Part of what drives my ideas is that I see the need for change. I see the need for a new dynamic in the way we treat mental illness. When I say this, I am not speaking as someone with a degree or as a healthcare professional.
No, I am speaking as a person with boots on the ground. I am saying this as someone who is working my way up from the bottom and as a means to improve my life, I am writing this to you as someone with my own scars and challenges.
I am writing this as a person with my own stressors and disorders. As well, I am writing this on a person to person level. As such, I say there’s a need to switch our focus from symptom-based programs to solution-based plans and strategies.
I have heard people say they agree with me on this. I have heard professionals say that this is happening, which I say is good. Then again, I have listened to facility owners and care-givers at treatment programs who defend their agenda.
I have sat in different classes and training seminars that discussed the various treatment models and approaches to mental health disorders. I looked around at the different people in the room. I saw people from all different races and ages, backgrounds and cultures. I say this is a good thing. I also say that mental health is a universal need, which means things like anxiety disorder, depression or any disorder for that matter is a worldwide issue.
It is interesting to see people react to information. Above all, it is interesting to see when people learn actual statistics.
As a person who lives with my own disorders, I have the need to find a common bond. As it is, there’s already too much division in our world. There are too many opinions and too many arguments. I want to create a better conversation, one that is solution based and person-centered.
I think about the average ignorance and the know-it-alls and the people who feed stigma. I think about common treatment plans and wellness strategies that claim “This way is the only way!” because for them, theirs is a financial benefit. Or, for those who found hope, if their way doesn’t work for you it must be because you are “constitutionally incapable” (or so I’ve heard) and any other way is simply wrong or easier and softer.
But this is not true.
There are so many factors that impact us as individuals. This is why rather than treat people with a “one-size-fits-all” fixation, it would be more successful if we encounter each person on a unique and individual basis.
Meanwhile, there is so much that needs to be done. There’s more to do and more to learn. First and foremost, people need to work together. We have to stop canceling out ideas simply because they oppose or disagree with ours. For the record, I have sat in meetings with professionals who argue about their position as if their way was a reflection upon them. Anything or anyone opposed was either wrong or just an idiot.
And sure, I have this thing called life too. We all do. I understand what depression means to me. I know about my fear. I know what anxiety feels like in my body.
I know what helps me. However, this does not mean that what works for me will work for everybody else. This does not mean I can corner the market or tell the world how “I’ve figured it out.” As I see it, instead of being right all the time, why not create a plan that is right for the individual?
In any case, I’d rather not argue anymore. I’d rather not talk. I’d rather work. Or wait, no, I’d rather work together. I’d rather look to connect with people, faults and disagreements aside, and create a better, comprehensive approach to personal recovery. I want this because according to statistics, avoidable deaths are on the rise, not the decline.
It seems to me that we argue too often and debate too much.
I see this machine of ours as an imperfect one. Then again, the world is an imperfect place and we are imperfect people. I admit to my contributions to ignorant and uneducated ideas. I admit to my part and my contributions to stigma-based assumptions and bias. However, I also openly confront the need to educate myself and improve. Furthermore, I offer this as a person who wants to improve for several reasons.
I had to put away my connections and rid myself of the various mechanics that promoted suicide traps and glorified death machines. I needed to step away from the needle-in, plunger down conversations. I had to wipe away my old ways of thinking to encounter new solutions. Otherwise, I would be no different from the opinionated ones who I’ve condemned.
I had to adjust myself, honestly, but more than the simple changes I made in myself, I had to both adjust and accept that my way of thinking belongs to me. There are countless ways to live. There are millions of pathways to improve. And for me, the pathway that I’ve chosen is one that fits me best.
A long time ago, someone told me that I was going to die unless I went to certain meetings. However, this came from a person who was told this by someone else. I was told that this was the only way that I would live my life both sober and successfully. Respectfully, I disagree.
I was handed down a list of trained opinions, which is not to say that there was no evidence. However, there is also evidence that certain methods and treatment modalities are not meant for everyone.
I think about the education that I’ve gained. I think about the riddles of self-doubt and the improvements that come from self-care. I think about the biases and the assumptions we have about each other and not one of us understands what the human touch feels like from someone else’s hand.
I cannot say what the color red looks like to you nor do I understand what your interpretation of the rainbow looks like. Therefore, if I cannot see or feel a person’s joy as they do; and if this is so, then nor can I experience the pains or desperation of someone to the exact same degree.
We might relate. We might understand but still, no one shares my sight; therefore, no one shares my physical or mental sensations.
One of the most empowering features of our interpersonal connections is to allow a person to be themselves without forcing them or shaping them into a mold. It is certainly more empowering and helpful to celebrate a person for who they are.
Or better yet, rather than argue or dispute a person’s thoughts on their life, why not listen? Why not encourage a person to come to their own realization? Why not allow people the dignity to find their own conclusion?
I have listened to people discuss the success factors of different treatment modalities or self-help programs. For example, there are people who I’ve known in 12-step groups who have suffered and struggled and tried to fit the program. But for them, something didn’t click.
Now, I have been told different statistics about 12-step programs. For example, I was told that one out of 32 people make it in sobriety. Then I was told that this wasn’t true.
I was told numbers that range from 27% of people who stay sober for less than a year and 24% of 12-step members remain sober between one and 5 years. (I know this because I have it written down but please forgive me because I cannot seem to note or find the sources.)
I was told that 13% stay sober between 5 and 10 years and 14% are sober between 10 and 20 years with 22% of 12-step members who stay sober for 20 years or more. I was also told the average 12-step sobriety or “clean-time” is 10 years.
These are numbers that I’ve heard and, in fairness, I am not sure where these statistics come from nor can I say these numbers have been proven to be accurate. But for this entry, let’s take these numbers and keep them at face value. Let’s say these are actual statistics. Okay, fine.
If a doctor was about to perform open-heart surgery on you or a loved one and the above statistics were the surgeon’s success rating, would you let that surgeon near you or someone you love?
Of course not.
We want 100% success but this is not realistic. Then again, our improvements could (and would) be enhanced if we were treated as unique individuals and supported with different means instead of a one-size-fits-all modality.
So, what’s the point? Why am I saying any of this to you?
My reason is simple. I am not sure what works best for you or anyone else. I only know what does and does not work for me. I know that we have been treating mental health disorders the same way for a very long time and we tell people the definition of insanity is doing something the same way, again and again, and expecting different results.
I say there’s a need for change. I say that we have to improve and we can improve if we stop arguing and fighting about whose way is the best way or the only way.
There are several different paths to personal improvement. Whether this is from a personal perspective or professional, there are countless ways for you to reach your best level of potential.
Our job is to find the way that works best for us. If we are honest about this and truly work at it, nothing can stop us. (We’re on our way up!)