How Does One Heal a Mind?

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

I used to write almost every day here. Over time, I stopped writing as much. A few times over the past few months I’ve tried exploring that. Writing here is supposed to be a coping strategy. By not writing, I’m not coping.

During the past year and a half, I’ve been noticing a steady decline in my well-being. On the outside, I appear fine to everyone. People who know me in person will see someone with a smile and a fairly quick wit. I’ve consoled myself that people are telling me I’m making progress.

But I’m not, not really. This is terrifying to admit, because there are people who might read this who would use it to lock me up or do other menacing things. Their own terror compels them to do so, but they don’t realize they’d be making matters worse. So what I do is keep quiet, I self-censor, only to placate the delicate sensibilities of others above my own needs.

I am just as clueless today about how to mend my fractured sense of self as I was when I drove to Alabama from Florida. Coping strategies just help me circle the drain a little bit longer, but gravity and the inexorable pull of the water will claim me. How is someone supposed to fight that?

My purpose in writing this is to show what a mostly honest self-assessment would look like from me. There are things I’ve written that I’ve deleted in this post which probably would dishearten people more than it should. I’ve removed them, not because I don’t feel them, but because I want to protect my appetite for dissolution. As strange as this sounds, it is one of the very few comforts I have left that nobody can take from me.

To be sure, I don’t feel exactly like this every day. But these days get so abysmally macabre that I feel like I must hide them from everyone else. While I want to say this is to protect them, it really is to protect myself. These things get used against me; they are my Achilles heel. Other people – I cannot say more sane – very much use this to their advantage.

I think it’s a burden that many people with mental illness bear. Society is so quick to shun those who are so weak that they cannot avoid accepting that they are wounded in a place that does not openly bleed. Individuals are quick to use it as a means to abuse others more fully.

Figuring out how to heal a mind invariably has to involve dealing with the actual abuses of others and the apprehension it causes. Being afraid of it holds me in thrall to its vices. If I am to make progress, I am going to have to face this at some point.

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37 thoughts on “How Does One Heal a Mind?

  1. You wrote:

    Figuring out how to heal a mind invariably has to involve dealing with the actual abuses of others and the apprehension it causes. Being afraid of it holds me in thrall to its vices. If I am to make progress, I am going to have to face this at some point.

    I’ve tried to comment and deleted. Trying to find words. But these words of yours above, I could have written them myself in regards to my own abuses and apprehensions. And the fear, so often it paralyzes and I can sit down with it and just wonder why do I have such fear. My heart goes out to you Sirius.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sometimes I wonder if this paralysis has anything to do with the breaking process of evangelical faith. It’s like those old practices of body modification in some cultures where developing cartilage is wrapped tightly to control how it grows. Bones might even have to get broken to accommodate the desired look.

      Christianity never required I reshape my skull or burn my flesh. Did it do something just as grievous that didn’t leave an obvious scar?

      Liked by 2 people

      • “My brain had been bound as tightly as the feet of a Chinese woman, and I had read that when the bandages were taken off, the pain was excruciating. The restraints had been removed too late and she would never walk normally again.” – Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase, My Climb out of Darkness.

        I wrote a post titled The Bandages of Fundamentalism in 2004 on my former blog A Complicated Salvation. I’ve reposted it twice on Secular Wings, in 2008 and 2017. I think you might have read it. I started it with this quote from Karen Armstrong.

        Perhaps your skeleton was not reshaped or your flesh burned but look at what Karen says about her brain.

        Tightly bound brains scarred? I think so Sirius.

        It’s when I realized my brain was broken/scarred that I started the process of understanding. For me it was a hopeful moment. Easy? No. Painful? Yes. I feel as though I’ve been in rehab/physio ever since seeing the correlation between the broken bones of the Chinese woman and the bandaged bound brain of me.

        The paralysis. The fear. That fight/flight/frozen thing? It pops up all the time and it amazes me. That’s a whole other thing for me but I also believe those roots are deep inside parts of our brain. The limbic system. The amygdala. The hippocampus.

        My Christianity did reshape my brain and it contributed mightily to the formation of a type of paralysis embedded in fear that had roots in my former belief system.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Hello S.B. I can not really understand what you are going through, but you have taught me a lot by your writes on mental illness. I won’t pretend I have any words of wisdom for you. All I can say is I care, I am glad you are writing, and I hope no one ever uses your feelings and fears against you as you describe. You have my best wishes for recovery, healing, and a grand life as best you can. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    • I truly love your writing. I wish that you would write a book. Your style and character just jump from the pages for me.

      But I do not understand mental illness as well as I had hoped I would by now. I have tried very hard. I often wonder if I understand what empathy really means anything; it seems like a word I created to get 27 points in Scrabble when I say it in my head. It can’t be a real word or else I would understand it.

      “Society is so quick to shun those who are so weak that they cannot avoid accepting that they are wounded in a place that does not openly bleed. Individuals are quick to use it as a means to abuse others more fully.”

      While this is not me, it is definitely people with my personality traits. In another life, this would have have described me quite well; in another it may have been speaking nice of me.

      I have worked very hard not to be this D-Bag and I regret to say that the last people on earth who see this monster within me are the people I care most about.

      I know that you don’t see this as helpful, but you at least understand it. You are in my prayers my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my. Unless youre too naive to notice the seeming pseudo-coincidence, its clear and obvious that the main reason you have a lingering mental illness is because you abandoned religious Christianity outright and seek out its benefits in a lost and broken world.

    Like

    • Except that, no matter how bad I feel now, it’s nowhere near as awful as the last few months I spent believing Christianity. From that perspective, leaving Christianity has been the most sensible thing I’ve done for myself ever.

      Thanks for stopping by and providing an example of what I meant by people who are just looking for an excuse to be abusive. At least Christianity is still willing to provide misanthropes when I need them.

      Liked by 2 people

      • To be honest, I appreciated his willingness to illustrate the abuse people of faith are willing to sling out in ignorance. I mean, if he’s right, it means that his deity would rather have me make attempts on my life than get help.

        I don’t think he took the time to think through his position, and he ended up highlighting how awful his beliefs are. That’s a win.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Haha. Is it “abuse” for me to tell him to go back to where he was BEFORE his current predicament of worsening mental illness?

        My guess is that you would think it abuse to tell someone to “back up” after they have casually moved forward, even if they have rested on a set of train tracks.

        Unfortunately for you and ppl like you, it is YOUR position that hangs on ignorance and denial, because you utterly refuse to acknowledge any help from Christianity, but you hang on every word from modern psychology, even if it fails to produce results.
        Thats tantamount to having “faith” in Humanity and trusting only the science and wisdom of men.
        Well well, looks like you are religious afterall.
        Welcome to the club.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for continuing to make a complete fool of yourself there, Nate. 🙂 (Just so you know, the completely indoctrinated usually can’t resist the temptation).
        You’re absolutely right, SB. As usual.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Not me. He’s an arsehole. Same kind who contually show up on your blog to dispense their ‘wisdom’. I think they deserve my bluntness.
        (And you don’t have to come up with a diplomatic retort. You can just say, “You’re right – fuck ‘em!” 😉

        Liked by 3 people

      • The short answer to your question is “yes.” I’m the writer of the post, so I know about my position better than you do. For example, I have received more help from secular sources than Christian ones. In fact, Christianity was a cause of my depression (and it getting dangerously worse). So you really are barking up the wrong tree here.

        Therefore, I do, in fact, have more evidence of how being out of Christianity has helped me better than being in Christianity. Any other position would require me to lie about the effectiveness of the faith.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Oh my. This is a prime example of the gross double standards that non-religious ppl impose upon religious ppl…
        This is going to be embarrassing for you, but listen up.. It will be good for you to be publicly humiliated by a Christian.

        You said:
        “Finally, unless you’re a mental health professional with credentials qualifying you to issue diagnoses for mental health, please refrain from making such diagnoses on my blog”

        Thats intriguing since I wasnt even the one doing the diagnoses, you were.
        Things like:
        “I’ve been noticing a steady decline in my well-being…”
        “I’ve consoled myself that people are telling me I’m making progress…But I’m not, not really.”
        “This is terrifying to admit, because there are people who might read this who would use it to lock me up..”
        “I think it’s a burden that many people WITH MENTAL ILLNESS bear.”
        (Ooh)
        So why would you say all that stuff about your own supposed “mental illness”?
        “My purpose in writing this is to show what a mostly honest self-assessment would look like from me.”

        Oh! so you can diagnose yourself because….you are a fully qualified professional with credentials to back up your mental health judgments?..

        Thats rich.

        Like

      • Once again, you’re making your comments in ignorance. I’ve actually been diagnosed by several mental health professionals, and have followed up on treatment at a mental health clinic near where I live. This post is part of therapy which has been approved by a certified therapist. Thus, I’m not engaging in any diagnosis of myself.

        How about instead of telling me what you want to hear, you try getting a better understanding of the situation? Asking questions is a better way of getting information than making stuff up and then getting butt hurt when people call you out on it.

        Secondly, you insinuated that Carmen had mental health issues, which is why you were admonished for your poor behavior. Your religion doesn’t qualify you to make such determinations. I hate to be the first person to break this to you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your other comment was removed because it involved speculation that you haven’t provided any evidence for. You’ve been asked to provide such evidence, and so far you haven’t responded.

        I have rules for commenting on my blog. Commenting any further here implies you have read them, understand them, and agree to abide by them. Any other violation by you will result in loss of privileges here.

        Consider yourself warned.

        Like

      • Yeah. Well getting angry at me because I make a point you cant refute is understandable. But if the only argument you have is to flip me off without a rebuttal actually shows you have some shares invested in the same mental illness.

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      • “Well getting angry at me because I make a point you cant refute is understandable.”

        She’s not angry, just blunt. You’re giving yourself too much credit here. Also, you haven’t made your point yet. You need to provide objective, non-testimonial, and testable evidence of your invisible friend.

        Finally, unless you’re a mental health professional with credentials qualifying you to issue diagnoses for mental health, please refrain from making such diagnoses on my blog.

        Like

  4. You learn something new every day, eh? Seems our friend Nate thinks that the reason for SB’s ‘lingering mental illness’ is because he abandoned Xtianity. Hmmm.. I’ll have to pass that little tip along to my friend Patty, who is a Psychologist. I bet she’d be happy to know that ALL she has to do is ask, “Have you turned your back on Jesus?” When interviewing a new client. Brilliant!
    Like I said, SB. An arsehole.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Wow. The comments by Nate in this post shocked and horrified me. Then I feel bad for being shocked and horrified, because as a deconvert I KNOW this is how religious people think of nonbelievers. I see it every day in my real life as I’m surrounded by the devout who spout this kind of shit on a regular basis. I don’t understand why I can’t seem to get over this kind of hatefulness…it’s been three years since I left the cult and you’d think I’d be used to it by now.

    In the meantime I’m still bursting into tears every time I walk into the grocery store and have to be subjected to christmas carols praising the divine.

    SB, I do hope you continue to find ways to cope with your mental illness, which is an extremely difficult burden to bear (and thank you Nate, but I’m referring to the *biological* disease of mental illness that has caused SB much suffering). As to healing from religious abuse, well, it seems I don’t know squat about that.

    Liked by 1 person

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