Healing the ‘Soul’ After Mental Illness
One vital step toward mental wellness is often overlooked.
I know mental illness. My genetic makeup is one of bodily resilience; physically, my extended family are as strong as oxen and tend to live well into their 80s and 90s. But every family tree has its knots, and the boughs of mine are chipped and gnarled with the effects of mental illness such as depression, anxiety and psychosis.
I, myself, have traveled deep into the dark fog on three occasions, and I have learned to be aware of the signs that depression is stealthily creeping up on me.
For anyone grappling with the darkness of mental illness, or anyone who has a loved one caught in its crushing grip, I cannot overstate the importance of seeking professional and pastoral help. Like any illness, depression and anxiety will always leave its remnants; you may always have (as one therapist put it to me) a “chink in your armor”, but it is possible to regain a sense of equilibrium, hope and happiness if you commit to the process of healing.
Most people are aware of the first two pillars of healing required to overcome depression and anxiety:
- Physical healing: the medical and medicinal assistance that will help restore and maintain the chemical balance of the brain.
- Cognitive healing: the process of unraveling and replacing the destructive thought patterns and beliefs that are amplified by mental illness.
Fewer realize the vital importance of the third pillar of healing:
- Environmental healing: recognizing and changing unhelpful behaviors and situations that deplete you and enable negative patterns. This includes ridding yourself of toxic environments and relationships, alcohol or substance abuse, and unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices.
And fewer still pay attention to the potent fourth pillar of healing:
- This process deals with the essence of who you are — your consciousness or soul, and your deepest, most innate needs and desires. Let’s call this sublime healing.
Sublime healing is often completely overlooked in our desire for optimum mental health. (In this modern world, it is considered sufficient to nurture the body and the mind.) But my personal experience has shown me that if we only focus on the first two or three pillars, healing from mental illness is likely to be superficial, fragile and/or temporary.
We are nature. We are mammals first, and tool-wielding mathematicians second. Therefore, as part of your healing toward mental wellness, I encourage you to understand that you are only truly going to thrive when you honor your deepest nature and fulfill your most subtle and profound needs.
So, as you help and heal your body, your mind and your lifestyle, I also encourage you to reflect on:
How deeply are you connecting with nature?
Recent studies have shown that the closer we live to nature, the more inclined we are to maintain strong mental health. For instance, a series of Swedish studies confirmed that city dwellers are around 75% more susceptible to psychosis and up to 20% more likely to develop depression than people who live in rural areas. Dutch researchers discovered that the incidence of schizophrenia in city-dwellers is double the rate of those who live in the country. Like any natural creature, you are bound to be affected by the insidious and often imperceptible stress of living in an artificial environment. Therefore sunlight, open space, quiet and mindfulness are vital components of any healing process. Get outside as often as you can. Put your face to the sky, your feet in the earth and reconnect with the natural being that you are.
How authentic are you being in your life?
Creative energy is life-force. Therefore, if you are being stifled in your unique creative expression (whether you naturally create by building businesses, building houses, raising children, forming protest movements, through the visual or performing arts, and so on …) then you lose a vital connection with your natural well of inspiration, enthusiasm and well-being. The key here is to reject others’ expectations of who you should be and follow what inspires you. If you believe nothing inspires you, I say you’re wrong — you’re probably just judging and resisting what your authentic inspiration is.
What purpose and meaning do you have in your life?
Having a life full of meaningful actions and interactions can create an incredible sense of well-being, and make each new day feel like a purposeful adventure. However, interestingly, studies have also revealed that people who have a sense of purpose live longer than those who are uninspired and unfulfilled. Purpose matters, but I believe there are two myths we have inherited about purpose that compels most people to dismiss it in their own lives — firstly, that it must be something “big” and, secondly, that it must be something we “do”. Neither of these concepts are true. A sense of purpose can simply arise from expressing who you are and by living each day in complete alignment with your unique set of values. Therefore, I encourage you to recognize your highest values, and reinvigorate your sense of purpose by expressing them in myriad small ways.
If you are dealing with the cruel effects of mental illness, I urge you to begin the healing process immediately — visit a trusted professional, nurture your body and mind, and take real steps to eliminate unwanted stress in your life.
I also encourage you to integrate sublime healing into your life, and empower yourself to reach for greater health and deeper fulfillment. Because you are more precious than you can see right now, and the world is willing you to shine.
Kim Forrester is an award-winning author, educator and intuitive consultant with over 15 years’ experience as a professional intuitive and spiritual teacher. She combines cutting edge science with traditional spirituality to offer the latest understandings of psi, consciousness and holistic well being.