A sense of well being….

by Marie Renaud

I had an interesting conversation with a woman in a bar last night! What a way to start eh? Well it was only about 5.30pm as I am in a different time zone this week, this wild night actually finished before 8pm, which felt like 1am to me….

So when she (Janey) heard that I am a psychologist and coach, she started talking to me about her late diagnosis of ADD Attention

Deficit Disorder and how useful it had been for her to help her understand some of the struggles she had had all her life, especially struggles to fit in with expectations at school and in the work place…the main struggle though was to get away from the idea that she was stupid, she knew that she was not stupid but as she was not able to do easily was other people were able to, she was perceived as stupid and at times doubted herself, until being given a diagnosis that at least for her indicated that her brain is wired up differently, she is different, not stupid….

This brought about another conversation about diagnoses as to my mind they are just a shortcut, a description of a bunch of symptoms but they end up being perceived as a real thing, just like the measles, in a medical model, they acquire a sort of life of their own, but in fact, they are nothing of the sort, they are not that distinctive. Most of the recorded mental health difficulties come from a complex combination of genetics, life experiences and adversity but they are not like the measles with a single straightforward cause and a clear outcome.

The combination of genetics, life experiences and adversity can lead to a variety of symptoms that get in the way of feeling that sense of well-being which we all look for…

I don’t think that this sense of well-being is a permanent blissful state, it comes and goes and it has to be actively sought, through self-care and self-development which is where the passivity that is encouraged by the medicalisation of mental health get in the way, I am not saying that mental health does not need specialists, of course it does but a positive sense of mental well-being needs the person to be actively engaged in her own development and not reliant on a set of pills or the relief of a diagnosis, which is what Janey found.

After the initial relief of a better understanding of ADD and a sense that she was vindicated in her sense that there was something wrong which was not to do with being stupid, the real work was beginning, what now? Yes, she could have medication, although this being the U.S it is expensive, but that only helps with some specific functions, like focusing enough to read a book, in order to develop a sense of well-being she then needed to take all the actions, to understand herself better and the effect she has on other people, to test out and make choices around what the effects of alcohol has on her mind, ways in which physical activity could help etc…a life long journey of self-development, which is true for all of us in order to achieve a sense of well being.