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Friday, January 8, 2010

Your Mental Health


by Jill Nutter

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PhotobucketIF taking care of yourself usually shows up on the bottom of your to be done list it’s time to make a change. Women especially are at risk for depression because we tend to be the first line of defense in our families to take care of others and not us. As a Licensed Independent Social Worker counseling nursing students, I deal with mental health issues every day at work. But what many of us don’t think of until we get depressed or suffer from anxiety is what does mental health look like? What is a definition of mental health as opposed to mental illness?

One definition of mental health is:
–noun
1. psychological well-being and satisfactory adjustment to society and to the ordinary demands of life.
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Origin:
1825–35
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009.

My definition of Mental Health is the absence of disease and the enjoyment of life. I like to say the absence of dis-ease. Just like any other part of the human body the human mind can have illnesses. You can read up on all of these problems at http://www.nami.org/ . You can help stamp out the stigma against those with mental illness just by becoming informed and sharing your knowledge. I think Jesus demostrated the objective of mental health when HE said:

Photobucket"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 NIV


There are many ways to relieve stress in our lives (my top pick is massage, bet you couldn't guess). I think other effective strategies are 1) Talking about your problems with someone you trust, 2) Pray and seek God’s wisdom for your particular concerns, 3) Set healthy boundaries, in other words, learn to say no. Resource: Boundaries (When to Say YES When to Say NO To Take Control of Your Life) Dr. Henry Cloud, and Dr. John Townsend, and 4)Excercise that releases endorphins and helps you feel better.

PhotobucketOne of the biggest mental health disorders that we all know something about and many writers suffer from is depression. Did you know that Sir Winston Churchill suffered from depression; he called it his Black Dog. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

PhotobucketBritish folklore talks about a ghostly black dog that has large glowing eyes. This made me wonder if that was the thought behind Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, The Hound of the Baskervilles. I have not researched that idea but made a quick run of the question on the internet and found not surprisingly that Conan Doyle did suffer depression after his wife and several other family members died.

My point here is that anyone can suffer from any mental disease. Depression and anxiety are more commonly known than some of the others but even obsessive-compulsive disorder is out of the closest now with some help from Adrian Monk, the defective detective. Please visit: http://www.ocfoundation.org/

PhotobucketLast week we talked about fear and how fear can suck happiness from our lives by not allowing ourselves the joy and freedom of living to the fullest as God wants us to.

Mental illness is a chemical imbalance of the brain.

It’s not the blues. We all feel a little down in the dumps at times, but to be sure that doesn’t mean we’re depressed. When someone is seriously depressed they can’t, “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” That’s like telling someone who has lost the ability to walk to “just stand up.” It’s not possible. And for some people depression can lead to suicide. Depression can be deadly.

But there is hope for people who suffer from depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness. Medication is not an evil word. Unfortunately, some people, Christians too, think that the need for medicine to help you feel better emotionally is some kind of crutch. It’s not. It’s no different than taking medicine you would take for any other illness. So if you think you might be depressed or suffer from another form of mental illness please seek professional help from a good therapist and/or psychiatrist.

There are many mysteries yet to be solved regarding the human body. The health of the spirit is also related to the health of the brain. Please remember that the brain is part of the body and those who suffer with any type of mental illness are due the same respect as anyone else who has cancer, diabetes, thyroid disease, etc.. It’s just different. Taking care of you means taking care of your brain, too.

Serious Question: If you were sitting alone with Jesus in the ocean picture above, what would HE be asking you to do for your mental health this year? Share if you like.
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Fun Question: If mental health was a color, what color would it be and why?

Okay, I wrote this. I get to go first.:) Mental health is orange because it's so vibrant.


32 comments:

  1. Good morning Jill!

    Jesus would be asking me to spend more time in the word. Everything falls into place better that way, doesn't it?

    I know that depression is a chemical imbalance. I think we can affect some of that but not all. And sometimes, Christians look at it as a weakness and 'you shouldn't need drugs, just get over it by...' well part of that is true. More exercise, better eating and sleeping will probably affect the chemical balance. Voila.

    But medication helps and can be necessary. No one should be ashamed to take an anti depressant.

    Mental health to me is teal (blue and green combo)
    the green is the healthy active growing color and blue is the peace color--for me.

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  2. I thought it was interesting that you chose a vibrant color, Jill. I was thinking more of a peaceful color like Deb. I had blue or lavender in mind.

    Very good advice to take care of mental health. I agree that taking medication should not carry a stigma.

    I guess my only hesitation with drugs is that sometimes they seem to make people worse not better. One of my friends was suffering from mild depression, but once put on drugs attempted suicide. Yikes. When she got off the new drug she got better again. It turned out that for her the depression was primarily a hormonal imbalance and the birth control pill actually ended up helping. You need to ask for God's guidance, stay in close communication with your doctor, and make sure he/she understands all of your issues if you do try the drug route.

    Dina

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  3. What do you think of this new study that says that drugs are completely useless to persons with mild depression, are only helpful to those with severe depression. Like Dina, I think that drugs are handed out and taken too readily as a fix without trying to get to the root of the problem. Often, it is purely physical or has a root that is totally fixable without drugs, but action. Often, a person is depressed in her situation and drugs make her not take action. When will we start counseling people, trying to find out what's going on in their lives and bodies, instead of writing prescriptions for a quick fix?

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  4. My Faithful Moms group was talking about this on Monday. It's like we feel guilty, or somehow not faithful enough, if we have depression, anxiety, and need to take something for it. Isn't faith enough? Does it mean we don't really trust God? This is such an important message. I'm going to direct many of my friends here today. I hope it helps. It helped me.


    Mental health is a rainbow of color - all of it working together, nothing hidden, all parts shining as one.

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  5. Mary, I like your answer about the color. Beautiful.

    And just for the record, I didn't mean to disagree with Jill. Just add another perspective.

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  6. I have a question for Jill. Jill, do you weave mental health issues into any of your novels? I know I like to include things that I feel passionately about.

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  7. I tend to think of mental health as yellow. Bright, cheerful. But I like Mary's comment about the rainbow. Much better analogy!

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  8. This is such a touchy subject with so many Christians. I'm a proponent of "do all that you can in the natural realm, and all that you can in the spiritual realm." That always means an appointment with the Great Physician for any and all forms of dis-ease, and then obeying His instructions, whether it's to go to the doctor or to get on my knees and pray. And always, always, pray for your doctor before you go in. I believe it makes a huge difference in their ability to discern the root of the problem and know the right course of treatment.
    Great post, Jill! Thanks!

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  9. Oops, forgot the color... Um. I'm really liking the rainbow thing, because it depends on the day and the situation, doesn't it?

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  10. Well, since mental health encompasses both good health and bad health, and everyone is different, I think of it as a kaleidoscope or color wheel.

    I can see myself (a skinnier version) sitting on a sandy beach, leaning back on my elbows, feet crossed. Jesus is at my side, cross-legged. He's letting grains of sand flow from his hand. And after several moments of contemplation, he asks why I've been ignoring Him lately. I tell Him I've prayed and talked to Him. And He sighs. And we both know my prayers have been rushed because I've other things to do. And I haven't taken time to really talk to Him. And my delving in His word has been when the pastor or research sends me there. And He's so sad - not discouraged or disappointed - but sad - like resigned. :(

    Thank you for the reminder, Jilly.

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  11. Good Afternoon Everyone,
    I'm so grateful for the comments that are coming through today. I think this is such an important subject and can sometimes be VERY confusing even for those of us who work in the mental health field. I'll address each of your posts through the day and please feel free to ask questions.

    Hi Deb,
    I don't think any of us can go wrong spending more time in the Word, I know I need to. I challenge all Christians to educate themselves about mental health; there is no one right answer to treatment for everyone.

    Medications are very tricky. With my daughter's illness we've been through most of them. When the illness is extreme you must find what works and that is typically a combination of therapy (and there are all kinds of therapy) and medication.

    I love your blue-green combo, Deb.

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  12. Oh, what an important post and discussion. Thank you so much, Jill.

    Anita's answer brought a tear to my eye, because I think Jesus would ask me, with great love and sadness, why I'm ignoring Him. I tend to rush through Bible study lately, and I speak during prayer time rather than listen. I'm not allowing Him much say at all lately.

    The color question is interesting (as the prescription drug conversation, but I don't think I know enough to comment). I will say that the orange flower in Jill's photo makes me happy!

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  13. Hi Dina,
    You're right. Sometimes meds can make you worse if they are the wrong meds for you. Unfortunately, and I guess this is one of the reasons I'm so persistent on this subject is that meds can make all the difference too.

    Remember now, that I'm not a doctor. I'm a licensed independent social worker (LISW) with 30 years experience in the mental health field and have a daughter who has suffered tremedously with mental health issues.

    The first thing that is important to do when seeking mental health treatment is to be certain you have a good doctor. Some physicians are capable of pinpointing a medication that may work for their patient. However, only psychiatrists are the best trained to deal with complicated issues. They are extremely hard to get appointments with sometimes too. BUT never pick a doctor out of the yellow pages. You must educate yourself. If time is of the essence you might want to call your local er and ask a doctor or nurse who they would recommend. If you are in crisis you go to the er. Some cities have psychiatric emergency rooms. Most cities also have a mental health association where you can call and ask questions, but they may not be willing to recommend a doctor.

    If depression is mild I wouldn't necessarily seek meds. I think the route of exercise, good nutrition, talking to a good therapist (social worker, counselor, pastor, psychologist)can be very helpful.

    But I think it's imperative to have a good physical exam so that a doctor can rule out hormone problems, thyroid issues, and other physical components that could effect your mental health.

    I guess I picked orange Dina because I think mental health should be vibrant, alive with possibilites, and stunning. :) But that's just my take. That's why everyone's choices are so cool.

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  14. I think I'm just skittish about drugs because I tend to have weird and backwards reactions to them. Like if they're supposed to make you tired, they give me insomnia. Go figure.

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  15. Dina,
    You're right. And I think it's wise to approach the use of medications with caution, but not to be skittish if it's a serious problem for someone.

    One of the big problems I see that have scared people is that a seriously depressed person is put on medications and not monitored well, or that person doesn't tell anyone. What can happen is the person who has been contemplating suicide gets just enough energy from the meds to actuall follow through with this horrible plan. That's why it's so important for folks with suicidal thoughts to work closely with their doctors and for family living at home to know what's going on so they can help as well.

    IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THAT NO GUNS BE IN THE HOME OF A SERIOUSLY DEPRESSED PERSON.

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  16. ANONYMOUS SAID: Often, a person is depressed in her situation and drugs make her not take action. When will we start counseling people, trying to find out what's going on in their lives and bodies, instead of writing prescriptions for a quick fix?

    Dear anonymous,
    I don't think meds should ever be used initially without counseling. Some meds are very sedating and may help a person, but if the problem isn't discoverd and dealt with it will most likely lead to new problems.

    It can be a catch 22 because if you are too depressed to seek counseling a person my just go to their doctor and ask for meds but then not go for counseling. I think there needs to be folow up from the doctor who is probably too busy to find out if a patient is following through with a counseling plan and confer with the therapist. This often doesn't happen.
    Which study are you referring to? Where did you hear about it? They come and go faster than you can imagine.
    Thank you for asking this question. Is there anything else you would like to know?

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  17. I really like your serious question by the way. I believe God can bring healing supernaturally or naturally, but the most important part is to be able to hear His voice and guidance to know what path to pursue.

    I think God would tell me to laugh more. I love to laugh, but I've been too serious lately.

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  18. Hi Mary!
    I'm so glad your moms group was talking about this issue. That makes all the difference.

    I don't have all the answers. I wish I did, but if we as Christians can be brave enough to ask the questions I believe it can save lives.

    Isn't faith enough? I don't even know how to answer that question except through my own experience and what my husband and I have been through helping our oldest child.

    We prayed for healing, we wore out the knees in our blue jeans praying for healing.:) We prayed, our neighbors prayed, my writing loops prayed, my church prayed and still our child remained ill.

    We as mental health professionals(my hubby and me) had a horrible time with the system.) It took all our money and most of my sanity. At one point we left town and took turns living in St. Louis to get specialized help there that Cincy didn't offer. We came back, and through the love of Christ and good employers we kept our jobs.

    Later we found a well kept secret in town and were able to get more help for 9 months in Wisconsin. Each time we made decisions we prayed and God led, but it hasn't been easy. I'd say it was our faith and trust in God that guided us,and friends that supported us that got us through those very difficult times. And there were more problems and more hospitalizations and still no healing.

    This is one of those situations that brings you to your knees and keeps you there. Our daughter is getting better, but we've still a long journey ahead of us.

    Mary, you said. "Mental health is a rainbow of color - all of it working together, nothing hidden, all parts shining as one."

    That brought me to tears. Thank you. I love that. :)

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  19. Oh, thank you for your candid response. I understand it so much better, now. I like how you said that the brain is part of our body. Our emotions are part of us, too. And, we aren't supposed to be happy all the time. I've said to people, "If you're in pain, you need to tell somebody. Then, you can be helped. God will send people to help you."

    And, thanks for telling me that my rainbow response was good/helpful. I hesitated writing it because I didn't pick just one color. But, that's how I see it. I also liked the kaleidoscope visual.

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  20. Also, Anonymous said,"Often, a person is depressed in her situation and drugs make her not take action."

    This is important and it's hard. Most of the time when someone is depressed they have difficulty taking action. That's why some turn to medications too quickly for that fast fix. If it's mild but you can't take action I would suggest that maybe it's not so mild. If it's mild and you can push yourself into a new routine of exercise and good nutrition that will probably help.

    Also, as a writer I would be remiss in not saying that writing is another way to pour your thoughts out of your mind and onto a page where you can examine them in a different way. Very helpful for some people.

    Hope that makes sense.

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  21. Dear child, why must you dive headfirst into waters I haven't asked you to even touch with a toe?

    Beautiful post, girl! CAN YOU EVER WRITE!!!!

    Color of mental illness? A lighter shade of black.

    P

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  22. Dina said: "I have a question for Jill. Jill, do you weave mental health issues into any of your novels? I know I like to include things that I feel passionately about."

    YES! :) My first book in the series(The Ravensmoore Chronicles)I'm working on called, Secrets of the Heart, is about a young woman who has experienced much loss and meets a gentleman, Lord Ravensmoore no less, who wants to be a physician. I originally titled this book, Asylum of the Heart. This set during the Regency era. You can read some of it if you go to my website www.jillnutter.com and click on the fiction tab. My website is getting an extreme makeover in the Spring so some things you see there as you look around may be a tad outdated.:)

    As you can tell I am passionate about mental health and my novels will most likely always include some aspect of mental health, addictions, psychopathology, etc.

    Thanks for asking Dina. You all can visit my personal blog too at
    www.jillnutter.blogspot.com

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  23. Hi Lisa,
    I like yellow too for a mental health color. But I think we were all wowed by Mary's rainbow.

    Remember the rainbow covenant?

    I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.

    14"It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud,

    15and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.

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  24. Hi Niki,
    Niki said: That always means an appointment with the Great Physician for any and all forms of dis-ease, and then obeying His instructions, whether it's to go to the doctor or to get on my knees and pray. And always, always, pray for your doctor before you go in. I believe it makes a huge difference in their ability to discern the root of the problem and know the right course of treatment.


    I couldn't agree more, Niki. It's so very important to remember the Great Physician and to consult with him regarding all are mental and physical needs. And he is the Wonderful Counselor as well isn't he?

    Jesus wants to us to feel good mentally. He wants us to live life to the full. He provides us with earthly helpers in many forms: Counselors and psychiatrists, medicines and friendships, pastors and scripture.

    The rainbow wins the day.:)

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  25. Hey Anita Girl,
    You're being way to hard on yourself. You said: And I haven't taken time to really talk to Him. And my delving in His word has been when the pastor or research sends me there. And He's so sad - not discouraged or disappointed - but sad - like resigned. :(

    We all fall short. I'm the same as you. We all have our seasons too, don't we? The important thing in my humble opinion, and you all are probably sick to death of me by now,:) but I think the fact that we are aware and stay aware of what we are doing. Be mindful. Sometimes I know I move so fast doing other things, that have to be done that I get lost in the world.

    If I'm sitting on the beach with Jesus I'd be begging Him to stay close to me and He'd be saying I'm always here kiddo, you just haven't taken the time to share your heart.

    And don't forget to take your own advice Jilly girl. Remember:"Come to me, Debra, Niki, Mary, Susanne, Anonymous, Dina, Patti, Anita,Jill Lisa and all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 NIV

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  26. Beautiful job today, Jill. This was a great discussion point. I think our week has proved that it's not wrong or selfish to take the time to take care of ourselves, recognize our needs --much more than we do. Great posts all week!

    January is a frustrating month. We feel we are supposed to somehow do better or be better, I think.

    Like you said, Jill, Jesus wants to give us rest. I think this is more about the mental than the physical.

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  27. Hi Susanne,

    You said: I think Jesus would ask me, with great love and sadness, why I'm ignoring Him. I tend to rush through Bible study lately, and I speak during prayer time rather than listen. I'm not allowing Him much say at all lately.

    Susanne: I bet just like Anita you live your faith everyday. You are at Bible study and you are praying. So we can’t be perfect. Who wants to be? Not me. That would be too hard. It some how reminds me of the Old Testament and all the rules and sacrifices people had to follow to try and earn God’s approval. I may not be saying that right, but I think you know what I’m trying to convey.

    You like my orange flower. It makes me happy too.:)

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  28. Hey Patti Girl,
    Think mental health, not mental illness. I'm trying to stay away from black in our rainbow. :) Okay, now pick a different color.

    And thank you for that compliment.

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  29. Alright, I had to scoot back one more time. I'm glowing with the reflection of my rainbow. I wanted to say, that I've had that little talk with Jesus, and he said to "Let your little light shine." That's my theme song, you know, "This little light of mine, I'm-a gonna let it shine." The bluesy version, of course.

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  30. Great post Jill. And I agree with everyone about Mary's comment regarding the rainbow. What a perfect description.

    I think I may have mentioned before that the beach is what calms and soothes me and it's where I can gather and make sense of my thoughts. But I'm also a great supporter of a good massage. I actually do get a massage at least once a month, but usually every two weeks. I don't do it to pamper myself, I do it to control my headaches. It works and I spend much less time in the doctor's office (except when I can't breathe, but that's another story). But I do find the massage, though I'm not looking for pampering, does wonders for my mental health because it relaxes me...that's probably why it helps the headaches, too.

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  31. Mary,
    Let that light shine girl, let it shine. So glad you stopped in today and I hope some of your friends stopped by to visit the Inkwell.

    Suzie,
    I think massage is good for just about everything. I get that writer's neck and back ache and massage works wonders for me, relaxes me, helps my migraines, and I do feel ever so pampered.:) I'd much rather spend my money on a massage to chase away my seasnonal affective disorder in the winter time esp., than anything else.

    I'm so sick of this winter weather I think I'll call and see if I can get a massage sometime this week. They made it much easier at work to do this. At the gym the hospital owns we can have our massages, facials, etc. deducted from our pay checks over 4 pay periods and we get a discount.:)

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  32. I love focusing on different scriptures and claiming them as my own month to month. Based on the topic this day and this week here at the Inkwell I'm claiming this one for the month of January. I encourage you all to pick one for yourselves and grow and glow (that's for you Mary:))in His love and strength.

    It's been a fun day. God bless.

    Colossians 1:11-14 “May you be
    made strong with all the strength
    that comes from his glorious power,
    and may you be prepared to endure
    everything with patience, while
    joyfully giving thanks to the Father,who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
    He has rescued us from the power of
    darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in
    whom we have redemption, the
    forgiveness of sins.

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