Recently I was chatting with a neighbour who was telling me about some of the changes her 93 year old mother was going through. She was still living independently, and spent most of the year in Vancouver, and the summers in the Okanagan. The big change was that she was selling one of her properties and starting to plan for assisted living.
A few years ago, this dynamic lady began to have problems with her balance, so she started using a walker. Her habit has been to get out there with her walker and walk the seawall three times a week. She also makes a point of getting up, dressed, and getting out every day to run errands. It is an inspiration to hear the testimonies of people who manage to stay balanced into their nineties!
Another neighbour who is in his eighties now, is finally ready to retire he said, but he still kept some of his tools, because he will always have work to do. In spite of getting injured in a fall, he made a full recovery, has an excellent memory, and is looking forward to the future. I joke with him about going swimming to stay in shape, and he laughs and says he is going to start swimming in the afterlife! Although he is fairly active, apparently swimming is not for him.
Physical balance and athleticism is something many of us take for granted when we are young, because we have good innate balance. However, many things can affect our balance. Aging, obesity, drugs, certain medical conditions, and alcohol are the top culprits that can have an adverse effect on our balance.
Every one of life’s struggles today is viewed as a mental illness. Those who are too fat or too thin – are considered to have a psychiatric disorder (eating disorder). Substance abuse – addictions to nicotine, alcohol and other drugs sickens 30% of the population. Grief is now considered a mental health disorder, along with all symptoms of depression. Insomnia, anxiety, and social withdrawal are also on the disease list.
Internet use, gambling, phobias, active children, and hundreds of other thoughts and behaviours are now added to the rap-sheet of mental health disorders. They even go so far as to say there are unknown and “hidden” mental health disorders that do not even have to be demonstrated in any way. Greed and pharmaceutical profit motive has caused the system to go off the rails. There is no balance when it comes to making people sick, who were not sick to begin with.
There are now a walloping 347 mental health disorders, when not that long ago, there was less than 50. The field is literally inventing and adding new diseases all the time. Since there is no real diagnostic criteria for these diseases, there is no curtailing this madness. It used to be that the practitioner had to list abnormal and disruptive behaviours, in order to make a diagnosis.
But now they simply pull a diagnosis out of their hat, which would not be so alarming if it was not immediately accompanied with coercing a person into taking toxic medications. It’s based on pure profit motive – and has nothing to do with compassion, therapy, healing, recovery or a treatment plan. They are blowing it, when it comes to the Hippocratic Oath – “first do no harm”. What a sick joke! Their very first inclination is to do harm, and they do so knowing it will become a crippling and debilitating downhill slide for the person. After all – making people sick and drug dependant is what keeps them coming back (and keeling over). How many lives have been destroyed by an ever increasing chemical soup, fatal adverse reactions, life altering, and often permanent movement disorders – and a myriad of other side effects! For what?
In fact, every human condition related to emotions, conflicts, victimization, aggression, selfishness, difference of opinion, setting boundaries, etc. are subjected to the disease (and motivation to medicate for profit) model. In actual fact, healthy boundaries are a central requirement in maintaining balance. So what does a person do when an aggressive and self-centred person will not accept a boundary? It is not the victim of such behaviours who is sick. Power imbalances, scapegoating and victim blaming is rampant, and very difficult to overcome.
How do we overcome this imbalance of turning every struggle into a disease? One of the methods to increase dopamine in our brains, as well as to reduce anxiety, is to create to do lists. This makes sense because those daily lists equate to actions and habits. Like physical well-being, mental wellness includes daily to do lists in order to keep balanced. It is relatively easy to get unbalanced, or develop bad habits that affect our health.
The value of a healthy whole food diet and daily exercise cannot be underestimated. Nutrition and exercise probably have the greatest influence on increasing dopamine and serotonin levels. Whole foods are loaded with micro nutrients and do not have the mood altering additives that are in many packaged foods. Exercise and whole foods help keep our weight in a normal range, and also keeps us fit, so we can manage whatever heavy lifting we are faced with in every day living. The discovery of the second brain in the gut reinforces the importance of keeping the gut bacteria healthy. I once read a quote that went something like this; “If you want to know if your brain is getting flabby – feel your legs”.
For some people maintaining balance is not too difficult, because a percentage of people came from loving supportive families. Many people have been cared for their entire lives, and have not had to struggle financially, or with childhood trauma. It doesn’t mean they will never get depressed or have to deal with grief – but if the system is balanced, it is easier to return to that balance and stability, as opposed to spiralling out of control. It is interesting to note that at least half the people with serious addictions describe having come from loving, supportive families. Clearly there is more to it than meets the eye.
On the flip side, experiencing trauma, poverty, grief, trials, and tribulations make us better equipped to deal with difficulties when they do occur. If we are able to get through them intact – we know we can deal with difficulties again. The experiences can increase our resilience. It is similar to those who stay in good physical shape, and then have an injury, big surgery, or gain weight in later life. Even our muscles have memory, and all that prior exercise benefits us throughout the process of recovery and/or weight loss.
The individual is the one most responsible for maintaining health and well-being. This is not to say illness or accidents are the fault of the individual, but the autonomy of the individual is paramount to any recovery. Although many people do need help from time to time – there is no one else who can make the adjustments that lead to a balanced lifestyle. For all changes and adaptations we must make throughout the course of our lives to remain healthy – the locus of control must come from within. This fact does not undermine the spiritual aspects of prayer and surrender. It means that personalities, decisions and choices are highly individual, and change starts from within.
For example, you can put a person on suicide watch, which may avert a crisis temporarily – but it will not alleviate the person’s suffering. People cannot be constantly watched or monitored anyway. Even those who face involuntary admissions, cannot be detained longer than 48-72 hours. You can force a person into drug and alcohol treatment, but in those cases, relapse is around 90% However, if you listen to those who overcome addiction and severe depression, they will attribute it to a spiritual awakening, combined with a conscious decision to change. Self control means exactly that. No one else can be responsible for another person’s self-control.
From my own perspective and experiences, I have concluded that all psychoactive substances can interfere with balance (in more ways than one). Years ago, while working in long term care, it was clear to me that those who were on the most psychoactive drugs, were also the most out of control, with loss of dignity and outrageous behaviours the daily norm for them.
But incoherent, antisocial, and aggressive behaviours – such as public defecation, physically attacking others, screaming uncontrollably, and repeatedly falling down, are not normal for anyone. I would often wonder, “How on earth did they get like this? How rapid was the decline? What were they like before?” In going through the charts, I learned one of the common denominators for most of the people in locked units, involved prior and often long term use of harmful substances – such as antidepressants, neuroleptics, benzodiazepines, opiates, barbiturates, sleeping pills, and/or alcohol. Often these drugs were started when the person was in their forties or fifties.
What is the difference between a 93 year old woman walking the seawall three times a week, and an 78 year old in long term care, who is completely out of control, even though he or she is chemically restrained with multiple psychoactive medications? Surely those medications are not helping them. In fact, the one most notable thing in long term care is that the most stable and cognitively intact, are also the ones who do not take psychotropic medications. However, few can escape them once admitted to a facility, because the pattern is to over medicate.
There is a very sad program on Youtube called “Seattle is Dying”. The program honestly and candidly places drugs as being the primary cause of the homeless epidemic. In fact, many of the behaviours and loss of balance seen in locked psychogeriatric units is now evident on the streets. The average age of the street populations is tragically between 30 and 40, a time when people are supposed to be in the prime of life. They are subjected to the same drugs, and in fact often behave the same way, as those who are in locked psychogeriatric units.
Who but journalists, advocates, and sincere (honest) health care professionals are going to help with this drug crisis, once the people completely lose cognitive function? This chaotic loss of human potential is affecting families, communities, businesses, health care, policing and politics.
When are they going to make greed the number one collective mental health disorder – a profit driven addiction with the greatest potential for harm, societal breakdown, and human suffering? Oxycontin is the opiate of choice, even on the streets. Where do they get it? From prescriptions. Almost all people addicted to opiates start with, and prefer prescription opiates. They turn to fentanyl laced heroin in later stages, when they can no longer obtain a prescription for, or afford the pills. Many young people in the large US cities who give interviews about their addictions – claim they could get hundreds of pills by offering cash to a doctor. Some of those doctors have been arrested, but who knows how many continue to trade cash for prescriptions?
The correlation is clear to me. Drugs cause a loss of balance physically and mentally. Drugs and alcohol also decrease motivation, with the only to do list entering a person’s mind, is how to get more drugs in order to chase the high, and after awhile, just to feel “normal”. Another eye-opener is when we look at the conditions on some of the First Nations reserves. Anytime we see squalor and chaos, we know people are being adversely affected by drugs and/or alcohol. 50% of First Nations people are on ten or more pharmaceutical drug classes. Who can sincerely say these drugs are helping them and their communities?
But what is normal? It is not normal to feel nothing. Nor is it normal to be sick and in pain all the time. Opiates start out being prescribed for pain. What is overlooked by doctors prescribing opiates, is the fact that many people suffer from emotional pain too, and will readily start self-medicating emotional pain, and will quickly become addicted. This brings on a whole new set of problems as it totally throws the entire system off balance.
There is no magic pill or answer when it comes to achieving balance or normalcy in life. In the mental health field, psychiatrists have more than double the rates of suicide and in the US, the stats are that 25% will sexually assault patients, and more than 75% will diagnose simply for profit motive. Even the field of psychiatry itself is calling it fraud, pseudoscience, and drug induced harm inflicted upon innocent people.
Regardless of what our struggles are in life, central to maintaining balance is self-control and motivation. We can move past difficult situations, since most in-depth healing is rooted in love and forgiveness. Our bodies and lives include our spiritual beliefs. Emotional and mental health healing and cleansing involves freeing ourselves, not only of toxic memories and relationships – but also of toxic drugs, and habits.
I watched a young woman give a talk on the inspirations she gained in being a hospice volunteer. She herself had a massive stroke as a child due to a congenital anomaly in her brain and then another life threatening stroke as a young adult. She went on to obtain a Master’s degree in the field of death and dying, and obviously had more than a theoretical basis for the development of her beliefs.
This amazing young woman described the tasks of dying. They are found in forgiveness – first to seek forgiveness for ourselves and also to forgive others. Love and the power of love is also one of the central tasks. The other is in letting go and saying goodbye. In so many ways, these same principles apply to living as well. Love and forgiveness is crucial to overcoming our demons of the past. And if we are to have hope in accomplishing that – we often have to let go of and say goodbye to certain habits and relationships as well.
Maintaining balance is about stability, self-control and motivations. If we can manage those – we have hope for the future regardless of what happens to us. We can achieve the intrinsic balance and self control by taking care of our physical and emotional balance, mostly through diet, exercise, motivation, meditation, fresh air, and music – and avoiding toxic substances. Following that – we will soon find that serving others in an honest and humble way – is the best way to get joy and purpose out of life.
The yoke of slavery, whether it is to a substance or life’s circumstances can be lifted and removed once and for all. The ensuing freedom is what enables us to serve without feeling trapped. Sickness does not need to be a life sentence. Yet human suffering is real – and those of us who overcome, can be compassionate and supportive when others are going through trials and tribulations. It is delusional to think all people who face trials are sick forever. If that were the case – not one of us would escape the disease and sickness trap.
As long as we remain functional, we all have the capacity to heal and overcome difficulties, at every stage of life. Not one person achieves balance, or anything for that matter, without some form of help and support. It has already been poignantly pointed out many times – there is a fine line, with more similarities than differences, involved in the tasks surrounding both living and dying.
To keep things in perspective – death, or a serious illness or accident with a complete loss of cognitive function – will immediately change a person’s reality. Whether we want to admit it or not – every single one of us is “hanging in the balance”.
Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2019). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.