I’m reading, ‘Chasing the Scream,’ by Johann Hari. It explores addiction. It asks some thought-provoking questions and it reminds me of the commonality between living with mental health issues and living with addiction.
Addiction rarely visits alone. It brings friends to the party, friends that increase the sense of social isolation and foster anxiety, self-recrimination and depression. Anyone with a label suffers in our society. They are immediately set apart and seen as different. People react differently towards them as they rumble around in a system created by society which often dis-empowers them.
I believe that any illness is a bi-product of the society in which we live.
It’s a social issue that belongs to all of us. But many believe that it is a pharmacological dependence or a chemical imbalance. Mental illness and addiction share the same roots:
- unresolved childhood trauma
- social isolation
They are by no means the only players but they run through the veins of people living with mental health issues including addiction.
I’m reflecting on my adolescent years with anorexia; why did I choose that experience? Did I undergo childhood trauma? A bit. Doesn’t everyone? Did I passively absorb some of my parent’s traumatic war experiences? Maybe. They shielded me as well as the could. Was marginalisation an issue? Maybe, a first-generation Australian growing up in an middle class Anglo world might have played a small part. Was it social isolation? Not in the beginning but my preoccupation with my inner world led me down that path.
I consider myself extremely lucky. My parents showed my unwavering love during my struggle. In the 70’s the diagnosis wasn’t common, so they had limited knowledge and therapy options. Faced daily with my diminishing frame and ritualistic behaviour they made the choice not to:
- or coerce me.
It must have been incredibly difficult to sustain. I’m sure they met their demons, terror leaching at heir resolve, wondering if and when it would all stop. But they gave me the biggest gift of all: unconditional love.
Hari explores different models of treatment for addicts. In Vancouver a nurse opened an accommodation house for addicts. She respected their human rights providing, food, shelter, safety etc. Her staff gave their time, sitting with the addicts and listening to their stories.The gift of time helped to reignite hope and worth in people who had given up on themselves.
Anything that isolates us is extremely dangerous.
Our roots weaken , awash in increasing uncertainty.
We lose our voice and stop asking for help.
We forget that we are loved, lovable and loving.
We suffer the ultimate loss — our connection with ourselves.
And one day we don’t know who we are anymore?
Positive addiction treatment models from across the globe have a lot to offer in the mental health arena. There are no miracle cures. Each person is a unique product of his or her experiences. But the human factor can not be under estimated in helping someone find themselves.
Just by listening
Just by treating the person with respect
Just by being there, giving our time
We can reach into their confusion and anchor someone afloat in the sea of confusion, self-loathing and doubt.
Greater than the gift of time is love.
My mother gave me the gift of her time. She was always available. To her love = time. My father loved me unconditionally. He gave me somewhere to rest when I stood uncertain and exhausted on the ice-rink of life. But that’s family, right? What about a stranger? Don’t know where to begin? Scared and uncertain? Explore your options. Consider doing a Mental Health First Aid Course. It’s a great little Aussie invention!
RUOK Day is inclusive. RUOK Day is everyday!