Searching For Answers

Young woman searching for answers while walking on sand dunes

Questioning The Events In Our Life

Curiosity is the eagerness to know or learn something. We are often curious to learn more about why things happen the way they do in our life. Sometimes we receive happy news which makes us jump off our feet, while at other times, we are confronted with such terrible news that suicidal thoughts start to lurk into our mind.

Many times, we have no explanation for the random events in our life. We often sit alone and try to analyze what we could have done differently. If there is a learning point to take away from a certain event, then learn from the experience and avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.

But quite often, you will find that you cannot come up with a reasonable explanation as to why something turned out the way it did. The worst thing that you can do is to ruminate over the event; this distracts you from putting your best foot forward and moving on with your life.

Our entire life has been a process of looking for answers; this process will continue on moving forward. Life is like a classroom since the day we entered preschool; we will never stop learning. That’s because we will never leave the classroom; life will continue to teach us lessons until the day we die.

No matter how painful the lessons taught to you by life are, you have to do your best to learn from them and move on. The people who have trouble learning from painful lessons are the ones who have a higher chance of developing a mental illness. Unresolved pain promotes depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Don’t get too stuck on looking for answers. Life will provide them to you if it’s meant to be.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

I Am Not Afraid Of My Mental Illness

Young black male with mental illness praying

Facing Your Symptoms

Mental illness can be scary. When your brain malfunctions, causing you to experience unfamiliar symptoms, you either begin to freak out or ignore them. Freaking out is bad; it only makes the experience worse. And ignoring your symptoms is a terrible idea; it only prolongs the duration till your acceptance.

So don’t do either. The best course to take besides treatment is acceptance of your mental illness. Acceptance is key because even with treatment, there is no guarantee that your symptoms will greatly diminish. So rather than getting upset and fighting against your symptoms, you need to become accepting of them while finding a personal way to cope.

From time to time, you will experience some fear regarding your symptoms: “what if they happen in public?”, “I feel them coming on!”, “other people might notice!” When you begin to experience these negative thoughts, remind yourself: “I am not afraid of my mental illness!”

It is perfectly normal to anticipate your symptoms coming on and fearing them. But you must take control of them or they will take control of you. Taking control of your symptoms depends on what mental illness you are experiencing. Sometimes not even a psychiatrist or psychologist can teach you how to manage your symptoms.

You know your mind and body best! You have to find ways to manage your symptoms when they are not fully controlled by psychotherapy and medications. Sometimes just talking to a loved one does wonders; someone who you feel will listen to you non-judgmentally and support you with unconditional love.

The key point to take away is to face your symptoms. When confronted enough over time, they will slowly diminish and you will find peace again. It may take some time but giving up should not be part of your agenda. With persistence and belief, you will conquer your mental illness and live happily again.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Living In Fear

Group of people surrounding person on knees experiencing PTSD

Signs Of PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness that is diagnosed after a person experiences symptoms for greater than 1 month. Imagine being paralyzed in fear on a daily basis because the trauma you have experienced in the past is continuously haunting you. You almost become afraid to live.

PTSD occurs after a person has experienced a very traumatic event: returning from the war in Iraq, experiencing hurricane Katrina, being raped, tortured, kidnapped, etc. Any traumatic event can induce PTSD in a person. Think of PTSD as your mind having experienced such a great shock, that it cannot shake it off; the aftershocks persist day and night.

The common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Agitation and hypervigilance
  • Irritability and hostility
  • Flashbacks
  • Guilt
  • Depression
  • Nightmares and insomnia
  • Heightened reactions and severe anxiety

Many patients with PTSD turn to substance abuse because they find that the alcohol and drugs alleviate their symptoms. But little do they know that the alcohol and drugs are only temporary bandaids; the symptoms return after they wear off. And in the background, an addiction slowly starts to cook.

Patients with PTSD will avoid certain roads or places in public that reminds them of their traumatic experience. For instance, a war veteran may avoid alleyways after remembering an ambush in Fallujah. A patient may avoid driving on the highway after recalling the traumatic incident when a drunk driver swerved into her vehicle at 60 MPH.

When patients start avoiding certain places in public, it becomes almost crippling. Some patients’ symptoms are so severe that they no longer feel like a functional and productive member of society; they become isolated with a bottle of Jack in one hand and a .44 Special in the other.

Psychotherapy and antidepressants work for some patients but not for others; many are so depressed that they eventually commit suicide. A new potential drug on the horizon is currently undergoing phase 3 clinical trials: MDMA. Also known as “Molly” or “Ecstasy”, MDMA combined with psychotherapy has been shown to be very promising in treating patients with PTSD.

But until we come up with more effective treatments, our role should be to promote open and comfortable talks about mental illness. We need to come together, share our stories and end the stigma. The act of talking, sharing and listening are very healing processes. We are the new generation who can deliver and improve mental health for the future generations to follow!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Junk Virus

Heroin needles and trash on soil

Public Health Problem Number One

The stories are endless: violence, burglaries, robberies, overdoses and deaths. Heroin has penetrated almost every street corner in the US; the new neighbor on the block is not here to play. It chews you up and spits you out; you’re lucky if you come back out fresh enough to survive.

The junk virus made its grand appearance after its synthetic army was unleashed by the medical community: the opioids. These include demerol, methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl, percocet, percodan, vicodin and many more. Once the army was sprinkled onto society and its pricey tag maintained, heroin was slowly whispered into the addicts’ ears.

There was no malicious agenda by the medical community to unleash opioids onto the masses. There was simply a poor regulatory system and overwatch by the federal government. Physicians prescribed the medications based on professional opinion, but they were not quick enough to realize the enormous addictive potential they had.

Once physicians realized that patients were returning for multiple prescriptions, they began to turn them down. So patients began to window-shop for new physicians, juggling multiple at a time for that extra Rx. This lasted for some time until patients came to the realization of the expense of their new addiction.

And that’s when hurricane heroin hit the U.S. by storm: stronger, better, easier to obtain and cheaper! Call it the drug dealers’ economic boom but the recession of the people. Addicts were happy but also suffering: the high was great but the withdrawal and expense hellish.

And junk virus officially became an epidemic with no promising cure and no treatments successful enough to make a dent. Addicts were simply transitioned from an opiate to an opioid: heroin to methadone. Some addicts were switched successfully, others continued to use both and some just returned back to heroin.

Today, junk virus is still active and strong abut a new parasite has entered the market: meet furious fentanyl. 100x more potent than morphine, fentanyl is taking over cities like the great plague: heroin is vanishing from cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore and being replaced with fentanyl.

Addicts no longer know what they are getting. But they are quick to suspect their batch to be fentanyl if they are getting much higher than expected. Even if they want to stop, they can’t for two main reasons: they’re hooked and their drug dealers no longer have heroin. So the epidemic persists.

Public health problem number one is also public enemy number one: synthetic army + hurricane heroin + furious fentanyl. When you have such a deadly epidemic killing our people, it is fair to say that we are in the midst of fighting a domestic terror war. Are you ready to reclaim your mind?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

HIV-Associated Dementia

Silhouette photo of woman infected with HIV standing beside window curtains

Attacked By The Human Immunodeficiency Virus

It is important for people to be educated on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Many of these infections cause symptoms that are not well known to everybody. Staying educated is the first step in preventing infections and knowing what to expect when they do occur.

HIV can spread to the brain and cause encephalopathy, resulting in dementia. When HIV has reached this stage, patients may start to experience loss of memory, cognitive impairment, lack of interest in activities, reduced coordination and swelling of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal column.

It is believed that HIV promotes inflammation in the brain and damages neurons. As the symptoms mentioned above become apparent, patients may also begin to experience depression, psychosis, mania and seizures. Imagine how devastating this must be to a patient who already is miserable from having acquired the infection in the first place!

Once HIV has progressed to HIV-associated dementia, there is no reversal. HAART therapy can help prevent or slow down the process, but HIV-associated dementia is a progressive condition; it gets worse over time. The key to avoiding HIV-associated dementia is to start HAART therapy as soon as possible.

And the key to avoiding HIV is to be smart with your sexual encounters. If you ever suspect a partner to have an STD, they probably do! Trust your intuition and do not take the risk engaging in sexual activity with them. It only takes one exposure with contaminated fluids to become infected with HIV.

Your quality of life is more important than 20 minutes of pleasure. Be smart and respect yourself!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The Fire In Your Heart

Silhouette of motivated and excited person jumping under tree

Never Giving Up

Motivation is the drive behind passion, perseverance and resilience; it keeps you hungry even when all options have been exhausted. It’s the fuel that helps you get up early in the morning and strive for success. It’s pumped by your two heart ventricles all around your body and keeps you pushing for more.

Never giving up is easier said than done. Many people give up everyday when faced with challenges that they can’t seem to overcome. They fall on their knees exhausted, leak out many tears and give up the ghost. But giving up should never be permanent.

We all feel like giving up sometimes; life just becomes too painful and exhausting. Sometimes we try so hard and see no results; we feel defeated and ashamed. But the most important action is to take the rest of the day off and wake up the next morning with that fire in your heart; the drive to get back at it and shoot for success!

There is not one person in this world who has or will experience a perfect life; it doesn’t exist. Even wealthy people who are cruising on their millionaire-dollar yachts while you’re at work are suffering. Everyone is battling something, whether it’s self-esteem issues, depression, lack of motivation or pain.

Wealth has nothing to do with drive; they are independent factors. Some people are wealthy and never had drive; they inherited everything. Some people are wealthy and had drive from the beginning. Some people are poor because they never had drive. Some people are poor even though they have drive.

It’s not your success that counts but the fire in your heart! Are you willing to maintain a respectable character and give it your all despite going against the odds?

If your answer is yes, then welcome to The DSM Ready Movement!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

How Marijuana Is Addicting

Chocolate chip marijuana cookies and big green bud

Forget Sixty-Nine When On Cloud Nine

For many adolescents, when marijuana is first tried, they do not feel anything. Often times, it takes 3-5 attempts until a new user feels the high. But when that first high kicks in, it becomes memorable for life. There is nothing like experiencing the first high; of any drug that is.

For many users, the first high from marijuana is extremely pleasant: the perception of time is slowed, appetite is increased, the surroundings become more intriguing to the senses, music is enhanced, touching and feeling are heightened, humor is increased and sexual pleasure is amazing.

Video games and music go together like peanut butter and jelly: you become focused; you feel as if you’re in the game; nothing can distract you and you feel tuned in and in the zone. You enter another world that you don’t want to leave; especially when playing with your close friends and passing joints all night!

Spending time with the opposite sex feels amazing: you become more intimate; more observant of their words and behavior; touching and feeling are enhanced and sexual pleasure is intensified. You sometimes feel like you are one with them and never want to emotionally and physically let go. Forget sixty-nine; you are truly on cloud nine.

Movies under the influence of marijuana make you feel like you are connected with the story: you analyze details that you never would have noticed when sober; you pay attention to the actors’ words and body language in different ways and you sometimes feel like you are part of the movie.

Listening to music can truly be magical while high on marijuana: sounds are enhanced and your connection with the artist is turned up by a notch or two. You don’t want to put your headphones down; the tunes are massaging your ears. Your brain feels so relaxed that you start to feel paralyzed on your couch. Sometimes you may even replay one song 3-5 times in a row. You are in wonderland.

Eating is like a mouth orgasm: your taste buds are on overdrive; every bit of detail from the food entering your mouth is tremendously appreciated; the taste is greatly enhanced and your guilt floats away on a comfy cloud far far away. You become one with the kitchen; it’s your new friend in the house.

As you can see, marijuana is very enjoyable in many domains and it can become very easy for many adolescents and adults to become psychologically addicted. Who wouldn’t appreciate the experiences described above? But they come with a price tag. And that price tag can cost you your mental health.

Many people who experience the above activities while under the influence of marijuana have a hard time coming back down to reality; everything feels less intense and more dull. So they toke up again in order to re-experience the enhanced activities which ultimately brighten their life in the moment.

There is no question about it that marijuana can take you on an orgasmic rollercoaster ride. But are you willing to take the chance and potentially lose your mental health in the process?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Is Mental Illness Genetic?

Colorful abstract illustration

Genetically Programmed To Experience Mental Illness

Researchers are in the process of learning more about how genetics play a role in the development of mental illness. We already know that many mental illnesses are genetically tied: major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and many more.

But we do not know how or why genes play such a large role in the development of mental illness. It most likely relies on similar reasoning as to why physical disorders are tied to genetics: a manifested disorder modifies the genetic code of the parent and the parent passes those modified genes onto his or her offspring.

Many argue that the future of medicine lies in the field of genetics. DNA is the carrier of genetic information: units of heredity which are transferred from parent to offspring and are held to determine some characteristic or trait of the offspring. When someone tells you “you resemble your dad or you have his temperament”, they are indirectly addressing your genetic makeup.

This does not mean that we are doomed because genetics is tied to mental illness. On the contrary, researchers are very optimistic to learn more about this subject in order to attempt to identify the exact genes responsible for various mental illnesses. With identification of the exact genes, the goal becomes to study them and see if there is any way that future generations can avoid them.

It’s believed that genes will provide us with the information necessary to learn more about how to treat mental illness. As of today, there is no cure for any mental illness; only prevention and treatment are available. But a mental illness most likely develops from environmental factors and possibly faulty genes. It’s these genes and its influence on the human mind that we are trying to learn more about.

Some genes that are tied to mental illnesses or physical disorders are responsible for the malfunctioning of certain enzymes in the human body. With the replacement of those enzymes, theoretically, we have a chance of better treating a mental illness. Therefore, genes may provide us with more information on the pathophysiology of mental disorders.

Genes may contain our genetic makeup but do not contain our soul!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Is Homosexuality A Mental Illness?

The shadow of two homosexual men holding hands

Preference For The Same Sex

The American Psychiatric Association’s first edition of the DSM classified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1952. It was regarded as “sociopathic personality disturbance.” Due to cultural changes and protests, homosexuality was removed from the DSM.

It was believed that by considering homosexuality to be a mental illness, society was dividing humans into sheep and goats, rather than one nation under god. As of present day, homosexuality is not listed in the DSM-V and is no longer considered a mental illness.

Besides some structural differences in the brains of homosexuals as compared to heterosexuals, there has been no evidence or collective agreement to consider homosexuality as a mental illness. Rather, it is viewed as a sexual orientation or preference.

But the stigma towards homosexuality lives on in the underground and in mainstream society. Many people still view the act of homosexuality as unnatural and a “crime against nature.” No matter how prevalent and open it has become, many people are still not accepting of it.

Many religious groups view homosexuality as distasteful. In the bible, for instance, it states that a man sleeping with another man shall both be put to death. Many religions still consider homosexuality a sin; an act against god. Many religious groups believe that homosexuality goes against the pureness of nature and what god had planned from the beginning: woman made out of man’s rib to bring thy two together for procreation.

Regardless of differing opinions, the medical community has not been able to conclude that homosexuality is a mental illness. But what exactly constitutes a mental illness? Besides changes in emotions, behavior or thinking, a mental illness is usually associated with distress or problems with functioning in social, family or work activities.

Many homosexuals live their life as indistinguishable from heterosexuals: they go to work, have friends and even start a family. And many heterosexuals also have problems with functioning in social, family or work activities; therefore, it cannot be concluded that homosexuality is a mental illness based on functionality.

Many argue that since most homosexuals knew from a young age of their sexual preference, they must have been born with “a disease.” But just because a very large segment of the population is born as homosexual, does not mean that homosexuality has ground to be considered a mental illness.

On the contrary, because so many people are born as homosexual, it is likely not a mental illness, but an evolutionary trait passed down from many generations ago. Some are begging to ask, “what in the world is the significance of this trait in regards to procreation and the survival of our species?”

There is no clear answer to that question. Perhaps not every human has been intended to further the human race and there should be nothing wrong with that. Many heterosexuals choose not to have children, so do they not fall in the same boat as homosexuals?

Whatever your beliefs may be, the medical community does not presently view homosexuality as a mental illness.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Is Racism A Mental Illness?

One brown game piece versus seven orange game pieces

Divided By Skin Color

Racism is a learned behavior. Children do not initially go to school with racist beliefs, unless they were taught by their parents. Many children of different colors get along very well: you see them playing together, hugging each other and sharing stories with one another.

But as a child matures and is exposed to various opinions and beliefs circulating in society, he starts to form his own opinion. And if his opinion centers around racism, this is usually because he was influenced by someone with racist beliefs. He learns to apply racism as a form of defense; it makes him feel good that he’s not part of that population.

Racism applies all ways: whites against blacks, blacks against whites, browns against blacks, blacks against browns, etc. Many times, a family has an impact on the development of racist beliefs in children and adolescents. If children constantly hear racist remarks and jokes while growing up in the household, they will slowly start to identify with them.

Racism is not a mental illness. There is nothing chemically or structurally wrong with the human brain when someone is racist. Racism is a choice based on learned behavior. It’s as easy way to blame and stigmatize others while boosting your self-esteem. Racism exists because humans have found it easier to blame other people who look different.

Racism can also develop out of anger, but anger is not a mental illness. This does not mean that some people with mental illness are not racist. Racism has no boundaries. It simply is a learned behavior introduced to us by society; no one is born racist. Even schools teach us about racism: learning about slaves exposes children to the concept of racism.

There is no escaping racism; it’s not a mental illness that can be defeated with medication or electroshock treatment. It’s a choice. The only way racism will ever be defeated is when our Lord Jesus Christ will return on Judgment Day. Until then, we must do our best to come together and love each other for who we are.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)