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Mental Health Will Drive You Mad...BANG YOUR HEAD!

Touchy subject really.  I have struggled in this department the whole of my life.  Not in the ways some people do, but my center of gravity in this arena has always been skewed.  I have learned how to manage it.  I have learned how to self correct.  I have learned that therapy, medication, reduction in caffeine, getting good, regular sleep and exercise do wonders to allow my mind to not become a veritable battleground where the most wounded soldier is me.


Depression, anxiety, mood stabilization.  These have plagued me the whole of my life.  Doggedly.  And in the short run, they kicked my ass.  They ruled my life.  They demanded things of me, self medication worked well, until it didn’t.  Then my solution became the thing that almost ended me.  And that is how reliable my ability to find solution used to be...have a million options, but pick and then rely on the only solution that will kill you faster and better than almost any other...


I don’t blame myself.  On the whole, I think most of us do this.  Take trauma and mental health issues and allow the stigma of others to create cracks where shame loves to hide.  And then those cracks grow larger as does the shame.  Then we just need to medicate the pain.  The cracks in our souls so painful and obvious but so glaringly excruciating that we are not able to fathom how to heal them.  So we ignore them and they proliferate.


And for a long time, I believed I was the only one.  I was the only one who suffered in this manner.  Oh, how wrong I was.  I know now that most of us do.  Most of us have trouble with some mental health issue:  anxiety, depression, addiction, bi-polar or some combination thereof.  It isn’t shameful.  It is just reality.


And of course there are life saving medication that help.  But only if we take them and use them with medical supervision.  Managing any of this ourselves results in many lost lives and very sad friends and family.  And I could have been one of those casualties.  I am not sure why I was spared.  I just know I was.


I have always had this very vivid and deep internal life.  My ability to share it with you has been largely compromised for most of my life.  It wasn’t really until I started writing...and sharing that writing that all my mental health “issues” really began to resolve.  My trauma work got deeper and better.  My ability to follow medical advice more complete and dedicated.  The overall care for my wellbeing (physically, emotionally, spiritually) grew exponentially when I stopped trying to hide the fact that I am prone to anxiety and depression with some good old mood swings thrown in for good measure.  I used to suffer from these afflictions greatly. Today, not really, barely at all.


It was recovery that began the journey.  Without sobriety I would have continued to walk this earth lost to myself and others.  Blindly drinking myself into oblivion every night because it was the only salvation I could produce with regularity.  I am not sure why we don’t see the liquid suicide for what it is sooner.  Our culture glorifies drinking and the party life-style...and only when it seeps over into what we label excess do we take note.  My experience was that by the time anyone else might have noticed my drinking was an issue, I would have been dead.  Seriously.  Most everyone I knew drank like I did, or at least drank daily and in great amounts.  Who was my barometer to be?  I had no ballast, no ability to accurately reflect upon myself and why I was destroying myself in daily doses.


Once I hit bottom, I saw the siege I had been under.  I saw the great difficulty I lived every single day.  And the getting out was hard and so were those early years.  I call them the touch and go years because every day was really touch and go.  Today, I know how close a call it was every day.  And I am grateful to see it no matter how painful the reflection. I didn’t get sober to deal with my mental health issues.  But I soon realized that if I didn’t deal with my mental health issues, sobriety would not be something I would ever be able to hold onto.  And I have seen that repeatedly in others in my time in recovery.


We usually drink to calm the storm within.  It almost matters not what causes us to do this.  The label placed upon us for the conditions that roil beneath are far less important than the fact that they are there and demand treatment.  And until such time as treatment is found, there will never be any lasting peace within...or without.  That I can guarantee.


The ego is not our friend, because the ego will always capitulate to what it believes looks better, feels better and creates the illusion of wellness.  And we will surely die right there looking just grand while our interior goes slowly mad one fucking day at a time. This is the place where all the head banging seems to happen...


My first sponsor said this to me, "Erin, sweet dear Erin, you my love are a headbanger. You will always be a head banger...but for the love of Christ, please move back from the wall...the pain really does decrease!"


I have come to see that my own mental well-being is as vital as my physical and spiritual well being.  The three work in concert with each other and I can no more ignore one than I can the other two.  For they are all interconnected and interrelated.  And so each day, I am tasked with the gift of seeking balance and stability in each.  So it would seem, life has provided me with a three legged foundation:  mental, physical, spiritual.  And each day I must endeavor to ensure the equilibrium of each if I am to have any peace and comfort at all. Otherwise, it is just me banging my head against whatever I am up against, forever.


I used to see this as some sort of punishment.  Today, I just see it as living.  If I tend to each of these areas in my life, the result is a good balanced life, one that need not seek solution in drinking or drugging or self-medicating in anyway.  I just get to live my life, some days up and some days down but most of the time hovering at a level that feels right for me.


It has been a long road.  And not an easy path.  It seems so much more complicated than it really is.  Attend to myself in all the ways I am manifest in this life.  And all is well.  Do the stuff on the physical plane and I feel better.  Do the stuff on the mental plane and I feel better.  Do the stuff to improve my understanding and depth on the spiritual plane and my life is truly rocketed into some 4th dimension.


Life is good today.  I am as balanced in the area of mental health as I have ever been.  I am sane.  I am solid and I am constantly learning new ways in which I still need growth, guidance and generosity of spirit.


And I pray I never forget that I would have never achieved such balance if it weren’t for recovery.  I first had to put down the drink.  I had to walk away from all my heady self destruction and become willing to see what it had to teach me...it turns out quite a bit.  So today as 29 years rapidly approaches I can see the long and arduous journey has been the greatest gift. And all that head banging apparently necessary to get me here.


Again.


Still.





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