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The Road to Imagination

  • March 11, 2020

In 2003, when my son Daniel was an elementary student at St. Mark’s School of Texas, a few of us moms got the bright idea of bringing Gregory Warmack aka “Mr. Imagination,” aka Mr. I to St Mark’s School of Texas. We felt this unique artist might inspire our young sons to explore art. Not wanting our daughter Rachel to miss out, I expanded Mr. Imagination’s Dallas tour to include Alcuin Montessori School (then called St. Alcuin’s). I worked furiously on this project, enamored with Mr. I’s work and the funky story of how he didn’t have a place to sleep because he piled so many recycled objects on his bed that he slept on the floor. He found art everywhere, where most people saw trash and turned away. Finally, once all the logistics and planning to get Mr. I to Dallas were completed, my husband Ken had another invitation. President George W. Bush extended an invitation for our family to visit him in the White House. There was only one problem. The visit landed on exactly the same date. Mr. I was scheduled to come to...

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What to Say When Suicide Happens

  • February 26, 2020

Last spring, The Wall Street Journal published an article that confirmed the experience I'd had in the past 10 years since publishing my book, Struck by Living. One might expect that more suicides occur in the dark days of December, or over the holidays when familial tensions push people over the edge. My phone routinely rings off the hook in March and April with calls regarding suicide attempts or hospitalized family members. April was the month of my first suicide attempt. TS Elliot wrote "April is the cruelest month." So, in my gut, it feels like life gets far more dangerous in the spring for the mentally ill. According to the article, Behind the Spring Suicide Peak, my experience matches broader research. Unfortunately, in 2020, it feels like spring is coming early. The level of calls that I would normally field in March occurred in February. So many people have asked: "What do I say after a suicide?" that my fingers move in a repetitive pattern. Perhaps these ideas might help you. Note that I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, just a person trying to stay well.  These are the top three things I tell folks: 1. Don't...

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Wellness - Never Perfect, Always in Process

  • February 23, 2020

Last Friday marked one year since my last ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). A year later, no medication, I'm relishing a period of wellness. I soak in every sunset, sunrise, moment of laughter, hug, hike, art exhibition, play or good meal that I can. Kahlil Gibran said this of joy and sorrow: "is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?" Ah yes, you can count on that. Those of us who appear joyful have built the vessel of ourselves with the pain of living deeply. One does not come without the other. Survival depends on understanding both pain and joy have their value and purpose, even if we can't comprehend it at the time. Considering this is the longest period of wellness that I've had in two years, I'm writing this blog to remind myself what's different. Back in May, I did a talk for Bishop Dunne, and revised my wellness list for teens into a College SENSE list. I couldn't remember my top ten for wellness, so certainly these college bound students couldn't. SENSE is a simple acryonym: S - Sleep E- Exercise N- Nutrition S-...

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Why I Hike

  • August 30, 2018

I came across this poem by David Wagoner this morning that seems to answer the puzzled looks I receive when people figure out I actually hike 5, 8 10 even 20 miles (well, maybe not so much these days) for pleasure in a day. This poem explains why. I'l accompany with some shots from this summer that give a visual for this idea of finding self and grounding oneself through a walk in the woods or on the beach. Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger, Must ask permission to know it and be known. The forest breathes. Listen. It answers, I have made this place around you, If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here. No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches the same to Wren. If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows Where you are. You must let it find you. David Wagoner Lucky summer and there's still time left!! I remember looking at this flower and thinking,...

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Struck by Living - the Title and Cover - How did it Happen?

  • April 15, 2018

I wish I could remember the origin of Struck by Living as the title of my book, but unfortunately that story is lost to the ages. I figured people would confuse the title with Struck by Lightning (which they do, frequently), but liked that. Lightning plays heavily in the book in a few spots: in Chapter 22 “Threads of Connection,” when my friend Kristi Jamason paints me a rock to help me slog through my depression, in Chapter 24 when I hike undeterred despite the lightning storm and in a more abstract way it’s a nod to the electricity that saved my life (ECT Electroconvulsive Therapy). Being one who likes dualities, the idea of being struck down or struck in awe of life made sense. My original publisher remained unconvinced. They felt Struck by Living was too abstract, people wouldn’t get it, it didn’t explain the book, etc., etc. Their objections made sense, but when I pushed them for alternatives, they couldn’t produce any. Stubbornly, I persisted and the name stuck. In the original publication of the book in 2010, this same publisher missed a typo in the left-cover flap, using “Stuck...

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What Does Struck by Living Mean?

  • April 12, 2018

Struck by Living, the title for my book has two meanings: 1. To be struck down by life 2. To be struck in awe of life It occurred to me that the Struck by Living website has far too much on depression and being struck down by life and not enough of what 90% of my life is - being in awe. As of today I am changing that - a SBL (Struck by Living) rebrand if you will. There is a fun history behind the title and the book cover, I will publish that tomorrow. For today, let me tell you what's on the awe list. Spring. This is my favorite time of year in Dallas: warm but cool weather, flowers blossoming, light dripping through trees. We don't have a real winter here, but the flowers just make me pause and breathe deep. Look around and enjoy your season, whatever it may be. Julie  

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Is ECT Right for Me (or my Loved One)?

  • April 05, 2018

Should I (or my wife/husband/son/daughter/friend) have ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)? This question comes my way at least once a week, so I’ve decided to collect my thoughts in a single document.  The answer is: it depends. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist nor am I someone who gets kickbacks for speaking about ECT. I speak from experience. I’ve had 4 ECT treatment series over the past 17 years, 28 treatments in total. ECT saved my life (in 2001) and deterred the onset of life-threatening depression in 2007 and 2016. ECT generally is administered in an intensive treatment period of three sessions a week, usually beginning with right unilateral electrode configuration (one electrode on the right side of the head and one near the top of the head). After the intensive period, treatments are spaced out, some continuing with maintenance ECT to maintain health. Typically, a course of ECT consists of about 8-12 treatment sessions, though sometimes more. At each session, the patient is put under anesthesia and a small pulse of electricity is passed through the brain. It takes less than a few minutes, and a brief time is needed to recover from the anesthesia. The big...

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Global Mental Health Conference in Johannesburg

  • February 09, 2018

I had the honor of participating in the Global Mental Health Summit in Johannesburg these past two days - simpy amazing. This is the first time in a conference with professionals that I've seen people with lived experience featured with equal prominence. Loved the theatrical production done by Talisman Foundation with different representations of OCD, addiction, anxiety were presented as people with vaiying colored wigs. You can see in the photo where the person tells her OCD to  go away!! Met some incredible people, which I will write about once I have a little more time. For the curious, my speech is attached. I had to clip it, they only allowed me 5 minutes to speak. About half way through my talk, I realized I had only one minute left. So, here is what i would have said if I had a little more time: In September of 2001, when most of the United States watched two planes crash again and again into the twin towers, I sat in a locked psychiatric ward waiting for my first round of electroconvulsive therapy, ECT. I was certain my life was over. I was certain I had nothing left to offer my children...

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Talk at Texas Psychological Association

  • November 18, 2017

This video discusses our peer support group called ConnECT.  I delivered this talk at the Texas Psychological Association annual meeting meeting in Houston, TX. Our group involves people who have had Electroconvuslive Therapy (ECT), are considering ECT, or are supporting someone who is having ECT.  If you are interested in information on our support group, you can email connect.2014@yahoo.com.

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When Life Hands You Teenagers Talk

  • September 20, 2017

In September, Julie gave a presentation at the annual When Life Hands You Teenagers conference hosted by Grant Halliburton Foundation in Plano, TX.  This confrenece is an annual gathering of doctors, educatorts and parents of teens with a focus on mental health and wellness of teens..  Julie gave a TED-style talk about her early battles with depression as a college student, how early intervention is changing the way we work with our youth now and what the landscape looks like for the future through a partnership with the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care at UT Southwestern.   

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Testimonial

"My grandmother’s suicide had a terrible impact on my mom. Usually fun loving, humorous and jovial, my mother occasionally required hospitalization for depression throughout my childhood. Julie Hersh gives us a documentary ride in the mind of a potential suicide victim, and shows us her road to survival as could only be provided by one "who's been there."  Struck by Living is a story of courage, love, hope and victory."

Ruth Buzzi
Ruth Buzzi comedienne, actress, Golden Globe winner, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
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About Struck By Living

In Struck by Living, Julie Hersh picks apart the irony of her life with humor and brutal honesty. Despite a loving husband, healthy children, financial security, Julie attempted suicide three times. With the help of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), Julie broke the deadly course of her disorder. Now well, Julie promotes the importance of mental health with collaborations with other artists and organizations.

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