Saturday, January 19, 2008

No meds approach to treating mental illness??

Recovery from mental illness can happen with help and hard work

"If I gave you my entire psychiatric history," Ken says, "you'd probably wonder how I could put two sentences together and function on any meaningful level. During tough times, I look back and see only the darkness, but there has been a lot of light, otherwise I wouldn't have survived."

Meet my friend Ken, a person who has struggled with his mental illness, but is now doing very well in recovery. Ken began fighting depression early. He had life experiences that were very challenging. He tried everything to treat his depression.


Years of talk therapy, medication of every size, shape and color, moving across the country, climbing mountains, being constantly busy, trying to build a relationship with his father. All the things he accomplished were worth a lot, but they meant nothing to him at the time because he couldn't get rid of the depression. Today the outside world hasn't changed, but his internal perspective has. He tells me he has learned to look at things differently.

Ken credits much of his turnaround to the doctor he began working with four years ago. After briefly discussing medication, to Ken's surprise, this doctor, trained to prescribe medications, began explaining the process of finding peace of mind.

Overcoming depression, for Ken, involved a spiritual approach. By trying to control his own emotions, he found that he only allowed them to control him. When he gave up control and used that energy to follow his own creative path, he was better able to cope with the emotions and get through each day.

"My depression hasn't changed," he explains, "but my reaction to it has." He uses the analogy of encountering a bear in the forest. Your gut reaction is to run, but you have the best chance if you lie down and act as if you're totally relaxed. Similarly, it's difficult to outrun one's own emotions. Another apt comparison is quicksand. Ken says, "the more I wiggle, the faster I sink, so I'm learning to stop wiggling."

Since he began working with this doctor and joined a support group, who believed in him and encouraged him, Ken has written and recorded several songs and is continuing his musical pursuits. Today he lives in the present: "I've grown a lot through my illness and have a lot to show for it, if I stay in the present. Don't regret the past," he says, "because everything you've experienced, good and bad, got you where you are now, which is on the verge of creating the kind of life you've always wanted."

Ken concludes with this message, "Have gratitude, have patience, get in touch with who you are and go for what you want now. Give yourself credit for the person you have become. The real power for all of us lies within ourselves. Tapping into that power is exhilarating and a bit scary. But by all means, enjoy the ride."

Recovery from depression and other mental health conditions is possible and Mental Health America wants to help you. Ken, who now has a rewarding career and full life, worked hard to get where he is today and you can as well. MHA offers free support groups for people experiencing depression and other disorders. Call me at (740) 522-1341 for information and referrals.

Paddy Kutz is the executive director of Mental Health America of Licking County. MHA is partner agency of United Way, NAMI and the Community Mental Health & Recovery Board.


Diane J Standiford said...

It is always the dream that illness can be cured by natural means; making the dream a reality for all who suffer has never been done yet...the more we bring unnatural elements into our world (toxins, pollution, various chemicals man-made) the harder a "natural" cure becomes, I'm afraid.

Jessica said...

I just think it should always be understood that medicine alone is not going to do the most good. Treatment for bipolar disorder should be a multi-dimensional attack. Whenever someone has any illness, the immediate response is to take pills. Why? Seems to me that pills just mask the root of the problem. Western medicine definitely has it's place, but psychotherapy, family, friends, a sleep schedule, an exercise schedule and nutrition are equally important in my opinion.

Liz said...

I agree that it takes a variety of concepts to help one mentally ill person be a successful member of society. In my experience, though, if the person is one who experiences delusions, no amount of talking or therapy is going to convince them that their thinking is not correct. Remember that it usually is a chemical imbalance, hence the need for corrective chemicals for some severe people. Thanks for your input.