Day TWO: April A-Z Blogging Challenge
How can illness ever be one’s friend ? Isn’t it something we fight with and try to remove from our system, since it disrupts our lives ? Usually so, but with long drawn out illnesses like depression, or any other forms of mental illness, one must learn to live with it, befriend it even, since one really cannot throw out the mind, (where it all originates) surgically or otherwise !
It is said that when you cannot go over or beyond something, then go through it, to get done with it! Living WITH mental illness is not an option, but as with everything in life, we can CHOOSE our attitude to it. As Victor Frankyl, wrote in his inspiring book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Do remember that Frankyl’s book talks of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp!
The FOUR stages of Mental Illness: denial, acceptance, grief and redressal
Illness of any kind goes through certain stages in one’s psyche. When confronted with a serious illness or even the not-so-serious ones, the first reaction is usually denial ! This can’t be happening to me ! Illness is what happens to other people and so on. Then comes the stage of acceptance. Reality sinks in and we acknowledge that yes, illness is a part of my life and has come to stay. This leads to the stage of grief, that the ‘unthinkable’ has occurred. There could be anger and a sense of betrayal too. This is a time of vulnerability, tears do flow and it’s necessary that they do; it is also a stage of clarity. A way opens out to now cope with this situation, as do the people with us. Then comes the stage of treatment or redressal mild or aggressive, as the case might be. Finally, illness is cured or reduced, or we succumb to it, physically through death or psychologically by allowing it to cripple our life and thought processes. What are we going to choose ??
A note of caution here. We are talking of befriending illness, true, but let us not get into a ‘co-dependent relationship’ with it ! Say to the mind: I will befriend you, but I am not you !! In the case of depression, the first step is acknowledgement that one is prone to it. I say this because it’s not gloom and doom all the time! There are happy days and creative times when life seems meaningful and the sun shines brightly in the sky. Acceptance that the mind I have is slightly different from others around me, observing that it tends to be affected more by happenings and people (over-sensitivity), that it tends to go off in tangents and thus cripples action (scattered thinking/ lack of focus), that it shows signs of obsessive-compulsiveness, that it seeks purpose all the time, even in small things while others seem to breeze their way through life — these are valuable insights about oneself. It also creates a needed distance from these ‘thought-processes’ that cause all our problems. When I observe the mind, it follows that I AM NOT THE MIND ! Never mind what Descartes might have said centuries ago. When I observe something, I am outside of it and this gives me the power to regulate it. Identity – who am I ? – is important. Since I can observe the pattern of my thoughts and how their loop imprisons me, I can also CHANGE this pattern by practice and perseverance. Now I must learn how it works and then strive to understand its vagaries and tendencies so that I can control it ant vice versa. When I control the mind, when I distance myself from it and observe its patterns, vagaries and tricks to make me lose my peace I become a ‘MASTERMIND’.