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Not Your Life | Mental health for the holidays and all year long

It is estimated that 1 in 5 adults, (52.9 million in 2020) in the United States suffer from some form of recognized mental illness. (National Institute of Mental Health

Mental illness ranges from mild behavioral or emotional disorders to serious mental illnesses that are defined as “a disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.” (ibid)

Of course these statistics are based on surveys and averages, and any of us touched with mental, emotional or behavioral disorders in our families know that mental illness can strike at anyone, at any age, and regardless of gender.

In young adulthood is the time when many people first show symptoms of mental disorders – which are labels assigned to various sets of behaviors found in common by diagnosing large numbers of people over time.

As with any set of generalizations, there can be exceptions to patterns, causing the National Institute of Mental Health to state on that “only half of people with mental illnesses receive treatment.”

Perhaps this statistic is based on the fact that many people are not sufficiently interrupted by their mild to moderate symptoms as to require professional assistance.

But the preponderance of the news stories heralding violent outburst of various kinds lends credence to a less favorable hypothesis:

that people in serious need of treatment are not diagnosed and are therefore not receiving the needed preventative care to avoid tragic outcomes for themselves and others.

Subtopics on the NIH website include:

· Mental Illness

· Any Anxiety Disorder

· Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

· Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

· Bipolar Disorder

· Eating Disorders

· Major Depression

· Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

· Personality Disorders

· Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

· Schizophrenia

· Suicide

Of course, within this broad range of classifications is also very often found substance abuse disorders, which are often treated alongside psychiatric disorders as a form of compulsion.

Triggers for various manifestations of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders are prevalent at the holidays, but can be found at any time of the year when change and stressors are present – generalized or specific to an individual based on conditioning and environmental influence.

These triggers can be a result of feeling alone on the holiday seeing the plethora of holiday themed decorations everywhere.

A trigger is an event that causes an immediate, unconscious reaction, as defined by author Eckhart Tolle, and in the case of the person with a mental, emotional or behavioral imbalance, can set off an undesirable chain of events for which the individual does not have the skills to prevent.

With training, there are methods of arresting the undesirable chain of events by bringing the light of awareness and consciousness to the presence of these triggers when they are encountered.

But in the case of unrecognized mental, emotional or behavioral disorder, there’s literally no way of knowing what can be done – either to help, as a friend or family member, or as the individual who sees him or herself spiraling out of control.

With 1 in 5 suffering from mental illness of some kind, and half of all mental illness going undetected, it’s pretty safe to say that odds are everyone reading this is touched in some way, whether personally, through family, or both, with some kind of mental illness.

That gives pause when you think about all the people you interact with on a daily basis, and how many of them are silently enduring some kind of pain. Maybe awakens a little compassion in our hearts for our fellow human suffering.

Our Williams family is no stranger to mental, emotional and behavioral disorder.

In particular, my Uncle Larry Williams took his own life by suicide after a longtime battle with a Schizophrenia diagnosis.

Not Your Life Amanda Colleen Williams single cover Larry Williams

As is so often the case, he seemed to have his mental illness managed. The family was aware of his condition, and knew his patterns for when his illness got the best of him and began to disrupt his orderly, kind and outgoing life.

My grandma had her own terminology used by the family to describe Larry’s various conditions called “nervous.”

“Your Uncle Larry’s nervous. Maybe you all could go down to check on him,” she would tell nearby family.

On one such visit, I saw my normally well kempt and impeccably dressed Uncle Larry answer the door in his bathroom robe and slippers, his George Jones style pompadour hair cut sticking out at all angles from lack of shower, shave and sleep.

His brothers were usually able to calm him down a little bit, but it was mostly time and isolation that did the trick for Uncle Larry to regain his composure after a couple weeks of solitude.

These episodes were becoming more and more infrequent in his older age, but at one point, a new doctor diagnosed him with Bipolar Disorder in addition to Schizophrenia.

Perhaps it was related to some change in his spiritual awareness, or jus t pondering death an older age that triggered the new diagnosis, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for him.

He confided in me that he felt broken and unlovable with that kind of mental illness diagnosis, and somewhere along the way, he lost his ability to remember what it was he was living for.

Larry S. Williams, the fourth child of Mary Francis and Lonzo Williams took his own life by suicide on January 21, 2003 at age 57.

He left behind friends, family and collaborators that miss him every day.

His original song “The Last Suit You Wear” was nominated for Bluegrass Song of the Year recorded by Larry Sparks.

In that one final moment perhaps Uncle Larry just needed a different voice in his head, in his ear, reminding him of why his life and every life is so very precious, unique and important.

But so often, in that dark night of the soul that so many of us face, he felt unable to go on.

Being alone is a natural state for humans. It is said that we are all born alone, and we all die alone.

But as the Kevin Welch song reminds us, “it’s the dash in between” our birth date and death date that tells the story of a life well lived.

Even though his was cut short, Uncle Larry did live his life well, and offered a lot of blessings to those that knew him.

The song “Not Your Life” is a reminder for someone like my Uncle Larry who is hurting and finds himself alone.

Even in the midst of all the love in the world, when you are blinded by hurt and pain, it can be impossible to feel it.

It is my prayer and the hope of my cowriter Randall Hicks, who is also a veteran like my Uncle Larry and shared thoughts of suicide that wove its way into the song “Not Your Life,” that everyone who needs to hear this song will take the comfort they need to keep going and live out the days of the precious life we have been given.

For some of us, a form of powerful healing can be found in the simple act of expressive writing, or songwriting in our case.

Having worked with Randall for over 10 years now, it’s obvious the quality of life improvement evidenced through his human development motivated through pursuit of songwriting mastery.

Maybe writing can be a healthy outlet for you as well, either personally, for your clients or both.

Please accept the gift of a free download of this song “Not Your Life” now through the end of 2022 to enjoy and share with your loved ones.

Visit the player on my Songlife homepage and enter your email in exchange for the audio download, or visit any digital music retailer after December 23 to Follow, Stream and Share the song.

Click through image for link to homepage & scroll down to player.

Remember if you’re reading this – you are not alone. Your voice is unique and important, and you are here, alive on this earth for a reason. Perhaps you haven’t found your reason yet, and perhaps your reason is in the process of changing.

But that reason is important, profound and significant. You can muster the strength in yourself to persevere and to be a source of strength for other tired pilgrims on the road.

Get in touch with us at Songlife for more info about songwriting team-building and our programs.



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