For years, literally years, I have railed against the concepts of hope and recovery. Every time someone has told me that recovery is possible, my immediate response has been a strong desire to punch them in the face (I’ve never actually followed through. Just really wanted to). And as for hope? Hope didn’t exist for most of my life.
But now, something seems to have shifted massively in me. I think it’s a combination of factors – everything I’ve learned over the years with Therapist 1.0, the work I’m doing with Therapist 2.0, the new understanding she’s giving me of how and why we think and react as we do, the work I’m doing with Eden, and a very timely guest post on perceptions of the nature of mental illness which I published here last night.
I have long since believed that depression and borderline were something I would always have to manage, and in some ways, maybe I will. I’ll always be emotionally sensitive, it’s part of who I am, and I know that there are certain things that have to happen in order to prevent depression taking over again. What’s changed though, is how I’m looking at it. Whereas up till now I think I’ve always tended to believe the wiring/chemistry debate, I’m beginning to be more open to the prospect that maybe that isn’t the case.
When I initially met the psychologist in the hospital over a year ago, she talked a lot about trauma, particularly as I have little memory of my life before the age of 16/17. It’s a running joke in my family at this point. But when she first started talking about trauma, I assumed the worst – could I have been abused? Because surely, it could only be something that severe that could cause such huge problems in my life.
But the more I’m reading, the more I’m learning through therapy, the more I’m coming to realise that it may not be something so earth shattering, that really, what it’s coming back to is emotion that I was unable to process as a child. It’s my adult mind, my evolutionarily (is that a word??) messed up brain, trying to deal with something happening now, based on it’s inability to understand something that happened a long time ago. Michael put it so much better than I can:
‘Children can be ‘traumatised’ by things that an adult would barely notice. A life of depression, anxiety or addiction can begin with small events like toileting accidents, a fight in the school yard, rejection by peers, or attending a funeral.
When events like these are traumatising it means that the thoughts and emotions that the child experienced during these events become ‘locked in’, and they affect how we see and react to things in the present. When you see mental health problems with this eye it is common to notice the thoughts and emotions of a child mixed in with those of the adult sitting in front of you.’
As yet, I have no idea what these perceived traumas may have been. That work has yet to happen. But I’m not scared at the prospect of that work any more. I’m not scared of what might come up. Well ok, I am a little, but whatever it is, I’d rather know than not.
I’m sorry, I realise I’m not articulating any of this very well and as I’m writing I’m negotiating warfare between the kids so I keep losing my train of thought. I guess the crux of it is that I’m beginning to see the possibility of a different reason for why I am the way I am, but also the possibility that it actually is within my power to change it. My brain has been doing the best it can over the years to keep me going, but it has led to some catastrophically bad decisions and coping mechanisms. It’s these coping mechanisms that need to change, and the core beliefs that go along with them.
Is there really such a thing as mental illness? As one reader commented on last night’s post:
In this sense I never believed that I had faulty brain chemistry therefore I was ill, rather I was predisposed / vulnerable to my brain chemistry being affected by my thoughts in such a way that it made me very ill.
To make a comparison, I guess I see it like someone with a predisposition to heart disease eating a terrible diet and then having a heart attack – when that person has the attack they are gravely ill, but there are a lot of things they can do to prevent them being ill again.
From this perspective the fact that you are ill doesn’t lock you into a mindset that there is nothing you can do about it because it is about your brain chemistry, quite the opposite, it’s about realising that this is an effect, and we can influence the cause.’
I feel as though this is only the tip of the ice berg, and with the whole family home at the moment I’m getting very little space to think, so it’s likely I’ll need to come back to this again and again. What’s new though, is that I’m excited to come back to it, because I’m finally starting to believe that I can find a way out of this, and that I do have a future. That I can recover. I never, ever thought that was a sentence I would utter, yet here we are. It’s frikkin awesome 🙂