Thursday, 1 November 2012

the power of personal storytelling and not being a performing monkey

I want to write something about personal stories or narratives, their power, the telling of them and ownership. Particularly in the context of mental health matters where narratives can be a bone of contention, as I see it.  By this I'm meaning the stories told about us by others (notes) when in psychiatric settings or mental health services.  And the stories we share with others that somehow get taken over and become part of someone else's agenda, and we have lost control of them.

I remember sharing my recovery story on the SRN website back in 2005, updated in 2008, and came to realise quickly that once up on the world wide web I couldn't get it back again.  My life was in full view, the psychiatric history, the ups and downs, struggles and triumphs.  I had given it away and it was lost, to me.  I did the update to have more control but still felt my story slipping away.

At the same time I was involved locally in telling my story at events.  But from the offset this was problematic when I realised the local mental health organisation was only using my story and not involving me in the whole show.  I describe it as bringing out the 'performing monkey', and as a lifelong community development worker I was not prepared to be disempowered in this way.

And so to writing my own blogs and telling my own stories, being responsible for the outcome, the risk of being controversial or unpopular.  Which is fine as long as I'm not giving up the power, as I've never liked being a conscript or unwilling participant, under compulsion or threat of force.  And is the reason why the psychiatric system and I don't get on, and why I think that recovery is still an alien concept.

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