I would like to offer some further thoughts on coping with a mental illness. As I have explored in the first series of posts in this section, you have to work very hard to train the mind and flip everything around so you look at things from a positive, or at least a pragmatic perspective. Often you have to rely on your mind and think your way out of your problems, or perceived troubles!
If you suffer from a mental illness, there is a high chance that others will find out about it. This is the nature of living in a community where you are surrounded by other people. Others will notice changes in your behaviour and you will have to account for any absences such as time off work or periods spent in hospital. During a particularly acute phase of illness, I was hospitalised. Fortunately, this has only occurred in one instance to date, as I was able to be cared for at home the rest of the time. The receptionist who works at the mental health ward of the hospital I was staying at told a lot of people in the Indian community about my hospital admission and condition. When I recovered, I felt so humiliated, because having a mental illness attracts so much stigma amongst Indian people, especially when you’re a woman. Not to mention that any chances of getting married to anyone within the community were completely ruined. But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered why I was so worried about what they thought about me. To them, I’ve always been a piece of trash anyway. Mum was raised moslem and Dad was raised Hindu, so I’m neither here nor there. I’ve never really been accepted by other Indian people for this very reason. I didn’t really have much of a chance of getting married to anyone within the Indian community, even without a mental illness. That made me feel much better and I was able to dispose of any shame I felt in this regard quite easily.
Despite my earlier title of “it’s all in the mind”, I’d like to correct myself. It’s not quite all in the mind. The soul, or human spirit, is important too, in learning to live with a mental illness and in life at large. My multiple conditions – schizophrenia (including slight bipolar), depression and diabetes – really threw me into the fire. I felt like my spirit had died, I had lost my sense of humour and I could never be happy again. For years I knew I had to sort my shit out but I just couldn’t pull myself together. Over time, I discovered that the mind, body and soul are all rather extraordinary and have a tremendous capacity to heal. Whether you believe in the fact that humans possess a soul or spirit, surely everyone must believe in inner strength which emanates from within. This is what enables us to pull ourselves together and get back on our feet again after our defeats. I consider this one of my greatest allies, along with the strong support of my parents and friends, in my journey through mental illness to date. It is this which gives me the power to think, to feel and to believe. This brings me back to the positive mantra which I have forced myself to develop, that I am determined to deal with the obstacles that my mental illness presents.