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Last summer, I went through a very valuable process. I was admitted at a closed psychiatry ward because I could not deal with my feelings of trauma on my own.

In the four months of my admission, first at the internal ward, later back in my own house, I found the rest to find myself again. The end goal of my therapy was to accept my past, but first to bring myself more in touch with my emotions. After twenty years of blaming and stigmatizing myself, it proved to be impossible to find the right emotional balance for myself.

I had several ways to get towards accepting and dealing with the sexual abuse of my childhood, and escape the incorrect diagnosis of schizophrenia

The most obvious option, yet also the most scary one, was having an insightful conversation with the psychiatrist who gave me this diagnosis in 1997. The two medical directors of the facility were also willing to hear my story.

I succeeded in explaining them how back then, I had fallen through the cracks, because the mental healthcare field had left me on my own. And that perhaps many others with me experienced the same, yet never dared to speak up afterwards. People who also had to live with a diagnosis, obediently went through therapy and always took their pills, while they were actually suffering from a wholly different disorder.

Perhaps my story may sound extreme, but it could be much more common than we think

After all, I am not the only patient who walked around for years with a diagnosis that actually covered up the real issue.

The chairman of the board showed me an internal investigation within his facility. The last three years, about 650 clients have been re-examined, and among 60 percent of them had been given a certain diagnosis, while they were actually suffering from an underlying trauma. These figures quite shocked me.

Looking back at my own situation, and listening honestly to my own feelings, I now see clearly that my first step towards recovery was the acceptance of everything that happened in my past.

I can only get over an experience after I first learn to accept the things that cause me so much pain

This process has gone gradually. Sometimes I closely watched myself to feel what the pain was actually doing to me. This required me to keep a hold on myself, to allow the pain to be there and observe it. For weeks, I was completely exhausted of all the emotions and had to slow down the therapy to recover from it. Literally lying on the bed and regain my strengths. After that, the energy returned again and allowed me to continue the process.

Now I am finally able to practice every day and see how I am affected by emotions such as fear, annoyance, anger, sadness and happiness. Recognising their effects is hard enough in itself, and by applying these emotions as well, I get a much better picture of who I actually am. During the second stage of the part-time therapy, I felt that the process of accepting my traumas started to take root.

I realised that living in the here and now is more important than living in the past

Another lesson was that emotions are part of your everyday routine and should not be locked away.

In my relentless commitment to therapy and my new-found confidence in the mental healthcare sector, I learned that the magic word is “connection”. Both connection to myself, and to my fellow human beings.

Late 2015, I went to the North Sea to ritually throw off my stigma, which the schizophrenia diagnosis was to me. And I succeeded, but retrieving my true identity from then on, finding the real Allard, proved much harder than I expected. Now I have managed to reconnect to myself, my emotions, values and ideals, and self-love, I find myself in the same calm situation as during my former years. Yet this time, I can live without that suffocating and oppressive stigma.

To further strengthen my trauma treatment, I work within the mental healthcare from time to time, next to my regular job. I speak at lectures for psychiatry students, hoping that they can learn from it as individual professionals for the future.

I hope to show that diagnoses are never permanent and that aftercare is just as important as immediate care


Allard

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