Spiritual Detection Is the First Step - A Seeker's Story
For the better part of my life, I was a tried and true skeptic. I inherited my astute atheism on my father’s side of the family and my difficult childhood turned me into a full-blown cynical nihilist. For me, the world was a bland and robotic exchange of pleasantries. By the time I turned 18, I saw human interaction as an endless string of small talk that I had to put up with until the day I died.
Dealing with My Mental Illness
Simply put, I was lost. Oddly enough, my revelation came to me at a very strange and unexpected time in my life. I was 25 years old and dealing with the acute stage of schizophrenia. I didn’t even realize there was something this deeply wrong with me up to this point. Mental illness is funny like that.
It was a day like any other, not particularly memorable but not too glum either. I was at home watching the news, when all of a sudden, the world felt off. I can’t begin to explain that dreaded feeling, but if you went through it, you will know exactly what I mean.
And then the hallucinations started, and I experienced my first major psychotic break.
The voices in my head shifted and distorted my perception of myself and my surroundings. At first, it was nothing serious. They mostly talked among themselves about random things, until one day that wasn’t enough. They started noticing me and singling me out, spewing out hurtful things about my biggest insecurities.
I saw countless doctors, and they all tried to help me with medicine and therapy. These helped, but something was still missing. So, I started wracking my brain for solutions, and when that tired me out, I was incredibly close to giving up. But then something miraculous happened. I finally understood that I didn’t have to go through my struggle alone, that there were people out there who understood me.
By giving up my belief that the people around me were my worst enemies, I could finally focus on the true threat: my schizophrenia. I continued to go to therapy and take my medicine, but I also started trying alternative treatments.
My Spiritual Journey
Finding the perfect correlation between my life, my disorder, and my treatment wasn’t easy. I had to do a lot of soul searching to figure out what was best for me, and that was especially hard to pull off because of my sometimes distorted perception of reality.
Even though I had never given spirituality a second thought in the past, now I was ready to try it. My first approach to it was completely wrong because I tried it the popular way: by seeking solitude and isolating myself from the world to focus inward. In theory, this is a perfect way to start. But in practice, this is impossible for someone living with schizophrenia.
When you don’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore, cutting ties with the world is the worst thing you can do. Detailed research has shown that the absence of healthy social ties induces schizophrenic behavior, but I certainly didn’t know that at the time. Needless to say, my attempt failed miserably and I was left picking up the pieces of my broken sanity once again.
Still, I wasn’t ready to give up. And then I discovered my own kind of informal spiritual companionship. By connecting with others who were coping with various mental illnesses and who believed in the amazing powers of healing your soul, I began to find a curative strength within myself I never knew I had before.
I was lucky enough to find my companion under the guise of a significant other. Of course, this is not standard spiritual direction as many of you know it. But I found it incredibly valuable. For me, it can be a friend, a neighbor, even a teacher. If you open your heart to this possibility, you will know who they are when you meet them. I knew this as soon as I laid eyes on the amazing woman who is now my wife of three years, and counting.
While it was true that my wife played a pivotal role in my spiritual healing, one of the reasons I understood the importance of spiritual companionship was a trip I took with her to Bhutan a couple of years ago. I don't necessarily take every word in the Tantra for granted, but I have been taught what I considered to be healthy life principles by my Dharma teachers there - compassion, abstinence, and empathy, which were believed to help the soul achieve enlightenment.
I felt my connections with those around me blossom and I wondered if it was truly because of something as simple as a set of healthy rules to follow, especially since with my previous experience with schizophrenia and my skepticism I had this innate distrust for everything in my surroundings.
This is when I started to wonder if people really know the whole picture when it comes to faith, emotions, and happiness. I understood the importance of spiritual practice.
I currently do mindfulness exercises and meditation with my loved one and we offer each other spiritual support daily, while trying to find more people like us so that we can better ourselves and help those around us to realize their potential.
The Long Road Ahead
I’m not claiming to be cured. In fact, I’m far from it. But I have finally found a way to soothe my psychosis and deal with the trials and tribulations of my everyday life as a mental patient. I still see my therapist once a week and I don’t think that Western medicine has failed me.
What I do know now better than ever before is that healing the soul is an important step in healing the mind and the body.
Alex Moore is a West Virginia Psychology undergraduate and blogger with an interest in anything unconventional.
Understanding the value of spiritual companionship from his travel and life experiences, he now seeks to share his story with all those willing to listen, with the hope of promoting mutual acceptance.