The pitfalls of mental health

IMG_0168It took me 40 years to find out I had bipolar then nearly another ten years to fully believe it and find the right medication that manages my moods well. How is this possible and how could this happen with all our modern advances in medical science? Well, the issue with mental health is complex and people are even more complex and often have multiple medical issues happening simultaneously. For example, I had two degenerative discs giving me grief and I suffer from high blood pressure. Also, we have complex lives, which in our mind may just be the problem. Consequently, we all, including me, always have a few things we can blame for our bad mental health on, never considering the possibility serious mental illness. For me, my bad back and running a small business was a great reason for not feeling well for many years. Adding to the mix, aging and our capacity to adjust to any circumstances even if is not ideal. My loss of sleep was blamed on work and pain, understandably. Remarkably, I got used to it and built up a certain amount of resilience to manage my life through all of this. In hindsight, I have no rational reason how I got through my days other than sheer stubbornness.

Eventually, for me, my back finally stopped me in my tracks and I had to reassess my life. This life review was a painful time and included financial loss and a complete change of life style. What it did though was get me to reconsider my mental health without excuses. This was my initial step in management and proper medication and treatment. There is no clear road and I am not minimalizing anything it was horrendous and life destroying. It is difficult to articulate on paper fully, but I can say this, you are at the end of your rope and you feel life is slipping away and may never return. You may even consider ending it all like me. I considered jumping off a bridge once. Fortunately for me, I believe I have a soul and it kept pushing me forward and I knew deep down there was more and the bridge would not resolve anything, other than pain for my family and devastate my children.  Therefore, I chose life and pushed on. With a grateful heart, I am well and manage my mental health properly, with excellent support and enjoy a full life but not without persistence, plus never quitting on myself or the plan God has for me.


Why not choose a simple life?

The great lesson from the true mystics, from the zen monks, from the humanistic and transpersonal psychologists, is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s own back yard.
~Abraham Maslow

I have frequently forgotten in my life what is important to me and got lost in the worlds social engineering and expectations placed on me by others. It’s so easy to get caught up in the externals and forget about our true feeling inside and who we really are and what really matters. I am convinced as we get older and start to lose a few things, whether it is our health wealth or friends. Only then do we start to have a deeper life reflection or review. What happens to us when we have these experiences, some go off the rails. Often for men in their forties, without stereotyping, they have what is well documented as a ” mid life crisis” which may include things like reliving their twenties in ways that may seem comical to the older friends and family.

Some of us sadly as we get older, also have to manage chronicle illnesses and young people can also have this burden too. Nevertheless, regardless of what life sends our way at any age, we have the choice to go inward and explore our hearts and understand our selves better. Consequently, this approach to problems offers freedom and choices unknown to people relying on the external world only for happiness and answers.  I appreciate external aid and assistance in overcoming certain health, wealth and relational sadness. However, looking for this alone and neglecting your responsibility to your internal world is like. ” Training for a marathon without proper nutrition”  Some call this practice,  inner life, spiritual life, meditation, prayer, stillness, silence, time alone, conversation with God, or what ever you feel helps you connect and understand your heart better.

We cannot live in our minds and expect long term happiness. It is neglecting a part of you and me that needs care. What part am I talking about when I say the heart. Some say it is your soul or spirit, while others may refer to it as the heart is the home of God and your soul. However, you understand this, one thing is sure once you are honest with yourself, in that you know there is more to you than just biology and intelligence. You will open yourself up to a whole new understanding of life and how we live it.

Humans are meaning-seeking creatures. The question of “why” is one that springs to our lips—or at least to our minds—whenever things happen to us that are distinctively unwelcome. Seldom do we ask “why” if we win the lottery, find a great love, or get a promotion at work. But when we experience a major financial reversal, undergo the death of a loved one, or are diagnosed with cancer, the “why” question often preoccupies us. It is interesting to note that we do not seem to be surprised when bad things happen to others. But when they happen to us or those we love, we are deeply distressed because it challenges our unspoken but unrealistic expectations about how life is supposed to operate. In other words, it challenges our system of meaning. Asking why things are happening to us will seldom lead to an explanation of the unwelcome events. However, it does give us a chance to update our framework of meaning and, hopefully, allow it to better support us in living the reality that actually is our life.

Benner PhD, David G.. Human Being and Becoming: Living the Adventure of Life and Love (pp. 37-38). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


The real demons of mental health.

I constantly use the word spiritual care in my writing and descriptions of what I do. Some religious people must question what does a guy with Bipolar know about spiritual care when many would think a demon is on me or in other words possessed by the Devil. You may chuckle at my demon possessed comment but it’s true, many still around the world and fundamentalists in Australia would believe this. Also, many with no beliefs at all would think it’s part of my illness. The non-believing community would think there is no evidence of the of spiritual scientifically and so what is he is he caring for?

“They need to separate religion from psychology, especially for us women, who suffer from depression because of our shitty circumstances, or we cannot—and will not—get help,” Nadia sad. “Society also needs to be rid of this of shame toward mental illness and stop saying that people are weak or not perfect believers, or possessed! Spirituality is important but it doesn’t mean that you deny what is really going on because it will only get worse.”Great article

I am glad to see psychiatrists now asking, ” do you have hallucinations audible visually or spiritually? I know this because of my recent visit to my exceptional gifted female psychiatrist who asked me this very question.  This psychiatrist below speaks into the Muslim context exceptionally well. Also, a great reminder that cultural and religious or spiritual beliefs are an important part of the conversations with you medical professionals.

“During this journey of understanding, I learned that the role of the doctor is basically to help people get better with their illness.  Maintaining the focus may be hard as there is the temptation to wonder about cultural beliefs and even a frank invitation to offer answers. I learned that it is best to resist the temptation to advocate a certain explanatory model of mental illness, collude or collide with cultural beliefs” Great article

We live in a highly complex world and mental illness is also highly complex let’s not put people in a box that we can manage better. Mental illness needs the same empathy and understanding as cancer, diabetes or any the physical illness. We have made good steps forward in Australia in the de-stigmatizing of mental health but we must remember that this is an ongoing work that we all need to be mindful of our language and continue to offer support and understanding, whether it’s religious, spiritually or nonbelieving. We can hold a space for people who are suffering poor mental health and be the understanding non-judge mental persons in their lives.  I have experienced all types of people over the last ten years being so vocal about my Bipolar but my motivation is to raise awareness. Speaking up is not always easy because of the nature and complexity of mental health but I am willing to give it ago so others may others also speak up and tell the truth about living with mental illness. I believe the more conversations that happen the great chance of mentally ill people are being understood better and this makes the world a better place for all.