Mental illness

One summer while I was in college I worked at a private psychiatric facility in New York. While there, I often wondered why some of the people were inpatients and I wasn’t.

Someone flippantly told me it was because I had the keys, but the truth was I was coping with my stress and issues. The inpatients were not.

Everyone has negative stress at some point or another. For some, an overload of stress leads to often mild mental illness such as depression or anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Others are predisposed to more serious conditions such as major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder or bipolar disorder.

For most mental illness, stress is the tipping factor. And since we all experience stress, we all are vulnerable to some form of mental illness, even if it’s just depression or anxiety.

Some of us cope by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol or extreme activities like extreme sports or abusive behavior. Others cope through prayers or pills. Still others choose to deal with the roots of their illness for more lasting results.

I’ll admit, when I was working my internship, I held to a hidden (even to myself) superiority over the inpatients. After all, I did have the keys.

But as I began my own healing journey, I realized we are all broken. And the extent to which we want to heal is the extent to which we will get better. (This, of course, assumes we have access to the resources that will truly help and don’t have an underlying biological or genetic condition that precludes healing.)

I also realized that all those scary diagnosis, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are all just labels for a collection of symptoms. We can alleviate those symptoms as we address root traumas.

But just as we won’t all be healed of all physical ailments, we won’t all be healed of all mental ailments. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

There are so many more options for healing today than there were when Freud first developed psychoanalysis. Some, like Splankna, have been highly effective with a wide range of issues.

We no longer have to be stuck. Often, the only thing in our way is ourselves.