Some of us are warriors without having served in a physical war or battle. #MentalHealth #Warrior

I just wanna share this thought, I dunno maybe its possible someone else might share in this same thought. Tomorrow is Veterans day. And we will honor our vets who served in the military, ones that went into battle for our country, ones who experienced & endured trauma, most returning home in a mental condition that they didn’t have before they left, leaving themselves and loved ones to cope with a new way of life as everyone moves forward, with some families having to be sensitive to the words that are spoken, places they go, exposure to things on television, a more heightened awareness of simplistic things and activities, conversations, odors, sounds and smells that have become so complex, creating an eggshell way of life.

I said all that to say this, my son has never served in a physical war for the military and never truly seen people dying in front of him, but he has suffered just as much mental health trauma without being in a physical war, he left for school one day many years ago, and came back home a completely different person, he has suffered much trauma inside his mind at times, he is working through his mental health battles and he too is triggered by certain things that would never have bothered him before. He suffers from night tremors, nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety every single time he has to leave the house to go to school or step foot into an atmosphere where there are large crowds. His diagnosis is bipolar disorder and he has experienced much trauma mentally and emotionally. Only someone else who has walked a similar journey could ever truly grasp what I’m talking about here. I consider him a warrior in his own right. I don’t need anyone to validate it for me.

He will probably never be acknowledged for his own heroism of simply treating others kindly while talking to someone who is suicidal, encouraging someone who’s depressed, giving his last to help another, all the while everyone only sees what they want. What they don’t know is the unseen battles he has endured in silence, while persevering through being hospitalized, ridiculed and yet graduating high school with honors, becoming a state champ for his sporting event. He will probably never be recognized for his achievements in ways that he is searching for, but I will always advocate for him and for his rights.

People only see what they are educated enough to see. They don’t recognize invisible disabilities within a person like my son and his character and personality can mask it well. He is a fun-loving, comical, person. Maybe that’s why this most recent battle he just went through wasn’t able to be recognized as a person in need of mental health first aid. He experienced another horrible episode of mania while away from home and on campus. As a result of his mental health condition that we know as bipolar disorder, he became severely symptomatic and extremely elated with his behaviors. Lots of people reported him as displaying odd behaviors and some made accusations that he was probably high on drugs, yet no one reached out on his behalf to help him. It wasn’t until he came home and I was contacted by the school that I learned he was in mania. Anyone who’s never lived with mania or been upfront, close and personally alongside a person experiencing a manic episode would probably panic on behalf of the individual suffering.

I wrote this article, not to dismiss any veteran of war, because I am extremely greatful for every vet who has volunteered to go through extraordinary life changing, life threatening events and the risk they chose to take to save civilians and fight for our country.

I merely wrote this article because with the same admiration I have for our vets, its the same way I view my son’s bravery and courage to keep living on beyond the many battles, traumas he has faced. And I only think of that comparison on a level of respect and compassion.

I was once seated inside of a mental health training along with several veterans, and there was a older vet who sat across from me and began to share his story of having served in the war and now living with the aftermath and PTSD but managing it the best he could. When I began to share with him about my own son, his response was so compassionate and kind, leading me to this very thought……..⏬⏬⏬

Two very different wars, two very different battles, but somehow it seems like very similar outcomes that bring the mind to feel in ways that no one else can ever comprehend. Thank you for hearing me.

So I thought about how much we have compassion for those who served our country by choosing to go to battle, but what about our loved ones who went into battle fighting a war that they didn’t choose, a mental health war!

#BipolarDisorder #MentalIllnessIsWartoo #MentalHealthWarrior #SeethePersonNotTheirIllness #Respect

Thanks for being here and much love, prayers, respect & support to you and your family! And a special thank you to our veterans. Always remember everyone’s journey, experience, story is very different and to be respected because its their own unique truth.

-Erika

“What’s wrong with him?” #specialneeds #mentalhealth

As a mom to my son, Erik. Down thru the years I have encountered some very nice people, but sadly I have also encountered some very nasty and ugly people. I have been asked by people of all ages from his peers to adults, “WHATS WRONG WITH HIM?” Mostly when he wasn’t talking yet and he was only able to make sounds and body movements for expressing excitement. Back then he used sign language mostly.

I have also witnessed others like my son being mistreated, overlooked, stared upon with disgust, and it really takes me to a place that others rarely see I can go. YES, I have a button so don’t push it. I can turn into the incredible Hulk when you mistreat my child.

So here’s a challenge for life to the ones who are uneducated, uninformed, maybe willfully ignorant, or possibly just a mean spirited person.

When it comes to a negative perspective about individuals with special healthcare challenges, RATHER THAN ASKING YOURSELF “WHATS WRONG WITH HIM/HER?” How about you take a moment to get to know the person so you can learn everything that is right about them? Just because a person is nonverbal doesn’t mean they aren’t able to comprehend how you treat them or what your saying. Just because a person talks loudly doesn’t mean that they are angry or needs to be restrained. Just because a person is wheelchair bound doesn’t mean they don’t still have other abilities, some that may blow you away. Just because a person may appear to be “limited” doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t be able to break the “limits” you think can’t be broken. Just because a person may look very different, act very different, respond differently, or express themselves differently, doesn’t give another person the right to mistreat them, shun them, or say nasty things about them. After all, we’re all different already, no one is the same. So next time your out and you run into someone who’s living with obvious special challenges, take a moment to smile at them, say hello, or greet them. Instead of staring, bickering, and acting like their contagious and going to infect you with something.

And to the people who are so perfect and like to stigmatize families that have children or loved ones with special challenges. I would just like to say this, WE DON’T HAVE DEMONS, WE ARE NOT CURSED, WE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG, AND WE ARE BEING PUNISHED BY GOD BECAUSE WE HAVE GIVEN BIRTH TO A CHILD WHO’S DEVELOPED CHALLENGES!!!!!!! I did everything that I know as right to take care of myself, my health and diet, and spiritual walk with God and yes my life still had to endure hardships, various trials and tribulations, go through GREAT suffering, but in spite of it ALL, all these have taught me, compassion, understanding, empathy, patience, faith, how to keep faith during hardships, and to have love for my enemies and ones who despitefully used me.

My son loves God and I believe he has a very special connection to our heavenly father that no one else on this earth has the same.

I’ll never forget when my son was so much younger and we were inside of Walgreens standing in line, and at that time he was probably 5 years old and really just began to talk and learned to say Hi to people and he absolutely loved to get a response and interaction from others. So he would say Hi more than just once and keep saying Hi until he got a reply back. So he said Hi to this lady standing in front of us because she made eye contact with us, and she just kept staring, but said nothing back, then I thought well maybe she doesn’t talk or she could be deaf or something, but NOPE, she heard him because he kept saying Hi, and she deliberately ignored him, and just stared at him like he had a disease, she finally turned and began talking to a person in line. So as Erik kept saying Hi, I turned to my son and said, You know what Erik, its okay if she doesn’t want to say Hi, some people are just rude and don’t realize just how special you are and who they are standing in line with. And he just got excited and at that time he would gesture his arms and make this whoofing sound to express his excitement.

You have to give people time to develop, grow and learn at their own pace sometimes. Sometimes its not always a ONE SIZE FITS ALL world for everyone.

And it’s not always a fair assessment to say a child or teen isn’t able to learn and fail them in your class, just because they are struggling. Have you considered that maybe just maybe it could be your teaching style that needs a different approach or a tweak? Sometimes people are good at doing their own job, but it doesn’t always mean they are good at teaching what they do. Sometimes people are good learners but not good teachers. I’ve witnessed this in college and when I worked an actual 9to5 and had to punch the clock.

I challenge you to make and take time to learn about others and get to know and understand the person you may have looked at “differently” & learn about their journey and maybe you can come to respect and accept who they are.

So it’s because of moments and memories like these that have made me continue to speak out and speak up on behalf of my own son and others who live the daily grind just like me and my family.

Thanks for listening. -EB

Me, mental illness, stigma and speaking out.

This is my experience as I know mental illness, stigma and speaking out. I have a very unique journey, from both sides of the world, one being the “special needs” community, and the other being the isolated world of “mental illness”. Because for some reason God chose to let my children live with a variety of challenges, whether you consider them, “invisible disabilities, high functioning, special needs, intellectual disabilities, mentally challenged, developmentally delayed, etc” the list goes on and on and I am so used to it, that those are just words now. I could care less. I use them myself because that’s how some can identify with what I’m explaining. I do however care when it comes to offensive derogatory words or stigma!

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As a caregiver & mom of children who are living with mental health challenges, and developmental delays and when my world became flipped upside down and torn to shreds in those intense “Never would have imagined this could happen to me” moments, I went thru various stages of emotions.

First, was the “why” phase. When I ask God why is this happening to my child? Second, was the “anger” phase. When I grew angry at the fact that life as I once knew It, became a stranger to me and there was nothing that could be done to change what was standing and existing right in front of me. Then came the “what, how, when, why” phase. This is where things seemed like it was going to remain stuck in turmoil and all the questions came into play. What if they never bounce back to their normal self? What if they will never be able to overcome this? What if I have lost the child I once knew before? What will their future look like? What if others find out what they’ve went through, will they be treated different? What if I lose friends myself? How did this happen? When did things change? Did I miss something? Why did it happen? Who do I turn to for help? Who can I talk to about such personal and scary stuff without being stigmatized? These were just some of my concerns and questions when my world flipped upside down the first time, during my son’s 8th grade year.

Now, nearly 6 years later. After having educated my own self about mental health and mental illnesses, and becoming involved with advocacy. My questions and concerns, and feelings have shifted. Now I ask. Why don’t people want to learn more about mental illnesses, and symptoms and how to identify a person in crisis? When will others realize that mental illnesses are brain disorders and they are caused by something medical, yet it’s mostly always labeled as “mental” so it’s dismissed that bipolar, schizophrenia are medicaly related? What if it was YOU, what if this happened to you, how would you want others to treat you? Why does the media continue to make every person living with mental illness look like a evil person? When are we going to see the people who are living successfully with mental illness? When are we going to see the commercials that someone with bipolar 1 disorder, overcame and graduated college? What would you do if your own brain had some thing similar to a heart attack? Why does there seem to be a separation between a person who has Autism, versus a person who has both Autism and Bipolar 1? Or has one but not the other? How would you feel if you were stigmatized because your child became diagnosed with Autism or Bipolar? And people said you must be cursed because your kids have issues? Why is it even okay that the media is allowed to portray false representations of mental illness?How can we eradicate stigma? What’s it going to take to eradicate stigma? Why isn’t it mandatory to be educated to the student body in high schools nationwide and staff? When will ER staff learn how to respond and what to do effectively in a mental health crisis? When will others learn that mental illness isn’t like a cold that you can catch? When will others see that NOT every individual who has a mental illness also has a drug addiction? When will people realize that NO one, NOT one person is exempt from becoming mentally ill? I say that to drive home a point, and some can disagree and maybe this is my angry phase once again, but when are people going to realize that just as much and as “normal” as my son was prior to his mental break, and as healthy as he ate and athletic as he is, and intelligent as he is, IT still wasn’t enough to keep bipolar from blowing our way and impacting his life. He was born on time, no complications, met every milestone on time or early in his development. Smart as a whip. So it doesn’t matter who you are, how healthy you eat, how active you are, what your age is, because for us, it was like one day this, and the following day literally EVERYTHING CHANGED! So learn about mental health, educate yourself. What happened to my family, can very well at any time happen to yours. Just as similar as a person who has a sudden cardiac arrest after sailing along thru life just fine, this is how I felt my son was suffering from a sudden misfire in his brain. And I truly hope and pray that one day we can find prevention, that mental illness can be detected early in children, instead of waiting until 18 to get a diagnosis. I hope that EEG’s or blood tests one day will be able to identify specifics of what looks like bipolar, schizophrenia, autism, borderline. I pray for everyone to become better informed. Especially those who are in uniforms and in a first responder role, so they can help people receive appropriate and effective treatment. I pray that mental health laws would enforced with better outcomes for both the individual and the caregiver. I pray that there would be a better more efficient way to identify someone in a mental health crisis, rather than ALWAYS having to treat them as if their on drugs or high off of them just because some symptoms are presently the same. Yet every second is crucial for a persons brain and the trauma it is going thru. I pray for better science and medical treatment.

When will the media begin showing the positive successes of individuals who live with mental illness as college graduates, high school honor students, successful engineers, game developers? Instead of always portraying the few that have had not so good outcomes. Yet the media always shows the person who commits a violent crime, and quick to mention their “mentally ill” but fails to often mention the other facts that they’ve stopped taking their medication and began self medicating.

Mental illnesses aren’t what causes evil. Evil meditations cause people to become evil, not the mental illness. I’m just saying from experience, not all people who have a mental illness are evil. Yes its possible for an evil person to have a mental illness, but again its not the mental illness that drives evil.

Mental illness often times gets the blame for heinous crimes. This is why stigma continues. Because we’re missing all the facts people! It seems like whenever a heinous crime is in the media, and Mental illness is mentioned, that alone overshadows all the remaining components to that person’s character and choices which influenced their decision to commit a heinous crime.

Mental illness is often depicted in movies as something “crazy”, “psycho”, or “dark”, “evil” because they take a character, write that he has a Mental illness and portray him as such horrific things. And this is what we support people. To those who like those horror flicks, or killer movies, which in my opinion feeds the stigma. You’ll NEVER get it, until or unless someone near and dear to you becomes sick with a mental illness. Then and only then will you view things in a different light, will you then become a little more sensitive to things you never were before. Anyways, I know what I know and so it doesn’t and will not matter what others opinions are to my own facts as I have lived them. There’s an old saying, just keep on living and after while…….

I guess I can’t expect everyone to get it! Especially those who haven’t lived a similat journey. And btw, no it’s not all peaches and cream. It’s a lot of sleepless nights, walking on eggshells, and alot of effort goes into continual caregiving and giving a care. But when you’ve walked a similar path to that of mine, then and only then will you get it. If you have questions, please contact me privately, don’t post a long comment.

Anyways….

The people I have met are very inspiring. They are some of the most kind-hearted, fragile, soft spoken, upbeat, funny, energetic, loving, compassionate individuals I have ever met.

I have had a very unique opportunity to meet individuals who are battling everyday with their mental health, yet because their mental illness is “invisible” to others, their mixed in and combined within the general pool of applicants, students, interns, positions, classes, etc. And to their credit, it is no ones business unless they choose to share that they battle depression, Anxiety, bipolar, etc. Yet these same individuals are just as successful, have graduated with honors, have went onto college, have become famous athletes, have became well known in society, but only few have chose to break their silence and share their journey of how they have not allowed their mental illness to cripple them. I wish anyone who has a respectable platform who has fought tooth and nail, would share to inspire others, educate the general public, and give hope to family members.

I am like Martin Luther King Jr, and I too have a dream. I dream that one day every person will be educated about mental illness and eradicate stigma that continues to exist due to ignorance and false representations. I dream that one day there will be a medical procedure to quickly and accurately identify people who are in mental health decline, rather than treating them as a drug addict or violent aggressor. I dream that we will find a cure for mental illness. I dream for a better future for individuals who live with bipolar, schizophrenia, ptsd, ADHD, autism, aspergers, borderline personality, and all others. I dream that I will live long too see change for the better. I dream that there would be equal compassion for every one who battles an illness, cancer, disease or life impacting, debilitating sickness. I dream that individuals who battle with mental illness will receive just as much compassion as individuals who battle cancer or autism or other life altering ailments.

If you’ve read this and are out of touch, uninformed or misinformed please take and make time to become in touch, informed and accurately educated about how to help someone in crisis. You could save a life!

To those who follow the articles I write, once again, thank you for being here. I know it’s been awhile. I appreciate your support and don’t take it lightly. And thank you to those who share my articles on their social platforms and outlets.

Blessings to all! – E. Brooks