Trapped within the confines of an unseen exterior, life for those experiencing mental illness is one of misunderstanding that runs deep within their soul. Misunderstanding from those around us; misunderstanding from ourselves.
This trap was not our life once. What happened? This remains the unanswered question for too many… what happened?
In one short phrase – ‘life happened’.
From the moment of conception, life events enter our existence. Each event has the opportunity to make, or break us. Events are lined with messages. Messages guide our view of life, our connection to it and our response to it. The content of these messages exerts its power. These defining messages, empower or disempower. For those whose lives are characterised by mental illness, life is tipped toward the disempower end of the scale on too many occasions.
As I navigated my way through an eating disorder followed by many associated mental illnesses, it became extremely apparent that I had an enormous fight on my hands. Understanding, knowledge and guidance were met with closed doors. I was fighting an entity seemingly unknown by man, and seemingly unknown by name. In the dark, I sought solutions through whatever healing regime presented. I stumbled, I fell, I cried, I despaired.
I had an illness no one could define nor assist me with. The word ‘mental’ was banned from society as a label too awful to acknowledge, yet, in time, was the very label required. Mental illness is real and, I would learn, is based in the realness of our lives. What do I mean by realness?
I mean, the answers we seek and deserve to find, are embedded within the real events we have encountered throughout our lives to date. Our interpretation of these events, strongly held within our memories, influences and ultimately determines how our mental status unfolds.
For me, trauma at an early age, combined with a controlled upbringing, schoolyard bullying, exclusion and isolation meant my developed worldview was bleak. My connection to, and response to, was highly influenced by messages containing damning consequences. My brain stored way too many disempowering moments which saw my character assassinated. The bright bubbly blonde child was reduced to the barely-there anorexic and eventually the one wishing to end it all. Alluding to me was the “Why?” Not only why my body hurt, but why I had trapped myself into the confines of an existence where I no longer existed. I needed to not only understand who I was, but I needed to understand why I was.
It is in the why we are that a true understanding of mental illness will be found.
The path toward recovery from mental illness involves a process of discovery. Unlocking the content of contributing life events and their messages means exploring the systems available to us for solutions to be considered. The systems I refer to are, our:
- Physical Symptoms
We also benefit from acknowledging our wants, needs, beliefs and values in life, and where there are glaring gaps causing the rift between the one we are and the one we have become; causing the mental imbalance currently our status.
AND the biggy! Examining our relationships – past, present and with the self. There will be a wealth of information to be found here!
And this is where the jazz comes in!
Once you make it clearly obvious that you are ready to recover, all of a sudden a whole heap of new life events pop up from all over the place. Events are filled with learnings so you can understand yourself, your life and your mental state. At first, you may go into hiding and feel overwhelmed by the amount of learning showing up on your doorstep. People will come and go, dreams will illuminate your night filled with messages for your benefit. Healers from different lanes will enter at the right time to play their role. Learnings may be stagnated in their delivery, with a part of your story showing itself long before the remainder finds its way to you. Do not be frustrated, you are being gradually prepared for the knowledge you require. It may be that a small piece of information is enough for now so you can grow in strength ready to face the next bit.
The more you are able to flow with life at this point, accept the process, trust the process, then all this jazz will eventually become welcome extensions you revel in and grow from.
Why do I refer to this as jazz? Because unlocking the doors to recovery can deliver an avalanche of events you did not see coming. Overwhelm could see you step away from the process due to, overwhelm. But if you adopt the mindset of, “Oh! Here is all the jazz, the bits to my life I need to understand”, then acceptance is easier. Overwhelm then has the chance to turn to excitement – excitement at being given more information so you can navigate toward recovery.
There will be tears, despair, you will stumble and fall. Unfortunately, mental illness is a tough cookie to crack. Exploring our story to date is exhausting. Undoing learnt messages that have disempowered find us needing to give ourselves permission to do life differently. Fears held become nightmares wishing to keep us down. Determination MUST join us on our quest.
I strongly believe mental illness manifests as the direct result of the sum total of the messages life events give us. The configuration used to store the information then determines our paths ahead. Where ‘re-learning’ does not occur, the stored configuration persists. Where disempowering messages become truths, bodies cannot do anything else but falter at some point, developing a mental illness of some kind – anxiety, fear, chronic fatigue, depersonalisation, depression, OCD, alcoholism, gambling, self-harming, eating disorders and more. The list of mental illness labels seems to be added daily. However, the faltering of kind is the bodies way of informing us – go within, define your story – the answers sought are waiting to share their understanding for you.
I went within. My story was a mind-field of twisted configurations screaming out to me via the mental illnesses I endured. I did the work. I embraced my jazz. As an example, when suicidal depression threatened to take me, I asked the why, the purpose, the message. This form of jazz, unwelcome at the time, was a great teacher; a gift.
I give thanks to those, timely in their ‘turning up’ in my recovery, for the roles they played. But most of all, I applaud myself – for staying, for consistently seeking, for being willing to face hurtful life events, for giving myself permission to recover.
The trappings of mental illness are shackles that can be removed. True understanding comes in the form of exploring the systems we adapted to survive. These systems are prime recovery real estate. Buy into each.
Our bodies were meant to smile, our souls rejoice in life – this we owe to ourselves.
When does the body smile again
When does the soul rejoice
When all is known
When all is healed
When smile and soul intertwine
J.L. Keez 2015
The deep connection between mental illness, life events and true understanding is the connection awaiting, ready to deliver you with all your jazz … The jazz part is where each of these parameters meets.
Survivor of a nine-year struggle with Anorexia Nervosa, and many years enduring associated illnesses, JL Keez dedicates her life to empowering those impacted by eating disorders and related debilitating conditions. A Reality Therapy Certified Counsellor, Speaker, and Teacher, JL Keez’s detailed insights are powerfully portrayed in her memoir, “Anorexia Unlocked: Understanding Your Story Through Mine”. Her passionate delivery on the topic, “How We Relate… Impacts”, for The Reality Therapy Institute Australia demonstrated her strength as an inspirational voice within her subject area.
JL Keez educates sufferers of eating disorders, and the associated illnesses, through educational programs, inspirational speaking, and books. Each medium shared is authentic, honest, highly informative and extremely relatable.