How Our Environment Affects Us
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This post is not talking about the "environment [of the earth]" but more of the environment around us that has to do with ourselves and others. I think I'll cover sometime later what the actual environment does to mental illness as well. There's not too much that I have read about it, but I think it is an interesting topic. SO here we go.. How does our environment affect us?
Let us take "me" as an example, I grew up in foster care, I dealt with abuse and getting used to an adoptive family, when I was born I barely weighed three pounds and was very sick when I was born due to lithium in my Moms blood, and I endured some extra trauma through abuse when I was in elementary school and as an adult. My environment ever since I was adopted has been OK but bipolar surfaced at a time when my crazy mistakes looked like the regular stupid things that young adults would do. My bipolar made me create an environment that was gradually toxic to me and neither I nor my family or friends or anybody for that matter saw it. That is the problem with mental illness - It simply comes into our life secretly and then blows up. It is like a virus that just starts out like a regular cold and then BAM! Your life is suddenly on the line.
So, does our environment affect us when it comes to a successful recovery? I would say yes. There is only so much we can do by ourselves. From working with people over the last few months I have realized a lot of stress comes from family. That is typical, but what if your family has mental illness problems as well? What if suicide has affected you while you have struggled with your own problems? Sometimes family just doesn't understand us, and sometimes family will just kick you out of the house and suddenly there you are living by yourself. Most people will loose friends, family, and significant others because the environment that is around them just is not spelling SUCCESS. The thing we have to realize is that our environment may not be perfect but in a way it is not perfect because it is not a one way street. We have to contribute to our harsh environment to create a better one.
I am going to go over a typical situation for a person who is just so out of it and has so much uncontrolled emotion that he/she is left to fend for themselves, or they are treated badly because of their behavior towards others. Take a boy who has been abused during childhood. This boy is traumatized and to add to that he may acquire PTSD and may have bipolar disorder but these are undiagnosed as he goes through elementary and middle school. During his early years he acts out, punches fellow classmates and yells at his teachers consistently being suspended. When he gets to high school he builds up more troubling symptoms of a child that may have some mental health problems. Then in his senior year of high school he has a tremendous psychotic break but doesn’t seek help because he has no idea what is happening. At this time he is drinking and doing drugs, a self-medication technique that works for him if he devotes his life to it. One day he becomes aggressive and gets arrested. Then he gets arrested again. After so many arrests his family just puts him on the street telling him he needs to get help. At this point this child has completely lost his sense of self. He hasn’t had a sense of self since he was little. His abuse took him away from a life that could have been fairly workable and normal. His mental illness continues to haunt him and eventually he gets medication but refuses to take it because of how it makes him feel. Because he doesn’t take his medication on a regular basis he begins to have hallucinations, his thoughts are all over the place, he finds himself in another world, and he finds himself gradually becoming suicidal. Voices are telling him to kill himself and he doesn’t know what to do. Many young adults and adults have experienced some characteristics of my made up story. Can you see how difficult it is to take yourself out of these environments? Overall when you are young, ESPECIALLY when you are young you need someone to basically tell you, you need to go see a doctor and get on medication. If you are abused that is extra trauma that gets in the way of an accurate diagnosis.
I say we should be aware of our environment and put some responsibility on ourselves to get help. At the same time how do we get to the point where your environment is good enough that we can feel confident in confiding in a family member, a great friend, or walk into a doctor's office without feeling like your life is on the line no matter what way you turn? I have found that I needed help to a point and then it was up to me to make a difference in my life. Our environment, just like everyone else in the world helps us move forward or makes us move back. We have to find a happy medium, and society has a long way to go to step up to the plate.
- Susan Page