Author:Paul Gilmartin

Email from Misty

Hi Paul, I just recently started listening to your podcast and am only on episode 44 so I’m not sure what links you have provided for your listeners. There are two links below that I find may be helpful. One is for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network and the other is for the National Alliance of Mental Illness. Your podcast has been a calming presence for me. I hope to start interacting more through the forums and future surveys. I listen to you mostly while I am at work which is what I am doing now. I just wanted to send the links while I had them on the brain. Keep up the good work. Talk to you again soon, I’m sure! Thanks for everything that you do! Misty

http://www.rainn.org /

http://www.nami.org/

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Some Good Tips from Onlinepsychologydegree.net

8 Exercises to Improve Your Mental Health

As we age, our mental health deteriorates and we become less sharp. But just because your memory is fading and your problem-solving skills have weakened throughout the years doesn’t mean you can’t turn it around and improve your mental health today. All our brains need are some good teasers and training to come back to life. Here are eight exercises to improve your mental health.

  1. Exercise:

    Daily exercise and physical activity prevents disease and makes you stronger, but it also improves your mental health. Ever heard of a little thing called endorphins? These feel-good chemicals are released during exercise and other activities and have been known to increase feelings of euphoria, happiness, and well-being. In addition to the endorphin increase, exercise also reduces stress and anxiety, the common culprits of depression and other debilitating mental disorders. It doesn’t matter if you walk, bike, swim, or weight-lift; all types of exercise are good for the body and mind.

  2. Meditation:

    The act of sitting still, closing your eyes, and clearing your thoughts can do wonders for your mind and body. Meditation means something different to everyone, and the benefits of regular meditation range from increased self-awareness and heightened spiritual connection to improved mood. Meditation exercises can significantly improve your mental health by allowing you to let go of negative thoughts and feelings and reach a higher consciousness. You’ll likely feel relaxed and rejuvenated after meditating and be ready to take on the day or end the day with a clear, healthy mindset.

  3. Memorization:

    One of the best ways to improve your mental health and increase your brain power is to memorize bits of information and recite them. Whether you memorize a grocery list, a phone number, or a joke, memorization is a valuable tool and beneficial exercise for the brain. Remember, it’s just as important to test your long-term memory as it is to test your short-term memory. An easy way to do this is to talk to an old friend or family member and try to recall specific names, dates, and events that require you to tap into your stored memories.

  4. Learn something new:

    A great way to exercise your brain and improve your mental health is to learn something new like speaking a foreign language, playing an instrument, or mastering a recipe. When you learn a new skill, you encounter different challenges that force you to step out of your comfort zone, make mistakes, and reach new goals. Once you’ve mastered a new skill, you’ll feel an overwhelming sense of fulfillment and self-satisfaction, both of which are excellent mental health boosts.

  5. Solve problems:

    Whether it’s math problems or scheduling issues, problem-solving is an incredibly important skill we use every day. There are many techniques and skills involved in problem-solving, and those who regularly exercise this area of the brain may improve their overall mental health. Don’t shy away from problems; try to solve them on your own. Although the process of solving a problem can be frustrating, you’ll feel proud and empowered when you find a resolution.

  6. Test your concentration:

    No matter your age, you can always work on improving your attention and concentration. You can do so by exercising your brain with games and teasers that stimulate your concentration skills and help you retain more information. Improving your concentration skills can help you in a job and other tasks that require you to pay close attention and memorize important information.

  7. Do puzzles and games:

    Puzzles and games challenge your brain in so many positive ways and can greatly increase your overall mental health. Working on puzzles and games will require you to use critical thinking, problem solving, and reasoning skills. These exercises stimulate your mind, improve your concentration, and enhance your vocabulary and math skills. Not to mention, working on jigsaw puzzles or crossword puzzles yourself can be a very relaxing and rewarding activity.

  8. Read and write often:

    There are many mental health benefits of reading and writing that go way beyond relaxation and entertainment. Reading and writing stimulate the brain, spark imagination, and increase creativity. Regular reading and writing can increase your comprehension skills, vocabulary, grammar, and memory. Not to mention, both exercises can be very therapeutic for the mind. Writing can also help you address negative thoughts and bad memories that affect your overall mental health.

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Guest Blog: The Edge – A Bipolar Creative Perspective by Kasey McMahon

11.1 mph hour on the treadmill. I ran at that pace thinking that if my heart burst, I’d win that level of the game. Eye on the prize, I continued running as fast as my legs would take me, then violently fell off, the right side of my body bruised and bloodied from impact. Heart was intact – mind, however, was questionable.

I believed I was playing a virtual game. That death would have no consequences. It could, in fact, take me to the next level of the game. And I was playing to win.

The problem was, I wasn’t in a virtual world. I had let myself into a stranger’s home near Malibu, California. The treadmill on which I ran on was not my own. I was under the impression that I needed to change identities, thus had followed license plates and codes, what I believed to be a motorcade, leading me to this suburban house far from my loft in downtown Los Angeles. I swam in their pool, played Grand Theft Auto with their kids, then hopped on their treadmill and turned it up to 11.1 mph. The game I played was in my mind and landed me in Los Angeles County Jail for ten days.

We are taught to trust our judgment, that our minds will somehow innately know right from wrong. That our wits will guide us through the world, directing us by some moral compass of righteousness. That somehow, in some way, we will know. We will do right. We will choose wisely.

But my wires had crossed. My reality was broken.

BACKSTORY

I didn’t expect 2011 to go that way. I had just wrapped up a gallery show in Los Angeles, was interviewing for the TED Fellowship and was in discussions with a high profile company to be their creative director.

Earlier in the year, I was proud to be selected as one one of LA Weekly’s best people in Los Angeles. My artwork had been well received and I felt lucky to be surrounded by wonderful friends. Life was going well – so just how did I end up in a jail cell finger painting messages and codes all over my body with peanut butter and jelly?

I was diagnosed bipolar seventeen years ago following a manic episode that culminated in a meltdown in the middle of Tiffany’s in New York City. Embarrassing? Absolutely. I was hospitalized for two weeks and diagnosed type 1 Bipolar. The following months were spent recovering from a major depression. I promised myself I would never break again. I have tried so hard to live a life defined not by this condition, but by my art and what I am able to contribute.

Through the years, I’ve tried a variety of medications and treatments. Most were exceptionally mind numbing. Medicating the illness is a crapshoot, an inexact science. The golden ticket is finding the correct medicinal “cocktail”, but everyone’s chemistry is varied. Perhaps it would be easier to understand if they could pinpoint the deficiency, but as it stands, treating bipolar through medication is predominantly trial and error. And the side effects can be mentally crippling. For the past eight years, I managed to combine diet, exercise and lifestyle measures to maintain what I thought was a generally healthy existence. I kept my condition private, partially due to the stigma surrounding it and also out of a desire to simply lead a ‘normal’ life.

Until recently, even close friends were not aware that I am bipolar. During the highs, I’m a lot of fun to be around, until, of course, it gets too high. During the lows, I duck out, simply disappear for a while. I’ve always felt that it is something I should be able to handle on my own – that there should be ways for me to maintain balance – that I should be strong enough, or wise enough, to control it. But how does one contend with the fact that the thoughts running through your mind are not to be trusted? That your mind – which you depend on for stability, for sanity, for guidance through this complicated world – can fault you?

Bipolar is a complex, bizarre condition. Hypomanic highs are glorious – creativity is heightened, inspiration and ideas flow fast, frequent and freely. The depressive lows are troubling and terrifying, ridden with self doubt and the inability to navigate the world. In both highs and lows, one must be mindful of the edge, for reality’s grip is easily lost.

It’s been an interesting ride. Undeniably, I dance on the edge. Walking over that edge was something I had hoped to never do again. I made it nearly seventeen years without another manic episode. Perhaps it had been so long that I simply forgot full blown mania was possible. Perhaps I was simply fragile.

A GLIMPSE OF MANIA

Leading up to my recent episode, a variety of life stressors contributed to being less stable than I prefer. I had just attended a leadership seminar, the sort that tear you down so they can build you up, thus was emotionally raw. Excitement over a job possibility threw me into overdrive. I stayed up all night writing a creative brief – lack of sleep is a major trigger for mania, leading down a slippery slope of manic energy and uncontrollable fits of passion.

In textbook manic fashion, my mind began to degrade into seeing codes and patterns. I became reckless, careless and fearless. My brain made a multitude of connections where none exist in our reality. In that state, it’s as if the veil is peeled back, akin to living in the matrix, where everything is directed at you: books talk to you, license plates have meaning, the radio is sending you messages, every conversation you overhear has a code meant only for you. Everything you encounter has information to decipher. The senses are heightened, your mind is in constant motion, finding patterns where none exist.

I believed I was living in a multi player game, a virtual reality with multiple lives – so dying wouldn’t matter. I completely lost connection with reality. I split lanes on my Ducati in dead stopped traffic at 85mph and pushed limits in multiple arenas. In that state, rules don’t apply, the world is revolving around you – thoughts are extremely grandiose in embarrassing ways. I made multiple calls to the company I hoped would be my future client, telling them that I would work for free as long as my expenses were taken care of. Which was true, but it regrettably crossed the fine line between passionate and completely nuts.

I began to believe that I needed to protect myself, that my artwork was too personal to have on display. I threw many art pieces away, hauled every red item I owned out to the garbage and purchased dozens of books that I thought could help decipher the codes I was seeing. Believing that the veil between the worlds was thinnest from 3 to 4am, I set my alarm for 3am daily so that I could write during that time. I collected metal items in the house and built an antenna close to my bed so that I could better receive “messages”. These were legitimately crazy things to do, but I was too far in to realize that the water in which I was swimming was tainted. And because I felt like I was in danger, I was hiding these thoughts from the people closest to me.

In a manic state, your place in the world is blown extraordinarily out of proportion. Being relatively lucid through that experience and recalling it from a more stable perspective is mind blowing. The stories a brain concocts – and believes! – are more outrageous than a sci-fi thriller.

During this particular episode, I was under the impression that I was here to receive messages from an alien source – that if I tuned in enough, I would be able to deliver these messages and improve our shared humanity. I felt as if my place here on earth was to do whatever I possibly could creatively to show that we are one – to help the world choose love over fear; to show that more is possible through simplification. I wanted to help humanity understand the need to reach for the stars. These are not terrible “messages” to receive, but I am dead certain that there are better delivery devices than peanut butter and jelly scrawled across myself and a jail cell. The bizarre signs, signals and messages my mind was chewing on could fill two volumes – suffice to say, the brain is capable of things beyond all imagination.

Every piece of me believed this pseudo world my mind had created. I rode to Malibu that day thinking that I had to change identities in order to protect myself and the messages I was here to deliver. I remember being glad that the police showed up and took me into custody, for this meant that I would be going under cover for good.

Things got more confusing from there – there was absolutely no reality to cling to. My mind grasped for anything to ground itself – how had I ended up here, why was I being held? I thought I was following the right path. At that point, I crumbled. As I cried, I saw Da Vinci-esque mathematical equations raining down the walls of the police station. Wherever I looked, equations rained down with my tears. I will never be able to fully explain the beauty and the pain of that moment and how powerful those visual hallucinations were. I didn’t understand why I was being held, what had happened, or what was going to happen, but was seeing some of the most awe inspiring visuals raining down the jail walls. This “trip” was induced not by substances, but by my own wires crossing.

BROKEN IN A BROKEN SYSTEM

It’s likely that I will never know why I was sent to jail versus being sent to psychiatric care. That time is blurry. My physical wounds were treated at West Hills Hospital, but instead of being held and treated for mental illness, I was then transported to Los Angeles County Jail.

In jail my condition degraded. I was placed in solitary confinement in a blood stained cell, with a neighbor screaming both day and night. As I slowly regained sanity, my requests to contact family were denied. I was mentally broken and locked in a very broken system. Treated like an animal, I was on my knees begging for a book to read. For anything, for a faint glimmer of human kindness. I now know what fear, hate and power look like in people’s eyes. In that system, I learned what it feels like to be looked through, unseen. The only way to potentially get a question answered or get a basic need met is to ask as many guards as possible for a single thing. If lucky, you might get someone that will answer a question, such as, “when is my court date?” But that information will likely come half a day or more later.

After seven days in jail, I began to regain my wits and realized that nothing I could say or do would help my cause. I silenced and attempted to quiet my mind and gain strength from within. I began to meditate and practice SRI focused breathing techniques to try to still my brain and body. Tried to make sense of the chain of events that led to being in that cell. Tried to look beyond the cement walls, beyond the bone chilling cold and the lack of basic human connection.

MOVING BEYOND THE STIGMA

My aim here is to not only share my story, but hopefully shed some light on a very misunderstood illness that affects many. I look forward to the day that there is more societal acceptance for these conditions and am hopeful that science will open more doors. These are ailments of the brain, not easy roads.

Being bipolar, my guidance system is tainted and there’s no real answer as to how to keep it in check. It’s like walking a tightrope, always trying to maintain balance, aiming to somehow do it with grace. But if and when one falls, the fall is hard. And the consequences are steep.

In another place, another time this condition may have been lauded. Shamans, saints and medicine women were praised for their visions, for their ability to reach beyond the edge. Even with as much as we currently know about mental illness and as many people as it affects, the sad reality is that we do not openly talk about it. Our culture embraces the product of hypomania – we applaud the highs and the creativity that stems from it – yet stigmatize the conditions that coexist at the outer reaches of creative wanderings.

It’s highly possible that this illness is a major contributor to my art. Mania certainly lends itself to seeing the world through very different filters. Moving forward with open eyes and a penchant to be candid about my experiences, I’d like to further explore the link between my own madness and creativity. I’d like to know more about how my brain processes information and what formulates that particular brand of creativity on the edge. Yes, ideas do indeed stem from mania, however, I believe my best work has come from diligently thinking about, researching and working on projects while not in a manic state. For in the further reaches of either spectrum, high or low, creativity is lost.

One bitter truth about being bipolar is that it adversely affects the people you love the most. I am eternally grateful to friends and family that have stood by me through this process and would give anything to remove the hurt associated with my distorted moods and thoughts.

The bizarre events that led me to this point have strengthened and broadened my experience. I hope to be able to creatively express on a deeper level because of all of this – there is much I would like to bring to life. I continue to believe in magic and look forward to the creative muses sitting beside me again, guiding my hands, preferably without utter madness.

I now sit writing this in a small town in the mountains of Northern Arizona, healing, hiking, slowing myself and my brain down for a bit. I am learning to better live with life’s rhythms. Learning that beauty and pain coexist. Learning to identify the unhealthy thoughts that lead to falling off this tightrope. And perhaps most importantly, learning that creativity does not have to be tied to mania, perhaps it simply comes from the heart.

—–

Kasey McMahon is a multimedia artist – http://atypicalart.com

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Dwayne Perkins

Born to a fifteen year-old mother in the projects of Brooklyn, Dwayne was a fighter.   Strong-willed, rebellious and intelligent, he eventually harnessed his temper so it could work in his favor.  He sheds light on his statement “I lived my life to prove I wasn’t a mistake.”  Dwayne’s standup has appeared on Conan, Comedy Central Presents and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.  Dwayne’s blog can be read at www.averyfunnyblog.com and he can be followed on Twitter @funnydp

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Listener Simone

When she was eight, there were whipsers in the neighborhood about her father and what he did.   She could never get the truth from her mother.  Ironically she would follow in her father’s footsteps though she swore she wouldn’t.   Just your average suicidal, Bipolar addict.

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Chris Hardwick (Voted #3 Ep of 2012)

The podcaster/ comic/ host/ writer/ entreprenuer opens up about finally using his obsessive nerd brain for constructive instead of destructive pursuits.  He gets honest about his history of panic attacks, drinking issues, middle-school humiliations and a lost decade after hosting MTV’sSingled Out didn’t bring the success he had hoped for.   Chris hosts the Nerdist (podcast and BBC America show), AMC’s The Talking Dead, G4’sAttack of the Show, and is the author of the book The Nerdist Way.

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Michaela Watkins

The bitter divorce between her sexually repressed mother and left-brained mathmetician father who openly complained of his ex-wife’s frigidity left an indelible mark on Michaela’s view of sex, intimacy and relationships.    A moment of clarity changed her path when she realized the men she felt close and safe to had no sex appeal, and the men who had sex appeal made her insecure and crazy.     Listeners may recognize Michaela from Saturday Night LiveWanderlustCurb Your EnthusiasmThe New Adventures of Old Christine and Enlightened.  She is also a member of the Groundlings.

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Mike Carano

The photographer, podcaster and video artist opens up about his debilitating bouts with anger, mistrust of therapy, difficulty in asking for help and chaotic childhood, including spending a year in a cult, and living with a mother so spiteful towards her ex, she sacrificed the safety of her children.   Listeners may also know Mike from his relationship with Dr. Drew Pinsky, who discovered Mike from his Five Minutes With Mike videos.  Mike also co-hosts the Loveline After Disaster.

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Guest Blog: Therapy Is by Tracy Irvine

Therapy is…

 

exhausting, helpful, wonderful, frustrating, all of the above and then some.

I just started working with a new therapist in the past month and the difference between the old and new is like night and day. My session with the previous therapist would go like this… I would see her from time to time, complain about my life, my love life, and/or my job; cry a little (or a lot) and then go home. This pattern went on on for a few years but it got to the point where it wasn’t enough. In fact, I was getting much worse.

Whatever control I had on my life and myself came to a screeching halt in 2010. After a series of bad relationships, including a divorce; a job that I used to love that lost all meaning; and putting my cat to sleep after a long illness, among many, many, many other things that you will learn about later. My mind and body had had enough. I closed myself off from my friends, I became very introverted and I would spend hours upon hours staring at the television eating everything in sight or curled into a ball, sobbing. I was paralyzed.

I would make appearances at my friends gatherings but I was never really there. Everything became an effort. Then one day, after a friend’s baby shower, I was driving home on the highway. I was in my usual state of sadness when I imagined myself turning the wheel sharply to the left and crashing my car into the median. I could see the impact in slow motion, the metal of the car buckling as it smashed into the concrete. The car, as it flipped over and over while oncoming traffic swerved to avoid me. I saw myself die, instantly.

And then I took a deep breath and smiled. I felt peace… calm… serene… happy. I wouldn’t have to deal with fucking anything, anymore. I could finally be at peace. My mind could finally be silent. The feeling was so, so strong, appealing and seductive. Then in another instant, I found myself back to reality. I knew it was time to get help. I went back into therapy and I was diagnosed with depression shortly after.

It’s been almost two years, three different medications, and a new therapist later. I have my good days and my bad but I am still carrying the weight of my depression on my shoulders. The difference is that I am looking forward to getting better. I have to get better… or get through this, to say it in a more accurate way. Depression is such a dark and scary place. I never want to feel that feeling of helplessness again. Next time I feel peace and serenity, I want it to be because I am happy.

I have a lot of work to do.

Tracy has her own blog and website.  Click here to visit it.

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