Mentally well: from childhood trauma to wholeness

Labels. Not a fan. Never have been. Never will be. Although this is not a new assertion, as I have waffled a-plenty about the word 'disabled', I seem to have accumulated some more evidence and a new label du jour - mentally ill.

My basic argument that labels used to define human beings that only actually describe certain characteristics end up objectifying and polarising those being labelled. The basis for my counter argument has been that we are all different and unique, but that we are all equally human. This argument has now been enhanced by another important fact - things change - a fact that has been illuminated by the recent flurry of activity around the Time to Change mental health campaign.

I come from a family plagued by brilliance and poor mental wellbeing; when I registered blind the trauma of my childhood, which had been lying in wait in my internal pressure cooker, blew its lid. Abandonment, emotional neglect and psychological abuse were so pervasive that I sincerely believed my childhood was normal. That is, until the stress of registering blind put my coping mechanisms to the test. I fought hard, but two and a half years after registering blind I fell apart. It was only then that I looked at things honestly and it wasn't pretty. I was diagnosed with all sorts of things that met this and that criterion under the DSM, given all manner of pharmacological treatment and sent on my merry way. Sure, some of the symptoms abated, but what about the causes? Would they be treated? Apparently not. Apparently my treatment was successful, but I didn't think so. I was a drugged up zombie. I asked for psychotherapy, MBCT, anything but drugs, but alas not. And so I took matters into my own hands.

I had an established meditation practice, which laid the foundation, and I sought out complimentary therapies. That was two and a half years ago and with hard work, some incredible therapists and the love of my awesome husband and son, my mental wellbeing is better than most and I've dumped the drugs. Suffice to say, I haven't felt depressed in a year and a half. Not a single day and this is quite a feat since I had been depressed every day of my life before I got well. I am now happy, stable, balanced and feel pretty darn fab. As far as the DSM goes, I am symptom free, so whatever labels that may have once been ascribed to me no longer fit. Things change and, as it happens, so do our brains. Ten years ago neuroscientists in the main believed that adult brains were hard wired. Today it is known that our brains change throughout our lives, our minds and experience shape our brains, and I'm glad to say that I'm living proof. If someone like me who had a severely traumatic childhood, but no organic mental impairment, can get well then the labels must go.

I saw Peter Levine speak at the Breath of Life conference recently and he said that trauma is not a life sentence. Indeed.

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  • Posted by Arran Ross-Paterson

    Reading this has put a smile on my face 18 Jul 2013 (4 years ago)

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