Talk about Mental Health in a New Way: Start a Book Club

Jul 25


Mental health book clubs allow us to talk about mental health in a new way. Explore the benefits of a mental health book club and get tips on starting one.

There’s much for us to gain by talking about mental health.

Globally, talking about mental health brings the topic of mental health and its challenges and disorders out of the dark shadows and into the sunlight. It can be seen and heard and felt. It can even be tasted: NAMI Seattle holds an annual Depressed Cake Shop (an event that began in the UK and is spreading around the planet), an event that raises both funds and awareness.

Individually, having mental health conversations legitimizes the fact that hey, we all face challenges—whether or not they’re diagnosable as a mental illness—and allows us to share experiences, feel normalized, and develop strategies for maintaining optimum mental health. How, though, does one easily and safely go about talking about mental health? Through a book club, of course.

I started a book club with my local NAMI chapter. In short, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is an organization that provides support and education for people living with mental illness and for family members/care givers of people living with mental illness. People whose lives have been touched by mental illness in some way can enhance their mental health and wellbeing through NAMI’s services.

Even in such a supportive environment, it can be difficult to talk about mental health when it’s so personal. The Wellbeing & Words Book Club, like all book clubs, offer a way to discuss tough issues in a safe way—through characters and setting and plot and storyline that is tucked safely between covers.

Books aren’t a way to hide, though; instead, they’re a way to express. They humanize the broad concept of mental illness. Books and their clubs spark open-ended questions and encourage exploration and discussion. Mental health books, both fiction and nonfiction, show what mental illness is like. They inspire hope of recovery.

In the Wellbeing and Words Book Club, participants naturally and comfortably share their own stories as they relate to the book. Books offer a safe platform on which to walk. Some participants prefer to discuss only the books themselves, and they can do so without the pressure to get personal. It is, after all, a book club rather than a support group. The support that happens comes naturally through the books themselves.

Interested in starting a mental health book club? These tips might be useful:

  • Find a local organization to host. Many organizations welcome new ideas and the chance to enhance the way they serve their communities.
  • Hate the idea of asking an organization to host? That’s okay! Start your own. Most general book clubs meet on their own, usually at someone’s house or a restaurant, and initially involve just a few friends or acquaintances.
  • Use Goodreads to develop a list of mental health books. You can search their lists for such books.
  • As you read, jot down topics that stand out to you and use those as starting points.
  • Focus on takeaways. What did each member gain from the book that he/she can use in daily life?

Perhaps I’m biased about the power of mental health books, as that’s what I write. I do so intentionally because books have the power to influence lives, to increase understanding, to develop empathy. Sharing books with others is a great way to talk about mental health in a new way.



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College Student Suicides: Let’s Fix this Mental Health Crisis

May 10

As a world of humans, we’re facing a mental health crisis; when fellow humans turn to suicide because they feel, for various reasons, that their future is so bleak it’s non-existent and turn to death as what seems like the sole option, it’s a mental health crisis. Suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide), attempts, and completions are mental health tragedies that affect people of all ages, ethnicities, and nationalities. No group is exempt. Suicide can and does impact anyone. College students are no exception. College student suicides are a tragic problem at universities and colleges worldwide, and as a caring society who believes that mental health and wellbeing are possible for everyone, it’s time to fix this mental health crisis.

Between September, 2016 and January, 2017, a university in Ontario, Canada (locations in Guelph, Toronto and Ridgetown) has seen the deaths of four students by suicide. Understandably, the Guelph University community is seeking solutions. College student suicide (one completed suicide is too much, and four in half a school year is unthinkable) is a mental health crisis that must be fixed.

But how? Is it possible to help college students—people of all ages and backgrounds—create hope even in times of despair? Can we help each other, when blinded by overwhelming depression or other mental illness or crushing stress, see a way through?

It is possible. An important step is to be able to talk, to speak openly and frankly and be heard, for it is in this action that we can talk ourselves into solutions.

In light of the current suicides and stories from the University of Guelph TranQool has decided to donate 20 sessions for students to see registered therapists from home this week….We want the students to know that they in addition to the campus efforts to help student’s mental health they have access to TranQool. Learn more: TranQool Stands With Guelph University Students

The Basics: Information to Understand and to Help

College Student Suicide: Let's Fix This Mental Health CrisisThe Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) has a wealth of information to help reduce the mental health crisis that is suicide. Among their resources is an excellent fact sheet entitled Suicide Among College and University Students in the United States(The statistics included in this resource apply to US colleges and universities, but the information within applies to colleges and college students worldwide and can be very useful to the Guelph University students and greater community).

Mental health experts look at suicide and suicidal ideation from an in-depth perspective. They examine suicide from a problem-oriented point of view: what is it that creates such a depth of despair in people that they think of death as the only viable option? What mental health issues, specific mental illnesses, are interfering in someone’s will to live? SPRC, in the above-linked handout, delineates risk factors that include

  • behavioral health disorders
  • individual characteristics
  • stressful life situations
  • family characteristics
  • school/community factors

Knowing what risk factors to watch for in each other can help us know how to reach out with an offer to talk, or to help take someone to a professional who will listen and help.

Beyond the risk factors are protective factors. Looking at protective factors is an incredibly powerful way to fix this mental health crisis of college student (and all) suicides. The risk factors help us identify things that are wrong so we can do something about them. The protective factors help us all know what it is that we can do about them. Protective factors are strengths within each and every one of us, and protective factors are those things around us, in our circles and our communities, that help us overcome even the greatest obstacles.

SPRC identifies these categories of protective factors that we can use to transcend real challenges to thrive again:

  • individual characteristics and behaviors
  • social support
  • school and community factors

Again, the above link takes you to SPRC’s fact sheet with more information within each category, useful resources, and statistics.

It’s Possible to End the Mental Health Crisis, College Student Suicide

Hope is never lost. When people, such as college students at Guelph University and elsewhere, feel as though there is no hope for a better future, that is a mental health crisis. When people act on this very real feeling and belief and seek and end by suicide, that is a mental health crisis.

It can very much seem like hope is lost, and that’s when as a world of humans we band together and help see each other through. We can be there for each other as we wrestle with problems that, when we’re alone, seem insurmountable. We can build up each others’ protective factors and resilience. Together, we all can enhance each others’ mental health and wellbeing, and we can fix the mental health crisis that is college student suicides.

On #BellLetsTalk day we pledged to donate free sessions to those on hospital waitlists but we are now opening these free sessions up to University of Guelph students. We are also pledging to donate up to $1000 to help our inspiring TranQool ambassadors at Guelph University provide access and resources to the students. We want to ensure that every Guelph student knows that there is always help available. We stand with you. To join in the solution, help TranQool connect Guelph University students with counselors. Visit their GoFundMe campaign to make a donation of any size.

Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities. (I never share e-mail addresses with anyone.) 


Hope in a Hospital

May 1


Hospitals offer the hope of healing, of better days ahead. This is true for all hospitals, including psychiatric hospitals (sometimes called behavioral health hospitals). Admittedly, though, “hope” isn’t a word that often comes to mind when someone is admitted, be it willfully or against his/her will, to a behavioral health hospital. Yet such hospitals exist for positive reasons. Believe it or not, psychiatric hospitals can be safe havens for people in crisis.

Of course, few people, even those who admit themselves willingly, actually want to be in a behavioral health hospital. Needing to be hospitalized can exacerbate existing feelings of fear, anxiety, stress, and depression. Being in such an environment can be confusing for people with serious mental illness. For some people, needing psychiatric hospitalization can increase feelings of embarrassment or shame and decrease self-confidence and self-efficacy (that experience of believing in one’s ability to be successful in life).  At the other end of the spectrum, a hospital stay (or more than one stay) can feel empowering and healing, decreasing feelings of fear, anxiety, stress, and depression.

I intentionally sought help from a behavioral health hospital after wrestling with a traumatic brain injury. My brain wasn’t functioning the way I knew it could; I wasn’t the person I knew I really was. I know professionally that people are resilient and that the brain has tremendous power to heal and/or adapt in order to thrive. Humans are meant to support each other, to give and receive help. Mental health hospitals are terrific healing spaces, places where people receive care from trained and compassionate professionals.

While not all behavioral health hospitals are the same, most modern hospitals share the common mission of being a safe haven for people in crisis. Hospitals do many positive things for people; by “hospital,” I mean not the building, not the entity, not the institution, but the people that are there to help and support patients on their journey to wellbeing. From my own experience, from hearing from people in support groups I’ve helped facilitate, and from mental health professionals, I can confidently say that doctors, nurses, behavioral health technicians, psychologists, therapists, and all staff, offer, among other things,

  • compassion
  • stability
  • safety
  • understanding
  • guidance
  • healing activities
  • information
  • mental health and wellness skills
  • a listening ear

According to psychiatric nurse O’Donis Person, the nursing profession in general and mental health nursing in particular, is about helping other people achieve a higher state of wellness. Psychiatric hospitals (most of them, anyway) aren’t about control or locking people away or punishing them. Thanks to nurses like O’Donis and other professionals like him, there is hope in psychiatric hospitals: hope in healing, hope in moving forward. And not just hope, but very real possibility.

I invite you to listen to this month’s Wellbeing & Words radio show (broadcast over the airwaves on at least 10 stations but also archived online). O’Donis shares his thoughts and experiences as a mental health nurse. As part of our conversation, I talk a bit of my own experience as a patient in a behavioral health hospital. Find the show here (you might need to scroll down the page to find this show), and enjoy this short preview of the episode Hope in a Hospital. 


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Positives about People Living with Mental Illness

Mar 28

The terms “mental illness” and “positive” aren’t always paired. Some might argue that together they’re an oxymoron, blatantly contradicting each other in striking opposition. I say that not only are they not an oxymoron, they can be combined very well. Indeed, there are a great many positives about mental illness.

No One Wants to Live with Mental Illness

Mental illness is an incredibly broad term that encompasses disorders of the brain. No matter the mental illness (there are over 20 categories of mental illness and three clusters of personality disorders, each category and cluster containing multiple specific disorders), they all share a common characteristic. Mental illness and personality disorders impact someone’s thoughts, emotions, and/or actions and get in the way of his/her quality of life. Psychiatric disorders can get in the way of relationships, employment, and more.

Adding insult to injury, negative stereotypes often cloud understanding of what mental illness truly is like. People speak of stigma, a type of prejudice that is one more barrier that people with mental illness often face. Stigma makes people feel judged for who they are.

Mental illness, however, most certainly is not who someone is. People aren’t their illness, which means that while mental illness can have negative effects on lives, the people themselves have many positive characteristics, traits, and strengths.

Mental illness is difficult to live with. It isn’t who someone is at his/her core, though, nor does it have to destroy one’s life and the living of it. Separating ourselves from the symptoms and effects and very legitimate challenges can allow us to shift our thinking to let in some positives that are equally legitimate.

Here are just six positives about mental illness, things mental illness doesn’t take away, we can learn from novels and their characters (inspired by my own personal and professional experiences).

6 Positives about People with Mental Illness

1. We can enjoy the simple things in life, individual moments of pleasure and happiness.

2. We can grow and evolve and learn to live well no matter our symptoms.


3. Mental illness doesn’t overpower love. People living with mental illness can love and be loved in return.

4. Even though it can be hard to do, people living with mental illness draw on their strengths to help others.

5. People experiencing mental illness have hopes and dreams and goals. This is stronger than any illness.

6. No matter what illness or challenge someone faces, he/she can still invite fun and playfulness into his/her life.

People really are so much more than their illness, and they have so many positive traits, strengths, and characteristics to offer themselves and others. As Oliver tells Penelope in Leave of Absence,
 “It’s okay to feel frustrated for having to deal with this illness, but don’t hate yourself because of it. This illness is only a tiny part of you.”
     “Other people don’t see it that way.”
     “Like who?”
     “Like friends we used to have. Like Rod and Paula.”
     “You know what? Then maybe it’s time for some new friends. Does William agree with Rod and Paula?” She shook her head but said nothing. Oliver pressed on. “And what about me, Penelope? I didn’t know you before. You had schizophrenia when I met you, and I wasn’t repulsed. Quite the opposite, actually. I like you a lot. I find you unique and delightful and honestly quite helpful.”

When we focus on what is right rather than what is wrong, on our strengths rather than our weaknesses, we begin to create a quality life and live it fully.


Split and Dissociative Identity Disorder: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird

Jan 24

A look at how the movie Split portrays dissociative identity disorder (DID).  Why is Split a mix of good, bad, and weird?


Split is a movie that portrays a man living with dissociative identity disorder (DID), a mental disorder that develops in childhood as a defense mechanism against severe trauma, usually in the form of abuse. My daughter first introduced me to the existence of the movie, and she stated in her text message, “This is why the world needs your writing. To balance out crap like this.” (Okay, she’s maybe biased in her opinion of my writing, but I’m fine with it.) She’s right about what I do (or attempt to do). As a mental health writer, certified counselor, person who was diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after a traumatic brain injury, and general human being, I write to increase understanding and empathy.

When I read the description of Split and saw its trailers, I wondered if this would be yet another movie that gets mental illness, specifically DID, completely wrong. Would this stigmatize? Villainize? Dehumanize?

Ironically, my most recent novel, Twenty-Four Shadows (Apprentice House Press, 2016) is about a man newly diagnosed with DID and the effects it has not just on him but on his wife, young son, and best friend. The fact that Twenty-Four Shadows has been acclaimed by critics and readers alike and was named to Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2016 indicates that realistic stories of mental illness are becoming okay. Box office movies, though, aren’t always realistic.

The movie Split surprised me. It wasn’t all bad. Split splits its portrayal of DID into two parts, human and disorder. This is also the split between the good and the bad.

Split: The Human, the Good

The movie is about Kevin and his system of alters, the other identities that are a real part of Kevin’s mind. They see a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Fletcher, who tells a friend, “We look at the people who have been shattered and are different as ‘less than.’ What if they’re ‘more than?’”

Spot-on, Dr. Fletcher. People living with DID are real human beings, not inferior or “less than.” While Split is a thriller and involves the kidnapping of three teenage girls, the movie does not vilify Kevin or any of his alters, although Dennis and Patricia, the two responsible for the kidnapping, are certainly not seen favorably.

In Split, the human is good—the entire human, Kevin and the alters. They’re seen as individuals in their own right, and Dr. Fletcher treats each with respect. She gets it. Split gets it. Other things that Split gets right:

  • * Different alters can and do have different traits (handedness, IQ, strengths, need for glasses, medical issues, and more)
  • * Someone with DID can function in life (Kevin’s system has held a job for 10 years, sees a therapist, lives on their own)
  • * Use of the terms “we” or “us” rather than “I” or “me”
  • * Brain scans are unique for each alter
  • * The idea of protection (alters Dennis and Patricia believe they’re the only one who can protect Kevin; in reality, all alters serve the function of protecting the primary identity, each in different ways)
  • * The presence of a structure, a place for the alters to be when they’re not out in the world (in Split it’s very  simple, just a room with a chair for each alter, but in reality, the structure is often more complex. In Twenty-Four Shadows, the structure is an elaborate blanket fort.)

Another good: many different alters e-mail Dr. Fletcher requesting emergency appointments. They are seeking help. They’re not evil.

During the movie, the audience actually chuckled playfully in reaction to Hedwig, one of the alters who is a nine-year-old boy but of course in the body of the adult character. To me, this is a very good sign. It shows that people really saw Hedwig as a child, separate from the kidnapper. Maybe in this regard, Split helps people connect with people who have DID.

Split: The bad and the Weird

Split is a thriller. Thrillers must scare, and to do so this movie uses a mental illness.

To scare, thrillers must be real enough to invade our psyche and put us on edge. Split is real enough. The bad guy is a real person with a real disorder portrayed, for the most part, in a very realistic way. For full fright effect, a thriller must go beyond the real into that which is unthinkable outside of the movie theatre. Split achieves the real and the beyond-the-real. It achieves the good, the bad, and the weird.

The good thing about Split is that it humanizes Kevin and his system of alters. The bad thing is that the disorder itself is villainized. The weird thing is that the disorder isn’t just villainized but dehumanized. The system morphs into a beast. Eye-roll. Huge you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me element.

To set the record straight and counter the bad and the weird parts of Split:

  • * The person with DID is not a monster, nor does he or she host a monster inside.
  • * The Incredible Hulk stuff like super-human size, strength, and speed, is the stuff of movies and comic books.
  • * DID isn’t in the realm of the supernatural.
  • * People with DID can’t scale walls like salamanders.

Split: A Step in the Right Direction?

Is this movie a step in the right direction? To a certain extent, it does separate the person from the illness. It humanizes the human (it’s too bad that that is necessary). But as a thriller, it does enter into the realm of the bad and the weird. It humanizes the people but dehumanizes the disorder.

We need books and movies that treat people and disorders exactly as they are. People and disorders are neither villains nor beasts.

Twenty-Four Shadows is a critically acclaimed novel about dissociative identity disorder.


Split, Mental Illness, and a Fear Factor

Jan 20

Split, Mental Illness, and a Fear Factor; How will the movie Splt depict DID?


The movie Split premiers today, January 20, 2017. Is Split another movie in a long line of sensationalist movies that uses mental illness as a fear factor to trigger our psyches to spring into alert, inducing that edge-of-the-seat sensation that generates a lot of cash for the movie industry?

Split is about a man living with dissociative identity disorder, an illness that used to be called multiple personality disorder. One of the personalities is evil and kidnaps young women. How accurate is the movie’s portrayal of DID? Because I haven’t seen it yet, I can’t weigh in on that. To be sure, many have already been decrying the movie and its message. I have a feeling that this early disapproval is deserved; however, I need to see it to know how, exactly, the movie is depicting DID, a genuine mental illness that arises from severe trauma/abuse in childhood.

DID is one of the most misunderstood poorly depicted of all mental illnesses (schizophrenia is another). DID is incredibly complex, and even the experts are still learning about this disorder. What is known is this: people living with DID aren’t predisposed to violence. DID isn’t an “evil twin” type of syndrome where one does something and blames it on something else.

Twenty-Four Shadows is a novel about DID and was named to Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2016It’s because of this misunderstanding that I wrote Twenty-Four ShadowsIn the novel, bizarre encounters and behaviors lead family man Isaac Bittman to discover that his personality has splintered into twenty-four shadows, or alters, thanks to the childhood trauma he’s repressed. Is his wife’s love strong enough for all of him?

I’m curious about Split. Does it villainize people living with DID? Does it use mental illness as a fear factor? How does the character in the movie and his alters compare to Isaac Bittman and his alters? What about family and friends?

I’ll be seeing Split this weekend, and I’m looking forward to sharing some insights!


Check out these trailers, for both book and movie:




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Overwhelmed? Take Back Your Mental Health & Wellbeing

Jan 3

Life, as wonderful as it often is, can also be quite stressful. Demands and deadlines can stretch people to their limit. Many different things can cause us to feel overwhelmed. The stressors of daily life can take a tremendous toll. Relationships can be difficult to navigate. If these weren’t challenging enough, sometimes we’re hit with big whammies like disease, traumatic brain injury, mental illness, or personality disorders.

You can reduce that overwhelmed feeling and thrive. Rather than waiting for stressors to pass so you can feel better, take charge right now. Sure, you might not be able to get some problems to instantly disappear, but that’s okay. You don’t have to be problem-free to feel mentally  healthy. These four simple steps will help when you’re feeling overwhelmed no matter the reason.

Four Simple Steps to Take Back Your Wellbeing

Pause. When we’re overwhelmed, it can be hard to think and easy to become disorganized. In response to stress, heart rate and blood pressure can increase, and breathing can become more rapid and shallow. Muscles tense. Anxiety can set in. When you notice the physical and mental symptoms of stress, pause. Put some space, both distance and time, between yourself and what is making you feel overwhelmed. Breathe deeply and practice mindfulness. Taking even a short break can help you reset and return feeling better.

Partake. Do something to nourish your mind, body, and/or soul in the moment. Depending on where you are and what you’re doing, you might sip hot tea or coffee, take in fresh air, breathe in essential oils, mindfully peel and eat an orange, or anything else that’s healthy and that you find personally soothing.

Purpose. Sometimes, we get so caught up in problems that we lose sight of what’s important to us. When tasks, relationships, and more feel like an overwhelming burden, remember your greater purpose (and do so as you pause and partake). Knowing that there’s a reason we’re doing something can make life feel less overwhelming.

In My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel, for example, Brian Cunningham suffers greatly from anxiety disorders and avoidant personality disorder. He works as the sole custodian on the night shift at an elementary school so he can avoid having to deal with people, but when a neglected and abused little girl crosses his path, he is forced out of his safe comfort zone. He is overwhelmed and his perpetually high anxiety skyrockets further when he has to interact with people in order to help her. At times he is so overwhelmed and stressed that he wants to quit and retreat, but when he remembers his purpose, to help a hurting little girl, he is able to endure and regain a sense of mental health and wellbeing.

Plan. Sometimes our circumstances feel like a trap. We try and try to break free from the trap, but we simply spin our wheels. This going nowhere only increases stress. Know what you want to accomplish, and create an action plan involving small steps taken intentionally in order to achieve it. Often, having a tangible plan and acting on it is empowering and enough to feel mentally healthy rather than overwhelmed.

Additional Ways to Take Charge, Recover, and Achieve Mental Health & Wellbeing

Pausing, partaking in something soothing, remembering your purpose, and planning are effective ways to deal with feeling overwhelmed in order to take back mental health and wellbeing. There are other things you can do, too, to enjoy life once again.

Reach out and allow others to help. Whether its for help organizing clutter or easing symptoms of mental illness, accepting help can make you feel better more quickly.  In the novel Leave of Absence, Oliver Graham is in a behavioral health hospital. His doctor tries to convince him to allow people in to help:

     “Nothing at all makes a bit of goddamn sense.”

    “Exactly. You need help processing all of this. You participated actively in an art group on Saturday. That played a part in allowing you to open up yesterday…You were starting to process this mess.” Dr. Wilson stopped talking. When she resumed, her tone was softer. “It is indeed a mess, isn’t it?” 

    Oliver nodded.

    “Hang in there. Let people help you through this very difficult time.”

Do What You Need to Do in Each Moment

Most of us are rather skilled at imposing rules onto ourselves, believing that we should be doing x or shouldn’t be doing y. Berating ourselves only makes us feel more overwhelmed and unwell. Instead, plan what you need right now and do what it takes to help you regain mental health.

In the novel Twenty-Four Shadows (named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2016), Isaac Bittman begins to attend a special treatment center after learning he lives with dissociative identity disorder. He is struggling, and his doctor, Dr. Charlie, knows that he needs to rest. Isaac feels that lying down is a waste of time. Here, Dr. Charlie convinces him that it’s okay for him to do what he needs to do in each moment.

     “Remember that I said you get a private room? It’s for journaling and meditating and resting. You need to participate in the activities here, but this is only day one. You had two switches; it looks like they’ve taken a tremendous toll on you, and you need to sleep them off. I promise we’ll work on things here, but right now, you need to lie down. Other patients do, too. That’s why we have private rooms with beds. What do you think?”

    “I…” Isaac’s voice cracked. Rather than trying again, he nodded vigorously. Dr. Charlie escorted him to his room.

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed is an unfortunate part of being human. A fortunate part of our humanity is our ability to take care of ourselves. Pause, partake, remember purpose, plan, accept help, and do what you need to do moment by moment. In so doing, you’ll increase your mental health and wellbeing.


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Multiple Personality Disorder? Taboo!

Sep 27

Writing Twenty-Four Shadows was a risk. It’s a story about Isaac Bittman, his wife, son, and best friend. Isaac’s bizarre encounters and behaviors lead to the discovery that long ago his personality splintered into twenty-four shadows, or alters, thanks to an extended childhood trauma he’s repressed. Wisconsin Badgers Jerseys Malcolm Butler In the not-too-distant past, he would have been given the label multiple personality disorder. Minnesota Golden Gophers California Golden Bears Multiple personality disorder. Isn’t that that thing where people suddenly become weird? Where they pretend to not know what they did to get themselves off the hook? Where they act on strange or violent impulses and then forget they did it? Is it even a legitimate thing? Such questions are some of the many things people wonder about multiple personality disorder. Images and stereotypes are so outdated that even the very term multiple personality disorder is inaccurate. Nike SB Check Multiple personality disorder doesn’t quite fit what this disorder really is. Aaron Rodgers Cal Bears Jersey The official, term for this very real mental illness is dissociative identity disorder (DID). In all fairness to the many people who hold negative stereotypes about DID, there hasn’t traditionally been much information available about this disorder. 2016 Air Max Pas Cher
Minnesota Golden Gophers Jerseys DID has been largely a taboo subject, so information has come from whispers and secrets and black-and-white movies. People who have DID have become like the reclusive person in the dilapidated house on the block, the Boo Radley (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee) that children are afraid of and fabricate ghost stories about during sleepovers. The misunderstandings about dissociative identity disorder have made it a taboo subject and the people who have it shunned and sometimes shamed. Oklahoma City Thunder I believe in the good in people, and I don’t think this is malicious or intentional. The above misconceptions exist simply because the right information isn’t talked about. Air Jordan 5 For Kids Sometimes it isn’t even readily available. And starting an open conversation about DID has been very difficult.

What Actually is DID?

DID is a rare mental disorder (an estimated one percent of the population or less have DID) whose only cause is severe childhood trauma. nike air max 90 hyperfuse femme The adult brain can’t develop different identities even after extreme trauma. It isn’t biological, chemical, or genetic; it’s only trauma-based. -To survive, the starfish fragmented.-When a young child is severely traumatized, usually from abuse, he/she might separate from his/herself as a form of escape. It’s a coping mechanism known as dissociation, where someone’s consciousness shifts; for example, someone who dissociates might experience the odd sensation of watching him/herself from above. With DID, a child dissociates and takes on different identities to escape from the abuse. NIKE AIR MAX SEQUENT Maybe the child goes off to a distant and remote place. Often, the identities hold strong emotions that are too much for the child. Canada Goose Soldes Over time, these develop into different identities that, without the person realizing it, manifest themselves throughout life. In Twenty-Four Shadows, Isaac’s doctor describes DID to a confused and frightened Isaac and Reese by telling a story about a starfish.

Writing Twenty-Four Shadows was a Risk

Dissociative identity disorder (or multiple personality disorder, as some still know it) is indeed taboo. nike air max flyknit Femme It’s difficult to understand, hard to believe, and even harder to picture actual people having DID. Sometimes people think DID is fabricated, a dramatic ploy for attention. Mens Air Jordan 10 Other times, people think that people who have DID are unpredictable and prone to random violence. As such, many people don’t want to read a story about DID. Canada Goose Banff Parka Others feel that the topic is cliche or irrelevant. Peruse’s The 10 Best Split Personality Performances in Movies, and you’ll get a taste of the problem, beginning with the fact that “split personality” is not a correct term. GS Air Jordan 3 These movies range from horrific to farcical, and the list even includes The Lego Movie because of the officer who could change from good cop to bad cop with a twist of his head! No wonder DID is not only taboo but mocked and ignored. There’s a chance that people simply won’t want to read my novel about DID. Adidas Original Zx Flux Homme I’m grateful to Apprentice House Press, a university press out of Loyola University in Maryland, for believing in my writing and the story, because people do have a chance to read Twenty-Four Shadows. Parajumpers Windbreaker Trench It’s entertaining, yes, and is about life and love and struggle and triumph. And it’s also about, not multiple personality disorder but dissociative identity disorder and what it truly is for people who live with it as well as their family and friends. This story, if read, just might help lift the taboo.


Book Award: Sign of Progress for Mental Illness

Sep 19

Thanks to the work and dedication of many people, the concepts of mental illness and mental health are beginning to emerge from their dark hiding places and experience some much-deserved sunshine. Canada Goose Expedition Parka Mental illness in general is still difficult to discuss and can be met with cold misunderstanding; however, that is beginning to change. Parajumpers Lightweight Simona 6 Doudoune Understanding and empathy are increasing. nike air max 1 femme noir It’s becoming a little bit safer for people experiencing mental illness to seek and receive help. Nike Zoom Crusader A sign that thing are moving in a positive direction in the field of psychology, mental illness, and mental health is that professional and respected book review companies are honoring novels about mental illness and people living with it. Kirkus Reviews has released its list of Best Books of 2016, and Twenty-Four Shadows has been awarded a place on that list. Marcus Cannon   In their review of this novel, Kirkus Reviews said, “An exploration of dissociative identity disorder, this fourth novel by Peterson My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel, 2014, etc.) valiantly addresses the stigma of mental illness….[She] is able to say to the reader in earnest: this is mental illness, this is how it feels.” Twenty-Four Shadows was named to Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2016 because of the way it addresses dissociative identity disorder, a serious mental illness. Stanford Cardinal For similar reasons, Kirkus Reviews named My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel to their list of Best Books of 2014, further indicating that mental illness (anxiety disorders and avoidant personality disorder) are important to bring into the sunlight. Air Jordan 8 Armani Survetement Other well-known review companies have recognized the novel Twenty-Four Shadows as well. Parajumpers Kodiak The Midwest Book Review lauded it, and The US Review of Books awarded it one of their coveted Recommended ratings. Nike SB Paul Rodriguez 9 adidas gazelle homme blanche All of this is a very good thing. Such honors for a novel that addresses a previously taboo subject shows that society is beginning to open minds and hearts to those living with mental illness. Oklahoma State Cowboys free run 5.0 grigio uomo When readers learn about mental illness through realistic stories, mental illness, and those living with it, are humanized. I speak a bit more about this in the below video, and I read a passage from the novel, too. Canada Goose Solaris Parka Nebraska Cornhuskers Jerseys I invite you to tune in. Air Jordan 13   Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Justin Pugh Roll-Top Timberland Bottes Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities.


Mental Illness Doesn’t Take Away the Good

Sep 7

Mental Illness Doesn't Take Away the GoodMental illness in general presents a host of challenges and difficulties. Golden State Warriors All mental illnesses have this in common: they negatively affect thoughts, feelings, and behaviors/actions, and they can interfere in things like relationships and life goals. nike air max 2017 femme blanche nike air max thea homme Mental illnesses also have in common the fact that they don’t take away the good in people and in life. To be sure, mental illness changes things, sometimes negatively. To deny that would be to minimize someone’s very real experiences and challenges. Also, we need to acknowledge the negative so we can address it fully in order to rise above the difficulties presented by any diagnosis of mental illness. Nike Air Max 90 Femme Fleur When I sustained my traumatic brain injury and subsequently received diagnoses of bipolar 1 disorder and anxiety disorders, of course many things in both my inner and outer worlds changed. Acknowledging this played a big part in my ability to transcend it all, to deal with it, rise above it, and learn to thrive in spite of it all. UGG Classic Mini Another realization was just as important in overcoming the difficulties: none of it–neither the brain injury, the bipolar disorder, nor the anxiety disorders–took away the good in my yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. Mental illness does add difficulties, but it does not take away the good. In the novel Leave of Absence, Penelope Baker is wrestling with her diagnosis of schizophrenia and the effects it has on her life. March Madness Her lament here captures the sentiment of so many people who are living with the challenges presented by mental illness:

I used to be proud of myself. Adidas Yeezy 350 Homme I graduated from the University of Chicago and worked as an advertising executive at Anderson Fletcher.” She paused and hugged the beach ball against her chest. When she resumed, she spoke quietly. AIR MAX 2016 But then I changed, and I’m not the same anymore.

Penelope’s diagnosis of schizophrenia did change some things, including the way her brain functions. West Virginia Mountaineers Jerseys In some ways, she isn’t the same. Wichita State Shockers Jerseys Jacob Parker Jersey But in most ways, the ways that really count, she is the same. Mental illness truly can’t take away the good. Asics Gel Lyte 3 Femme Rose Mental illness can’t:

  • erase what you’ve accomplished
  • remove your values and beliefs that shape your actions
  • take away your character strengths
  • make you less of a person
  • change who you are at your core.

Living with mental illness does present challenges. But you can draw on what you’ve done in the past, who you are, and what you value to address the challenges and discover new ways of living despite them. Nike Kobe You aren’t your illness, which means that mental illness doesn’t erase the core of who you are. You can use your accomplishments, vales, and strengths in order to live a life driven by these elements rather than one dominated by difficulties. The below video is a short reading from the novel Twenty-Four Shadows. Canada Goose en ligne The book is the story of Isaac Bittman and his family and friend. CORTEZ Isaac has been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. DID is a completely different mental illness than schizophrenia, but you’ll notice a similar theme to Penelope’s and Issac’s thoughts and feelings. Air Jordan 14 Mental illness can feel like an eraser. NIKE FREE RN It’s not an eraser. Michigan Wolverines Jerseys Sign up for my free monthly newsletter, Wellbeing & Words. Each issue is packed with useful tips for enhancing mental health and wellbeing, reading-related tidbits, and updates about my own mental health writing and activities.