Me and My Big Mouth.

Firstly, apologies to my hordes of adoring fans for not posting anything over the Christmas and New Year period. I'm afraid, once again, that putting finger to keyboard seemed to become a burdensome task, fraught with anxieties about what to, or what not to, write.
So, this time, instead of writing about writing, as I've done before when inspiration failed me, I thought I'd talk about... talking; for talking, particularly in terms of mental health, seems a matter of extreme importance.
For instance, I can personally attest to the therapeutic value of opening up and talking about one's feelings, instead of locking them away and allowing them to fester. After many years of failing to communicate my thoughts and feelings successfully, I think I finally began to express my frustrations in a more productive way, simply by saying what was on my mind. I don't think it's any mystery or mistake that the condition of my mind significantly improved as I did this. Indeed, if anything these days, I may have developed a tendency to talk about things too much. I think there's much to be said for the occasional brooding silence. I mean, who would really want to be close to someone who continually felt the need to express their innermost hang-ups? But I suppose that's exactly what I sometimes do in this blog. So, my question is, does there come a time when talking about one's feelings can become unproductive, or "un-therapeutic"? Could me and my big mouth, as it were, lead me into darker, rather than lighter, psychological waters?
If the experience of one of my friends is anything to go by, then perhaps so. After many years of having a mental illness, he was offered a course of talking therapy at the psychology department of our local psychiatric hospital. After a few sessions, it seems that he found many painful experiences and memories being dredged up, which, together with being weaned off his medication, resulted in him having a really quite severe bout of depression. In that instance, then, talking about things certainly didn't help.
However, we all know that being open about having a mental illness is important in the fight to alleviate stigma. Talking about mental health publicly and candidly seems to have greatly aided this cause, and anti-stigma organisations like "Time to Change" have consistently encouraged people to speak about their illnesses, to have conversations about them, and finally dispel some of the myths and taboos which surround mental ill health.       
Also, as anyone who reads this blog will know, I've had a long-term mental illness which has involved periods of psychosis. The treatment of such disorders seems to be influenced by what I believe is termed the "biomedical model", where chemical imbalances in the brain are viewed as the main cause of illness. The approach of most psychiatrists then seems to be to medicate first, and ask questions later. Indeed, in my own treatment, although I was once offered a course of CBT, this has mostly been the case, and it would seem that many psychiatrists would view talking, when in the throes of such experiences, as not particularly helpful. However, in some other countries, various talking therapies and psychological interventions have been tried with, it seems, some success, reducing the need for anti-psychotic medication. So, could it be that talking about one's problems, even when in a psychotic state, might actually be good for you?
All I can say is, is that talking about one's issues might go some way to helping alleviate them, and it's certainly the case that openness about mental health in general aids the anti-stigma cause. I think it's just when talking about things which are perhaps very painful that the opposite can happen. We are all, it seems, taught of the need to remember and be open about painful things. Here I'm thinking particularly in historical terms, where our need to collectively remember the horrors of the past goes some to way to helping us not repeat them, or so it is at least hoped. However, I'm often minded to think of the end of Toni Morrison's novel, "Beloved", which tackled the enormous evil of slavery. The conclusion which appears to be drawn at the end of that book is that, sometimes, "remembering seems unwise", and that maybe some things are just so painful that they are not "stories to pass on". For those with experience of mental ill health, I think this has echoes of truth.                  

Comments

Dixie@dcrelief said…
Hi David.
This is quite the powerful post, you have. I feel as if I'd had a conversation, and it included lots of things I've thought about. Things I may have shared with a medical professional, on my blog, or with a special friend of two.

One such sharing with the medical professional ended with being placed on a medication that worsened the problem. Today I attribute that 'gross error' to the fact that this person did not 'hear me.' (As you may have experienced, some listen but do not hear. They may only hear 'their' thoughts, arriving at conclusions based on their past experiences with others. This I think is a very serious problem in the whole professionalism of psychiatry.) Ironically it took another, 'listening' professional' to right the mistake... some four years later!

I still post personal thoughts on my blog, but have learned to receive comments, tongue-in-cheek. I no longer assume that everyone or anyone understands. It is important enough that I do. That is key to my blog location of a 'talk' atmosphere. There have been times I posted, only to return and delete it. It may have nothing to do with any forthcoming comments, but more to do with - am I ready to see this in print?

I've purposely left, 'sharing with a special friend or two,' last, even when it is the best choice for me, today. They are my 'go-to' people who are great listeners. They generously allow me time to 'here my own voice.' Where am I with a certain issue? Where do I want to go? What outline of actions will it take to motivate my acceptance of 'something' and move with it? (Sometimes I am not ready to move past it... but that outline does make it appear closer to being resolved.)

If I have correctly interpreted your 'talking' today, then there's a chance I have moved closer to resolving another issue... that of understanding what you (or anyone else shares) and finding some ground on which to share what has worked for me. I wish you well with all endeavors! There is a method that works, and we may have to use trial and error to get there, but we do arrive.

Most sincerely,
David said…
Hi Dixie,
Thanks for your comment, and also apologies for not getting back to you over Christmas and the New Year.
I'm happy to hear that you've at last resolved the issue of being put on the wrong medication, and that you have friends that you can share things with, as well as your blog where you can air your thoughts. As you seem to be saying yourself, then, it's usually good to talk things out. I guess that the question I was posing in my post was, "can talking about things which are very painful actually be unproductive?" I think the answer is that sometimes, yes it can. Having said that, I hope that you and I will keep on talking to each other via blogland!
Very Best Wishes to you Dixie,
your blogging pal,
David.
Dixie@dcrelief said…
Oh David! This is so funny and ironic - I'll explain after I answer the question you posed, because if I explain now... I'll make the same boo-boo.(smile)

You wrote: ["I guess that the question I was posing in my post was, "can talking about things which are very painful actually be unproductive?" I think the answer is that sometimes, yes it can. ]

By all means, yes, it can be unproductive, when it doesn't help you. (There are times it might help another, but in recovery it is best, I think, to keep the focus on what the individual needs, for healing.) As example, there was a topic I thought might help me resolve an 'issue', but the psychiatrist thought otherwise. I challenged his thought, and visited another professional. By the second meeting I realized why the psy had said what he'd said. There was not going to be some miraculous happy closure on this issue I had. No matter who I spoke with, professional or otherwise, it was not going to happen... at least not in the way I thought it could.

I'm reminded of a quote from the rooms of recovery... regarding the 'definition of insanity.' I'm told that, "insanity it doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results." That 'doing' for me was the constant verbalizing on the issue that would always be in my background. Always. It hadn't made me a terrible person. In fact maybe, because of it, I could have more understanding of others' pain regarding unresolved pain. It almost seemed like, the more I embraced it - this past - the more love I was able to have for myself. Quite by accident I discovered that I would often broach the issue with others... maybe I just wanted to talk about it once again. It became the whip I beat myself with...ouch! Geez, was I somehow enjoying the self-torture? In the end to embrace it, was to embrace me. So I hope this gives my 'opinion' on your question.

Funny and ironic, though - where does that come in? I've always had a 'popcorn brain,' and linear thinking was a few paragraphs away! Fibro assists greatly with this 'gift'. So I try to hang a wordpad blank page to take notes when reading other people's blogs. It helps me to organize how I will answer... and hopefully appear linear in thinking. So when I finished my notes, and response to you, I copied and pasted it into your comment box. Done and moving on...

Imagine my surprise when I went to post my "Groundhog Day" blog, and there was this paragraph that made no sense? It seemed to be on the subject of 'talking and when it's unproductive'... what? Oh dear. I returned here and saw your response. As you may know, the "Groundhog Day" movie is about a series of events that keep repeating...

Thanks, David for allowing this second comment of mine. I hope you get a chuckle out of this too. I'm still laughing. Thank you for your kindness.

Most Sincerely,
Dixie
David said…
Hi Dixie,
Apologies for taking so long to respond to your second comment - I feel lucky to have two!
I think I follow what you're saying - that embracing the pain of past events can help you become a more caring person. I hope I have that right? If so, then I'd definitely agree. I do think, though, that it's not good to wallow in those events, because they can drag you under. Once you've reached the nadir, hopefully there's only one way to go, and that's up!
Thanks Dixie, and I did have a little chuckle at you blogging faux pas!
Best Wishes,
David.

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