Please, stop with the shitty Mental Illness Awareness Campaigns

I feel a rant coming on. It’s…it’s welling up and through my loins and in to my gut. It’s coming up and in to my belly and up, up in to my chest. I’m heaving and my throat is…it’s bulging, and my face is reddening. I feel it! Here it comes! An explosion of keyboard warriorism, a long and drawn-out cathartic release from the maddening shackles of routine life and 9 to 5s and yes pleases and no thank yous and do you want a receipt with that?…Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh zoooooeeeee! Can’t…not…rant.
Jim Carrey
Aaaaaand scene. So do you want to hear my rant? Here it is: I’m getting frustrated with all the mental illness stigma mental health awareness campaigns on social media and in public.I mean, I know I’m in a foul mood today, but what a crock of horseshit. Puh-lease. But before I projectile vomit my dirty, defiling rant on to your face and neck sir, allow me a couple of quiet disclaimers that shall serve as napkins for you to dab yourself with in a moment.

First, I run my own mental health recovery group for young people. It has over 250 members. In this way, I am on the frontline of what good mental health recovery and awareness involves. I also read a shit-tonne of books on mental health recovery. I’m in the thick of the battle for good mental health, as they (probably) say.

Second, if you haven’t already heard the gossip around the water cooler, or passed the notes in class or, if by chance, this is your first reading of my blog, I’ve got the mental illness bug. I am one of them. It’s not contagious in any literal sense of course, but if I had kids, I’m sure I’d find a way to pass it on (see argument below). It’s called Complex PTSD, it’s what “I have” and it’s spiritually stinky. I’d say I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, but that’s a lie. I’m a vindictive prick sometimes – sorry in advance.

Third. I’m not saying that awareness around mental illness, and mental illness stigma, and mental health are bad things. Obviously they’re not, and when they’re done right, they help to enlighten people about the plight of the Other. But as I will at-times clumsily convey in this post, I do think that we need to take a harder look at ourselves before we attempt another half-arsed campaign.

Fourth and final napkin-of-sorts, I’ve been in multiple psych wards, as a patient and in the thick of it. So don’t talk to me about How Dare I Challenge a Good Thing. I been there, son, and I have the overpriced t-shirt, the matching pencil case, and the imaginary pink bicycle with tassles from the public hospital gift shop to prove it. OK?

With that out of the way, here goes. Brace yourselves. The majority of mental health awareness campaigns that I have come across, although well intended, are hypocritical and ineffective. They contribute to a “bigger picture problem” that few people are willing to look at. If we’re going to push for awareness around mental illness, start by looking at numero uno. Because the definition of mental illness, and the consequent target audience of such awareness campaigns can surely be broadened when we stop focusing on the “identified patients” and start looking at how we keep them sick in our addictive society, or by looking at how we, too are sick and in need of a hearty dose of recovery.

Addiction to alcohol and drugs found its way in to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, used by psychiatrists and psychologists and other health professionals to diagnose mental illnesses, some time ago now. But take a closer look at society and what it is addicted to – sugar, oil, caffeine, money, sex, relationships, power, even love, and the price we’re willing to pay to attain such things, and you start to wonder why the definition of mental illness is so narrowly defined. Why’s it only applied to the sickest of the sick? To be sure, I don’t know why. But it is. For now, I’ll leave the debate over the politics regarding how we define mental illness in the DSM to the deluded crooks who collude with insurance companies (Tsssss! Feel the burn!).

And for the record, please don’t get me wrong; I’m one of you. I’m certainly not holier than thou. I mean sometimes I’d love to be, but I’m not. I’m one of youse.

I’m just as messed up as youse guys.

I’ve got my share of addictions and they wreak havoc on my life all the same. But don’t tell me you don’t have any, please, because I’ll call your bullshit on it faster than a fat kid on a cupcake. In a general sort of way, I’m naming mine, which is more than I can say for the doctors who treat us, the lawyers who make our rules and the politicians who compulsively break these rules and then grin-fuck us for votes later.

tony you cuntThe whole notion of a sick and addicted society raises some serious-ass questions about denial, man. I’m not interested in getting all Greenpeace on people’s hides, but the reality is that we’re abusing the planet, too. This isn’t a new fact. We know now more than ever that our resources are finite, but we go about digging up stuff and manufacturing delicious foods well and truly beyond our means, with little pause for the implications on our future. Why? Because the pay off is way too overpowering to walk away from. And what is that if not addiction? What’s not sick about that?

The unmanageability of it is truly mind-boggling. But alas we continue to spiral in to self-destruction because it’s just what we do. Capitalism’s one helluva monstrous wheel, and it’s been spinning so long and so hard that a) none of us really know how to stop it b) most of us don’t want to stop it, and c) we’re afraid of what the world – and ourselves – will look like if we do stop it. And don’t get me started on the heartbreaking dullness that is beauracracy, and the ways in which it contributes to our collective descent. Give me a large fuck-off book o’ rules and regulations and I’ll gladly bludgeon a bureaucrat with it.*

The system is hopelessly collusive in our collective mental illness, and we’re all up to our ankles in it. Though some people are swimming in it, and others are drinking from its fountain. So why, then, if we’re all in it, is the focus so painfully focused on the individual in these campaigns to eradicate ignorance about mental illness? Aren’t we all a part of the problem? That doesn’t seem fair. I share the belief that the majority of mental illness derives from our collective inability to sit with and regulate our unpleasant feelings (and heck, even some of our pleasant feelings, too).

And we learned to regulate our feelings from families – families that pass their very own brand of diseased thinking and addicted patterns from one generation to the next like some dusty banner that hangs in the hallway of our familial consciousness. I think that in true, individualistic fashion, we’ve managed to convince ourselves that mental illness is an individual problem. Something that an individual possesses, and that an individual can and should get help for. The onus is on you (but not me) kinda thing. But just don’t look at the family system. Or the societal systems, or the cultural systems. And shit, don’t look at the medical systems or legal systems, or economic systems that cultivate these mentally ill individuals. That would be inappropriate, or irrelevant, or it would be to miss the point entirely. No. It’s much easier to point the finger and say “You’re unwell. You need help. You should take these pills. You should go to hospital. You’re sick.”

What bullshit. Forgive me for expressing rather passionately my distaste for the apparent hypocrisy. If you’d wagered that I was furiously punching the keyboard to get my message across as I typed just now, well sir, you’d have won your bet. And for those who find it easier to dismiss my anger as symptomatic of daddy issues, or mummy issues, or family issues, well duh. That’s almost the point of my argument. Create as much awareness as you like around mental illness, but unless you start looking at yourself and the system in which you grew up in, nothing will change. Yes, the individual is indeed sick. But the individual doesn’t get sick unless he’s grown into a sick family. Families, too, can’t raise sick children unless they’ve been forced to swallow false medicines from an addictive society and its sick systems.

The solution. As someone who identifies as a sometimes-realist, an opportunistic problem-solver, and a would-be policymaker, you can’t have a rant unless you have a solution to the problems you’ve announced. And the solution for me is simple. Look at yourself. Start asking yourself the questions you’ve been avoiding most of your life. Learn to sit with what comes up. And for fuck’s sake, start meditating and stop running. That’s all meditation is; it’s not running anymore. I double-dare you, because shit, I’m still learning to sit with myself too.

Ask yourself the hard-hitting questions, the ones you don’t want to ask yourself. And I challenge you to notice how long it takes before you pick up your phone and google some shitty picture of Mariah Carey, or go to the fridge for some cheesecake, or flick on the telly. It’s easier to numb out or ignore the hard questions than it is to sit with the uncertainty of asking, and the apparent unbearableness of not knowing the answers. But ask yourself. Otherwise we’ll continue to be bombarded by these well-intended-but-ill-thought-out mental health awareness campaigns that really only scratch the surface of what we need to be aware of. Heck, I’ll have to be bombarded by these crappy mental health awareness campaigns, and I’m over ’em. So please. Talk to people you trust about these questions. If you don’t have people you can trust, acknowledge this, and then start doing your research. Find your community, your people.

What are the questions? Start with these. 

  1. Do I eat to numb out? Do I notice certain circumstances that prelude my desire to eat foods that, in the quantities I consume them in, can lead to my ill-health? Do I eat them anyway?
  2. Do I pursue money at an impractical cost to my health? To my family? To my spirituality?
  3. Do I have something outside of myself that I can rely on, or do I trust  only myself? That is, do I have a spirituality that is benevolent, and for me?
  4. Do I drink too much? Or more than I’d like or can control?
  5. Do I isolate myself? Do I prefer my own company, with a fear of others, of intimacy, or of failure as the driving force?
  6. Do I use sex for comfort, when what I need is to acknowledge my powerlessness in a certain situation? Do I pay for sex, at a detriment to my finances? Do I accept sex when what I really want is love?
  7. Do I experience unmanageability over how I feel about other people? Over lovers?
  8. Do I give myself over to others – in small ways or large – and does this leave me feeling resentful? Cheated? Fragile? Defeated? Abused?
  9. Am I narcissistic? Is it all about me? When was the last time I asked somebody else how they were feeling, without expectation of a quid pro quo arrangement?
  10. Do I have expectations of myself? Of others? Of circumstances? And are they reasonable? Do I project on to others what I myself lacked in some way growing up, or even something that I lack now?
  11. What can’t I live without, and is this belief really true?
  12. Can I be honest with myself about how I feel about minority groups? About gays? Blacks? Arabs? Homeless people? Justin Bieber? People from a lower socioeconomic group? What do I really disapprove of in these people?
  13. Can I be truly honest with the people that I love, or do I hide how I feel for fear of rejection or abandonment? What do I do to quell these fears? Am I manipulative?
  14. What am I really afraid of? What am I terrified to lose?
  15. Am I comfortable with how I look in the mirror? Do I accept myself completely, or do I expect perfection?

    It’s largely true: the unexamined life is probably not worth living. And ignorance is not bliss – not at the expense of individual sanity and our collective prosperity.

    Deep breath in….And out. Thus endeth my at-times incoherent rant. I feel a little lighter now.

    *No, I won’t. I’m quite docile, really.


Thinkin’ Thoughts rather than Feelin’ Feelings

When I get agitated, I get stuck in my head. Oh, you do too? Not like me, I bet. I ruminate. In fact, so good am I at not feeling my feelings, and so competent am I at launching in to my head to avoid said feelings, I’ve literally been diagnosed with OCD by a psychiatrist in the past. Not recently, but, you know, in the past. (So I win.)

Crazy, huh? I coined a phrase that aptly describes this inner phenomenon: I’d rather think my thoughts than feel my feelings. Pretty good, ay? Catchy. I mean I’m pretty sure it’s my phrase. I haven’t heard anybody else use it before. Can I get that copyrighted? Thanks. It’s officially mine.

“I’d rather think my thoughts than feelings my feelings”
– Daniel, from Me, you and the critics in my head

james dean crying
What might happen if I feel my feelings, dramatised by notorious weeper, James Dean.

Naturally, I like this saying because it rings very true; it’s very me. Quintessentially Daniel. I get so caught up in how I am going to manage my circumstances, whatever they happen to be at the time, that I forget (or make an unconscious decision) not to feel my feelings. It doesn’t work very well for me, truth be told.

As you might have guessed, my knowledgeable, omnipotent, and few-and-far-between Readers, herein lays the unmanageability. I don’t like my unpleasant feelings. Fear. Resentment towards self. Resentment towards others. Uncertainty – which, by the way, manifests at times as liquefied shit, a feeling of nausea in my stomach, or just plain old irritability and agitation, felt everywhere from my neck to my face to my back to groin. It’s enough to make you crazy. These sensations are my feelings, and goddammit they don’t feel good. And I want to feel good all the time. I want certainty and clarity and I want prosperity without any of the hard work those idiot successful people talk about. I want a no-risk, win-win situation. Is that too much to ask?

All delusions aside, I do find myself coming back to some pertinent and seemingly urgent questions. When the fuck’s it going to be my turn to get ahead in this shitty life? When’s it my turn to be prosperous? Such are the anxious and frustrated ramblings of my at-times incoherent head. Such are the thoughts, too, that cleverly mask the funky feelings in my body. They’re not pleasant feelings, so why feel them? To my unwell-at-times mind, it makes perfect sense not to go near my feelings. It’s airtight logic – how could it be wrong? Don’t like it? Don’t touch it! Easy.

The only problem with this logic is that it’s the same goddamn logic that’s kept me very, very unwell these last 29-odd years. If I don’t feel my feelings, then I don’t have an accurate gauge of who I am. Without feelings, I have no compass to navigate my internal world – or my external world. Without my feelings, I’m lost. And without my feelings, I’m only a few clicks away from turning in to Dexter Morgan, ridiculously fit, good-looking in an understated, nerdy-kind-of-way serial killer. Except he seems more well-adjusted than me…
OK, not really. Although sometimes I just don’t know. What’s wrong with not feeling your feelings?! Says my Sicker Self. Well, a lot, Mr. Daniel, if I may. It’s important for me to know what I’m feeling. They keep me safe from danger and they let me know when shit ain’t right. My feelings, when expressed appropriately and in a healthy way to my loved-and-liked ones, help me stay connected to other people. And staying connected is crucial to my recovery. I would say it’s one of my values. Yeah, it’s one of my values. Let’s go with that.

Enter, though, my fear of intimacy with others. That flaming queen, Oscar Wilde, once said that he could resist anything but temptation. Likewise, I have a tendency to proclaim that I value intimacy and connectedness to others – but just so long as you don’t take another fucking step closer to me. That’s my version of intimacy, I say proudly and while smiling.

“I can resist anything but temptation” – Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, poet, and flaming queen.

But it doesn’t really work well, this approach, when it comes to friends and relationships. Demanding intimacy while at the same time dialing triple zero as others approach me makes for a very awkward, confusing dance. I’m sure it’s comical to watch…. But, no. It is a great thing, then, that I’ve developed some good friendships with people who can relate to this predicament. Or as Oprah might call it, fear of intimacy. In 12 step programs it’s called emotional anorexia. I can identify with that.

Anyway, what were we discussing? Pizza? No – wait. Emotions? Ergh. Emotions. OK. I’ve been doing it tough with emotions lately. On the one hand my recovery hinges on my practicing feeling my emotions. On the other hand my recovery also hinges on recognizing when my emotions are becoming overpowering, and when it’s appropriate for me to self-soothe appropriately. You know, make phone calls, meditate, pray, do tapping, do havening, do body scans, etc. (Not booze or sex it up, or ruminate or numb out with pizza or any other mood-altering drugs, like ice-cream or binge-watching Game of Thrones, which is a very effective way to numb out, I’ve discovered).

Feelings. Let’s talk about them, then. With my contract ending in February, I’m feeling threatened. I feel like my recovery is being threatened. And my sanity. And it feels as though where I live is also under attack, too, because how in hell will I afford this lovely apartment without a job? Am I well enough to apply for and work a job that is more mentally challenging without the fear of another terrifying flashback?

I don’t know. I’m sick and tired of not knowing. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. It’s draining, and it’s not fair. But what can I do but keep working at it? Language is important here, too. The words I use to evaluate my circumstances are important. So I’m writing this post today not to preach about recovery, although that can be very fun. I’m reminding myself to take little steps. Teeny, weeny, itty bitty baby steps.

And I’m reminding myself to have faith. And courage. And to stay connected to myself and to others through writing about it, and talking about it, and complaining (in moderation) to others about how unfair it all is. These are the pillars of my recovery, the tools for success, that will see me through to the other side of this unpleasant shit-storm.

2015 in a nutshell

“Oh no, look at me, I’m in a nutshell!” No, but seriously. Here’s how my blog is tracking. Neat trick, wordpress, neat trick. 

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 17 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

6 ways to Self-Love during the Silly Season

With the holidays well and truly here, many people (like myself) can find it difficult to stay positive. Yes, Christmas can be fun. It’s filled with presents and family and delicious food and bulging bellies and arguments from yesteryear and inappropriate jokes made by your uncle about ginger-haired people that make you grimace. Good times. Fun times.

But it can also be a time of stress, worry, exclusion, and isolation. Christmas can be a reminder of how imperfect your family was growing up, or of how disappointing life has turned out, relative to our expectations. The incongruence is simultaneously felt between what was, what is, and  what could or should have been. Often, we have fall outs, or perhaps we make a conscious choice to steer clear of family to avoid bringing up old hurts, or simply to protect ourselves. And that’s OK. It’s our right to protect ourselves from the toxicity of others.

But what to do over the holiday period when hanging out with your family is simply not an option? Ah, well! That’s why I made this list. Let’s start with something obvious.

  1. Volunteer. Said everyone who ever got asked what to do over the Christmas period. Why’s it obvious, though? Because it’s easy to get bummed out and bitch about what you don’t have during the festive season, and to forget what you do have. Volunteering is a great way to remind yourself that you might actually have it pretty sweet. Got a roof over your head? Tick. Got enough income to pay for food and bills and rent? Tick, tick, tick. You’re doin’ better than you thought. Volunteering’s a great way to be reminded of this.
  2. Get some friends together and do your own thang. Oh, you thought you were the only one with a dysfunctional family? Guess again. It’s likely you have at least one other friend trying their darndest to avoid their family this festive season. If you’re blessed enough to have one of these people in your life, now’s the time to bond. Where is it written that you have to do the family thing and the turkey and the presents and the panic attacks while singing christmas carols with distant relos? We forget that, as adults, we can make our own rules, and create new traditions. And isn’t that just fucking fantastic?  Hallelujah, indeed.But what to do with your friend on xmas day? Well, I’m a movie geek, so I always opt for the movie marathon. Get your friends together and pick a theme. Do you have a penchant for laugh-out-louds? Pick your favourite comedies and binge on ’em! Or do you got a thing for a bit of gangster violence? Get some Scorsese and Tarantino in to you. This year on boxing Day I’ll be watching back to back Monty Python movies with some mates at the local cinema. I really am a lucky bastard!life_brian_dungeon
  1. Travel. Go on, get out of town. Scam. Be gone! You deserve it. Sometimes our holiday hurts aren’t just familial, they’re geographical too. Given this, it makes perfect sense to skip town until the festive season has simmered down. The pros to this are of course that you get to meet new people, try new foods, and see new sights – even if it’s just in the next city or suburb over. Who knows? Maybe the lettuce tastes a little different in the Frankston Subway than it does in your neck of the woods. Changing it up, meeting new people and placing ourselves in novel situations are all good things for our routine-obsessed brains. What’s that saying? Variety is the spice of life? Mix it up.
  2. Go on a meditation retreat. From time to time, I harp on about meditation on my blog. Why? Because it’s good for you. Many of the biggest and most successful people in the world were meditators. Ghandi, Jesus, Ozzy Osborne (probably). When you have a mental illness it can be tough to sit with intense feelings during the holiday period though, so you may want to find a retreat to do with a friend rather than by yourself. And if the thought of sitting by yourself meditating over the holiday season bores the shit out of you, what activities do you currently do mindlessly that you can instead do mindfully? It’s good to start simple.
  3. Treat yourself. Because you’re worth it. At least L’Oreal got that right. Or maybe it was it Maybelline? Who cares. The point is that if you’re not going to get that festive fix from your family this holiday season, it’s perfectly fine to give it to yourself. Obviously, most of us have to work within a budget, so it pays to be mindful of your fiscal situation. But it doesn’t have to be a colossal spending spree. If you enjoy going to the movies, why not treat yourself to a movie or two? And some popcorn and a soda big enough to drown in? Or if you’re a foodie, why not take yourself to a fancy restaurant and just enjoy it? Have you ever taken yourself out to dinner? They say you can’t have a relationship with someone else until you’ve established a relationship with yourself. So – dinner date? Table for one, thanks.
  4. Be gentle with yourself. Really. Because it’s very likely that the way we treat ourselves over the Christmas period –abusively, full of self-reproach, self-loathing and self-destruction – are behavioural echoes of how we were once treated as children by the people who were supposed to show us unconditional positive regard. Recovery doesn’t happen by repeating the behaviours we learned from our troubled pasts; it occurs by breaking the cycle, and by replacing such behaviours with positive, life-affirming ones. In this light, perhaps it’s easier to go easy on ourselves this holiday season, and let ourselves off the hook and show some (or a lot of) self-love.

Take care and go easy on yourself these holidays!


Mindfulness amidst the Storm.

I suspect my computer is slowly dying. It has these weird spasms in the form of a glitchy white line across the top of the screen. Great. Just fucking great, I think to myself. A part of me believes that it’s all coming to a head. Job’s drying up; lease ends in February (which means I have to inform my landlord of my decision to renew or get the fuck outta there); I’ve been grinding my teeth mercilessly in my sleep (and even with the support of a splint, my teeth are starting to wear) … and now my fucking computer could be dying.

Just. Fucking. Great. What does a wiser soul do in these situations? Someone tell me. Please. Because every fiber of my being wants me to panic. Let loose, cut sick and go nuts – give up on recovery and pack up shop here in Melbourne and travel again. But not in some romantic, Jack Kerouac adventurist kind of way. More like a compulsive escape from reality and escape from adult responsibility kinda way. You know, put my life and the pursuit of meaningful work on hold? Go in to fantasy? Be anonymous and do anonymous things with anonymous people? Yeah… It feels relaxing just thinking about it. Be a vagabond just to forget the pain of my apparent transience.

But I know I can’t do that. I know that the best thing for me right now is to just…. Fucking sit with it. I say it with a sigh as I write it, and the word shit escapes my mouth. Fuck, too. Back stooped and irritated with this uncomfortable life juncture, I feel pissed awf. Because sitting with uncertainty is hard, don’t you know? And nobody ever fucking taught me to sit with feelings.

Feel-scared-get-yelled-at. Feel-angry-get-smacked. Feel-sad-what-are-you-crying-for. I’d say I got an ‘F’ in Emotional Literacy 101 when I was a wee lad, but that would imply that my parents actually enrolled me in the fucking class, which they didn’t. My father would have denied the relevance of learning about feelings with the same fervor as some dopey deep-South parent who refuses to let their goofy kid attend classes on the Theory of Evolution.

So now adrenaline pumps in to my stomach at the prospect of having to work another crappy job and live in another shitty share house as I lie in bed. My brain is scattered, but I can make out the message it’s sending to my body clearly: “Fucking run, you fool!”

But instead I just lie here. I try to focus on where I am and how I am experiencing this message in my body. Actually, my neck’s kinda tight. My stomach is in knots, which probably has something to do with the fact that I’m tensing it, huh? I consciously un-tense, and the pain of uncertainty slowly starts to fill the space instead. My back hurts. And my jaw feels locked. I oscillate between allowing myself to feel the physical discomfort of insecurity, and tightening. Meanwhile, my faithful fantasy-riddled mind schemes ways to avoid, avoid, avoid, damn you!

Instead, I notice the creamy white walls of my bedroom and the cracks in the ceiling. My wardrobe door is open, so I explore the contours and contrasts of black shadows and yellowy-white wooden doors that house the clothing of a 20-something drifter with a penchant for collecting books and not reading them in their entirety. I tell myself loving sweet nothings, tell myself it will be OK, no matter what happens.

And this is a hard act to swallow when you’re in a state of panic and when you believe, truly, that nothing is OK and that things might turn out like “last time” – some vague mish mash period of time half-remembered and half dreamed up, and that’s not been properly integrated in to my story of myself. Hard as it is, though, my current act is a more tiring one to maintain: running and avoiding and denying my feelings and myself. I’m done with that. So today I say “Fuck you, Fear!” and I make the decision to do nothing. In bed, between the rock and the hard place, I find that this takes up most of my energy, and for today I’m cool with that.

Constipated Hanks and the Mini-Breakthrough

I’ve had a mild breakthrough in the last few days. Or maybe it’s a big breakthrough? I’ve been feeling the lows, don’t get me wrong. And the anxiety-induced highs that come with the acceptance of an uncertain future, too. But something in me has changed. I felt it shortly after an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) session with my psychologist. At the time I was watching Spielberg’s delightfully intriguing and naturally well-done Bridge of Spies – you know, the one where Tom Hanks looks constipated about 86% of the time? (I love you, Tom Hanks. Sorry for the dig).


I came in to the movie late because I insisted on purchasing lunch beforehand. And so immediately prior to my mild awakening I sat in a darkened theatre room, munching on dim sims and a sausage roll simultaneously – much to the dismay of my fellow moviegoers. If they could have seen the apologetic look on my soy-and-tomato-sauce stained face, I’m sure they’d have been forgiving. Or disdainful. But alas, I digress.
Something in me changed. I felt it. I couldn’t be sure what it was, but it was something. Something clicked over. Quick and subtle and barely perceivable, but it happened. Am I cured of my complex PTSD? Ha! The thought of a rookie in recovery. No, not cured. I know I’m not, because I continue to be triggered in to flashbacks, experiencing the same thoughts as before this mild awakening.
But the feelings that accompany the distressing thoughts…they’ve changed. Or maybe it’s my evaluation of them. The feelings are still felt as an intense energy, a force. But they’re not life-threatening. “But they never were! Feelings can’t kill you! I hear you say with mild amusement. Well, no, feelings can’t kill you. But the traumatic circumstances that led to the intense feelings for the C-PTSD sufferer could have, perhaps. So the feelings were a memory of a more life-threatning chapter in a very old book.

But now, something has changed. I find myself waking up in the morning, my Fear Brain kicking wildly at the ghosts of trauma past. Though now, my rational, heaven-sent higher consciousness takes over shortly after, scanning the room calmly to remind me that I’m safe. “It’s Here and Now, and you’re free from the past,” it whispers to me as I fall back down to earth from the dizzying heights of anxiety.

One of the many gifts of hard work in recovery, I suppose. My advice if you’re still struggling with mental illness? Keep going. Perhaps there’s no foreseeable cure, but it is a universal law that if you work hard, you’ll reap the rewards. Maybe not right away, but you will. Winston Churchill was right when he said, “If you’re going though hell, keep going.”

Onwards and upwards!


Hope is a four-letter word.

Hope, they say, is a four-letter word. Or maybe they don’t say that, I’m not sure. It is a fact, though. H-O-P-E . 1, 2, 3… Yep. I spoke to a mate yesterday and he applauded me for the hard work I have been pouring in to my own recovery over the last year.

“I hope it pays off,” I said with some trepidation. Visits with a trauma specialist (that ain’t cheap), daily yoga in the morning along with a quick read from my meditation book, catching up with and calling friends regularly to check in with my emotions, running my own mental health support group, exercise, maintaining a part-time job.

This stuff isn’t easy for people who live with complex PTSD. And it requires a great deal of faith, too. Faith that you’re putting in enough time and hard work to see results that you want to see. But there’s a fine line between faith and expectation. I gotta keep a close eye on my expectations; they’re not always rooted in reality.

Doing something just because I want a result, you know? Not an uncommon phenomenon. The abovementioned routines I engage in are worthwhile simply because they’re good for me in the moment. Regardless of circumstance, I need to keep doing them. My old life can be characterised by inaction and self-destructive habits. But not my new life of recovery.

It may take time to reap the long-term benefits of these routines – such as maintaining a sense of calm when starting a new job rather than being flooded by flashbacks that result in my compulsion to quit. Or pursuing a job that genuinely taps in to my passion and feeds my curiosity and creativity – and that pays butt-loads.

But I know that I need to love myself, with all my faults and all my ailments, now. Not some magical time in the future when things are all better – that’s my fantasy rearing its head – but now. So my hope for today is that I can be gentle with myself in spite of the approaching uncertainty in my life (because life will be always be uncertain).

Here’s to hope and positive action in recovery!