I’m sitting on the pavement outside my car, waiting for the RAA to come and deal with the keys locked inside. I’ve just been to Sound Minds, our local South Australian Hearing Voices Group. I love getting along to this one.
We had a pretty full room. At one stage someone was chatting away and one of the members got the giggles. Everyone was trying to listen and keep a straight face. One by one more and more of us succumbed until we had to stop the conversation to laugh. A good belly laugh, about nothing at all. These beautiful people ground me.
I told them my good news, that my GP is on board with my unconventional approach to psychosis. A couple of us chatted about how destructive the idea of schizophrenia can be, life long illness, life long medications, being forced to confront your new reality in the interests of ‘having insight’, employers unwilling to take a risk on you, friends scared of you, family confused by you. I talked about how shame and secrecy can feed psychosis because people let them run unchecked, and try to maintain their usual activity level instead of resting, driving themselves deeper and deeper into it. How destructive the idea of a life long disability with no upsides is! How secrecy can often be woven into the fabric of psychosis, preventing the possibility of sharing the details and getting helpful reality checks. People are driven to this when saying ‘I think I might be hallucinating’ or ‘I’m feeling a bit paranoid’ would scare away friends or see them fired from jobs. One group member reminds me of the saying ‘You’re only as sick as your secrets’. Good point.
I’m not saying people who have to conceal mental illness, or those of us who prefer not to live our lives publicly on social media and blogs are sicker than the rest! I’m saying that cultural shame and fear trap people into keeping the kind of secrets that can make them very sick and very lonely.