We’ve all heard it before: communication is key. In relationships, in friendships and I now understand the deep need to apply this aphorism to mental health recovery. Personally I have experienced therapy for my anorexia and – as you might expect- talking and communicating with your therapist is pretty much essential to any progress you hope to make in recovery.
As a reluctant and fact-denying sixteen year old, I was not in the mood for heartfelt one-to-ones and I certainly was not going to howl into the arms of my therapist following a sincere and repetitive chant of “it’s not your fault”. I just wasn’t there yet.
Change eventually came when I realised I needed to be honest and truthful with my therapist and -low and behold- I needed to tell her how I felt! When I walked into that room, threw my bag down and slouched in my chair (all before grunting to signal my readiness to begin the session) I would refuse to confide in her. We would spend a good half hour putting the words and sentences together which best expressed my feelings and subsequently why I felt them.
It wasn’t that I was incapable of stringing together two sentences, in fact when riled or particularly fired up about injustice or a subject I feel passionate about I am able to eloquently defend my opinion and have a measured and well ordered discussion with people. Talking about my thoughts and feelings, however, was just not happening.
If you’ll allow me, I’ll fast forward a few years to the present day. Twenty-one years old and unfortunately, letting people know I am having a bad mental health day, or -simply put- letting them know I feel shit, is a challenge. Not that I put on a happy face to shield it. Sure, I’ll mope around or isolate myself and occasionally snap at people (I seriously hate myself for doing that…) but to sit down with someone and say “I feel- and I would like it if you could help me by -” still makes my stomach jump around nervously.
Perhaps it is the thought that I “don’t deserve” to have my feelings recognised, or validated. Perhaps it is that I don’t want to “bother” anyone or perhaps it is simply feeling ashamed that I still have to battle with these thoughts and urges. Whatever it is, it is evident that I hold beliefs which harm me. These are core beliefs I need to challenge and defeat because in the end, I am hurting myself in following the ideals of a stoic Victorian gentleman.
It just isn’t conducive to good mental health. There is still the ghost of sixteen year old me hanging around and as much as I know she is scared and naive I just cannot keep going like this. Deep down I know it is essential to talk to anyone and everyone because it helps to rationalise thoughts and it helps bring me into the real world- out of my perplexed mind where losing weight is equal to winning the Nobel Peace Prize or something.
As with many things, it is easier said than done. My God, I know it to be true! It’s scary because you might fear rejection or being faced with ignorance or your pain becoming trivialised by some idiot… all legitimate fears for sure, but our feelings don’t need to be validated by some external force or on or against a standard. They are what they are. And this is the most important thing I need to keep in mind.
Are you an effective communicator in regards to your recovery?
How do you let your close ones know all is not well?