Showing 32 of 32 comments.
sam plover: Thank you for your thoughts.
Thank you, Redcat. I do love her more every day.
Thank you for your thoughtful piece. I too prefer the term madness to mental illness and follow Szasz in thinking that mental illness is a misnomer. I appreciated the sentiment behind #IAmNotDangerous–the idea that someone diagnosed with say, bipolar disorder (as I am), is not dangerous–and tweeted something to that effect. But I also found it troublesome that the term mental illness was accepted without question.
Thank you, CatNight. Suicide is a taboo subject. Whenever I mention it, the conversation stops. My daughter was not abused, to my knowledge, and didn’t attend Catholic schools.
Fiachra: I’ve heard of Eckhart Tolle but haven’t read him. Thanks for the reference. Can you say a little more about what “preoccupy” means in his work?
Rachel777: That’s a good lead about Emily Dickinson. Thanks. Bipolar people are often highly creative, like Van Gogh, and I agree that medicating them might deprive the world of some of their best work. Fortunately, in Martha’s case, her creativity shone despite the medication. But I think the pressure to be “normal” was a factor in her decision to die, and thereby cost the world any number of great works she might have produced–not to mention the cost to me personally.
JanCarol, LavenderSage, Rachel777, kindredspirit, and oldhead: Thank you for this discussion. It’s very educational.
LavenderSage and Rachel777: Thank you for the reference. I’ll look into it.
You’re welcome, and thank you, pcferg. I agree with you and your sister; I don’t feel like part of a “camp” on these issues, and I do think you have to respond to each person’s particular situation.
Thank you, JanCarol. I think you have good insights into what Martha was doing in loving Aleksei. Martha was devoted to popular love songs, and in her imagination she often redirected them to Aleksei, as you redirect them to the Divine. I’m reading her journals now, and I find she gave a lot of thought to the relation between Aleksei and God. At first she prayed that her love for Aleksei wouldn’t violate her love for God; later she declared that she would love Aleksei even if she lost God in the process. I have to read more to find out where things stood at the end of her life. It also seems that Martha recognized Aleksei as her other self or true self, and that she was aware that in loving him she was avoiding the heartbreak that could come from rejection. I have only began to understand what Aleksei meant to her.
danzig666: Very interesting, thanks. I especially like the quote, “The wrong cure, or the right cure at the wrong time, does more harm than the open wound.” This has been true throughout medical history. For thousands of years, doctors harmed and sometimes killed their patients through the accepted treatment of bloodletting. Possibly, we will one day look on today’s psychotropic drugs as the contemporary equivalent of bloodletting.
Thank you, LavenderSage. I am part of an online support group, but I notice they are heavily skewed to staying on their meds and following their doctors’ advice. Whenever you mention a problem you’re having, they’re inclined to say, “Ask your doctor to adjust your meds.” If you know of any support groups that may have a different perspective, please let me know.
danzig666, this post is very suggestive. I hadn’t thought of thinking in terms of an opposition between the Apollonian and the Hadean. I am with you in not regarding suicidality as a weak position; on the contrary, I think it shows great courage to be willing to part with everything you know and cast your lot with something you don’t know at all. Martha had that courage. Had I understood her courage when she was alive, I might have applauded her for it and asked her to stay with us longer so we could all benefit from her example. I didn’t understand it; I saw it as a symptom of illness. No more.
Thank you for the references, danzig666. I hadn’t heard of Hillman and am interested to read him.
binra, please accept my condolences for the loss of your daughter. I know it was many years ago, but since I have suffered the same type of loss, I know it is always fresh and the sympathies of others are always welcome. Your meditation on your life since is very helpful and there are many ways in which it parallels mine. I almost killed myself when Martha died, and only by emerging from that place did I find my reason to live. I live for the sake of life itself, but not in the way I understood it before. Before I thought life was just fitting in with society while trying to maximize this or that pleasure and avoid death. Now I care not a fig for society, death, or any particular pleasure. What I care about is love–real love, my love for Martha, telling the story of her love for Aleksei, no matter how crazy society says it is. As you say, “The voice for life is not clinging to survival, but abiding in the willingness of love. That’s my witness.” Mine too.
Thank you, madmother13. I’m glad your son is doing better and I wish you both continued healing.
pcferg: Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I know many people who, like me, are bipolar, and many of them swear by meds; some even say meds saved their lives. I would not want to deny them access to anything they think helps them. OTOH, from Martha’s case and my own, I know that the cost of viewing madness as mental illness and treating it with meds is great. This is true even in extreme cases such as those you mention, the homeless mad. I used to live and work with homeless mad people, and although medication calmed them, it often took away things of great value, such as the full expression of their personality. One schizophrenic I knew, Lena, refused to go on meds until she got tired of being psychotic and assented to them. She was then much more sedate, but much less Lena. Because of that kind of experience, I am opposed to forcibly medicating even the homeless mad, although, like Lena, they should be free to choose it if they wish. As for CBT, I’ve undergone it and I don’t think it showed respect for my dignity; rather, it asserted without argument that my thoughts were distorted and erroneous and had to be corrected by replacing them with CBT-approved thoughts. Were I to address you that way, I doubt you would regard that as respectful. I don’t have all the answers about how the mad should be treated. But even without answers, I am determined to tell the story of what happened to Martha in the hope that answers will become clear in time.
Rachel777: Thank you for the book reference. I agree it is helpful to look back at the history of social views of the mad to get perspective on current views. It then becomes clear that the modern concept of “mental illness” is relatively recent, and that the people who were most served by it, such as the doctors who thereby gained a new means of making a living and enjoying privileged status as “psychiatrists,” may have interests that are not identical with those of the people who are supposed to be served by it, i.e., the mad.
Thank you for your kind advice, ebl, and please accept my sympathies for the loss of your child. I agree that nothing is harder than losing one’s child–nothing I can imagine, anyway. I will keep in mind your suggestion that I watch my health as I pursue this cause.
Thank you, J. At this point, I’m not even concerned about blame as such. I just want to do everything I can so other people don’t have to suffer what Martha did or lose a loved one the way I did.
Thank you, Rosalee, for your comments and for visiting Martha’s site. She was lovely, inside and out.
Thank you, Rossa Forbes. Going after a fly with a sledgehammer is a good analogy for psychotropic drugs. You’re more likely to break things and hurt people than you are to hit the fly.
Thank you, Rachel777. I will keep looking outside the box.
Bravo, Rachel777! You are indeed a fully sentient, ensouled human being, not a machine or trained animal. That’s what psychiatry doesn’t realize. I’ve been religious most of my life, but at the time of Martha’s love for Aleksei, under the influence of my own psychiatric treatment, I was an atheist, a thorough-going materialist who thought human beings were machines, chemical complexes whose problems could be fixed with the addition of the right chemicals. I no longer believe that, but it took Martha’s death to teach me. I think she died for all of us–to show us that life is more than what the psychiatrists say.
I thank you very deeply, Fiachra. I have become more tolerant since Martha’s death, thanks to Martha. I hope what I write, now and in future, saves lives.
RockieRaven: Thank you for your insightful comments. I intend to research and write more about these issues and your experience is very helpful. As is the study reference you gave me, which says, “Suicide risk is greatest immediately after psychiatric hospitalisation and hospital discharge.” It’s hard for me to imagine this being acceptable in other medical areas: for example, if a study found that risk of death from appendicitis is greatest after appendectomy. Everyone would realize that appendectomy did not cure appendicitis but only made it worse. Somehow, the standards of evidence in psychiatry are so low that psychiatrists think this is acceptable. I want to fight that level of ignorance with all the strength I have, for the sake of my daughter who died from it.
streetphotobeing: I feel the same way. In 15 years of treatment with drugs, the only time I was in danger of dying was when I got lithium toxicity syndrome–which means I was being poisoned by the drug that was supposed to save me! Many people swear that they are helped by their drugs, but count me out.
Someone Else: Thank you for your condolences. I think you have a beautiful understanding of what others considered your “psychosis.” I haven’t made sense yet of what Martha was doing in loving Aleksei, but I no longer think it was delusional in the sense of being false. On the contrary, I think it was true, but true in a way that I haven’t yet grasped. Maybe it pointed to God; in her journals, she often connected her love of Aleksei with her love of God. Whatever it was, I wish I’d let her follow it in peace, and I want to learn from it now, by reading her writings about it.
RockieRaven: I too have found that psychiatry is fundamentally atheist. My bipolar manias have often included intense religious feelings and perceptions. When I told a psychiatrist I was feeling more religious, I asked if that suggested mania to him. He said, “Always.” Then he raised my dosage. It’s as if part of the purpose of psychotropic drugs is to keep the spiritual from intruding on the material.
Thank you, Rachel777, for telling me more about Rick Warren. I just Googled him and I see what you’re talking about. I feel sorry for his loss, and I don’t hold it against any father for coping with the loss of a child as best he can, but I see he and I have different perspectives. I want to write more about Martha and what she can teach us, so it helps to learn what other people are saying.
Bradford: Thanks for your comment. I know for a fact that Martha believed in her Russian prince, Aleksei, because since her death I’ve read her diaries, which I never read during her life and were written for her eyes only. She wrote her diary as letters to Aleksei professing her love for him–and did so for a year before she divulged her secret to me. So this was real to her, not a made-up story to test me.
RockieRaven: Thank you for your perspective. I wish I had heard of your husband’s approach to delusion at the time Martha told me about Aleksei. It seems much more considerate and humane than telling the person she’s delusional and taking her to a psychiatrist, which is what I did to Martha. I think people could benefit from hearing more about your experience and what works best for you.
You’re welcome, and thank you, Ekaterina Netchitailova, PhD, for your kind comments.
Thank you, LavenderSage. It does console me somewhat to think that telling Martha’s story may save lives. That’s one of the main reasons I’m telling it.
Thank you, MissPenelope. I’m glad you stayed alive. Martha was great. I think you would’ve liked her.
Thank you, The_cat. I’m not familiar with Rick Warren, but I am disheartened by how many people think the answer to suicide is more psychiatry. It didn’t work with Martha and, from the statistics I see, it isn’t working generally.