Mental Health Recovery Stories: 2015 In Review
Another year has come to an end. I have to say that this is one of the quickest years I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Many people I’ve spoken with have felt the same way. I’m not sure why people are experiencing this phenomenon but so be it. One thing is for certain: the world is going thorough great change now. There is an upheaval that is present. Mass shootings, conflicts overseas, and a race for the White House in America that is causing controversy like we’ve never seen in history.
This all has to be weighing heavily on the minds and mental well being of everyone. We here at OC87 Recovery Diaries recognize that. We know that life can often be unsettling and tumultuous. That is why we want to be the place that people can turn to for moments of inspiration, growth, and hope. It’s that hope that all of our brave writers have given us this year and in 2016, we will bring you more stories of courage and resilience.
As this year closes, however, I want to thank our excellent staff who has dedicated themselves to shining a light on people’s recovery journeys in a way that has been both informative and compelling. This is truly a team effort!
While we look forward to a new year, it’s also a good idea to pause and reflect. We asked our team to share the OC87 Recovery Diary posts from 2015 that had the most significance for them. We hope these pieces resonated with you as well. In addition, we asked our staff to recommend a book or play or mental health interest that captivated them or will be of interest to them in 2016.
Finally, we are presenting our top five viewed posts of the past year.
On behalf of the OC87 Recovery Diaries team, I want to wish you and your family a happy holiday season and a joyous new year!
Editor in Chief
Mental Health Recovery Stories From Our Team
GABRIEL NATHAN, Editor
I won’t be terribly sad about saying goodbye to 2015. It was a year of transition and struggle. It was a year of relying on friends and family in ways in which I am not always accustomed. But it was also a year of growth and learning about myself — my limitations and my potential. And learning is always good, even if it isn’t always pleasant.
A post that particularly resonated with me was Grace Kim’s Best Day Project. Her strength, resiliency, creativity, and energy, her daring to face every day with freshness and joy is an inspiration that we can all take note of and hope to model.
If you have some free time in 2016, pick up Dave King’s beautiful and painful novel, The Ha-Ha, or, better yet, the audio-book narrated by the talented Terry Kinney. It is an engrossing story of loss, expression, and what it means to be connected to others.
LAURA FARRELL, Contributor
2015 has been a year of much growth as a being, thinker, and writer. That being said I still very much feel like a work in progress. This year I wrote a post about EMDR and I was able to interview the therapist who I worked with. It was an important part of my recovery process to speak with her about what the practice is. I now can place myself in the practice in a new way, gaining clarity on my experiences. After I spoke to Sonja, my therapist, about the practice, I can view EMDR in a new way, as a writer and thinker — not only as someone who experienced trauma.
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A book that affected me deeply in 2015 was The White Album by Joan Didion. Her work often touches me. The first essay in the collection titled, “The White Album” references Didion’s time in a psychiatric ward. This reference was a small piece of a larger, very important essay and narrative. To me that was helpful in my own understanding of myself and my own place and time.
LEAH ALEXANDRA GOLDSTEIN, Designer & Website Manager
I do the art and layout for all of our posts, a job that I absolutely love. It’s a real privilege to get to translate people’s intimate recovery stories and photographs into images that can make each post more accessible to our readers. Usually this process comes super naturally to me. My inner guide leads me through the design process with relative ease.
This year I had the opportunity to have one of my own essays, A Spiritual Solution To A Mental Health Crisis, shared on the website. The experience I had creating the designs for my own post was more difficult than usual. As I reviewed my pictures in Photoshop, I felt especially self-conscious and concerned about how vulnerable I was being with my image and recovery story online. In retrospect I’m grateful for this experience, which gave me newfound respect and awe for the courage our contributors continue to demonstrate as they share recovery stories so openly on this website in order to combat stigma against mental illness.
In 2016 I’m looking forward to visiting Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida, to learn more about how diet impacts mental health.
BUD CLAYMAN, Editor In Chief
The post that impacted me significantly this year was our own Laura Farrell’s entry on trauma and EMDR therapy. I did not suffer the “large T” events (abuse) that she did, but I experienced many significant “small t” events (damaging self- esteem issues). I had been thinking about EMDR for my pain, anger, and frustration, but it was not until I read that Laura found “safe spaces” in the therapy that I wanted to try it. “Safe spaces” can be times in your life when you simply felt safe. You use these “safe spaces” to process the other traumatic times or events. I recently had my first EMDR session. The technique felt right. I want to thank Laura for her bravery and courage to write about this excellent treatment.
Some books that helped me this year were:
The Mindful Path to Self Compassion by Christopher K. Germer, PhD. Because of it, I’m learning to strike a balance between caring for myself and others.
Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. This is an eight week do-it-yourself course in the practice of Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the art of staying in the present moment while recognizing your thoughts and feelings. The book can help you deal with suffering in all its forms. There is also an accompanying website that includes meditations to help you along.
Two other books that I will be investigating in the coming year are:
EMDR: The Breakthrough “Eye Movement” Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma by Francine Shapiro, PhD. and Margot Silk Forrest. This volume explains EMDR and reveals how the treatment can help with many different types of psychological issues.
Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro, PhD. This book contains self help techniques from EMDR therapy to take control of your life. I recommend doing this only in conjunction with a trained EMDR therapist.
ANNA HEWSTAN, PR & Social Media Manager
I get emotionally invested in every article that is posted on OC87RD. I bow to the resilience, authenticity and the bravery that each author offers when sharing their life with our audience.
One article that touched me personally is Grace Kim first person essay: Best Day Project. Grace’s story is beautiful and filled with hope. It reminds me to make the best out of each of my days. Although I do not practice “pick an activity out of the jar,” I do set an intention each day to have the best day, to approach my work and relationships with openness. I strive to make each day count, instead of allowing them to roll endlessly into each other, which is so common in our society.
Favorite quote from Grace: “There is beauty in everything, it is up to you to see it.”
Other blog posts from 2015 that resonated with me (in no particular order): The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Bud Clayman and Glenn Holsten, Hyacinth’s Journey Home by Glenn Holsten, A Spiritual Solution to a Mental Health Crisis by Leah Alexandra Goldstein, My Kids Know Mommy Has Bipolar Disorder by Jennifer Marshall, and The Emilia Rak series.
The play that made me stop and think in 2015 is Stanley Theatre’s production of Disgraced (here is a link to the broadway production). The plot is filled with graphic and powerful material that is very real in our culture today. There is conflict in the main character’s marriage, between friends and colleagues, ethnic and religious backgrounds, and a drive for power. My friend and I both felt the need to debrief after the play, which we never do. It felt heavy and deep, unlike the light-hearted plays we are used to. It challenged our views and made us think, “What would I think about this?” “What would I do?” “How would I feel?”
GLENN HOLSTEN, Producer / Director
I really enjoy working with writers. I also really enjoy being out in the field with a crew, documenting someone’s story. Both require a significant amount of trust on behalf of the storytellers, who, after all, are sharing the most intimate, precious thing we have — our life stories. Thanks to all those who trusted us with their stories in 2015. So many beautiful words. So many remarkable images.
A few flashes from the field — standing on stage at the Q&A following the screening of the Hollywood Beauty Salon film, listening to a packed house hang on Rachel Carr’s every word as she speaks about the power of forgiveness; revisiting the streets Hyacinth King used to call home, where she’d sleep in an old refrigerator box before she began her recovery journey; witnessing that moment when your interviewee — Robert “Cozmo” Consulmagno articulates his calling in life as he tackles PTSD and bipolar disorder with a few simple and powerful words: “I kind of want to be a hero. Why can’t I be a hero? In a certain way. For somebody. Why not?”
Another hero is Naoki Higashida, author of The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism, translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell. It’s a stunningly honest series of answers to questions about Naoki’s lived experience (ie. Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly? Why do you move your arms and legs about in that awkward way?). It is an extremely brave and insightful book, told with grace and humor and compassion. It is a revelation and a gift.
The Top 5 Mental Health Recovery Stories In 2015
1. Learning To Trust Again by Bud Clayman
As someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, it’s very difficult for me to take the perspective of other people. I feel as though I’m giving up too much control to the other person. I feel that the person may take advantage of me emotionally by either making fun of me or looking down on me. Keep Reading >>
2. An Open Letter To Everyone by Jennifer Marshall
Dear Wondering If I Should Share: I used to be like you. Why should I air my dirty laundry? Why should other people hear about my problems? What if my friends all think I’m weird if they know my brain is broken? I had those same fears. Keep Reading >>
3. I Still Lose Myself by Kate Gallagher
I remember being happy when I was 10. I was sitting in my mom’s car, an old white Volvo station wagon waiting in the driveway after school. I felt smart, and cute, and strong, in stark contrast to the usual self-critical anxiety that often ran through my mind, even as a kid. Keep Reading >>
4. A Director’s Journey by Glenn Holsten
I think I was 14 years old. I know I was in high school. My mother, in the depths of what I now know was depression, sat in the couch in our living room crying. This had become a more frequent occurrence in our normally bustling house. Like most 14-year-olds, I thought I had the solution. Keep Reading >>
OC87 Recovery Diaries and public television station WHYY have collaborated to team up with first-time filmmakers to create a new series of videos that tell inspiring journeys of recovery. Eric lives with schizophrenia and has a history of substance abuse. Watch The Story >>