reflection

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

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 in Guest Posts, Reflections
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