Writing again

So I’m taking this training this week, Intentional Peer Support.  It’s basically about re-examining what we think we know about language, connection, relationships, our world views, etc.  Good stuff.  Anyway, it of course requires intense self-examination – which includes lots of story writing.  Thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve been writing on here. Please note that all assignments have some space limitations, and in-“class” ones have time limitations as well, so they aren’t polished, are often shorter than I would have liked, probably have some odd grammar and/or word choices – though I personally feel that that sort of thing makes it more powerful to read.

In class today, we had an assignment to tell our stories (whatever kind, though I used the short version of my mental health journey) first using “medical” language and then avoiding it. It was harder than I expected, since I’m actually quite used to and comfortable with medical terminology, but I noticed some interesting things when I was writing the second story, some shifts in my focus and noticing things I hadn’t previously.

My first story:

In middle school I began to think that I had a mental illness, perhaps depression. This feeling grew stronger through high school and early college, until I was diagnosed with depression at the age of 19. I spent the next 15 years going in and out of therapy and on and off of SSRIs. I hated the meds because they made me feel “crazy”, but I assumed they were the only option. 6 months ago, I was rediagnosed as having bipolar disorder, and switched from SSRIs to mood stabilizers. The new meds made me feel better, finally.

My second story:

When I was about 12, I began to believe that my emotional responses were different from other peoples’, and that I was sad and hopeless more than most others were. I also had periods of intense anger, agitation, restless, insomnia, etc, but assumed they were related to PMS, “growing pains”, etc. My struggles with my emotions continued to grow stronger until by 19 I was flunking out of college. My mother, a psychotherapist, told me I had depression. I felt that the treatments for depression were not helpful, and that the medications I was given left me feeling more angry and agitated, and even more hopeless – I would become suicidal, which only happened when I was on the medications. I felt powerless to communicate to my therapists and doctors that I was not feeling better – they just said that it was teh “right treatment” and that it was helping. 6 months ago I got a new mental healthcare team. They listened to my experiences, and re-evaluated my mood struggles. I was told now that I had bipolar disorder and was put on new meds and given new treatments – and now I am an active participant in my own care and recovery.

Tonight’s assignment was to think about our “house” – using house as a metaphor for our lives (physical, emotional, both, whatever).  I actually only had a vague idea of what I was going to say, and I was a little surprised at some of the things that appeared on the paper. (it was technically asking for “your first house”, hence the first sentence).  It did not ask about changes, just about the house, but once I began to see it, I also began to see where I’d made changes.

I don’t recall all the way back to my very first house – but I had one that was fairly consistent through my life.  The basement was cramped and filthy, packed full of my mother’s manipulation, my father’s temper, my classmates’ (and sometimes teachers’) bullying, with deep, haunted corners where the darkest shadows of my sexual abuse lurked, ready to snag any unwary thought that passed by.  The first floor was dim due to its tiny, unwashed windows.  Boxes of distrust and heaps of shame left only narrow pathways to the faded, uncomfortable furniture and the tiny, unkempt kitchen.  The tiny patch of yard was full of dead grass and sparse, straggly weeds.  The paint was faded and colorless, the shutters crooked, and the roof needed patching.

I’ve been working hard to renovate it.  To open up the ground floor windows to the sun and air.  To let some confidence and strength clear out the clutter.  Slowly sorting through the basement storage, and working to get some lighting in there.  I have plans to paint and patch the outside, and am plotting out a truly splendid garden to be put in – sooner or later.

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