“You’re unique”: Wise words for anyone on this bumpy journey we call life, but especially for youths in mental and emotional anguish. This plain but often-neglected truth was articulated by a young woman who endured her own fraught journey of diagnoses, treatments, hospitalizations, and harms before arriving at a place of healing with Now I See A Person Institute in southern California.
I was privileged to speak with her father — as well as Susan Swim, founder and executive director of the Institute — in the latest Mad in America podcast. In the episode, they describe the power of seeing, and hearing, children and their parents in authentic human conversations devoid of judgment, assumptions, and labeling. The result is a moving and insightful dialogue that, I’m hoping, will reach a wide audience.
Afterward, I asked Swim to reach out to the daughter and see if she might answer a few questions of her own to share with readers. They both agreed, and the young woman replied with powerfully heartfelt responses that I want to share in full here:
How was Now I See A Person Institute different from prior services?
Coming to Now I See A Person Institute was very different than any clinical offices or places. It’s different because of how Dr Swim and the team work, and it is not at all similar work. They don’t force. They listen and validate, never force you, and they do not make assumptions about you.
They listen to what and how you feel. They are genuine and have time to listen. They take time and work with you.
What would you say to others in distress to help give them hope?
Do not give into such overwhelming feelings and don’t give up, and if they wait and have patience they will have a beautiful life.
Don’t be selfish but take time to reflect on yourself, see what parts need to be different and reflect on how to make your life better. Even if it doesn’t feel good at the same time, there is a beautiful future.
Do not listen to society or norms (that your symptoms make you a diagnosis) and don’t feel like you have to fit in or be perfect.
You’re unique, and do not compare yourself to other people’s journeys.
Do not [make] permanent decisions [with] things that will just change in time.
Be open to listening to healthy advice.
Believe in the people who believe in you. So if you do not believe in yourself, still believe in the people who share it will get better.
What brings you joy?
My family and new opportunities bring me joy. I didn’t know I could experience joy when I was confused and lost.
That last answer sends a message — right up there with “you’re unique,” and everything else the young woman said — that all individuals, both children and adults, should hold close to their chests in the midst of anguish.
Joy might not be present right now. It might not seem possible. For someone in the throes, it might seem remote and unreachable, an unattainable dream walled off by difficulties. But that doesn’t mean change and hope don’t lie ahead, or that someone in pain can’t get there.
To reiterate something else the young woman said, because it’s worth saying twice: Don’t give up. Have patience. If you resolve to make it through, you will “have a beautiful life.”
Wisdom from someone who’s been there. Let’s listen.
—Amy Biancolli, Family Editor
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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
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