“Surviving and Thriving”
Overcoming Depression & Mental Health Awareness
Why this topic of Surviving and Thriving?
Surviving and Thriving, in order to be most effective in network marketing, one benefits greatly when they find their “calling”, the “tribe of people who can best relate to you”. These are the people who will want to hear what you have to say. Truth is, the rest of the people don’t really matter for the purposes of network marketing because they likely have no interest in you; therefore, no interest in what you do. “Surviving and Thriving” comes as a result of years of struggling through challenges yet learning to thrive and maintain the most positive attitude possible.
This is a synopsis of my story. I am sharing it in hopes that I can help someone else that might be living with depression, suicide or another mental illness. Others need to know there is help available to survive and you can thrive, even with a mental health diagnosis. I am a living example of “Surviving and Thriving”.
- Being the result of an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy, forced the marriage of my parents four months after I was conceived. I was bounced from here to there and back again throughout my childhood because of unstable, alcoholic parents that were incapable of raising children. My mother left my father, abandoning my brother, age 2 and me, age 4. Roughly 6 months later, my father took my younger brother and me to his eldest sister’s and her husband’s home, where we would live for the next 8.5 years. So, within six months of one another, I had been abandoned by both parents. At this tender age, I believed I was no better than trash one discards.
- I have some great memories that I will cherish for my lifetime from those years. I am eternally grateful for all our Aunt and Uncle did for my brother and me. They even struggled financially to put us in private school to shelter us from the tumultuous climate of racism and drugs within the Public School System in our city at that point in time. This uncle passed away a few years ago and sadly, I lost my Aunt (my mom) just this past year, 2016.
- Just two months before I turned 13, my father returned to his sister’s house with his current wife and a half-sister that was about to turn 4. He took my brother and me with him, moving us from Seattle, Washington to Aurora, Colorado. We were given a choice by the Aunt and Uncle to go or not. My brother wanted desperately to be with his father and I did not want to be separated from my brother; so, although I knew I did not want to live with my father, I wanted less to live without my brother who had been my only constant.
- My biggest life challenge and struggle for me, began around 13-14 years old. I didn’t have a name for it or a diagnosis, all I knew is that unlike other people, I cried nearly every day. Yes, every day. A multitude of issues both big and sometimes tiny would bring on the waves of tears. Often inconsolable tears. I lived with a deep dark secret that I wanted to die. I tried suicide twice, once when I was 16 and once in my early 20s. To this day I live with suicidal feelings, nearly, but not every day. I made a contract with myself that I would not act on it ever again. There have been days I have wondered if I could keep that commitment to myself. BUT, I’m still here.
- Everyone seemed to agree something was awry concerning me, but no one ever offered an answer or help to stop it from occurring. Honestly, I don’t think anyone knew what it was. My father took me for mental health services provided by the county where we lived. When they would tell him they couldn’t help me, he would tell me I had lied to them and I needed to tell the truth about what was going on if I wanted help. I hadn’t lied! My father had told me I was crazy more than once and I most definitely believed it.
- A number of reasons caused me to leave home at 15. I figured whatever was going on in “the big bad world” couldn’t possibly be as bad as the hell I was living with at home. I’ll spare you the painful details. I continued in my education with a normal, full-time high school workload while working a job 30 hours a week. Additionally, I had an arrangement for my living situation. I received free room and board for babysitting hours of my friend’s children. A win/win situation for us both.
- After approximately a year of being on my own, a situation arose where my father called the police and reported me as a runaway. I was put into the care of the state, who put me into a group home for incorrigible teens. A whole world of adventures were experienced from this environment but what is important to know and understand is that I always had an undercurrent of tremendously sad feelings. A depression I could never break. I was in and out of psycho-therapy like rides at an amusement park. Perhaps this adds to why people often describe this feeling like being on a roller coaster ride.
- Constantly at odds with anyone in authority, I sought emancipation through the courts to be given an opportunity to take care of and provide for myself. I did not want to be at the mercy of the state’s choices for my life which meant living in a group home. The court granted me emancipation with a clause that said if I got into any legal trouble before I turned 18, then the court had the authority to lock me away until I was 21 years old. I agreed to those conditions. I never got into any legal trouble whatsoever.
- At 17 years old, I took the ASFAB (military entrance exam) qualifying with scores high enough to do anything I wanted for a military career. I took an oath and entered the U.S. Army on April 20, 1977, enlisting to go into nuclear weapons, thinking I would find this field exciting.
- While in basic training, I learned that I would be bored out of my mind in nuclear weapons; so, I changed my Military Occupational Service (MOS) to become a paratrooper instead. I was sure this would be exciting and was one of the opportunities available to me at that time. I did make two static line jumps, before being injured late during my AIT training.
- After recovering from injuries, I was cross-trained to become a helicopter repairman when I was given a choice from positions available to women. I remained stateside for my entire military tour. I was eventually given an honorable, medical discharge due to the injuries I had sustained during jump school.
- Before I went into the military I had a drinking problem that became much, much worse while I was in the military. I would have classified myself as an alcoholic or certainly very near it. I was even experiencing black-outs part of the time due to alcohol consumption. This drinking behavior started around 16 years old continuing until I was 21.
- At 21 years old, I quit drinking alcohol. For 10 years I consumed none, not even near-beer.
- At 32 years old, I was diagnosed with terminal cancer late in 1991. I was so freaked out by the diagnosis and prognosis, that I literally ran away from my life. Moving from New Mexico to Oregon, I told no one about what was happening to me. Several months passed, I realized if I had any chance to survive, I had to fight. So I did. I moved back to NM where I had been diagnosed because at least had a few friends that would be supportive. Against all the odds, after many treatments with chemo therapy and radiation and then more chemo therapy over the period of 11 months; eventually, I beat the cancer and am still here 24 years later to say I received the miracle I had prayed for so hard.
- During the years between my military service and being diagnosed with cancer, I had had over 50 jobs and more than 35 residences. The only reason I know this, is because I had to complete a background investigation for a job with Los Alamos National Laboratories which required a secret level security clearance.
- At 34 years old, having survived cancer, I knew I needed to find something to do with my life; so, I went back to school. It had been 17 years since I had finished high school. I had to take a placement test. Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised to learn I only needed to retake one class in mathematics to catch up to college level classes. I completed two Associate of Applied Science degrees in Computer Programming, as well as Computer Networking from Lane Community College in Eugene, OR. My graduation was with honors as a member of Phi Theta Kappa with a GPA of 3.86 and was extremely proud of my accomplishment.
- I was blessed to acquire a computer programming position right out of college. The first position landed me a better opportunity with a more desirable company after just three short months. I was one of only two people from our class who walked directly into computer programming jobs right out of college.
- At 42 years old, after nearly 25 years of, off and on, research of my own, I came to realize there was a name for the mental health condition I had. It was like a light went off in my head. This was absolutely me, I knew this for sure. Taking the information to a local Veteran’s Administration Clinic where I was receiving care, I would finally get to the bottom of all these tears. I booked an appointment with Psychiatry. I met with the Dr./Psychiatrist, who agreed after acquiring a long history that I was indeed bipolar – type I.
- Upon diagnosis, my Dr. immediately had me retired from the work place. He prepared everything necessary to have me put on disability through Social Security. When my case was filed with the Social Security Administration, the case was approved and I was sent my first check within four months from the time I had submitted my claim. Unheard of. Many people wait years to get disability approved. Truly this was a blessing.
- Since my self-worth was wrapped up in what I did as a computer programmer and the value I provided to others, I hit absolute emotional bottom when I was retired, due to no fault of my own. I felt worthless. I had no idea what to do or where to turn.
The Research Begins Again
As I had done in the past so many times before, I began doing more research on mental health conditions to see if I could find better coping skills. I found the National Alliance on Mental Health online at http://www.nami.org/# first. From NAMI, I found a free self-help support group in my area with DBSA, (Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance) for those with depression and other mental health diagnoses.
I found a lot of help in just being understood by other people who experienced the same or similar situations/conditions and to learn what they did about it and how they coped. Also, it helped being to express how I felt, to people who understood and didn’t cock their head weird at me.
Over the years, I have spent a lot of time and thousands of dollars searching for an answer and solution to an ongoing condition of depression, both through personal research, as well as seeking help from mental health care providers over a great number of years, nearly 40 now. I’ve always been proud of my intellect, the ability to pick up nearly anything and learn how and why it worked. The jobs I have done have been many and extremely diverse including owning my own business 4 other times in my life. This is my 5th business venture and I am extremely grateful to be on this journey.
My New Journey
April 2016, I began a journey in Online Network Marketing. I have a primary business opportunity in weight loss and skin care products that I am passionate about. This affords me an opportunity to reach out, to those who are suffering, to provide a solution to the ever growing problem of obesity in society. I have established a few regular customers and am working on the leadership skills necessary to build a team.
Daily, as humans we must learn and grow continuously or we become stagnant in old ideas and thoughts. I strive daily to lift others up. When I do so, I feel better about me. I highly recommend doing random acts of kindness for others. A smile, a kind word, a door held a few seconds longer. Kindness does not need to cost money, it just needs to come from your heart with sincerity.
As I continue this blog, I will be giving you tips on how to lift your spirits, change your mindset and learning the behaviors necessary to become a leader in this industry. Ray Higdon lays it out beautifully, saying “Invest, Learn, Teach”. Go invest in yourself, learn from the leaders who you resonate with and then teach what you learn, giving value to those you attract along the way.
In kicking off this blog, I offer an article written by Mayo Clinic Staff on Mental health and overcoming the stigma of mental illness.
Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness
False beliefs about mental illness can cause significant problems. Learn what you can do about stigma.
A stigma is present when you are viewed in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or perhaps actually is, a disadvantage (a negative stereotype). Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health condition are common.
Stigma can lead to discrimination. Discrimination may be obvious and direct, such as someone making a negative remark about your mental illness or your treatment. Or it may be unintentional or subtle, such as someone avoiding you because the person assumes you could be unstable, violent or dangerous due to your mental health condition. You may even judge yourself.
Some of the harmful effects of stigma can include:
- Reluctance to seek help or treatment
- Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others you know
- Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
- Bullying, physical violence or harassment
- Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover your mental illness treatment
- The belief that you’ll never be able to succeed at certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation
Steps to cope with stigma
Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:
- Get treatment. You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment. Don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
- Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn’t just come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your condition is a sign of personal weakness or that you should be able to control it without help. Seeking psychological counseling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others with mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.
- Don’t isolate yourself. If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Your family, friends, clergy or members of your community can offer you support if they know about your mental illness. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support and understanding you need.
- Don’t equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness. So instead of saying “I’m bipolar,” say “I have bipolar disorder.” Instead of calling yourself “a schizophrenic,” say “I have schizophrenia.”
- Join a support group. Some local and national groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), offer local programs and Internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people with mental illness, their families and the general public. Some state and federal agencies and programs, such as those that focus on vocational rehabilitation or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), offer support for people with mental health conditions.
- Get help at school. If you or your child has a mental illness that affects learning, find out what plans and programs might help. Discrimination against students because of a mental health condition is against the law, and educators at primary, secondary and college levels are required to accommodate students as best they can. Talk to teachers, professors or administrators about the best approach and resources. If a teacher doesn’t know about a student’s disability, it can lead to discrimination, barriers to learning and poor grades.
- Speak out against stigma. Consider expressing your opinions at events, in letters to the editor or on the Internet. It can help instill courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness.
Others’ judgments almost always stem from a lack of understanding rather than information based on the facts. Learning to accept your condition and recognize what you need to do to treat it, seeking support, and helping educate others can make a big difference.