The broad path is open with views of river and lawns. As the path rises and turns gently left, it passes through overarching trees that line the route. Here the path is protected from excesses of wind and sun. There is a womb like security. All around branches sing in the fresh autumn breeze.
Your Healing From Adversity
If we want our lives to sing with vitality and optimism then we have to work for it. All of us face adversity in our lives. The question we need to ask is, how can I learn and grow from adversity? Maybe our marriage has broken up in disarray, our business has gone bankrupt, or we are living with a debilitating illness or disability. Whatever our adverse circumstances we can use them to develop our character. By developing our character we become stronger, wiser, more joyful and more loving. Growing through adversity is challenging. We may need a special friend or relative who, like a wise old Druid, can help guide us to see beyond our current difficulties, so that we pass through a gateway into a new more abundant life.
I experienced three mental breakdowns, two straight after one another. I was disabled for a period, but eventually these breakdowns became the most valuable learning experiences I have ever encountered, eventually leading to a new life of profound peace, love and happiness.
I had my first breakdown with schizophrenia when I was 24. (See Your Calling Needs To Be Trusted.) I recovered and struggled on with the condition working as an architect and then for a short period, as a management consultant until my second serious mental breakdown when I was 30.
My second breakdown happened because I decided to stop taking my medication. Ever since I had been placed on medication, I had questioned my need for it. This lack of acceptance and the constant questioning blinded me to evidence available from doctors and health care professionals, that people who have schizophrenia need to take medication to remain balanced and healthy. I never really accepted that I was a disabled person with special needs.
By not accepting the advice given by the doctors I had distorted my inner guidance, so that when I met a practitioner in complementary medicine who said he could successfully take me off my medication I readily believed him. Slowly, gradually he weaned me off my medication by giving me acupuncture and other treatments. Initially I felt much better, without the damping effects of tranquillisers in my system. I lost all of my drowsiness and felt really alive and alert.
Then slowly, gradually, to the consternation of my family, I began to become deluded once again. When my mother and other family members suggested I keep taking my medication I treated their ideas with disdain. I refused to listen. I was becoming arrogant and distant, a symptom of the condition when not treated. I went without medication for two years. During those two years my family had to watch in horror as I slipped further and further away from the real world and into a fantasy world created by my deluded mind with its unbalanced brain chemistry.
In those two years I spent all my savings unwisely and walked the streets pointlessly. As my mind became increasingly filled with fantasy places and people I began to behave in bizarre ways. I felt sure people were trying to harm me. One weekend my parents were so distressed they called to take me for a break to my uncle's home 50 miles outside Belfast. I remember stopping for something to eat half way through the journey. While my parents sat waiting for their meal I was busy in one of the public toilets praying to God for all I was worth. I had gone insane. My parents had no idea how to get a mad man to see sense and take his medication.
That night at 3 am I awoke at my uncle's house in a state of blind terror. All I could see were flames surrounding me. I felt I was drowning. My uncle heard the commotion and entered the room to find me rolling around the bed screaming with fright. At this point grace intervened. My uncle was a country doctor with a dispensing practice. He seized the moment, collected some tranquillisers from his store and suggested I take them. My deluded mind thought that he was trying to poison me with these drugs, but some tiny sane space inside my head knew that my uncle would never poison me. I decided to take the medication.
By the morning the hallucinations had died down and I was feeling much more normal and open to reason. When my parents suggested I go into hospital I agreed. With the help and care of the hospital staff and the medication, I was able to start the long road to recovery. I had to nurture my ability to socialise once again and learn simple skills like developing the concentration to read. My mind was shattered and it had to be reintegrated and healed. This was an on-going process that took many years.
After recovering from the second breakdown I had lost my confidence and my dream of being good at something and becoming rich and famous. As a result I had a third breakdown caused by the development of deep depression. (See Your Healing From Fear Anger And Grief and Your Healing From Loneliness). I was suffering depression as well as schizophrenia and was in a right mess.
When I was depressed I would get up at midday and lie on a couch all day in my lounge and do nothing, except the bare minimum needed to survive. This went on for two years. After a year living with my housemate struggling to keep my head above water, my mother offered to take me under her care. When living at my parent's home I did not want to face up to how unwell I was. I just wanted to escape. (See Your Healing From A Meaningless And Pointless Existence). After two years suffering this mental torment my mother helped me realise there was no escape and I would somehow have to find a way out of my pit of despair. I fell quiet and turned within for an answer.
I began to listen to my calling.
I sensed that, no matter how difficult, I would have to stop spending so much time thinking about myself and instead think outwardly about other people. I knew I would have to get some fun and laughter into my life. After listening to these feelings I thought of approaching a charity shop to work as a volunteer two mornings a week.
After two enquiries, I was accepted as a volunteer. It can be very difficult to get off a couch and work for two mornings a week. People who have been depressed understand this. It was difficult, but it wasn't impossible.
Oxfam ran the shop. It's purpose was to raise funds to assist Oxfam with their overseas programme for developing countries. The shop had a gifts section; with imported crafts from all over the world, and a furniture section selling donated furniture, tables, chairs, wardrobes and beds.
On my first day there I was rather down in the mouth and morose. I went home just as fed-up as when I arrived. Then I remembered the guidance given to me intuitively. I remembered to create some fun in my life, no matter how difficult this was going to be. I resolved that evening, that for as long as I worked in the Oxfam shop, I would be the life and soul of the party. The next day, as I walked through the shop door, I put a big smile on my face. When I was behind the counter I joked and laughed the whole afternoon. Underneath I was still severely depressed. My jovial exterior was a complete act.
That evening when I went home I felt as depressed as ever. I persisted with this act for years. I gradually increased the amount of time I spent in the shop. Each time I went I acted out my jovial performance. I still felt depressed. However, slowly, very slowly, I began to change. I was beginning to take a genuine interest in other people. Just for a moment, now and then, I was beginning to forget how miserable I was.
Eventually I was working a good part of the week at the Oxfam shop and helping upstairs in the office occasionally as well. After a number of years in the shop I received another suggestion from within, that I work upstairs as a full time volunteer. I acted on this inner prompting and spent the following year working in the office. During that year I organized the most successful Oxfam Week appeal they had ever had, put together a rock concert for Africa and invented the stamp appeal, which turned out to be the most successful Oxfam appeal ever in Northern Ireland. (See Your Calling Can Increase Creativity Many Thousand Fold). It raised so much money it was even featured on television.
One Friday evening in January I went to the television studio to see the programme featuring my appeal. It was being broadcast live on Ulster television's prime Friday evening slot. I sat in the studio gallery watching the presenter and his guests from Oxfam on the stage. I had a big smile on my face. But this time the smile wasn't a fake. It was genuine. I had been cured.
Now that my depression was cured I wondered what I might do with my life to earn a living. A standard nine to five job was too much for me because of my sensitivity to stress, a side effect of living with schizophrenia. I turned within for help. I sensed that I needed to be gentle with myself. I felt guided to find work that was personally meaningful. Before my breakdown I had developed a modest interest in management consultancy. I thought I might start up as a self-employed management consultant once again.
Returning to being a management consultant would allow me to use creative talents I had developed as an architect and apply them to business. Being self-employed would allow me to control the workload and pressures I was feeling. But how could I start? I was not sure I had the ability. I had no contacts and had very little money.
By listening within, I sensed that I needed to go to business events and be involved with business people. I felt I would pick it up as I went along. I decided to act on the feelings I was receiving intuitively.
The first business event I attended is still fresh in my memory. It was at the Culloden, a five star hotel and the most prestigious in Belfast. I arrived at the hotel on my bicycle, parked it in the car park among all the Mercedes and BMW cars, dismounted, gathered up my papers and walked with gut wrenching trepidation toward the main hotel entrance. I walked down through the main hotel foyer, into the conference centre.
There were hundreds of senior business executives milling around. They were all dressed in blue pin striped suits and crisp white shirts. I looked down at my clothes. I was wearing a large white, baggy Arran sweater and brown corduroy trousers. I felt rather conspicuous. I was about to fold with embarrassment, when I remembered a famous British businessman who nearly always wears casual clothes and tried to forget about my eccentric appearance.
During the conference I seemed to be more concerned about my appearance than the others present. I met some interesting business people and began to feel involved in the business community. It was a good start.
In time I made a number of contacts and eventually received my first two contracts for consultancy with an Arts Centre and a freight forwarding company. I was very nervous undertaking these two contracts but deep within I knew I would be able to do the work. After starting each of these contracts I was delighted to find that I could do the work easily. Both the chairman of the Arts Centre and the managing director of the freight forwarding company wrote excellent references. Indeed the managing director said that as a result of working with me he had changed to having a positive opinion about business consultants.
My career opened out from there. I began to specialise in teaching personal development skills to people in business and went on to lecture in personal development at Queen's University. As a result of these developments in my career, my confidence, self-esteem and energy all grew. My new found working life, combined with my continuing personal development, resulted in further improvements in my ability to live with schizophrenia. The psychiatrists were able to progressively reduce the quantity of the drug I was taking to control my condition. I then felt better and improved still further. Indeed my psychiatrist commented that, even as a professional in mental health, he would never have known I had a mental illness unless he had been told first.
This process continues today. I can honestly say I have never felt better in my life. I am still taking medication in moderate amounts. A psychiatrist closely monitors this medication. Despite taking powerful tranquillizers and having a mental illness, I am no longer disabled by the condition.
I have come to the conclusion that schizophrenia is a shattering of the Self. This shattering is commonplace in humanity but perhaps takes its most extreme form in the schizophrenic condition. When I was lying on the couch, a broken and shattered person, I was stripped of everything and left alone trapped inside my deluded mind. The only resource I could draw on was the radiant inner swan, and because she became my only hope, I saw her in all her glory and splendour, calling me out of the pit of despair. Since then I have never let go of her. Through listening to and following my inner calling, my Self is gradually being reintegrated, healed and made incredibly strong. Indeed I have learned so much from my radiant inner swan that I have been vastly empowered.
When I was discharged from hospital 12 years ago, I started life again by attending a daily drop-in centre for people with schizophrenia. I still meet people in the street whom I then knew and who still attend that centre today. Many of them are still imprisoned by its debilitating effects. I am in no doubt that it was through the support of my father and wisdom of my mother that I began to listen to my calling, found the courage to follow my potential and experienced the healing that has set me on an upward path to personal freedom and fulfilment.
Why not experiment with inner guidance yourself?
Our free meditation program to awaken heart-consciousness...