Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Reminder: Peers, Check Out Our May Newsletter

Hope | Empowerment | Resources
MAY 2020
Featured Stories
"What Mental Health Awareness Means to Me", Page 3
"Mental Health: How I'm Making a Difference", Page 4

Creative Works
Poem: "Warrior", Page 5
Poem: "My Soul Lingers", Page 7

More Stories
"Resiliency In Recovery: More Like the Willow", Page 6
"Teleworking: Setting Boundaries During COVID-19", Page 7
"Hope During COVID-19", Page 8
"Are You Stuck In Recovery?", Page 10

COVID-19 Warm Lines & Hotlines, Page 11
A monthly publication created exclusively by peers for peers in recovery for mental health disorders and addictive diseases.
Publisher's Corner
Welcome to our May newsletter! 
Join us as we celebrate MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH!

Featured StoriesCheck out the raw, inspiring stories contributed by peers in honor of mental health awareness month! Enjoy tips on being resilient in recovery and keeping the faith. Also, first-hand accounts of how some peers are overcoming work challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Trigger Warning: suicide attempt/suicide ideations; overdose)

Creative Works—We have also included two profound poems written by some very talented peers.

ResourcesBe sure to check out our resources page, which includes hot lines, warm lines, COVID-19 Resources, etc. that have been recommended by our peers.

What Mental Health Means to Me
At the age of 9, I remember visiting my Mama in “the hospital”. My nine-year-old innocence didn’t realize that the overstocked pantry filled with snack cakes, crackers and pudding cups, and the freezer that was stocked with ice cream meant that she was not in a regular hospital. At that time, I had no idea that the hospital that she was in-was actually a rehab facility. I had never been taught words like detox, substance abuse, mental illness…these were words that my family members swept under the rug. These were words that were not openly discussed at the dinner table because they had such a stigma associated with them. Throughout the years, I remember visiting my mother at similar hospitals on other occasions. Although I was older, and had begun to develop my own ideas about the taboo words mentioned above, I still did not understand how my mother’s sickness kept landing her in this type of place. She didn’t have any “symptoms” of any sickness that I could visibly see, nor did she seem to have any life threatening conditions that my childhood innocence would allow me to understand. Her “issues” with substance abuse were never a dinner topic conversation, and the topic of mental illness still remains a bit of a taboo in my family.

Over time, as I moved from adolescence into adulthood, I began to have my own battles with anxiety and depression. For years, I dealt with my issues in solitude and in shame because these topics remained taboo-no one talked about them. My family continued to sweep such topics under the rug. As an “overachiever”, it was easy to mask my anxiety. As the “extrovert” that I pretended to be, it was easy to hide my depression. I dealt with both for many years, alone, in secret, in shame! It wasn’t until I began to see signs of anxiety and depression in my daughter, that I truly acknowledged the signs that I had been denying in myself. My daughter became my mirror- a true reflection of my thoughts and actions- and as I saw “me” from the outside looking in, I knew that I could not keep quiet anymore. I made a vow to myself that I would have to be the person to break the cycle of stigma. I would have to be the person to raise awareness about mental illness. I knew that if I kept quiet, that I would unconsciously send a message to my daughter that she would have to live in silence…in shame. As a mother, I refused to carry the burden of hidden truths that I had carried throughout my life. I had to break the silence. I had to seek help. For myself, for my daughter, for my mother-and for all of the other people who continue to suffer in silence. Mental Illness is Real- and I will spend the rest of my life ending the silence. I owe it to that little nine-year-old girl, eating all of the snack cakes in the hospital pantry, wondering why her mother didn’t look “sick”. This is what Mental Health Awareness means to me. ###
May - Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental Health: How I'm Making a Difference
I was in a car accident in 2013. Due to the trauma, my life changed forever. In 2015, I had a nervous breakdown and going from being independent to dependent drove me into a deep depression. I was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, major depression and insomnia. A little over a year ago, I attempted to end my life. I was in so much pain from the accident, that I almost accidentally overdosed on pain meds. However, through all my delirium, I cut my wrist and ended up in the ER. I survived this incredible ordeal and have learned better ways to take care of both my physical and mental health.

Currently, I am having to use a rollator (walker) to get around. However, I am so thankful that my husband, children, grandchildren, peers and two additional family members Khloe (cat) and Bella (dog) are here for moral support. Despite being on a rollator and experiencing mental illnesses, I still have the ability to help others. I am very active in my community as a certified Connection Recovery Support Group Facilitator for NAMI and Team Captain for NAMIWalks. Also, I am certified by NAMI as a “Peer-to-Peer” Instructor, “In Our Own Voice” Presenter and “Ending the Silence” Trainer. I continue to utilize my coping skills along with the support of my peers and family, which shows that I am resilient and can continue on with life. I would like to encourage my peers who are experiencing similar challenges to hang on and know that you are not alone. ###
May - Mental Health Awareness Month
Poem: Warrior
Resiliency in Recovery: More Like the Willow
“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.” Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven

Throughout my life, I have found myself in situations that I thought that I would never make it out of. Some of these situations have forced me into mental panic, others physical panic, and in most situations emotional panic as I have felt myself helpless in situations where I was unable to maintain a sense of control. As the control freak and over-thinker that I tend to be, it has been quite a work in progress for me to learn to calm my anxious thoughts and to be PRESENT and IN THE MOMENT during some of these challenging times. 

I love this quote about the willow and the oak. I have been like the oak many, many times in my life. Reluctant to change- unwilling to budge from my thoughts and opinions regarding various situations-and in many situations, simply fixated to believe that there could not possibly be a positive aspect to a negative situation that I may have found myself in. I was stubborn, resistant and I was broken. Over time, through the development of better coping skills, and learning to understand my mental illness, I have managed to become more like the willow. Instead of being fixated, I learned to be more flexible. Instead of being rigid, I learned resilience. Instead of fighting, I learned how to forgive. Instead of holding on to baggage, I learned to release! 

When I find myself in those moments where I feel like I am losing control (especially during the uncertain times that we are in now), I have learned to remind myself that there are some things that are beyond my control. In those moments, I have two choices-either I can be rigid like the oak-and break, or I can be flexible like the willow-and bend. I’m striving daily to be more like the willow…though I bend, I will not break. ###
Teleworking: Setting Boundaries During COVID-19
I suffer from anxiety and situational depression described as an adjustment disorder brought on by specific situations or events. I’m triggered when an event or situation interferes with my daily life. My typical side effects include anxiety, change in appetite, insomnia, jittery and body aches, lack of energy and fatigue, inability to concentrate, forgetfulness, stumble and mispronounce words, and lack of patience. The current challenge is keeping my work life separate from my home life. My way of coping is always identifying my home as my safe harbor, my place of peace. Before the pandemic, when I’m home, I kept all work issues at work, I don’t read or answer emails, I don’t answer phone calls from co-workers, and I don’t think about unfinished work left on my desk.
During the COVID-19 stay at home order, I thought being home would be like an extended weekend to catch up on home projects. My anticipation to maintain the balance between work life and home life failed within the first week and my coping skills were not useful in this situation. My workstation was set up in the dining room, as it was the most neutral space in the house. I rearranged the table and chairs to accommodate the computer, power cords and files. I’m confined to my computer all day, only taking breaks to eat and use the bathroom. There’s limited openings to run to the store or do anything around the house because I must stay close to respond to the emails and conference calls. My manager communicates with me daily because he has me working on several projects, and his persistent urgency, along with the overflow of emails, and demands from clients, triggered my anxiety, pushing me to protest and rebel. My dining room is a chaotic mess resembling a war room, cluttered with papers and power cords. My home has been invaded by my company and feel like I’ve given them all control of me and the peace. I became extremely enraged and explosive that I regrettably afflicted that rage on my son.
I don’t anticipate the stay at home order to be lifted in the foreseeable future and my whole mind-set needed to be readjusted. First, I relocated my workstation to my bedroom in a small area that I rarely use. All papers and power cords are tucked and out of sight so it doesn’t disrupt my rest and comfort. Before turning on my computer, I sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee. I log in to check emails and complete any work that needs to be done. I allocated time for home projects and grocery shopping. At 5 p.m. I don’t read or answer emails, I don’t answer phone calls from co-workers, and I don’t think about unfinished work left on my desk. ###
Hope During COVID-19
Holding on to the promise that God has provided for hope is the only cure for coping during our world’s current pandemic. There are many unknown factors globally that have left questions and thoughts unanswered. Some may have been left without resources, without employment, without financial stability or without family. Isolation is one element that can cause individuals battling mental illnesses to slip in or out of recovery. Luckily, I am here to testify that there is still hope and that you can still overcome any situation that life throws in front of you. Some people may have still been able to continue employment and some individuals, such as myself, were forced to stay home with family due to the mandated state regulations and closings of daycares. Without proper financial stability, this is a recipe for disaster for many of us. Many people were helped when the economic relief package was passed. This included additional state unemployment benefits and other funds for small businesses. Unfortunately, some people may not have received funds or are still waiting for a check in the mail. This type of frustration during a financial hard time can cause lots of room for hopelessness.

I was personally struggling with this issue myself, and like many, I began to have many questions that I could not just pick up the phone and find answers. After a few weeks of going through different stages of anxiety and depression, I began to pray and attempted to study more on what God would want me to do in this situation. Shortly thereafter, the government created a portal, which enabled me to log-in, update my information and track payment. This was a big relief for me, especially with still being in limbo with the application process for unemployment benefits. My job also informed me that they were able to receive funding as well to be able to bring furloughed employees back to work at full pay. Even though I have not yet received all the relief funds allotted, I am still grateful for every small piece of hope God provides. We must still be thankful for the small things that God presents to his people through hope. Isolation may have us second-guessing this logic, but we are on an ongoing journey of uncertainty during today’s time, and the only thing we can be sure of is hope of the things to come. This little planted seed of faith can be the cure that we desire during this pandemic. Sometimes when life is hitting us hard, we do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re reading this today, I want to let you know to keep walking. Even if the light is many miles away inside that tunnel, keep moving forward! There is still hope for me and you.

In His word, God reminds us, “He will never leave, nor forsake us.” Hebrews 13:5-6
No matter what illness you are currently battling, rather it’s mental or physical,
please know you are not alone.
Poem: My Soul Lingers
Are You Stuck in Recovery?
Are you feeling stuck? Do you often feel that you’ve reached a point in your recovery journey when you’ve given in to the mental health system or just feel like you can’t go on anymore?

I know exactly how it feels to feel “stuck in recovery.” There was a time, not long ago, when I was isolating in my bed and battling daily suicidal thoughts. When I wasn’t depressed and thinking about dying, I was heavily medicated on anti-psychotics, slept most of the day and ate like a pig. There were times when I could remember staggering into the kitchen in the middle of the night, drug-dazed from meds and scouring the fridge for food. I had gained 20+ pounds and didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror. I was no longer working and felt like I had no purpose in life. I began to give in to the negative thoughts that I could never “recover” from the traumas of my past. In fact, I told my therapist at one point that I felt I was “incurable!” None of my efforts to live a “normal life” seemed to be working.

However, I didn’t give up! After seeking therapy, changing my medication and developing some healthier coping skills, I felt I reached that stage where I was “living well” in recovery. Although my mental challenges did not go away, I began to notice the length of time of my dark days were shortening. Soon, I started getting out of the house more and connecting with other peers in group therapy. I found out about a local Respite Center and started participating in their daily wellness activities. I also took advantage of being a Respite guest for 7 days (in lieu of crisis centers) when I felt overwhelmed or just needed to rest and recharge. Through the grace of God, I made it out of that dark place that keep me stuck for so long. A place where I had literally gone to die!

Today, as I allow myself a chance at a “quality life”, I’m beginning to discover my purpose. I have loss almost 50 pounds and now focusing on my Whole Health. It is my mission to use the gifts God has given me to make a difference! I am now a giving back by volunteering my time with my local NAMI chapter. I co-facilitate weekly peer support groups, where I am able to give and receive awesome peer support! Also, I recently became a Certified Peer Specialist for the state of Georgia, in addition to becoming certified in Mental Health First Aid and QPR. I hope to utilize all of my training to help more peers in recovery. Today, I can honestly say that this journey hasn’t been easy, but at least I’m no longer stuck! I would like to encourage anyone who is feeling stuck to reach out to someone. Join me in taking that first step from being “stuck” to living a better, quality life...WE DESERVE IT! ###
COVID-19 Support
-Georgia COVID-19 Emotional Support Line-

-Georgia Crisis & Access Line (GCAL)-

-Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH)-
COVID-19 Hotline*

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

Warm Lines
-CARES Warm Line-

-Peer2Peer Warm Line-

Hot Lines
-National Suicide Prevention Lifeline-

-Crisis Text-
Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor
Free 24/7 support at your fingertips | US and Canada: text 741741 | UK: text 85258

Have a resource you'd like to add to this list?
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(This list is not all inclusive—Peer Scoop does not endorse any particular organization)
*Please Be Advised: Some Resources May Be For Georgia Residents Only*
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Disclaimer: Peer Scoop is a free monthly newsletter created exclusively by peers for peers in recovery from mental health disorders and addictive diseases. All contributions in this publication are based on lived experiences submitted by volunteers. Any content used herein is for educational purposes. Intellectual property and copyright restrictions apply. Unless otherwise noted, all images of people used in this publication are models.

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