I was 14 and the angst of adolescence was at full throttle; the social anxiety, the need to fit in, the bullies, the constant judgment… I was cracking under the pressure of it all. Turbulent emotions surged through me stirring up dark thoughts, confusion and feelings of hopelessness. These rollercoasters of emotions grew in intensity and frequency. As they did stories began to develop and accompany them. Inner stories that I told myself in a soft mean whisper:
“Something is wrong with me. No one understands me. I’m all alone.”
These stories embarrassed me, ate away at my self-esteem and felt too dangerous to share. After all, thinking these things about myself was one thing but to share them with others? Wouldn’t that just make them believe it too? So, I sat quietly. My lips closed and eyes open; watching the world for cues on how to fix this, how to fix me.
Eventually the stories grew to mythological strength. No longer fleeting emotional rants they became deeply held beliefs. They were bigger, bolder, more insidious and harder to shake. They became truth.
Something was wrong with me. I wasn’t understood. I was all alone.
That’s the danger when stories become myth. We give them merit, clout and significance. They become held sacred truths, fundamental self-beliefs and unchangeable hurdles that shape our perception of ourselves and the world around us.
For individuals with mental illness these inner myths can be the Achilles heel in their recovery. The stories rear their ugly head at strange and opportune moments. Just when you think you are making progress some event or interaction occurs and your stories find you. They pull you back into that uncomfortable but well known place. The groove of your past behavior and cognitive patterns, well-worn with time, are like quick sand and before you know it you are enfolded in your past; yielding to the myth once again.