When you hear, or think of, the term “mental health” (or “mental illness”), do you jump to conclusions, or do you have a simple attitude of “all mental illness is bad”?
When I was diagnosed with clinical depression, I didn’t really know what to think at first. It was a shock, it was something I had to sit with and let sink in. I couldn’t easily see how my actions, behaviors, and choices were symptomatic of clinical depression.
It took some time, but I was struggling already, and if this got me a step closer towards not feeling so crappy about myself and about life, then I was going to investigate this as open-mindedly as I could.
How severe are mental disorders?
I had this thought, recently, that mental illnesses and disorders come in all shapes and sizes. My depression, in hindsight, was like a really bad case of pneumonia, stubborn, took me down hard at times, but in the end, was curable or manageable.
There are plenty of disorders or illnesses that are far more severe, but in the end, it’s a matter of seeing it as clearly as possible, and choosing the most effective way of managing/treating it. It’s likely not always as easy as taking a pill, that wasn’t true for me, and sometimes it’s difficult/impossible to treat all the manifestations of a disorder. Also, there are times when multiple disorders are in play, and they have to be broken down to understand what symptoms are manifest from which disorder.
But, in the end, with patience, care, and healthy support, most everyone I’ve ever known with mental disorders/illnesses has been able to treat or manage their condition(s) well, and able to live fulfilling lives.
How does this relate to spirituality?
Our perceptions and interpretations can be grossly distorted by mental illnesses and disorders. It could be as simple as affecting how we hear things, or what thoughts they bring up.
“With our minds, we make the world”, is a Buddhist adage, and if we’re contemplating distorted perceptions or thoughts, then our emotional responses will be affected, as well as our world view. You can imagine that our thoughts about ourselves would be affected as well, and this can impact our self esteem, self image; anything egoic, really.
So, from my experience, part of getting clearer in our spiritual path is to humbly and honestly consider our mental health.
Like I started, it’s important to have a more educated attitude towards the scope of mental disorders, to not simply lump them all as one-size-fits-all, which it terribly dehumanizing and causes nothing but harm.
Just like you would care for your biology with a regular physical exam, do the same for your mental well being. Find someone you trust, someone that has a breadth of education and experience, to be able to give you some healthy, honest feedback. You might simply get a clean bill of health, or you might become informed about something you couldn’t see objectively.
In the end, it’s about optimal health, so that you can live your life as fully as you desire.