Friday, March 22, 2013

Two Voices Speak Out from among the 26 Percent who Live with Mental Illness

Annmarie Timmins, age 9 (left), with her brother on vacation
in Franconia Notch, N.H.
By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations

It takes courage for people who live with mental illness to tell others about it.

Some people tell no one. Some are selective— telling only a few family or friends.

Others “go public,” embracing maximum vulnerability, particularly if it extends to the workplace.

Two spectacular profiles in courage have arisen this week.

One is Lisa Halpern, who wrote “What It's Like to Have Schizophrenia,” published in the latest issue of Ladies Home Journal,  It’s an incredible story that details on how she became lost in her own reality and then came to terms a with diagnosis.

“I learned so much, I decided I wanted to help others who'd been through a similar nightmare,” Lisa writes. “Now I have a full-time job working with people who have mental-health issues. I teach, arrange events, speak to groups and mentor patients. I want them to know that recovery is possible.”

The other is Annmarie Timmins, a reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.

The newspaper recently published a four-day series, “In Crisis” about the state’s mental health care system. Some reader comments questioned whether the number of people living with mental illness is really as high as “about” one in four adult Americans.

In response, Annmarie wrote a personal story: “I'm one of the 26 percent with mental illness.” 

“I have been hospitalized twice for ‘suicidal ideation’ most recently for eight days in 2009 with a diagnosis of ‘major depressive order and anxiety disorder,’ according to my records,” she wrote.

“I take four medications a day and have my counselor’s name and number in my emergency contacts on my cell phone.”

It was the first time Annemarie had shared her story publicly. Not even many of her family knew.

“I cannot believe what changes this story has begun even within a couple of days,” Annemarie later wrote in an exchange of emails with NAMI. “I've heard from hundreds of people from all over the country who said the piece has encouraged them to ask for the help they need. I've had lawmakers write to say the piece put a new face they hadn't seen on mental illness. My own family members have written to say they too struggle with illness but never knew how to ask for help.”

“I think that bodes well for all of us who struggle. Out of nearly 400 responses, I have not received a single critical or unkind note. I wish I could spread this support to everyone who is struggling.”

She already has.

By sharing their stories, Lisa and Annemarie have already inspired and given support to more people than either of them can imagine. The inspiration extends not just to the 26 percent who live with mental illness, but to our larger  communities as well.


Joy Schick Southwick said...

This has encouraged me to be more public about my mental illness of depression with psychotic features.

I've included myself as an advocate for Pathways Inc. to the state legislature and been a facilitator for a NAMI Peer Support Group and want to become active in Our Own Voices, but now besides friends and family, I understand that opening up my personal struggle can help eliminate stigma and increase people's awareness and belief in the power of recovery for those of us who suffer mental illness. It will also help funding support for it. I want to be a part of that change.

Thank you for sharing this so effectively. Joy Schick Southwick

Anonymous said...

Joy, just wondering, what are "psychotic features"?

Marifran Korb said...

In my book, I uncovered the cloak of silence in families affected by mental illness. It took courage to tell the truth, though I wasn't the sufferer. My book is "Breaking Through Concrete: The Gift of Having Mentally Ill Parents."

Christine X. said...

I have written a blog about my journey through life, living with Schizoaffective Disorder and PTSD. It is called "My Uncomfortable Mind" ( I am hoping that people will find it helpful. Please feel free to read it and share it.

Anonymous said...

for some reasons, i haven't even used the internet for mental health issues. I was on the 'other side' of mental illness for years. A psychiatric nurse. I was involved in a car accident and sustained a head injury. Since then 1991, i have struggled w suicidal ideation, major depression, PTSD, and finally bi-polar. I am treated w meds and counseling. My bad days are thought and mood involvement. I am a Christian and prayer helps me with the day to day 'thoughts and moods'. My manic phase is anger and discomfort w it. My depression side is not wanting to bathe, get up out of bed or leave the house. I also suffer w chronic pain, due to bi-polar my pain Dr.s monitor me carefully as i don't want to be an addict. I cycle even tho i am on meds. Last cycle was brought on by an exogenous event, a death of a loved one. I have to actively pray almost every minute to compete w the angry thoughts, days go by and i struggle w obtaining my goal of inner peace. When i have a pain episode my depression takes hold, the hopelessness and dread wash over me. Once again prayer and forcing myself to do what i don't want to do overwhelm me. I do know this, my medicines are now working, I will not stop taking them. I have nightmares do to my PTSD, but lately thank God they have not been bad. The point i am trying to make, i believe education about your diagnosis and being an active participant in your care plan can make a positive effect in your day to day activities. thank you for this safe place to comment. Juli

Anonymous said...

Hearing voices, hallucinations etc

Patti McIntosh said...

This is a really good article. I have struggled with Depression/anxiety of and on most of my adult life. Six years ago I was suicidal for days on end as I had promised my daughters I hospitalized myself so I would not act on this idea. I was diagnosed w/Complex PTSD. It's been a long hard road since then but I have learned much.
I have mixed feelings about going public even tho I have in some ways. The down side is that when people don't really "get it" not being understood, especially when it has happened a lot can be very hard to deal with. When people respond in a minimizing way it can really set me back but for the most part I try to use these times for "Learning" what not to ever do. This makes it worth the pain, being better at helping & listening to others who struggle.
Basically I am careful who I share with now for my own self protection.
I'm glad that years ago I was told that this healing journey is something Jesus wants to do WITH me. Like anonymous, I depend on the help & strength I get from my prayer life. I have been in therapy for 6 yrs, take medication and recently joined a PTSD support group that has been a HUGE blessing.
I wanted to share something w/anonymous that has helped me a lot. There is an online radio station, Elijah Streams, that plays what is referred to as "soaking" music. I try to spend time daily relaxing, getting quite & just focusing on this music as I ask the Holy Spirit to soak me in peace & restore my soul. I used to have awful issues w/negative thoughts and quieting my inner world. By focusing on the music over the years I have learned to quiet myself and let the healing happen. I also use my imagination to visualize the healing light from the Lord covering me & healing my soul. The effect is nothing short of miraculous. My being finally able to be still is a miracle. The meditative state of mind has been found to make a big difference for folks w/PTSD so when God is invited into that it's fantastic.
Lastly I just want to say that the people I know w/PTSD and other mental health issues are some of the bravest most amazing compassionate people I know. I no longer feel so alone in this world.

Patti McIntosh said...

Ugh. I just wrote all about how much I like the article, my opinion on going public and my thoughts on my life w/Complex PTSD. I wasn't logged in and it disappeared when i clicked preview.
Oh well.
I wanted to encourage anonymous to start listening to "soaking" music @ Elijah Streams. It has helped me a lot to learn to quiet my inner life, be still and as I focus on the positive healing message of the music I imagine the healing light of the Lord healing & restoring my soul (intellect~will~emotions). It has made a difference and I do this often, just laying back & relaxing. I used to struggle w/the onslaught of negative thoughts and after a few months of adding this to everything else i do to care for myself (therapy-meds-support group) it slowly got better through this practice. It is proven that the meditative state helps people w/PTSD and this adds to it by inviting the Holy Spirit to bring peace & rest to our soul.
I highly recommend this.