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Meet Glen

I was just 17 when I first became aware something was wrong with my mind.  Mental illness had swooped into my life unannounced. I grew up in a good family, though there were many difficulties that certainly must have hindered my mental health.  When l realized I was in trouble, my days and nights were full of continuous unrealistic, exaggerated racing thoughts, bouts of severe depression and high swings of mania. As the years progressed, so did the severity of my symptoms. This mental torment is not to be taken lightly.  It is not something people contrive to get attention or sympathy. It had nothing to do with my lack of spirituality, for I have always had a heart to follow God.  The sad reality is that my brain was sick.  I battled those crazy irrational thoughts day in and day out for 10 long years.  Looking back, I wonder how I survived. 
For 10 years my illness went untreated.  In spite of it, I found the grit to complete my college music degree. In desperation, and against the wishes of many of my "religious" friends, I finally sought professional psychiatric treatment. I will never forget my psychiatrist’s reaction to my condition: She told me I was a miracle! I was one of the few patients she had ever encountered who had never tried to ease their symptoms with the abuse of drugs, alcohol or sex. I had never done any of the wild, crazy or irrational things that many people do when they are ill.  That alone is a miracle.  I am a very determined man, with a deep faith in God.  Though this hasn't prevented great pain, it has carried me through all my years of darkness.
After the trial of several types of medication, I was given lithium, which was very effective in reliving many of my symptoms.  The quality of my life completely changed; I felt like a bird freed from its caged prison.  I was ready for a new adventure so I moved back to my home town.  A few months later, I met a young lady who shared my love of music.  Eight months later we were married and we have journeyed together for over 24 years.

Learning to manage my disease, our marriage, relationships and three daughter remains my highest achievement. I lost 12 jobs in the first 10 years of marriage due to the negative stigma surrounding mental illness. Many of my employers were churches where I worked as a director of music. Though I possessed all the gifts for this work, this environment almost always proved unforgiving. I suffered grave injustice in the environment called "church" and was repeatedly let go by clergy who expressed no desire to understand the validity or complexities of mental illnesses. It's not a pretty picture and those years were extremely painful not just for me, but for my family.  When I suffered injustice, they felt the sting of it as well. I spent years in the cycle of job losses...working in places where I was  not welcomed.  After 10 years I had nothing.  It is difficult to raise a family surrounded by continual loss. It became paramount that I find a way to manage my work with consistency and longevity. Choosing self-employment and working within my natural skill sets was the necessary solution.  
Loss continued and still continues to be one of our largest ongoing battles.  We have lost many friends along this road to mental health.  Many people, especially "religious" ones, are hell-bent of fixing what they perceive to be broken.  At some point, you realize you must leave them and walk the other way for your health demands it.  It's not easy to do.  And when I lost a friend, many times my whole family lost friends.  Not only have we lost friends, but we have lost many family members too.  Sometimes one is lucky enough to have family that wants to show their faithful support for those walking with mental illness.  And then sometimes, sadly, you find your family doesn't get it and they don't want to get it.  So, you once again cry and grieve over the loss of those relationships that are supposed to be there for us, and then you shake the dust off your proverbial feet and move on.  
And by far, the greatest difficulty for people like me is the balance of personal health, marriage, family, work and relationships.  My faith, life management, medication and support/therapy have contributed to my overall stability.  Joyce has worked very hard to assist me in keeping our lives free from stress by creating an organized environment for our family.  We found being creative and using our creative skills for work became therapy for us.  We lost sight of the American Dream and lived in a realistic mindset...we did what worked for us and our daughters.  We cried a lot, dug a little deeper when we were abused by "friends, family or the church".  And in spite of it we found refuge in each other and authentic faith, which carried us through many losses and storms.

Finding what works for every individual is part of the difficult road to mental health.  What works for me is self- employment and my ability to work creatively. One day in the spring of 2009, while winding used guitar strings, I envisioned the potential for jewelry, and I wasn't manic on that day.  I mentioned the idea to my wife and after a few months of cajoling, ReThrive Guitar String Jewelry was born. Our handcrafted recycled guitar string jewelry has now been sold to thousands of customers all over the US.  We have shipped to over 45 states and eight countries.

The jewelry tells the story of my life...from discarded pieces such beauty can rise. I attribute my consistent mental health to my use of life management skills.  My faith, organized lifestyle, exercise, diet and medication management keeps me steady. Regular appointments with psychiatric professionals have kept me consistently on the road to better health and wellness. I take my pills every day and have faithfully done so since 1997.  I rest when I need to.  I spend time with God and nature.  I fish and eat a lot of fish because it is great for the brain. I journal regularly...almost daily.  I read books.  I pray.  I stay away from people who cause me pain and cause me to regress. I forgive those who hurt me or do not have my best interest in mind I am learning to be more open and honest.  I practice telling Joyce how I feel, even when it is bad.  Sometimes good things can be too much to can make me manic.  I have noticed a lot of changes as I have grown older, so managing my illness takes great patience and daily practice.  
I would not trade the pain and adversity mental illness has allowed me. It has made me a better man. My wife says is has helped her learn true compassion. It has caused my three daughters, who are now young adults, to develop a great heart for advocacy. Though it certainly stole a lot from me, and though I will carry the painful scars with me for the rest of my life, I have refused to let it win and destroy me, or my relationships with my wife and daughters. In spite of it, I live determined to experience a fulfilled and productive life. I will be a voice for those who still suffer in silence. I am leaving a life management legacy for others to follow.  I am living proof there is always hope! 


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