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Can mental health illness serve as a guide to a better life?

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When it comes to physical health there is most often an obvious reason for an illness, disease or pain. For instance, if someone has a fall and puts their arm out it is clear to see why they ended up with a painful broken wrist.

Or with illnesses such as heart disease, doctors will often explain that years of eating unhealthily and not exercising has led to the physical health issue. Many people who develop certain cancers are aware it’s due to drinking or smoking excessively.

In 2020 we have all been made starkly aware that if we breathe in the infected droplets of COVID-19 we may well get sick to varying degrees. So with physical health issues, it is most often known what is the cause.

But with mental health problems, it is frequently not so obvious. Or seemingly there is no reason.

However, there is always a reason. There is also a theory among some experts that everyone gets some form of mental health problem – just that some people are more adept at disguising it.

Mental health’s connection with physical health problems

As with physical health problems, there are also varying degrees of mental health illnesses. So someone suffering from anxiety may find it limits them in very large social situations only while another anxiety sufferer will feel unable to leave their house for months on end.

Also just like with physical health issues, people will be affected very differently due to many reasons. We are all born differently physically to an extent – so it is likely that due to a combination of nature and nature we have different mental and emotional health strengths and sensitivities.

As with two people who get COVID-19 experiencing quite different symptoms, so it is with people who have experienced the same causes of a mental health problem.

It is why one sibling growing up in a house with a depressed mother will go on to develop severe depression while the other seems not to have any problems at all.

The purpose of pain

The first time most people realize something is amiss both physically or mentally is when they feel some degree of pain. With physical pain it is often giving an obvious message: that is to move or do something differently.

If someone accidentally puts their hand over a lighted candle they will swiftly move it away. The pain here is delivering a crystal-clear message to the person telling them to do this.

If that person didn’t move their hand, the pain would intensify and spread. The longer they left it in the flame the more damaged it would get and the longer it would take to heal.

So it is with mental health pain – although not many people realize this is its purpose. However, human beings are so intricately created it has to be the purpose of pain, whether it is physical or mental and emotional.

Pain is not going to happen just for the sake of it.

Mental or emotional pain is telling us to move away from something or someone or to do something differently. This could be such as leaving the trauma of an abusive relationship or a job where someone is being bullied by their boss.

Or it might be telling us we need to change the way we respond to certain life situations. Or even the overall manner of our thinking.

The way we think

Many people grew up in a household where they were constantly bombarded and so taught to always focus on lack and what was perceived to be missing from making their life fulfilled. This pattern of thought could have been going on for generations.

It means that even a millionaire can live in a state of fear of economic insecurity. It can mean that someone with a beautiful view never actually sees it and instead focuses on all the negatives in life.

There is a recovery story to illustrate this about a man who was brought up in a household that always focused on lack. His family had always been poor.

One day this man won a million dollars on the lottery. But he was despondent. His friends asked him why he was so sad now that he was an instant millionaire.

“I’m not only sad, I’m actually utterly depressed and angry,” replied this man. “Because the week before the winner got two million dollars…”

Mental health and the media

Another of the big problems today is that we live in a world where we are inundated with messages via various forms of media that tell us we should always be happy. But we never can be unless we do this, look like them or own that.

So it might be that a magazine shows you pictures of a grinning celebrity in their huge mansion. Or we go on Facebook and see that everyone is either on a great holiday, has a terrific job promotion, had bought an amazing new car or made a meal much better than anything we’ve eaten in the past year…

Of course, it’s not like this in reality, but it can seem like this. Advertising and social media commercial messaging can add to this.

“Happiness is not good for the economy,” wrote author Matt Haig in his bestselling Notes On A Nervous Planet. “We are encouraged, continually, to be a little bit dissatisfied with ourselves.

“The whole of consumerism is based on us wanting the next thing rather than the present thing we already have. This is an almost perfect recipe for unhappiness.”

Resistance is the problem

So pain is always telling us something. If we don’t pay attention to it – whether physical or emotional – it will most likely get worse.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is merely trying to get our attention more forcibly.

This is in the same way that if we saw someone running blindfolded towards a cliff edge we would shout increasingly louder as they got closer to the deadly drop. 

There are also some mental health experts who say we need to include spiritual pain here. Sometimes we know something is very badly amiss due to what we call our gut instinct.

Many experienced therapists will be able to speak about a client who told them something such as they should have paid attention to their gut instinct when they said yes to marrying a certain someone. Now they are there in front of the therapist trying to fathom out a decade of domestic violence.

It is frequently when someone tries to fight the pain that the long-term issues arise. Or they mask or numb them with such as an addiction to alcohol, drugs such as marijuana, work, sex, gambling or Xanax.

But of course, rather than the problems disappearing they actually keep piling up. Although they might appear to give some short-term relief, these addictions are never the true solution.

Why mental health pain is a guide

Mental health pain can be considered as a signpost pointing to where someone suffering from it needs to go. This will often mean walking along the road to recovery and making the necessary changes needed to find meaning and happiness.

Most frequently this cannot be done alone. It needs the guidance of a professional who knows this way and can give sound advice.

Many people feel they should be able to sort everything out themselves. But it is never that simple.

This is especially true if certain patterns and negative impacts started in childhood – as so many mental health problems do. Many people have found that with the right therapist they quickly see things they never could have realized on their own.

The pain that attracts our attention and causes us to focus on it is guiding us to seek solutions.

Sometimes this could be such as to deal with unresolved issues from childhood. Or it could be that it’s directing someone to make that decision to move from a city and return to their rural roots.

So in many ways, a mental health problem or diagnosis can be seen as a positive thing. Certainly, this is the case if professional treatment is sought.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung on mental health problems

Indeed one of the world’s most renowned psychiatrists Carl Jung (1875–1961) was optimistic about people who came to see him with their mental health problems. In his era neurosis was the word used to describe what today we are more likely to call chronic stress, depression, anxiety or obsessive behavior.

“I am not altogether pessimistic about neurosis,” said Jung. “In many cases, we have to say: ‘Thank heaven he could make up his mind to be neurotic.’

“Neurosis is really an attempt at self-cure… It is an attempt of the self-regulating psychic system to restore the balance, in no way different from the function of dreams – only rather more forceful and drastic.” 

“The outbreak of the neurosis is not just a matter of chance. As a rule, it is most critical. It is usually the moment when a new psychological adjustment, a new adaptation, is demanded.”

Here at Tikvah Lake Recovery in our ideal mental-health enhancing natural setting by a beautiful tranquil lake our expert team always looks carefully at every aspect of any mental health problem.

We have a range of proven effective treatments that we personally prepare for every guest we welcome to spend some time with us.

We completely understand it can seem difficult to talk openly about certain issues and behaviors. But our experienced first-class therapists and the rest of our team have helped many people achieve a swift, successful and long-lasting recovery.

You will discover the most peaceful setting and luxurious house that’s away from any negative triggers. We ensure every one of our guests eats the most nutritional meals and gets the benefit of decent sleep every night in order to get the best recovery.

Contact us today to see how we can help you or someone you care about.

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David Hurst

David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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