Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium: Sanity

I should start off by saying that I am not a doctor, and have only studied psychology briefly while in college. I've never had therapy, and I think I'm fairly mentally healthy. Those are my disclaimers for the rest of this post. :)

I've been thinking a lot lately about how we create our own sanity. Yes, yes, I know that some things are genetic, and some things are forced upon us because of events that happen in our lives. But I have seen lately how in many ways we choose our own sanity. I have a friend who has been a little depressed off and on lately. Yes, there are events that have precipitated the depression, but I have seen how my friend has chosen to dwell on the negative. I've come to feel that we can choose how we will respond to stresses and trials in our life, but only up to a point. I really believe that if we continue to choose to be depressed or upset, then eventually our body will obey, and we will become chemically depressed! Then it is no longer our choice, and we must suffer the consequences, and probably will need medical intervention to get better.

In my opinion, the "mental health spectrum" is very broad. I've heard some people say that we all have some degree of mental illness. I believe that we even have a broad spectrum of insanity. But I'm really wondering if you can be "just a little bit" insane. I kind of think there is this narrow line that one crosses from sanity in to insanity. Once you cross over, can you ever come back?

A little trip down memory lane here. When I was a missionary in Taiwan, I found many mentally ill people. I don't know if it was because of the polution, or some other societal effect, but there seemed to be a high number of mentally ill people in Taiwan. Now I'm wondering if there is the same number everywhere, but because Taiwan is so compact, our chances of running in to them is greater. One time we knocked on a door, and a man peeked out at us. We asked him if we could come in and tell him about our religion. He said, "I don't have any place for you to sit." We said, "It's okay, I think we can find a place." So he let us in to his apartment. As I stepped in the door, my first glance showed that the room was almost bare. Bare, except for the row of chairs lined up against the wall. That should have raised a red flag in my mind, but it didn't, and we sat down. As we sat there, side by side against the wall, I began to ask this man some questions. I asked his name, and in a very odd way, he covered his mouth, turned his head away from me, and answered me. Maybe I was a naive 21 year old, because that didn't raise a red flag either. But as he continued this behavior, I began to put all of the puzzle pieces together, and suddenly said, "Well, I think we need to go now." My companion asked why, so I just told her we needed to leave.

After he closed the front door behind us, she asked me why we needed to leave. I tried to explain to her, without the perfect chinese vocabulary to do so, that this man was crazy. After I finally made myself understood, she asked me how I knew. I took her back to when he said there was no place to sit, but his room was lined with chairs. I reminded her that whenever he spoke, he covered his mouth and turned his head. She began to see my concerns. Just at that moment, we happened to look up at his door, and noticed a piece of paper with drawings and chinese characters written on it. It had drawings of graves with crosses on top. Underneath the graves were written "Nun", and "Priest". That was the final convincing evidence for my companion.

I had many experiences with mentally ill people in Taiwan, but there was one commonality between them all. Crazy people, we found, speak great English! Remember that old saying about how there is a fine line between insanity and genius? I think my experiences prove that saying true!

I know that these people were unable to change their mental state. I know that in many cases it came about as a result of heredity. But I have to say that having met them, I want to do everything I can to preserve my own mental health! I heard a church talk about looking at the glass half full instead of half empty. It's an old analogy, but it came at a good time for me. I am going to do everything I can to think positively, so that I can nurture good mental health!

Now go check out what the other consortium members have to say about this issue!


Conrad said...

Now THIS is an interesting take on the subject! I was fascinated with your story of the deranged individual you visited at his apartment.

I have noticed that some psychologists believe there is sane, insane (totally delusional) ... and a middle ground that they call slightly un-sane! I imagine that is where most people sit, just slightly un-sane, LOL!

Grannymar said...

I moved from living with glass half empty (my father) to a glass more than half full (my husband). The latter, is the way I have chosen to live.

Rummuser said...

Delirious, I am reading, or rather studying a fascinating book called The Tell-Tale Brain by Dr. V S Ramachandran. It is from that that I had picked up the term 'synesthesia' that I have referred to in my post on the same topic. From that book it would appear to me that many things that we consider as insane or due to peculiar configurations in the brain. My entire attitude towards insanity has undergone a change since I started reading the book. Depression could also well be due to physiological conditions and not necessarily due to psychological conditions only.

Your experiences are truly very interesting. I like to read about them, particularly your visits to China.

padmum said...

Has the break up of a joint family set up--where support was easily available in the form of a shoulder to cry upon, a pair of hands to share the burden, a person to smile or laugh or cry with...been one of the major causes of depression becoming a common malaise?

We now depend on the internet, social groups, cyber friends to lean upon...a good thing wouldn't you say? Is it enough?

Delirious said...

Very good questions Padmum, you may have hit on a key cause! I do think cyber relationships help ease loneliness and depression, but I don't think they can totally supplant real life ones.