Friday, June 8, 2012

Five Keys to Mental Health - Something to Believe In

belief system is a set of mutually supportive beliefs.  (from wikipedia).

Today (June 8) is the birthday of Mohammed, the great prophet of Islam.  Since you never know who you may offend with statements about religion, I'll just let that one stand, but this is an important day for a lot of folks out there.  Islam, like Christianity, Judaism, Bahai and others, all are belief systems.  They bring a form and structure to life, explaining as best it can the world around you, the whys and wherefores, and how you can impact others for good, as the belief system defines "good".

When looking at the world from a brain that is not quite centered, there is the definite challenge that answers being offered be beliefs are grasped a little too hard by those needing a structure to build on or replace one that is considered worthy of rejection.  Religion or at least faith has a place in the bipolar world, and even those of us also living in the MS world.  The spiritual side of any individual plays its part in that person's decisions, especially in choices of how to handle chronic illness.  Even if the person believes in nothing or Nothing, they still have to wake up with the one person they know best - the one in the mirror.  Belief can start there.

So let me say right here. Nobody, no Body, No Spirit, is punishing you by shoving your disease/suffering down your throat.  My MS comes, as far as I can figure, from my father who had it at the same time in his life.  I think he got it from his father, but what is fact is that Martin males in my line don't make it to 60, except for my brother who is hanging in at 67 (too old to be a baby boomer).  Genealogy is showing that the further back in history I go, the more the evidence I find.  And if you want to add in the bipolar, that comes from my mother's side.  I'm the only one blessed with the double whammy, as far as I know.

I do not blame God in however you perceive Him/Her/It/Them for what is happening to me.  My response is All Right, I can not cure these problems in a hospital, they will remain with me for all the days of my life.  I can take pills, exercise, talk to professionals, and do what is necessary. Change diet? I'll do the best I can.  Remove stress? Done, I guess, since my job is gone.   But how much hurt, how much of the pain every human being suffers, which when its floating around inside your soul/mind is cause of a lot of the stress.  It's that pain within that builds the steel cage of suffering where you and your memories fight it out (and are cheered on by the monsters of mental delusions).  

And when you're lying on the floor of the cage, battered by every screw up and stupid thing you've ever done, because nobody wants to hear about how nice you were to that lady in Starbucks yesterday, You lie breathing and then the voice comes.  "Ready, now?"

Your choice.  I recommend "Yes".

I was raised by a Catholic father and Presbyterian mother, but religion played little role in my life, to the point where I asked why did we note Easter and Christmas if this was not a faith in the family.  My Dad never spoke of it as he just listened to my mother's berating of the Catholic faith if that made her happy.  Personally I find Catholic churches beautiful and the history of the litany going back so far to the saints and founders bringing a consistency.  Look, I know there's all kinds of problems within the Catholic World, and all faiths, but I would merely refer anyone to the actual words, as far as we know, of the Founder.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  And look in other faiths as well.  It's just the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I've noted elsewhere that I study Buddhism, but I'm not advocating that for anyone, except that while there is no formal "God" in Buddhism - the answer to your dilemmas are to remove the delusions within you - it does offer a rational alternative, a system that builds up within so you can look out and see others.  You can reach out to another, and should the person respond, help make each other stronger, and more alive.

I will caution that there is Buddhism the faith, and Buddhism the philosophy.  The Faith involves Monks, Nuns (both of who are some of the sweetest people ever) and acknowledging of emanations of Buddha.  Meditation and prayer in group and by yourself can be guided by the Monks and Nuns, but also just with CD or toss the instructions on your iPod.  There are as many versions of Buddhism as there are clouds on a stormy day, and as intertwined.  Each has something to offer.

What Buddhism offered me was the structure I needed at the time I needed it.  Six years later, I'm ready to move on.  My brain , because of MS and bipolar, makes meditating difficult (new and improved information coming on beta and gamma waves).  Buddha so long ago said "take what works for you, try it and see."  Thanks, Lord Buddha, so I shall.

But I'm not leaving Buddha behind.  As you can see.  The area will improve, but I see him each day, just sitting there.  You can see four paths, which represent the Four Noble Truths.  Eventually, there will be a larger pathway that will represent the Noble Eightfold Path.  These are basic buddhist teachings, but I'll leave them to the curious to further explore.

We come back to the beginning of this entry, the need for something to believe in.  Buddhism has as its basis neuroscience, an idea of reworking the brain for a more positive feeling within it.  Meditation has its place, and it functions in other faiths as well.  So you can believe in science and a faith within.  The Dalai Lama once said that if science proves Buddhism incorrect, Buddhism must change.  Science and faith haven't always gotten on so well, and are still arguing today.  Both are needed for a better understanding of "why am I here, anyway?"

But if you find that looking and talking to statues, or the darkness, or the light makes you feel odd, then look within.   You can find the structure that you need to build not a cage of mental anguish, but begin to build a home where you can thrive.  If it takes pills and shrinks to do that, fine.  I do it.  I exercise, and change my diet, and write blogs that people tell me they read.  I go for refuge to Buddha, dharma, and sangha (that's Buddha himself, dharma is his teachings, and sangha are fellow students of the dharma).  Anywhere is a foundation waiting for you to build on, Christian, Jewish, Islam, Ba'hai, there is power in each if you come with an open mind and heart.  Listen to to the teachers. Question what you must. And listen again.  Maybe it won't work for you. But understand there is a Greater Something that ties all life together.  That's all they're saying. And you right now are as important a part of it anyone. 

Once you begin to believe in yourself, either through faith in Something Greater, or just in "Yay, me!", you are on your way.  You'll probably slip and fall in the mud, but as W.H. Auden said "Stagger onward rejoicing."
(from Atlantis)

Lots of work left, but it can be accomplished.

When we return for the last of these, looking forward should be easy.


  1. I read your blog! Keep going Tom, you are writing great things here!


  2. Thanks, Nicole. It means more than you can know.