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Archive for June, 2012

Here we are, on the very last day of the 28-day author blog challenge…

Since I am a project oriented person, my natural inclination is to quickly move to the next project. Nevertheless, it would be unwise to do that before asking myself a few questions. “How has this exercise in writing changed me? How has my writing served others? Do I have any regrets? What is next?”

Before I answer those questions, I want to thank Laura Orsini for developing this wonderful opportunity for writers. You are an example of a woman in business who gives much. I cannot imagine the work that has gone into this project. I understand your grandmother’s concern that it may not have been financially rewarding. However, just remember when you give much, as you have, you will receive much. Your rewards may be less tangible than financial gain, but they will be of much higher quality and more lasting. When you plant seeds, there will be a harvest. May your harvest be 100 fold.

Now, back to my harvest…

There were days that I felt I might not make it to the end of writing every day for 28 days. Life still went  on at my house in the midst of writing. During this timeframe, I had a book signing, a graduation party to prepare for, babysitting to do for my two youngest grandchildren, doctor’s appointments for myself and my granddaughter who lives with us, homework to do for a class I’m taking, plus all the daily routines of cleaning, cooking, laundry, gardening, exercising, and actually getting a little sleep once in a while.  (Whew, even my grammar checker tells me that was a run on words.)

The discipline of writing something (anything) each day is the greatest reward I take away from this challenge. Writing is a creative process that takes time to simmer. Some days I thought nothing was simmering in my mind and heart and I felt completely depleted. However, showing up at the computer every morning was exactly the discipline I needed. And, after a quick prayer, I managed to come up with something to say each and every day. If I want to be a writer, I must write – not just when I have a whim to do so but every day. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! I realize that not everything I write will be brilliant, but it will be good practice. It takes 21 days to build a habit. I hope I will now have withdrawal symptoms if I don’t have the discipline to write something every day! (I might take a day or two off though.)

How has my writing served others? Those who have followed my blogs have no question about my platform – breaking the stigma of mental illness and bringing hope to families who experience it. That is why I wrote the book, God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder. I hope that is what I have accomplished through my blog. However, I am fully aware there is much more work to do.

Writing and speaking about mental illness helps those who know little about it to understand those who experience it. Bringing hope to those who experience mental illness and their families is a little more difficult because people often look for hope in all the wrong places. After 43+ years of coping with mental illness in my family, believe me when I tell you, my hope comes from God alone. Everything and everyone else will eventually fail.

I have only one regret; I was not able to read/comment on the blogs of others in the group as much as I would have liked. It was most encouraging to receive comments on my blog and that is what I checked out first before I wrote each day. A big “thank you” goes to Jo Michaels who was my most frequent encourager. Jo, each time you wrote, “write on” it made me want to keep going, just for you. You are a gem.

What’s next? I am looking forward to participating in the exercise to write a fiction book with other members of the group. This will be a new creative venue for me, since I am a non-fiction writer. In addition, I hope to use some of my blog materials for the new daily reflection book I am writing.

Thanks to all my readers. Keep tuned in.

Lastly, may all my fellow writers have an increase in their passion for writing because of the 28-day author blog challenge.

Blessings,

Dorothy Ruppert, author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”

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An old proverb dating back to Cicero (106-43 B.C.) says, “The eyes are the mirror of the soul,” meaning a person’s thoughts can be ascertained by looking into his/her eyes.

Three years ago, a dear friend who once lived in my city was traveling through my area to visit relatives. I met her at a restaurant in Wisconsin about two hours from my home. She and I had talked on the phone numerous times after she moved to Texas, but we had not seen each other face to face for about four years. When we looked into each other’s eyes that day, we both saw something we had not picked up in our phone conversations.

“You look tired,” she said.

I may have been tired. After all, I was raising two grandchildren since the death of our daughter just four months earlier. Never the less, I had plenty of rest the night before and did not feel particularly tired that day. I think what my friend saw in my eyes was the grief I was carrying. Even though I was smiling and happy to see her once again, when she looked into my eyes, she did not see a smiling soul; she saw grief.

I too saw something in my friend’s eyes that day, which I could not have detected on the phone. It was physical pain. At the time, she was experiencing discomfort in her hip, back and legs. She did not know it then, but several years later doctors discovered that her body had rejected her artificial hip, which resulted in a serious infection. Eventually, she had four more surgeries to remove the old hip, clean out the infection, place a new hip, and then one more to realign the new hip that went out of joint. She spent eighteen months in pain, going to 17 different doctors before they found the source of it.

After years of caring for my daughter, who suffered from bipolar disorder, I became really good at discerning what was happening in her soul by looking into her eyes. Some days it was the “deer in the spotlight” look of fear and terror. Sometimes, her eyes had a mischievous twinkle, which made me wonder what the fallout would be when she put that thought into action. Some days it was a sad, “I can’t do this anymore” look.  Other times when I looked into her eyes I saw a truly happy, thankful, and relaxed soul.

What are others seeing in your eyes today?

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.” Matthew 6:22.

Dorothy Ruppert, author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”

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What should we do when a mentally ill loved one is in denial about their illness?

When someone we love is unwilling to accept their diagnosis, it causes a heartbreaking chain of events. As we watch them spiral downward, we feel frightened and worried. It appears that nothing we say or do will change their mindset. For those who walk alongside the individual who is ill, it is a horribly helpless situation.

When my daughter graduated from high school, she had been on medication for bipolar disorder for less than a year. Her moods were finally stabilized after a 17-year roller coaster. Now that she felt better, she began to think she could survive without the medications. She took them on a hit or miss basis. If she felt good one day, she did not take them. However, usually “feeling good” meant she was on the road to mania. On the days she was depressed, she took them. Eventually, she just did not take any medications.

At first, she went into a manic state. She partied all night and slept all day. She disregarded all house rules and argued for her independence. After repeated warnings, my husband and I reached the point of ENOUGH ALREADY! One night we dead bolted the house and put a sign on the door saying she should come back for her personal belongings that afternoon.

The next morning at 4:00, we heard a loud banging and yelling in our garage. My husband went to the door and explained to our daughter that she would have to find another place to live. We had a right to tranquility in our own home and her behavior was causing us to be sleep deprived, worried, and upset most of the time. She was homeless for a few hours, but she quickly figured out how to find another place to live.

The bigger issue was that she was very mentally ill and was in denial about it. Nothing we said convinced her she needed to be medication compliant. Drawing boundary lines for her was a scary stance for us to take, knowing that she could go off the deep end at any moment. However, we could not help her unless she accepted her illness and advocated for herself.

She wandered through the next year, working temporary jobs and living with friends, but she refused to take her medications. We kept in touch and prayed for her but did not offer her refuge in our home. One day she had a breakdown and ended up in the hospital. From then on, she gradually learned to accept her illness. Unfortunately, this scenario is more prevalent than you might think.

Doing what we did is not always the best solution. Each case has to be evaluated individually. Caring for someone who has a mental illness requires much grace, forbearance, tolerance, charity, endurance and self-restraint. Nevertheless, there is a fine line between giving them what they want and enabling them and giving them what they need, causing them to accept responsibility for their illness.

Dorothy Ruppert, author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”

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It is entirely possible to have peace in the middle of a storm. Even when everything around you is in turmoil, no one can take away the peace and joy you have in your heart without your permission. Here is one of my favorite poems from Roy Lessin’s Book, Meet Me in the Meadow.

YOUR LIFE IS BLESSED WHEN –

Peace is in your spirit,

Perception is in your decisions,

Patience is in your trials,

Purpose is in your work,

Purity is in your character,

Praise is in your soul,

Power is in your witness,

Passion is in your calling

Prayer is in your heart.

I wish for you a peace-filled day.

Dorothy Ruppert, author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”

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Back in the 70s, when my daughter’s bipolar illness was developing, I began to experiment with different diets for her. At that time, a few doctors had made a connection between hyperactivity and diet. They believed that sugar was the main culprit and that many children had food sensitivities that caused them to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It was a brand new theory that many seasoned professionals considered quackery.

I noticed some improvement in Tammy’s up and down moods after eliminating wheat and sugar from her diet. However, by then, she was around 10 years old and she had already developed an addiction to these very foods, making the diet hard to maintain. I now believe I was on the right track.

Today, more and more health professionals believe that the gastrointestinal system is the “second brain,” containing some 100 million neurons—more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system!

The research of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride shows there is a profound dynamic interaction between the gut, the brain, and the immune system. She has developed what might be one of the most profoundly important treatment strategies for preventing autism, as well as a wide range of other neurological-, psychological-, and autoimmune disorders—all of which are heavily influenced by gut health.

Dr. Campbell-McBride has done extensive research on the connection between gut flora and mental health and has improved the health of her own child, diagnosed with autism. This is what she writes:

“What happens in these children [is that] they do not develop normal gut flora from birth… As a result, their digestive system—instead of being a source of nourishment for these children—becomes a major source of toxicity. These pathogenic microbes inside their digestive tract damage the integrity of the gut wall. So all sort of toxins and microbes flood into the bloodstream of the child, and get into the brain of the child.

“… If the child’s brain is clogged with toxicity, the child misses that window of opportunity of learning and starts developing autism depending on the mixture of toxins, depending on how severe the whole condition is, and how severely abnormal the gut flora is in the child,”

Dr. Campbell-McBride explains further that GAPS may manifest as a conglomerate of symptoms that can fit the diagnosis of either autism, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, just to name a few possibilities. Digestive issues, asthma, allergies, skin problems and autoimmune disorders are also common outgrowths of GAPS, as it can present itself either psychologically or physiologically.

Leading U.S. health guru, Dr. Mercola, believes Dr. Campbell-McBride’s Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and Gut and Physiology Syndrome (GAPS) Nutritional program is vitally important for MOST people, as the majority of people have such poor gut health due to poor diet and toxic exposures.

It would be a major breakthrough, just like the discovery of penicillin, if mental health researchers would confirm the connection between the gut and the brain, leading to the healing of brain disorders!

Dorothy Ruppert, Author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”

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With only seven more blogs to post for the 28-day Author Blog Challenge, I am wondering if I will have withdrawal symptoms when it is over. Writing these blogs has been one of my favorite things to do each day, since beginning on June 2. From the onset, I chose to deviate from following the daily prompts. Instead I wanted to write about my passions, breaking the stigma of mental illness and finding hope in situations that seem hopeless. These two themes also run through the book I wrote, “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”

Some days, when I sit down to write my blog, I have no idea which aspect of mental health I will address. I just show up at the page/computer, say a little prayer for inspiration, and begin. On other days, I know exactly what I want to write about because it has been ruminating in my soul for several hours, days, months, or years and I have to get it out on paper before I explode. Often, I wake up in the middle of the night for no reason, other than to jot down an idea that pops up from my subconscious mind. This is all part of the creative process of writing. Sometimes it flows, other times it is a bit of a struggle.

Living life to its fullest is a creative process just like writing. On certain days, it seems I am empty and hopeless and have nothing to contribute and I just show up and see what develops. On other days, I have hopeful ideas, constructive plans, and marvelous inspirations, which I simply must implement or I will burst. The important things are that I SHOW UP and that I engage in the process.

Each morning, when I awake, whether I feel empty or full I just need to show up, say a little prayer and fully experience whatever the day brings. I usually receive only enough manna (food) to write one blog or to live one day. I can be present in just one day – today. By faith, I believe l will receive the manna I need each day, but no more/less than I really need!

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There has been a long and tragic disconnect between churches and mental health issues. I once spoke with a pastor who told me there was no mental illness in his parish. REALLY? In a church of 1,000 contributing members, there was no one who suffered from mental illness? The statistics show that one in four persons will experience a brain disorder sometime in their lifetime. Was he serious? What planet did he live on? Talk about being out of touch with his community!! Perhaps he was from the group that believes that mental illness is demon possession and not a physical illness of the brain. If so, it might be safer to shove mental illness under a rug rather than deal with messy demons!

If you are a church attendee, when was the last time you heard mental illness mentioned from the pulpit? Do you have a mental health team active in your church? Do you have faith support groups for people who suffer from mental illness? How about a support group for family members of the mentally ill? Probably not, right?

Several years ago, the National Alliance on Mental Illness recognized the importance of faith in the lives of the individuals whom they serve and their Faith-Net division was born. I have spoken with many long-time NAMI members who are not aware of the new NAMI Faith-Net initiative and I suppose most churches and other individuals are not aware of it either. The following article speaks of how one man is creating Faith Net awareness in his community. This is encouraging to those of us who want to be able connect our faith walk with the mental health struggles we cope with on a daily basis:

http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=140770&lstid=275

I think it’s time for church leaders to remove their heads from the pit of denial about mental illness!

Dorothy Ruppert, author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”

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