Monk and Mental Health

Tony Shalhoub played the defective detective in the police drama “Monk” from 2002 to 2009.  Monk is obsessive-compulsive and has a list of 312 prioritized fears and phobias.  But, as the main character, everyone is expected to see and find his mental health challenges somewhat humorous.  However, I like the show Monk for another reason, all the other mental health issues swimming around Monk that nobody understands or even recognizes due to Monk’s fears and phobias being so over the top.monk tv show cast - Google Search | Monk tv show, Mr monk

Monk started a mental health conversation in America, reflecting that even those with mental health issues can be productive members of society if given a chance.  For example, Captain Stottlemeyer, for the majority of the show’s run, has anger issues, and yet he is considered capable and competent as a Police Captain.  Lieutenant Disher struggles with his identity as a person and his value to the organization.  The supporting character’s mental health problems create the drama.  Monk provides comedy and allows the supporting characters to be accepted for their mental health issues, which is essential in this discussion.

TV Reviews - TV Liveblogging: Some Episode Of Monk - KittysneezesSharona struggled with being a mother, her boss was driving her crazy, and her mental health issues stemmed from both her boss and her nursing responsibility.  Sharona plays a problematic role; does she provide nursing care for Monk or provide living assistance as a counselor?  Concluding that stress can be a mental health issue when taken to extremes.  Natalie Teager struggled with loneliness and a desire to be her own person outside of her family.  Both mental health challenges that many people struggle with silently.  Other supporting characters had substance abuse issues stemming from mental health concerns and personal choices, thus Monk’s subtlety and genius.

When Sharona, his nurse, leaves the show, Natalie Teager provides a lesson on mental health, the difference between coddling and helping a person with mental health problems.  Sharona, for all her care and concern, never saw Monk as capable without assistance.  Natalie Teager saw Monk as competent but needing some assistance.  The difference is subtle but very real.  Monk’s behaviors and mental health problems lessen when Natalie Teager enters the show, and the story becomes richer.

Perception vs. Reality in Care Support

Image result for monk tv show cast | Monk tv show, Mr monk, Adrian monkAre you weak to admit you have a mental health problem?  Per society, not as much anymore.  Per yourself, who knows.  Perception versus reality is critical in the person with mental health concerns and in the care-providing staff surrounding that person.  Now, I suffer from PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression, as mental health concerns; but, I thank God for my support (spouse) and those characters in my life that provide the drama, while my mental health provides the comedy.  Not a single person who knows of my mental health struggles has ever treated me capable without assistance, and this makes all the difference in how I approach the world.

The pattern of admitting the mental health challenges, coping with those challenges, and the consequences of those challenges have been made bearable because my supporters never waiver from the foundation that I am capable but occasionally need assistance.  Monk taught me that it was okay to have mental health issues, to see those issues in others, and a pattern of living and approaching others with mental health issues.  The perceptions of the supporting people become a reality in the mental health challenges of the person suffering.

Monk (S1/F12) im TV Programm: 22:35 - 08.11. - Universal ChannelIt is not easy supporting someone with mental health issues, and while mental health sufferers get the attention, Monk taught the world that the mental health of the family and friends is as important to the cure as well as the problem in mental health patients.  Consider the two different approaches of the psychiatrists on Monk, but never forget two other principles in mental health, change is hard, and change is beneficial.

Change and Mental Health

Monk was stuck in a rut, and a change in the insurance policies spurs Monk to change.  As the show develops, change is witnessed as beneficial and challenging.  When Sharona left, Monk experienced quite a shock; the different care styles provided by nurses spurred complex and healthy changes in Monk. Differences in approaches by the psychiatrists produced more changes and spurred growth in Monk and the other supporting characters.  Hence, as a mental health patient and as a care provider, another pattern is produced: am I looking for changes?  Am I open to helping others engage in change?  Do I embrace both the light and dark of change?

Pin by Smeesmii R on MONK | Monk tv show, Mr monk, Detective monkAdaptation is the only constant in life.  We adapt to the people around us, the social environments, the emotions, and the influences of peers, employers, family, and so much more.  Yet, we often try to control everything to prevent change, even though every new day brings change.  Monk showed he could not handle change, mainly because he and his brother had never been taught to handle change.

Patterns in Family Rearing – Mental Health Challenges

As a kid, I was told that I would never amount to anything since I was raised in poverty and abuse.  I had teachers who made this comment often enough that I got mad!  Nobody was going to curtail my abilities and shoehorn my potential.  Their reasoning was the research that showed those in poverty as children stay in poverty as adults.  That abuse is generational, and that abuse will always influence those raised in abuse to perpetuate abuse to the next generation.

Monk (TV Series 2002-2009) - Posters — The Movie Database (TMDb)Monk showed me differently, proved that individual choices could change preset patterns, and end captivity.  Sure, Jack Junior and Ambrose are typical examples of the generational nature of abuse, leading to mental health issues.  But, Monk overcame, chose, and in choosing and sticking with his choices, he endured and conquered.  Monk overcame even with his mental health challenges, not because of, or as an excuse, but with his mental health challenges as a companion.

While it is true how a child is reared, does dictate how that child will approach the world as an adult.   Individual agency, moral choice, and the choice and consequence cycles also play fundamental roles in that person’s life.  Thus, one cannot, and should not, place blame upon how one was raised for the failures in one’s life; this position negates the agency inherent in each person, and shifting the responsibility of choices is not healthy mental health practices.  More lessons learned from Monk about how to face the world, even if you might not have had the best family environment as a child.

Did you notice that when Jack Junior makes his appearance, Adrian (Monk) has changed enough to know not to gratify and indulge his step-brother in his poor decisions?  Despite the differences in mental health problems, Ambrose, Monk’s other brother, was also not pampered, although he was given special care.  Cementing the theme that people with mental health problems are capable, have potential, and need only the opportunity to show who they are and what they can become, just like everyone else.

I am not my handicap

I have disabilities; disabilities do not have me.  I am not my handicap!  Monk taught me this lesson in spades.  When Monk gets his badge back, he realizes he has learned this lesson as well as learning what his abilities as a disabled person are.  Another subtle theme in Monk worthy of exploration.  Adrian Monk was not “Obsessive-Compulsive, Mentally health challenged, Adrian Monk.”  Adrian Monk was Adrian Monk who lived with obsessive compulsion, fears, and phobias.  The distinction is subtle but essential to living with mental health challenges as a companion, not a ruler!

I am forever grateful for the lessons learned and still being learned from Monk!  I encourage you who read this to ponder the themes herein; change is beneficial and hard, but critical; family and family life is not your life; you are not your handicap or illness.  These themes and more can help open your eyes and mind to new possibilities, freeing you from your captivity of mental health challenges, but only if you choose to open your eyes and mind.

Finally, remember your support staff.  Have you thanked them lately for their support, care, and kindness?  If not, start there, express gratitude to and for the care received from those who live with you, work with you and desire your success.  Never forget, on your bad days, your support staff is still there trying to help, and they need support too.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Know the Why – NO Fear!

NO FearAs I was coming into manhood, a clothing brand began and was almost instantly popular; the brand is easily recognizable and states two words, “No Fear!”  Launched in 1989 by twin brothers Mark and Brian Simo, No Fear quickly became one of the most popular sportswear companies globally—and the most popular sportswear company staunchly against being scared.  I will not claim I have “No Fear,” but I choose to live without fear.  When fears arise, my answer is to learn all I can, mentally prepare for times when those fears will rise again, and then move forward living like those fears will not repeat, for I am mentally prepared.

USS Barry (DDG-52) - WikipediaCase in point, I was on a destroyer in the US Navy.  I had been on the ship for more than two years; I was in charge of Repair 5, the Engine Room damage control locker, and in the middle of the 0000–0400-watch, the bells and alarms go off, “Major Fuel Oil Spill in Main 1.”  Because I had practiced, I had personally trained my fire team.  I was exceedingly knowledgeable about the space, the equipment, and the watchstanders; I proceeded into an actual casualty with confidence, not fear.  More, my team could trust the training I had given them, and they moved from sleep to firefighting with confidence.  While no fire erupted that night, the casualty was quickly contained by the watchstanders.  My fire team was prepared to assist; the experience looked upon is not one of embarrassment from fear but confidence and appreciation for preparation, drills, and knowledge.

Gas Chamber 4My first time going through the CS Gas Chamber happened with my National Guard unit.  I was scared, not fearful, just frightened.  I had no confidence in the equipment, I had not been to basic training yet, and here I was going into a gas chamber.  This experience provided me with confidence that my fellow soldiers in basic training did not have as we went into the gas chamber in basic training when I experienced the gas chamber in the US Army Basic Training, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  I had no fear, no trepidation, and no reason to doubt.

During Basic Training, I remember only one time being truly scared, not fearful, just scared!  I had failed to pass on the shooting ranges and was facing being kicked out of the US Army because I could not shoot what I was aiming at.  I had been shooting since I was 14, I knew how to handle rifles, but still, I could not qualify with the M-16.  The problem, I could not relax, and this inability to relax was jerking the trigger and making my rounds go astray.  Worse, I did not know why I could not relax.  Thus, arrives the point of this article, do you know the why in your emotions, decisions, and desires?

Bait & Switch 2You possess beliefs, and some might even be firmly held beliefs; this is great.  I am not writing to dissuade you from your beliefs, to decide differently, or even to emote in a manner foreign to you.  My intent is to aid you in introspection, a path of self-knowledge where you know why you know, why you believe, and why you act as you do.  Do you know why; in knowing why you begin to understand, and understanding brings knowledge and acceptance.

I have a friend who had an abusive childhood.  Her childhood was fraught with danger, all types of abuse, and this childhood prepared her to be in two abusive marriages and consider those abusive marriages as normal.  She is now remarried to a good guy, not abusive at all.  Except she has a lot of health problems, and she seeks out medical opinions for everything, seeking to find domineering in a relationship as a by-product of her childhood.  She refuses to believe that childhood events drive her doctor fixation and not health problems.  I will not attempt to dissuade her of this opinion.  I support the good she does, the good she and her husband do, and I will continue to choose to be her friend.  But fear and refusing to know why has all but crippled my friend, and this is painful to see!

Question 3Do you know why?  Are you willing to investigate to know why?  What will you choose to do when the why is revealed?  Knowing why requires mental preparation, mental preparation requires mental strength, agility, and flexibility, all skills that require practice, time, and development through experiences willingly sought.  Therein lay the most challenging part of building mental skills, being willing to seek out these opportunities, and remaining fixed upon learning, no matter the cost.

I have met some amazing people who refused to accept what the truth was going to cost them.  Learning comes with a price; that price is in the choice to apply or deny what has been taught.  The price is the consequence that follows the decision to accept or reject that which was learned.  My brother’s wife discovered he was cheating on her and had been cheating on her almost from the moment they married.  She stayed in the marriage for seven kids and nearly 20-years.  Hoping he would change.  I honor her willingness and sacrifice; I respect her devotion to my brother, I understand her position and her reasoning.  Still, I wonder, should she have left him immediately upon learning of his infidelity?  She knows the why now, but she refused to accept the why, and the consequences were painful in the extreme for many years.  She is better now, remarried, and the kids are recovering, but did they have to suffer?  Did she have to suffer?  Choice and consequence after learning is mentally difficult.

GearsAs stated and repeated only for emphasis, you may choose how you will, believe, feel, and act the way you think is best for you and yours.  My aim and intent are not to dissuade but to help you more fully appreciate the why and lose the fear.   As a teenager, a friend of mine, a shepherd, asked me to help him on the ranch.  My first day coincided with shearing day, and with 400-head of sheep to shear, this was not going to be an easy day.  Herding the sheep into the corral was not difficult and was accomplished without incident.  Getting the sheep into the run and into the trailer to be sheared was incredibly difficult, but getting the sheep out of the shearing van was easier than falling off the porch.  Why; because of fear.  The sheep wanted to be sheared, but the confinement of the run and the noise the shears produced increased fear so much that the animals could hardly think straight, and they became more fearful the closer they got to the van where the shearing stations were.  Animals confined in tight quarters in the run turned themselves about and tried to flee backward in the run.  Fear made them do incredible things I had never imagined an animal could do.

WhyAs I experienced life, surviving the US Army and the US Navy, I learned what fear does to humans; worse, the consequences of fear leave an indelible impression upon the minds of those who chose to succumb to fear.  The movies never show this side of fear; books and magazines never discuss the aspects of what fear does to harm the mind and body of the person involved.  Worse, society has come up with terms and names to soften the repercussions of a moment’s fear.  As a kid, I watched a lot of M*A*S*H 4077; in one of those shows, Sigmund, the psychiatrist, talks about how a moment’s fear on the battlefield becomes a lifetime of regret, shame, and the potential of an eternal soul is lost.  All because, for one moment, fear overcame, and the body responded, while the mind lost control.

QuestionDo you know why?  Are you willing to discover the why and teach others what you have learned?  The final step in introspection is not acceptance but being willing to teach.  Through teaching, you learn more perfectly; this is a pattern that I have seen replicated in too many classrooms to ignore.  I met an amazing woman in a long-term care facility in Geneva, Ohio.  She was my mothers-in-law’s roommate.  She was a teacher and began her career in a one-room schoolhouse at sixteen.  She retired just after the school’s consolidated.  She had been blind for a long time.  I never met a more grateful person, and I have not met a more learned person!  She said every day she taught, she learned something new, which taught her to be grateful, and in gratitude, she taught and learned for her entire career and every day thereafter.

Thus, I ask again, do you know the why?  Are you willing to learn the why?  How you choose does determine your destiny.  I close with a final thought, are you willing to ever choose the harder right instead of, the easier wrong?  I am not perfect, I struggle to choose the harder right, but I also know the invaluable worth of being prepared mentally and not fearing.  I know the power that comes with choosing to know the why and allowing that choice, with its inherent and natural consequences, to lead towards making better decisions and learning.  There is power in knowing why there is power in failure, there is hope in failure, and great peace in knowing the why.How to Make Any Question Essential with Three Easy Steps – Wabisabi Learning

Search out the why.  Choose to learn.  After learning, accept the price of consequences and see how those consequences can change you!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.