Don’t take the easy surrender when you face “symptoms” or triggers, especially after they or “Illness” has been identified in you.
“You are not your Illness”
Knowing what your “diagnosis” is, is useful in understanding the traits in your character and mood patterns that result in difficulties. However, being diagnosed should not aid you in giving you an easier time than “normal” folks.
Many advocates thus tell you: “you are not your illness”.
Actually, it is pressing to know that:
The “illness is ALL YOU” (even though you are NOT your illness).
What I mean is that you, are a unique Human being. You are a person, a person with a personality. These characteristics, including your traits and moderation of mood, when permutated with certain circumstances, reflect traits of what doctors, psychologists and researchers have identified and studied to enshrine as “Mental Illness”. This has occurred over the history of the development of modern medical and behavioural science.
But a diagnosis is useless – and in fact, can be very harmful as it connotes an identifier or label. Diagnosis feeds disorder and dysfunction by exacerbating the initial difficulty that an individual experiences into disempowerment in the traditional medical setting and within the current medical model. The individual perceives him or herself as having a disease or even as being disabled. I am not “normal”. This cycle is enforced when he or she is not treated “normal” if this information is disclosed to others.
What then can someone do if they are identified as mentally ill?
I would want to know what the traits of my diagnosis and symptoms are supposed to be, to see if they are consistent with the patterns in my behaviour that play out from my personality repertoire in certain circumstances. I need to own the characteristic traits that are correlated to my challenges. Not accepting the identifier of illness, but being aware of the things and areas that set me off allows me to start to make active change. This empowers me to own who I am. I am self-aware. I am proactive.
Beyond that, I also want to be a contributing participant of the bigger community around me. So often, psychology, especially the therapy approaches used, bring us inward. We reflect on our lives, our past relationships, early development. (What went wrong?) It is not wrong to be kind to, respect and explore oneself – However, outside of ourselves is a community and a world of both opportunity and yet a world that is for the most part perishing, (if you hadn’t noticed). People who are diagnosed with mental illness often are shelled up within their peer groups. The fear of stigma or feelings of inadequacy cause us to shy away from society. However, this avoidance only breeds ignorance and misunderstanding.
I am not asking anyone to heal the world. However, to break the suffocating stigma around mental illness, more people have to step out into the small domains around them, and work towards becoming who they want to be. But first, one must recognise that what has been happening is in part, a part of us that is under our control. Only then can we build on our strengths and create a life with vision and purpose.
Let’s leave this wretched self-imposed cage behind, shall we?
Here’s some more ideas on the Topic of Recovery for those struggling with Mental Health issues…
First, the Barriers to Recovery:Factors are both from individual’s attitudes and behaviour (e.g. taking ownership of and Responsibility for Recovery) – and also due to many factors in the environment. These include and are not limited to: stigma, lack of information and access to services and also failure on the part of social services and medical professionals to understand or give the appropriate help to the individual.
The Stairway to Recovery:
This stairway is based on the Personal model of recovery (There are two models of Recovery – the Medical and Personal/individual). The Outcomes for the Medical model are reduced symptoms and hospitalisation as well as reduced medication. Whereas Individual Recovery Outcomes are more holistic, driven by an individual’s hope for challenging the’ assumed chronicity of illness’. To move beyond mere maintenance or “coping”, as the Medical model outcomes seem to entail, but to Empower the individual to ‘reclaim meaning and purpose in life’ (Deegan), by “contributing [and finding satisfaction] even with limitations caused by the illness.”
One has recovered when one “grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.”
Stepping up to provide Peer Support is important because of the ability of Peers to relate on a deeper level with other peers, which sometimes, other people may find difficult. It also empowers the Peer who is providing support, by allowing them to contribute and find satisfaction.
But Advocacy and Peer support can both be double edged swords. If one takes up external responsibility that is rightfully another person’s, in Peer support; or one goes public with one’s condition… Burn out, stress and pressure are inevitable.
Anxiety and fear of failure, are to be avoided when one is out in the public view – especially in a day and age where intrusion and scrutity, even from an anonomous eye is the norm. (How does one claim to be an advocate if one is severely symptomatic, or worse still, if one falls to relapse?)
In terms of Peer support, One danger of being a source of support, is what Pat Deegan described as the “frenzied saviour response/role”. This can be a role which a caregiver/family member/friend takes up.
The Frenzied saviour response “when the person is faced with another person lost in anguish and apathy.
The more listless and apathetic the person gets, the more frenetically active we become. The more they withdraw, the more we intrude. The more will-less they become, the more willful we become. The more they give up, the harder we try. The more despairing they become, the more we indulge in shallow optimism.
The more treatment plans they abort, the more plans we make for them. Needless to say we soon find ourselves burnt out and exhausted.”
Setting boundaries and being a stickler for guidelines in Peer Support must not be taken lightly:
I hope I haven’t been to repetitive, I just wanted to emphasize some more points about recovery. Good night, and Good morning. Peace out.
(Haha! I was just gonna sign off with: “Self care”… Then JBieber started singing: “you should go and love yourself…”, through to me, on my headphones… O.o hehe :D)
Here’s an awesome cover of Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself:
I am studying a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology at Uni now, and in what is the most interesting subject so far, Social Bases of Behaviour: Social Psychology, we just started the term learning about how we think about ourselves and others (“social cognition”).
This example was given: – There are 2 men, both married. One man had dropped out of middle school, and is working hard as a brick layer to support himself and his wife.
The other man had graduated from high school and started a fairly successful business. Not super successful but, making enough profit for his family: himself, his wife and 2 children.
Being his own boss also affords him flexible hours and free time which he spends as a Grassroots Volunteer for the Local Council. He also sings in the church choir every Sunday.
Suddenly, BOTH men’s wives decide to leave them out of the blue. Which man will be more affected?
OK, So one may say that it depends on the quality of the relationship the man has with his wife. However, that is also a different variable altogether that is coming into play. What about if one were to be philosophical about the whole idea? Won’t both men be equally upset, if not, wouldn’t it be impossible to determine whom would be more upset, as all individuals differ in temperament?!?! If this were so, I cannot answer the question, as everything, after all, is subjective and THERE ARE NO ANSWERS…zzz..
BUT thinking in terms of a variable that we CAN work on, the man who runs his own business would likely be better off, while the man who lays bricks would probably be devastated by his wife’s leaving.
This is due to the number of Domains of Self each man has.
The man who lays bricks has only the domains of his job and his wife in his life. Whereas the businessman has many more Domains of Self. Apart from his job and his wife, he also has his 2 children, his work at the Local Council, and his role in the church choir on Sundays. He has a rich life, therefore achievement or failure in one domain doesn’t have such a big impact on his overall life, especially his sense of self.
I was thinking about this story and a light bulb turned on in my head. OH! This is probably another good reason why my Dr. signed me up to join the hospital choir, which even led to my short solo on World Mental Health Day 2012 at SOTA. The benefits of building more Domains of Self which include improving one’s sense of self and confidence -as well as acting as a buffer against challenges; are why he kept encouraging me to be more active and pick up hobbies, join short courses, enjoy nature and at the same time exercise (yes, we all know the well-documented benefits of exercise).
I mean it seems obvious, but most of us don’t have the leisure (or motivation) to do so.
Okay, so when I was first seeing my Dr. I was just out of the ward and unemployed, looking for a job and also not studying as I am now.. so I had all the time in the world – but you’d be surprised what one can do when you can do everything and anything you want.
Digressing a little, though somewhat relevant…
I knew a group of young people with mental illness, who are not really super unwell, and had all the time in the world.. but they gave up trying to find jobs. They did not lose their jobs because of paranoia or depression – they lost them because of a lack of self-esteem, and a lack of belief in their own ability to perform the task: Thus they failed to learn to do their work. (So they lost their jobs, or quit job after job within a week)
I knew them well, they spent most of their time hanging around town like teenagers, smoking and watching the world go by. The gave up on fighting to live altogether. I am not saying they are at fault, or putting them down, that they are less important or inferior human beings, but I would just like to highlight some common patterns that are quite self-defeatist.
They got into relationships with each other, and the relationships failed, their world would disintegrate. They would attempt suicide and/or be warded.
Why? The only domain in their life was the other person.
My Dr. is super perceptive about constructing the foundation for Happyness – Creating more Domains in life. I will definitely strive to Diversify! and build Domains in areas I am Passionate about and try to maintain them.
I have a friend who is trying to eliminate all the things in his life he deems as unnecessary to keep in line with a “Minimalist” Ideal. Well, I hope he reads this one day.
Actually all I wanted to say in the above 800+ words is summed up as the saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” 😀