Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wishing this proactive pampering of Mental Ilness was done sooner

My mother, twenty years ago, was never taught to log or journal her feelings so she could learn for the future reference. I hope the mentally ill, now, even though it is still very hard, realize that they have a lot more tools for success than there ever was in the past. Please take comfort in the fact that there has been progress, even if it seems like it is very slow.

Fighting the good fight with mental illness

By Tom Stafford

Staff Writer

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Springfield, Ohio — I hadn't considered the strategy.

But Bill obviously had a good suggestion.

I met him in the gym at McKinely Hall, the site of a consumer forum held by the Springfield Chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Michael Jones, who had invited me to speak, was a little disappointed with the size of the crowd.

But to me, the showing of 120 seemed decent.

A show of hands indicated they all were dealing with mental illness of some sort.

Two more shows of hands indicated most were taking medications and going to counseling.

That and their attendance identified them as people who are trying to fight the good fight.

When told the number of pills some of them have to keep track of each day, I confessed at having trouble remembering to take my one pill a day.

Immediately, someone handed me a pill organizer that had been passed out to everyone attending.

In the course of a half hour, we talked about many things.

All confirmed that mental illness is an equal opportunity ailment, knocking on doors in every neighborhood.

A woman with schizophrenia said many people wrongly think that all people who have it are violent.

Another piped up with this: She's the only one in her family with mental illness, but that doesn't mean she's the only one with problems.

I thought to myself, hmmmm.

And while doing so, I remembered something I'd seen on the national NAMI Web site (

"A key concept," it says somewhat bureaucratically, "is to develop expertise in developing strategies to manage the illness process."

So I asked the folks there a question: What do you do to help yourself out on a bad day?

That's when Bill spoke up.

He keeps a checklist.

He doesn't need it every day, but he looks at it every day.

That way, when bad days come, he has it in front of him.

With it in hand, he then reaches for discipline needed to work the list.

That spoke volumes to me about how serious he is about taking care of himself and about how much work it can be.

Others chimed in about the things they do to help themselves out.

Some knit. Some crochet or do latch hook. Some listen to music.

What tumbled forth was mostly a list of hobbies and activities that had one common element: They produce a feeling of accomplishment.

On my bad days, getting anything done seems to help me even more than beloved caffeine.

So I'm thinking about making a list like the one Bill has.

When I have a bad day, I'll take a look at it and find something to get me in motion.

Like the woman at the forum said, even those who aren't mentally ill have problems.


Anonymous said...

I just wrote a short piece that underscores that some type of plan or back-up plan helps me on difficult days.

One basic tenet of my system is disposable products! Yep, when my energy level is down, I do not feel like washing dishes, pots, etc. So it is just simple to have paper plates, disposable microwaveable dishes, etc. I hate an over-filled sink as much as everybody else, so this is convenient and necessary!

As far as housework, I stay on top of it while I am "fine" including being very organized and disciplined. When those challenging days arrive, I can usually get by a few days without housework. The first thing I do when I feel severe or manic depression coming on, is to contact my support circle of family and friends. They then keep a watchful eye on me and step in when appropriate. Now, I cannot honestly say they come and do my dishes for me, but I will say they will treat me to dinner or invite me to dinner at their home. I am a very independent woman so I know that education and self-determination are key to staying well.

Agnes ~ Too Wise Not To Praise Him!
Author of: "Cooling Well Water: A Collection of Work By An African-American Bi-Polar Woman." Winter 2008 Release Pending. ISBN 0975461206

Liz said...


I see a lot of books online written by bi-polar people or about what is bi-polar. It seems like one beneficial thing is just what you posted today; practical, real world, tried and proven effective ways of living daily with a mental illness. If I were bi-polar, these useful small and large how-to's from my peers would mean more to me than anything else. Thanks for posting.


william marino said...

im only 16 years of age so i dont have the everyday struggles of jobs and a house but i do have peers who i have trouble dealing with. The one thing that always helps me is just getting out of the house and walking, riding a bike, or if it its to serious just call my best friend and she just talks my through the episode until its over. Just like you said Liz things that help are just hobbies and things just to get our minds off of our struggles even for just a little while so we can get them back under control

nootka said...

I just found your blog.
My name's also Liz, but another thing we have "in common" is that my mother was bi-polar and my brother is, too.
Mother is now gone (her brother had it, as well, though he committed suicide in the 80s) and my brother is a ward of the state...
I don't know how people manage to keep anything together in the face of this disorder, but wanted to say I think this (blog) is a good thing and thank you for it.


Liz said...


Thanks for sharing with us that you are a kindred soul. You brought up another topic of how bi-polar is a very heriditary illness. My brothers and I do not have it and so far none of the grandchildren have it.My great-grandmother, my mothers grandmother, died years ago locked up in a mental institute in Louisiana. You can imagine what that may have been like. Most of my family do not talk about her at all. I understand she did not know who anyone was and no one ever visited her. I am sure she did not have medicine and that ECT was tried on her until her brain was fried. I know that is a harsh fact, but true. Did you see that movie, A Perfect Mind, or something like that, with Russell Crow. I had a hard time watching the scenes with his ECT because my mother and greatgran both endured those. Thanks you for sharing and keep in touch.