One of the many hats I wear is that of a psychiatric social worker, serving people with varying degrees of mental health issues and challenges. I view these symptoms and the people who experience them in ways that are outside the realm of the medical model. Rather than seeing pathology, I come from a strengths based perspective. I cringe when I hear the term ‘religiously pre-occupied’, as if taking about God, angels and spirituality is, in and of itself, a dynamic of mental illness. While I have experienced people being over the top in their expression, some with the belief that they alone are privvy to some special wisdom, I know just as surely, that having a spiritual practice can indeed be healing.
I have never experienced clinical depression, but like most people on the planet, I have had those ‘dark nights of the soul’ during which I have wondered why I was stumbling around, bumping into walls when I could have turned on a symbolic as well as physical light. When faced with life challenges, such as I have had lately; I KNOW that my spiritual practice bolsters me and keeps me afloat. For me that includes: meditation, yoga, prayer, writing, drumming, dancing, crying, time in nature, immersing in visual art, chanting, time with loved ones, massage, creating vision boards and yes, even time on facebook, as silly as that may sound. It is there that I have a sense of what goes on in the world, an open door into the lives of folks I may never meet face to face; a chance to offer love and prayers, good wishes and healing for another soul. An opportunity to receive that if I need it as well.
I spoke with someone recently who was plagued with symptoms that terrified him. He was convinced that what he saw was ‘real’. Using meditation as a tool, surrounding himself in white light, he shared that although he still believes that those images exist, with his spiritual practice, “I am stronger than they are and they can’t hurt me.”
Take a moment to watch this video interview with actor Jim Carrey as he openly and with vulnerability, shares about the ways in which spirituality has been a source of strength in his own bouts with depression.
*If you do experience mental health issues, I encourage you to seek support and professional guidance. For family members and friends, a good resource is called NAMI (NATIONAL ASSOCIATION ON MENTAL ILLNESS)