Wednesday, July 29, 2009

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

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, 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

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

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

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!
A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a man representing Therapy He was interested in my cause and asked permission to display my website on their resources page. I happily agreed. Therapy 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


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

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

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

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 color. To be equal is to have empathy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


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.”