As you will know, if you follow this blog, I regularly share my mental health progress here through art and writing. And also on a Facebook Page that I run.
But what you may not know is that at the end of this momentous recovery journey I am on, I fully intend to write a book. A memoir of sorts, but, not another “here’s how I got sick” story, or even an “here’s how awful everything was and how terrible all the things I did while/because I was sick were” story.
Mine will be about recovery through gaining insight into “unusual experiences”, learning “emotional literacy” and reconciling the ways in which my brain works differently (not wrongly) with what I need to do in order to function within society.
I also want to try and help make sense of big scary words like “dissociation” and “alters” and “hallucinations” and “delusions”. Shed some light on what it’s like to be a basically “normal” human being, existing within these. Explain what they are like from the inside out.. cos if you haven’t been there, I’d sure as hell bet it’s nothing like what you think.
I hallucinate. I experience paranoid delusions. I hear voices. I struggle with the concept of reality and existence. Sometimes I think I might be able to be invisible, or fly or walk through walls. I have several compartmentalised identities created through dissociation and segmentation of my extremely malleable and imaginative mind. But I’m not all that different to anyone else, and if you met me, you probably wouldn’t guess any of this about me (in fact, I know you wouldn’t, I kept it hidden from even my nearest and dearest until I was 29).
And I am now in therapy, which I experience as an intense and fascinating process of gaining insight into my self-concept and the way I experience the world, and learning to observe and control of myself within this, as opposed to the high-velocity, chaotic, impulse-driven life I led before. So much so that I completely lacked insight into many of my own difficulties, despite being under the impression that I knew myself quite well. A good example being my absolute shock at seeing “generalised anxiety disorder” on my list of diagnoses, and reading in my therapist’s initial formulation report that anxiety was so pervasive in my life that it basically drove my every thought and action. “I’m not anxious, I’m fearless,” I thought. I had done so many things that one would think an anxious person would not do. But I have since learnt that my impulse-driven, super fast, never stopping to breathe or think or look closely at myself and the choices I was making, was simply a way of managing the extreme anxiety I live with to an extent that I did not feel it. If I slowed down or stopped, my anxiety would appear, so I never did. Until now. And now, I am often paralysed by anxiety. But that, for me, is progress. Slowing down enough to feel my anxiety allowed me to learn about important concepts like safety, self-care and self-compassion, as well as seeing the need for living within my limits (in all aspects of my life). And there are many more, even more fascinating discoveries I have made during the last 18 months and expect to continue to make as I continue my journey.
And when I’m done I am going to write a book all about it, and I can tell you now, it won’t say what you think it will say. And the experiences I have had will not have felt like you’d imagine them feeling. And that’s not arrogance, that’s simply my truth based on my own experience.
Despite having 2 degrees in psychology, I had no idea what any of these things were really like until they happened to me (and I learnt to be mindful of my thoughts and actions and observe and describe what was happening). So I can’t imagine anyone else does either, because nobody’s telling us about these things.
So I am going to write it. And it’s not going to be a “tragic life story” but a story of the magical and empowering process of self-discovery and recovery, with detailed explanations of how it really feels to be inside these experiences. Or at least how it felt for me. Everyone’s journey is unique, but the more we talk about it, the more we demystify it, and the more we help those without experiences of mental health difficulties understand us, and see that we are not “scary” or “crazy”, we are more like them than we or they really understand. We just see things through a slightly different lense.