The Best Kept Secret-Recovery Beyond Professional Mental Health Services
I was recently asked by an incredible individual in Jordan what other options there are for individuals who may not have access to professional forms of support such as psychiatrists and psychologists, whether due to lack of services, or lack of financial resources. This individual asked, "what on earth is the other option for people let's say with depression or in my case General and social anxiety have?"
I love this question, with the deepest parts of my soul that transcend everyday challenges roaring in celebration at the power within the individual behind this question, an individual saying that they are willing to create their own options in a world that has done everything it can to limit them.
Ultimately, the answer is simple, create your own forms of support as you need them, as you envision them, as you demand them to be.
There's a common misconception, built upon layers and layers of various forms of oppression and stigma, that traditional types of professional service are all there is, that you will never get better without them. If that were true the world would be losing even more individuals every day to suicide, it'd mean that there's no self-actualization outside of systems of oppression. This is ALL not true.
Ableism teaches us that we are less than because our abilities do not live up to the standards created by society. White supremacy tells us, People of Color, that everything we do is wrong. Patriarchy tells Femmes that they can never live up to Maleness. And so on and so forth. All of this builds systems around our lives telling us that unless we are White, Rich, Male, Able and privileged to the extreme, then we are not enough, that we are unable to find the strengths within us to fuel our own recovery.
But our recovery is not tied down to a single form of treatment. My favorite definition of Recovery, from RI International, is: "Remembering who we are, and using our strengths to become all that we are meant to be." There's so much to unpack within that single definition, but if you break it down you notice that recovery has nothing to do with our access to professional services, it just has to do with us, we have the power to recover just because not because a psychiatrist or psychologist is beside us.
This isn't saying professional services aren't helpful. This is saying that whether you have access to these forms of support or not you're the one doing the work, something within you is remembering who you are. No one can give you your strengths, for they have and will always be yours.
This is difficult to digest at times, but I find that as soon as these words are uttered thousands hear the calling from deep within them and know it to be true. I know I did. I didn't grow up with a diagnosis, or access to any kind of professional support. I lived with Mental Health challenges for 18 years before I finally had a name for what I was living through. At first, I also believed that professional treatment is all there is and that I was helpless without it, but time and again I was proven wrong. Every time, regardless of what I was going through, whether my depression, Social and General Anxiety, PTSD, Body dysmorphic disorder, disassociative disorder, or Bi-polar II disorder I always found something within me, within my own support systems that moved me forward.
Everyone is going to be different, but here are some of my favorites from the last few years as I have found myself:
1) Self-compassion I have always been compassionate to others, but I despised myself. I can go on and on about this but ultimately I learned to be kind to me, to the child within me, to the adolescent locked in his room, to the young adult going to battle every day, and finally, to the adult I was yet to become.
2) Finding Kindness There are only a few individuals that have ever helped me enough so that I may save myself, thus by extension helping to save my life. These weren't individuals in my day to day life, these were strangers. It's through the unconditional love of people that I have only seen for brief moments that I am able to hold onto my faith in people.
3) Learning and Finding True Support Support isn't fixing someone's problems, or shaming, it's building spaces of belonging, where your soul is free and accepting for everything that you are. It's active listening and empathy, it's love. I didn't have this space growing up, or even after being diagnosed, so two years ago guess what? I built my own, and continue to every day because sometimes the world won't give us what we're able to create on our own. This is why I created Life in My Days, Inc.
4) I found therapists in Books and Role Models Without a doubt, the words of bell hooks have changed every part of my life. Audra Lorde, Maya Angelou, Michelle Alexander, and so many more supported me in building the foundation of who I am, and I soared because of it. Individuals like Lisa St. George and Dr. Nadia Richardson inspired me to create my own path. Tahirah Amatul-Wadud and Christina Swaidan uplifted me and showed me what's possible. There are countless others, primarily Women of Color who have transformed my life by being incredible role models and just incredible individuals overall.
5) I found life in Spirituality I found it on the hikes that I took almost every weekend. I found it in deciding to sleep 8 hours a night. I found it by discovering that I am not alone. I found it through the work that I do every single day. I found it in my family, among my friends, in yoga, nature, a higher power, and ultimately myself. I am never alone. No matter which part of the world I am in I am connected to so much out there, and distance for me is no longer a cause for abandonment trauma to rise. No matter where I am in the world I know that there are others out there just like me, who don't quite live up to societies standards of what we need to look and be like. I am never alone, and neither are you.
I can go on and on, but if you had asked me years ago, I would've told you it was all hopeless, and there's nothing I can do. These are the two greatest lies systemic oppression has taught us, and rest assured they are lies. There's nothing you can't achieve, you are a warrior, you are a bright light in this world, and you are the hope, anyone telling you otherwise is oppressive.