The Problem With the Mental Health Epidemic & Why We Are Doing it All Wrong
I once owned an elephant named Isabella.
She was made out of plastic painted brown with gold trimming around her feet and tusks.
A little girl named Betsy who lived in my apartment building gave her to me as a good luck charm.
She said it was a positive omen to keep me safe always.
I was obsessed with Isabella for years and no matter where I moved she was the first item I’d unpack.
I took the superstition seriously not because I believed in it per say but I believed in Betsy’s story.
The people you love become ghosts inside of you and like this you keep them alive. — Robert Montgomery
One Sunday I was downstairs in the laundromat of my apartment building folding clothes having a conversation with my ex about ghosts.
We were sharing paranormal stories and wondered if ghosts really existed or not.
A little girl (Betsy) around 10 years old, brown skin and long frizzy black curly hair was next to us getting her Mom’s clothes out of the dryer.
Betsy overheard the conversation and excitedly interrupted with “I see ghosts but no one believes me!”.
We were surprised yet curious.
Did she really see ghosts? And if she did, what do they look like?
She went on to explain that she has seen them for years. Sometimes they appeared as shadows and sometimes they were see-thru.
Other times she saw her dead family walking around including her deceased mother and grandmother.
Her adopted Mother didn’t believe her so Betsy was forced to go psychotherapy.
As a result they tried medication to stop the “hallucinations”.
Know your truth even if they call you crazy.
My heart broke a little when I heard her say she was taking medication because she saw ghosts.
A part of me had wondered if she was really emotionally okay.
Maybe it was her imagination.
Or maybe she did just see ghosts and it was as simple as that.
Either way I didn’t want to try to psycho-analyze or question her sanity.
If she saw ghosts then she saw ghosts.
It was her truth and she said so then so it is.
For those five minutes we talked and she had a spark of validation in her eyes.
She shared that she often wondered if others were like her.
In many ways, I too was like her.
She asked what apartment I lived in and if she could come by later to give me something.
I said “Sure”.
And that’s when I got Isabella the elephant.
You’re not crazy. You are just wise.
Why do we label people who talk of ghosts and invisible energy as crazy?
Why is our society so quick to make you feel inadequate in your thought process and feelings if we can’t make sense of it?
I have always felt different most of my life like Betsy.
I saw myself in her.
I was also a curious creative and highly-sensitive little girl who just saw life differently than most.
I have a deep sense of intuition and have felt things all my life.
I have felt spirits and conversed with the dead in my dreams.
And I have been called crazy for it.
Perhaps the proper medicine for someone who sees ghosts and has visions is not psychotherapy or medication but understanding and guidance.
In the film Crazywise they compare how mental health is treated here in America vs. in other parts of the world.
If someone experiences a “psychotic” episode such as seeing spirits or hearing voices the village comes together to guide them.
The tribe sees this person as having special gifts.
A shaman will mentor the individual to learn how to channel these spirits into important information for the tribe.
The person isn’t called crazy.
They aren’t prescribed medications that could possibly worsen their condition or persuade their thoughts to possible suicide.
Instead these gifted people are supported, hugged and mentored in a safe way that benefits the whole.
They aren’t left behind. Or abandoned.
They aren’t forgotten outcasts of society made to feel like second-class citizens.
They are remembered. As humans. As children. Who want to give and receive love.
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” ― Rumi
My hope is that we can apply these same methods to our loved ones today.
To the children who feel different. Who do talk about spirits and have highly-engaged imaginations. Who are sensitive, soft and creative.
Perhaps we can learn to understand their world from a different lens.
Perhaps we can learn how to help them use their gifts for good and channel them to benefit the whole.
Betsy made an impact on me in those five minutes.
Her story resonated with me and reminded me that it’s important to have people even strangers believe in us.
Isabella the elephant wasn’t only a symbol of good luck to me but of how being different is more than okay. Being gifted is not crazy.
The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
Let’s start there.