It takes a high level of trust to tell your therapist things you wouldn’t share with your best friend. How and when did that trust begin? Not with the initial greeting at the door. That could just as easily have been a ruse. While I don’t claim to own the full property rights to paranoia, it is in my diagnosis as a defining character; I’m going to find a flaw in the trust module until I don’t. Perhaps you’re the same. I believe that trust begins to form the more that we open up in session. It starts when you drop the mic on something as honest as you can muster and watch as your therapist responds to you with kindness and understanding rather than the awful cold shoulder received by so many. To be accepted for who we are by this one person — that’s the key. To feel understood. To be understood.
It was hard to accept my diagnosis. It’s been hard to accept recovery. This is something no one can prepare you for; you have to find out on your own. No one talks about it. The subject is virtually taboo. So I’m turning myself over to my community; we have a stake in the silver linings department. It may be a little early to put out the welcome mat, but homesick or not, I’m already home.
I want to belong to a culture that accepts a person living with a mental illness for who they are rather than opting for stereotypes. Those hackneyed institutions need to be challenged, and who better to do that than us, the people with the diagnoses? We have a voice. Let’s use it.
On the other hand, I can focus like never before. All of my ducks are not only in a row, they’re driving the bus and, for once, I’m not under it. The disordered mind has had a makeover. Complete sentences form in my head, lined up one after the other in a nice, sequential fashion, just like real people only more so. Train of thought not derailed? Unheard of until now. Full steam ahead. And listening? Following along? Gotcha covered. I’m all ears. Making me spectacular date material. Nobody “Friend Zones” a good listener.
What we say and how we say it isn’t just about talking in the safety of our friends who agree with us. It’s about putting ourselves out there when the time is right, when the situation will benefit from it. So go eat something healthy, take a nice walk, and keep those conversations alive. The future of change is in our hands.
So we find ourselves in a difficult place sometimes. How brave do we have to be? I’d say the answer lies in how much humanity we have within ourselves. Getting past the symptoms and the stigma is one thing; reaching out and bonding is another. Both are necessary to move us further along the path to self-awareness and support. Let’s keep those conversations going. Initiate the change with one kind word.
Besides taking the best care of myself that I can, sharing that awareness with others—both those living with mental health issues, and those who love them—actually helps me stay in the saddle. I use the tools at my disposal: experience, strength, and hope. Those of us who’ve been down these roads are the ones who’s voices should be heard first—we’re in the unique position of having something to share from the inside out.