On Thursday July 28th, Carolyn offered her presentation entitled “ Channeling your Thoughts through Art”
Carolyn began by sharing her story about her hospital stay of some years ago. During the time leading up to her stay in the hospital, she had trouble trusting others and was dealing with a lot of paranoia. It was during this time that she didn’t want to see anyone. Finally with some encouragement from her daughter, she was admitted to the hospital for some help. It was during her stay in the hospital that her daughter brought Carolyn some art supplies, to help her pass the time.
During her stay in the hospital, Carolyn experimented with her art talents, and became very inspired. It was during this time that Carolyn’s imagination would also inspire her to create art. She had discovered that we need to look for things we might enjoy. While in the hospital, Carolyn came to the conclusion that most people are really not lazy, that they are probably just uninspired.
Carolyn’s co-presenter for the evening, Don, shared with us a little information about the infamous phrase “ right brain vs. left brain “ He shared that usually right brained may be people who use their imagination more, and tend to be more creative and involved in the arts. Whereas left brained people may be more analytical and logical, and interested in the facts. Don shared that the left side of our brain controls the right side of our body, and the right side of our brain controls the left side of our body. Don said that ideally a person would want to be somewhere in the middle, and occupy both sides of our brain. He then demonstrated by playing us some music. First the “left side” by playing exactly what was on the sheet of music, using math and language skills. He then played the exact same song after engaging the creative “right brain”. This made a huge difference as the music became much more musical and less mechanical. The bottom line to what Don was telling us is by playing music, both sides of our brains are engaged, providing a great escape from living in our heads!
Carolyn shared that during this hospital stay, she felt that her treatment was working, as she was beginning to trust people again. Carolyn said that the art that she produced during her hospital stay gradually changed during that time, and she became more creative. She felt that being in the hospital was a good option, as she learned different ways to cope. Eventually Carolyn became very grateful and humble for her hospital stay.
Carolyn did share with us many of her art pieces that she created during her hospital stay. Carolyn is a very talented artist indeed! I’m grateful that she so kindly shared her artwork with us.
Last night we had a unique presentation, co-presented by Miriam and Don on “Imperfect Success” Don started out by asking us, “What did you want to be when you were 5?”
The point was, we all wanted to be something different when we were five, and like in that example, what we define as success changes as we grow older and hopefully wiser. We also start seeing the success does not have to be perfect. It can be a step along a path. It can be something only you value. Don pointed out, some of our greatest successes are things that mean nothing to others or are not even noticed by others.
Miriam took over and we talked about definitions of success including:
What success isn’t – what other people think.
What other people think success is for them
What other people think success is for you
Don continued with pointing out that we need to recognize that there are many parts of our life we can be successful in and they are not always tied together. We then talked about defining areas of life we can be successful in, such as personal, family, social, and career success.
Miriam then talked about obstacles to succeed in our lives including depression, anxiety, our sometimes dysfunctional families, and lack of family support.
Don and Miriam then both shared what they thought were their life successes.
The meeting wound up with Don asking the group “What is your biggest success?”
What did you overcome to get there?
What were the little successes along the way.
What did you learn from those little successes along the way?
What did you do today that was a success?
We all have successes every day, some big, some little. As imperfect as they are, they are our successes. Even if nobody else notices them. What mountain are you going to climb tomorrow? What is going to be your next success?
We were excited to participate in this year’s Pride Festival at CHI this past Saturday. Our seven volunteers met and handed out information to over 1200 attendees. The best part was the sincere interest and gratitude we felt. What a great event and we hope to see some of our new friends at a Thursday night meeting soon!
On Thursday July 7th, Don gave us his most recent presentation entitled “ Knowing Yourself “
Don began by asking us Who are you? What makes us who we are ? He advised that we all have triggers, what are yours? Volunteers from around the room offered their triggers, mine happens to be fireworks. First thing that came to mind. Others mentioned loud voices, and people yelling. We all have different triggers. Don went on to share how music has been and still is a huge force in his life. He said music allows him to express his inner voice.
Don shared that 31 years ago he was at rock bottom. He had recently lost his treasured business he had built with trusted friends. However one of those trusted friends helped to bring the business down. This was a shock and a very tough time in Don’s life. He shared lately that he feels like a dark hand is trying to reach him, grab him, and drag him back to his past.
So must of us are familiar with our bad triggers. But are all triggers bad?
How do we determine what our good triggers are? Don went around asking the room what their positive triggers were. My positive trigger is chocolate brownies, one person mentioned a certain beach in Florida, another mentioned the smell of fresh baked bread.
Don suggested to come up with your own playlist of your favorite songs, and use this playlist as a positive trigger. This in turn will bring out positive feelings.
Have a positive playlist ready for those difficult low moments. Sometimes, somehow just derailing our negative thoughts can help make a big difference! Knowing yourself, and how you react to certain triggers is an important item to have in your tool box.
With that, Don actually gave us a homework assignment from this presentation, which I am ready to try. He advised us to write down 4 or 5 items you have with you all the time, that are positive triggers in your life. I plan on trying this! Can’t wait to give it a try!
At our June 30th meeting, we were transported to a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, as Don, wearing a full Jedi costume, looked at mental health through the eyes of a Jedi.
When we take a step back and really look at Star Wars, we find the George Lucas had done his homework. All the fun and explosions had been built on a chassis that carried so much more. The further we got into Star Wars, the more we heard of this thing called “The Force”. “The Force” is really a combination of many religions, and myths, with a large dose of historical values. It is storytelling built on a well thought out, rich moral code.
When we get to the second movie, we are introduced to the most unlikely of great warriors, Yoda. But Yoda is much more than a warrior, he is the moral center of the story. He is the philosopher, the high priest, the unassuming core of what makes Star Wars tick. We found Yoda teaches many of the same things we talk about here every Thursday night. Things like self confidence, fear, failure, choice, darkness, the future, the force, your role in the world, and even the value of community.
Don then took us through about 20 of Yoda’s most famous quotes and analyzed them based on how they apply to mental health, and specifically, us.
While many of the quotes brought us thoughtful and sometimes fairly dark subjects, there was also the story of the Ewok and Jawa acted out with Star Wars Build a Bears with help from everyone in attendance! The story illustrated Yoda’s quote “Do or do not, there is no try”, featuring the two fearsome Sith lords in pool floaties and sun glasses! Hard to explain in a blog, you just had to be there.
On Thursday June 16th, Miriam gave us a presentation entitled; “ Herding Cats”
I have to begin by saying, I love the title of Miriam’s presentation. It puts a smile on my face. That aside, Miriam described Herding Cats as, the difficulty of getting people to agree on anything. The harder you try, the more frustrating and impossible it may become. For example when ordering a pizza or two to be delivered, it can be difficult to get everyone to agree on the same toppings. Miriam also described a recent situation when her family had gathered together for her Father’s memorial service, where she could not get several Aunt’s and Uncle’s to agree together on the same restaurant for dinner. In fact once they decided where to meet, some of her relatives couldn’t find the restaurant. Miriam said she learned from that particular situation that it’s impossible to control the uncontrollable. Things sometimes will just collapse on their own and transcend into a new level.
If this should happen to you in a given situation, it’s possibly a good time to fall back into your own safety net. Your initial assessment of the situation can determine your own reaction. If necessary, you may even want to step outside, get some fresh air, and gain some new perspective.
Miriam offered these steps to proceed:
1) determine your #1 priority
2) assess what needs to be done
4) take inventory of your external and internal resources
– Internal resources can be your own life experiences, or just having the self-confidence to know you’ll come up with a solution to the problem.
– external resources may come from others in your group, who may be able to assist you in resolving the problem on hand.
In handling situations, we need to accept the imperfections in our lives, and realize there will be different approaches to handling problems.
It’s important in these situations to:
1) prioritize by urgency, or the size of the problem
2) determine what matters to you the most
3) realize every approach has risks/ consequences
4) control what you can control
So, how do we prepare for chaos in our own life?
1) be ready, try to stay relaxed and be resilient
2) learn to say no to people. After you’ve said no, ask others to help instead. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
3) make time for hobbies and exercise
4) take time to “ wash out your brain and reframe your thoughts “
A challenge to take on;
Try writing down three things you’re grateful for every day, for an entire month. No repeats allowed. Sounds like a great exercise to me! I plan on trying this one.
A thought; try to remember that chaos causes us to adapt and change.
If you start to realize that you can’t predict the future, or control everything in your life, that can be very freeing! It’s important to adapt, and encourage yourself to stay resilient!
On Thursday June 9th, Kirk gave us a presentation entitled; “ PTSD “
Kirk began his topic of discussion by sharing a little bit of history on PTSD ( post traumatic stress disorder)
He advised some of the most common PTSD symptoms are fatigue, tremors, being easily startled, also insomnia or nightmares, irritability, and severe anxiety. During the beginning of World War I around 1914, soldiers began to experience shell shock, which was an earlier term used for PTSD. Shell Shock was diagnosed when soldiers were unable to perform their required duties.
This shell shock became even more prevalent during the Vietnam War, and was eventually diagnosed in 1980 by the DSM3 ( diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders ) as PTSD. They defined as an anxiety disorder that reacts to severe mental distress.
Kirk went on to give us a little bit of history on the beginnings of his own PTSD. It was during junior high that Kirk began to experience some of his symptoms. He grew up with his family living in a small town, and was relatively happy. It was during this time that his family experienced a home invasion. During this frightening incident he and his family were holed up in a bedroom with the doors locked, listening to the intruders. Finally his Father became so frustrated that he bolted out of the bedroom and chased the intruders out of their home. Up to this point, Kirk had always felt safe at home and well protected. As a result of this incident, Kirk began to experience the symptoms of PTSD. After realizing that his family life at home had turned into a high stress household, Kirk began to contemplate moving out of the state to escape all of the bad memories he had as a result of the incident. It was at this point that he moved away to Texas to attend college.
Once he had graduated college, he realized he needed some help with his ongoing anxiety and depression. Eventually he ended up moving back to Omaha on 09/11. With the significance of this date about to be a part of our country’s permanent history, he also had a life changing experience happen to him. Kirk had just moved into a new apartment, and noticed a new neighbor moving in next to him, a friendly young man. Shortly after his new neighbor moved in, it was during this time Kirk started noticing a strange smell in the apartment building, and finally reported this several times to the landlord. The owners of the building brushed off the situation as meaningless and unimportant, and that maybe it was a result of someone’s cooking. After this situation went on for entirely too long, Kirk eventually found out from his landlord that his neighbor had indeed taken his own life. The landlord’s had discovered the situation, and the apartment where this gentleman lived had actually been completely gutted by this man. At the time of this incident, naturally Kirk became very bothered by what had happened in his own building, which didn’t help with his symptoms. During this time he went to visit his family in Florida, to try and get some much needed relaxation. Even when he was visiting his family, his Parents’ neighborhood seemed to be filled with the sound of constant sirens, which became very triggering to Kirk.
During this time of his life, Kirk realized he needed help to handle his PTSD. Eventually he began attending helpful support groups such as DBSA.
Kirk advised that there are several signs of PTSD, that are usually triggered by a life-threatening event. Such as;
– you may have internal reminders, such as night terrors
– if possible you may want to try and avoid external reminders, such as sirens
– watching the news can be another trigger
– changes in your mood or thinking
– fainting spells
– high anxiety
– trouble with simple tasks
Kirk also discussed several different tips for handling PTSD;
– EMDR ( eye movement desensitization and processing)
– trying grounding techniques , such as the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique for anxiety
– and of course therapy groups
Kirk’s presentation tonight showed true signs of bravery, as sharing your life story with others is not always easy. I admire him for having the courage to share his journey with us, which helps all of us learn from his life experience.
On Thursday June 2nd, Steve gave us a presentation entitled; “ Letting go and Forgiving, part II.
Steve’s topic of discussion this past Thursday was a return visit to the topic of forgiveness, with a little more focus on self-forgiveness this time around. With a reminder at the beginning of a general definition of forgiveness; forgiveness means different things to everyone. In general “ forgiveness is basically a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge”.
Steve advised that forgiveness does not mean forgetting. However we must realize we can’t control the memories that stay with us, but we can control the attention we might give to these memories. If we learn to be mindful and acknowledge these memories, that’s okay. But once the memories are acknowledged, then refocus your attention elsewhere and move on. Try hard not to ruminate over these memories, and learn to set healthy mental boundaries.
Steve also explained that forgiveness and anger don’t mix. If you find yourself feeling angry towards someone who has hurt you, pause and acknowledge that anger. Then ask yourself, will continuing to focus on what happened do me any good? Try to remember just because your anger feels right, doesn’t mean it’s helpful. Validate your anger, but don’t ruminate over it.
There was also a little more focus this time around on self-forgiveness.
Steve spoke about the Four R’s of self-forgiveness;
Responsibility….accept responsibility for what you’ve done. Try showing a little compassion towards yourself this time! Facing how you may have hurt someone is the first step of self-forgiveness. If you try and take responsibility for the hurt you may have caused, it may help you avoid the guilt.
Remorse…after you take responsibility for the hurt you have caused, you might start having feelings of guilt. Having these feelings of remorse may signal a start of more positive behavior for you. Feel guilty without dwelling on it.
Repair the damage…making amends can be important, whether you’re forgiving another person or yourself. If it’s someone else you have hurt, apologize if you feel it’s necessary, and look for ways to make it up to them. If you fix what you’ve done, you’ll never wonder if you could have done more.
Renewal…Forgiving yourself might mean finding a way to learn from the experience, and maybe grow to be a better person. Even though you may have made a mistake, you should try to look at it as a learning experience.
Forgiveness does also offer health benefits, such as ;
– it may help lower blood pressure
– reduce anxiety
– help you sleep better
-may help improve your self-esteem
Steve also had mentioned you should try to look at forgiveness as more of an attitude, or even a habit, rather than just a decision.
Maybe try and look at forgiveness as more of a commitment, rather than a feeling. We need to learn to embrace how unique our own road to forgiveness truly is.
Steve also had some advice for for moving on after forgiveness;
1) focus on everything good you have in your life
2) forgiveness may teach you more about compassion
3) try and work on your own happiness, you may want someone to regret hurting you, but that other person may not think they hurt you, or even care.
4) be kind to yourself
5) Remember to practice self-care
6) and be with others who make you feel good!
And most importantly, allow peace to enter your life once you have forgiven someone.
On Thursday May 26th, Carolyn gave us a presentation entitled; “ How did I Get Here? “
Carolyn’s topic of discussion this past Thursday reminded me of some situations I had encountered myself in the past. Feelings of uncertainty, lack of trust for others, and just genuinely not feeling our best. Carolyn was brave enough to share her personal story with us, which is not always easy to do. Carolyn advised years ago when her husband wasn’t working, and during some career changes he was undergoing, she had decided to start her own cleaning business. She said having this new career helped her mental health to stabilize more and gave her some much needed independence. Even though her husband wasn’t working at the time, Carolyn was determined to work so they would always have a house to live in, and so they would not have to worry about any debt.
After being out of work for awhile, eventually Carolyn’s husband did start his own business, which entailed building jacks for airplanes. At the same time, Carolyn started creating Art, which is a true passion of hers to this day.
It was also around this time that Carolyn started to have feelings of paranoia, and was always concerned that others were going to harm her or maybe even that most everyone was out to get her. At one point, she started following white cars, and found herself thinking that these white cars somehow were angels, and that these angels were leading her somewhere she needed to be. She did end up at a stranger’s house, finding herself pulling into the garage belonging to someone she didn’t even know. The lady living in this home finally convinced Carolyn to call her Son who came to meet her and take her home. It was at this point Carolyn ended up in the hospital for awhile for some care.
Eventually Carolyn’s paranoia became so bad, that she didn’t want to spend any time at home, and she started spending a lot of time staying at a friends house.
On one particular day, Carolyn found herself driving all the way to Colorado, with the intention of seeing her Son. Carolyn’s journey to Colorado started early that particular day, leaving Omaha at 9am that morning. When she had almost made it to her destination, she suddenly decided to turn around and head back to Omaha, with the intention of stopping at a motel to spend the night. She ended up driving all the way back home, arriving home at around 2am. It was at this point when she feels that her Bi-Polar may have started and had begun to take over her life. After this long driving trip episode with no sleep, she did end up seeking care and was admitted to the hospital again for some much needed care.
After ending up in the hospital for various stays, eventually during one of her stays she finally learned of support groups such as NAMI and DBSA.
Carolyn soon learned what amazing support these groups can be for our mental health journey. She did share with us that her four trips to the hospital were very positive experiences. Carolyn has become such an important part of our DBSA family. Lucky for us that Carolyn has found our DBSA group.
What a Joy it is to have her in our lives!
Amber talked about fear, what are its origins, what are the symptoms and how do we move it out of our bodies.
She started with the song, Love is a Liar
Then she read some passages about fear from the book, It Didn’t Start with Me by Mark Wolynn and My Friend fear by Meera Lee Patel. They talked about fear that comes from ancestry and is born from our childhood experiences.
Meera Lee Patel in her book analyzed her fear – she looked at how it feels, it looks, it sounds like and then arrived at her conclusion that her fear was about potential rejection from society because of her appearance.
So the group talked about their fears, did some analysis of what it looked like, and felt like and where it lived in their bodies. Then entered into a very lively conversation with a partner about it.
Amber walked the group through some breathing techniques and a hugging exercise to dissipate fear by reconnecting with the Inner Child.
Several people were introspectively connecting with themselves on a deeper level and were very happy to learn this new tool.