First versus second.
Medical versus human.
Symptoms versus experiences.
Problem-based versus Trauma-informed.
Here is an example of language, describing the same thing in two different ways.
“I was 15 when I started to suffer with mental illness. I went to see a psychiatrist who told me that I had something called Schizophrenia. For a couple of years my symptoms got really bad and people were afraid I was going to hurt myself so I was hospitalised. They stabilised me on meds and shock treatments and sent me home. For a long time, I didn’t get sick again.
Later, as an adult, I started to get symptomatic again. I got pretty psychotic and once again got put in hospital. They told me there that I was really sick and should go on disability. For a long time, I was pretty sick but then started to be able to manage my symptoms.”
“I was 15 when I started feeling different than others and really alone. For a couple of years after that, I would do things in pretty extreme ways. They made sense to me based on what I was thinking and feeling but I guess it was scary for others who didn’t really understand what I was thinking and feeling. I got put in a hospital. There I really lost hope and beliefs about being a ‘regular’ person. They put me on a lot of medication that made me sleepy all the time. After I left, I threw out all the meds and put my intensity into music.
Years later, coming out of a difficult marriage I started to have similar kinds of experiences as the ones I had as a kid. I had really strong feelings and felt pretty separate from others. I got put back in the hospital again. I was told I had a major mental illness and that I should go on disability. Though I did that for a while, I realised that I was just going along with their beliefs rather than looking at how I’d come to think in certain ways. Little by little, I figured out what to do with my intensity and I’ve been really growing ever since.”
Each one of us is simply at a different place in our growth and development. Using language that is personal and descriptive of our experiences enables shared understanding. It forces us to think of ourselves and others more broadly as human beings, free of labels and assumptions.
Intentional Peer Support: https://www.intentionalpeersupport.org/?v=79cba1185463
This is so vital and I know it will have particular resonance for you dearest Sangeeta. So often services dealing with mental illness don’t see the unique personality of the person suffering and don’t engage those close to them. So often we are left in a void not knowing what will be next. Labels don’t help and you are so right when you say it is the experience of the person and how we respond to them. Tone is so important and perhaps mental health practitioners should reflect with peers as to how their attitude and demeanour might appear
With love Ros
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Dear Ros, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I agree with you. As doctors, nurses, social workers and human beings, we need to see the human behind the diagnosis / behaviour and examine our attitudes.
The over-medicalisation of mental health needs to be humanised.
Love, S. xxx