All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

What are your beliefs about mental illness?

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Part of the Mi Recovery group I began last Tuesday is homework. Why I’m so excited about this I have no idea, as when I was but a pimply faced schoolboy I’d much rather have been exploring the nooks-and-crannies of Hyrule than analyzing the ins-and-outs of Illyria.

But today, given I have nothing better to do besides fantasizing about the possible punishments that may befall should I refuse to do my homework, I’m actually looking forward to my weekly homework assignments (and/or creating ludicrous excuses as to why I didn’t do it; such as…the mouse stole it to power their cheese making machine!)

believe

HWQ1: What are some of your beliefs about mental illness?

In all honesty I actually have no idea how to answer this question. But as I’m unsure whether the group coordinator is legally allowed to issue lines, detention, something worse (or something better, depending on your proclivities) I figured I’d have to write something.

When I was a teenager, I believed mental illness was something to be scared of. That if you admitted your mental illness you’d be taken from those you love and locked in a dark, foreboding psychiatric institution for the rest of your days. I believed mental illness should be kept secret, that it was something to be ashamed of, that it made you weak, worthless, useless and a lesser human being.

So I valiantly kept my issues hidden whilst I embarked on a quest to prove to the world I was “normal”. For a while, this actually worked, but it wasn’t long before one of my fundamental beliefs about mental illness was proved correct: that it is not something that can be magically “pretended” away.

So by the time I was a late twenty-something, broken, beaten and bloodied from the ravages of breakdowns, discrimination and, well, beatings, my mental health beliefs had changed. I believed mental illness was a punishment; a reckoning for whatever crimes you had committed in this, or past lives. I believed that because of my mental illness I deserved to live an isolated life; a life devoid of love, nurture, happiness and human interaction. I believed that if I had friends, my illness would drag them into the quagmire of my soul and ruin them as it had ruined me.

But then, courtesy of a dream involving drum playing penguins, a tap-dancing bunyip and a cigarette smoking hot woman in a multi-coloured rainbow bikini, I was forced to challenge everything I believed. Why does someone with a mental illness deserve to be punished? Why does someone with a mental illness deserve a life devoid of hugs, kisses and cunnilingus? Why does a mental illness have to define someone’s personality? It didn’t – and never had – defined mine.

It was, like diabetes, bronchitis, toe fungus and cancer, just an illness.

So, as I entered my thirty-somethings, my beliefs changed and have remained stubbornly in place ever since. I believe mental illness is just that, an illness, brought on via a combination of our life experiences. It doesn’t control our actions. It doesn’t dictate how we live. And it certainly doesn’t define who we are.

A mental illness can be overcome. It can never be cured, I firmly believe that, but someone can stabilize their illness and learn ways to cope with the demons, darkness and deities that it unleashes.

I believe that no-one should be too ashamed to talk about their mental illness. Nor should they be labeled courageous or heroic if they do. I believe that discussing mental illness should be akin to talking about a cold, a sprained ankle or – heaven forbid – “man flu”; only, in the case of the latter, with less whining from the men and less eye rolling from the women.

I believe someone with a mental illness is a human being; nothing more, nothing less.

HWQ2: How did you learn those beliefs?

A combination of:

MEDIA REPORTAGE | IGNORANT JOURNALISTS | and SOCIAL STIGMA

There was also:

FAMILY | FAMILY | and YOU GUESSED IT, FAMILY!

And, just as obviously:

ABANDONMENT FROM FRIENDS | ACCEPTANCE FROM OTHERS | and THOSE WHO WERE INDIFFERENT

As well as:

BOOKS | ENLIGHTENED JOURNALISTS | and THE ARMY OF MH BLOGGERS I ADMIRE SO MUCH!

But, most importantly:

ME | my desire to EDUCATE MYSELF| and my stubborn REFUSAL TO GIVE UP!

HWQ3: Discuss what you have learned this week with your support person…

Given that I don’t actually have a support person (i.e. friend/partner/family member) that I can discus my Mi Recovery group with, I shall have to share them here:

  • The Biopsychosocial Model and how it could play an important role in the ongoing management and development of coping strategies unique to my journey.
  • If “Recovery is not a solitary process, [but] a social process,” (Jacobson & Greenly, 2001) does this mean I stand bugger all chance of recovery? I believe so.
  • For me, the most important factors that assist recovery are: empowerment, education, (personal) responsibility, advocacy, sense of self, passion, courage, hope and Serena Ryder. The latter of whom has frequently assisted me with both courage and hope.
  • Not having a support person throughout the Mi Recovery group is going to make the next nine weeks exceedingly difficult. If anyone wishes to apply, please send your resumes to all those stray thoughts @ gmail dot com. I won’t be able to pay for airfares, but I will treat you to a weekly pot of peppermint tea (and, if you’re lucky, a pastry of your choosing! :p)

 

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