Last week there was a blog post on this website that sparked a heated “comments war”. Since my de-mystification about psychiatry began not quite one year ago, I have gathered that “comments wars” are not uncommon.
At least one of the comments named Mr. Whitaker an “outsider”. I am not totally certain of my own “outsider” status; my family played host to psychiatry in our household since I was in my teens. It has caused a lot of pain. I don’t know what exactly that makes me.
My short story, if you will allow it, illustrates just one way of being a part of this movement. One of my family members has “had depression and anxiety” for many years. My understanding of it for as long as I can remember was such that I powerlessly looked on, all the while waiting for it to descend upon me one day. Would I make it through my twenties before the disease struck? Into my thirties? I could only hope not to wake the sleeping giant for as long as possible.
Never once had I heard the word “recovery”. Never once was the notion of living life without medication proposed in any realistic terms. The ingenious marketing had worked enough to delay my questioning of the chemical imbalance and other such theories for a very long time.
But as you all on this website can surely imagine, things were not playing out well throughout this extended time of hopeless disease management. I traveled to my family’s home to visit from out of town last July and something about that weekend more than any other broke my heart.
As a last resort- imagine!- I turned to the place we all turn in times of desperation and unknowing: Google. Into the magic box I typed the words “alternatives to psychiatry”; because although I knew nothing, an alternative seemed in order.
That, anti-climactically, is how it began for me. This movement, unearthed to me now, has become important and personal beyond explanation. It means hope for my struggling family. It means that it is nothing ominous if I feel very sad or very anxious. It explains everything about the beauty and uniqueness of individuals, of humanity. You all are reading this because you have likely seen this beauty for much longer than I.
Two of the first great, informative websites I discovered were Peter Breggin’s Empathic Therapy Center and the site for the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry. The latter led me to attend the conference in L.A. last October, where I connected with people I am now extremely grateful to know. I have since resolved to return to school in order to work on creating my version of turning this movement into work.
Both of the groups I mentioned are doing astounding and courageous work, and they served as beacons to me in the darkness of that pervasive, absolute paradigm for mental well-being. I tethered myself to these websites before I had met anyone who represented in the flesh this new brand of hope.
But they are divided. It is all over their websites. I was so new to all of this that when I saw the disclaimers about each organization’s dissociation with the other, I was disappointed and I questioned the integrity of the movement. I questioned it! I, whose family does not resemble itself from fifteen years ago because of psychiatry, questioned the movement’s integrity because at that moment it seemed so divided. I, who am in the process of a career change in order to learn how to impact others positively with the truth I now know, questioned the integrity of people fighting amongst themselves even as they have hope and truth in common.
Our reality is mathematical. We cannot afford to divide in any way whatsoever amongst those who are involved. There simply are not enough of us. I wish there were so that we could afford the luxury of forming various camps and sub-committees. These groups would understandably be based upon the ranges of hurt, offense, or academic interest that can cause one to read this blog.
As it is, we are few, though I have still learned so much in the last ten months from delegations across the spectrum of movers and shakers. Thank you for welcoming me into this important movement so that I in turn can share our unified message with others.
Rebekah Johnson is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She lives and works in Washington, D.C.