Having a mental illness is only barely like having any other illness. Most illnesses, one is “brave” for getting through. We are brave for admitting to it. (To be braver still, one must suffer in silence and not bother folks with the fragility of our neurological make-up.) When I write about my mental illness – depending on which doctor and diagnosis from which era, it could be depression, ADD, PTSD or any combination there-of – I do so knowing that I’ve just knee-capped my own credibility. This, I am well aware of.
So when I think about writing about today – and other experiences in the mental health system – I acknowledge that I will be seen as an unreliable narrator. I am a Ken Kesey character. I am Salinger’s boy.
Today, I broke up with my therapist. Or she broke up with me. I’m not entirely sure where the impetus lies.
I have been doing EMDR for my PTSD. In case that’s too many letters for you, EMDR is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s supposedly a way to recall and reprocess traumatic events in a way that lessens the psychological impact. PTSD is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a psychiatric condition that sees past events continue to create symptoms in the present. I talk about it a bit in my trigger warning post.
I have been seeing someone to do the afformentioned EMDR. It should be noted that I am a sceptic. Perhaps even a cynic. The idea that moving my eyes or being “bi-laterally stimulated” could change the way I feel about my trauma was challenging for me. I had concerns.
Being me, the queen of not keeping my mouth shut, I brought up my concerns with my therapist. What if my memories, something I value even if they are painful, are not as fully realized as they are now? What if, while “reprocessing” them, they lose some of their accuracy or clarity?
As a writer, I use those experiences. If I don’t, how can I ever begin to convince myself that I can survive them? If I can’t milk my own pain, then I’m left with the truth that it brought me all of nothing. My descriptions, even when harsh, are true. Would dealing with them in the way my therapist was suggesting make them less true?
“Yes. Possibly.” she said, being, I suppose, honest.
So I had to make a decision. As a writer and as a person, which do I value more? My well-being or the sanctity of my truth?
There wasn’t ever a choice. I cannot fathom sacrificing the truth of my lived experience for peace of mind. And there it is. The proof. I really am ill.