Why Is Mental Health Awareness Month Important to me?

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As I have mentioned many times before,

I was diagnosed back in 2014 with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.  It was so shocking and to be quite honest, it was quite surreal. I felt lost and did not know how or what I was going to do knowing that I had been diagnosed with such a serious condition.  I was at a loss of words. It took some years to become comfortable with the idea of having a mental health disorder. When I decided that I wanted to talk about my experiences and advocate for others like me, I know that I would be helping someone.  I just didn’t know who. I knew that there were other people out there like me in the world who had been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition and felt alone and unsure of themselves and what their life would now be because of it.


When I did research initially on bipolar disorder, I would see tons and tons of sad people who were crying and describing really grim realities of what it was like to live with a mental health disorder.  These images made me worry about what my future reality was going to be like.

Mental Health Awareness Month is so important to me,

because this is the month that is dedicated to talking about and spreading hope and good faith about mental illness.  Although mental health awareness for me is everyday, I am glad that there is a time that the world acknowledges mental health and are becoming more familiar with the topic and the cause.  There is such a long way to go of course, but this month for me instills a sense of pride. I can share all that I know and have experienced with others so that they can avoid some of the mistakes that I have made and also feel no shame about their illness.  While we have a long way to go, I am glad that we have May to spread the word and shatter the stigma that is so rampant.


Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone, But How?

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How Many Times have you heard someone say that?  

Just step outside of your comfort zone, and you thought to yourself, that sounds great and all but how do I do that? I can tell you that I have been one of those people who had that very same response.  Gurus and coaches all tell you that stepping outside of your comfort zone is a step in the direction towards “living your best life” ! Another term that sounds great but actually confused the hell out of me when I first heard it.  


As you may or may not know, I have been on my mental health journey, for 2 years now.  

This journey for me has doubled as a self-awareness and self-discovery journey. It has been filled with ups, downs, highs, and lows.  I have learned so much about myself, and this is literally one journey that I would never want to change. It has been life changing. I had to go through a journey of self-awareness to discover what my hopes, dreams and desires.  This allowed me to discover my comfort zone and the area just beyond that region. That area is where all of the magical things would happen, That is what I had heard so many times before and now it was time to start testing this theory out.


I was, for so many years accustomed to doing with friends or family.  

If I wanted to go to an event or restaurant, I would see who I could get to go along with me to make my experience more enjoyable (so I thought) and definitely more comfortable.  It was almost unheard of to go anywhere alone. It was just something that I had never really done. I mean, I would of course go to work alone, but that was about it. I truly let others dictate my flow and my enjoyment.  If I didn’t have a buddy to roll with, I guess I was not going.


About a month ago I heard about a Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit that was taking place in NYC that I really wanted to see.

 I asked my friends if they wanted to go and of course they agreed. Here was the problem, the show was sold out until the end of the exhibit.  But, I decided on a whim that I was going to get on the waitlist to see if I could get a ticket to the show. I figured that it was a long shot and that it probably was not going to happen.  Well, guess what, it happened! I got a wait list ticket email at 11pm last Thursday night for Friday afternoon. I didn’t realize this until Friday morning but I was in! I was excited and anxious and this was totally out of my comfort zone.  


Needless to say, I had a really great time.  

Once I got to the gallery, the anxiety had subsided.  I learned something about comfort zones on this trip to the city.  When you allow yourself to stay within comfort zones, people can unintentionally control you and your destiny.  So it is so important to be mindful of what it is that you want at all times. It is okay if your wants and dreams change, but the most important thing is that you are in control.  You are in control.


My Top Mental Health Care Tips

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I have been on this mental health journey for over a year and a half.  

I have for the last year and a half been consistently taking care of my mental health and mental illness.  As I have said many times before, maintaining a mental illness is a lifestyle. Once I realized that this was a lifestyle, that is when things started to look up for me.  This illness is a part of my life and maintaining it is a part of my lifestyle.


I have learned so much about myself and my illness on this journey.  

I am still, learning new things everyday and I enjoy the discoveries that I make.  I want to share my top five mental health care tips that I have compiled over the last year and a half.  This is not everything that I have learned but I think this is a good list to use when navigating through the oh so tough journey to mental health recovery.


My Top five (5) Mental Health Care Tips:


  1. Maintaining a Mental Illness is a Lifestyle - I have said it about a thousand times but this is so true.  Maintaining a mental illness is a lifestyle change. There are changes that have to be made in order to maintain good mental health.  Realizing this is a step in the right direction.

  2. Find A Good Mental Health Care Team - Do you have a hairstylist, or barber that you trust your tresses with?  Are you so committed to him or her that you wouldn’t let another lay hands on your hair?  That is how I feel about having a good mental health care team. Your brain an important organ and having a team that specializes in caring for your brain is a must.

  3. Eliminate Negative Influences in Your Life - This may seem like a no-brainer but I have to say it.  All negative influences and relationships should be considered and evaluated.  Mental Illness can be alot to deal with. The emotional changes that occur can take a toll.  Having factors that are not conducive to maintaining a healthy mental lifestyle will make your journey much tougher.

  4. Get Some Rest - Again this one may sound like it is obvious, but we can take our bodies for granted.  Getting the proper amount of rest essential. That not only means going to bed at night for the recommended 8 hours of sleep, this also means to listen to our bodies when we feel tired or exhausted.  

  5. Do Things that Make You Happy - Do you have hobbies that you enjoy?  Have you thought about it? If you have not, it is time to make a list of the things that you do.  Do them, as often as possible.


I could go on for days talking about all of the lessons that I have learned but I am going to stop here.  There is more where that came from. But, if I could offer one piece of advice to go along with this list it would be this: Mental Health Recovery is Possible.


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Support! Who Needs Support?!

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The quick answer is everyone.  


Being diagnosed with a mental illness is one of the most difficult things that you can deal with.  When I was diagnosed, I wanted to get as much information as I could possibly get my hands on regarding bipolar disorder.  I wanted to how I could live with it and what I would do to maintain it. I was looking for hope. I found a few articles online and I also found a magazine called BP Hope.  It is a magazine that tells the stories of people who live with bipolar disorder. This what exactly what I needed because I figured if so many others could live successfully with their illnesses, then so could I.  While reading about these awesome people in a magazine were great for me to see, I never found people in real life that I could relate to, who also suffered from some sort of mental health disorder.


My need to connect with others who shared a situation that was similar to me was overwhelming.

I wanted to be around people who were high functioning, had families, careers, and also a mental illness.  I wanted to feel like I was not “abnormal” or the only one in the world who suffered in silence. I wanted a connection, and I was determined to find it.


I searched high and low for a support group that I could attend with people who could relate to me.  I did find a support group, and it was nothing like I expected. Now don’t get me wrong, the people were very nice and they were polite and all of that.  The thing that I did not like about the group was that when I would leave, I felt more sad and depressed than when I arrived. I was always under the impression, that support groups are supposed to help you through your tough time and also offer hope along the way.  That is not what I felt. I felt like I was doomed and that I would live a sad, grim existence based on the folks that I had met in this support group. If I could help it, I never wanted anyone to feel the way I did during my support group experience.


I have created an online support group called the Sanctuary Support Group.  

I created this group to combat the feelings of loneliness, and isolation that I felt so many years ago.  This is a safe place for sharing hope, inspiration and experiences with others who live with a mental health disorder.  The group will meet once a month, and the next meeting is scheduled for January 19, 2019.


For more information on the Sanctuary Support Group Virtual, please visit the link below.  

http://bit.ly/SanctuarySupportVirtual



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How Beautiful Brain Collective Came to Be

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Back in 2014

I was diagnosed with generalized disorder and bipolar disorder.  When my psychiatrist diagnosed me, I was in a state of shock. What was this “mental” illness that I had just been labeled with.  There was no way that a person like me, could have a mental illness. I have to admit, I was uninformed about mental illness and who it affected.  I was a smart, hardworking, creative young mother. How in the hell was I going to be able to tell people about this. It was something that I did not want to admit to myself, much less tell other people about it.


When I got over the initial shock of my diagnosis,

I decided to do some research on my own.  This thing could not be as bad as everyone had made it out to be. I was determined to get as much information as I could.  I did a lot of research on anxiety and bipolar disorder. I read up on the illnesses and I also looked for people who were living with the illness and doing well.  It was discouraging to not see as many people as you had hoped talking about their lives despite bipolar disorder and anxiety.

What I did pick up in my research was how important it was to have support systems and the benefit of  going to support groups. It would be a good way for people with similar circumstances to discuss their trials and tribulations despite having a mental illness.  I was determined to find a support group in my area that I could go to and talk to people who I thought would get me.


My first visit to the mental health support group in my area made me feel uneasy.  

There were a lot of middle aged, mainly Caucasian men in attendance who spoke about their illnesses.  The mood of the room and the group in general was very sad and depressing and to be quite honest, I was one of the younger people in the group and felt like no one there would be able to understand me and how I was feeling.  I didn’t write the group off completely. I went back for a second meeting. I decided to give it a chance. I desperately wanted the group to work for me so I went back. Let me just say that the second meeting was worse. I felt worse than I did after the first meeting.  I was depressed and I felt like I was doomed. I would not be able to live a normal life with my anxiety and bipolar disorder because the people in the group did not appear to me that they were thriving. Just merely surviving.


Last year I decided to start Beautiful Brain Collective.  

I wanted to help people who lived with mental illnesses who had jobs, families and were deemed high-functioning.  My mission has always been to show others who have mental illnesses that they can live a great life despite a diagnosis.  I have been on my recovery/stability journey for a year and a half, and I must say I have never felt better. This does not mean that there will not be difficult times, or that hard work will not be required, but I am here to tell you that recovery is possible!!!!!


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