As an individual who was diagnosed with bipolar disease in 1979, I've seen many sides of the mental health field in those past several decades. My forte? Mania, not so much depression. When manic, I lose all sense of what's right and proper and safe. I've been hospitalized many, many times because of mania and have experienced all the local psychiatric hospitals and have also done stays at Western State Hospital. During this time, I've felt hopeless, scared, out of control and negative about myself.

It's almost Mental Health Month, and I want to talk about Cody Lee Miller. Unfortunately, most people probably know him as #ManInTree. The internet lit up with #ManInTree hashtags three weeks ago after Mr. Miller's 25 hour occupation of a towering sequoia tree in downtown Seattle.

This past Martin Luther King Day, nearly two hundred of us from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Washington State descended upon the Capitol in Olympia to make our voices heard.  We both advocated for better mental health services and demanded repairs to the broken mental healthcare system in our State.

NAMI Seattle recommends you check out Ali Cherry's article in the Huffington Post: "You Don't Need Mental Illness to Need Mental Health"

*Trigger Warning*

When I think about my ongoing battle with mental illness I feel exhausted. It's exhausting every day to try and "feel better." To feel "normal." By the end of the day I'm so tired all I want is to sleep. I'm tired from the trying. I'm tired from analyzing every little mistake as it quickly snowballs into being the reason I lose my family or my job or my friends or my boyfriend. I'm tired of worrying all the time. I'm tired of not being able to respond back to text messages or phone calls from friends because I'm I don't want them to know. I don't know what to say. I'm tired of not feeling good enough; a good enough friend, girlfriend, dog owner, teacher. The list goes on and on.

"You should try meditating." If I've heard it once, I've heard it a dozen times. People often say that if you are stressed out, the best thing you can do is meditate. While there is plenty of scientific evidence showing that it can reduce anxiety and improve your mental health, for me, it doesn't seem to help at all. Not doing anything allows all of my stressful and frantic thoughts to come pouring into my mind. Focusing on my breath is not enough to clear away these thoughts. I understand that I could devote more time to practicing meditation, but there are other some effective ways I've found to de-stress. Here are a few of the activities I've found effective, and a few others, that have been backed by research to help you handle stress.

Early, or a first episode psychosis, are the first signs that a person is experiencing a loss of contact from reality. This moment is often frightening, confusing and distressing to a person and his or her family.

We need your help.

This week Congress is coming back from their August recess and we want to make comprehensive mental health reform an impossible issue for them to ignore.

Ask your two U.S. Senators to co-sponsor The Mental Health Reform Act of 2015 (S 1945). And, ask your U.S. Representative to co-sponsor the The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646).

Are you suffering in silence?

My name is Tom, I manage schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, and for about 4.5 years, early in my recovery, I experienced sexual dysfunction due to my medication side effects. I take an antipsychotic and a mood stabilizer. I suffered in silence, not sure how to talk about it with my doctor, not sure there were any options. I was also court ordered to take my medication, so I was not sure what to do. I started to get diabetes and gained a lot of weight from my medication, so my psychiatrist and medical doctor started talking to me about how they wanted to change my medication. I gathered my courage, and took it a step farther, and told them I would also like to consider something to help me avoid sexual side effects if possible. My psychiatrist said he would look into it, and came up with a pretty good solution.

A program called 'In Our Own Voice' uses personal stories to reduce stigma of people living with mental illness.