survival without mental health

When you want support through something scary or rough, and help pulling yourself together and getting through, this is the place.
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We ask that users looking for general, ongoing emotional support post in this area of the boards, and that you use this space to both ask for, give and receive that support primarily from each other, rather than from our staff and volunteers. As a staff, we simply are often too overextended with all we need to do in running the organization and its services to do that for extended periods of time, and one of our main aims of our community at the boards has always been to facilitate peers to better be there for each other.

Users often report that they have no in-person peers they can talk to or seek support from: we want this to be a space for online peer support and somewhere everyone can get some practice asking for, getting and giving support so that doing it with people in your lives feels more doable.

Please remember that neither staff, volunteers nor your fellow users can provide or replace mental healthcare when that is something you need. Users struggling with issues like anxiety, depression, abuse or physical health issues are strongly encouraged to seek out qualified, in-person help with those issues in addition to peer or staff support.
noaccount
not a newbie
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Age: 28
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survival without mental health

Unread post by noaccount »

As an autistic survivor of a lot of psychiatric profiling and force when I was a teenager, I've been trying to find my way to people who wouldn't direct further abuse at me, nor encourage me to enable oppression against others. (Both have been challenging.) Also I've seen a lot of folks here talk about the trauma of themselves or loved ones being institutionalised, or gaslit by medical providers- it's brought up a lot for me. Here I want to lay out some things that helped me. I want to have healthier, ethical ways of meeting my emotional and social needs - not my 'mental health' needs. It isn't useful for me to imagine I have a thing called mental health that could get worse or better.

A lot of mental-illness discourse is 'modeled off' the psychosis prototype - a person's 'symptoms' are assumed to make them out of touch with reality. But other things that get called psychic ills aren't really about delusional beliefs. They can be about other cognitive differences, like occur on the autism spectrum. Or oscillating between periods of no energy and periods of insomnia and heightened energy. Or about emotional disturbances from trauma. These are wildly different experiences with little in common!

When I don't talk about my mental states as healthy or diseased, it lets me get much more specific. Ie, "the specific problem here is being numb from grief," or "cognitively, I can't process a concept the way other people around me do," or "this specific smell is a panic trigger for me." These are things I can unpack better when I don't throw them under umbrella terms from clinical settings that are very alienating to me.

I also want to be clear I'm not claiming to be healthier or better-informed than anyone who uses a different framework. I really benefited from reading the short article Sick Woman Theory, which talks about being chronically ill and excluded from "the political" for being "too sick," needing "too much care," or presumed "incompetent," and fighting back and reclaiming your space.

What's been most important to me is to remember that there's no point where someone becomes too sad or numb to define their own lived experience, or too psychotic to define their own lived experience, that no type or degree of disability lessens someone's right to do this. And when someone is being cruel or manipulative to me, I try to focus on asserting my rights and prioritizing my own needs, rather than speculate about their inner mental state or their needs.

'Why Does He Do That?' has been an invaluable resource to me, while understanding that I've been socially encouraged to accept abuse towards me in some ways, and given social license to oppress people in other ways. The author has run intervention programs for abusive men for decades and reports the patterns he sees among them. The big takeaway is being aware that when people have been violent and controlling towards me, it's based on their core values rather than overwhelming emotions or delusions. The problem is when someone believes that dominating and battering others is ethically acceptable, there's a really good line, "he doesn't have a problem with his anger, he has a problem with YOUR anger." If anyone wants I can share a full-text pdf of the book...

Also, blaming a person's choice to abuse others on a personality disorder, while lots of (non-violent) trauma survivor's c-ptsd symptoms get labeled as pd's, becomes a cycle of teaching survivors that they're comparable to their abusers - It's maddening - Let me take a deep breath and walk away from that!

I immersed myself in histories and memoirs of consumer/survivor/ex-patient activists (Irit Shimrat, Judi Chamberlin, psych survivor archives of Toronto) and tried to find humanistic perspectives on recovery and burnout and stuff - Many Roads One Journey and Trauma Stewardship were lifesavers! I found texts about somatic healing, "Body Keeps The Score," "Theater of the Oppressed," etc. I saw another poster's thread about depression and remembered how much Kate Bornstein's "Hello Cruel World" had helped me, which is about alternatives to suicide...

Something that's been really heartbreaking for me, is to hear conversations that happen about an absent person, where the absent person gets defined by stereotypes about their presumed disability, rather than by their actions, words, or attitudes. It makes it feel dangerous to try to communicate with people any more.

So I remember how many civil rights activists were diagnosed schizophrenic for their activism, like the protest psychosis talks about. And I remember how many women are diagnosed as borderline for displaying trauma from sexual abuse. I try not to take the wreckage of history so personally.

Also when people I'd considered friends or mentors said that me having been in abusive relationships (some romantic/sexual but some not) meant I needed more self confidence or self worth, or that being lonely and trying to figure out how to form healthy relationships meant something similar, had a pretty discouraging impact on me. It's taken a big conscious effort to try again, and find people who will understand that my cognition, my recovery, my organizing work, whatever, all get bogged down when I don't see any safe ways of forming intimacy with others.

Also when talking about my life goals, career-wise or activism-wise, I get discouraged by knee-jerk "positive thinking" reactions to me talking about my failures and limitations as such, but I keep trying again, to get through to people who can hear that. Sometimes this means we can strategize more realistically about what I can do differently next time, sometimes it doesn't and that's okay too - having shared acknowledgement of reality is worthwhile to me even if it doesn't lead to immediate action-planning.
"How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure." - The Absconding Archives
Heather
scarleteen founder & director
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Re: survival without mental health

Unread post by Heather »

This was a lot of very vulnerable, brave and also very helpful information you decided to share here for others, noaccount. Thanks for that. <3
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
noaccount
not a newbie
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2019 2:34 am
Age: 28
Pronouns: they/them
Location: usa

Re: survival without mental health

Unread post by noaccount »

oh huh, yeah I guess there is some advantage to not having a "comfort zone" or a clearly-developed Concept of Safety, in that accounting for things other people might see as scary or risky just comes to seem mundane. the *least-harmful* counselor i ever talked to still just started crying or nervously laughing and hedging subjects whenever I went beyond very small baby-steps of unpacking what i was struggling with, so I guess that's kind of telling.
somewhat surprised at this response too, as in large part i wrote this in response to staff advising users that there was some Thing They Could Know Was True about their partner based on a Man With Degree having once called the partner 'bpd.' which i cried about for a few hours even though i personally was never hit with that particular label.

spent considerable time editing this, realized there was no real way to condense the info down to less paragraphs, tried to make the tone non-proselytizing and 'disarming', but i figured the basic content at least would still be hackle-raising. like i only logged back on to see if my posting privileges had been revoked or not. wild.
"How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure." - The Absconding Archives
Raymondello
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Re: survival without mental health

Unread post by Raymondello »

You made some really important points about the diversity of experiences within the realm of mental health. It's crucial to recognize that different conditions and cognitive differences require individualized understanding and support. By focusing on the specific issues you face, you empower yourself to address them more effectively. I completely agree that everyone has the right to define their own lived experiences, regardless of their mental health or disability. Keep staying strong and advocating for yourself. You're making a difference, and your journey matters.
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