We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world, his inner life molds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.

– Shoghi Effendi

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My name is Kēphen Merancīs, I am a Mahayana Buddhist living in the heartland of America. This website is the online archive of my essays, articles and poetry made available to the public.  These writings can be shared or used by the general public for private or non-profit use, free of cost as long as copyright laws are followed and I am given full credit for the piece.*

I am the founder of The Ardent Axiom, a platform for mental health advocacy, as well as Mahayana Buddhist teachings. I am a behavioral health advocate and a follower of the Middle Way.  I read and write about various topics including Buddhism, suicide awareness and prevention, nature, astronomy, genealogy, behavioral health and psychology, environmentalism, as well as some fictional writing.

We all need a refuge in life, a non-self-destructive way to come to terms with things, to clear our minds and transcend our problems. Since the year 2000, writing has been my refuge. It has been the keeper of my deepest secrets and tragic memories, the listener to my every rant and rave. The recorder of my hopes, dreams and wishes. The pen-pal to my soul. It has consoled me and it has taught me things about myself I never could have learned any other way. It uplifts me and inspires me, it challenges me and humbles me. It is my love affair, my obsession, my sanctuary.

As a writer and a thinker, I am influenced by: Arthur Schopenhauer, Carl Sagan, Epictetus, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henry David Thoreau, Jane Goodall, John Muir, Kahlil Gibran, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Rainer Maria Rilke, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Dawkins, Robert Frost, Sam Harris, Thich Nhat Hanh, Viktor Frankl, and Walt Whitman.

These people’s words have inspired, liberated and enlightened those of us who seek deeper meaning in not only the world, but in life and within ourselves. Of all the things I have learned from such people, the greatest is mindfulness. The awareness of ourselves and others, of all things within this undeniably interconnected existence. Through this perception of reality we attain the three quintessential gems for living meaningful everyday lives: knowledge, compassion, and action.

I grew up on a farm outside a small Missouri town of a couple hundred people.  I lived alongside cattle, chickens, and pigs.  I drove tractors, tossed square-bales, rode 4-wheelers, hunted, fished, and spent a significant amount of time exploring the surrounding woods.  Even now as an adult I still spend as much time as I can hiking.  I love road trips and I’ve driven to 16 different states and hiked in some incredibly beautiful places along the Rocky Mountain range.  When not traveling, I spend my time reading nonfiction, watching way too many videos on YouTube, listening to podcasts, exercising, meditating, and advocating for others.

To understand who I am and why I do what I do, it’s important for me to share my story with you. In childhood I experienced religious trauma, childhood sexual abuse, verbal and physical abuse, a sexual identity crisis, and a paranoia of rejection, abandonment, and damnation from family, church, and school.

In my early teens I turned those emotions into anger and lashed out at others, primarily other kids in the form of bullying, and my grades suffered significantly.  In time I stopped expressing my self-hatred toward others and turned it inward.  I withdrew and self-isolated, I lost interest in things I once enjoyed, and became obsessed with death and dying.  When I learned to write poetry in school at age 14, it was the first time in my life that I found a way to put words to what I had been experiencing.  I felt like I was finally given permission to have feelings.

When my parents found that journal of poetry and asked about it, I lied to them and said it was just some creative writing, they seemed to accept my answer and did not inquire any further.  Over the next several years I continued to suffer in silence, feeling angry, ashamed, confused, and many other emotions I was not adequately equipped to handle on my own at such a young age.

This led me to becoming suicidal at age 16 where I came up with a plan and enacted it, but I survived that experience without anyone knowing it happened.  In high school I encountered a teacher who indirectly saved my life by giving me time and attention, allowing me to feel seen and heard.  With her support I made it through high school and did well, I was awarded enough scholarships that I could attend a local community college without any out-of-pocket costs.

Unfortunately, my depression re-emerged, and I ended up withdrawing from college my first semester.  I got into a conflict with my parents, moved out when I was 18, and bounced around from place to place.  I found myself once again battling suicidal thoughts and behavior and began developing another plan to attempt.  One day at work, not long after I turned 19, I experienced an angry outburst and a coworker recognized it as a mental health crisis, she intervened by asking if I was suicidal, though shocked by her question I told her the truth and she convinced me to call 911.  I was hospitalized for 72 hours and was finally diagnosed with depression and underwent treatment.

At age 20, I received a secondary diagnosis of bipolar disorder type 2, both the depression and bipolar diagnoses included a trial-and-error process to find effective treatment.  While all of this was happening, I was still concealing a crisis of sexual identity which only made my situation worse and my recovery more difficult.  But by the time I turned 21, my mental health treatment plan was working and other things in my life were going well for me.  I had even come out as bisexual to my girlfriend and a few close friends, though that’s not to say that the burden of living with such a huge secret was becoming any easier, I still felt like I was lying to everyone else and pretending to be someone that I wasn’t.

I had been interested in enlisting in the military for a few years at this point and following the advice of a military recruiter I convinced a doctor to take me off anti-depressants for six months so that I could receive a waiver for my depression diagnosis.  The recruiter advised that I should not mention I had bipolar disorder to anyone in the military because that would be an automatic disqualifying condition.  So, I didn’t and enlisted at age 21.  Months later at boot camp and just a month before graduating, I experienced a psychiatric episode and became suicidal for the third time in my life.

A lot of awful things happened to me and around me at that point, but to keep a long story short, I was discharged in 2008 without any serious legal consequences.  A few months after my discharge I embarked on a decade-long recovery journey which began when I made the choice to come out publicly as bisexual.

When I was diagnosed, I didn’t see it as a bad thing or something to be disappointed about, I saw it as a relief because it gave me an explanation for why I was experiencing what I was going through.  Giving something a name and identity meant that it could be understood and once I understood what I was up against, I was more engaged with my treatment.

I came to realize that when I was suicidal it wasn’t really that I wanted to die, it was that I didn’t want to hurt anymore and until I found treatment, I thought that I was suffering merely because I was alive.  Once I realized that my life and my pain were not necessarily one in the same, I found hope.  Hope that change was possible, that while life may bring about suffering it could also just as easily bring about joy.

Aside from playing an active role in my treatment and having physicians and therapists who were willing to let me make those choices, I really must reiterate how influential it was to have teachers, coworkers, leaders, friends, and family who stood by me even when they didn’t fully understand what was happening, who reached out to me when they felt concerned, who stepped in when it was far easier to not get involved, and who acted with grace and mercy.  Those acts of kindness were so powerful.

When I was a teenager, I felt no connection to my childhood religion as I felt rejected and condemned by it due to my sexuality.  In my early twenties I began researching other religions by reading their scripture and related literature and eventually became enthralled by Buddhism which was completely different from what I grew up with. When I converted in 2010, I finally felt like I had found the spiritual piece of my life that had been missing for so very long.

I cannot make any kind of blanket statement about what approach to recovery is most effective, I can only speak to what has been effective for me and a lot of it has been trial and error, which required a lot of willpower.  The belief that change was possible, drove me to keep going when faced with obstacles and setbacks, of which there were many.  I firmly believe that I need to have all aspects of my life in order if I want to be in recovery.

This means that medication, therapy, and spirituality are only facets of my treatment plan, it also includes eating healthy, exercising at least 5 days a week, practicing meditation and yoga on a weekly basis, writing about my experiences, spending time in nature, allowing myself to have quiet time to read, downtime to watch television or films, being selective about who I engage with or spend time around, limiting my time on social media, monitoring and being smart about my finances, these are some of the other facets that have been critical to my overall wellness.

My recovery journey has taught me so much about myself and about humanity.  Even though it has been immensely challenging, I have gained so much from this experience.  I don’t believe that suffering is intended or even necessary for self-improvement, but I do believe that strength can be found in struggle.  From this journey I have learned self-awareness and mindfulness, I have learned empathy and compassion, dedication and discipline, courage and hope, gratitude, forgiveness of others and of myself, and so many other things.

Despite what I have experienced or maybe even because of what I have experienced, I had a long professional career in state government focusing primarily on education, a passion that spilled over into my personal life.  I have spoken and written openly about my personal experiences with behavioral health for more than a decade, many of those writings can be found here on this site.  I have advocated for mental health in employment, volunteered with suicide awareness and prevention in my community, and I am currently employed by a non-profit committed to mental wellness.  I see all of this as me having risen above stigma and stereotypes, and that is my success.

My recovery is not a destination; it is a continuous state of being.  It is not an end goal, it is an ongoing series of goals, obstacles, setbacks, and achievement.  It is the continuation of hope and change. You can learn more about me and what I do by visiting my advocacy page.

*{According to the Copyright Law of the United States, Title 17 of the United States Code, all written content provided by the author is the sole property of that author and any reproduction or otherwise plagiarism of that content is strictly prohibited and such violations will be prosecuted under U.S. federal law, regardless of the national origins of the violator.

The photos that appear in the header on the desktop version of this site were taken by me in Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Glacier National Park. Therefore, as my property through created content they also fall under the copyright law and cannot be used for profit without my consent.}

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If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, please access my immediate assistance resource page.  A comprehensive listing of online and phone resources and services is also available.

Disclaimer:  By navigating this website and utilizing the information and resources provided herein, you declare an understanding of and are acknowledging that I, Kephen Merancis, am not a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, counselor, therapist, or any other clinical behavioral health practitioner that can diagnose or treat a mental health condition or substance use disorder.  By navigating this website and utilizing the information and resources provided herein, you also declare an understanding that any resources, information, advice, recommendations, and support services provided are non-clinical in nature and are not a replacement or substitute for the mental health services such as therapy or medical advice, typically provided by a licensed behavioral health clinician or physician.