Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spiritual Support Network

Since Passover and Holy week are overlapping right now, I'm thinking about Love and how much a support network means to the spirit of someone with a mental illness.  I wrote the other day about how it can be difficult to spend a holiday season alone.  But for the mentally ill, having a support network at all times can be crucial to day-to-day survival.

Maybe you're reading this and you're an atheist, or Buddhist or Muslim or Pagan or whatever.  You may or may not believe in a soul or God / Goddess.  It doesn't matter.  There's an intangible quality of Love (I'm thinking about John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" right now.) that is shared among all living individuals.  I don't just mean humans either.  Plants and non-human animals are people, too.  It's quantifiable, if you like to be scientific about it.  We all share in a living energy that connects life in the universe.

Mental Illness can make it hard to feel connected to that energy.  I know that with depression and schizophrenia, I personally have to make an effort not to isolate.  And frankly, people scare me.  It's much easier for me to communicate online than in person.  It's not uncommon with all kinds of mental illness to feel disconnected from others, but we all need that interaction to help keep up our spirits.

A support network for someone with a mental illness starts with a psychiatrist for medication management.  Some people only go through a general practitioner, but if you've been diagnosed with a serious mental illness it's important to have a rapport with an actual psych doctor who knows the meds and your condition and is able to help you immediately in a crisis, instead of having to refer you.

Next, social workers can help with making arrangements in society.  They can help you get a place to live, a job, disability income, etc.  They can be a strong link to the "real world."   Some social workers are also counselors, or you may see a different person as a therapist, but regular counseling gives you a human connection that helps to build a bond of trust.  Mental health support groups can help to build vital socialization skills.

Really, from the perspective of many people who are seriously mentally ill, if you have all that going for you, you're one of the lucky ones.  And while it's all in the context of a kind of professional / institutionalized interaction it's still a lot of Love.  When I was really suffering from my psychosis and on my own, I was so appreciative of all the help.  It gives you stability and solid ground.

For the mentally ill, relationships with family and friends are often a bonus (even taking care of a plant or an animal companion is a special exchange of Love).  So, if you have a family member or friend who you know has a mental illness, your interaction and support probably means more than you know.  If you believe in a God or Great Spirit or a Higher Power or anything like that you can know that your acts of kindness bring a person with a mental illness into communion with that energy.  If you don't think about it any other way, just share the Love!  You may not get the reaction you're expecting, but reach out anyway. And if you are mentally ill, then know that everyone who brings you Love in your life connects you to the whole of the universe.

We all need to keep up our spirits to have the sheer will to survive.  Help yourself and help others to build a support network.  You may find it to be a truly rewarding act of Love.

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