Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mental Health Hygeine - Kind of Like Brushing Your Teeth

We had the pleasure of spending 26 hours with a dear, dear friend from our Wroclaw days this weekend. Someone I haven't seen in ten years. One of the kindest, purest hearts I know, that just happens to be encased in a body that is fun, and funny and damn smart. A. who resides in Sydney, Australia these days, is in the States this month for an intensive course in dramatherapy, which I confess I knew nothing about until talking with A. this week.

My friendship and love of A. developed in our wilder days, when his English wasn't terribly good, my Polish was worse, and when our priorities consisted of finding the next party (not as easy as it sounds in an Eastern Europe where phones and internet access were still luxuries that few, certainly none of us, had), getting ourselves there, and getting each other safely home. To see this person again now, ten years later, both of us all growned up....the emotions, they're hard to describe. While A. and I stayed in touch over the years, correspondence was short and infrequent - basic info and updates, really - nothing like the marathon chat sessions that we would have practically every weekend. Tea steaming, eyelids flickering, resisting sleep as we tried to suck every last second of the weekend before work began again on Monday. To have another one of those reminded me how much I love and value this person and his friendship.

So much can happen in the course of a decade - we've both had our share of tragedies and circumstances we wish we never had to deal with. But there are joyful moments too, new relationships, new travels, new priorities that were there to be shared. And hugs. So many hugs. I just couldn't get enough. We talked about our experiences together in Poland, and our lives now. We assessed situations past and present. We talked of the future.

And the one thing I forgot about A. is that he has an advanced degree in Psychology and will be starting his PhD this fall. Um, bonus? Besides learning about so many new and experimental methodologies, he imparted some advice to M. that I believe he just might take.

"M., my darling, what you are describing to me is simply anxiety. And anxiety, this is a kind of a hygenic thing in your mental health. It's like brushing your teeth, yes? It is something you must address every day or it will become something hard to manage. You have to keep it in check. I know you have these skills. You have to remember to use them. Like brushing your teeth, ok?"

And while art therapy are dramatherapy are things I don't envision M. participating in, I did see his interest peak when A. discussed meditation, yoga and and the concept of narrative therapy. Ever hear of this?

It's a process in which you basically develop a story about yourself, and then pull yourself out of it. And then you and the therapist work together on the elements of that story, you as a detatched observer. As a cultural studies major, one who is used to deconstructing and finding meanings in the world around him, I could see that M.'s intellectual curiousity, if nothing else, was sparked by the idea of doing something similar to himself.

So, we'll see. And if none of those options help, we can always fall back on this method, also recommended by the lovely A.


Lori Lavender Luz said...

He sounds like a very wise person, with a very helpful message.

I love that Bob Newhart skit!

Glad you reconnected, m.

Silver said...

Yes - your "Frozen" post mad me flashing back to times when I've had anxiety issues. It's horrible! I'm so pleased your friend was able to help - he sounds fab!

Mo said...

Wonderful post, as always, m. And I *love* this bob newhart skit. something my fellow therapists and I have passed around...

thanks for sharing.


Anonymous said...

Yoga nidra (yogic sleep) is fantastic, and I can also vouch for meditation, if only I had the damn self discipline to do it more often...

Audrey said...

Such sage advice. I am definitely taking it to heart.

I hope that M will be able to provoke the changes he needs at work.