Coping Skills vs. Life Skills

Just Me is one of my first blog friends, and I am very grateful for her friendship and kindness. Specific to this post, I was mulling over what I wanted to write. I had thought about beginning my journey on this blog talking about mental health and coping skills to start. I am a believer in synchronicity, so when JM put in her comment about lies being a “coping skill”, well, I see we have a post, don’t we?

I have been hospitalized 5 times for a variety of mental illnesses. My diagnoses change pretty frequently, as do my medications, so let’s not be bored with specifics, shall we? My symptoms are more relatable:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood Swings/Mood Instability/Mood Lability
  • Poor Focus
  • Suicidality
  • Self Harm
  • Eating Disorders
  • Addiction
  • …And more!

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Most of my life was spent in complete and utter terror that I was crazy. How does one know that they are crazy, though? People say, “Crazy people do not know they are crazy, so if you are scared of being crazy, you are not crazy.” Fair point.

What does crazy even mean?

We all use such big words to hide reality. Currently, we say Mental Health and Mental Illness. It used to be Sane versus Insane. Normal versus Crazy.

Mental Health and Mental Illness are both euphemisms, though. They imply the versus as before, but they make it sound nicer. The presence of a diagnosis does not imply sickness. This, to me, is the crux of the mental health stigma, YET it is re-affirmed consistently through bad language and euphemisms. Part of the reason why I started this blog and named it as I did is to focus on the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell each other. The way we all handle “Mental Health” is an incredibly big one.

“I have depression” versus “I have a mental illness” versus “I have a mental health issue” versus “I am crazy” all make huge differences in self-talk and interactions with others. In all of my hospitalizations, throughout therapy, etc. I was taught tons of coping skills. The messaging I was not given, however, is I am being taught how to live a healthy life. I was being taught to be dependent, disempowered, and feel broken. I was told over and over that I am mentally ill. I will freely admit, I have had no end of bad doctors, etc., but I do not believe I am alone in my experiences.

Coping Skills, Mental illness: the language alone is dis-empowering. Inherently, we keep being given “less than” status.

Where does the ill part of my brain stop and the healthy part start?

Why am I broken?

Why do I need to learn how to cope with life?

Why is it that because of my brain misfiring chemicals, I am somehow inferior to the “normal” population?

Who, where, and what is normal, mentally healthy population?

What is the baseline?

Who are you comparing me to?

My coping skills are:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Writing
  • Music
  • …and more!

These are NOT coping skills. They are life skills. Any human being, regardless of the chemical state of their brain, trauma or lack thereof in their history, drug usage or lack thereof, can do these things. None of these has a damn thing to do with being crazy or not being crazy.

Frankly, some of them are gifts, talents, and passions. My illnesses were aggravated if not completely caused by me being disconnected to myself, disconnected to the things that cultivated passion, happiness, and joy, and focusing solely on things that cultivated all of the symptoms I listed above. It’s interesting, though, because the flip side I have found in all of this: I am deeply sensitive, caring, compassionate, intelligent, witty, funny, creative, shall I continue sniffing my own farts? Socrates said, “Know thyself.” When I began my journey, I began writing again. This is when I started to untangle my true self versus the persona I played in my marriage, to my children, my family, my career, and so forth.

The brain that I am being told is so ILL is the same brain that is typing this. I have been miserable attempting to understand how I am ill because I am not ill. This is the language we are all using, and being told by the people we trust, and we keep parroting it around attempting to break a stigma that we are reinforcing. Anyone who goes around saying they have a mental illness, or using this kind of language is akin to a battered wife walking around saying, “It’s domestic affection, and I will stand for it!” as she leaves?

I’m not saying I don’t struggle. My brain causes me some serious pain here. I suffer. I just refuse to ascribe to this type of healthy versus ill for something as complicated as the human mind. Frankly, if you want me to believe I am mentally ill, then I would like you to show me ONE mentally healthy person. With proof.

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Coping skills are used in times of crisis. My life was an unending crisis. My depression often leads to suicidal ideation and suicidal intrusive thoughts. As I say often, “It’s not so much that I will actually kill myself, I just genuinely wish I was dead.” My old coping skills were to drink, binge and purge, love/sex addiction, you get the drift? If anything, I used to be very normal. Show me a person who doesn’t escape their problems, and I’ll show you a very “healthy” individual. I said in my first post about lying? All of this occurred while I was smiling and saying everything was fine. I thought I had it under control until I was twitching, stuttering, and on my way to the mental hospital for the first time. I was then taught new coping skills.

Breathing exercises for panic attacks, as opposed to being used daily to elevate your mood and connect the body to the breath and so forth (pranayama). Journaling for mood tracking, as opposed to connecting with your inner self and seeing how much you lie to yourself and others on a daily basis. Meditation was taught to me in the mental hospital without any spiritual guidance. This is inherently unwise. You are giving someone a limited scope of a powerful transcendental tool – much like giving someone a gift card for 3 million dollars and telling them it’s worth $100 and only showing how to use it at one store, one way. Further, you are giving them no spiritual guidance, no spiritual anything, with a tool meant to help you go on a journey within to help you connect with yourself, the God of your understanding, and no worries, it will relieve your stress.

I know in today’s society, God is often looked at as a dirty word, but CG Jung, one of my personal heroes and a dead dude who I obsessively study and helped me understand my mind, said a healthy mind needs a connection to the divine.  He said many psychological conditions are manifestations of spiritual crises. I’m HEAVILY paraphrasing. Or, to put it another way, in order to have a healthy mind, one must have a purpose if the God thing really gripes at you. Look at AA and you’ll understand a lot of Jung’s psychology, as many of the 12 steps used his work. Am I saying everyone with depression needs to go to AA? No.

I am saying, however, there needs to be a bridge between psychology and philosophy and/or spirituality. You cannot look (in my case) your psychologist in the eye and say, “I think I just don’t know what I believe in, I feel like my soul is fucking dying, and I feel like there has to be more to life than going to work for 8 hours every day, and washing dishes.” and getting “Well, you can try joining a class or something?” That was the last time I saw my psychologist. Instead, I became that bridge.

There is too much focus on an illness that must be treated. This is not being viewed as a person needing education, guidance, and direction.  Are there crazy people? Yes, and let’s stop mixing words. I have seen some SHIT in the mental hospital. There are people who are not here on this plane of existence, my friends. There are people who get in full on arguments with their right shoulder.  Crazy means “mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.” I have seen that. We’ve all probably seen that. However, most of us think of crazy in terms of “not normal”. I think part of the stigma needs to be an allowance that there are crazy people. That doesn’t make them subhuman, but I think if we would drop the euphemisms and intelligently have a discourse about our actual states of mind, we’d find a lot of common ground.

I finally have shed that illusion and desire to be normal. Why would anyone want to be someone that is “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected”?? I have lived my life in a desperate search for something I would never want to be while being terrified of something I am not. This confusion, chaos, and suffering existed purely because of how we all discuss who we are, how we are, and how we feel.

My coping skills were fear, lying, shame, self-harm, various forms of addiction, abuse, and so on. I have an obsession with language. Coping is what you do to get through things. Cope – the root of this word – is to “blow with a fist” (kolaphos – Greek). Coping, to me, is fighting, struggling. It’s odd, as the definition says to deal with successfully. We say we “cope” with trauma. I cope with hard times. I do not cope with my life. If you want to say “mental illness” is a part of your life…

Do you want to cope with life?

Fuck. That. I want to LIVE my life. I LOVE my life.  

I am a firm believer in the power of words and self-talk. I genuinely believe in being selective in how I speak to and about myself, because if I don’t believe in myself…Who the hell will? When I started tearing apart how I spoke to myself, symptoms, diagnoses, etc. I started to see how disempowering this entire industry is. I say that word specifically too, as I did not start making significant improvement until I became an educated patient (human) regarding the diagnoses, medications, etc. Then, I started advocating & fighting for myself and saw that at the end of the day:

I am responsible for my welfare, wellbeing, and happiness (like everyone human on this planet). 

As I began studying spirituality, which then turned to philosophy, a reoccurring theme is disciplining the mind. Buddhism, Stoicism, Taoism, and on and on teaches you how to understand your mind, understand yourself, to alleviate most of the symptoms (suffering) listed above. The first thing I learned in the mental hospital was meditation and mindfulness – Buddhist practices.

Not to knock anyone’s anything, but why follow clinical, watered down, industrialized euphemistic stuff, when I can go to the 49 page Dhammapada and learn from the man himself? The Buddha’s wisdom is profound and simple.

“No man causes suffering like an undisciplined mind.” Buddha

I would never tell anyone how to heal, study, recover, etc. I will, however, strongly recommend vigilance in the language you use to describe yourself and how you are conducting your life. Are you coping or are you living?

 

Since JM requested new age… I don’t know what that is, but does this work? LOVE binaural beats

 

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18 thoughts on “Coping Skills vs. Life Skills

  1. I’m sorry, I know you know me, so you know what an idiot I am, but when I saw “And more!” as the last bullet I totally cracked up! So brilliant the subtle injection of humor you can slip into such a deep and difficult area of the human condition!

    I am so loving this new blog, miss! And humbled by the shout out. You have come so far this past year, too, my love. So damn frickin’ proud of you!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yeah, fo sho. My pity party should be winding down tonight, so it will be my next post! Hehe….gimme a few hours. I gots some stuffs and such as, so prolly later this eve? xo love you!!

        Like

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