No Picnic In Sight
by Eric Shapiro
Upon being diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I saw the reality behind the greatest myth of mental illness, the myth that The Victim Is Unaware of His or Her Own Condition. A childhood flooded with media depictions of the mentally ill had lead me to believe that the afflicted had somehow been robbed of their objectivity, thrown into a dark hall-of-mirrors beyond the realm of rational perspective.
Nonsense. My rational mind remained intact, albeit uncomfortably so. From the lighter corner of my mind, I watched darkness flow in. Obsessive images of violence and amorality. Urges, or rather, "pseudo-urges" to do things I didn't want to. Yin (the rational mind) duking it out with yang (the imbalanced, irrational mind) on a daily basis. The word "Hell" was used often when describing this state.
I'm certain that the suffering of many leads to punctured objectivity and the loss of rational self-awareness. Fortunately, I remained aware. No matter how awful I felt, I could at least articulate what was going on. The power of descriptive articulation should not be underestimated. It keeps the disorder in context as a disorder, preserving a firm boundary between the right mind and the ill mind. For me, imagining such a boundary was a vital survival tool. I focused on finding a day when Yin overran Yang, so to speak.
The afflicted mind has difficulty inspiring itself to seek assistance. What a complex entity the mind is; even in sickness, it has only itself to rely upon. Unlike somebody with a broken leg, a person with an anxiety disorder cannot lean on his or her other mind. Overcoming mental duress is like trying to kiss your own lips. Quite tricky, but possible with enough imagination.
Imagination and resourcefulness, that's what it comes down to. These strange ailments go just as they came. I knew that elements of my mind were strong; the challenge was getting these elements to positively influence the weaker ones. This required many analysts, many appointments, many schools of healing. Psychology, psychiatry, homeopathy, reflexology, reiki, energy healing-- these were all thrown in the pot to little avail. Finally and unexpectedly, acupuncture provided balance. I've improved significantly. I thank acupuncture and I thank my supportive family, but, most importantly, I thank counter-mythology even when afflicted, the human mind sees itself. And in itself, it sees solutions.
(Eric Shapiro is the author of "Short of a Picnic," a collection of stories about mental illness due in September from Be-Mused Publications-- go to Be-mused.com or Barnesandnoble.com & Amazon.com for details)
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