Following the Flow

Go with the flow – a phrase we hear often throughout life. More often than not we simply disregard the phrase, regarding it as some “hippie” type saying, but what does it actually mean? How does one “go with the flow?

As we know, in life we are constantly faced with different situations, facing different external stimuli that influence us in various ways. It’s hard to actually figure out what the best course of action is for every situation. If we don’t know what the outcome will be in a given situation, we may simply end up retracting and avoiding the situation. These are the types of situations which now remind me of the phrase “go with the flow”.

When I was younger, I would often become anxious at the thought of a situation with an unpredictable outcome – going to a party, hanging out with new people, going to a location that I hadn’t been before, pretty much anything. I tried to have a calculated decision for every possible situation. I was still figuring out who I was and what I stood for at this time, so I figured if I could predict the outcome of a situation, I would at least have some insight as to how various external stimuli would influence me. If I couldn’t predict an outcome however, I would retract and end up missing potentially exciting opportunities. I lived a lot of my younger life like that until I actually started analyzing and understanding myself.

The key for me came down to knowing what I want in life. I analyzed and analyzed until I found my answers, which were helping people and being happy. Everything started to fall in place after that. I feel as though I started to go with the flow. I suddenly didn’t retract to my usual recluse state. I knew what I wanted in life, all of those situations where I’d have to calculate the outcomes suddenly became a thing of the past. It didn’t matter what situation was thrown in front of me, so long as I knew what I wanted in life, I was able to go with the flow, as they say.

I’ve since taken this philosophy about “going with the flow” a step further, specifically after studying Daoism. I’ve started to adopt this analogy: Our lives are much like rivers, and we are traversing the waters. Our rivers may shoot off into other rivers, streams, etc., but given time, we will end up back into our own river, or, perhaps your river will eventually merge with another river. We don’t know what will happen in our lives and when we worry about the future, we lose the ability the live in the present. I encourage you all to understand yourself. Understand what you stand for, what you want in life, and go with the flow. Don’t sail upstream and make life more difficult than it has to be. Let the river’s flow take you to explore new and exciting opportunities.

Advertisements

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Future

As I’ve written about before, about a year ago now I was told that I had prodromal schizophrenia, the early stage of the disease. This diagnosis means that I have about a coin-flips chance of developing the full disorder later in life. Fortunately I am now completely recovered, and rarely experience any psychotic symptoms. Still, long after I had mentally healed, I still held fear deep within me. I was deathly afraid of schizophrenia.

The fear I experienced was a fear that I am sure almost anyone in my place would feel, knowing as much about the disease as I did. I had taken both abnormal and regular psychology, and my teacher, who formerly worked with people with schizophrenia, made well sure we knew exactly how horrible the disease can be. As I started to develop some (very) early symptoms that I believed could be related to schizophrenia, I did even more research, and what I found terrified me. One third of those with schizophrenia are seriously impaired by the disease, another one third are moderately impaired. I did not like those odds.

To the outside eye, and indeed to the inside eye as well, schizophrenia can be terrifying. It’s a disease that can take your ability to reason, your ability to think, even your ability to distinguish reality from the creations of the mind. This fear gripped me from those earliest symptoms up until my first psychotic episode, and beyond. It took me too long to realize that a life lived in fear is not a life worth living. I could not go on fearing this illness. Something had to give.

It was a long recovery. Coming to terms with the fact that you might develop a disease that scares you to death surely does take a while, but I did it. I did it, primarily, by realizing that there was nothing I could do about it besides retrieving the treatment I was already getting. There was just, literally, nothing that could change what was (or was not) going to happen. It was a hard thing to accept, and in some ways it still is. If you’re like me you’re used to being in control of your destiny, making your own opportunities, realizing that in some ways you can’t…it’s hard.

In some ways though, it doesn’t matter. In some ways, it’s better that we can’t control everything that happens in our lives. Life is an adventure, and adventures can’t be adventures unless there’s a struggle to overcome. What a boring story life would be if we could just coast through it, not facing any adversity at all. I might develop schizophrenia…so what? It’s all part of the plot of my life, that is all. It’s my adventure and I’m going to adventure the hell out of it.

Get Mad

Last weekend, I got to go to one of my favorite places, Universal Studios, with one of my favorite people, my dear friend Thomas. We had a great time, we rode all of our favorite rides, ate turkey legs, and drank butterbeer. Well, it was great except for one part.

For those of you who don’t know, it’s Halloween season down here in Orlando, and Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights is in full swing. Halloween Horror Nights is essentially a nightly event where the entire park is shut down, and zombies, serial killers, and other frightening characters take the street. Not for the faint of hearted.

We were at the park before Horror Nights started, as I’m not much for scary stuff, and we’d just gotten off our favorite rollercoaster, The Mummy (I can recite all the lines to the ride, but I digress). After we got off we started walking towards Diagon Alley when I saw a bus “crashed” on the side of the street.

Of course, it was a decoration for Halloween Horror Nights, but being the intrinsically curious person that I am I went ahead and read the side of the bus. It read “Shadyrooms Sanitorium”.  And that’s the moment that my day took a turn for the south.

I knew I shouldn’t have let it get to me, but it did, and the rest of the day I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t believe that Universal, a company that I had come to adore over the years, would allow a prop (and I assume accompanying strait-jacket costumes) that is so offensive and stigmatizing to so many people.

Last month I wrote this article about how offensive and stigmatizing mental patient costumes really are. Let me be abundantly clear, that article wasn’t just about stopping those costumes because they were offensive, and this article isn’t just about a bus being offensive, it’s more than that. This is about saving lives, and this is about improving the lives of those living with mental illness.

Strait-jacket costumes and buses to mental hospitals being used as Halloween props perpetuates the idea that those with mental illness are violent, “crazy” individuals. That is stigma. The worse stigma gets, the less people who need help want to get it. Think, if you knew you would be viewed as violent and untrustworthy for having a mental illness, would you seek help?

And then there’s the people who have already been diagnosed, but must live in shame and fear because of the label cast on them by society. Afraid to reveal their diagnosis or venture outside the realm of “normalcy”, they are relegated to hiding their illness, and any signs of it, or else be viewed as a violent monster.

The less people get help, the more people end up in crisis, the more people die from their illness. All because we want to use mental illness as part of our horror shows. So don’t let it happen, don’t let stigma be perpetuated in a world where it is already bad enough to begin with. We should be up in arms over stuff like this, things that are so wrong and offensive and stigmatizing. We shouldn’t let the people running the show get away from this. We should get mad.

UPDATE: Mental Health America has started a petition to stop the sale of the children’s “Gone Mental” costume. I encourage you all to sign it here.

Concerning the Tragedy in Roseburg, Oregon…

With the recent events of October 1st, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon, I felt obligated to write an article pertaining to the media portrayal of these types of events, as well as it’s relation to mental illness. The tragic event started at about 10:30am PDT, resulting in the loss of 10 people, including the gunman himself. This event marks yet another school shooting in the United States, which are averaging about 1 per week, with the total now being 142 since the events at Sandy Hook. While America as a whole is starting to become safer, these events are starting to become commonplace in the United States, which, in itself, should never be the case. It has gotten to the point where the United States hasn’t gone 8 days without an incident of this caliber.

When it comes to law enforcement handling the situation, they are trying to prevent the glorification of the perpetrator by not releasing their name or even focusing on their crime, but rather focusing on what happened to the victims, which I feel is the way this situation should be approached. The media, however, passionately disagrees. In relation to the event in Oregon, we’re starting to see articles pop up like these:

OivmD4I

This type of identification and glorification does not add anything constructive to the situation. Yes, it may provide information, but at the same time, it’s giving the individual recognition for what they’ve done – precisely what they are wanting. This type of “anti-hero” glorification may encourage other individuals to repeat these type of events. We, specifically the media, should not be encouraging these events to occur. We should focus on those who were impacted by the event – the victims, not the perpetrator who brought the event to fruition.

In addition to media portrayal of these events, there are other concerns that come to light when events like these happen. Mental illness is one of the major concerns that come to mind, more specifically, a lack of treatment for an individual suffering from a mental illness, or a mental illness that an individual has been living with that hasn’t been identified. There’s a lot of debate over some other concerns among society, such as guns being too easy to obtain in the United States, as well as the security of institutions where these events take place. However, we should be focusing on the first point.

Mental illness is a large factor in whether or not people have these types of thoughts. Treatment for mental illness should be more streamlined – individuals should be able to get the help they need to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring. With the general ignorance toward mental illness in addition to the stigma surrounding it, individuals suffering often feel like they’re insane or alone in the world, exacerbating the underlying illness. It allows them to be alone with all the negative thoughts they may have, which is upsetting and terrifying in itself, but, as we can see from the tragic event from October 1st, if an individual is left alone without external help or support, this is what may happen.

We as a society need to educate ourselves about the myriad of mental illnesses out there. Know the warning signs that are present when someone is suffering from a mental illness. Help them seek help, in whatever way you possibly can. Offer your support to them. Show them that they aren’t alone in regard to how they’re feeling. Furthermore, we need to address and reduce the stigma towards those who are suffering from a mental illness. Instead, we must start treating it exactly as such – an illness.

I will leave you all with a video I saw yesterday relating to the subject matter at hand. I feel that it touches upon the subject quite well.