Erica L Hernandez

writing and blog about grief and loss, death and beyond, child loss, mood management, bipolar education, and domestic violence, and finding spiritual moments in a crisis.

Homeless People: Human, Decent, Compassionate

 

How do you feel when you pass a homeless person on the street?  Have you ever felt scared around a homeless person?  Do you wonder how someone ends up homeless or why they stay that way?

I don’t have all the answers but I do have a story. I am a regular runner, at least on the weekends.  During my forays along the Fern Ridge path, I have met a number of homeless people, passed out food, hats and gloves, blankets and sleeping bags.

One particular gentleman comes to mind and I’d like to share what I know about his story.  He’s a tall man, with longish brown, curly hair, a beard and mustache. When I run on the bike path, I go with my dog, and I find the homeless people to be very friendly.  They are often animal lovers and this man, I’ll call him John (fictitious name) was no exception.  Many weekends went by with me saying hello to John and him to me, sometimes John would ask to pet my dog, and at one point, we exchanged names.

It became clear to me, over time, that he didn’t appear to be under the influence and he came across as a gentle man or a gentleman, both accurate.  He simply didn’t have any permanent shelter.  I find this to be quite common as I talk to the homeless population. They’re nice people, down on their luck, sometimes addicts, and have always been friendly to me and my dog, Mia.

Eventually I stopped to talk to him.  I asked him what happened that he ended up homeless. He explained that he used to work in a florist shop.  At some point after some years of working there, he got sick and lost his job.  It was much later that I learned he has schizophrenia (more on that later).  He told me that his boss had offered him the job back, but there were stipulations that he couldn’t commit to.  I believe his illness interfered with his ability to meet those commitments. Because of that he stayed homeless. He couldn’t get or keep a job.  He couldn’t remain consistent enough to save up a first, last, and deposit to get an apartment with his social security.

I asked him about staying in temporary shelters.  He told me he liked living on the street. He didn’t like being in shelters around all the chaos there.  It stressed him out.  He also told me he was following in Jesus’ footsteps.  “Jesus didn’t live in a house”.  He explained that he believed he might be a prophet and he needed to spread the word of God.  He actually knew a surprising amount about the bible, Jesus, and God.  I have to admit, however, that this was my first clue that he had a mental illness.

After that day we talked when we saw each other when I was running.  He told me “You’re the first person who has treated me like a man!”  I said, “No, I am treating you like a human being.”

Another time I gave him old boots of my husbands, food, an old bicycle, and a sleeping bag.

Another time a friend and I gave him a fleece blanket.

He told me that every time he gets picked up by the police for loitering or camping in an “illegal” location, he loses all his belongings. He loses his sleeping bag, bike, tarp, everything that keeps him warm.  This is true of all homeless people.  It is astounding and saddening.

One day, he disappeared and I didn’t see him for a long time.  I got a call at my office from a probation officer, who told me they had filed a protection order for me!!  I was surprised.  He said this man had been in the psychiatric hospital, had schizophrenia (or was it schizoaffective disorder?) and he had claimed that Jesus told him he was to marry me. This is interesting because it is so classic of a delusion to have a thread of a connection to reality.  He had met me.  I had been nice.  He knew my name.  End of story. The rest was delusion.  It wasn’t threatening and I was surprised that they could file this paperwork without me being a part of it.

Later I saw this man on the bike path again.  He yelled at me several times “I love you!” I didn’t feel comfortable with that. But, honestly, he never threatened me in any way.

Lots of people are sick.  Few people are threatening.  Homeless people are people too, good, decent, compassionate people.

Thank you for visiting this blog, for following it, for sharing it with your friends, for any comments you leave or questions you ask, for liking it.  Thank you!

Spirit tricks: File Box Fiasco

 

Have you ever gone through a particularly difficult time, a death, a loss, an injury, and wished for your spirit guides to be there to help you?  Have you ever longed for a miracle?  Have you ever felt intense sadness?  Have you ever struggled to just get through the next few minutes or hour?  How did you get through?  What helped you cope?  What miracle have you experienced?  Would you share with us here?

This last week has been difficult for me as the anniversary of my son’s death passed, his birthday passed with no son to celebrate it with, and while my sadness intensified there was no one who knew him that I could share stories with.  I went for a walk to try to process through the grief, picked up soft turkey feathers and wished for a miracle, but nothing happened.  The feathers are nice, but I was hoping for something more, something astonishing.

I came back from that walk, carrying my grief with me like a heavy suitcase, weighing me down, tiring me, making me feel heavy.  I had made it clear to my thirteen-year-old that it was his night to cook.  He had the ground lamb out, waiting for the recipe, so I got my recipe box out of the cupboard, reaching for the L’s.  “They’re backwards!”  I thought maybe not, maybe I just need to turn the box around. I tried that.  Then all the recipes started from Z and went to A. That would never do.  It would drive me crazy.  They hadn’t been like this before, but A to Z they were all backwards.

“This isn’t funny, Shawheen!”  I said irritably.  “If this is your miracle, it’s not funny!”  I felt irritable with my grief. I started turning each letter and their recipes around the right way so I could see them A to Z.

I get this hazy image of Shawheen in my mind, his bright brown eyes, laughing smile, his one raised eyebrow.  “You just don’t have a good sense of humor!”  He says to me and HE’S laughing.

At the time I was irritated.  Now I get the humor.  I got my miracle that day.  I just didn’t like it very much!

 

Homelessness: It’s not their fault!

 

Have you ever been concerned about homelessness?  Have you ever wanted to help those in need, but didn’t know how?  Have you ever been in need and couldn’t find help? Have you ever wanted to donate food or clothes so those who needed them could get them for free?  What are your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or feelings about people in need?  Please read on and share your thoughts on this site.

Ever since I’ve been an adult, I’ve been aware of homelessness.  I don’t remember what I thought about it when I was a young adult, but I do remember not being a patriotic “American”.  I moved to Finland when I was 26 years old, pregnant with my second child, and looking forward to living in a country which would enable me to stay home to care for my son.  It was a beautiful experience to be pregnant, taking care of my five-year-old son, my body, and my upcoming baby without worry of having to return to work.  It was noticeable there in Jarvenpaa, Finland and then in Kerava, Finland, that homelessness was nonexistent.  When I was there over twenty years ago, they provided unemployment money to me even though I had never worked there.  Then I got other benefits to survive on after the birth of my son.  Everyone who needed them, got benefits to have housing, food, medical care and other basic necessities.  No one seemed to do without.  The only time I ever saw a homeless person was someone drunk.  Even those people were taken to jail, given shelter, and released in the morning.  They, too, could have gotten benefits, been housed, and fed.

I worked for the VA clinic in graduate school some twenty years ago, and there I worked with the homeless population directly.  I learned then something that was no surprise, they’re people just like you and me, down on their luck, often with mental health diagnoses which make it difficult for them to maintain work and housing.

After graduate school, I began working as a social worker or therapist and sometimes my clients were homeless.  They were and are great people, nice, friendly, human, real, and struggling.  I still really enjoy working with the homeless population and am grateful I am able to be contracted with the Oregon Health Plan because this contract enables me to work with the people who need it the most.

I’ve enjoyed the opportunities to work with people without permanent homes, to cook food for them, donate clothes, or provide other resources that I have and don’t need, which they need and don’t have.  This kind of work feels right, good, it bring peace.

I recently learned about an amazing organization, trying to do this as a group, rather than alone, like I’ve been trying to do it.  They’re called Share Fair, a neighborhood anarchist collective. In their words: The purpose of the share fair is to connect people with resources, services, and each other in a convenient and fun way.  I’ve contacted Share Fair and plan to gather items together to donate, food, toiletries, clothes etc.  I even hope to provide cooked food sometimes so those folks without kitchens can access food in another location.  I encourage you to consider contacting me or Share Fair to donate resources that you have in excess to help people who don’t have enough!  If you don’t live in Eugene, Oregon, I encourage you to seek out your local Saint Vincent de Paul, Soup Kitchen, or other organization which helps the homeless.  Good luck with your good Samaritan activities!

Thank you for visiting, for following this site, commenting on this blog, sharing it with your friends, and returning to visit again!

 

Research: Dark Therapy for Bipolar Disorder: An Effective Treatment in an Outpatient Setting?

Running head: AMBER LENSES FOR BIPOLAR DISORDER

Dark Therapy: An Effective Treatment in an Outpatient Setting?

Erica L Freeman, LCSW

Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to Erica L Freeman, LCSW

Full text article available for $29.00

1400 High St Ste C-1, Eugene, OR 97401. Contact: elfieher@gmail.com

Abstract

Objectives:  This paper explores dark therapy for Bipolar Disorder outpatient.  Amber lenses (AL) block blue light to a retinol photoreceptor in the eye, simulating darkness for the brain (dark therapy).  The fibers of this photoreceptor connect to the biological clock region of the hypothalamus.

 

Methods:  The writer documents outpatient dark therapy research for Bipolar Disorder.  Patient used AL for eighteen months from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m, when not sleeping.  She continued her prescribed medication.  Patient tracked her symptoms for thirty months1.  The tracker reviews her changes in symptoms and medication.

 

Results:  First patient tracked symptoms without AL, then with AL.  Patient terminated medication with a score of six at treatment conclusion, ie relative stability

 

Conclusions:  This research shows that AL is a treatment option for Bipolar I Disorder outpatient for some patients.  This area of treatment is groundbreaking and more research is needed.

Pennies {Really Come} From Heaven

Grief is complicated, challenging to recognize in all it’s unusual manifestations, difficult to express in a culture unwilling to see it, and unpleasant to work through alone.

My son died about three years ago and both my parents passed this year, my mother just a month ago.  I find myself tired in the evenings and I’m not usually a tired person. I tend towards energy normally, so this is noticeably different for me.  I realized today that my mother was always around in the evening, helping with dinner and cleaning up the kitchen.  She’s not here now so cooking and clean up involve more alone time, or more pushing preadolescents into doing something they don’t want to do, which is rarely a pleasure.

Over the last month I have found coins or money 13 days out of 30.  If I add feathers to the list of finds, that number grows.  This, I believe, is too much to be coincidence.  These “pennies from heaven” have been so commonplace in my life since my son died three years ago that it’s no surprise anymore and I believe it has gone beyond serendipitous.

At one point after my son died, while suffering with my grief, I began convincing myself that everyone finds coins, even strings of three in a row, that this experience was nothing unusual, and I should quit attributing it to spirit.  After that I went through two to three months without finding any coins.  At some point, I recognized this dearth of coin-finds as the stark change that it was, recognized they were, indeed spirit gifts, and lo-and-behold, those coins began reappearing.

It has become a clear sign that the spirit world is with me, my guides are with me, my son is with me and now my parents are too. I have found so many coins in the last three years that I have a basket and a dish for them and most of my coat pockets have them too.  When I go for walks, I feel them in my pockets, and I know even on the days I don’t find coins, that I will find them on another day.  When I have evenings of harsh grief, I often have a walk the next day that uncovers coins.

I began tracking it on paper for the research aspect and discovered how frequent it really is.  Coins are everywhere, are a joy to find, and a clear message now that the spirit world is available, accessible, and attainable!

Spiritual Dreams Transform

 

I’d like to say I’m a calm, peaceful person, full of love, and never judgmental.  That’s definitely a state I aspire to, not necessarily one I succeed at maintaining. I come from energetic stock and while that can be a blessing, it can also be a hardship in disguise.  That energy can translate into intensity at times, with occasional snaps.

Years ago, when my preadolescent children were toddlers I had the opportunity to participate with them in a Waldorf preschool class.  I remember being impressed, partly by how the teacher would take an acting-out child aside to talk to him/her, barely above a whisper, yet I was even more astounded by the cooperative results she got.

I’ve raised five children and inevitably there are times when, while juggling cooking a meal with asking for help from them, that I’ll find myself frustrated to the point of yelling.  I’ve worked on it, both by taking care of myself through exercise and meditation, and by following that Waldorf teacher’s example, yet I’d “relapse” into yelling. I knew it wasn’t the right approach and I would apologize, yet it would happen again, albeit less often than before.

Almost three years ago, I suffered the tragedy of the death of my eldest son, more recently the timely death of my father, then of my mother, in quick succession. My son’s death shattered my heart wide open, enabling me to access a closer connection to the spirit world than I had managed before.  My parents’ deaths stirred up that grief and added to it in a complicated web of sadness and loss, intensifying my connection to all-that-is.  Still, at least in the agitating heat of summer, I’d at times ‘relapse’ into yelling.

Then, a couple nights ago, I had an amazing dream.  I’d been struggling with this irritation with my children and I asked God and my guides for help.  When I fell asleep, I dreamt I saw my dad across a field of vividly, emerald green grass-it was almost twinkling.  I remember thinking, ‘he’s dead so I probably won’t be able to hug him.’  I noticed his handsome, much younger self, barely balding with lots of curly, brown hair.  I remember feeling joyous and surprised to see him.  I yelled a greeting and ran across the field to him, wrapping my arms around his surprisingly solid body.  I was surprised, having expected him to vaporize and disappear.  I felt both his denseness and his deep, intense, and unconditional love, as if I were in the arms of God.  Then I woke up.

I wondered later if I were in the arms of God and my dad was just a visual that my brain could make sense of.

That dream stayed with me, feeling both real and life transforming.

That morning, while I got ready for work, I felt calm and filled with love. When I asked something of my children and they didn’t hear me (or listen to me), I continued to speak calmly and touched them gently to help ‘bring them back to earth’ so to speak.  I got excellent results!

It has been over a week since the dream and I won’t pretend I haven’t had moments when I felt my frustration level rising, even starting to raise my voice, yet something reminded me of the dream, the feeling of love, and I’d quiet my voice and get the same wonderful results.  I whisper and nuzzle their cheeks.  I don’t know why it seemed so hard before to stop what I was doing to go touch them gently, but it doesn’t seem hard now.  I pray that I can stay in the light!

Having a full week pass, I now visualize myself in those arms of complete, unconditional love, which reminds me it’s there.  There in the spirit world is that completely unconditional love, available at all times to help us through the hard times in this physical world.

Do you have dreams that feel real?  Do you struggle at times to keep your cool?  Share your insights and struggles here!

Thank you for visiting, reading the blog, sharing it with friends, commenting and answering questions, and following the blog!  The goal is to reach more people and help more people by sharing experiences and knowledge.

Grief Symptoms, grief process

 

Grief beckons in strange ways.  Tiredness can set in and weigh you down, sapping your strength and draining your motivation.  It can distract your brain and nearly eliminate your ability to concentrate or focus on tasks.

My beloved son died a couple years ago, then this year my dad died and then my mom in quick succession. It was with some relief that my dad left this world after living for nearly fifteen years with Alzheimer’s disease. He wasn’t really living anymore and it was tremendously stressful for my mother to care for him.  It was challenging for me to find time several times a week to go help them.  My mother moved in with me in January when he left us, then at the end of June, she left this world quite by surprise.

Logically, I believed it was better that she left while she was still living, before the suffering set in, pervading more of her time.  She was still living that last week, dancing, going to tai chi, painting, and helping me with cooking and cleaning.

The aftermath is challenging.  I have days of brain-fog, hours of heavy tiredness, and other times of irritability, while I try to maintain my responsibilities, postponing grief. Thank god it doesn’t demand constant work, then I’d be a basket case!!  LOL!

Before my mother’s death, cooking was my strength.  I might feel tired of it at times, but I was good at it.  After my son’s death, I could not cook at all for a while, feeling overwhelmed with grief.  After my mother’s death, I get started and then feel very stressed trying to keep track of the steps, the ingredients, and the timing.  To heck with trying to talk with someone at the same time, or keep track of what my children are doing!

Our culture doesn’t appreciate the homemakers among us, nor does it sufficiently appreciate those of us humans who cook for others after work.  The longer I have cooked, the more I have appreciated others cooking for me and this grief lesson has accentuated my appreciation for others who cook for me.

I miss my mom and that quality time we spent together in the kitchen.  Today was sort-through-her-things-day and my sisters did it while I worked.  It leaves me aching to watch her things go to the St. Vincent de Paul, to watch my sisters glibly rush the process of disposing of her belongings.

In what ways do you feel overwhelmed or underappreciated?  What losses in your life leave you trying to cope with grief? How does grief impact you, change you, or cause you to struggle?

Thank you for visiting our site!  We are grateful to you for reading our posts, sharing with your friends, commenting on posts, and following our blog!

 

 

Depression and Anxiety Management naturally

Have you ever been depressed? Diagnosed with depression or anxiety?  Lots of people have experienced one or both of these.

Some people get sad when they’re depressed, some get bored, or just uninterested.

Some people have social anxiety, some panic attacks, and for some their anxiety is triggered by trauma.  There are lots of kinds of anxiety.

What do you do to get rid of them, the negative moods, whether you’re depressed or anxious?

I uncovered some really interesting research.  It reports that people who experience depression or anxiety also experience brain atrophy.  Literally the neurons in the brain die back, causing brain shrinkage from depression, anxiety, or mania.  This may explain why people with those diagnoses struggle to THINK and SLEEP. Those are some pretty basic operations of the brain, wouldn’t you say?

I also found research that a 90 minute walk in a natural setting may help prevent depression! (https://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/)

Bipolar sx:rose

The same research demonstrated brain growth and how to get that brain back on track!!  They took two groups of 60-year-olds (40 in each group).  The control group stretched indoors for 45 minutes per day for 6 weeks and the treatment group walked outdoors for 45 minutes per day for 6 weeks.  After 6 weeks, the treatment group, who were walking outdoors, showed a significant increase in neurons.  That equals brain growth.  That likely means, easier to think, easier to sleep.  It likely means feeling better, happier, less anxious.

Now, for some people with significant depression or anxiety, exercise isn’t enough.  But it is a hell-of-a start!!  Nearly anyone can benefit from exercise.  Those who have suffered from depression or anxiety simply need it even worse.

Sometimes it is hard to get started if you’re feeling crummy.  I tell my clients to start with baby steps.  That might mean the first goal is to once a week walk two blocks or it could be to start by keeping track of what you’re already doing with no change. Then try to add a little bit a day, a few minutes, and so on.

I am attaching a symptom tracker for depression and anxiety.  Using one of these on a regular basis can help you become more self-aware.  This empowers you to make choices that can help you feel better.  Good luck!

Thanks for visiting our site, sharing with your friends, making comments, and following us!  We love helping!

 

Spirit Message in a Mug!

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that my thirty-year-old son committed suicide over two years ago and since then I have had numerous miraculous experiences I can attribute to nothing else besides spirit.  In my case I attribute them to the spirit of my son.

A few days ago, a coffee mug appeared in my house.  I’m the one who buys dishes and I didn’t buy it.  My mother lives with me and she has all homemade dishes since she’s a retired potter.  No one in the house knows anything about this mug.  The mug has a lovely saying on it by anonymous: “to the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”  I found the mug, liked the expression, and wondered where it came from.

Later I was talking to my son about some missing things in my house I thought he could help me find and I get this message from him: Go read the mug you found!  I reread it tonight and realized it was a message from him. It is really important to mothers, to know that their children love and value them.  When a child suicides, there is often blame placed on the mother, that somehow it was her fault.  Our culture is so quick to blame.  Each situation is unique and only I know how much I loved and cared for my son.  Only I know how much effort I put into being honest with him and teaching him everything I could about how to grow up self-confident and happy.  I couldn’t change or protect him from the horrors of the world, nor could I protect him from traumas inflicted on him by other people.

He gave me this mug with this beautiful expression as his way of reminding me that he knows all of those things and that I am the world to him.  This is a valuable message to all of us.  Each of us is the world to someone.

Creative Spirit Gifts

Spirits are creative about the gifts they give.  There are times when you might think something is a coincidence or you misperceived or you miscounted.  Basically, you assume this thing you can’t explain is your mistake.  What if it isn’t a coincidence and it’s not your mistake? What if those serendipitous situations, those “coincidences”, are gifts?

A week ago, on my shopping day, I counted the number of loose tea bags I had left.  These are a sack variety that I use to make tea with on a daily basis.  Lately, I have used two a day, one for a coffee substitute and one for tea.  I counted eight, enough for four days.  Then I made extra tea for two different people so I should have been down to enough for three days.  I was disappointed but I figured I’d manage somehow until I got to my regular shopping day. Then I forgot about it.

This afternoon, Wednesday, eight days after my Thursday shopping day, I suddenly thought about it as I was making tea.  I realized I shouldn’t have any left, but I do. I have three left.  Now I could say, ‘maybe I miscounted’.  But, frankly, I counted them twice.  Today there were three left.  They extended themselves or some spiritual being extended them for me. A little gift from my son, I like to think.  Pennies from heaven are treats and pretty common.  But tea bags from heaven are unique!  Thanks, Shawheen!

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