Step out of the dark into better light, and wear your scars like a badge of pride. You’ve come so far, you know who you are. All this time you’ve had the will inside, to stand your ground the day that hell arrives. You’re armed and ready, you will hold steady.
~Unbreakable, Birds of Tokyo
So, it has come to this.
It’s your turn to sit in the empty chair. We know you. We know you almost better than we know Our multiplicity of Selves. We know that is why you refuse to sit and make space for a conversation, why you refuse to make time to show Us that even the invitation to this conversation matters. We have spent countless hours, days and waking nights trying to work out how to convince you that this conversation engenders worthiness of your invaluable time, of the necessity to engage with the human you ceaselessly insist on playing the judge-and-run game with. We are done with your juvenile black-and-white bullying tactics that argue that because you cannot neatly contain Us in a box of your design that We are somehow the problem. If you choose not to listen, that is your choice, but We will speak.
We are leaving you. We are sorry it has come to this. We know every argument you will make in your defense. We know you will try to appeal to reason, then you will turn to debate and when it is clear that We are willing to follow through on Our intentions, you will throw your hands in the air, walk away from Us, call Us a waste of time and energy and then wait for the inevitable to ensue. Wait for Us to come crawling back once We have been reminded that the world outside is as volatile as you have spent decades grooming Us to believe We are ill-prepared to confront. You and We collectively know what a cycle of coercive violence is, but did you, with all your myriad PhDs and RCTs, ever stop to consider that perhaps your authoritative wielding of privilege and power might be the toxicity that enables this relationship?
We know what We need, and it isn’t you. You have spent more than a quarter of a century trying to convince Us of what is wrong with who We are. Highlighting how broken We are in the name of pedaling your hypotheses on healing branded as salvation. Hell-bent on playing the role of healer in a life that had no need for you until someone else suggested your altar might be the shrine that we should submit Ourselves to if we were to humbly receive social acceptance.
On that first, blustery night when we met, introduced by a friend wild-eyed at the expression of pain that We knew not how to express in any other manner, the halls of your Institution were bright and glaring. Our eyes were red and swollen, Our throat was ribbons of pain unleashed by screams of torment. We did not have words to describe the anguish We were fumbling Our way through in the aftermath of a scenario We had been rendered powerless to control. You took notes, described this squall according to your diagnostic criterion of symptoms, absent of any context that spoke to the harsh reality of date rape in a time before the word “roofie” had been coined and the method plied was more fermented than synthetic in its cultivation. Once captured and catalogued, you released Us back to nature, sent Us back to the same college room that was the scene of the crime and sealed Our fate as one shortly destined to become known as “dysfunctional.”
We know what you’re going to say. Most people don’t have access to a psychiatrist to describe their pain to. We are amongst the fortunate few. Your sly semantics are not going to befuddle Us. You’re in the empty chair and this is Our session. You know the rules of Gestalt as well as We do. You don’t have a choice but to sit and listen instead of talking over the top to silence Us because of your time-pressured demands.
We are addressing Psychiatry, not Psychiatrists. You damned well know yourself to be much larger than any one Psychiatrist. You have billowed beyond all logical proportions to become the biggest stakeholder in the opinion of the human condition in the 21st century. Darkly hilarious when considering that your humble origins came from emotionally detached little men hiding away on provincial European farming properties in the 17th and 18th century, torturing helpless humans you once taught the world to describe as lunatics. You prospered from the financial gain of families who could not understand the wildness of their loved ones, as equally devastated by the agendas of others as We had been on that first chilling night where Our life first converged with your apparent expertise in the aftermath of what We had first considered to be the greater evil.
You profited and then you plundered, beating what you had convinced the world was savage into submission with your own hands and then with those same hands writing your next marketing copy: Experiments On The Subjects Of Madness In Need of Healing Benevolence. You should have been called Sadist, but your clever sleight of hand penned for yourself instead the title of Miracle Worker, and you slipped in the back door of Medicine, chatting with philanthropic outliers and strengthening your numbers under the guise of scientifically restoring to humanity that which you treated and described as sub-human in the pursuit of your own tortured need for validation.
You say you have grown and changed. We disagree. What has changed are the allies you have wrapped around you in defense of the professionalization of shoving those who see the world differently into pigeon-holes fashioned by legislation and locked by privilege. The more you try to argue what you are learning from the relentless study of the misery of many as evidence of progress, the more you fortify your right to righteously defend your misappropriate role as True Healer. Humanity now groans for answers that many amongst your ranks know they cannot supply. Instead, they offer up a curative of mindfulness laced with traces of benzodiazepines. No one is heard amongst the cacophony of words. No one is seen beneath the raging tears. The louder the noise becomes, the more militantly sedation is mobilized in the name of homogenising normalcy, all whilst maintaining that your decisions are in the best interests of championing humanity as individual, diverse and unique.
Me and Mine are parting ways with you and yours. We wanted to believe that you had changed. We wanted to believe because We once wished to be amongst your ranks. We know what happens when the homeostasis of internal validity is disturbed, and while we know it is going to hurt Us deeply to have to say goodbye to trusted allies that have enfolded themselves amongst your ranks, hopeful that they too might change the monstrosity that you are from within, We now know with certainty that we can nevermore regard Ourselves as patient, client or consumer. We still consider these allies as the reform colleagues We know them to be but We cannot ethically call them Sibling and yet seek to beg from them answers to the truth of who We know Ourselves to be.
We are an equal stakeholder as one human with you, a collective ideology that continues to be shaken by the truth that can no longer be ignored. There is no scientific validity in the existence of psychiatry as a science of disorder and illness. There is no germ, or gene, or deficit deeply buried within humanity at a cellular level that cannot be understood by other, more humanising lenses that do not blame the victim for the shame they have been forced to endure. We will no longer be a pawn at the behest of a politically correct agenda that casts Us as vulnerable, elevated and revered, and then casts us away the minute our agenda clashes with your own defensive patriarchal sensibilities.
You see, my dance partner, that is the gift of becoming what you Were always supposed to be. You realise that the only definition that matters is the one you shape for yourself. We are not a science experiment. We are not an opinion piece. We are flawed, messy, used and abused, but We are human, and Our humanity is Ours to behold and bestow in whatever ways We see fit. You argue that We are dangerous, you argue that We are unstable, you argue that We are volatile but here is the truth of the matter. We are only vulnerable when we are pinned under your microscope of objective observance, powerless to escape your probing descriptions of Our divergence from your worldview. When We are interpreted and translated to others, when you hold a Picasso up to Our eyes and argue it to be a mirror, We become volatile. We know the truth and We are done with being convinced that we must surrender to the dogmatic prophecy you call self-fulfilling. There’s another word for it. Gaslighting.
Our mind is now ready to trust that the seven of Us are well equipped to handle the sudden flood of remembering if We can all just hold hands and remain connected through the deluge. Two nights ago, before Our angry teenager flew off the handle for the final time, cloistered within the locked cells of your Institution once more, in the eye of the hurricane that We had mistaken as the clearing of yet another storm, Our writer finally offered up the wisdom that had continued to slip elusively from our grasp, now with the clarity of so many re-emerging memories that have relentlessly slammed up against Us of late:
Your story with the system ends when you stop begging for the right to advocate for yourself from within the system.
We have the gift of words. Stop casting pearls before swine, it will only ever offer up an invitation to debate the uniqueness of who We have been created to be.
Debate is futile, Fi. Just let Us write.
As the storm began to surge once more, We tried to warn you. We wanted to let our Writer just take up the pen and seal Our mouths shut but you refused to recognise the timeline that dictated Our life in the world outside your walls of isolation. You insisted that your needs were of prime concern, arguing that others in need of bandaging and prepping for your benevolent care was the more pressing demand, over the debate to Our right to freedom that would have otherwise released the space to provide what you consider to be adequate care. We raised the alarm that the pressure was rising on four separate occasions before Our angry teenager took a meal trolley as a battering ram to the interior of the locked door that held Us back from the freedom We knew was Our birthright.
Your Psychiatric Registrar, now suitably roused to action, argued that if We were not able to be discharged into the community with 24/7 care available, the request for discharge might be quelled by an involuntary order to detain us. Yet 48 hours prior, the request from Our GP for an involuntary admission, in agreement with Us, had been dismissed as invalid because We had agreed to the decision. Yes. Read that sentence again. You deemed Us voluntary but the minute We tried to highlight Our legally enshrined right to request the doors be unlocked so that We could leave on peaceable terms, your policies dictated that the clause We tried to activate, allowing for Discharge Against Medical Advice, did not apply to those deemed socially insane.
The debate became heated and angry. Freedom held in the hands of one more interested in the decade and a half history of chronic ideation and suicide attempts above the rationale for the sharing of a warrior testament of endurance. Our angry teenager spat out the truth forever glossed over by medicolegal risk mitigation training that your shape and form demands be held over the right to the fragile hope of self-determination:
It’s not evidence of ongoing risk, it’s evidence that I am a fucking survivor. I wouldn’t be here arguing with you if I hadn’t learned how to assess my own risk despite the war that lives on in my head and didn’t know how to get myself to safety.
Your registrar argued that the evidence was stacked against Us. We begged him to call Our family, Our friends. Character witnesses who knew Us and Our story far better than he could have otherwise gleaned in this billowing moment of rage.
Thankfully, upon further consultation with your registrar, your on-call psychiatrist relented. Our possessions and our humanity were restored to the ranks of the privilege of freedom illegally revoked. The doors were unlocked and We walked away.
As We sat at the Emergency Department waiting bay for the Uber We could ill afford, comin’ forth to carry Us home, The Idea Of North and James Morrison crooned Dear John into Our ears by way of Our Bluetooth headphones. We looked across at the ambulance bay, with paramedics climbing in and out of their own sweet rescue chariots, and watched the sensor lights flicker on and off in the gathering dark, as juxtaposed and edgy a scene as the runs that were issuing from the great jazz master’s trumpet. We looked up past the veranda ledge at the twinkling October night sky and realised that this hospital was where it had all started.
It was here that We first met you and it was here that We finally realised We were able to not only lock the revolving door to your predatory culture of Sanism but swallow the key to absorb any chance of return and neutralise the acid that still stung in the aftertaste arising from our esophagus.
Written on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Lands. I pay my respects to First Nations elders and knowledge holders past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.
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.