My experience of learning how to handle emotional distress vs. disease
Welcome to Wellness Wordworks’ site. My name is Ken Braiterman, Wellness Wordworks board chair. I’ll be blogging at this site about overcoming emotional distress vs. disease. Our business is changing the mental health system from a “disease model” to a “distress model.”
I will also write about my personal recovery from being a homeless, psychotic, traumatized cab driver in New York City. I journey through being a mental patient, to a recovery advocate, and now a proponent of the model looking at emotional distress. vs. disease. I’m one of the happiest 63-year-old men I know. Lots of people have told me my personal stories give them hope.
Why trauma is important to view as emotional distress vs. disease
Most folks in emotional distress end up being treated for “mental illnesses” that are really lasting emotional reactions to past traumas that really happened. Trauma can be the horror of war, natural disaster, rape or some other violent crime, abuse and neglect by a spouse or caregiver, or betrayal by a trusted person. It’s any event that robs you of your sense that the world is a safe, trustworthy place where you have some control over what happens to you. It can be any psychiatric event that leads to police involvement, hospitalization, confinement, medication, a mental illness label, or “treatment” that presumes you have an incurable brain disease.
Trauma often produces lasting reactions that govern your life in the present. It can be painful and crippling, damaging your ability to trust, form and maintain relationships, experience happiness and joy, or live in the moment. It’s a normal human reaction to abnormal events that really happened and are not your fault. Paula Jane Caplan, author of When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home, says, “What would be a normal reaction to the horrors of war?” She recommends that we stop calling these feelings and behaviors Post-traumatic stress disorder. We can just drop the D off PTSD. This is a recognition that our experiences are emotional distress vs. disease.
Sometimes psychiatric medications can help people get through the worst parts. Looking at emotional distress vs. disease shows us how sometimes medications’ most beneficial effects are as a painkiller to help someone create a little distance themselves from the psychic hurt. Often the best way to overcome emotional distress vs. disease is to talk with people about what happened to you, rather than what’s wrong with you. Other people find that building community is helpful, or finding ways to handle stress like exercise, meditation, gardening, or art. That’s what I’ll be writing about on this website.