Closed for Renovations

Following on from my musings about looking well and the sneaky fears associated with it, I spoke to my counsellor J about what I had written. I think I have mentioned it before but I like J. She doesn't stick me in a 'theoretical box' and we can explore thoughts and feelings together in a way that leads to powerful questions rather than immediate concrete answers.

Answers tend to come after our conversations, when I have had time to sit with a question and make friends with it - a bit like coaching, even if the 'light-bulb moment' can (and often does) happen during a coaching session.

J suggested that it was important for me to look my best whenever I felt like I could for two reasons:

  1. It is obviously good for ME to see an improvement in my well-being
  2. It is important for OTHERS to see a person looking 'normal' who has mental health difficulties because it challenges the public notion of the mentally ill person looking like a highly-medicated 'tramp' all the time.

As I have already written, I am not that keen on the 'mental' health label because I find it so hugely misleading and inaccurate. I have made that point before so I shan't repeat myself.

Having said that, J's suggestion struck a chord with me. It made me aware that my own subconscious view of a mentally ill person is indeed of someone who looks like I do when I am at my worst. Believe me, I get very close to that 'tramp' look. I call it 'The old hag in dressing gown and slippers' look. It will never make the catwalks, that's for sure!

My picture of mental illness is incomplete. We do have examples of famous people who challenge it: Stephen Fry, Bill Oddie, Robbie Williams in the UK - and indeed Robin Williams in the US -  who have all been brave enough to talk about their challenge with depression, uni-polar or bi-polar. They show us how a person dealing with mental health challenges can be 'on show' when they feel well but need to retire from public view completely when they feel ill. In fact, I remember Robin Williams speaking candidly about how he had built his high octane comedian's career on his bi-polar disorder: he said he used to work like crazy for six months of the year and collapse to recharge out of view for the remaining six months. He also admitted at the time of his interview a few years back that this sort of extreme behaviour became unsustainable as he got older. I don't know how he is these days but one thing is certain - I wish him the very best of well-being because he is one of my most favourite performers, both as a comedian and as an actor. His performance in The Fisher King is simply superb. Interestingy enough, he plays the part of a tramp with a mental illness....

I am slowly becoming aware that my view of my own recovery may have been over simplistic. I have always assumed that when I am well I will be 'on show' all the time, the way I used to be. It could well be that, in order to get well and - even more importantly - to stay well, I will have to get used to the idea that I may need to close down regularly for self-renovation. What form will that renovation take?  What frequency will it have? What duration will it need?

These are all questions that are as yet unanswered. I am making friends with them though :0)

Open after Renovations

Good morning Gabrielle

You wrote that:
'I am slowly becoming aware that my view of my own recovery may have been over simplistic. I have always assumed that when I am well I will be 'on show' all the time, the way I used to be. It could well be that, in order to get well and - even more importantly - to stay well, I will have to get used to the idea that I may need to close down regularly for self-renovation. What form will that renovation take? What frequency will it have? What duration will it need?'
And
'These are all questions that are as yet unanswered. I am making friends with them though'

It is never difficult to down-grade ones ability to overcome problems, the real difficulty is trying to understand where these are leading and what may be at the end of the road so to speak. For there is never a real or final ending ing to problems of the mind; the body is one thing and in many respect is on the whole able to justify and so heal itself.

How the body clothes itself is rather or almost so, inmaterial, it is what flows forth from it that really matters and, if otheers do not like what appears on the outside, then that is their problem, for being either short sighted or even worst, ignorant of what is on show

For the rest, the mind plays all sorts of tricks, one moments up in the clouds and then the next instance down in the bottom of a huge muddy black pond of despondecy with nothing to show the way out.

Depressin of the mind is an agony of conflicting thoughts that nothing really resolves. All right, there are masses of different treatments, but until it is possible to seek the real epie centre of the thought process that activates this disturbance, then there is no real lasting cure.

So in a sense, there is always going to be up and downs that in turn cause distruption the physical being. How to over come all this is another problem that has never been resolved.

Death of a favoured person close to you, is as unsettling an event as any other that may happen. Whatever happens in the furture is always beset with that event, even after eleven years it hurts and if allowed, would cause a depression which for days is so very hard to cast off, if so allowed to surface, then there is a outrage of the mind which cries why, oh why?

Because you are just who you are, you will I know, not only survive but overcome these current problems, for in the end that is all that they are, just another problem to solve, just like your skodo thing you worry at.

Stay well and always with love, JC

Thank you JC

You are absolutely right, of course :0). I do not expect to be high all the time (in fact I recognise this as the seductive part of bi-polarism) and I accept the web and flow of the mind. What I haven't reached yet is what you describe so well, the "if allowed", the "if so allowed to surface" balance. I tend to overdo it in the 'not allowing' department. As I say with a smile, this experience has taught me that I am one hell of a soldier and one hell of a policeman/woman :0). I think I am learning to 'allow' so that I may reach your level of wisdom: allowing without wallowing.  Keep your thoughts coming. BIG Hugs. G xxxxx

The tramp look

Hello Gabrielle

As you continue to make friends with your latest thoughts and ideas I'm wondering whether to share with you a response (reinforced by friends and family who know me most) from my own perspective.

I languish in the 'tramp' look, as you call it 'The old hag in dressing gown and slippers', fairly regularly. (at least once a week and occasionally for three or four days in a row when not working...always have)

I call it RELAXING and I see it as mentally healthy to 'slob about' whenever I feel like it (I'm writing this in my pajamas and I haven't washed or brushed my hair yet...and if I'm not going out then I might just give it miss entirely today...it's good for the skin!!) If unexpected visitors arrive or if I go out into the garden (ON SHOW) I will put my dressing gown on.

Sometimes I am met with raised eyebrows but more often than not other people respond with a sense relief and ease. It's ok to be 'scruff bag' sometimes!

Sure the 'tramp' look can come about in response to 'mental ill health' but it needn't be a clear cut association. I agree with J's view that it is important to look your best when you can (I would prefer 'when you want to') for the two reasons that she put forward. On the other hand, the perspective I take is that it is important for me to 'positively slob out' for two reasons as well.

1. It is obviously good for ME to FEEL AND NURTURE an improvement in my well-being beyond other peoples perceptions of what it means to be-well.
2. It is important for OTHERS to see a 'normal' person, who has no mental health difficulties, looking 'trampy' because it challenges the public notion of the mentally well person looking like a highly groomed executive/film star all the time.

A third reason would be that reasons 1 and 2 above support J's reasons 1 and 2 from an opposing perpective.

I don't have your gift with words Gabrielle and I hope this makes sense. Do what you like with it.

Love

Julie
xxx

Thank you Julie

I loved your comment! You reminded me that I am the one who makes associations most of the time - never mind others.... The truth is, I have come to associate the 'dressing-gown and slippers look' with my feeling at my worst. Thank you for reminding me to reclaim it as my relaxing time also, and not just as my 'worst time'.  I'll certainly keep this in mind :0) 

G xxxxxxx

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