IF YOU OR A FRIEND IS CURRENTLY SUICIDAL

If you’re currently thinking about suicide or someone you love is suicidal immediate help is needed, please do not try to go it alone. There are steps you can take to get help quickly.

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

SUICIDE HOTLINE 1-800-273-8255

If you’re worried that a loved one may be suicidal review these warning signs to help decide what to do:
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/learn/warningsigns.aspx

How to create a safety plan to keep a loved one safe if they are suicidal:
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/learn/safety.aspx

GETTING HELP FOR YOURSELF

If you are fighting depression or bipolar disorder I understand how difficult it is to go through. I have been institutionalized twice due to mental illness and I now look back on these as very helpful experiences. You should never feel ashamed or isolated if you’re suffering from mental illness, your brain chemicals are out of whack and you need help getting your brain functioning properly so you can live a fulfilled life. It will always take work and maybe even medication (which I am on) to help you get on the right path. The work involved can seem overwhelming and might possibly give you the “why me” feeling, BUT- here’s the great news – with lifestyle changes and possibly medication you can grow as a person and use your illness to gain a better understanding of yourself and a higher awareness, which is something everyone can benefit from. I no longer look at my illness as a weakness, but my super power! I have placed so many great things in my life that give me more purpose and fulfillment than I have experienced at any other time in my life. I still feel the pressure of life and the feelings of being overwhelmed, these never stop, but I have systems instituted that help me cope and thrive in my life. So please take the time to go through this page (make sure to scroll to the bottom for more helpful resource links!) and implement a strategy that works for you. I hope this helps you on your journey to wellness.

MEDITATION – This was very hard at first and frustrating for me, but now find it to be one of the most beneficial lifestyle changes I have implemented. Be patient with yourself as anything that is learned takes practice. I now meditate everyday to quiet my mind and reset my brain. Your brain is much like a computer, it is being fed lots of different information, so you must continue to program your brain with more good information. Meditation allows your brain to start calming itself and redirect it onto a positive path, for me, it has been the most powerful part of my daily routine. Go to Youtube and scan through, you will find great clips that guide you through the process and teach you how to do it. For my birthday I purchased the Oprah and Deepak Chopra 21 day experience, you can choose different meditations for whatever your fighting that day, it was 40 dollars and it has been invaluable to me.

Click this link for more information:
https://chopracentermeditation.com/

DIET – This is a very important step as well, our entire body is made of food, so if we eat good we feel good! Most people that suffer from depression and bipolar can be very sensitive to chemicals – so processed, fried, and sugary foods will mess with the way we feel. I believe switching to an organic diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is necessary to start feeling better. I know a lot of people hate vegetables so buying a Vitamix or good blender can help you by mixing in fruits and veggies with something like a hemp chocolate protein powder to make it more edible. Many people suffering from mental illness are self-medicating with things like alcohol and stimulants. Alcohol is a NO NO!! I battle with it because I am an alcoholic as well, alcohol wreaks havoc on your brain chemistry and can cause deeper depression. AA is a great start, not keeping alcohol in your house and asking for the support of loved ones can help you stay away from drinking. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can create bad effects for people fighting mental illness, avoiding anything that effects your brain chemistry is advisable. Be aware of how different things you put into your body effect you and you will learn what is best for your own personal situation. I still have one half decaf half regular from starbucks everyday as I love my coffee! I just no longer have 3 cups of fully caffeinated coffee a day.

Here is a site that can help with a diet plan:
http://www.depressionandanxietydiet.com

This is an interesting article about diet and bipolar:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/

ROUTINE – Having a structured day can help with the feeling of not being able to get out of bed. Writing down the things you want to accomplish in a day is a great way to attain goals. You can’t be hard on yourself, you more than likely wont be able to finish everything on your list but the good news is tomorrow is a new day! I find the more structure I have in my daily routines the happier I am. Retool it from time to time to see how it effects your mood. I fall off my routine from time to time and that’s OK, don’t feel guilty just try again, it takes time to fall into a good routine and missing it occasionally is not the end of the world even though it may feel like it! I have an app that I use to help with my routine and use it often.

Here’s the name of the APP:
ERRANDS

THERAPY – There is such a stigma with therapy, and the truth is I think everyone should do it. The greatest thing about it is the person sitting across from you is not there to judge, only help. I’ve had 5 therapists in the last 7 years and have one I really like who has been instrumental in my growth and in guiding me in every area of my life. Be proud of yourself that you want help! So many people that need help never reach out because of what others will think or they are afraid of the process. This is not about your friends and family and their opinions, only you know what you truly feel and it takes a great amount of strength and courage to get the help you need. Don’t feel like you have to stick with the first therapist you find either, you want to make sure you are seeing someone who “gets you” so that you can gain the most out of the experience. A personal reference is a great way to find someone, as well as Googling therapists in your area, their websites can be a great way for you to get a feeling for the person.

Here is a place to search for therapists in your area:
http://www.psychologytoday.com

EXERCISE – I believe there are so many positives to exercise that no matter where you are in your life it should be practiced daily. Feeling unworthy of love and acceptance is tough to go through and I still battle that. Working out at a gym helps my confidence, focus, and overall health, and is a great reset button. I leave the gym feeling much more relaxed. Even if I only have a few minimal tasks to do in a day I can feel like my world is collapsing around me, this is when the gym or a nice walk helps calm me. Yoga is something I do often and it is an experience that helps connect you with your own energy and positive thoughts.

VOLUNTEER WORK – Its proven that 4 hours of volunteer work a week makes you happy. Giving back to your fellow humans allows connection and provides us with fulfillment. I know that when I volunteer I personally feel a great sense of gratitude, it’s something that I try to keep in my life whenever possible. Get involved in your community!

Here is a good place to start:
http://www.volunteermatch.org

SELF HELP BOOKS – There are so many amazing books out there that can really help you turn the corner with your thought process. Brene Brown has become a super star in this field, I’ve read her book Daring Greatly which was recommended by my therapist and it makes me feel better after every page I read; I think it should be read by every human being that walks this earth. Understanding how the brain works and to see what so many of us go through allows for empathy which gives us all comfort. Depression loves to attack and create a negative thought process when it has no right to. The harder the journey in life the greater the life can be that is waiting for you. Self help books are so easy to take with you now because of smart phones, whenever I have down time I can just pick up my phone. I like to take pictures of the sentences that move me so I can look through them when I’m not feeling well to provide me with some motivation to carry out my day in a better frame of mind.

Here is a list of great books that have helped with my thought process:

Daring Greatly – Brene Brown: http://www.brenebrown.com (also Google her Ted talks!)

The Power Of Now – Eckhart Tolle: http://www.eckharttolle.com

The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz: http://www.miguelruiz.com

The Artist Way – Julia Cameron: http://www.juliacameronlive.com

GETTING OUTSIDE – I believe we were born from the earth, the earth provides us with oxygen to breathe and nutrients to sustain life, we should stay connected with it. I make it a point to get outside everyday and 3 times a week go on a hike, go to the beach, or relax at a park. Take your shoes off and feel the earth beneath your feet. Now to some this can seen as hippie dippie, trust me I felt the same way…..then when I allowed myself to have a more open mind about it! By having my feet in the sand and my face in the sun I found myself doing something…. SMILING!

Here you can find a National Park or campground in your area:

http://www.NPS.gov
http://www.uscampgrounds.info

SPIRITUALITY – This topic in itself is touchy. We are inherently born looking for a higher power. For me I love science and believe that it is immensely spiritual. The feeling of purpose is something we all need and no matter what you turn to, whether it be organized religion, (there’s a great pope right now!) the universe, or whatever form of connectedness works for you, GO FOR IT! Energy is real and scientifically proven and positivity outwardly will be returned, we are all human and are hardwired to feel connected… so try connecting with people in a positive way daily. I ask every person I run into in my day how they’re doing, try it! It will surprise you how people respond. I have friends that have seen the effects and have started practicing it themselves. It works and will lift your spirits as well.

Here is a website with a multitude of resources in many different philosophies:
http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com

Feeling grateful for what we have can also help to give us a different perspective:
http://www.gratefulness.org

MEDICATION – I used this as my last resort, I had done so many things to try and pull myself out of depression and I couldn’t do it. It got so bad I had to call the suicide hotline for help. I was not only having thoughts of killing myself but I was planning it. So I did whatever it took for help. The suicide hotline gave me the number and address for the behavioral center in my area. I woke up the next morning and I drove myself there and checked myself in and got immediate help. This is what saved my life, I got medication after a thorough evaluation the very next day. IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW THAT MEDICATION IS ONLY ONE PIECE OF THE PUZZLE, you must practice a high level of self-care to keep things in balance. This includes your physical, mental and spiritual selves. Finding what combination of things work for you takes time, patience and a lot of effort, be gentle and compassionate with yourself while going through this process. This is a learning process and doesn’t happen overnight. If you do decide to go on medication make sure to do your research and be aware of possible side effects and have a loved one help to monitor you when you first get on to make sure everything is working how it should.

HELPING LOVED ONES

Depression, anxiety, and bipolar are a very real thing and due to the fact mental illness is rarely talked about and not something currently in the spotlight, people that have never been through it typically end up not knowing the proper way to handle it even if they have the best of intentions. Seeing a loved one go through this is extremely painful, but handling it improperly can make things tougher on you and the one your reaching out to. Telling some one to simply “Cheer up!” or “Get over it.” or to “Look at all the good things in your life!” are not helpful to someone who is really having trouble, it can actually lead that person into anger or deeper depression. Being informed is the best way to start to broach these topics so that you can have more compassion and empathy for the person who is suffering. From the outside everything looks normal- I’ve truly had a blessed life all things considered, I’ve chased down my dreams, married an amazing woman, and always have a roof over my head and food to eat. So it’s difficult for people to understand when a person is in the pit of depression they are not looking for sympathy, they need empathy. Educating yourself on the matter at hand is what will allow you to help. The hardest thing is trying to help someone that doesn’t want it or necessarily understand that they need it. In order for you to help the person they must be open to getting help for themselves, arming yourself with the proper information can be useful. I know its a tough problem to talk about and simply having someone come to this page can be a step in the right direction.

Here are some great resources so you can get informed and have more empathy when you’re helping a loved one who is suffering from mental illness:

National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov

National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org

International Bipolar Foundation: http://www.ibpf.org

Help Guide (a resource for abuse, addiction, ADD, anxiety, bipolar, depression, eating disorders, grief, PTSD, schizophrenia, stress and suicide prevention): http://www.helpguide.org

The Balanced Mind (for parents): http://www.thebalancedmind.org

Pendulum (a resource for all things Bipolar): http://www.pedulum.org

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: http://www.dbsalliance.org