Of the many reasons I’ll be in New York City this weekend to protest the American Psychiatric Association is this: I am alive.
Today, I feel this aliveness on the bottoms of my feet as they rest on the carpet below my desk, and on the right side of my face as the setting sun crosses it gently from where I sit to write these words. I feel it in the air that fills my nose and throat and lungs, in my belly as it rises and falls, in the beating of my heart that moves me if I’m still enough. I feel this aliveness in the surges of emotion in my gut and chest, in the joy and the pain and the fear and the sadness that fill me today, that remind me second by second that I’m here, that this life is real, that I’m connected, that I’m a human being. (Sometimes, I still feel the urge to pinch myself to see if it’s all just a dream.) Most importantly, I feel this aliveness when I close my eyes and realize that I know myself deeper today than any word or label or category could possible have known me, and that my life is full of meaning and connection and purpose, even on its darkest days. These are the beautiful facets of humanness that only a few years ago, to me, were nothing but my mental patient fantasy.
This — this moment — is a gift, just as every moment of my post-Psychiatry life is, and I view it as a second chance, this life I’m living on borrowed time. This is why I’ll be protesting the APA, because Psychiatry took me as far from this life as I could possibly have gone, and it is my duty to use this gift to fight for the freedom of those still enslaved.
I’ve found that psychiatric liberation is bittersweet, for with tremendous gratitude comes tremendous pain. Close to my heart on Sunday will be the spirits of those taken by Psychiatry— human beings like Dan Markingson and Rebecca Riley and Keith Vidal and Esmin Green—as well as those whose lives are currently dimming beneath the force of psychiatric oppression, like Justina Pelletier and the countless brothers and sisters who’ve been hidden away behind years of heavy neuroleptics in group homes and state institutions. Just as much as my gratitude drives me to New York City on Sunday, so, too, does the pain I feel in my heart at the immeasurable human loss we face daily in the name of psychiatric “treatment.”
I view opportunities like Sunday as a human obligation— we must speak out against this tentacled beast called the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex, whose voracious and unquenchable appetite for the human spirit is only growing by the day. We must take our gifts of freedom and integrity of mind, body, and spirit and use them as weapons and as tools. We must use our voices, which Psychiatry tried so desperately to take from us, to name this Industry for what it is: a powerful mechanism of social and behavioral control cleverly disguised by a façade of science and medicine. If we are to bring our collective human family closer to a future free from Psychiatry, it starts by taking every chance we have to stand up and fight for human liberation. I hope to see you there, with our voices shouting, our posters flying, our feet marching, and those shrinks trembling.
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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.