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Monday, October 06, 2008

Mental Health

This week is mental health awareness week and there are a variety of events and ceremonies organized this week in our town.
There are many books and articles written about mental health, probably more than you could ever imagine.
What exactly is mental health?
I could probable try to give you an intellectual answer and slightly impress you with a lengthy explanation, or maybe not, but that really isn't me.
Mental health can best be described, at least in my eyes, as having peace.
A person with peace, exhibits a satisfaction with not only themselves, but also how they relate to their surroundings and situation in life.
Mental health doesn't mean that you must be at peace at all times, quite the contrary.
Life will have its ups and downs, struggles, and time for rejoicing, but it is how we handle those situations, grow from those situations, that brings about a healthy peacefulness.
I grew up with a wonderful mother who suffered from a severe mental illness.
Most of my childhood years accompanied a mother with severe mood swings and included at least one hospitalization each Christmas Season.
For some, they might of viewed this situation as a negative event and troublesome for a child.
Yet, although we really didn't realize it at the time, my mother's mental illness brought out the best of my father and my 5 brothers.
At a young age we learned about forgiveness, being thankful for what we have, dedication, love, and compassion.
Watching my Father never give up on my mother, no matter what she did, or did not do, and always reminding us that when she did crazy things during her manic phases, that the person behind such actions wasn't really our Mom, but only her symptoms.
I watched my father forgive my mother after she returned to a stable state, and comfort her when the tremendous guilt of her previous actions overwhelmed her.
My Father was unlike any man I have ever known,
and without my mother's illness I might of never seem him for who he truly was.
My Mother, who experienced pain far greater that I have ever witnessed in anyone else, always cared more for others that her own needs.
My mother could see through the facade's that people wear, and could see deep into the inner being of almost anyone she met.
People loved my mom, and she loved everyone.
Looking back, I can see clearly why I have worked in Mental Health for almost 25 years; yes there is unbelievable pain, suffering and hurt in the people that suffer from the illnesses, but there is also example after example of people who display unbelievable character, perseverance, forgiveness, and thankfulness each and every day.
Some of the most spiritual and remarkable people I have met in my life, have also been the people who have relentlessly sufferen for years with symptoms of mental illness.
I have learned more through witnessing other's pain, and how they deal with such obstacles, than I could of ever learned through any other type of situation.
I have always felt that one who experiences pain in their lives, pain that they have limited to no control over, allows that same person to see a different dimension of life, far greater and purer than most of us have access to.
This is what "Mental Health" means to me.

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