help

Overcoming Life’s Problems – Life Advice From a Mental Patient

Often, we can learn from someone else’s life situation. What follows is my story, and a method I used to overcome a huge problem. At the story’s end, I’ll share a general rule you might use to help yourself.


The reception area is at the entrance—a hallway. I sign my name and am ushered in and, as the doors lock behind me, I survey the scene. It’s likely I will die here. I’d rather die fighting “the revolution” in the streets than in this place.

At the nurse’s station, I tell nurse I want out, but she doesn’t listen. I grab a table lamp to use as a weapon as the men in the white coats approach. I know they will kill me.

The next morning when I awake, the only thing that has died is my innocence.

The psychiatrist who previously interviewed me suggested I sign into the mental hospital. He was the authority and presented no alternatives, so I did what he said.

Mom brought me in to see him after I rolled my car off the road and hit a tree. I heard voices, thought someone followed me, and thought they had drugged my food. I was having flashbacks from the psychedelic drug experiments that had replaced my lab work in grad school.

The emerging counter-culture, with its rock-and-roll, radical politics, alternative schools, communes, and drugs, was far more interesting than my academic pursuits. Academic science was too competitive for me, a very sensitive person. During my first hospitalization, I searched my soul for what I should do to make life easier. I dropped out after eight years of college.

My personnel file was not available. After twenty job applications with no luck, I became suspicious, and sent the file to a friend who graduated, pretending to apply for work with him. He informed me of my professors recommendations—all bad. Is it reprehensible to give bad recommendations? Why couldn’t they tell me they couldn’t recommend me? They commonly call this stigmatization, but it’s prejudice.

Eight years and seven hospitalizations later, I decided I’d had enough of hospitals. I’d do whatever it might take to never return. Through trial and error plus hard work and persistence, I came up with three ways to beat the “revolving door.”

First, I was non-compliant. I didn’t do what the doctors suggested, as I knew these were ways to keep me hooked into the system. I didn’t take their meds, go to community outreach for therapy, or live in neighborhoods with other ex-patients.

Second, I got an apprenticeship with a fiber arts professor at the college. My friends told me I’d never find one, that it would be better to take workshops. But I persisted and was lucky. Weaving provided me with a calming moving meditation. It gave me a new creative outlet to replace my scientist identity. And it kept me busy and away from the streets and clubs.

Third, instead of seeing state-funded therapists, I saw a private one. She came recommended. I had to wait two years for her calendar to clear.

After two sessions that included my parents, she told me we had a family problem, and I was the one showing the symptoms of the problem. She explained that hearing voices originated from my subconscious to make me feel more important in the wake of a lifetime of rejections. She suggested that whenever I heard them, instead of listening in, I should take this as a signal to check out where I was feeling rejected, and to work on that. After doing this, the voices tapered off and disappeared after a year.


The lessons I learned and how I beat the system are useful to solving many life problems. I summarize them with the acronym L.I.P

LIP =

Listening to your inner voice

Intention fixed and strong

Persistence in what you know is right, not what others say.

Posted by Don Karp

++Official Guest Writer++ Don Karp helps others survive their life dilemmas by providing self-care for recovery based on his own life experiences. He's lived in Mexico since 2003, and blogs about it (donkarp.com/myths-about-mexico). His memoir, "The Bumpy Road: A Memoir of Culture Clash, Including Woodstock, Mental Hospitals, and Living in Mexico" is on Amazon under Don Karp. He is a Top Writer for Quora.com in the areas of psychosis and anxiety.