Bringing Peace and Happiness to the Psych Ward
An article which ran in the NAMI Voice newsletter, Spring 2013
As a member of the National Alliance of Mental Illness and lecturer in a psych ward, I introduce a meditation exercise to my groups. I have everyone get comfortable and relaxed and count from toe to head, saying self-affirmations, as they breathe in and take a deep breath out. After they visualize a box next to them and wrap up all their cares and woes in the box with a string, I have them send it up to a fluffy white cloud until it disappears. Then I have them begin to focus on their feet. I say, “I let go of the past, breath in breath out, I love myself the way I am, I let go of resentment, the blood is circulating well in my body etc. as I name each body part. When I reach 10, I say, “Think of a special place. It is the happiest place that you have been.” Then I give examples of happy places like a wedding, laughing with family and friends, walking on a beach, writing a book, singing a tune to yourself on the street, seeing a baby born. Then I count to five and have them remember the place again and then back down to one. “You deserve to be well.”
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there are estimated 23% American adults and 23% American children who suffer from a mental disorder. About 5 million American adults and 5 million American children and adolescents suffer from a serious mental condition that interferes with their functioning. My goal is to help individuals with these mental disabilities. I am compassionate about victims of stress, abuse, and depression since I have experienced an extremely traumatic childhood, mentally and physically, and I have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, better known as schizo-affective disorder. A tool I use to convey my experiences with is to talk and write about my problems as much as I possibly can. That way a flow of communication opens up between me and my groups and the mental health provider.
I’ve been through some unpleasant setbacks in my life. For instance: My mom committed suicide and my brother died of AIDS, so I wanted to reach out to others who suffered with diseases similar or more severe than mine. That’s one of the reason’s I became a lecturer.
Because I was fortunate to have had a good repertoire with my psychiatrist of 20 years, who found the right combination of medication for my mental condition, I was able to help lead people afflicted with mental illness on a same road I traveled on to happiness. Counseling aided in my achieving this goal.
Art has helped me accomplish skills and interaction has helped develop a peace of mind. Two of my oil paintings hang in NAMI Multnomah’s office today and five were accepted for NAMI Multnomah’s Music and Art for the Mind show. I have found my happy place and have become centered. My life is fulfilled. I am so grateful and fortunate to be a part of NAMI. What a gift it is to share such a common bond with such great people. I feel myself in the midst of experiencing an overwhelming abundance of pride, peace, and intellectual energy.
Clearly written, beautifully expressed. You may not know that I and my family have suffered because I have sever depression with suicidal tendencies. I was fortunate to have a husband who loved me unconditionally and a God who saved my life more than once. Everything got better as I aged. Today I live a peaceful and mostly stress free life. I’m glad you have a good life too. We’ve come a long way.
Thank you for your heartfelt message, Judy. Depression is a tough cookie to tackle. Remember the good times and that the tough times are gone. Glad you are doing so well and that you still have that wonderful spirit about you. We are strong for each other.
Sherry, I really enjoyed your article in the NAMI newsletter and am very impressed that you have the oppty to have a positive impact on people who are living with Mental Illness. I sent a request to connect on LinkedIn and would like to chat with you briefly when it is convenient. Liz R.