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Story, Relationship And Mental Health – Why Understanding This Important Connection Is Real

Written by: JL Keez, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


“Why, just why?” filled my thoughts as I suffered. For those experiencing mental health challenges, we find ourselves asking, “Why, just why? ”It took many years, wrong roads, and countless nights of crying before I found my answer to “Why just why?”

A bunch of books paste on the wall with caption  Everyone Has A Story.

To understand how I achieved this, and how you can too, I wonder if storytelling may assist …

The Story

Imagine this: You have ordered your morning coffee from your favourite coffee shop. Quietly waiting, you feel the presence of someone approaching from behind. Without warning, you begin to shake, fill with fear and want to hide. Slowly turning, you see a face looking back at you with a look that begs the answer to, “Why, just why?”

Embarrassed, you collect your coffee and escape to the nearby curb, where, in solitude, you now ask, “Why, just why?”

Have you ever experienced sudden responses to a trigger that bares no truth to the current situation? Across a range of scenarios, this was my life until in recovery from an eating disorder, I learned an important lesson regarding life and healing. Where the body suddenly disrupts, whether due to a thought, a behaviour, an emotion felt, or a physical response to a life event – where sensibility and truth is absent ‒ turning to our story will provide the clues and solutions desired. I learned that understanding the important connection between story, relationship and mental health is key to where healing is sought. Identifying story clues embedded within our story to date, to use each to open discussion regarding the connected relationships, and hence the expression of mental health lived, provides an opportunity for empowerment and recovery. “Why, just why’s?” become exciting discoveries once we signal we are indeed ready to heal! Additionally, to view the mental health issue as a friend rather than a foe – yes, a difficult ask ‒ is where we need to venture for recovery to be realised. With story and mental health closely entwined, answers line the corridors of the issues presented. With relationship integral to the story, the connection is clear. Story, related relationship and the mental health expression are allies anxiously wanting to share their information and explain! Currently, 2022 statistics shared across platforms tell us that globally, 1 in 7 people are experiencing a mental health disturbance; they are a leading cause of death. A disturbing 7.8% of our population suffer from an eating disorder with death rates rising yearly. I am a statistic for each of these – suicidal depression almost took me.

But why had I become a statistic? Why had I developed an eating disorder? Why did I develop a range of mental illnesses ‒ chronic fatigue, migraines, depersonalization, OCD and suicidal depression?

Let’s continue through storytelling …

The Relationship

On Sunday, February 28th a little girl turned 2. Dressed in her Sunday best, ready for church, she eagerly clambered onto the back seat of the family car alongside her big brother and baby sister. Her father drove and her mother was in the front passenger seat. Approaching the closed internal gate of the farm where she lived, unrehearsed, she felt compelled to share a secret with her mother right at that moment.

Articulating words now available as a big two-year-old, she was instantly met with the ferocity of her father’s hand. With lightning speed, she was ordered out of the car. She was to open the gate and close it once the car had passed through; church was not on the agenda for her. With no one coming to her aid, she did as she was told. The gate closed; the car disappeared. Trembling, isolation, dread, fear, blame, shame, abandonment, tears and loneliness joined her. Eventually, the car returned. However, without further discussion or inquiry, this trauma determined the script, the dialogue adopted for life moving forward. People pleasing and perfectionism preceded all decisions made. Fear became her guide. With her father trading farm life for the ministry, by the age of fifteen, she had lived at several addresses. She became the target of schoolyard bullying. Her straight ‘A’ academic record was ridiculed. Creating athletic records saw her peer group turn away. Her vocal ability was scorned.

The development of anorexia nervosa, in hindsight, was a given, or at least some sort of mental health disturbance. Nine years on and barely existing, the additional forms of mental health expressions joined her. Although now married ‒ however that happened ‒ life was going down the gurgler fast without a stop button in sight.

Pregnancy, thought to hold the magic cure for all of the suffering, found her slide deeper into the well of despair. A second pregnancy almost signed her death warrant. With days and nights a constant blur and reality a distant memory, her marriage crumbled. Well, actually, the fear of rejection weighed heavily and over-rode sensibility. She decided that in order to heal, she needed to leave what she held in thought was a contributor to not only her failing health but the rejection falsely perceived. At thirty-seven, she stumbled into the rooms of a female psychologist who practiced Reality Therapy. The turning point question was asked, “Tell me your story.” I replied, “No one has ever asked me that before”. Tears overwhelmed and the nearby rivers were filled to the brim! Conversations of discovery unfolded. A massive number of “Why just why’s?” found their way into the dialogue. Most importantly, common ground was shared. Clues from my story emerged and gave voice to the little one trapped inside from that Sunday morning.

The Mental Health

Over many months I was guided through challenging each clue; in doing so I was able to form solutions. Gradually the negative backdrop that had plagued my life transformed into a positive forefront moving forward. The damning dialogue adopted, “You will be blamed, no one will believe you, it will be all your fault, I will be killed, no one will like you,” found its demise. I designed a new filter for life, a new set of beliefs of my choosing. My body responded to the newness by letting go of the fear handed to me as a child. My body healed.

Unfolding before me was a story of sexual abuse and strong family control. The relationships attached to each were interrogated. I needed to release myself from the hold of impacting relationships. Even in their absence, the influence remained and frightened me into submission. I needed to assess ' why I had ' become the version I had over all those long years. I needed to allow the true version to emerge from despair to become who I am, not why I am. I gave myself permission to take 4 steps – there of course, were a ton of steps to take, but these stood tall above the rest:

  1. I gave myself permission to exist.

  2. I gave myself permission to change the embedded dialogue, allowing me to live life differently to how it had been presented to me as a child.

  3. I gave myself permission to speak of the abuse I had endured at the hands of both family and family friends.

  4. I gave myself permission to finish the conversation I attempted to have at age 2 with my mother. I told her of the abuse inflicted by my father.

(As in addition, I understood why I had ‘disrupted’ to many scenarios throughout my life ‒ it was the trigger reminder of being approached from behind by my abusers.) As you can see, this story of mine is one that can fill the pages of a few books! This is a glimpse.

The Understanding

My story was filled with relationships that controlled my existence and development. Trapped in the fears taught, I sank into the mental health descriptions that eventuated. Healing asked me to ‘have a chat' with each of them, to learn from their knowledge. Once I could understand the connection between the story elements that caused disruption when recalled, the associated relationship input, and the mental health outcomes suffered, I could understand where my life had gone so terribly wrong. Under the guidance of someone with lived experience and who had a framework to follow, with each story clue, I was encouraged to:

  1. Identify the thought causing the disruption

  2. Describe the resulting behaviour

  3. Feel the emotion as I lived it again upon recall

  4. Identify the physical response the above 3 were having on my body and where.

While experiencing massive fear, I gradually designed a new filter for life. I gave the words that confined me back to those who gave them to me. I freed myself to live under my rules.

In closing, I encourage those who suffer to take 3 steps today:

  1. Research and find someone who has had your lived experience to guide you

  2. Ensure they ask that turning point question, “Tell me your story.” Ensure they understand the important connection between the story, relationship, and mental health.

  3. Navigate my website to see if I may be the number 1 you are searching for!

The connection between story, relationship and mental health is real. Opening your dialogue to understand your “Why, just why?” is where recovery will be found…

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


JL Keez, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

J.L Keez survived a nine-year struggle with anorexia nervosa. She endured years of mental illness, including suicidal depression, OCD and depersonalisation. Today, she is the Director of JL Keez Anorexia Unlocked, a passionate speaker, author and Thought Leader in her field. In her role as a Reality Therapy Coach and influential teacher she empowers others to heal their lives through delivering the understanding required to do so.



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