Archives for June, 2011

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Step Out of Your Shell


It's funny how life confirms your beliefs, and as attitudes change, so do the people you meet. Five years ago it seemed obvious that the mood instability and chronic melancholy I suffered directly resulted from the trauma of my past. Over and over I met others from devastating childhoods who seemed to grapple with the same emotional issues: high sensitivity, easy sadness, chaotic relationships, erratic performance, and so on.

Every time I heard of...
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Riding on the Storm


Progressive forces within the mental health services encourage meditation. My personal experience convinces me that meditative practice can help a person learn to cope with dark moods and sorrow. It can teach one to appreciate the full spectrum of human emotion rather than always striving to feel 'good.'

My meditative work began in 1987 soon after I first attended Alcoholics Anonymous and faced the program’s advocacy of spiritual growth. I realize now my...
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My Perfect Childhood


My childhood didn’t always seem so perfect. For years, decades even, I complained about it to anyone who’d listen. It never took long to get sympathy, or shock, or a compliment on how well I’d turned out, “in spite of it all.” My story of a disastrous upbringing served me well, I suppose, but it’s time to move on. Nowadays it seems very clear that I owe my present satisfaction with life to...
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This Thing of Darkness, I Acknowledge Mine


What do you find hardest to accept?

Are you most troubled by grim facts of life? For instance, are you dismayed by the rampant cruelty and injustice in the world? Do you resent corporate interests for destroying ecosystems in the name of greed? Do you find happiness difficult in the face of inevitable death and tragedy?

Or are painful states of mind more challenging to embrace? Do you resist chronic feelings of depression? Do you...
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The Thin Membrane of Now

Acceptance underlies most of my recovery from what was once diagnosed as bipolar disorder. As earlier posts have made clear, I no longer buy into the concept of 'mental illness' because the phrase refers to putative brain disorders that are viewed as irreversible. My recovery demonstrates that my formerly intense moodiness did not result from a structural or genetic neurologic condition, but rather from errors in relating to the chaotic vicissitudes of life....
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Healing by Example

In overcoming mental distress, little helps so much as the good example of those who've transcended similar problems.

This past weekend I enjoyed the company of more than a dozen men during a casual retreat near the shore of Lake Tahoe, which straddles an alpine stretch of the border between California and Nevada. We know one another through involvement in a 12-step program.

I'm a relative newcomer, having first participated in this gathering only four...
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Pills for the Brain or Respect for the Soul?

In ancient times, spiritual vitality and mental health were considered identical. People did not conceive of a mind separate from the soul.

The kinds of behavior that now get referred to psychiatric wards were considered evidence of spiritual illness or demonic possession. When this system of belief functioned at its healthiest, the deeper value of the person was not questioned; it was instead assumed that mystical torment obscured a sufferer’s brighter lights.

However, in some...
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Drugs for Life?

Although my last post argued against viewing psychiatric drugs as scientific miracle pills, it remains true that some patients experience decisive improvement on medication. I believe such individuals are fortunate. As my writings have made clear, I did not enjoy much success with drug treatment.

Lack of efficacy combined with dreadful side effects led me to taper off the medications, slowly and over several years. If the pills had worked for me...
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