10 facts about recovering from mental illness
Mental illness generates considerable fear in almost everyone. There is a stigma to mental illness that suggests the person will never be the same and should, somehow, not be trusted.
The reality is that almost everyone has psychological issues but they manage to get along with 90% of them. Everyone has fears and phobias and it is only when these conditions give rise to unwanted behaviour that they seek help.
Mental illness is when the psychological problems reach a level where the behaviour is obvious and visible to others around them. It is when they have lost confidence in themselves and their ability to cope.
Mental health problems can be divided into 2 main parts: those relating to the mental hardware, i.e. the brain itself. The second part relates to the mental software, i.e. the mind. The majority of problems are not concerned with the hardware other than for example, dementia. Most problems are “program” problems that arise through early childhood or traumatic events.
The following 10 facts (which can only be confirmed by observation) relate to the operation of the software of the brain called the mind.
1. The mind consists of conscious thoughts and unconscious thoughts. It is in the unconscious mind that problems arise but they cannot distinguish between the two. They ‘feel’ the problems and issues but cannot tell where they come from.
2. The unconscious mind runs ‘programs’ like a computer which have been largely put there by parents, grandparents etc, or put there by accident. When these cause problems (they usually do), they can be modified or removed leaving the person free of them.
3. Traumas in life only cause problems when they cannot be dealt with (processed). If someone can be helped to process problems and traumas, they get over them.
4. Almost all software problems of the mind can be resolved. There are few issues that need to be just ‘managed’ but these are the severe ones indeed. Conditions labelled as ‘psychosis’ are difficult including, for example schizophrenia. A psychotic condition is one where the mind loses contact with reality; it cannot tell the difference. In this state, it may see things that do not exist, or believe things that are obviously unreal to everyone else.
5. The mind only needs pharmaceuticals (sometimes) until it resolves its own problems. Medication does not resolve psychological problems but it sometimes offers respite from the sharpness so that the person can resolve them themselves. Regretfully, many prescription drugs have undesirable side effects that cause further psychological problems. 6. The mind is so sophisticated
that it can heal itself. It is a machine that can maintain and develop itself. There are times when it needs guidance, particularly in its early years, but when mature it learns to protect itself and deal with life as it presents itself.
7. When adverse life events and incidents present themselves, the mind attempts to process them and understand them. When it fails to do so, it becomes depressed. It is at this time that it needs outside support to uncover the issue that cannot be processed and identify a solution that the mind finds satisfactory. The depressed state of mind then lifts and the person becomes themselves again.
8. A nervous breakdown arises when the mind receives more information than it can cope with. The issues may be self-generated or externally generated; the effect is the same. This state of affairs is temporary and when the mind deals with the overload, it can then proceed as normal. There is no lasting damage other than confidence but that can be regrown.
9. The unconscious part of the mind tries to help the person but often runs old programs that are not suitable for the current situation. The programs may have been created when the person was a young child; they may have been created by parents who had no idea what they were doing. When this situation arises, it is necessary to revise or modify the programs so that the unconscious mind can work as it was meant to.
10. The unconscious mind fears what may happen rather than what is actually happening. The anxiety it generates can be out of proportion to the real cause (phobias and panic attacks). When the feared event materialises (if ever it does) the unconscious fears disappear and the person goes into action to deal with the problem.
Mental health issues should not be feared; they should be regarded as a computer virus that is causing problems. The best way to treat them is to identify the problem by examining the symptoms and the timescale over which they arose. This will give vital information regarding which programs are giving problems and how to deal with them.
Where the psychological problems are hard to identify or deal with, it is beneficial to consult a professional. This is rarely the ‘old friend’ because they will have problems and preconceived ideas and may pass those on instead of resolving them.
Psychological problems require professionals. It is unlikely the well-meaning amateur will do any damage but may make the sufferer feel more useless and hopeless.
When seeking a professional, make sure that the person has the qualifications and experience to deal with then issues. No one should be afraid to question the psychotherapist, most are happy to bore people with how they trained and where they gained their experience.