When Your Spouse Has A Mental Illness (OCD): Part 2

Here are a few important things I have learned from my experience. I don’t pretend to have mastered all of these points, but if you have a mate with a mental illness, perhaps you can benefit from my struggle.

  • KNOW YOUR ENEMY! The more I learned about William’s illnesses, the more I was able to understand his behavior. This enabled me to better empathize and become a more positive force in his treatment. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts followed by rituals aimed at warding off the anxiety-provoking obsessions. This explained the bizarre sexual thoughts and William’s subsequent, drastic actions. His was a less common form of the disease, which was why his therapist had failed to identify it. William’s hospital psychologist also felt he may have bipolar disorder, more commonly known as manic-depression, which explained the mood swings, as well as social phobia, which explained his extreme fear of criticism or evaluation. Our family therapist also identified some dissociative symptoms — the reason William would seem to “check out” during marital conflicts. Although much of the time it felt like my husband was the enemy, the illness is the true enemy. If your spouse has a mental illness, arm yourself with as much information as possible. A full psychological evaluation is critical. Read books, talk to the doctors, and even take a class if you have time. The more you know, the easier it will be to sort out the illness from the one you love.
  • GET THE RIGHT KIND OF TREATMENT. I’ve heard that it takes seven years from the time someone is begins to look for help for their OCD until they find it. Although William had been seeing a therapist for six months prior to his hospitalization, the treatment he was getting was completely useless for his type of disorder. Psychodynamic therapy, rooted in Freud’s theories of conflicting inner impulses and childhood issues, is not an effective treatment for OCD. Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) on the other hand, which focuses on thought processes and changing specific behaviors, has a proven track-record for many anxiety disorders. CBT is expensive and sometimes hard to find but well worth it. Also the judicious use of proper medication is essential. William was put on 150 mg of the antidepressant Zoloft, which is also effective for OCD. It may be necessary to make sure your spouse has been stabilized with medication before starting off with CBT. Sometimes it is important to make sure the medications are working before any ‘cold turkey’ can be served!
  • DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN YOUR SPOUSE’S ILLNESS! I thought I was being supportive by offering continued reassurances and listening to William’s confessions. However, I later learned that this type of participation only worsened his OCD. I have since heard of many cases where spouses have helped the ill member with his or her irrational rituals. Although it is important to not enable or participate in a ritual it is also important to let them finish their ritual or compulsion with out yelling, “Stop it!” Never say, “Can’t you just quit doing that?” Talk to your mate’s clinician about what your role in the treatment should be. Your behavior can effect your spouse’s recovery for better or for worse. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can cure your mate. The illness is his responsibility.
  • REMEMBER, YOU ARE THE HEALTHY ONE! Even months later, William would still question his diagnosis, then at other times he would insist that I had OCD too. When your mate is not thinking clearly, he or she may try to convince you that you are the one with the problem. You may question your own judgment at times. Follow your intuition and stick to your guns. Do not allow your partner’s disordered thinking to effect your self-esteem.
  • GET FAMILY COUNSELING. Keeping a family together is hard enough even when neither member has a mental illness. Family counseling has helped our marriage tremendously. Make sure you find someone who also has a good understanding of your partner’s disorder. Having a couples therapist who knows how to do CBT when necessary has really come in handy.
  • GET SUPPORT! You can’t do it alone, and you can’t expect your impaired mate to meet all of your emotional needs. Maintain as many friendships as possible. Find a support group for yourself — attend a monthly meeting for family members of people with OCD. This is a great source of education and coping strategies.
  • FIND OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES. Because so much of my daily life revolved around my husband’s dysfunction, other activities were critical. Find something that you like to do without your spouse. This will give a needed break and provide you with more energy for the next bout.
  • HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. Once William was out of the hospital and successfully participating in the UCLA NPI day treatment program, I was so impressed by his improvement that I often forgot that he was still mentally ill. About three weeks after has initial diagnosis I began to miscarry my pregnancy. When I asked him to take me to the doctor I was shocked and hurt when he suggested I go alone because he had so much work to do, even though he had taken a leave of absence for the quarter. In retrospect, I can see how his anxiety impaired his ability to respond appropriately. (At the time, however, I was not so understanding!)
  • HELP OTHERS. After several months of attending my family support group I found that I actually had something to offer others who were just beginning on the road to recovery. I was surprised at how good it felt to be useful. I later became involved with the OC and Spectrum Disorders Association (formerly the OC Foundation of California). I frequently correspond with others who are in need of advice and support. Helping others has given some meaning to what is unquestionably the worst experience I have ever endured.
  • EXPECT SETBACKS. Although there are many excellent treatments, a relapse can happen at any time. After a year of treatment, William’s psychiatrist weaned him off of medication. Many of his symptoms returned, and he was too embarrassed to tell anyone for almost twelve months. When I found out about it, the shock was almost unbearable. Like many mental disorders, there is no cure for OCD. Accepting that there will be setbacks makes them easier to handle when they occur.
  • RECOGNIZE PROGRESS. Especially during times of difficulty, I forget how far we’ve both come. Since William’s initial hospitalization he completed a successful course of difficult CBT and earned a master’s degree in physics. I have a better understanding of his illness, our relationship has improved considerably, and yet I feel more independent than ever before.

It’s been two years since William’s initial diagnosis. The first year was difficult and William’s progress seemed painfully slow at times. Medical bills totaled over seven-thousand dollars after insurance, but the results were well worth it. Despite many ups and downs, William’s functioning has greatly improved. He just passed his first oral exam, and is less than a year away from a Ph.D. He dreams of being a professor.

Though I’m grateful that we’ve made progress and found some good treatments, I reflect soberly on the losses and many unknowns. I lost my husband for over a year and still don’t know who he is much of the time. I’ve lost many of my ‘friends,’ our church, my sanity at times, and even our unborn child. I realize that life has no guarantees, that my husband or children might wrestle with the same demon on another day. I hate the struggle, but I know I’ve come out stronger. Though I don’t have any satisfying answers yet, I turn to God for strength. I try to deal with the problems as they arise, one day at time.

When Your Spouse Has A Mental Illness (OCD): Part 1

Taken from  Brain Physics  which is found    HERE.

This article first appeared in print back in 1998. It offers a glimpse into the way things were 19 years ago. As I read the article it “appears” William showed the classic signs of Bipolar Disorder as well as OCD. Allan

We had what I considered a good marriage. Our family and faith were the focal point of our lives. Our six years together had not always been easy, but I was confident we could meet any challenge. Although I had once suffered from clinical depression, I knew almost nothing about mental illness and never considered it would nearly destroy our family in the year that followed.

Certainly there had been signs a problem for some time — my husband, William, had male bulimia as a teen and later behavior that baffled even himself. There was an incident when, while I was visiting my family, he visited a singles bar, condom in pocket. Another time he flew into a rage during an argument and crushed the children’s training toilet. Another incident, again at a bar, where he became drunk and acted indecently with female patrons. And then twice when he charged thousands of dollars on our credit cards without my knowledge. Of course these incidents generated the expected amount of marital friction, but, occurring at the rate of about one per year, they were infrequent enough to attribute to stress or other external factors. William was generally cheerful and even-tempered; there was no place for this behavior in my assessment of him.

Looking back, I recognize several major factors that probably triggered William’s breakdown. He was a graduate student, and his summer internship required a twice weekly commute from Los Angeles to San Diego. Because of the distance, this usually involved a total of four hours of driving and an overnight stay. I was an at-home mom with a new baby girl and two small boys. Living off William’s graduate stipend alone, we were always short on funds and relied heavily on help from our parents. At the advice of my father, a broker and real estate investor, we transferred our life savings into a high-yield foreign investment. In a scandal that made the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, the man who orchestrated the investment, a family friend and relative, disappeared with everyone’s funds. Though our loss of five-thousand dollars was small compared to others, we were left shocked and broke.

The breakdown began as what seemed like a testosterone overdose. Several times a day William became obsessed over women and sex. Try as he might to rid himself of the thoughts, which he found repulsive and frightening, the stronger the thoughts became, and they were soon consuming several hours a day. In the middle of the night he would sneak into the living room and watch snippets of pornography on the scrambled cable channels. During the celebration of our sixth anniversary, while I shopped for champagne, William was slipping pornography from street corner vending machines.

Of course he kept this problem a secret for six months, leaving me only to wonder why our sex life seemed to vaporize into successive nights of rejection. When he finally confessed his problem to me, I was horrified. I do not know if the subject matter or the months of deception were more painful. He promised to stop–to do whatever it took to get our relationship back on track. Through our Bible study leader we arranged a meeting with the pastor and his wife. The meeting proved uneventful as William’s sorrow at his actions and promises of change left the pastor convinced that no further intervention was necessary.

“But what if it happens again?” I asked.

“Why think that way?” the pastor’s wife replied. “Why not think, ‘What if it doesn’t happen?’ God’s the one who’s in control. Things are going to get better for you both. I know it.”

I wanted to believe this too, but still felt that something was terribly wrong.

William was convinced it was a spiritual problem and rose every morning at 6 am to read the Bible for an hour followed by prayer. Even so, he continued an irregular pattern of compulsion and deception. Sometimes the compulsions involved buying a pack of cigarettes and smoking them all, even though he didn’t smoke. Often he surfed the internet for pornography, and once he called a 1-900 sex line while drunk “to tell someone how it felt like no one loved me,” he had explained. At my insistence, he started seeing a Christian psychologist. Despite weekly therapy, a six-week church program, a 12-step group for ‘sexaholics’, and even an ‘accountability partner’ the obsessions worsened. At times William feared he was possessed. Neither of us could escape the sobering realization that his sexual thoughts and acting out were becoming more and more serious.

“I see little girls out on the playground, and I get these really awful thoughts that scare me. Like, what if I’m a child molester?” William said one day.

“Are you telling me you have sexual feelings toward-little girls?” I asked, stunned at the thought.

William replied, “I don’t think so-I don’t want to be. But what if….?”

Our lives were soon revolving around William’s obsessions and compulsions. I had to take all of his cash, credit cards, and checks so that he would not spend our limited income on pornography. He could not watch television or a bikini-clad woman in a commercial might trigger the obsessions. Once triggered, he might switch into a zombie-like state, preoccupied with the unwanted thoughts. Even the morning trip to work was complicated by the circuitous route he drove to avoid billboards of sexy women. I tolerated as much of his behavior as I possibly could, but swore that if he even touched another woman, much less a child, he would have to move out.

But the problems went far beyond sexual issues in a manner that was difficult to articulate. William was late for everything; he couldn’t keep track of important papers; he forgot to pay bills, balance his checkbook, study for exams, and was even unable to attend to household chores. He started keeping a 200+ item computerized check-list to remind him to shave or put gas in the car. He had severe mood swings that ranged from a few days of optimistic, almost mania-like energy, to severe depressive lows when an attempted “cure” for his obsessions failed. When William was more himself he would confess to me all his horrible thoughts and beg forgiveness. Often these thoughts involved plans he had to seduce fellow students or women in our Bible study; other times feared he was homosexual, or that he might punch his supervisor, or that he might fail graduate school and lose everything. Occasionally he would question his faith, his sanity, and even his decision to be married. Trying as hard as I possibly could, I offered him continued reassurance and as much forgiveness as possible.

Communication, however was not a two-way street. If I tried to express my feelings about my own pain or offered anything that could possibly be perceived as a criticism, I was confronted by a sudden and unpredictable personality change. Gone was the sincere, caring husband I had married (and frankly, this fellow was becoming more and more scarce) replaced with a cold, robot-like person who cared nothing of my plight. Tears were met only with a strange, wordless callousness. Other times William was frighteningly secretive. If I intruded at all he became fiercely defensive and even paranoid.

There was no way I could get through to him when he was like this. Anything I said would be ignored or forgotten. I tried hard to be the “perfect wife,” hoping either my love would cure him or that at least he would realize that I wasn’t causing his problems. Other times my efforts failed, and communication would break down into an all-night argument. Often he would withdraw completely, not speaking to me for hours or even days.

Oddly enough, William appeared cool and competent to everyone else. If one more person told me what a great husband I had I thought for sure I’d scream. Could it be, I wondered, that I am the one with the problem? What if I’m crazy and William is normal..?

During that time I found a modest part-time job and started our children in child care. This provided a much needed break from family concerns. Even so, most days I closed the door to my office, put on some music, and cried for half-an-hour. I begged God to help William and save our marriage. I was often depressed, and sometimes felt so discouraged that I wanted to die.

It had been a year since our problems began when I gave up all hope of finding answers in the church, psychology, or 12-step groups. Our friends had run out of ideas and were beginning to withdraw. Our oldest son was having serious behavior problems at pre-school. The pastoral staff at our church was tired of trying to help us. When sessions were abruptly cut off by a female pastor I had been seeing for counseling, I felt more alone than ever. The constant struggle with William’s demon and the impending doom of our marriage left me emotionally and spiritually drained. And Christmas was only a few weeks away. William, in utter desperation, was handcuffing himself to the bed at night to keep himself from feared sexual indiscretions during the wee hours.

As a last resort William began to devote a single day per week to prayer and fasting — a final appeal to God for the nightmarish cycle to end. Meanwhile, I braced myself for the confession of infidelity which I expected at any moment. At the very least, I thought, our separation would put an end to the unbearable effort it took to hold our family together. I was so very tired. My doctor had prescribed increasing doses of tranquilizers for stress. To make matters worse, I was pregnant and didn’t know it.

We had kept William’s struggles a secret from our families, but I had lost the energy to continue the charade one Sunday when speaking to my mother-in-law on the phone. I confided that our marriage was in bad shape, and I didn’t have much hope. She suggested I speak to William’s sister, a psychologist in Pittsburgh.

“Pornography? Handcuffing himself to the bed? This is not like William at all,” said my sister-in-law.

“He lies awake at night,” I said, “sometimes for hours, obsessed with doing all kinds of awful things, like going to a topless place, seducing his classmates, and stuff like that.”

She told me, “Listen carefully, William has an illness called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It’s very genetic. They can treat it. Take him to the emergency room — now.”

Could this finally be the answer we were looking for? Well, he has obsessions, I reasoned, and he has compulsions. Maybe, just maybe, this is it.

After waiting four hours in the emergency room, William was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) by the resident psychiatrist at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute.

The doctor said, “We can do this hard way or the easy way, but I think you should check yourself in to the hospital.” She offered him some admission papers.

William agreed. “Okay,” he said, “where do I sign?”

William spent the next five days locked up in the hospital while doctors performed extensive tests and began treatment with medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy. His doctor was confident that the OCD was treatable. For the first time in months I felt hope.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD) In Children

Taken from the IOCDF  which can be found   HERE.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disorder of the brain and behavior that often begins in childhood. OCD causes severe anxiety in those affected. OCD involves both obsessions and compulsions that take a lot of time and get in the way of important activities, such as school and extracurricular activities, developing friendships, and self-care.

Obsessions are intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that occur over and over again and feel outside of the child’s control. These obsessions are unpleasant for the child and typically cause a lot of worry, anxiety, and distress.

Common obsessions may include:

  • Worrying about germs, getting sick, or dying.
  • Extreme fears about bad things happening or doing something wrong.
  • Feeling that things have to be “just right.”
  • Disturbing and unwanted thoughts or images about hurting others.
  • Disturbing and unwanted thoughts or images of a sexual nature.

Compulsions (also referred to as rituals) are behaviors the child feels he or she “must do” with the intention of getting rid of the upsetting feelings caused by the obsessions. A child may also believe that engaging in these compulsions will somehow prevent bad things from happening.

Common compulsions may involve:

  • Excessive checking (re-checking that the door is locked, that the oven is off).
  • Excessive washing and/or cleaning.
  • Repeating actions until they are “just right” or starting things over again.
  • Ordering or arranging things.
  • Mental compulsions (excessive praying, mental reviewing).
  • Frequent confessing or apologizing.
  • Saying lucky words or numbers.
  • Excessive reassurance seeking (e.g., always asking, “Are you sure I’m going to be okay?”).

In general, OCD is diagnosed when these obsessions and compulsions become so time-consuming that they negatively interfere with the child’s daily life. Typically, the obsessions and compulsions become gradually more severe over time until they get to this point.

In rare cases, symptoms may develop seemingly “overnight” with a rapid change in behavior and mood and sudden appearance of severe anxiety. There is a sub-type of Pediatric OCD caused by an infection, such as strep throat, that confuses the child’s immune system into attacking the brain instead of the infection. This then causes the child to begin having severe symptoms of OCD, often seemingly overnight. The sudden appearance of symptoms is very different from general pediatric OCD, where symptoms appear more gradually.

This type of OCD is called Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus (PANDAS) if it is a strep infection, or Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) if it is any other infection. Click here to learn more about PANDAS/PANS.

How is OCD different from other childhood routines?

It is common for children to have routines for meals, at bedtime, etc. OCD is different from these routines. Compulsions or rituals may become too frequent and/or too intense or upsetting for the child, and may begin to get in the way of their daily life.

OCD is not something a kid or teen can simply “snap out of.” The obsessions they suffer from and the compulsions they use to try to get rid of their bad feelings are often not easy to control.

It is important to remember that OCD is not a result of something that the child, parent, or others did wrong.

There is no “cure” for OCD, but OCD is very treatable with a type of therapy called exposure and response prevention (ERP) and medication. Your child or teen’s future success does not have to be limited by OCD!


Rescuing The Rescuer:First Responders Make Moves To Combat P.T.S.D.

Taken from the  Miami Herald  which can be found   HERE.

The parents and two children were still alive as their car was engulfed in flames, but they were trapped. The fire left their bodies charred.

It was days before Christmas.

“This happened about 10 years ago. We immediately had to go get counseling and talk about it,” said Carlos Henriquez, tears in his eyes. The longtime firefighter for the city of Hialeah was one of the first on the scene.

“It’s a vision I can never take out of my head; I’ll never forget it. It was a horrible. You could see them screaming. We tried so hard to get them out, but there was nothing we could do.”

Police officers, firefighters, dispatchers, ambulance personnel and other first responders can suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder if traumatic experiences such as this are not addressed, research shows.

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It is often associated with members of the military, but is not limited to them.

Compared to non-emergency workers, first responders experience higher rates of psychiatric symptoms such as depression, alcohol abuse, sleep disturbances, anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts, studies have found.

“The numbers are staggering,” said Daniel Fernandez, Hialeah Fire Department’s chief of training, who handles the city’s critical incident stress management program.

“From the beginning we are taught to put on this mask, this facade, that we’re tough and that we don’t let things get to us but, but truthfully it does,” Henriquez said.

In the last year, the Hialeah Fire Department has made significant moves to battle PTSD. It doesn’t just hold the standard group debriefing sessions after major incidents. Now, the department has on-call peer counselors available around the clock.

Fire Lt. Scott Disbrow is one of them.

“In the past, everyone has kept things bottled up,” Disbrow said. “The feedback we are getting is that people are open to talking; that they need someone to listen. As bottled up as we’ve kept it so long, we are turning that corner.”

The sessions are confidential and can be as formal or informal as desired. One day they can take place in the office, another day at the station’s kitchen table.

“We want to make sure our members are aware that they have resources,” Fernandez said, “even if that means attaching brochures to paychecks and posting them behind toilets and urinals.”

Some symptoms of PTSD are behavioral — agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, social isolation, emotional detachment or unwanted thoughts. Others are psychological — flashbacks, fear, severe anxiety or mistrust. Some affect a person’s mood and sleeping patterns — loss of interest or pleasure in activities, guilt, loneliness, insomnia or nightmares.

At any time, between 7 percent and 37 percent of firefighters meet the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD, said Matthew Tull, an associate professor and director of anxiety disorders research in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“It is clear from these studies that there is a big range in PTSD rates among firefighters,” Tull said. “This is likely due to a number of reasons, including how PTSD was assessed (through a questionnaire or interview), whether other emergency responders were also surveyed along with the firefighters, whether the firefighters were volunteered or not and where the firefighters worked.”

Tull added that one of the most important protective factors is having social support available either at home or through work. Having effective coping strategies available could lessen the impact of experiencing multiple traumatic events, he said.

“This is not surprising in that, among people in general, the availability of social support and effective coping strategies have consistently been found to reduce the risk for developing PTSD following a traumatic event,” Tull said.

In recent years, the Hialeah department has lost a handful of firefighters and a firefighter’s spouse to suicide. That, mixed with heart-wrenching service calls and lack of communication, opens a door to the psychiatric disorder.

“Sometimes you walk into a call and realize that the little girl that didn’t make it had the same shoes your daughter has. Or the same dress. Or the same name,” said Fire Lt. Ruben Cantillo, who leads Hialeah Fire’s chaplaincy program, which also works to prevent PTSD.

“Chaplaincy is one of the elements and tools to help our members deal with certain tragedies or things they have on their minds that come up time to time,” Cantillo said. “These things have a way of sneaking up on you. I had guys tell me it’s a Rolodex of things in their heads that they go through before they go to sleep or when they go home to see their children.”

PTSD isn’t new, said Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel Oates,who was chief of police for the city of Aurora, Colorado, in 2012 when there was a mass shooting at a midnight screening of a movie.

The gunman, dressed in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple guns. Twelve people were killed and about 70 others were injured.

“[PTSD] always been an issue. I just think that as a profession, we are much more conscious of it in recent years. I don’t think it’s new, I think our consciousness of it is,” Oates said.

Two months ago the Miami Beach Police Department also rolled out a peer-support system for police officers, a strategy that has since helped spot problems that might require a higher level of professional engagement. As in Hialeah, a first responder who needs more care is referred to that city’s psychiatrist.

“It’s an additional option for an officer who is coping with the strain on the job,” Oates said. “Sometimes all an officer needs to hear is that they aren’t alone and that they should go see somebody.”

Oates added: “The theory is that cops now have someone to talk to. There have always been those options,” he said, but a cop who is wary about talking to a supervisor might open up to a peer officer who is familiar.

Pamela Kulbarsh, a psychiatric nurse for more than 25 years, has worked with law enforcement in crisis intervention for the past decade in San Diego, California, and Tucson, Arizona.

One-third of active-duty and retired officers have suffered from post-traumatic stress, but most don’t realize it, she said.

“Not every call ends when the paperwork is filed,” Kulbarsh said. “PTSD is far more rampant in law enforcement than anyone is really willing to discuss. PTSD statistics for [active-duty] law enforcement officers are hard to obtain, but range from 4 to 14 percent. The discrepancy in this range may be due to under-reporting. Living through a traumatic event is hard enough for an officer. Admitting that you are having problems related to that event is even harder.”

An estimated 150,000 officers develop symptoms of PTSD, Kulbarsh said. For every police suicide, almost 1,000 officers work while suffering symptoms of the disorder.

“Law enforcement officers are also at a much higher rate of developing a cumulative form of PTSD related to their exposure to multiple traumatic events,” she said.

Roddy Monsivais, a former Homeland Security lieutenant, said although more cities in South Florida are adding programs for current law enforcement officers, they fall short for first responders who have already retired.

“Imagine seeing all you’ve seen for 30 years straight and then going home one day to nothing. I had a friend who was quick to say hello to his Glock and pulled the trigger in the parking lot right before his doctor’s appointment,” said Monsivais, who is state president of the National Latino Peace Officers Association.

He added: “The biggest issue these officers face is not having someone to talk to along the way. What are you gonna tell your family? I picked up the pieces of a dead person today? Who are you going to tell when the PTSD kicks in? How about after all those years of holding … all of that stuff in? Who do you call when you go to sleep and wake up in a cold sweat?”

Sharon A. Israel, who works in the emergency medical services division for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said the county has been working with local municipalities for decades. Most recently, the county created a survey to help assess one’s own mental health. The interactive survey asks yes-or-no questions that when tallied, will help the employee identify symptoms of depression, addiction, PTSD or suicidal thoughts and know when to seek help.

“It is critical that first responders understand that asking for help, when needed, is a sign of strength, not weakness,” Israel said.

For now, Hialeah Fire Department’s Cantillo said the city’s goal is to have three or four peer leaders available on-call per shift. Right now there is one per shift.

“It’s very important for us to take care of each other,” Cantillo said. “Sometimes you can’t forget what you see. You try to press the reset button, put it in a little box and try to file it away. The time has come, we can’t can’t put this off to the side forever.”

Fire engineer Paul Garcia nodded as Cantillo spoke.

“A lot of people in society see that we’re the help,” Garcia said. “But they don’t think about that we need help too sometimes.”

Pets Help People Manage The Pain Of Serious Mental Illness

Taken from NPR  which can be found   HERE.

Any pet owner will tell you that their animal companions comfort and sustain them when life gets rough. This may be especially true for people with serious mental illness, a study finds. When people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were asked who or what helped them manage the condition, many said it was pets that helped the most.

“When I’m feeling really low they are wonderful because they won’t leave my side for two days,” one study participant with two dogs and two cats, “They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it.”

Another person said of their pet birds: “If I didn’t have my pets I think I would be on my own. You know what I mean, so it’s — it’s nice to come home and, you know, listen to the birds singing and that, you know.”

Many people with serious mental illness live at home and have limited contact with the health care system, says Helen Brooks, a mental health researcher at University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and the lead author on the study, which was published Friday in the journal BMC Psychiatry. So they’re doing a lot of the work of managing their conditions.

Brooks says, “Many felt deep emotional connections with their pet that weren’t available from friends and family.”

Brooks and her colleagues interviewed 54 people with serious long-term mental illnesses. Twenty-five of them considered their pets to be a part of their social network. The scientists asked who they went to when they needed help or advice, where they gained emotional support and encouragement and how they spent their days.

The participants were then given a diagram with three consecutive circles radiating out from a square representing the participant. They were asked to write the people, places and things that gave them support into the circles, with the circles closest to the center being the most important.

Sixty percent of the people who considered pets to be a part of their social networks placed them in the central, most important circle — the same place many people put close family and social workers. 20 percent placed pets in the second circle.

The interviews with participants are poignant, and reveal the struggle and isolation that can come with mental illness.

“I think it’s really hard when you haven’t had a mental illness to know what the actual experience is [like],” said one participant. “There’s like a chasm, deep chasm between us … [Other people are] on one side of it, and we’re on the other side of it. We’re sending smoke signals to each other to try and understand each other but we don’t always — we don’t always understand.”

People with mental illnesses often see their social groups shrink and find themselves alienated from their friends. For many of these people, says Brooks, animals can break through the isolation. They give affection without needing to understand the disorder.

“[Pets] don’t look at the scars on your arms,” one participant said. “They don’t question where you’ve been.”

The pets provided more than just emotional support and companionship, participants said. The animals also could distract them from their illness, even from severe psychosis.

One study participant placed birds in his closest social circle. When he was hearing voices, he said that they “help me in the sense, you know, I’m not thinking about the voices, I’m just thinking of when I hear the birds singing.”

Another participant said that merely seeing a hamster climbing the bars on the cage and acting cute helped with some difficult situations.

And having to take care of pets keeps people from withdrawing from the world. “They force me, the cats force me to sort of still be involved,” said one participant.

Another said that walking the dog helped them get out of the house and with people. “That surprised me, you know, the amount of people that stop and talk to him, and that, yeah, it cheers me up with him. I haven’t got much in my life, but he’s quite good, yeah.”

“The routine these pets provide is really important for people,” says Brooks. “Getting up in the morning to feed them and groom them and walk them, giving them structure and a sense of purpose that they won’t otherwise have.”

Many of the study participants are unemployed because of their illness, she notes. Having a pet that was well taken care of was a source of pride for them.

Mark Longsjo, the program director of adult services at McLean Southeast, an inpatient mental facility in Middleborough, Mass., says that the interviews in the study reflect his professional experiences. “We have so many patients come through, and we always ask them about their support system. Sometimes its family members, sometimes its friends, but it’s very common to hear about pets.”

When he does patient intake surveys, Longsjo says that he includes pets in their risk assessments. Patients with pets often say the animals help keep them from following through on suicidal thinking, because they know their pets depend on them.

The social workers at McLean also incorporate pets into their aftercare planning, encouraging patients to make walking and grooming their pets a part of their routine. “I think there’s significant value in considering the common everyday pet to be as important as the relationships one has with one’s family in the course of their treatment,” says Longsjo. He feels this study is important because, although there’s a lot of work looking at the benefits of trained therapy animals, they can be expensive and out of the reach of many patients.

Brooks hopes that more health workers will consider incorporating pets into care plans for people with mental illness. Many of her participants said that sometimes it felt like their pets could sense when they needed help the most, and were able to provide it — just like the owners took care of them.

As one person in the study said, “When he comes up and sits beside you on a night, it’s different, you know. It’s just, like, he needs me as much as I need him.”

The Power Of Music For A Hurting Spirit

There are times in our lives when out hearts ache. Other times our hearts are anxious. Or maybe we’re having a crummy day.

Since I was a teen music has always been a tonic for me. When I was searching for meaning in a life marked with chaos I retreated into reading and later on into music. For those times I was whisked away to a place where I was free from the harsh realities of life.

After I listened to an album while absorbing the lyrics I would re-enter the world. Thus began my love affair with music.

In 1 Samuel 16 we read of the anointing of David by Samuel to lead Israel. God had rejected Saul and His spirit departed from him. After being anointed king David was summoned by Saul to play his harp to calm Saul as he was tormented by an evil spirit sent by God. Thus began a long and tortured relationship between David and Saul.

1Samuel 16:23  And it happened when the spirit from God was on Saul, that David took a harp and played with his hand. And there was relief for Saul, and it was well with him, and the evil spirit departed from him. 

Gill, in his commentary on 1 Samuel 16:16 states   “music being a means of cheering the spirits, and removing melancholy and gloomy apprehensions of things, and so of restoring to better health of body and disposition of mind; and that music has such an effect on the bodies and minds of men is certain from observation and experience in all ages.”

In my journey living with panic disorder for over twenty years I can’t count the number of times God has used music to calm my soul when I was overcome with anxiety. Don’t think for a second that you as a Christian are a Saul whom God has removed His spirit from.

When you are overcome with depression or anxiety God loves you as much in those times just as much as when you think you’re at your best. God’s love is unconditional fellow Christian!

Christmas season can be difficult for many. You may find yourself overcome with sadness or grief. I’ve been there. I’ve been in that place I felt God had left me. So I will and have often turned to music to calm my soul. At times read through the promises of God. Know He has not excluded you from His promises. It’s been a long journey that is still ongoing for that to sink into me to the point I believe it 100%.

John 3:16,17 is a reminder of the love God has for us. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

The reason that for years I have shared music once a week is it can be a balm for the soul. I’ll leave you with one of my favorites. God bless and keep you. Allan

Sexual Abusers: Abusers And True Repentance

Originally posted in September, 2011.

Many who suffer with a mental illness arrived at that place in their lives due to some type of  past sexual abuse.  This article, written by Philip Monroe, who has a blog listed here, tackles a very delicate topic.  I chose to print this article with two things in mind.  1)  For the well being of the victim by not rushing in and offering forgiveness where the fruits of true repentance don’t exist.  2)  To remind us that the worst of sinners can be forgiven.

In no way is this article intended to be a means to cause any condemnation to victims of abuse.  Nor is it intended to create any pressure to make a huge decision you aren’t comfortable with.

I pray that God would use this article to work out His perfect will for those who have been victimized and also for the victimizer.  Allan


As a psychologist and seminary professor, I frequently entertain questions about the timeline for forgiveness and reconciliation in situations of domestic or familial sexual abuse. Most frequently, church leaders want to know when it is appropriate to encourage a victim of abuse to allow an offender back into the home or life.

These questions sometimes originate for quite different reasons. Some ask due to fear that once abuser and victim are separated, reconciliation is made much more unlikely. Others ask because it seems that the abuser is not being forgiven in a timely manner. Still others want to know how to discern whether the abusive person is genuinely repentant. It is this last question that I think merits the most attention. How do you know when an abusive person is adequately repentant, and therefore, capable of providing a safe environment for others to live in? The answer, of course, is found in the fruit they produce.

Honest admission.

When God’s people encounter his holiness, they often fall on their faces and admit the state of their soul (e.g., Moses, Isaiah, Paul). They make no pretense of being clean and they do not look to excuse their behavior or blame others (“I might be 60% responsible, but she’s responsible too.”). They do not attempt to manage their image as Saul did when confronted by Samuel (1 Samuel 15:14f). In appropriate settings they willingly reveal secret sins that had not been known. This honesty should be permanent rather than temporary. If another should bring up their sins decades later, they should be capable of admitting what is true without defensiveness or undue shame.

Does the abuser:

openly acknowledge abusive behavior and its impact on the victim?

accept full responsibility for actions without excuse?

accept the consequences of the abuse without demand for trust or forgiveness?

Sacrificial efforts to repair.

The story of  Zacchaeus provides a wonderful illustration of the fruit of repentance in the life of a man who profited by abusing others with his power. He does not shy away from the sniggering comments of others, but publicly promises to pay back all he has cheated plus four times more (probably twice as much as the Law required!). Not only that, but he willingly gives half of his wealth to feed the poor.

Jesus describes the kingdom of God as having so much worth that a true disciple joyfully gives all to acquire it (Matthew 13:44-46). The repentant abuser sees the value of restoration and joyfully gives all to obtain it. He no longer sees his rights as something to hold on to, but immediately thinks of how he can sacrificially put the interests of others before his own. Further, he does not demand acknowledgment of this sacrificial effort to undo the wrong done. Sadly, the opposite fruit seems more prevalent. The abuser strives to protect personal interests (e.g., an unwillingness to pay for counseling costs of the victim), attempts to compromise (I’ll pay for counseling if you won’t report the abuse to the authorities), or uses children to gain leverage (the children will be hurt if I am out of the home)

Does the abuser:

spontaneously seek to make restitution (not penance!) or to offer economic support without demand for things in return?

give physical and emotional space for the victim to receive help from others?

Accepts and flourishes under discipline.

When caught in abusive or addictive behavior, individuals commonly make immediate changes in their behavior. They stop certain problematic behaviors and start healthier ones (e.g., returns to church, reads the Bible, goes to counseling). We commend these behaviors. However, Jesus warns the disciples (Matthew 12-13; the story of the house swept clean and the parable of the soils) about the problem of reading initial reactions to the Gospel. Time and cultivation are required. The repentant abuser willingly submits to the loving discipline of the Church. When adequate ministry to him is not available, he pursues it until he finds it. He does not demand time limits or the entitlement to be forgiven. He accepts the intrusion of accountability partners and sees their work not as police work, but as discipleship.

Does the abuser:

accept the ministry of discipline, accountability, counseling, etc. with joy?

acknowledge that the fruit of change takes time to develop and so sees discipleship as a lifetime project?

show evidence of a growing life of prayer, reading of the Word and increasing measure of the fruits of the Spirit?

Be careful.

A word of caution to those whose job it is to assess the level of change in an abuser. There are two errors we must avoid. It is easy to classify abusers as subhuman and unable to ever change. If we fall into this error, we may be tempted to prejudge their ability to change, thereby encouraging greater defensiveness on their part. The power of the cross changes the worst of sinners (including ourselves). These men and women deserve God’s grace as much as any. The second error is that of being thrown off by external issues that may not have much to do with repentance. Those who are charming and well-spoken (especially those who use spiritual language) may tempt you to ignore fruit that is inconsistent with repentance. Also, when victims are less likable due to their own interpersonal demeanor, it is tempting to excuse abusive behavior.

It is wise to seek supervision during this process and to remember that you participate in the Lord’s work and that He will accomplish refinement in his children, including you!
Philip Monroe, PsyD., is Associate Professor of Counseling and Psychology and the Director of the MA in Counseling Program at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. He is also a licensed psychologist and practicing counselor.