Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You are Not Mentally Ill Just Because...

We love to label people (geeks, bookworms...), and we, ourselves, often look for that defining label, which will make us feel safe and whole and, well, kinda "done" (mother, CEO, photographer, etc.).

The mental health industry is no different.  Take a cluster of symptoms and give them a name.

But there are many brave psychiatrists and psychologists who are daring to question the very model of mental health, illness, and treatment, and one faction in particular fascinates me.  There are a group of professionals who are finally saying that most mental "illness" is really just one form or another of complex post traumatic stress disorder.

Shit happens. It hurts. Your brain changes. You are changed.


I say Duh, but it is so important that the premises most people in the profession take for granted are being challenged.  And the brave souls who are doing this are truly brave because it can ruin a career to go up against institutions of immense power like the A.M.A. or the pharmaceutical industry.

For me, this has been clear for some time. Some of us are born, perhaps, more "sensitive" to our environments than others, shit happens, we are injured.

Sensitivity + Trauma = Mental Injury

Those clusters of symptoms that the profession likes to label? Seems even more obvious to me in light of this equation.  Imagine that a bunch of humans put through the same types of traumas end up exhibiting similar characteristics. Wow. Big leap there.

I mean, this is not the stuff of Einstein.

Let's get clearer on this, shall we?

Here's a little list for you:

You are not "mentally ill" just because:
  • are sad. There is probably a reason. No, that's not true. There is ALWAYS a reason.  Dig for it.
  • have no energy. Figure out why. There are so many possibilities with nutrition alone.
  • hate your life. Change it. Many of us make choices about our lives when we are young and stupid and this doesn't mean you can't make it wonderful now. Get unstuck!
  • are grief-stricken. There is probably a reason. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, at the end of her life, said she was sorry for creating the steps of grief because not all people are the same, and she fears she did great damage.  Yep.
  • don't fit into the 9 to 5 world. Humans are vastly different creatures but we think there is only one model for living and it includes a "regular job," a house, and children.
  • are filled with fears and anxieties. There is a reason for each one. Find them all. Deconstruct them. Also, you can grow your bravery.
  • are not able to be around the people who abused you. Imagine that.
  • are not okay with the abuse that was perpetrated upon you as a child simply because you "survived" and they didn't "mean it."
  • have big emotions. Again, we are all different.
  • hear voices, see big chickens, whatever. As long as those voices and chickens aren't telling you to kill yourself or hurt someone, who cares?! Madness used to be seen as partner to genius. And sometimes it still is: Watch this movie.
  • are socially inept or anxious in public situations or don't like to meet new people or like to stay with small groups or don't want to stand in front of hundreds and give a speech or have no clue how to find a significant other. Watch this movie for a beautiful portrayal of community and unconditional love.
  • feel broken. You are not. You may have bad coping mechanisms; start identifying them, understand where they came from, observe them, commit to stopping.
  • have to check the stove/door/cats/etc. over and over. Again, developing big mind will allow you to see what is happening in your brain and stop identifying with it.
We are frighteningly close in this culture to turning all difference into illness. It makes a few people a lot of money. Let's stop lining their pockets, shall we? Let's take back our minds and bodies and hearts and souls; let's commit to doing the work and living this life on our own terms.

No more comfortably numb.


Susan said...

Love it

Shared it:)

We are programmed as to how we will view the world and engage with it from the moment we are conceived I believe. The energy of the mother affects the unborn child. A calm mother will more likely give birth to a calm child.

A mother who is living in hypervigelence - what effect do we think that has on an unborn child? Now take that same child and expose it to constant ridicule and or physical violations and emotional neglect. Now go see someone because your child can't sit still, isn't doing well in school, has anti social behavior....

Fast forward and we have a teenager that cant sit with their feelings because feelings were punished and denied and now is finding ways to avoid dealing with life. Not because they don't want to but because they don't know how to. Internet obsession, sex, drugs...avoidance is avoidance.

Another few years and we have a young man who beats his wife because she expressed a need in the relationship and he needs his environment to something he owns and controls...and it continues.

We are not passing genetics to our children as a society. We are witnessing the passing of the generational abuse that is perpetrated by the denial and control of the mental health system and those who are profiting, living lavish lives at the cost of Americas wounded who exist in that place of living death where there is no light, no joy.

We can learn to give ourselves what we did not get in the original trauma. We can learn to sit with our feelings of pain and finally begin to enjoy the feelings of happiness.

Once I discovered the cause of my pain and was able to engage in the healthy normal human emotional healing process I was no longer in pain, no longer acting out, no longer acting in. I no longer had to cope and avoid the pain because I was now living beyond it.

Awesome series Christine.

Anonymous said...

you are so brave and strong and needed right now. love .

Susan said...

Geez. I just noticed that I left a small book here:) I didn't intend to hijack this post or discussion Christine:) Sometimes my feelings at being chemically lobotomized for nearly 2 decades starts bleeding through....

Thank you for your kind words:) Your own courage and wisdom inspires me and I know I'm not alone in this. Much gratitude. :)

Christine Claire Reed said...

Susan, you have such a deep well of inspiring stories and important information to share, so no need to ever worry about "hijacking!" :)

Susan said...


Thank you Christine:)

svasti said...

I agree that labels aren't helpful. They're a place that other people pigeonhole us, and they can also be places that we hide.

Healing is hard, hard work. Sometimes therapist or those with imbalances think that its easier to treat the symptom rather than the underlying cause.

But you can stay like that for a long time, clinging to a diagnosis of "broken", take your meds and never feel particularly good about yourself.

Or you can do the work. However, people need to be ready for that and as we both know, that can take a while. You have to almost get sick and tired of your own situation before you can start thinking of full recovery as a possibility.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Svasti, you know I totally agree with you and it's one of the main reasons that pills are so awful...they keep you floating, feeling just okay enough/numb enough that you never hit your bottom, which is necessary to the healing process.

Angela Sweetland Bass said...

Thank you for this series of posts. As someone who has "been there and done that," I hear you loud and clear.