Jennifer's Journey

Today is the last day in May and it wraps up National Mental Health Month. At the start of the month, I shared with you that I would disclose my personal journey, as it relates to mental health. I solicited my dear friend to interview me and I was really excited to share. My excitement came from my desire to express that you can overcome certain obstacles that are placed in your path, without allowing external forces to affect you internally. Well, the interview went more than well - it was even cathartic for me (Thank you, CMF). The format however, was not conducive to this blog. My intent for self-disclosure did not come out the way I visualized and I am one day considering video tapping or penning it. The blog is geared towards quick information for my readers to either prompt awareness and research further or re-confirm what they have already known.

10 year old me
On another note, to keep my word, I will say that situational anxiety and depression had occurred as early as 9 years old for me. I have always been highly self-aware and have even kept a journal since that age, writing down things that affected me on a daily basis. To not go into too much detail then, I will fast forward to age 25. I had just purchased my first real estate property two years prior and had landed what I thought to be a "dream job" in terms of organization notoriety and most important, my salary. I thought, "life is great" and after a while of doing exceptional work, my immediate supervisor began harassing me. One would think that you come to work and have performance reviews that are professional in nature and not personal, right? Well, mine were all personal. My female supervisor who was 20+ years older than me, had an issue with my appearance. She would attack me on a regular basis, especially if she knew that I was exercising. Her comments consisted of, "you should be going to a buffet and not a gym". Anything this woman could do to attack my character, she would do. After a period of time, I began reporting her to HR, building my case. About one month later, while perusing the local newspaper online, I found my position posted in the classified section. Little did I know HR was sharing information with her (which was a complete confidentiality violation). I was shocked, upset and fearful. I immediately went to HR, only to learn that my supervisor reported to them that I had resigned two weeks prior. How was that possible? I was still producing, in fact, I successfully executed a major event the day before I saw my position online. Needless to say, I asked for my exit interview right on the spot. Discernment led me to the online newspaper and I refused to be fired from a job that I performed exceptionally well on.

Learning to LOVE myself
I was now 26, with a mortgage and out of work for almost a year. It was during this time that I was having more depressed days than happy days. Even though my parents taught me to "save for a rainy day", I never envisioned this circumstance to be my "rainy day". It was difficult for me to walk around with a smile on my face, knowing that I no longer had my high paying job as security. My relationship was suffering and I slowly began to push him away. I was hot and cold, never lukewarm. As months went by, anxiety was really high. I was offered several jobs, but turned them down because they were not "ideal". Then, one November morning, I received an email from my former supervisor - the supervisor I left for this "well-known, high paying" position. She was looking for someone to fill a role and had been emailing me at the job I unexpectedly quit from and all the emails were bouncing back to her. I went in for the interview and a few weeks later, I was offered the position. It was at that point that I vowed to speak to a therapist regarding all of the emotions I had experienced during my months of unemployment.

Graduated with Honors
My therapist and I met for a total of 6 months and I will say those were the best 6 months of my entire life. Walls were being broken down and secret boxes were being opened. This process allowed for me to see that I was living for reasons that were not fulfilling to me. I placed too much emphasis on security (money), rather than passion and purpose. I made the decision to go back to school to pursue my dream deferred of becoming a psychologist, opting for a Master's in Mental Health Counseling.

Me at 31, "letting go"
This post is longer than I expected it to be, but I hope that I was able to provide you with a little insight. I have so much more to share prior to age 25 and after my "ah ha" moment during therapy sessions. But I would like to leave you with this... on one of my "down" days, while watching Oprah (yes, the big O), I realized that I was holding a grudge against this supervisor and I needed to forgive her, as well as myself to release that negativity from my life. So I wrote her a thank you letter. I know, it sounds trivial, but I was genuine. I thanked her for the experience of working for her and the organization. Had it not been for that particular situation, I may not have stepped into living on purpose.

Some of us could severely benefit from learning the art of forgiveness. Sometimes it is not always about forgiving others, but forgiving and loving self.

My lessons learned: 1) No one or nothing can dictate my own happiness 2) take nothing that others do personally - their actions have more to do with them, than me 3) my attitude truly determines my aptitude through good and bad situations, always keep a positive attitude & have faith.

Stay encouraged.

Wellness Break: Reflexology

For my birthday a couple of weeks ago, I opted for an hour with the reflexologist, as opposed to your typical masseuse. I wanted to be relaxed and I had done much research on reflexology to give it a go!

After locating the perfect place with perfect reviews via Yelp, I landed on Midtown Reflexology in Houston. The experience was great. It was the first full body massage where I did not have to undress. The reflexologist was very much in tune with some stomach issues I had been experiencing based upon some pressure points in my feet and hands.

Take the time to care for your body, especially if you are under stress or need to be pampered. One hour for me was not enough, but the $40 price tag was well worth it!

Healthy Living at Mosaic on Hermann Park

Thank you to everyone who attended Food-Mood 101's Meal Prep on May 22nd! I always have a great discussion on Nutrition and Wellness when I am among you. Stay tuned for details on my upcoming workshops!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

There is always an event that occurs that makes you realize why you do what you do. This past weekend, a colleague of mine committed suicide. Though I did not know this individual very well, we have had conversations in the past and were familiar with one another. There were so many thoughts swirling in my mind, when I received the news. The main thought was, "how?". We both work in an inpatient psychiatric facility and have backgrounds in mental health and chemical dependency. How did we not recognize the signs and the symptoms? And I am constantly reminded of how "silent" suicide ideations are and the diagnosis that leads someone to want to end their lives. It is not cookie cutter - no two people are the same (in regards to how they display their symptoms). 

If you or someone you know may be suffering silently, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This is an organization that answers calls from across the United States. Their staff members are trained to handle conversations with their callers and the calls are completely confidential.

This post is in honor of M.A.S., I wish that I had been able to help.

Be encouraged. 

Wellness Break: Faith

In my previous post, I spoke briefly about faith and spirituality within the treatment of mental health. From time to time, I will read over the comments on various news articles around the web and often question why I did it because people seem so angry and hateful these days.

I spent a lot of time pondering the word "faith" and the conclusion that I have always come to, as a spiritual person, is that faith has absolutely nothing to do with religion. Faith is essentially "believing without seeing". True, this is a quote within the Bible, but just think about it; taking religion out.  We all need to believe in something greater than ourselves to push us through any uncertainty in life. If you are unable to believe without seeing, there is lack of hope.
Let's look at a personal experience, for an example. If I wanted a certain position in the past, I envisioned myself in that role, I believed it was mine. Key words: I believed it was mine. Have faith and be sure to believe without seeing and watch how quickly you knock through obstacles in life.

Be encouraged. Take a leap of faith.

Mental Health in the News: Faith & Spirituality Beneficial in Treatment?

This story is so timely, as I prepare for my interview to disclose my personal journey through situational depression and anxiety with you. Without sharing too much right now, I will say that my belief in God (my higher power), is what has brought me through and continues to bring me through my journey. I do not want to get into a debate about religion/spirituality and more importantly my personal religion/spirituality, but with so much discussion on taking "God" out of everything, there are still people who believe in something greater than themselves.

Side note: that is not the reason for this post. 

NAMI has a story out now that states, "A recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders has shown that people who believe in God are more responsive to short-term treatment of depression." I found this study fascinating and wanted to jump for joy and shout, "YES!".

Whatever your beliefs are, when I think of my beliefs and I think of God, I think of relentless faith and positivity. This is what oftentimes is void in a persons desire to cope or get better - there is no faith, nor hope.

If you're not one of those people who believe your opinions are always 100% accurate and have an open mind, please share your thoughts below. We are all different, which makes us unique and I truly understand that. However, a healthy dialogue is always welcome!

Here is the link to the story.

Mental Health in the News: Presidential Proclamation

I am elated to hear much talk pertaining to mental health illness. Though, the reasons are unfortunate.

Mark my words, there will be more incidents related to mental health in the news, as time passes. Like your physical health, anyone can be proactive when it comes to their mental health. Take a stance — we are all affected by mental health in some capacity.

Here is what our President of the United States, Barack Obama has to say about declaring May National Mental Health Month, 2013.

Wellness Break: Exercise

I talk a lot about nutrition, but let's take a quick moment to discuss EXERCISE!!! There is a rule that you should be aware of and that is the 80:20 rule. How you look depends on 80% of what you eat/drink. The other 20% is via the type of exercise activities you are engaged in.

One of the many struggles that I hear is getting into the groove of working out. It is difficult, trust me, I know. I am a former track athlete, I ran year round for 6-7 years. That being said, I have to motivate myself and that is not always an easy task.

The fact of the matter is: not everyone is an athlete. I always encourage my clients to start somewhere small, like 30-45 minutes of cardio at least 3x per week. The cardio that I suggest consists of walking, power walking, jogging, running, cycling and even swimming. Get out and be active! Perhaps to motivate yourself (like I did), you can grab a partner, two tennis rackets, tennis balls and hit the tennis court!

Regular exercise is also another way to ensure your mood and stress levels are stabilized.

What's your #?

I have had the absolute great pleasure of working with Mental Health of America (MHA) on various projects in the past. They are a very well known organization to those in the field, but many may be unaware of what all they do in and for the community of Mental Health. To learn more about MHA, please click here.

Now on to my question...what's your #?

No, not telephone #, but what is your M3 score? According to MHA, "your M3 score is a number that will help you and your doctor understand if you have a treatable mood disorder, like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder." By taking this quick and easy 3 minute test, you can learn more about your number or the number of the individual that we spoke of in my previous post, so you can be better informed and seek professional guidance.

I took the test and it was quite painless! My score was pretty high considering I am in the profession, but that should tell you that mental health professionals are far from "perfection". The hardest part is being aware. Once you are aware, you know what areas in your life could benefit from improvement. 

Stay tuned this month, as I share my personal journey through mental health and how I personally overcame bouts with situational depression and anxiety.

May 2013 is Mental Health Awareness Month!

This is my favorite month of the year and not just because it's my birthday month, but because it is Mental Health Awareness month!!

No one is void of facing obstacles in life, some of us are just better at coping with the challenges that life throws at us! For the month of May, I encourage you to reach out to that family member, friend or co-worker who has confided in you about their personal struggles and support them by letting them know that help it out there. As a mental health therapist, it makes me so happy when clients seek the assistance of a professional. That lets us know that an individual is tired of being stuck in a rut and is ready for CHANGE!

Also, please do something to support your local mental health organizations. I will be walking in the National Alliance on Mental Illness Walks (NAMIWalks of Greater Houston) this weekend and I am thrilled to advocate for those who are fighting for their lives, and most importantly their minds.

Cheers to bringing awareness to mental health illness!