Often, in various cartoons throughout my fifty three years I have seen “CHOICE” depicted as an angel on the right shoulder and a trident wielding devil on the left. The image above, which I created with various art programs on the computer using only a mouse, is symbolic of how I view myself.
Although by nature fairly placid and easy going, with a, often to my detriment, marshmallow for a heart, there is a darker side to my nature that I must admit sometimes scares the living daylights out of me, as in the instances I mentioned in my previous post, TAMING THE T-REX.
That light and dark in my very nature is, when combined with the fact that I just happen to be a Pisces, which is a dual nature sign, and suffer a dual nature illness, what could be considered a triple whammy.
And to add insult to injury, Pisces has not only its own rather unusual characteristic traits to contend with, as the twelfth sign of the Zodiac, it also has traits from all of the others as well. I sometimes think that Fate must be rotfliao at the rather convoluted mess my life has become.
And that doesn’t EEEEEEEEE-VEN include the fact that both my maiden name and my birthday, separately, both add up to thirteen, nor that I have a total of six thirteens in my personal information sources! Talk about being jinxed from the word get go! Even the time I was born and the day conspired against me by adding up, between them, to the last two digits of my birth year, which in turn add up to thirteen! And on the day that I was born, one of the worst thunderstorms that that town had had in over ten years was centered right over the hospital I was born in!
Don’t get me wrong, I am very definitely a Christian, and proud of it, but, I guess due to both bloodlines, (I possess a rather eclectic mixture of Scots, Irish, Cherokee and Sioux, all of which believed in other worldly and mystical forces that surround us), and inner convictions, just as I firmly believe with all of my heart and soul in God as the supreme being, I just as firmly believe that there are forces around us that, just because we cannot see, hear, taste, touch or smell them, does not mean that they do not exist! It would seem that even in my convictions I am torn between two opposing forces.
After all, if a tree falls five miles from where you currently sit or stand, does it mean that just because you did not physically see it fall-feel the glancing brush of its leaves as it did, or hear the thud as it hit the ground, does that mean it did not fall?
Those who take the time to read this may be, at about this point in time, wondering what in the world I am talking about and what the above few paragraphs had to do with an angel or devil on one’s shoulders.
The answer is simple, choices.
Let me digress and backtrack a bit. Not all that long ago, a person suffering an emotional or mental illness was thought to be possessed by demons, especially in the cases of schizophrenia, where the person would actually carry on conversations aloud with the voices they heard within their heads, or in the cases of multiple or split personalities.
And in those suffering bi-polar disorder, when the victim would undergo swift, and often inexplicable, emotional changes.
And nine times out of ten, the victim was forced to endure tortures in the name of “healing”, incarceration in dank rat infested cells, sometimes literally chained to a wall, or even, in some cases, were killed.
For there is one area in which man as a species has not progressed past the stone age, and that is that what he does not understand or cannot explain in his frame of reference he first fears, then hates, then does his utmost to destroy.
But there are times that I for one can say that mankind’s progress into the modern age is VERY DEFINITELY a good thing! And that is in the recognition of mental and emotional illnesses as not being demons, but caused through genetic and physical causes.
And in that knowledge gained, caused to bring about the search for ways to treat the sufferer as being a victim of an illness rather than demonic possession, for victim is precisely what we are.
I cannot speak for all mental and emotional illnesses, nor even for all that suffer even those with which I myself am burdened, for the illnesses affect each person differently, but this I CAN say for certain, no matter the illness, we are just as human as those that all too often mock, revile, persecute, and yes, abuse us. We have hopes, dreams, disappointments, and yes, we weep, even those who, sadly, are so far advanced that their minds no longer accept the reality of this world. And this also applies to those with physical handicaps or disabilities, they also are human.
For those of us, such as myself, who are indeed victims of an emotional or mental illness, yet still retain the ability to somewhat function in a semi-independent fashion, it is both a curse and a blessing.
It is a blessing in that we are not locked up in a psych ward somewhere, mumbling to ourselves, totally unaware of reality…
But it is also a curse in that we are very aware that not only are we different than others, but that we are also aware that those others are aware of that difference…
And very definitely aware of their reaction to us, their treatment of us, and their rejection of us as having the ability to think, feel, and, in many cases, actually have something that we can offer society and the world as a whole…
And the fact that many of us very definitely possess the ability to not only know and understand the concepts of right and wrong, but that we actually do possess enough intelligence to reason at all.
And in that ability to reason, we also have the ability to choose.
And so thus do we come full circle to our two little shoulder companions who represent choice.
For you see, those of us who are fortunate, (or unfortunate, depending on viewpoint) enough to be able to think and to reason more or less logically, it means that we have the ability to choose whether or not to take on the responsibility of trying to manage and deal with the symptoms of our illnesses…in short, to decide whether we will choose to let our illness or illnesses control us or whether we will choose to control it or them to the best of our ability.
And the main way of controlling most mental and emotional illness is through faithful adherence to the victim’s medication regime. And I do mean faithful! This is one choice that is not an option if the victim wishes to remain rational and at least somewhat independent. If their current medication regime is causing them difficulty, they need to get with their doctor and get their med’s titrated, but take them they must!
And I do not mean simply faithful in taking them according to dosage levels, or on time, I mean knowing about them, what they are for, what their side effects are, and what other medications, or in some instances, even foods, to avoid in order to prevent negative, or, in some cases, fatal, reactions.
I covered this, and much more, in my article that is called INTO THE LIGHT, which is posted on my MARANTHA’S MEMORIES, MUMBLES AND MEANDERINGS.
So, for the victim of a mental or emotional illness that still retains the ability to reason somewhat logically and to function in a somewhat normal manner, the first obvious choice is in faithful adherence to their medication regime and learning all that they can about those medications.
The second choice comes in learning to recognize when an episode may be imminent. This is accomplished by the victim, as soon as they are once more rational after an episode, going back and very systematically breaking down what was going on just before their world went crazy. And that is not, take my word for it, as easy as it sounds.
In order to know how to recognize the warning signs of a possible “leap from reality’s cliff”, the victim must first figure out what was going on just prior to the current one. And this means they must figure if they had been under outside or inside stress factors for an extended period of time, had they not been resting well, had they been physically ill, or even had they not been eating right just prior to the incident. Any or all of these can contribute to an episode.
Once they have determined what was happening just prior to the current episode, they will know that the next time they begin feeling that way, they will need to start instituting whatever coping skills that they may have developed.
And that brings us to the third step in a victim of a mental or emotional illness that still possesses the ability to somewhat reason and function somewhat normally must choose to not only learn, but to choose to implement when and if the need arises…
These can be anything that allow you to “step back” or “go off line” for a little while, to give yourself some emotional and mental “breathing room” in which to regain control.
They are as different and varied as the personalities of the people that are victims of a mental or emotional illness, and what works for one may not work for another, nor even, in some cases, will the same one work the same way for the same person.
Each person must develop their own unique set of coping skills, and must also keep constant watch for what no longer works. If a coping skill no longer calms the victim as it once did, it needs to be updated, altered or gotten rid of completely and a new one found.
The best coping skills, I personally have found, are those which will engage not only the mind, but the hands as well. As I stated in my article, INTO THE LIGHT, for a man it could be working on a car, fishing, or even mowing the lawn, while for a woman it could be baking, sewing, knitting, painting, or anything else of that nature that had a calming, repetitive nature. And if it requires absolute concentration and focus, so much the better, for the more the mind focuses on the coping skill, the less it is focused on what is causing the symptoms.
So, there you have it, three survival skills for those suffering an emotional illness. And also very nearly the end, (for which, if you have managed to get this far I am more than certain you are giving a very huge sigh of relief!) of this blog.
But there is once thing that I do wish to clarify in closing, and that is this…you do not have to suffer an emotional illness to be able to benefit from using coping skills. Our modern day life is filled with an unknown number of stress causing factors, particularly in these days of declining dollar value, rising living costs, and decreasing job markets.
In short, the same coping skills that help a victim of a mental or emotional disorder can also be of aid to those who do not.
Just a little something to ponder now and then.
Wishing all of heaven’s most magnificent blessings to all, whether you leave a comment or not,
MARANTHA D. JENELLE