I would like to put mental health back into mental illness.
Everyone has a mental health condition. Some require medication. Some don’t.
Even those who don’t have a prescription often use substances to create balance: coffee, food, alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.
Some now use the phrase “mental health consumers.” Personally, I hate that term. Do we label diabetics, people who need to create balance with insulin, insulin consumers? Do we call those who have physical handicaps physical health consumers?
Stigma does not disappear with laws. Stigma goes away with education and exposure. The book Listening to Prozac made that drug a household word.
Are drugs the answer?
For some people at some times, drugs are the answer.
We don’t judge people who take drugs to regulate their cholesterol. Some may think they should just change their diet, but I have a good friend who is just vulnerable to high cholesterol. Does he exercise? Yes. In fact, he teaches yoga. Does he do his best to eat what his body needs? I think so.
The ability to say no is a luxury: “No, I don’t require medication.” Some people who have varying degrees of anxiety or depression may be able to choose to live without drugs. But there are psychotic conditions like schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder that require medication.
Prisoners of the mind.
Is medication alone the answer? Rarely.
Therapy is helpful and yet therapy alone feeds more therapy. We all talk about our traumas as a way of processing them. Talking is vital. But talk alone keeps the patient stuck in his own head.
I am partial to yoga as a teacher but any kind of mind/body exercise is vital.
I also think any exercise is so important, whether it is running, biking, swimming or playing tennis. Exercise helps the individual who is stuck in his head to come into his body.
I cringe when I hear yoga teachers in workshops talk about how alternative-healing modalities can do what medication can do. I believe in alternative healing modalities, from acupuncture to reiki to massage to visualization and meditation. I believe we should use the best of everything to get to the place of balance.
Obviously, to me, those who only present the downside of medication have never had the choice of not having a choice.
It can be humbling to think one’s sanity rests in a pill.
We all have a mental health condition. Deciding to take medication is a huge decision and not an easy one to make. All pharmaceuticals have side effects that everyone experiences differently.
We all have different needs. We all seek balance. Unless you’ve been in the throes of psychosis, or the depths of depression, or been through panic attacks or anxiety attacks, be careful what you say. The student in your audience who takes medication may want nothing more than to be told it is not necessary. But how can someone else, who’s never had to take medication, know what is the best treatment for someone else?
Often, due to misunderstanding, many think medication is the easy way out.
Drugs alone are insufficient.
I believe any kind of talk-therapy is useful as part of the process.
I believe working with the body is necessary as well. However, there are many who prescribe medication who would not understand the value of yoga, massage or Reiki.
One must also consider cost and insurance. Those who live on a fixed income due to disability or who do not make much money cannot always afford to make the choices that support integrative healing—or they may not understand how vital it can be to healing.
Too often the alternative healers don’t always see the value of Western medicine and Western medicine does not see the value of alternative healing. The wisest choice is the informed choice, using the best of both worlds as needed.
We must all be open to what works for the individual and support that person in making the choices they need to make for balance and health.
Having a mental health condition can be life-changing, terrifying and painful. As I tell my friends, when someone judges it is not a reflection of you, but of the person who is passing judgment on you.
Edith Lazenby is a full time yoga teacher, trained at City Fitness in Washington, DC, and Willow Street Yoga Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. She has been writing poetry since she was nine years old. Poetry is her first love and yoga continues to feed her heart. She writes because she loves it. She teaches because she loves it. She tells her students all the time: do it because you can. That works for her. She believes in creating opportunity. She believes in helping herself and others. She thinks faith is the most important gift of life, because when we lose everything else we still have that in our heart. She believes the natural state of being is happiness, or bliss, or Ananda. Life is a celebration. Poetry and yoga help her celebrate.
Edith’s blog and website: www.ediyoga.wordpress.com.
Editor: Lara Chassin
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