By Bobbie Krueger

Original Post on : 


Antipsychotics saved my life. Since I am diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, antipsychotics are a big part of my treatment.

I am also, however, one of the 500,000 people who got tardive dyskinesia (TD) from antipsychotics. Not only do I have an eye twitch and a mouth grimace, TD gave me a twitch that temporarily stopped me from breathing. Consistently, throughout the day, I would not be able to breath because a twitch in my throat would prevent me from doing so. My form of TD is extremely rare and shouldn’t prevent anybody from taking antipsychotics.

I was diagnosed with TD after I saw my psychiatrist, and she noticed my twitching. I had never thought about it being TD; I always figured it was a nervous twitch. She noticed it in early July, and a new medication had just been FDA-approved that May. This new medication was the first approved by the FDA to target the symptoms of TD. My psychiatrist and I were both excited to try it. I thought I was stuck with this twitch for the rest of my life; but now knowing there was a medication that could help me excited me.

My twitch had gotten worse over the year since starting my antipsychotic in November of 2016. It started with just my eye and spread to my mouth then eventually my neck and esophagus. I was embarrassed to go out in public. People would stare at me as my eye and neck would violently twitch. I would usually resort to covering my face with my hands to try to conceal the embarrassing motions.

The new medication was only available at one pharmacy, through mail order, and they were amazing with helping me get my prescription. It is also an extremely expensive medication, $64,000 a year for the starting dose. The company that makes it provided me with a copay card, which means they will pay for my copay until the drug goes generic.

I received the new medication a couple days after my 21st birthday, and I was extremely eager to try it. I dealt with some sleepiness and itchiness when first starting. It was about 10-14 days before I started to notice a difference. My twitch started to slow down, my neck movements started to calm down. My husband noticed I wasn’t choking in my sleep anymore. I didn’t experience the full effects until going up to the maximum dose.

It has been four months now since I started the new medication, and I no longer deal with the esophagus twitch, nor the neck twitch. I still deal with the eye twitch and grimace when extremely anxious but nothing like before. This new treatment has changed my life in ways I never thought it could. I can go in public without fear of being stared at, I can breathe normally, I feel human again. Antipsychotics changed my life, and I can’t imagine my life without them, and now that I have the additional medication I can’t imagine my life without that either.


Note: Please keep in mind that NAMI does not endorse any treatments or medications, and publication of blogs or personal stories does not indicate and should not imply recommendation.


mother holding baby

I always pause when someone asks the question: “Didn’t you always want to be a mother?”

No. No, I did not.

I have always liked children. My education and career have centered on children’s welfare and development. Never did I fear that children would “hold me back,” personally or professionally. I even enjoyed spending spare moments with kids.

My hesitance about parenthood stemmed from my own childhood trauma and the state of my mental health. Specifically, I had two fears: That my mental illness would make me a terrible parent and that the genetic odds of my kids grappling with mental health conditions seemed too high.


I Believed I Couldn’t Be A Good Parent

I live with bipolar disorder. Caring for myself — which includes regular therapy, medication, making space for grounding and re-centering myself — requires significant energy, intention and time. How could I expect to give a child or children the energy and attention they deserved? Even when healthy, I was plagued by thoughts of dread. When I was not healthy, my thoughts were downright terrifying.

In adolescence and early adulthood, my manic episodes shed light on what I believed to be personal shortcomings that would prevent me from becoming a good parent. While manic and hypomanic (and amid delusions and feelings of grandiosity) I was not usually reflective, but in the moments when I was, I felt regret and shame over my self-centeredness. In those moments, I doubted I would ever be a suitable parent. Would I put them in danger, as I often put myself? Would my erratic behavior damage them?

When I had depressive episodes, my thoughts about parenthood were filled with dread and gloom. What if I died by suicide and abandoned them? Even if I was physically present, would I be able to care for them? Getting out of bed, folding laundry, feeding myself and bathing felt unmanageable when I was depressed. If these acts were too much for me, how would I possibly meet the needs of a child? And how could I provide enriching experiences and joy to a home?

Underlying these thoughts was deep self-doubt and the sense that I somehow didn’t deserve children.


Changing My Mindset Required Work

I have two beautiful, healthy children. What changed? In some ways, the shift felt abrupt. One day, I woke up and just wanted children, though I know that the journey required much more work and self-reflection than that.

In the fall of 2008, I experienced a hypomanic, borderline manic episode. In my second year of graduate school, I found myself overcommitted and stretched thin: Too many courses, a 50-mile commute, training for a marathon, taking swim lessons, teaching, performing research and more. Autumn is always a precarious time for me.

The rustle of leaves, vibrant colors, excitement about a new school year, cool wind whooshing in my hair — these typically beloved and highly-anticipated seasonal changes lead to a loss of grounding for me. And in the past, I would not even realize when I started to escalate toward mania.

I distinctly remember the day my perspective began to change. It was the first cool day of the season, but I was still wearing shorts. As I walked across campus, mesmerized by the movement made by the wind on the ruffles on my shirt, a thought snapped into focus, “Oh, this could become mania. This could become very dangerous. I am already pushing myself too much.”

I walked right into the campus counseling center. There, I started therapy, in what was the longest consecutive stretch of treatment I’d ever had. During this time, I received psychodynamic therapy to work through traumatic events from my youth and uncover how they fueled my fears about parenting. As I progressed, my self-doubt decreased and my capacity to imagine myself as a parent grew.


Being The Best Parent I Can Be

I love my role as a parent, but parenting still terrifies me. Being a parent with a mental health condition terrifies me. Some of my earlier fears weren’t unfounded. A parent’s mental health condition presents the possibility for negative impacts on children. However, harm is not inevitable. In fact, I believe my history has made me a better parent.

I practice vigilance when it comes to my symptoms, and I never take my health for granted. Diligently, I put routines in place that keep me healthy, and I model these behaviors for my children. For example, I have established evening routines that create conditions for healing and stabilizing sleep. Our whole family has now adopted them, too.

Chances are, you haven’t heard other parents or caregivers talk about their struggles with mental health conditions. You may have heard about their children’s challenges with mental health, but not their own. If you are a parent or guardian, or considering parenthood or guardianship, and have a mental health condition, you are not alone. If 1 in 5 adults grapples with a mental health condition and roughly 40% of households have children under the age of 18, the math suggests that there are many of us.

Parents and caregivers living with mental health conditions should be empowered to come out of the shadows. Doing so creates conditions for a supportive peer community and for parents to get the care we need to be the healthiest caregivers we can be.


Nicole Beeman-Cadwallader works with a group of students with lived experience with mental illness as a part of a 4.0 Schools fellowship. Together, they are co-designing a training program for peer-to-peer mental health recovery supporters, specifically addressing LGBTQ+ individuals and students of color. She can be reached at

overstimulated person

I am in recovery from mental illness and have been on a positive path for the last few years. In the past, I have struggled with depression, anxiety, unresolved trauma, an eating disorder and, later, bipolar disorder.

Recently, I have felt more balanced and stable with the help of regular therapy and appropriate medication. However, I still experience the effects of trauma and symptoms of C-PTSD. While the evolving discourse on mental health is shedding light on the impact of trauma, I have found that we don’t often discuss the experience of managing triggers in the workplace.

1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness each year, so, inevitably, some employees will experience days where they need a moment to address their mental health and regroup. As we envision a healthier workplace that prioritizes mental health, it’s essential for employers to understand this potential for “bad” days and provide the necessary support and accommodations. Additionally, as individuals, we need to be aware of what our personal triggers are and what therapeutic coping skills work best for us.

Working Amid A Pandemic

The workplace has changed drastically in the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Naturally, stress accompanies these changes — particularly in the health care field, as health centers are overwhelmed by an influx of patients.

In my experience working in health care, daily tasks have doubled or tripled even though we have no additional help. This work is rewarding; I enjoy helping people and pride myself on doing my work swiftly and diligently. I’m proud of the way we go above and beyond to help. But this level of stress can also be a trigger to those who are managing their own mental illness and trauma.

As we continue to navigate pandemic life and work, employers must remember that even those who enjoy their work can be triggered in the workplace and may need extra support.

My Experience Managing Triggers In The Workplace

Despite my diligence in seeking help and managing my mental illness, there have been two occasions the last few months where my C-PTSD was triggered at work.

The first instance took place when I was reconstituting a medication — a process in which we mix powdered medication and water — and I happened to be opening a medication that is notoriously difficult to work with. In these cases, we have been instructed to hit the bottle against our palms to better loosen the powder from its container. However, no matter how hard I shook the bottle or hit it against my palm, the powder remained stuck.

Repeatedly hitting my palm, though done for a fairly normal reason, triggered me. But trauma does not necessarily recognize “normal” circumstances; while I was, in fact, safe, my body did not know this and reacted from past situations where I was unsafe.

In the moment, I felt a deep, sinking feeling in my stomach and felt tears welling up in my eyes. I made an attempt to reset; out of sight of my colleagues, I took a minute to take a few deep breaths and repeated to myself, “I am safe.” Then, I jumped back into work, although I wish I had taken more time to myself. The distressing images in my mind gave rise to complex emotions, and I did not feel present.

The second instance also took place during a routine task — directing an adult to administer a COVID test to a child — but I was particularly triggered by the circumstances. The child, who was understandably anxious about facing an unknown situation, was particularly vocal in expressing their distress. Upon hearing their protest and cries, I could feel a panic attack coming on. I quickly relocated to a back room where I could reset in private and allow my emotions to run their course.

I calmed myself by focusing on posters hung up on the wall; I noticed the shapes, colors, text and designs. In this moment, I could feel myself dissociate. Everything goes numb — mind and body — and I sink into a floating world of nothingness.

To ground myself and return from this dissociation, I practiced a technique called 5-5-5, which is a skill that engages the five senses. You name five things you see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This skill brings us back to the present, as we can feel very distant in the past in a flashback and no longer feel grounded. The time needed to reset in this way can vary person to person, but it’s important for me to get the feelings of panic out of my system — otherwise they can linger as I do my work.

Addressing Stigma

Employers can play a critical role in helping employees feel supported at work. As I was able to catch my breath and the tears and panic subsided during the second trigger, my phone vibrated in my pocket, snapping me back to present even more. My boss had texted me asking if I was ok. She then let me know to take a moment to myself and come back when I was ready.

I appreciated the support from my manager, and I returned to work — but I still felt shame wash over me, as I worried that I had overreacted in the moment. However, with some reflection, I realized that I was not alone in managing complex emotions.

One of my coworkers had gotten emotional a few months ago in a similar situation, and I had completely understood her reaction in the moment. Knowing that others feel deeply at times, too, helps me feel more comfortable expressing my own emotions.

Now, reflecting on these incidents, I can acknowledge that I was skillful in the moment and recognized my needs. I am working through trauma and bravely recovering and accepting help. I am healing. And I can trust that my coworkers and I will support each other as we cope.

Prioritizing Therapy

I am continuing to make progress in my recovery and trauma work. Recently, I began eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a technique which has proven to have high success rates with trauma survivors. In fact, large percentages of patients report no longer experiencing symptoms of PTSD from a single event traumatic experiences after three 90-minute sessions.

My hope is that I will continue to heal from doing work around my C-PTSD in therapy. I believe that healing is in the horizon, even though it means I must face the trauma before I overcome it.

I hope that if you relate to my experiences, you can find ways to feel safe — at home and at work. Your pain is real. You deserve better. You deserve safety. And you deserve to be gentle with yourself and treated gently by others.

Lexie Manion is a writer, artist, student and mental health advocate. She writes about mental health and body acceptance topics while sharing her personal story of recovery. Lexie is currently studying to become an art therapist, and she strongly believes art and writing can be healing. You can find more of her work at or follow her on Instagram at the handle @lexiemanion.

prescription pill bottle

In a recent study in the American Psychiatric Association’s “Psychiatric Research & Clinical Practice,” lead and senior authors Christine Lu, M.Sc., Ph.D., and Stephen Soumerai, Sc.D., probed further into FDA public health advisories and “black box warnings” that were issued beginning in late 2003, 2005 and 2007. The advisories cautioned that children, adolescents and young adults taking antidepressants were at an increased risk of suicidal ideation and behavior.

The team produced the first long term study of suicide deaths following these warnings and their unintended effects. The Advocate spoke with Drs. Lu and Soumerai to learn more about the study: “Increases in Suicide Deaths Among Adolescents and Young Adults Following U.S. FDA Antidepressant Boxed Warnings and Declines in Depression Care.”

Q: These “black box” warnings about the risks to youth and young adults persist today. Can you tell us how the FDA arrived at this conclusion and what the warnings were intended to do?

A: The FDA issues warnings based on a variety of evidence about drug safety issues, from single case reports to randomized clinical trials.

In this case, there were anecdotal reports that people taking Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and other antidepressants were more likely to have suicidal thoughts and behavior. However, the direction of causation is unclear: Youth taking antidepressants were almost certainly depressed in the first place, sometimes with suicidal thoughts.

Meta-analyses of industry drug trials — which were the basis for the warnings — found a 1–2% increase in the number of young people experiencing suicidal thinking at the start of their antidepressant therapy. However, these meta-analyses were biased. The majority of the trials had neither clearly defined measures of suicidal thoughts, nor ways of accounting for the many people who dropped out of the study, which distorted the findings.

The goal of the warnings was to alert clinicians to look for increased suicidal ideation early in treatment in individual patients. Unfortunately, the warnings stigmatized mental health care for young people. As mental health care declined, correspondingly, suicide attempts and suicide deaths increased in the U.S. population.

Q: Tell us about your journey to study the results of these warnings. What inspired the research, and why have you stuck with it to this day?

A: We realized we had data in the Health Care Systems Research Network (HCSRN) to rigorously address some important unanswered questions about the impacts of the antidepressant warnings. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, and some psychotherapies and medications have proven successful in reducing symptoms.

Only a few years after the warnings, several scientists began reporting that the warnings about antidepressants were causing unintended, large reductions in identification of depression, mental health visits and antidepressant use among youth, even among people with major depression for whom these represent first-line treatments. And these effects “spilled over” to adults and elderly people as well. At least three studies showed that the prior downward trend in youth suicide deaths may have reversed.

However, the later studies only included one or two years (of observations) after the initial warnings, so these findings were only suggestive. So, we began work on a large NIMH-funded project to study the longer-term consequences of the warnings. We found that the warnings likely caused underuse of essential care, including substantial reductions in antidepressant use and increases in suicide attempts.

Q: Tell us about your findings. Did they surprise you?

A: No. We observed large increases in suicide deaths among adolescents and young adults following the widely publicized FDA antidepressant warnings and reductions in mental health care.

The FDA antidepressant advisories, accompanied by media coverage, stigmatized depression care for young people and fostered reluctance by providers to initiate antidepressant treatment. Thus, these warnings reduced diagnoses of major depression, and drug and non-drug mental health treatment.

Furthermore, 60–70% of adolescents and young adults with major depression do not receive any mental health care. While inappropriate use is certainly a concern, the major problem appears to be underuse, not overuse.

This data supports a formal reevaluation of the harms and benefits of the antidepressant warnings. The risks of suicide deaths caused by untreated or undertreated major depression following the enactment of the FDA warnings are even more alarming than the risks of suicidal ideation that may be associated with specific antidepressant drugs. We recommend that the current boxed warnings, the FDA’s most severe warnings about a drug or drug class, be lifted entirely or “demoted” to the long list of routine warnings contained in product labeling.

Q: What is unique about this study?

A: This is the first long-term study to investigate whether suicide deaths in the U.S. increased among adolescents and young adults following the antidepressant warnings and the accompanying declines in depression diagnosis and treatment already demonstrated in large quasi-experimental studies.

Q: Your study addresses the increase in suicide deaths, while other studies using the same methods have shown that the warnings caused outcomes that typically precede suicide. Can comparisons be drawn between these studies, especially in relation to the timing and shape of the effects of these studies?

A: Yes. A number of strong interrupted time-series studies (led by Libby, Busch, and Gibbons, to name a few) showed that the warnings reduced diagnoses of major depression, and drug and non-drug mental health treatment; these are intermediate outcomes that predict suicide. This data adds to the evidence of an association between the antidepressant warnings and increased suicide deaths.

The most striking intermediate outcome was the increase in suicide attempts demonstrated by our study in the BMJ in 2014. Our recent study mirrors and supports this earlier study of suicide attempts following the FDA warnings. The only difference is that we documented actual suicide deaths.

Q: Are there implications of your study for policy advocacy at NAMI?

A: To help support the needs of young people with depression, NAMI has an important role to increase awareness that individuals should adhere to psychotherapies and medication treatment as prescribed by their clinicians. We also strongly urge NAMI leadership to help support the FDA’s reevaluation of the antidepressant boxed warnings to convert these severe warnings to routine warnings. Strong data from different rigorous studies are now available to confirm that the existing boxed warnings are causing more harms than benefits, including reduced access to first line psychotherapy and medications, increases in suicide attempts, and increased suicide deaths.


Stephen Soumerai is a professor of Population Medicine and founding and former director of the Division of Health Policy and Insurance Research, and he teaches research methods at Harvard Medical School.

Christine Lu is an associate professor of Population Medicine and applies rigorous quasi-experimental research methods in her research.

Note: This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of the Advocate.

people fishing

If you live with depression, you’ve likely been advised to seek time in nature (just one of many activities proven to boost emotional well-being). As a professional fisherman of over two decades — and as someone who has encountered mental health challenges in the past — I have witnessed how fishing can improve mental health in a similar way. This activity, which has become my life’s work, can offer physical health benefits, provide tranquil space for reflection, teach resilience and build community.

As I have navigated personal and professional successes and failures — and the resulting mental health implications — nothing has been more emotionally rewarding than fishing. I’ve found self-esteem in overcoming a challenging catch and support from meeting like-minded fisherman. I remember my first cast fondly, and I find comfort in recalling the sheer pleasure of handing myself over to nature while honing a new skill.

While fishing is, perhaps, not the most obvious choice for a self-care activity, I want to share what it has given me.


Fishing Has Improved My Physical And Emotional Health

Studies show that physical activity, and the resulting improved physical health, has a direct, positive impact on mood and general well-being. You’ve likely heard stories about bikers, campers and various sports enthusiasts managing their mental health challenges through the activity they love. For me, fishing has delivered the same results.

Before getting into the art of fishing, I spent my free time oversleeping and sitting in front of a screen — and I paid the price with my physical health. However, since I began fishing, I have abandoned old habits and traded screen time for a form of physical activity.

Beyond offering a unique way to be physically active, fishing provides an opportunity to get outdoors and get in touch with your body. When I go fishing, I get the opportunity to clear my lungs and practice breathing exercises. At first, I was resistant to the idea that fishing could be meditative — especially when I would find myself wrangling a stubborn bass or sifting through buckets of tiny crabs. But I was wrong.

Breathing in fresh air and observing freshwater allows me to center myself and recharge. In fact, when I’m feeling lethargic, a trip to the lake gives me the burst of energy I need.


It Has Become My Stress Relief And Self-Care

For me, fishing has become a critical part of my self-care to combat anxiety. When I cast a line and wait patiently for a bite, I am given a chance to practice mindfulness (a term I began hearing more amid the pandemic). Like many others, I have experienced my fair share of pandemic anxiety. Without opportunities to travel, my routine became stagnant, and I had fewer opportunities to be active. But fishing has consistently been a safe way to take time for myself — and it has reminded me of the importance of making deliberate choices for my well-being.

Fishing has also allowed me to overcome profound losses due to COVID-19. I have lost close friends, many of whom were avid fisherman, to the pandemic, and I find that returning to the sport has given me opportunities to reconnect with them, even in solitude.


The Sport Taught Me Resilience And Skill-Building

Many of us who live with mental health conditions struggle with self-esteem and confidence. Perhaps we question our abilities and our self-worth and yearn for success or validation. Fishing, however, has given me a new perspective. When I began the sport, I wasn’t a natural — I made mistakes and often felt that I was “failing.” But practice and determination took me a long way. And I learned to enjoy the journey of mastering a new skill.

Improving your self-image isn’t easy, but trying a new activity can be a great way to start. There are challenges in learning a new sport, and you aren’t always going to see success, but seeing yourself through the challenges and watching your own progress can be empowering.

Consider fishing as a metaphor for overcoming your emotional struggles — there will be good days and bad ones, but success lies in pushing forward, one day and one skill at a time. Ultimately, one of my greatest takeaways from the sport is how emotional resilience puts you in charge of your growth.


Fishing Has Given Me Opportunities To Connect With Others

In my time as a professional fisherman, I’ve learned that that there is a strong connection between one’s interpersonal relationships and their emotional well-being. Engaging in a beloved activity (or trying a new activity) while connecting with someone makes the experience even more enriching and often provides a deep sense of belonging.

Fishing can be a very social activity and provides it exciting opportunities to connect with and learn from a wide variety of people. I’ve met rookie and veteran fisherman from all walks of life — families, a woman recovering from breast cancer, a military veteran and backpackers traveling with their canine companions. I have developed friendships, and gained perspectives, I would not have found elsewhere. I’ve built a community, found support during tough times and I’ve even been given some incredible fish recipes.

Ultimately, I’ve learned that fishing isn’t just another hobby — it’s an opportunity to tap into new skills, grow your self-confidence and find a support system. After 20 years, I say confidently that it has allowed me to grow mentally and emotionally. In the wake of a turbulent two years and a global pandemic, many of us need to take a step back from our everyday routines and reflect in a tranquil space with people we can trust.

music notes

I began my mental health journey 40 years ago, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder I. Outside of therapy and medical appointments, I had no one to talk to about what I was going through, so I began journaling as a means of self-expression and to let out my pent-up feelings.

While writing was an important outlet, I truly found solace in listening to music. Listening to music could soothe me in a way nothing else could.

The comfort I found in music is not surprising. Studies have shown that music in its various forms has therapeutic and medical value. The impact of music extends beyond the scientific literature; I have heard the stories of people whose emotional well-being has benefitted from formal music therapy — or even listening to a playlist of songs that they connect with mentally and emotionally.

When I was struggling, alI I needed to do was put on an album or cassette (and eventually CD and mp3) and let the sound do its work. I wouldn’t just hear the music; I would feel it in my heart and soul. The melodies and rhythm of the songs I listened to combined to lift my mood and made me feel exuberant.


My Recovery Had Its Ups And Downs

As I developed coping mechanisms for my symptoms, I was able to gain a semblance of stability — and music remained a central part of my life. I even went on to work at my college radio station and a Buffalo-area reggae club, Rude Boys Roots Rock Café. Eventually, I graduated with a degree in broadcasting. After graduation, I got a job at a local recording studio.

About four months after I began my new job, my life shifted drastically. I veered away from my treatment plan (I was drinking and using illicit drugs), and I faced the prospect of another hospitalization due to my non-compliance. I made the decision enter a 12-step program, which has been the single most important decision I’ve ever made for my recovery. I was able to find the stability I had always hoped for. This newfound balance allowed me to go back to school and pursue addiction counseling.

Later in life, I re-entered the world of mental health advocacy and behavioral health treatment. I have focused my efforts in working as a Mental Health First Aid instructor. I have specialized in behavioral health education — and whenever I talk about self-care, I mention the power of music.


Music Has Given Me Community And Support

As I have navigated life changes and mental health challenges, music has remained a constant. Twenty-seven years ago, I formed a small group of friends, and we began hosting what we called “Vinyl Night.” Together, we listened to records, shared stories of concerts we’d attended and recommended artists we loved. Vinyl Night has continued for decades, and it has become a support group for us, seeing us through births, deaths, life-threatening illnesses, job changes and moves.

I have also channeled my love for music into social media. Last year, I began sharing songs on Facebook and telling my own stories about music. A friend suggested that I create a podcast. At first, I was intimidated by the work required, but I found a contact who could help with the details. When we spoke, he mentioned that he was interested in taking on a mental health-related project. From there, we were able to launch a podcast with the help of the Buffalo NPR station.


Now, I Get To Talk About Music And Mental Health

On the podcast, I have conversations with my guests about the music that lifts their spirits — during difficult times and times of celebration. I’ve gone on to create a YouTube channel called “Mental Health Verses” to share more of this work.

I’m still amazed by how much joy this project brings me. It has allowed me to engage with what I am most passionate about while also raising awareness about mental health.


Karl Shallowhorn is the Director of Youth Programs for the Medical Health Association of Western New York and President and Founder of Shallowhorn Consulting, LLC. He is the Chair of Affiliate Relations for the Mental Health Association in New York State Board of Directors and was a speaker for TEDx Buffalo 2021.

person walking on a trail

Last summer, I completed a 10-mile sponsored walk to raise money for the hospital that cared for me after my accident. By the end of the day, I realized I’d walked almost 16 miles.

It was a remarkable achievement, given that nine months earlier, I couldn’t walk at all. I was crossing the street, a van hit me, and I ended up in the hospital with a fractured back.

A week after the accident, I started experiencing distressing flashbacks. As I looked out of my hospital room window and saw the ambulances and traffic below me, memories of my own trauma resurfaced. After conversations with my care team that reassured me that professional intervention would be the option for me, I was ready to reach out for help. Six weeks later, I was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that can develop after a traumatic event.

As I embarked on the long road to recovery, walking became the key to my physical and emotional well-being.


Recovery Was Challenging, Both Physically And Mentally

After two days in the hospital, the doctors tried to get me moving. I was thrilled when I took my first few steps. Before my accident, I had been an “outdoorsy” and physically active person, so my limited mobility was an adjustment. During physiotherapy, I practiced walking with a frame and later with crutches.

While the physical recovery was difficult, it served as a reminder about the importance of movement. Walking during my physical therapy sessions helped ease my lower back pain and gave me an activity to focus on during a time of uncertainty.

While I slowly regained movement, I struggled with my mental and emotional recovery. While I was once an avid traveler, I suddenly found myself scared to leave the safety of the hospital ward. But I wanted my life back.

After almost two weeks in the hospital, I returned home, light-headed from my medication. I managed to walk upstairs to my bedroom, but I spent a week there before I was able to walk back down. That’s when I knew I needed to get up and start moving to help my recovery.


Walking Became A Source Of Healing And Joy

After my first short walk around our house, my walks became a regular activity. With my husband as my companion, I walked around slowly, still with crutches — and I started to be more observant. I began noticing my surroundings in a way I never had before. I admired the vibrant flowers and trees as we walked in parks and gardens. Once I no longer needed my crutches, we went for longer walks through the forest or on the beach. These outings gave me chance to truly stop and admire the beauty around me. It helped me to find joy in every day, in the simplest things around me.

A few months into my recovery, I went for a short walk by myself. On my own, I noticed how dependent I had become on my husband since the accident; he had always been there when I needed emotional or physical support during my recovery. While I appreciated his care, I yearned for the independence I lost after my accident. I wanted to be able to trust myself again.

So, I began taking solo walks in which I was fully responsible for my own well-being. This step assisted me in slowly restoring my independence, trust and sense of self.


Walking Has Proven Mental Health Benefits

The mental progress I made during my walks shouldn’t come as a surprise; walking releases endorphins, chemicals in our brain that stimulate relaxation and improve our mood. Additionally, research shows that physical activities can help to reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms. And walking certainly achieves this for me.

While high-intensity physical activities can cause shortness of breath and increased heart rate, which can be difficult for those of us living with PTSD symptoms, walking is an ideal form of movement. It’s exercise that you can tailor to your desired intensity level, whether you want a leisurely stroll or a power walk up a hill. It also promotes mindfulness, particularly if you are walking in nature.


Walking Has Become My Self-Care Practice

Walking helps me be present, to enjoy that moment of my life. As my thoughts start to wander, a sudden tooting of a car horn or the sound of the ambulance siren still triggers me to relive the trauma — but then I look for the beauty around me. I take deep breaths of fresh air and focus on my surroundings. I zero in on things I can see, hear or smell. Walking on the beach, I like to take my shoes off and walk barefoot and feel the sand on my feet. It helps me to intensify my senses and see again how beautiful this world can be. For a few minutes, I can forget about my fear or pain.

Walking has also allowed me to slow my mind and ground myself. It helps me to keep my body, mind and spirit in a healthy balance. During my recovery, in the time of the pandemic, they were often the highlight of my day. Of course, on some days, it can be harder to bring myself to go for a walk, but I know that I’m doing it for my general well-being.

Naturally, I can experience anxiety and remain super vigilant while crossing a road, but now I know how to handle the stress. I still have some way to go to get to where I was before the accident. However, I know that I’m walking in the right direction. After all, difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. And I’m already thinking about my next walking challenge.


Katy Parker is a mental health advocate and writer based in the UK. She has worked hard to overcome her trauma, and she writes about her experiences to help others in similar situations. She continues to share her journey on her personal blog.

person in mourning

Robert, an adult in his 50s, had been processing the early emotional neglect and abuse that led to his low self-esteem and a decade-long episode of depression. Together, we had processed his rage, fear and disgust.

With my therapeutic support and his courage, he worked his way through each emotion: Naming it, validating it, sensing it physically, and allowing it to flow up and out through his body. As the wave of each core emotion rose then fell, Robert experienced relief and newfound clarity.

The most surprising part of this process for Robert, however, was the deep sadness that spontaneously emerged alongside relief, lightness and growing confidence. In accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP), we call this phenomenon “mourning for the self.”

Mourning for the self is healing in action. Fully feeling the core emotions that stemmed from his past traumas, Robert developed a profound understanding of how much he had suffered. With that acknowledgment came deep sadness for what he went through.

Finding Self-Compassion

Some people confuse mourning for the self with self-pity. Merriam-Webster defines self-pity as “a self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes.” That is not what mourning for the self is about. Self-pity stands in stark contrast to AEDP’s definition of mourning for the self which is “a painful but liberating experience of compassion for the self.”

Processing core emotions the way we do in AEDP requires a compassionate stance toward ourselves — a stance that many people have difficulty finding. When I first met Robert, he grappled with disdain for his inner child. When I coached him to approach himself with radical compassion and acceptance, he said things like “I hate that part of me for being weak, and I blame myself. I should have been able to escape.”

I asked him, “Would you ever blame your son if a teacher or relative mistreated him?”

He retorted with an emphatic, “No!”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because he is innocent and just a helpless child. He deserves to be seen, loved and treated kindly.”

“Exactly,” I said, “You know how to be a good parent. Can you turn all that love and compassion inward to the little boy you once were?”

And then, an epiphany. He got it.

Mourning for the self is about not only understanding what we have been through but actually feeling those experiences for ourselves.

Finding Our True Selves

The consequences of unresolved traumas are huge. For many of us, years of our lives may have been compromised by false beliefs that we were not good enough or worthy of being loved. Beliefs that others could not possibly accept us for our true selves, flaws and all, can lead to loneliness and a feeling of disconnection. For many of us, unsatisfying relationships may have been the norm because we lacked trust in others. Some of us never had the pleasure of being in our bodies, feeling vital and authentic.

I love being an AEDP therapist because I see it as a healing model with predictable results. Over and over again, I have witnessed my patients process emotions and heal from their traumas. They recover their true selves. A key part of this process involves acknowledging losses and mourning.

Tears poured down Robert’s face as one hand covered his eyes in embarrassment. “I hate crying,” he said. Feeling deep love and admiration for this man, I gently whispered, “Your sadness is beautiful. It comes from your strength. This is your love… for yourself… and it’s good to let it come.”

Hilary Jacobs Hendel is author of the international award-winning book, “It’s Not Always Depression: Working the Change Triangle to Listen to the Body, Discover Core Emotions, and Connect to Your Authentic Self” (Random House). She received her B.A. in biochemistry from Wesleyan University and an MSW from Fordham University. She is a certified psychoanalyst and AEDP psychotherapist and supervisor. She has published articles in The New York Times, Time, NBC Think, FOX News and Oprah, and her blog is read worldwide. You can find free resources on emotions and the Change Triangle tool for emotional health at and follow her work on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and YouTube.

looking inside the mind


In one word, that is how I cope with mental illness and the emotional journey to find effective treatment.

Accepting the reality of my mental health has taken time. It all began in 2008 when, within months of giving birth to my first baby, I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression. During what I thought would be the happiest time of my life, depression robbed me of the joys of life with a new baby and the simple pleasures of life in general. Despite medications and therapy, it took me over a year to recover from the episode — time that I can never get back.

Unfortunately, that year was just the beginning of my struggles with mental illness.



Suffering from postpartum depression had been such a harrowing experience that I was very apprehensive about having another baby. But in 2013, I gave birth to another beautiful baby girl. Again, the monster that is depression attacked. This time, I gave up breastfeeding early in hopes that my hormones would balance themselves out sooner and the depression would subside.

Again, I went through the maze of trying to find the right medication regimen and therapist. But just like the first time, it took over a year to find balance — a long time to wait when every minute is a struggle. But eventually, the fog cleared, and I got my smile back. That’s the thing about recovery: My smile was brighter because I was so thankful to be on the other side of depression. I found strength in having overcome.



I thought that with the end of having babies came the end of suffering from mental illness, but in 2016, I found myself wrapped up in a full-fledged manic episode. I was going through a rough time at my corporate job, having issues with my boss and trying to juggle work with family life.

Before long, I started to lose sleep over these challenges, and after a few sleepless nights, I began behaving so erratically that I ended up at an acute psychiatric clinic. I remained there for almost two weeks, surrounded by nurses and strangers, away from my kids. Thankfully, however, I received the treatment I needed. Shortly after, I made changes in my professional life until I no longer had work stress to deal with. I decided to become a stay-at-home mom, hoping that would improve my mental health.



After addressing the issues in my professional life, I thought I was in the clear — and that the mania was a fluke due to an unprecedented amount of stress. However, another period of depression (which, I learned, usually follows mania) set in. By this time, I had no faith in any medication, but I still tried to find something that might work; anything to ease the pain.

I also continued to see my therapist, but relief felt unattainable. I tried all the common recommendations, but no amount of clean eating, exercising, strolling through the park or getting sunlight did the trick. As with the first two bouts of depression, it was over a year before the sun finally began to peek through the clouds.



All was well for some time, until 2020 rolled around, and I decided to pursue creative ambitions. I signed up for a writing workshop and became so enthralled in the delight of the work that I began to stay up late, night after night, sometimes until 5 a.m. Before I knew it, I was once again spiraling rapidly in a manic tornado that spit me out into another psychiatric care facility.

As with my previous hospital stay, I got the care and medication I needed to control the mania. Again, the mania was once again followed by depression — and this is a cycle that I am still battling to this day. But rather than fearing what’s next, I face the future with continued therapy, medication and hope that my struggles will subside as they have in the past.



I now accept that I suffer from mental illness. I accept the good times and the bad, the past and the present, and the uncertainty of what my future looks like. I recognize that resisting the reality of my situation was part of the problem. I also recognize my red flags for heading into mania (loss of sleep, mind racing uncontrollably and rapid speech) and depression (low energy and loss of interest in everyday life).

I could go back and count all the years that I lost to depression, but what would that do aside from rob me of more time? I could dwell on all the hurtful words and insults I hurled at family and friends while in a manic state, but I’ve apologized as much as I can, as well as recognized that these reactions were often beyond my control.

One step to arriving at self-acceptance was reading through the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It was sobering to see so many of my behaviors plainly listed in the manual and learning about the disorder within that context. I wish someone would have handed me the DSM-5 for my review when I was having a hard time accepting my diagnosis from my medical team. I probably would have arrived at self-acceptance sooner.

There might not be a perfect cure for my mental illness, but each time I’ve grappled with it, I’ve found an effective treatment and not only survived, I’ve come out stronger and wiser. I may not be able to control whether I’ve passed those genes on to my daughters, but what I do know is that I will be here as a resource for them, and for anyone else who could benefit from my experiences. For that, I am grateful.


Bianca Valentin is a mom and wife. She currently enjoys being a stay-at-home mom and is working on her first book titled “Solace: A Bipolar Story.”

woman at desk writing

Simply put, I’ve been through some stuff. I’ve faced childhood trauma, the sudden loss of a parent and a lifelong battle with bipolar disorder. Through these challenges, writing about my experience has helped me cope. It kept me grounded when I felt like the world was upside-down. Instead of bottling up emotions, I’ve logged them, which has been cathartic and freeing. In addition to treatment and self-care, journaling has helped me navigate through the toughest times.

I Became Familiar With Mental Illness In Childhood

My dad struggled with bipolar disorder. He was often depressed and distant. While he lived in the same house with me and my mom, he was never truly present. He’d lock himself in his bedroom for days, then explode in angry outbursts. I was left confused, wounded and yearning for his affection. I felt unloved. Trying to make sense of my dad’s volatility, I often blamed myself. I thought if I could just be the perfect daughter, then he’d love me. I felt broken and needy.

I would go on to suffer from unexplainable mood swings of my own. I was frenetic and unbalanced. My mind would race a mile a minute. I jumped between jobs, apartments, relationships and even sexual identities. By the time I was in my twenties, I was delusional and hearing voices.

Writing Helped Me Forgive My Father

In 1998, when I was 24, my dad lost his battle with bipolar disorder and died by suicide. I felt abandoned. His death triggered my first major depressive episode, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well. My heart sank. There was no denying it: I had the same mental illness that took my dad from me. A bipolar diagnosis suddenly felt like a death sentence.

With the help of my mom (who’s a psychotherapist) and my treatment team, I learned as much as I could about bipolar disorder. I read self-help books voraciously, educating myself on mania and depression. My therapist suggested I write down my thoughts and feelings, so I started journaling. I released my fear, frustration, anger and sadness until my hand hurt from writing. I filled six notebooks with stories from my life, and I began seeing them with new eyes. I recognized many of my dad’s (and my own) behaviors as symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Eventually, I came to terms with my diagnosis, which helped me understand my dad for the first time. We had the same mood disorder but with different faces. My bipolar disorder made me hyperactive and reckless. My dad’s illness made him disconnected and sullen. When I realized how powerful and consuming mental illness could be, I understood that my dad’s erratic hostility was no more his fault than it was mine. My writing journey helped me forgive my dad for all the times he’d hurt me.

When I Gave Up Writing, I Realized How Crucial It Had Been

I moved on with my life, convinced I was “fixed.” I put my journals away, assuming I no longer needed them. However, despite all my newfound insight, I hadn’t fully addressed my “daddy issues” from childhood. Once I stopped writing, I forgot to listen to my inner voice. I lost touch with myself, and because of that I kept choosing the wrong men as romantic partners.

When I was 35, I met a guy who paid more attention to me than any man ever had. In the beginning of our relationship, he doted on me. I’d never felt so special. Because I desperately needed validation from men, I failed to notice that he was also becoming controlling as time went on. But by then it was too late; I was hooked. And I married him.

By the time I was 38, my marriage had become downright abusive. I spiraled down into a severe bipolar depression and attempted to end my own life. Luckily, I survived. I was admitted to an inpatient mental institution and, once discharged, I promised myself I’d never go back. I’d made the same mistake my dad had, but I had a second chance at life. I vowed not to squander it.

Writing Helped Me Piece My Life Back Together

I bought new notebooks and started journaling again. I felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in ages. I poured out feelings of worthlessness, examining my sense of self and my daddy issues. Writing helped me finally face my demons. I began a journey of recovery by finally coming to terms with who I was and reconciling it with who I wanted to become.

Writing my story down helped me confront the trauma I’d endured. My past was a learning experience that made me resilient. Journaling gave me the strength to leave my husband and put myself back together. I emerged from a long, dark tunnel that seemed at times to have no light at the end.

Over the years, I kept writing. Originally, it was purely therapeutic — not meant for anyone but me to read. But one day, I realized that my story might inspire hope for others who were struggling like I had. By 2018, I’d written so much that I had a book on my hands. I’d turned the pain of my past into a huge accomplishment I could be proud of. “Daddy Issues: A Memoir” was published in 2021.

Carrie Cantwell dedicates herself to mental health advocacy and suicide prevention. She’s a writer for several national mental health publications, and she started a blog to share her journey.