Some Reflections On Mental Health

Today is a good day. I woke up feeling pretty determined. I’ve got family and friends, and I’m focusing on the great things that I have, and that I get to enjoy.

My hope is that I’ll be able to remain determined and focused. The other day, I was thinking of the intensity of our existence, and how we have no choice sometimes but to confront death, and the hardships of life. Often in life, we have to confront unpleasant things, and that can be difficult.

Remembering that death and suffering is a part of life is not easy to remember. It’s existential, the existential crisis. It’s difficult to have life, when many different things happen, and do happen, things we might not be ready for, but that happen anyway. When I think about what people I love have been through, it can be tough. It doesn’t make sense or seem fair, but it’s the way that it is.

Yet resilience is another important theme to all of this. I have been resilient in my life, and so has my loved one. I feel as though it’s important to remember what you have overcome, what I have overcome. While we have been through a lot, we do our best, and we do get through.

Resilience and determination are important to remember. Cultivating those traits is incredibly powerful for the unpredictabilities of life.

I’ve been thinking about mental health, and the complexities with those things, all it involves. It is complicated. People I know have been through a lot because of mental illness. It’s not something I ever would have expected, in retrospect.

I keep thinking of what I went through when I was twenty one, and how difficult it was for me, when I got off my meds and struggled with psychosis. Mental illness is not something that everyone goes through. But, it is genetic. I’m trying to have more compassion for myself for what I have been through with mental illness. It’s a tough thing that has deeply influenced my life, in so many ways, not ways I always anticipated. That’s not an easy thing to recognize. But the point I’m trying to emphasize is that I got through it. I persevered through it.

It’s not easy to remember the self-compassion piece. Mental illness almost uprooted my life when I was younger, and it’s hard to imagine that this was what happened. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want the struggle that came with it. It was the reason why I finally took my mental health so seriously, because I realized that my mind could do things I didn’t like without me being aware of it.

Why the mind makes things so difficult, I can’t really say. There are many explanations for it. It’s a confusing thing, though, even with the scientific explanations. Mental illness is not so easily understood, especially on a social and interpersonal level. I personally don’t understand it, and I lived through it. My assumption, though, is that the human mind is easily subject to delusion and confusion, at least in some cases, and it’s obvious that people experience that sometimes. The mind, in other words, is not always rational. There’s no specific way people have to think, and so it’s easy for the mind to wander in complicated and uncharted territory.

Believe me, I don’t fully understand the process, though I try to. It is a complicated process. For me, the way I get through it is by focusing on what I’ve overcome. I don’t know why humans struggle with such things, but it doesn’t stop it from happening.

Aside from unpredictability and other unknown factors about the human mind, it can be difficult to understand why we do the things we do in the first place, what process is at play. Learning to be aware of this is part of the process of getting through it. The human mind is complex, and it’s important to remember this.

Delusion, confusion, delirium, unpredictability: All of these things describe the human mind. I of course don’t want to only focus on the places where the mind is subject to such negative processes, because the mind is capable of good things as well. But that said, it is interesting where the mind can go, and it is important to acknowledge it.

I realize for myself how important it is to pay attention to the mind, even to the things I don’t like. I pay attention to my mind because I know that it’s often telling me something. It’s not an easy thing at all, because it’s easy to ignore our mind.  But through my experiences, I’ve learned to be more aware, and that really helps me get through it.

It does confuse me how my mind has gone off the rails before, such as when I was younger. It worries me, because I know it can happen to other people, as it has. I’ve seen it happen. That can be difficult, to see mental illness in other people that you love, but it does happen sometimes. I’m glad that I still have my family, though. I’m grateful for them. I know we have gotten through a lot, and I’m grateful we have gotten through.

There were times where I wasn’t sure if I’d get through. And obviously seeing it in people I love is difficult.

Of course it doesn’t make sense why we go through these things. Notions of suffering in the mind aren’t really intuitive. It doesn’t make sense why people through it. I didn’t know if I’d get through, because it was such a complicated thing to experience, and I didn’t know what was going on. It involves so much of your attention and emotions, and without medication and therapy, it can be easy to go off the rails. This doesn’t make you a bad person, though, and that’s one of the things I continually keep in mind. People fear mental illness, but most people that go through it are experiencing something really difficult to explain and relate to, and that’s something I’ve acknowledged for myself. There were things I could have done differently in the past, of course, but quite a big chunk of it was out of my control. There is a lot about our mental health that takes time to learn, such as mindfulness and self-awareness.

I believe that people can definitely thrive with mental illness, though. I’m sad what the people I love have been through, but I’m also grateful that they have pulled through, that they are still here, living normal lives. I have to give myself credit, because I have gotten through it too, and that matters. It’s definitely a good place to be, where you feel that you have more control over your life. Personally I feel like I have more freedom in my life now, and that gives me hope. I’ve dealt with it. Mental illness is not something that will occupy your whole life, once it is under control. As I’ve told myself many times, life is about learning not to just survive, but also thrive. I find value in such a notion. It’s not just about getting through, but also enjoying life, and finding joy.

You can find joy in life, even with mental illness. I’ve found joy. Even though at times I fear death and the unknown, I’ve learned more and more that we can get through these difficult things, that we can have a healthy mentality, and push through the difficult things. I struggle with it sometimes, I seem to be very sensitive to the suffering of others, and I have visceral responses to pain. But we can get through. We push through. I may not understand what I’ve been through, or what other people have been through, but the people I love have been resilient. We are definitely resilient. That matters for pushing forward. No need to fear the unknown, when we’ve got each other. I’m hopeful for the future. I’ve learned a lot from it.

A Flash of Insight (A Poem)

Check out my poem! Enjoy.

Find my books at http://amazon.com/author/phoenix_rises

I see a path I want to

scathe

burn

by every flame

I confirm

make my life

creative

expressive

making everything explosive

volatile words

in a hostile world

I am my own blazing firebird 

making my life

through simple constructions

representations

not overthinking

my own transformation 

I live out everything 

I imagine

an image as pure

reality itself 

no illusion or mirage unreal

I want to feel

the pure greatness of potential 

it makes my life full

all the things

that I imagine are real

these things

I make

that I create

I build my own reality

I have made

everything

thinking

living

imagine everything

try and see

just how deep it all goes

a dead rose

a river flows

passion

that I truly envision 

imagine

don’t lose sight

of your passion

or grit

go

for it

seek

see it

become all you need to be

flash

of bright insight

an entire reality

to create

don’t stop

this flash of lightning

in your head

exciting

creating

creating everything.

Black, Part II (A Short Story)

Find Phoenix at http://amazon.com/author/phoenix_rises

2

            That was always the thing with The Bad Guy, of course. The Bad Guy felt Phoenix needed to go without, and so The Bad Guy always reinforced this. There was much that Phoenix did not deserve, according to The Bad Guy, and that was why Phoenix didn’t have any money, that was why he was poor, that was why at times, Phoenix had no hope.

            Phoenix didn’t know where he was going, and yet, he did know. He was going to lobby for rights. For gay rights, for instance, or rights of the poor, or the rights of those who suffered with mental illness and/or addiction. The government had been cracking down on outsiders and atypical people alike, those on the fringe, and Phoenix was feeling the blow. Phoenix’s rights were even more limited now than they had ever been, and this was saying something. Phoenix was being trampled on by the government, because nobody cared about what he thought, nobody cared about what he felt was the right thing. Phoenix didn’t know why the government was so hostile to people like him, hating the poor, hating those who were different yet unique, those who were ostracized and on the margins, yet thinking about it in that light didn’t change anything, because now it was a fact of life.

            So Phoenix continued to walk, he continued to walk down the state street and through the strange religious mall he was at, and he didn’t know where he was going to end up, but he was open to the possibilities, he was open to anything and everything. Life was still beautiful, even if Phoenix did not always believe this himself and even if things got really hard sometimes. There was his existence, the things that he longed to understand about himself, but there was also the joy of philosophy and politics, and Phoenix was not going to be afraid. So, he continued to walk down the street that cut through everything like a knife, cutting right through the heart of the city, and this was a fitting metaphor for where Phoenix was and where he often ended up. Phoenix was a sword.

            He was indeed thinking about the way that religion destroyed things, but also created things. Perhaps this was the paradox of religion, was that it would give you hope while also telling you what to believe, coercing you. It seemed as though the place that Phoenix was at, the city, was very religious, and this was made clear by the buildings surrounding him. Phoenix did not feel welcome here. Religion was often corporate and often benefited from blind servitude and the oppression of outsiders. Phoenix did not want to be so scathing about what he perceived, but Phoenix was never going to benefit from religious structures, because they would tell him that he just needed to believe in God and that everything would be okay, even though he was malnourished, even though he needed medicine, even though he was sick. At least in a manner of speaking, because Phoenix was actually doing okay for the moment, and that was good.

            Phoenix didn’t want to be here, but he forced himself to continue to walk through all of this, and he felt left out, boy, did he feel left out; but he knew that he was going to arrive at his destination soon enough, so he sang to one of his favorite songs, and he powered through it, and he continued to walk down the street, and he began to go up a small hill.

            As he walked up the hill, he thought about what his life meant, as he looked at all the fallen Fall leaves on the ground and the shade from the trees. He honestly wasn’t sure, and maybe there was something that he couldn’t know, no matter how hard it was to not know. But if religion and capitalism took over the world, then perhaps there really was no place for the outsiders and for the anarchists and for the street kids. This was the way that it always seemed to be. And Phoenix was used to this, though sometimes, he wished that he could have good food and he wished that he could have money so he could buy the things that he needed. But Phoenix was poor, and he was never going to get the things that he needed, not in this society, which was why he continued, because he needed to lobby, lobby hard, for fellow street kids.

            So Phoenix pushed himself, and he got up the hill, and then, he saw that he was right there, right at the Capital. It was confusing that he was here of all places, because it wasn’t like anyone was going to listen to him, it wasn’t like anyone cared where he was at. It was just kind of how these things were. But he nonetheless forced himself to go up, and he realized that he was wearing a black shirt, and he wished that he was barefoot, and he wished that he could be someone cool and attractive, a cool gay guy, maybe. When Phoenix realized this, he decided to go for it. He took off his shoes, he would come back and collect them later, and he walked even closer to the state capital, until he was on the lawn. He still had his notebook, and now, he had a copy of the book Maniac Magee, and that was really cool, and beautiful. He began to write.

            He was going to do this. He was Phoenix. So he wrote a poem in his notebook, thinking about all of the things that he had experienced and somehow making them concise in one moment and in one poem. Maniac Magee. He didn’t know what else to expect, he didn’t know what his life was supposed to mean, but maybe this was a good thing.

            It was relaxing writing on the lawn of this beautiful building and thinking about the strength of homeless kids, and he knew that this was in the future going to be a very happy memory, even though he felt all of the chaos surrounding him. Phoenix needed to be okay, he needed to understand that he was all right, which was why he continued to write, and when he was finished, he got up, dusted himself off, and walked up towards the building, the building of the rich and the wealthy, and holding a book that he loved very much and his own notebook, he walked inside.

            He didn’t understand why the building was open to him, but he decided to run with it, so he continued to move through it, move through all of it, and it was a nice building, he had never been in here before, and even though it was representative of the wealthy and powerful, he knew that he was going to express himself and express himself well. It was time to lobby. It was time to process.

            “Can I help you find anything?” came a voice.

            Phoenix turned, and he saw an officer. But this officer was nice. This officer was in fact encouraging. Phoenix thought, did this guy like his black shirt? Did he like his shirt? Did he like his clothes as though they were shadows? Phoenix wasn’t sure, so he said, “The president is cracking down on us. I’m gay, and the world will not accept this. The world wants to destroy me, and I don’t know why. It really sucks. Do you like my shirt?”

            The officer looked a little bit confused, perplexed by Phoenix’s complexity and perplexity of thought, but he was compassionate, and he was listening, so Phoenix continued: “There really isn’t a place in the world for people like me, as I know. I wish that I could work with kids, for my job, to make a living, but I am penniless and jobless and ungrateful, and kids would never understand me, and I would never be able to give kids what they deserve. If I worked with kids, I would just make their lives worse, and that wouldn’t make sense, in fact, that would be cruel and horrible. I would just make their lives worse, because of my chaos and intensity, people wouldn’t understand. That is just a fact of life. I am humble and kind and that isn’t good enough for kids.”

            The officer was empathetic, and his facial expression seemed to say, that Phoenix was being too hard on himself. Phoenix was always too hard on himself. But Phoenix had been crushed by the world, and this was something that everybody knew, everybody including those who didn’t really know Phoenix. Phoenix was always going to be crushed, because that was his punishment, that was his inferno and his purgatory. The beautiful thing about Phoenix and his situation, though, was that he was also beautiful, and people cared about him for his beauty, his character, his goodness, and that was good. Phoenix didn’t realize this, but he had friends, and his friends were there for him, always. His friends were there, and they weren’t going to give up on him. Because Phoenix deserved a lot, if only Phoenix realized this for himself. But he seemingly did not, because he was crushed by the world, and because that didn’t change.

            Phoenix continued to talk to the officer. He said that he hurt, and that he wished that he was a better person, and that he wished, things weren’t so destructive. Phoenix was lobbying, lobbying for the rights of those who were misunderstood and marginalized and ostracized, and Phoenix knew that he was on hunger strike, not just because he didn’t have access to food, but also because he wanted the kids in the world to understand they were loved and they deserved better food and that he was going to lobby for them, so they would be nourished like God would have wanted, he did this with his hunger strike, his protest, because Phoenix cared. But Phoenix was feeling sad and he was feeling overwhelmed and he didn’t know how long he could do this, so he looked at the officer, smiled, and he decided that he was going to go far, far away. There was nothing he could do about the way that the world was, this was something that was out of his control, so he smiled at the officer, and then walked out, able to have lobbied and to go on his hunger strike, for the kids of the world, for all the kids of the world, to no longer starve, to no longer suffer.

            There was a bus just a little ways away. Phoenix went to the bus, and not really knowing what to expect or where he was going, he held onto his book and onto his notebook, alive and barefoot and cool, and he walked towards the bus, and got inside. The bus driver didn’t say anything to him. Phoenix went to the back of the bus, sat down on the bench, smiled to himself, like a kid, and he closed his eyes, and he fell asleep instantly, and all he saw was the darkness, his black dreams.

Nihil (A Poem)

Find Phoenix at http://amazon.com/author/phoenix_rises

Enjoy.

I, perhaps, feel.

I am, perhaps, not.

But to be is to explain away

all of the heartaches,

to feel nothing,

it makes no sense

to say that I,

I am,

when my life is abstraction,

nothing constant, or,

real.

I … feel.

But there is no reason

to feel,

as I let the paradoxes abound

deep inside,

weaving paths of fate crisscrossed,

wound in the brain,

do you know who I am?

Is my loneliness a mere illusion?

I … am

I … am … not.

It’s just …

where did I go?

I no longer

feel as though

I am here.

I am, no longer.

A disappearing act into,

nothingness,

quick trick

into undeep insight,

slight sleight of hand unwind—

be.

Or, why never be.

Because, you can’t.

Abstracting.

Contracting.

Relaxing.

I understand

that I am rigged to fail,

hardwired to feel, sad,

feel, nostalgia,

touch empty—

the touch is, so, so empty.

I’m not, sure

where I stutter now,

or if I just intuit nothing,

to … feel?

I can’t really say,

as much as I wish that I could.

To think is to learn how to die,

and I

am already

deep in the resurrection grave,

buried deep

in the void,

where the paths of truth

forever crisscross,

I, am, nothing:

to become, nothing:

that is the greatest gift of all.

Hold onto it,

please,

and the universe will gently embrace you—

I, I will, embrace you—

to finally … feel nothing.