HERO

Post written by Harry

I had some trauma in my childhood which came back to haunt me in my adulthood. I have been having on-and-off depression, especially during the night time when it’s dark and I was so afraid. I have been searching for the hero who can help me to get out of the mental dark hole I have been in. But nobody, not even my parents and wife, can understand the true feelings and grieve I have gone through. I often felt like I am all alone in this world fighting against everything which I lost so many times.

In the Spring of 1993, I was in the last few months of my college years, once again felt completely lost when I couldn’t find a job, couldn’t get the girl I so admired for, and started smoking. One day, I heard this song called “Hero” by Mariah Carey on the radio. At first, I thought it’s about being a hero to his/her lover. I really liked the tune of the song and almost perfect voice and Mariah Carey. So I kept listening. Then as I listened more closely on the lyrics, I realized it’s about the Hero in one’s Soul. Immediately at that moment, “Hero” became my favorite song and Mariah Carey became my favorite idol and stayed as my favorite song and idol until this day and will most likely for the rest of my life.

When I felt down or sad about anything, I often listen to this song “Hero” many hours till I got tired. I cried as I listened to the song every time. Then I started to search for the Hero that’s inside my heart, my Soul. I never got tired of this song. Yes, there is a Hero in my heart, in everyone’s heart. If we care to look deep down inside our heart, our Soul, we can find the love, the hero we have been searching for. Try it, you will be amazed at the magic power of the Hero in your heart. Here, I thought I write the lyrics of the song, hope it can be inspirational to you. Hope everyone can find love and peace from this song, from your heart, from your Soul.

There’s a hero if you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid of what you are
There’s an answer if you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know will melt away

And then a hero comes along with the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside and you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth that a hero lies in you

It’s a long road when you face the world alone
No one reaches out a hand for you to hold
You can find love if you search within yourself
And the emptiness you felt will disappear

And then a hero comes along with the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside and you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth that a hero lies in you

Lord knows, dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone tear them away
Hold on, there will be tomorrow
In time, you’ll find the way

And then a hero comes along with the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside and you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth that a hero lies in you

A Bipolar Story

The following post was written by Bill LaPorte-Bryan.

My name is Bill LaPorte-Bryan.  Because I’m bipolar I’ve had to deal with wide mood swings for much of my life but I’m lucky and they seem to be gone now as I enter my eighties.  But I love to tell my story and often share it in public and in private at my church, the Unitarian Society of Hartford.  Here’s what I said during a recent disabilities service.

“I think it was 10 years ago, in 2008, that I told my story in public, for the first time, from the pulpit in that year’s disabilities service.  A few of you might have been there and some of you might even remember what I said, but with my apologies, I’ve decided to tell you my story again, but today in the context of AIM.  The words still ring true.  This morning at the end of my story, I’m going to try to answer the questions in the Enews blurb describing this morning’s service … What does it mean to have a disability?  How can our church help or hurt?  What can we all do to support our families, friends or fellow church members with disabilities?

“So here’s my story.  In this place and with your support, I feel safe sharing it with you today…

“Until my wife and I got married about 11 years ago and decided to take on the same last name, I was Bill Bryan all of my life except for three days during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day in 1969 when I was Jesus Christ.  That might take a bit of explaining so let me go back to the beginning.

“I was born on Ground Hog’s Day in 1937 with two significant genetic abnormalities that I inherited from my father.  One defect made me deaf in my left ear and gave me poor hearing in my right ear.  As usual, my hearing got progressively worse as I got older but I use a hearing aid in my good ear and the technology got progressively better so I’ve lived a full and fulfilling life in spite of my disability, capped off when you elected me President of our church a few years ago.  (I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.)  But now that we’ve installed a hearing loop in this Sanctuary and I got a new aid with what’s called a T-switch, I can hear everything that’s said in a service without having to struggle to understand all of the words.  I won’t have to sit up front any more so I can see the minister’s lips to help me figure out what she’s saying.  And then there’s the ultimate … adding real-time captions on a big screen, also only a matter of time and money, so if I doze off for a few seconds, I can catch up.

“The other genetic aberration gave me a propensity for a mental illness which at that time was called manic depression.  Today the condition is more commonly known as bipolar disorder and it’s characterized by extreme mood swings.  The symptoms include alternating periods of exceptionally high mood called mania when you’re up and feeling really good, you’re exhilarated and everything is wonderful.  They’re followed by periods of depression when you go down and become gloomy and lethargic.

“So I was born mentally ill and the chemistry in my brain wasn’t normal but for 32 years nobody knew it.  I led a normal life, my moods were normal and I had no idea that anything was wrong.  But, in a sense, I was a ticking time bomb.

“In 1969, I was well into my career with IBM and living in New York with my first wife and two children, who were 9 and 3 at the time.  During a Christmas visit to my parents in St. Louis something happened that changed the next 30 years of my life.  I was playing football with a group of neighborhood teenagers and dislocated my shoulder.   It hurt like hell.  I needed surgery to repair the damage.

“During that experience of extreme pain something had happened to me.  My family was worried about me.  They knew something wasn’t right.  Even the dog noticed it.

“In the car on the way to the airport to head home, I had a mental breakdown.  I lost consciousness as I was looking at what I thought was an enormous brilliant cross on top of a church.  At that point, they tell me, I blacked out and started screaming at the top of my lungs.  I was told I screamed for hours.

“When I came to the next day, I was in the psychiatric ward of Barnes Hospital but I had no idea where I was.  But I did know I was Jesus Christ.  Mind you, I didn’t wonder or think or believe I was Jesus Christ.  I was Jesus Christ.  There was no Bill Bryan.  There was only Jesus Christ and that was me.

“I can also tell you that I remember vividly how I felt when I was Jesus Christ and it was scary.  They were trying to kill me and I knew they’d succeed.  The medicine was poison.  The food was poison and the only reason I decided to take and eat it was because my life was in God’s hands.  I didn’t want to die and I didn’t know whether He wanted me to die or not but, if He did, that was that.  I was really scared but what are you going to do?

“It took the better part of a month for me to know for sure that I was Bill Bryan.  After another month I was released from the hospital and flew back to re-join my family.

“I started seeing a psychiatrist right away but it wasn’t until the following spring that he told me that I was manic depressive and I began to have some idea of what had happened to me in St. Louis.  Only then did I become aware of my mood swings which, in my case lasted for several months; two months feeling good and two months feeling really depressed.  With the help of a newly approved “miracle drug”, lithium, in spite of missing some work when I was down, my career went on.  I must say IBM was wonderfully supportive.  I couldn’t have worked for a better company.

“For the next 30 years I enjoyed a successful and fulfilling career with IBM until I retired in 2000.  But even the best jobs bring stress with them and during those years, even with lithium, I continued to have manageable but annoying mood swings.

“And then when I retired an amazing thing happened.  My stress level went down and the mood swings which I had been told would be with me as long as I lived started to become less extreme.  In three years, my doctors had gradually weaned me off of lithium and my moods were normal.  So for the last 15 years I haven’t taken any medication and, while I still have the genetic defect and I still think of myself as bipolar, I have no symptoms of mental illness.  They’ve disappeared.

“I’m very lucky and very grateful.  I’m told that the symptoms of bipolar disorder usually don’t go away.  But mine did and in all likelihood they’ll never come back, although you never know for sure.  I just take it one day at a time and I’m grateful for every one of them.

“So that’s my story.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share it with you.

“Now let me turn to the questions I mentioned in the beginning.  What does it mean to have a disability?  That’s a great question to start with.  The answer is, it depends.  Usually we mean that someone has a physical disability, a mental illness, a brain malfunction, a learning or intellectual disability or an extreme sensitivity to something.  The condition can be visible or not, it depends on the disability and the person making the observation.  Some people who have a disability consider themselves disabled, but some do not.  There are so many personal judgments here that, in many cases, the label “disabled” can be arbitrary and can carry baggage … so be careful what you say and how you say it, particularly if you’re talking with someone you don’t know very well.

“How can our church help or hurt?  All of us can help by creating a safe place where people with disabilities feel welcomed, supported and treated like the whole person they are.  It’s important for us to realize that we are all some combination of “abled” and “disabled”, all wrapped up in one human being.  With that in mind, let’s just live our UU principles.  Living with a disability is a spiritual practice, as is supporting a family member, a friend, a member of our church or, for that matter, anyone else with a disability.  If you practice healthy relations with everybody, you’re on the right track.  Oh, and by the way, you can help by participating in and supporting AIM.  There will be lots of opportunities over the next few years for you to ask questions, share your thoughts and learn more.

“And finally, what can we do to support our families, friends or fellow church members with disabilities?  Listen to us, realize that each one of us is different … each a unique human being with different needs, different support requirements, different sensitivities, different fears, different passions, different joys and different capabilities.  It’s that simple.  Simple, but often not that easy.

“Amen and so may it be.”

Mental Health and Fire Arms Deaths

by Tim from LA, and Rev. Barbara F. Meyers
 
Again there is a school shooting, and again there are cries from many voices from both parties that the mentally ill are responsible for gun violence in our country.  It seems like this cycle of violence and blaming it on mental illness is never ending, as are ineffectual efforts to address it.  For example, Florida Governor Rick Scott weighed in:
 
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference Thursday that he would discuss with the Legislature next week increasing funding for mental-health services and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.  Scott said, “If somebody is mentally ill, they can’t have access to a gun.”
 
The problem is, this is unconstitutional and denying someone a firearm is a violation of the Second Amendment…and they know that. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,
 
“It is important to note that the vast majority of Americans with mental health conditions are not violent and that those with mental illness are in fact more likely to be victims than perpetrators.  An individual who seeks help for mental health problems or receives mental health treatment is not automatically legally prohibited from having a firearm; nothing in this final rule changes that.  HHS continues to support efforts by the Administration to dispel negative attitudes and misconceptions relating to mental illness and to encourage individuals to seek voluntary mental health treatment.”
 
Anyone who is not adjudicated by a judge deemed mentally incapable can legally purchase a firearm. So if you place yourself in a mental institution for mental health issues, come out, you can legally buy a pistol, rifle, or a shotgun. It’s your Constitutional right. To say that they will ban mentally ill folks from purchasing a firearm will not stand up in court and again, they know that. So the law they craft will get thrown out.
 
This political act is merely a way for politicians to appear to be concerned about the victims, but at the same time, kowtow to the NRA and other gun-lobbying groups. At the same time, create a stigma for those who are mentally ill.
 
You see, I, Tim, have mental health issues and am going through therapy. I also bought a rifle too. My background checks out, and I shoot at targets.  I am neither a threat to myself nor others, and the rifle was secured in a safe. In a gun store. I sold the firearm, and I can legally purchase another if I choose to do so, which I will not do, because, I hate cleaning after shooting. But then, even with my mental health, I have no problem determining what is right or wrong, as do many who suffer. Less than five percent of folks who do suffer, commit a crime. The two most famous are John Hinckley Jr. and Mark David Chapman. Both are found not guilty because of insanity.  Many who do kill and convicted try an insanity plea but are found lucid enough to stand trial.
 
Most of folks who are mentally ill end up as victims not perpetrators, but our elected officials tend to blame us than find a way to prevent future violence, as it is easier to put off responsibility to the people yet receive the political contributions from the lobbying group. Florida is proof of that. They never expanded Medicaid. Doing so would allow folks to receive the treatment they sorely need, as Governor Scott said that the shooter in Florida, Nikolas Cruz, is mentally disturbed, and should not have been able to purchase a firearm.
 
Just because we seek treatment does not mean we are inherently violent. There is enough stigma, cultural and otherwise compounding our desire to find that cure, but when our leadership does nothing to treat patients or even do anything to prevent gun deaths like having sensible gun laws, then expect more death and more stigma next time around. It’s tough living in Los Angeles and seeking treatment, but suffice it to say that it’s worse in states that have more concern for gun rights than human rights.
 
But there is a larger issue that is unaddressed by the focus on mass shootings.  Putting deaths by guns in context, mass killings are only a tiny portion of such deaths.  Far and away the largest group of people dying by gun fire are suicides.  Some estimates are up to 60% are suicides.  That is HUGE, given the massive number of gun deaths in the United States.  So, if we are going to make a real difference, we need something that works for deterring suicides as well as mass killings.  
 
We see some hopeful signs.  On a recent broadcast of The News Hour on NPR Professor Jeff Swanson of Duke University, a psychiatrist specializing in violence and mental illness, was interviewed.  He correctly stated that the vast majority of people who have diagnosable mental illnesses aren’t violent and never will be.  He stated that five states have laws where family members can ask law enforcement to remove weapons from the home of someone they believe might become violent.  These laws are sometimes called “red-flag” laws. This isn’t just in case of mental illness, but is also when someone is having anger issues, or is engaged in domestic violence, or is suicidal.  Professor Swanson was very positive about this kind of “red-flag” law being enacted and enforced in more states.  California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington all have some version of a red-flag law.  More than a dozen others, including Hawaii, New Jersey and Missouri, are considering them. In California, the weapons can be removed for up to a year, and there is pending legislation to allow school officials and counselors to request a “red-flag” for a student.  Swanson pointed out that there is due process which is important when you are talking about constitutional rights.  The NRA is against it, of course.
 
Earlier this month, ABC reported:
In a study published last year, researchers at Duke, Yale, Connecticut and Virginia estimated that dozens of suicides have been prevented by the Connecticut red-flag law, roughly one for every 10 gun seizures carried out. They said such laws “could significantly mitigate the risk” posed by the small number of legal gun owners who might suddenly pose a significant danger.
 
This gives us hope that some real change may actually happen.
 
We don’t think red-flag laws have yet been seriously contested in court.  We’re hopeful that if they are, the due process used and the successes will prove that it is not undue restriction of constitutional laws.  
 
We are happy to see something like red-flag laws being studied and positive results reported on a national broadcast.  And, we’re especially glad to hear how it might help with suicides, which is the biggest component of gun deaths.  But we can’t be complacent.  We know that there will be more killings and more blaming the mentally ill, and we need to be steadfast in pointing out the facts.

Mental Health and Japanese American

Hi, my name is Tim, I am Japanese American, and I have mental health issues. I am currently seeking treatment and am on medication. For nearly 50 years, I struggled with anxiety, which caused a host of other challenges in my life, which includes OCD, agoraphobia, and depression. So why the delay in seeking treatment? Culture as well as a lack of understanding how far science and technology have come. The fear of a frontal lobotomy is no longer an issue.

So when did my issues begin? Possibly at three. As an infant, I never spoke. Most of my language was grunts and awkward sounds. I may have had autism, but there was no real understanding of mental health. According to DSM-1 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the bible for mental health employees, LGBTQs were considered a sociopathic personality disturbance. It was in 1974 when the American Psychiatric Association removed LGBTQ as a mental health issue.

Then growing up, and not being treated, I had challenges in life. I did poorly in school, I was a victim of bullying, and most of my childhood life was a daydream. According to my school cume, I used to daydream (it’s now called ADHD), I could not concentrate, and in the classroom, I was an outcast. I was unreliable. For lack of a better term, I was scattered-brain.  As time went on, I barely graduated high school and had to go to Summer School to graduate.

I then went to work as no college wanted me. I later attended a community college and had a 1.7 GPA, but I couldn’t care less about my grades. Then my Asian American/Japanese language professor said to the students, “You know, I don’t care if you do well or not…I’m still getting paid regardless.

“This is not high school where I would try to coax you to do well. You are all adults, and you are responsible for your education.” Then something snapped, and I studied and did well. I eventually graduated, got my bachelor and am going for my MBA. Even with my success, I still felt at odds with life.

As my life continued, my life changed. I stopped going to church; I was involved in different civil rights activities. Nothing seemed to satisfy me. As my anxiety grew more and more, I broke away from life and remained in the shadows. I eventually became a Unitarian Universalist member, but nothing seemed to make me happy.

I remained a loner and stayed away from family and friends. I found peace being alone, away from family and friends. My doctor sent me to see a therapist, and eventually, I began therapy and a prescription routine. My life is now a lot better thanks to science as well as counseling. It took me many years to seek treatment as the stigma of mental illness is considered taboo. As a PoC (Person of Color), if one’s brain is ill, then there is a genetic defect making the family’s lineage also defective.

Though harsh, this is the philosophy many PoC endure, especially in the Asian culture, a belief that has been around for several thousand years. Though the newer generation is accepting of treatment, the elders tend to frown upon the fact that there is something wrong. There is also a conflict when religion and ethnicity collide. I grew up in a Japanese American evangelical church and the two mix poorly. The Bible verse:

1 Corinthians 12:26
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

 The above verse is representative of the belief that if someone is mentally ill, then something they did was a punishment from God. Silence is golden in this case as preventing shame dictates the guidance of the familial hierarchy. Also, death before dishonor, a samurai trait, would be in order too. In Japan and the Japanese culture, even amongst Christians, suicide is a common trait. But committing suicide because one is selfish or have mental issues, brings shame to the family.

My treatment is known to only one family member, and I am encouraged to keep going. I have realized that if I want to get better, there are some secrets that I need to have so that family pressure would not discourage me from getting better. Is it the fault of my culture? Maybe so, but trying to change more than 10,000 years of history and eliminate a caste system mentality is hard.

For me, it is better to remain in the shadow than to admit my illness, as culture dictates the family genetics and not logic. Mental illness is comparable to having the flu, and medicine is used to help one to get better. It is not a defect nor is it blemish on the family name. Unfortunately, there are outside forces that play on the stereotypes like T.V. shows.

This blog is why I came out of the mental illness closet and am trying to open more doors so that people can be accepted and the stigma attached can just fade away and we could live a healthy life. Normality began when I was at the G.A. in New Orleans. I electronically met Pastor Barbara Meyers online after searching for mental health at the UUA website. I then took a chance and sent her an email. She responded quickly, and we were scheduled to meet on the first day.

We met and spoke briefly about our lives and our health, and it went well. Unfortunately, the next day, my anxiety kicked in hard and I was avoiding everyone. Eventually, after therapy, my therapist recommended medication. There are a few people in my church who knows I am taking a prescription, but I was amazed at the warmth and nonjudgmental attitude.

U.U.s are caring and loving, but at the same time, not prying, which helps me as I strive to get better. Even DRUUMM (Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministry) members understand as they put aside the cultural bias and accept me for who I am. Unfortunately, there are those who are not U.U. or DRUUMM, and because of culture or lack of knowledge, people who have challenges in life are deemed as either drug addicts, retarded, or just too lazy to be responsible. Forget the fact that environment, genetics, or a host of other factors create what we are today. There is also the crowd who say that ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) was the result of vaccination when folks before the vaccination programs had autism.

Stigma and fear go counter to what is helpful and yes, promote fake news about those who need support. Support needs to go beyond our churches and the UUA, but into our neighborhoods and country, where folks are not thrown out on the streets or living under a bridge, and being a victim of crime.

Our churches can be the foundation, but it is up to all of us to be the voices who cannot speak or are too anxious to do so.

 

Welcome!

Welcome to the Unitarian Universalist Mental Health Blog!

This blog has been created to be a beacon for education about mental health in order to remove stereotypes and prejudice and promote understanding and justice within Unitarian Universalism and beyond.  It is a joint project of the EqUUal Access Mental Health Caucus and the mental health community ministry of Rev. Barbara F. Meyers.

We will begin the blog with monthly posts, leaving open the option of greater frequency as time and circumstances allow.

We will seek contributions from a number of different viewpoints from people who are knowledgeable about mental health issues. A special focus will be on ethical impact of mental health issues using a UU lens. Voices from many people will be articulated, and expect that contrasting opinions will be expressed.

We will aim to speak with love, caring, honesty, authenticity, constructively, and when necessary issue a challenge, giving voice to mental health issues in society, especially in marginalized communities.  A steering committee is in charge of choosing blog authors and maintaining the following editorial policy:

Editorial Policy

      • We will seek different points of view, and make sure that all of the views are respectful of consumers and family members. There will be differences of opinion between groups, but they will be addressed respectfully.
      • Invited blog writers will include people of different ethnicities and people born in different cultures
      • Reflections on problem areas are appropriate, but not tying them to specific named people or congregations. An exception to this is elected leaders who have responsibility for mental health policies.
      • We want the blog to be heard and understood by a large audience. Accordingly, editors will strive to ensure that profanity isn’t used and that slang is limited or its meaning explained, while understanding that both of these are subjective judgments.
      • We will seek to highlight significant successes
      • We will highlight problem areas with suggested changes for improvement and for seeking justice
      • We will look for the ethical/moral/religious aspect in the story
      • Here is a list of possible subjects (not exhaustive):
        • Personal experiences
        • Reviews of books, movies, organizations
        • Biographies
        • Charitable organizations
        • Heroes / champions
        • Best practices. Congregations with these practices.
        • How mental health is treated in a different country / culture