Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Kill the Stigma by Jerra Moreland

Please welcome my friend Jerra Moreland to the Window today. I have laughed with Jerra, shared popcorn with her, and laughed more. She has more empathy than anyone I know and until I read her story in her words, I didn't understand why. Please read this and, more importantly, share it. Have a great week. - Liz

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adult Americans experience mental illness. Depression is the leading cause of disability WORLDWIDE! Only 60% of adults with mental illness receive treatment and the percentage is half of that for African Americans and Hispanic Americans. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death over all and the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the United States. Frankly, I find these statistics alarming. They testify starkly to the lack of awareness, accessibility to treatment, and our general understanding of how mental illness impacts our world, our people. In the fall of 1998, I began my education in Psychology. I accepted my first paid position in the field of social work that same year. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and I have worked in the mental health field for over 20 years. I have advocated for many with mental illness. I have experienced the aftermath of suicide and suicide attempts, drug addiction, disabling conditions, families torn apart, lives forever changed. There are stories I could tell you that would numb your mind, make you want to give up hope for humanity. But bigger than those are the stories of hope, endurance, and resiliency that have risen from those same tragedies. Yes, every client I saw, had successes. I found that the biggest battle in my career was not “dealing” with the difficulty of mental illness, but dealing with the barriers that are in place that prevent people from getting proper and unashamed treatment for their illness.
But this story starts before my college education and my fulfilling career in mental health. It is about a story behind the statistics. This is my story. Circa 1980, my beginning was set in a hailstorm of childhood trauma. Born to a teenage mother, an addict. Witness to criminal activity, domestic abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, poverty and drug/alcohol abuse. Labeled survivor, resilient, successful. Buried under all those experiences is the shrapnel of a silent war that no one likes to talk about. The shards of that past remain embedded in my very being. The visible wounds healed, most of the scars are unseen, but the damage remains. I was well into my adulthood before I received treatment for my mental illness. I have PTSD, anxiety, and depression that I left untreated out of shame, denial, embarrassment. But, hey, I was doing okay. No one could tell. Tears stayed behind closed doors. Nightmares stayed in the dark. Fear was covered by confidence. I remained entombed in a past unsaid. Facing those demons was the hardest thing I have ever done. I learned so much in therapy. I developed healthy ways to cope with my anxiety. I found myself. I learned “grounding” techniques that have helped me live life past my PTSD. I have real confidence now. I believe in myself. But, up until say about hmmmmmm…yesterday, I kept that a secret. People around me know my background, know my history. Those few who are close to me know a bit more. Those who live with me know that I receive treatment. But ironically I have kept a pretty tight lid on all of that. Me, the woman who has worked so hard to help others access care and to not be ashamed of their experiences…I preach over breaking silence and bringing awareness to others. Yet I kept my own so very quiet. Then, I experienced in a very personal way just how the pain and frustration of the "stigma" of a mental illness can impact someone in a way that forces silence. I decided to share that experience on social media, breaking my own silence. It is my hope that sharing this will help others step out from behind their own curtains. That we as a whole can embrace the very real fact that mental illness should not be hidden, but embraced and given proper care. Suicide should not be in the leading cause of death category for anyone. After spending six days hospitalized for an asthma exacerbation and treated with strong steroids I found myself home battling symptoms of “steroid toxicity.” It is not easy to tell anyone, "Hey, I'm feeling a bit crazier than normal..." but I knew things weren't right and I reached out to the on call medical personnel for assistance. When the voice on the other end of the phone noted, "I see here in your chart that you have a history of depression/anxiety," my heart sank. In short, my symptoms: insomnia, heart palpitations, chest pain, headache, nausea, and mood swings were attributed to my "mental illness" history and were dismissed. Two days later in the doctor’s office, lab work showed that I was a very sick woman who needed immediate medical interventions to stop the adverse effects that the steroids were having on my body. Turns out it wasn’t my “mental illness” after all. Even if it were, "just anxiety or just depression," as they say, that dismissal and judgement placed on me is what causes people seeking help to stay quiet and to stay sick.

So I am going to be one loud voice. My name is Jerra and I have a history of depression/anxiety and PTSD and that's okay!

My name is Jerra Moreland. I am sharing life with my wonderful partner John and I am mother to five amazing humans! My two wonderful boys are 15 and 17 & my three bonus children twins (boy & girl) 21 and daughter 18. I have one of those amazing jobs where work does not feel like work. I spend my day in a multi categorical special education classroom working with students who have a variety of exceptional needs. I enjoy the arts... participating in local community theater, writing and creating various art projects using multiple mediums. The beach is my happy place. When I grow up I would like to publish a book or two. I would also like to become a life coach and a motivational speaker. Thank you for taking the time to read this piece. It is my hope that through my voice others will find peace, acceptance and unconditional love. Epilogue: Within 24 hours of writing this we received news that one of John's co-workers had completed suicide. It is my hope that no one would ever have to feel that the world, the people they love, would be better off without them there. You matter.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

If You Woke Up Rich... by Liz Flaherty

From  Peru Indiana Today in February of 2018. 
There was this meme on Facebook today that said, basically, if you woke up with 500 million dollars in the bank, how would you quit your job? I've been thinking about it ever since I saw it. And I can't help but wonder about something.
Why would you want 500 million dollars? Why would anyone? I mean, I definitely get wanting or needing more money than you have. We raised a family in fear of emergencies, because we never had that nice cushion in the bank that was recommended. Eating out was a Big Deal because we couldn't afford to do it very often. Paying book rent at the first of the school year for three kids meant robbing Peter to pay Paul until things fell back into place along about November, just in time to shop for Christmas. More money would have been nice.
It still would, I guess. But, if you're not going to give it away or help someone who needs it, what is the point of having a lot of money? Maybe I have been luckier than many in that I've liked my jobs, both the one I retired from and the ones I have in retirement. There's nothing more fun than writing books, not much that's more fun (for me) than working in a library.
If I had 500 million dollars...no, even if I had five million dollars, how would life be any better? I suppose the house would be bigger and have more bathrooms. Maybe I wouldn't compare prices at the grocery store or book the cheapest flights or drive my car until its wheels threaten to fall off. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't clean my own house anymore and I know I've always said if I were rich, I'd sleep on clean sheets every single night. I might spend more on clothes. And closets. I'd give more.
But I'm not sure what I'd do once I was finished...you know...not doing what I do now. I don't think sunrises or sunsets would be any more beautiful, my cats more accepting, or my friends any better. I think relationships might change in crumbling, scratchy ways that would cause pain. I think there are people who would decide they liked me because I was rich, and...really, is that a good enough reason?
So, okay, if I wake up with that 500 million, you can have it (except for a little bit--I'm not entirely stupid) and I'll just keep the life I have. But I'd love to hear your answers to why you'd want that much money in the first place.
Thanks for reading. See you next week.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The best job ever... by Liz Flaherty

This is from last year and before that, too. My mother-in-law, Mary Farrell, and my mother, Evelyn Shafer have both left us and there are great empty places where they were, but what blessings memories are!

My sister-in-law Debbie Coleman once said motherhood was the only job she had that she never wanted to quit. I had to admit that I wanted to quit it at least once every single day. The kids probably wanted to fire me at least that often. One of the greatest gratitudes in my life is that we all stuck it out.

Mary Farrell
Mother’s Day has come and gone for another year and I didn’t write anything about it even though writing is what I do. I think about it a lot, think about my mom—gone all these long years—and my mother-in-law, who I’ve loved almost as long as I’ve loved her son and who has loved me back. I think about being a mom and a grandma—it’s just my favorite thing. But Mother’s Day? I’m really glad my kids remember it, tell me they love me, stop by if they’re close by, but mostly I’m glad it’s not 
Mary Farrell
confined to one day in May.

I wrote most of this years ago—I’m the rerun queen, you know—but I hope it still says what it did then. I hope it stands up.

Graduation days have always been like Mother’s Day. They were the signal that one of the most important jobs in life-as-a-mom was nearly finished and that she had, at least to some degree, been successful at it. From my own high school graduates, the entire day of graduation was a gift to me. They would much rather have collected their diplomas on the last day of school and cut and run. They were not eager to wear caps and gowns, to see all the relatives at the open house, to stand with their dad and me and have their pictures with us grinning gleefully from either side of them.

Evelyn Shafer
Parents Night during the various sports season is like Mother’s Day. After all, we always get a rose; we get to stand with the kid and grin gleefully while our picture is taken, and we go back to the bleachers safe in the secret knowledge that, bar none, our kid is the best one out there. Oh, she may not make the best grades, and he may not be the best athlete, and she may cause trouble in class from time to time, but overall, he’s the best kid. You know what I mean.

Mother’s Day is when you tell the kid who thinks you’re being bossy, unreasonable, and not quite bright that you love him more than anything else on earth and he tells you he loves you, too and maybe gives you a little one-armed hug if no one’s around.

Mother’s Day is when someone tells your daughter she’s just like you and she just smiles and says, “Thank you.”

Mother’s Day is when the kids have been horrendous brats all day long. They’ve beaten up the neighbor kid who’s half their size, trashed the entire house, and flipped mashed potatoes at the kitchen wall. They’ve broken the Blu-ray player—the one you got their dad for Christmas—and spilled…oh, everything.

After they’ve gone to sleep and you’ve scrubbed the wall and cleaned the worst of the mess in the house and apologized profusely to the neighbors, you check the kids before you go to bed yourself. And they look like angels among their cartoon-character sheets. Their skin is baby’s-bottom soft and flushed with innocence and youth and they’re the best kids ever born and you are so lucky and it’s truly Mother’s Day all over again.

When they’re older and have established their own ideas and thought patterns and don’t agree with anything you say and their favorite things about you are your wallet and your car…yes, even then they will every now and then do something so perfect and so right it brings tears to your eyes. It doesn’t matter what it is—it can be standing firm for something they believe in, defending an underdog with heat and dignity, or confessing to a wrongdoing rather than let someone innocent of it suffer in their place. When it happens, it is absolutely Mother’s Day.

To all who fit the bill, Happy Mother’s Day. Whenever it may be.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Different Feeling by Joe DeRozier

You get a whole different feeling when someone mentions her name, don't you?
I talk a lot about Dad. Maybe because I feel my life has been a series of failed attempts to be like him..... but Dad couldn't have been Dad.....without Mom.
"Mom" IS her name. Isn't weird when someone calls her by her first name?
Mom and Dad together are a formidable team.
While Dad's status as Exalted Grand King Poo Bah was never in question, Mom was the Radar O'Reilly of the home. Dad may have been President, but Mom was the Congress and the Senate...except she wasn't lazy and corrupt...but you understand.
Dad didn't anger often, but when he did, Mom was the only one that could calm him. Had she done it the same way, each time, we kids would have caught on. I suppose it depended why he was mad...but Mom always knew how to disarm him.
Mom never got mad...well, not screaming mad...more Clint Eastwood mad. Quiet, and looked you in the eyes..."Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?" kind of mad...
When Dad disciplined us, he could get a little crazy.
Dad: Joey, you're late, again! You're grounded until you're 75.
Me: (maintain silence...don't poke the bear!)
After an hour or so, Mom came to the room and let me know it was for a week. I just had to let her work her magic.
When Dad didn't feel we did a good job, he redid it. We knew it. He left traces of evidence showing that we dropped the ball.
Mom did the same thing, but left no evidence... I noticed, though.
Mom is an observer. I don't remember her teaching us to be like that, or maybe I'm more like Mom than I know, but I would notice that the carpet was vacuumed a different way, or the cushions were set up differently. Then the question was, did she REALLY not want me to know she redid my job, did she REALLY want me to know, or did she REALLY want to see if I was observant enough to figure it out?
While we were growing up, Mom was an early riser. I'd get up at five am, and she was already up doing exercises. She was the last one in bed.
Her profession was nursing. She went back to it once we kids were older. Though nurses were just starting to wear scrubs, Mom insisted on wearing her nurse's uniform. I was really proud of that. That was cool.
Mom broke her back at work...twice. She has had approximately six million surgeries and most of her body parts are not original. She should have died a few times, but I fully believe her will to take care of Dad always kept her with us.
Moms, for those of us born so long ago, always took a back seat to Dad...but Dad could have never been Dad...without Mom.