I remember the first time I read the Bill of Rights. I was a child suffering with extreme states and didn’t have any idea what I was experiencing. I believed and I was told that I was different. At the same time, I watched my mother get fired from a job she worked so hard for and went to school for, because of a diagnosis. I then watched all her rights stripped away in psychiatric hospitals. Through it all I felt hope because of those rights contained in the Constitution.
I eventually went to law school so I could fight for the rights that were not being honored for people like my mother (by this time my mother did not need my standing up for her – she was and is still the best advocate I have ever known). Unfortunately, the world was a dark place for me and I found my refuge in the darkest of places. Law school was a long nightmare. I was rarely involved physically or mentally.
Strangely, in my fifth year into a three year degree program I found the same shining light I found as a child – the Bill of Rights. I signed up for a class on individual rights. I went to the first class and the professor talked passionately about our rights as US citizens. There was a fellow student who spoke articulately and powerfully about said rights. I found myself going to every class. I went early and I went prepared. I looked forward to hearing what my classmate would say every week.
I was not in a good place and was paralyzed with fear of everything, so I never talked in class – even though I worked hard and wanted to engage my fellow classmate and the professor – I simply could not find my voice. I could not even muster the courage to talk to him after class. All told, I spent 22 years in school (credit for 19) and I do not think I ever participated voluntarily. My only real regret about not speaking up during all those years in school is that I did not speak up in that individual rights class.
I somehow managed to finish school and become an attorney. I did have moments of pride and feelings that I was good at my job. Unfortunately, my personal demons did not rest for long. I could not handle my human experience and my ways of seeking refuge caused enormous destruction. My awful actions landed me in court. At the time, I was broken and beaten and assumed I would be dead soon, in prison or in a psychiatric hospital.
The powers that be asked me what my position was going to be regarding my law license. I could not believe the question. I had embarrassed, what to me is, the most important profession for rights protection. I had caused such destruction. Why in the world would they ask about whether I was going to fight for my license?
Well, it turns out I had Due Process rights concerning my law license. There was not an attorney in the world that could have salvaged my license to practice law – but my rights were still honored. I said I would l resign and still I needed to go in front of a judge and formally state that I was voluntarily resigning from the bar association.
Through miracles in the form of compassionate fellow humans, nutritional changes, taking personal responsibility, yoga and meditation – I am well today. I take everything very seriously by living everyday deliberately – meaning with great structure. Probably the greatest thing about my new life is that I have found my voice. I am not paralyzed by fear anymore. I may not be eloquent but I get my words heard.
And my message – my voice – revolves around those rights I have always been inspired by – the ones contained in our Constitution. I remember watching a tape of a civil rights leader being interviewed and he was asked what he wanted. He said he only wanted the US to honor the words of the Constitution – to do what they said they would do.
I say we need to be asking the same thing now. We want the rights we are promised – no more and no less. The State of Connecticut honored my due process rights for a law license that they had every reason to take from me. The same state passed a law on Thursday that suspends constitutional rights for people that VOLUNTARILY seek help for a troubling human emotional experience that results in a night spent in a hospital.
This new law requires the names of individuals who voluntarily check themselves into a psychiatric hospital be compiled into a Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services database so that Second Amendment rights can be suspended. No Due Process – just egregious discrimination. Unless proper Due Process procedure says otherwise, we all have a constitutional right to bear arms – whether we want guns or not is irrelevant. I personally have no interest in guns but I have a lot of interest in equal rights.
I hope that we all will stand up and fight this unconstitutional provision. I hope we will demand all of our constitutional rights. I know I will be standing up. I hope my former law school classmate, who inspired me with his conviction for individual rights, will stand up. I feel I can make a little bit of a difference in my role at Advocacy Unlimited but I know for sure that said classmate in his current role as a United States Senator can make a difference. I hope Chris Murphy still has that fire for justice inside of him and that passion that brought me out of a dark place just so I could hear him. If he does then he will join us in fighting this injustice that came insultingly under the guise of “gun violence prevention” and “children safety.”
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.