Archive for 2013

Your Emotional State is Reflected in Your Surroundings

My mom has always said that the state of my room is a direct reflection of the state of my mind. My bedroom was always a pigsty growing up. So you can imagine how I felt on the inside. 

Teen angst to the max.

And that hasn’t changed.

Well, it’s changed a little. I’m no longer pining after boys who are way out of my league and wondering why they don’t notice me. I’m not crying over girls who won’t let me into their clique. I’m not struggling with geometry homework and wishing math didn’t exist. Okay, I’m still wishing math didn’t exist. I’m also still buying Clearasil.

The point is, the principle hasn’t changed. Even though I’m a grown adult now, what my mom said is still true. It’s not the bedroom that I share with my husband that is the problem, though; it is my room, my walk-in closet. It is frequently in shambles. (In my defense, it’s not big enough. I need a whole other room. Just for my shoes.) The floor of my closet is not visible often, with shirts, jeans, shorts, dresses, and other articles of clothing covering every inch of the hardwood. I always wonder, how did it get like that? I don’t remember messing it up.

Just like my train of thought. Often I’ll start thinking, and then thinking some more, until I think myself into a very dark, bad place. I never realize I’m doing it until I get to that place. Or I’ll have so many things on my mind at once, and it feels like everything is bombarding me, until I completely stress myself out and head for a panic attack.

I need a bigger closet, and I need a bigger brain. More room to sort through these thoughts and file them nicely and neatly into separate folders. And perhaps a GPS for both my closet and brain to let me know when we’re headed for disaster. 

Since I doubt I’ll get a bigger closet, a bigger brain, or a GPS for either one, I suppose I have to work with what I have. The logical solution to me is to get rid of some stuff. In both cases. Get rid of clothes I don’t wear, of shoes I don’t wear…and at the same time, get rid of the negative thoughts that plague my brain.

My closet was in a terrible state earlier this week. I didn’t know where anything was; it was hard to get dressed. It caused stress. Yet I had no desire to clean it. None. On a sidenote, I was also in a horrible place mentally. I didn’t have the motivation to do much. I simply didn’t care. I had so many other things on my mind, the thought of tackling that closet seemed pretty daunting. I left the clothes where they were.

Today I woke up with a different mindset. I decided I wanted to be able to find the clothes I wanted when I got dressed. Though I couldn’t change some of the things happening that were occupying my mind, I could control this. I need to start taking care of that which I can control, and try not to dwell on that which I can’t control.

So I played some music and hung up all my clothes. It took a little while, but it actually wasn’t so bad. Now that it’s done, I’m happy. I feel relieved. Lighter. It won’t be as stressful now to get dressed.
So listen to your moms. They’re right. Now my goal is to keep my closet clean all year long. Hopefully that means I’ll maintain a positive mindset at the same time.

Just don’t ever think I’ll clean out my car.

Stop Letting Fear Hold You Back

Do one thing every day that scares you.

I’ve been trying to live by this motto for a while now. I don’t want to go through life being “safe,” never escaping my comfort zone. I want to try new things that I normally wouldn’t, and do some stuff that would be uncharacteristic of me otherwise.

So I fairly recently got a new job. Now, this might not sound scary to most people, but it was for me. I haven’t worked a steady job outside of my home for a while, and though the idea excited me, it also made me nervous. 

First, there was the interview. Then, the second interview. Then, the job offer. Every step in the process made me a little anxious. Then came the job training.  A lot of it was computer-based, which didn’t scare me, but when we got to the hands-on portion…well, there’s a lot to know when it comes to selling shoes. A lot more than I’d have ever thought about. So I was pretty nervous as I learned each new aspect, trying to cram room in my already full brain for more information that needed to fit in somewhere.

The good part about this has been that everyone who’s trained me has been super nice and understanding. They’re not expecting me to learn everything perfectly the first time, as they’ve been through the process, too. That’s what’s made this whole experience so great – the people.

My first actual day on the job was an eight-hour day. I was completely freaking out before I went in, wondering how I’d pull this off, considering I didn’t feel too prepared…at all. But I got there and I think it went extremely well. One of the customers I helped told a manager that I was “very, very helpful and very nice,” and the manager told me that I “did amazing.” Those are always reassuring words. Plus I got to meet a lot of new, nice people…and be surrounded by the loves of my life. Shoes!

So take a risk. Apply for that job you think you’ll never get, or maybe you even think you’re “above” it. Well, times are tough. Sometimes you might need to swallow your pride and go after what you can get. You never know how it’ll turn out…maybe it’s where you’re meant to be. At least for right now.

And this philosophy doesn’t only apply to the job market. Doing things that scare you could include asking someone on a date who you’ve been too afraid to approach. Or signing up for a class you’ve been too nervous to commit to. This applies to any area of life. It’s just something that’s become sort of a personal challenge to me, a way to live life to its fullest, I guess. 

Do one thing every day that scares you.

The point is, to get up, and walk right out of your comfort zone. You could even run out of it.  Or saunter. Skip! Regardless…

I can sell you the shoes.

The Power of Addiction

It saddened me very much when I learned that Lisa Robin Kelly had died, the girl who played Eric Forman’s sister on That ‘70s Show.  Sure, she’s not a household name, and she hasn’t acted in anything we’ve seen since she got booted from the show.  Still.
I remember seeing her in the news here and there, all for reasons no one would be proud of.  Kelly, like so many young celebrities in the public eye, sadly succumbed to her addiction.

Kelly was an alcoholic who had just checked herself into a rehab facility.  She was determined to clean her life up.  Unfortunately, she went into cardiac arrest and died in her sleep while at the treatment center.

I was completely distraught when I saw that Cory Monteith had passed away.  Though I’d recently read that he’d been rehab, there hadn’t been much more written about it; it seemed under control, okay.  It blew my mind to read, “Glee Star Dead,” and learn that it was him.  I love the show for so many reasons.  Truly love it.  And Monteith just seems like the least likely person to have a drug problem…which just demonstrates that even though there are stereotypes about drug users, anyone can be a drug user.  Mr. Clean-Cut All American Boy can have a heroin addiction.  And he did.

.  I feel a connection with these celebrities we read about who are struggling with, or have overcome, some sort of addiction.  I understand the weakness…the power a substance can have over someone…how hard it is to stop.  

You’ll see a section in celebrity magazines sometimes pointing out that Celebrities Are Just Like Us!  Well, they are.  Famous or not, that addictive quality within us is all the same.  All the money in the world can’t fix an addiction.  The fanciest treatment centers in the world can’t fix an addiction.  A team of people who do everything for you can’t fix an addiction.

Only the addict can fix the problem.  And it’s not simple.  It’s a lifelong process.  Part of the reason celebrities relapse so often is because they go back to hanging out with the exact same people they were hanging out with when they were using.  No different with people like you and me.  If you want to stay sober, you have to change your life.  You might lose some friends.  In the long run, it’s worth it.  They were never your real friends anyway.

If you ever take the time to read underneath any of the articles online that publish news of a celebrity’s death due to overdose, you’ll really see how cruel people are and how little empathy they have.  It’s sickening.  Would they use the same words to write about one of their friends? Most people also believe addiction is a choice, not a disease.  I believe that it is a disease, and a very powerful one. It’s easy to scoff at something you have no idea about.  If that’s the case, I think it’s better to keep your mouth shut.

Of course this is all just my humble opinion.  The humble opinion of an addict.

My Last Rock Bottom

I have written a book.

It’s a memoir about why I quit drinking, called My Last Rock Bottom. So as you can imagine, it contains some pretty…interesting material. I’m a little nervous about it.

I’m not sure what people will think of me once they read about some of the things I’ve gone through…I’m worried about being crucified for some of the bad decisions I’ve made, even though I’m on the right path now.

I’m super terrified about what people think.
The question is, why? Why do we care so much about what other people think of us? Or maybe you’re one of those lucky people who don’t care what anyone thinks. You have no idea what I’d give to be one of those people. I drive myself nuts caring about the opinion of others…even when it comes to those I don’t like. 
For instance, the description of some of my ex-boyfriends in my memoir is not exactly flattering. And I’m scared of what these guys will possibly think about that…but then, of course, I have to remind myself that my ex-boyfriends don’t read.

Still, I wonder…what is it that lies within us that causes us to seek the approval of everyone? I understand that I am completely neurotic, so maybe I just care more than most people do.
I want to be able to publish my book without all these insecurities creeping in…I want to feel confident about my writing and be able to express myself freely without the judgment of others weighing so heavily on my mind. I take comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who craves everyone’s acceptance. I do wonder how many people out there are like me when it comes to this. I wonder what causes some of us to care so much, while others can simply let things roll off their backs. I want to know how I can be more like that.

So ask yourself about this. Are you someone who worries a lot about what everyone else thinks? And if so, why? And is there anything you can do to change it? I’ve been trying to change my thinking. It’s hard. It’s also exhausting wanting everyone to like me all the time, though. It should be okay with me if someone doesn’t like me. There isn’t a person living or deceased who is liked by everyone. I’ve even heard people criticize Mother Theresa. If she isn’t liked and admired by everyone on the planet, then there’s certainly no hope for someone like me. I just need to learn to be at peace with the idea that not everyone is going to adore me. I need to focus on the people who do love me for me. I need to not compromise myself by bending over backwards trying to win everyone over. I can’t mold myself into what might be everyone’s ideal.

You will never please all of the people, all of the time.
As much as I don’t want to care about potential negative book reviews, I know I will care. The key is learning to be okay with it. I need to publish this book and never look back.

If you are one of those people who cares too much about what everyone thinks, try to work on that. If you’re someone who doesn’t care, try to help the rest of us, like me.

Perhaps by surfing the Internet, stumbling upon Amazon, and buying my book when it comes out on November 11.

This Is It

This is it.

The levy is approaching rapidly, and we still need people who care to vote for this levy, the levy that will provide the Mental Health Recovery and Services Board with more funding, which will go towards better, and newer programs that can be utilized by the public. 

I’ve been blogging a lot about the levy in general, about what some of the organizations are which are underneath the umbrella of the We Care People.  I always love hearing reactions from the public, considering they are the voters.  So I’ve been asking some of them about their opinions on the levy.

The Auglaize Council on Aging said, “The mental health issue I do support;  it helps many elderly residents in Auglaize County.”
Valerie Coffey, of Wapakoneta, said, “Keeping services available and ahead of trending needs are critical. We are all affected by mental health, our own and that existing in our communities. If one is not mentally ill he should want the same for others. Treatment is not all pills.  Counseling and peer support options are integral parts of overcoming and coping with addiction, depressive issues, grief, family stresses...we all need to be heard and feel we matter. Having many approaches and options gives better outcomes and having help locally helps people get to needed services more readily. I want a strong MHRSB for a strong community.”

I also spoke with Christina Ryan Claypool, who said,  “It is rather easy to overlook supporting a mental health levy when so many other pressing needs seem to abound. Yet as an individual who has been on both sides of the mental health coin, I can assure you that it is a societal responsibility. After all, those in need of mental health services like I once was as an emotionally depressed and suicidal teenager growing up in Lima, are unable to advocate for themselves. The marginalized, the addicted, and those who have lost hope are unable to speak up for themselves. We must champion their cause. The MHRSB is there as a voice for today, and as a bridge to a better tomorrow for the local residents suffering from the very real pain and turmoil that mental illness creates. Give these hurting ones hope by casting your vote. It's one important way to show them that their community really cares!"

These are just a few of the responses I have gotten from people I have spoken with.  The bottom line is, we all seem to be advocates for this mental health levy.  And that is fine.  That is great!  But now we need to prove it by voting for this levy on November 5.  Please take the time to come out and show your support by casting your vote.

We need you!

Help the We Care People Pass the Levy

We’ve been talking a lot about the levy recently.  That just goes to show how important it is.  On November 5, voters will have the opportunity to support the proposed levy for the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board for Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin counties. 
There is a strong need for mental health care in our communities.  Addiction is becoming more and more prevalent, for one thing, and the funds available to help those fighting addiction is decreasing.  That cannot continue if we want to help those in need of help the best we possibly can.

It is not necessarily addiction, however, that we need to address and help to improve.  Overall mental health is something the passing of this levy will focus on.  Whether you know it or not, chances are that someone in your life is struggling in some way, either with addiction, or an issue with mental health.  The reason you might not know about it is because our society is not yet fully comfortable with this issue.  There is still a stigma associated with mental health, and the MHRSB (We Care People) is attempting to erase that stigma.  Passing this levy, which will provide more funding, which in turn will provide more people with adequate treatment, will help to get rid of the stigma society has placed on mental illness.  The more people ask for help, the more the stigma disappears.  And the only way to help those who ask for help is to have enough funding to be able to help everyone.  That, in turn, produces better citizens and a better society.

SAFY (Safe Alternatives for Families and Youths) is a non-profit organization providing services for children and youth, and adults in some cases.  SAFY utilizes proven, evidence-based programming and offers, just to name a couple, substance abuse counseling and group counseling.  The more funding the MHRSB receives, the more people SAFY can help.  Diane Gable, director at SAFY, said of the levy’s passing, “We would be able to touch the lives of many instead of the few that present themselves to our mental health offices. Everyone has been touched by mental illness in some way, shape, or form, and it is important for people to know that there is help and it is manageable as well as preventable.”

Another valuable resource for children and adults alike, is PAX.  This is a research-based, proven classroom management structure involving kids “competing against” each other to earn rewards by refraining from class disruptions, inattention, or aggressive behavior.  Twenty studies have shown that classrooms that have implemented PAX reduced classroom disruptions 50-90%, and longitudinal studies show that children who have been involved with PAX are less likely, down the road, to demonstrate violent behavior or engage in drug use.  With the passing of this levy, more classrooms can be equipped with PAX.

Sara Dieringer, who is a PAX coach for grades K-12 in the St. Marys school district, said of the levy, “Well, the levy is important to me because it will allow expansion of programs in schools, including PAX. Obviously it's different for everyone, but I think we can all agree that with the passing of the levy more people will get services they need to address their mental health or substance abuse issues. PAX has proven to be beneficial to teachers and students in a short period of time. In the classrooms I'm involved with I have already seen less disruptions which allows for more teaching time. PAX brings out the best in the kids, and peer relations are improving. 

The passing of the levy means something different to everyone.  The one common thread, however, is that it will improve the lives of many.  Drastically.  Please help us care by voting to pass the levy on November 5.

Let's All Help to Improve the Community

I just celebrated my two-year sobriety anniversary on October 8.  That same day, I had a three-hour interview at Wright State University in Dayton, to get into their Rehabilitation Counseling:  Chemical Dependency Program.  At the end of the interview, I was told to expect to get a letter between one and three weeks, confirming if I’d been accepted or not.  I got an e-mail an hour and a half later, stating that I’ve been accepted.

Part of the reason I want to become a counselor for people with chemical dependencies is because I’ve had my own issues, and I want to help people with theirs.  I can relate to them.  Another reason I want to do it is because since I’ve been writing for the We Care People, it’s reinforced my passion for mental health awareness and wanting to help people.  Everyone who works for them wants to help people.  It’s in the title.

This is why the upcoming levy is so crucial.  The need for treatment of people with mental illness has risen, while the funding to provide that need has gone down.  We can’t help people to our best capacity in that situation.  And everyone deserves the opportunity to receive help and to become a fully functioning person in society.

Some people may think the levy doesn’t affect them, so why should they vote for it?  Well, it affects everyone.  The people who make up the society we live in will be affected in a positive way, and those people are the same ones who will hold jobs that will directly affect us.  Whether they go into nursing, retail, or the food services industry, they will affect us in some way.  Everyone we come into contact with us.  And wouldn’t you want the people who are affecting you day in and day out to be working up to their potential?  The passing of this levy will increase funding for the We Care People so that the people who are helped by us get the best possible treatment, improving the overall atmosphere in which we live.

This is also about the Golden Rule.  If you were an addict, someone with depression, or someone with PTSD, wouldn’t you want to be helped as much as you could?  We should want the same thing for our fellow citizens.  I have bipolar disorder.  I can say firsthand that, had I never received treatment, I don’t even know if I’d be here right now.  Care is so important.  

I hope to one day work somewhere like Coleman Behavioral Health, in part because I’ve seen how dedicated and caring the staff is.  They don’t turn people away.  They could do even more, serve more people, and serve them better if this levy passes.  
This is about equal rights.  We should all have the right to thorough health care, including mental health care.  This November, please help us by supporting this levy.

Please help us care.

Help Us Care So We Can Better Care For You

We are the We Care People, and we need you – everyone – to help us care. 

A lot of people don’t really know who we are when I tell them I work for the We Care People.  When I say it’s the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, they usually start to recognize better who we are and what we do.

This election is about getting the word out to everyone, exactly who we are, what we do, and why it is so important that we have the funding we need to help the people in our communities.

One organization which is funded by the We Care People is PVFF, or Partnership for Violence Free Families.  PVFF is made up of over 40 organizations which range in purposes from preventing bullying to preventing drug and alcohol abuse.

This is the key.  Prevention.  This levy will provide each organization which is funded by the MHRSB what they need to better serve our communities by preventing something like substance abuse, as opposed to treating it.  What we want, ideally, are communities that are thriving, full of individuals who are not addicts being treated for substance abuse, but rather, people who might be seeking resources that will help them cope with life issues in a healthy way.  We will be closer to achieving this dream with the passing of the levy.

Something else PVFF does is provide support groups for our communities.  I am a facilitator for one of the support groups, Shelter from the Storm.  This group is for people who are depressed or bipolar, and the group has been meeting for about 16 months now.  I can say from my own experience that this group has helped me so much.  These people have become my second family.  Even though I facilitate the group, I need it as much as any of the people who attend.  And I know how much some of them need it.  I know that this group has saved a life or two since it started.  I think it’s saved mine many times.  We just meet up and talk about what’s going on in everyone’s lives.  Our frustrations, our emotions, our depression.  Our depression.  It’s the one place we can all go and feel safe, and feel understood.  I look forward to my support group every time.  I love these people.

So that is another example of what can continue to be offered through PVFF, which is funded by MHRSB, which, of course, is why this levy matters.

It is so vital that we start talking about the importance of mental health.  That we start understanding a little better what would best serve our communities regarding mental health.  That we start caring about mental health.

On November 5, help us care.

Help Us Care About Changing Seasons

I wasn’t sure what to expect after I talked to the woman on the phone.  She had an accent I couldn’t quite place.  I had no idea what the agency was like that I was about to visit.

I reached Changing Seasons, and the first thing I saw was a group of people gathered around a table playing Scrabble.  They were sort of huddling over the game; they seemed really into it.  I did a scan of the large room and saw people from end to end, engaged in various activities.  

A woman stood up, leaving the Scrabble game, when she saw me enter the room.  This was Maha, the woman I’d spoken with on the phone.  I learned that she is Egyptian, which explains the unusual accent.  She greeted me warmly and invited me to sit down.
Changing Seasons is a part of Coleman Behavioral Health, which provides behavioral health to adults.  Coleman is funded by the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin counties.  Changing Seasons is basically a safe haven where adults can come and socialize with other adults, a place that isn’t the streets where people sell drugs, a place that isn’t the bar, where people get drunk, a place that isn’t the outside world in general, where people are tempted to commit crimes.

I sat down with a few people when I was there, to get their feedback.  Karen Sue said she likes Changing Seasons because it’s a place to come socialize and do a lot of activities.  “I enjoy doing the artwork and playing games.  I love to sing and do karaoke.  I also love to write,” she said.  “I’ve made a lot of new friends, and they’ve supported me in a lot of things.”  She continued, “We’re also having an open house soon, and I’m looking forward to that.  Not a lot of people in the community know about us,” she said.
I then sat down with George, who also said he likes Changing Seasons because it’s a place to socialize.  “I like the people,” he said.  “We’re just a bunch of friends.  It helps my anxiety and gives me a positive attitude, raises my self-esteem,” he said.”  He continued, “It’s a secure place to come.  No harm is gonna come to anybody here.”

When I sat down with Lawrence, he said, “Changing Seasons is somewhere to go.  If this place weren’t here, I’d be doing nothing.  Here I can play pool, play ping pong, just keep busy.”  He went on, “If this place weren’t here, I’d be in jail.  This place keeps me out of trouble; I’m not out fighting or stealing now.”  He said, “It’s a fun place to be and meet people.  I try to come every day.”

Once I sat down with a few of Changing Seasons’ regulars, I talked to Maha about her thoughts.  “People need something like this.  It lessens crimes.  People can come here and eat.  That way if they’re hungry and have no money, they won’t be stealing from a store.”  She also mentioned the open house that is coming up.  “We are doing an open house for donations.  Lots of people don’t know what Changing Seasons is,” she said.  “This place is very much needed.  If we had more money, we would update the bathrooms, paint the walls, get better furniture, and update the kitchen.”  

Before I left, I told Maha that I’d love to volunteer and help with anything they needed.  I was very moved by what I saw at Changing Seasons.  Everyone was so nice and welcoming, and it just made me so happy to see a place like this.  A place where the lost, the lonely, the misplaced, the addicted in recovery, can go.  These are all great people who’ve finally found a place where they belong.  And I want to support it in any way I can.  As Maha stated, more funds are needed to improve Changing Seasons and keep it going.  Keeping it going means that many people are safely inside playing Scrabble, not out on the streets committing crimes.

The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board is trying to pass a levy which would provide more money, which in turn would help agencies like Changing Seasons.  We care so much about all of the agencies and organizations that the MHRSB funds.  Agencies like Changing Seasons.  If you’re skeptical, I urge you to visit some of of these places and see how much they’re helping the community.  

Please, help us care.

I was sitting in bed, eating my Greek frozen yogurt while surfing the Internet.  Anderson Cooper was on as background noise.  (I need that.)  Something pulled my attention away from Etsy, however, and it was a girl crying on TV.  She wanted everyone to know that her mother was not just a number.  She was a person.  Not a statistic.  She liked Hall and Oates.  She counted bluebirds for a local refuge.  She was months away from retiring.  She would do anything for anyone.

I watched the tears streaming down the girl’s face, thinking about how I was sitting there eating yogurt and aimlessly browsing online, when that girl on my TV…

That girl is real.  

She’s real.  This person has just lost her mom, due to a senseless act of violence, and I’m just watching her.  The same way I watched the Boston bombing survivors on TV.  The same way I watch any tragedy unfold.

I have never experienced the level of grief this girl must be going through.  I can’t even begin to understand it.  And something about watching this particular outpouring of grief on national TV suddenly struck me.  

Another mass shooting in this country.  Another time to ask, “Why?” and interview bystanders.  Another chance to broadcast the heartache of people who are strangers to us.  At this point, the mass shooting sprees seem to happen on a weekly basis; there are so many.  It’s hard to keep track of them anymore.  Not even shootings.  Sometimes bombings, like Boston.  Acts of violence.  But have we started to view it as if it were a movie?  Have we all become completely desensitized?  

I believe we have, at least to a degree.  I’m sure I have, and I don’t watch violent movies or TV shows.  The thing is, though, instead of always trying to put the pieces together after the tragedy’s happened, why aren’t we doing more to prevent it from happening in the first place?

This time it happened at the Washington Navy Yard.  Aaron Alexis killed twelve people.  Twelve people.  Twelve people.  Twelve people.  Let it sink in for a second.  Think about it.  Think of the twelve people you love most, and imagine if they had been the victims.  

Twelve people.

It’s not fair.  It’s not right, and it’s not fair.  Unfortunately, it’s already happened, so there’s nothing that can be done to prevent heartache in this case. Yet we should be learning from these acts of violence.  What always comes out as soon as the gunman, or bomber, or bad guy is identified?

Mental.  Illness.

It always goes back to that.  How was the person’s psychological health?  It’s already coming out that Aaron Alexis was mentally ill.  I realize hindsight is 20/20, but could more have been done?

Were the signs there and ignored?

Of course, it would be impossible to prevent everyone from committing violent acts.  Other factors besides mental health come into play, and many people can hide their symptoms.  I do think, however, that we can do more to help those who are in need of mental health services.

In this area we have the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin Counties.  The MHRSB provides funding for several services.  The Coleman Center treats adults for mental health issues and also provides drug and alcohol treatment.  The Family Resource Centers help children and youth with mental health issues, offer drug and alcohol treatment, and do school outreach programs.  PVFF specializes in prevention programs for safe kids and communities.  UMADAOP offers alcohol and drug treatment and intervention.  SAFY focuses on youth and adult mental health and alcohol and drug treatment, and also does school outreach programs.

While we can’t prevent the tragedy from happening in Washington, we could possibly prevent one from happening here.  We can all do our own part in helping to create a dialogue about mental illness.  We can help erase the stigma.  We can help refer someone for treatment before a tragedy happens.

We can help keep grief-stricken, crying daughters off the news.

A Survivor's Story

She thinks of him every day.  There isn’t a day that he doesn’t enter her mind.  Some days, he’s all she thinks about. 

September is Suicide Prevention month, dedicated to drawing awareness to a very prominent and prevalent issue in our society.  More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.  Locally, in 2012 there were 18 suicides in Allen County, 3 in Hardin County, and 4 in Auglaize County.

Valerie Coffey lives in Wapakoneta.  Six years ago, her17-year-old son, Scott, died by suicide. He had multiple mental health diagnoses, and still it seemed that doctors never quite got it right. Scott had been involved in several situations at school and with the law, earning himself the reputation as a troublemaker.  In reality, he was a teenager who was misunderstood.  He was unable to perform to the standards people were placing on him, and he didn’t always realize how he was coming across.  He was being construed as being bad, or a criminal, when in actuality he was simply hurting inside.

“It became exhausting for all of us; we didn’t know what to do with him or the system anymore.  Everything seemed like it was broken,” said Coffey.  The year before he died, however, he started going to Apollo Career Center in Lima.  “It seemed like everything had changed.  He could be a college student, something we thought could never happen,” Coffey said.

Scott had a car accident a couple months before he died.  He suffered a head injury from the accident, which left him with some frustrating difficulties with his thinking.  He then was involved in an incident that got him into trouble with law enforcement again. He was afraid he would end up going to jail, or losing his license, or being on probation.  He was afraid.  Scott was also having some issues with his girlfriend. He had a big change in his meds four days before he died.

The morning of his death, Scott crashed a guy’s motorcycle.  He was afraid of the consequences there, too.  It was, as Coffey described, a “perfect storm,” and he didn’t know how to get out. That night, Scott’s girlfriend called, wondering where he was. Coffey looked in his room, and he wasn’t there. There was worry in Scott’s girlfriend’s voice when she said, “You better look for him.  Something’s wrong.” 

Scott’s mom finally found him behind the fence in their backyard. She then saw that he had a shotgun.  “He said, ‘You can come back; I won’t hurt you.’ We talked for 15 or 20 minutes. I Hoped things would de-escalate. I just couldn’t seem to talk him down from the place he was.”  Coffey said that in retrospect she should have called 911, but she didn’t know what to do. 

Just then Scott’s girlfriend and her grandmother showed up.  “We tried to tell him people loved him, that he was loved, that nothing in life was big enough to do this…”  Scott’s phone rang and it was the boy he’d borrowed the shotgun from. “Scott started saying, ‘You have to go,’ and I was thinking that no one would do this in front of someone.  We were pleading with him,” Coffey said.  “I was afraid for him, and for us,” Coffey said.  “I started backing up, and Scott’s girlfriend and her grandmother ran away. I dialed 911.”
The second the dispatcher asked what the emergency was, the gun went off.

Everything just stopped for a second, time just stopped.  Stood still. “It was like slow motion, everything is not in real time, but it is,” Coffey said.

“ I feel like I never stopped feeing sorry for his situation. It was so pitiful that he felt like he had nothing else to do. He was just afraid it would be more trouble, more misunderstanding, more misdiagnoses. His hope was just shot. He just couldn’t do it anymore,” Coffey said.   “You just look back and wonder…he had some suicide talk, but it was just like teenage talk.”

“No matter how benign it may seem…when people talk about hating their lives, to them, they think this will never end,” Coffey said. “You have to ask those questions.  Do you want to hurt yourself? Are you thinking about killing yourself? Do you have a plan?”

After Coffey went through the loss of her son and the PTSD that she’s experienced as a result, she feels that she has to share her experience with people who hopefully don’t have to go through the same thing, and people who have gone through the same thing, to know we’re not alone. 

“It doesn’t necessarily get better. It gets different,” she said. “You learn to cope. There are gifts in tragedy. You figure it out and you get the tools.  It helps to have a community who embraces your loss as if it’s their loss. I want to be an understanding, compassionate, empathetic person and point people in the direction of where they can get hope. Families are so devastated by this but they can’t really support each other, even if it’s the same family member. You had different relationships with that person. You’re all having such a rough time yourselves; it helps to have someone who’s not in the inner circle.” 

That’s why events like the Suicide Walk, to support survivors, are so important.  Coffey is a regular attendee of the Walk and said that, “We all really found that doing something together as a unit and everybody who was there for that same purpose was really helpful. We do some grieving by ourselves, and do some collectively. It’s a good outward showing to the community that might make people stop and think a little bit. It makes people think about what the situation is.”

The Mental Health Recovery and Services Board of Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin counties provides funding for several programs and agencies such as PVFF.  PVFF is a part of the annual Suicide Prevention and Awareness Walk, which is on September 28 this year, from ten until noon.  It begins at the We Care Crisis Center, located at 799 South Main Street in Lima, and goes to the Square and back.  It ends with a memorial service and balloon release to honor those who have died.

Because she will never stop thinking of him.

Mental Illness in Children

“The middle one scares me.”

This is what Ryan said to me when we sat down to talk about his mental illness, and his suspicion of his child’s mental illness.
“I believe what I have is passed from my mother – she has nine brothers and sisters – four are bipolar, counting her.  Three of my cousins killed themselves; they were also bipolar.”  Ryan was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 12, the same age he was when he tried to commit suicide.  He said it “got swept under the rug” within his family when he tried to kill himself, and that his mom is in denial about her own disorder.

He has now learned about his mental illness so he can handle it while living life and raising a family.  “I’ve enlightened myself on my disorder, my triggers.  Knowledge is everything.”
Ryan said he is just now noticing signs of mental illness in his middle daughter, who is now 12, the age that “it all fell apart” for him.

“I can definitely see it in her,” he said.  “The highs, the lows.  The cloud that follows her.  She’s a dark child.  She’s not very social, she’s depressed a lot.  And then she’ll be really happy for a while.  It’s extreme behavior.”  Ryan said he’s been around kids his entire life, and that he knows his daughter is “just not normal.”  He said, “I can see it.  She’s so much like me, it’s crazy.”

There are various warning signs to look for in children when it comes to mental illness.  According to the Mayo Clinic, you should watch for mood changes, like feelings of sadness that last for at least two weeks.  Also look for severe mood swings that cause problems at home or school.  Intense feelings, like overwhelming fear or worry that interferes with day-to-day living should be seen as a warning sign.  Rapid breathing or a racing heartbeat can accompany these feelings.  Children who exhibit a difficulty concentrating or who have a hard time focusing and sitting still when they should be, could be showing signs that mental illness is present.  Changes in behavior or personality could also denote a mental illness in a child.

While these are only a few of the signs to look for, if you’re concerned that your child might have a mental illness, what matters is that you start somewhere.  It’s important to identify if there is any mental illness in order to help the child cope and receive treatment.

Ryan said he and his whole family are going to start going to family counseling.  “After my last episode, I sat them down and told them I’m bipolar, this is what it is, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”  Ryan continued, “They asked some questions, but I think they pretty much know.  It was almost a relief for them, I think.  It opened up some things that we’ve talked about since.”  As for his specific fear for his middle daughter, Ryan said, “I’m doing my best to try to make things easy for her.  I talk to her a lot and try to do what I wish people did for me when I was her age.”

To learn more about how to detect mental illness and substance abuse in children, you can register for the free summit hosted by the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize, and Hardin Counties.  The summit is on September 26 and will be at the Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center in Lima.  You can learn more about the summit and register at

I Love/Hate Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg has both greatly enriched - and ruined - my life.

Facebook is one of my addictions. It’s no secret to anyone. It’s awesome to stay in touch with high school and college friends who I never would otherwise. I enjoy seeing what people are up to, what they ended up doing with their lives, what their children look like. I also love to write, and I love to make people laugh. So it’s perfect for me.


I love Facebook. And I hate Facebook. As much as it has the power to elevate my mood, it has the same power to crush it. It makes me feel good to entertain people. I’m sarcastic in my everyday life, and I just update Facebook the way I talk. I’d prefer to be with friends in person, having a conversation, but since that’s not feasible with our busy lives, jobs, and kids, a social network will have to do. So I’ve become addicted. It’s hard for me to ignore a notification. I want to respond to it. Right away. And then they keep coming, and coming…

I’m a people pleaser. I wish I weren’t. I’ve been trying to change this my whole life. I want everyone to like me. Logically, I know that’s not possible. Not everyone likes Oprah, and I can’t even fathom that. So I should know not everyone is going to like me. I mean, I’m not giving away cars or Uggs for no reason at all.

I feel good about every “like” or positive comment I get on a status update. It gives me a rush, which fuels the addiction. At the same time, when something “bad” happens, like I notice a friend has deleted me, I feel like a knife has been shoved through my heart.

 Not so much when it’s someone I didn’t know too well, but definitely when it’s a person who I’d considered a real friend.
I’ve been told Facebook isn’t “real life,” but I don’t know what that means. My updates are things that I’d actually say, which is part of my personality and who I am, so to me, a person deleting me is his or her way of saying he or she doesn’t like me. I know I’m overly sensitive. I am. I take everything personally.

I know part of this mindset comes from being bipolar, which has been described as “having no skin.” So everything hurts me. When I’m manic, I update Facebook. A lot. It’s like I can’t stop. I used to drink. I used to smoke. Now I write little snippets detailing stuff my kids say or observations about random happenings throughout the day. I’m sure I annoy people. I know I must take up some people’s entire newsfeed. Still…

I can’t stop.

I’ve taken breaks. It’s hard. Every time I get a thought in my head that I think is funny or clever, it’s like I’m bursting at the seams to let it out. I’m not sure why. But on the upside, at least this addiction isn’t destroying my lungs or liver.

What I’d really like to do is get a hold on my addictive personality. It’s always been there. If I could manage it better, maybe I could relax and not feel as strong of an urge to update this social network as often as I do. Maybe I could begin to learn that not everyone likes me, and that’s okay. Maybe. Or maybe I should start Facebookers Anonymous. Yeah. 

I’m gonna go make an update about that.

About Me

I have an MA in literature from Eastern Michigan University and I write a couple of regular columns for The Delphos Herald. I am the mother of two young girls, and the wife of a firefighter. I am also bipolar (with generalized anxiety disorder) which somewhat accounts for my occupied mind. I rely on sarcasm the way others rely on oxygen.
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