So today I was talking with my therapist, and he asked me why I wanted to be in the mental health field, and what I thought I would like to do if I had my choice. It was kind of an awkward situation, but I managed to put together an answer, and I thought I would try to replicate it here.
Mostly, I wanted to be able to interact people who are going through a tough time with mental illness. I know that my own story isn’t the worst or most terrifying, but it does involve 14 years of depression and two suicide attempts, and being able to talk to other people who had similar issues was extremely helpful. I think one of the worst parts of suffering from mental illness is the nagging sensation that I was doing it all on my own. That’s part of the reason that group psychology was the group I felt was most helpful at Menninger – because people were telling their stories, and trusting the others in the room, and that made others felt like they could tell theirs too – and letting that burden go, and sharing that loneliness, helped to lessen it.
I think it’s the stigma of mental illness that makes that happen, because I knew, rationally, that I wasn’t the only person suffering. But I was the only person I really knew who had been through serious treatment, and so it always felt like somehow I was alone in my treatment. It wasn’t until coming to Menninger that the groups we had there made me feel a connection wit other people who had similar issues, and realize that if they could manage their issues, I could manage mine, as well.
I want to be able to share my story, and as well as my story, I want to be able to share my experience with the recovery process. I want to be able to help others realize that not being alone is a powerful thing, and that the social network, the sense of community, that creates can be very helpful. Just because I can work to get where I am doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone with mental issues can, or that they can use the same methods, but it is being able to show people who are suffering that they can direct their own recovery and take charge of things in their lives, and possibly show others at least one or two ways to work towards that recovery, seems important.
Really, though, I think it’s just important to let people suffering know that there is strength in numbers, and they are not alone,