The Art of Suffering and Why Psychiatric Medication is Important
I write a lot about interpreting the meaning of our suffering. After suffering from severe mental illness, going through several life-changing difficult situations, learning coping skills and overcoming, I have learned to find meaning in my pain. Pain gives us insight. It can give us clarity. Whenever we deal with a problem we should ask ourselves, where does the suffering originate? Whether it is a complex political world issue or trouble with friends or family, there is always a reason. Once we find that reason we can begin to understand why we are hurt or troubled. With me, I am often too open and honest. I find myself vulnerable, being subjected to pain over and over again. Writing memoirs can do that to you. Being honest can do that to you. That is why many people aren't. It is a sad fact of life.
I came to a point where my mental health medication was making me extremely ill. I felt dysfunctional, misdiagnosed and out of sorts. There are so many afflictions listed in my charts. Bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression. It really began to feel like I had not been properly treated and many times I found my mental health providers sharing that I may not need medication one day. I had tried weening myself off before to no avail. In 2013 I was committed to a hospital after tossing away my medication so stopping felt risky. However, for the past several months I went medication free. It was an eye opening experience.
First off I have to admit my natural state without medication is extreme suffering, fatigue and mental anguish. When I was first admitted to the hospital in my early twenties I was suffering in a similar way. I even attempted to take my life twice. I was lethargic and could not get out of bed. The confusion was strong. Eventually I made it to the psych ward and was given a diagnosis of bipolar one. With some psych meds I began to lead a normal life. I went to college and earned a degree with almost perfect grades. Things seemed to be going great.
My fall from grace included a series of unfortunate social, professional and political failures. I was forced out of my job, away from my group of friends and back to my hometown. Afterwards I joined a group of buddhists. The mysticism of Tibetan Buddhism was confusing to me however and I became ill again. The group was a little skeptical of mental health treatment. When a provider began speaking with me about Jesus I flushed my medication and once again entered this period of fatigue and pain. Again, there was nothing but confusion and missed opportunities. I began writing a book. It was a grandiose dream. Eventually I somehow got the story published and wrote two more books about my mental health journey.
So the past few months without medication had been exceedingly difficult. Not only was I not on medicine, I was going bankrupt, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I was feeling the strain of writing a very political book and my marriage was having difficulties. I completed this book while off medication which has become customary for me. It's not much different than my second book which was written with medications. So it goes.
The pain came slowly at first. Little episodes of fear and grief here and there. At some point I began having physical symptoms. Pain in my head, chest and legs. Feelings of nausea and paranoia. It became debilitating and I had to lay in bed for long hours. Now, I have been able to interpret my pain for awhile but this suffering was almost supernatural. It was as though the most powerful person on the planet wanted me dead and they were trying to make me kill myself. I felt tortured, raped and brutalized. It was agonizing. I didn't know where to turn. My family and friends began cutting me out of their lives one by one as my symptoms became increasingly problematic. They knew I was in bad shape but still offered little support or comfort which was distressing. I did tell them I was relying on mental health providers. I ran into a spell of bad luck however as my therapist quit her job and I was turned away from psych treatment as my balance went to collections. Somehow I persisted.
Then something miraculous happened. I had a breakthrough. I got my taste of enlightenment from the universe. This intense spiritual pain began showing me things. It all seemed like science fiction for a time. It was like the stars opened up. This universal knowledge became available. I began talking to myself but all of the information I talked about was new and different. So, I began writing it down. I had always kind of had this ability to read my suffering but this was different. It seemed guided by the universe and was very comforting. I was no longer disturbed or at odds with myself. I felt safe and protected. I felt like everything happened for a reason and that there were no mistakes, only opportunities to learn and better yourself.
What I really found out though was that this universal truth, this ultimate reality was not something I really wanted to know. I understood that life on earth was a very unique experience and it was actually better not to know. To be surprised by life from one day to the next is a joy. I wondered why people wanted to know what happened from week to week, month to month, year to year. The best thing about being a human is not knowing, figuring things out for yourself and discovering that “aha” moment of ecstasy. This is why we are here. This is why we are motivated to achieve. Do you think a scientist just wants all of the answers handed to them? Where would the fun be? Where are the accolades? It seemed to me that humanity would thrive for millions of years. I was no longer worried about it.
So, with that being said, this truth I had come to learn was uncomfortable. It was depressing. Perhaps hiding ourselves from this is why people develop mental illness. I still felt sick and tortured. Even though I had access to seemingly everything I wanted to know it didn't matter much because not knowing was actually the exciting part of life. Not knowing what was going to happen tomorrow, surprises for better or worse seemed amazing. If things got difficult I could learn wonderful lessons. If life was grand all the better. I felt whole and healed. Suddenly the prospect of being “numbed up” a bit on psychiatric medication seemed okay to me.
This influence was like the forbidden fruit of knowledge and I felt knowing meant God wouldn't admit you to heaven. Knowing what I knew heaven seemed boring, a place with no suffering or obstacles? For some it was a worthy goal but not for the adventurous, the thrill seekers, the achievers. Hell no. We wanted to come back and live these crazy lives all over agin. It all made sense to me.
So in taking psych medications I would give you this advice. If you can't interpret what is going on in your life by all means take medication. Learn coping skills with dialectical behavioral therapy. Utilize eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy to reconnect your mind. Come off of your medication to see how you're doing every once in awhile. If you are afraid to discover the secrets of life maybe stay on your medications. It makes complete sense to me. Just remember to stay healthy. Stay well and always do good in the world. The best form of practice is service and charity to others. It will make you feel good. It will help you heal. Listen to your favorite music. Watch your favorite films. Open yourself to love with your family, friends and partner. Do what you love and always, always look for the meaning in life.