Be Aware…of your mental health

Every May “Mental Health Awareness Month” receives recognition. It raises awareness to mental health in all aspects. According to MentalHealth.gov, “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

Wouldn’t it be wise to make every month about mental health awareness?

In the past year or so, our mental health took a toll thanks to a pandemic where people were forced to stay in and stay home from everything including work and school (in most cases). Stress became something a lot more people had to deal with due to factors that couldn’t be controlled. A few times, I’ve brought up dealing with stress and I had questions posed to me that resembled: what stress? what do you have to stress about? It’s as if stress wasn’t welcomed in my life. Yet, I’ve had to manage my mental health, physical health issues, financial struggles, and anything else that pulls at my life. Stress affects everyone at some time in their life; there’s no set rules on who’s allowed to have stress- whether or not they have a family of their own; if they’re dating or not; if they own a home, live in an apartment or are homeless; if they have a job or two or none, etc.

Not everyone had/has the ability to work on their mental health professionally due to access, cost, and other factors. I am one of the luckier people who had and continues to have access.

A stigma continues to surround mental health as well as mental illness and the completion or attempt of suicide. Suicide rates continue to be high along with depression and other mental illnesses, and yet people hesitate to talk about it. I admit that I only talk in detail to certain people about my mental health (outside of my health providers) and a few that I know I can confide in. It does get easier as I continue to learn, work through, and grow what all of me deals with. No one handles life issues like the next person so it’s important to speak to a professional who listens, encourages feedback, provides insight, guides you with strategies and makes you do your homework. I have such a person in my life; she’s definitely someone I can trust.

I am aware of my mental health daily.
I know people and places exist to assist with my mental health.
I know that seeing a therapist doesn’t mean I’m weak.
I know sometimes one requires meds with their treatment and that’s OK.
I know problems can’t always be worked out alone.
I know that asking for help gives me strength.
I know life won’t always be this way.
I know I can always reach out.

Mental Health 2020

This past year has been like no other I’ve experienced. In October 2019, I found out my full-time job was being eliminated in 30 days; it was a week after closing on a cash refinance for the house with intentions to pay down debt and purchase a new car. Needless to say, I became stressed and full of anxiety over how I was going to pay the bills, find a new job, get a new car before mine went kaput, and all the other worries that accompany a job loss. Within a few weeks, I ended up at my physician’s office with a weird rash or hives and it turns out it was related to stress; I had shared the upheaval in my life. She provided two recommendations/forms of treatment to help with a stressful period of time. It only took me until the next morning to decide I would take her up on both. One treatment would be a temporary prescription and the other is on-going talk therapy. I realized early on that I should have taken up her second suggestion years prior and then maybe I could have handled life better, but as a friend told me, “you’re getting help now”. Yes, I am. One of my assigned homework tasks was to read my own book: That’s All I Got! Thrival: A Widow’s Journey After Suicide and I did. It brought back memories and feelings that I haven’t experienced in a long time.

Little did I know there would be a big challenge in my job hunt—the Covid-19 Pandemic, where employers stopped recruiting. Luckily, in May a job I had originally applied for in March, started their hiring process again and I acquired a new job that started three weeks later. Phew! Life is better although there are a few challenges I had to work out. Throughout this series of trials, I have learned so much more about mental health and not only my own.

The year 2020 tests everyone and mental health is taking its toll on people. From job losses to income reduction to being cooped up indoors to mask-wearing to the worries that accompany businesses reopening. All of that leads some to pursue the inevitable: taking their lives to the completion of suicide. The one event that brings together our community to help prevent suicide, to educate, and to support those of us who have a connection to suicide loss won’t be happening in person (as a large gathering) this year. The Milwaukee Out of the Darkness Walk has gone virtual. While they’ve changed it to an experience rather than coming together as a group, it’s not the same. This year, we need to be stronger to support those who might be struggling. Won’t you help me raise funds to help everyone in the coming year and beyond? Your contribution may help save lives as AFSP strives to educate and prevent lives lost while getting others the treatments needed for our mental health.

Walking foRuss/Karen Voss Team donation page

Book Interview with Rochelle Melander

In January 2020, a fellow Milwaukee author, Rochelle Melander, sent me a message regarding a series of interview blog posts she was working on and asked if I wanted to participate with “That’s All I Got!”. I said yes and while it’s original installment date was temporarily postponed, I had a surprise waiting in my email this morning.

“That’s All I Got!”, and myself are featured in this week’s Writers@Work blog with author and coach Rochelle Yolanda Melander Please check it out! While you’re at it, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (all handles are listed at the end of the interview).

Read the interview here! Writers@Work: An Interview with Karen Voss

 

Post-Traumatic Growth

“I believe that you can have post-traumatic growth. You can find greater meaning.” -Sheryl Sandburg

I read the above quote in the article, “Finding Strength” in Great Loss” from the May 2017 issue of Redbook Magazine. The only other times I have seen the words post-traumatic have been during references of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Post-traumatic growth refers to growth after trauma and following grief. While I haven’t used the words, I too have experienced post-traumatic growth.

In December 2017, nine years passed since my husband completed suicide. Due to the traumatic events, I dealt with, worked through, and overcame PTSD. Since then I have persevered. With tools and resources to assist, I THRIVED!

In order to thrive, one must be able to work through their troubled waters. With the support of family, friends, a wellness team, my faith, keeping physically active, and other programs, I navigated the rough waters and arrived safely to shore. The tools I gathered along the way continue to fuel my journey of thrival.

“There’s bound to be rough waters and I know I’ll take a fall, but with the Good Lord as my captain, I’ll make it through it all”. -“The River”, Garth Brooks

Published Again!

Thanks to Project Semicolon that chose to publish this book:

 

with Harper Collins, I’m published once again. Project Semicolon called out for contributors to share their story in the book Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over gearing towards 18-25 yr olds, ages where people are more susceptible to mental illness and contemplating suicide.

For those who know me, know that I’ve been on a journey after losing my husband to the completion of suicide as a result of mental illness. I’m happy to share my story because my motto states: “if I can help one person then I know I’m doing my job.” My story appears within the pages 18-19 of the Project Semicolon book. It shows my name and lists the story as “In Memoriam.”

20170907_202404-1

Please consider purchasing this book for anyone you know who might find it useful and want to discover stories of courage, strength, and perseverance. Because like the ; stands for; their stories aren’t over yet.

Published Again!

Thanks to Project Semicolon that chose to publish this book:

with Harper Collins, I’m published once again. Project Semicolon called out for contributors to share their story in the book Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over gearing towards 18-25 yr olds, ages where people are more susceptible to mental illness and contemplating suicide.

For those who know me, know that I’ve been on a journey after losing my husband to the completion of suicide as a result of mental illness. I’m happy to share my story because my motto states: “if I can help one person then I know I’m doing my job.” My story appears within the pages 18-19 of the Project Semicolon book. It shows my name and lists the story as “In Memoriam.”

20170907_202404-1

Please consider purchasing this book for anyone you know who might find it useful and want to discover stories of courage, strength, and perseverance. Because like the ; stands for; their stories aren’t over yet.

Out of Storage

For months, the Milwaukee Public Library Tippecanoe Branch (aka the Tippecanoe Library), went through a complete renovation. While a temporary location housed some of the books That’s All I Got! went to an off-site storage location. I’m happy to announce that the Library has completed its transformation and all the books have happily returned to their shelves for the Grand Opening!

Please join the Bay View community in welcoming the books to their renovated home on Saturday, December 12, 2016 from 10am-1pm! See the photos below for more information.

I know That’s All I Got! and her author waits for someone to borrow her (at all three libraries where it lives: Tippecanoe, Milwaukee Central, and Cudahy. We hope to see you there!

 

Seasonal Support

For many people, the holidays aren’t very joyous, but difficult. While normal holiday stresses exist, other not so normal unseen stresses appear. For people who have lost a loved one for whatever reason, grief joins in for the holidays. With winter settling in, the gloomy and cloudy days, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and depression become part of some people’s days. They require sources that can aid them: books, friends, and support.

Do you know someone who has been or is going through a tragic situation or life event whether or not related to this journey? Do you know anyone this holiday season that would benefit from reading, “That’s All I Got! A Widow’s Journey After Suicide”?

Why not give the gift of healing this holiday season. Why not direct them to sources that may assist in their grieving. Reach out.

Expanding Awareness

Canada this week (May 4-10, 2015) recognizes mental health as part of Mental Health week #getloud. This week has a place on the calendar every year just as the United States has mental health awareness week. The U.S. also has May designated as Mental Heath Month  #MHMonth2015.

Thanks to advice from a friend who suggested that I connect with Tweeters that relate to the book and my cause. I started doing this in the U.S. and Canada since everyone everywhere deals with mental health issues and needs to create awareness on suicide prevention. Last night, I received a notification on my smartphone about tweets regarding mental health week in Canada. I chose to browse the tweets and I found one from a Tweeter that also started following me: Wellness Mindfulness @911well

Instantly, I knew I had to favorite and retweet this message and I chose to add a message: ” Let’s talk about suicide! Stigma surrounds it & we need to break it!

Not only did I choose to share this on Twitter, but also on my facebook page and the walls for the Milwaukee Out of the Darkness walk facebook page and my own event page for the walk.

I didn’t know that the retweet would receive such a positive response. Besides the followers I have the hashtags reached further. Hashtags, universally used, may relate to programs, events, life, and anything you can think of and they’re reused over and over. I chose #suicideprevention because it’s something I believe in. I chose #MentalHealthWeek because that’s what’s happening in Canada this week. I’m thankful that through technology people reach across states, countries, borders, continents…across the world…to share messages. I expanded awareness to many people in another country. To reach out to those in need for hope and promise expands knowledge and knowledge helps prevent and cure illnesses, dis-ease, and innocent lives from being lost to the completion of suicide. I feel blessed to have received the opportunity to change lives.

#breakthestigma #suicideprevention #mentalhealth

Out of the Darkness – Why we walk

Every year since 2009, the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, in Milwaukee leads me to help educate others and prevent suicide loss. In February 2015, I received an email from the walk chairperson announcing the date of the 2015 walk on October 4th. Having a secure date and location early allows more time to create awareness for the walk and promoting what it’s about. Even though more people sign up to walk, it brings a certain sadness for why we walk in the first place.

Before the walk, during check-in and registration, we receive honor beads to wear that represent why and who we’re walking for. Everyone wears blue beads to support the cause. In addition to those, I wear the red beads because I lost a spouse. This morning I realized that this year, I’ll also have purple beads representing the loss of a friend; my neighbor, Michael, completed suicide on February 11, 2015 after years of battling depression and other demons.

Here’s a listing from the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk for all the honor color beads:

White – Lost a Child
Red – Lost a Spouse or Partner
Gold – Lost a Parent
Orange – Lost a Sibling
Purple – Lost a Relative or Friend
Silver – Lost First Responder / Military
Green – Struggled Personally
Blue – Support the Cause
Teal – Friends and Family of Someone Who Struggles

I discovered on Twitter this week through the National Institute of Mental Health @NIMHgov that “Suicide research is critically underfunded in the U.S.” and linked the Action Alliance Press Release article on the subject. We walk to help fund the research and education about suicide and how to prevent it from happening. Every week we watch the news to hear about another death by the completion to suicide in the U.S. or abroad from a child to an adult as a result of bullying, depression, another mental illness whether known or unknown. We need to step up and support the cause and prevent innocent lives from being lost!

Every year I form the team, Walking foRuss, and every year I walk. I may not have other people walking with me, but I walk with other friends’ teams to offer support and then to receive it. We all for a reason…we lost or know someone who lost someone to a disease still surrounded by stigma. Please help break the silence.

Out of the Darkness walks

Milwaukee Community Walk

Support me and team Walking foRuss