Tag Archives: Guest Post

She’s Done Chasing Happiness

Today, I have a treat for you. A darling girl (who I took to prom once, full disclosure) reached out to me, and asked if she could share something on Terminally Intelligent. I hope you enjoy Brittni’s stirring words as much as I did.

I am Still Fighting

I live my life in a fluid discontentment between anxious and depressed. My anxiety stays around a 7-8 on a 10-point scale (with very few spikes and valleys) until my body and my mind can’t handle it anymore. When this happens, everything shuts down, and I get really depressed.

I think when my anxiety is an 8, my depression is a 4. Even when I crash, my anxiety is still a 3, and my depression becomes a 9. The worst part is that I know it’s coming. It always happens this way. This means that in my brief moments of happiness, I still feel the looming of depression about to set in.

I’ve chased happiness for as long as I can remember. I played softball. I thought winning would make me happy. I tried to impress my parents, thinking that would bring me happiness. I was the first in my family to go to (and graduate from) college. That brought some happiness to my parents, but not a lot to me. I found a man I love. At this point, I have to distinguish that while I am happy with him, I am not truly happy. We moved across the country, and while he did this for work, I thought this would be just the transition I needed to finally find ‘it’. Guess what. In New England, the days are short, the winter is long, and this southern girl hates the cold.

I have a hard time making friends. Exercise isn’t something I enjoy. I don’t feel at home here. There is so much that I’m missing out on from so far away. These are the thoughts that come to me every single time I start to enjoy a fleeting moment. I forget that I am loved. I forget that I am brilliant. I forget that I have never set a goal that I did not reach.

An outsider looking in says, “You seem so determined, ambitious, and kind. I really thought that you were such a joy to be around. How could you be so sad?” My burden is so much to have to bear, I would hate to impose it on anyone else. I don’t ever want to bring anyone down. So, I “fake it till you make it.” That’s all I know. I open up to very few.

My first real “bout” of depression began when I was a senior in high school. I heard a preacher say, “You choose to be happy.” I went home and read Ephesians, and decided it was true. To this day, I have no idea how that book brought me so much peace. I’ve re-read it again and again, but the peace is gone.

There are things I’ve done to try to gain some sort of contentment. I lost a hundred pounds, then gained 30 back. I have a list of my “favorite things” (which includes The Sound of Music) that I reflect on when I stop seeing the positive side of things. I try to move, and go outside, even when I don’t feel like it. I make an effort to eat real, whole foods, because being Paleo Primal “will save your life.” I talk to my mom. I talk to my shrink. I write notes to myself to pick me up when I’m down. I am telling you right now, if you could choose to be happy, none of us would ever be sad.

I still have hope, and hopefully it’s enough. I’m trying this new thing out. I’m going to try to teach myself to be happy. Let me break that down into a more doable task. I am going to make an effort to combat every negative thought with a positive one. I may start off reusing the same positive thought over and over. I may need to start out small. Maybe one positive for every two negatives. The important thing is that I’m still trying. I may need to take breaks, and when I do, I know there are people there to help me through. I want to find happiness, but I’m not chasing it anymore. This time, it can meet me here. Right where I’m at.

I’m still fighting.

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Storytelling Will Save the World… Yes, Even Yours

This is a guest post written by Joshua Rivedal. Read to the end for details on his projects.
Josh Rivedal

Josh Rivedal

Captain’s log, Stardate January 2011. Where unfortunately many have gone before. I’m twenty-six years old and thinking about dying… actually I’m not being entirely truthful. I’m dangling halfway out the fourth floor window of my bedroom in New York City.

I don’t really want to die. I just want the emotional pain to stop… and I don’t know how to do that. Hell, two guys in my life—my father and grandfather—each didn’t know how to make their own terrible personal pain stop and now both were, well, dead.

My grandfather, Haakon—a Norwegian guy who served in the Royal Air Force (35th Squadron as a tail gunner) in World War II—killed himself in 1966 because of the overwhelming post traumatic stress he suffered because of the war.

My father, Douglas—an American guy who was chronically unhappy and an abusive man—killed himself in 2009, the catalyst being a divorce with my mother along with some long-term depression and other mental health issues.

How did I get to such a dismal place in my life so quickly, just a month shy of my twenty-seventh birthday? Coming out of secondary school and high on optimism, I thought by the time I reached my mid-twenties I’d have it all together. After a couple of years singing on Broadway, I would have scored a few bit parts on Law & Order, and transitioned seamlessly to being cast with Will Smith in the summer’s biggest blockbuster. After which, my getaway home in the Hamptons would be featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and my face would grace the cover of National Enquirer as Bigfoot’s not-so-secret lover. Not to mention, I’d have my perfect wife and perfect family by my side to share in my success.

But instead, “perfect” was unattainable (it always is). I only managed to perform in some of small professional theatre gigs and on one embarrassing reality television show; and over the course of the previous eighteen months my father killed himself, my mother betrayed me and sued me for my father’s inheritance, and my girlfriend of six years broke up with me.

This storm of calamity and crisis had ravaged my life… and I wasn’t talking about it to anyone. My silence led to crisis and poor decisions—to the extent that I was hanging out of a fourth story window.

Both Haakon and Douglas suffered their pain in silence because of the stigma surrounding talking about mental illness and getting help. I too felt that same stigma—like I’d be seen as “crazy” or “less of a man” if I talked about what I was going through. But I didn’t want to die and so I had to take a chance.

I started talking. I pulled myself back inside and first called my mom. She helped me through that initial crisis and we became friends again. She never called me “crazy.” I then started reaching out to the positive friends I had in my life. They hugged me and helped me with open arms. They never told me I was “less than a man.” Soon I got more help by seeing a professional counselor, and by writing down what I was going through in a journal.

But this idea of keeping silent continued to bother me. I did some research while in my recovery and found out that each year, suicide kills over one million people worldwide… and that many of those one million never speak up about their emotional pain because of stigma.

Dagnabbit (I totally just said that). I had to figure out a way to reach people like that. So, like any other actor, writer, or comedian living in New York City whose life dealt them a crappy hand, I created a one-man show… and it toured theatres and universities in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia—and people were getting help.

But I had to keep talking because this isn’t just a Rivedal problem or United States problem… it’s a world problem.

I had to get other people to tell their stories, so I started The i’Mpossible Project. Why? Because storytelling is one of our oldest traditions—yes, even older than the hokey pokey. Stories can make us laugh or cry… or both at the same time. They can teach, inspire and even ignite an entire movement.

The stories of The i’Mpossible Project are about overcoming obstacles, reengaging with life, and creating new possibilities—a son’s homicide, a transgender man finding love, and even coming back from the brink of suicide (you can read a couple of the stories HERE)… because it’s okay to be struggling, it’s okay to need help; people have your back… there’s hope.

It’s been four years since my crisis and life is definitely looking up. The acting and writing thing is going well, I have a great girlfriend; but most important I’m able to give and receive help and love, and with hard work I’m able to stay mentally well—all because I took a risk and told my story.

No matter what society says, it’s COOL (as in “okay”) to talk about your feelings. Don’t ever forget that you are important, and your story needs to be heard so we, the human race, can learn how to live and love better. #iampossible #mentalhealth

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Josh Rivedal (founder, executive director of The i’Mpossible Project) is an author, actor, playwright, and international public speaker on suicide prevention, mental health, and diversity. He curated the 50-story inspirational anthology The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life Creating a New You. He wrote and developed the one-man play, Kicking My Blue Genes in The Butt (KMBB), which has toured extensively throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. He writes for the Huffington Post. His memoir The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah, based on KMBB and published by Skookum Hill in 2013, is on The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s recommended reading list.

What Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Looks Like In Children

When kids act out and misbehave, we’re quick to assume that they’re spoiled, lack discipline, or are just having one of those days. For the most part, it really is usually one of those things—not that parent’s want to admit that their child is anything less than perfect. Unfortunately though, some poor behavior could actually be an expression of something much more serious, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It’s hard for a lot of people to even imagine that a child could suffer from PTSD. Most of us think of it as an adult disorder, often because we only ever really hear about PTSD when they’re talking about soldiers returning home from duty. Your child couldn’t possibly be that traumatized by something in their life, could they?

According to the U.S. Department of National Affairs National Center for PTSD, a child can develop PTSD from having lived through or witnessed an event that could have caused them or someone close to them serious harm or death, like sexual or physical abuse, violence, or things like car crashes, floods, or fires. Children may also suffer from PTSD from hearing about something life-threating that happened to a caregiver. It doesn’t need to be something as dramatic as a serious accident or act of violence either; it could stem from knowing that a parent has had cancer or some other serious illness.
PTSD’s Expression in Children
PTSD can look different in children of different ages and entirely different from what you would see in an adult with PTSD depending on how young the child is. Different age groups exhibit different behaviors from PTSD. Here’s a look at how different age groups express symptoms of PTSD.
Toddlers and Children Under 12

  • Bedwetting, even after having been potty-trained
  • Nightmares
  • Acting especially clingy with a parent or caregiver
  • Forgetting how or being unable to speak
  • Being easily startled and jumpy
  • Acting out the traumatic event while playing
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Avoidance of places or things that remind them of the event
  • Physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sleep issues
  • Lack of appetite or overeating
  • Acting younger than they are/baby-like

It’s also been shown that older children may fit aspects of the trauma into their daily lives, like carrying a gun to school after witnessing a shooting. Some children continuously repeat the trauma throughout the day.

Teens (over 12)

Teens can show many of the same symptoms listed in the younger children as well as those of adults with PTSD. The biggest difference is that teens tend to be more likely to develop disruptive behaviors and “act out.” Teens tend to express any of the following:

  • Impulsive behavior that can be destructive
  • Disrespectful behavior
  • Disruptive behavior, such as acting out at home or in public
  • Constant thoughts of revenge when the trauma was related to abuse; either their own or witnessed
  • Feelings of guilt for not having been able to prevent the event or trauma
  • Fears of dying at a young age and not living to do certain things, like graduate, get married, or have kids
  • Angry outbursts with seemingly little provocation
  • Issues with concentration
  • Limited range of emotions and a feeling of numbness
  • Avoidance of getting close or attached to others
  • Withdrawing from things and people they used to enjoy and care about
  • Turning to drugs or alcohol or other even promiscuous behavior to try to numb their feelings

As you can see, there are all kinds of expressions of PTSD to look out for in a child that has been through something traumatic. Often the signs of PTSD can also be mistaken for other disorders like ADHD or anxiety disorder. In some cases the event is obvious and known to parents and friends, but in others the trauma may not seem like it was that big a deal to others around the child that’s suffering. In cases like this, understanding how PTSD looks in children can be the only way that you can be alerted to what’s going on.
You can learn more about psychological disorders in children by visiting Healthline.

Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.
References

Interesting Media – I promise I’m not selling out.

Recently I was contacted by Jonathan Looper, the writer and producer of the short film “My Only Son” and feature film “Light Wounds – the true story of a childhood friend and his battle during the onset of schizophrenia.” He has asked my to post the following article on his behalf, and I totally think it’s a great project, so I have agreed to. Huffington Post also wrote it up!

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From “My Only Son”

“Over a year ago, I began working with a childhood friend and young Veteran to write a screenplay based on his experience during the onset of schizophrenia in his 20s. In January, his story came to life on film through a short film and now we are in pre-production of the feature film at www.lightwoundsmovie.com.  I talk a little about this experience in the promo video on the feature campaign page, but I believe he says it best.  This is from my friend, Dustin DeMoss, the person upon whom the films are based:

“I started my journey advocating for the mentally ill unbeknownst to myself at the time by sharing my story of illness and recovery with a dear friend from my childhood days, Jonathan Looper. I had been involved in politics at the time representing veterans for the Oklahoma Democratic Party and I knew Jonathan had worked in local politics in Oklahoma and for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in DC.  So I reached out to him to find out how to get more involved.  Jonathan was finishing his Masters in Film at the time and he believed in the power of my story and asked if we could develop my story into a film. The short film was produced under the title “My Only Son” and now we’re working on a feature film adaptation, titled “Light Wounds.”

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The start of this journey was a long experience with many ups and downs, mostly downs. The one part that concerns me to this day is I never had a tear hit my cheek from the difficulty of it. At times I wanted to give up and end it all unsure of where I’d be headed in a life with a major mental illness. I wanted to throw in the proverbial towel and say, “Lord, I’m sorry but I give up.” I gave up on God, I gave up on myself. I didn’t believe there was any worth in myself. There was nothing good that could come of this.

This feeling of no worth threw me into a 3 and a half-year long post-psychotic depression. It’s not something I’m proud of and I lost many friends, and still lose friends because they just don’t understand what I’ve been through but the difference is today I make no apologies for who I’ve become. If you can’t accept that I live with a major mental illness, then I can’t accept your judgment. No, I’m not shirking responsibility for my actions. Never have. I take my medicine, I stay updated with my exceptionally skillful VA mental health team and I make an effort to overcome my illness on a daily basis. No, I am not the most polite or charismatic individual, but I’m a damn good person and you’d be lucky to know me if you can get past that iffy stigma thing.

Yes, I’m sure I’ve been turned down jobs because I’m vocal about my illness but I’m not wrapped up in the illness either. I’ve had women reject me when I opened up about my illness, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m a success with or without you because I successfully live with this illness on a daily basis.

The short film we made about my life story validates what everyone struggling with a mental illness feels, and fights the stigma that so often people claim they don’t judge you based on but nonetheless it’s always in the back of their minds. I believe the short and feature films will impact so many people and heighten the awareness about mental illness, especially in a time when one needs to be sensitive to the effect it has in society and the world at large.  People are suffering and too often we’re finding out too late to rescue them.”

We’ve come a long way in a year and a half, but we still need your support to finish the journey with this feature film.  Visit www.lightwoundsmovie.com to view the video from Dustin, supporters of the film and the producers and please do what you can – whether that be donating, sharing with friends or family, or recording your own message about what this film means to you.”

Back to Rory.

The short film “My Only Son” has been publicly released on YouTube. I liked it, but I know it’s not for everyone. What did you think? Please comment below.

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