Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sara Bareilles

Well, I have a list of stories I want to share and it is getting so long they will be "outdated" before I even share them. One of the stories I want to share is about the Sara Bareilles concert I went to in, October??? I don't even remember when it was.

Sara Barellies has such fun music. It is catchy and bouncy and has a layer of attitude. O loves to dance and sing to King of Anything and Let the Rain. When I got a taste of Sara at Lilith Fair I knew I wanted more, so when she landed here on tour, it was a no brainer. This time I actually went with someone to a concert. (J and I had quite the adventure getting to the venue. We were so busy talking I missed one of the first exits. Oops. And, can you believe we did the same thing on the way home? Thank goodness for GPS.)

She is definitly entertaining. When Sara came out she was a little tipsy and she even told us. It was the last night for Greg Laswell on the tour and they are good friends, so they interrupted each others sets and did goofy things. They heckled each other and drank whisky to celebrate, hence, her being tipsy.

She had a potty mouth and my ears were bleeding by the time I left. J even mention she hasn't heard the F bomb dropped that many times in along time. Aside from all of that, Sara explained the meaning behind "Kaledescope Heart". These aren't all of her words, but the the gist is hers. She said when she came up with the title people said "What the F does that mean?" She explained that we are all beautiful inside but we are fractured. And when we hold ourselves up to the light we see the beauty. Like a kaliediscope. Now that I know that, I hear the reference in several of the songs on the album.

During the show I thought I smelled grilled onions. It totally grossed me out and confused me. What??? Where did that come from at a concert. I looked around and saw a cloud of onion air. I think there is a grill at the venue. It was gross. Aftet the concert, while we were walking back to the car I mentioned it to J. She laughed and told me she was thinking, "Don't these people shower?" It was funny.

Overall, I would see her again. That woman has an amazing set if pipes.

Here, enjoy these. (Sorry the quality is crumby. One of these days, I'll get a nice camera.)

Me and J

Greg Laswell. He's got some nice tunes.

The end of Gregs set. See Sara and the bottle of whiskey.
Sara doing her thing.

Greg came on stage wearing a bunch of her stuff when he sang back up.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mental Illness, part 2 Anxiety

This series of posts was prompted by a Relief Society meeting I attended. It was a great start for our sisters to talk a little bit about mental illness and I think some people got a lot out of it.

A month or so ago I was involved in a conversation at a friends house. Some of our friends had just departed and 4 of us remained. One person commented about someone who had just left. There was a little story with it and then the question, "Why would she do that, why would she say that?" It was kind of like a "how weird" statement. Well, I know my friend deals with anxiety and she is seeking methods, other than medicine, to manage it. I wanted to explain to them what it was like to deal with unmedicated anxiety. I wanted them to understand how you view the world when you're anxious and explain WHY she would say/do that. But, I didn't say anything and ever since then I've been bothered by it. I hope this post makes up for it.

Anxiety is not an uncommon emotion, however, when it starts to dominate your life, it is a problem. I feel qualified to comment on anxiety because I have experienced it. I hope to give you a little glimpse into what goes on in the mind of with someone with anxiety.

The first time I started experiencing anxiety was when I was working in a ridiculously stressful management position and teaching full time at a massage therapy school. Stress is often the trigger for a mental illness.(In fact, most people don't even think of anxiety as a mental illness, yet technically, it is classified as a mental illness.) I had no clue what was happening to me and neither did my husband. The playful, social me was being replaced by someone who cried a lot and was afraid. I didn't want to talk to anyone anymore. I wanted to say "yes" or "no" and be done. Any type of chaos was overstimulating and I wanted to flee. I felt panicked and desperate to escape. It was the first time I wanted to be invisible. I remember feeling so embarrassed by it too. (On a side note, I'm still trying to eliminate some of those behaviors.) I was aware of the changes in me and I knew I was acting differently. My friends weren't quite sure what was going on either. I remember getting to the point where I was terrified to teach a class/topic that I had taught a dozen times before. I remember driving to work one day crying because I was so overwhelmed. I begged the Ed Manager to teach my class for me. It was a really hard place to be in. I've never been the same since. Since LT and I didn't know I was experiencing anxiety, we didn't know what to do about it.

Now, one important thing to know about mental illness is it is exacerbated by disturbances in your sleep patterns. So when Olivia was a newborn and she wanted to be fed every 3 hours, my anxiety was just out of control. I went from wanting be invisible and being overwhelmed by everything to seeing every flaw or unmet expectation through a magnifying glass. EVERYTHING was huge, and I mean, literally everything. I was desperate to keep my life in some sort of order. I became ridiculous about keeping my house clean because I had a baby. The fact that I wasn't perfect in every little thing made me want to apologize to everyone because I thought they saw it too. And I thought they judged me harshly by it and wouldn't want to be my friend because of it. "I've got dirty dishes in the sink, I'm so sorry", "I haven't vacuumed today, I'm sorry", "I should have done this, I'm sorry"," I should have done that, I'm sorry." Truly, it was ridiculous. People didn't know why I was so weird. For a while, I didn't even know why I was so weird. ha ha ha

Back to my friend, because I had experienced anxiety of my own, I understood why she said what she said that day. I totally understood why she did what she did. I got it, I knew she wasn't weird. She just deals with anxiety, it's okay. I wish more than anything I had come to her "defense". I wish more than anything more people knew about mental illnesses and how they show up.

I want to illustrate my point by using pregnancy as a comparison. People GET pregnancy. Even if you've never been pregnant. It's seen and talked about enough that people get it. The way a woman acts when she is pregnant is "okay". We tolerate it. If she starts crying, or gains a ton of weight, or is on bed rest or so on and so on, it's okay, because she's pregnant. Pregnant people just do those things or experience them. People are more lenient with pregnant women.

"Why would she do that, why would she say that?"
"Ah, she's just pregnant. It's all those hormones."

People would rush to her aid if she needed it.
"She's on bed rest, I can help". Often times it is the women who have been on bed rest themselves that can really show and have compassion for her because they've experienced it too.

Why can't it be that way with someone with a mental illness?
"Why would she do that? Why would she say that?"
"Ah, she's just dealing with anxiety. She says that to make it feel smaller."

It may also be a way for her to say, "I know I'm acting differently and I know you probably don't know why. Please don't judge me harshly."

My intention is to teach others so one day people will "get" mental illness. My hope is that it will be talked about enough that it will be as normalized as pregnancy. My experiences with anxiety have helped me gain a deeper understanding of it and I feel a great deal of compassion and tolerance for others who deal with mental illness. I hope more people can have compassion and tolerance for it too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mental Illness, part 1

I just returned from our Relief Society meeting tonight and one of the class topics was on Mental Health and Mental Illness. I always get so excited to talk about this because I have such a passion for the topic. There is so much information available to the public and not enough of it is known. I hope to spread the word about Mental Illness so others can start to understand it. And, where understanding increases, compassion can grow.

Some of my go to websites are

The first thing I want to touch on is, Mental Illness is NOT a character flaw. It is an actual, diagnosable medical condition. Often times, conditions come together, ADD, Depression, Bipolar, Anxiety. Mental illness is very common in our population. According to information on the NIMH website, 1 in 4 adults have a mental illness/disorder. It is very common for people to experience anxiety and/or depression in their lifetime. Depression has been called the "common cold" of mental illness. Most mental illnesses are mild and not chronic. Only 6% of the population suffer from a debilitating and/or chronic mental illness.

Tonight, one sister shared that she has panic attacks and has had them since she was a teenager. She's experienced them enough to know that they pass and she knows how to manage them. Another sister in the class asked what it was like to have a panic attack.

I love it when people ask that question. It is an invitation for someone to tell a real life story of what it is like to experience symptoms of a mental illness.

More often than not, people just don't understand and tend to minimize what the other person is experiencing. I remember about 10 years ago, I was with one of my friends who was experiencing a panic attack. She had just started having them and they totally freaked her out. She didn't know what the heck was going on and when I was with her during her attack, I didn't understand it either. When people are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, sometimes they just need you to be with them. They don't need you to fix it or try to fix them. They may just need the support of you being with them while they go through it. One of my friends uses a beautiful phrase to describe it. "Just hold it with me".

Here are some ways you can support a person experiencing symptoms. This is from the DBSA website

What you can say that helps:

  • You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
  • I understand you have a real illness and that’s what causes these thoughts and feelings.
  • You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
  • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
  • When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, minute - whatever you can manage.
  • You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
  • Tell me what I can do now to help you.
  • I am here for you. We will get through this together.

What you should avoid saying:

  • It’s all in your head.
  • We all go through times like this.
  • You’ll be fine. Stop worrying.
  • Look on the bright side.
  • You have so much to live for; why do you want to die?
  • I can’t do anything about your situation.
  • Just snap out of it.
  • Stop acting crazy.
  • What's wrong with you?
  • Shouldn’t you be better by now?
Tonight, I also heard a fallacy and I have to address it because I don't want it to be perpetuated. One person stated that she wasn't really fan of medication. She leans more towards "positive talk". Although that is a valid and purposeful tool for assisting people, it isn't always enough or a good fit. That is like saying, "Even though I am a type 1 diabetic, I think if I just never eat sugar, I will be okay." That's not realistic or helpful information for uninformed people to hear. Often times counseling and cognitive therapy will be enough, but more often than not, there is a need to assist the body balance it's chemistry, and that is with the use of medicine. I refer to mental illness as diabetes of the brain. We are chemical creatures and when something is out of whack, our bodies work like mad to put it back in order. If it can't do it on it's own, medicine is one way to help.

The reason I don't like people to think medicine is horrible and to be avoided, is because most people with a chronic mental illness (I'm speaking primarily of Bipolar Disorder) spend YEARS in denial. There is a stigma with having a mental illness. A lot of people are, in a way, afraid of it because they don't understand it. Nobody wants to talk about it. Nobody wants to have an illness that nobody really sees or understands. Most people I've spoken with carry a bit of shame. Some say they feel like they are carry around a huge secret that they can't share. People treat you differently when they find out you have a mental illness.

I had one institute teacher say, "I think depression is a lack of faith". Wow, a comment like that does more harm that good when it is heard. It perpetuates the belief that mental illness is all in your head, and can be prayed out of you. And, it invalidates the person with a mental illness and is especially harmful to someone in denial.

I have much, much more to say on this topic and I will share more in another post. I hope to inform as many people as I can about mental illness. I hope to help normalize it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Feb 13th

I know most people celebrate the holiday that lands on the 14th, but I would rather celebrate today. One year ago today, Feb 13th, LT flew home. After an 18 month absence, with a few visits, we were FINALLY together again as a family.

I have a greater appreciation and respect for military spouses whose partners are deployed. It's hard.

I love my family and I love it even more when we are together.

Welcome home LT. We missed you.