I’ve tried a few times in this blog to really describe what it feels like to be in my head/body. I thought that was my purpose in writing here, so that other people could experience and understand it. But I have a growing disquieting feeling now that it’s actually impossible to let another human being share what you’re feeling – no matter how eloquent you are. And I feel lonely if I start to feel like I’m dealing with these feelings on my own. But metaphor and analogy I appreciate because these let people get close to where you are, using images that they can relate to.
I wanted to share an analogy that we were given as part of a series of group therapy sessions I undertook a few years ago to help express the journey we all take.
The starting point is that we don’t inherit mental illness per se – we inherit a propensity to develop mental illness. Whether we go on to become unwell is dependent on our path through life. At birth we also inherit a rucksack… With each trial or trouble in our life a stone is added to the rucksack. Daily trivial stresses are tiny pieces of gravel or sand. But major life stressors come along and these may be the size of boulders. If the rucksack reaches full and overflowing we will likely develop symptoms of stress, burnout or mental illness. It’s important to note, though, that we can also remove stones from the rucksack as we go along. If a challenge is met, or a stressor is resolved and dealt with, we can chuck away that stone. If we sleep well we might get rid of some of yesterday’s pieces of gravel. At times of acute mental illness while that rucksack is overflowing, other people can help by removing some rocks and lessening the load.
For me this gives a powerful dynamic way of looking at mental health – for those with a mental illness and those without. Mental illness isn’t a one stop destination that needs medication and nothing else. Mental Illness is not ‘our fault’. But we can all and always take care of our mental health as best we can by taking care of the state of the rucksack on our backs. Mental Health is a journey we take – with a rucksack and a good pair of winter boots.
Right now my rucksack is overflowing while I deal with the demon voice. I’m terrified and worn down with it all. But if I keep trying to get out the house then there are other people around who can help me lessen the load – and that’s really happening.