Returning to Life

I’ve been away insofar as I’ve had to act as my mother’s caregiver for over five weeks.

No mental health agency or organization is talking about how adult children diagnosed with schizophrenia are becoming caregivers for our parents.

In fact no one is talking about the graying of people with mental health conditions and our needs as older Americans.

Yet again I’m the only one talking about this topic.

Over five years ago at the HealthCentral website I wrote a news article about geriatric psychiatry.

Even then no one else was writing about these things.

In coming blog entries here I’m going to talk in detail about acting as a caregiver.

Someone has to write about this topic.

You owe your mother your life because she gave birth to you.

There’s no excuse for abusive parents.

Yet short of abuse you should do the right thing when your parents get older.

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Summer Health Tips

For those of us taking medication the drugs could interfere with temperature regulation. Thus we might not realize how hot it really is.

We could be at greater risk for heat stroke.

Anyone on schizophrenia medication should drink plenty of water in the summer. We should stay out of the sun from 12 noon until 4:00 p.m. These are the hours when the sun is most intense.

Always wear sunscreen. Apply 15 to 20 minutes before going outside.

I take Ziprasidone the generic for Geodon.

So I don’t stay outside in direct heat for more than 10 minutes in the summer.

Alas, at the gym it always seems like the air conditioner ISN’T blowing when I’m doing a routine there in the summer.

This mystifies me as I’ve been a gym member for 15 years. Ever since joining I’ve had to lift weights with barely any air conditioning blowing for every summer so far.

You might not want to do this yet I do this: I shorten how long I work out at the gym in the summer. This is because yes it can be entirely too hot in a gym during the hot weather.

A number of public libraries in New York City are designated cooling centers because they have air conditioning. Signs in front of these branches list them as Cooling Centers.

Dial 311 in New York City to locate a Cooling Center near you.

Check where you live elsewhere to see whether you have any locations listed as cooling centers.

Staying in your own home when you have air conditioning can also be okay in the summer.

Either way it’s imperative to drink plenty of water.

We’re All Winners

Unlike the disability rights crowd I’m content to use the word “courageous” to describe what it’s like waking up every day and having to live with an illness whether chronic or in remission.

As a fifty-three-year old woman, I don’t think anything or anyone is normal in this world. One day I simply couldn’t get out of bed again. So I stayed home.

Yes, I tell you: give me some kind of prize for having had a breakdown. Call me courageous even though I recovered and I’m in remission. No one should have to deal with an illness every day of their lives regardless of whether or not they still have symptoms.

First of all, folks, it’s courageous to practice wellness in a climate where others want the right to choose to be ill. Only the ill times were no joke for me.

My belief is that you can find your kind of wellness within your illness even if your condition is more severe.

I’m not going to minimize or discount the pain people are in. Nor do I want others to gloss over the pain I’m in. Though I report from the land of Well and Plenty I didn’t always have this fertile tilled soil. It’s too darn hard to get where I’ve gotten that you bet I expect others to have compassion for all of us.

We cannot live our lives in mortal fear of emotionally clueless people who have no compassion for us and our trials. That’s why I say: give us some kind of Nobel Prize just for waking up and being able to go out the door in the morning.

Whether we’re still in pain or doing better isn’t the point. The exclamation point is that each day we’re trying our best to survive and thrive.

We’re winners just because we get up in the morning.

Everyone Hurts

We shouldn’t forget that ordinary nameless individuals–people walking on the street or waiting in line at the supermarket– are facing pain and living in agony just like Kate Spade was.

Unlike NAMI New York State I’m not going to criticize people who are shocked and in mourning because a famous person committed suicide.

Strip away Kate Spade’s status, take her name off pocketbooks, and she’s a person who despaired of finding relief just like a lot of us despair.

The truth is that external success doesn’t always inoculate a person from hardship or from being in pain or thinking they’re suffering alone in what they go through.

Too many people obtain external markers of success–the house, the car, whatever–and yet still feel empty inside.

I wrote about this in one of the blogs when I quoted Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper TV show fame: if you’re not happy now wherever you are in life today how can you be confident you’ll be happy in the future as long as a certain condition is met?

Happiness shouldn’t be linked to “having all your ducks in a row” or be predicated on achieving some kind of goal.

Waiting for the perfect condition in life to happen before you’ll be happy–or before thinking you’ve been a success–is a mistake.

The takeaway from Kate Spade’s death is that even great success isn’t enough to give a person joy.

For mental health peers it should come as a relief the idea that we can be happy even if our lives are ordinary and unremarkable.

We don’t have to win a Nobel Prize or otherwise become a “household name” like Kate Spade to be happy and feel worthy.

What I want to tell readers:

You are a success regardless of the number on the scale, the figure in your bank account, your status in society or anything else traditionally used to measure a person.

You are a success because you are your Self.

No Judgments At This Blog

This is what I think about something that happened in response to Kate Spade’s death.

NAMI New York State violated one of its own peer support guidelines: “We judge no one else’s pain as any less than our own.”

In an electronic newsletter NAMI New York State dared write:

“The heartbreak that many of Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain’s legions of admirers are experiencing is a fraction of the emotions felt when losing a friend or a loved one.”

The audacity! NAMI New York State feels its members are more deserving than others to feel grief about a loss. NAMI New York State dares assume that other people’s pain is less than yours or mine.

This stance will only alienate people who might have sought help.

I for one have been devastated by Kate Spade’s death at her own hands. As a person with ambition who is driven to excel I acutely understand that the fashion designer might have struggled even though she was at the top of her game.

After the death-from-illness of my mentor I have been thinking often about this dichotomy exactly: Why do some people when faced with hardship keep moving along and think things can get better? While others think things are hopeless and see no way out of their pain?

Is it partly a question of being given hope when you’re at the end of your rope? Is it mostly a question of feeling rapport with your treatment providers who can give you this hope? What is the solution to despair?

In New York City The Rita Project offers hope and healing for survivors of suicide attempts via art therapy endeavors. It seems they don’t have a website (or at least I haven’t found it via the cursory Google search hits).

I offer a disclaimer header in the menu bar at the top of the blogs. What I’m really trying to do here is to offer a haven in prose where people can be uplifted and inspired.

When people are hurting the last thing they need is to have a mental health organization discount the pain they’re in.

For the record, I was distraught when a guy I had known took his own life.

I’ve thought of a way to honor friends and loved ones who have committed suicide. I want to run this by an attorney to see about the viability of doing this. It might not be possible.

Yet hey–if you’re experiencing a hardship you deserve compassion.

Dancing in the Rain

Fashion ultimately can’t cure an actual disease–if it could Kate Spade would still be alive.

When life isn’t going your way, when a setback happens or it takes longer to get what you want: I say do what makes you happy so that you can feel good.

The solution to experiencing a setback might just be to shift your focus and do something else. Or to change the method you employ for achieving your original goal.

It’s ironic–and sad more than anything–that Kate Spade could design pocketbooks that put a spring in women’s steps when we carried them. Yet she didn’t feel the same joy in her own life.

Was she 55?

I’m a 53-year old woman who hasn’t gotten what she wanted: a boyfriend and a book contract.

The quote gets it right about learning how to dance in the rain instead of simply waiting for the storm to pass.

I recommend that all readers–men as well as women–do what gives you joy.

Readers: dressing in style has been my way to dance in the rain.

This is what I’m saying: that at 53, at even just 22, at whatever age you are:

I submit the goal is to feel good about yourself and your life.

For one person, singing in a choir might make their heart beat. For another, running a 5K marathon might keep them smiling.

The pursuit of happiness is not a frivolous endeavor.

I regret there’s a backlash against the positive psychology movement that Martin Seligman started years ago.

If you ask me it’s imperative that we find out what makes us happy and go do that.

The beauty is that the older you get you can discover new gifts and passions that will bring you joy.

It’s not ever too late to make a change for the better.

The rain can end at some point. For some of us it might continue. That’s when having a fallback option makes sense.

Years ago I went back to school to get a Masters degree. That was my Plan B.

Choosing an alternative path to go down isn’t settling for less. It’s being realistic when it turns out the umbrella you were holding up has broken.

There is always going to be rain. While most of us prefer the sun the rain might serve a purpose too.

Learning how to dance in the rain sure beats being afraid of the thunder.

Kate Spade – An American Tragedy

I’m going to cut-and-paste here in this blog the entry I posted just five minutes ago in the Left of the Dial forum.

Today Kate Spade–the designer of iconic handbags–took her own life.

She had everything going for her in terms of external success.

It’s a tragedy that inside at her core she wasn’t doing very well.

A year or two ago in this Flourish blog I wrote about the phenomenon of “smiling depression.”

Women are suffering all alone because no one takes them seriously.

“How could you be depressed when you have a great life?”

“Just pray and go to church and you’ll be fine.”

“Get married and have babies and raise a family.”

That last sentence contains actual words a young woman was told years ago.

The other two sentences are oft-repeated ill advice that women are given too.

I remember vividly when I was going on a job interview in the 1990s.

I rode the elevator up to the office with another woman. She held a Kate Spade tote against her shoulder. I coveted that Kate Spade pocketbook.

It wasn’t until this spring that I dared splurge to buy myself a Kate Spade pocketbook.

I bought it at a reduced yet not cheap cost at an off-price discount retailer in New York City.

Kate and her husband sold their company years ago. Yet American women have coveted the Kate Spade handbags since their first creation.

Disability is no joke.

Mental health issues strike everyone from all walks of life.

It’s a tragedy that Kate Spade and hundreds possibly thousands of nameless faceless individuals feel the only way out of their pain is to end their life.

What if Kate Spade could’ve gotten treatment? What if she had bipolar or another mental health issue that wasn’t diagnosed?

A part of Kate Spade lives on in the pocketbook I bought this spring.

Yet that’s no consolation for the fact that another human being’s life ended in tragedy not recovery.

God bless you Kate Spade. God bless everyone living with a mental health issue who suffers. You are not alone.

The Suicide Prevention Helpline can be reached at (800) 273-TALK (8255).

You can use the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Please. The pain you are in can be healed. People care about you. Help is available.

There is a way out of the pain that will enable you to live a better life.

There’s no shame. What you feel is real and true. What you feel can be healed