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GCM 24 | Mental Illness

 

There are a lot of people living with mental illness. One in five Americans with mental illness delay seeking the necessary treatment because of the stigma surrounding the disability. Mental illness is a case that not everyone knows how to deal with. There are people that have mental illnesses that have side effects or symptoms as a result of that and they don’t know how to live their life with mental illness. Apart from that are the people around them, their family and their supporters. How do you support someone with a mental illness? Most often people want to shy away from this. They don’t want to deal with it not because they don’t have a heart for it, they just don’t know how. Natasha Pierre is an award-winning speaker, author, and a mental health advocate with over twenty years of lived experience. Her relatable style occupied with her first-hand understanding of various mental illnesses allows her to connect with global audiences to share the importance of self-advocacy, community support, and effective legislation.

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Understanding Mental Illness with Natasha Pierre

I’m excited about the show. I have a young lady in the studio with me I cannot wait to speak with. I cannot wait for her to share with you. I’ve been waiting on this interview with her for quite some time and it has finally arrived. You are going to enjoy it. Sit back, relax and get prepared because that’s going to be some good information that’s coming across. We’re going to talk about a real issue. I’m going to talk about mental illness. In all seriousness, this is something that needs to be addressed across the nation, if not across the world.

There are a lot of people living with mental illness. Mental illness is a case where not everyone knows how to deal with that. There are people that have mental illnesses that have side effects or symptoms as a result of that and they don’t know how do I live my life with a mental illness? Apart from that is the people around them, their family and their supporters. How do I support someone with a mental illness? Most often people want to shy away from this, they don’t want to deal with it. It’s not because they don’t have a heart for it or it’s something they want to set to the side to deal with later, they just don’t know how. I believe that there’s a contribution and effect of life that someone with a mental illness can live but they need the help.

I want to tackle that because I believe that if we have the know-how that can be a game-changing aspect for not only the person with the mental illness but for the community at large. I want to say thank you to all of you that have been following me. If you’re new to the show, thank you for being here. I realized that there are other shows out there that you could return it into, but you have decided to listen in on the Game Changer Mentality podcast. Without further ado, I’m going to be introducing Natasha Pierre.

This woman is an award-winning speaker, author, and a mental health advocate with over twenty years of lived experience. Her relatable style occupied with her firsthand understanding of various mental illnesses allows her to connect with global audiences to share the importance of self-advocacy, community, support, and effective legislation. One in five Americans with mental illness delay seeking the necessary treatment because of the stigma surrounding the disability. I’m going to keep it real. There may be someone out there in the audience with a mental illness or who know someone with a mental illness. This is a very important subject. Let’s welcome an expert in the areas. Miss Natasha Pierre, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much, Rodney. I appreciate you having me.

It was a pleasure to have you on the show. When I was reading your bio and doing some research on you, I found out that you were in this work of mental health and you are an advocate for people with mental illness. You teach them how to deal with it and I also noticed that you expand your work and the people that support their families, their friends, and how they can help someone with this type of issue. I’m glad that you’re here and I’m anxious to understand your position on mental illness and how we can better communities and our homes because there are some families out there with this. Having a disability myself, a physical challenge, I know what it’s like having to deal with these types of challenges. Maybe not from a mental standpoint, but at least from a physical. Talk to us about mental illness and the work that you do and how we can better this situation in our homes.

Mental wellness is something that everyone needs to be aware of. Click To Tweet

There are a couple of things that you mentioned that I tackle from the very beginning when working with any client and their parents. The first thing is it’s important that everyone understands that as long as you have a mind, mental wellness is your business. It is your issue. You don’t have to have a diagnosis specifically to care about your mind. Mental wellness is something that everyone needs to be aware of.

People lose a loved one. People go through trauma, they see someone killed. That’s what the work that I do with veterans. They have traumatic life events. They weren’t diagnosed with anything initially but because of what they’ve seen and because of what they’ve experienced, they are in the category of mental illness. Mental illness is something that is diagnosed. Unfortunately, many of them are defined or categorize or person receives a diagnosis based on their symptoms.

For example, there’s no way to take a blood test to see if you have bipolar disorder. What a psychiatrist is going to look for is they’re going to look for your symptoms. Are you having extreme shifts in moods? Are you having suicidal ideations? Are you having extreme highs and extreme lows? Are you experiencing anxiety? Those are the symptoms that they’re looking for. The first thing that I like to ensure that everyone understands, just because we’re talking about mental illness, it’s not something that you close your ears off too because you don’t have a diagnosis.

You have a mind and so you need to be mindful that you have to take care of your mental wellness. There are many women that have pregnancies, they never had a diagnosis, and then after the child is born, they’re experiencing postpartum depression. That’s not something that they cause, that’s something that they went looking for. That’s something that occurred based on what’s happening in their life and the way that they’re dealing with it, that’s the first thing. The second thing is I love that you mentioned it, that you don’t say you have a disability, you said a challenge. That is my entire platform. I don’t believe in disabilities.

GCM 24 | Mental Illness

Mental Illness: As long as you have a mind, mental wellness is your business. It is your issue.

 

In fact, I believe everyone has a disability because the disability is only something that you are not able to do. There are some people who are not able to see, not able to read, not able to walk, not able to hear, not able to do the math. I challenge my clients and their families not to focus on the disability or what the person cannot do, but rather focus on what they are able to do. We all have limitations, but if we live our life based on our limitations, what we’re doing is we’re shifting our identity from one of just being human, deserving to have a place to exist and to be, to one where we are narrowed down solely and only to what we’re unable to do. That’s unfair.

What are some of the things that you recommend to someone that may be struggling with postpartum depression or bipolar disease? When you talked about the lady that may have had a baby and as a result of that may have developed some type of mental illness, what comes up for me is that that person may not be so willing to admit that or even willing to talk about. She may experience the symptoms and the signs, but I feel that thought of, “I’m okay. I don’t need a doctor for this. Everything is fine.” They go on with their lives and not realizing that this thing can get worse over time, and it can get to a place where it’s irreversible all you can do is treat it. Where if we catch it early, we make and have the discussions about it.

It is not something that they’ve caused on themselves. These are the things that happen as a result of maybe traumatic events in our lives. It doesn’t have to be negative. It could be simple things like having a baby. If we don’t have those conversations about this, then we can’t make it better. We can’t treat it. We can’t do what is necessary in order to deal with it. What is your thought around that and how do we open up the conversation about this?

How do we open up the conversation about it? We need to start it in the same way that conversations about cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes are mainstream. That we’re now speaking openly about it that people are sharing. That they have to take their high blood pressure medicine or they take insulin every day. People are having these conversations and there’s no shame, there’s no stigma around it. People are talking about the cancer that they have. They’re sharing when they shave their head or when they have their mastectomy or when they are dealing with the seed implants from radiation. People are having those conversations because it’s almost been accepted or normalized with those conditions. In my opinion, a physical condition of physical disability, something that people can see and develop some empathy for. We totally understand it.

We understand a person that has one arm that can’t hear, that can’t see, but the conversation and the empathy shifts when we’re talking about mental illness. All of a sudden, it’s a character flaw. The reason you can’t get out of bed is that you’re lazy. The reason why you are crying and you’re gloomy and you’re a Debbie Downer all the time is you need to read Natasha and Rodney’s book. That’s what we needed to do. You need to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and recognize that this is your life and we’ve got it. That is not true. There are mental illnesses that are caused by trauma. They’re caused by our upbringing and how we’ve had to navigate and adjust in order to cope and deal. There’s some that are hereditary. In order for us to end the stigma around mental illness, we need to have the conversations. We need to have them on large platforms.

There are some celebrities speaking about it. I challenge politicians all the time. You need to stop holding town halls about potholes and hold town halls about the things that are affecting people. There are many people suffering in silence because they fear the stigma. They fear to say that, “If I tell someone that it takes me three hours to get dressed in the morning and leave the house, they’re going to think I’m weird.” They’re not going to understand that I have a social anxiety that makes me question whether or not my keys are in my purse. I have to throw my keys outside of the doors, so I can physically see them on the floor to know that I’m not going to get locked inside.” You’ve got to be able to explain to someone, “Driving over a bridge or in a car garage makes me claustrophobic, makes me want to run, and makes me feel like I’m crawling out of my skin simultaneously. I’m having a heart attack, a stroke and an asthma attack all at once.” People need to understand. What I feel as a general public is ignorant. They lack information about what mental illness means and even how to be supportive.

Mental illness is not just one family's problem. It's a society problem. Click To Tweet

Those things that you’ve mentioned I didn’t realize that someone is living that way. It takes them three hours perhaps to leave out of the house. They’re questioning themselves about their keys. I’ve seen that type of behavior, but I didn’t connect it to having a mental illness or mental challenge. What are the signs? How can you recognize when someone is dealing with something?

For me, because I’ve been doing them in this field so long, I recognize people every day that are dealing with everything. From depression to mood disorders, narcissistic personality disorders, anxiety. I can see that and I can see the signs. The onset for each challenge is different. Bipolar disorder manifests usually around the teen years for boys, early twenties for girls or women. There are children who are five and six that are exhibiting schizoaffective behavior, even sociopathic behavior. What we have to recognize, and this is our society’s issue. We’ve come to a place in our society where we normalize bad behavior. When I say bad behavior, I’m not just talking about what is wrong and taboo and needs to be punished, but how many people are walking around and their knee has been hurting for three weeks. Instead of checking it out, instead of stretching, they have accepted that, “My knees hurt because I’m getting older.”

It’s one thing to feel sad after the death of a loved one, that’s normal. I tell everyone that when you lose a loved one, you have to go through one-year cycle of grief. You have to experience every birthday, every anniversary, every holiday. You have to visit all of the places that you all went together. You have to feel the feels, and this might take a year for you just to face those things and breathe through it. If it’s been five, ten years and you’re still grieving on year six as the day you grieved on day one, in my opinion, that is a challenge. You’re not processing the death correctly. You’re not processing it and there might be signs of depression. That’s something that we have to work on.

There are many people who are grieving still and I see it all day and it’s one of my pet peeves. I see it all the time on Facebook where people are mentioning, “Happy birthday to my grandfather. He’d be a 182. Happy birthday to my mom. She’d be 81.” I understand that everyone grieves in their own way. There’s something to be said about the public, the public display, and wanting to share that mourning and grief process afresh every single year. There’s something to be said about that. I know social media has made us all believe that everything is fit for public consumption. In my opinion, there are some things that need to be private. One of those things is grief. After you shared that a person has passed, no one else has a responsibility or a role in your healing. Healing is a personal job and you need to take care of it.

The signs and symptoms vary. We have some people, “She has a bad attitude. She’s a hothead.” Let’s look at that a little bit closely. She could be a hothead. She could need some anger management. She could need some discipline because she’s a spoiled brat. It could be that she needs to learn some coping mechanisms because she is experiencing drastic mood swings, and isn’t aware that she’s experiencing them. In our community and in our families, many times we look at each other, we see the behavior. We accept it, we ignore it, “That’s just the way he is. Just give Rodney his time. He’ll come downstairs when he’s ready.” No, Rodney is sad. The amazing thing, we’re all surprised when someone commits suicide, “I didn’t know. The signs weren’t there. I couldn’t believe it.” The reason that is as a society, we’ve moved away from having those Sunday dinners. We moved away from having those early Morning Prayer times as a family. We moved away from having real dialogue and conversation where we can know when a person is acting differently. In a married couple, you’ve been together for so long. The husband can notice when the wife is behaving differently, the mother can notice when the husband is like, “Normally you leave your shoes at the front door, now you took them off and you took them inside.” That was different. We’re not recognizing that even in our own families. When someone commits suicide, we’re shocked.

I’m getting from this that society has shaped us to accept just about everything. Everything is acceptable. When there is something different, we don’t question it. We go with the flow and that has become habitual. What you’re talking about is that being habitual in the family and not having that structure in place to pay attention to the sign. No one’s paying attention anymore because we’re too busy doing our own thing. Too busy involved with social media and everything that’s around that we’re losing sight of the signs that can tell the tale that, “We need to take a stop here. Let’s see what’s going on and pay attention to this.” That brings me to caring. Do you think we’re not caring enough as a society, as a family, as people?

GCM 24 | Mental Illness

Mental Illness: We moved away from having real dialogue and conversation where we can actually know when a person is acting different.

 

No, we’re caring differently. It’s not that we are not caring enough. We’re putting our care deposits in in different ways. We feel that because that’s how she posted a picture on Facebook, she must be doing well. I’ve had times where I’ve been in the hospital and everyone is like, “You look like you’re doing so well. You’re so happy.” That’s a picture. That’s a flash. That’s the one-second of my life posted on Facebook. I always speak about the Facebook fantasy and the Instagram illusion. There is no one posting their worst moments. I’m not posting pictures of when I wake up in the morning I still have my head wrap on and Clearasil all over my face. No, I’m posting pictures like this. We’re caring about what people choose to show.

Real friendships, in my life I’m grateful that I have real friends who, by hearing my voice on the phone can say, “Natasha, what’s up? I’m not getting off the phone until you tell me. What’s going on?” Those are the friendships that we need. We need to shift our care from what we see on social media, which is everyone’s PR representative and shift it back to having real conversations and dialogues. In the Caribbean, we have a saying, “I want two eyes made four.” I’m seeing your eyes. You’re seeing my eyes and I can see and gauge exactly how you’re doing. We’re relying on social media to help us do that and that’s not the way it happens. Gone are the days where we’re having dinners at Big Mama’s house. Gone are the days where we’re having dinners together as a family. One parent’s working late or there are so many extracurricular activities that the kids are involved in that everyone has different schedules and so pick up some Chinese on your way home.

Parents are noticing that their kids are being bullied until it’s too late, until they’re reading in the diary or seeing in the locker days after. Mental illness is not just one family’s problem. It’s a society problem. It’s a community problem. It is something that we must all understand and recognize that this is not something that we only talk about when someone shoots up a school. This isn’t something that we talk about when we say, “The neighbor’s kid is acting crazy again.” You need to understand what does crazy mean. Does crazy mean that someone is feeling very sad and suicidal? Does crazy mean that someone has visions of grandiosity and they feel that they can take over the world or let me do a marathon right now? Are they seeing hallucinations? Are they hearing voices? Is it autism? What exactly is crazy?

Our society has been lazy. It’s been easier for us to lump everyone into a crazy box or lump everyone into a special needs box than it is to take some time to figure out what is going on with you. It’s not normal for a new mother to not want to take care of her child. That’s not normal, but what else isn’t normal? It’s not normal for us to expect our service men and women to go overseas and kill. Then tell them to come back here and act normal, without giving them the tools and the resources and the keys necessary to live that normal life that we’re requiring for them. In the same token, we have men and women who are killing. Let’s be clear, war is murder and death. It’s kill or be killed.

We’re telling them, “Go overseas, go to Iraq, go to Afghanistan, go to wherever and kill the enemy.” We have sympathy when they return on Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but where’s the sympathy for the children that are seeing people murdered in Chicago? Where’s the sympathy for the people who are seeing people killed in DC and across the country? Where’s the sympathy and the empathy for students who have experienced school shootings? Where is that sympathy and empathy? Where are the services for them there? That’s PTSD. That’s a trauma that they have endured and who’s helping them deal with it? Have we already moved on because Eminem dropped a new single and so let’s focus on that? The President said something else, let’s focus there. The reality is that the change that we need to see when it comes to mental illness is not going to happen top down.

It’s going to happen in the community. It is going to happen with a person like me with my face saying, “I deal with anxiety. Some days I don’t even notice it, but on other days it takes me a long time to leave home. I had a disable tag in my car so that I never have to park in a parking garage. When I say it and when I shared and people see this space saying that, and I’m not ashamed of it.” See if I don’t make it an issue, it won’t be an issue. It’s not an issue to me. There are some people who take insulin every single day and they’re not ostracized or teased about it. There are people swallowing pills for their cancer treatments, high blood pressure and hypertension. I have yet to hear someone say, “You pill popper you.” It’s not happening but there’s a stigma when it comes to mental illness because people are ignorant. They don’t realize that it’s caused by trauma, from life experiences, hereditary. That’s what it is. Let’s have the conversation because people are going to continue dying.

No one is responsible for your bad behavior. Click To Tweet

You’re talking about social responsibility. Taking responsibility for the communities, which is fun. It’s great. We do need to take social responsibility and the first step to that, as a community we’re the cause of some of this. What I’m going to bring up is going to hit home because judgment is one of the biggest creators of the mental illness itself, because people go into these things because of the adjustment. Whenever they have this, they don’t want to talk about it because then there’s even more adjustment. We have to get to a place where we know we’re becoming a community that is very diverse. It’s not black and white anymore.

It’s very diversified and what that brings us different ways of thinking, different ways of behaving, different ways of living lives and some of this stuff is new. It brings about judgment. With mental challenges, some of these things we don’t want to talk about. A lot of times we don’t want to talk about it because of the fear of being judged. One of the things we can do as a society is be more open and receptive to this. Realizing that it’s normal but it does exist. There’s a big fat elephant in the room and no one wants to talk about it.

It is normal. How are we defining normal? If we only define normal as having two eyes that can see, two ears that can hear, arms that work and move. If we only use that narrow definition of normal, there’s a lot of people that’s going to be left out. That’s the problem. That normal standard, what is normal? Normal for me is whatever I need to do in order to be successful on that date. I have one client who can only use his left arm, that’s his normal. He knows he has a disability but when I asked him, “What do you want to do?” He’s like, “I can operate switches with my hand.” Yes, he can. What we need to do is we need to broaden the definition of normal or at least allow each individual to define what normal is.

When you talked about judgment, there are some men and women that come back from combat and they’re fine. They don’t have any residual issues apparently. They go on to build careers and have successful marriages and families. Everything’s going well. There’s a person that comes back and falls apart. I had met with a homeless veteran, wanted to talk, took some food and we’re talking. I gave him some money and I asked him I said, “Honestly when I give you this money, do you buy drugs? You buy alcohol?” I wanted to know for myself as a mental health advocate, as an advocate for veterans. He told me one of the most real things I’ve ever heard. He said, “Yes, I do. You know why? For those two to three hours, I’m drunk and the time that I’m knocked out, I’m not seeing the bullet enter my friend’s head.”

I challenge anyone to judge him. How dare you. He left his home, went overseas to serve the country. We ride by in our cars with the air condition on. We looked down on him because he’s just an alcoholic. If I give him money, all he’s going to do is drink it away. If drinking means he has some peace for three, four or five hours out of the day, drink. Where are all of the other services to ensure that he’s able to cope? I’m trying to find someone in the military that can speak to me about this. I want to know about the debriefing, the decompression period. When you leave a war zone and before you head back to your address at 123 Maiden Lane, I want to know what is that like? Is it individual therapy group therapy? What is it? I can tell from my experience, it is simply not enough.

GCM 24 | Mental Illness

Mental Illness: You count five people that you know, one of them is possibly dealing with a mental illness.

 

It’s not working. The expectation is you’re a soldier, get over it. You can deal with it.

Man up. Here’s another thing that’s pretty taboo to talk about in the military. There are women being raped in the military almost every day. They are being told to man up and deal with it. That’s trauma. I know this because I have worked with veterans. Veterans who are unable to sleep with their wives because they can’t have anyone next to them because they’re so aware of their surroundings, aware of everything and they haven’t made the shift from combat to civilian life. Veterans who I’m in a fit of rage, hit their wives something they wouldn’t do before but they’re unable, they lack the tools to process everything that they’d been through.

People with bipolar disorder who can’t understand why everything is going well, “I’m in a great relationship. I got a promotion. My hair is growing. My nails are growing, my skin is glowing, but yet I want to stay in the bed. I don’t want to leave.” If we returned to an oral society, a society where we communicate, where we share stories. One neighbor shouldn’t find out that the other neighbor had a child that committed suicide after their child committed suicide. That should be something that’s communicated. That should be something that you know. Remember those days you’d take a pie over, you take a Bundt cake over to the new neighbor, you sit down and you have some conversations. We’re so isolated and afraid of being judged. That’s why I wanted to get into advocacy. That’s why I want to speak about mental illness and mental health because no one is expecting my face to do it.

The person that is speaking about mental illness, they’re supposed to look crazy. Hair scattered. They look like you’ve been through the ringer. Maybe you’ll digest it a little bit better if it’s coming from me. You can look at me and I can tell you that there are people in your circle, one in five people, are dealing with something. You count five people that you know, one of them is possibly dealing with a mental illness. As a caveat, I’m also not advocating the quick diagnosis. I know that there are many parents that I have told, “Your son does not need Ritalin. He’s four. Can you allow him to be a four-year-old boy please before putting him on Ritalin? There’s nothing wrong with him.”

There are many women that I know who because they are experiencing sadness, they go through a divorce, you lose a child, you lose the job, and sadness is a part of life. Sadness is on the spectrum of emotions that we are to experience as human beings. We’re not only going to always be happy. We’re going to have to experience some sadness. When those sad moments come, we’re going to have to deal with it, not pop a pill. It means to feel the feels. Feel the sadness, get under the covers, cry, and bawl, and throw some things. Write a letter to whomever, tear it up, and set a name on fire. Do whatever you have to do to get through it because pills are not always the answer.

What do you recommend? This is a challenge. I definitely don’t think I have the right answer to solve this issue. It’s so vast and there are so many things that need to be done, including having the conversations, lessening the judgment, having more empathy. From a political standpoint, getting some advocacy from the top down and creating some programs to do this. Where we’re going as a community in terms of social media and technology has some level of responsibility, if not contribution to some of these things that we’re talking about. Not all of it from the veterans. Perhaps the government on the military have to take a deeper look at this and change the expectation. Have more programs that help with that transition out into the civilian world. At an individual level, what can we do? What can you and I do to help?

The first thing when I work with clients is I stressed the importance of self-advocacy. Self-determination and self-advocacy, they go hand in hand. Self-determination is you recognizing that you have a choice. Regardless of you having a disability, you have a choice, you have an opinion, you have a say in the way you lead your life. Self-advocacy is when you communicate those wants, needs, desires to another person. One of the challenges when it comes to mental illness and people taking medicine, you always say, “They went off their meds.” That’s a very common thing because we’ve got to understand that the medicine that is prescribed to people with mental illness, they are at times, in my opinion, they’re strong. In my opinion like street drugs, meaning if you stopped them cold turkey, you will go through withdrawal. That’s something that many people are not aware of.

When they take the medicine and maybe it causes them to sleep a little bit too long or they feel like their head is stuffed with cotton. They’re slurring their speech or they can’t remember, what they do is they stopped the medicine because they don’t like how it feels. Instead of having the conversation with the doctor and say, “This made me sleep too long. Can we adjust the dose? Can we try something else?” When you quit the medicine cold turkey, you’re going through withdrawal. Your symptoms are worse, your family is pissed off. It starts with self-advocacy. Everyone that is dealing with a mental illness has to understand you’re going to have to communicate and partner with your doctor in order to find the correct cocktail. The medicines that work for me won’t necessarily work for you.

You’re going to have to find what works. Many times, people go through up to twenty different prescriptions before they find the one that works for them. Another thing to be mindful of is even if you were taking your medicine regularly if there are new stressors introduced to your life, it reduces the efficacy of the medicine. If you are taking your medicine, things are going great and then you lose a loved one, that stress can override the effect of your medication. That’s the individual’s self-advocacy. For me, I probably tried everything. I’m a huge advocate of therapy. Everyone should give themselves six months of once a week therapy. It is absolutely beneficial. I believe in meditation and prayer. Definitely a healthy diet. Adding Vitamin D is a natural mood stabilizer. If you’re not getting it in your diet, go out in the sun. Fortunately, I live in Florida so I get a lot of that.

You need to journal. You need to have solid friendships. Friendships with the people who are able to not only tell you, “Rodney, looking good today, but also Rodney something’s a little off. What’s going on?” Even when you say, “No, I’m fine,” they’re able to interpret what you were fine in. Did he say, “I’m fine,” or did he say, “I’m fine?” I have people in my life like that who can look at me, who can hear my voice and know, “Natasha, what’s going on? I’m coming over. I’m coming to get you.” Whatever it is. We need to have those relationships. I tried tapping. Exercise is hugely important. There’s no one method that’s going to fix mental illness. There are some mental illnesses that are going to be temporary.

There are some that are going to last until death. You have to be aware of what you have so that you know how to deal with it in the same way people are living with AIDS. People are living with diabetes. People who are living with blindness. It’s the same way someone can live with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. My goal and job as a coach is to help people minimize the interruptions in their professional lives because of a personal challenge that they’re experiencing. You’re sad, I understand. I get it. What I do is we create strategies around, “On the day that you’re feeling sad and you do not want to get out of bed, on the day that you were having a hard time leaving home, on the day that you had three panic attacks in the morning because you are convinced that this is the day you’re going to die on the highway. On those days. What can we do A.) To get you out of bed, B.) To get you out the door. C.) To get you driving or allow you to stay in bed.

Some of the clients that I work with, we’ve negotiated with their employer that the attendance policy isn’t something that’s going to be strictly adhered to for them based on their disability. What a lot of people aren’t aware of is you can have accommodations at work. Any company with fifteen or more employees by law must accommodate you in a way that’s reasonable and doesn’t put an undue hardship on the company. Instead of saying, “My moods go up and down. I’ll stay home and collect Social Security.” No, you can get a job if you want to work, and that’s something that I help people do. What we’re going to do is once you’re hired, we’re going to work in some of those accommodations that allow you to be your normal. Not everyone else’s normal and live a productive life.

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In your practice, have you found that any of these challenges I should say are reversible? Are we able to turn back the clock for some of these things? 

In my experience, postpartum depression might be the easiest. That’s in my experience, I deal with and have dealt with all disabilities from autism to schizophrenia, physical, mental, cognitive learning, and everything in between. My preference is to work with people who have mental illness because that’s something that is very close to me. I understand it well. In my experience, I believe that it is possible for symptoms to be lessened. I have not seen with any of my clients where it has gone away, just from my personal experience.

I first began experiencing anxiety after 9/11. I was in New York at that time. I was fainting all over New York having what I didn’t even know was panic attacks. I went to a slew of doctors and no one knew what was wrong with me. One doctor said, “You might be psychosomatic, maybe you need to go see a shrink.” Just like that. Not even, “Natasha, I recommend seeing a psychiatrist. No, go see a shrink.” For years I didn’t have any anxiety symptoms. When I moved to Florida, that’s when it started back. Anxiety feels like you’re having a heart attack and a stroke and an asthma attack all in one.

To answer your question, I believe that symptoms can be lessened. Based on the combination of activities that one does, symptoms can be at bay for a while. When new stressors are introduced into your life, those can reoccur. It’s important to have a plan in place. It’s important to have people around you. Friends and family that are aware of what you’re going through. All of my close friends know about my diagnosis, know when I call you, know what to do know what to say, know how to support me. That’s important. Sadly, a lot of my clients they also have a secondary diagnosis which is social anxiety. They isolate, they stay at home, they feel aware, they feel that everyone’s looking at them and judging them. I’m not even going to sugarcoat this. They have nasty family members that judge them, “Why are you acting stupid? Why are you so dumb? Why do you act like that?”

Mental Illness: Self-awareness is one of the tenets of emotional intelligence. Sadly, we’re not taught how to be self-aware.

 

Many people with disabilities endure some of the worst verbal abuse that you’d ever imagine. I know that military men, especially because men, are expected to be strong and deal with it, handle it. They come back home and they are dealing with their own struggles. I was speaking with one veteran who had just gotten married before he was deployed. The love of his life, great communication, and everything. He goes overseas, he comes back and she’s no longer his best friend because he can’t tell her everything that he’s seen and done. There’s a wall in between their relationship.

Where are the people that are helping that marriage navigate that? He will never be able to tell her what he’s seen and done because he’s too scared that she’s going to judge him. If we are going to talk about how much we love our military and we’re going to talk about how standing for the flag and the national anthem. I want that conversation every single day when you see someone homeless, but he’s got on that Vietnam vet hat. I want those conversations happening every single day about real issues. When a man in wartime, women, children, churches, places of worship are supposed to be off limits, but it’s war. When a man or a woman comes home and can’t hug their child like they used to, who’s helping them deal with that?

I don’t care about Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Fourth of July. They are days where people barbecue and they set off fireworks. They don’t care about the people that are being affected where there’s no safe place in America on the Fourth of July because there are fireworks everywhere. He’s remembering a combat zone that he left. I don’t care about that. You want to impress me, take the money that you spent on that fireworks and go buy a veteran some groceries. Go buy him some amazing headphones so he can endure that day because you’re going to have your fun. That’s the place where I come from it. I know I’m very passionate about it. I’m appalled by the pseudo, fake love for our military because it doesn’t translate to the day-to-day. It doesn’t. It translates to social media. It translates for some great sound bites on media, on TV. At the end of the day, do you know that your next-door neighbor is a Major or Sergeant? Does he have to wear a cap or a shirt in order for you to even know who your neighbor is?

Find out what are you passionate about and live there. When you are living in your passion, a lot of things just don't seem so bad. Click To Tweet

For the people that are dealing with a mental challenge, I do want to ask this question. I believe that they’re going to want to take more action for themselves. As a society, we have a long way to go to make this correction. Each and every one of us has an individual responsibility to contribute to mental wellness. For that individual that wants to do more for himself and to beat this challenge, to conquer it. How does self-awareness play a role and being more self-aware? In the Game Changer Mentality, one of the strategies to adopting and maintaining a game-changing mentality is self-awareness. I believe that having self-awareness in this because you still can be a game changer even though you have a big one. I don’t care what’s normal for you, it could be that you have one leg or you have no legs, but there’s still something that you can contribute. Perhaps look at you, you’re a powerful advocate and not afraid to even announced that you’re dealing with a mental challenge. That’s powerful. How does self-awareness play a role in you being so powerful? What would you recommend to someone?

Self-awareness is one of the tenets of emotional intelligence, which is one of my new favorite subjects. Self-awareness is step number one. Sadly, we’re not taught how to be self-aware. We’re taught to pay attention to our exterior, “Make sure your hair’s right, your lashes are done. You’ve got the correct foundation. Make sure your foundation matches your neck.” Those are girl things. “Guys, make sure your beard is good. Your hair’s done. You’ve got to line up your clothes.” We’re taught about the exterior, to be mindful of the exterior. We’re not taught how to sit with ourselves and understand us. That’s something that I have had to do.

Let me give you an example. For me, if you ask anyone in the mental health profession, they will tell you every full moon, hospitals are packed, jails are packed. You get the word lunacy from lunar. No one has done a scientific study to understand why there is such high mental health instances around a full moon. I have the full moons for the year. The dates programmed in my phone, on my calendar, two days out I know a full moon is coming. I know that if I feel anxiety is high or I feel that my mood is shifting, I know, “It’s a full moon. I’m good. Just keep doing everything like normal.” For women, they need to be aware of their cycle. It’s not hormonal changes and, “PMS. She acts so crazy.” It could be some other things too. You need to be aware of your cycle because one of the things, again, self-advocacy, when I work with my clients, is I tell them, “No one is responsible for your bad behavior.

You have a diagnosis and? When you’re angry, when you’re moody, when you’re frustrated, go by yourself, you don’t take that out on anyone else. You need to be aware of the full moon. You need to be aware of your cycle. You need to be aware of every change, whether you’re changing jobs. Taking on a new task, moving. What elevated my stress was moving to a different area, a different apartment. That was a stress and it may not seem like a stress, but you’ve got to know your body. I give my clients sometimes a calendar and a mood journal, “How are you feeling now and what are you doing?” Let us pay attention, “It seems like every time you go to Walmart, your anxiety is high. Here’s what we’re doing. What time are you going to work? You’re going to Walmart on a Saturday at noon. That’s why. What you need to do, go to Walmart on a Tuesday at 7:00 in the morning or a Sunday at 6:00 in the morning if it’s 24 hours. That way you avoid the crowds. You avoid the people and your stress levels go down and you’re able to function.” Self-awareness is key because of that first word, self. I can’t do self-awareness for you. You can’t do self-awareness for me. Self-awareness is a solo project. It’s a solo assignment.

We have to know what our triggers are, “I’m triggered by traffic, I do not drive in traffic at all because I’m too aware. I’m hyper-vigilant about everyone that’s around me. I drive from 10:00 AM and I’m home by 3:30 PM, 4:00 PM. I’m not dealing with rush hour.” When you’re trying to hit kids in the backseat, you putting on mascara, you’re drinking your coffee, trying to change the station. I’m not dealing with all of that. You’ve got to know what your triggers are. Where do you see yourself and find yourself becoming more agitated, irritated and stressed?

You even have to be aware of people. There are energy vampires. There are people that we love and we liked dearly. However, when we’re around them, we question everything about ourselves. They’re not supportive, they’re not kind. They make gaslight. Gaslighting is if I walked into your room and I turned off the light and then I turned it back on and you asked me, “Did you see the lights flicker?” I’m like, “No, what are you talking about?” There are many people even in my clients’ families with family members that gaslight them because they know that they don’t quite trust their mental state, “Are you sure you want to do that because sometimes you know how you get? No, I don’t know how I get.” That’s the problem. You should know how you get. You should be self-aware enough and no one has the opportunity to gaslight you.

My final question is what do you say to the labeling? A lot of times we want to have that conversation with the close one and we’re not willing to accept how we are. We may know, but we’re not willing to accept it and admit that’s how I am because of the labeling. What is your response to that?

I have a very straightforward approach. One of the questions that I’m asked frequently is, “Natasha, how soon when I start dating, should I tell the person about my diagnosis?” My response is, “How soon would you tell them that you have asthma or epilepsy or diabetes? How soon would you tell them? If you don’t make it an issue, they won’t make it an issue. Truth be told, if there’s anyone in your circle that it has an issue with you having a mental illness, do you want them in your life?” For me, putting my business out there, every person that I’ve ever dated has known about my diagnosis early. “I’m not going to build a relationship and make heartspace for you if you have an issue with anxiety, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia or anything, you’re not the one and I’m okay with that.” For me, I don’t make it an issue. I don’t hide when I take medicine. I’m not going to be in the middle of Ruth’s Chris or Dave & Buster’s shaking out my pills. As far as the people that are in my life and close to me, it’s not an issue. This is me and you take all of me or you take none of me.

That’s so powerful. For those out there, what we’re talking about is creating space for yourself and be unapologetic about it. That’s what we’re talking about here. In realizing that, everyone has something. I’m a big believer in that. Everyone has a challenge. Everyone has something that they’re dealing with. Whether it’s financial, relationship, physical, mental, we can go down the list. In life, that’s just what it is. The beauty of it is we can all shine despite that, we can be game changers in spite of that. We can make a difference in spite of that. We all have to do our part. We’ve been given some good tips and tools and strategies that we can use to battle mental challenges in our lives. Things that are preventing us from having those healthy relationships with our loved ones. Honoring those who have gone and fought for us to allow us to have freedom here in this country. These are things you know. As Game Changers, after hearing this, we’re responsible having heard what has come across here. We have to take social responsibility to make this better in our communities.

Natasha, I want to say thank you for sharing all of that information with us. If you’re listening and you want to connect with Natasha, if you want more of what she has to offer, and if you maybe want someone that can support you, she shared her experience with you and maybe she can be a good support for you, maybe she can be an advocate. Maybe she can be someone that can help you get a job, get the accommodations that you need. Own your job, reach out to her. With that being said, where can people find you if they want to connect?

I am where everyone’s eyes are, I am on social media. On Facebook, @SimplyNatasha and @NatashaPierreOfficial. On Instagram, @NatashaPierreOfficial and my website, NatashaPierre.com. I wanted to say one thing, it was a game changer. We all have to be game changers wherever we are. My assignment is working with people who have a mental illness, mental health challenges and also with veterans. That’s my game. I challenge everyone to find your game because when you find your game and you’re living, walking and doing your game, changing your game, a lot of these symptoms lessen. When I am in the middle of life seems crazy and I’m extremely symptomatic, let me find a veteran. Let me find someone that is dealing with mental illness and all of my symptoms because I am neck-deep in my passion. For everyone, step one is that self-awareness and that includes finding out what are you passionate about and living there. When you are living in your passion, a lot of things don’t seem so bad, it doesn’t.

I believe that with the challenges that we have, there is the seed of opportunity. Regardless of where you are, you may feel that this challenge that you have perhaps kicked your butt and you don’t see the benefit of it. I want to challenge you to take a look at it a little bit differently. Harvest the good. Look at your positive potentials as a result of this. I love what you’ve done a Natasha at taking something like this that could have caused you to go into depression and not be the outspoken person that you are. You’re turning it into something positive, making a difference for people. That’s what we have to do with all of the challenges that we face in our lives. I believe that when that happens, you have a

GCM 24 | Mental Illness

Provoking Thoughts Volume 1: 101 Inspirational Quotes for Daily Life

choice. Either allow that to bring up the best of you or you allow it to consume you. I want to thank you for allowing that to be something that you have utilized to be the person that you are. Thank you for being on the show. Do you have any last words for the audience?

On my website, you are able to find my book. I released my first book which is Provoking Thoughts Volume 1. It is titled out off of my Monday Night Live that I do on Facebook. You can join me there, Provoking Thoughts Broadcast, but this is 101 Inspirational Quotes for Daily Life. These are all original quotes, quotes that I call they came as a divine download. One of the things I find that’s usually missing with a lot of my clients is inspiration. Inspiration is me awakening the spirit within you and that’s what I want to do. Disability or not limitation or not challenge or not, everyone needs to be inspired to live their life. If you have breath and you’re here, there’s something for you to do. Let’s get to doing that instead of fixating on all of the things that you can’t do.

Go get the book. Get yourself some aspiration to be the Game Changer that you were destined to be. You are doing great work in the world. You’re amazing and I want to thank you for being here once again. For the audience, please don’t forget to check us out on Facebook. Join our Facebook community, The Game Changer Transformation Community. You will find a network of individuals who are changing the game from all walks of life in their community and in their home, in their individual lives and in business. I want you to remember, regardless of where you are, what walk of life you are in, what challenges you may be facing greatness is your birthright.

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About Natasha Pierre

GCM 24 | Mental Illness

Natasha is an award-winning speaker, author and a mental health advocate with over 20 years of lived experience. Her relatable style coupled with her first-hand understanding of various mental illness, allows her to connect with global audiences to share the importance of self-advocacy, community support and effective legislation.

Natasha has a B.A. from Duquesne University in Mass Communications and she has a Social Security Administration Work Incentives Practitioner credential from Cornell University. Her additional certifications include: Supported Employment, Peer Mentoring and Ministry.

Are you ready to shed your past, rise above your present, and go confidently in the direction of your dreams? The first step? Decide. Choose right here and now to make a move. Set your intention. Then simply ask Rodney for help. http://rodneyflowers.com/mentoring/ 

Want an inspirational story and a magnetic personality plus interactive actionable strategies to transform your audience? Book Rodney for your next event. http://rodneyflowers.com/speaking/

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