Sunday, May 4, 2014

May is Mental Health Month - My article in the Intelligencer - Mental health poems by Donna Krause and Ed Quinn

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Article was published on Sunday, May 4, 2014, a very special day for me.

It would have been my late father's 93rd birthday.

Click here for a poem I wrote about him, one of many. Mom is doing well at 91.

Here's the article in its entirety:

For two long years, Robert Martin sustained himself on hope. Homeless and mentally ill, he lived in a cardboard box over a grate in downtown Philadelphia. He scavenged food from a Dunkin’ Donuts Dumpster “before the rats got to it.”
Martin, 48, told his story to a rapt audience of 50 at Abington Presbyterian Church during a meeting of New Directions, our support group for people and families affected by depression and bipolar disorder.
The God that Robert Martin believes in stood by his side, he told us, as Martin began his long journey out of misery and loneliness. From a man with nothing but faith, Martin now owns his own house, has a loving wife and a great job as a “Wellness Recovery Action Plan” (WRAP) coordinator for Resources for Human Development.

He teaches other people like himself — he’s living with mental illness and prior substance abuse — that they, too, can get on the road to recovery.

And who better than a peer like Robert Martin? “If I could recover, so can you,” said Martin, whose busy speaking schedule has him gallivanting all over Montgomery County.

Decades ago, I read about breast cancer survivors paired up with one another, or in groups, to comfort new patients and teach them healing techniques.

This peer movement has finally spread to the mental health community. And our peers get paid for their invaluable services.

Evan Kaplan, 45, the father of a 10-year-old daughter, was once homeless and had made a serious suicide attempt. Kaplan, too, made a remarkable turnaround. On life-saving medication today and filled with a sense of purpose, Kaplan is executive director of Child and Family Connections of Temple University. He and others teach parenting classes to parents with psychiatric disabilities.

Donna Giordano is director of Peer Specialist Services at Lenape Valley Foundation in Doylestown. She received her title “certified peer support specialist” by taking daily classes of 6½ hours for two weeks.
“It was pretty intense,” said Giordano. Each person tells his or her own story and then learns techniques of support which “we then practice with each other.”

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1984, there was no such peer support, which is why I started New Directions. Thousands of people, and family members, have passed through our doors since then. We continue to attract students, professionals and addicts in recovery, as well as award-winning poets and writers.

Like Robert Martin’s recovery program, we follow similar steps to ensure our well-being. A good psychiatrist and psychotherapist are crucial for optimum health.

“Patient-centered care” is a new term that describes the relationship with our psychiatrist and psychotherapist. It’s important to “partner” with your healers so they understand what’s important to you. Patients are now given a choice of medications and must decide what to take based on the side effects.
JoAnn, the mother of a bipolar son, says that Dan is “undergoing a simple test” from his psychiatrist to determine what meds may work for him.

Scientific strides are always being made.

On May 20, New Directions will host Dr. Marvin Berman, who will talk on non-drug treatments, such as biofeedback and light therapy, to help people’s thinking and behavior. These alternative treatments are taking their rightful place in the management of difficult mood challenges.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers “walks” all across the country to remind us that mental illness strikes 25 percent of the population, or 58 million people.

Their courage to stand with others in a society that makes them feel “lesser than thou” helps lessen stigma, whose footprint keeps people from seeking treatment. NAMI and the publicity it generates are gradually educating the public and eroding prejudice.

Mental illness need not be feared.

In Psalm 23, King David wrote: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”

Lucky for us, we have treatments to pry us from the shadow of death and into the bright new light of day.


Donna Krause from our Saturday Coffeeshop Writers' Group wrote this poem about Depression.

Donna Krause


Blanket of fog
Following me now
Seeing it through
My weary eyes
Darkness pushing me
Taking over my being
Brain is sopping up
All this filthy matter
Shades of black

Peeking through the darkness
I gain an eyeful of strength
Power to fight
On the horizon
Hold my hand
I want to become whole
Shades of Gray

Feeling the power
Meeting my demons
Destroying each one
Clinging to reality
My hand can barely
Hang on
Shades of Blue

The sun is forming
A protective robe
Wearing it for all to behold
Pushing through the scum
Of depression
My new heart is bursting
With gladness

Shades of yellow
My faith restored!


Here's a poem by Ed Quinn

Smilin' Ed is on the right

ANXIETY by Ed Quinn

There's someone in my head but it's not me.
Not the me I used to be.
I yearn for the old me frequently.
My mind complies only occasionally.

Such is the world of anxiety.
I want remediation constantly;
so I go to therapy
with a healthy dose of pharmacology.

I have read the literature religiously,
to rid myself of pathology.
Nature or nurture, what could it be?
Could this be caused by family?
Or the law school that cost too much money.

Sometimes I think I can clearly see
that I'm Einstein's definition of insanity.
While I'm busy living so painfully,
"experts" get grants and other fees.

Will we always exist simultaneously,
co-habituating in perpetuity?

Anhedonia looms; not the least bit funny,
when I don't see a sunny day as sunny.
Some say it's just negativity
that prevents me from going forth happily.

If I would just think positively,
things wouldn't seem so scary.



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