ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Variations in Judgment and Levels of Awareness

Jack Bragen
Friday April 24, 2015 - 10:06:00 AM

My father once said to me that when someone is becoming mentally ill, "Judgment is the first thing to go." This was along the same lines as his comment about Norton Antivirus. He said "The first thing the virus does is to render Norton ineffective."  

The problem with loss of clear and balanced thought is that when it happens, you almost always lack the ability to judge the fact that your judgment is gone.  

And then you are prone to doing damage to business and personal relationships, as you could end up sending emails that should not be sent, or you could make badly thought-out decisions that get you off track.  

It is often good to bounce ideas off of someone who understands. In my case, that person is my wife, who at times talks me out of a paranoid or other delusion. This has prevented me from making numerous mistakes, some of which could have had negative repercussions.  

I have taught myself to maintain an evaluation of my awareness level, albeit this evaluation isn't always there. I continue to have times when my awareness and my judgment are lacking, and in some instances I am unaware of this absence until the higher faculties return. This is not a mood swing, but it is a fluctuation in wisdom and self-awareness.  

I am intentionally trying to learn better techniques of thought. I am constantly learning new things about myself, about the effects of my illness, about what works and what doesn't.  

Learning to cultivate the higher mental functions and use them as a tool to combat mental illness could be an important aspect of a good recovery. Some psychiatric medications could block some of the higher functions, since they can seem to shut down a lot of mental function in general.  

We are always dealing with an imperfect situation. The compromise is to treat the symptoms of mental illness without at the same time sacrificing too much "good" mental function. I am still able to use many higher functions despite being on substantial dosages of medications. A lot of this ability is attributable to effort and the ability to observe, including observing my innards. 

In recent years, it has become apparent that I have spent numerous decades with awareness that is deficient in a lot of areas. I continue to have some problems, and I try to learn from them.  

Trying to evolve to a better level while living with a psychiatric illness is a significant challenge. If we don't treat the illness with medication, evolution of the mind isn't externally blocked. However, the illness, if untreated, creates complete mental chaos or worse, and this absolutely prevents the mind from evolving. Failing to take medication, in the pursuit of personal growth, is not a viable option.  

So then we take medication, which may be stabilizing but may block types of thought that could potentially help us resolve a lot of our problems. This predicament is a lot of the reason why some severely mentally ill people never get much better.  

However, there are things you can do about this. One suggestion: Fish oil (taken according to directions). A study has indicated that fish oil is good for brain structure. Additionally, regular sessions of what I'll call "internal exploration." This can take a number of forms. You could sit with a tablet of paper and write down thoughts. You could do various types of meditation or cognitive techniques. Taking notes about what goes on inside my mind is something I find helpful.  

Another boost to awareness can arise from interacting with intellectually aware and wise people.  

A relative has suggested to me that if I want to get something accomplished, I should push myself. This idea has some merit. Effort along with an organized approach to a task can be effective. However, pushing oneself too much is not the best thing.  

Reading and journaling are good for the mind. The reading that I do is primarily on the internet, and not so many books any more. Before I was put on medication, I read quite a number of books. But also, the internet didn’t exist back then. (I also write books.) 

Overall, it is difficult to gain a good awareness if you are taking some psychiatric medications, while other psychiatric medications do not interfere with the higher functions. But there is always hope for someone who aspires to do better.