“Please take a little green bow, and pin it on your name tag” said the lady at the registration table at the workshop on mental health, that was taking place at a church in the heart of a little village in Durban North. “What’s the bow for ?” I heard someone say, and realised that not everyone knows that the little green bow has become significant with mental health, and October is the designated month for mental health at the World Health Organisation at the United Nations.
For the past 20 years or so I have been interested in mental health, and have picked up my ears, and availed myself of many occasions to find out all that I can on this very complex subject. The mind is an incredible place. That needs to be said again – The mind is an incredible place !
The time I spent at the workshop, presented by a Methodist minister, who himself has a keen passion for mental health, and the role of the Church’s healing ministry, and of spirituality, in the condition of the mind – set me afresh to revisit some of the ground I have randomly covered over the last twenty years.
Having been dumped into the arena of mental health, having to either sink or swim awoke in me a leaning toward wholeness, and not succumbing to a defeatist mindset.
But it was going to be a very long slow walk of discovery with no quick-fix answers. And, as yet, I have not arrived at any clear-cut and final conclusion, after all the mind is a very vast place !! But along the way, as in any other way of life, it is often good to take a moment, to stop and pause and reflect. To recap, to summaries, maybe even consolidate some of the ideas that have formed along the way. This is one such moment.
When confronted with Schizophrenia in the family, all those years ago, with its vicious onslaught of psychosis, and the unknown, my first response was to ask the Church for help. I thought, as the Church, with all its wisdom, knowledge and mystery of the Spiritual Realm, would be the first port of call, and would be able to help me in my dilemma. Wisely the Church referred me to take the medical route, and consult a doctor. Which I did, who referred me to a Psychiatrist, who referred me to a medical clinic with a psychiatric ward. There began the journey with psychiatry, psychology and pharmacology.
I took the route of Psychiatry, and followed the names recommended to me, I sought out psychologist who would take a spiritual approach to mental illness. Visited a clinical psychologist who recommended another psychiatric clinic. Eventually was told by a very good psychiatrist that a behavioural cognitive approach was needed – and an authoritarian regime implemented. And I had to apply this approach, which was beyond me because, although I can at times be firm and adamant, am not an authoritarian.
Then, rather desperately, it was decided to try a Christian Rehab Centre in the middle of nowhere, where periods of strict routine, work ethic, counselling and spiritual input would be a recommended therapy to look for better results. There were many tears, but also a slight breakthrough, when responsibility was taken on to some degree. A key to the healing process – responsibility !
The crisis in the family, became my dilemma and this in turn set me on a quest, with no road map. I visited support groups, joined support groups and read all that I could lay my hands on to get to know my enemy ! But with good psychiatry which oversaw the essential medication, and compliance aspects, a plateau was reached where I went on cruise control. Still curious and asking my questions of God, I latched onto the scriptures in the Bible, held on tightly, and kept my ears and eyes open to any ministry that spoke of healing and deliverance from mental illness.
Psychology, and psychologists became a growing interest, and were visited until the subject was mined, but not fully sufficient to answer my questions.
Slowly the tide turned my mind from mental illness to mental health – and so too my approach to life in general. A change of perspective can open a whole new spectrum on life, going from negative to positive is quite a transforming leap. And I was strengthened !
The foundation of my search was, and still is to this day, God’s Word the Bible, with its richness toward human development, for our growth and attainment, our comfort in the hard places of life, our guidance when the way forward is blurred and most precious of all, the unfathomable wisdom and knowledge pertaining to God Himself, and to my life.
The Neural Route.
Dr Caroline Leaf’s books brought an interesting insight to my mind, with her research of the Brain – the domain of the mind. She writes with such simplicity that I could grasp some of the concepts, and was astounded at the application of the Word of God to the fundamentals of these concepts. Just re-iterating that God is a good God, and that we are made in His image, and that is a good thing ! We are wired for love and for goodness, that is how our brain has been designed – and how it works. But it is what we choose to think and feel, whether the positive – the truth, or the negative – the lie that determines our behaviour, that determines our lives. She describes in biological terms how the thought life operates – from impulse, to protein to thought structure, to memory. And how important it is to be aware of our thought life, to embrace good thoughts and dismiss the bad ones. So important!
Her recent book The Perfect You, describes the “finger-print” of the mind, and how the seven pillars of thought, which for me, lines up with the seven intelligences of Intrapersonal – introspection, Interpersonal – relational, Mathematical – logic analytical, Linguistic – words, language, Music, Kinetic – movement and Visual/spacial – organisational, perception and colour. – all these in one of her first books Who Switched off my Brain. How we operate in the seven pillars, or seven zones in our brain make us unique, like our own finger print ! It also reflects our gifts and our strengths, and how we should capitalise, and focus our education on these, and not always have academia imposed upon us. Simply put that is what I gleaned from her books, and can’t help but to marvel when I look at the Brain, through her eyes, and see how fearfully and wonderfully we have been made ! The Psalms also declares this in Psalm 130:14
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works.
Always keeping an eye open for new information on schizophrenia I came across some recent blogs that offer more exploration on the subject. Refer : venitism.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/inside-schizophrenia/
I quote some snippets from the article.
“Wiring is frayed in more than just one region, according to a new international study – the largest analysis ever of white matter among people with a psychiatric disorder.”
” Some 40 years since CT scans first revealed abnormalities in the brains of schizophrenia patients, international scientists say the disorder is a systemic disruption to the brain’s entire communication system.
The study sets the stage for future research on the debilitating mental illness that, according to the World Health Organisation, affects more than 21 million people worldwide.”
“The researches found that poorly insulated brain wiring was most evident in the corpus callosum, which allows for communication between the brain hemispheres, and in the frontal portion of the corona radiata, a key structure for information processing. “
and further on…
“Scientists analyzed the data of 1,963 people with schizophrenia and compared them to 2,359 similar healthy people from Australia, Asia, Europe, South Africa an North America. Earlier studies typically included up to 100 people with schizophrenia, Jahanshad said.
The big data project was integrated from 29 different international studies by the ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta Analysis) network, a global consortium headed by Paul Thompson at the Keck School of Medicine.
ENIGMA has published the largest neuroimaging studies of autism, major depression and bipolar disorder using brain scans of more than 20,000 people, said Thompson, associate director of Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute.
The researches examined data from diffusion tensor imaging, a form of MRI that measures the movement of water molecules in the white matter of the brain. These scans allow scientists to locate problem areas in the brain’s normally insulated communication system.
The study paves the path for more focused scientific inquiry. A next step could be to seek what causes these abnormalities in white matter. Schizophrenia is partly hereditary, so perhaps specific genes promote the disorder via slight alterations in brain wiring, Kelly said ”
USC has researches across disciplines seeking to prevent or treat neurological and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.” “
In another blog : discovermagazine.com/2017/janfeb/55-schizophrenia-genetic-spark
” A team led by geneticist Steven McCarroll of the Broad Institute, based in Cambridge, Mass; combed through genetic info from about 29,000 schizophrenia cases, 36,000 controls and 700 brain samples from deceased patients.
McCarroll found that patients who had a certain C4 gene were more likely to inherit the disease. In healthy brains, the gene helps prune unnecessary connections between cells. But when it runs amok, as it does in schizophrenia, the process destroys healthy brain tissue.
C4’s involvement might also explain why schizophrenia arise during the late teens into the 20’s. It’s a period in human development in which brain circuits change and re-organise and … vulnerabilities to many neuropsychiatric illnesses emerge”
It is comforting for me to know that there is indeed further research been done on psychiatric disorders, and that scientific curiosity and continued inquiry is being made into this very complex disease.
Well, this all popped up before the Mental health workshop at the Methodist Church, so I went well fired up to learn more. Being Church, of course brings one to the brink of the Spiritual dimension of healing and deliverance from mental illness. A whole new field of seeking and finding. And that door has yet to be knocked on to open up wider to the mysteries of the mind.
However, in this sphere of inquiry there are no formulas or equations or quotas or logical answers. It is a question of trust, faith and patience, to allow God to do His work as He sees fit. He is in control, knows all things, and He has a purpose in all that happens ….. and He works in mysterious ways. One day His purposes will be revealed to those who are seeking answers, understanding and healing.
Because the Word of God says in Matthew 7:8
For everyone who asks will receive, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
So, perhaps this side of Heaven, I will not know all there is to know about mental illness,
its madness, its reasons and its cures. Until then I will continue to apply the Scripture of Romans 12:2
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
But…., one day when I enter the Pearly Gates I’m heading straight for the Hall of Inquiries and when I find the writings on schizophrenia, maybe even this little blog post will be there too, who knows? Then I will give it a wrap, ….. and put a little green bow on it !!
Happy thoughts for good mental health People !