The black lantern, ghosts and witches galore,
Scary people come in,
So please wake up now and then!
– Lexie Hurley, my 7-year-old granddaughter
It is my dream that people will wake up to the fact that many psychiatric survivors like myself feel we might as well be dead, because the public at large still acts as if they think that iatrogenic harm is good for us. It is not! It is not good for anyone. They act as if it is OK to ‘diagnose’ us when in fact there is no evidence to establish that psychiatric ‘diagnoses’ are medical diagnoses. They can be convinced that some of us are a danger to ourselves and others, when often it is the ‘treatments’ that we receive as a result of that thinking that cause us to act aggressively toward ourselves or others. We are often very gentle and would not hurt a fly! They completely ignore our social circumstances as if they have no influence on our peace of mind.
I was fortunate to find out that I was harmed. Today I am leading a life I am happy with, but if I were to attend most psychiatrists I would be still considered to have been ‘Bi-polar,’ when in fact it was the ‘treatment’ I received at the hands of many psychiatrists that turned me inside out and deformed me.
It was this time of the year, February, 1976, that I received many electroshocks — accompanied by many neuroleptics and other psychiatric drugs — after the birth of my daughter. I received my hospital records under the Freedom of Information Act. While I read these scanty notes 40 years later, it is very clear to me that the harm done then was outrageous. The doctors were even surprised that I was not happy in St Stephen’s psychiatric ‘hospital’! This is how they view people they ‘diagnose’ as lacking insight! It was very understandable that I was very distressed to be separated from my new-born child and husband while I was forcefully treated with electroshock and psychotropic drugs. I had the insight to know that this was not a good place to be. However they did not have the insight to see that they were harming me as they continued to treat me as a lab rat, as they continued to poke me with needles and apply electrodes to my precious brain. When I returned after a weekend with my family where I was doing well, they were surprised that I did not want to come back!
We psychiatric survivors have been medically raped by charlatan ‘doctors’ — and then we are supposed to go back to them again if we find it hard to live in a very unjust and unequal world. Is it any wonder that people in such a position would want to die by suicide? Is it any wonder that we might feel that people in general do not understand how we are treated as second class citizens and denied our human rights? We are actually are denied these basic rights and told it is for our own ‘good’; told we are not fully human or normal! Told that our brains are diseased, when there is no such evidence that this is true; told that mind-altering drugs can correct the damage — when in fact they often cause brain damage — and told that electroshock can be effective when in fact all it causes is brain damage and dysfunction!
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
– Upton Sinclair
It is very challenging to live in a world which wants so much to believe in the myth of ‘mental illness’ — a world which thinks it needs this delusion, and profits on the misery many people endure today as a result. It is easy to be in denial when so many unnecessary jobs depend and thrive on this illusion. Schools and universities strengthen the illusion while more and more people — including children — fall victim to deceptive ‘diagnoses.‘
Connotatively ‘diagnosis’ means ‘to understand.’ We have more diagnosis today than we have ever had, yet misunderstanding is rampant. Perhaps if we look to the deeper meaning of diagnosis in its etymology (“dia” – “between,” and “gnosis” – “to know”) we can see why this is so; “knowledge” can come between us, as much as it might join us, when it creates false distinctions in the pursuit of an illusion that we are safer if we can only label, control, and marginalize those people and things that we find challenging.
In the 40 years since I was wrongly – and catastrophically – “diagnosed” and “treated,” I’ve seen one after another announcement of supposed “progress” in the “science” of understanding and treating “mental illness” come and go — first trumpeted, then with nary a mention, failing to hold their ground and falling away to the mists of time along with the people and the lives they’d ruined. This past week, as well, we’ve seen yet another advance trumpeted of a supposed advance in the understanding of the brain changes associated with “mental illness” which (though acknowledging that no actual treatments were as yet indicated) failed to acknowledge that the myriad other well-established explanations for these same changes for which there are well-validated, safe, viable, and socially acceptable treatments.
People will continue to suffer and die if the public do not wake up and have the courage to act as a caring community, and stop regarding human problems as “diseases” to be “cured,” rather than as challenges that we share. We all belong to one human family with different strengths and weaknesses, and I dream of a world in which we will stop running after an illusion of “progress” that requires our fellow humans to be categorized, marginalized, and destroyed. In my dream, there is no destination or destiny that justifies the sacrifice of any life. I dream that we will begin to define “progress” in a way that includes all of us, and all of our experiences – all the pains, distresses, as well as joys – that we all inevitably share – within the definition of what it means to be “human.”
Someday I hope my dream will come true!