I envision a new kind of rehab hospital for people who are mentally ill. Perhaps better said, it will be for people who don’t know how to be human. It will teach people how to take care of themselves. It will teach them how to live on their own in a healthy way. Rehab shouldn’t just be about getting off drugs but about how to get on life.
People would be there to learn, so they would be students, not patients. “Patient” is a passive word – something is done to you. If you are a patient, you are sick, an “in-valid” – a “not-true” person. The word “student” implies an active engaging in learning for self-betterment. Teachers, not therapists, are there to help students help themselves.
One of the most important things will be that students will learn how to have a healthy relationship with food. They will learn what food is healthy and how to buy and prepare it. Every person will learn how to cook. Every person will learn what foods are best for them. There will be a blend of nutritionists and home-economics teachers.
The teachers will find ways that the students can exercise in a way that they will enjoy and are able to do. Exercise is essential to mental health and happy bodies. Not every exercise is possible for every person, and not every person likes every exercise. The trick is to find one or two that the student likes and will stick with.
This whole idea that I’m envisioning is to teach people how to live in their own bodies as their own homes. Your body is your first and best house. If you don’t take care of it you will be miserable. I have learned from my own personal experience that mental health is directly related to physical health.
It is also important that they discuss how to recover when you fall off the wagon. Perhaps the stigma needs to be taken away from falling off the wagon, because falling off the wagon is part of the journey. The wagon isn’t just about alcohol – it is about living a healthy life.
For some people it wouldn’t be “re-hab” because there was no “hab” that happened to start off with. They never learned how to take care of themselves in the first place. It isn’t that they forgot, it is that that they never were taught. Ideally, everyone would learn how to take care of themselves early on in life. Ideally, people wouldn’t have to wait for a crisis in order to learn that they have to take care of themselves. The best medicine you can ever take is to not get sick in the first place. And the best way to do that is to learn how to take care of yourself through eating well, exercise, and learning to establish boundaries.
It seems part of our society to want to fix things after they are broken rather than prevent them from breaking in the first place. This is a habit that should be unlearned. People need to become pro-active about their lives.
The facility would teach people healthy coping mechanisms for life. Students would learn about codependency and enabling and boundaries. They would learn how to be helpful in a way that is safe for them and for the person they are helping. They would learn how to ask for help and how to accept rejection.
They would learn the value of volunteering. It is a way to put your own needs and problems into perspective, and to feel not only a part of the community, but a part of the solution to problems.
They would learn how to take care of their bodies and their minds at the same time and learn that they are not separate things. Through books, they would be introduced to teachers from all over the world and all across time. They all have useful information about this thing we call life. Most importantly, they would be given the tools to be able to learn more on their own.
My biggest dream is that rehab hospitals aren’t ever needed, because everyone has already been taught how to handle life’s ups and downs in healthy ways. But until then, we have some catching up to do.