THOUGHT PORN: [MENTAL! Health]

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Breaking your Leg VS Breaking your Head!

Mental Health, it’s much debated, often ignored and rarely understood. Especially in our “Keep calm and carry on”, society. This motto alone, which has been adopted by so many shows us that we as a society have a long way to go before we can begin to treat people who suffer from Mental Health differences with equal respect.

I was diagnosed with both Bipolar Disorder and Aspergers at the age of 17 during a stay in a Psychiatric Institution. My head had broken. My strength caved in on itself from my struggles in dealing with my social and habitual surroundings.

In retrospect, this is no surprise. The years of consistent physical and mental abuse at secondary school, teamed up with confusion and fear of figuring out my sexuality and being outed, and also the conflict I experienced with teachers and potential mentors as a thinker in an oppressive, outdated and limiting education system had clearly taken their toll. I had lost all self-esteem and had zero insight into a better future so there was not much faith for me either. Suicide seemed the only way out of the eternal pain I was suffering.

Clearly I was unsuccessful in my attempts as I am writing this now. However, a few years down the line, I have some experience in how I have found myself (and observed others) react to the concept of a “Mental Health Disorder”, and also a perspective which can be taken on Mental Health that has helped me to understand some ways in which I can approach Mental Health lovingly as a whole.

One perspective that could be taken is that mental health can be viewed not dissimilarly to physical health. Imagine if you break your leg. In most cases this was probably an accident as most breakages do not happen voluntarily, you will need to rest it in order for it to heal. This may take weeks before one can regain strength and continue to perform the tasks that they performed previously to the same level. The expectation is that people will allow you this time to recover and generally will assist you if necessary in fulfilling tasks that you are now less able to do.

This same view can be applied if your head breaks, (you have a nervous breakdown). Most people do not intentionally break their heads; in my experience, it is not a choice. Just like an accident, it is uncontrollable. There are precautions that you can take, yet there is no guarantee that you can stop it from happening. Like breaking your leg, there is a recovery time necessary in order to rebuild your strength. Both physical and mental tasks may become difficult during this recovery time, yet it has often been my experience that this has been overlooked.

I have found in some situations that people became angry or offended by my actions when I experienced such an episode, or that the necessity for recovery time has been ignored. Often I have found that assistance is not offered in completing tasks and the assumption has been made that because the episode is over, one should be fully capable of fulfilling certain tasks which in fact are not so easy after such an injury.

A further correlation that I have observed to be similar in both physical and mental health is that, yes we can push ourselves on an injury but overall the effect leads to even longer recovery and more severe or possibly permanent damage.

For example: we have fallen over, we can’t necessarily see a breakage so someone tells you to keep walking on it. Even though it hurts, you listen that person. You don’t want to upset others or appear weak by failing to “keep calm and carry on”. It is in our minds that pushing through all this pain is a sign of masculinity and courage. However, a week later when you finally decide to go to the hospital because your leg is blue, they tell you that you in fact had broken it and is in fact now much worse than it could have been because you walked on it and neglected the need to rest it and look after your own needs. Now the operation is more severe and complicated and the recovery time is even longer.

This goes for mental injuries too. You have had a breakdown or a wobble. Deep inside you know you need to rest but you are told repeatedly by many that it’s nothing and it’s better if you just keep ploughing through life and carrying on the way you normally do. Unfortunately I have done this many, many times and the outcome is the same as the physical. I neglected my own needs and instead there comes a point where I am burnt out and even more broken. I am forced to stop. The recovery time then becomes much longer and the depression and exhaustion are crippling and lead you to awful life threatening feelings which could have been avoided had I just have acknowledged the initial break and listened to my instincts.
These injuries are what really interrupts the flow of life and can potentially ruin a persons confidence and life. Jobs, friends, houses and health can be lost over and over again because we did not know when to stop and were possibly encouraged by others to keep pushing through.

There are also some similarities when it comes to drug treatment. With any physical injury, even ones that are long term, there is sometimes a course of drugs to take which can help the recovery process along by alleviating pain or feeding the body with the nutrients or antibiotics it may need in order to survive such an injury.
Mental Health injuries including long term conditions, MAY too be assisted by a course of drugs. However, these too require other aspects of treatment often including learning and maintaining the healthy lifestyle which works for you as well as talking therapies.

Again, with physical injuries, the course of drugs is usually not a permanent thing unless you have a terminal illness or an incurable disease. However, these medications are monitored and adjusted in order to help the patient physically live. For most physical situations the patient will not need the drugs after some time.

This is similar in Mental Health also. However, there does come a difference in some situations. Using drugs to alleviate negative symptoms to some extent and help the patient to recover seems perfectly acceptable. But using drugs to numb a persons moods because others are lacking the empathy and emotional vulnerability to cope with you, consequently making it easier for others around you to deal with you because you are tranquillised IS NOT OK!!! It is not acceptable to chemically neuter people in order to keep them from having their natural human emotions. Even if those emotions are more extreme than those of others. They are still valid and acceptable emotions and it is no ones right to tell someone that their emotions are not right and must be medicated.
In the past, many people who are now diagnosed and medicated in an instant, would have been simply seen as eccentric or a bit different. Many of the most influential thinkers and creative geniuses in history perhaps would never have emerged had they have received the treatment and the attitudes that we take today. Instead they would have been muzzled by intolerant social attitudes and a lot of mood dulling drugs.

Many people do not see that both the leg and head situations are not that far apart. Perhaps because you can clearly see a broken leg, particularly if it is wrapped in a cast or you are holding a crutch. It may be harder to see a mental breakage. There is no pink cast or obvious crutch to witness. Although if we talk to the individual and patiently listen to how they truly sound emotionally then we can perhaps identify a breakage a bit better.

This however, may require more vigilance and effort. It requires education, time and patience and as a society we are not trained to look for these things and treat them in the same way we treat the physical.

In Britain particularly, it has all too common been my experience that we perceive emotional sensitivity and mental tactility as derogatorily effeminate. Or simply just not worthy of our time and energy. Instead we plough through bloody-minded and stubborn. We walk with emotional blinkers in order to get the task in hand done and we are intolerant of those who are effected by their emotions.

That is not to say that these traits cannot be useful in certain situations. But to apply them in a blanket fashion means that you are disregarding the needs of many of your fellows.

“It is estimated that approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem”.  (World Health Organisation, 2001)

“About a quarter of the population will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, with mixed anxiety and depression the most common mental disorder in Britain”. (mentalhealth.org.uk).

Furthermore, “The UK has one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe, at 400 per 100,000 population”. (Self-poisoning and self-injury in adults, Clinical Medicine, 2002).

I have more times than not found that others were angry at me or upset with me when a breakdown occurred. Somehow it was my fault or I was just being pathetic and irrational and the breakdown had been ignored completely; even if I had found the strength to actively inform someone of the situation. Even if someone has said they understood, often their requests and behaviours show that they haven’t. This to me seems absurd. It is not our default to get angry at those who break their legs. We do not berate people who have epileptic fits with a sea of anger or an attitude of disregard. We accept that these things happen out of our control in life. Yet somehow we treat mental health differently when actually it is not so different. Sometimes there is nothing we can do to prevent an emotional episode or a breakdown.

For those fellows who do suffer: in the same way that we can take precautions to not injure ourselves or fall ill physically, there are also things we can do in order to reduce our chances of injuring ourselves and falling ill mentally. These are both physical and attitudinal.

It is not surprising that so many people are injured or fall ill mentally when we place inhuman amounts of pressure, both time and quantity based on humans. We now conform to the inhuman pace of technology and our expectations based on this are unrealistic for human mental wellbeing. This is not to say that we should live like the Amish, however, there are most certainly lessons to be learnt from simpler societies with slower paced lives.
We can add to this the still existent intolerance that much of British Society exercises around things like: class, race, gender and sexuality as well as ignoring humanitarian ethics and spiritual science.

It is not uncommon that our levels of happiness and clarity are increased when we have more space, sun and time and less to worry about. So why is it that we encourage each other to keep up with the pace of computers, close our eyes to our own actions and get wasted on the weekends to cope with the madness of it all? It seems so counter productive when we could address all of these issues with an open mind, patience and a lot of love.

I will share with you some things which I have found to commonly cause me mental injury and illness:

Ignoring my own needs, including learning about myself, sexually, morally, and physically. (Poor physical health also affects my mental health negatively).
Too much pressure to succeed and or conform to the ideals of another, (Including organisations such as large companies, schooling systems, religions and cultural/social ideals).
Peer pressure; to some, peer pressure is a positive force which motivates them to achieve their goals. I personally have found it crippling and usually leads me into rushed decisions based on the ideals of another.
Being Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. If I am any of these things then I’m probably not much use to anyone including myself.
Drugs, both prescription and recreational, (PLEASE NOTE THIS IS SOLELY MY EXPERIENCE, I AM NOT A DRUGS ADVISOR!!!). I used to believe that drugs would fix me and solve my problems. They helped to reduce the extremity in some of my moods but also helped me to increase the extremity in the moods I did want to feel. Ultimately, however, the long term use of drugs were unsustainable and had strong negative effects on my physical health. Potentially they have also changed my brain chemistry damaging my mental health permanently too.
*Poor time management; this is a difficult as one of my symptoms of Aspergers is lacking the concept of time, however, time management can be learnt and practiced. If I do not plan myself enough space and time to self care and allow my head to process thoughts then it burns out and blows up. I have all too often ended up in a state of meltdown in which I felt the world was ending and I was falling through the earths arse into oblivion whilst everyone else smiled and carried on as normal, simply because I did not place a strong time boundary and tried to do too much in one go.
Procrastination. Procrastination almost always leads to prolonged and increased levels of anxiety.
Dishonesty with myself and others. If I am not true in myself then I cannot place the correct boundaries in place. If I am dishonest with others then they will not know how to approach me.

I will now share some things which I have learnt to be beneficial to me in taking precautionary action against mental injury and illness, some of these things are physical and some are mental, yet both types have an effect on my mental state.

Space making. This is both physical and mental. My physical space matters greatly and the more I have the clearer my head can be, High ceilings and open spaces literally give my head more space. Mentally I can make space by MEDITATING as well as physical activities such as RUNNING and DANCING which help shake off some of the mental cobwebs and gain clarity. Sometimes READING and listening to MUSIC help me to focus also increasing mental space. Making TIME for myself is another crucially helpful factor as discussed above*.
Learning about myself. This possibly the most important thing of all. Learning what works for me! Learning what my boundaries are, what my needs are and learning to be okay with who I am as a person. A great friend often says to me, “you were born and that is enough”. “You have worth simply as you are”.
A healthy diet. This is worth researching as opinions on nutrition can be vastly different, although what tends to work for me is to avoid processed foods, eat lots of meat and veg, and stay hydrated and metabolised. CHILIS, COCONUT WATER and RED BERRIES and great for a bit of a zing!
EXERCISE: Exercise is great, it has always been great and always will be great for my mental health. It is a human staple, we should all exercise.
Sunlight. My moods often increase when I am in direct sunlight. Understandably this is not always possible in the somewhat grey UK, however, I do enjoy the benefits of a, S.A.D lamp.
Self Education. If there is anything I have learnt from my experiences with mental health differences it is that self education is key to my sanity. No one knows you better than you. Others can read a journal and they can complete a course, but at the end of the day you only go home with you. If the schooling system didn’t work then you can learn from your own experiences. You can read the books you choose to and begin to pursue the life you want to live! It may not be easy, it is most certainly not straight forward, however, I now have some foresight and faith into what is possible by watching some of my other friends change their lives around and beat the odds when it comes to surpassing the presupposed limitations of those who suffer Mental Health Differences.

Finally, I would like to point out that if you are reading this and suffer from Mental Health Differences, then please understand that YOU ARE NOT CRAZY! What is crazy is the blindness of much of society who are unwilling to open their minds in order to learn and discover how we can treat each other more lovingly as humans. We are all human, we are all worthy of love and a good life and Mental Health differences should not deem any human unworthy of this love and respect.

I hope that my experience on this subject may help others and open discussion into this area so we as a whole can work towards a better world.

Forever changing for love.

Written by Ted Rogers “Artpornblog”
xXx

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