Friday, July 3, 2009

A tale of two boys...the value of compassion in healing from trauma; the danger of "labels"

Jack has always wanted to be a journalist and Karl, he told me that music has been his passion since as long as he could remember. Both had such high hopes, such big dreams. Only one dreamer remains. The other dreamer died with his dreams when he was labeled "mentally ill."

This is an excerpt from a story I found in my search for a better understanding of what others have experienced in the current model of our mental health system. The title of this moving piece is A tale of two boys. In this story we have two young men, completely unrelated yet with similar life experiences. Both had experienced a severe life threatening trauma in their past, both had high hopes and dreams for their future. Both travelled a path in young adulthood that many others may have by experimenting with drugs while in college that may have altered their sense of reality and ability to cope. Both returned home when their mental health became unstable. One came out a stronger person, living a full life. The other young man was not so fortunate.

I'm bringing this up today after reading in Jaylia's blog about a book Doctoring the mind . Jaylia brings up a wonderful point about recovering from trauma "Listening ... relation ... understanding. They're such obvious powers for good ... and so rarely applied in the psychiatric world."

In this tale of two boys, Jack found compassion, understanding and support in the safety of home that enabled him to recover his true "self"; his experience became a life lesson, fuel for his future. He regained his sense of self and took back his life. Karl on the other hand recieved "the best" psychiatric care, medications and a label.

Trauma experience does not have to be the end of a life, a diagnosis does not have to become "who" we are. In my own journey I too trusted the "professionals". For fifteen years I beleived that if I just did what they told me to do - take my "meds" and attend my therapy once a week that I would get "better". I felt defective, broken, different - I lived my label of "mentally ill". Like Karl, I became a lost soul until I was fortunate enough to have found a compassionate therapist trained in Trauma recovery and like Jack, my pain became part of my healing process. In past therapies, the trauma that I had lived through and survived was not a part of that process and in fact was dismissed as though it was unimportant.

The author of this story continues: Jack-well, Jack is back living at college. He started working out and volunteers in a home for mentally retarded adults. He told me several things since his breakthrough: "This is the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life and I would not wish it on anyone-but I would not change a thing. Better I deal with these issues now then wait until I'm forty or fifty. I feel stronger than I ever have. I've learned so much about myself, I still have fears but I control them-they no longer control me."

Karl called me after he walked home from his last day at the day treatment program. "I saw a sign on a restaurant window-they were looking for a dishwasher. Do you think I could handle that?" I cried.

I feel fortunate to have found a resource that allowed me to finally address the pain of my past that has freed me to find and create my own future. With that kindness, compassion and understanding I began to find my way out of the darkness. I left the land of the living dead and began to find "me".

For more information on healing from trauma check out Michele Rosenthals post on "Who am I?" or visit Jaylias blog about Doctoring the mind. The National Empowerment Center has terrific information on taking control of your recovery. has some great informaiton on What is Psychological Trauma. Here is a good post on providing that comfort and support to children who have experienced trauma at Trauma Blog


Jaliya said...

Hi Susan ... I'm here and will visit again soon! Thank you for the link. You're in the park with your pup ... I'm off to pick my husband up from work ... Will return to read in a while :-)

Susan said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jalyia!