Yesterday over at Heal My PTSD Michele posted a confession. She boldly stepped up and addressed what many don't want to look at; the labels and stigma associated with mental health issues.
One comment Michele had was this..."Alas, we don’t always get to choose our labels. We do, however, get to choose how we wear them."
This was the beginning of a lively discussion about the label of PTSD and mental illness....below is one of the comments I left on this post:
What a wonderful discussion! So many varied views, opinions and perspectives! It is so wonderful to know that many, like you Marie, are finding therapists who know how to diagnose and treat PTSd as what it is - a psychological injury to be healed rather than an “illness” that has no cure.
And I totally agree that there are as many views and perspectives on PTSd and “mental illness” as there are people who wear that badge of honor.
Truth is though - that while PTSd is beginning to finally be recognized as that “injury” vs organic or biological “illness” - the stigma found in society regarding mental health issues in general is, as we all know, very real and extremely limiting and painful to those who face this discrimination every day by family, friends, neighbors, employers and yes - physicians and therapists as we are told that it is not possible to heal this “injury” and must learn to “manage” this “illness” instead of being guided in how to “live” beyond it….and in spite of it.
Personally - I believe that the “symptoms” of however you want to label this thing - can be used to begin to create a path - a map - out of the jungle. “This is where I’m at and THIS is where I want to be; now how am I going to get there?”
I also believe that we as “survivors of horrible things” need to be honored. Our experiences need to be validated. To do less is demeaning and disrespectful.
I also have the understanding of having hung on to my “diagnosis” and other labels related to mental health issues was perhaps a way for me to find that validation in some form, to have those life events, my experiences, my feelings, thoughts validated. To let go of “diagnosis” and “symptoms” and “managing” was scary. It was that place where I stepped to the edge of the cliff and kept going, believing I would find my way regardless of what the professionals said.
I think it is possible to both have our experiences validated and become a whole person. In other words, I have had cancer but I don’t define myself as a cancer survivor. I am a person who had cancer, did the treatment, had the surgery.
I still do rehabilitation exercises for the many surgeries even 10 years later and live with chronic pain from those surgeries and reconstructions - but this is not what my focus or conversation is each day. I don’t define myself as a “cancer survivor” nor do I join support groups that years later ruminate and focus on how horrible it is to have had and survived cancer. To do so steals my energy and limits my ability to live a full life because my focus would be on what “was” (the past) vs. what “is” (my potential).
So yes - I believe that we can have our experiences validated AND I believe that we can use whatever diagnosis we have been given to begin to find our way out of instead of living in the nightmare of past traumas (and other "mental health" issues). And then - we can model this to the world and say “it is possible to heal”…follow me.
Q: So, I'm curious. How do YOU view the labels that come with mental health issues? And - do you believe it is possible to USE these labels to find healing and wholeness and why do you believe this?