World Mental Health Day

October 10 is declared as World Mental Health Day. #WMHDay
Mental Illness is the least understood but most widespread form of disease known to humanity currently. The mentally ill, as in those who suffer from depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and many others both mild and severe are the hidden sufferers of society. Hidden because their disease is still not recognised to be such.

There is some kind of inexplicable stigma attached to people who do not fit the common mould because their minds have unusual thought patterns and their brains are wired differently. And so their suffering is often silent.

Awareness alone can change this situation and channel compassion and curge to these individuals. Not pity, but empathy.


incomplete my life

like shards of glass, broken dreams

bruise, flaw reveal.

by Lakshmi S. Menon 



Day Twenty FourApril A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015  : Mental Health Awareness — layers and nuances


The (E)XISTENTIAL anxiety we live with:

Why are we here on earth? Does human life have meaning beyond the seen ?  Is there a purpose to my life? What happens after death ? Why do I feel as if time is running out ? If these are some of the questions that have troubled you at different times, then you are probably facing not just anxiety, but existential anxiety. You are in the company of great thinkers and philosophers like Kierkegaard, Sartre, and others who have wrestled with these thoughts. These are thought that are not just everyday worries, but deal with the very basis of our life on earth.

Even after a person is fed, clothed and housed, educated, gets a job or a life-partner, has a happy family, possessions, friends and generally has a good life, sometimes even these may seem like ‘not enough’. It is then that they turn to excitement and often end up doing weird things. Some turn to religion or spirituality. Others discover meaning in art, music, literature et al. At such times, human beings are searching for something larger than their small personal selves. They start reflecting on the deeper meanings of life. Sometimes a crisis can set this off. Events may happen that upset the whole apple cart and confronted with pain or sudden change, these questions about life emerge from within. It is as though they were always there, waiting to be (e)xcavated from our innermost selves. Two things may happen at this point. Either we embark on a journey of self-discovery or the distractions of the world, ‘dailiness’, again overcomes us and we retreat back to the safe world we usually inhabit.

People whose brains work in a different way are usually seen to be inordinately sensitive to these fundamental questions about human existence. It is seen in the way they respond to the world around them. They are not just more sensitive, as in get more deeply affected by what is around them, they also empathise more. That is how you see them feeling, reacting and finally searching for answers and often finding them too. Do not underestimate the power of a sensitive mind, an empath, a mentally disturbed soul. They might just be wearing a disguise that hides a person of wisdom!

We all have to (e)XIT from life one day. What better way than to have contributed in some manner to deciphering the puzzle of life, for oneself and in however small a measure for others too 🙂

W is for Wound, Willingness and the Warrior

Day Twenty ThreeApril A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015  : Mental Health Awareness — layers and nuances

The wound of the soul:

Who is not wounded by life ? Physical, mental, psychological, spiritual — we carry the scars of so many wounds. Some healed, some raw, some on their way to be healed and some neglected and suppressed deep within. Pain is a part of life and wound its manifestation. Since we anyway have to live with these let us then make the best of them. How, one might ask? Ah, therein lies the great enigma of life. How does one embrace something painful and why must we do it anyway? The answer to ‘why‘ lies midway between — the choice to heal or the choice to become bitter from all that wounding.  It is ‘midway’, because though the desire to be healed is universal (who wants pain ?) no one can shake away bitterness or negativity completely from the mind. It is a constant battle between the desire to move past and the urge to just give in. Well, I am talking here of mental wounds, some forgotten, some suppressed, some alive and festering, some healed naturally by time. A wound brings alive the awareness that all is not well — pay attention! Were it not for that niggle of uneasiness and that stab of agony or even that numbing grief, we might never even look within. So wounds force us to pause and take a survey of all that has been stuffed away underground, in the deepest recesses of the mind. Some define these aspects of ourselves as archetypes —  the ‘inner child’, the ‘victim’, and so on. The answer to ‘why’ is then, embracing a wound will ultimately lead to a healing. It is the first step in this process.

To make wounds a step in healing needs the quality of willingness. This is the ‘how‘ part. Long ago, I read in that insightful book by Louise L. Hay, You Can Heal Your Life, some words that have stayed with me all these years. She had written this universal answer to the question ‘how’ that said, ” Be willing and the Universe will take care of the HOW” ! I still feel a thrill when I read these words. Instead of getting caught up in the complexity of the ‘how’ of embracing the wound, of the intricacies of healing and getting caught in a mental loop, this sentence advices us to let go, to be willing, to be open and simply ALLOW universal forces to act. This is not some random, fatalistic act, but one that is full of resolve as well as openness.

This attitude then makes us spiritual warriors on the path to wholeness and healing. We are warriors who have decided to take on the ‘evil’ forces that disrupt our minds and lives. It needs the initiative and intrepidity of a warrior to face inner enemies that threaten our sense of well-being. But if we wish to heal, this is one choice that we have to keep making!

Q is for Quest, Quality and Questioning norms !

Day SEVENTEENApril A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015  : Mental Health Awareness — layers and nuances

Also including this post in the WordPress writing challenge ignoring the prompt but going along with today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences 

Writing 101: Day ELEVENLength Matters (in sentences)


Quest, Quality and Questioning norms:

In the busy world that we inhabit, the word ‘quest‘ has a quaint sound to it. It throws up images of knights on horses and maidens waiting in castles to be rescued from ferocious dragons by the said knights ! We do not have time for all this romantic stuff that was better suited for a more relaxed world. And yet, knights, dragons and damsels in distress are who we face everyday in life. Come again, you might say. Yes, even in this world of crazy routines and endless tasks, damsels in distress and dragons breathing fire do exist. Times have changed and it is we who need to be rescued from dragons, the mental dragons inhabiting the subconscious, subterraneous terrains of our mind. We are the ‘damsels in distress’ and we are the ‘Knights in shining armour’ too. 

So how does it all fit in ? To be truly healthy, to be physically as well as mentally fit, to live lives of quality and not merely of quantity (by the mindless accumulation of material wealth), the subconscious has to be faced, nurtured and healed. Mental illness in any of its several manifestations, mild or severe, is a ‘wake-up call’ to undertake this healing. It is the deep calling to the deep. Something within desires that the conscious mind undertake this task of healing for the greater good of the person. The knight in shining armour, full of purpose is our will and the damsel in distress is the inner creative being seeking release to fully and authentically express itself. When the two meet, the psyche celebrates at this restoration of health ! No one else can undertake this journey on our behalf. It is a deeply personal, private and intensely spiritual quest that ultimately leads to great inner fulfilment.

What of those who are not mentally ill? Are they not called to this journey? No easy answers, but perhaps the inner journey becomes possible when one yearns for something more meaningful in life. When one tires of this endless rigmarole termed ‘life’ and stops wearing masks and the constant indulgence in frenetic activity, life will respond with an opportunity to go deeper. Interestingly, when you start questioning hitherto accepted norms of society and life, when you are no longer willing to let life go by, things start moving, sometimes in unexpected ways. Sometimes this may very well happen through pain. Perhaps a wound to the psyche sets this off. Ultimately, it is all good.

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS


Day TENApril A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015  : Mental Health Awareness — layers and nuances


Journey and JOURNALLING :

Life is like a journey that we begin seemingly without consent, with no choice of locale or travelling companions. This is the external bit, where we are born into families we did not choose, grow in environments over which we have little control and finally as adults may be too tired to change things when we are able to. We might have fallen into a rut! But the inner process is slightly different. In the INNER JOURNEY, we do have choice — the choice to think and choose our attitude as Victor Frankyl said, and this might make all the difference in life.


Just as we make many preparations for an outer journey, carrying with us several knick-knacks that we may need, the same is applicable for the inner journey too. We need TOOLS that will provide direction and help us to measure progress. One such extremely useful tool that helps us to gauge our inner journey, without depending on outside help is to maintain a journal. Julia Cameron, the well-known author of two books on creativity and the creative process, titled, The Artist’s Way and The Vein of Gold emphasises the importance of JOURNALLING as a process of inner healing and creative recovery. In what she terms as ‘morning  pages’, she  advises aspiring artists to do some much needed spring-cleaning of their subconscious by a process of ‘stream-of-consciousness’ writing as one of the first tasks before the day really begins.

Try it! It worked for me 🙂

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS

H is for Heightened awareness and Hidden treasures 

Day EIGHTApril A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015  

Metaphorically, having different brain wiring is like being born left-handed in a right-handed world. Society and the self-help sections in bookstores are quick to suggest right-handed solutions”. Jeff Copper, founder of Attention Talk Radio


Heightening Awareness and Uncovering Hidden Treasures:

Living a successful life needs skill. With practice, skill becomes second nature and the struggle a little less. As with any challenge, living with a mental health issue whether mild or severe, requires knowledge or awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses and the will power and motivation to live by these strengths. As mentioned in one of my previous articles, C is for Creative, people whose brains are wired in a different way, usually have gifts or talents that have to be unearthed. The key word here is ‘hidden‘. Whether the affected person or the caretaker, parents, teachers, siblings and even friends, one requires to do some ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking here.

Once you acknowledge and admit to the presence of a mental health issue, and I stress this, whether mild or severe, a sense of relief sets in. At least you know what you are dealing with to some extent, and hence can make some necessary changes. This is how a heightened sense of awareness can work for you to your advantage. And then comes the next part.

Use this knowledge to encourage strengths in oneself. You might not be good in math, but you could be a wizard with words. Then go for that which comes to you naturally, build on it, perfect it and then if you want , after gaining confidence, shift gears. Use your own strengths and God-given gifts to build up your self-esteem. Let the world go at its own pace. Have the courage to discover yours. When this is done, what is hidden, emerges. It is a proven fact that when one sense (out of the five of sight, smell, touch, hearing or taste) is weak, another gets heightened. Thus blind people have an acute sense of hearing or touch and so on. So too with the brain functions related to the mind. Nature usually compensates in some manner. Look for it, search it out and develop that, instead of lamenting what is not ! There is a wonderful article that you can read on this by Jeff Copper that is titled, ‘Don’t Try Harder, Try Different‘ !

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS

G is for Guilt and the Gift of Grace

Day SEVENApril A-Z Blogging  Challenge 2015



One of the debilitating mental factors that hurt people with mental health is the social burden they have to carry. Along with having to endure the symptoms of the illness, mild or pronounced, there is this constant pressure to be like everyone around, in terms of working, interacting, or just living each day with its challenges of adjustment. For very long, several types of mental health issues were not even recognised as problems. I have lived with people for whom the world is an unfriendly place with no one to empathise or understand, since the so-called symptoms are so hidden or not seen as symptoms at all.

In children who are intelligent and above average, there might be a lack of motivation to achieve. They might be bright but restless and without focus or obsessively focussed on something. Such children and adults are dubbed difficult, lazy, careless, intelligent but not conscientious, arrogant, wilful and so on. Such reactions from parents, teachers and adults in the case of children and from peers, spouses, colleagues in the case of adults can create a sense of guilt in the person that they may carry silently and unconsciously for a long time. The reasons for such behaviour lie in brain chemistry.

One example of this is children with mild forms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I came across an interesting article that said that in people with ADHD, certain chemicals or ‘key proteins’ that are required for human beings to experience a sense of reward and motivation are lacking in the brain. Due to the deficit in production of Dopamine in the brain, many ‘normal’ qualities are missing in these children.

New research by US brain researchers show  that ADHD is not just about abnormalities in the attention systems of the brain, that is, areas controlling attention and activity, “but abnormalities in the motivation and emotion centres as well. These deficits in the brain’s reward system may help explain clinical symptoms of ADHD, including inattention and reduced motivation, as well as the propensity for complications such as drug abuse and obesity among ADHD patients.” It goes on to say, “For far too long there has been an assumption that children with ADHD are deliberately wilful which has led to mismanagement and ultimately permanent exclusions from school.” You can read the full article here: ADHD Brain Chemistry Clue Found

For parents who sometimes hear the complaint that their children are ‘not well brought up‘, there is a pleasant catch here! You have a gifted child. These same aberrations in chemical production also make these people extremely resilient and creative. Also, sometimes it just is the creative energy seeking an outlet. In what is called ‘shared neuron pathways’, symptoms of a disorder and a child wanting an outlet may look the same. So watch out!  ‘Indeed, while many experts automatically link overexcited, impulsive, and even disruptive behavior to ADHD, there are some who believe this same conduct may simply be the earmarks of profound creativity looking for a way to flourish. 

Says an article on ADD-like behaviour, “People who don’t understand intelligence and giftedness and creativity think that if you’re smart you ought to know how to behave, and if you don’t behave you’re not smart — or you have something wrong with you — but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Minnesota child psychologist Deborah Ruf, PhD, National Gifted Children’s Coordinator for American Mensa and author of the book Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind. Read here: Not all restless children are ADD 

The Gift of Grace comes from awareness. Awareness of symptoms, that these are caused by brain functions basically, that there are outlets to be creative that can help and so on. Guilt is a useless burden, especially when it has no basis other than ignorant social norms. Convert the energy expended in guilt to discover the gifts inherent within.

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS

F is for Facing your Fears and FREEDOM through FAITH

Day SIX: April A-Z Blogging  Challenge 2015

Worry and fear [are] the greatest foes to [a] normal healthy physical body . . . . For thoughts are things! And they have their effect upon individuals…just as physical as sticking a pin in the hand!” — Edgar Cayce, famous medium of early 20th century, many of whose whose messages from Source during self-induced trances, on a variety of subjects, were pointers to future discoveries in science and psychology


Facing one’s Fears:

Worry has been described as ‘mentally created fear‘, something that the mind imagines would be like a worst- case scenario. Worry is about the future and sometimes it can turn into an obsessive anxiety. Worry often is unfounded, things ultimately may turn out better than we expected! FEAR though relates to the present.

FEAR arises from subconscious memories of past events that caused discomfort, pain or grief — something that affected us deeply in a negative manner. Our reaction to that event gets recorded in the sub-conscious aspect of the mind, where it is lost or forgotten to conscious memory. It however remains there, lurking in the background, until something activates it in the present. This something is what is called, a ‘trigger‘. Anything in the present like a person, a remark, a sight, a feeling, a situation can act as a trigger. Sometimes it could be a sound or a smell. At that time, the whole bundle of the negative memories associated with a past painful event, wells out of the subconscious and enters our conscious mind. We relive that incident which caused trauma and we react. We may spend sleepless nights afraid that something might harm us again, we may relive moments of grief or feelings of powerlessness. A fear though in the realm of the mind, can cause physical symptoms in the body. We may sweat, get a headache or have an upset stomach just by reliving fears, and these are just minor symptoms. Such is the hold that fear can have on us. What is worse is that another person may not even relate to what one is feeling, since triggers are not the same for everyone. Nightmares and ‘night terrors’ are another manifestation of fear that cannot be understood by those who do not experience it.

There are two kinds of fears: minor or immediate and long-term or major. The first could be the apprehension of a situation occurring again that causes a certain amount of discomfort. We learn to live with such fears, we somehow quell the anxiety and manage to convince ourselves that we can handle the situation as and when it arises, if it arises. And we generally do manage. This is the stuff of ordinary existence. The second is major. These are psychological and deep-rooted, like the fear of abandonment, fears of abuse, the fear of oppression or of loss, including losing one’s mind. Fears such as these have no short-term solutions. They are here to stay unless we FACE them and set ourselves FREE.

Facing of fears can be done with the help of our conscious minds and by trusting in the vast inner wisdom that lies untapped within us. One fact about fear is that though it seems to nestle within, it comes from outside. It is not a natural or inherent part of us. We can overcome it. 

To face a fear, first it has to be defined. Definition gives it a form and instead of some vague apprehension, it becomes something that can be looked at squarely. Fears might be imagined or real, but since they affect us, what is necessary is to tackle them instead of a mere scientific discussion of their origin. Meditation, hypnosis, a deep connection with your chosen form of God through prayer or worship, a connection with Nature, a relaxation with harmonious or melodious music are methods by which the inner resource of strength is tapped. Some people find their strength through creative outlets like writing, journaling, painting, dance, story telling and so on. 

FAITH or a belief in a Higher form of Consciousness, whether you call it God or Source or Universe or Tao, whether you define it in terms of religion or spirituality or neither, goes a long way in getting rid of fear. Faith connects you with your own inner version of God/Source, which is a powerhouse of Love Energy and the true cause of all healing.


Edgar Cayce of the early twentieth century has this to say about fear: “All disease was caused by sin, most notably the sin of fear, for that represented a lack of faith . . . . Fear is the root of most of the ills of mankind,” he said in a reading given in June of 1928. You can read the full article on what Cayce said, here: Edgar Casey on the Causes for Illness

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS

E is for Endurance, Emergence and Emancipation 

DAY FIVEApril A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015   

“Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blendingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity.” Herman Melville, “Billy Budd, Sailor”

Enduring the darkness and emerging into the light: 

The seed buried in winter’s frost seems dead to outward view. Snow and frost seem to obliterate all signs of life on the ground. And yet when spring arrives, shy saplings tentatively push through the ground, life stirs again and the world changes in the blink of an eye. How much do we really know about the workings of the mind ? Psychology conducts studies on it and psychiatry treats disorders arising from it.  They are both brain-based disciplines that have brought relief to many people, by the medication or counselling they provide. However, they also have a symptomatic approach, dealing with issues as and when they arise, while the roots of the mind might lie much deeper, being embedded in that vast field of human life termed ‘consciousness‘. 

The previous post mentioned  about the ‘dark night of the soul‘, those times in one’s life when there is a sense of acute disconnection and weariness of heart and mind. Periods of darkness that seem never-ending. Coleridge describes this achingly in his poem , ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, a poem about death, decay, regeneration and atonement. 

No matter what the reason why minds may plunge into such darkness, no matter whether they are ignored or slighted, labelled or condemned, medicated or diagnosed, it is a fact that ultimately, recovery can happen only from inner reserves and mental resolve. It is possible, however acute the darkness, or long drawn out the struggle, because within the human being are reserves of power and the means to regenerate, provided one is willing. 

The mind is a mysterious entity. The ‘why‘ of the mind leads us deeper into a never-ending labyrinth, it is a trap. Leave it to the philosophers and the ‘mentalists’ to unravel it! It is better to focus on the ‘what‘ and the ‘how‘. During seasons of darkness, when sometimes even the will to live might be dimmed, do nothing and be a witness. Under the garb of darkness, the different parts of the mind somehow get organised into something new, something that has more depth and understanding and will percolate into the surface mind gradually. This time of darkness when endured, will lead to the emergence of the self in a new mould. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Emancipation is at hand. Just do not give up yet!

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS


C is for CREATIVE and Coping with COMPASSION

Day THREE: April A-Z Blogging Challenge

“Men have called me mad but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is, or is not, the loftiest intelligence–whether much that is glorious–whether all that is profound–does not spring from disease of thought–from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”— Edgar Allan Poe. 



Mental Health and Creativity seem to be oddly paired at first glance, but it is like a public secret, a fact that is well-known but not overtly acknowledged. Many, many famous and successful people like artistes — poets, writers, musicians, theatre actors, screen heartthrobs and divas, comedians, dancers, painters, mathematicians, scientists, world leaders, to name but a few of the different streams of creative expression — have been known to have suffered from one or more forms of mental disorders. Names that come to mind include poets like Shelley, Keats, Byron, Coleridge and even Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath; writers include Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemmingway, William Faulkner, Herman Melville, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Amy Tan, painters like Paul Gaugin , Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, musicians like Beethoven, Mozart, Kurt Kobain, Britney Spears, scientists/mathematicians like Isaac Newton, John Nash (remember the book and Russell Crowe in the movie, ‘A Beautiful Mind‘ ), actors like Catherine Zeta Jones, Carrie Fisher, Linda Hamilton, Mel Gibson, Robin Williams, Kishore Kumar, Meena Kumari, comedians  like  Jim Carrey, Stephen Fry, and well, Florence Nightingale, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill to name just a few. The list is endless.

The reverse is often almost true too! Look around and if you can identify someone who you feel might be prone to a mental problem — whether relatively minor symptoms like anxiety, insomnia or depression, or more serious including manic depressiveness , paranoia, eating disorders, addictions, OCD (Obssesive Compulsive Disorder), Bi-Polar disorder, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Schizophrenia, or any other, then chances are that these persons also show flashes of creativity. Newer forms of research down the years have uncovered how brain functions are very similar in people who are extremely creative and in those children and adults with known mental health issues. The two seem inextricably linked. You can refer to this enlightening article here, called Creative minds mimic schizophrenia.

Access to more sensory impulses, ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, over-sensitivity, high levels of focus, risk-taking, obsession to details, all these traits are common to creative people as well as those with mental health issues. The two seem related in more ways than one. Increasingly, studies of brain functions reveal that physical factors like chemicals secreted in the brain affect biological rhythms and have an impact on the emotional life of people that manifest as hyperactivity, irritability, paranoia, mood swings, anxiety and other such symptoms of psychological and emotional distress. But these factors also create geniuses and extremely bright and creative minds. 

While medication might be necessary for severe symptoms of mental illness, another soothing and non-numbing approach would be to encourage creative pursuits in the person. Creative expression or the appreciation of it channelise energy into non-destructive paths and help in regulating the mind and emotions. J.K. Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter series was in a period of deep depression when she wrote her first book in the series. The books then went on to help her out of the depressive state.

COPING with COMPASSION is another key ingredient for mental health. Often the most mis-understood members of society, those afflicted with mental health problems need to take it easy. Compassion, like charity begins at home. Have compassion for yourself, love yourself as you are and do not beat yourself up over perceived and imagined flaws. Do not go by the opinions of others and of a society that increasingly lives and thrives on appearances. Give yourself a chance and if you are a parent or a teacher, give your child a chance to grow at his/ her own pace. In the final outcome, marks in board exams won’t even be remembered. A school year lost is nothing much in the larger scheme of life. But the wounds inflicted on the fragile psyche of the human being through insensitivity and mental cruelty can ruin a life, whatever the amount of clinical treatments.

Treat these souls with gentility and love. Even plants are said to respond to love, then why not a human being? For this, societal and familial expectations may have to be laid aside. Give up the ordinary for the extraordinary! And later on, one might well be surprised by the blossoming of a creative outlet. Love is its own reward, as is patience! Beneath that irritable exterior may very well live an ‘old soul’, a being of light, who when released from strictures and structures of society may have something unique to contribute to this world. Do not shut out that light before it can shine through and illumine itself and the world around.

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS