Editor’s note: The following article mentions suicidal attempts. If you or a loved one are feeling distressed or suicidal, then please contact a mental health professional or call your local 911.
By Rick McVicar
Syntax, grammar, diction, sounds of vowels and consonants: these are the tools of a writer as well as tools for my own mental health.
I have mental illness as well as my own thought-out path for recovery.
After spending about a decade of volatility from my illness, I dedicated myself to 40-hour weeks in the social work library at The Ohio State University. I believe it was in the late 1980s.
I am not real sure of the time frame, as I hardly remember the 1980s. Those years were filled with suicidal attempts, psychosis and deep depression. I was a mess.
I knew I had to find my own way out of the mess, as medication did only so much for me with all types of side effects. So I went on a mission to find a way to climb out of my mentally challenged hole.
I became well acquainted with academic journals, especially Schizophrenia Bulletin. I read so much that I began to develop my own theory of my diagnosis, schizoaffective disorder.
I wrote up the theory and submitted an article to Schizophrenia Bulletin. My article was rejected because the editors thought I plagiarized some French writer who was completely unfamiliar to me.
The theory is basically that with my illness, I lack filters and boundaries within my brain that structure thoughts into different areas. Distinct ideas become attached and associated in patterns that do not match objective reality. Pronouns are a big problem, as “I” gets mixed up with “we” and “they.”
To gain wellness, I decided I must find a way to rewire my brain by finding ways to create the internal filters and boundaries I was lacking. I needed to build walls in my brain so distinct thoughts would remain distinct.
Thinking about what I was doing, I decided my reading and writing were beginning to rebuild those structures. I began putting my theory to work by reading four or five newspapers every morning. That was before the Internet, of course.
My recovery journey would eventually lead to attending The Ohio State University School of Journalism, thanks to funding from the Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation. My life turned completely around and I spent the 1990s as a reporter for community newspapers.
I still believe that structure found in language does create those internal boundaries I so desperately need. However, I no longer think that language is the only means.
The structure can come from music and other artistic endeavors. Music, for example, has all types of structure to it, from rhythm to pitch and to scales. Artistic endeavors generally have rules and techniques to follow.
That is why I think the arts are vital to recovery. Now I am not saying my theory is evidence-based for other people. I’m just writing this to describe how the arts, particularly writing, has helped me.
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