For I have learned how to soothe the hot spots, how to salve the soreness on my skin….”Shhhh,” I whisper to the hurting part, hidden here. You can call her borderline – call me borderline – or multiple, or heaped with posttraumatic stress – but strip away the language and you find something simple. You find me, part healthy as a horse and part still suffering, as are we all…What sets me apart from these “sick” ones – is simply a learned ability to manage the blades of deep pain with a little bit of dexterity. Mental health doesn’t mean making the pains go away. I don’t believe they ever go away…I have not healed so much as learned to sit still and wait while pain does its dancing work, trying not to panic or twist in ways that make the blades tear deeper, finally infecting the wounds.
Lauren Slater, Welcome to My Country
Lauren Slater is a psychologist and works with people with severe mental difficulties. A visit to a new patient in hospital sends her hurtling back in time, to when she was admitted to the psych ward in this hospital herself, diagnosed as borderline. She reflects on what it was that enabled her to escape and mature and to put together a life for herself, while her patients are mostly not so lucky.
This is something I wonder about also. I’m kind of in between – I’ve never been admitted to a psych ward and don’t carry a heavy diagnosis. At the same time, my childhood and resulting dissociative disorder were so damaging, I’ve struggled to put a life together that’s worth living.
Slater goes on to muse that her memory is kind, in that she also remembers good things from her childhood, beyond trauma. Times spent in nature or laughing. Being able to hang on to good things has given her a measure of sanity.
Also, she credits a loving foster family who took her in at age fourteen and stood by her through many hospitalizations. Having that one person that was kind and believed in her potential. A gateway out of trauma and abuse.
She’s learned to sit still when pain hits, knowing it will pass if she doesn’t make it worse by ‘twisting the blades’. Cool. I like how she sees everyone as having pain, even horrendous pain. It’s not the pain that does the damage on its own though. There are other factors that can help. How we respond to the pain. Some goodness from the past. And that gives me some hope.