...Forgive me if I digress. I cannot tell you who I am unless I tell
you why I am. I cannot help you to take a measurement until we both
know where we stand...
Jeanette Winterson, Gut Symmetries
I use the term psychoanalysis only loosely, as I have not strictly
adhered to any formal definition of psychoanalysis. I have addressed
aspects of psychology that have seemed relevant to me, while
realizing that I still may not be seeing enough.
Who I am and where I stand in the world are difficult for me to
accept, and as a result I find that it is necessary for me to try to
understand who I am from more angles or perspectives. In 2009, I
studied evolution, including the evolution of the emotions; selfish
gene theory; the history of psychology; feminism; differences between
male, female and intersex brains; child psychology, including
cognitive development, perception, and language acquisition;
socioeconomic and cultural factors; women and aging; the psychology
of suicide; Freud and the unconscious; addictions; and psychological
effects associated with medical conditions. I tried to think about
all the topics I studied in relation to my own personal situation. I
considered the dilemma of individuality vs conformity, as well as the
concept of rational self-determination.
I have also tried to take on The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders to some extent. When it came to the infamous DSM, I
felt overwhelmed by the idea of how difficult it would be to address
the effects that it and similar tracts (including and perhaps even
especially erroneous popular interpretations of them) may have had on
my life, and how they affect everyone's attitudes about psychological
functioning and normality, and how we categorize and treat others.
I have come up with diagnoses that I think are or would have been
appropriate for various stages of my life, perhaps able to see now
what the professionals missed, and what effects misdiagnosis and
misprescription had in my life.
It can be difficult to shake off the stigma and prejudice with which
even the professionals (perhaps unconsciously) treat those whose
functioning is not seen as 'normal'. I have tried to address how this
stigma is itself a significant obstacle which may contribute to a
It is a long and arduous process to try to untangle and weigh the
effects of the various contributing factors that result in the 'I'
that we associate with ourselves - or even to work out of what the
'I' is actually composed.
It is more simple to believe that one major, easily identifiable
tragedy affects the outcome of someone's life than to try to think
about all the possible contributing factors. It is also natural to
try to find rules to explain types of behaviour, and to put people
into categories in our attempts to understand and control what
frightens or puzzles us. Whatever theories I have encountered and
find relevant to aspects of the whole, my story is my story, and is
not exactly the same as anyone else's. I can only speak for myself
and attempt to interpret for myself.
...the movement away from theory and generality is movement toward
truth. All theorising is flight. We must be ruled by the situation
itself and this is unutterably particular. Indeed it is something to
which we can never get close enough, however hard we may try as it
were to crawl under the net...
Iris Murdoch, Under the Net
It doesn't make sense to me to say that my isolation, my lack of
employment or social functioning is all down to my own negative
attitude, or to a chemical imbalance or biological influence. For a
very long time, I thought it was related to a lack of character, but
that no longer seems like a fair assessment.
It took a very long time for me to seek out other possible
explanations, and to understand to what extent my depression and wish
for death might have been based on unconscious factors, and to what
extent possibly based upon carefully considered and even rational (or
at least understandable) reasons, considering all the relevant
factors in my situation. I have sought out information and
conversation which would (hopefully) challenge my thinking, rather
than merely reinforce unexamined unconscious prejudice.
When it comes to the mind, it may be more difficult to identify
obstacles and the individual challenges or tests that we face. It may
be difficult to find a language for one's individual experience.
It is one thing to recognize factors that have contributed to an
'unhappy' existence, but I don't think that recognition of
contribution is the same thing as blame. The more aware I have
become, the more I have perceived the factors that others face or
have faced themselves. We all impact each other. However human beings
are formed, whatever their circumstances and the challenges of their
lives, they each have to face their own lives.
My parents had children because they thought it was what they had to
do. They did the best they knew how to do. Those I encountered in the
psychiatric profession did the best they knew how to do at the time.
There were various friends, family members and others along the way
who tried to express caring, or to help, according to the principles
and values they had acquired.
Everyone faces tests and obstacles in life, and it is nowhere written
that these must be equal for everyone. It doesn't make sense to me
that I would continually be on the receiving end of 'bad luck'.
Ultimately I have to face that it is necessary for me to stop hiding
behind depression and in my own way take on the world and its
beliefs. In other words, the conflicts I experienced, the inability
to fit in or accept my 'medicine' represented differences in opinion,
perception and philosophy that it was necessary for me to learn how
to identify, own, and articulate.