Sometimes I wish I had picked a different cause. Something mainstream such as dedicating my life to a food pantry or bullying prevention. Something most people don’t think twice about supporting.
Of course, I didn’t “pick” my cause. It picked me.
Every day, I wake up and wonder, how can I better help people make the connection between mental well-being and social justice? How do I convince folks that the narrative they’ve heard for the last thirty years—that “mental illness” is a brain disease, best treated with powerful psychotropic medications—is false? Especially when they’ve experienced relief from this medication or seen family members and friends plummet when they stop taking it?
It’s a real challenge, because this false narrative, that mental disorders are brain diseases, is deeply personal for many people. Let me share a couple of recent examples.
(Not) Walking on Eggshells
The other week, I posted Katinka Newman’s short documentary, The Pill That Steals Lives, A Family’s Nightmare on Mental Health Street, on Facebook. “This story is eerily familiar,” I wrote. Soon enough, I had a comment, “Please be careful. Any medication can have nasty side effects. But for every negative story you hear, I [can] tell you 10 in which someone owes their life to antidepressants. Don’t make people afraid to reach out for help.”
Notice how the commenter assumed that by showing a film that warns people of the documented adverse effects of antidepressants, I was discouraging people to seek help. This demonstrates well how ingrained the “medication as first resort” narrative is. The comment also attempted to silence me. “Please be careful.” Oh, you have no idea how careful I am, I thought. How I walk on eggshells to not offend, shame, or belittle anyone who has a personal relationship with psychiatric medication. Nothing good comes from making people feel bad.
I discussed this comment with my husband, Todd Green, who is an Islamophobia scholar—also not a popular cause. He writes books and blog posts and speaks around the country about how to combat Islamophobia. Mostly, he preaches to the choir (college students and faculty, members of Islamic centers and progressive churches, etc.), but there is often at least one person who is there to challenge his message—with the Qur’an in hand.
As we’ve seen and heard in the political discourse this frightful election, the Muslim as the violent enemy—as the Other—is also a deeply personal narrative for many people in the West.
Todd pointed out that ours are the minority voices. We shouldn’t worry about boldly offering an alternative narrative and “offending” people, because their narrative is being reinforced by mainstream media, pop culture, social media, and powerful institutions. All. The. Time.
This conversation (and recent re-readings of Psychiatry Under the Influence), empowered me to respond on Facebook:
The message here is clearly to be informed. Nobody informed our family of the host of side effects our daughter might experience (hallucinations, suicidal ideation, etc.). The institution of psychiatry has let our society down in the area of informed consent. Psychiatric treatment is the dominant discourse, and I think it’s important to allow space for the minority voice. This is not intended to discourage people to seek help, but to realize that different approaches work for different people.
We shouldn’t shame or belittle, but we should challenge, nudge, and stand our ground. Offending people is unfortunately a side effect of social change.
World Mental Health Day: A Disappointment
October 10 was World Mental Health Day. As someone who advocates for social change to optimize mental well-being, I was excited to get involved, but I knew that I would probably be disappointed by the content published by most organizations and individuals.
I was right.
As I started browsing the hashtag that morning, I saw lots of tweets about reducing stigma, encouraging people to seek help, and general words of support. All with innocent intent, but also accepting, normalizing, and embracing the mental illness narrative. Lundbeck US, maker of Abilify, chimed in to remind us that “1 in 5 people experience mental illness each year.”
I saw no discussion about trauma or other environmental, social, and political factors that contribute to widespread mental distress. Nothing about alternative approaches to achieving mental and emotional well-being or recognizing that mental distress is part of the human condition. I published a blog post calling for political action to promote mental well-being, but it was largely ignored.
Toward the end of the day, I saw a Facebook post from Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls with a cute drawing of the brain and the words, “mental health is just as important as physical health.” Yes, I thought! That’s right. Then I read some of the comments, including one from a physician saying, “It’s important to note that mental health *is* part of physical health. There are biological bases for all mental illnesses which is why medication and behavioral changes can help. Just like improving your diet and taking your diabetes medications protects your body from high blood sugars.”
I wanted to respond, but I didn’t think a back-and-forth with a stranger on Facebook would be productive. I felt defeated. How do you challenge a narrative that is so deeply ingrained and so personal to so many, including many health care professionals?
Where Do We Go From Here?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach this problem. It is an age-old problem, of course, but it’s new to me. I don’t have all the answers, but I have some thoughts I’ll share with you. And I’d love to hear the ideas of this brilliant community in the comments.
Facts Don’t Work
We’ve all tried presenting facts to persuade others to see our side—to change their minds. Rarely does this work, especially when the topic at hand is personal and sensitive.
Todd keeps a list of statistics on hand about how you’re more likely to be crushed to death by your own furniture than to be killed by a terrorist in this country. But he uses them only to make the point that facts don’t matter when people are embedded in the discourse that says Islam is an inherently violent religion and we should keep Muslims out of our country in the name of national security. Fear, not facts, often win the day.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep publishing new information as it becomes available. We just shouldn’t count on it to change people’s minds.
Validating People’s Experiences
When I say that mental well-being is a social justice issue (versus a purely biomedical issue), I never intend to minimize the suffering caused by mental distress—both by individuals exhibiting symptoms of mental disorders as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and their loved ones.
The suffering is real, and at times exacerbated by mainstream treatment approaches and cultural norms about what it means to be human in the 21st century. My interest lies in exploring the macro factors that contribute to this suffering: poverty, consumerism, capitalism, racism, sexism, status, environmental degradation, etc. Many people struggle to make this connection, especially since they’ve been told mental distress is caused by a broken brain.
I think we must always validate people’s experiences. If somebody says an antidepressant saved their life, we don’t start with, “You know that’s probably the placebo effect, right?” But rather, “I’m glad it helped you.” We don’t want to shut the door to further dialogue. At a later time, we might be able to share our own story of dreadful side effects or difficult withdrawal.
As Todd often reminds audiences when speaking about combatting Islamophobia, “Personal relationships matter. They break down barriers. They introduce a human face into the equation.” People who respect me and know me personally are more likely to hear my message. Nurturing those relationships is an important aspect of paving the way for an alternative narrative.
Offering an Alternate Narrative
Storytelling is a buzzword in marketing right now—because it works. When we tell our stories and people identify with them, they listen. The stories in Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic quite possibly saved our daughter’s life, and I’ve heard from other parents that our family’s story in turn helped them make informed decisions concerning their children’s well-being.
If you have a compelling story to tell, don’t sit on it. Submit it here at Mad In America. Publish a book. Make a documentary film. Write a song. Draw a cartoon. Speak it at a poetry slam. Share it over a cup of tea. Act it out in a community street performance. Paint it. Call an investigative journalist. Shout it from the rooftops!
There is strength in numbers. We should all tell our stories, not to prove other people wrong or to shame them, but to offer an alternative narrative. A narrative that recognizes that symptoms of mental disorders are cries for help, means of communication, and normal responses to an unjust society. A narrative that digs deeper and recognizes the macro factors that contribute to mental distress. A narrative that calls for social change to optimize mental well-being for all people.
This is my deeply personal narrative.
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.
Regarding “If you have a compelling story to tell, don’t sit on it. Submit it here at Mad In America”
Sorry I disagree.
Many people are drugged/medicated for their unwanted behaviour, unwanted by those in power.
ONLY IF you are in a position of power can a person tell their story.
The world runs on money and if you piss off those who pay you/supply you with money, you may receive punishment. As in “Don’t rock the boat if you can’t swim”.
markps2, thanks for your comment. People in power certainly have a platform that others do not. And I understand if people choose not to tell their stories for fear of further discrimination and punishment. It is an invitation and a choice.
Hi Mark, I think a person can tell their story without being in a position of power. I have told mine, at some degree of risk to my jobs and relationships, and I think no one would describe me as a person of power – i.e. I’m not part of the 1%, not politically powerful, etc. But I decided to take a risk anyway.
To be more specific about power…”Where does your income come from?” not you Matt or Tabita personally, but whomever is considering telling their story.
Mark, I’ve been telling my story publically for years and made a no budget film sharing my story along with 5 others, and I was on disability at the time. Yes, there were consequences because I challenged power with my truth, that was to be expected. I was on the bottom rung of that social ladder, so I had nothing to lose. I was not looking to “fit in,” quite the opposite. I wanted to be authentic, and let the chips fall where they may. That’s how I live my truth.
As a result of making this film, regardless of how I was stonewalled professionally, my life changed radically for the better. Had nothing to do with money, I wasn’t marketing the film for cash. But that is some kind of healing and shift when we face our fears and go for it, with a clear purpose and intention. You’d be surprised how freeing that is, regardless of anything. That is true self-empowerment.
My film is a public service on YouTube and the latest version has gotten 947 hits so far and climbs daily. The first version, before I did a slight re-edit, got almost 1200 hits before I replaced it. And it’s gotten several hundred hits on cultureunpluged.com, who solicited it when they saw it on YouTube. I’ve given away tons of DVDs, to folks who wrote me after seeing it on YouTube, who wanted to use it for college classroom discussions, and also to family agencies, for education. These days, anyone can have a large audience platform, thanks to the internet. It also played repeatedly on local public access, and that drew an audience, too.
Truth-speaking really pays off, when we can trust.
My life changed radically for the worst.
I lost my home of 17 years and now live in a hell.
Your utube is not available?
I don’t believe in “schizophrenia” , and I think acknowledging diagnosis would be acknowledging another person’s insult.
……But in my own case it was so sloppy and disorganised I think I can challenge any diagnosis.
Changing the narrative is indeed the challenge, and a very difficult one, especially given that the people to whom the narrative applies, those “captured in an experience of depression”, as I like to put it, have bought into the narrative as a belief system – “I have depression”. I have been able to change that narrative, and that belief, and that experience, for myself. After being “captured in an experience of depression” for almost fifty years, I found a way to change that experience, proving that I do not and never did “have” depression. What I had was an ill experience of being, and now I have well-being. Perhaps, as you suggest, I will tell my story.
Ray, this is so beautiful. Your story is yours to tell. Peace to you.
I agree with Ray’s comment that changing (and even challenging) the existing narrative on mental illness is a challenge, a significant one. To challenge the idea that mental illness is not really a disease; a result of ‘faulty brain wiring’ or a chemical imbalance goes against the marketing of Psychiatric Associations, the Medical community and most importantly pharmaceutical companies. Millions of dollars over the last few decades have been invested in messages to the public about ‘broken brains’, and diseases of the mind, of which the only cure for the most part is medicine. This narrative is deeply embedded in North American society’s belief system.
For these reasons I’m not optimistic about the views on depression, schizophrenia and manic episodes changing anytime soon. Changing the narrative will require a concerted effort with a cohesive, consistent message that can be communicated across multiple media channels. This will require funds (a lot!), as well as a disciplined, strategic approach to spread a consistent, concise message.
However all is not lost. I do think individuals like us, can help change the narrative that will reach a least a sliver of the population with personal stories via blogs, books, videos documentaries etc. Though the reach will be a drop in the bucket compared to the pharmaceutical companies.
There are other ways I think we can achieve change: talking to our medical providers for one and stating why we don’t want medication for treating depression and anxiety, speaking to our families including educating our children, and joining forces with organizations promoting change, as with Mad in America. I finally stumbled across Mad In America (thankfully) after trying to get off Zoloft. I had no idea why my depression was not getting better and began worsening, even after being on a cocktail of Wellbutrin and Zoloft. Only after trying to get off Zoloft and experiencing the horrendous side effects is when I turned to researching and found Mad In America. Thankfully I have found this organization! It all makes so much sense after reading Whitaker’s books, ‘Mad in America’, and ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’.
Thanks Tabita for your thoughtful article.
I can also recommend visiting >beyondmeds.com<. Monica does a great job there,
and there's lots of useful information! Also, Dr. Jim van Os, of the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands, is leading an effort in Europe, mainly, to do away with the very word "schizophrenia". *ALL* so-called "mental illnesses" were INVENTED as excuses to write prescriptions for DRUGS. The DSM-5 is nothing more than a catalog of billing codes. Yes, sometimes people have real problems, and really need some help. but that's NOT how psychiatry and the mental health system see things…. And, they only see *things*, they don't see PEOPLE…. the only thing Zoloft did for me, was cause me to *think**about* suicide. I wasn't actually suicidal…. But it sounds like you're doing better, Debbie_M, & I'm glad to see you here! ~B./
Thanks Bradford for recommending the site, beyond meds. Very helpful!
Depression is a type of extreme sadness and “schizophrenia” is a type of overwhelming anxiety. These situations are understandable to most people as normal life.
I can understand drug companies trying to make money wherever they can, but it’s amazing to see so many “obedient” doctors willingly swallowing everything whole.
You show a good deal of consciousness for a new commenter. One thought:
talking to our medical providers for one and stating why we don’t want medication for treating depression and anxiety
Here’s a novel idea — how about NOT talking to “medical providers” about any of this stuff and recognizing that you are correct, you are not experiencing “mental illness,” and your feelings about life and the world are not health issues? And telling them to bug off if they insist on pestering you about your “feelings”?
In response to oldhead. I appreciate your comments and thoughts about not talking to medical provider. However, I do think with the severity of the side effects of coming off Zoloft, I don’t think it’s wise NOT to seek help from a medical provider. The side effects I’ve experienced are so severe, I need new prescriptions at a lower does for example (from 50 mg to 25 mg), which I can’t do without prescribing doctor. I believe some providers can provide support and guidance when we the patient, communicate our beliefs and intentions.
Not what I meant; of course you should have medical support when detoxing from iatrogenic drug dependencies (hopefully from someone other than the “dr.” who got you hooked). But you were talking, it seemed, in the context of arguing with them about what you need, and in that case I was saying, don’t worry what they think, just walk.
Great article Tabita,
I often wonder myself about justified Islamaphobia – it seems like lots of people would like to get into it.
I spent two hours this morning in a dental hospital getting work done on my teeth by two young people both wearing traditional head covering.
I knew from the start that my treatment was going to be businesslike and professional. The treatment was successful and painfree.
Thanks Fiachra. Wonderful remarks about your dental experience.
I learn a lot about people by how they respond to the personal healing stories of others.
I have been a very anxious person throughout life, and talked to several therapists, tried a couple of medications which didn’t do much one way or the other. None of these therapists really had any insight to offer about my problems, either what to do about them, or where they came from. Since reading on the internet, I have come to realize that early developmental emotional neglect is the source. I have come to wonder if developmental traumas are not the source of most distress. But it seems like most people are not very curious about whether that could be true. It’s almost like they are fond of their own ignorance. People seem to instinctively avoid any area of discussion which could make them responsible for some one else’s problem, even if they were ignorant of what they were doing at the time.
Good for you for looking for answers outside the medical establishment. Childhood trauma is certainly a known risk factor for poor physical and mental health outcomes. Depending our our definition of trauma, I think you’re definitely right about it being the source of much distress. I believe that our medication first treatment paradigm allows us as a society to turn a blind eye on the structural issues that underlie much distress. This is one of my big concerns with it—that it lets us off the hook from providing child-centered education, family-friendly policies, restorative justice, living wages, equality, etc, etc, etc.
@dfk, & Tabita Green
(Sorry, dfk, I tried to post this directly under your comment! Anyway….
So, dfk, THANK-YOU for using the phrase “developmental traumas”. I’ve never seen those 2 words combined in exactly that way, and it works very well, and goes a LONG way to explaining much of what’s mis-diagnosed as so-called “mental illness”. And, Tabita, you & your daughter’s story sounds very familiar, and I can say it’s well-written. It tracks VERY closely with MANY other people’s experiences! I’m sorry it was as bad as it was, and very glad it wasn’t worse, or more prolonged! I’d say you’re in the beginning of a journey that will only continue to get better & better! And I’m SO GLAD your family escaped as relatively unscathed is you did!
Gee, I can’t begin to imagine why a DRUG maker like Lundbeck would want to spend their valuable marketing money pushing the idea that 60 MILLION Americans a year have a chemically-induced physical chemical imbalance mental health condition issue in their brains!
Gee, I wonder what Christmas presents I’m gonna get from Santa Claus this year?
I very much agree that having more people speak out about alternative approaches to and understandings of serious distress publicly is important. That is why I did it myself, and have encouraged other commenters to do so as well. Although I had some ability to protect myself, I was still quite scared that bad things professionally or personally might result if I spoke up publicly. But so far, nothing bad has happened at all – and more importantly some people I talked to are quite encouraged and helped by speaking to me and sharing their own experience in response.
The lack of anything bad happenig makes me realize that for the most part other people care less about us than we think, and also how inconceivably vast the internet is… but we can still influence some people than sharing our stories.
What I feel would be great would be if many thousands or tens of thousands more people would speak up about how the disease model, the ignoring of social factors, the vast over-reliance on and misrepresentation of drugging, etc, is causing real and very personal harm. That number of voices might start to be heard more widely and then Joe Everyman would think more seriously that there might be something very wrong in the messages they are hearing from the drug companies and those funded and influenced by the drug companies, such as many psychiatrists and NAMI representatives.
And well done for your passionate and clearly written article.
Thanks Matt. I know it was hard for my daughter at first to get on board with speaking out through our book. As a teenager, she didn’t risk being punished by employers or others in power, but she risked stigmatization by her friends and becoming “the weirdo” or “the attention seeker” at her small liberal arts college. In the end, she decided that if her story could help others, the risk was worth it. She still has her friends and she experienced no negative social impact. On the contrary, she has people walk up to her on campus and sharing their own stories. Powerful!
I have run into this problem on social media. You can’t question anything about medication, or the validity of mental illnesses, or the chemical imbalance myth without being accused of stigmatizing, or trolling, by the majority of the posters
Even questioning these these things as a moderate is difficult. If you question psychiatry (which everyone should, given its history…) you’re suddenly an anti-psychiatry conspiracy theorist.
Maybe you could start by discussing mental syndromes instead of illnesses. There can be any number of underlying things causing a syndrome and each may need a particular treatment- and presto, now you can discuss psychiatric drugs and their appropriate (non)use, as what we call diseases (depression, schizophrenia, etc.) are actually syndromes with differing causes in individual cases.
Tabita, I shared your diplomatic article here on Facebook. The dialogue and the centering of personal connection and personal stories is deeply important. As I have noticed myself, throwing facts at people or telling them that they are wrong, even if their wrongness is readily provable, creates lots of friction and often turns off their willingness to listen. In my opinion psychiatry is a secular religion and a cult belief system, so direct challenging of it can actually deepen its hold on people. Once the dialog has been created then the articles and facts can come out! Another problem with psychiatry is that the person being drugged or coerced can perceive it as caring even if is actually hurting them.
People who are actively experiencing the black box warning can perceive that the antidepressant is the only thing that is stopping them from killing themselves! Wild. I say that because it happened to me! It was only after I had a near death experience and permanent brain damage that I woke up. And when I said I need to get off the pills and stay off, everyone was against me trying to keep me on even though they knew about the harm that the pills did. Others have mentioned before that unless one has personally been on these pills that it can be hard to get how “crazy” they can make someone and how much they can harm.
And I’ve gotten the same pushback saying that me telling my story is “preventing others from getting the help they need”. BS! Keep speaking up. Thank you for your efforts at dedication to your daughter and children everywhere. Your posts elsewhere on the site show an attempt at humility and self reflection that few parents are willing to do, esp given the conclusion that you unknowingly had some part in something that harmed your child, which was allowing them to be given pills. Too many parents are not willing to examine that something bad is happening to their child because of what it might say about them even if they had nothing to do with it, as psychiatry lies and tricks parents and children alike.
And I’ve gotten the same pushback saying that me telling my story is “preventing others from getting the help they need”.
Consider it a compliment.
I encourage you to be less polite and not worry about crushing those eggshells. And remember, the mind is an abstraction, it can be neither ill nor healthy, any more than an idea can be purple. (Thanks to the pre-sold out E.F. Torrey for the latter observation.)
That’s right. I’m still looking for the right words to describe what (most?) humans want to experience—satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, nirvana… I use the term “mental health,” because my audience “understands” it, realizing that I continue to reinforce the biomedical model. Suggestions welcome.
Well…just that they DON’T “understand It,” they just think they do. It’s one of those “everybody knows what I mean” kind of things but WHAT exactly do they know? So really I think doing that is just adding to the confusion, even though you may be connecting on other levels. Suggestions? Dunno, self-fulfillment? Harmony with the universe? Anything but “mental health.”
BTW the biomedical model so-called is just one permutation of the medical model. The very terms “mental illness” and “mental health” are examples of a medical model narrative. But terms such as “mental illness” existed before the onslaught of the pharmaceutical cabal, though they were waiting in the wings. In the 60’s & 70’s there were many shrinks who spoke of “mental illness” as a real disease that could be “cured” by psychoanalytically-based talk “therapy.” Just as illogical, but it didn’t cause physical damage.
Apperently many people on MIA blogs and forums really belief
in existence of fictional mentality and mental illness.This give
my crazy kind meta-physic mental component.And it’s really
favor for Mental Health system.America invent this mentality,
mental illness and Mental Health system.You have to exclude
mentality from your missbeliefs,because this is vey stupid and
delusive belief.Our mind is based on biological brains.This all
what we have.Also madness is triggered by certain biological
substances in my brains and same is,with any crazy person.
This is all going mistery of modern science and it’s been known
and confirmed in academics articles,for more then 40 years ago.
Sadly MIA don’t consider me as important part,of any future
campaign,which have to lead in either re-institute,or in total
collapse of entire Mental Health system.This should be only real
mission or goal of MIA.Anything less is dissarter for my crazy
people on global level.
To be very honest and frank, as someone who has made a career out of sharing my story of healing–by public speaking, teaching, and even making a deeply personal film where 6 of us who went through the system and faced discrimination share our deeply personal stories, very openly and from the heart, and have published it on YouTube for anyone in the world to see–I have found social media sites to not be the safest place to share. People can be extremely insensitive and project all sorts of demeaning and inaccurate things, with insistence. It can feel very discouraging and even trigger old trauma. When we share, we are being extremely vulnerable, which I think is a good thing, and it leads to creativity and freedom, without a doubt. But some people can be not terribly nice, that’s just the way it is in the world right now.
With that said, of course I agree that it’s vital to speak our truth, as examples to encourage others. One has to be aware that it’s impossible to control how others will hear us, and sometimes, you gotta take it on the chin.
I experienced so much personal growth and healing facing naysayers, and it’s gotten easier and easier as I go along, really great healing work and consciousness growth comes by facing resistance from others, and dealing with the social consequences of being authentic. How can anyone find freedom in any regard while living in fear of what others think, say, or do? And how is change going to occur, if we don’t test ourselves bravely, and challenge others with our truth? Truth-speaking, where it is most resisted, is the ticket to change, always has been. Remember “the power of one.” That is where change begins, that first domino.
There are your stories,without any chance to change this world,
but there was a story,which apperently science didn’t mentioned.
How long ago,mental illness should be history?50 years ago,sadly.
Farewell from other reality.Biological,not mental one.Debate needed.
“After talking about this for a while, I asked her to let me know the next time she felt sad so we could work through it together. Then we moved on to other topics.”
So you were telling her that you didn’t want to talk about it at that time, taking the position that what she was talking about was secondary and peripheral?
“Nevertheless, the very next day, I received a phone call from the anorexic friend’s mother. She made me so worried I immediately made a doctor’s appointment for Rebecka.”
So you never tried to discuss with her how she felt or why she would experience such a sudden weigh loss, you just called a doctor?
“The doctor homed in on her depression more than the weight loss and suggested that she see a therapist or a psychiatrist.”
So, therapy first, no attempt at discussion?
“therapist suggested we “kick-start” the therapy process with medication.”
Mood altering drugs, without even attempting to talk?
You know, doctors are covered by mandatory reporting. Following the letter and spirit of the 1974 law, they are required to report any case where a child has recently been subjected serious emotional harm.
So were it up to me, the first step would be to question each of these doctors separately, while they were handcuffed to a table in a police interrogation room.
Then we would see if they were able to make bail as they awaited felony arraignments.
And then you know that with each pill that you fed your daughter, her ability to talk about whatever was really at issue, was being diminished.
“World Mental Health Day”, and you were participating in this, and supporting the idea that there is such a thing as mental illness, instead of protesting against it?
“advocates for social change to optimize mental well-being” And you do of course understand that it is precisely this kind of logic which perpetuates the mental health system?
” alternative approaches to achieving mental and emotional well-being ” From what you have written, it sounds like you and your husband could be described as Happy Campers. It sounds like you measure yourselves this way. And it sounds like this at least had applied to your daughter as well. Would you be willing to consider that living in order to keep up appearances is what often leads to crack ups and breakdowns, and to things which get labeled as mental illness, and that this makes people fodder for the mental health and wellness system?
“help people make the connection between mental well-being and social justice”
Social justice is good, and worth fighting for. But the very idea of mental well-being suggests that there must be something other, and this makes people subject to de-legitimation.
“trauma or other environmental, social, and political factors that contribute to widespread mental distress”
Yes of course, trauma and other factors contribute to widespread mental distress, but so do people who are trying to mandate mental well-being.
While I agree with much that you have written on the above, it still comes down to, “This is how we will create the conditions for optimized mental health.” This still means that you are stigmatizing people who don’t comply with your Happy Camper standards.
You can’t fight the mental health system, while you are working with it, because all that ever amounts to is calls for Therapy, Recovery, and Healing, instead of political and legal actions.
I don’t regard people who say they are helped by antidepressants as mere beneficiaries of a placebo effect. They feel different, at least at first. The depression scales in most drug trials don’t capture it.
They care less about things that used to upset them. They’re forgetful, in a good way: they can’t ruminate if they can’t easily call the past to mind.
So BetterLife, are you saying that that is a good thing, not being able to ruminate, and a certain type of forgetfulness?
Where did you get these sorts of ideas? Your church? Your therapist? Your parents?
What we need most is people who will fight back, rather than be amenable to the idea that their issues only pertain to their own head, and that they need therapy, recovery, and healing.
One of the reasons that slavery was ended was that Free Blacks in Boston made the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act extremely difficult to enforce, and this inflamed tensions on all sides.
We need to approach the denigrations of the middle-class family with the same level of zeal.
What you would seem to be saying is why, as I see it, using psychiatric medications is very similar to using ethanol or street drugs, and the same thing goes for psychotherapy, recovery, healing, and getting saved.
One guy I know that had a kind of nervous breakdown, was very pleased to get a psychiatric diagnosis, and medications. And he has even talked about suing the County Hospital, because his initial dosage was not high enough to completely mask his feelings. Though in the time since his dosage and the number of different drugs he takes have greatly increased.
I try to tell him that the drugs are both addictive and harmful. But he says, “But I want to enjoy my life.”
And so I tell him that everybody needs to feel their feelings, otherwise they just aren’t really there. And this guy isn’t really there either.
And the white coats have got him terrified of any situation where his feelings might start to break through.
Most people see him as a nut case. But it’s not because his has a ~~mental illness~~, it’s because he doesn’t take responsibility for all the denigrating and absurd things he says to people.
Where did you get these sorts of ideas? Your church? Your therapist? Your parents?
There you go again. You need to stop projecting. (Oh wait, psychoanalysts talk about projection so it must be a bogus phenomenon. Got it.)
Your talk of legal actions is very naïve. Legal actions will not solve systemic problems unless they’re class action suits, and that only succeeds after there is public consciousness and public demand.
In brief, subdued and silenced does not mean “recovery.”
I used to laugh thinking I was taking those PRN’s to subdue the staff. Hey, it worked, too. Every time I took a pill, they stopped acting so crazed and agitated.
People are forgetful all right who are on these drugs. They’re also out of touch with their feelings and emotions. I don’t see this as a good thing at all. Who wants to go through life numb as hell, like a zombie?
Tabitha, thank you. I’ve been making it my business to tell my story mostly in my blog (Juliemadblogger at WordPress) and wow, it’s been almost 12 years now. Because I told my story up front and honestly, I was persecuted, not only the social rejection which you have so eloquently described here, but persecution from the providers I was still seeing.
They told me, and tried very hard to convince me of the following. 1) that I was paranoid delusional. 2) that the unit where the abuse occurred did not exist. 3) that I had no medical basis for making my claim. Finally, when it was obvious that by all means I had medical proof that it had not only occurred but that it was a gross human rights abuse that could have killed me (the exact same abuse killed someone in the UK the following year), they tried to illegally silence me. With drugs, outright denial of medical services, and incarceration.
I am very lucky to escape all that. I keep writing. I won’t stop, either, nor allow any of this unfriending to stop me. I just lose friends and piss people off, but I’d rather write the truth than watered-down euphemisms to please others.
Yes, it’s a very unpopular road. That’s okay, Puzzle still loves me and nags me daily for morsels of liver.
Hi Julie, thanks for telling your story for so many years, despite the persecution you experienced. Dogs are better than people is the general consensus in our family. 🙂 Hi to Puzzle from our Sophie the Bichon.
Hi Tabita, just wanted to say that I’m so glad that you point out that while we should certainly be cautious before being placed on psychiatric medication, many of us have been helped by them. It is a very difficult decision to have to make as these drugs have not been around that long, so how do we really know the long term effects of them? And if you know any thing about the “pharmaceutical research” process they go through prior to FDA approval in this country, you’d probably NEVER take any of them. Many of the psych meds that have been approved for use here in the USA, especially for children & adolescents, have been long ago banned from use due to safety issues such as suicide/homicide in Europe & other countries. Despite all that, why am I glad you still graciously offer psych meds as a possible solution? Of course, since I have been helped by them. However, I have also been harmed by them. Are they dangerous? Yes. Just try tapering off them. And what kind of drug induces the very symptoms (initially), it is meant to cure? Yet, for all of that, I have been brought out of severe, severe Major Depressions more than several times in my life. And with psychotherapy, remained stable. But there have been too many authors in the past so ready to altogether dismiss psych meds & while I certainly agree we definitely need to be cautious, we musn’t do a disservice to the millions of people like myself who have been helped. Thank you for a refreshing perspective. I also very much enjoyed your writing style!
Thanks so much for this. I love the variety of ideas among these comments—they’re all giving me a lot to think about. I am starting to work on another book, and it’s so great to hear the different perspectives. This is by no means a black and white matter—at any level. So many layers of complexity it sometimes makes my head spin. Writing helps me sort out my thoughts and comments like yours keep me going. Peace, Tabita
Tabita I am going to purchase your book as soon as I am no longer “maxed out,” ha ha. I got it on my list. I am thinking that your daughter’s story may be much like mine, only mine lasted three decades. I can’t believe, looking back, that I spelled out for my providers, those supposed “experts,” precisely what I was going through, I identified it very clearly during each first session. Then, they proceeded to ignore my eating issues, tell me I was “faking” my eating disorder, or tell me it “was not a big deal” or, perhaps, “spoiled rich kids’ disease.” Some jeered at me when I told them rather candidly what I went through. Three decades of that…Kinda unbelievable. Yet I am not the only one.
No, sorry. These are not “meds,” they are DRUGS. Snorting meth brought me out of some depressing circumstances too, and now I’m “fine,” but I surely wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The fact that you “feel better” is a drug effect and nothing else; whether or not the drug in question generates corporate profits determines whether this is seen as addiction, dependency or “maintenance.”
Tabita – I have been thinking of telling my story for some time, but mainly from the perpective of pursuing my healing journey from symptoms that were once diagnosed as Bipolar 1. I was only briefly on drugs, mainly because I intuitively didn’t trust the concept that drugs would fix me or stabilize me. So my journey has mainly been focussed upon all the different non-prescriptive ways to find balance and health. I have found it very useful to look at myself as a person who is capable of experiencing life on a very wide energetic spectrum … where depression and mania are at the extreme poles. And as long as I am conscious of my energy levels and what in my life affects these levels, and how they do this … I can keep myself in a comfortable energetic range even amidst the most extreme life circumstances. And in coming to this realization, I have noticed that many folks who are deemed to be successful in the world, seem to have energetic experiences that one could call manic, IF they were experiencing them adversely. So my interest is this, who are the SANE crazies out there? That is what makes one person who has a super high energy system a super producer/creative and make another delusional? Because from my experience having a variable energy system which is highly sensitive is mostly a blessing now that I understand it, and really the problems were more cognitive or related to hormonal imbalances that could be easily remedied with a combination of physical activity, natural supplements, and meditation/yoga. It seems to me that instead of rejecting our bodies for telling us we are living a life or thinking thoughts that is self-destructive … we should be looking for mentors who have similar experiences but have learned to navigate successfully through life without seeking a life sentence of prescription drugs and victimizing therapy.
If people believe that their memory, intellect, and awareness are the enemy ( known in religious circles as Satan ), then the game is already over. They will always be going for drugs, therapy, or Getting Saved.
Class Action lawsuits are a great way to respond to institutional and corporate injustice. In some states it only takes 6 to get it started.
So with each of these drugs, given out for no legitimate medical reason, sue! We need lawyers, not therapists.
And then the FixMyKid doctors, marketing to the parents what they want to hear, and violating mandatory reporting, class action law suit.
Nothing naïve about this!
And then to stop middle-class child abuse by taking the profit out of it, change a few laws:
You want to solve problems, you go into court, or you get laws changed. You don’t preach Libertarianism or 12-Step Powerlessness.
Are you saying you’re primarily a reformist who believes in the ultimate justice of this system?
There is only justice if people organize and act. Lawsuits, and enforcing mandatory reporting. Otherwise injustice will continue.
Injustice continues as long as people believe that they need therapy, recovery, and healing.
And Oldhead, “projection”?
That sounds like another way of declining to engage with injustice, by stigmatizing the complainant. Yes, this is what Psychanalysis and Psychotherapy do.
This is why people can exploit their children and know that there will never be any consequences.
This is why we have legions of people sleeping under bridges and in jungles, and never understanding that their chance of having a place in this world was interdicted long before they reached even adolescence, always ready for the next one who offers them salvation.
Projection for the record is ascribing one’s own characteristics or motivations to others based on assumptions. It’s something people do sometimes.
Psychotherapy is based on making people doubt their own feelings and perceptions, as a way of making them more compliant. Accusing one of projection is an obvious way of accomplishing this. One of the standard psychotherapy tricks, goes back to Freud.
Yeah, except when it’s accurate. Are you saying people never do this?
“except when it’s accurate”
What do you mean oldhead, are you saying that sometimes psychotherapy is “accurate”, and that as such it is a good thing?
Your psychotherapist is not going to fight to redress the wrongs which have unfairly shaped your own life. Your psychotherapist is not going to do anything except keep depositing your checks in their bank account.
And your psychotherapist is not a comrade, they are a commiserator. So even if the time and money mean nothing to you, this therapist is not someone you want to be knowing your personal affairs.
If it were otherwise, then that person could not possibly be a therapist.
Yes, this is what Psychanalysis and Psychotherapy do.
Have you ever considered what substituting the phrase “often do” would do for your credibility?
No, because Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy are based upon completely improper premises. The more of it we have, the less political consciousness.
People should not be seeking therapy, the should be politically organizing and acting.
Oldhead, you credibility would be improved if you were able to understand this.
I’d be willing to put that to a vote.
What do you want to put to a vote, whether or not Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy are completely wrong headed? And considering the fact that most of the articles here are posted by people promoting the concepts of Therapy, Recovery, and Healing?
I’m doing everything I can to oppose them and to call attention to the fact that they are bogus.
Do you know what they call people who speak truth?
Answer: Mentally Ill
Dear Nomadic, you can only speak to your own experience. You cannot speak for millions of others. Many of us have found tremendous, worthwhile support through our therapists. Others may avoid them like the plague due to a negative experience. Whatever the case may be, it’s an entirely personal choice. Some matters of “truth” are a matter of perspective. Just as your generalizations seem to you as if you are ‘speaking truth’, there are millions of others who would probably argue the opposing viewpoint. And that is their truth. It’s what makes the world an interesting place!
Camille, has your therapist ever gotten a civil judgment on behalf of a client? Ever helped put a perpetrator in prison ( I have !! ).
Has your therapist ever done anything to bring about justice, instead of just showing empathy ( actually pity ) and telling people that they just have to live with their situation.
I mean maybe there could be one on the planet somewhere? Do you know of one?
I had a terrible experience in therapy. However, I do not agree with Nomadic’s generalizations at all! One person’s experience is not the end-all. I regret that I pass over his comments simply because I am tired of his concluding that everyone else is just like him, and that all of us came from the same background. In fact, I find his sweeping generalizations stating that we are all child-abused by our parents to be so non-applicable that it’s offensive.
My biggest problem with that line is that “middle class” is not a scientific or even particularly descriptive term. Plus the sweeping generalizations.
Oldhead, here is an excellent description of what “middle-class” means, though this John Mierriman prefers to say “middle-classes”, and he explains why.
What is most important about it here is that it is a way of thinking, rather than an income or consumption level. It is a reactionary way of thinking. It is something people adopt in order to justify themselves.
And then one of the points Merriman tries to make is, “The Middle-Class invented childhood.”
Where that idea comes from:
Ariès remains the standard reference to the topic. Ariès is most famous for his statement that “in medieval society, the idea of childhood did not exist”.
and he worked closely with Michel Foucault.
And then about the middle-classes:
One of the most important implications of bad faith is the abolition of traditional ethics. Being a “moral person” requires one to deny authentic impulses (everything that makes us human) and allow the will of another person to change one’s actions. Being “a moral person” is one of the most severe forms of bad faith. Sartre essentially characterizes this as “the faith of bad faith” which is and should not be, in Sartre’s opinion, at the heart of one’s existence. Sartre has a very low opinion of conventional ethics, condemning it as a tool of the bourgeoisie to control the masses.
So usually the way this is said is, “The bourgeoisie lives in Bad-Faith”.
And this is repeated in Deleuze and Guattari.
And now inserting my own read on this, this Bad Faith takes and incredible tool on the children of the bourgeoisie, and it is the source of most parent v child conflict. Today, children are the exploited workers, being used to give identity to the adults.
And then another important thing about these middle-classes / bourgeoisie is that in the industrialized countries today there is no other class.
In France they took over in 1789. In the United States there really never was any other class, because with low cost land, the American Dream was so pervasive.
This idea is explained many places, such as Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Multitude and Commonwealth. Really, it is central to the above works. And so both of these teams, as well as many others, have in effect rewritten the Communist Manifesto.
So let me ask you this Oldhead, do you agree with me that the ideas of Therapy, Recovery, and Healing are simply a way of turning people’s problems back on themselves and discouraging them from organizing and talking legal and political actions?
Julie, it is you, not I, who keep making comments about people’s “backgrounds”. And I find that to be improper. Do you disagree?
I oppose the practice of psychotherapy on a moral basis.
“The practice of psychotherapy is wrong because it is profiting off of another person’s misery”
Do you disagree with this?
And I have never said that psychological distress has to come from either genetic inferiority, or from early childhood trauma.
What I have said is:
Hardly any of the ‘symptoms’ of psychological distress may correctly be seen as medical matters. The so-called psychiatric ‘disorders’ are nothing to do with faulty biology, nor indeed are they the outcome of individual moral weakness or other personal failing. They are the creation of the social world in which we live, and that world is structured by power.
Social power may be defined as the means of obtaining security or advantage, and it will be exercised within any given society in a variety of forms: coercive (force), economic (money power) and ideological (the control of meaning). Power is the dynamic which keeps the social world in motion. It may be used for good or for ill.
Do you disagree with this?
Nomadic, If I ever comment on a person’s “background” I do not call their parents abusive. Only recently I advised my friend not to move in with her parents. I only did this because I felt she would not have enough freedom as an adult child living with parents. I never said her parents were abusive. Even if they worry, that will limit her freedom.
However, that discussion was completely off MIA. I don’t mean to be accusing, but your constant reference to the Evils of the Middle Class Family is truly offensive. My parents were not abusive, and come to think of it, in my Middle Class neighborhood there were many decent parents. I doubt class has anything to do with child abuse. Nothing, Nomadic. Please do not offend people by claiming their parents are abusive (and middle class, whatever the heck that means) when you don’t know us, nor have you ever met our parents. Just stop, or I fear you’ll be kicked off again.
Know who jumps to conclusions about parents? Shrinks. Don’t be like them, because frankly, what you are doing is abusing your posting privilege and harming people (who, in turn, stopped reading what you write). Have an open mind.
I actually agree that there is a prevalence of disempowerment in many pyschotherapeutic practices and psychiatric practices and that this indeed is an outgrowth of the socio-political power structure. But I also believe this site DOES address this, and that there are a number of practitioners who actually sincere in partnering with their clients toward health. I believe Nomad has touched on important points at the same time, the manner that it comes across includes some cognitive distortions of black and white thinking and sweeping generalizations, which create a hostile and superficial discourse. How do we address the empowerment of people via the tools and practices available? There is no ONE magic pill,therapy or practice. If there was this site wouldn’t exist in the first place.
lizadeeza, I’ve not seen your posts before. Welcome!
I think a lot of it just comes down to whether or not one agrees with what is being attempted. If the answer is no, then it is a no exceptions completely black situation. And I say that we do need to take such stands, as our lives and the lives of others are at stake.
We, The Survivors of the Middle-Class Family, will win our social legitimacy when we stop discussing our affairs with commiserators like therapists, and instead only talk with comrades; and when we stop looking to any kind of chemical fix me’s, prescription or street, to change the objective circumstances of our social and civil standing; and when we stop seeking or accepting pity, in the form of Recovery and Healing, or in any other form; and when we demonstrate that we will use whatever means are necessary to defend ourselves and the children of today.
Now having said this, of course there are people with therapy licenses who don’t do therapy anymore. And there are all kinds of outside circumstances which can mitigate the middle-class family. And if anything is ever going to change, we need much more of this, ways of breaking down the middle-class family.
Julie, I have never said anything about your parents or about you. And I’ve not said anything about your posts or about who does or does not read them, or about their appropriateness either.
And I have never said that any specific person’s parents are abusive, or are middle-class.
Now as far as shrinks, I have never said even a single kind word about them.
I feel that I do understand what you are saying about shrinks, and about how they treat people, such as veterans. And of course I am appalled, though not at all surprised.
Notice that I have never said anything like Good Family vs Bad Family. I’ve done everything I can to strip that kind of thinking out of my head. And so then, I’ve never tried to separate Good Family People from Bad Family People.
My above reply to Oldhead shows the key concepts about The Middle-Class Family. This is not a new area of inquiry. That the middle-class lives in Bad Faith is the central theme of the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, and I have tried to show this. And then with Simone de Beauvoir this is also the central theme in each of her five novels, as well as in Second Sex.
And then Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus also depends upon this, though the full ramifications are not apparent until the 4th and last division. Never do they ever give voice to anything which tries to distinguish the Good from the Bad, or the abusive from the non-abusive.
And this is the key to their breaking from the views and Bateson and Laing.
To Be Continued
Recent post about moving from Munchausen’s By Proxy to Medical Child Abuse
Tabita, I just purchased your book from Amazon. I look forward to reading it and connecting with you further.
Hi Julie, thanks so much! I look forward to continued conversation as well.
I LOVE THIS SUGGESTION!!! It doesn’t cost and if you want you. An create a fictional tale if you are afraid of any ramifications… based on a true story. I also believe in the power of finding like-minded people. STORY is one of the MOST CRITICAL AGENTS OF CHANGE!!!! BRILLIANT GENIUS YOU ARE!!!! Inoffensive and educational told straight from the heart!!! And courageously! LOVE IT!!!! Thank you and I will do!!!!