I will begin this blog by saying I have never been formally diagnosed with a psychological condition. I have read many books on so called ‘personality disorders’ and identified with some to a degree, most especially Borderline Personality Disorder, especially during my days of active drinking. I have watched two sisters be diagnosed with Bi Polar and in the case of my older sister I see how in the end it functioned as a straight jacket of kinds, giving carers in her home a justification for filling her mouth with pills when ever she was having darker feelings. Being in recovery myself from mild alcohol addiction from my early 30s I was wary of drugs, wary of diagnoses and way weary of psychiatrists.
I began my first therapy attempt at the age of 30 just a year or so before I got sober. I didn’t stay long enough due to serious trust and deep abandonment issues, though I stayed in touch with that wonderful therapist for just under 20 years. He was not one to jump on the bandwagon of diagnosis either and would often tell me how Bill W the founder of AA suffered from depression through out most of his sobriety. He was of the belief that any therapy Bill had had didn’t really go deep enough.
I know enough about alcoholics to know that many of us are sensitive individuals with some kind of trauma in our past or broken attachments of which we may or may not be fully conscious. Many of us are raised by families or parents with narcissistic issues, addiction issue, borderline personality and bi polar issues and we may be trying to break out of this.
We may in our extra sensitivity and due to early conditioning experiences more open to deeper aspects and feelings of life, many of us most likely had no help in dealing with our feelings and so many of us buried them under drink or drugs and got worse. Sobriety has taught me that secrets and feelings bought out into the power and light of day help us grow and if we can express our anger or frustration in productive ways many of us can turn depression around which is none other than the pressing down of our spirit.
In the case of very severe trauma though such healing may be very difficult due to the protracted nature of trauma which obscures and makes recovery very, very hard. So many of us struggle out there without the right kind of help. I know this as I have had a least 7 attempts with different therapists and its only in the last year since I began with my current therapist that I feel I have started to make great progress.
Today we were having a chat about BPD and Narcissism and she told me that the majority of people out there have some kind of Borderline or Narcissistic issues, that includes therapists she told me. We discussed the issue of labels how we are individuals before we are really our diagnosis. Our diagnosis may explain different, fundamental behaviour patterns or survival skills, defences and protections that we learned to stay alive. We can’t just blast these away or dissolve them quickly as there will be a price to pay and they probably form a protective mechanism, but we can over time with enough honesty and willingness become more conscious of them. Healing takes time, growth takes time, recovery takes time, surrendering our defences takes time.
A diagnosis can equate you with behaviours that are not really truly you at all. The Buddhist idea is that we all have a Buddha nature, a fundamental essence of goodness and truth within that just gets obscured. We can also have a lot of toxic junk dumped into us by parents, siblings, peers and educators when we are young, far before our capacity to discriminate what we are being told is true or untrue was formed. If we were neglected or abused the anger and pain that fuels our life is liable to end in a psychiatric diagnosis, but what is really being diagnosed is a very natural consequence of enduring trauma.
The trauma specialist Peter Levine has said that he does not even believe Post Traumatic Stress should be called a disorder, when it is a natural response to being traumatised. We are left with symptoms that may be so difficult to manage, but how dare we or anyone else beat us up or judge us for symptoms of something traumatic? And yet this is what happens.
I’m not sure I want to go much further with this blog today than to say, be very wary of identifying yourself with your diagnosis, remember the behaviour does not make the person, though over time if we don’t come to terms with how our behaviour has been effected and take steps to purge the toxins from our system we will continue to damage and cause damage. But we must always aim for tolerance, empathy, understanding and compassion as we take steps to face the scary and at times paralysing Hydra of trauma, mental illness and abuse.