Ah, our favourite topic returns. Mental illness! I saw this post topic floating around some time ago on the bipolar collective writing blog, and thought it was a fabulous idea. How do we understand ourselves vis a vis our illness, an illness that so often influences our mind and thoughts?
Well, to me it is simple. I am how I choose to react to my symptoms. It is not ‘me’ to have racing thoughts. It is ‘me’ to try and find a solution, panicking slightly along the way. It is not ‘me’ to have terrible mood swings. It is ‘me’ to isolate myself during them to try and minimize the pain I might cause those around me.
You see, people are still the same people they were before a mental illness struck. A mental illness is nothing but a list of symptoms affecting one’s brain chemistry, in turn affecting our mood, thoughts, etc.
Interestingly, though people LO-OVE to compare and conflate a mental illness with a spiritual experience, you don’t see people wondering who they are vs their spiritual experiences.
And yet, I found my spiritual crisis of late to have been quite distressing, out of the ordinary for me, and indeed, to be something that made me wonder about myself MORE than my normal symptoms do.
Maybe it’s because I’ve become used to my symptoms. Maybe it’s because spiritual crisises are made to be acute. But still, there is this all-pervasive notion that one is intrinsically ‘you’ and the other is a force acting upon you, and one is negative and the other positive.
Here’s a hint: they’re both forces acting upon you. Screwy brain chemistry vs spirit messing with you with neon signs, both are forces acting upon you.
My point? Surprisingly, they have something in common. It is our reactions that define us, not the actions hoisted upon us. And so I encourage people to think not only of their symptoms, but also of their spiritual experiences. After all, I am a hard polytheist and I believe the spirits to be exterior and independent to us. Because of this, I do not believe that having spirits contact you makes you special. Rather, it is how you choose to respond to them that makes you a shining star.