When I started to write my full-length play Sick in 2010 I was simply looking to understand how it was possible that I could have gotten trapped inside a “mental Illness” when all I had was ovarian cysts. I really love science. I still do. I had a respect for the medical profession and had no reason to question that the well-meaning advice and guidance I was receiving could possibly cause me harm.
The experience of making and touring the play had been so surprising. While I was living through the story – I was certain that what was happening to me was extreme, that I was one in a million and that nobody else could possibly be going through the same thing – Once I started to perform and engage with audiences I was shocked by how many people wanted to talk after the show to share their stories. I have lost count of the number of times I heard “I think this is happening to my sister, or mother or aunt, or boyfriend.”
It has become clear to me that what I, my family and my doctors thought was a rare occurrence may be far more common than any of us can fathom. I feel an obligation as both a writer/performer and as a person who came through an iatrogenic mental illness to raise the questions – How many more people like me are there? How are people’s lives being subtly or not subtly diminished by their treatment? Are we really operating within a system that allows for informed consent if all our drug information is coming from those who stand to profit from its sale?
I was invited by TEDMED to perform an excerpt from the full-length play at their conference in September. It was the 1st time I was able to reach a large mainstream dominantly medical audience. I am still digesting that experience and will talk more about it in a future post. At the end of the talk, I ask the question “So what do you think we should do?” I think most people hear this as rhetorical but I’m really asking 🙂 so as you watch and share the talk if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.
This experience has been at times overwhelming, healing, and yet I feel like I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. Our national conversation about mental health care and health care in general is broken. We ask all the wrong questions, and seem to be looking in the wrong places for answers.
John Kazanjian and I worked hard to come up with a 13-ish minute version of my play:
As part of the release of the video, I’m also doing a Facebook Q&A on Thursday at 10:00 AM Pacific (1 PM on the East Coast). More information is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/779643905463045/.
It’s been a wild ride sharing the big play with small audiences around the country these last couple of years, and I am excited and humbled by the potential audience this abbreviated version can have online. I hope you have a chance to watch it.
It turns out that I’m not alone in this experience and I would love your help in sharing it wherever it is you share things… Facebook, Twitter, things I don’t even know about. There are links for such things on the TEDMED and YouTube pages too.