Feeling alone and isolated, a 16 year old girl came up with an idea that would change the dynamics between those with mental illnesses and their supporters. At the time she disclosed her story to me, she did not have a great deal of self-insight or education. She believed many myths rather than facts regarding her mental illness. A side effect was that she didn’t really know what was okay to believe, how to be true to herself, and that others felt the same way she did. She had never told anyone about this idea because she was ashamed of it, thinking it was disloyal or wrong to feel the way she did. This is her heart-felt cry to be understood.
Her elegant solution to feelings of isolation, misunderstanding, and stigma would be to exchange brains and experiences with your supporter for just one day. The upside of this exercise would be to open up whole new vistas on each other’s perception of the world. Conversely, it may very well be the hardest emotional work you would ever do . Would you do it?
Imagine the insight this would foster. Supporters would understand what it means to have life impacted so devastatingly or consistently, or why things are the way they are. In the meantime, you would finally be able to understand what it means to be ‘normal’, symptom free, and without the feeling of always being on the outside. You would gain insight into your supporters needs as well. This mutual experience would enable you and your supporter to ‘get each other’.
Realistically, the best tool we have is communication. We should not hope against hope one or both of you is a mind-reader. We don’t have to exchange brains to work to understand each other. Speaking about expectations, setting boundaries, and preparing action plans in calm times that can be implemented in times if trial ultimately contribute to stability.
The goal in life should not be to just passively endure it, but to grow as well. The time will pass anyway, make something of it.