More than managed
I was talking with a client last week, who has long-suffered mental illness, including depression, anxiety, suicidality, and even several suicide attempts.
I hadn’t seen him for a month, so he was filling me in on his new job, his new routine, his relationship, and how he is going.
He is going quite well now, thinking more positively, feeling more well…maybe even ‘happy’…not that he was going to say it out loud… what is it with depression that makes feeling happy so untrustworthy…?!
I was praising him on the conscious work he has been doing, on acknowledging his emotions, challenging his thoughts, and exercising his choice, to have made an ongoing helpful change. He was making changes to himself, and as a result, his world around him was changing, as it does.
He then started talking about a ‘Linken Park’ song that had played that morning. He was a fan of their music, and like a lot of us, Chester’s suicide recently had shown the meaning written in his lyrics for what they were – a cry for help.
For this client, as the song played, a thought dropped into his head, Suicide is not an if, it’s a when. It will inevitably get me in the end, no matter how well I’m doing now…
Depression and suicidality stood in that moment, nodding their heads and smirking with pride. Freedom released a tear…but caught it in hands of grace.
Just because it feels true, doesn’t mean it is. Even when there’s agreement, it does not mean it is so.
As a mental health clinician, I have a rather strong justice meter within me. Actually, that’s part of who I am. It’s within my humanity not my degree.
But for me, my justice man stands the quickest in the face of fear and when lies are believed. It is so closely aligned with my sense of freedom, they most often stand together. Freedom and justice. But not justice to seek revenge, give just deserves and set things right, but justice as truth.
I took the opportunity to acknowledge his thoughts, as they had a point, it was just not the truth. You see, the common factor with all completed suicides is mental illness. So that’s what we hear, what is reported, what we focus on. But not all people with depression complete suicide. We just don’t hear enough about the survivors, the results of the lives that continue living.
We don’t focus on the people living with mental illness, but on the people dying with mental illness.
When my client said this, something else within me stood. A voice that said enough!
He was right. There is a big focus on sharing stories, talking about our struggles, hashtagging more of our reality by sharing a picture of the tears or the scars. Which is good. And has started a movement of speaking up and speaking out. Finally! But I also think this isn’t just what is needed.
We need the survival stories, stories of becoming well, stories of freedom and healing, where mental illness is more than managed, where it is healed.
As I said to my client, I wouldn’t do my job if I didn’t truly believe freedom from mental illness was possible. If all I was doing was putting bandaids on wounds, on teaching people to better manage their minds, where the issue would be ongoing and the best we could do was ease it sometimes, I would not do this job. And some people who see me expect this is all we are doing. Often that’s been their experience of therapy not working, on battling the same issues for decades, or even on a therapist telling them management was the goal as freedom was not possible. Ahhhhhhhhhh! Such sad lies.
My client didn’t trust his happiness, as experience told him it would be fleeting, and the higher elevation his mood achieved the further the fall would inevitably be. Just look at Chester. So we did.
From what I’d heard of Chester, he had struggled for decades with mental illness. He’d added drugs and alcohol because he tried to self-medicate as people do, and he’d even sought therapeautic help. And this gets me the most. The help he sought didn’t work. It didn’t help. My guess is the therapist didn’t truly believe freedom was possible because clearly Chester didn’t believe help was possible.
As I’ve written many times lately, it’s a fight for your life! For your real life. The life you want. Your life of freedom from mental illness. Keep going, warrior.
I’m sorry Chester that the help you sought didn’t help. I’m so deeply sorry. As I’ve said before, I wish you had have seen me. Because I would have fought for you. And taught you to keep fighting for you. I would have given you hope. Because there was hope for you. People can get completely well. More than managed. Well. Free. And that’s the truth.
So as I spoke to my client last week, and we decided the survival stories needed to be told, people need to be #reminded there is hope and #peacecanbefoundhere, a new standing happened. Truth. Hope. And in that moment, fear sat down. His belief in the inevitability of death by suicide from a life-long fight with depression vanished. Gone. Will it still try to come back? Will it speak again and plant doubt once more? Probably. For now. But stick with me mate, I will keep fighting for your life, even when you can’t. I will stand for truth. I will fight for freedom. There is always hope.
Let’s speak our freedom stories. Let’s acknowledge the battles but focus on their outcomes, our wins. Us lions need to learn to write the story, not the hunter!
Hope on. Fight on. #mayyoustay