Friday, March 13, 2009

Why Don’t We Fight?

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Why Don’t We Fight?

An Answer to the Behavioral Health Planning Council LC10

By Rogi

"The only thing we have to fear is fear, itself."

-- F. Roosevelt

At a past  meeting, a question was posed: “Why don’t we fight?” We do fight; that’s why we’re here. We are fighting the exploitation, abuse, stereotyping and neglect of people with behavioral health issues.

It angers us that people whom Jesus might have called, “the least of these,” are so poorly treated and stigmatized in our culture. We are advocating on behalf of citizens with behavioral health issues, and advising the State of New Mexico with our recommendations for how their challenges and needs may be met.

Anger is a great motivator for change. It is a primal emotion and very dangerous, if not released in a disciplined and constructive manner. Anger is triggered by fear. We are afraid that, if someone doesn’t do something, behavioral health issues will never be healed and might, quite possibly, be worsened. We felt somebody ought to do something, and we thought it could be us.

Many behavioral health challenges stem directly from fear.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyses us. Normal fear motivates us to improve our individual and collective welfare; abnormal fear constantly poisons and distorts our inner lives. Our problem is not to be rid of fear but, rather to harness and master it.”

By that definition, our whole culture suffers from behavioral health issues, as it is toxic with abnormal fears.

Substance abuse begins as an attempt to self-medicate fear and anger. It then progresses into a physiological and neurological addiction. Most people don’t begin abusing substances with a goal of slow suicide by addiction; they’re usually trying to numb themselves to powerful emotions. Fear and anger are usually the strongest of these.

People with organic, psychiatric disorders are continually plagued by fear and anger, as are the developmentally disabled and those with other neurological disorders, such as trauma. They’re afraid someone will find out they have “mental disability” and either: shun, ridicule, persecute, exile or torment them for a condition they never chose. Our culture fears them, although most are harmless, no matter how unconventional their behaviors, appearance or thoughts might seem.

People with behavioral health issues are probably the least able to productively deal with fear. Altered mental states make rational thought difficult, at best. Impulse control isn’t even an option, for some. Many who could constructively control impulses and channel anger into positive action have been so dismissed and ostracized from our communities that they’ve never been taught they have the option. They just don’t know any better.

Those of us who struggle with behavioral health issues, and who love, care and work for them, don’t need any more exposure to irrational fear and anger. Our lives are riddled with them. For some of us, it’s all we can do to shelter ourselves and our loved ones from fear and anger. We need peace. We need hope. We need constructive outlets. We need to seek out the root causes and conditions from which fear and anger spring and heal ourselves and our community.

We can’t heal rage, terror and violence by using the same tactics. .We have got to restrain our impulses to act out irrationally when we feel fear or anger. It’s healthier for the mental equilibrium of ourselves, our loved ones, our clients and our society.

As Gandhi said, “"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

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