The 5 Step Mind Shift to Mental Wellness


(Illustration: Sketch by Priya Chawla)

The recovery process in any troublesome, chronic illness/disease involves the body, mind as well as spirit.
This is true for both physical and mental illnesses. We have enough shining examples in real life of courage amidst great adversity. Yuvraj Singh, the Cricket World Cup ‘s hero for India in 2011 had a shattering truth to face shortly thereafter. A life threatening cancer tumour in his chest between his heart and lung had grown to 14 centimetres in size. Imagine the mental agony besides the obvious physical trauma his body must have undergone. He not only fought the Big C bravely but is back to his favourite C: playing cricket! Imagine his mental strength through the agonising period of therapy and recuperation while waiting on the sidelines at the peak of his career.


(Image credit CNN)

This is where mind strength helps overcome disease.
Why just talk about celebrities whom we might not resonate with? A lady in my own building was struck by leukemia in her vulnerable sixties. Mrs Leena Pawar was like a mother to me. Even the Doctors treating her say that her sunny disposition till her last days inspired them. Although she eventually succumbed to her deadly condition, I can only remember her smiling, radiant persona till her last days.

The mind is what differentiates these champions in adversity.
Come to think of it, when we talk about mental illnesses, doesn’t the mind itself become vulnerable? It certainly does and we must not trivialise the unseen suffering of the mind. Here, this article’s focus is on the transition from suffering to freedom from its clutches.

So, here are the 5 steps to a mindset which we would do well to make our second nature~
We must learn to embody these deep within ourselves:

1) Attitude: A never say die disposition is the sign of a true leader and those of us who brave the odds day in, day out are no less than leaders.
Consider this. Two persons are diagnosed with the same illness and their environment is similar. Yet we see diametrically opposite outcomes! Is it because one succumbed to self pity while the other decided to take the bull by its horns? We have a right to feel that the term ‘Positive Attitude’ is often abused by so called Motivation gurus. In fact at the World Bipolar Day Panel Discussion, an expert felt that motivation does not matter that much, it is treatment that is critical. I beg to differ. Ask any depressed soul how she could do with a ‘dose of motivation’ when she hasn’t an ounce of it to get out of bed all day. Yes, treatment first but a battery of ‘inner’ ammunition along with it is also needed to get going.

2) Empathy: Compassion begins with oneself. If I hate myself with all my guts, I can hardly love or care for those around me.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had once said in a talk which I had the privilege of attending, “One can only give out what one has in abundance.” Being gentle on ourselves makes us more patient and prevents us from being far too critical. Love is a balm for the soul, relish it, revel in it. This creates the ideal environment for healing. I have found great succour in my outreach to my community and the satisfaction it brings with it.

3) Independence:  Lack of self confidence undermines our belief in our judgment and abilities. This might make us over-reliant on our care givers and unduly increase their stress levels too. Let’s take decisions on our own and learn to back ourselves. Of course, during mania, all major decisions MUST be taken by trusted family members. Even where financial independence is concerned, one might not be mentally ready for the rigours of a full time career. The Internet offers fabulous opportunities to work at one’s convenience. Imagine the boost to self esteem: “Wow! I now earn a living!”

4) Philosophical Approach: Yuvraj Singh went public about the role his Spiritual Guru played in making him focused and calm. On my own difficult journey, my challenges took me on a path of understanding myself and life in general. I must have learnt more about these aspects in the past five years than in my entire life! Of this, my spiritual quest was an empowering phase and continues to be so. The realisation that someone up there loves me and protects me has made life easier. I’m the part of a magnificent, divine plan.

5) Flight to Freedom: The biggest possible mind shift is possibly escape from the suffocating cage which is often of our own making to the beautiful world waiting to welcome us. To state this succinctly, my shift was from “I suffer from Bipolar Disorder” to “I am a Bipolar who enjoys a fantastic life”. These can be hollow words if distanced from reality. In my case, I often tell others, “I am probably the happiest man on the planet.” And I mean it!