It has been indeed an honor to have my story featured on the front pages of the New York Times. It is rare that people with a mental health diagnosis, featured on the front of any newspaper, are seen as recovering, competent and active citizens in society. Add the many negative stereotypes associated with being African-American in the United States and indeed the front page story might look drastically different.
What is most important for me in sharing my story of recovery publicly has in some ways been filtered through the lens of how mental health treatment and paths to recovery are generally conceptualized. In our society’s worldview, the path to recovery includes medication. The terminology used is “adherence to medication” and recovery cannot happen without it. However, we are now finding that there are many things that contribute to one’s recovery inclusive or exclusive of medication.
When Benedict Carey approached me to be involved in the series of profiles (), I was immediately attracted to his approach; highlighting the many resources, skills, techniques, supports and coping mechanisms each individual discovers and uses to lead meaningful and full lives despite having a diagnosis of ‘severe mental illness’. The series focuses on that works for a person in their recovery by shining the light on the many, many things that rarely receive attention and diminishing the focus on the role of medication. In my profile for the series, the word medication is used only 4 times in a word count for the entire story of 2, 771.
I am a person who values what works for each individual in their recovery, from medications, to yoga, to walking. We are all different! I am not anti-medication, I am not pro-medication.. I believe each person should have as much information as possible so they can make the decisions with their treatment team, families, and other supporters that will help them realize the meaningful lives of their dreams.
I find it very interesting that some of the summaries of the New York Times article, state that my recovery was due to “adherence to medication”. This is not what the article said nor is it the primary focus of the piece. I started to wonder if people were missing the point – The New York Times feature clearly states that work has indeed been my treatment of choice. Also, family support, a great dog, a wonderful psychiatrist with whom I have a strong therapeutic relationship, and other techniques, inclusive of medications on occasion, are all the things that contribute to my recovery and are the highlight of this profile.
Journalist Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic, asked me if I would share with him more detailed information about the use of medication in my life. He too was unsure of the role medication played in my recovery. Because of its minimal focus on medication, the article may have unintentionally amplified the issue. What is important in my story is this: By working in conjunction with my doctor, and using all the tools available, I have found the combination of interventions that allow me to lead the best possible life and be engaged in the world in a way that I could never have done in the past. Each person is different. My journey is not a prescription, but a very personal story of recovery.
You can read what Robert Whitaker has to say here.
– Keris Jän Myrick
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.