Advocating for Yourself: Making that Mental Health Crisis Call - First in a Series by Brigid Hokana

This past year, 2017 into early 2018, was one of the most difficult of my life. I was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury after a work-related incident, and this experience, opened me up to a world I hadn’t known before, the world of mental health treatment.

I have since been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression in January 2018.

This is my story of making a call that saved my life.

February 2017

Doctor’s office, the room’s lights were too bright, headache, stomach ache. Lemon bleach from the office’s cleaner.

“You were hit by a child?” The doctor smiled and cocked her eyebrow. “He must have been a big child, I guess…How old do you teach again?”

“Five and six year olds,” I said, the paper overlay on the semi-plush bench crumpled in my hands. “I was slammed against a steel framed door about six to eight times. I lost count.”

She swirled her rolling chair closer to her laptop. “Oh, okay.” She side-eyed me, then looked at her laptop monitor, typed a couple of things. “Now I’ll perform a couple of tests.” She shone a light into my eyes, and stopped, the side-eye back. “Your eyes are really dilated, you haven’t been smoking weed, have you?”

No. I was not high. My head injury had only been a couple of weeks before. I blinked a couple of times, immediately thinking: was this my fault?

I defaulted to how I handled moments like this: joking. “I heard when your eyes are dilated it can mean you’re in love, too.” I chuckled, then held the back of my head against the now everpresent pain.

She didn’t laugh. “But you don’t smoke or drink, correct?” She shone the light in my eyes again.

“No.” That light. The back of my head ached even more intensely than before. “Can you stop that, please? It hurts.”

She narrowed her eyes, “I recommend seeing a neurologist.”

She handed me a business card. “We’ll give you more information on the way out.”

March 2017

The neurologist said as she looked over her clipboard. “Yep, you definitely have symptoms of someone who has a Traumatic Brain Injury.”

I fiddled my sweaty fingers, hoping she’d help me understand what was happening to me. “I feel dizzy. Most days I can’t see straight. Or the fact that I don’t want to get out of bed most mornings.” I said.

She nodded, but that was the end of our visit. “I’ll prescribe you this medication, and we’ll see if your situation has improved. Until then, I will see you in August.”

August 2017

I missed that appointment because family members said I looked like I had improved since March. I was better, right?

September 2017-November 2017

I’m better, right? Like a broken arm, or a bout of flu, it eventually just heals, and goes away...Right? This sadness, this anxiety, it goes away, right?

November through December 2017

I wasn’t better. Vertigo, headaches, anxiety that increased with every day. A series of panic attacks that left me useless, drained. I talked with some people about the anxiety. But the other things I didn’t talk about, to anyone.

Thoughts of ending the pain, ending the hurt.

January 12, 2018

Someone who cares about me, though, noticed. “Go back to the doctor--now,” she said.

I did. This time I told my primary care physician everything, about the vertigo, about the escalating anxiety, about the sorrow that grew darker and deeper every day. I couldn’t work. I tried, stayed in my job, even though I was drowning.

The doctor said turned her chair away from me to peer at her laptop. “There’s not much else I can do,” she said over her shoulder.

“This is just to get out of your contract, correct?” she asked. “It would probably be better from a psychiatrist; we’ll print a list for you before you leave here today.”

“But the headaches haven’t gone away--they’re getting worse, and I’ve had two panic attacks this week--” My chest felt like it was being crushed in a vice, and my throat burned with tears.

“I will give you some anti-anxiety medication, maybe that will help.” Her fingers pattered over the keyboard. “Here, I will give you a note for one week, that should be enough time for you to find a psychiatrist who will fill out this doctor’s note for you and identify you. Now for the rest of your examination.”

I cried a little bit, wiped up the tears.

She smiled, an efficient smile, then said, “Just think happy thoughts.” she said. Then she added, “And pray..” With that, she walked out of the room. I cried. This wasn’t about just needing to get out of my job.

I wanted help. I needed help.

Later in my apartment, I clenched my chest, and I cried, “I don’t know- I don’t know-I don’t know.”

I called a mentor. She lives in a town more than an hour away, but she heard me. I knew she heard me, because the next link she sent me was a psychiatric clinic, “It is a walk-in, there’s no guarantee they can see you,” she said. “ Call them, then call me right back.”

I left them a voice message asking for an appointment. I called her back, crying, gasping, “I couldn’t reach anyone.” My heart beat like a hammer clashed against my ribs; my breath slowed and quickened, deepened and shallowed. I felt like I would throw up.

“Okay, I’ve got one more link,” my mentor said. “But I want you to read this one carefully. I think this one will give you help, but I want you to understand what will happen if you call. Call me back once you’ve looked at it,” she said.

I clicked open the link she had sent. The title read Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. It read: “Crisis Intervention” with white lettering and a red background. I dialed the number..

A black haze covered my view. I spoke with a person, I couldn’t say anything except “Help,” then “I need help” and then finally, I gave them my address and phone number.

I tumbled inside myself, drowning in feelings. Shame: maybe I shouldn’t have asked for help. Fear: maybe I should have considered pills again or the car or-

I called my mentor back, “I did it.”

“I’m scared,” I told her. The tears were different now. ”I don’t know what they’re going to do when--when they get here. Are they going to handcuff me? My mom told me about a teenage girl they handcuffed to get her to go to the emergency room.” I stared at my front entrance, waiting for a swat team to kick down my door. Or maybe a nurse with a stretcher.

Oh my god, everyone is going to know I am crazy. People are going to think I am insane.

I felt pretty crazy. Panic burned up through me.

“No, no, sweetheart,” she said. “They are going to take you to the emergency room, then they’re going to do a psych eval. After that.sweetie, you will probably admitted. You understand?” she asked.

I nodded, then said, “Okay, I am going to hang up and wait for them.”

When the first responders arrived--no swat team--they were attentive and gentle, answering my questions, and taking me, I realize now, to the very place I most needed to be.

I want to make clear that this is an account of just my personal experience, and I am aware that the experience of others may vary. But I feel it’s too important to not share my experience, to maybe help someone understand what can happen when you call for help in a mental health crisis.

When you make the call, this is what will happen:

  1. The person on the other line will ask your emergency. They will ask if you think you are a danger to yourself or others. If you say you are in Crisis or an Emergency, they are required by law to help.

  2. Police Officers will show up to your door. They are just acting as first responders, people to wait with you.

  3. An Ambulance comes next, and they ask you a series of questions about your physical condition.

  4. Upon arrival, a nurse, a doctor, a social worker, and a psychiatrist will ask more questions about your mental/emotional condition.

  5. The psychiatrist will ask if you had any suicidal ideation and how. Answer honestly.

  6. You will possibly be admitted, but they will give you the care you really need.

This is my account with the mental health care system and while it was a good experience, if someone else doesn’t have as good an experience, then you do not need to give up. Keep asking for help until someone hears you. There is no shame in asking for help.

If you have or have had thoughts of suicide, know that you can advocate for yourself.

If you need help in making that call, don’t be afraid to ask a family member or friend to help.

If you live in the Richmond area, call their Crisis Prevention Hotline: 804-819-4100

If you are advocating for someone else’s life, don’t be afraid to look over the step-by-steps from NAMI. You can find those here. 

Click here for more information on advocates for Mental Health and Virginia NAMI

Your mental health is as important as your physical health.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. 

 

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Brigid Hokana lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is a member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace. She is an ABA Therapist for Building Blocks and a MFA student at West Virginia Wesleyan College. She wants to pursue a career as a Teaching Artist and Webcomic Artist. Brigid loves being a part of Writing for Peace and cannot wait to see this organization grow.

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Art in the Age of Understanding by Joel Worford

Art shifts with culture while culture shifts with art—making it difficult for us to determine which one needs to change first when we decide something needs to change.

The popular idea that the artistic community holds the progressive mentalities while everybody else lags behind is largely a misconception.

Consider this: the lead single from Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic contains the clearly misogynistic line “bad bitches and their ugly ass friends,” among others, yet that didn’t stop the song from winning Record of the Year or from selling over one million units in less than 12 months. Some would argue that the success of Mars’ music, along with the success of a number of popular Hip-Hop, Country, RnB and Rock artists who play large stadiums and sell millions of records every year, regardless of the antiquated stance their music may take towards women, or the problematic ways they may represent race and/or sexuality comes down to the difference between popular music circles and underground music circles. This idea falls apart, however, when one considers that, even within the independent music scene, artists tend to separate themselves by genre—genres built around cultures whose make-up often reflects the prejudices and racial distinctions of the United States’ socio-economic situation.

As art shifts and shapes with culture, its communities grapple with the cultural climate of the time, just like any other group.

So how are movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo affecting artists? Surely the same musicians who perform at The Women’s March and speak out against bigotry and hate on social media are taking such ideas into account while they’re producing and presenting their art?

I believe the difference is small, yet substantial in the way that it manifests. I listen to Bruno Mars’ new album and enjoy the 90s throwback style quite a bit, yet as a working musician and singer-songwriter myself, I would never cover the song 24K Magic, because that one line about “bad bitches and their ugly ass friends” makes me uncomfortable. The reason it makes me uncomfortable is because I understand that it makes some of my friends who are women uncomfortable. This understanding is crucial, and represents the moment where the conversations brought to the forefront by Black Lives Matter and #MeToo begin to influence culture. As people begin to understand one another differently, culture will shift to accommodate, and so will art. When I listen to Bruno Mars’ new album, I skip that song, because the moments of misogyny take me out of the album’s groovaliciousness and remind me of the stories that my roommate tells about her negative experiences with men—some of whom surely mistreat women because they hold mentalities similar to the ones Mars glorifies in his song.

Skipping that song is my choice, just like it was Bruno Mars’ choice to write that line, record ’24K Magic,’ and include it on his album.

Both choices are valid—to regulate art and creation would be to regulate conversation, and such artistic stifling isn’t conducive to understanding. Our choices are just different, and reflect different ideas. I wouldn’t say that my choice is so much an act of protest as it is an act of necessity. Why should I listen to a song if it makes me uncomfortable? With that, you could ask—why should Bruno Mars change his song if he feels comfortable with it? Plenty of people, both men and women, love the song, and that line.

As society shifts in response to conversations on human rights and morality, the way we interact with each other will change, and the way we interact with art will change. Lyrics deemed bigoted or misogynistic will cause songs to fall out of the mainstream, and at that point, it will be the artist’s choice on whether to change with society, or to try and change it back.

___________________________________________

Joel Worford is a singer-songwriter from Richmond, Virginia. He currently studies English at Longwood University with a concentration in Creative Writing. Joel’s short story “The Naked Eye” appears in the 2017 edition of Good Works Review.

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Resource: Richmond Young Writers!

Looking for something awesome for kids to do? Check out Richmond Young Writers! 

Richmond Young Writers is a creative writing incubator for ages 9-17. We write, we read, we laugh, we cry, we get messy, we polish things up, we bond. We make each other better.

RYW offers once-a-week fall and winter/spring after-school workshops in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, journalism, comics, and other topics.

In the summer, we offer 18 different week-long creative writing camps, complete with amazing guest author appearances, snacks, deep thoughts, wordy goodness and a new crew of crazy writer friends.

About

Richmond Young Writers was founded in the summer of 2009 at Chop Suey Books with the intention of introducing young people to the joy of creative writing through workshops taught by professional writers in the community. Our workshops are now held right down the street at 2707 West Cary Street.

Full and partial scholarships are offered in each workshop to ensure that all students have the opportunity to participate in our programs.

We have had the pleasure of writing with young people ages 8-17 from Richmond, Henrico, Glen Allen, Ashland, Chesterfield, Midlothian, Montpelier, Powhatan, Moseley, Mechanicsville, Afton, Rockville, Gloucester, Charlottesville and more.

Learn More Here

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Last Day of Our Winter Warmth Drive! Please Donate!

So cold outside, and folks in our community still need your help. 

Our Winter Warmth Drive ends today! 

Still Needed: 
New or gently used coats (especially for kids), hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, sleeping bags

Bring your donations to one of the following collection locations:

In Farmville:
Grainger 112, Longwood University, 201 High Street, Farmville VA 23909
or
Real Living Cornerstone Realty, 238 North Main Street, Farmville, VA 23901

In Richmond:
Tarrant’s Café, 1 West Broad St., Richmond, VA 23220
or
Tricycle Gardens, 2314 Jefferson Ave, Richmond, VA 23223

Please share widely. Thanks!

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IMPORTANT RESOURCE: Free Immigration Screening Clinic, Feb 17, 2018, Richmond VA

What does DACA mean to you? The end of TPS for Salvadorans and Haitians? New immigration policies?

Free Immigration Screening Clinic
Saturday, Feb 17, 1-5pm
Sacred Heart Center
1400 Perry St, Richmond VA

___________________________________________________________________________

For more information,

call 804-230-4399 or 804-643 -1086

__________________________________________________________________________

¿Qué te significa DACA? ¿Nuevas políticas de inmigración? 

Consultas gratis acerca de la inmigración
Sábado, 17 de febrero, 1-5 pm
Sacred Heart Center
1400 Perry St, RIchmond VA



Patrocinado por Legal Aid Justice Center, VICPP Central VA Sanctuary Network, & Sacred Heart

Sponsored by the Legal Aid Justice Center, VICPP Central VA Sanctuary Network, & Sacred Heart Center

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IMPORTANT RESOURCE: Richmond City’s Cold Weather Overflow Shelter Open January 30 – February 1

The Cold Weather Overflow Shelter will be open Tuesday, January 30 – Thursday, February 1 as temperatures are forecast to remain at or below 40 degrees.

Residents in need of overnight shelter are asked to report to Commonwealth Catholic Charities (511 W. Grace Street) during operational hours for a comprehensive intake and referral to the appropriate shelter. Shelter registration is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.  

For individuals who are not eligible for existing shelter space or if all available beds have been filled, Commonwealth Catholic Charities will provide a referral to the Cold Weather Overflow Shelter.

The Cold Weather Overflow Shelter is located in the City’s Public Safety Building at 505 North 9th Street. The shelter opens each evening at 7 p.m. and closes the following morning at 10 a.m. Individuals seeking access to the Overflow Shelter must have a referral. Food will not be provided and pets are not allowed.

City residents are also advised the Department of Social Services provides emergency assistance with gas and electric disconnection notices for residents who qualify. Residents may also call the Fuel Line at (804) 646-7046.

The elderly or residents with disabilities should contact Senior Connections for assistance at (804) 343-3000, Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, please contact Commonwealth Catholic Charities at (804) 648-4177.

More info here at Richmond2Day

RVA, please share! 

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WINTER WARMTH DRIVE CONTINUES! Donations Needed in Central Virginia

They're calling for snow in Central Virginia again this week. The cold's going to last for a while. And your community needs your help. 

We'll be collecting until February 5th!

Still Needed: 

New or gently used coats (especially for kids)

Hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, sleeping bags

From January 22nd to February 5th, bring your donations to one of the following collection locations:

In Farmville:
Grainger 112, Longwood University, 201 High Street, Farmville VA 23909
or
Real Living Cornerstone Realty, 238 North Main Street, Farmville, VA 23901

In Richmond:
Tarrant’s Café, 1 West Broad St., Richmond, VA 23220
or
Tricycle Gardens, 2314 Jefferson Ave, Richmond, VA 23223

Please share widely. Thanks!

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Volunteers & Donations Needed! Madeline's House Domestic Violence Shelter, Central Virginia

Madeline’s House is a non-profit organization, providing comprehensive services for individuals and families experiencing domestic and sexual abuse.

We receive and are dependent upon support from local sources: civic groups, religious groups, businesses, private citizens and grants. Income is also generated through various community fundraising events.

Southside Center for Violence Prevention, Inc. was established in 1999 in response to the cries of persons who experience domestic and sexual violence, and their primary need for immediate help and safety by:

  • Providing temporary housing

  • Empowering clients and residents to become survivors

  • Assisting them in regaining control of their lives through a wide range of appropriate services, and

  • Supporting these individuals in ending their experience of violence and homelessness through client advocacy, counseling, and community support systems.

Public awareness is the key to changing long term attitudes about domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault (SA). Finding a safe haven from this abuse is an immediate and life saving concern. Madeline’s House has been established in response to the cry of DV and SA victim’s immediate need for help and safety.

It is our intent to inspire these women and children to become survivors and assist them in regaining control of their lives. In addition to the wide range of services we provide, our goal is to help them restore their self-esteem. Counseling, therapy, and a supportive family environment within the shelter help to rebuild the independence necessary for reentering the community to live a safe and productive new life.

If You Need Help, Call : 1-888-819-2926

 

Learn More About Madeline's House Here

 

How You Can Help

Volunteer Or Donate

 

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EVENT: "After the March RVA: Activism Convening" Hosted by Richmond Peace Education Center, Feb 24, 2018

Details from the Richmond Peace Education Center Facebook Page

After the March: Activism Convening Free & Open to the Public

What is it?

Timed approximately one year after the Trump inauguration, the After the March RVA Activism Convening is an effort by the Richmond Peace Education Center to bring together those that are and want to participate in work aimed at achieving equality. The convening will feature workshops, community conversations, and movement building/networking time. The registration below holds more information about the workshops and conversations.

When is it? And Where?

Saturday, February 24th, 2018 at Diversity Richmond (1407 Sherwood Ave) from 12pm to 5:30pm.

It is free and open to the public. However, we are asking you to please register.

Who is it for?

Everyone! Anyone who is (or has) been doing work to better the community and those who are looking to get involved in creating change have a place here.

What will I get out of this?

We hope that you leave After the March with a new or deepened network of folks to work in movement with and with new or deepened "real life" skills. In addition, some of the workshops at After the March will continue to be offered by the Peace Center throughout 2018. The intention behind After the March is to be engaged in the long-term, so this is not a one & done convening.

Childcare and Transportation Assistance Also Available

Read More Details Here

or Have other questions? Email our advocacy coordinator, Jelani at jelani@rpec.org

 

About the Richmond Peace Education Center

The Richmond Peace Education Center (RPEC) works to build just, inclusive and nonviolent communities through education and action.

 

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Winter Warmth Drive! Donations Needed in Richmond VA

Heads Up, #RVA!, Richmond area peeps!, please share!

Our Winter Warmth Drive is what we're calling a mirror event, with the Central Virginia Chapter of Writing for Peace organizing similar projects across our home region.

Coats, Hats, Gloves, Socks, Blankets, Sleeping Bags!

We'll be collecting these much needed items from January 22, 2018-February 5, 2018.

Thanks to the generous and compassionate people of RVA Hospitality and Tricycle Gardens, we are collecting warm clothing and winter gear to help our homeless and in-need community members get through this snow and cold weather with a bit more comfort.

From January 22nd to February 5th, bring your donations to one of our two collection locations:

Tarrant’s Café
1 West Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23220

Tricycle Gardens
2314 Jefferson Ave.
Richmond, VA 23223

All collected items will be distributed to local in-need families and homeless community members.

Please bring any items you can to one of the collection locations and encourage your friends and family to do so as well.

We can all make a difference.

If you have any questions, please email wfpcentralvirginia.org

NO ONE SHOULD DIE FROM THE COLD.

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VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: HomewardVA, Serving Richmond's Homeless People, Needs Volunteers for Their January Point-In-Time Count

Homeward is the planning and coordinating organization for homeless services in the greater Richmond region, and they need your help! 

January Point-In-Time Count in RVA

"Understanding what regional data says about individuals and families experiencing homelessness is critical in building an effective community-wide response. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to conduct periodic counts of people experiencing homelessness. This data is compiled both locally and nationally to inform programs, planning, and funding. Homeward has coordinated Greater Richmond's Point-in-Time (PIT) count since 1999, and since 2007, has conducted both a summer and a winter count to better understand the changing nature of homelessness over time."

VOLUNTEER

VOLUNTEER REGISTRATION NOW OPEN FOR 2018 WINTER PIT

Our volunteers will survey individuals:

  • at emergency shelters on January 24th

  • in early AM and afternoon street outreach on Jan. 25

  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church's lunch program on Jan. 25

  • First Baptist Church's dinner program on Jan. 25

  • In PM street outreach on Jan. 25

Training sessions will be held in advance. 

or

DONATE

At the event, we will offer those experiencing homelessness care packages which contain lotion, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, hand sanitizer, combs, brushes, socks, scarves and hats. 

MORE DETAILS ON THE POINT-IN-TIME COUNT HERE

 

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EVENT: WINTER WARMTH DRIVE--RICHMOND & FARMVILLE--We need your help!

NEEDED: HATS, SCARVES, COATS, GLOVES, BLANKETS, SLEEPING BAGS

From Project Curator Stuart Nicholson: 

With temperatures reaching as low as 6 degrees in some areas of Central Virginia, businesses are reducing hours or closing, as travelling and faring in the cold is treacherous.

I work food delivery and I can’t count anymore how many people I have seen huddled under piles of blankets at bus stops or under small canopies. With the number of homeless people in the area and even more families unable to heat the homes they have, what kind of message of peace does it send if we just overlook those less-fortunate around us?

True to our principle of Action, Writing For Peace – Central Virginia is hitting the streets and faring the dropping temperatures to announce our Winter Warmth Drive. Throughout January, we will be collecting gently-used coats, hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, sleeping bags, whatever you have to give make the winter a little more bearable for everyone.

Watch here for more details coming soon regarding drop-off locations in RVA and Farmville, and specific dates.

How much you love your life is what every life is worth! – Brian Yorkey, If/Then; 2013

 

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RESOURCE: Richmond VA Cold Weather Overflow Shelter Open December 29- January 4

PLEASE SHARE. 

 EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, DECEMBER 1, 2017 UNTIL APRIL 15, 2018 THE COLD WEATHER OVERFLOW SHELTER HOURS OF OPERATION WILL BE 7 P.M. UNTIL 10 A.M.

The Cold Weather Overflow Shelter will be open Wednesday, December 29 – Thursday, January 4th, 2017 as temperatures are forecast to remain at or below 40 degrees.

Residents in need of overnight shelter are asked to report to Commonwealth Catholic Charities (511 W. Grace Street) during operational hours for a comprehensive intake and referral to the appropriate shelter. Shelter registration is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. For individuals who are not eligible for existing shelter space or if all available beds have been filled, Commonwealth Catholic Charities will provide a referral to the Cold Weather Overflow Shelter....."

"City residents are also advised the Department of Social Services provides emergency assistance with gas and electric disconnection notices for residents who qualify. Residents may also call the Fuel Line at (804) 646-7046.

The elderly or residents with disabilities should contact Senior Connections for assistance at (804) 343-3000, Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m....."

MORE DETAILS HERE

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