A happy monday fellow healthians,
This weekend I attended To Write Love On Her Arms‘ MOVE Conference. It was a two-day informative lecture/conversation amongst two speakers, two coordinators, and about 40 attendees which touched on heavy/personal topics such as Addiction, Depression, Anxiety, Self-Injury, Eating Disorders, and Suicide. I participated in the conference in support of a friend. She had come to me about a month ago that she eagerly wanted to attend and, since we have shared many conversations in the past regarding our perspectives of personal healing and growth, she pretty much said you’re coming and I won’t take “no” for an answer. She didn’t have to twist my arm at all really because I had an idea of what I was getting myself into with my familiarity with TWLOHA’s mission; having “worked” with the organization in the past as a musician and through the friendships I was able to build from sharing an awareness of health. But my awareness only went so far when it came to these topics because I had yet to be thrown into a room with real people who have dealt with and are still dealing with real problems. I found myself being smacked in the face with a reality I have only read about and have reflected generalized philosophies upon. I knew I was in for a treat the moment we began going around the room stating our name, story, and purpose.
I went into the conference thinking that the participants would be those who are dealing with the issues, those who are seeking answers for themselves, those who are in search of aha-moments to get themselves on a better track towards healing. I didn’t read up on the conference beforehand so I had some assumptions going into it and, while that general mindset held some truth, I didn’t expect that I would be in a room with people just like me… young professionals who have gone through their own tough times reality and have now come out on the other end with the approach of I’m going to use what I have learned in my worst-of-the-worst to help others in their paths towards happiness. And the most inspiring part? Everyone was real. Everyone had real stories, real obstacles, real battles, real experiences, real emotions, and everyone was dealing with their own reality all-the-while learning more about the realities of others for one common goal: to help. It was rather humbling to be in a room with therapists, with counselors, with speakers, with help-line workers, with undergrads, with graduate students, with mothers, with adults… with all different walks of life in one room who have been through it and who just get it. That is actually one of the main purposes of the conference – to find someone that just gets it – amongst the slightly more obvious reasons like raising awareness of such hush-hush topics, educating the educators, inspiring the inspired, comforting the disturbed, and disturbing the comforted. To find someone who you can relate to is such a milestone in the world of healing because we have all gone through our own shit and you damn-well know that it certainly helps to speak to someone who understands and relates through their own trials to what you are going through. We all have different experiences, but we def-def-definitely share the same feelings of hurt, pain, shame, or unhappiness (as well as happiness, ease, comfort, or success).
It is my understanding that these symptoms umbrella under and manifest as a result of a greater cause. To extremely over simplify that greater cause, I chalk it up to unhappiness. This mental state can be caused by many factors and we all manifest its symptoms in various ways, but I do believe that the foundation exists as a lack of happiness with self and the experiences of self, i.e. what you understand to be your reality through your own [influenced] filter system (thoughts, beliefs, conditionings, perceptions, habits, knowledge, ignorance, diet, digestion, stressors, sleep patterns, priorities, et cetera).
Yet, the conference didn’t really hint on any sort of generalization. There were times in the conversation where we saw commonalities for treatments or fine lines between diagnostics, but it still resorted back to this is this and that is that. It focused on each symptom as its own entity and that one must “treat” each realm accordingly. An addiction counselor should not treat a self-injury patient because, from what I gathered, they are not the same. I ask why? If we’re approaching this holistically, the body’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health fall under one cyclic/complimentary umbrella so why can’t our symptoms? It just doesn’t make sense to me. For example, self-injury is mainly the act of inflicting pain or cutting one’s skin, but how is cigarette smoking not a form of self-injury, as well? Both involve an awareness of the action and its consequences, both inflict pain in exchange for euphoria and a quick-fix result only to come back again because the thrill wasn’t enough and the underlying cause/relief structure still exists. Also, each are forms of addiction and, perhaps, can be a result of depression, too. Of course, I was in a room with trained professionals whose experiences on paper far exceed mine so perhaps I do not have much room to speak, but I do not think that limits my platform to question the approach or to raise an awareness of more foundational-based ways to do things.
I really found this intriguing because this is the habit of our society. We like to label things… every-things. And, in the medical/health field, people can lose their identities or any mindset of who they are because their names can be replaced or associated with a specific disease, disorder, or mental state. This replacement can come from the doctor’s vocabulary/perspective or can even be adapted by the patient. The nice guy named Bob becomes a Drug Addict. Why the heck is Bob a drug addict in the first place? Some sort of shit in Bob’s life culminated, made him freak, and he turned to drugs. Can labeling Bob as an addict make him more unhappy? Why can’t we just say that Bob is unhappy and retrace the steps to where/why Bob became unhappy? He’s still the nice guy he’s always been, but people may not identify him as the nice guy anymore because we label. And when we label, we segregate by default. And when we segregate by default, we impose stigma by default. And stigma is an imposed reality which we seldom take the time to step back from to look at the bigger picture – what truly matters in a universal reality. It’d be nice to look at things objectively rather than subjectively. Then again everyone tends to have their opinion and we all know the saying about opinions… It’d also be nice to get away from labels but I don’t think it’ll ever happen. Really, we just want to belong. Even if it means we belong to a negative connotation, at least we belong to something.
One final thing I’d like to note is a shared story from one of the speakers. The speaker’s father did not allow the use of Neosporin within their household. If you are not familiar with Neosporin, it is a healing agent that can be applied to small cuts or scrapes to speed up the healing process and to prevent the formation of “ugly” scars. The father wasn’t a doctor, but he knew a thing or two about the healing process. Neospiron is promoted as a quick-healer and offers a good-as-new look. That’s cool and all, but while the skin on the outside may be “healed,” the wound underneath remains open and prone to infection because the body is not meant to heal as such a rapid pace. Hey, at least it looks good and my date tonight won’t think I’m a zombie freak, right? When we give the body time to heal on its own time at its own pace in its own natural environment, the wounds mend accordingly. The same can be said about our emotional and mental states. We can take all of the medication we want, we can try all of the quick-fix protocols we come across, but they will never truly heal until the underlying cause is addressed and fixed naturally through being honest with self, yielding compassion for self, having patience with self, and, thus, gaining a greater awareness of self.
I learned a lot from the conference and I’m very glad I was given the opportunity to go. If you are not familiar with To Write Love On Her Arms, please check out their website, blog, and calendar to verse yourself in the awareness and the hope that they spread.
Thanks for stopping by, folks.