One of the major stigmas of mental illness is the idea held by some, that people with mental illnesses are somehow different than "normal people". In fact, there are some who would say that the medical model we have developed, actually inadvertently promotes that idea just by treating people with mental illness in a condescending fashion – that somehow mental illness is less than physical illness – less important, less painful, and therefore perhaps not worthy of the same attention.
It is my belief that self-empowerment is critical in all illnesses, mental or physical. When we are self-empowered, by accessing the resources that we have within, there is automatic propulsion towards optimizing our well-being that is actually a self-perpetuating phenomenon.
Jim (name and other identifying details have been changed) was 48 when he first came to see me, struggling for several years with depression, addiction, and ADHD. He also had poor concentration and "continual chattering of my inner mind" with some impulsive and "annoying behaviors". When I first met him it was clear that Jim was "on a journey", as he put it, towards tackling his condition. He had already done a number of things to tackle what had been, and still was a very difficult mental health problem. In addition to the ADHD, there were still remnants of depression.
Originally a teacher from the East Coast, suspended for impulsive behavior, he was now a store manager in North-eastern Ontario. Jim wanted to be able to handle routine situations without becoming anxious, but scored high on an adult ADHD screening examination. This anxiety and impulsivity sometimes manifested itself at his work, as he would feel compelled to help customers coming into the store with their own mental issues, and his belief that "you help others no matter what, even if it is to your own detriment" , would kick in. Thus, his boundaries as store manager would collapse. He felt powerless to change these impulsive actions, and often attributed them to his troubled childhood family issues.
Jim was clearly very proactive in his journey towards wellness, and although he had great insight into his problem, it was the unconscious patterns that were tripping him up. After a few sessions using Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnosis to help him re-pattern some of his old unconscious responses to stressful situations from his past, he began to see things in a different light. In addition to that, training in relaxation and self-hypnosis through my CD "Learn to Unwind and Enjoy Your Life" (see below) was instrumental in empowering him and settling down his inner mind. Listening to the CD on a regular basis helped him to keep his mind quiet, to the extent that he is now able to function at his optimal level.
He is no longer a patient, and 3 months and 6 visits after my initial consultation he wrote, "… while my journey to wholeness is nearing completion … and although I still feel the need to reach out to many who have not even started this journey … I now have the patience and insight to wait for the right time. I have learned to consider what is in the best interests of all parties. " Recent follow-up suggests that he has maintained these positive changes.
We all have the resources within to heal and move forwards in our life journeys. Finding those resources can sometimes be a challenge. Jim looked and found those resources, and reaped the benefits. Mental illness is a challenge, but it is a challenge that can be won.