I was at a training last week and it was held at a facility next to the psychiatric hospital. A person came up to me and asked “Have you ever been in that place (the psychiatric hospital)? I’ve heard horror stories about what goes on in there” I nodded and responded that I had, in fact, been in that place but did not go into details as to why. That story is long and winding and not appropriate for that interaction.
But, if you follow this blog at all, you know that my life is replete with mental illness. Psychiatric hospitals don’t scare me. I think once you have spent a few Christmases in certain places, they lose some power over you.
I talked to a friend later that evening and told her that I often get mistaken for “The white girl that had a pony” Before I go on, I know that having a pony does not mean you had a good, perfect, or even okay life. It’s just an expression or joke that fit the conversation.
What I also learned at this conference was the concept of decision fatigue. This is not the decision fatigue associated with what to wear or what to watch on television. This is the type of decision fatigue related to “Are you a safe person to share these parts of me and my story with?” “Are you going to judge me if I tell you about me?” These questions are constantly swirling in my head because there are real life consequences to sharing something with someone and having them think differently about you.
I know this from experience.
When I learned about this concept I had a profound “Aha” moment. I am constantly assessing the people around me for safety. I have been known to ask directly if someone is safe to share information with. The truth is, it is human nature to make assumptions about the people we share time with. It is also human nature to judge people based on their life experiences.
I have stacks of letters related to my grandmother’s struggles with mental illness in the 1960’s and make no mistake, she was a warrior. The horrors she endured due to ignorance were unbelievable, barbaric, and inhumane and many of these treatments are still happening today.
One could guess that being a therapist was the only real logical place for me in the world.
I know that I was born to tell the truth. my truth. It is the way I make meaning out of the things I’ve experienced, learned, and endured. I stopped trying to figure out why I am built the way I am and now I just flow with it. Telling my truth is when I feel whole and connected to my divinity. It is also why self-censoring is so unbelievable exhausting for me.
I did not have a pony. I’ve spent a lot of my life in prisons and psychiatric hospitals. Those places do not scare me because those places are filled with humans, just like you and me. I think sometimes we forget that.
This is part of my truth (an abridged version) and as the great Brene Brown says: