Category Archives: healthy lifestyle

My Valentine’s Day Present


rose-bannerThis year – actually just a matter of coincidence – but our V-day is focusing on therapy and improving our behaviors for the health of our family. We have our first family counseling session on Saturday. I’m both excited and anxious at how things will go. I’m not completely convinced that my spouse is as committed to the process as I am, which is disheartening. Maybe I’m wrong, and he’ll surprise me.

I’ll update more on the process later. Today, focusing on the good of life, even something as simple as a smile from a good friend.

Blessed be!

Where’s the Love?


hearts-bannerFebruary is not only the month of Valentine’s Day, but it is also my anniversary month. This year my husband and I have been married 12 years.

I can say this, marriage is not for the faint of heart. It’s not always a bed of roses. In our case, we’ve been experiencing more thorns as of late. One thing we do agree on is that we’ve got to make changes for the betterment of our daughter. We argue a lot, and that’s taking a toll on her. We’ve somewhat come to an agreement that we need to speak with a family therapist. This will be beneficial for everyone as my husband does not have the understanding or coping skills to deal with living with someone with mental illness. Even more so, he has some of his own issues that he needs to work through. Mix both of those things, and the environment our daughter is living in is not as healthy as it could be. And that’s the goal – improving the environment for her.

This February I will be meditating a lot on what makes a healthy family. I wouldn’t consider my upbringing to be a model example. I consider myself somewhat of an expert of knowing what is not healthy, but I’m not an expert at not making the same mistakes. That’s the goal – knowing what a healthy family is and striving toward that. It’s in all of our best interests, for love, for family, for life.

Wellness and Giving Thanks


smash-patriarchyI’m taking part in my employer’s wellness program. It’s part of my journey toward a healthier lifestyle. The current goal in the wellness program is to take the next seven days and each day, write about something for which I’m thankful. The first thing that came to mind was being thankful for my mental illness.

That statement seems odd now that I look at it typed out on the page. But, it’s a sincere statement. Is having a mental illness challenging? Yes. Is it considered a disability? Yes. However, I’ve come to a point in my life where I want to view my mental illness through a different lens, with a different perspective. What has my mental illness allowed me to do? Well, it’s definitely allowed me to have somewhat unique experiences. I say somewhat because although not experiences that the “average” person has, I’m not the only one to ever struggle with bipolar disorder or anxiety. There are similar experiences in every story of mental illness. I’m using unique here to qualify my experiences as being different than the experiences of someone who doesn’t live daily with mental illness.

These experiences have taught me. They have helped mold me into the person that I am at this moment. One thing they have most definitely done is helped me to a more empathetic person. Because of my relationship with my illness, I genuinely care for and feel for people who are in pain, those dealing with mental and emotional anguish, those who are existing in a state of despair. I seek to connect with those people, many of whom have had people turn away from them because of their challenges. I feel that in doing this, I have grown a little bit as a person, that it has helped me to develop as an individual.

I would not wish mental illness on anyone. Yet, I’m thankful that it’s me and not you – at least not right now. And if the time ever comes where it is you, I’m here. Reach out to me. I may not completely understand, but I can listen using my unique filter. We are all worth this, and so much more. For this, I’m thankful.

MLK and Mental Illness


mlk-dream-bannerI went to church yesterday. As is usual with most Unitarian Universalist churches, the day was spent in reflection of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Those of us who are caucasian pinned pink ribbons to our tops, a reminder for the day that people are treated differently because of their skin tone and that as caucasians, we have a duty to acknowledge our ancestors’ history and challenge injustice whenever we witness it. I had planned to pen an elaborate post regarding my thoughts on the service.

Then I had a mental health episode. It was a rough night, and I struggled with old coping mechanisms such as self-injury and alcohol. This is not the life that I want to lead, and I recommit myself to my overall health – including my spiritual and mental health.

Today I began to wonder, what would Dr. King say about how we treat the mentally ill in this country. I found this blog and wasn’t surprised to learn that Dr. King himself often battled with depression. People who are challenged with mental illness tend to be some of the most self-reflective and empathetic people you will ever meet. It’s not lost on me that someone like MLK who spent his life thinking deeply about injustice would struggle with the psychological impact of such a dreary reality.

There is still a stigma against the mentally ill. I could never compare this to the experience that African Americans have had in this society. Yet I’m compelled to call out injustice wherever I see it, for mental illness is something that does not discriminate based on the color of your skin. If we know that mental illness is stigmatize, and that racial minorities are discriminated against, one would shudder at the injustice of mental illness within those communities. Unfortunately, culturally speaking, some groups balk even more at the thought of mental health treatment. My husband is from India and there’s a long history of denying the need for therapy and that one should fix things on their own, which is a damaging and dangerous perspective. Damaging because it belittles those of us who seek help. Dangerous because it suggests a path that almost always fails.

We need to speak out in all of our communities that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, rather it’s something that many of us will experience at some point in our lives, just like MLK did. There is no weakness in asking for help as it is true strength and courage that allows you to recognize that you can’t do it alone. Growing up, we’re not taught to deal with these issues, so we need to learn from those who can help us. Regardless of our backgrounds, there is a counselor that can meet our needs.

If you need any support in exploring these issues, please reach out to me. I’m listening.

This Is Me


me-before-after

Greetings, friends! Sorry it has been so long since I have posted, but as you can see, I’ve been busy focusing on myself and my health over the past year. But, with my previous post, I’m taking the opportunity to start writing more, both on this site and in novel form – all of course while still focusing on improving my health.

I would like to add a little bit about myself that I haven’t revealed before. My pen name is J.B. Stilwell, but my real name is Jimel Razdan. I was born in Huntington, WV, which is a fact that I’m quite proud of even in the face of getting extremely saddened when I visit my home. The economic conditions, not to mention the crime and drug issues, make me weep for my birth community.

I hope to post more about my life in the Huntington area, my life as Jimel writing as J.B., and what it’s like being an Appalachian transplant in a Midwestern metropolitan area.

I hope that you all had festive holidays and will have a healthy and prosperous new year!

Getting Real about Getting Healthy


hope concept

Much has happened since we moved to the Chicago area.

I spent a month on the couch in severe pain. Testing showed that I had ovarian cysts and a tumor, which required surgery. After the surgery, we learned that I have Stage IV endometriosis. During the first surgery, much of the endometrial tissue was removed, along with my left ovary and fallopian tube. Unfortunately, since I’m Stage IV, I still experience continual discomfort with random episodes of sharp stabbing pain. To treat this, I will be having a full hysterectomy in January, which will mean six to eight weeks of more healing time.

Given my physical health challenges and a familial episode that was sparked by my sometimes illogical sense of aggravation, I decided it was past time to really be serious about my overall health–for my benefit and my family’s benefit, particularly my daughter, Maya, because she deserves a healthy and happy mom. To this end, I decided to accept the diagnosis I was given when I was twenty-six. I went to a psychiatrist for re-evaluation and was finally honest about some things that I had never told a mental healthcare worker before–specifically about my compulsive spending, days of elevated irritability, and episodes where things seem to explode and my behavior becomes erratic (which often leads to self-injury). The psychiatrist confirmed what I was told fourteen years ago–I have bipolar II with hypomania. I’m not rejecting the diagnosis anymore.

For now, I’m on new medicine, and so far the change has been so amazing, I’m mentally kicking myself for not doing this sooner. Of course I will likely have to fight the urge that I had so many years ago–once I feel good for a while, I will need to resist the urge to convince myself that there’s nothing really wrong with me, those episodes were just me having a “bad day.” More recently I had justified all of this by saying that I had an intolerance for a**holes. Like I told the psychiatrist, with so many different episodes with different people, the only common denominator was ME. Therefore, I need to get over myself and accept the fact that I’m the one with the issue so I can treat it and go on with my life.

So that’s what I’m doing. As you can expect, you will read much more about my journey in upcoming posts. Until then, health and blessings to all.

My Life Beyond Fat, Part I – The Beginning


Broken heart sign, loss of love concept

I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t fat. However, it has taken me over thirty years to type that sentence. When I was younger, I would have been mortified if someone said the “f” word. When it came to my self image, I knew two things when I was younger: I was fat, and fat is unattractive. As many young girls in our culture do, I deduced that I was unattractive. And because of this deduction, I was mortified when someone said the “f” word because they were basically saying I was ugly.

Adolescence is a perilous time. If children can be mean, then teenagers can be downright evil. Along with growing up being told that I was fat (sic ugly), and that I “had such a pretty face if only I could lose weight,” in middle school an older student branded me Shamu. When everyone would snickered, I joined the laughter as if I were in on the joke instead of being the joke. Little did they know that the laughter was merely the embankment for my tears…tears that I would later expel in the privacy of my bedroom.

The media only compounded my debasement. Bear in mind that a significant part of my adolescence occurred in the 1990s during the height of “heroin chic.” As I would gaze longingly at the magazines in the grocery store checkout, I saw no reflection. I could not see myself in those pages. I would look down at myself and silently pray that God could transform me into the gossamer models that seemingly everyone either favored or emulated, sometimes both.

Then there was me. The opposite. Not to be favored. Not to be emulated. Not to be loved.

The media images and name calling built into a gospel cacophony. As in all things, repetition builds fluency, and I soon became an expert in fat and shame.