This is a post I wrote and compiled last year for Mental Health Day which was October 10th. I’m sharing it again now since I didn’t manage to think about it on that day this year. In my mind mental wellness is something to attend to everyday in any case. Learning to live well is what it’s become for me. And yes, that is in large part about developing habits that create both physical and mental well-being.
Mental wellness: empowering ways to consider our difficult experiences
The way we consider and interpret our experience is critically important. Psychiatry and most of the mental illness system tells us we will never get better and that we will have to manage the disease of mental illness for the rest of our lives most often by taking toxic medications which can seriously negatively impact the quality of our lives and even kill us up to 25 years earlier than the rest of the population.
It simply does not have to be this way. It’s often not true that people’s only option is to take dangerous medications for the rest of their lives and yet most people are not told about how to build a life in which psychiatric drugs are not necessary.
Part of coming to understand our profound capacities to heal and transform is to first know that it’s possible. I know 1000s of folks who’ve been able to discover this now. I have met them in mental health circles and chronic illness circles both. I’ve also met them among people who’ve never suffered in these ways but were lucky enough to be born into situations where they simply learned how to do it right from the beginning. Imagine that. We can create a world where we teach children how to profoundly take care of themselves and others.
There is no denying that people suffer greatly and that sometimes that sort of suffering gets labeled by the psychiatric establishment. But what is also true is that many people have chosen to refuse to let psychiatry hand over a prognosis of disability and a lifetime of distress. Transformation and profound healing is possible.
After approximately two decades on psych meds I came off a six drug cocktail in about six years. This proved to be a gargantuan task and left me gravely disabled for quite some time.
I see in retrospect that some core, vital part of me was always there during the drugged years, learning and remembering much that would help me in these years of coming off meds and now being med free. I no longer believe that I “lost” my life to drugs.
I do think that it’s tragic that I could not be more conscious during those years and that my body became toxic, polluted and chronically, painfully ill; and this is why I help others learn to avoid what happened to me. Still, all my experience was not lost; in fact it was stored in my body to be processed when I got free of drugs. This is one of the many ways that psych drugs are agents of trauma. Part of the healing process, for me, and clearly many others who’ve been on psych meds and come off, is one of working through layers and layers of trauma — that which was incurred prior to psych drug use as well as that which is incurred as a result of psych drug use and exposure to the dehumanizing psychiatric system. I have done this mostly through self-enquiry, meditation, yoga and ecstatic dance. Trauma becomes embodied. Embodied therapies are very important.
As many readers know, the process of drug withdrawal made me much sicker before I began to find wellness. I was one of thousands of people who develop serious protracted withdrawal issues that lead to grave disability. Still, I have not had one moment of regret for having freed myself from these drugs because my mind is clear. I have a clarity of mind that is so beautiful I can cry if I spend time thinking about it. My clarity was stolen from me for almost half my life. I have it back and even while gravely impaired I was grateful for that.
My healing journey has entailed learning about our deeply holistic natures as human beings. EVERYTHING matters. The body you were born with. The body you have today. Your relationships with others and the planet, the food you eat, and the air you breath…. how often you move your body and the thoughts you nurture in your mind and soul.
That is what understanding ourselves as holistic beings entails. Understanding our relationship to EVERYTHING in our environment and our bodies, what we’re born with and how it’s all connected. It’s not some sort of new age hogwash. It’s just plain and simple reality.
So, by that slow and painstaking, but ultimately joyous process of coming to understand how everything matters, I’ve been healing and bringing back well-being to this body/mind/spirit.
We need each other in this process. Building non-coercive healing community is the most important thing to me these days. Community comes in many different guises and does not require giving up your autonomy and self-determination. Psychiatry and the mental illness establishment often steals both. I envision a world where people are empowered to make the choices that work for them in the context of their lives. Everyone’s path is going to be different. Respecting and celebrating that great diversity is key.
Below is a collection of links which contain many links to reconsider and reframe our experiences that otherwise get labeled mentally ill so that we might heal and transform and thrive.
- Rethinking bipolar disorder
- Madness as a reckoning of one’s own psyche. Yes.
- Fear and anxiety: coping, reframing, transforming…
- Suicide prevention: alternative ways to approach folks
- What if grief is the natural order of things, a way of loving life anyway?
- Isolating? Withdrawing? Or do you just need alone time?
- Reframe your insomnia
- Call depression what it really is… in memory of Robin Williams, RIP
- there is no such thing as a monolithic state called depression
- Carl Jung’s Words of Advice for the Depressed
- Hearing voices: living and thriving as voice hearers
- We all have stories and context — diagnosis try to strip that away from us
- Story telling as means for transformative growth
- On belief and believing…
- Holding on to beliefs limits our experience of life
- To see a professional or not
*it is potentially dangerous to come off medications without careful planning. Please be sure to be well-educated before undertaking any sort of discontinuation of medications. If your MD agrees to help you do so, do not assume they know how to do it well even if they claim to have experience. They are generally not trained in discontinuation and may not know how to recognize withdrawal issues. A lot of withdrawal issues are misdiagnosed to be psychiatric problems. This is why it’s good to educate oneself and find a doctor who is willing to learn with you as your partner in care. Really all doctors should always be willing to do this as we are all individuals and need to be treated as such. See: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up
For a multitude of ideas about how to create safe alternatives to psychiatric drugs visit the drop-down menus at the top of this page.