The three R’s

…Reading, Writing and Arithmetic have always been and still are highly valued. Reading and writing have been pleasurable and therapeutic for me for many years. Contributors to Leeds Wellbeing Web and other re-blogs posted on the site, show this to be the case for many who have experienced mental illness.

Reading Dorothy Rowe’s work was one of the biggest factors in my recovery. I was lucky enough to attend events where she spoke, and I found her to be as clear, warm, compassionate and non-jargonistic in person as she appeared to be in her writing. Despite having physical health problems of long standing, following her talks she willingly engaged with individuals from the audience…even little ol’ me. I admired the way she coped with those in the audience, keen to identify themselves as mental health professionals, in opposition to her approach, she had answered them calmly and with clarity.

I was so ‘depressed’, heavily drugged, when I first started to read her work that it took me two years of borrowing and re borrowing, from the library, her ‘Depression Handbook’. Dorothy sees ‘depression’ not as ‘an illness or a mental disorder but a defence’ against difficult life experiences. This explanation comes close to my own understanding of my acute episodes and slow recovery.

One of our regular commentators whom we have also re-bloged, is the local author, Jean Davison, writer of the memoir, ‘The Dark Threads’. Dorothy Rowe has recommended  Jean’s book thus.

Well …..what of  the arithmetic,  could it be an aid to well being? Perhaps as another thing to conquer, I have always been really perplexed with the subject….there’s time! I am only in my third age! and Leeds many educational centres have the facilities to try it at what ever grade you might want to start.


12 thoughts on “The three R’s

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this post. I, too, get much pleasure from reading and writing. It can be difficult to do these if feeling very depressed. When my depression lifted, it was a great delight to me to browse the shelves at the library and find my interest in things had returned. I’m sure reading helped to increase and maintain my ‘wellness’. But, Arithmetic, well, I’ve never been keen, or good at, that subject.
    Thanks for the mention in your post. I have found Dorothy Rowe to be a kind person, never afraid to speak out for what she believes in, and very generous of her time.


  2. It’s great to know how much your reading helped, and the Dorothy Rowe article is really interesting too, so intelligent and compassionate. It’s good to think of her reading ‘The Dark Threads’, which is a great book about High Royds hospital. Dorothy’s article made me think of an article I recently read on the Mad in America blog, by Phil Thomas who used to work in Bradford. I think it says a lot about the power relationship between doctors and patients, and about diagnosis, drugs and their limitations.


  3. Thanks for comments and links…..Fab…good to see psychiatrists not all bad!…was lucky enough to meet Phil Thomas a couple of times…approachable, humble….reassuring that change is occurring …if ever we unfortunate to fall into acute distress hopefully we get someone so enlightened….for the most part my experience with psychiatrists was reasonable…aided me tell my story…despite use of ECT and meds….still being supported to get off medication….


  4. I see this post got a few likes, that can be a boost but sometimes these are search engine generated and are not ‘genuine’ certainly not flattering….did not realise till opening one link ‘liked’…it’s why I am cautious about some aspects of social networking….


  5. Just to clarify that ‘The Dark Threads; by Jean is not about High Royds.Hospital, although that is the setting for some of her experiences with psychiatry during the 1960’s, although some people still report shoddy treatment today, there is also good practise. My experience at High Royds was reasonably ok with many caring staff both on and off the ward, walking in the beautiful grounds aided my recovery, gave time for quiet reflection away from the ward, however I was pleased to see it closed…ending of an era.


      • Thanks Jean for shedding some further light on your story, I do hope more people get to read it, perhaps one of our intrepid ‘hacks’ could get to the far reaches pf Leeds! interview you about your experiences then and what differences and progress you see within psychiatry now.


  6. Fantastic. Really interesting both the blog and the comments.
    Reading has helped me a lot. I try to read broadly.

    What I have realised through reading is that you can learn so much about the human experience, through reading many different kind of books. Although Self-Help books can be really helpful, reading novels and biographies can also shed light about the shared human experience.

    Recently I read that there is a possibility of people being ‘prescribed’ self help books, whilst I think on some levels this may be helpful it does depend upon the book, and where the individual is. Sometimes concentration levels can be poor. Some self help books made me more depressed! Some really helped. But sometimes people who are suffering from mental health issues/distress can be isolated and really need people and support not just books.

    I have a Dorothy Rowe Book on my shelf which i am now inclined to read! A great book that I read which helped me was about Self Compassion, by Kristen Neff.

    It seems we all have different experiences when we talk about the Mental Health System – the NHS. Some people report helpful things whilst others come away feeling harmed in some way. Some of us find Psychiatric drugs helpful, others feel harmed by them. There is controversy about diagnosis – some people agree with them, some people don’t. Everyone’s experience is valid and unique. I often wonder why there doesn’t seem to be a feedback system. There is a complaint system but this is very stressful for people, and can exacerbate distress.

    But I guess it cannot be denied that there are some common complaints of the ‘System.’ It can be a very dis-empowering experience and people can feel treated as a kind of sub-standard human being. This can really exacerbate mental health problems. There are some fantastic professionals who are very aware of this and really care, but also there are others who seem not to understand, and can make things worse. Even the quality of the buildings can make people feel worse. The feeling of a clinical, institutional environment is not a helpful one. (in my view) ‘Us and them’ can be dis-empowering and reinforce low levels of self esteem.

    We all have different experiences and I feel it’s important to to listen, share and validate.
    Hopefully there will be changes ahead. Certainly it feels like that on Social Media.

    Oh one more thing, I listened to a SoundCloud where R.D.Laing’s son was talking with a film director who had directed a film about R.D. Laing. He suggested there may be more information gained about the human experience by reading some Dostoevsky than Psychiatry. But then Dostoevksy certainly isn’t for everyone, I started reading Crime and Punishment and found it pretty bleak – the book got wet and so that was my excuse to stop reading.

    Also there are many people with different levels of literacy and we still need the human touch.

    But for me it is helpful. Although – it’s about balance – fresh air and exercise really do help too.



  7. Thanks for your extensive and thoughtful comments Louise, they are full of useful insight, they would make a good topic for a post, if you would consider writing it as a guest? I do hope our readers get to follow the comments ‘balloon’ as they enrich many of the posts. Hopefully you continue to get the comfort and balance from the many things you describe doing to help yourself and that you have support from other people, there can be little doubt that experiencing emotional turmoil makes life so much harder.


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