Some things are floating around in my mind to try and make sense of. A big part of it is the connection of coercive/biopsychiatry to both race and gender politics. Clearly as Peter and Ginger Breggin argue succinctly and powerfully in “The War Against Children of Color” biopsychiatry has deep links to eugenics. We raised this point in an early submission by WNUSP on the Disability Convention as well. Misogyny as well not only characterizes biopsychiatry, it is, along with racism and eugenics, one of biopsychiatry’s core motivations. As biopsychiatry is a repressive technology accompanied by both charisma and an ideology of dehumanization, it fulfills the ends of social control perfectly.
This is connected in my mind to the politics of healing in a larger sense than the singular healing any person might seek through therapy or personal search for wellness. It is a healing that is throughout the individual and society. It is this sense in which justice is said to be healing and has healing as its purpose. I am not talking about therapeutic jurisprudence which is tainted by psychiatric ideologies and technologies. Rather I am talking about something deeper that I have found discussed in the best of restorative justice writings, especially the work being done by Native Americans of which I would draw attention to the Hon. Robert Yazzie of the Navajo Nation. It is also the kind of healing that motivates reparations in international law, and the inclusion among forms of reparation of the concept of “satisfaction,” that is, having it officially recognized that the violation took place and that it was wrong.
We cannot fully heal when we are being subjected to ongoing violations or the threat of such violations constantly. Healing has to also identify accurately what is the injury or unbalanced life process that is at the root of any suffering, so that we can’t ignore psychiatric assault as a complex violation that creates numerous kinds of injury and imbalances. We have to start looking at the healing that is needed from psychiatric assault itself – how we are doing it and what the challenges are. I’m not talking about recovery from whatever was going on that led you into psychiatry in the first place, or about going off drugs and getting free of the system. Getting free is part of this but I am interested in how we live out the journey of being a survivor in the original sense of the word: not as a term of pride – survivor rather than victim – but as a fact of having not been killed by something that could have killed you.
The kinds of healing needed will depend a lot on exactly what happened to you and where you are socially situated and how you politicize that. I won’t try to speak for everyone but will say some of what I have learned myself as a politicized white/Jewish feminist womyn who was locked up for a total of six weeks and drugged against my will with a neuroleptic for much of that time.
- There are no guideposts. Even those friends who are well meaning have a hard time bearing witness. Books written for sexual abuse survivors can be helpful, as can writings from Holocaust survivors and anything similar. But you are on your own. Even among other survivors of psychiatric assault it is hard to have this conversation. It is hard to get past the description of what happened and bearing witness against it and fighting for justice, to talk about what impact it has had on our lives. Therapy and other mental health services are contraindicated. I say that from my own experience though I know other survivors who have used therapy to address the forced psychiatry trauma. But even therapists are not specializing in this kind of healing or talking about what it means, and I think it is likely that they are generalizing knowledge about trauma just as I have done.
- What’s needed is a combination of personal and political that is dangerous both personally and politically. When we speak out as activists and advocates we make ourselves visible as people who have been labeled by psychiatry. This may be irrelevant to who we are, as something that happened to us rather than a personal characteristic or identity, but it is how we will be seen by others and how they will react to us. It means most often that non-survivors doing the same advocacy are most comfortable with each other and don’t quite know how to be comfortable with us. We are tokenized and excluded from the informal conversations that keep people “in the loop.” Our work is not cited even when others have clearly used it and benefited from it. Personally it is a challenge to put together the pieces of what happened into a narrative that is satisfying and meaningful, particularly as it relates to challenges that are not even articulated anywhere and that it is often dangerous to articulate. What can I do with the way that my body stores the memory of being drugged with haldol? I experience it in my muscles and joints and the way I hold my body, in body-memories of how I abstracted myself to let it happen to me and of the oculogyric crisis that was so strange I did not know how to process it and that was quickly medicated away with cogentin. I do not tell this to even alternative health practitioners as it makes me too vulnerable; I don’t need their affirmation as I have had that enough elsewhere and I don’t want anything like this on my records.
- There are many layers to the healing. There is the social context and relationships that were betrayed and destroyed to put me into psychiatry. The lost life opportunities. The need to not be a victim or even a survivor, to get past the ticking off of harm and to simply “thrive.” And the need to actually heal while no one is acknowledging the specificity of the healing that has to take place, as part of the process of thriving.
- How this relates to human rights advocacy: I have sometimes been allergic to talk of wellness and healing because I hear it as excluding the kind of healing I am talking about and have pursued. But in some of my current reading and thinking and conversations I am starting to see how healing in this larger sense can, at times, be a way to frame our work and our alternative to biopsychiatry’s genocides and gynocide.
We are building a resistance movement, notwithstanding the political players who continue to frame choices for us, about us, with narrow and (I believe) meaningless opportunities for us to have influence. Watch for more on initiatives that are coming up, and/or contact me through this site if interested.
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.
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