Monday, November 23, 2009

SPREADING THE WORD
I have been invited to speak at an annual gathering of 40 local mental health professionals and paraprofessionals. I am very excited since this provides me with the opportunity to share my anti-stigma campaign with people who work in the field. My ultimate goal is to have professionals use my documentary during the recovery process. Before I speak, I will display my canvas paintings along with accompanying audio (on headsets). I will also display my large scale posters of Joshua and talk about how family has played a large part in his recovery. 

I think it is important to take this opportunity to discuss my thoughts about the mental health system. My family (along with many others) have been shut out of treatment, especially during psychotic episodes. I think it will be good for professionals to understand what we experience from a very frightening and helpless point of view. Finally, I will present the first ever footage of my next documentary. I am no where near the end of editing (thanks to the pregnancy :), but I think a sneak peak will be a great way to show the professionals what to expect. I would like to thank Peter at Friendship House for giving me this opportunity to reach even more open minds! 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

IN OUR OWN VOICE
I think it's wonderful that more and more people are coming forward to fight stigma. I recently learned about the program "In Our Own Voice" through NAMI. This educational program allows people who have struggled with mental illness to be seen as courageous and confident individuals. Please read the following description of the program to learn more! I only hope that my work can make the same impact. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

GOSSIP, SHAME AND HYPOCRISY

I have mentioned Perez Hilton before and his discriminating ways. Of course he is just a gossip columnist but what's worse is that he attracts millions of readers. This means his opinions could sway others who may not have developed a view on a particular subject. Perez is notorious for stereotyping those who seek medical help for any mental disorder. I find this very hypocritical coming from a man who is FIGHTING for the rights of gays and lesbians (which I agree with). You can't have it both ways Perez.


A few months ago, Mischa Barton was pretty much forced to explain a hospital stay since it involved being admitted to a psychiatric ward. When someone hears PSYCHIATRIC all those negative connotations come to mind. Connotations that have been fueled by stigma. This is sad to me since many people (including my brother) receive much needed treatment from this section of a hospital. Yet, the public continues to stereotype those who set foot into a psychiatric ward. This angers me too no end. Unfortunately, I've seen too many forgotten souls roaming the halls of these hospitals with little to no family support. Would family suddenly forget about their loved ones if they were suffering from cancer or heart disease? I think not. 


The following was posted on PerezHilton.com after Mischa made a comment about her hospital stay (copy in bold is from Perez).


""I went through a tough spot where everything compounded on me, and it was like a perfect storm, like everything was happening to me at once," says the wacktress. 


It seems that before Mischa was scheduled to begin filming her new CW show, Beautiful Life, she had done some extensive traveling on top of having a botched wisdom tooth surgery! And then she turned to coke?! Because they don't hospitalize or grant you a police escort for stress!!


"I had to get through it without proper painkillers because I couldn't take those during work," she says of the dental procedure. "So it's been a nightmare." "I was down in the dumps about everything there for a while," divulges Mushy. "Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom about things and have to get the most stressed out just to feel better again. I got completely stressed out and couldn’t handle everything, and now I feel really in control."


Because of her psychiatric stint at Cedar Sinai last month and we don't find it very convincing. We're not surprised life was difficult for her without drugs! Mischa denies she suffered a mental breakdown. Awww, honey. Denial is not one of the steps of recovery. The truth will set you free! Yeah, she might be OK. It's a slippery slope, though, when these starlets start to loose it. Welcome to the Mushy Mischa Meltodown Watch 2009!"


Why is it so convenient and acceptable to put someone DOWN for accepting medical treatment? I am sick of how we force shame onto an individual when it comes to any sort of mental health issue. It makes me sick but I will continue to try and change attitudes for the better. For now, I guess most people won't get it until they have experience the utter despair that results from either dealing with an unwanted mental disorder or watching a loved one fight everyday to manage their recovery. These individuals are courageous, yet no one is courageous enough to tell them so. WE HAVE TO END THE HATE.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A SNEAK PEAK AT THE LITTLE ONE
I want to thank everyone for their well wishes. As you can see from the fuzzy image above, we are expecting our first baby in April. I am about 15 weeks and will find out if it's a girl or boy in a month.If it is a boy, I have decided to make his middle name Joshua (after my brother). He will have a great uncle:) 

As I take all my vitamins, get plenty of rest and exercise, I will always have in the following thought in the back of my mind. Will my child develop a mental illness? I do not fear this possibility because of shame, rather, I know what it is like to see someone you love struggle with a mental illness. In my parent's case, they were not aware that mental illness runs in the family. I think this is due to the fact that some relatives did not identify mental illness or ignored it (by chalking it up to strange behavior). In my case, my siblings are very aware and my immediate family is very open to discuss this topic (which I am grateful for). But once you are aware of a genetic link, it is only natural to have worries here and there. I am learning not to dwell on these thoughts because in the end, I do believe we are given what we can handle. All I can do is be prepared. 

I am so excited to raise my child with the awareness and sensitivity towards those who have a mental illness. My husband and I will have so much to teach and express. We look forward to immersing our child in culture, music, art, and so much more! I will keep you updated. Thank you again for your support, especially with my brother! It is nice to know he is not alone.

One last thing, I just heard that my brother may be working part time through a program with the hospital. I am so happy and proud of him!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

TIME AND HOPE
Someone once said that time and hope are all you can depend on when mental illness touches your family. That person could not have been more insightful. This past weekend was quite eventful for my family. One, my brother was finally released from the hospital (after a seven month stay). Second, I surprised my family with the news that my husband and I are expecting  our first baby. What made the announcement even more meaningful was the fact that my brother was there to hear it. And finally, Josh met his niece for the very first time.
I know now that part of Josh's improvement occurred shortly after his return home from the hospital. He could not WAIT to be out of that confined institution. I understand how spending most of your young adulthood in a mental hospital can actually hinder recovery. If anything, I hope Josh realizes that working on recovery will keep him out of that place. 

Upon his release, Josh finally shaved his beard and cut his hair. Two things he refused to do while in the hospital. I think that was his way of regaining control since everyone was telling him what to do and when to do it. Now that he is home, it is like we have the old Josh back. He was able to hold his niece for the very first time. It's hard to believe that months ago, when he became an uncle, he did not believe we were his family members or that he had a niece. It is amazing how you have to force yourself to ignore these delusions. I still remember when my sister was still pregnant and we came to town to attend a family meeting. He looked at us with a blank stare and said he was not our brother and in no way would her baby be related to him. Of course, it was hard to hold back the tears at that moment but not because he hurt our feelings, rather, we realized how strong of a hold this illness had on our brother. 

Me, Joshua, Whitney and our niece Arden, my mom made Arden's hat, sweater and booties:)

Joshua is the most sensitive, kind and loyal person I have ever known. I am not surprised that this illness continues to take advantage of him. I hope that in the future he will think of the time he first held his niece in his arms. Maybe that moment will give him strength to fight this illness and choose recovery. After all, it is up to him and only him. We are simply here to help guide his way, nothing more nothing less. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

LET THE EDITING BEGIN!
Well, filming is complete but now lies the very exciting and demanding job of editing. There are so many artistic avenues to raise awareness, I can not stick to just one:) Some say a movie is made during editing. I agree with this. I have about 4 hours of interviews and other material which will be condense down into a 1-2 hour documentary. I have so many ideas of how I will weave these very inspiring stories together. Since I have a very obsessive attitude when it comes to my work, I know that many of my nights will be spent in front of my iMac as I try to perfect the flow of this  film. I can't imagine that others will not be moved by these different yet similar points of views (as expressed by the interviewees). Just to give you an idea of what to expect, here are descriptions of the participants:

• A young woman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia 10 years ago. Her story is proof that recovery is possible. Plus, her courage to speak out against stigma will show others that NO ONE should be silence by ignorance or fear.

• A mother who's  son was diagnosed with schizophrenia about 10 years ago. Her point of view is unique since she is fighting to raise awareness so that her son can live a life with dignity and respect. I connected with her right away since I want the same for my brother.

• A young man who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder about 10 years ago. Aside from his positive attitude towards recovery and life, this man's artwork and poems are sure to show how perseverance can aid in recovery.

• A mother who lost a son to suicide but keeps his spirit alive by raising awareness wherever she can. I am very honored to be able to share her story since suicide carries a much harsher stigma. Like myself, this woman believes that raising awareness about all mental illness can and will prevent suicide.

Well, I will be working hard and keeping all of you in mind as I continue on my journey. Thank you again for all of your support:)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A WORK IN PROGRESS
I continue to be inspired by everyone I meet along this journey to fight stigma. I was asked to show the first edition of my documentary last night, even though at this point, I am focused on the content of the second edition. As a creative director and artist, I am subject to all sorts of criticism. It's part of the job:) Part of my growth as an artist involves the consideration of this criticism. I am known to be very stubborn and strong willed, but I am working on this. A few of the attendees expressed some VERY good points. All of  which I will take into deep consideration. There were parts of the film which show how mental illness can lead to suicide. I realize that I do not want my final film to dwell on this very unfortunate circumstance. 

When I created the first edition, I was immersed in the reality that my  brother had attempted suicide three times. My mind set at the time did not allow for too much hope and I was most likely dealing with my own depression. We were in the thick of my brother's psychosis. However, as he continues to improve and I continue to meet so many survivors, I am more focused on sending a positive message. Don't get me wrong, my first edition is full of positivity and I am happy with the outcome. But I have a unique task at hand. I must express my own personal views on this social issue while being a voice for millions. I would like to let everyone know that I am so excited about my second edition since it's message will be one of hope, courage and strength. I will do my best to make all of your proud.  

Sunday, September 13, 2009

ARE WE STARTING TO EMBRACE CERTAIN MENTAL DISORDERS?
Well, this appears to be true in the following article about antidepressant use. Studies show that antidepressant use has doubled in the U.S. between 1996 and 2005. Of course, some may argue that doctors are too quick to prescribe pills. However, I think this may be proof that social acceptance (or elimination of stigma) can encourage others to seek treatment (including therapy). As always, I commend anyone who battles mental illness and accepts treatment as a means to recovery. Here is the article.  

Sunday, September 6, 2009

WHEN DID IT BECOME CHIC TO HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS
At first, the following quote from Megan Fox left me speechless:

"I basically read every book ever written about Marilyn Monroe. I could end up like that because I constantly struggle with the idea that I think I’m a borderline personality—or that I have bouts of mild schizophrenia. I definitely have some kind of mental problem and I haven’t pinpointed what it is."

If you ask me, Megan is just one of many actresses who longs to be compared to an icon. Marilyn was truly unique and struggled her entire childhood. Her mother was in and out of mental hospitals and her father was not around. Most of her childhood was spent in foster homes. It's very narcissistic of Megan to frivolously claim she MAY be dealing with a serious mental disorder. I hope she could meet others who are in recovery or still fighting their demons. Maybe then, she would not make such insensitive comments. Trust me Megan, you would KNOW if you had a mental illness such as schizophrenia. Also, try to be yourself and make a difference instead of striving to be someone you are not. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

IN LIMBO
There are days when I just can't bring myself to think about my brother because it is too painful. Josh has been in a state hospital since February 2009. In the past, my family would cherish the fleeting moments of recovery or mental stability which existed between involuntary hospital stays. For the past seven months, my brother passed the time by roaming the white hospital halls, smeared in fingerprints and dirt. He paces to the rhythm of a psychosis that he can't seem to shake. He will not acknowledge his newborn niece, though his mind will not allow him to. I want to blame someone so I blame the mental health system. But they are only doing their jobs to carry out rules and regulations. As a family member, you feel like everyone who is "doing their job" looks right through you as they ignore your hunger to fix things. So, our hands remain tied, very tightly. How can I enjoy my career success, my life or even sunshine when someone I love is repeatedly choked by his own mind. I am haunted by the sensitive little boy who could never predict or deserve a future like this. My brother may be a victim of circumstance but he will forever live in my work, my mind and all that I do. Please get better Josh!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PUTTING THE MAD IN MAD TV
video
I am currently reading Artie Lange's book "Too Fat to Fish". I have been a Howard Stern listener for quite some time. Anyone who is a listener knows that Artie is an addict and deals with bouts of depression. Well, I thought that by reading his book, I would try to find connections between addiction, mental illness and/or trauma. Well, that and I am addicted to reading about tragic figures (Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, etc.) Artie's life story is chaotic so far but nothing really shocks me since I own a front row seat when it comes to irrationality. Today, I was searching for MAD TV clips since I never saw Artie's work on the show. The first video I stumbled upon was very ironic. I will let the subject matter speak for itself. I would love to hear what you all think. I am not for censorship but imagine if this clip stereotyped African American's or people with AIDS. I don't think the sketch would have seen the light of day. Of course, it took years to achieve this amount of respect. More reason to keep fighting for the dignity and respect of those who deal with mental illness. Above is a clip of "Schizophrenic Jeopardy" presented by Mad TV. Lastly, for those of you who may object to Howard Stern, you may find it interesting that his show is one of the few to discuss mental illness very openly and honestly. These discussions end up correcting many myths and stereotypes. What makes this powerful? Stern has about 20 million listeners. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

AM I DOING THE BEST THAT I CAN?
I would like to thank everyone for taking interest in my blog and cause. It has been less than a year since I have started this blog. I received a comment recently (July 27th) which lead me to wonder, am I do the best job I can? In my mind I am but I would like to hear from you. In my quest to fight stigma, my main concern is to inspire others to treat all illness as equal. Have I missed the mark? Have I contributed  to stigma? Is it wrong of me to mention words like SCHIZOPHRENIA, MENTAL ILLNESS, ETC? When I think of this topic, I think of AIDS and how we have almost erased stigma. It took a long time, but it happened. In order to see progress, sometimes we have to put ourselves out there, no matter what others think. I would like to see the same happen for mental illness, or whatever you want to call it. My gut is that you are all happy with my work thus far. I don't like to welcome criticism, but as an artist, it comes with the territory:)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

GET YOUR POPCORN
Halloween II is back and ready to give mental illness a bad name. Rob Zombie takes yet another stab (no pun intended) as director and clearly has no idea that he will be making my job, as stigma buster, that much harder. This film promises to be chock full of stereotypes, misconceptions, violence and hate. Aside from the news, sensationalism in the movies is one of the leading causes of stigma. I want you to watch the movie trailer. Notice the woman in the white dress when she mentions, "Takes us home Michael". Those are the voices or hallucinations created in Michael's head. In the story, Michael Myers has escaped from a mental institution, blah blah blah. Add one part propaganda, one part mental illness and you have a blockbuster HIT; plus lots and lots of money. We have to stop film makers from manipulating schizophrenia in order to sell tickets. Those of you who battle mental illness daily are truly paying the price.  

Monday, July 27, 2009

THE IGNORANCE HAS TO END
Sorry guys, I know I get pretty passionate about the topic of stigma but tonight I had to vent.I feel like I am fighting a loosing battle sometimes. While I was on perezhilton.com, I felt the need to comment on yet another sensationalized and unfortunate story about mental illness and violence. It got a little heated on my end but I wanted to remind people that we need to raise awareness more than ever. Please go to this link and read all of the comments (there are three pages of comments) made in reference to a news story about a Texas woman accused of killing infant son, then eating child's brain. Then I want you to read my comments (77, 86, 91, 98, 109, 112, 115, 132, 187, 208, 210, 221, 222, 229). Comments made by AmuseMe are the only ones that seem to coincide with my views. Sad. This was my favorite (sarcasm) quote: WELCOME TO AMERICA were crazy people run free!!!!!!!!!!" I would like to take the time to thank the people who will be sharing their stories in my documentary. The point of my film is to chip away at this intense stigma. If anyone is interested in sharing their story of hope, please contact me:) I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CREATIVITY: 
A HUNGER THAT MUST BE SATISFIED
I wanted to complete a thought I had after reading another blog post (written by Suicidal No More: Choosing to Live with Schizophrenia). This fellow blogger discusses an interesting topic. Is there a link between mental illness and creativity? My documentary contains information that supports this claim. I do this so that others will see positivity in mental illness and understand that art is therapy. Still, I remain both fascinated and confused by the subject matter. 

Far before my brother developed schizophrenia, I noticed that I was different from others and in many ways. I was highly empathetic towards total strangers. I would lock myself in my room and draw while listening to classical music for hours (before the age of 12). I had maybe one friend. I would not look others in the eye when they tried to speak to me. I analyzed everything and when I spoke my mind, others would look at me like I was an alien. The only person who I ever felt comfortable expressing my thoughts with was my father. He is also eccentric but I love him for that. I'd like to think that he encouraged me to speak my mind, no matter how strange it seemed. 

It is much more clear to me now that my brother and I share the same sensitivity to the outside world. I also think deep down that his sensitivity may be linked to his mental illness. Since there is so much we don't know about mental illness, I do not feel bold in making this statement. It is a feeling I have, not based on science but on intuition. I know my brother better than anyone and I have yet to experience the same sensitivity in another human being. In my case, many people ask me how I draw so well. I tell them it is my sensitivity to details. The same details that haunt my thoughts. When I drive past road kill, I almost feel like crying. That poor animal was just trying to cross a road which we paved through their habitat, in search of food. There it lies, pressed into the pavement, crushed. I once tried to save a fly from drowning in a puddle of water in my bathroom. If I see someone who may be overweight and eating bad foods, I will feel so bad for them because in my mind, they are feeding some sort of pain. Yes, this all seems odd, but I have come to terms with my thoughts and simply base it on my high sensitivity. 

In the past, I could not conform or fit in and this bothered me to no end. I thought, if only I was accepted by others, I would be truly happy. As an adult, I embrace the fact that I am different and try to encourage others to do the same, just like my father once did for me. The "Gaining Insight" campaign exists because the empathy I feel for my brother is too much to handle at times. Art allows me to focus or channel my pain.

In response to the blog post I mentioned earlier, here is what I wrote in the comment section:

This is a topic I ponder almost daily. I think that what you are describing is a stigma. Even though, mental illness does not lead to more or less creativity. The other stigma causes society to believe that people with mental illness are monsters, dangerous, the list goes on. Anyway, I can only give you my experience. I am what you may call an artist. I hate the label because in my mind, we all have the ability to express ourselves. Society rules and standards force the average joe to keep his/her "different" thoughts to one's self. I am a painter and creative director so most people assume that I must be creative. Art is a tool I have used for years. I use it to speak since I am very shy but have lots of thoughts. It allows me to control and inspire an audience. Creativity also makes me happy. When I am not creative, I am sad because I think too much. I can best compare it to a hunger I must satisfy. The only known mental illness I seem to have is possibly OCD (I plan to see a therapist soon) and slight depression. But OCD can cause anxiety and depression. I will say that I owe much of my creativity to my odd thoughts and desire to challenge the norm. I know these thoughts are odd since others tell me so. I don't think they are odd, but just different from the norm. I have been called weird more times than I can count. I believe that innovation, creation, expression and invention exist because we challenge what is normal. I thrive on this philosophy. I do agree with you that individuals such as Van Gogh or Sylvia Plath can be sensationalized because of their mental illness. But I tend to think that their art stood out because they were expressing such obvious pain. I mention both of them in my documentary which I hope to show you when it is done. Their art was their therapy. I think people choose art as expression since that is a personal therapy that can not be replaced by a doctor or pill. Lastly, there is a history of mental illness in my family. I often wonder if this has contributed to my creativity biologically. I like to think it has. I am very sensitive like my brother and weird like my dad. So, unfortunately, my story tends to support the idea that creativity and mental illness may be linked. I could go on and on. My thoughts race sometimes so my writing may sound all over the place and points may be lost. Take care!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

PRISONS HAVE REPLACED 
MENTAL HEALTH FACILITIES
There is one reality about mental illness that chills me to the bone. It is the fact that there are 5 TIMES MORE people with mental illness in prison than the general population. Did you know that up to 30 percent of prisoners have a treatable mental disorder?  This saddens me since people like my brother, who is now in a state hospital receiving care, will always have mental illness. He is not immuned to the possibility of ending up on the streets or even jail one day. As his family, we worry about all these possibilities because we love him and want him well, no matter what. Most people don't realize that someone with a mental illness does not belong in prison. It may allow the general population to feel "SAFE" but this fear is a direct result of propaganda (which is why I am fighting stigma). Those with mental illness deserve the same dignity, respect and treatment as any person who is sick, period. Could you imagine if your loved one was deprived of necessary treatment because his or her illness impairs judgement? I can tell you that in my experience, it if feels like your heart is being choked to death. I hope you can take a moment to read this very important and insightful article about imprisonment and mental illness. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NATHANIEL AYERS PLAYS VIOLIN AT 2009 NAMI CONVENTION
I have yet to see "The Soloist" but I did have the chance to hear Nathaniel's music. Check out this video of Nathaniel and the 2009 NAMI Convention. Music is his therapy!
THERAPY COUNSELING ON THE WEB
A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a man representing Therapy Counseling.com. He was interested in my cause and asked permission to display my website on their resources page. I happily agreed. Therapy Counseling.com connects people with certified counselors. After registration, you will choose a counselor based on your needs. Once you click CALL NOW, your phone will ring with that counselor on the other end. I think this service is wonderful because you can receive advice and counseling at any time of the day. They have a variety of counselors with specialties ranging from addiction to OCD to infertility. I am sure I could have used this website when my brother first got sick. If you have a chance, check out their website. I would love to know what you think. 

Monday, July 13, 2009

THE EVOLUTION OF PASSION

As many of you know, I am working on a documentary which will educate others about mental illness and stigma. I was fortunate enough to show the first edition of this video to a couple support groups. When the video ended, I was surprise by their applause. I couldn't believe that some of the individuals were interested in sharing their stories. It is humbling to know that my work and passion is inspiring others to make a difference. I am happy to give others a voice since stigma has silenced so many with mental illness. One woman told me that I was breaking ground and that one day we will see progress. I would like to thank Amanda for allowing me to meet these wonderful, supportive individuals. You all inspire me to keep fighting. Since my brother is not doing well at the moment, my heart aches for him to recover. I want him to be at peace one day. I find peace in so many people who have reached recovery. I see them smile and laugh and think, Joshua will feel the same one day. I do know that he possesses the strength to do so. Get better Josh:) We miss you!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

OCD AND PROUD TO BE
Some of the most creative and innovative people often deal with obsession and perfectionism. I would like to introduce a self proclaimed perfectionist. This time, it is not me:) Deb is a writer, cook, photographer and author of a wonderful blog called Smitten Kitchen. I came across this blog during one of my many journey's through cyber space. Smitten Kitchen gives me inspiration to spend more time in the kitchen and to challenge myself. Now, I am not sure if Deb has OCD, but she does use the term when describing her attitude towards cooking. When we make the topic of all mental illness mundane, others will get used to talking about it. Whether OCD is something Deb deals with or not, I am happy that she shares her passion for food with the rest of us. Please check out Deb's blog and see if you are inspired by her mouth watering photos and recipes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

REMINDER: TO BE GRATEFUL
If I have learned one thing about mental illness, it is to NEVER take anything for granted. As I returned home from work today, I was pleasantly greeted by the images. At that moment, I was reminded to be grateful for all that is positive in my life. Thank you horsees (yes I call them hors-ees :) BTW, this particular horse walked about 200 feet just to say hi, up close.

What am I grateful for?
• My sister is about to give birth to her first child (even after a horrible miscarriage).
• My brother is currently in a state hospital working towards recovery and acceptance.
• My new found friends at the Friendship House (thanks Amanda).
• The courageous, lost souls who inspire me to be a better person.
• A supportive husband who makes me laugh and gives my work an honest critique.
• For parents who encouraged me to always be creative.
• FREE therapy on four legs...I mean my two precious dogs, Miles and Basie.
• That medicine and therapy will bring my brother back one day...I just have to be patient.
• The moments of recovery I have experience with Josh, as brief as they were.
• Finally...for his courage, generosity and kindness...he is unique and I love him for that.

What are you grateful for?

Friday, July 3, 2009

ALL ILLNESS SHOULD BE TREATED EQUALLY
As I begin to chip away at the stigma surrounding mental illness, I envision a national campaign. I hope to create this campaign one day so that EVERYONE can finally see the truth. Luckily, I am a member of a local mental health community board and they may provide me the opportunity to speak with legislation about my ideas for change. I would like you to take a minute and view the following Lance Armstrong/Nike commercial. Of course, I think Nike is capitalizing on the pain of others, but that is a separate issue. The message sent by this ad is one of hope and courage. These are qualities I see in so many silent heros with mental illness. The rest of society does not have the chance to see this courage. Stigma has silenced many and it's time we stand up to the negative words, ideas and ignorance. Like cancer, someone with a mental disorder must be strong in order to overcome this chronic illness. However, he/she has much more to overcome. These individuals are forced to ignore stereotypes that overshadow their courage. Can you imagine a day when mental illness will be viewed in the same light as cancer? It CAN happen. Remember everyone, when it comes to schizophrenia, NOTHING is black and white! Think and feel...in color. To be equal is to have empathy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

SENSATIONALISM IN THE MEDIA

Just wanted to show a personal point of view from one of Michael Jackson's nurses. This is her response to how the media is benefiting from Michael's death.

"I am shocked, hurt and deeply saddened by recent statements the press has attributed to me, in particular, the outrageous and patently false claim that I “routinely pumped his stomach after he had ingested a dangerous combination of drugs". I don’t even know how to pump a stomach!! In addition, I have never spoken to the Times Online, the original source of the story that has now been picked up worldwide. The statements attributed to me confirm the worst in human tendencies to sensationalize tragedy and smear reputations for profit.

I convey my heartfelt and deepest condolences to Prince, Paris, Blanket and the entire Jackson family. The pain and sorrow I feel over the loss of Michael pales in comparison to what has been taken from them forever.”

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A TRUE LEGACY
I remember when I first heard Michael Jackson's Thriller album, yes, on vinyl. My father brought it home and we didn't stop listening to that album for quite some time. Michael's talent managed to captivate many and inspire even more. I hope he gets the chance to rest in peace. However, I think it will be a long time before the media will allow that to happen. People must realize that this man was raised in a very abusive home under the strictest guidelines. Michael may have never possessed the proper tools to deal with fame. As we start to hear about his final days, we can't ignore that his demons got the best of him. We also have to wonder why those demons existed in the first place.

The day Michael died, I was out eating dinner as I overheard laughter in another room. People were dancing and sining along to Thriller. This was the day we were to remember his legacy. But as the days go by, all the media can do is unleash countless stories that surround his untimely death. Fame does have a price. Michael was dealing with more than we know and all we can do is judge. We have become slaves to the media. We have lost all ability to think for ourselves. We love the sensational stories that make our lives seem so perfect. 

I don't think many can ignore the fact that Michael's demons got the best of him. But some of the most talented individuals are sometimes the most tortured souls. Michael was lonely and possibly self medicating. A man who once had it all was now forced into solitude. We should have had empathy for this man. Shame on the media for coining the term, WACKO JACKO. Now they tell us to embrace his legacy? Why, because it's convenient? Look past all the propaganda and take the time to see a man, a tortured soul. Someone who needed help. A family who tried to stage an intervention. Think about those individuals and how helpless they must have felt. I feel for all of them because I have been there. I am just sad that it takes having this experience to really understand helplessness or loss. Empathy should not be an acquired emotion. It should be as obtainable as happiness or sadness. Do not let the media determine your emotions. Think for yourselves!

Friday, June 19, 2009

LIFE DOESN'T ALWAYS IMITATE ART
So I came across a quote by Beth Ditto a few days ago. Those of you who don't know her music, here is a link to a recent music video. I am not a super fan of "The Gossip" or anything but I applaud their art. Beth also proves that beauty is not defined by skin and bones. She does not conform to music industry standards and stays true to herself. Her voice, to me, has more feeling than most of the artists hitting the charts today. 

Beth responded to a comment Katy Perry made about her music. Apparently, Kary wasn't all too impressed. Well, I must say that in my opinion, Beth is creating art and Katy is, well, regurgitation catchy pop tunes. Fun to listen to, but not much substance. I was struck by what Beth said because I think it runs parallel to society's trivialization of mental illness. But first, Beth's quote:

"I don't care if she writes a song about kissing a girl, but there are people who kiss girls in their everyday life, and it's not as easy as just kissing a girl and everyone loving you. It'd be really rad to hear her talk about something like that. It's not about Katy Perry. It's about this song and its innocence on her part. To [Katy], it's just this party song. But as a gay person, it's like, 'Oh, of course this straight person singing about kissing a girl goes straight to Top 40 and people buy this record. Who can give a fuck about real gay people?' That's what's really painful about the whole thing. That's what makes me laugh about 'I'm not impressed.' It's like, 'Oh, that's what you think? Of course, because you never thought about what a real gay person feels, and the impact that a song like that has on the gay world in a time of crucial civil rights.' That's just one of the examples of what the mainstream is thinking about queer culture, when actually, we are completely fighting for our rights right now."

I feel that the media and most of society sensationalize situations which they have NO EXPRIENCE with. This very act is why stigma exists. And what gives a person the right to make money off of someone else's pain and suffering? In most cases, people are manipulating a twisting the topic of mental illness in order to shock the public. I am trying to wake people up to the fact that suffering can not be overlooked by ignorance. I know, this requires education, etc., but we need more discussion on this topic. 

I would love for more individuals to come forward and take a stand against stigma. I hope to develop a national campaign one day. Luckily, I will be speaking with congress in the future about my ideas to fight stigma on a national level. But I can't do it alone. I will need others to join me in this fight. Let me know if any of you are interested in telling your story. I will devote a section of my documentary to show real people living with mental illness and stigma. This portion of the video will display imagery and quotes from those who deal with stigma and are forced into silence because of it. Showing the public that you are not ashamed of your recovery and strength is a very powerful message. Don't allow others to speak for you.  

Thursday, June 11, 2009

MY OBSESSION WITH OBSESSION
As some of you know, I received my B.S. in biology with intentions of becoming a physician's assistant. At times I wonder what this career would have been like. I know one thing. I would have deeply cared for my patients. However, I am so happy that I was courageous enough to follow my heart and creativity. My interest in science comes from my obsession with how things work. I am always looking for answers or connections. Like putting the peices of a puzzle together. This relates to my outlook on life and how I deal with everyday tasks or situations. I am not a doctor but I do beleive that my personality fits the following:

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality: People with an obsessive-compulsive personality are preoccupied with orderliness, perfectionism, and control. They are reliable, dependable, orderly, and methodical, but their inflexibility makes them unable to adapt to change. Because they are cautious and weigh all aspects of a problem, they have difficulty making decisions (like at the grocery store or with anything). They take their responsibilities seriously, but because they cannot tolerate mistakes or imperfection, they often have trouble completing tasks. Unlike the mental health disorder called obsessive-compulsive disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality does not involve repeated, unwanted obsessions and ritualistic behavior.

People with an obsessive-compulsive personality are often high achievers, especially in the sciences and other intellectually demanding fields that require order and attention to detail. However, their responsibilities make them so anxious that they can rarely enjoy their successes. They are uncomfortable with their feelings, with relationships, and with situations in which they lack control or must rely on others or in which events are unpredictable (like with my brother).

Now I don't want you to think that I need a label for everything. It's just people always made me feel that I was different or strange. I love having this type of personality because it allowed me to do the following:

• Come home every night for six months and create the Gaining Insight Campaign (sometimes staying up until 2 or 3 am when I had work the next day)

• Create my video documentary with a ridiculous deadline (I always love a deadline-keeps me motivated)

• Going directly back to college to study graphic design after studying biology for four years.

• Staring at the ingredients on the sides of food products which usually makes my time at the grocery store endless.

• Worrying about my brother everyday since he came home from Italy with a mental illness (nice souvenir, huh?).

• Coming home from class and rewriting the notes I already took in class once. 

• Not settling for failure in myself.

• Keeping my family together no matter what.

• Worrying that chemicals or plastics could cause cancer (why I eat organic now).

• Not going to bed until I am happy with how a room is designed (this happens a lot since I bought my house).

• Or changing the design of a room 5 or 6 times until I am happy. 

• I am never 100% content with any of my creations, which is why I change things over and over.

• Fight stigma until I see change!

I could go on but you get the idea. All of these things make me unique and good at what I do. I am passionate to the end. I do not work well in groups and am usually not willing to compromise. I am stubborn as they come. I like to challenge the norm, at all times. I do get a lot of my quirks from my father who also seem to have OCD. He has always had rituals and is also very stubborn. Who knows, if I didn't have this personality mixed with my intense empathy, I may not have created this campaign. When my brother became sick, I lost my control. It is the best way to describe how I reacted. I searched and searched for a way to regain this control. I found it in my art. So, PERSONALITY TRAITS, thank you for finding me:)