Relapse is Part of Recovery, TEDx talk is out!

“Relapses are opportunities for growth, not something to be ashamed.”

“We all need to be supportive of the people who relapse, because we all relapse.”

“STIGMA SMASH!”

Just some quotes from my new TEDx talk, which is about how the lowest points in our lives bring us insight and are NOT something to be ashamed of. I talked about my mental health history but expand challenges to apply to anyone and everyone – we are all in the same boat, which means we ALL need to support each other. Check it out!

Please share, like, comment!

 

Announcement!

Hi everyone! Hope that you are well! I have some great news…I will be giving a TEDx talk in New Jersey on April 7, 2018! My talk is called “Relapse is Part of Recovery.” I’m interviewing 100 people to really flesh out my talk, and here is a summary:

“Relapse is part of recovery” is a term frequently used in the addiction world to encourage people to continue if they lose their sobriety. But relapses (which I define as “rock bottoms”) happen outside of addiction and mental illness: there are relapses in careers, relationships, societies, identities, etc.

When people relapse, they are often faced with shame, disappointment, and see it as a failure. But what I’m finding is that frequently, as a result of a relapse, we gain some sort of insight that changes our lives for the better.

My talk argues that we need to rethink our views of relapse and how we handle relapses. We need to recognize that they are frequently an opportunity for growth. When someone relapses, we need to be supportive, encouraging, and hopeful. And that, my friends, will lead to “A Better Future” (the theme of the TEDx I am part of).

I am documenting my whole journey of building this TEDx talk on instagram: @hufsathegreat. I can’t tell you how many people are coming together to help me with this talk: allowing me to interview them, sending me pictures…I even have local actors who are going to help me film a scene for my talk. Wow!

Stay tuned! I’ll be posting about some of the stories I have been hearing!

How To Fight the Stigma of Mental Health: Part I

How can we fight against the stigma of mental illness – a surmounting task? I hope to do a multi-part segment on ways that one can combat the stigma of mental health conditions. The first point I will bring up is the power of analogies to physical illness.

I was a private math and science tutor for two years. Hands down, the best way to teach a student something they didn’t know was to put it in terms of what they already understood.

The vast majority of the world does not understand mental illness – including people who have mental illness themselves. But if you put it in terms of what people already know – physical illness – you will make greater strides in conveying the message that mental disorders are real disorders that affect the brain the same way other illnesses affect the heart, or lungs, or kidneys, etc.

I use this technique when I speak to various audiences, including the people I serve in the community mental health system. I explain that mental illness is a lifelong illness, just like physical illnesses. Mental health requires healing and self-monitoring, which can consist of medication and therapy. Is taking pills for diabetes something to be ashamed of? Is going to the hospital after having a heart attack different than going to the hospital for a mental breakdown? Is knowing the symptoms of your mental illness as necessary as knowing the symptoms of a physical health condition, even a stroke or heart attack?

When I put mental health in terms of physical health terminology and principles, people start to nod their heads, with an occasional “ahh” or “mm-hmm.”

To make strides towards eliminating stigma – to work hard to combat the stigma of mental health – let’s work together with these suggestions.

In Light of Robin Williams’ Suicide (repost)

Robin Williams’ death is a tragedy. It breaks my heart every time I hear someone committing suicide, whether they be my friend or someone who I admired from afar. I remember watching Robin Williams on talk shows with my mom. I laughed so hard that I had trouble catching my breath.

And of course I’m not the only one. So many people have been posting about how much they loved this man – not only how funny he was, but how kind he was. He was someone who made everyone around him happy. This is so sad that it feels unfair. No – it is unfair.

News articles state that he had depression and substance abuse issues, though it is not yet known whether substances were involved in his suicide. I have previously heard that he had bipolar disorder.

But what specific mental illness he had is not the point of this post.

How did such a remarkable man, someone who was so admired by so many people, end up committing suicide? How could someone like that feel so depressed and so hopeless? He was loved by countless people all over the world. He had family who loved him. He had friends. How could he feel like everything was that hopeless, that he would end his life?

I cannot claim to know the reasons for Robin Williams’ death. I don’t know if anyone really knows right now, or if anyone ever will. And I cannot claim to know what could have been done to stop the suicide. I just don’t know enough information. I don’t know if anyone does.

But I aim to draw hope and a message from this tragic event, and stop events like it from happening.

I. THE NATURE OF SUICIDE – AND WAYS TO COMBAT IT

This suicide is counterintuitive and illogical. But that is the nature of suicide – when people are suicidal, they are not thinking clearly. They cannot see that there is hope; they can only see past failures and believe in the impending doom. The illness is what takes over. The illness strips the individual of reason. The illness skews their vision so they only see darkness, and no light.

But there are ways to combat it. There is always at least a glimmer of hope.

When in that dark place, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can reach out to family and friends. You can think about the people who you love, and those who depend on you. You don’t allow yourself to be isolated. There are many more ways.

However, it is equally as vital to PREVENT yourself from getting to that point. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to take action BEFORE it reaches that point. Ask for help. Reach out. Let yourself be helped. Build and use a support system of loved ones, activities, organizations, etc.

Treatment should be considered. If someone reaches such a low point, there is something deeply wrong; it is a crime not to seek treatment or help a loved one seek treatment. Please note that there are a variety of treatments available – medication, therapy, holistic, and more.

There are also Warmlines – “warm,” not “hot”lines – for people who are not yet in crisis, but need support. They offer peer support and referrals. You can reach one at 1-877-910-WARM. (I happen to work for one.) Don’t wait until things are so bad you can barely see any hope.

II. WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN NOW

There is a direction we as a society need to move towards, spurred on by this terrible event.
What is imperative now is that society learns from what happened. Society cannot ignore how powerful mental illness is, and how life-threatening it is.

A paradigm shift must occur!

It is a fact that mental illnesses are as equally serious as physical illnesses. A FACT. I strongly argue that they are the same. To those that argue that they are “just feelings and thoughts” – how can you not take a “feeling” seriously, when it can spiral into something that compels someone to take their own life? How can one doubt the power of emotions when they reach a severity where they trump all reason?

Mental illness is a life threatening disorder. Just as someone can die from an aggressive cancer in the body, someone can commit suicide as a result of a progressive mental illness. In this sad case, it was Robin Williams.

There are too many people who don’t realize this, who are not receptive to cries for help and don’t understand that mental illness is not something you can just “get over.” Emotions, feelings, attitudes, behaviors, brain chemistry, physical effects, and more are all intertwined and should be taken equally seriously.

And this all starts with YOU.

The best way for society as a whole to reduce suicides is to realize the severity of mental illness. Break down the stigma towards mental illness which prevents people from seeking and getting help.

Support each other. Reach out for help if you need it. Accept people’s help when they offer it. Don’t ignore the problem or deny it — this goes to individuals suffering from mental illness as well as their loved ones.

This is something we all have to accomplish TOGETHER.

The world must realize that mental illness is real. If we accept its severity – if we believe that mental illness is a serious, biological disorder, and not a defect in character – I guarantee you more people will get the help they need. I guarantee you fewer suicides will happen. I guarantee you the world will be spared from so much pain.

Let there be one good thing from this sad event – let this be a way to pave a better future where mental illness is taken as seriously as a physical illness, so more people will receive the help they need.

Because we all need it.

And remember, I’m here for you, too.