mental health

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
How to Pull Yourself Out of the Darkness

How to Pull Yourself Out of the Darkness

How often do we really pay attention to what our bodies are telling us? I have always been one to overexert and push myself way beyond my limits, and unfortunately it hasn’t been until lately that I’ve really started to listen to my body. No matter how much it may make me feel like I can’t do this or that, I know that I am not shirking my responsibilities, but I am doing it for my better self. Also, it’s important not only for my physical health but also my mental health. As someone who has dealt with/is dealing with the darkness of depression, I often forget just how fragile my mind can be. Did you know, for example, that stress alone can be harmful to your physical body? It actually weakens your heart, causing many problems, the most common being a heart attack. But that barely scratches the surface—hair loss, loss of appetite, weight gain, and fatigue are all symptoms of stress.

As of late, I have been experiencing all of this. On top of all that, I have also been very tempted to go back to my deepest, darkest days, to go back down that rabbit hole and revert back to my old habits that I thought were helping me but I know were only making things worse. I find myself going through the same thoughts, which I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking: What do I do? How do I make it stop? And wanting it all to just go away. For all the times I have said these things to myself, one thing I always reminded myself is that I’ve come this far. I made it through so much worse. Yes, I still feel pain and sadness, but I see the light; no matter how faded, I see it. I  remind myself to think of all I have fought for—personally, and emotionally.

All that being said I wanted to share how I climb out of my darkness, my hole.  It’s a rough fight, I won’t lie. I often start very small and go through the things I feel thankful for. For me it helps to not actually think of myself, but to think of all the other people in the world and all the things they might be going through. I recently had a conversation with a homeless person that left me almost angry with myself for having these feelings. Here was this wonderful man before me with not a touch of sadness in his eyes. He was living a better life than I was at that moment and I was ashamed to be thinking less of myself.

I often also think of all the other horrible things that are going on in the world that haven’t actually touched me personally. I guess you could say I try to make myself feel small in this large, large world, and that gives me a sense of space to allow myself to breathe again. After I don’t feel so surrounded and suffocated, I think of the personal things I have fought through in life, even if little. I get up every morning and realize I have two legs to stand on and am thankful for that. Despite the mental health and stress issues I face, overall I am healthy. Again, those are just the little things I think to myself that I know will mean something to me; everyone is different, and you may have a different perspective to take. When being thankful doesn’t seem to work, I turn to meditation. There are so many different kinds of meditation out there that you are bound to find one to help you. I have done multiple different ones and now seems I have a different variation for every mood.

Finally, something else I truly find that helps is an escape. If you can, try and get away for either an hour or maybe even a weekend. Thanks to my wonderful sister, I am often allowed to escape to her house across the country. Being with her and back home gives me time to myself and time to reflect on all the things that have been piling on over the months. I also love being in nature to reflect, calm, center, and strengthen myself. I highly encourage going out in nature to those who are struggling to find a way to feel like themselves. Go for a walk, go camping even. If you aren’t really an outdoors type, maybe just sitting on your porch for a little while can help.  “Me time” is always beneficial, and even though being alone with your thoughts can be scary, it may surprise you to learn what you can overcome on your own.

Lastly, I want to express how important is to talk to someone, be it a friend, a parent, professional or even me. The true path to healing has to start somewhere, and it doesn’t have to be a path you walk alone.

Posted by Jude in Hey Jude, Reflections, 0 comments