It’s time to rewrite the stories of the broken: how we can all see change in mental health issues

It’s time to rewrite the stories of the broken.

  • it’s time for those who feel imprisoned by chains of anxiety, depression, disorders, shame and isolation to find freedom.
  • it’s time for lives that have been devastated for generations to be rebuilt.
  • its time for those who have been marginalized, misunderstood to be brought close and renamed: welcomed, beloved, worthy.
  • it’s time to rewrite the stories of the broken.

But how?

We have to tackle one of the greatest barriers to healing; Our self, our isolation.

The problem is we think we write our own story. In fact our culture celebrates those who make it on our own.  We often face our demons in isolation. We turn to self help books to increase our self esteem, self motivation so we can gain more self improvement and be more self aware.  I go to yoga, to church, to bookstores and am surrounded by people – yet very alone in my inner turmoil.

  • Surrounded yet alone.
  • This is what we have bought into as normal. I’m not saying it’s not good to do those things.  It’s never a bad thing to read and participate in things that help us grow and work on weakness.  The problem is that we’ve never been more self aware, and yet in the last 10 years anxiety has only risen.  One in five people struggle with anxiety.  One in five.

Something is missing.

The truth is my story is very much influenced by you.

Before you were born, people were already telling your story.  What gender you were, a possible name, what features they hoped you would inherit, and what features they hope you would not.  Maybe the story being told about you was that your parents longed for you, or maybe no one wanted you. Maybe the story being told about you was one of fear of the world you were coming into; a teenage single mom, poverty, or a home filled with domestic violence. Your story started even before your parents story began and goes past your parents, parents.  Our family history creates the foundation from which our story picks up. When we come into the world others continue to add to our story: “Isn’t he cute?”  “She’s a little chubby baby.”  “Why is he so small?”  “Such a colicky baby.”

Others further add to the story as we grow. “She’s just shy.” “Don’t mind my lil monster, he’s a handful.” “She’s uncontrollable.” And further still, she’s anxious, he’s depressed, she has ADHD, he’s oppositional, What’s wrong with you?! Weirdo, freak, geek, slut, gay, jerk, delinquent, lazy. The additions people make to our stories never stop and this influences how we tell our own story.

Who influences our stories the most is those close to us like: parents, foster parents, teachers, intimate partners. What I tell myself, the story I write, is influenced by these relationships.  Our story we tell ourselves right now is being held by a larger story.  Our story is encoded by our implicit memory.  Implicit memory has no record of time.  It remembers what was spoken and created in us – even to the extend of what wasn’t spoken, but we wished would have been.  60-90% of communication is non verbal.  We pick up what what is being spoken without words and remember it in our implicit memory. Our actions and emotions reveal what was written on our implicit memory. This is why we go into situations already assuming what will happen, “They will think I’m stupid.” “This isn’t going to work.” “No one ever stays in a relationship with me.”

You could call the underlying “emotion” created by the events in our implicit memory that has shaped us, shame.

More than any diagnosis or mental health issue, shame is our nemesis. It’s an epidemic. It’s dangerous because we often shape our stories around shame because shame is created in us by those closest to us. When we experience shame it’s de-habilitating.  The story I have created in my mind from shame, whether true or not, has now shaped my perception of the world around me, and of you. Shame didn’t enter our story through one large life event, but snuck in through a series of small events. We think to ourselves, “No one else struggles with this.”  Anxiety is often shame in disguise, “I am not enough to handle this situation.”  This makes us feel anxious.

  • So what do we do?  We hide.  We hide from our co-workers and aquaintances, but we also  hide from our partner, our kids, our family. We are present, but not present. Often when people become brave to tell their story after their struggle you will hear them say “No one knew.” The problem is that shame only grows the more we hide in isolation.  Being hidden is the opposite of being known, but being known is the answer to conquering shame.

Being known requires more courage than you will ever know, because to be known to takes the participation of an “other”. Shame wants to disconnect people, but hear this. If we become courageous enough to tell our story to people attuned to us… our story becomes rewritten. Our stories are rewritten when we find safe, compassionate, community.  It literally rewires our brain. When we rewrite the stories of others it doesn’t just rewrite their story, but the stories who will come after them.  It rewrites the stories of generations to come.

You need to read that paragraph again.  Do you see the power of when people are seen?

  • When we see one another it gives what every human needs: to be seen and understood.  You could say that we create one another’s stories.  It is a great responsibility we must remember.  When mental health issues rise, we must look within with courage and look to how we are contributing to others as the problem, but also as the solution. We are agents of redemption.  This is our mandate, our responsibility that does not require a degree, but a heart of compassion.
  • It’s time to rewrite the stories of the broken by courageously choosing to face ourselves and others. We can’t embrace compassion and attunement for others without experiencing compassion for ourselves. This is where I believe the Divine comes in. Can I in myself cultivate the kind of compassion needed to write others’s stories well if I can’t myself?  Perhaps there is an opportunity to be “known” by a loving Creator to embrace our belovedness. What would it look like to be restored to be a restorer?
  • We are dependant on one another for our stories. This is a risk because there is no guarantees when it comes to people. Learning to tell our stories in safe community heals us, connects us, rebuilds us… together.

More like this?  Follow our new venture @villagemwm on instagram and YouTube where we are strengthening the Village of parents, teachers, and children.

*this post was from a speaking engagement done at the Ria Mental Health Conference in Calgary, AB.  Research based from sources such as the book, The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson.

3 Responses to It’s time to rewrite the stories of the broken: how we can all see change in mental health issues
  1. Stephanie ThompsonNo Gravatar Reply

    Such truth here! “We are dependant on one another for our stories. This is a risk because there is no guarantees when it comes to people. Learning to tell our stories in safe community heals us, connects us, rebuilds us… together.” Here in the USA, the message of self reliance creates added resistance to displaying vulnerability. It only feeds the isolation. My daughter’s psychiatrist (Mani Pavuluri) encourages my daughter to share her stories so that her brain is rewired.

  2. Carlene Byron .No Gravatar Reply

    I love this! To me a large part of the rewriting that has to happen is renaming. In the 21st-century, my father would undoubtedly have been “named” OCD. In the 20th century, he just had quirky hobbies. By telling people that differences and difficulties represent diagnostic categories, Driven by genetics, we define people as flawed, unrepairable and powerless over our own lives. Yet so much of what we suffer — anxiety being a great example– is grown out of lives that lack belonging, purpose, and meaning. Renaming what are now “diagnoses” to “difficulties” might help us see ourselves and each other more clearly, allowing ourselves to have needed dialogue and relationship.

  3. KelliNo Gravatar Reply

    Thanks for sharing. I would find it extremely difficult to share my story. I only dream and pray God will heal me from abusive and narcissistic scars…

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