Jane's Mental Health Source Page

One of the Web's Oldest Personal Mental Health Sites [Est. 1998]

I’m Here to Remind You that You Are Not Your Illness

13 comments

Medically speaking, I’m “in remission” from clinical depression. When I get the blues now, the blue mood does not expand and darken into the sinister depression that left me functionally crippled (albeit still highly functioning) for many years. For a while, I struggled with keeping up this website. I used to see this website as a constant reminder of the pain I experienced from depression and emotional abuse. Who would want a constant reminder of these? Moreover, I wondered if keeping this website would be akin to “holding onto my past” instead of “letting go of my past so I can get on with my life.”

I have gone through relationship “crises” with this website, and it’s sort of like parent-child relationship, although I can’t be sure whether I was the parent or the child. At times I hold it in gratitude, for this held a record of the shadows in which I lived for a long time, and a record of my emergence from those shadows. At times I rebelled against it, for I did not like the reminder of the shadows when life seems to be going so well and when I was supposed to be “out there setting big hairy audacious goals for myself.”

I took a few more years to understand why this website is still here, and why I still have work to do through this website. A major part of my understanding comes from Joseph Campbell’s book, Power of Myth, and what Campbell wrote about the Hero’s Journey. The hero can go out in search of adventure, or as many myths go, the hero gets thrown into an adventure that he didn’t sign up for. The hero would slay the figurative dragon or discover the figurative life-sustaining flame. However, the hero’s quest is not complete until he returns to the village and brings back the what he has earned to share with his people.

Dr. Hal writes about root-bound people who have lived so long in their pots that their growth have been restricted. Dr. Hal related his experience of trying to transplant trees whose roots have become so attached that the trees could not survive a change, and the trees ultimately had to be discarded.

I see myself as an ex-root-bound person who had a very colorful and very large pot within which I had spent decades of my life. This pot had both organic and synthetic substrates that my emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual grew from. At some point, my roots were becoming poisoned with what was in this pot, which incidentally had very poor drainage and was kept in too much shade (and I was not a shady plant).

I spent years getting out of that pot. Right now I’m not sure if I still have some roots in that pot, or whether my roots are still mostly in that pot, but that no longer matters to me. What matters is that I have seen beyond the pot, and what is possible. I also have learned that my roots may be shaped from what was in the pot, but I was not “the pot.”

It can be very scary to leave a pot that you have known for years – if not all – of your life. It would be ridiculous for me to say that I premeditated an adventure to leave the pot. I wasn’t even an accidental “hero”; I was the “reluctant hero” who had to leave the pot because if I didn’t, my roots would rot to the point where I would die.

severed Once I left the pot, I experienced additional options that I was unaware of when I was in the pot. I also had an additional frame of reference, a new way of understanding who I was and how I saw myself. I had to give up habits and thought patterns that I was very comfortable with, but quite destructive to enjoying life. I had to learn to enjoy life and accept that I was deserving of such. I’m still learning.

You want to leave the pot, but you don’t know what is beyond the pot and whether there is even life outside of the pot, never mind how miserable life was inside the pot. This website is still here, and I still write here, for those of you who know that your pot has grown stuffy or sick.

I’m here to show you that there are options beyond the pot.
That there is what you make of your self outside the pot.
And that you are not your pot.

Written by Jane Chin

November 6th, 2008 at 11:28 am

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  • Jane. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    It is extremely challenging when you have a “label” to escape that and life a free and unemcumbered life. I also know how you feel about your website. I’ve gone through similar questioning about my own websites and activities and have moved away from talking about my own health challenges. In part, because the doctors keep changing the label and my diagnosis is currently up in the air! The latest thinking is that I have a sleep disorder. Funny – because I’ve been trying to tell doctors that for 25 years LOL

    I enjoy your intelligent and empathetic commentary on mental illness.

  • Harold Kong

    Hi Jane:

    I have new found appreciation for your courage and ablility to write about your experiences and your ordeal about your clinical depression.

    I know the pain that you had to endure first hand. I was on the ‘other side’ helping and being supportive of my (now ex) wife during her bouts of depression during our marriage.

    I’ve personally used blogging as a way to deal with my divorce and release my innermost feelings.

    My Best to You, Harold

  • Thank you for visiting and for sharing, Harold.

    I admire the courage of the loved ones of those who suffer from depression. My husband has been very supportive and understanding when I was in the thick of depression, and it was quite difficult for him but he never gave up on me.

    My utmost gratitude and respect to you.

    Jane

  • Great strategies for putting people back at the helm of their minds for better outcomes! Thanks Jane — a nice find!

  • Jane,

    Thank you for referencing my blog on root bound people. Sharing your experiences, fears and anxieties about leaving the old and familiar pot for one of your own creating, brings hope and inspiration for us all.

  • Thank you, Dr. Hal!

  • Thank you, Ellen!

  • Linda M Bemis

    How deep are your roots? Are you fearful of some changes? Shelter, income and your situation can change very quickly. Major disasters can leave you devastated. Build your courage, live in the moment and move forward. Experience is based on what was done. Don’t be a plant in the pot that can’t expand alittle more.

  • NATALIE D. Demus, LCSW

    Thank you for offering so much hope to those of us who have also been “root-bound for all of our lives”. It is encouraging to know that it’s okay to develop and perfect “pruning skills” and to look forward with GREAT expectations to a life that is not bound by “roots and shadows,” but which may indeed include some longed for desires like healthy, long lasting relationships (with self and others), and maybe even my own PhD, inspite of being “tied-up” for almost 6 decades. What a way to GROW!!!. Again, thanks for the reminder that we are so much more than “a label.” Please, KEEP WRITING!

  • Teresa

    Thank you for putting it into perspective for me. I can relate to flowers and plants really well and the fact that my roots have also started to wither does make sense.I have M. S. and sometimes can’t express myself the way that I want to. Your explanation fit so well. I think it is time for fertilization to occur because I need a bigger pot. And I think it’s time to get rid of the rot. Thank you for opening my eyes.

  • Jane,

    I just found your site, and as far as “what’s outside the pot”, you may not even know how right you are…

    In mid 2006 I sold my “pot.”

    My website that had begun when I had 6 months sober and 6 months with no mental health relapses; it began as a single page of links to dual diagnosis resources
    and was compiled on a donated computer while living in a dual diagnosis sober living home.

    When the sale was finalized it had over 10,000 pages, 35,000 registered members on the message boards, and received between 8,000-11,000 visitors daily.

    And it was killing me. I was working 15+ hours a day. Every day.

    looking back I made so many decisions based purely on emotions. My work on my pot wasn’t done…I “knew” that, but didn’t know how to stop a process that had already begun. And once completed, I felt like I was standing on a corner…empty handed…my pot was gone.

    And for the next year and a half, so was I. Living in darkness. Just staring at my computer screen for hours, sometimes days at a time.

    I had forgotten something I used to share often…as long as I am sober, as long as I am taking care of my mental illness…I have options. Every single day, of every week, month and year…I have options, choices, room to move around, and plenty of gray area.

    But having forgot, or having decided to forget, I was stuck with the exact opposite.

    I never want to forget again…there is life, there are options, outside of the pot.

    Thank you for reminding me.

    JJH

  • Jon,

    Thank you for letting me know!

    Congratulations for the freedom you chose to give yourself to live life with options outside the pot. Even better that you can sell the pot – sometimes our pots become stepping stones to help someone else who can rest for a while in our pot, get the benefit of what we had created, and grow from there.

    My best wishes for you,
    Jane