How Do You Know When To Persist and When To Quit?

By Don Karp

November 9, 2015   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

How I Broke the Cycle of Mental Hospitalizations

There is real magic in the wisdom of making the right life decisions at the right time.
If you want to move forwards, sometimes you need to take a few steps back first. Other times you need to push ahead in spite of all odds.

Often you sense a breakthrough is upon you. Do you obsess with making the right decision, losing sleep over it? You are not alone. There are techniques to deal with making decisions.

Here is an experience I had with trouble quitting when I should, and how I learned to follow my inner guidance instead of listening others.

Culture Clash

Growing up I acquired a love of nature. I wanted to know how living things work. In high school I decided to become a biochemist.

I was pursing the American Dream—career, wife and family, a new car. In my eighth year of college I realized that I was too sensitive for a career in academia. I could not tolerate:

the lies and backbiting
the “Old Boys’ Club” mentality of professors vs grad students
cutthroat relationships among colleagues, for example, the outspoken critic after a seminar getting more credit than the speaker.

It was the late sixties. The emerging counter-culture included: radical politics, alternative schools and communes, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll .

Mental Hospitals

Inner experiments with psychedelics took the place of my research in the lab. Knowledge about myself and my past flooded in much too rapidly for me to comprehend. I was confused.

I acted out in ways that appeared harmful to myself. A psychiatrist recommended a stay in the mental hospital. Not knowing of alternatives, I took the voice of authority and signed in. I was labeled “paranoid schizophrenic.”

After eight years pursuing my goal, it was difficult for me to adjust to the idea that this was not a good career choice. While inside the hospital I decided to drop out. I got what’s affectionately called the “ABD masters degree,” meaning “All But Dissertation.”

During the following ten years I was in the hospital yearly for a month or two. This was my way of coping. The last year of this series I lived, as an adult, with my parents. I found it intolerable, acted out, and my dad took me to the hospital.

This time I was totally fed-up with my life pattern. I developed a strong intention to heal. When you develop a strong intention and persist with it, the universe responds with opportunities. I knew what I needed to do to heal and was not deterred by the opinions of friends or the directives from the hospital.


These three factors led me to complete recovery and eventually to a life of thriving:

I did not follow the advice of the hospital: to live in a neighborhood with other ex-patients, to attend community outreach meetings or to take the recommended medications.
An excellent therapist I’d heard of was booked for two years. I waited while getting therapy from one of her students.
I sought an apprenticeship with a weaver and found one, although friends to me I never would and should take workshops.

My advice to someone caught up in the mental health mill is to find a highly skilled therapist who is not only understanding and supportive, but also teaches practical life skills. And:
Stay away from the ex-patient milieu.
Don’t take medication long term.
Get involved in a creative activity to keep from obsessing about your mental condition.

Decision-making Techniques

Here are techniques I’ve used to help with making decisions:
Develop intuition. Locate sensations in your body prior to making a decision–like a gut feeling. Record this in your journal.When the decision materializes, check back to see if that sensation was a reliable indicator.
Use a prioritizing grid. This allows you to develop a series of factors involved in the decision and then rank them.
Know that you carry the best wisdom for yourself. Friends, mentors and the like can give you reflection, but ultimately you need to live your life choices. Remember that outer cues are not as important as what’s inside of you.

Please share your thoughts and experiences!

Don Karp

I provide self-care options for those caught in the mental health mill. My experiences as an ex-mental patient are in my memoir: "The Bumpy Road: A Memoir of Culture Clash (Amazon)." @donsbumpyroad.

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