In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we are inviting different guest bloggers each week in the month of May to write about their perspectives on mental health. Today’s guest blog post comes from The Mental Runner whose post details how a combination of living a healthy lifestyle and taking medication has helped him manage his mental health conditions and live a healthier, happier life. Be sure to check out his popular mental health blog, thementalrunner.org. We are very grateful to have The Mental Runner sharing with us on rtor.org. -Veronique Hoebeke, Associate Editor
I take pride in the fact that I am a health conscious person. I know, first hand, that the benefits of eating healthy foods, exercising and participating in wellness activities are second to none. Researchers all over the world have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that most people can drastically improve their physical and mental health by eating a healthier diet, increasing physical activity and finding wellness activities that bring greater meaning to their life. There are many who can alleviate most of the symptoms of mental illnesses by using those means alone. I think that is fantastic!
On the flip side of that coin, medication has also been proved to effectively treat the symptoms of mental illnesses. I have been through four mental wards in my life, and I can say with absolute certainty that they saved my life. There are often heated debates over whether people should use natural remedies or modern medicine to treat mental illnesses because both can effectively help people get better. Being a naturalist and a firm believer in the power of health foods, exercise and wellness activities to treat mental illnesses, in the past, I often found myself striving to rid myself of pharmaceuticals. While that may be a noble goal, I found it to be an extremely dangerous one.
My conditions have been on the severe end of the spectrum since I was a child. No matter how much I have exercised, how healthy I have eaten and how many wellness activities I have participated in, symptoms have always crept back into my life. When the inevitable meltdown or psychotic break would occur, I would be forced back onto medication. This always left me feeling like a failure. I would take them until I got my symptoms back under control and then slowly begin weaning myself off of them again. I was determined to prove that, by some miracle, this next time would be different.
Risking psychotic breaks where I would completely lose touch with reality or become suicidal in the hopes of being “normal” sounds like a strange proposition to me now. In the past, it wasn’t, because I hadn’t accepted the fact that my brain chemistry is too severely imbalanced to be treated by either natural or pharmaceutical means alone. When I had tried to use only natural remedies, the results were disastrous. When I had tried to use pharmaceutical means, I would often let my natural remedies slide believing the medicine would take care of things. The results I got from those little experiments were unbearable.
The last psychotic break I had lasted over three weeks. All I remember are little green men wanting to play with me and flying through the cosmos. When I finally came back to reality, I knew I was in serious trouble. It certainly seemed like I was not going to survive this battle. When I got out of that mental ward, I was a broken man. How dark it is before the dawn!
I came to a point in my life where I was angry enough at my circumstances to change them. I got out all the research I had collected over the years. I decided I was going to use everything in my arsenal in a new wellness plan. For the first time, I truly understood what Dr. Wayne Dyer meant when he wrote, “There’s nothing wrong with anger provided you use it constructively.” I did my best to throw out all my preconceived notions and to look at the data as objectively as possible. I had all the pieces to the puzzle of achieving at least a modicum of mental health right in front of me–I never had been able to put them all together before. I was lucky and for the first time, things began to make sense.
The data was clear. Natural remedies work for many people. Medications work for many people. Neither one works for everyone by itself. So, I decided to embrace both of them. I realized that I was truly in a battle for my life, and I wanted to fight for it. I decided to accept the fact that medication was going to have to be a part of all my future wellness plans and I would not let that prevent me from being who I am, a health food loving exercise junkie that loves many wellness activities.
Deciding that taking medication didn’t make me a failure as a naturalist–it allowed me to continue to be myself. Now, I still feel good enough about myself to make other healthy decisions. Exercise, wellness activities and healthy foods are a part of my wellness plan every week. I would be lost without them.
Deciding to consistently take medication, in addition to my healthy lifestyle, has created a wonderful cycle that feeds upon itself. The better I feel, the more I can exercise and participate in wellness activities. The more I exercise and participate in wellness activities the more I feel like eating the healthiest foods. The healthier I eat, the better I feel and so on.
When I chose this path, I decided to go all in. I posted this quote from Roald Dahl everywhere around me. “I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life…if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”
Am I cured? No. There has been no cure found, yet. Do I still experience symptoms? Yes, but they are much milder and leave much quicker than they did in the past. I’ve gone from mental wards to helping others, all because I decided I could use both natural remedies and medications to improve my mental and physical health. I’m sure that seems like that should have been a simple, logical conclusion to come to. It wasn’t, but I am forever grateful for coming to it.
I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes on your wellness journey. I hope peace, joy and a lust for life fill your days.
The Mental Runner
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