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4 Videos About How to Live a Healthy Life with Mental Illness

Watch/read/listen as Mike Veny, Robert “Cozmo” Consulmagno, Stephanie Sikora, and Danielle Hark describe their turning points, those moments when life shifted towards a healthy future with mental illness.

These can link you to longer features that give a bit more depth to each person’s story.

So, if you need a little boost during your day, connect with us for messages of hope and inspiration. OC87 Recovery Diaries. Stories of mental health, empowerment, and change. Stories about people, not diagnoses. Your story.

 

 

 

 

 

1st Confession

I am old enough to remember a time before social media. In fact, media in the house in which I grew up consisted of:

– a daily newspaper

– a radio in the kitchen (mostly music)

– a remote-less television that featured three main networks, some secondary channels (for watching reruns of Bewitched and Gilligan’s Island) and PBS.

I called friends from a rotary (!) telephone that was wired and mounted to kitchen wall, and I wrote letters on actual paper to friends and relatives who lived far away.

My life was easily compartmentalized — school life, neighborhood life, family life — and rarely did they intersect. In fact, it was a bit disconcerting when they did. For example, it was always strange to bump into a teacher in the supermarket — it mixed up my idea of who that person was; where they belonged. Of course, part of me understood that all teachers (even mine) went to the supermarket; I just didn’t need to witness it firsthand. When my worlds collided in unpredictable ways, it was unsettling.

Social media has mixed that all up. And, honestly, I struggle with it.

 

2nd Confession

I am drawn to social media like a fly to honey. I use it to promote my work, I love finding out news about my dozens of relatives who live all over the country, and I am often inspired by the creativity displayed by friends and strangers — especially, these days, in the realm of political criticism and satire. Plus, I’m a documentary filmmaker who loves to observe and consider human nature. Every tweet, post or picture reveals something about the sharer, perhaps in ways he/she didn’t intend. It’s fascinating stuff.

However, I really have to work at controlling my impulse to check Facebook or Instagram (the two platforms that I understand. I’m the opposite of an early adaptor, if you know what I mean) so I don’t get sucked into a social media vacuum, emerging minutes (hours!?!) later without any understanding of how much time has passed. And, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t always feel great about myself after spending time on Facebook. Although I try not to, I often feel jealous of that perfect vacation, that beautiful meal, that stunning achievement. My New Year’s resolution was to limit the use of social media, and I do find that a conscious effort to do so has positively affected my demeanor.

That said, I worry about my kids, and am conscious that a new important parenting responsibility is to help them use social media safely and wisely. I have two children — a teenager and a pre-teen, and I see how they are growing up with technology and its byproducts as a constant in their lives.  A recent report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK has come out with some bracing news about the effect that social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have on young people’s mental health.

Their study, #StatusofMind, surveyed almost 1,500 young people aged fourteen to twenty-four on how certain social media platforms impact health and well-being issues such as anxiety, depression, self-identity and body image. All demonstrated negative affects overall on young people’s mental health. The researchers concluded that Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people’s mental health, followed closely by Snapchat. But the conclusions aren’t black-and-white: whatever is? While Instagram negatively impacted body image, sleep patterns and added to a sense of “FOMO” — Fear of Missing Out — the image app was also a positive outlet for self-expression and self-identity for many of its young users. The good news is that YouTube was found to have the most positive impact on the young.

So, what do we do with this information?

I agree with Sir Simon Wessely, President of the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists, who supports an education-based approach to social media and who also warns that demonizing social media is not the answer:

“I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives,” he said. “We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media — good and bad — to prepare them for an increasingly digitized world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.”

In that light, we are offering new “social media friendly” versions of some of our OC87 Recovery Diaries videos in hopes of brightening up what can often feel like a gloomy space.

 

EDITOR IN CHIEF / EDITOR: Gabriel Nathan | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

When We Were Small: An Intense Struggle with Depression

I broke down on a cold December evening and rested my head on the window.
I didn’t know how unclean I’d become, until I watched the world fill with snow

My parents always did everything they could for me. It was the seventies. There was hardly any psychiatric medication to speak of then, cognitive therapy was barely emerging and, in general, the information on mental illness was not there to discuss, if you wanted to. I first felt it when I was about eight years old. Depression. When I was sad, I got comfort from my stuffed animals. I wasn’t their king. I wasn’t their leader. I was their peer. Whole stories were told in a small Wisconsin house in a single evening. And although I liked to be alone often, to make up my own world, I had many close friends. Aside from getting beaten up occasionally in middle school, most of my childhood was happy and without trauma(more…)

Episode 2 – Art and Mental Health: Can They Co-Exist, or Must They Compete?

In this episode, Bud and Laura have a lively, wide-ranging discussion with Philadelphia artists, Abby Squire and Rosie Carlson about how art and mental health affect one another. Abby and Rosie discuss their process in making art and how this intersects with their mental health.

EPISODE 2 – Art & Mental Health: Can They Co-Exist, or Must They Compete?

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Rosie is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Her passions include graphic design, painting, and a love of studying women’s historical roles within fermented beverages in early modern Europe. She says, “It’s only recently that I’ve admitted to myself that I need art; that I need to be making it. Valuing my art has allowed me to tackle anxiety and depression like never before because I’ve come to value myself.” Rosie’s website is rosemarycarlsondesign.com.

Abby has been living in the city for the past three years and is continually inspired by all of the creative people who call Philadelphia home. As a teaching artist with The Claymobile, a mobile arts initiative serving low-income students, she has had the opportunity to work within diverse communities throughout the region and share artmaking with students who don’t have access to art programs in the public schools. When not at work, she devotes her time to her own creative pursuits; reading her favorite authors, and exploring every corner of the city on her bicycle. Abby currently resides in her West Philadelphia home with her Golden/Pit Bull, Eloise.

Laura and Bud pose challenging questions to their guests, such as, what is more important, mental health or art, and are the two mutually exclusive? The guests and hosts explore these and other questions while investigating how to incorporate self-care into making art. Struggle is an inherent component of any creative endeavor, just as struggle with issues like anxiety and depression is part-and-parcel of living with mental illness. The hosts and guests offer candid and revealing insights into the intense, rewarding, and challenging life lead by artists, as well as individuals coping with mental health challenges.

 

RELATED: Mental Health > Art an essay by Laura Farrell

 

Listening: My Time in a Psych Ward

I lost my hearing in a psych ward.

Let me explain. It was not so much that I lost my hearing; it was that I could not hear well. I suffered from a terrible earache. I used to get earaches all the time as a small child. This one was the worst, or perhaps my capacity for dealing with such pain had simply decreased over time. I had not experienced an earache in over ten years when this particular earache occurred. When I was in the psych ward.

This earache affected the way I could hear, meaning I couldn’t really hear much at all. I was in the psych ward for a number of reasons, some of which I still don’t understand. The doctors explained the reasons for me being in the psych ward with precise, medical terms. I recognize that that wasn’t all of it, though. Those medical, clinical words could not explain the sum total of why I was there. I did eventually recognize, however, that that is how you get out of a place like that: voicing an understanding of why they say you are there, in their terms, and complying with the way in which the doctors believe you can safely live outside of the hospital. They did not want to hear my side of the story. This was not about justice; it was about compliance, as are so many other things in life.

The doctors thought that my mental illness was clear. They did not want to know what could lead a person to this mental state. They just wanted to diagnose it, and give me pills. The earache, on the other hand, confused the doctors. They could not figure out how to help me hear well again. They could not figure out the best way for my ears to heal. They could not determine exactly what the issue was, although they recognized that an issue existed. The insides of my ears were red and irritated.

I was red and irritated. I wanted the doctors to see that. I wanted the doctors to stop looking in my ears because they were not helping my hearing and because there were much more pressing matters at hand. I knocked on their doors to say, to scream, “I don’t belong here!” I only screamed because I couldn’t hear properly. I did not realize I was screaming. Believe me; I wanted my ears to be fixed as well. I’d have been happy to take medicine for my ears but I didn’t want the medicine they were telling me I had to take for my brain. I wanted to address that medicine, the pills that they wanted me to take, before addressing the issue of my ears. So, I said, “Listen doc, I’ll take a flu shot, I’ll take all the vitamins you have, please give me any antibiotics I need for my ears, but that is all!”

And the doctor asked, “Why are you screaming? Your mood seems elevated. There are pills for that you must take.”

And I said some mean words; I said some paranoid words, but only because I was mad and it felt like he was out to get me, not to help me. The conversation was irritating on several levels, one being that I could not hear very well. I had to listen so closely and I had to keep saying, “Please speak up.” I also had to keep repeating myself with phrases like, “no,” and “that is not true.” There was a lot of explaining. There was a lot of repeating.

Perhaps it is important to talk about how I ended up in a psych ward. Perhaps it is important to talk about how I ended up having an earache. I can explain pieces of the first thing. I still do not know why and how I suffered from the earache. I will never understand that earache. I will never understand why I could not hear. I like to think my ears were protecting me from all the medical language, the words from the doctors and nurses about what they thought was wrong with me; I did not want to hear. I like to think they knew, my ears, that is. My ears knew that I did not want to hear those words. Sometimes, I wonder what it would have been like if I had not lost my hearing, if I had sense of everything going on around me. I think my experience would have been altered completely. But my ears seemed to know that I did not want to be there. I wish my throat had known too. I wish I had lost my voice, so I would not have to comply, again.

There were many senses I wish had been altered while I was in the hospital. The starchiness of the bed sheets against my skin. Clothes worn days in a row, beginning to smell. The hospital food; the heavy feeling that it left in my stomach. The pill I’d let dissolve in my mouth, the pill I did not want to take, day after day—sliding roughly against my dry throat when I finally swallowed, as instructed. The constant over-stimulation of the television, forever on in the community room. People coming and going. The dampness of tears on my cheeks and the cries from others in rooms and hallways and bathrooms. It was too much at times. But I continued to be a part of it, in a way that felt against what I wanted, needed.  

I feel like I am always complying. It makes me so sad; compliance is a complicated thing. That complication may be one reason I ended up in a psych ward. There are a lot of reasons I was there, but compliance is a recurring theme in my life, or maybe just in life, not only mine. Maybe I’m just bad at dealing with it. Maybe I’m bad at not being heard. Maybe I’m bad at those times when “no” is not an accepted answer. I had been in such situations, several times. I’m angry about them and so sick about them, mentally ill, some may say. I am not only mad (could be read as “angry” or as “crazy/insane”) about those moments but mad (the same thing goes for this “mad”) about the way in which they are dealt.

I wanted justice, not compliance. I wanted justice; I did not want to prove myself. I did not want to always fight for my case. I did not want to always explain the ways in which I was not crazy, the ways in which I was just in fucked situations, the ways in which I was fucked, literally fucked. I did not want to explain. I did not want to need medical proof. But they wanted it, the justice folk; the folk who served the justice. They wanted all of the proof and paperwork. They talked about it in a dramatic, legal way. Again, I didn’t want to comply. I was done dealing with all of it, with all of them. I was going to deal on my own, I decided. So I ended up in a psych ward with an earache. It was painful in so many ways.

When I found the way out of the psych ward, (that way, of course, being compliance), I put some ear drops in my ears. I could hear again, but it sounded too loud. So I cried. I cried for all the loudness. I cried for the lack of understanding. I cried for having to interact with the noise constantly. I was confused and the volume was suddenly so loud. I adjusted though. We adapt; we comply. Sometimes we can hear the things and sometimes we choose not to hear. I’m trying to figure out how to do this and remain thoughtful and aware. I consciously check out a lot these days; I make a decision to choose not to hear. I think it’s what I have to do, for now. I hope it is not what I have to do forever.

EDITOR IN CHIEF: Gabriel Nathan | EDITORS: Bud Clayman and Gabriel Nathan | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

A Bipolar Diagnosis: A Life’s Mission Revealed

My hospital stay felt somewhere between imprisonment and treatment. I was a twenty-six year old grown man. I owned my own home, had an excellent job, had money in the bank, had been married, and was a registered voter. I was an American citizen who had done absolutely nothing wrong. Yet, here I was, behind locked doors. It was (literally) illegal for me to leave. On the one hand, my adult brain was telling me this was wrong and I needed to escape. But, on the other hand, I needed help, and if this was the help I needed, so be it.  (more…)