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A Mother's Perspective on Mental Illness

The
Walls
Are
Breathing

A Mother's Perspective on Mental Illness

The
Walls
Are
Breathing

Site Content

Resources

Links to resources: general, Texas, California, and Colorado.

Resources

Symptoms and Coping Mechanisms

A few links to other websites that you might find helpful are listed here.  Also, some suggestions of what might help you cope with strong emotions.

Symptoms and Coping

Contact Me

I am available for public speaking and always looking to meet other advocates.  I'm also open to advice and welcome new links and resources.  

Contact Me

My Goal

Most of us have a brother, uncle, or child who suffers from mental illness.  I want him/her to have a place to go, where she can get the treatment she needs.  I am telling my story as a call to action.  Let's reform mental health treatment options in the U.S.

Find out more

Who Am I

This site is here to help you.  Here's a little bit about me, and why I want to help.

Jump to "Who Am I"

Blog

Once a week, I'll post the status on my book or something interesting that I learned.  I'm in Los Angeles, so I might just blog about the time my friends and I auditioned for a game show, or the time that Julian and I drove to Hollywood to be extras in a movie.  

Blogs

Who I am

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My Bio

As the mother of a mentally ill child, I have experienced the most heart-wrenching experiences.  From struggling to find a doctor who accepts new patients, to struggling to separate symptoms from drug side effects, I have advocated for my child.  Two years was the time required to get him stable.  And for another two years, we've struggled with our new "normal."


I'm a mechanical engineer by day.  I earned a Master's Degree in Materials Science and Engineering.  Research, I can do.  Calling people, I can do.  But dealing with doctors, insurance, and social security - all of this is difficult, even for me.  For my son, it was impossible.


So I'm writing a book, to share what my son and I have been through, to help others who find themselves in this situation without a road map.  Resources and advice are listed in the appendices - resources that took me years to compile.  Resources that should be easy to find, but they're not.  I listed some on this site, too, to help you get started.


I'm not a medical professional.  I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or anything related.  I am a mother, who helped my child through a difficult illness.  I am telling my story to help other parents and loved ones.  I am compiling what I learned to help others.  Because few people know how to react when their child says, "The walls are breathing and melting."

2009 - Julian

My Goals

You're not alone!  Your feelings are important and valid.  If these words comfort you even just a little, then I've met my goal.  It's worth repeating: You are important.  You are not alone.


My Goals:

1.  Help someone going through a similarly difficult time.


a.  Provide resources/links.

b.  Provide hope.

c.  Tell our story to manage expectations.


2.  Improve mental health care treatment options.


a.  Develop the plan.

b.  Influence legislation.

c.  Open a treatment facility (stretch goal).


My Mission Statement is, “I will provide perspective, hope, and resources to parents and patients who are experiencing similar difficulties.  To help future patients, I will develop a plan to improve healthcare options.”


Patients tend to travel on one of three paths:


  1. An advocate such as myself helps the patient navigate doctors, insurance, etc.  
  2. The patient is rich enough or lucky enough to find a long-term care facility with an opening.
  3. The patient gives up and lives on the street.

No one should have to settle for #3.  And you shouldn't have to be rich or lucky to find long-term care.  And while we're on the subject, why should my child need to rely on me?  Why isn't there a system in place to guide him through the process?  Said another way, why should your relative have to rely on you?  And what if you're the one who is ill, and you don't have an advocate?


These questions make my heart ache.


I'm developing a plan to add options to this list.  Let me know if you have suggestions.  Contact me if you want to help.  

 

2018 - Julian, age 24

Current Events

How can I help you?  Is there a resource that I can add to my site?  Do you have a question that I can answer in my blog?  Do you need a motivational speaker for your next event?  Contact me.


December 26, 2018: I have completed the first draft of "The Walls are Breathing" (my memoir) and 40 pages of "The Walls II - Mental Hope" (my vision of a better kind of treatment facility).  I'm looking for an agent and publisher.  I'm also researching speaking engagements and publications/websites to publish an article.  Thank you for your support and words of encouragement.


July 14, 2019: After attending the state and national NAMI Conferences, I have met and learned about authors who have much more to offer than I do.  I have put my book on hold.  Maybe writing it was something that I needed to do, as part of my personal healing process.  Maybe writing it helped my relatives, who recently had a similar experience.  And maybe - just maybe - I'll update it in the future so that it will be more comprehensive.

Newsletter

Symptoms and Coping Mechanism

Symptoms

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Symptoms of Mania include, but are not limited to:

  

· Large eyes

· Huge, gum-showing smile

· Outrageous stories

· Pressured speech

· Large gestures with his hands

· High energy

· Decreased need for sleep

· Extreme focus on projects at work or at home

· Exuberant and elated mood

· Increased confidence

· Increased creativity and productivity

· Increased energy and libido

· Reckless behaviors

· Risky pleasure-seeking behaviors

· Large-dollar purchases

· Promiscuity

· Alcohol abuse


Symptoms of Depression include, but are not limited to:

  

· Fatigue

· Little to no appetite

· General aches

· Headache

According to WebMD, symptoms also include:

· Shopping Sprees (Retail Therapy)

· Drinking heavily

· Forgetfulness

· Excessive internet use

· Binge eating

· Shop lifting

· Back pain

· Promiscuity

· Exaggerated emotions

· Gambling

· Smoking

· Poor hygiene 


Note that these lists overlap.  It can be difficult to determine which a person is experiencing, which is why doctors must talk to the patient and monitor him/her over time.

Coping Mechanisms

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Over the years, we’ve collected tons of advice. Some of it works for us; some of doesn’t work for us, but works for others. Sometimes something will work one day, but not another. And of course, you may have a list of things to try when you’re anxious and another for when you’re depressed. I had a hard time separating the two lists, so I included all of them here. I hope you find what works for you.

1,2,3,4

Logic

Breathing

Meditation

Pray

Journal

Bath/Shower

Friends

Music

Exercise

Medication

Drive

Eat

Love

Compliment Someone

Project Semicolon

Swaddling

Weighted Blankets

Sleep

Ear Plugs or headphones 

Drink Water

Avoid Caffeine

Avoid Alcohol

Focus

Oils

Avoid Gluten, Soy, Dairy 


You are not alone.  


There is no "right way" to heal.  Let yourself experience the emotions.  Name them.  Confront them.  Seek help if you need it.  And know that most of us need help at some point.  


You are important.

Resources

General

911 is the number to dial in an emergency.  This may seem obvious to some, but when my son was first exhibiting symptoms, I considered 911 to be for physical ailments or criminal emergencies.  Mental illness events can be emergencies, too.


Hospitals are the next resource.  You can drive to the emergency room, just like you would for a sprained ankle or a cut that might need stitches.  If the doctor believes that you need to be transferred to a mental health facility, he/she will coordinate that transfer.


ARTA - American Residential Treatment Association will assist with a finding long term facility.  Be sure to ask whether the facility accepts insurance or is purely private pay.


LA DMH  Office of Consumer and Family Affairs help families navigate the system and explore solutions.  They are social workers and there is an “officer of the day” to respond to inquiries.  213-738-3948.  https://dmh.lacounty.gov/our-services/consumer-and-family-affairs/


Classes - Check with your local mental health hospital for what they offer. Some offer classes in hygiene and coping. Others offer support groups. Ask lots of questions about demographics and diagnoses. Sit in on a session if possible. 


Elyn Saks, a tenured law professor and chair at USC, was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager.  But she doesn't let that stop her.  #Inspiring


Mental Gladiator, a site based in the UK, posts inspirational stories about people who have struggled with mental illness.


NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has different resources on their website, including links to local support groups.  


OSMI is, "Open Sourcing Mental Illness is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to raising awareness, educating, and providing resources to support mental wellness in the tech and open source communities."


PsychArmor.org, free online classes and tip sheets. While geared toward veterans, this site contains valuable information for caregivers of depressed individuals and those suffering from PTSD. 


Social Security Administration (SSA) may provide disability payments for people unable to work. 


Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255. If you or a loved one have suffered from depression, please entire this number in your cell phone now. May you never have to use it, but may you have it in case you do. The life that you save may be your own.


Alliance of Hope - Suicide loss survivors


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: I've Lost Someone


Parents of Suicides - Friends and Families of Suicides


United Kingdom, National Health Service - UK-specific, but you may find some good advice in there.


Books

Chapman, Gary. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. (25th Anniversary reprint) Northfield Publishing: 2015. 


Mondimore, Francis Mark, MD. Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families. John Hopkins University Press: 2014.


Peck, M. Scott. The Road Less Traveled. 2003.


Los Angeles, California

24/7 ACCESS Hotline for Referrals: 1-800-854-7771


California DMV, Physical and Mental Evaluation Guidelines.


Hillsides,  Accessed 09/13/2018. Classes and resources for Los Angeles area.


LA Dept of Mental Health


Mental Health Advocacy Services - lawyers who work for those suffering from mental illness. 


Whole Person Care, Los Angeles County, Department of Health Services.


Movies and Television

Beautiful Mind (movie), Universal, 2002. House, Failure to Communicate, Season 2, Episode 10. [Television episode featuring a bipolar patient.] January 2006.

Touched with Fire (movie), Philippines, 2015.  


Texas

211 Texas – Advertised as an information line for people on welfare or Medicaid, dialing 211 from a cellphone connected the caller to a phone tree. Option 8, Mental Health: I selected, “Austin” and was referred to DADS (855-937-2372).


Austin/Travis County Integral Care (512-472-4357) to enroll in a group home or make an appointment.


DADS (855-937-2372) DADS is the local authority for the capitol area. They asked for Julian’s social security number, which surprised me. Why they’d need his SSN to refer me to a long term housing facility, I wasn’t sure. Later I realized that this was how they cut down on duplicate entries into their system. People may use nicknames, but their SSN didn’t change.


Home and Community-Based Services (HCS) Interest List (842-438-5658) 


Live Oak Living, San Marcus, Therapeutic Community (512-357-4023)


Long term care Ombudsman (800-252-2412 / 512-916-6052)


Martindale Specializes in traumatic brain injuries (TBI)


Mary Lee Foundation (512-442-6077) long term care with a waiting list.NAMI (214-908-NAMI or 866-260-8000)


SAMSA (800-622-4357, ) Referrals to Houston, TX facilities. Julian’s grandparents (on his father’s side) live there, so I thought that I’d at least call:Smith House, San Marcos


Texas Health and Human Services, Office of the Ombudsman (877-787-8999)     

Other States

Colorado


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255): Speak with someone who will provide free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To learn how to help someone in crisis, call the same number.

Colorado Crisis Services Hotline (1-844-493-8255): If you are in crisis or need help dealing with one, call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. When calling Colorado Crisis Services, you will be connected to a crisis counselor or trained professional with a master’s or doctoral degree.

The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386): A 24/7 resource for LGBT youth struggling with a crisis or suicidal thoughts. The line is staffed by trained counselors.

Colorado Crisis Services Walk-In Locations: Walk-in crisis service centers are open 24/7, and offer confidential, in-person crisis support, information and referrals to anyone in need.

Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: (1-844-264-5437): The best resource for readers to report suspected child abuse and neglect.

The number serves as a direct, immediate and efficient route to all Colorado’s 64 counties and two tribal nations, which are responsible for accepting and responding to child abuse and neglect concerns. All callers are able to speak with a call-taker 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Ref. https://kdvr.com/2018/09/10/denver-marks-world-suicide-prevention-day-with-a-call-to-action/


Florida


Get Help Florida, https://gethelpflorida.org/

The Walls are Breathing - Book 1

Book Summary

“Mom, the walls are breathing and melting. I know it’s not real, but that’s what I see,” my son Julian told me in November 2014.


For the next two years, I struggled to find him the right psychiatrist, therapist, combination of medications, and even a diagnosis. The side-effects of the anti-psychotic medications had gotten really bad, so he quit taking them. When we realized that he wasn’t having any psychotic symptoms, the doctor said that he should keep taking his anti-depressant. “Come back if anything changes,” Dr. Hamilton said. And, happily, Julian has been stable on just the anti-depressant for over two years.


This memoir provides insight into the mind of a single mom struggling to cope with a disabled child. The guilt, the frustration, and the lack of support are all vividly depicted. The resources that I struggled to find are clearly listed in the appendices and in the related website (jnstrickland.com). Whatever your child’s diagnosis, you can find comfort in the fact that I’ve been down a similar path. I have been weighed down with a mother’s guilt over every choice that I made that led to this diagnosis. I have been frustrated with doctors who are booked for three months and are ambivalent to my child’s pain. I have asked friends and family for help, only to be unable to articulate how they can help me. 


Julian is stable. “Stable” means a lack of the extreme symptoms. It doesn’t mean a lack of symptoms, or that he’s “better.” He continues to work at home, because he can’t cope with the anxiety of a regular job. If he’s out of the house for more than two hours, he’ll be in bed for the next two days recovering. Most days, he sleeps when he can and works when he’s able. His “work” is programming; he doesn’t get paid and doesn’t have an employer. He hopes to sell his video game after it is completed in a couple of years. Julian walks to the grocery store on his good days. On his bad days, we treat his symptoms with the coping strategies that we’ve learned.


Maybe, just maybe, my story will provide some information to help you in your time of need. If you are a friend or family of someone in this or a similar situation, perhaps you will better understand what he/she is going through. If this story helps anyone feel a little less alone, or a little more informed, then our struggles would have been worth the pain.


You are not alone. You are important. Your feelings are valid. 

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