By John Wm. Dunn
In my previous article, The Virtue of Love – NAMI Washtenaw County, I expressed my hope that you are interested in continuing the journey towards a higher state of being through the virtues of humanity as you might see them. This realization includes a sound state of mind, spirit, and body which may consist of medicine, therapy, spirituality, or (as in my circumstances) a combination of all these elements. Although I have suffered from a serious mental illness for nearly twenty-five years, my recovery did not blossom until I found the virtue of hope which is where this article begins.
The first twenty years of my struggles were marked by several inpatient hospitalizations and medicine adjustments to various psychiatric medications. Additionally, a severe lack of communication skills affected my ability to relate professionally to my doctors, and a practically non-existent support network. Consequently, I became very introverted to the point in which the only being I could relate to was my higher power whom I believe is the embodiment of love itself. As I began pursuing this fundamental relationship, I began to pray for an abundant amount of wisdom, insight, and understanding of human nature which includes the depths of my own heart. This twenty-year period of introspection concluded with an intense study of Christian and Judaic wisdom literature, namely the wisdom books of the Old Testament, which raised several profound questions about the plight of mankind (especially vulnerable populations such as those who experience any form of mental illness) and, ironically, led me to the point where my knowledge and wisdom were tested.
Ultimately, I got to a point at which I utterly felt like I could grow no more in my inner being and, due to my introverted nature, felt like I had no one to reach out to–including my wife, who struggles with a serious mental illness of her own. Shortly after I reached this point of realization, I relapsed into a serious bout of cancer which brought me close to physical death. Being emotionally drained and reflecting on all my past failures and hospitalizations, I began to realize that I desperately needed the virtue of hope. Instinctively, I turned to my higher power and began to pray for the wisdom to share my knowledge and thought processes selflessly to others out of love which has inspired me to write “The Virtue of Love,” which I believe is the highest of all virtues and binds the entirety of humanity into perfect unity if we diligently seek to experience it in all our relationships.
Having been totally consumed with my desire for wisdom and knowledge of humanity and the afterlife I profess to believe in, I completely neglected my personal responsibilities and self-care. Fortunately, I was admitted to an inpatient treatment center which allowed me to work on a healthy balance of spirituality and personal responsibility. Through a series of circumstances and practical opportunities which presented themselves upon discharge, I purchased my first house with my wife and obtained the education to maintain it, which included balancing our budget through developing more effective communication skills with my wife. Eventually I found part-time employment and continue to work part-time to this day. The rewards from these acts of self-care and the acceptance of personal responsibility have greatly increased my self-esteem which has led to my hope in recovery as well as the afterlife as I understand it.
I wish I could say that I instantly grasped the virtue of hope and that all my fears and regrets immediately passed away; however, this is not the case. While I existed in the “pit of depression,” I was forced to undergo a change in my psychiatric medications due to financial factors (which many of us may relate to). Unfortunately, it took quite some time before my condition would re-stabilize. During this time, I was able to investigate my own heart through the eyes of my higher power and recognize the more tangible aspects of my mind and personality such as my deep introversion and fears through faith-based therapy. My therapist, whom I continue to work with very closely to this day, has helped me open various channels of communication such as writing and active listening, skills I continue to develop. I currently identify my personality as a well-balanced individual on a greater journey towards understanding himself and humanity through the eyes of a supreme creator and a desire to share this vision with others. It is in this virtue of understanding born out of love that I have found hope in recovery and, ultimately, humanity itself. I perceive myself as a unique individual whose journey has been defined by a serious mental disorder; however, I must emphasize that the destiny of my journey is a state of blissful love with my higher power. This knowledge is the source of my hope for recovery.
In all my articles to date, I have presented my interpretation of some very abstract virtues such as hope and love; however, I would like for you to consider the fact that these virtues can be developed in very specific and concrete ways such as self-care, personal responsibility, and reading the testimonies of others who have experienced circumstances you may or may not have found yourself in. Testimonies such as these have inspired me to greater heights of love and blissful imaginations than I could ever have thought possible. Personally, I am currently working on the virtue of empathy towards humanity as I hear the testimonies of various individuals and seek a more active role in society. It took an enormous amount of work on my part to find the hope that I need to persevere throughout my physical and mental struggles as well as the intercession of a professional therapist who continues to help me work on self-care; however, my point is that hope is not just some abstract virtue out there which can only be imagined. It can be acquired through professional therapy and, as demonstrated in my scenario, a personal relationship with humanity and/or a higher power.
Regardless of your source of hope, I would like to encourage you to pursue this fundamental virtue on a deeper level and, if you desire, you may feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you wish to receive any further personal insights on this abstract dimension of humanity.
John began his journey over twenty-five years ago with a psychotic break in which he experienced several religious thoughts and delusions which were out of touch with reality or true spirituality. Throughout the years following his diagnosis as an adult who struggles with schizoaffective disorder, he has received formal education in religious studies and philosophy while praying and studying the “big picture” of mental illness and the “bigger questions” of life. Through his religious studies courses he received an understanding of his inner being which includes his diagnosis as well as the “big picture” of how he would feel if he were mentally and emotionally stable. Through his education in philosophy, he came to an understanding of how to reach this state through a logical approach to his therapy. It is his desire to share this journey which he will continue throughout the remainder of his mortal life with his audience.