Our Primary Wealth Is Mental Health
I was taught an important lesson at a young age, life is hard we must be strong. With that instruction I fought my way out of a small First Nation community to create opportunity. I pursued higher education in a university town. Surrounded by strangers afforded me a clean slate which allowed me to become my own man, instead of the insignificant man I was destined to be. My entire adult life has been a transformation from being strong and hard to fight oppression to being caring and compassion and making a difference. Exploring the concepts of self love, self care, and self compassion was a major shift in the emotional paradigm. Learning those concepts was easy living them daily requires much practice. Eastern philosophy teaches that we become what we practice. If we practice anger we become angry, if we practice compassion we become compassionate. What we practice is our humanity and we have a lifetime to make the journey. Native American wisdom teaches that there is a constant battle between two wolves within each of us, one is a black wolf the other is white. The black wolf feeds on anger, resentment, pride, jealousy, and fear. The white wolf feeds on love, kindness, compassion, happiness, and peace. The wolf we feed most grows stronger and wins the battle. We become that wolf.
Transformation is challenged by conflict between our logical and emotional. Mixed emotions create doubt causing one to question their resilience. Do I surrender and regress to hurt, anger, and blame for not being perfect? Do I have the fortitude to achieve peace, acceptance, and have compassion? Must I show compassion for those who wrong me? When I began my healing journey the answer was no to forgiveness, I just need to survive. Forgiveness is not mine to give I just need to understand and be accepting. I own how I chose to engage life and being accountable for myself. I must have compassion for the abused in society who struggle with recovery and post traumatic growth. Mother Theresa said, “If you can’t help yourself, go help somebody else”. There is always someone in greater need. The realization that “kindness is the path to wisdom” was my awakening. Helping others creates self awareness which leads to mindfulness. Sometimes our situation is so overwhelming that it’s easier to help another, however, a life of distraction is not truth. Some live chaotic lives and engross themselves in other people’s drama distracting themselves in trivial pursuits. Today’s society is filled with distractions, such as social medial, that allow us to avoid unpleasantness for a time not a lifetime.
Preparing to face my childhood abuser, Most Reverend Father Smith, in court left me depleted and experiencing a mental health crisis. Once my physician diagnosed me with major depressive episode, she was obliged to treat it. I reluctantly took anti-depressants. That was a problem since I don’t suffer from depression and I don’t have a chemical imbalance in the brain. The medication interfered with my natural chemistry and altered my awareness, it did not make me happy. My mental health crisis was the culmination of many external factors imposed upon me over an extended period thus weakening my constitution. I was “overwhelmed” with life and feeling the despair of not seeing a resolution. Medical literature describes approximately twelve categories of depression and yet provides no definition for happiness, that’s sad. Loss of hope presents like depression, which is described as having feelings of hopelessness. Having feelings of hopelessness and despair is normal when there is reason to feel that way. It’s only depression if you have feelings of hopelessness and despair without reason. Treating non-existent diseases with foreign substances to produce mind-altering effects is a bad idea. During an altered state of mind I developed dependence on anti-histamines, anti-inflammatories, and anti-biotics. My worse experience was the anti-anxiety medication my physician prescribed to treat the side effect of anti-depressant medications, anxiety.
Modern western medicine and the primary care physician (your local doctor) is built around pharmaceuticals and treating the symptoms of illness with prescription drugs. The North American population is grossly over medicated. Drugs often work well if we want to kill bacteria with an anti-biotic. Other medications mask illness by treating a symptom not healing the body, mind, or soul. Symptoms are warning signs originating in the central nervous system telling us there is a problem. We must respond with a substantial effort to address the problem rather than looking for a magic bullet to kill what ales us. As a health care professional working in acute care I was fooled into believing there was a magic bullet, a happy pill. But when my physician prescribed anti-hypertensive medication I said, “Enough!” Instead of taking another “anti” drug I weaned myself off medication and began living a balanced life. Modern society tricked me and trapped me with overindulgence and underactivity causing my health to fail. To reclaim my life, I had to clean up my daily habits; maintain work-life balance, eat healthy, exercise daily, and rest. The strategy was simple “fetch water, chop wood” but that requires inner strength. Physical strength builds mental strength, mental strength builds physical strength, the two are one. I learned to live healthier, happier, and longer by being mindful and purposeful.
I started walking outside, looking at the sky, thinking positively, and practicing gratitude daily. I found inspiration in the teachings of the Dalai Lama and consulted the Medicine Wheel for wisdom and guidance. Owning my problems was as imperative as dealing with them in a constructive rather than destructive manor. Growing emotional intelligence required patience, understanding, and of course compassion. Self-compassion is a skill that must be learned be patient. Build caring relationships and utilize peer support. Take the journey to self discovery through mindfulness, spirituality, religion, stoicism, or other but most importantly know thy self. Health is a matter of attitude and fortitude, if you can conceive it you can achieve it.