Enid News & Eagle the dominant news and marketing source for Enid and the surrounding trade territory in northwest Oklahoma. I would like to thank Enid News & Eagle staff for the opportunity to advocate for mental health in our state.
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The story begins on page A6
A local woman is sharing her journey through mental illness in hopes that it will help others.
Cynthia Stevison said mental illness runs in her family, and she suffers from chronic depression.
“We’ve struggled as a family unit,” she said. “My grandfather was bipolar. My mom was raised in a bipolar environment. My brother struggles with bipolar. It’s been part of my life.”
Stevison began putting her struggles on paper.
“For years, I’ve journaled,” she said. “I was going through a hard time in 2012, and I got all my journals out, and I started reading them and I thought, ‘Maybe I should write a book.’… I used journaling as a coping skill for many years, so I guess I was writing a book and did not know it.”
In April 2015, Stevison set herself a goal to finish the book in 26 weeks.
“That’s six months,” she laughed. “I didn’t do it in that, but I did it in less than a year — 11 months from start to publish.
“I just started putting stuff together and I said, ‘I’m going to put this hardship to words.’”
Oklahoma and the United States is in a mental health crisis, Stevison said.
“Mental illness is called the invisible disease, and people don’t talk about it,” she said. “I know the state has to cut (mental health funding), but if treatment is not available, how do you get help? How do you recover?
“With all the cuts in the mental health field and people not getting treatment, you are going to see more suicides, more people not getting help, which makes the stigma worse because they do stuff that is out of control. It’s just bad.”
Stevison offers personal advice to those struggling with mental illness.
“Never give up,” she said. “And you are enough. I never felt like I was enough to be anything — be a good wife, a good mother, a good worker.”
Stevison remembers her mother once told her to “snap out of it,” so now she uses the acronym “SNAP” to keep herself healthy.
“Sleep, nutrition, activity, people,” she said. “If I’m doing those things, it makes my life so much better.”
Getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, being physically active and getting out into the community helped Stevison battle her own mental illness.
“If people could know how to maintain those things, you’ll feel better, you’ll look better, you’ll want to read more or play more or go to church more,” she said. “A lot of my crisis times, I wasn’t eating the right food. I might skip two days of food. It makes your life a lot more miserable.”
Setting strict guidelines for herself also helped her accomplish her book, which was a boon to her own mental health.
“When I got my first book in the mail, it was amazing to have it in my hands,” she said. “To me, it kind of brings what was inside myself all these years to the outside. I felt like a big burden had been lifted off.
“There were two rules in my family: don’t talk and don’t feel. I’m doing both of those.”
Stevison will host a come-and-go book launch party and signing at 7 p.m. April 14 in the Conference Room in Springhill Suites, 5815 KL Drive in Enid.
Stevison’s book is published through Amazon, and is available on the website in paperback form and on Kindle, for $15.99. Click here for The Tree of Happiness
For more information on Stevison and her book, visit www.rootwordsalliance.com.
Sally Asher is an Oklahoma State University multimedia journalism graduate. She came to the Enid News & Eagle in December 2014 and covers education and medical news.