A sad and depressed young man is sitting on the floor in an empty room[/caption]Vantage Point is a business – our business is helping people overcome their mental issues, and come to a point where they no longer play a dominant part in life. But we’re more than just that. We’re people, with personal beliefs and persuasions and aspirations towards helping others. And part of how we do that is by challenging and reshaping the way we think about certain aspects of life, especially those relevant to most our clients.
When it comes to issues of the mind – mental health diagnoses like mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar, and personality disorders like narcissism, etc. – every case is different. The causes can range from environmental aspects and personal experiences to genetics. But there are certain factors that most cases can relate to, such as loss, for example.
The human mind is quite resilient, even in times of great adversity and when facing a mental health issue. In many cases, people can learn to function with their mental diagnosis naturally, by way of a supportive family and a tight circle of friends. But the walls we create for each other can come crumbling down after the loss of a loved one, or a significant setback in life such as a breakup or a job termination.
Experiencing loss is a natural part of life – and most people can survive loss on their own, overcome the painful grieving process, and move onto the next chapter of their lives with a renewed, fresh outlook, and perhaps a little hope for the future. No one can escape grief, and trying to prevent it only prolongs the process. We all must grieve, in our own way – not everyone has to cry or express themselves in a certain way to showcase their grief, but every instance of grief is highlighted by deep, powerful sorrow.
But not everyone grieves normally. At a certain point, the grieving process ends – it’s different for everyone, but there comes a natural period where we begin to bounce back, determined and ready for life. But for many people with predisposed or existing mental illnesses, grief and loss can be that final blow needed to send someone down a spiral of emotional disasters, and behavioral ills. It starts with the loss of a loved one, an overwhelming sense of sadness, and can evolve into periods of intense depression, maladaptive coping mechanisms (addiction), and destructive behavior. At that point, professional help is needed to help a person overcome their grief. To better understand it, consider the idea of a human mental wall.
There are a million theories summarizing and relativizing the human mind, with analogies upon analogies and countless structural concepts that try to explain and make sense of how our minds grow and expand from our earliest days to our days of old.
We’re not going to sit here and try to theorize how the mind works, or how personalities occur. But what we can talk about, is the ubiquitous human walls that exist in most people’s minds.
As we grow older, and begin to understand and experience a wider spectrum of emotions and social interactions, and that gives us security. The more a person understands the world around, them, the more secure they feel about the world they’re in. There are many takes on how these walls could be pictured, so we’re going to go with a unique analogy.
Imagine being in a cave, so dark that it’s impossible for your eyes to adjust. In our youth, the darkness of the cave isn’t meant to represent anything evil or dangerous, but the possibility of new experiences. Curiosity is at its peak, and we spend our days finding nuggets of light in the darkness, illuminating the cave bit by bit. The more you explore, the more you light up the darkness, and more you come to understand and feel comfortable in the cave. By seeing, you eliminate the mystery and the fear and cut down on the possibilities of what might lurk where you can’t look. As you meet other people traversing their own caves, you make new connections and see new perspectives.
This isn’t a bad cave or a good cave. Like life, the cave is beautiful and diverse – filled with hidden grottos and vast underwater caverns, crystalline structures, and ancient ruins. Fascinating, exciting, even dangerous.
But as you continue to explore, you may get hurt. You may stumble. You may fall into traps and see things you didn’t want to see. You may meet other people, who tell you about the pains you stand to encounter further into the darkness. You begin to fear the dark not only for what you can’t see but for what you might see if you light it up.
It’s a simple protective mechanism. People like to blame our fear of the unknown of many of the world’s ills, including cultural intolerance and bigotry – and while these are linked, it’s important to understand that our fear of the unknown exists to protect us. And we protect that fear. Past a certain point, when the curiosity in a person begins to wane, we stop exploring the cave. Instead, we block off entrances and exits with walls, seeking to live only in the illuminated corners we’ve established for ourselves.
These walls are our security. We can move through life with these walls, and they keep us safe. For some people, the caves they’ve come to explore have been more dangerous and depressing than most people can imagine. Living with a predisposition to depression or anxiety isn’t just being prone to a certain emotion, but it means that without the necessary walls, an irrational fear can creep up on you and take a hold of your life – paralyze your ability to deal with living.
Grief and loss are significant wall-breakers and can send many people into spirals of mental disorder and even substance abuse – perpetuating a cycle wherein people seek the comfort of their cave lights, but feel the darkness drawing in from where their walls are broken.
They begin to lash out and do what they can to keep away from the pain, and the possibility of pain, seeing negativity where other people can’t. In some cases, people successfully rebuild their walls – reinforced and created to repel any breach. They become closed off, after finding an unhealthy way to cope with their problem. In other cases, they’re emotionally volatile and unprotected, incapable of coping with their problem.
Grief as a Gateway
When the grieving process becomes inescapable, professional help is mostly necessary to treat the problem. Grief creates a moment where certain people’s mental diagnoses come forth in the most blatant way, and that moment can be an opportunity to realize and address the specific personal nature of any individual issue.
A person’s mental health rarely falls within strict definitions – we all exhibit our issues in different ways. Grief can help bring some of our pain to the surface, and help us stir forth deeper problems. Instead of receding and cutting ourselves off from the world, however, we at Vantage Point help you better understand your perspective of the world, how your diagnosis affects that perspective, and we can help you see your caves in a healthier, less fearful light.
Walls are natural – but we should all aim to continue exploring, no matter how much it may hurt at times, instead of limiting ourselves to a specific spectrum of influences and experiences. Grief can be the door that leads you to understand that – to overcoming your fears and deciding to take life at face value, with its pain, and all of its pure unbridled joy. The path to a different perspective may begin with therapy and medication, but with time, and support, you can begin to see the world around you in a positive light unaided. That’s the path to true growth – and you never know what you might find.