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Talk & Listen Sessions

Sunday 10 December 2023

My Brain is Lit Like an Airport

My brain is lit like an airport
So the angels will find me
Recruit me
She wants me on the show
I’m considering as it will give me more exposure
Perhaps I could help others by showing my recovery process
Sharing my tools and insights

~  Katiejane Garside/ Liar, Flower

I'm having so many doubts about so many things so much of the time. I've been asking myself things like why I am writing this blog, why I am running a peer support group, why I did a counselling course and why I attended the recent peer mentoring course. I am wondering what I am able to offer and what I may be gaining. If I hadn't been doing all this, how I would have spent that time and energy. My motivations seem a little hazy; I can sort of see some answers through the mist but some of these are a little obscured through a foggy cognitive distance. There's so much going on in my mind; it's in a constant and intense state of critical thought, as I continually try to piece together the infinite number of pieces of an impossible and forever changing metaphorical jigsaw puzzle. The neurons race around at high speed creating flashes of light throughout their paths. My brain is lit like an airport.

On the last day of the Talk for Health peer counselling course I took in a bottle of antidepressants. I explained to the group that I believe it's a terrible state of affairs that for decades medical professionals have been prescribing these as if they are some wonder pill that cures all mental ills. They really don't. They treat the underlying conditions by reducing their impact through artificial means. They alter the chemical balance in the brain, numbing the parts that give rise to psychological or psychiatric problems and enhancing those that give rise to us feeling good. Essentially, they just brush the problems under a heavy shagpile; they don't attempt to deal with the underlying causes. Talking, and being listened to, understood and acknowledged, on the other hand, is a direct path to accessing proper awareness of these causes and is the only way to tackle them head on. I think it's beliefs like these that fundamentally motivated me to pursue all the mental health related activities that I've spent much of my time on.

Whilst explaining some of my thinking to the group I opened the bottle I was holding, turned it upside down, and out poured a whole load of badges, all uniquely patterned and coloured. There were no antidepressants in the bottle; I'd replaced them with these colourful badges. Each of these, I explained, represented someone in the room, each one of us a unique individual with our own unique good and bad points, issues and world views. We shouldn't rely on antidepressants or form a dependence on them. An alternative option is just to talk and listen to each other through the lens of understanding that we are all human with similar ways of feeling. This really works when we appreciate that we all have unique perspectives on the world, our internal filters having been created through our own individual experiences, so that we can establish connections fuelled by empathy. If we can share what someone else is feeling by tapping into our own emotions then we connect with understanding and compassion.

There's one particular advantage of helping others in this way, that is, through offering the space and time to actively listen to them and extend empathic understanding: we help ourselves. I know from recent experiences that when I have been there for others and genuinely wanted to listen, understand and empathise, it's had a remarkable positive effect on my own well-being. These kinds of feelings are likely to be an evolutionary trait. Millions of years ago we relied on each other to survive and if we had not helped each other then we would not have helped ourselves; we would have been wiped out as a species. Survival, physical and emotional well-being, is dependent on co-operation and so it feels good and beneficial to help others as we are helping ourselves in the process for the greater good of humanity.

Listening to other people's stories can also help us to relate to them. I've discovered that when I am available to hear and experience what someone else has to say I am particularly moved if there is a direct personal resonance with my own experiences. This works both ways. On the last day of the Talk for Health course someone came up to me during the break and said to me how hard it must be for me to cope with the TMJ situation (I talked about this in my blog post Just Another Manic Monday) that I had shared during the previous week. She told me that it is "ruining my life". How right she was. That is pure, unadulterated empathy right there. Then she told me about exactly the same problem that she's had to endure for years but all the while empathising with the situation as it affected me. What a wonderful human being! It's people like this that restore some faith in humanity. Sharing our stories, tools, insights and our recovery process is an integral and fundamental part of meaningful connection.

One such tool for me at the moment is writing this blog. I've been writing it for a few months and I know Google doesn't want anyone else to read it but, despite knowing that nobody has even seen it or is even aware of its existence, it provides a medium of catharsis as it allows me a way to get things out. By writing things down, or typing them on a keyboard to appear on a screen, I can sometimes achieve some level of awareness on a few of the things that are on my mind. It's not the same as talking to a real person which has the benefit of being listened to and receiving feedback or empathy, but it's something. Every little helps! Talking to someone who will listen and extend empathy or facilitate insight, ideally both, can't be beaten as a therapeutic process; it deals with the heart of the matter rather than gloss over it in the way that antidepressants do. It can be done in a formal setting with a trained therapist but it can also be done with peers who are familiar with the principles I write about in my blog.

Some doubts about why I do what I do are likely to persist, particularly at this relatively early stage of my own personal development with therapeutic processes, learning and experiencing. Perhaps over time, if I am able to observe better results in exchanging awareness, empathy and connecting with others, it might lead to a greater sense of feeling worthwhile and I might be able to look back and conclude that it was all worth it. Lack of direction is another factor that causes me to doubt what I am doing but as this starts to take better aim it too should help to reassure me a little. Somehow though, I don't think I am doing anything inherently wrong. My brain is lit like an airport, so the angels will find me.


Katiejane Garside/ Liar, Flower; My Brain is Lit Like an Airport, available on YouTube, accessed on 10/12/2023 ~ the wonderful and amazing Katiejane provided inspiration for this post through her singing and music

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