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Carrying the Burden

CARRYING THE BURDEN

When I was growing up, I believed in happy endings. If you were a good person then good things would happen to you – you are the image of who you want to be. I did not know that this was only an illusion because one day I would be an expert on grief and carrying the burden.

After losing my youngest daughter to suicide, I was forced to face the reality of what was to become of my existence. I won’t lie, it has been a painful journey and one that I would not wish on anyone; subsequently, I have learned how to survive and as a result of this, I believe I am now a stronger person. As I look back from the past five years, I can see how far I have come.

Portland, OR – photograph by JMW

You may notice that I’ve used the word “learned” several times while writing this blog. This is a very important word to focus on because I had to learn how to live with the pain of grief. I have had to teach myself to be okay. It hasn’t come naturally and if I hadn’t put in the effort to seek help and learn how to help myself to grow, when I wanted to succumb to the pain of sadness & depression, I wouldn’t be here today. I am nobody special, just an average person, with a purpose to never give up.

Some of my tools I’ve learned to use have been in creating the foundation for teens struggling with depression, regular exercise, and journaling. We all have our own interests, but these are a few that have helped me to get up each day. It is also important to be surrounded by positive people who support you. Laughter is another big deal to me; encompass your existence with people who make you laugh, especially when you don’t feel like it.

We all have our own journey in this thing called life – embrace it the best you can!

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Happy Easter

All of us at The Jewels’ Angels Foundation want to wish you and your family, the happiness and love you deserve, on this beautiful Easter Sunday.

Life can suffocate us with struggles and challenges, but it is up to us to remember our core values – to love one another as we love ourselves and to love ourselves as we love those whom we cherish.

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Montana Suicide Statistics

MONTANA SUICIDE STATISTICS

We recently moved to the northern states, raising the question in my mind – how mental health is addressed in the state of Montana. The Department of Public Health and Services reported that in 2018 there were 6,211 teens between the ages 15-24 years that had completed suicide, with an alarming rate of increase in the early years of 2000.

Some common risk factors include the following:

  • Social isolation
  • Social disorganization
  • Socioeconomic situations
  • Rural residency
  • Mental Illness equates for 90% of all completed suicides

However, despairing this may seem, major depression is the largest culprit to this alarming statistic. Needless to say, depression is one of the most treatable diseases, with a success rate of 86% when an individual is monitored on a medicated and therapeutic regime. The statistics are lower when addressed without the support.

The most upsetting piece of information that I have recently studied is that there is a rebound effect. The rebound effect is when someone is contemplating suicide, but they don’t have the energy to carry it out due to their depressive state. Subsequently, as their mood shifts and begins to lift, regaining their energy, and although they are still feeling signs of hopelessness, they are feeling a sense of elation. This is a dangerous zone because the risk factors have now escalated. The highest risk factors are ninety days after a depressive state, when their moods start to elevate, this is when they start to have thoughts and feelings of suicide. This can be so confusing to those trying to help. We think that when they are at their most depressed state, that this is when we need to keep a close eye on them; however, this is not the case. We need to stay in contact when their moods are at their most escalated levels too.

As humans, we are programed to react when someone is feeling sad, not when they are happy (or so to appear to be). However, this is just the opposite with someone who is contemplating suicide. As earlier noted, they have been living with in this cycle and know that when they fall into their depressive state, they will not be able to act, so the time to act is when they are in their upward movement and unfortunately, this is when we, as family and friends, are caught the most off guard.

However, there is hope for so many of us struggling with the ideations of suicide; we think we are alone, but we are not. There are support groups, telephone hotlines, specialized events, family and friends to connect with to talk. As parents and mentors, it is up to us to start the conversation – long gone are the days when we didn’t talk about suicide. It is so important as a society and in our community to bring up the conversation and if you or someone you know is talking or thinking about suicide, let them know that they are not alone, you are there to listen to them and there is always help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, contact:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text GO to 741741 to reach a trained Crisis Counselor through Crisis Text Line

dphhs.mt.govMontana (references)

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Living with an Eating Disorder

The ability to gracefully live amongst a world of perfectionism is an understatement. Perfectionism is a word created by society to keep us in our nice and tidy box. A world created that is nothing but ordinary; however, it is justified as anything but that. The simple word called “perfect” creates so many problems.

Growing up, I was surrounded with all the beautiful people, on television, movies, and in magazines. As a teenager, I wanted to be beautiful too; I wanted to look like the perfect models displayed throughout my social media. I was enticed with being perfect and at any cost.

When I turned thirteen-years old I started my first diet. It was more of a starvation, until the guy that I liked said I was too skinny. I wanted him to like me, so I started eating again. At seventeen years old, I wanted to lose a few pounds. I loved standing on my scale every morning, waiting to see the results – had I lost weight? It was such a euphoric feeling witnessing as with each day to see the weight dropping off. If I could lose five pounds, maybe I could lose five more and five more after that. It became an obsession with me. Something that started out so innocently had turned vile. I was obsessed with food, or the lack of it.

What once started out as wanting to be beautiful, had now turned to wanting to have control – control of my life. You see, at the time, my parents had the control. They said where I would go to high school my senior year, they said what college I would go to and what my major would be, they said who I was or wasn’t to date – they controlled my waking existence. I just wanted a little piece of that control back, so I took it, the only way I knew how, by controlling what I ate.

Sadly, I went from one hundred fifteen pounds to ninety pounds in under a year. I looked dead, but I still saw myself as fat. I continued to starve myself, while exercising excessively. My mom caught on to me and said I had to start eating or she would put me into a hospital for eating disorders. So, I tricked her by eating and then throwing it up. I was now anorexic and bulimic.

I did break the eating disorder cycle; perhaps, but now I was dealing with another destructive disorder to address. My mom was off my back, thinking I was okay again – “normal”, but I wasn’t, I continued to struggle with my distorted body image and damaging thoughts.

Eventually, I maintained my eating, learning new eating habits and ways to control my urges to binge and starve myself after the binge. I’ve developed new coping skills throughout the years, maintained a healthy weight, glowing skin and hair, and food is no longer my enemy.

I can now eat without feeling guilty every time I am hungry or thinking about food. However, thirty years later – I still have a body image distortion. I’m good with food again, until I start to gain weight and at that point my old thought processes creep in – distorting my perspective.

So, to say I’m cured? I would have to say no – eating disorders are like any other addictive personality, you can get back to a healthy you, living a normal life, but you’re always an addict. The good news is – I’ve learned how to control it instead of it controlling me.

  • if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or a distorted body image perspective – reach out to NEDA Feeding Hope by texting “NEDA” to 741741 – they have counselors available to talk 24/7
  • NEDA
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Happy New Year 2022

Our family at The Jewels’ Angels Foundation want to wish you and your family a very prosperous and happy New Year!

The new year is the start of a new beginning – a time to pensively say goodbye to yesterday, while bringing in a bright hello to tomorrow.

It’s a great time to discover a new you, new adventures, and new opportunities. A clean slate – to say goodbye to the past trauma, failed relationships, and lost opportunities. Don’t just create a new year’s resolution, but a life changing plan. A plan to be the best you possible – a better version of the past.

It sounds so cliché and subsequently, it will more than likely require a lot of hard work, but some of the best things in life don’t come easy; however, where there is darkness, there is also light. Be the light in someone’s life. We all have gifts to contribute – find your inner gift by being the insight into someone’s life, the light to save them and make their life just a little bit better. It may not seem like much to you, but sometimes something so small and insignificant to us, may mean the world to someone else – changing their life forever.

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GRIEF

This weekend marks the fifth year since we lost our daughter & sibling, Jewels, by suicide.

I haven’t written in a while, sitting here thinking about what to write, made me realize how much healing has taken place.

I realized that I have learned so many things about myself over the years.  At first, I didn’t think of myself as strong, but simply trying to survive. However indifferent I may have felt, we all have differing levels of strength.

Photograph by: JCW

Strength isn’t only about survival. Most of us can at least force the effort of surviving. What I am referring to in accordance to strength, is a robust power that comes from deep inside our soul, guiding us to turn a travesty into something positive – possibly a purpose.

I also learned that living isn’t merely the existence of breathing. The power of learning to live again is by moving forward and refusing to get “stuck”.  We all can get trapped in the past; however, the past only brings us depression. The future has a tendency of bringing us more anxiety. Subsequently, the present is where we can discover a common ground, where we can strive to find a little bit of happiness in a dark world, filled with so much misery and sadness –

In other words, what my experience with grief has taught me, is that I have learned how to take the most tragic event imaginable by incorporating it into my everyday existence. I do this by remembering the good times, including my love for my daughter, through my memories, photos, and songs. Remembering her as she was and not allowing her suicide to define her. She was a beautiful person, she existed, and her existence made a difference, not only in our lives, but in all those whom she had and continues to touch. I am a better person because I had known and loved her. And for this, I am proud of the progress I have made on my journey called grief. It hasn’t been easy, nor is it even close to being done, but with each day brings progress and that is enough.

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ASSOCIATION BETWEEN DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS WITH INFLAMMATORY & METABOLIC DYSREGULATION

For centuries we have been studying the brain and mental illness, we have come a long way from early theories, but still a long way from fully understanding it. It is easier for doctors to experiment with the body because they can see what is going on inside with modern technology, but understanding the brain is more complex. But what if, let’s just say for arguments’ sake, we could connect physical deficiencies and aliments within the body, directly to the mind and by fixing the physical symptoms it also corrects the mental symptoms, such as depression. It’s definitely something to ponder.

Let’s first break down the definition of inflammatory, metabolic, & dysregulation.  Inflammatory is a localized physical condition that results from an injury or infection. Metabolic is a metabolism condition characterized by high blood pressure, blood clotting, and difficulty with insulin production. Dysregulation is a physiological impairment governing metabolism, immune response, or organ function.

Studies have shown that Inflammatory & Metabolic Dysregulation (IMD) may be associated with a poor response to antidepressants, as well as a correlation with depressive symptoms. IMD involves the C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin.  Interleukin is a cytokine (a small protein, peptide, that is important in cell signaling) which may induce depressive symptoms (Physicians’ Weekly).  One study showed a primary outcome between CRP and depressive symptoms based on their patient trial. 

What is interesting, is that CRP levels are found in the liver. Proteins made by the liver increases when there’s a condition (illness or malfunction) causing inflammation somewhere in the body. When this happens, it may throw off the IL-6, osteoclast, cytokine, and myokine protein levels. 

As mentioned above, cytokine are small proteins that are important in cell signaling.  Myokine are small proteins that release skeletal muscle cells in response to muscular contractions, IL-6 (Interleukin 6) acts as both a pro-inflammatory cytokine and an anti-inflammatory myokine, and Osteoclast are bone cells that are important in breaking down bone tissue.

Therefore, could there be a direct correlation between inflammation and depressive symptoms; subsequently, what causes our liver to produce too high or too low of levels of CRP? We’ve always known that the brain and body work together; additionally, could there be a connection between depression (or any mental illness) and deficiencies in our body and vice versa? And if so, would it be possible for a patient to take this information from their primary care doctor and share it with their psychiatrist, making a better evaluation, based on the physical body, for a mental diagnosis and treatment. Perhaps, as science continues to expand in research, we may have the key to finding an early treatment prognosis in the mental health industry. One can only hope.

SOURCES:

https://www.physiciansweekly.com/association-between-inflammation-metabolic-dysregulation-and-depression/

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THE LAW OF GIVING

The Law of Giving is quite a simple concept; however, one that is often overthought. A person does not need to have money in order to practice the Law of Giving. There are many forms of giving – a compliment, a smile, a simple recognition of someone’s time or efforts, and even a kind thought.

When we put out positive energy, it surpasses the ability beyond our circle and flows out into the universe, surrounding others who may later come into contact with us, either knowing or not knowing. Have you ever noticed that when you are smiling and engaging in eye-contact, that others notice this light in you and often times will smile back at you?

We are made up of energy, and that energy is transferred from us to others; subsequently, having a domino effect. We smile at someone, making them feel good inside, and they transfer that energy to the next person, and so on and so on.

So, the next time you are out and about, thinking that your smile, compliment, or positive thought, doesn’t make a difference, redirect that thinking process towards a more positive perspective – it does make a difference. This is what we all need during these turbulent times, positive energy flowing through out ourselves and into the universe, not hate, but pure love and kindness.

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Loving Someone with a Narcissistic Behavior

Most of us have probably met a person with narcissistic tendencies but being in a relationship with a narcissistic person can be quite challenging, to say the least, and completely destructive.

A person who displays a narcissistic behavior is someone who feeds off another person’s energy, in an unhealthy way, like a parasite. However, this may be a matter of opinion. To a narcissist, this behavior is necessary for their emotional survival. They choose their victims to accommodate their need. They need that person who has low self-esteem, but it’s even more than that, they prey on the person who has a depleted self-worth.

Both the narcissist and his or her victim need something from each other. The victim desires the attention bestowed upon them by the narcissist, which is the positive attitude they falsely possess, the charisma of their charm, their contagious smile with their beautiful light of energy. However, this is exactly what the narcissist needs from their victim because this is what builds up their self-confidence. They don’t have it, so they must steal it from their victim. It’s a very subtle shift in perspective, the narcissist starts out being very charming and attentive. Showering love, throwing out empty compliments, promising the world, moving in quickly, but not too quickly to cause speculation. Who wouldn’t love this kind of attention? However, someone having a strong self-worth is less likely to fall for the lies promised, but someone who doesn’t love themselves more than they loved him or her, would be easy to trap.

Once you fall into their trap, you are stuck, just like a fly who gets trapped in the spider’s web. At this point, the dynamics change, the once doting boyfriend suddenly, as if overnight, changes. They are now controlling and possessive. Sucking out your energy of light, leaving you with nothing, but an emptiness inside you that turns to shame. You love him, but you forget to notice that he too loved himself more than he loved you and do you know why? Because he is incapable of loving anyone because although it seems he loves himself, he does not.

But what happens once he can no longer feed off of you, or sap your energy for his own benefit, or realizes that he has lost control over you and can no longer possess you…what happens to the narcissist then? Two things, he either leaves you and moves on to his next victim, or he is forced to take a closer look at himself. The second is the most damaging to his already fragile ego. He may see his true self through your eyes, but it won’t be enough to make him realize the blessings he has in his life.

Subsequently, what happens when the victim stands up and finds his or her voice and regains her independence, what happens to the narcissist then? Will he accept this and move on or will this new development send him into a spiral of events, causing him to lose control of himself? The once confident narcissist who possessed the power and control over his victim, is now the one who is losing control, not only the control he once possessed over her, but now the little control he had over his own self.

That’s what a narcissist is, an individual with no control over his situation and therefore develops it within those he encounters, since he can’t control his own situation or life, he redirects that energy into controlling the person whom he loves, or thinks he loves. From this point on, he is spiraling out of control into a dangerous situation. This is new to him and now he doesn’t know what to do. He needs her for his own survival and without her, what does he have? But this is the tricky part…he doesn’t need her because he loves her, he needs her to help him emotionally survive and without her he can’t, and this scares him. Therefore, lies the cycle of destruction.