Day 38 of my 40 Day Blog Challenge. It’s strange to think that this challenge is coming to an end! Whilst I won’t be posting a blog every day in a few days time, doing this challenge has highlighted the fact that people are ready to speak about their battles. Because of that, if you have something you feel you’d like to share, then please do just get in touch – there will always be a space for your story here. Today, I share about my views on labels… Continue reading
Day 11 of my 40 Day Blog Challenge, over 1/4 way through!
Thank you to the 4 amazing contributions to the blog so far. It is so lovely to hear other’s stories of living through real challenge and that these stories really are encouraging others. I’ve got a number of other contributions lined up, but there’s still plenty of room for more! Do get in touch if you feel you’d like to share your story (doesn’t have to be a new topic, as each story and experience is unique).
Today I’m going to attempt to answer a question, (or at least give my personal opinion) which someone emailed to me recently. It’s actually a really common question in the counselling realm and it’s a very well debated one… Continue reading
Day 3 of 40 Day Challenge. I’m blogging about issues around mental wellbeing through lent and would love you to join in with inspiring stories, topics/suggestions for topics etc. Please feel free to follow this blog, comment share etc so we can encourage each other in this area over the coming weeks. You can also contact me privately via the Home page on this Blog site.
The first film I took my daughter to see at the cinema was Inside Out. It’s a lovely film about a young girl’s battle with her emotions as she comes to terms with big life changes. I’m sure most of it went over my daughter’s head, but I have to admit to shedding a tear at the end 😥. Continue reading
I finished reading a book yesterday. Big deal. Well it is for me. For some reason I have always struggled to read, it makes me tired and often restless. But a friend gave me this book and recommend I read it, so I did.
Instrumental is an autobiography by James Rhodes. It is awesome. It is awful. It is shocking. It is kind. It is full of pain. It is full of hope. Somehow, despite the most difficult of subject matter(s), it is beautiful. Read it.
It is a very honest and personal story of horrendous abuse as a child and the life long affects this has on every aspect of life. It is about how his love for classical music eventually begins the healing process, lifting him out of despair and periods of crippling mental ill health.
I feel not to say too much about the book, as it’s not my story, but urge you to read it.
As a counsellor I am most grateful for the book. Every day I sit with clients who have suffered the worst of abuse. I have not read any text book which comes close to the insights that James gives in Instrumental. It is easy to become accustomed and even desensitised to hearing difficult experiences, and sadly to miss the impact it has on an individual. We want to understand, but we often fall woefully short.
Instrumental leaves no room for misunderstanding of the grave impact that childhood abuse has on a person.
It does however leave the reader with a huge sense of hope, and it does this in such an impassioned way, that despite being a difficult read, it is also impossible to put down.
Labels are great and we’d be pretty stuck without them. Years ago I went on a camping holiday and shared a caravan with a few other guys. In his incredible wisdom and bid to be hilarious, one of the party decided to remove all the labels from the tinned food. Needless to say that dinners for the week were truly potluck, and pretty awful. The thing with a tin of baked beans is that you know what you are getting; a cheap, tasty, quick solution which later results in flatulence!
So generally, labels help us to identify things which makes life just a little easier to navigate. The problem is that when it comes to people, and in particular, descriptions around our mental health, things get a whole lot more complicated.
If I say the word “schizophrenia” for example, this may well bring up a massive variety of emotional responses depending on the reader. Unlike the tin of beans which is almost entirely possible to predict, such diagnoses and experiences of them will vary massively. When we hear the term “schizophrenia” many of us will jump to the latest news headline involving someone who suffers with the condition. Others will automatically think about psychotic conditions such as hallucinations, hearing voices, delusions or paranoia. And all of the above are just a fraction of the many ways of experiencing the world which may lead to such a diagnosis. Once someone is given a label, then it is often the case that their entire persona can be open to interpretation, based squarely on an individual’s own preconceptions and attitudes around the label.
I’d like to clarify at this point that I am not anti-labels or diagnoses. They can really help us in terms of beginning to understand the kinds of ways in which people may suffer. The problem is that I can easily be led to view people in the way I view baked beans. I think I know what I’m getting, I make assumptions and foster beliefs based upon very limited information. Most of us would hate to think that we do this, but it’s actually pretty normal to do. There is a great song in the puppet musical Avenue Q called “We’re all a little bit racist,” which highlights how we all make assumptions about people based on limited information. Give it a quick Google, it’s well worth a look and is very funny.
A mental health diagnosis can only ever be a clue about some of the ways in which a person may experience life at times. It’s not a description of the person. I often wonder how it is that when talking about mental health, we often embody the diagnosis in a way we don’t do for “physical” conditions. For example, I’d say something like, “I have the flu”, I wouldn’t say “I am the flu”. But for some reason it is common to hear phrases such as “He’s bi-polar” or “She’s depressed” or “They’re a schizophrenic”. It’s less common to hear a phrase like “He suffers from depression”.
Suddenly the label becomes an identity which we can place upon others and which is all too easy to place upon ourselves with incredibly limiting consequences. That’s not what a label is for. The label is there to understand roughly how a person experiences things, and helps us to begin to find ways of improving that experience.
It’s an old cliche that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s really helpful in this case. Sure, with the beans we know exactly what we’re getting. With a book, the cover only gives us a tiny clue as to the story that lies within. The cover can never express the richness, the variety and the mystery of the story.
Let’s do more reading.