One True Friend

One True Friend
One True Friend

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Recovery: A Journey

    Recovery from mental illness is hard. I remember the enlightening moment when my daughter, Ashley, told me that recovering is almost harder than the illness itself. I really couldn’t understand that at all. When she was mentally ill, so many things happened that put her life in danger and she wasn’t taking care of herself at all. We always worried we’d get that dreaded call that something terrible had happened to her. How could recovery be worse? She explained it to me. How hard it is to suddenly be clear-eyed and view your life after mental illness. You actually cared about your life again, but you looked around and it was like a bomb had gone off. You didn’t recognize the landscape anymore. Losing friends, being behind in school and in life. Ordinary things like having a job, paying bills, adult tasks, seemed so far away. Then there was the guilt. Guilt of having to be cared for, guilt for behavior you couldn’t control at the time. It all comes flooding back to you. Every. Single. Day. A new guilt, a new thing that had to be repaired. While mentally ill, none of this stuff mattered. Recovery was different. Now you care almost too much, the guilt just feeling like it’s crushing you. It can be overwhelming at times. But not insurmountable. Her words really opened my eyes. This is where family and friends’ support comes in. It is crucial to someone recovering. How many times did I wonder why she wasn’t able to do certain things when she was feeling so much better?
    Now how do I put this knowledge I gained into a painting? I was inspired by a painting I saw of a sad cherub. When I saw it, the wide-eyed, baby-like face, it was haunting. It struck me that this is how I envisioned the first steps of recovery. A self-awaking like an innocent baby, but carrying the heavy baggage of a person who had truly suffered. The yellow rose with the eye symbolizes a new beginning, one that is clear-eyed and in-tune with reality. You can’t get your life back until you reach this point, so recovery itself can also be a positive and amazing journey. It can be made much easier by understanding that it will be a difficult and challenging journey, but can be accomplished! It doesn’t happen overnight just because you feel better. It’s an ongoing process. This is crucial for family and friends to understand also, when wondering why a person in recovery is still not able to do certain things. Encouragement with patience and understanding is a key fact for those supporting someone recovering from mental illness.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Finished these three 12 x 12 paintings for Mental Health Awareness Month.  I will be selling them as a set and 25% of the profits will go to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).  Contact me if you are interested.

                                                          Being There Is Enough


                                                                   Letting Go II

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mental Health is as Important as Physical Health

Wow, it's been a whole year since I have posted to this blog!  The last post was in May for Mental Health Awareness Month, too.  I need to get better at posting more, mental health is important all year long, not just for this month!

When I went to get my physical this year in January, I was pleased to find out that my doctor had started including a questionnaire about mental health.  She knows my family history with mental illness, so she went out of her way to tell me this.  She said she wasn't at all convinced that another paper to fill out was going to help the patient, just cause more paperwork.  She then told me how two of her patients, who she never would have suspected would be depressed, filled out the form saying they had symptoms of depression.  She is a firm believer in using this questionnaire now!

Why do we look at our mental health so differently than our physical health?  We need both to survive and be happy.  One affects the other.  If doctors everywhere connected the dots and could treat both as equal parts to a healthy patient, I think patients would do the same!

We need to take mental health seriously in this country and really revamp the system.  So many people suffer needlessly because they are to afraid to seek help or don't even realize the problem.  If your doctor doesn't give you a mental evaluation as well as a physical one, please speak out!  It can open up conversations that might never have otherwise been started.  I hope soon we can all simply understand and thrive from the benefit of treating these two entities together and know that is what makes us truly a whole, healthy human being!

                                                            A Forest of Her Making
                                                                  16 x 16 acrylic

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mental Illness and Prescription Drugs

    Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I'd thought I give a little insight into the subject of prescription drugs and mental health through my family's own experience.

      You can't turn on your TV today without seeing some sort of prescription drug being advertised.  Ask your doctor about this drug or that drug, they tell you.  All the side effects that go on and on.  Even death!  It's no wonder we can feel overwhelmed when we have to face the choice of taking medicine.  Especially when you have a mental illness.

      Many times I see posts on facebook criticizing the use of drugs to help people with mental illness.  Or memes declaring how big drug companies are trying to brainwash us all.  That somehow doctors are forcing patients to take drugs they don't need.  Sure, there may be cases where a greedy doctor may be prescribing drugs they shouldn't to patients.  Whenever there is money involved, corruption will follow.  What I have learned as a parent of children with mental illness is that you must do your own research on drugs and be your own health advocate.   Also, find a doctor you trust--they are out there.  He/she may not be the first psychiatrist you meet, however.   Do your research and meet several doctors until you find the right fit.  If the doctor just wants to give you drugs immediately without much information about you, RUN.  Get recommendations from your family doctor.  Go to websites that rate doctors.  Having a great doctor is key to getting healthy.

      I think the real problem may be that so many people see mental health totally different than they see physical health.  A line is drawn between the two, which is quite wrong.  Many mental illnesses are believed to be caused by an imbalance in chemicals in the brain.  This can affect the body and the brain.  When would we tell a cancer patient not to use the drugs available to help them get better?  Why do so many assume that taking meds for mental illness is wrong?  Each case is different and drugs aren't always the right answer.  But for some, it is the only answer.

                                                 The Path of Kindness~Juli Cady Ryan

     My daughter and sons could not get well without medication.  I make no apologies about that.  Ashley would never have been able to work or go to college without meds.   Heck, she would not even be alive  today without it.  My sons were suffering unnecessarily without meds.  They all have went to therapy on and off.

      We must not forget about therapy in this conversation. Therapy is also a key component to getting well.  Some types of depression get better just with talk therapy.  Others need medication to get better along with therapy.  It all depends on how severe it is.  Again, mental illness is not the same across the board for everyone.  Drugs may be necessary and life-saving for some,  unnecessary for others.

      Dialectical Behavior Therapy Dialectical (DBT) is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan to help better treat borderline personality disorder.  Since its development, it has also been used for the treatment of other kinds of mental health disorders.   This therapy was very helpful with my daughter.  Not all psychologists specialize in this type of therapy, so I would ask when finding a doctor.  I would recommend it, especially for Borderline.

      Medications do have serious side affects.  Caution needs to be taken whenever taking any medicine.  Make the effort to get educated before you make any decisions about taking medication for anything, mental or physical.  You are in charge of your own health and can work with your doctor to find what is right for you.  You decide when and if to take a certain medication.   Do your homework and be prepared when talking to a doctor.  The more you know about your own illness, the better.

      I welcome any constructive feedback or knowledge from those experiencing mental illness or have someone close to them in recovery.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Mental Health Awareness Month

     I thought since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I definitely needed to post something in my blog. At first I wasn't very successful, trying to give facts, when what I really wanted to do here is to share what I know from personal experience. So here it is:
     Coming from a family filled with mental illness, I think the first thing that comes to mind is the isolation that you feel. I felt that no one would ever understand my daughter or me or the complexities that our family faces ever single day. At first you just want to hide it, protect the person with the illness. I remember spending years doing that with my daughter.  Slowly I realized that may not be the best thing for any of us. Why should we have to hide the fact that our daughter has a mental illness? Would we hide it if she had cancer or some other physical illness?
     Once I began sharing (with my daughter's permission)about our struggle, I was amazed at the responses I got! Most people said they had a mental illness or knew someone close to them who did. Many thanked me for my candor and thought me speaking out about it was terrific! I had no idea so many people were out there suffering in silence! It felt good to step out of the shadows and share our family's story. And that's when my art really took a wonderful turn. I had an outlet to express what my daughter and my family was facing. I could share it with the world and maybe, just maybe, help someone deal with their struggle along the way!
                                     The Brilliance of a Cluttered Mind~Juli Cady Ryan
 We have all seen or heard about the down sides to mental illness, so I wanted to concentrate here on the positive! I want people to know that people with mental illness are amazing! Not only do they have to go through life's normal trials and tribulations like the rest of us, but they are combating an illness and stigma about that illness, too. My daughter, Ashley, shines so brightly, sometimes it can hurt to look at her! She never does anything half way, she is like a gale-force wind that you can only stand in the wake of with awe. Her brain thinks differently and so that makes her so unique and interesting. The last thing I would ever call her is boring!
      Ashley is now studying to get her PhD in Psychology. She believes this is her destiny, to help people deal with the mental illness she is dealing with, Borderline Personality Disorder. She hopes to concentrate on this illness and find new therapies to help people. Such a positive outcome, after a very tragic beginning! Her story can give hope to those struggling with mental illness. There was a time she couldn't even go to school or work. Now she is getting straight A's this semester and able to work, too.
      So my message to anyone struggling with mental illness is... don't give up. It may take years to get back on track, but it can be done. Don't be afraid to ask for help. As we have experienced, it is well worth it!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Helen Davey's 52 Sound Paintings Project

I was asked by the talented musician from Switzerland, Helen Davey, to participate in her 52 Sound Paintings project. She will create music to go with 52 paintings from 52 different artists. I was so happy to be asked to do this! She has completed the music for my painting, Time Stealer, and you can now download the music, read my interview about the painting, and learn how she created the music.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A New Beginning

     I haven't touched this blog in over two years. I guess I got busy and it just wasn't something I really wanted to devote my time to anymore. Recently, I started mulling around ideas of how to make this blog more meaningful, important, relevant. And like The Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz once said, I really "had the power all along" to make this blog better! I have shared some of my family's journey here, speaking about our struggles with mental illness. I've mainly shared it with you through some of my art, which was inspired by my daughter, who has Borderline Personality Disorder. I've also talked about my childhood and how I believe my mother has BPD, also. Recently, my sons were diagnosed with anxiety. Without going through these challenges, I don't think I would have been as inspired to be the artist I am today. So what better way to take these life events, that are shared by many-1 in 4 adults in the US have a mental health issue at some point in their life-than incorporating mental health awareness into my art blog.

      I was also inspired to do this after I began reading a book titled, "Remnants of a Life on Paper: A Mother and Daughter's Struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder" by Bea Tusiani, Pamela Tusiani and Paula Tusiani-Eng. The mother and sister wrote a book about their daughter/sister, using excerpts from her journals, since she is no longer with us. The book was so powerful and raw, I could relate to it so much. It was painful, I'm sure, for them to write, but they felt it necessary to share their journey, much like I feel the need to share mine. Thankfully my daughter is on the path to recovery, as are my sons, but there are still challenges along the way. Recovering from mental illness is never easy. But I want people to know they are not alone on their journey and that recovery is possible. I have had many people email me or make comments on how my art has touched them, due to the fact that they themselves or someone they know has a mental illness. Statistically speaking, we all know someone with a mental illness whether we realize it or could be your neighbor,someone at your church or work place. The more mental illness is talked about, the less difficult it will become for people to get help without fear. That is my share my art, my journey and to make this blog a place where people can discuss mental health issues freely. I hope you join me on this journey!
Hidden~18" x 24" acrylic~ by Juli Cady Ryan
One should not feel they have to hide their mental illness. The beautiful surroundings in this painting contrast with the little girl who is fearful and hiding with her stuffed bunny. A lot like real mental illness, where many suffer without getting help, pretending they are fine as the world moves around them.