Tag: diagnostic labels
I have been involved in hundreds of commitment hearings in which psychiatric diagnoses were crucial. In that context, I have never witnessed the presence of all three factors: (1) the transparent (honest) use of diagnostic labels (which includes the acknowledgment of the inherent biases built into the labels as well as their limited validity), (2) allowing full voice to and full acknowledgment of the labeled person’s view of reality, and (3) using the labels in a manner that produced a useful understanding, which in standard mental health practice would require that the understanding be significantly more beneficial to the labeled person rather than the labeler.
I was going to leave the 'mental health' system on my terms, with all the paperwork proving them wrong. Or I was going to run for my life with an open diagnosis, hoping I would survive withdrawal. As I surveyed the landscape for any other path, there was only institutionalization. There was no template for what I had to do... so I made it up.
It’s still not easy for me to say, “I’m bipolar.” Know that I’m bipolar for good reason, reappropriating a painful word, so those in pain can find me—so you can find me. This is how I reappropriate a term used to strip me of my humanity, a term used to sell me counterfeit versions of reality. I refuse to let go of a label that helps me find my people, no matter how painful it is to retain.
This blog is a review of Gary Greenberg's book, Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease. I wrote it originally in 2010, but it was never published. By publishing the review now, I hope it will provide a useful reflection for those who have already read Manufacturing Depression, and an incitement to read the book for those who have not.
Not long ago I had a conversation with a psychiatrist. He told me about a diagnostic dilemma he’d run up against at work; When a judge makes an unfunded treatment mandate as part of her judgment, she pressures the doctor to make a “payable” psychiatric diagnosis. If the doctor stretches the truth out of sympathy and provides an inaccurate but payable diagnosis so that his patient can have access to medical care and money to live on, he is committing fraud that can mean heavy fines and incarceration for himself.