Posted in mental illness

How to Spot a Narcissist

I have seen a disturbing trend among clients reporting behaviors of partners that seem to be consistent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  While I cannot make a diagnosis, the reporting is frequent enough to warrant discussion on this mental health issue.  Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a Borderline Personality Disorder that, according to the National Institute of Health, occurs in 7.7% of men and 4.8% of women.  (To learn more about statistics and correlates, click HERE.)  Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental illness and while treatable, because of the characteristic nature of the disorder, few acknowledge that they are in need of help, let alone, seek it out.  Effective treatment and support, however, is available for partners or past partners of those suffering with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as they are often the party who suffers the most in these types of relationships.  The following is a poem which describes the experience of being in relationship with a narcissist, along with additional information and resources on identifying narcissism and getting support. (please note that the poem is told from the perspective of a woman with a male narcissist as a partner, please translate to fit your own personal experiences.)

Narcissist
Narcissist

In the Company of a Narcissist

Eyes meeting across a crowded room,

A spark, and then a stir.

Moving mountains to find her, she was sold.

Charismatic, charming, tall, dark and handsome.

*

How could she be so lucky?

A wallflower, ripe for the picking

And the picking begins….subtle at first

Then increasingly urgent and insistent.

Nothing she does or says or wears is right.

Everything, it seems, is wrong with her.

*

She “should have known” by the car he drove –

Or the bragging of all who stopped to stare, the list of conquests

and all the women who worshipped him.

*

Behind the bravado, a deep, impenetrable insecurity and a bottomless pit of need.

Never enough. Never good enough. Always her fault.

All about him, his needs, his wants and desires.

Sulking in the corner when attention directed away from him.

All-out tantrums when things don’t go his way.

*

Punished if she dares to speak her truth, hold him accountable, point out his lies.

“You’re crazy!” or worse, feigned concern with puppy dog eyes,

“I’m not sure how you will make it without me.”

*

First charmed, then groomed, then poisoned,

The wallflower plucked by the narcissist and left on the shelf to die.

*

Narcissism, a borderline personality disorder from which very few recover.

Many absent a conscience,

A master-thespian, playing the role of who he wants you and others to see,

defending the illusion, all for his selfish gain.

*

But there is hope for the wallflower – when the demon is named for who he is.

And she is not alone.  There are others who have walked in her shoes,

who have successfully freed themselves from the tyrant’s grip.

*

Returning to themselves

Their own truth

Their inherent value

And the truth of their worth.

Stronger and wiser from the pain

And anxious to help another sister’s return.

*****

Narcissistic personality disorder (extracted from mayoclinic.com) is characterized by dramatic, emotional behavior, which is in the same category as antisocial and borderline personality disorders.

Narcissistic personality disorder symptoms may include:

  • Believing that you’re better than others
  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration
  • Believing that you’re special and acting accordingly
  • Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
  • Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
  • Taking advantage of others
  • Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
  • Being jealous of others
  • Believing that others are jealous of you
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Being easily hurt and rejected
  • Having a fragile self-esteem
  • Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional

To learn more about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, click HERE.  If you are in a relationship with someone you suspect may suffer from this disorder, or if you believe you may be suffering from this disorder, please seek help and support.  Effective treatment is available for those in relationship with a narcissist, and supportive measures are being discovered to help ease the underlying issues leading to narcissistic behaviors.

Posted in mental illness, Midlife Journey

Mental Illness Awareness Week and Midlife

October 7th began the recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week.  In honor of this very important drive for awareness and advocacy in the field of mental health, I want to address some of the mental health issues that tend to show up during the midlife and menopause transition.  Join me in building awareness of mental health issues and the valuable resources that are out there to support those who struggle with mental health concerns.

mental illness awareness week

It Might Not Be PTSD

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which they shared their recent journey through their father’s death. This friend expressed feelings of being “wrecked” and suspicions that the symptoms they were experiencing might be a form of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).  As a Spiritual Director and Midlife Mentor, I have witnessed many who have experienced similar symptoms – anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, mood swings, obsessive thoughts, even panic attacks which have mysteriously surfaced during similarly significant losses.  While I am not able to diagnose the existence of lack thereof of PTSD, what I suspect about my friend, and what I have witnessed in both myself, and others I have accompanied through the transitions of midlife, is that more likely than not, what we are experiencing is ultimately our truth trying to find its way out, and that the harder we resist our truth, the more persistent and painful are the symptoms that present themselves.

Mental Health Issues

Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, mood swings and sleeplessness all fall under the category of mental health issues and depending on the degree to which we suffer from these complaints, may qualify as mental illness.  It is NOT a bad thing to experience mental illness.  In fact, the benefit of having a diagnosis is that we can then find effective treatment, support and medication where necessary and appropriate.  It is imperative, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, to SEEK SUPPORT and then, to become your own advocate in the way of education, treatment and insurance coverage (where available).  Mental illness is treatable and many experience satisfactory and enduring results which greatly improve their quality of life.

A Complement to Mental Health Treatment Options

As a complement to traditional interventions for symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic attack, sleeplessness, obsessive thoughts, mood swings; and the oft-experienced physical symptoms of acid reflux, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, auto-immune disease relapses that often show up in conjunction with midlife, it may be helpful to begin to explore your own inner truth.

  • What are the past losses/changes/transitions that are in need of identification, grieving, healing and release?
  • What are the heretofore ignored or suppressed dreams that might be trying to find their way into the light?
  • Have there been past experiences of sexual, emotional, mental, physical, verbal or spiritual abuse that are calling to be revisited and healed at a deeper level?
  • Are there sexual orientation issues that are seeking to be known and lived freely in the world?
  • Are you being invited to realign your life choices and direction with your own desires instead of those of some outside perceived authority?
  • Are you being invited to identify and claim your own needs?
  • Are you being invited to take responsibility for your own life instead of being the hapless victim of some outside malevolent force which seems to be out to get you?

Midlife, unparalleled with other periods of transition, seems to unleash within us all the hidden and unspoken truths that we have silently hidden in the darkness.  If we have to COURAGE to go into those places of darkness and EXHUME our unrecognized truths, in seemingly miraculous fashion, we are often freed of the previously judged as unpleasant symptoms.

If you are looking for healing and support of mental health related issues, contact your local NAMI chapter, ask your physician for assistance, find a mental health professional in the form of a psychotherapist, behavioral counselor or therapist, and if you suspect your symptoms may be related to truths unexpressed, contact Lauri Lumby at (920) 230-1313 or email lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com or find a spiritual director/life coach/personal mentor/ anam cara near you.

Posted in Inspiration, mental illness, Midlife Journey

Depression’s Gift

According to the NIMH (National Institute for Mental Health) 23.8 million adults in the United States suffer from depression.  This figure does not include anxiety disorders in which depression is also a component (GAD, PTSD, Agoraphobia, etc.).  As a woman who has struggled with depression, I understand the frustration in finding accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.  I also understand the day-to-day challenges of depression and how it can interfere with our relationships, our happiness and our desire for personal fulfillment.  Learning to accept depression and how to manage its symptoms has played an important role in my midlife journey and one of the topics explored in my most recent book, Returning – a woman’s midlife journey to herself.    In anticipation of my upcoming book release celebration, I share with you this poem (not in the book) that expresses one of the ways in which I have made peace with my struggle with depression.

http://www.funerium.deviantart.com
http://www.funerium.deviantart.com

Depression’s Gift

Copyright 2013 

Depression staring back at me

Through inky, fluid, darkness

Imprisoned between antique silver frame,

Pressing toward me through the darkness,

Depression’s feature’s in relief against ebony curtain.

***

I reach toward the guilded/guilted frame,

Steadying myself beneath her glare

Ashamed to let others see the darker side of me…

Imprisoned in my home…

Paralyzed by despair…

Thoughts obscured by a cloak of darkness…

I Inquire of the part of myself I keep hidden from the world,

“What is it you want from me?”

***

Tired of hiding from myself.

Tired of shielding the truth.

I Boldly step into depression

Piercing through the darkness of the blackened mirror.

Depression brushing over and through me like a heavy mist

Grasping and clinging like a spider’s web

Reaching the extent of its grasp as I continue walking

Depression snapping back against the mirror that now stands behind.

***

Suddenly bathed in light

I behold the treasure that lays hidden within.

Depression’s gift to me.

Understanding that it is because of depression and its strange bedfellows of obsession, anxiety, panic and worry that I have learned

Compassion.

***

Reaching for my open heart and outstretched hands

I Gather toward me the precious treasure depression has left for me

which is now my gift to the world,

We make for our return,

Thanking depression along the way.

The birth of the Soul includes finding our way through all of the pieces of ourselves we keep hidden from the world, and finding our way through the inner obstacles, fears and insecurities that keep us from the life of purpose, fulfillment and peace that God intended.  As Midwife to your Soul, I offer programs and services to assist you in moving through these inner obstacles.  To schedule a one-on-one session or workshop, contact me at (920) 230-1313  or lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com.

Posted in mental illness, Reiki, Spiritual Direction

Mental Health Week – A Caution for Alternative Health Care Providers

Today’s blog is specifically addressed to those in the alternative helping fields who may be working with or have an opportunity to act as a source of support for those struggling with the symptoms of mental illness.  As practitioners, we need to be aware of our professional limitations and to know how to identify when an outside referral may be necessary.  Additionally, we need to be cautious when the denial or bargaining faces of grief may be determining our client’s motivations.  Today’s blog explores these issues.

Preface

I want to preface today’s blog with the acknowledgment that there is SO MUCH we do not yet understand about the effective treatment of mental illness.  While many (70-90%) are able to find relief and even recovery through a combination of supports, including medication, therapy, good nutrition and exercise, mindfulness and stress-relief practices, support groups, etc. we are still a LONG WAY from finding treatments that are 100% effective 100% of the time.  As a result, many, including myself, have searched outside of the traditional model for alternative treatments.  Many of these alternative treatments have proven for some to be supportive of their goals for healing and relief.   For example, NAMI advocates meditation and mindfulness practices as beneficial for those suffering with some forms of mental illness:  http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=mindfulness.   Clinical trials have also demonstrated acupuncture to be effective in relieving some of the symptoms of mental illness.  In 2003, the World Health Organization published these findings and issued guidelines for the use of acupuncture in treating certain forms of mental illness:  http://www.acupunctureresearch.org.uk/papers/KeyTexts/keytext_acupguidelines.pdf.  From my own personal experience with depression, anxiety disorder, obsessive worry and panic attacks, I can attest that I found support and relief through a combination of non-traditional means including spiritual direction, contemplative/meditation practices, talk-therapy, acupuncture, massage, acupressure, homeopathy, quantum bio-feedback, yoga and Reiki.  I also know many (including myself) who have also found relief when integrating these non-traditional practices with the traditional Western model.

The Caution

A wholistic approach which combines tools from both Western and non-traditional medicine can be an effective approach to finding relief and even recovery from many symptoms of mental illness.  Unfortunately, sometimes the denial and bargaining phases of grief prevents the patient from getting the best possible care, especially when they are using alternative methods of treatment to enable their denial or their bargaining.  (See the blog post of May 14, for more on grief as it relates to mental illness) Denial says, I don’t really have mental illness.  I’m not depressed.  It wasn’t a panic attack.  I’m not bi-polar, I’m just misunderstood.  I don’t have ADD, I’m just super creative and highly energetic etc. etc. etc.  Bargaining says, If I do this…my symptoms will go away and I won’t need to take medication or see a therapist. If I can just find the right combination of foods, my symptoms will go away.  If I take a drink or smoke some pot, I feel better, so I can’t have a mental illness.  etc. etc. etc.   We need to be cautious of the use of non-traditional practices during the denial and bargaining phases of grief, especially when delaying necessary treatments might cause further harm or even death.

From the Practitioner’s Perspective

As a professional in the field of alternative treatments (Reiki, Spiritual Direction), I have seen firsthand the results of denial and bargaining in those struggling with symptoms consistent with mental illness.  Many understand the importance of an integrated approach, but for some, alternative treatments provide an easy escape from a medical diagnosis and medical treatment.  In these cases, what drives their search is the hope for “the magic pill” that will cure their symptoms without diagnosis and Western intervention.   And in a minority of cases, alternative protocols not only enable their denial, but enable the delusions associated with their diagnoses and when pursued could cause further harm. (NOTE: watch this blog for an upcoming blog on Mysticism and Psychosis) As practitioners, it is our responsibility to know our professional limitations and to make outside referrals when our limitations have been met.  This will not always be easy, especially when our clients are firmly rooted in denial and bargaining.  It is in these situations that we need to exercise “tough love.”

Some Helpful Ideas

As alternative wellness practitioners, we are vulnerable to those who might seek us out during the denial and bargaining phases of grief.  Fortunately, there are some simple steps that we can take to protect ourselves while better serving those who seek out our services:

  • We can become educated on grief and the grieving process
  • We can learn about the symptoms of mental illness and how to identify these symptoms in potential clients.
  • Offer a pre-treatment interview with prospective clients.  Get to know their expectations, motivations, etc.  Watch for signs that other interventions may be more appropriate.  Don’t be afraid to say NO and make an outside referral
  • Require all clients to sign a release form.
  • Include an “emergency contact” entry on the release form in the event that your client demonstrates signs of needing medical or psychiatric intervention (becomes delusional, paranoid or threatens suicide).
  • Know your local mental health professionals – psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors.  Find out who is most highly recommended.  Initiate a collaborative relationship with these professionals where appropriate.
  • Develop a professional relationship with a local therapist or social worker who you trust and to whom you can go for guidance when you have concerns about a client.
  • Maintain your own professional health through peer-supervision and support groups, by doing your own work with a mentor, Spiritual Director or Counselor when appropriate.
  • Maintain strict professional boundaries.  Don’t give your personal number to clients.  Don’t become their friends.  Watch for signs of attachment or dependency.
  • Become familiar with local support groups for those struggling with mental illness (See if there is a NAMI chapter near you.)
  • Carry Professional Liability insurance
  • TRUST YOUR GUT – Your inner wisdom will tell you when something isn’t right with a client and when it is time to make an outside referral or to refuse further treatment.

An Invitation to Practitioners

Now, I would like to hear from the professionals out there.  What are some of the tools that you have used to ensure proper treatment for your clients while protecting yourself?  What resources have been helpful to you?  What are the tools you have used to identify when an outside referral is appropriate?

Posted in mental illness

Mental Health Week – Patti Jacobs Hein

Today’s blog post comes to us from Patti Jacobs MA, LPC, President & Professional Counselor for Thresholds, P.C. in Denver, Colorado.   Patti and I attended high school together and re-connected via Facebook.  When Patti saw the invitation to participate in Mental Health week, she enthusiastically responded with two articles.  Patti’s journey through depression and anxiety are an inspiration for those who are looking for hope. Thank you Patti for your generous contribution!!!!! 

The Road to Recovery

I believe that through embracing life’s challenges we can transcend our current selves.  We then discover who we are to a greater depth than ever before.  And we are allowed, through this grace, to see how beautifully we have been created.

I do not know any secrets regarding how to recover from mental illness.  When I look back at my own progress, I see the hazy outline of the road I created, but cannot recall the details of pace or slope, pitfall or rise.  I know not how I arrived at my current destination, but hold snapshots of my experiences in my mind’s eye.  I am not alone in these images; I have had many wise guides who have supported me in my efforts: husband, parents, siblings, friends, mentors, colleagues, clergy, and counselors.  This is my support system, my community.  Without them, I doubt my recovery would have come to be.

The process of recovery consists of many tasks with no specific order.  I moved through these stages in a meandering path, visiting one site for a moment then glancing off to rest for a time in another space.  Sometimes I would revisit a place, as if I couldn’t understand what I was supposed to learn there.  After a depressive episode where I became seriously ill, I discovered the necessity of admitting I needed help.  Learning to truly accept “the beast” of my illness was another vital step in learning to transcend my symptoms.  I began to fully comply with my body’s need for medication, healthy eating, exercise, and a consistent sleep schedule.  I developed effective coping skills.  I learned to let go of my intense focus on my symptoms by serving others.  I discovered that my illness did not need my constant attention, as I had believed.  My illness needed me to pursue my life, to transcend the symptoms by creating the vision I was meant to fulfill.

To elucidate the road of recovery, I share this image:

The path I traveled on abruptly closed itself to me.

clouds thundered in, surrounded me 

heavy, heavy rains washed away my familiar places.

I struggled, I fought

but my forest turned on me

tree limbs cut into my tender skin

vines and brambles tangled and tripped me

muddy clay caked my body

I could not even recognize myself.

I called out to my heavens to save me, but did not believe I was heard.

To survive, I fought to find my own way – forge a new path.

It would be much harder than the last.

When my sun came out my vision was blinded.

So, I created new eyes

and found my way among my griefs and fears,

discovering small graces and tiny joys

in quiet places

along my new trail.

Today I pause

I look back on my journey thus far.

I am awed by my gains that my beleaguered efforts made.

When my first path was destroyed

I was certain I had lost all.

I believed I was utterly alone.

When my storm barred my ease

I believed I would gain only pains.

Yet, through my exertions

I accepted my wise guides,

I created my most beautiful joy.

My path is my own

past, present, future

pace, views, anticipations

I continue to create

my journeying identity

Posted in mental illness

Mental Health Week – John Backman

Today’s contribution to Mental Health week comes from John Backman.   As a blogger for Huffington Post Religion and an associate of an Episcopal monastery, John Backman writes extensively on spiritual topics, including contemplative practice and its ability to help us dialogue across divides. His new book, Why Can’t We Talk? Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart, will be published by SkyLight Paths Publishing this fall.  You can reach John through his website:  www.dialogueventure.com.  Thank you John for this poignant and forthright article! 

Beyond the Light Box and the Meds

This morning I made decaf. The day ahead will require a lot of energy but also some serious focus, and I don’t need to be any more wired than my brain already makes me.

The fact that I even think about this comes from decades of wrestling with anxiety and depression.

So much has been written about mental and emotional health. There are articles about meds and therapy, diet and exercise, meditation and sunlight and support from loved ones. A lot of it is very sound advice. Over the years, I have picked up a few additional insights that help me. Maybe they can help you or your loved one as well.

Life gets better—in a way

It’s not that the problems get easier. It’s that our ability to manage them gets better. When we first moved where we live now, I did what many of the natives do: went to the track for the horse racing. To understand what was happening, I learned to read the Daily Racing Form. Years later, when choosing investments for my retirement account, I realized I could use my Racing Form – reading skills to understand the stock tables.

It works like this with a lot of things. By fighting with your annoying siblings, you learn what you need to manage your annoying boss 10 years from now. By planning a birthday party, you learn things you can use to run a business. Everything in your life builds on everything else—whether you realize it or not—and suddenly you’ve got skills.

Become an expert in yourself

What gives you pleasure? What triggers your issues? What’s the one thing that calms you down no matter what? How do these things change over time? Are there people who accept you for who you are, and how can you reach them in a crisis? How does the weather on any given day interact with all of the above?

I’ve come to realize that TV commercials about depression meds actually trigger my depression. So I will never ask my doctor about [name of med here], because as soon as the commercial comes on, I switch it off. (Well, most of the time.) Same with the decaf: no way am I giving up coffee—it makes me happy—but the switch to decaf is a must if I’m going to manage my anxiety.

It would be easy to turn this into an exercise in anxiety: a rigid list of dos and don’ts and a ton of fear and struggle around keeping to it. But beyond a few don’ts to keep you safe (involving things like drugs, alcohol, or hurting yourself), it’s really about paying attention. You watch yourself go through life, and little by little you solve the puzzle of you. Do this for a while, and not only can you cope more easily, but you’re actually ahead of most everyone else out there.

This paying attention business helps in another way too. The more I paid attention to other people, the more I found out that my issues weren’t unique. In fact, tons of other people struggled with the same things I did. I learned, basically, that I wasn’t alone.

The world needs you

I know how stupid that sounds. This does not look like a world where one person can make a difference. The problems of this world are massive beyond belief.

Ironically, that’s why the world needs you. To keep the human species going, we need everyone. All hands on deck. And it’s not just a matter of quantity. You have something to offer that no one else has. Yes, that sounds stupid too. But consider. Maybe you have a unique way of thinking about the world. Maybe you can write, or create music, or invent things, or inspire people—or inspire certain kinds of people—in a way no one else can. The very fact that you’ve lived mental illness gives you something to contribute. Maybe you don’t know what it is you have to offer. That’s OK. It’s there.

In my teens and twenties, I couldn’t see a blessed thing I had to offer. Being depressed, I had many days when death seemed like the preferred alternative (there still are a few of those days). But now I have a wife and a child, and despite my protests to the contrary, they seem utterly convinced that they need me. Also, I find I can write, and my thinking runs along very unusual lines. So there’s something I can contribute.  I suspect no one else can contribute it. Maybe the world needs me too—my one person’s contribution.

The other thing here is, when I contribute it, it feels good beyond belief. I get depressed much less often now that I’m contributing it. You have it too. What is it for you? Ask yourself. Ask around. You’ll find it.

My journey is not close to over. I’m still learning to live with my issues. Some days I win; some days they win. Things are better, much better, than they used to be. I suspect what I’ve written here is not exactly comforting. I hope it’s something I consider more valuable: encouraging—as in giving you the courage to hang in there and find the life that’s waiting for you.

Posted in Initiation, mental illness

Mental Health Week – Jay Ramsay

Today’s contribution to Mental Health week comes from poet, author, psychotherapist and healer, Jay Ramsay.  I first came to know Jay through his book, Crucible of Love, and later, Jay was kind enough to read and write a review for my book Authentic Freedom – Claiming a Life of Contentment and Joy.  You can learn more about Jay through his website:  http://www.jayramsay.co.uk/.  Thank you Jay for this beautiful piece of poetic prose and for being a dear friend and companion on this wild and crazy journey! 

Strange Days of the Soul

God must, in some way or other, make room for himself, hollowing us out and emptying us, if he is finally to penetrate into us. And in order to assimilate us in him, he must break the molecules of our being so as to re-cast and re-model us. The function of death is to provide entrance into our inmost selves. It will make us undergo the required dissociation. It will put us into the state organically needed if the divine fire is to descend upon us. And in that way its fatal power to decompose and dissolve will be harnessed to the, most sublime operations of life. What was by nature empty and void, a return to bits and pieces can, in any human existence, become fullness and unity in God. —Teilhard du Chardin, Le Milieu Divin (Collins, 1960) As the saying goes, ‘it is terrible to fall into the hands of the Living God’. In our terms, it is the sudden fate of the ego to find itself out of the driving seat, and plunged into another world of air that is the Self—the one we may find in us who is really there.

My spiritual emergency was a breakdown of seven months during 1989. The run-up to this period was fairly classic: over-exertion, and ego assertion, to the point of burn out. The year previous (my 30th) I’d had seven books of poetry published in a year, and had organized a South Bank launch for my anthology Transformation1. I’d been aware of needing to stop, needing a break, and had been invited down to Tuesley Manor by Viscountess Bronwen Astor, an inspired Christian whose philanthropy extended to making over part of her grounds and a house called The Quarry to retreatants of various kinds, lay and religious. Tuesley Valley, originally a pagan site named after the god Tue, is a potent pocket of land just south of Godalming: one of Nature’s healing places which, like Culbone near Porlock in North Somerset, has a primeval depth. I decided to come as I thought for a month. My plan was to have some space and catch up with my writing without some unwanted pressures, and the hassle of London traffic. One month became seven as my plan fell to pieces. I was basically exhausted but resisting the invitation to let go, not wanting to waste precious time in this unique location. However every attempt to write rose up only to fall flat, grey and lifeless. I felt as if I was sitting in a fog, or rather, something more subtle and insidious, a kind of obstruction in the air that prevented me from making any progress. Slowly, repeated failure became panic as something else, something far more potent, began to take place. This became located in the Christian experience leading up to Easter and then beyond, into the light of the summer. Essentially, this was crucifixion-the death of the ego, and resurrection-the birth of the transpersonal self. At the time it was like hell, a limbo without flames. Some of the intensity of what happened was also no doubt fanned by solitude, long hours alone under the eaves of a large country house where there was no escape. It was as if God was outside all the windows looking in; somehow I knew my number was up.

Perhaps this vaguely paranoid state indicates a kind of displaced self/’Self-’witnessing; certainly it was my ego’s fearful perspective of change, which I came to express in the poetry I did manage to write2. It was also a deeply physical experience as well as being emotional (depression and anxiety). A number of rebirthing sessions with Bronwen, who had trained with Leonard Orr, greatly aided and deepened the process (‘It is dark and the air breaks in freezing waves’); my body responded in a gestalt like way (‘As your hands rise, frozen, half-raised—fingers splayed’), and it was after one of these that I had one of several distinctly emergent experiences. An early evening experience of deepening depression had once again become panic. I withdrew upstairs and sat in an armchair in my room as the light faded outside, simultaneously anxious and furious at this suspension of faculties, willing some final breakthrough to happen. Nothing happened. At least for some minutes. Then I noticed I couldn’t move. My body became as if liquid, deliquescent. I went to lift up my arm and nothing happened. Then the sensation of heat began to appear on my forehead, like fingers gently pressing there— but very hot fingers. There was no avoiding them. The light deepened outside, the lit candle flickered. The heat on my forehead became like a disk of sustained warmth. Then slowly it began to fade; and my power of movement returned.

Because of my work with the theme of Apocalypse, I had been looking at the Book of Revelation. I found myself walking over it and opening it at random. The sentence stared out at me: And the servants of God shall be sealed in the foreheads. The rest is in the poem ‘surrender’, prior to and after this, one of several numinous happenings that became my path, both inside, and outside as I worked in the wild valley garden to clear the length of stream. How did I get through this—especially when it continued to seem so open-ended ? There was a fundamental paradox for me throughout between will (making an effort) and surrender (letting go, handing over). I realize now that in some way they were the polarities of the dynamic process I was in, but I couldn’t get my head around that at the time. Certainly, I learnt to surrender—hence the title of the poem. I learnt to become more Taoist about it, going with the flow. Also I was seriously trying to ‘read the signs’ so regarding as a creative process however (seemingly) impossible, was also very important.

Finally, and as mysteriously a third thing emerged beyond will and surrender and that was intuition, and choice. And in early September, unfinished as the sentence was, I decided: enough. Time to return to London, my patient partner, and the world—or at least my more hermit-like version of it. Somehow the time was right. And as I sat gazing out of the window of my attic room on that last morning at the woodpigeons flying in and out of the still full-leaved trees beyond the stream, wondering what it had all been about or for, a voice quite distinctly in my ears said ‘You had to fail in order to heal’. That was my final lesson, one I am still learning. But as I sat a month later in my little garden shed studio in Kew, working on a long poem, I had a sensation I’d never had before; of a well of strength beneath me and inside me, a well that has never run dry. For then on too, my relationship with poetry as an exclusive discipline changed, and I began to see my work was about people, not just my literary achievement. I began writing my 18 month correspondence course Chrysalis—the poet in you3 , and my one to one work with people began, entering into the journey of psychospiritual therapy4 and healing. ‘And all these things shall be added unto you’. Jay Ramsay

1 Transformation—the poetry of spiritual consciousness, with an Afterword by Sir George Trevelyan (Rivelin Grapheme Press, 1988). Some copies remaining from JR/Chrysalis.

2. Strange Days (Stride Publications as Taxus Press, 1989). Enquiries: RML@stridebooks. co.uk

3. for further details please see www.lotusfoundation.org.uk or call 01453-759436 4. psychosynthesis, The London Institute, Hendon, NW4: 0208-202-4525

Posted in mental illness

Mental Health Week(s)…..Let’s Get Started!

Welcome to Mental Health Week(s) at Authentic Freedom Ministries and Your Spiritual Truth.  During the coming days, we will have an opportunity to read contributions by those who have suffered with mental illness, those who have survived and from practitioners who help to provide support for those experiencing mental illness.   The goal of these coming days is first and foremost to support and secondly, to educate and inform.  A BIG thank you for those who have been willing to come forward with their own stories and for those in the helping fields who have provided information and support.  Let’s get started, shall we?

What is Mental Illness?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); mental illness is:   a medical condition that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Mental Illness covers a broad spectrum of diagnoses including:

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that 25 percent of adults and 20% of children and adolescents are experiencing mental illness of some kind.  Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. What is important to know is that mental illnesses are treatable and that most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.  According to NAMI, an effective treatment plan can include:  medication, psychosocial treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, peer support groups and the use of other community services.  Diet, exercise, adequate sleep, intimate friendships and meaningful paid or volunteer activities can also contribute to the overall success of any recovery plan.

Obstacles to Diagnosis and Recovery

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to effective diagnosis and treatement is the negative stigma associated with mental illness.  It is important for us to know and to share with others that mental illnesses are serious medical conditions. Contrary to some schools of thought, mental illness cannot be overcome through “will power” and is not related to a person’s “character” or intelligence.  Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, gender, race, religion, income level or  intelligence.  Stigma erodes our ability to recognize that mental disorders are real, treatable health conditions and often halts our search for diagnosis and treatment.  This is a tragedy because the best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective.  NAMI estimates that between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have a significant reduction of symptoms and an improved quality of life with a combination of prescription medications and psychosocial treatments and a variety of other supports.

Symptoms of Possible Mental Illness

The symptoms of possible mental illness vary on the type and severity of the condition.  WebMD cites the following as general symptoms that may suggest a mental illness is present:

In adults

  • Confused thinking
  • Long-lasting sadness or irritability
  • Extremely high and low moods
  • Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not really there)
  • Increasing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Many unexplained physical problems
  • Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol

In older children and pre-teens

  • Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Changes in school performance, falling grades
  • Inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical problems
  • Defying authority, skipping school, stealing, or damaging property
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Long-lasting negative mood, often along with poor appetite and thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger

In younger children

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Excessive worry or anxiety
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience and/or aggressive behavior
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Where to Go for Support

If you believe that you or someone you care about may be experiencing symptoms of a possible mental illness, early identification and treatment is of vital importance.  Early access to the treatment and recovery supports that are proven effective can accelerate recovery and reduce the potential of further harm related to the course of untreated illness.  For treatment and support, the NAMI website is a great place to start.  Or, talk to your doctor, ask for a referral from friends or relatives (chances are, they are either suffering themselves or know someone who is), talk to your Pastor, seek the help of a professional Counselor.  Whatever you do, get help and seek out support. Current treatments are effective, recovery is possible (especially in cases where the symptoms are largely situational) and you deserve to experience your best life possible.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in mental illness

Support for Mental Illness

In the past several months, I have been witness to several individuals, about whom I care deeply, suffer what Western medicine would identify as a psychotic break.  To say that the effects of these experiences were devastating would be an understatement.  In fact, it initially felt as if the Universe had pulled the very ground from beneath my feet.  I have been quiet about these experiences until I could grasp the higher purpose.  I’m still uncovering what that purpose might be, but it felt like it was time to come out of the closet in support of practitioners, patients and family members who might be facing mental illness – either in themselves or in someone they care about.

There are several lessons that I have learned so far as a result of these experiences:

1)      There is a fine line between mysticism and psychosis and many are ill-equipped at identifying when that line has been crossed.

2)     The powerful role of denial and bargaining in those exhibiting symptoms of psychosis and in those who have already been diagnosed.

3)     The powerful role of denial and bargaining in those who have been diagnosed and even in those who have been effectively treated in the past.

4)     The lack of education and support (other than pharmaceuticals) for those who have been diagnosed.

5)     The COMPLETE lack of education and support for family members of those who are suffering psychosis or any other forms of mental illness.

6)     The potential danger alternative healing practices (especially those that can facilitate deeply meditative or other states of higher consciousness) can cause those who might be suffering with psychosis.

7)     The role alternative healing practices can play in enabling the denial, bargaining and delusions of those suffering with untreated psychosis and other forms of mental illness.

As a Spiritual Director and Reiki Practitioner, I do not have the tools, nor do I have the training to diagnosis or treat serious mental illness.  But, I know people who do.  As such, I am dubbing May 13 – May 19 Mental Health Week at Authentic Freedom Ministries.  I have invited the contribution of experts in the field, along with those who have either suffered with Mental Illness themselves or have witnessed the suffering of people they care about.

And….I am inviting your participation!  If you are an expert in the field of mental health, have experienced mental illness yourself or have accompanied someone who has, I am asking for your help.  Write an essay of less than 1000 words and submit it to lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com.  I want to hear what you have to say, and so do those who are in need of help and support.  And I will extend Mental Health Week as long as we need to in order to get the help and support out there that is needed.  And if you are a professional or provide a website or blog in support of those who are suffering or their families, please include your bio, website address and photo if you so desire.

Now, I wish I could say that these individuals that I have witnessed are receiving the help they need and are on the road to recovery….unfortunately, they are not.  Instead, they are still trapped within the prison of denial and they along with their families are suffering because of it.  It is for them and for others like them that I offer this week of education and support.  And I thank you for your participation in it.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom
Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com

PS:  Helpful links:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

http://www.nami.org/