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.

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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! (

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!

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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!

spirit messages in smells

Special smells from spirit:

Have you ever smelled something that wasn’t there? Now some people might consider that psychotic and it could be.   But you know yourself and I know myself.  I know I am not psychotic.  But I have smelled things that weren’t there.  It’s happened numerous times and I’ll share one example with you.

First, I’ll explain a little about psychotic features. They rarely come on out of the blue. Most people who experience psychotic features experience them with other symptoms as well.  They might come on with a lack of interest or motivation to do things, less facial expressions, difficulty organizing one’s thoughts, among others.  Sometimes psychotic features appear with depression or mania.

So, when none of the above symptoms are present, it’s possible that although one is perceiving something that isn’t there, it might not be psychosis.

This is what happened to me.  I was working in my office and my elderly mother was dropped off by a friend so I could take her to her CPA’s office.  The CPA works in her home and has a lovely garden outside her home.

Previous to this incident, my father died, about three months ago.  My father was a coffee lover and drank 1-2 cups of coffee every day.  He always chose coffee ice cream and often would choose coffee candy.

I take my mom inside the CPA’s office, noticing the garden but not very consciously.  While we are sitting in the office, I notice that my hands smell like coffee.  It’s a strong smell, like coffee grounds.  I do not drink coffee and I do not make the coffee in my home that is drunk.  I asked the CPA if she had just made coffee but she hadn’t.  There was no explanation for the coffee smell on my hands.

On the way out, I notice the lovely garden, still wondering about the smell of coffee on my hands.  When I returned to my office, the smell was still on my hands.  There is no coffee in my office.  At about this time, I realize that my father is reaching out to me from the other side.  He wants me to “be in the now”, notice the beautiful things, the garden.

When you experience odd things, notice what is happening at the time.  There is something you need to pay attention to.  For me it was the garden, the beauty in the now!

Spirit tricks

Spirits have a funny way of trying to get your attention.  My daughter seems to avoid the idea that her brother, though gone from the physical world, is still very much alive and well in another dimension.  He has shown her some very sweet things over the two plus years since he died, but she refuses to connect the dots.  That big brother of hers adored her, let me tell you!

Recently, she and I were in the kitchen.  It was past bed time and her father, brother, and grandmother were already in bed.  She was pushing my boundaries, not going to brush her teeth like she’d been told. I noticed she was putting something in the freezer; a graham cracker with chocolate sauce and sliced strawberries. “I wanted to see if it would freeze over night!”  She says. Silly, because she’s smart enough to know it will.  She’s just satisfying her sugar addiction!

I get her off to bed and myself also.

The next morning when she comes in the kitchen, she opens up the freezer.  “It’s gone!” She is furious.  She’s convinced her grandmother ate it, but although her grandmother also has a sweet tooth, she doesn’t eat dessert for breakfast. Her brother isn’t up yet and her father also doesn’t eat sweets in the morning.  She looks all around in the freezer.  “Maybe it fell to the side.”

She doesn’t find it and we eventually have to go get her and her brother to school.  Every one leaves for work, school or a class.

In the afternoon, she goes to a friend’s house and her brother and I head home.  He knows nothing about the treat she made herself, but he’s in the freezer looking for some frozen berries.  “Hey, there’s a graham cracker here with chocolate on it.  Did Gabriela make this?”

I’m astounded.  I have to come see it with my own eyes.  “Holy crap!  It’s there!” Right where she said it should have been, on top of a bag of wontons.

I tell her brother the story then.  “That’s a Shawheen trick no doubt!”  He tells me.

And I have to agree.

When his sister gets home I tell her. “Shawheen put the graham cracker back.”

She has to check and it is still there.  I don’t know if she’ll ever admit her deceased brother is trying to contact her.  I imagine he’ll keep trying.  But her brother and I know it’s him.  He’s keeping an eye on us, offering us guidance, humor, and love.

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Help the homeless, help the world

Do you ever wonder how you can help the growing homeless population in your town?  I hear people talk about the problems with the world, with little clarity about what they can do to help.

There are times in our lives when finances are tight and we can’t afford to help others.  During those times in my life, I’ve meditated, sending out love to the world and thoughts of peace on earth.  This is something anyone can do.  If you’d like to meditate, yet struggle with it, try going to your search engine and putting in: UCLA marc.  Free guided meditations will come up.  Try them!

When our financial situation improves, there are other things we can do.  I’d love to hear your ideas of things you have done to help the world, the homeless population, the mentally ill, the disabled, and those less fortunate than we are.

Before my son died, nearly three years ago, I used to go cook for the homeless.  I would pack up my camp stove, my family and food, and we would hang out under the Jefferson street bridge between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I would take tortillas, beans, cheese, home-made salsa, and coffee and offer food and hot coffee to the homeless population.  It was rewarding to be able to do something, however small, to ease their suffering.

Until recently, my own suffering made it impossible for me to face that kind of need outside my work hours.  More recently, however, I’ve found myself reaching out again to help.  It could be very small, like offering my returnable bottles to a homeless person, or offering a warm hat to someone on the street.  For the last few months, I have found homeless men regularly camping near the market I shop at, so I’ve begun bringing them food when I’m done shopping.

I’ve struck up a conversation with one gentleman who is there regularly and he gave me an idea.  He told me a story about once getting a sandwich at the White Bird Clinic, in Eugene, Oregon.  Apparently, it wasn’t a regular service, but a donation from a concerned citizen.  So, I went home last night and cooked up a huge pot of grains (like rice) with beans and home-made tomatillo salsa and I took that down to White Bird Clinic.  I left it there with more salsa, plates, napkins and spoons.  I dropped by after lunch to pick up my empty pot and canning jar.

I share this with you as an offering of an idea.  Do you have time sometimes to drop food off at your local service station for the homeless?  Do you live in a country where this isn’t a problem?  If so, your government is clearly handling things better than ours is.

Or take it as a challenge!  One-up me!

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Mood Management, Bipolar Disorder natural treatment, routines

Please remember that this site is not meant to be a substitute for professional help.  If you have a diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder, or you think you might, please seek professional help in person!

Once you have begun working with a therapist or doctor, this site can be added support.

When working to manage mood, particularly bipolar disorder, routine matters a lot.  It helps to create a routine that allows you to go to bed around the same time and get up around the same time.  In previous blogs I have talked about the importance of sleeping 7-9 hours per night.  Feel free to read that blog, now, for a discussion of why it is important to sleep about 8 hours per night.

Part of getting a good night’s sleep, is working on your evening routine.  It is helpful to get enough darkness, so be sure to read the blog on dark therapy and bipolar disorder.  It is also important, during high energy periods, to develop a calm evening routine.  This means visiting with only family or perhaps one friend.  When one is struggling with high energy, ie on the manicy end of the spectrum, there is a lot of stimulation inside the body.  With all that inner stimulation, the body cannot tolerate a lot of stimulation out of the body.  So, it is important to minimize numbers of people, lights, sounds, and stabilize with comfortable temperatures.  It is important to do calming activities, like meditation, hot baths or showers, listen to calm music, and do calm hobbies.  Calm hobbies might include handwork, journaling, or reading, activities which can be done sitting down.

If you ever wake up in the middle of the night, or before achieving the ideal number of sleep hours, it is very important to do calm activities which may enable you to return to sleep within an hour or so.  I highly recommend looking at the blog on dark therapy if this is an issue for you.  Then I recommend trying meditation.  If meditation doesn’t work within twenty to thirty minutes, it is a good idea to leave the bed, and choose soothing activities for thirty to sixty minutes before returning to the bed for another round of meditation.

It is also really important to keep televisions and other screen devices out of your bedroom along with anything that has light.  Research has shown that having nightlights or light entering through a window can interfere with anyone’s sleep.  So a good set of black out curtains is also a very good idea.

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Spirits rest, Life-force energy renewal

Do you sense you’re experiencing synchronistic events, rather than coincidences? Do you talk to your loved ones after they’ve passed?   I have had two loved ones die in the last three years and I have learned that they are very available to communicate with while no longer in the physical body.

Over two years ago my son died.  He was only thirty years old, was in recovery from drug addiction, and struggling with debilitating depressions.  He had had a spiritual awakening at Serenity Lane and had continued following his spiritual path after that.  In a debilitating depression, he overdosed, and I lost my beloved son.

It wasn’t more than a month after he died that he began communicating with me from beyond the veil and he has been available to me on a daily basis since then.  You may have read other posts about some of the miraculous experiences he has shared with me.

Two months ago, my father died.  He had lived his life with great integrity, but as an atheist, with no belief in the afterlife.  He was convinced the end was the end.  He believed that he would decompose into dirt and worms, with no belief in a soul.  He had also had 15 years of chronic illness with Alzheimer’s disease.

When he died, he was initially unresponsive from the spirit world.  My son, Shawheen, told me, “Give him time, Mom, he’s adjusting.”

I began talking to him, telling him what happened, how he should notice that he still lives, he just isn’t physical anymore, that we can still communicate, even though I am here in the physical world and he is in the spirit world.  Each time I reached out to him and sensed confusion, I explained the best I could about the ending of his physical life and the continuance of his spiritual life.

For a while I got nothing, then I seemed to get grunts, then confusion, and over the weeks, gradually he seemed more aware.  Eventually after 6-8 weeks I sensed something like an awakening.  It was like he was suddenly alert and able to respond.  He seemed younger, bouncy, jolly and very receptive.  It was a 180-degree change from his confused, unresponsive state from before.

In consultation with a psychic, I was informed that when physical bodies are very ill, it can take them a while to finish resting.  During their rest period, just after physical death, they may be unresponsive, as if in a sleep.  During this time, the angels are returning the depleted life-force energy to the spiritual body.  While the physical body ages and becomes ill, the life-force energy is depleted and needs to be returned or reinforced.  She explained that my communications with my father likely helped him somehow.  Maybe in some way I was helping the angels revive his life-force energy.  It is a beautiful idea, anyway, that while here in the physical plane, we can actually help our spirit loved ones!

Natural Bipolar Disorder treatment, sleep

This blog is not a substitute for therapy.  If you think you might have a Bipolar Spectrum disorder, it is my recommendation that you seek treatment right away.

In my last blog on Bipolar disorder, I shared information on dark therapy, an innovative new approach to the treatment of Bipolar disorder.  Dark therapy stems from the idea that we all operate on circadian rhythms.

Most researchers agree that the majority of the population needs 7-9 hours of sleep.  If you have a Bipolar spectrum disorder, moods are characterized by changes in these numbers of sleep.  People with Mania or Hypomania will likely sleep significantly less than that, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or healthy.  In Depression, those numbers may increase or decrease.

From my perspective, the first step to treating someone with a mood disorder is to help them increase their awareness of their symptoms.  A tracking device is used on a daily basis to help people become more aware of which symptoms they experience, and which activities reduce those symptoms.

In the process of reviewing those symptoms, we pay special attention to sleep and explore sleep hygiene.  When sleep is an issue around moods, it is important to get clear with ourselves, how dark our bedroom is, how calming are our activities before sleeping, and what activities we do during the day that help us sleep or impair our sleep.

At that point we have a choice.  If we want to feel better, we’ll adjust those things as needed so sleep gets easier.  As it gets easier and more balanced, our mood ought to stabilize and the symptoms will likely decrease.

A hot shower or bath, meditation, journaling, and warm milk or herb tea are all good activities before going to sleep.  Sitting still doing an art project can be good as well, something focused like knitting, crocheting, carving, or cross stitch are good examples.  When writing in a journal, focusing on negative experiences during the day will need to be balanced by processing the positive sides of things for some people to facilitate going to sleep.  Intensified emotions may interfere with going to sleep so it is important to consider this when choosing what to write, read, listen to or talk about before going to sleep.

There is a large array of supplements to aide sleep.  If you feel that you need those or prefer them over other options, I would encourage you to reach out to a naturopath, acupuncturist, or herbalist to explore your choices.

Erica Freeman, LCSW

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Pennies from heaven and spirit guidance

Do you ever wonder if your spirit guides or guardian angels are there for you when life gets hard?  I used to wonder about that but ever since my son died two and a half years ago, I have known that it is true.  I know they’re there, that he is there, supporting me and guiding me through life’s challenges.  If you have read my previous blogs, you have experienced my stories about how my son stays close to me, supporting me, teasing me, and guiding me through life’s difficult times.

In early January my father went to the hospital with kidney problems and dehydration.  He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for about 14 years, yet over the recent year or two, there had been some clear and steady decline, sleeping more, eating less, and then in the last few months, no longer telling us his stories over and over again.

I checked in on my parents regularly several times a week and had hired a dear family friend to look after him five days a week so my mother wouldn’t feel as overwhelmed.  She and my mother kept me up to date with new developments.

My father came home from the hospital improved, but within a week he was declining again, falling more frequently, sleeping a lot, and awake very little with a very narrow interest in eating (lots of sweets!).

On Thursday, January 18, I found a penny by my car.  On Friday, January 19, I found a penny in a parking lot between my car and the yogurt shop.  On Saturday, January 20, I found a penny in the hospital parking lot (more on that later) and on Sunday, January 21, I found a penny outside my parent’s house.  Then on Monday, January 22, I found a penny near my office.  That’s a lot of pennies in a row!  I knew they were Pennies from Heaven, notes from my guides, my son, letting me know they’re there with me, nearby, watching over me.  When it started, I didn’t know why.

Very early Saturday morning (20th) I was awakened by my cell phone ringing at 1:00 am.  I didn’t get up, but then my house phone was ringing and that was earie, I just knew it was about my parents.  I checked the caller ID but it was unfamiliar.  I could not sleep.  I felt certain it was about my parents yet I didn’t recognize the phone number.

At 2:00 am, the hospital called.  I answered that call.  They reported that my father had fallen and my mother had called the ambulance.  They believed it was the EMTs who had called the previous time.  They had taken him to the hospital.  I asked why they had taken him to the hospital and if they were planning to keep him.  I knew he didn’t want to be there.  We had recently met with a social worker and completed a POLST form, a document where he was able to state in advance: “I don’t want to be taken to the hospital.  I don’t want to be resuscitated.  I don’t want any care except for comfort.”  At 2:00 a.m. I wasn’t thinking about that specific form, but I knew he didn’t want to be in the hospital.  They said they would only keep him if he had a broken bone.

The next morning, I called the hospital.  They confirmed that he didn’t have any broken bones but they were keeping him due to his intense pain.  I told them they had discharged him just three weeks ago in pain and I didn’t think it was necessary to keep him.  They left a message for the doctor.  Fortunately, by the time I spoke to the doctor, I remembered the POLST form, and although it had not been completely processed, I was able to tell the doctor what it said and he was respectful.  He would discharge him by 2:00 p.m.

At 2:00 p.m., however, the nurse didn’t want to discharge him due to his pain.  I had to advocate for his desires, which he could no longer verbalize.  He wasn’t making any sense at all.  He was confused about who I was, which had never happened before.  It took an hour to convince the nurse, get him pain meds, and try to move him to a wheel chair.  It was impossible.  On 10mg of morphine in addition to Ativan, he was still in too much pain to move.  I continued to advocate, “there must be a way to get him moved”.  Finally, she acknowledged that an ambulance could come and take him home.

Another hour passed, and two strapping young men lifted his sheet and slid him, almost effortlessly, onto a stretcher.  He moaned and then was quiet.  They rolled him out to the ambulance with me holding his hand.  He slept.  He no longer seemed to be in pain at all!  It was remarkable.  As soon as he was out of the hospital, he felt much better.

We got him home and into bed with a few minor moans.  After that, he had to be turned to avoid bed sores, and could have Morphine as frequently as every hour, yet he didn’t need it that much.  He just wasn’t in that much pain.  I got a crash course on caring for the bedridden from the hospice nurse.  Upon discharge he was referred to hospice.  He was in renal failure and the nurse assured me it wouldn’t be long, a few weeks maybe, and he wouldn’t suffer much.  “If I could choose how to die,” she said, “I’d die this way.”

I stayed all day, and went home to sleep, returning the next day.  My mother was in early stage dementia and I knew she wouldn’t remember what to do.  The caregiver wasn’t available on the weekend and I wanted to be there.  I wanted to be with him as much as I could since I knew it wouldn’t be long.  Sunday, I stayed the whole day again and the caregiver agreed to come for the night.  I left at 7:30 p.m. dead tired and went straight to sleep.  My father still hadn’t awakened and wasn’t eating or drinking.  At 9:30p.m., she called, he had died, so quickly!

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that there had been pennies each of three days before he died, around his hospitalization, the all-day care, the day he died, and the day after.  My guides and my son had been letting me know they were there, supporting me, guiding me, letting me know I was on the right track advocating for him to come home, all of it.

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