Welcome to the Hope Shot where I will explore mental health and addiction recovery from the perspective of the eight dimensions of wellness - Mental, Emotional, Physical, Spiritual, Social, Vocational, Occupational and Financial. It is my personal belief that every person has an incredible potential to grow in each of these areas. The key is understanding how to tap into it and realize one's goals.
In this week's vlog I discuss the broken mental health system and ways you can take action to be the change that can make a difference. Feel free to leave a comment below describing how you are being the change. Be well!
My friend and colleague, Katie Dale, and I are excited to announce the publication of a great new mental health resource guide called "Gameplan." This manual is a great tool for those who are managing their mental health or for those who may be caregivers. It is a pdf file that you can download and keep on hand. It can be especially helpful to have all of your health-related information in one place. We are offering Gameplan for free (a $5 value) for a limited time so get it while you can. We hope that you can use it to be healthier and happier. Here is the link to the pdf file on Dropbox: Gameplan
If there is one thing I
absolutely love is music. And if you know me, you know that my musical taste is
wide ranging. Music is my lifeline. I have said more than once, “Music is my
When I look back at my early
life with bipolar disorder I would experience delusional thoughts associated with
the music I listened to. In the clinical world, this is called “ideas of
reference,” thinking that a song is about me. This isn’t something I openly
talk about. But hey, it’s part of my journey and I cannot deny what I’ve
Over the years, I’ve prided
myself with staying on top of musical trends. When hip hop emerged, I followed
such artists as The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, and Public Enemy, among
others. Now, rap is an integral part of the musical world.
And with that, art can
imitate life. There have been many hip hop artists that have written about
mental health, Kendrick Lamar, DMX, and Lil Wayne who says in the song, I FeelLike Dying:
I am a
prisoner, locked up behind Xanax bars...
my dealer don’t have no more, then I feel like dying."
This is real.
Most recently, rapper Logic penned a track called
1-800-273-8255 (TALK). This is the telephone number for the National SuicidePrevention Lifeline. The song is on the concept album “Everybody” where he
confronts the issues of race, suicide, and mental Illness. He stole the show on this past weekend's MTV Video Music Awards with his soul stirring performance. It culminates with the stage lined with individuals who proudly stand together to declare that they do, in fact, want to live.
The simple fact that Logic takes on such a stigmatizing topic
as suicide is a credit to his desire to claim his independence and not be
afraid to talk about something that is often perceived by society as a moral
Logic’s life was riddled with many barriers: a crack addicted
father who was not in his life, a mother who lived with bipolar disorder,
siblings who were engaged in drug dealing and he lacks a high school diploma.
These are all potential risk factors for mental illness
and/or suicide. Literally thousands of youth in the United States face similar
obstacles. The way that Logic shares his message of “Peace, Love and Positivity”
is a prime example of how one can develop protective factors and withstand all
the pressures that society places on us and not fall prey to those same risk
factors that so many have succumbed to.
In 1-800-273-8255, Logic expresses his despair:
All this other shit I’m talkin’ ’bout they think they know it I’ve been praying for somebody to save me, no
one’s heroic And my life don’t even matter I know it I know it I know I’m hurting deep down
but can’t show it I never had a place to call my own I never had a home Ain’t nobody callin’ my phone Where you been? Where you at? What’s on your
mind? They say every life precious but nobody care
How many of us have felt this way before? I know I have. But
help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255, is there
to help. No matter where you call from in the United States, you will be
directed to the crisis center in your area where you can get help. You’re not
But Logic sums up his feelings in a positive way by concluding:
finally wanna be alive
finally wanna be alive
wanna die today
finally wanna be alive
finally wanna be alive
And that, my friends, is what it’s all about. There is hope
for the hurting and no matter how bad you may be feeling, it will get better.
You can watch Logic's performance featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid here:
This vlog is devoted to a review of the book, Under My Helmet: A Football Player's Lifelong Battle with Bipolar Disorder by Keith O'neil. This remarkable story is born out of perseverance in the face of adversity.
Correction - The book is only currently available on Amazon. You can obtain a copy here:
When I experienced my first
manic episode, and for many years thereafter, my life was directed by others.
Whether it be my parents, therapists, or psychiatrists, many of the decisions made about my care were dictated by what others thought would be in my best
interest. This kind of influence was like a double-edged sword. On the one
hand, there were truly times that I was incapable of making any decisions on my
own due to the fact that I was incapacitated by my disabling condition. On the
other, there were certainly periods where I was completely capable of deciding
what I wanted, for better or for worse.
For instance, when I was a patient at the
Buffalo Psychiatric Center in 1982, I was experiencing a major depressive
episode that was associated with my bipolar disorder. At this time, I was recommended
for ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy).
therapy (ECT) is a medical treatment most commonly used in patients with
severe major depression or bipolar disorder that has not responded to other
recall not initially wanting to have the treatment however I was made to do so.
Remarkably, this treatment did work for me and there was a
marked improvement in my condition. So, in the end, despite not making the
ultimate decision about my care, I did benefit from the recommendation from my
Many years later I was faced
with a different choice. I was in session with my psychiatrist and I asked to
discontinue one of the psychotropic
meds. This was my choice. What my psychiatrist didn’t realize in my 15-minute
session was that I was hypomanic.
At this point, she agreed to stop prescribing the medication, and lo and behold
within two weeks I was in the midst of a full-blown manic
episode. This was not a good choice on my behalf.
manic episode was in 1995 and I have not experienced one since. More recently
in 2012 I underwent a medication change with my mood stabilizer.
I ended up experiencing a mild depressive episode, not one that was completely
incapacitating, but it did make typical activities more challenging. At this point,
I consulted with my therapist who recommended that I check-in with my
psychiatrist, which I did. He immediately placed me on an anti-depressant and
within a couple of weeks I was doing much better. The point of the matter here
is that I initiated the conversation with my therapist. I was in charge. These
have been hard lessons to learn, but they were a wake-up call about the
importance of adherence to my treatment plan as well as being my own self-advocate.
The concept of
self-determination comes into the picture when one considers the many choices
that those of us living mental health difficulties face every day. By being
able to participate fully in one’s recovery through such means as seeking
employment, housing, and utilization of external supports, there is a
significant degree of empowerment that accompanies our ability to advocate for
ourselves. And with this sense of freedom we are able to change the course of our lives.
When I’m able
to take control of my life in such a manner, my sense of identity,
self-awareness, and self-esteem all improve. Yes, there are many external
factors in my life that I am unable to control, however I do have certain
freedoms that make life that much better.
is much more about choosing one’s direction in life than just following a
treatment plan. I make hundreds of choices every day, some more critical than
others. But in the end, since I am the one who is able to exercise a certain
level of control in my life, I have come to the realization that I do not have
to become someone who is pigeon-holed into so-called categories. Yes, I may
have a bipolar diagnosis, but I am much more than that. When I able to break
free from the limitations that are placed on me by society I can live my life
more fully and intentionally. I made the conscious decision many years ago not
to be a square block forced into a circular hole. I am the master of my