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

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


Listening to your inner voice

Intention fixed and strong

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

Posted by Don Karp in Guest Posts, Reflections
Hey Jude: Stop Having Missed Opportunities

Hey Jude: Stop Having Missed Opportunities

At what point in our lives do we start to take control of what we want? When do we stop having missed opportunities? The answer to both those questions is simple: It’s whenever you decide.

Think about it. What are the most common regrets people have? Usually the missed opportunities they had in life. Personally, I have had more than a handful of missed opportunities, some more major than others, even missed relationships. Now, I am one of those people who believes everything happens, or doesn’t happen, for a reason. I know you are probably thinking how annoying those people are. I don’t disagree, but just because I do believe that statement does not mean that I am not still saddened or bothered by my missed opportunities. For some of the things I missed, the only person to blame for that is myself, because I did not take charge and speak up about what was ahead of me or what I wanted and now I have to live with that regret.

The good news is that I can choose not to live with it forever. Sure, the regrets I have are both big ones and small ones, but it is fun to add the experiences I missed out on to my list of future plans. Now that I’m older I will have to adjust these plans a little bit, but I am happy they have appeared back on my map.

A lot of what holds us back, and causes us to have so many regrets is a not-so-fun, four-letter F word: FEAR. We are so afraid of the outcome of doing something that we only ever see the negative side, and do not allow ourselves to see the possible positive outcomes. This can apply to relationships or just something as simple as applying to college, or following a dream you once had.

I recently got see the positive side of what happens when you don’t let the fear control you and put something off just because you fear failure. A special person close to me just achieved a dream that he’s had for as long as I have known him. I got to see how it was stressful, and seemed it would never come to light, but that first day of his dream becoming a reality was simply magical. Being able to be a part, and see how hard work, and perseverance, and most importantly strength in yourself, pays off was really an eye opener for other aspects of my life.  

I could really relate to doing something scary; for me it was starting Hey Jude, and writing to help others. Sharing my stories, my experiences, and my pain with others, is a terrifying experience every month for me. At the same time, if my advice can help just one person, then I am beyond thankful and believe it is worth fighting the fear of sharing. I started writing as a lone person, but soon I was asked to be a part of the Protagonist team, and I will never forget that day. It meant the world to me that something I never really thought would grow, could!

In high school I had an amazing choir teacher who always told us that we should audition for everything. You can get 99 no’s, but all it takes is that one yes to make all the difference. Now it’s time to put your fear on the back burner and dive in! You might really surprise yourself. As for the relationship side of things, the hopeless romantic in me always encourages the same. If you care about someone you should tell them. Even if they do not reciprocate your feelings, it will make you feel better. Knowing is always going to be better than all the “what if” questions. And on the flip side, everyone in the world deserves to be told someone cares about them. It is always a nice feeling! Besides, you never know when they may need that someday and hearing it can make all the difference.

At the end of the day we all have our little regrets, and the only person we can blame is ourselves. Our fear of the negative outcome, or failing, is the lock on our cages. Set yourselves free, and think to yourself: Even if I fail, even if it doesn’t turn out how I wanted, at least I did it, and I can try again!

Posted by Jude in Hey Jude, Reflections, 0 comments
Your Fears Are Holding You Back

Your Fears Are Holding You Back

What are you afraid of?

I’ll give you a moment here to think of the things that scare you—maybe spiders, or heights, or being in the dark, or dying. (One of my biggest fears is falling, usually brought on by airplane turbulence, if that makes you feel any better.) Got it? Now toss that out, because of course we both know that’s not what I’m talking about.

What are you really afraid of?

You probably clicked on the link to this post because on some level, you feel unsatisfied with your life. Maybe you’re unhappy with your current job. Maybe you feel like your life is mostly satisfactory, but you’re stuck in a rut that you need to break out of. Maybe your life is great, but you still have a sense that there’s still something more out there that will bring you fulfillment.

Now I’ll give you a moment to think about the things you would like to do with your life—the dreams and goals you’ve accumulated over your lifetime but haven’t achieved. These could be dream careers, like performing on stage or owning a Fortune 500 company, or they could be one-time goals, like summiting Mount Everest or taking a cross-country road trip. All of these are achievable goals; in theory, anyone can learn to play an instrument, manage a business, or climb a mountain. So why haven’t you achieved them? What’s holding you back?

I’m no psychologist, and I’m definitely no mind-reader, but I do have an educated guess that answers that question: Fear. All of us have fears that overshadow and outweigh our dreams. These might be fears of failure, of losing relationships, or of regression. For the most part, we avoid those fears, shove them back and pack them away where we don’t have to look at them. Sometimes we may not even be aware that we have them. But these fears obstruct us and keep us from achieving our dreams.

As for me, I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid of outright rejection, of being judged and found wanting, of not being good enough, or not being as good as someone else. I’m afraid of feeling crushingly disappointed. I’m afraid of having to work hard at something to the point that I start to hate it. I’m afraid of getting bored or frustrated by something that I normally love to do.

The good news is that none of my fears are insurmountable. By knowing what our roadblocks are, we can plan how to avoid the things we fear—and how to survive them if we can’t avoid them. Try it for yourself. Take another look at your unfulfilled dreams and goals, and ask yourself three questions:

  1. What’s the worst that could happen?
  2. How do I avoid that?
  3. What do I do if I can’t avoid it?

The funny thing about this exercise is that by giving a name to your fears, they start to become less frightening. Often we get to the first question—what’s the worst that could happen?—and stop there. But by brainstorming solutions to a potential problem, we give ourselves the tools to overcome it. Examining our fears gives us the power to conquer them.

I’m tempted to end by asking you a question you’ve probably heard before: What would you attempt do if you knew you could not fail? But that’s not realistic, and really, it’s not the point. So instead, I’ll leave you with this:

What would you attempt to do if you knew that you could fail?

Posted by Calligraphie, 0 comments
Why Personal Reflection Is Worth the Discomfort

Why Personal Reflection Is Worth the Discomfort

The beginning of a new year often brings ample opportunity for reflection on the previous year and one’s goals for the upcoming year. But how many of us actively take that opportunity when it’s presented?

Between the New Year, the beginning of a new quarter for Protagonist, and the start of my final semester in college, I’ve been given the opportunity this year to take a restock of where my life is at. Previously, I’ve been content to watch such opportunities sail by—if I even noticed them at all. This year, I won’t have that option. I’ve already spent some time creating the outline of a vision for the upcoming year, à la Andy Drish, but that’s only the beginning. Both my courses this semester focus on reflection: a philosophy course on the meaning of life, and my capstone for my major, in which I will reflect on my education, my place in the world, and my future goals.

Normally I’m the sort to shy away from all this new-agey, introspective, reflecting-and-visioning stuff. It’s uncomfortable. If I start reflecting on the past, that means looking back not only on my successes, but also on my mistakes and my low points—and as someone who struggles with depression and PTSD, I find that frankly a bit scary. It’s so much easier to let sleeping dogs lie, and keep plugging along as usual. So what makes the reflection worth the discomfort?

As my philosophy professor put it, “A good life doesn’t happen by accident.” Any sort of meaning in life must be intentional, or else it isn’t meaningful. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Live like there’s no tomorrow.” It’s inspirational, and it sounds great, but few of us immediately quit our jobs and start knocking things off our bucket lists.

No, the harder part is to live like you have forever. What if you knew for a fact you were going to live to be over a hundred years old? How would you want to spend all that time? You have the option to tread water, going through life just keeping your head above water without going anywhere, or you can pick a direction and start swimming. And to pick the best direction, to figure out where you want to go, you must first recognize where you came from and where you currently are.

Thanks to Mr. Drish, I have the beginnings of a plan for 2018 that, if I follow it to its conclusion, will help me establish myself in a place where I want to be, pursuing a career and lifestyle that will bring me pleasure and pride. With the help of my two classes, and with continued reflection, I hope to flesh out that plan and make my dream even more achievable.

Learning can be uncomfortable; learning about ourselves, doubly so. To learn more about ourselves, we have to confront our fears and insecurities, but we can’t learn from our past if we don’t tackle that discomfort. And once we have, we are empowered to create a meaningful, good future.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
     — The Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune

Posted by Calligraphie in Reflections, 0 comments