Liven Your Space - A Resource for Healing from Mental Illness
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Lost and Fake: Getting Religion - Part XIX

There were two points that marked my early journey through mental illness: the point at which I realized I was lost, and the point at which I realized I was a fake. 

The first one happened during my hospital stay in San Francisco.  I came to see that I had no bearings or pathway forward and  questioned my preference for solitude and fantasy. I began to understand that living in a world of my own making with science fiction as the core reality was scary and destructive.  In addition, I was anorexic, suffering from the pain and confusion of a broken heart, overcome by a run of the mill nervous breakdown, and under the constant stress of holding onto a challenging job and a deadly relationship while moving deeper into psychoses. Call it what you want to, I was lost. 

The second point came about while in my first several months of psychotherapy with Dr. Lebensohn. Although I'd not developed the insight to know this,  my deeper "real" self had been taught to retreat in order to protect itself from criticism and harm, both physical and psychological. As a result, I'd grown another self, one that could face up to what my family and the perceived social order around me could accept, maybe even admire and recognize as different and special. You might say that the second self was put together with baling wire and paper mache: a set of values made out of the need to be attractive, a set of relationships with men and women who were interesting and good-looking but lacked character or kindness, a job that was responsible so others could think of me as a grown up and not the small injured child that lived inside.  

Somewhere inside I was compassionate. It expressed itself when the news media focused my attention on those mistreated and misunderstood. But my created self had no room for compassion.  Worrying about how others felt and feeling empathy for them as friends or love interests was outside of the realm of my fake persona.  And besides, the energy I might have used to really care about someone needed to be spent holding myself together.  It was Dr. Lebensohn's question, "Miss Goin what do you want to do" combined with the realization of how lost I had become that helped me realize that there might be an authentic "I" buried beneath the stress and crap of my crazy world. 

These two points in my journey were the source of enormous fear and transformation. The challenge now was finding an authentic self in both of these, one self that would give me a sense of purpose and worth. 

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