‘Mental illness’ – really our story trying to be told

September 16, 2013 at 11:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One of the central themes of so many ‘mental health’ campaigns is that, whatever you do, talk to someone about your worries. But, who do you talk to and about what? It’s not easy or straightforward to simply ‘talk’. Indeed, the very time of acute worry and anxiety is the very time that you simply cannot ‘talk’.

There is an incredible difficulty to talking about our intimate issues and underlying traumas. Apart from the trust and vulnerability involved this may be because we cannot remember them (much trauma, especially in childhood, is so buried it cannot be recalled); it’s unspeakable because it is so traumatising even to talk about it; shame; we want to move on and leave the issue behind us; silence has been the price of survival and we are afraid to breach that protective silence; and we may simply not know what we think or feel. We assume people can talk if they so decide but they may just be so overwhelmed with anxiety and sadness that they do not know what they are experiencing.

I think in what we call ‘mental illness’ we are in fact carrying around so much silence.

And this silence seeks expression in actions, behaviours, what the medical model categorises as ‘symptoms’. All behaviour is communication that needs to be listened to. Behaviours may be our dissociations; sadnesses; fears; angers; voices; repetitions, compulsions; and so on. Much of our underlying traumas are re-enacted in our actions if only we could hear them. We cannot directly articulate them so we enact them, unconsciously or otherwise.

Thus, so called ‘mental illness’ is really our story trying to be told. This is the story of what happened to us. We need not treatment or medication but someone to ask us what happened to you. The really genuine and helpful question that might allow our talking to begin is – tell me what happened to you, what have you experienced?

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