This post is offered as part of the Mental Health Month Blog Party today, May 18, 2010. There are links to basic mental health resources and more information about the goals of this Blog Party at that link.
When I was five, sometimes our whole family would go to the drive-in movies (remember those?) in Norwalk, California. Adjacent to the drive-in was the Norwalk State Mental Hospital. You could see people pressed up against the windows, watching the movie. I asked my mother how could they hear without the little box that clipped onto the car window. She replied, “They don’t need to hear it.” I was, for some reason, horrified.
In my alternate reality, she and her “special friend” were routinely abusing me and my sister. My mother threatened that if I kept telling my “stories” about what was happening to me, she would send me to the soundless mental hospital forever. She had pretty complete control of me, physically, at that age, and I believed she was quite capable of sending me away.
The irony, of course, is that I probably would have been much better off in the mental hospital, considering what my mother and friend were doing to my mind over a three year period, without remorse or respite. So I grew up with a wild fear of “the mental hospital”, that it was where crazy people go who can’t hear the movie. My greatest fear until age 38 when I began much-needed therapy was that I was, in fact, crazy. As a dissociative person, crazy unexplainable things were always happening to me, and I could not tell anyone because it would confirm my fear. And worse, my mother would be right.
Gee thanks, mom.
Because of that fear I refused to try therapy until my situation was dire. I figured a good therapist would know “crazy” when he saw it. (And was later shocked to learn that a good therapist also knows “not crazy” when he sees it.) I went to great lengths to pretend to lead a normal life, but doing so made me internalize that I was a fraud. And nobody took me seriously when I said bizarre things like, “I’m really a very bad person. You don’t really know me.”
The truth is: some people in your life are never going “to get” what your life has been. Even knowing the whole story, as recently as a few years ago, a sympathetic — but not abused — family member said, “Why do you have to run to your therapist all the time? Why can’t you figure this stuff out by yourself by now?”
Deep breath. Count to 10. Or 200. But don’t be swayed.
You must fight for your wellness and your truth. I fought for it as a child by burying it deep inside till a safer day when I could reclaim it. Each of us still impacted by what happened in childhood, even after years of therapy, are doing the best we can. It’s kept us alive, which is no small thing. A remnant of hope still drives us. It will take as long as it takes.
Sometimes the process feels so very fragile that one more “why can’t you?” threatens to derail your progress. Don’t let it. Fight for your wellness, on your timetable.
And never give up fighting for your truth.