in your right mind?

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The use of the phrase “in your right mind” is one that we often hear to describe the mental state of people depending on the circumstance. What does this statement really mean? It technically means that one is acting sane, calm and reasonable in their thought process and behavior. To not be in this mindset might suggest one has a form of an emotional, intellectual or mental health challenge which in the past frequently carried a stigma within our familial and societal indoctrination systems. Fortunately today, many people have openly shared their past and present struggles related to mental health “unveiling” this shared collective secret once hidden in the shadows.

Mental illnesses are disturbances in thoughts, feelings, and how you see the world. Mental health
is “a state of well being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal
stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Mental health includes subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational
dependence, and self-actualization of one’s intellectual and emotional potential, among others.

World Health Organization 

Issues related to this subject resonated for me profoundly this holiday season following numerous unexpected interventions with individuals dear to me potentially having a mental health crisis. My involvement in deescalating and mediating the situations was required due to a sort of designated role within my familial system and network. I have assumed this position throughout my entire life but this time it felt more poignant because of “who” brought the matter to my attention this time. As I’ve mentioned previously in other posts, there is an extensive family history within my klan of sometimes challenging and toxic dynamics stemming from past generational alcoholism, physical and/or sexual abuse and mental illness (ranging from depression, narcissism to schizophrenia). The traumas are so deep and pervasive it is a miracle that I am able to share my story now – – hopefully “in my right mind”.

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Types of mental illness: Depression, Bipolar Disorder Schizophrenia, Anxiety Disorders, Eating Disorders, Personality Disorders, Addictions, Dementia

Recent years have exposed a sort of “collective mental health
crisis” within our broader society.  Did you recognize any of “IT”?

The interesting thing about confronting generational family trauma  – – including mental illness – – is that it has the ability to completely sink you into the “abyss” emotionally if you allow it. One could also refer to it as a kind of shared collective madness or Folie en Famille” that, if left unchecked, seeps into the unconscious mind and programming of future generations.Sadly, many within my extended klan succumbed to events due to an inherited disability, trauma, dysfunctional generational patterns, a lack of information, resources, ignorance or sometimes an unwillingness to assume responsibility to initiate the CHANGE required for healing. It is so difficult to confront and transcend toxic familial and generational patterns especially if you are unable to recognize the behaviors that need CHANGING or refuse to seek medical or therapeutic interventions. For some reason, I distinctly remember outright rejecting what I saw as a child knowing it was not always “healthy” or “normal.”  I became a family “snitch” watching the dynamics from the sidelines. This behavior ultimately made me an outcast because my demeanor often highlighted the damaging behaviors. I could not pretend to hide our family crazy and my own reaction to it. It was all around me glaringly visible and many rejected me for sometimes calling it out.

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Photo by Annie-Spratt on Unsplash

Something was said ya’ll.

It must now be stated trUthfully that I did not completely escape the influences around me “unscathed” either (yes – the crazy making energy is infectious). In fact, I assumed several residual behaviors and roles stemming from what I observed and experienced including:

  • For years, I suffered from depression whenever overtly stressed by life experiences and difficult relationship dynamics. My innocent young brain’s amygdala had been triggered so excessively without anyone modeling how to “respond not react” to situations that this was my “go to” coping mechanism for self protection and to regulate my own emotions. It was hard wired so deeply that I had to confront the pattern when “friends” made me aware of the behavior. I also held deep anxiety about commitment and would literally run away from relationships (both platonic and romantic) when they triggered or reminded me of my toxic family dynamics.
  • My family history made me deeply fearful yet protective of the adults around me who exhibited behavior not considered “normal” or “healthy”. I often tried to be the parent to other adults while also feeling shame believing that outsiders judged me and my family tribe. In spite of their short comings, I loved them and wanted US to be okay. I also wanted to feel safe and secure which remained a constant desire and prayer. “Blood is blood”, my mom would always say whenever I retreated to my room in despair, cried or I questioned events. It would take me half my life to realize that being “blood” does not mean one has to accept abuse nor does it mean one has to support or perpetuate the same “generational trauma curse.” Fortunately, my life’s path would bring other adults who modeled more healthier behavior patterns. I also took responsibility for my own mental health and sought out every healing modality that resonated for me (prayer, therapy, eastern medicine, etc).

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  • I was literally the black sheep in my family – – feeling isolated most of the time because I knew in my soul that the behaviors and actions around me were unhealthy and toxic. Something had definitely been said in my family and I wanted to to help but also escape the grips of trauma drowning those closet to me. It was painful to watch at times and not be able to make them CHANGE. What could a 5, 10, 15, 20, 30+ year old person do if the people they loved did not make the effort to seek help? The answer is sometimes nothing but there is always a slight chance that someone will accept the resources, advice or assistance offered. They might even learn from the efforts of “others” to heal and break the cycles of bondage. Perhaps this leaves room for them do so as well.

Mental illness and trauma within the greater familial systems is still quite pervasive today. It no longer needs, however, to be an issue of shame or denial but one where we “unveil” the trUths for all to see and understand. By doing so, we help “others” going through similar challenges. In hindsight, I wish I had the understanding that I do now in responding to my family. Perhaps I could have been more helpful instead of running for the hills at the sign of conflict. Maybe I could have been more loving instead of judging some for doing the best they could with what they knew or were taught. Some guilt still lingers from my past decisions particularly about my deceased father who suffered from schizophrenia. I regret being acutely afraid of him and not fully understanding his condition earlier (no adults in my family ever talked to me about it either). I’m also sad that I never got the opportunity to know him before his illness (my Dad was so handsome) and feel guilty about not making more of an effort to support him while he lived. Yet, these regrets have only made me more sensitive and empathetic to those who suffer from similar conditions. I know it is not possible to assume responsibility for their condition or choices but I do have a willingness to help individuals in need and who have a desire to make an effort to get well.

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Thanks Dr. H for your insight and divine wisdom.

Check out: https://uplift.love/the-shamanic-view-of-mental-illness/

My final thought today is about the importance of conducting your own mental health check up whether via traditional western medicine or some other healing modality. It is crucial to monitor your own wellness not only physically but mentally. There is no shame in admitting you don’t have it all together at times. It is the expression of our emotions and vulnerabilities, however, that make us uniquely human, relatable and real. In fact, I have never felt more connected to another person than when authentically sharing heart felt energy and discussing (past/present) vulnerabilities triggered by common experiences. 

Even with the challenging situations related to mental health within my family, I remain and will always be a grateful and proud member of my tribe of origin. They gave me life, my values, lessons and maybe contributed to my soul’s growth and mission this lifetime. I’ve healed a lot of my generational wounds and even some self imposed injuries (there is always more room for growth). Hopefully, my sharing this story will further open the discussion about mental health and its various pathways for “others” to learn and pursue their own healing options. Many do indeed exist for US to explore but it takes humility and effort to find them. We can ALL experience a mental health crisis at some point in life as well. There is also no need to demonize or marginalize those with challenges in this area. Your response should vary depending on the apparent danger to themselves or others. So remember when your mind is playing tricks on you – – don’t hesitate to seek the help and support you need. There could sometimes be a mental heath plan and pathway designed to steer you towards an improved state of MIND encompassing wholeness and completion – – BEING “in one’s right mind” – – eventually.

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***Special thank you to my tribe who have helped me tremendously***

Healing may require a sort of “apoptosis” in order to re-emerge in one’s right mind. Are we up for the challenge?

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Update 12-5-21

I am obviously no expert in this field but I wonder to what extent broader issues within our society, beyond the obvious neurological issues or trauma related, might contribute to some of these mental illnesses and personality disorders. Perhaps our society is sick producing a sort of collective Folie en Famille (racism, classism, sexism poverty, materialism, haterism …yeah, I went there) which would also help to create unhealthy environments for humans to grow and develop. Now ponder that for a moment…

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