve been playing World of Warcraft and The Sims 3 for years, and over the past couple years have played SimCity, Skyrim, Defiance, and recently started toying with Warframe.  When I was angry or frustrated I seemed to gravitate to Defiance, Warframe, Skyrim and WoW.  When I was feeling empty, hollow or like my head was mush, I found that Sims 3, SimCity and World of Warcraft were helpful.  They let me step back from my struggles and take a break from my emotions for a bit so I could regroup.
  • Socializing
    • This one has been tricky, some days I want to be around people while other days there doesn’t seem to be enough distance between me and other humans, but a few select people who I’ve been able to keep close to me through all of this, they have made me smile, been supportive, allowed me to cry and vent to them, while at the same time allowing me to have a sounding board to bounce my thoughts or ideas off of.  Sometimes we hung out and would joke around, while other times were more serious in nature, but regardless of the tone of our gathering, these folks played a huge role in helping me keep things in perspective and to them I am grateful.
  • Exercising
    • Yes I said that dreaded word …. exercising.  I have come to realize that exercise can be anything from doing housework to going for a walk or bike ride.  Being physically active has been a huge thing for me as well, it has helped prevent me from staying in bed all day (Orca helps with that as well) I feel better emotionally when I’ve been active, it helps me to clear my head and refocus myself, while at the same time burning calories.  I tend to feel more relaxed when I’ve been physically active then I do when I laid around the house doing close to nothing physically active.
  • Cleaning my home
    • Okay another dreaded thing with that one, but for me I found that doing housework, even though I’m not a huge fan of doing the cleaning, the result of having things look less cluttered and less overwhelming visually helps me with my anxiety and has an added benefit of keeping me physically active.

So I guess you could say that for me I’ve had to focus on balancing my need to process emotions out by countering them with things that keep my mind and body active.  I have days that are horribly difficult to keep going and do stuff, but then other days it’s like I can’t wait to go for a walk with Orca and do some training with her.  I also found that what works great one day may not work well the next day, so there is a bit of trial and error involved with the things I’ve tried.  I think for me the key has been not allowing myself to give up, and balancing emotional overload with positive healthy activities.

Now that I’m able to comprehend what I read once more, blogging and web design are also helping me to not get stuck inside my head,  I’ve had a lot happen in a short period, on top of the anniversary of one of the toughest times in my life, which always causes me to struggle in September, since the year that terrorist flew planes into the twin towers.  That year, I had lost my job, was on the verge of becoming homeless, and was struggling with some severe mental health issues among which was a conversion disorder that manifested itself as blindness.  that fateful morning of 9/11 I was attending a school for the newly blind where I was pretty much learning how to navigate the world around me without the ability to see.  Medically my eyes were fine, but my brain was so overloaded with stress that to deal with the overload, it had to shut something down and in my case it was my vision.  It was because of the conversion disorder that I had to quit my job, because I wasn’t working I lost my apartment, and at the same time was hospitalized for mental health reasons.  I was at a very low point, and even though overall things have been better since that year, I always get kind of moody in September because of the anniversary of the year I nearly lost everything and then had to deal with emotions surrounding the well-known terrorist attack on 9/11.  So for me, September is a tough month to begin with, and this one has had both sadness and joy compounding things.

So yeah doing the things I listed above have truly been things that helped me keep my sanity through this tough month.  None of them are overly huge, but sometimes small things can make the biggest difference and allow me to succeed.

Thank you to all my readers for being patient with my lack of posts and downtime here on Pennsylvania Mental Health Issues, it means a lot to me that folks would stick around even though I had to step back and stop blogging for a bit.  I feel like I’m starting to get my mojo back though with blogging, so hopefully I’ll get back on track again and it will be blogging as usual so to speak 🙂

“Stages Arts Initiative brings together a community of individuals”

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This July 14, 2013 article on the West Chester, PA, Daily Times website talks about an organization called “Stages” where folks who are struggling can go and take art and music classes that include opportunities to show off their talents.

 

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July_14__2013_at_0506AM (Photo credit: masayukig)

 

“Garden offers opportunities for patients, family members”

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This July 12, 2013 article found on the Sentinel website talks about a newly added garden at the Franklin Family Services that is for patients and their families to enjoy.  The idea cost the agency $125 to start it, and it is hoped that it will offer some therapeutic benefits to those who help with it.

 

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