March 1, 2009

How Can They Understand That Unreality is My Reality?

In class on last Thursday, I met some resistance to the idea that chronic, complex or combat PTSD cannot be cured. The most recent and relative research concludes this finding and offers a series of treatments designed to give the person a more complete identity and sense of self. I understood their argument and based on the understanding of primary structural dissociation and simple PTSD, their rhetoric and argument would have merit. But, an expanded understanding on the nature of secondary and tertiary dissociation of the personality would reveal the underlying nature of multiple traumatizations and the shattering of an identity.

I hit a wall in trying to impart my experience from one who is mentally ill, with an educated perspective on that which I was speaking on. To say the least the futility I felt in that room that day was almost overwhelming. I started to get defensive and flustered with their repeated attempts to bolster their arguments and counter the information I was miserably failing to impart. They were trying to tell me that some people use their mental illness as a crutch, or an excuse.

They did not realize I was not trying to argue a point, but to give a perspective on what it was like for me to finally realize that others thought as I did, that shared my perceptions and I could identify with. I was attempting to verbalize my insights as it relates to the inner world of someone with a mental illness. I felt as if I was being attacked, that they were insinuating that I was the one trying to make excuses or make use of a crutch. I acquiesced on this point, yes I did make excuses and use this as a crutch when I was without a plan of recovery. I told them that recovery is a process, one cannot get from A to D, without first going through B and C.

That day was the day I fully realized that magnitude of the depth and permeation of the stigma attached to mental illness, gaining its teeth from this same attitude and limited "understanding."

How can I make others understand if a group of future Social Workers cannot get past their own biases and prejudgments? How can one who does not experience a world completely different from their own, accept my worldview? How can they understand that unreality is my reality?


  1. Let them practice for about 2 weeks, and their preconceived notions will be shattered. It becomes little about what our theories are and everything about what will help that person find a way to improve/cope. Even the textbooks support chronic mental illness! I have worked w/ people w/ chronic depression and anxiety - among others. It's a fact of life for them. They make no excuses - they cope. If they didn't, they'd take the easy way out. They have all thought about it, and I'm glad that they are at a place where that is not an option. There are some people who use mental illness as a crutch, but they are rarely in counseling!

  2. Thats just it, more than half are in the profession of social work and have an average age of 30. The good thing is that only two or three of us want to go into mental health.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee