I felt compelled to put this piece up, lest I be misunderstood so early on. I’d also planned to save some of it for several different posts on medication, but, stuff changes. I’ve definitely noticed that the more I grow, the less I plan, especially when it comes to self-expression.
I do not promote any alternative treatment. Recovery from mental illness is a private and unique process that each individual must take the reins on, provided they have the insight to do so. What I promote is an alternative narrative to the mainstream disease model.
There’s a more holistic perspective here; it is one that no one offered when I was tossed into the jittery machine that is mental healthcare in America. It’s a view that takes the biopsychosocial stuff (upbringing, socioeconomic status, genes, etc.) into account, but also goes a step further. This step has made life clearer than everything I learned while getting my BA in psychology and from seeing various mental health professionals over the years. It takes evolution into account—more specifically, the evolution of consciousness.
Consciousness is not something that can easily be written about, and whenever I see a theory trying to “pin down” what it is, I know it is going to be incomplete. Its very nature is a kind of timeless aliveness; something that is always new yet always constant. I could try to explain what this all feels like, but there’s really nothing I could write that would compare to you delving into your own consciousness. That’s what I recommend for everyone, whether they have been diagnosed with a mental illness or not.
Most of us seem to believe that normal, everyday waking-consciousness is all there is, that this mode is where “reality” resides. This is not true. The evolution of consciousness is ongoing, and we are conscious beings. This means that our inner states are always evolving, whether or not we are aware of it. When these changes are noticed, they are usually unplanned and transient: An inexplicable feeling of calm and stillness while standing nature. Some are bigger: Intense, life-changing love in the form of a partner or new baby that transforms the way your world is seen. And some are massive: The universe taps you on the shoulder, a light clicks on, and you are pulled along with the flow of it whether you like it or not.
I do not mean to say that all shifts get us closer to the Truth, or that they all feel good. When manic, I was downshifting into extreme paranoia/anxiety and then back to being the totality of the Universe in a matter of a few minutes. The energy going through me was phenomenal: Walking felt like gliding above the ground and sometimes I had to spin in circles while texting. I was also very irritable, short-fused, and obnoxious. I made very poor decisions.
This was the result of an unsteady, unplanned expansion of consciousness, and it was definitely not awesome.
I encourage no treatment other than that which agrees with your common sense and intuition. I talk to my doctor, but I always I check in with myself, too. This is because even though my doctor is freaking awesome, nobody knows me like I know myself. For now, I’m on daily meditation and medication, but the latter is going to go at some point.
The narrative from a psychiatric perspective goes like this: Because of environmental and genetic factors, I have Bipolar Disorder, Type 1. This severe illness is no different than diabetes or asthma, and I should treat it the same way—with medication—for most if not all of my life. It never fully goes away, and going off of my medication will always present a threat to my health and stability. I cannot help being this way, and my mood fluctuations/out of control behavior are the result of misfiring neurotransmitters in my brain.
The narrative from an evolutionary perspective goes like this: I am a being who is evolving in consciousness. When my consciousness expands and/or contracts, I perceive the world differently and feel a lot of intense things. With good habits, information, and practice, I can learn to use these expansions healthily, or just sit and watch it happen.
When I’m well enough, I can go off of my medication provided I take better care of myself than ever before. I can alter my thoughts and behaviors; these new choices actually change my neurotransmitters over time. I can be in charge of my whole self, be free from suffering, and live to my true nature.
I have chosen to go with the most empowering (and truest) narrative, live to it, and present it to others who are dissatisfied with story #1. This does not mean that the psychiatric story is false, only that it is limited in the way it views illness.
I hope this post clears up some confusion about what it is I’m getting at. In the world of mental health, there are many great treatment modalities, and we’ve come a long way from denigrating those who are honest enough to say “I’m not okay.”
But we need more than good treatment: We need a universal context for our illnesses, or they will never fully make sense. As patients and as people, we need a new lens to look through.
Location: Mt. Vernon, WA