Options are my Opiates

Recently I saw an article about writing or being a writer contributing to being bi-polar and it is no accident so many WordPress articles cover topics on the whole range of mental anguish.   For a writer, any scene from The Shining is enough to turn you away from a keyboard faster than a surfer from the water after seeing Jaws.  There is an alternative.

Mental anguish manifests itself in so many ways for so many people and for so long.   In fact Sherlock Holmes put it simply “The pain of the mind is far greater than the pain of the body.”  Having spent some time in hospitals and under the knife long before reading the World’s most famous detective (and by the way, the world’s most published individual), mental pain was always greater than physical pain.  Writers block also seems to send people close to the edge as much as anything.

Stayatworkfatherofthree is NOT a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker and lacks empathy for the most part, with all the sympathy of a tiger.  Nevertheless, my life has always been about “giving while living” long before learning who Chuck Feeney was.  Having been born with Poland’s Syndrome and often being the only Asian face in class and more often than not the shortest in the school, no obstacle has hindered as much as mental anguish.  I found a solution along the way and am sure you will too.

When I left Hong Kong, many of my friends were holding down high paying jobs and taking anti-depressants on a daily basis and so proud happy pills could help them achieve more than those not without this open secret weapon.  Most of the entire generation above us is on mood altering medication.  And now everywhere I look people are suffering in increasing numbers.  It is perhaps the biggest issue since starvation in the 80s.  Perhaps when there is a Live Aid concert dedicated to all the people who committed suicide, public awareness with turn a better way.

Each of our three children shares a class with children suffering from mental anguish in some form.  We first noticed at our Bangkok school most families lived in high-rise condo apartments with limited contact with nature.  Accordingly, we built a sand pit on our balcony, sacrificing any hopes for a naughty hot tub and filled the remaining space with as many plants and trees we could fit.  Our not-so-quick-fix to give them an instant nature fix without having to go downstairs.

In addition, most of the school Fathers worked in the oil and mining industries, thus not at home much.  These were kids with aggression issues.  But this was even more rife when we got to the Australian suburbs.  Honestly, probably not since the First World War have so many Australian children done most of their growing up without a Father.  The mining industry has a lot to answer for and society is already paying the price on so many levels.

Looking to prevent and reverse the damage done to most people, the cause in most cases has been a lack of options.  Not a lack of choices.  In fact most people, including myself, can be positively paralyzed by some of the choices we have to make.  There is a subtle and less than semantic difference.  Choice is almost certainly something you have do, a decision you have to make.  Options are by their very nature, are optional decisions.  Voluntary in most cases and not essential.  Sophie’s Choice.  Stock Options.  Get it?

You do not choose to be a victim.  You do not choose to be sad, bored or worse.  But things are infinitely unhappy if there is no other option in sight, regardless of how many choices you are faced with.  Many people today feel trapped with no perceived options.  They fail to make good decisions and get further imprisoned.  It might be their finances and work, it might be their family.  Some options might require sacrifices that are too great or unavailable.  Most will hear there is always another way to skin a banana (let’s give cats a break).  But seeing that other way is the issue.  They feel they have no other option.

The paradox is people are also told you can do whatever you want, you are free, you have so much potential, you have so many opportunities, although in their minds, none of that is visible without a hard vision of something tangible.   Then add to that mix, the paralysis of choice.  Choosing what to further study, choosing to re-locate, choosing to talk about it is even terrifying.  Much less choosing what to focus on as your life’s work.  The Phantom of the Opera’s lament, the prison of my mind! rings so loud.

More happily, when I was a teenager, Sherlock Holmes put one way to solve a problem is to use a process of elimination.  That is, once you have eliminated everything that is not possible, whatever remains, however ridiculous or improbable, must indeed be the solution.

My first wife could never identify her dream job.  She had never been able to and as a result was traveled the World ticking off her bucket list, until I met her.  Then after five years together, I handed her a fairly complete list of every type of occupation possible to most school-leavers.  After 90 minutes she had systematically crossed out each occupation that did not interest her.  What remained after a further 15 minutes was a circle around ‘locksmith’.   Ironic as it was the only skill I did not possess as a detective, although no surprise given we had only two weeks previous forked out at weekend night call out fee for a locksmith to help us after both forgetting our keys.

My current wife had no hesitation yesterday as we were walking over a hill to the next bay, to challenge this concept.  Again married to someone who cannot articulate nor identify their dream work, I unconsciously rolled out the above-mentioned old chestnut from Watson’s favorite muse.  Boy did it get thrown back in my face.   A fair Thai to English translation would be “You always have a lofty answer to everyone, although never take simple down to earth action yourself like a normal person.”

Point-taken and why I am writing this morning.  How does one make choices when there are no options?   Well options have been my opiates for a long time.  Making choices are much easier once you have ample options (and the all elusive plan most life coaches, mentors, counsellors and millionaires remind us ad nauseam).

What the World does not need is another self-help book.  What we need is a Guinness Record number of people becoming who they were born to be, doing what they were destined to do and have what they deserve for their efforts.

Please leave a comment if you think my family and I can help.






One thought on “Options are my Opiates

  1. Thank you to everyone who read today’s post. I think it is a record number of likes for one post in the shortest ever time. So I think I better write some more about answers to mental anguish. That will have to be in two days though, as tomorrow is my greatest antidote to worrying. If the sea is calm, my wife and I will take our little boat and anchor off the local nudist beach and sun ourselves in our birthday suits sans kids. If you could put that half day in a bottle……….


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