Going with the Flow – A Meditation

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Like a raft floating down river, allowing the current to take it along nature’s path, life has a natural flow for us. To fight it is like trying to paddle the raft up-stream. It will be difficult, tiring, and non-productive.

If we let life lead us along the natural flow of events as they happen, we will have more energy and peace. We will experience a new freedom in not having to fight against the will of others and the situations of things we can’t control.

We will know the true meaning of serenity in loving others right where they are and just as they are whether we agree with what they are doing or what they are like or not.

We will clearly see the ways in which we can change things about ourselves and the situations we are in, for these are the only things over which we have any power.

Today, I will go with the flow of life and let people and things be as they will. I will accept that the only thing I can change is me and I will know peace.

Are You Addicted to Chaos?

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Today’s post is by Laura Wills. She writes about addiction, which I have stated before is a form of mental illness. After one is no longer using his drug of choice and life is not as chaotic, he may feel uncomfortable with this calmness. I felt this way after I stopped drinking a long time ago. I sometimes feel this way when my bipolar symptoms are at bay. While I am glad that my symptoms subside, life can become a bit boring without them. “Chaos Addiction” may be the reason for this, which Laura explains below.

Falling Out of Comfort and Into Chaos..?

Recovering from addiction isn’t a case of “just” weaning yourself free from substances, alcohol, smoking – or even gambling or shopping. It’s a multi-layered and complex approach that in itself can reveal more about the hidden problems and associations lying underneath.

Very often, people who are in recovery report that as their lives settle down and they begin to take stock, they don’t like the feeling that everything in their world feels as though it is going well, or too smoothly. Many say that they find it difficult to let go of the chaos and dysfunction that surrounds their addiction and therefore seek to try and find it in other areas of their life – such as possibly creating rows with their spouse or partner or keeping troublesome or worrisome situations in their working lives going instead of actively trying to resolve them. This kind of activity has a name – Chaos Addiction and it is something that psychologists are becoming increasingly interested in, in terms of addressing addiction issues.

Many people who find themselves falling into such a problem can usually find at some point in their lives they have been victims of it themselves, perhaps through dysfunctional parenting, constant arguments or even being exposed to addictive behaviors in the home. When they reach maturity they may find themselves adopting the same patterns – especially if they fall into an addiction (however, it does not necessarily mean they will fall into addiction, merely carry on the dysfunctional behaviors they have known all their lives.) For more information on this fascinating subject, you can read on here.

Are you addicted to chaos? Share your thoughts and experiences below.

Why Being a Hermit Doesn’t Work

We all have problems. Let’s face it: humans are problems. We create problems, we live problems, we solve problems, we prolong problems, we complain about problems, we hate problems, some of us love problems, we…well, you get the idea.

Whether your problems come from within such as in the case of an illness, or from something outside of you, such as your demanding boss, research shows that we are more likely to better cope with our problems with some kind of support from peers who have been in the same situation as we face.

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By coping better I mean we may live happier lives, have less stress, increased psychological well-being, and decreased negative symptoms.

Now, while you might not join a support group to deal with an a-hole of a boss, you may want to consider one if you deal with chronic mental or physical illnesses, bereavement issues, weight loss or addiction issues, or if you are a caregiver for someone who is ill or dependent.

In one study (1), 82% of the 129 members of the Manic Depressive and Depressive Association were hospitalized before joining the support group. After joining, only 33% reported any hospitalizations.

In a substance abuse study (2), 180 participants with high self-help (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous) attendance rates used alcohol and/or cocaine less than half as much as did those with low self-help attendance. In a second study (3), in the 18 months following treatment, the more days the patient attended Alcoholics Anonymous self-help meetings, the longer their abstinence lasted.

In a bereavement group study (4), 197 widows and widowers over age 50 who participated in self-help groups experienced less depression and grief than the 98 nonparticipants if their initial levels of interpersonal and coping skills were low. (If their interpersonal and coping skills were high they still benefited after eight weeks of participation.)

I have been attending support group meetings for alcoholism for the past 10 years and believe I would not have remained sober for this long without doing so. Currently, I am participating in an online smoking cessation support group that is proving to be an invaluable part of my quit program. And let’s not forget this wonderful blogging community, which I consider to be a large part of my mental health “support group.” Thank YOU for that!

The greatest thing in the world to hear while you’re in the depths of your struggles, whether it is with an addiction, a mental illness, the loss of a loved one, or just a crappy day is, “I understand how you feel. I’ve been where you’re at. You are not alone.” And that, my friend, is why hermithood is not for me.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it.

Resources:

(1) Kurtz, L. F. (1988). Mutual Aid for Affective Disorders: The Manic Depressive and Depressive Association. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 58(1): 152-155.

(2) McKay, J. R., A. I. Alterman, et al. (1994). Treatment Goals, Continuity of Care, and Outcome in a Day Hospital Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program. American Journal of Psychiatry 151(2): 254-259.

(3) Pisani, V. D., J. Fawcett, et al. (1993). The Relative Contributions of Medication Adherence and AA Meeting Attendance to Abstinent Outcome for Chronic Alcoholics. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 54: 115-119.

(4) Caserta, M. S. and Lund, D. A. (1993). Intrapersonal Resources and the Effectiveness of Self-Help Groups for Bereaved Older Adults. Gerontologist 33(5): 619-629.

Is Drug Addiction a Mental Illness?

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I’ll get right to the point: YES, drug addiction is a mental illness. Let me explain the two main facets of drug addiction. First, there is the physical aspect of it – the physical craving for the drug because of the person’s chemical dependency upon the drug. In the case of alcohol, one will find that once they take a drink they will not be able to control the amount of alcohol they consume thereafter no matter how hard they try.

Second, there is the mental aspect of it, which is the obsession of when, how, how often and how much of the drug one can get. The addict’s thoughts are consumed with obtaining and retaining access to their drug of choice. It is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder in my opinion, and it is lethal. It is not a moral shortcoming. It is not a choice. It is not a sin. It is not a lack of discipline or will-power. It is a mental illness!

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction qualifies as a mental illness because “addiction changes the brain in fundamental ways, changing the person’s normal hierarchy of needs and desires and substituting of new priorities connected with procuring and using the drug.”

While the addict may have crossed the line into non-choice when it comes to using his drug, he does always have the choice of whether or not to get treatment for his illness/addiction, just like one who has bipolar or schizophrenia can choose to get help for his illness or not.

However, as in the case with many mental illnesses, sometimes a primary symptom is that which tells the person that they don’t have the illness. This symptom is called denial, and unfortunately, it can delay treatment long past what is appropriate or safe for the individual.

Resources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse
Alcoholics Anonymous
Al-Anon
Narcotics Anonymous

Daily Meditation – The Sum of Our Recovery

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We spend so much time and effort on our recovery, and some days, it seems as though there is little pay off. What is it all worth? Has it really made a difference? And then we look back over the months and years and we see that, yes, it has made a difference. We are further along than we were.

One plus one equals two. Life is more complex than such a simple equation, but does it have to be? If we take each simple action as an accomplishment, it can become as simple as the “1” in the equation of one plus one, and our daily activities will add up into something grand. Even something as simple as sitting up in bed in the morning and putting our feet to the floor can be considered an accomplishment, for it is healthier than laying there all day!

We must give ourselves credit for every little thing we do. Let us not take for granted each step we take toward recovery, for it is all the one plus ones that add up to the sum of our well-being.

Impulsive Behavior and Substance Abuse in Bipolar Disorder

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A recent study published in Bipolar Disorder found that

“trait impulsivity is elevated and neurocognitive functioning is impaired in patients with bipolar disorder irrespective of whether they have a substance abuse history.” ~medwireNews

Does this mean we need not worry about how much we drink? Of course not! Alcohol is a depressant – not good for those of us on mood stabilizers. How can our medications, which have such a hard time managing our symptoms to begin with, stand a chance when we are mixing other mood altering substances with them? They don’t.

This was the type of logic my therapist used to get me to take a look at my own drinking habits. I found that when I tried to stop drinking or limit the amount I drank, I became irritable and restless. When I found that I couldn’t stay stopped even when I honestly wanted to, I finally realized I was an alcoholic.

Those with alcoholism feel the wrath of insanity at some point near the end of their drinking careers. Those of us with a double whammy of having alcoholism and a mental illness feel it like no other, which is why it is so important to get the help you need to become substance-free if you want to give your mental health regimen a chance to actually work.

I have been sober for over nine years in a row, now. Has this saved me from the throes of hypomania and serious depression? No. Has it saved my life? Yes. Because if I would have been drinking, I strongly believe I would not have been able to control my impulses to engage in risky behavior while manic, and to commit suicide while depressed.

Have you ever thought about the way drinking or drug use has negatively affected your mental health? It may be worth looking into if you are symptomatic, and desperate enough to get well.

If you think you have a problem with alcohol or drugs check online or in your local phone book for the nearest treatment center or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group. AA World Services can be found at http://www.aa.org

Mental Illness and Anonymity

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There are several reasons why I choose to maintain my anonymity on this mental illness blog.

The primary reason is to avoid hurting family members. Many of my mental illness symptoms, in particular my anxiety, are directly related to childhood events. For me to publicly identify myself while revealing facts about my upbringing would be harmful to my family members.

Even though there are benefits of adding my face and real name to the content of this blog, such as increased credibility and to support the cause for an end to the mental illness stigma, I will not do so at the expense of another’s peace of mind and privacy.

The second biggest reason I choose to maintain my anonymity is to maintain a sense of humbleness to my message. Money, power, and prestige are not my goals. Sharing what it is like to have mental illnesses and what I do to strive for healing and peace are my goals, with the hope to inspire others struggling with similar issues.

My greatest wish is that no one ever feels like they are unique. People need to know that they are not the only ones who feel the way they do, that someone else understands how they feel and has gone through what they are going through.

Another reason I choose to maintain my anonymity is because just as I would not announce at my job or highschool reunion or in a restaurant, whether it be to a large group of people or just one or two persons I didn’t know well, that I have a mental illness, why should I do so online?

I tell those whom I am close to, to those whom I trust, when the time is appropriate and when I believe it would be helpful to the situation. Anything beyond this is not necessary for me.

This is what works for me. It may be the same, or different, for you. What are your thoughts on online anonymity and mental illness?