About 6 and a half years ago, Brian told me he wasn't feeling well and that I should take someone else to the Blues game. It was a close one, with Patrik Berglund scoring early into overtime. I got home and saw the deep, deep hurt in Brian's face and he told me we needed to go to the hospital.
While the ER staff called around for a bed at a mental hospital, I stayed up with Brian, curled up next to him in the not-designed-for-two-people hospital bed. Around 5 in the morning, we got word that he had a place to go and an ambulance would take him there. I followed, but there was some miscommunication, so I didn't get to say goodbye to him at the mental hospital. I was so sleep deprived and so scared and so worried. I screamed and cried and screamed in my car.
I called my friend Erin and was able to spend the day with her, getting some rest, watching movies, and eating Mexican food. When her husband (and Brian's good friend) Brent got home, we all went to visit Brian and then I stayed at their place that night. I am forever grateful for their support, and I know they were just as nervous and scared as I was.
I didn't know what to do, so I did a lot of reading about other people's experiences with a loved one being in the mental hospital. I called every day, I visited every day. I printed out fun pictures and articles from the internet, and brought them for him to read and laugh and stay informed. When the Blues were playing during visitors hours, I brought jerseys for us to wear, and we watched the game on my tiny phone.
I can only imagine the pain Brian was going through, and I can only imagine how devastating it would have been to come home any later that night. But I am so incredibly glad that he was able to tell me he was hurting and that he was able to stay at a place where all he had to do was focus on getting better.
Since an estimated 1 in 4 Americans have a mental health concern, it's pretty obvious that we have to deal with the fact that sometimes it can interfere with our work. So what do you do?
Let's say you are really struggling and don't think you would be performing your best at your job. What do you say? I have always treated my mental health concerns just like I would a physical health concern. If I'm going to be a detriment to my team and a day of rest would get me going again, then I feel comfortable saying "I'm not feeling well today. I'm going to stay home today, but I'll be back in the office tomorrow."
If you were throwing up or having diarrhea or coughing non-stop, no one would ask you go come in to work, so why should mental health concerns be any different? I don't feel obligated to spell out exactly what is keeping me from working, but I try to emphasize that it is temporary and I will be back as soon as possible.
I know not every job is as flexible regarding sick days (mental or physical), but I hope that more companies realize that letting an employee rest for one day allows them to bounce back more quickly and be more productive once they return to work.
Does your job let you feel comfortable in taking "mental health days"? Do you feel pressured to come in even if you're not feeling well? What are your strategies for managing mental health concerns and work?
As part of World Mental Health Day, I would like to share the event my husband is hosting for his birthday later this year. It is a 2 1/2 hour hockey game to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. All the details are below and please consider donating or pledging!
#worldmentalhealthday #miaw2019 #pylonsagainstsuicide
Brian Eagan: I know it’s a little early to start making a fuss about my birthday, but it’s World Mental Health Day and there is a tie in so deal with it.
For my birthday this year I’m raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I think at this point most of you know me well enough that I don’t need to re-emphasize why this is such an important cause to me. What I will say is that suicide is the 2nd most common cause of death for people ages 10-34 and the 10th most common cause of death for all Americans. To me this is heartbreaking and totally unacceptable.
So I’m hosting a charity drop-in hockey game. For my friends who don’t play and would like to contribute you can donate directly here or take the much more fun option and make a pledge based on my performance in the game.
We have two and a half hours of ice time, which is very long game. It’s about 3 times longer than a normal beer league game and with no stoppages it’s closer to 5 times as much actual play. So I’m asking for pledges based on how much I can skate (spoiler: not very much) or how many points I can put up (spoiler: even less).
We have drawn up 2 models for pledges:
If you would like to make a pledge, please post here or email me at PylonsAgainstSuicide@gmail.com. We have set an ambitious fundraising goal so any contribution is hugely appreciated. Thanks so much for your continued support and more information will be coming as the date comes closer.
Auditory hallucinations are a form of hallucination that involves perceiving sounds without actual auditory stimulus and it is the main hallmark of schizophrenia. "Hearing voices" is the most common type of auditory hallucination, typically in one of three categories: an external entity voicing their own thoughts, one or more voices arguing, or a voice narrating the person's own actions.
Experiencing an auditory hallucination can be very intense. To illustrate this, grab 2 friends and try out this experiment.
Person A will be the person experiencing auditory hallucinations. They should sit across from Person B and begin to have a normal conversation, perhaps about sports or the movies or their favorite restaurant. Try to maintain the conversation, no matter what else is happening.
Person C should take a piece of regular paper, roll into a long tube and use it to speak into Person A's ear. While Person A and Person B are having their conversation, read these sentences to Person A (feel free to adjust pronouns as desired):
Switch it up so everyone has a chance to be in every role. How did it feel? What was it like experiencing an auditory hallucination? What was it like talking to someone who was experiencing an auditory hallucination?
I hope this experiment allowed you to experience what a person with auditory hallucinations is going through and gave you insight into someone else's mental health concern.
We all have a little inner chat with ourselves on a pretty constant basis, thinking about and interpreting the various situations we find ourselves in. This self-talk includes our conscious thoughts, but also our unconscious assumptions or beliefs.
People experiencing depression can often have self-talk that is skewed toward the negative, such as "Well, I'm definitely going to suck at this" or "Of course that didn't go well, I'm terrible." A lot of times these beliefs are flat-out wrong, but it's hard for us to challenge them and think about the situation more realistically or helpfully.
There are several types of questions you can ask yourself to test the accuracy of your perceptions and reflect on your thinking.
Sometimes even just asking yourself "Is this thought useful?" can be enough to adjust your perspective. By thinking about how you are thinking, you can help change the irrational parts of your thoughts into more reasonable ones.
Humans have a wide range of emotions, moods, and feelings. In theory, we would like to be happy all the time, but in reality it's not that simple. There can be a lot of pressure to portray a life that is always happy, to prove to others that life is great all the time. That pressure can come from others, or more often, it comes from ourselves.
It's important not to be so hard on ourselves when things aren't going so great. It's easy to get trapped in a cycle of feeling like a failure when even a small thing goes wrong. You may want to "put on a brave face" and not let others know you are suffering. You don't want to be a bother.
However, remember that you are not alone and you are not a burden. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with those you love and trust can lift that weight off your shoulders. It's okay to let others know "hey, I had a shit day and I want to talk about it" or "I'm not doing so great and I just want someone to listen." It's okay to ask for help. It's okay not to be okay.
To kick off Mental Illness Awareness Week, I would like to talk a little about depression.
First of all, depression is more than just feeling sad. Being sad is a normal human emotion and can be expected in a variety of situations. Being depressed is more associated with feeling hopeless, worthless, lonely, unmotivated, and losing interest in everyday activities.
There are many factors that contribute to depression, such as neurochemical imbalances, stress, family history, hormonal changes such as menstruation or childbirth, brain structure, and even certain medications and drugs. None of these factors have anything to do with being "weak" or "broken."
It's also important to note that depression affects all sorts of people, even those who seemingly "have it all." Outwardly, a person experiencing depression may seem fine, but internally they could be coping with feeling not good enough or not wanting to get out of bed in the morning or not being interested in activities they usually enjoy.
Treatment for depression typically consists of talk therapy and/or medication. Science has shown that a combination of the two has the best results vs just talk therapy or just medication. It can take time to find a treatment system that works for you, because everyone's depression is different, but know that it does get better.
For the last day of Mental Health Month, my husband Brian is sharing his thoughts!
"Melissa and I try to focus on mental health as opposed to mental illness. We try to emphasise that even though mental health concerns are serious, they are something that can be understood, empathised with, and treated. It comes from a place of giving people resources that need it and to promote understanding and to fight stigma. All of which is important to do but that isn’t all there is to talk about when we talk about mental health. There is a human impact and a personal effect too that needs to be talked about.
Some days it’s hard.
Even when you are doing everything right some days it’s really fucking hard.
It can be a grind, one that even when you work your ass off sometimes it just isn’t enough. And that’s ok. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to need support and reaching out for that is a show of incredible strength. Everyone deserves to be fulfilled and loved, mental health concerns don’t change that. Take care of yourself when you can, talk to someone when you can’t, and when you have a hard time forgive yourself. "
I will fully admit that I don't know a lot about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), but I have seen people talk about it positively and say that it has helped them a lot.
EMDR therapy involves attention to three time periods: the past, present, and future. Focus is given to past disturbing memories and related events. Also, it is given to current situations that cause distress, and to developing the skills and attitudes needed for positive future actions.
After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.”
You can read more at https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/
A few days ago, I share how yoga can be a tool to use for healing, whether for trauma or other mental health concerns. I wanted to talk about it a little more in depth, so today I have a Q&A with Julie Eagan from Yoga for Healing! She teaches at Empowered Spaces in St. Louis, MO on Thursdays at 5pm. You can email her at email@example.com to sign up for a class or if you have any additional questions.
What led you to teaching trauma-informed yoga?
While working as a crisis advocate on a crisis hotline for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, I realized that there was a large overlap between skills that were supportive to crisis callers experiencing dysregulated emotions and skills I had learned in my personal yoga and meditation practice, which has always been a healing outlet for me. I was already considering getting my 200 hour yoga teacher training at the time and after researching trauma-sensitive yoga I knew it was something I wanted to offer.
What are the benefits of trauma-informed yoga vs regular yoga?
Any yoga class can be a trauma-informed yoga class. The difference is in how the class is led. In a trauma-informed class, invitational language and integration of choice are used to empower participants to discover and be mindful of their individual needs. Trauma-informed yoga teachers can support students through triggers as they come up. Sensitivity to possible triggers is included in everything from how the space is set up to the postures and breath work used in class. Safety and accessibility for all communities and ability levels is made a priority. I do not use any physical assists in my class. The teacher's job is to facilitate a supportive space where you, the student, have power and control over your own body and feel safe exploring what is right for you in each moment.
Is trauma-informed yoga right for me?
If you feel unsure about trying a yoga class, I would recommend reaching out to the teacher or studio you are thinking of trying. They will be able to tell you what to expect from the class and answer any questions you have so that you can make the best decision for yourself. If you are seeing a mental health professional, you may want to talk with them about trying yoga and anything that might come up for you in a class.
What can I expect during a session?
Classes are an hour long and centered around a theme. At the beginning of class we will go through grounding exercises and/or breath work, followed by moving through yoga asanas (poses), and end with meditation. Sometimes short activities will be included, depending on the class theme. No matter what we do in class, participants are encouraged to tailor the practice to their specific needs. Many options are given and the choice to opt out of any activities that don't feel supportive is welcomed.
What are your goals for trauma-informed yoga in St. Louis?
I think being trauma-informed is becoming common in yoga. I would love it if trauma-informed wasn't thought of as a separate practice. The statistics of having experienced a traumatic event in one's life are so high that if you are in a yoga class, you are most likely in a yoga class with one or more trauma survivors and that should be recognized and honored.