Especially in times of crisis, our inner life can go neglected. Here's a short essay from NAMI volunteer Lelia Davis that asks us to stay tuned in.
“Fine” is such a loaded word. Fine says, “I accept less.”
Fine says, “I'm ok with not listening to what I want. I accept that what I want is not as important as what you want, or what is expected of me. I'll continue doing this because then I don't have to consider what I really want.”
Many times, we must do things we don't choose, whether for work, family, our health, etc. Yet within these demands and obligations, we have the authority to choose. Do we choose the path of least resistance because it's familiar? Or do we take a risk and push the comforts of what we know? The answer lies within paying attention to what our bodies are telling us.
Many of us have been told we're too emotional, yet our emotions are exceptional sensors. They are tuned into our desires, which are really just our basic needs. Our need to feel heard, seen, and understood. Ignoring these needs is living in the “Fine.”
That catch in your throat, that flutter of your heart, that warmth that floods your entire body ... that's your emotion manifesting into something physical. Something that will get your attention. It's screaming, “I don't want to be fine! Pay attention to me! I want more!”
Would you ignore that pleading if it came from your child, your best friend, your partner? Then why ignore ourselves? Why accept less when the plea comes from within? If we believe we are worthy of more, just like that loved one we would never ignore, then we can truly listen to ourselves and take action.
We must believe that we are not only worthy of more, but that we're capable of more.
What's more difficult, enduring what's “fine” for eternity, or risking the temporary discomfort of finding our “more”?
Locally, AspenPointe leaders have been working hard to recognize and respond to emerging community needs as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds. The region's largest mental health organization has confirmed that it is taking new patients for virtual care, and has posted a simple “Request appointment” button to the top right-hand corner of its homepage. If you don’t already have a mental health care provider, and feel like you could use one, it can’t hurt to make an inquiry.
File under “Solidarity”: The Hartford Courant this morning published a poignant, but not-too-heavy, first-person piece from reporter Mike Anthony. He writes that though he’s fortunate, all things considered, “I’m just not rolling with the punches very well.”
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America is making daily updates to a page of “Helpful Expert Tips and Resources” about coronavirus anxiety. It includes videos as well as blog posts that range in subject matter from mindfulness to parenting to responding to racism during the outbreak.
Take care and be safe and healthy this weekend, everybody.
Note: Edits were made to this post on Monday, March 30.
Did you receive emergency “stay-at-home” alerts on your phone last night, or this morning, or both? No doubt, those sounds and images can make an already-disorienting time feel even more frightening.
With that in mind, this Guardian headline speaks for itself: 'Think about the best-case scenario': how to manage coronavirus anxiety.”
This U.S. News & World Report story covers some of the same ground, but includes an idea that we haven’t seen a lot of in all of this coverage: the idea of beginning each day with a gratitude practice.
Sounds True has provided a “digital care package” of free audio and video resources dedicated to helping promote and preserve personal resilience.
And while it’s not exactly coronavirus-related, could we make a book recommendation? Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, a 2015 memoir by Jenny Lawson, is a “hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety.” In this environment, it might be just the thing to brighten a few days.
Today, we'd like to share a few resources and stories that are devoted to helping older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic:
In Colorado Springs, Innovations in Aging is maintaining a clearinghouse of COVID-19-related information for seniors. It's a mix of locally relevant and universally practical information, such as a step-by-step guide to video calling family members.
Among a lot of resources mentioned (and linked to) in this LAist post is the Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line, a national, 24-hour, toll-free resource for people aged 60 years and older, and adults living with disabilities. It’s both a crisis intervention hotline and warmline for non-emergency support calls.
Vox.com has published a great story on technology that can help older adults stay connected to loved ones; safely obtain groceries and medicines; and release endorphins by exercising in their own home.
The AARP is hosting a live tele-town hall on caring for family members during the coronavirus crisis at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 26. In fact, it will be doing these town halls every week or the foreseeable future. Call 855.274.9507, or find out more by visiting this page of the AARP site.
And while this may not relate directly to mental health, the Federal Trade Commission has posted a page of tips devoted to avoiding coronavirus-related scams … which can be helpful for seniors, a popular target population.
If you know of other resources — for seniors or anyone else — that you'd like to see more widely shared, please let us know. Thank you!
Hi, everyone. Here are a few good COVID-19-related reads and resources for Tuesday, March 24:
This American Psychological Association makes it clear that though this is an abrupt and unprecedented transition, there are lessons to be taken from past studies on working remotely.
If you haven’t yet visited the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s online clearinghouse on COVID-19 information, it’s worth checking out (or bookmarking for later, when you’ve got some time). The section on differences between isolation and quarantine feels pretty useful at the moment.
The Washington Post is hosting an online chat with licensed clinical psychologist and author Andrea Bonior at 11 a.m. MST today, Tuesday, March 24. Tune in here or visit the same link later to get a look at the transcript. The Post also is providing free access to substantive COVID-19 coverage without a subscription through a daily newsletter; visit here to sign up.
Around noon each weekday for the foreseeable future, NAMI Colorado Springs will post a roundup of the best stories and resources from the intersection of mental health and the COVID-19 crisis. Here are a few for today. (And sorry for the lateness with this first one! We’ve been having some connectivity issues.)
This Guardian piece on managing coronavirus anxiety comes with some good ideas for reframing the current situation, with quotes from NAMI’s medical director, Ken Duckworth. It also notes that "The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) says setting a daily half-hour 'worry period' at the same time and place helps to stay in the present moment the rest of the day."
For parents who are trying to help kids adjust to life in close quarters, making an International Space Station analogy might be helpful, as Mental Health Colorado's Vincent Atchity describes in the Colorado Sun.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has published an excellent and easily printable list of online resources that can help support people in recovery from mental health and substance abuse issues.
And finally, for those who have guns — or family members with guns — the Giffords Law Center recently published a thoughtful blog post about gun safety during the pandemic.
We'll be back with more tomorrow. Until then, take care and remember that we're here if you need us during this time.
"I'm having a lot of anxiety because of the coronavirus. Please help."
"I'm quarantined or working from home — lonely and isolated even further — what can I do?"
"I don't have health insurance or a regular doctor — how can I get care?"
These are the first three topics addressed in the "COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources" packet just released by NAMI national. If you or people you know have had thoughts like these, or other worries about the intersection of COVID-19 and mental illness, please take a look through this packet.
Ongoing updates will be posted regularly at the NAMI website. In the meantime, take care of yourself and your loved ones.
More than 60 people came to Bemis School of Art on Thursday night to mark the 10th anniversary of the award-winning Military Artistic Healing program. "Massive Expression" was both a free retrospective and a showcase for Array Parity, a new artistic initiative created in partnership with NAMI Colorado Springs.
Event partners included: AspenPointe, Bemis, Bravo Screen Printing & Embroidery, Cupcake Girls, Luchal’s Gourmet Catering, 1350 Distilling, Sox Place Denver and Weber Street Liquor.
Below are a few images from the evening, which also served as an Indy Give! fundraiser for NAMI.
During the 2019 Indy Give! campaign, we're highlighting some of the ways that NAMI Colorado Springs connects with the community. One of the most profound connections comes when someone living with mental illness chooses to share his or her story.
Laura Teachout (pictured below with her dog, Peat Moss) is a Connection Support Group facilitator, In Our Own Voice presenter and NAMI Colorado Springs board member. She also serves on Colorado's Behavioral Health Task Force, assigned by Gov. Jared Polis to assess and recommend improvements to the state's mental health system.
Here's a look at something she wrote to NAMI's email list to help out with Give! fundraising. If you're reading this before Jan. 1 and you're moved to donate, you can still give through Give!. You can also give anytime within our "Donate" section.
I live with mental illness.
Being a part of the NAMI Colorado Springs family has made my life immeasurably better.
Here’s the really tough stuff: I’ve lived with PTSD and treatment-resistant depression for more than 25 years. At its worst, it leaves me feeling empty and devoid of hope. It hurts to remember joy and then feel its stark absence in my life. No matter how I fill my time or how many lovely friends are in my life, there's an empty space at my center.
And talking about my mental illness takes a huge leap of faith. I’m never sure I'll be heard, accepted or respected for having lived so long with this monster of an illness. It can’t matter that I might be judged or pitied or turned into something less than a whole person.
And here’s where NAMI brings hope and the promise of better days: NAMI creates a space where I can connect with people who are like me, whose struggles mirror my own, and who’ve held me up when I’ve been at my lowest. Every time I sit in on or facilitate a Connection Support Group, I am reminded that mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Our differences in age and gender and education and wealth disappear for those few hours, and a profound connection occurs. Compassion grows and the hopelessness eases. Acceptance, belonging, love and laughter happen. That’s a BIG deal and it’s what NAMI does best.
Since joining the NAMI Colorado Springs Board two years ago, I’ve found my voice as an advocate for those of us living with mental illness and for our families and friends. Here I am, writing openly and comfortably about my illness. I trust that, because you are a supporter of NAMI, you are also committed to breaking down the barriers and fighting the stigma of mental illness. Because of my NAMI experience, I am fearless in sharing my story to help others share theirs.
At some point in the day — every day — I give a silent thanks to NAMI for making these powerful connections possible and for helping me find my voice.
Oh, yeah: I almost forgot to say that living with my sweet old dog is kind of like having a perpetual Connection group in my life. He wraps around and warms that empty space at my center. He reminds me that I'm not alone.
In six years as president of its board of directors, Dan Zarecky has made an enormous imprint on NAMI Colorado Springs. Relying on a deep belief in the organization’s mission, as well as a humble steadfastness and a brilliantly understated sense of humor, Dan has overseen the organization’s tripling of both programming and revenue between 2013 and 2019.
Meanwhile, from his position as group CEO for Strategic Behavioral Health (parent company of Peak View Behavioral Health), he has also served as an influential NAMI ambassador inside the local for-profit mental health world.
All of which makes two recent changes feel earthshaking here at NAMI. Not only was Dan term-limited off of the NAMI board this summer, but he also just accepted a position as CEO of Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital in Lancaster, Penn. He and his wife, Debra — who, like Dan, has been a generous personal donor to NAMI — are planning on relocating before the holidays.
It has been a whirlwind few weeks. But even with everything he’s had going on, Dan was willing recently to take a few minutes to talk about his time at NAMI, and his hopes for the organization’s future.
Take us back six years. What were the circumstances that brought you to join the NAMI board?
It really was my first encounter with Lori [Jarvis-Steinwert], soon after she began as executive director. We were at a meeting and got to talking about NAMI and what I do in the private sector with inpatient and outpatient treatment. I didn't think much of it — it was more of a networking thing. But you know, Lori’s a little schemer [laughs], which I didn’t know at the time.
She waited a little bit, about three or four weeks, and then she invited me to lunch. We talked more in depth about NAMI, and she asked. The biggest thing I saw was the enormous potential — the good work that NAMI was already doing in our community, but also the enormous potential of what more it could do, as it related to mental illness and education.
I told her I needed a little bit of time to think about it, because I didn't want to commit to anything I couldn't give time to. But obviously I decided to come on board.
As you got to know the organization from the inside, what left an impression?
What struck me was how the organization was in a transition period. It was very grassroots, with a lot of board members who were very hands-on, and a lot of volunteers. Some folks were leaving the board, and they were looking for folks to step into board positions. Money was very tight. I remember distinctly every fall, scrambling to make budget — literally having to send out a plea to folks to donate.
I was impressed by the work the organization already had done. But to be able to grow NAMI, and to have a bigger impact on our community, we had to make some changes. And I think the changes were the right ones. The biggest one was actually before I got there, when NAMI got a grant to hire an executive director and hired Lori.
How did you envision NAMI complementing the work that you were doing at Peak View?
At first, I did not see all of what NAMI was going to do for Peak View, specifically — the positive impact in terms of what NAMI would give to family members. That support, that education. But where we were unable to provide certain services, NAMI was there. Especially after discharge, but even at the beginning, when a loved one would present themselves in our inpatient for the first time.
You often have family members struggling with the whole idea of mental illness, asking, “What is this?” It’s because our system is our system — we do a poor job at times supporting the family and educating the family, and NAMI stepped up to the plate in a big way. We saw some of the families struggling with understanding an illness and what to do, and the first thing out of our mouths would be, “You need to know about Family-to-Family,” or another program that NAMI had. Honestly, it was a match made in heaven.
You've been doing this work for almost 30 years. Where have you seen the biggest changes in the mental health world?
It's gotten better as it relates to folks being able to get help, but it's not even close to being where it needs to be. With what's known as Obamacare, people are able to get better access. But when I look back over the last 30 years, it's up and down. Politics plays a part: At the state level and nationally, it’s, “What’s the priority?” And it seems that mental health services are always the ones that are sacrificed. It's taboo, especially depending on the area you live in.
"It seems like mental health services
are always the ones that are sacrificed."
It's hard to sum up the changes because they just ebb and flow with politics. Our current administration wants to hang all of these mass shootings on mental illness. That might be the case in some instances, but it's not the case in all of them.
I think the biggest change I've seen is that, yes, there are definitely more inroads and services provided, and better access. But it could be a lot better. And I think that's where NAMI comes into play, and other organizations, continuing to push and to have folks in charge understand that mental illness isn't going away. It’s been in our society from Day One — it's just been called different things.
Shifting gears for just a second, I wondered if you could talk about early diagnosis and treatment. How essential is it to get in there soon after someone starts struggling with a mental health condition?
It's critical. The earlier you get in, it's better for the patient and it's better for the family, to be able to process exactly what's going on.
I just had a call the other day from parents who, three years ago, came into Peak View. At that time, they were in denial. They just didn't want to admit that their child had a mental illness. They thought it was behavioral. They changed schools, they were going through all the motions, because of the stigma of it all.
Through a lot of education — and I do believe they were connected with NAMI, too — they finally came to a point, after inpatient and outpatient, where they realized the significance that accepting the diagnosis could have on their child's life. And he's doing wonderful right now.
With mental illness, there's no magic pill. Once you're diagnosed, you're going to live with mental illness the rest of your life. But it's not just the individual. The ones who care for that individual — the family, the loved ones — also have to be able to work through the process. If it goes undiagnosed for a long time ... well, that's why in our correctional facilities, close to 60 percent of inmates are dealing with some form of mental illness.
At NAMI breakfasts, we’ve had themes like ending the silence and breaking the stigma, and it's true. It's really true.
What have you been proudest of, in terms of the ways in which the organization has grown and evolved since you first joined the board?
When I first started, the services that were provided, such as Family-to-Family and others, really were adult-focused. Once we started to get into adolescent programs — our Ending the Silence school program, and then the Below the Surface campaign — that became the biggest thing I'm proud of.
Because you talk about early diagnosis — that's the population that we have to really zero in on, is our kids, and their parents and family. Not just the patient, but the whole family structure — the not understanding, the feeling ashamed.
What would you like to see happen at NAMI over the next six years?
Well, first off, NAMI needs its own permanent space. We started to talk about growing out of the house [from which NAMI recently moved, at 510 E. Willamette Ave.] years ago, but there were too many other priorities.
I think one of my biggest goals has been that NAMI would be financially stable — that during hard times, NAMI would be able to navigate fairly easily and not have to constantly be in crisis mode for finances. Lori has been a big part of that, of that drive. I think last fall was the first — or one of the first — that we didn't have to do that scramble and send our big donors a message saying, “We’re in financial crisis, please give.” That's a good feeling.
I'd also love to see NAMI expand out to more of the rural areas and get services out there. Another piece is being more of a voice when it comes to state legislation and getting in front of those folks.
But I've met some of the other NAMI affiliates in the state, and I've met several from elsewhere in the country, and hands-down, what NAMI Colorado Springs has done compared to the other ones, is phenomenal.
Is there anything else you'd like to mention?
I have been so impressed with the number of volunteers and the commitment and the passion of the staff. That's what makes NAMI Colorado Springs. Without the volunteers and the staff, NAMI wouldn’t be as successful as it is today.