There is opportunity in transition but stagnancy in comfort. You can choose to evolve from one plateau to the next or you can reside in your former address of self. Throughout my life, I have always decided to push forward no matter what the consequences, and eventually I had to do a full stop. But life doesn’t have a pause button. Life is consistently on play, no matter what your current state of reality.
Mental wellness is about being at peace with your reality, which sometimes requires waging a war to get there. That war can take place with others or within yourself. Two things that you will learn are: (1) who the haters are and, (2) the war is worth fighting.
I wrote a blog post in 2010 about “making your own reality.” I argued in it that you essentially create your own reality with your thoughts. I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right. The problem was at a certain point, I believed I was correct in my entirety. I took flight from the concrete reality that exists for a world that could protect me from it. Except what I did not anticipate was that both worlds would collide and there would be no airbag to brace for impact.
The recovery process of returning to the agreed-upon reality, once you have departed for some time, can be likened to recovering from whiplash. I know this because I have had whiplash before. After having experienced intense physical health recovery and mental health recovery I can tell you both are arduous, but one is less accepted in society and that’s the latter. It’s almost as though people don’t want to believe that you can get better mentally because they cannot comprehend that it is possible.
At times it is helpful to look at the way the world is in order to navigate how to act accordingly and sometimes you have to be a Greta Thunberg about it. Sometimes you have to look at the way things are and point to the problem with it until people recognize that there is a problem. My intention is to destigmatize the conversation around mental health so that people can find the resources they need to be stable. Prevention is key, which means that we need to change the direction of mental health discourse in general. Education is necessary and taking the appropriate approach is critical.
I studied political science at university which is essentially the organization of people. The way I see it, good governance is responsible for rectifying the cracks in our social fabric. However, that is not reality, and so private entities and non-profits have to take it upon themselves to contribute to social causes on a grand scale and try and reverse generational damage.
When it comes to the mental health system the damage is as great as you would expect it to be. The mere mention of the term “mental health” for some people conjures up so much trauma or discomfort that they would rather discuss anything else. This inhibits the progression of the field. If people knew that proper mental hygiene was as important as physical maintenance, they would learn to better protect their mental pathways.
When I finished studying human rights for my MA I believed that human rights existed whether or not they were enforced. I believed them to be inalienable to every single individual on Earth. And then I was thrown into the hospital against my will and I learned that your rights can be existent but not present. I have heard psych wards be referred to as “the land where human rights are forgot” and I can confirm this for you. With my black belt degree in human rights and experience inside the walls of psychiatric units, I can confirm this.
When I was in the psych ward people would constantly tell me “you don’t belong here!” or they would say “what are you doing here? You seem fine!” That never helped. The fact was I was there, and it was my job to figure out how to never end up back there, not be in denial that I was another one of the patients.
What would it have meant for me to not have ”belonged” there? It would have meant that I was somehow exempt from mental crisis. It would have meant that others are more inclined to be kept against their will over me. It would have meant that somehow, I had more of a propensity to not be traumatized or experiencing mental dysfunction. And it only further solidified my attachment to my alternative reality.
What I learned inside of those walls is that no one is exempt from “belonging” there. What I learned is that the population that ends up in psychiatric units are in fact representative of the population as a whole, with an overlapping of the judicial system. The people in those hallways represent the most concentrated and heightened versions of a location’s citizenry. And, in the name of modern medicine, they undergo sometimes harsh treatment to get their behaviour corrected to a place that is acceptable or seen as normal.
A psych ward is a transitory place, not a place to get comfortable. But just because it is transitory does not take away from the fact that you are there. The most effective thing I did inside the hospital was look at where I was and accept that temporary reality. If I had listened to those people telling me I didn’t “belong” then I wouldn’t have figured out why I was there to begin with. Because the bottom line is, I had a file in that cabinet just like all of the other patients.
Pay close attention to the rooms you end up in, and if there’s something wrong with the imagery…change it.