Much of the ordinary experience of the mental health system is about identity. We are told both who we are and what we can become in a thousand ways, both spoken and unspoken. Often the news is not so good.
When your identity is based on what is difficult for you then much of what you prize or care about is relegated to little more than an asterisk. I know one person who got excited when he learned about WRAP and when trying to explain it to his psychiatrist was told that he probably needed to increase his medication as he was obviously becoming more manic. When your living is an illness everything you do is a symptom. I know another person who told me her life’s ambition was for anyone, one single person to give her credit for being mad when she was mad instead of symptomatic. I know people who have told me that they have been told that everything about them: their feelings, their thoughts, their values, their goals, their relationships, their sex life….everything was the playground of their “illness.” One of them said it simply. “Their is no room left for me….”
I think the biggest problem that most people have with their treatment is not what they are told about their issues, their problems but about who they are or who they can become. One friend explained it cynically, “If I listen long enough to people who think I am an idiot maybe I will become one…..Or maybe I already am.”
One of the major differences in life is between those who believe they “got what they got” or that “they decide what they can become.” There are multiple and real limits on each of us. I am not saying anyone has a blank check. We dont. What I am saying is that what we make of things and what we think things make of us has a lot to do with what they are and who we become.
Hope is the faith that something better can happen. Recovery is movement towards making it happen. It may be a small better at some points in your life. Someone once told me that all landslides start with pebbles anyway. But better counts. And better leads to still better and still better leads to even better.
DO NOT BELIEVE PEOPLE WHO TELL YOU THE VERDICT IS IN AND LIFE IS NOTHING MORE THAN SERVING YOUR SENTENCE. It just isnt so. It just isnt so.
Start by finding your identity in what is important to you. What do you treasure in life?? What values…what goals…what dreams…..what connections and relationships…..what activities? How do you spend your life and feel like you got your money’s worth?
I told a psychologist once that he said the nastiest things in the nicest way of any person I had ever known. He asked me what I meant. I said, “You cut people off at the legs in the service of what you call being realistic and then wonder why they seem so unable to walk.”
I knew a lady once looking for a day to kill herself. Every day seemed to be someones birthday or a holiday or something they were looking forward to. She didnt want to be a burden or mess things up for anybody else. She told me once that she used to look at people going to the swimming pool and wish she could too. I told her she could and she looked at me like that was the most foolish thing she had ever heard. She had been told the “truth”. She didnt matter or at least didnt matter in a way that mattered to her.
You matter. It is the simplest, most important, most consequential truth I know. You matter.