The Inherent Power of Mental Illness

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Several years ago I was leading a process group with patients affected by schizophrenia and addiction in a community outpatient center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Each patient took turns sharing thoughts and feelings on challenges of dealing with their symptoms and discovering more effective ways to deal with their condition.  As I listened to the their daily struggles, their efforts, and their level of gratitude, I couldn’t help but to think that in contrast to the rest of the world these seemingly poor souls were in reality the fortunate ones.  These individuals, through their condition, had acquired a keen ability to reflect, to identify weaknesses and strengths, and make difficult but responsible decisions necessary to change.  This group knew themselves at a level so profound they were able to help newer struggling members through their experiences.  These people understood the problem- they were awake.  There was honesty, there was sincerity, and a knowledge of self I had rarely seen anywhere else.  These individuals were fighting for their lives and they were doing it from the inside out.  They were aware that the war they battled was within and when someone attempted to deviate from this reference point they were quickly reminded of the errors of external blame.  This group like several others I’ve worked with stood in stark contrast to the general consciousness of society that declares “I’m fine” and that the solution is “somewhere out there.”  I’ve come to learn the most valuable lessons through people committed to their mental health and addiction recovery- and that is-the ultimate state of being human is not attaining nor portraying perfection, but a full ongoing life commitment to fight, to love, and to do battle from the inside-out.  

7 thoughts on “The Inherent Power of Mental Illness

  1. You & I are on the same wavelength. LOL. I just tweeted this sentiments on August 11: “I’m convinced that those who live with #mentalillness are the ones truly awake! I’m not romanticizing the illness, but feel the rest have accepted and adhere to an unrealistic and unattainable ideal. To be awake is destabilizing & invalidating as we cope with those sleeping”. I’ve always felt that the reason I FEEL so much is because I SEE so much. And most people don’t get it. I watch people sleepwalk through their lives and I just keep want to scream at them to wake up, “we are all going to die soon”. LOL. It seems like many are numb and unable to truly interact with what is deep inside. They go at great lengths to avoid the inevitable: often the pain they have inside and realities like death and loss. Maybe we are hear to help them, instead of the other way around. Great insight. I love your writing!

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  2. Thank you for such a thoughtful reply… it is definitely something worth considering as we reflect on the meaning and purpose of “mental illness.” Some societies actually revere those that appear to have symptoms as shamans or healers while other cultures tend to stigmatize. It’s also known that the most creative minds in history struggled with symptoms of mental illness. Knowing this, we must ask what is the meaning of these symptoms? Is it a byproduct of ingenuity and creativity? Is what we deem as mental illness plainly a heightened perception of the world that is often misunderstood and pathologized by a society that holds a myopic view of behavior and thinking?

    I’m glad to hear that there are people such as yourself who are thinking deeply into an often overlooked area of mental health.

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  3. Being an addict in recovery, I am most interested in how to arrive at “the surrender” whereby the willingness to become honest with oneself about, “the condition” one is suffering from, without the extreme anguish the seems to be required.

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    1. Thank you for your reply vapor_sage.

      I wish I could say there was a softer route with minimal discomfort, but pain is often the way to a radical change like recovery. Often times, surrender becomes possible and even desirable I’m comparison to continuing in a path of destruction.

      Surrender, though unfamiliar and uncomfortable, is pretty much a part of our make-up. As infants and children our natural reactions to distress was to always call out to our parents for help. This response was never questioned because nearly every time we did, it worked. This produced trust. Similarly, the act of surrender expresses trust that although there is pain and obscurity, I know I will be taken care of by a power greater than myself.

      Wishing you much faith and clarity on your journey!

      Liked by 1 person

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