“Mental Illness: Inexplicable yet Hopeful”

Beth Childress
Teacher, author, and parent of adopted cat, Peeks — read below for more 🙂

 JUL 17,2018



{Long story short:   Part Two of “The Weight of Being Judged By Your Weight” may resume later. I’ve simply lost my stamina to continue on that heavy topic}

So, this article will take a different turn and focus on the types of mental illness with which I am most familiar: anxiety, depression and paranoia.

My newest book, Beauty in the Breakdowndoes not seek to portray mental health as  simplistic. It’s raw, real, and, I hope, radical – radical because it draws from the vision of someone (an unofficial mentor to millions) who has the gift of discernment when it comes to breaking down real things – like mental illness – and humans.

As I am seeking opportunities to define and sharpen my brand, I have noticed that many mental illness online support sites are wonderful, helpful, and…reductionistic.

Reductionistic — a word that I believe has been coined by this mentor of mine.

And here is what he means, I think:

Mental illness is a physical problem – which is partly why those who suffer from this are advised to walk in the sun so that the purest form of vitamin D will absorb into our bodies and give us a boost. Yoga (all yoga, including hot yoga) stimulates our brain as we do inversions. It clears our minds as we are required to focus on holding poses, and it rinses our organs (including some of the stressful stuff we are holding onto, thus releasing toxins and tension from our bodies). And as for anxiety, yoga (if practiced correctly) forces us to breathe deeply. This relaxes the mind and reduces blood pressure.

On the flip side, when the body cannot or does not exercise, melancholia results. Lack of movement in the body facilitates depression. If one is sick for a long period of time, he or she is likely to display symptoms of depression.

If your thyroid is removed or off kilter, you may want to “kilt” yourself (As Madea would word it) until the right amount of medicine helps your body balance.

Yes, it is indeed a physical problem — but it’s not just a physical problem.

These are just minuscule examples of how the brain and body are inextricably linked so that if one is off-balance, so is the other. This is why recurring cycles of chronic, acute pain and pills wreak patterns of deep depression.

But it’s not just about the brain and the body.

Pills do help the brain to balance what is tainted in dopamine or serotonin – or whatever it is in our body that is causing these and other neurotransmitters to misfire.

But it’s not just about pills.

Emotional pain, loss –from the loss of a spouse to the loss of a dream –can cause deep despondency and despair.

But it’s not just about loss.

There is also a spiritual depression. Our conscience knows. If we are running from ourselves or from God or not living consistently with the values we believe to be true, our guilt generalizes and can cause great amounts of paranoia – or so it did for me.

But it’s not just a spiritual problem.

You – me – we are all so beautifully complicated. We don’t even know ourselves to the core. We think we know ourselves but the residual knowledge that we suppress deep, deep, down – may come out in our dreams or may never reach the surface. It’s that deep.

But it’s not just about our subconscious and our fears.

Mental illness cannot be just a moral, physical, mental, spiritual, psychological or sexual problem – It cannot be deduced to the loss of a loved one or a horrible event in the past —it’s all of the above!

And that, I believe, is what my mentor means when he says that such illness is not reductionistic.

My book, Beauty in the Breakdown, is my personal journey and discovery of my mental illness –root causes, mysterious causes ( those I still can’t identify and probably won’t ever be able to name), including but not limited to spiritual, moral, mental, physical and psychological origins.

But guess what? Along the way, I met some beautiful, suffering people with much more intense symptoms than I’ve ever experienced – and they are still here! There is one lady with whom I am (illegally, by hospitalization rules) still keeping in touch with – and she is such a beauty.

I’m glad that we can write about mental illness because it helps us face the parts of ourselves that so often bear us shame and consequently drive us to try to hide those real (and sometimes beautiful) parts of us from our worlds — and it feels so good to let that go. The world needs to see it!

If this has been true for me, then I am certain that it is true for you or someone you know who suffers from these stigmas.

The hope that comes through being vulnerable to those we fear will judge us the most  is part of the beauty that comes in a mental, physical, and psychological breakdown. And beyond that, true hope – eternal hope – is  there for all of us.  We just have to look in the right place.

My book may not have all the answers – but I hope with all my heart, soul and mind that it can offer encouragement, entertainment, insight and “welcome” to people – whether or not they suffer with mental illness.

…Because sometimes the wrestling and unraveling of our mental illness can expose (borrowing from Johnny Price) “the tapestry of uncanny beauty” that resides within each of us.

And that, my friends, is beautiful.

Beauty in the Breakdown – now available at http://bethchildress.com (for a signed copy, if you wish), Amazon,  Barnes & Noble and other places. Note: Barnes & Noble has Kindle or e-read versions only.

Grab a copy — it will make my day but more importantly may make someone else’s day.