invincible summers

in the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. (albert camus)

Joe Pantoliano on mental illness stigma April 27, 2009

thanks to Van for posting on this-I’ve been out of the loop and missed it although I am familiar with what Joe has been doing lately.

Joe Pantoliano (The Sopranos, Memento, The Matrix, The Goonies) started an organization called No Kidding, Me Too! He has a documentary coming out with the same title. I want to start off my saying, I commend him for this. Stigma is a real problem in America and throughout the world. We must bring an end to it!

This is Joe’s message at his website:
We are ready for the fight and we ask you to please join us in the revolution and help us educate souls all over the world to “Remove the Stigma!”

Mission
No Kidding, Me Too! is an organization whose purpose is to remove the stigma attached to brain dis-ease through education and the breaking down of societal barriers. Our goal is to empower those with brain dis-ease to admit their illness, seek treatment, and become even greater members of society.

The Goal
Make Brain Dis-ease cool and sexy. We want a normal conversation in America to be:

“I have bipolar disorder/schizophrenia/insert dis-ease”

“No Kidding, Me Too!”

Who Has The Stigma:
Those suffering from brain dis-eases including anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, pyromania, kleptomania, compulsive gambling, addictions, paranoia, multiple personality disorder, gender identity disorder, Down’s syndrome, psychosomatic disorder, tic disorders, and others.

How Will NKMT Accomplish This?
h Create strategic partnerships with members of industry, academia, organizations and government to ensure a broad-based spectrum of support and input.
h Organize the creative talents of our industry professionals to generate messages for various media and use our celebrity status to ensure these messages are heard. The messages will be of empowerment and acceptance and can include topics as basic as giving job opportunities to those with a brain dis-ease.
h Coordinate, participate in and generate interest for national and regional educational events consistent with our goal.

He has an impressive list of Advisory Board members, some of whom I greatly admire in the industry Joey and I share: Robert Downey, Jr, Ed Begley, Jr, Jeff Bridges, Edie Falco, Marcia Gay Harden, Ang Lee, Robin Williams and many more.

At his website there are photos of Joey from the screening of the teaser at the Democratic National Convention with people like Tony Goldwyn, Dana Delaney, Bobby Kennedy, Melissa Etheridge and Tom Fontana.

Here’s the teaser to his documentary:

Under the resources section at his website-the very first resource listed is NAMI. ahem. I wonder if Joe has researched Big Pharma’s influence at NAMI? Is he aware that Sen. Grassley is investigating NAMI’s funding? I am a registered Democrat and I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with this party, a party who is ignoring the corruption of Big Pharma and anyone linked to Big Pharma mainly because of their involvement with them. They are looking out for themselves and those that financially support them instead of the PEOPLE. Senator Grassley is all alone and that is sad.

At Joe’s website he links to several articles, letters, humorous videos and some of this favorite quotes, here’s a sampling:

To Fight Stigmas, Start With Treatment

Call for New Home to Address Health Disparities for Mentally Ill

FDA Approves Depressant Drug For The Annoyingly Cheerful

some of Joey’s favorite quotes

The teaser for his documentary opens with the statement:
1 in 4 Americans suffer from mental illness
4 in 5 Americans are affected by it

And then throughout you see more statistics on the screen:

87 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness
There are over 350,000 diagnosed cases of PTSD resulting from the Iraq war
18 of our American heroes are committing suicide every day

And statements like these:
There is a fine line between madness & creativity
Mental illness is the only DIS-EASE which you can be diagnosed with, and get yelled at for having

Joe went public with his illness after he was hired to do a film. (FYI: one of the first things required for actors and directors before they start filming is to see a doctor and production schedules a physical for insurance purposes) He had done this over 70 times but in this case he told the doctor the two medications he was currently taking, one for depression and one for heart disease. His lawyers were then informed that the production company/studio could not insure Joe because he was taking an antidepressant. They were told Joe could sign a waiver basically saying if he had a ‘breakdown’ he would be financially responsible for the loss of work or a shutdown. Joe’s real problem and awakening was simple: they were willing to cover his heart but not his brain. That is stigma. We all know it and it’s something I’ve been fighting and living with for countless years. It’s heartbreaking.

However, in a separate (lengthy) taped discussion with Joe he discusses a number of topics, mostly stigma, his films, politics & mental illness. He also talks about the fact the he quit drinking and has started practicing yoga, he exercises, etc. He believes in the theory that mental illness is genetic. I believe he mentioned his mother was diagnosed bipolar. Now, I haven’t seen his documentary but when his teaser states 87 million Americans suffer from a mental illness-I doubt (and I hope I’m incorrect) that he mentions why we have this false statistic. This number has increased drastically simply due to Big Pharma’s influence and a bunch of doctors started diagnosing people for a variety of reasons: more money in their pockets, get the patient in and out as quickly as possible, falsified data and studies…the list goes on and on. Instead of dealing with the true issue at hand, whether it be trauma or dysfunction, it seems Joe has partially bought into the quick fix system. And he’s using his celebrity status with people in the government in hopes that his message will be heard. That would be all fine and good except there are many flaws in his message. I agree with ending stigma but ‘his message’ goes much, much deeper than that.

In chapter 15 of the discussion linked above someone asked him if he’s tried alternative treatments like acupuncture and he states that he does practice yoga and meditation, he partakes in talk therapy, 12 step groups, etc. He seems to be all over the map and that is fine. It is his path. But it will truly disturb me if he does not mention Big Pharma’s influence within our modern psychiatric world (doctors, NAMI, etc) in his documentary, No Kidding, Me Too!

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compassion April 26, 2009

I’ve been wanting to write about my beloved dog, Foxy, for quite sometime. She passed away a few years ago although she’s still here with me in my heart. She had been in my life for 12 years, since she was a sweet puppy. She was a Shetland Sheepdog and one of the kindest pets I have ever had. When I lived with my parents, she usually slept with me or nearby. Her coat and features were not as “attractive” as her husband, our other Shetland Sheepdog, but her beauty inside is what made her so special. I told Foxy things I felt I could tell nobody else in fear of receiving the standard response, “Cheer up, move on and forget about your past!” It wasn’t until I started this blog and then got married that I was able to ‘open up’ and express my feelings fully to human beings. But, for the longest time, Foxy was pretty much my only true friend and confidant.

She had a real gift with people. At one point, we were living in a small town and I remember bringing her to a local nursing home over the holidays. The sight there was horrific. I overheard nurses mocking their patients and complaining about cleaning up “their messes” and well, you get the picture. I wish I had reported them because I saw some very ugly things. However, at that moment in my life I was very lost and depressed and I simply wanted to share my dog’s love and gift with others. I would dress her in a santa hat and scarf and we would visit very lonely patients. I was shocked how many of them never received visitors from their own families. They had been sent off, forgotten and left to die alone. It was tragic and an eye-opening experience for me at that point in my life. When I would enter a room with Foxy, I would watch the patient’s eyes light up. She would kiss them and love them-it was such a beautiful thing. They always looked forward to her visits. It is my hope that she brought beauty and love into their lives or reminded them of the beauty and love in life before they passed on. And, oh how I miss her so.

I was recently reminded of Foxy while watching the tail end of an Ellen Degeneres episode. I do not watch much network television but when I can, I do watch Ellen. I adore her. She had Sirdeaner Walker on her show whose 11-year-old son, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, committed suicide on April 6th after being bullied by fellow students at his school. This story is heartbreaking and his mother is an amazing woman.

Here’s the interview:

Anyway, Ellen said something that has stayed with me:

“I feel like there needs to be a class taught every single day in school that’s compassion. You have History, you have Math, you have English, you have Compassion. Every single day kids should be taught kindness to other kids.”

Ellen’s words are so very important. Compassion does need to be taught in schools, especially when so many children are not taught this at home. Compassion is a very powerful thing and without it, we are nothing.

So, I’m dedicating this post to my sweet Foxy who was very compassionate, to Ellen Degeneres, to Carl and his mother and to all of the compassionate human beings in this world.

Memorial contributions for Carl Walker-Hoover may be sent to:

Carl J. Walker Trust Fund
c/o Hampden Bank
19 Harrison Avenue
Springfield, MA 01103

 

the road to recovery April 18, 2009

This past week (via email) I was accused of being “ALWAYS UNHAPPY” with my life. Yes, the always unhappy was in caps and it came from a someone that has said things like this before who no longer wants to be mentioned in my blog. She feels I’m living in a “cyber world” and not the “real world”. I beg to differ on all accounts and I told her so. She also seemed to fear for her life by saying, “It’s scary to me, how do you know someone won’t come after us?” I did not respond to that-she said this after reading an article in Readers Digest on Myspace. This is a) not Myspace and b) the people who read my blog are not the types to “go after” this person or anyone for that matter. It’s completely beyond belief and yet I will say she did admit to being “computer illiterate” and so I must believe that she is simply misinformed and that is fine.

The simply truth is, yes, I get the majority of my support from the cyber world. And here’s the simple reason: the real world has failed me for more than twenty years. Psychiatrists, therapists, people who stigmatize, etc. When you spend tens of thousands of dollars on medical bills in the real world-the outcome for me was, well, I am pretty much back to square one except for severe memory loss, other problems from the many medications I have taken over the past 15 plus years and lastly, massive debt thanks to the lack of mental health parity. I’m trying to recall a specific doctor that has really helped me-there have been two or three out of more than thirty. The ones that did help-well, at the time, when I still chose the path of medication (the quick fix), I told them what I wanted to be on. I told them I was there for med management only. I cannot think of one therapist that helped me or gave me tools that actually worked in the real world. Scratch that-I had a sexual abuse therapist many years ago tell me, “my mind may never fully remember my entire rape-my mind will only allow me to remember what it can handle” or something to that effect. And she was right. I do believe that. I have not had one doctor suggest dealing with trauma from my past (my rape, etc) instead they’ve always labeled me, threw pills at me which made me sicker and certainly did not deal with the true issue at hand.

So, a few years ago I started this blog because I was feeling very alone and misunderstood in the “real” world and over the past three years I have met so many wonderful, amazing human beings in the cyber world-you all know who you are. But, hey, lets make you REAL just for fun: Gianna, Stephany,Duane, Van, Ana, Stan, Susan, Alex, Susan, Jon, Denise and so many others. Kidding aside-you are all real. You are all amazing, compassionate, strong and wise people that have helped me along my journey and I will never be able to properly thank you-because there are no words as to how much your support and your personal stories have meant to me. Now that I have opted to travel a different road to recovery, one without meds, I will need support more than ever. There are reasons some of us have at one point traveled the different road: the medication quick fix road. I won’t get into those reasons here because they are varied and some are very sad (ie. forced treatment, forced drugging, etc.) Some of us, well, me…I chose that road simply because it was the ONLY road I knew until I began my venture into the cyber alternative healing world. It reminds me of something recently posted at the great website/resource: Beyond Meds-Alternatives to psychiatry.

“Recovery is a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitude, values, feelings, goals, skills, and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful and contributing life. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of psychiatric disability.” ~ Dr. William Anthony, Director, Center for Psych Rehab

and:

Dr. Lori Ashcroft suggests that we can experience “moments of recovery” by choosing new ways to respond and breaking old patterns.

– Developing a series of wellness tools
– Recognizing our triggers and learning how to best deal with trauma
– Learning our personal bill of rights
– Setting short and long-term goals and determining actions for change
– Finding our sense of purpose and ridding ourselves of negative self-talk

The above is exactly what I plan to do-it will be part of my new road to recovery. It is part of the reason behind this post. Another being the email I received and I felt I needed to write about it here. And lastly, I just read my sister-in-law’s blog and it reminded me of so many things. She has three children (my nieces) two of whom are in their teens and have cystic fibrosis. It would take forever to properly describe my sister-in-law: strong, loving, intelligent, spiritual, patient and giving. Those are just a few adjectives but there are many more. I will strive to be more like her-I want to attempt yoga, meditation and well, just live in the moment. That is not at all easy for someone like me and I commend those that are able to do so. But anything is possible and I hope to someday live in the moment and find true peace and a calmness in my heart. It will be a long, difficult road as so many of you know-but it will be worth it in the end.

Oh, I just realized the time-I have to end this. I must venture out into the real world, which is not easy for so many of us and only WE seem to know the reasons why, unfortunately due to stigma. I am going to pick up a 40s vintage jacket that a friend of mine altered for me yesterday after trying it on. (It was a twisted scene from Pretty Woman-imagine me trying on numerous outfits-many of which didn’t fit thanks to weight gain from psych meds and I didn’t have the unlimited credit card!) This jacket is part of what I’m wearing to tonight’s screening of a film I worked on and I will be, yes, amongst thousands of people in the real world. Not here on my laptop. I spent 6 weeks in the real world working on this film, giving my all for a story/film that I truly loved. The creative outlet is an important one for me. I personally believe it has saved my life. peace to you all.

 

Kevin Siers’ cartoon April 8, 2009

Filed under: mental illness,stigma — clementine @ 10:15 pm
Tags: , , ,

If this cartoon titled: Local Terrorist offends you, I encourage you to write a letter to the editor at the Charlotte Observer. According to his bio, Kevin’s cartoons are distributed to over 400 newspapers nationwide by King Features Syndicate.

275-siers04_02highlight_largeprod_affiliate138

Here are the email addresses:

Rick Thames, editor:
rthames@charlotteobserver.com

Letters to the editor:
opinion@charlotteobserver.com

Cartoonist Kevin Siers:
ksiers@charlotteobserver.com

This was my letter to the editor and I cc’d Rick and Kevin:

I am writing in regards to Kevin Siers’ cartoon titled “Local Terrorist”
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/kevinsiers/story/638466.html

Horrific images like this one promote the stigma associated with mental illness. Just look at some of the comments regarding Kevin’s cartoon. I find this cartoon extremely offensive as someone who has lived with a mental illness for more than 25 years. I must ask if you, your readers or Mr. Siers has a family member or close friend that suffers from depression or another mental illness? I have news for you: mental illness is an illness just like any other and it can be successfully treated. I am living proof of that-although, no thanks to Big Pharma. Unfortunately, I have spent more than half of my life living with the stigma associated with mental illness, meanwhile I have family members who have diabetes or cystic fibrosis and there is no stigma because people are not ‘afraid’ of those illnesses. People continue to be afraid of anyone with a mental illness partially thanks to cartoons like this. It is disgusting and you should all be ashamed for printing such a thing. This is one giant step backwards for the millions of people who have long suffered and been misunderstood. Don’t be surprised if you lose readers over this and you should!

****UPDATE: I should note that I don’t necessarily believe in mental illness these days. Of course my entire life I wanted to believe I had an illness because at the time it was the only thing keeping me alive as others around me labeled me crazy, odd, insane, etc. You get the picture. Today, this is my belief, if there is such a thing as mental illness…where is the scientific proof? Where is the cure? Scientists have had plenty of time to prove this and yet they haven’t. That speaks volumes. Instead we have numerous drugs promoted on television, pimped by our doctors and pharma reps for a quick fix. And let’s face it-there’s a a lot of money in it for Big Pharma and doctors. I wrote this email to Kevin because he does feed the stigmatization of a group of human beings that have been discriminated against their entire lives. That is not something I can sit back and ignore.

 

Light and Shadow March 14, 2009

Filed under: mental illness,stigma — clementine @ 3:11 pm
Tags: ,

please everyone, check out: Light and Shadow.

It is a quarterly e-zine which focuses on moving beyond psych labels, psych diagnosis and mental health stigma.

 

a new year and new beginnings December 31, 2008

this is what i do know:

1) i am a simple girl and cannot write as eloquently or intelligently as so many of you out there. i am (kinda) okay with this.

2) i am 35 and for 15+ years of my life I have been on/off psychiatric medications. not one of them worked long-term. many (too many) of them had horrific side effects and long-term side effects that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life, possibly.

3) Big Pharma is not there to help the mentally ill, cure us, or even make us feel better. Big Pharma=Big Money in their pockets. Whether it be a Prozac Nation or an Atypical Antipsychotic Nation, they do not want a Healthy Nation. In simple terms, they would lose a tremendous amount of money since psychiatric medications are their best selling drugs.

4) Doctors are becoming more and more corrupt. The Joe Biederman’s and Charles B. Nemeroff’s of the world are proof of this. Doctors in the mental health field seem to both listen and care less. We are becoming numbers, not patients. I know this from experience. A therapist who dozed off during our session (a session I was paying good money for!) Numerous psychiatrists that write multiple prescriptions without even blinking or thinking. with no warning of the drug’s side effects or withdrawal symptoms. We see doctors prescribing multiple medications to children while their brains are still developing and they are not willing to figure out what’s really going on with these children. It’s all about the quick fix regardless of the severe and damaging consequences.

5) We need more science. period.

what i don’t know and the rest, after some soul-searching, i have decided to travel my own path. i will figure it out along the way. i will continue to do my own research. i will try new things like meditation, yoga and supplements. and revisit things that have worked for me in the past, acupuncture, keeping an open mind. all in hopes of finding a balance. my center. i will continue writing as it the best form of therapy for me right now. i will attempt to face a past traumatic experience and figure out how to let it go. its grasp is still there after so many years and can be crippling at times. i will attempt to stop seeking understanding from those that may never understand and instead, live my life. after all, it is my body, my mind and i don’t know how long i’ll be here on earth. i need to make the best of my life, no matter how difficult it may feel or get at times.

i will seek more love, forgiveness and peace in the new year.

and i’m wishing a happy new year to all of you!

 

ordinary people December 23, 2008

Today I was reminded of one of my favorite films, Ordinary People. It won 4 Oscars back in 1980. Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford), Best Supporting Actor (Timothy Hutton) and Best Screenplay. And yet it’s one of those films many people have not seen. I used to wonder why. and today I understand. It’s simple really and I’m surprised I never thought of it before. I grew up surrounded by many who put on the Cleaver family front. It was safe. comfortable. And this film is anything but. This film is raw and painful. beautiful and sad. honest and real. If you are someone who chooses to live behind the Cleaver fence or normal facade…this is a movie that forces you to remove walls and think. feel. empathize. go to “unsafe” places.

First, watch the trailer: (more…)