Dear Politicians (regarding the “Murphy Bill” mental health legislation)
I am going to appeal to your human side since I know you are all human. Many of you are around my age, which will be 58 in a few months. If you are as old as me, you remember the very day JFK was shot. You remember where you were and you remember the reactions of those around you. You probably recall just how you felt at that moment.
Maybe you recall the moon landing. Did you watch it on TV? I did. Do you recall how it felt to see a man on the moon? What did you think?
I remember these things, too. I remember 9/11, but that was many years later. I was in college, at Emerson College in Boston. I was 43 years old. My classmates were all about 18 years old. I arrived early to class that day, actually by over a half hour, even though this was an early morning class (not a favorite time for teens). This was a required essay-writing class taught by a graduate assistant. WLP 101, if I recall correctly. The instructor was younger than me. He wore a beard and wire-rimmed spectacles, had a light complexion and was on the thin side. I cannot recall his name offhand. I still have my class notes somewhere in my computer.
The day of 9/11, I sat in the classroom, quietly reading and waiting for class to begin. I was one of the first to arrive. All at once, someone came in and said, “An airplane ran into the World Trade Center in New York.” I thought the kid was kidding. I broke into a smile, thinking this was just another college student joke. Then, another student came running into the room, looking terribly upset and saying, “Another plane hit the World Trade Center.” I was sure this was a joke then. Two? College kids can think up all sorts of pranks. I wondered if someone had fooled these kids. Maybe it was a Tabloid story. I used to see many stories about UFO’s landing in rather unlikely places. When i was a kid and full of imagination, I thought of the Great UFO from science fiction that would come out of the sky and save the world from disaster. Deus Ex Machina.
Was it true? Slowly, I began to realize it was. The kids looked worried. Scared. All of us knew someone who lived in New York. Were our friends and family okay? More and more news came in. Wreckage. Dead people. Fallen debris. As older student, I felt a need to nurture these kids, even though I barely knew these kids. The semester had just begun. I wanted to hug them, to let them know that everything was going to be okay. I didn’t think I had the authority to say that, but I wanted to, anyway. I knew that they were freshmen, and this was their first time away from home. I can’t even recall the content of the class that day. Our minds were elsewhere.
My next class was in an older building. This was a fiction writing class taught by Richard Hoffman, one of my favorite faculty at Emerson. Richard started the class with an exercise. We studied a poem and then, Richard handed out another copy of the poem. This one left out the last few lines. We were to write our own versions. I have duplicated this exercise when I have taught writing. The poem is by David Ignatow, called “Above Everything.” I cannot reprint it here due to copyright restraints, but here’s a link: http://www.ayearofbeinghere.com/2014/11/david-ignatow-above-everything.html
I believe this assignment was planned out ahead of time, before 9/11 happened. The students were an older group, mostly around 20 to 22. Richard, a few years older than me, had us read our pieces aloud. We went around the room, and each of us read.
….I have changed my mind about the world.
It should go on; it is beautiful,
even as a dream, filled with_____
Dear members of Congress and folks interested in the Murphy Bill: What would you fill those blanks in with? What is beautiful to you? I probably have my own answers hand written and stashed away somewhere in storage. How would you answer?
A couple of students read. It was time for the next student. She began to read. Her voice began to falter and crack. At once, she began to weep, but continued to read.
It was then that so many of us cried.
Richard, feeling empathy for us all, suggested that we stop the exercise and take a break. “I want to know how all of you are doing,” he said. “Let’s talk about that.”
We went outside. The day was beautiful in Boston, as it was September, about the only time when New England tends to be picture-perfect. Throughout the semester, we did many outdoor writing exercises. Each time we went out, I remembered the first time.
What do you recall?
I want to ask you right now, Do these words I have written sound like the words of a person you think of as “mentally ill”? Do these sound like the words of a person who was thought of as violent, and seen as dangerous?
I had the following diagnoses, rather arbitrarily given to me at various times: Schizophrenia, Major Depression. Bipolar. Borderline Personality Disorder. Manic. Paranoid. Psychotic. Danger to Self. Anorexic.
If the Murphy Bill had been in effect, I wouldn’t have been at that class that day of 9/11. I would have been attending some day program I never needed. I wouldn’t have been able to go to graduate school since they thought I “required treatment” instead. I’d be forcibly drugged right now, probably locked up in an institution. Instead, I am free to write these words. While I still could, I turned away from psychiatry because I realized that all those years, I never needed any of it. Turning down psychiatry was the only way I could stay alive. Without forced treatment, I have been able to live and continue to work on creative endeavors.
Do you want to see more force in the USA, more people drugged unnecessarily, more people denied a voice, more people denied their freedom? Isn’t Freedom what people were talking about after 9/11? What does freedom mean to you? What did it mean in New York the day the towers fell? What did the Statue of Liberty mean to your ancestors who came to the USA seeking refuge?
When you walk into your stately workplaces today, think of your children, who very well may be in college right now. Do you want your children to undergo forced care? Would you force your own daughter, a person like me, into a hospital or treatment center against her will? I’m a person who was diagnosed, because I made the choice to consult a mental health professional. Over three decades have passed since I made that choice. However, I’m just as okay and legitimate as anyone else. I have real feelings, just like you. I am a human being.
The most wonderful discovery I made after leaving the Mental Health System
What the System taught me amounted to a bunch of very bad ideas. It took me 31 years to realize this, and another few years to get myself out of the tangle the System had put me into. I date my turnaround to February 8, 2012. From then on, my life’s focus made a steady journey to the nearest exit out of the System.
I think of myself as like the band of Jews, my ancestors, whose 40 year meanderings in the desert were wrought with unanswered questions, far more than those recited by the Four Sons at Passover. However, we all know that the limit of four is reflective of the Jewish tradition of keeping down the number of mouths to feed, and to see to it that the Seder length ends before the whole family falls asleep at the table. Never mind that there always seemed to be an uncle or two who inadvertently revealed that the third or fourth glass of wine had done him in, punctuating the final prayers with loud snoring. Which leads me to the fact that I am a person whose questions refused to stop at four.
I don’t think my precociousness bothered my parents at all. My dad liked having curious kids. My mother told me once, “You were always an oddball kid.” And with that, she beamed with pride.
Growing up means becoming who you are. It is a continual process that doesn’t stop at adulthood. For me, it was a process of asking progressively more obnoxious questions. Obnoxiousness disorder ranks among the top priorities of those in power, since those of us who assert ourselves vocally seem to unearth society’s best kept lies.
That’s how the System stopped my growth. I am still working at unraveling how that all happened. One moment, I was a promising music student who had the nerve to compose her own music. I was more independent than anyone I knew, except for my friend Kevin. He was another music student whom I envied. I wasn’t the only one who marveled at his unique lifestyle. I strove to mimic it. I settled for Second Most Independent, meanwhile trying to absorb Kevin’s independent spirit by osmosis as often as I could. The contradiction was clear: hanging out with other people might weaken one’s autonomy. We kept a cautious and extremely respectful distance.
I’m not surprised that Kevin and I began to branch away from each other when I got roped into Mental Health. MH is the epitome of neediness. Back before I started, “therapy” was something you did in your spare time, not much unlike restaurant dining or sitting in a sauna. Right around when I started, the System was pushing its way into the mainstream, now calling itself “health care.” If this keeps up, it’ll push further to “mandatory health care,” but never mind that.
I was convinced that some people needed MH, while others didn’t. In 1981, entering this wacky world seemed like the Road Less Traveled, as if we were doing groundbreaking work. Now, of course, defying all their advice is the oddball thing to do.
That’s why, later during that turnaround year of 2012, after a particularly annoying hospitalization wasted yet more of my time, I found myself standing in my kitchen, alone. Puzzle was by my side, staring up at me. I realized that now that I had stopped therapy, and ended most of the accompanying bad habits, most had lost faith in me. Except Puzzle. I had no “go to” person. What on earth was I doing?
I was standing in my kitchen. Just that. On my own two feet. I felt a sense of elation. I am free.
I was free to be the person that I was all along. It took a while, but I truly feel proud to be the stubborn and rebellious kid who once protested homework. I was amazed at all I was capable of, knowing that so many of the rules and regulations I had thought were absolutes were in fact, not. I was no longer obligated to remain a slave. I could do what I wanted and be who I was.
Think of it as being like on the top of Mount Sinai. Moses could see the entire surrounding terrain. Which way now? Moses spent one heck of a lot of time up there having it out with God. He returned to his people with the Revised Draft of the Ten Commandments. Not that anyone needed to be clued in on what had happened to Draft One.
It’s okay to pick your nose, just do it in private.
That said, how I live my life is my business and not the business of the psychiatric corporate regime. No, I don’t have to consult anyone regarding my life decisions. I am an adult and free to decide or not decide without having to wait for the next shrink appointment to beg for permission.
Earlier today, I was out walking Puzzle, and as usual, writing in my head at the same time. I proudly multitask whenever I can since I believe that ability to do more than one thing simultaneously is a valuable gift. One hand presses the strings, mustering up the most exquisite vibrato, and the other draws the horsehair bow in an entirely different motion. I’ve always maintained that the differences between humans should be honored and respected instead of obliterated. Some humans are meant to squirm and in fact, thrive on it. The touting of mindfulness insults those that don’t work well while sitting still, and coercing them into stillnesss will cause stagnation.
My moods never did well if flattened. Without fluctuating moods, I lacked passion. Lately, I’ve been telling myself that being in the Worst Mood Ever means I am growing very fast. I’m going to enjoy my growing pains.
The wandering in the desert happened for a reason, they say. The Jews needed to mature as a people before they were ready to break ground in the Promised Land. As we know, the Middle East seems to be at war almost endlessly. Why is that? Maybe it’s one of those obnoxious Unanswerable Questions. Or perhaps unrest is inevitable, since we are never truly grown up.
Why “mental health care” and the arts conflict
Art students are praised for originality. Mental patients are praised for uniformity.
Art students are praised for taking risks. Mental patients are told that risk-taking is a disease.
Artists are praised for hard work and discipline. Mental patients are told that working hard and excelling is workaholism.
Musicians and dancers are encouraged to practice. Mental patients are told that repetition is obsessive-compulsive.
Actors work hard to learn to perform fearlessly. If a mental patient does this, it’s called “delusions of grandeur.”
Most artists, when inspired, work harder. Mental patients are told that inspiration is “mania.”
Artists love deeply. Mental patients are told they are incapable of depth of feeling, or that depth of feeling is a disease treatable by Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.
Every artist, musician, and writer knows that art is made by humans and that perfection is not the goal. Mental patients are, on one hand, criticized for perfectionism, and on the other, told they must adhere to their treatment plans 100%.
In art, process, structure, and content are one. In MH “care,” most patients are told they are incapable of processing anything. We are told we need to blindly adhere to someone else’s idea of “structure” since otherwise, we will fall apart. We are fed content that someone else decided for us, some highly paid “expert.” All thought outside the realm of that content is censored.
Artists convey a message. Mental patients who do that are condemned for “interfering with the treatment plans of others.”
Every work of art has a beginning, middle, and end. Mental slavery, by diagnostic definition, is forever, and will never be cured.
The artist puts his brush down. The writer rests her pen. Mental slavery is continuous, since diagnosis is said to be ever-present.
The study of the arts means learning new things and discovering who you are. Mental health “care” means they obliterate who you are. You do not experience self-discovery. You only learn just how little they expect of you.
Dump the shrinks. Make art. And love.
What is gaslighting?
Here’s the link:
I have seen other descriptions as well. This one seems to-the-point and concise. It’s a form of interpersonal abuse, meaning it isn’t necessarily limited to spousal abuse. Often in the Movement we speak of the gaslighting that shrinks do to patients. When you read the article I pointed out, do you see similarities in your own mental “health” experience?
Have you ever gone to a dentist to get a tooth worked on, and for whatever reason something hurt. Let’s say the dentist is rather sparing with the topical anesthetic. You tell him you can feel what he is doing, and suggest you might need more anesthetic (they used to use Novocaine). The dentist says, “That doesn’t hurt.” Since when can he feel what you feel? He is saying, “I know more about your body than you do. I am the expert. You are incompetent. I couldn’t possibly be at fault.” This is illogical since the dentist doesn’t feel what you feel.
Or perhaps, “I see you are oversensitive.” Ever get that line? So the dentist is physically harming you, but saying that you have a bogus mental disorder, thereby excusing his carelessness.
Or, “You are the only patient who has ever complained.” This means he regularly does these unnecessarily painful procedures. He is implying that since inflicting pain is the norm, then what he does is okay. He’s calling you a whiner, but in reality, you are the first brave one to say, “This isn’t right.”
What happens in a shrink’s office, or between patient and “staff”? Yes, gaslighting happens regularly to mental patients. Note that the article states that this begins in a manner that’s almost imperceptible, then increases over a long time. Often, the same thing happens to patients. A shrink isn’t likely to gaslight during the first appointments, otherwise he won’t have too many customers. After all, he wants to make that “meet and greet” session as satisfying as possible. After that, he can do whatever the hell he wants.
Here are ways that shrinks gaslight.
You are in a hospital. The shrink comes to see you, or perhaps he has an office on the ward. Within ten seconds, before you have barely opened your mouth, the shrink says, “You have a serious problem with anger.”
If you an observer of human nature, you know as well as I do that all humans are a bit uncomfortable with anger. So you might counteract with, “Yes, doctor, many people do. I don’t see my anger issues as anything to be concerned about right now.”
But the shrink starts saying stuff deliberately, taking jabs at you. Finally, you can’t take it anymore. He asks, “Are you angry?”
By now, you realize the guy’s a jerk but there’s nothing you can do. You say, “Yes.”
Then, maybe you wish you had thought up some wisecrack instead of telling the truth. He literally points his finger at you, saying, “See? See? You are an angry person.” What can you say to that? Most people, if they are in a subservient position, such as “patient,” are often in the same boat. You just don’t know what to say. You don’t yet recognize that this is abuse, and it’s wrong. You leave feeling horrible, but you don’t know why. Later, you might find yourself depressed, or resorting to whatever nasty behavior you originally sought help for.
I’ll bet any reader reading this who has seen a shrink has had this happen to them. Once, I confronted a shrink on this, since I had indeed seen him do this to many other patients, and he told me the following: “Yes, I always do that, because everyone has anger issues.” This was after I’d been seeing him for a while.
So he needles patients deliberately and then tells them they have a “disorder.” I wish that I’d informed him, “Do you realize that what you are doing is abuse?” But I was a compliant mental patient and said nothing. Actually, he was one of the better ones!
But you may ask, “Why not leave this shrink?” Many patients insurance coverage that limits them to only one shink. Or they are put on lengthy waiting lists to get so-called “care.” When they finally get one, they know that if they stop seeing this person, they will be put on yet another lengthy waiting list. I’ve heard of people waiting a full year, or more. This is good news for the shrink. He can always remind the patient of this, so he can keep on milking her insurance.
We can see how patients are trapped in these abusive doctor-patient relationships. Perhaps you have heard the following on psych units:
“Other units do this, too.” This is also illogical. The staff knows what they do isn’t legal, and is saying the laws aren’t enforceable so they will continue to abuse for their own convenience. The staff is telling you that you are the sick complainer. The truth is that you are the brave one who points out the truth, while others have sat back and done nothing.
Or, say you complain about a policy or unnecessarily restrictive rule. The staff in eating disorders “care” might say, “That’s Ed talking.” Ed is the acronym for Eating Disorder, invented by therapists as a marketable gimmick. It works well to silence a patient, causing her to doubt herself instead of doubting the almighty staff.
It’s so easy to abuse patients with this line: “You aren’t cognizant of your disorder.” Or, worded otherwise, “You lack insight.” This is the best way to silence a patient. It’s works, and it’s handy and convenient to completely disarm and de-voice just about anyone under their “care.”
What I dislike about the article you find in the link above is what’s below the description of gaslighting. That a person who has been through this needs to change. Wait! So nothing is done to change the abuser, he gets away scott free, and now, the abused person is the one who requires ‘treatment”? Where does this abused spouse end up? In a mental ward or shrink’s office, to be abused for the next ten years, then end up with a permanent “diagnosis” on their record.
* * *
Ii was on the phone last night. I usually have pleasant conversations with people these days, but after I got off the phone with this particular person, I felt rotten inside. I asked myself why this happens whenever I speak with this person. I don’t talk to him often because the same thing happens again and again. I have known this person a long time and have had to limit contact only to protect myself. But I could never put a finger on it. Just now, I realize that I am being gaslighted.
The conversation went as follows. We got onto the topic of cyberbullying. He repeated this back to me slowly, “Cyberbullying.” Then told me, “You mean this exists?”
I told him that yes, cyberbullying is a serious problem these days. I pointed out that this is a hot issue in the news. Maybe we read different news. I hear about it all the time.
He said, “That’s not possible. It only happens to kids.”
I pointed out to him that bullying happens to adults as well as kids. Again, I imagine he isn’t very aware of these things. I pointed out, “Have you never heard of workplace bullying”” I got no reply to that.
He said, “It’s not illegal.” I told him that I had gone to various government sites and read the laws myself. I told him that if he doubts my word maybe he should read them, too. I had to repeat this several times since he didn’t believe me. In other words, he was telling me, “You aren’t clever enough to find a government website and read summaries of laws. You are stupid and incompetent.”
Finally, he admitted he had not even looked at his computer while we were speaking, so he backed down, realizing that maybe I was right. So then guess what he said, “The laws won’t be enforced.” He repeated this again and again.
Do you see what’s happening here? He admitted he’d never heard of cyberbullying, and he admits he’s not even aware of these laws. But he turned the tables on me, playing “expert” on these laws he had never known about, regarding a crime he had never heard of.
I certainly should have gotten off the phone. Maybe thanked him profusely for his wonderful advice. Pumped up his ego since that’s what he seems to need. Instead, I jabbed at him, saying, “So many laws aren’t enforced. I am aware of this. Patient rights laws, where they exist, are disregarded.” He said nothing to that. Of course he didn’t! He spent over a year telling me I wasn’t abused.
At one point, I said to him, “Clearly, you haven’t been subject to bullying, so maybe you don’t understand how it affects a person.”
I wonder about that. Most women I know have been sexually harassed in their workplaces, yet men seem unaware that this exists. Maybe he was never bullied. Or maybe he was too busy bullying other people, or gaslighting everyone around him.
We changed the subject after a while. I felt worn out. I certainly didn’t want to go on with this conversation, and I was glad when we got off.
After that, I felt awful. I told myself I should go to bed, as it was late, and then decide what to do. What would you do? I guess it’s a common question. Do we try to mend the situation, or walk away?
A plea to end all harmful labeling, and to embrace each other with kindness
Psychiatric diagnosis is a hate crime. To give another person a harmful diagnosis is a crime against all humanity. We are all guilty of having done this in our lives, having judged another based on a derogatory word others use to describe that person.
A diagnosis does the following:
Psych diagnosis monetizes your suffering. This does a disservice to anyone who is a “patient.” It minimizes and trivializes your suffering, putting not only a number (DSM) but a price tag on it. I and many others are working to stop the System from turning valid and worthy human beings into commodity.
Psych diagnosis assumes the ufferer will never change. This conclusion is false. While many do not change, you are doing a disservice to a person by concluding that a negative psych diagnosis is “for life.” I personally do not accept that a person is permanently angry, permanently anxious, permanently depressed, permanently “bipolar,” or permanently psychotic. A person can change bad habits no matter how ingrained they may seem. Nor is anyone a permanent “psychopath” nor possesses any permanent “personality disorder.” We need to eliminate the notion of “chronic mental illness.” I do believe we are all made differently. I think that’s fantastic, actually.
Psych diagnosis mean less compassion and caring. If a person with a diagnosis becomes upset or causes disturbance, our communities can now railroad that person into “services.” It’s handy to do so and eliminates having to touch that person, speak with her, spend time with her, or give her a hug. I am saddened when I see this happening. The last thing we need is more “services.” Instead, we need to be a more loving community.
Psych diagnosis causes bigotry. As soon as a person’s diagnosis is shared in communities, that person is now seen through a colored lens. This means all actions by this person will be interpreted as “symptoms.” This is another way that suffering is minimized. It also causes people to misinterpret the actions of the diagnosed person. If a sufferer is convinced, “I have a disease,” then often the sufferer reads her own life through that lens, too.
Psych diagnosis justifies the barbaric practices that are now praised as “help.” This leads to societal assumption that “mentally ill” people don’t have the same human rights as the non-diagnosed.
Psych diagnosis obliterates hope. The idea of permanence harms sufferers and especially their families.
Psych diagnosis is a form of genocide. People with diagnoses die young, typically 25 years younger than otherwise, from the various “cures” that are mass marketed all over the world. Many are incarcerated or are forced to live marginalized lives.
This is why I see labeling not as a health crisis, nor a healthcare crisis, but a crisis in human rights. This is the crux of the many problems we see today in the System.
That said, I will tell you a couple of stories. One happened a couple of years ago, and the other, a few hours ago.
1. The sex offender
“Sex offender” is a harmful label. It assumes that a person will never change. However, we have seen many people change who have committed sex crimes. Labeling assumes the person’s sentencing was done correctly, however, we know that a person can be framed. I certainly believe we need to address these crimes but should not be dependent on ease of capturing and then bringing a person to trial.
I believe instead in restorative justice. I have met many people who were crime victims who tell me that putting person behind bars wasn’t particularly satisfying. It doesn’t reverse the harm done. Nor does the death sentence. It satisfies no one but an angry mob, and a life is snuffed out with no chance of bringing that person back. I have seen first hand convicted killers turn their lives around. I was friends with one from Georgia. This wonderful man reached out to me when no one else would, and it’s fair to say he saved my life.
I believe it was 2012 when I heard that a known sex offender lived in my town. I saw an article about him and was dismayed. I immediately saw this story from his point of view. I refused to chime in with the mob.
What happens to a person with the label “sex offender.” We can liken it to what happens to a dark-skinned, young man wearing a hoodie. When bigoted cops approach such a man, what happens when he reaches into his pocket? Immediately, the cops shoot, assuming he’s reaching for a weapon.
What happens when a known sex offender reaches into his pocket? Nothing. Not unless someone who sees him through the colored lens of diagnosis witnesses this action. Then, he is reported by witnesses to have reached for his penis. This is due to a false assumption brought on by labeling.
I heard that someone had reported a minor incident like this. Know what I did? I wrote to him. I have no clue how I got his email address, but I did. I wrote and said that I, too, was the target of bullying and hatred. I told him I knew what it felt like to have to live in such a manner, shunned by all around you. I told him he could write back if he wanted. I hated the idea that any human being was subject to this.
I know what some of you are thinking. That by doing this, I minimized rape and other sex crimes. I am not, and I feel that such crimes should be dealt with firmly. A person who rapes should be asked to provide compensation, an apology, and asked not only to change their ways, but to do good for the world, ensuring that no more people will be subject to such horrific acts. I wonder if this approach would mean that far fewer people who commit these crimes will get away with them. I wonder if restorative justice would reduce rape and other crimes.
I was sad that this man didn’t write back. I was also aware that most likely, his email was being monitored, and that my email raised a few eyebrows over at the local police station. I didn’t care about that, since I care more about human life. I want to see rape and other sex crimes obliterated, and for such harmful labeling come to an end.
2. A misunderstanding, joyfully resolved.
I normally don’t turn on the computer nor check email in the middle of the night. But last night, I did. There was an email from my beloved friend from whom I had not heard for a while. I had assumed she had been busy with her family, or perhaps away from home. This wasn’t the case. She told me that a while back, I had posted that I had been in prison for attempted murder. I now know that although in the same article I later explained this statement, I can see how my short explanation could have easily been overlooked. This would especially be the case for a person who knew me well and perhaps was upset and dismayed that I had kept this Big Secret from her. You can see the article here. As you can see, the error was entirely mine. I added explanations before and after the article. I think my one-sentence explanation stating that I used the term “prison” to mean “mental prison” and “attempted murder” to mean “attempted murder of self” was too hidden within the text, even though I had it set apart in its own paragraph.
I can see my friend laughing right now, imagining her response once she read my return email. I want to say that I was incredibly moved by this experience. I saw a person who knew me, who saw that her conclusion about me seemed to lack congruence with her prior experience. Her letter was incredibly kind, saying that she liked me and didn’t see me in that light. When she realized it was all a misunderstanding, and wrote back again, my eyes were further open to possibility.
While we might want to condemn all psych diagnosis, we must honor those who see beyond “reputation.” We must rejoice that there are wonderful people out there who do reach out, who throw off society’s colored glasses. It is my hope that our current system can be smashed down, allowing for a new one to emerge, based on kindness and compassion. We will indeed put an end to psych labeling. I believe any shrink out there can change their ways and adopt a way of being helpful that doesn’t include harming a person, especially not through diagnosis.
Will you reach out to your fellow human today?
Day treatment rocks, to keep the subhuman brutes amused and passive
The “staff” are so sickly sweet and “understanding.” They love it when you cry. They call it “letting out your feelings.” They tell you you are “making progress in treatment,” while they milk your insurance for more and more.
You want drama? Try psychodrama. Or just have an ordinary conversation with anyone there, if it’s allowed. Bare your soul, or, rather, sell it. In the name of “help.”
Amusement isn’t lacking here. There’s Bingo, color-by-number, crayons, ping-pong, mini golf, mini anything, in fact, you’re mini by the time you leave.
It’s not true that people never leave. You’ll get taken out every day in a mental health van! Please wear your seatbelts and obey the teachers!
Nor is it true that Day Treatment outlaws smoking. You can smoke outside while townspeople pass by, gawking, “There’s the mental place!” You thought that van was humiliating?
You think you can get a job after Day Treatment? No, you need more and more and more treatment cuz they only make you worse.
Remember to share your toys with the milieu. But not your pills. Carrying around a stuffed animal brings you brownie points.
It’s time for check-in! Time to reveal your mental status! All days end with Wrap-up.
If you dare to think independently, the cops will come and take care of it. Day Treatment has them on speed dial. And in every group room (usually called by its color, such as the Blue Room) there’s a handy panic button. This is for staff because they are very scared the subhuman animals called “clients” attack. You never know. Clients are terribly ill and need to be insulted daily in order to survive. It’s called “therapy.”
“You have an illness….” Patients need to be told this plenty of times since lies like these generally need to be repeated till believed.
To back up all this, Day Treatment will pass out handouts. Since “clients” are so stupid, the handouts are decorated with cartoon figures just to drive the point home.
“It’s okay to ask for help.” But don’t be surprised if they then say, “You are too needy.”
Day Treatment is the one place where rules are changed each day. Pass out those policy books! To ensure patient safety, the Human Rights pages are always near the end where no one will read them. The folks that speak of Human Rights are a safety risk, a danger to others.
Human rights are secondary to “group.” Or rather, you have no rights. Group is God Almighty. Please keep confidentiality, but don’t be surprised if what you reveal shows up next time you apply for a job. Ten years later.
No, ten years later, most of the “clients” are still there, but now, coloring in Harry Potter pictures.
Lowered standards, changed life
And how did that happen?
I look back on a typical day for me as music student. What was a good day for me? I’d say a good day meant I spent most of the day working hard at whatever musical composition I was putting together. A good day was a productive day. I loved putting together musical sounds. I could do this in my head, while seated at a desk, or sometimes, I plunked notes out on a piano. I recall late nights in practice rooms, #2 pencil in hand, and a pad of music staff paper. Let’s not forget those erasers that came in handy, too. I tried not to let the eraser bits fall onto the piano keys. We composers got cursed out for that.
There were so many rehearsals to attend. I kept track in one of those “At a Glance” appointment books. A tiny one. I never lost it. I wasn’t late for rehearsals. I got frustrated if anyone else was unreliable, but I usually didn’t want to reveal how I felt. I’d say, “Okay, let’s get down to business. Does everyone have their parts?” If I feared that one or two people tended to forget theirs, I’d be all prepared with “just in case” copies.
I wrote all parts for my compositions myself, transposing for each instrument, all done by hand. Folks said I had good music handwriting. In addition to writing out my own scores and parts, I made money copying parts for other people, believe it or not. So someone would give me a full score, and I’d write out each part for each player. I’d get paid, too. People liked my work. I kept busy.
Occasionally I picked up an odd job playing trumpet. Usually this was in a local church. They’d need someone, so they’d call the college. I enjoyed feeling appreciated. I got thanked for what I did. That made my day.
I had classes to attend. Mostly music classes, but sometimes, a non-music class as well. I did well. In fact, I always did well, even if I feared at first that a class was way out of my league. I enjoyed working hard. I paced myself so that I never had to cram. Throughout college I had trouble understanding why other students crammed. This was a problem I never had a problem with, and I was glad of it.
That was my life. Not bad, eh?
Then, I entered the Mental Health System. I remember my instructor, my favorite instructor, telling me I was making a mistake. He watched me slip away. I find this sad. He must have felt like I was entering a religious cult. I guess he was waiting for a few years for me to come around. I didn’t. He must have been heartbroken.
In fact, the Mental Health System is just that. A cult-like organization. It’s not a religion, but what they do is precisely the same as the brainwashing techniques used by cults. They suck you in, suck you dry, steal your life.
I want to tell J.L. that I got out. Who knows if he even remembers me.
In the MH System, what was a “good day” like for me?
At first, that is, the first couple of years, a good day meant I did well in group. I had good coping skills, didn’t I? It was a good day if I did well in the “milieu.” Such a classy word. Or often, the “community.” I did well if I spoke up. If I spoke about my “issues.”
If I confessed. That got praised.
I told them I’d been to college. Oh, a college student. I said I’d had many rehearsals, that I’d been busy with music composing. They said, “So you worked hard and got good grades. You set your standards too high for yourself and you are at fault for being a perfectionist. It’s your fault you got sick. Your thinking is wrong. You need to listen to us and learn a new way. You need help.”
“Sick”? What’s that? I never used that word to describe myself before.
It was a good day if I admitted I needed help. This pleased the therapists. They told us, “Come to staff if you need anything.” For the first few months I didn’t dare do that. No way would I bother them. One day, I figured since my parents were paying so much money, I’d ask the therapist if we could meet. Wasn’t that the way things worked back in school? If you had a question, you went to see the instructor during office hours. Most instructors had these hours posted. Or you approached the instructor after class and asked for some time. They were always helpful and clarified any questions we had, or helped us with extra projects that we were involved in. Was that what therapists did?
I met with the therapist a few times. I had different individual ones. That’s because turnover was so high. I laugh now. One left, I think, because private practice was more lucrative. The next one burned out and became a chef. He was good! He probably realized it was all a racket. The third was a manipulator and should NEVER have become a therapist in the first place. People who haven’t worked out their control issues should work them out first before getting into the business.
So these individual sessions varied. I didn’t see much of the first two. They didn’t last long before they quit. The third definitely played favorites, and favorited me. I hated that. I felt so guilty. I wished she’d cut it out. A good day was when she didn’t say in group, “Let’s hear what Julie has to say,” when already she’d allowed me plenty of time. I found this favoriting embarrassing. The other “clients” resented me for it. I felt that it wasn’t my fault. I never said anything to the therapist, but it pissed me off. A good day was when I felt on even terms with everyone.
The manipulative one had a God Complex. I saw right through it. She didn’t have any clue what she was doing. It broke my heart, but I went along with it because to tell you the truth, I felt sorry for her, and secondly, I really wished her “techniques” would magically work, even though these methods were far-fetched, to say the least. I knew she’d consulted with the other therapists, she was so clueless about eating disorders, grasping at straws.
A good day was when I didn’t let on that I knew that.
You know, it’s just the same when you’re in a class and you’re obliged to work on a group project with, say, three other students. Say you do most of the work. You present it as a group project. You’re so embarrassed to admit that the other students haven’t pulled their weight. Maybe they have excuses, or haven’t studied, or don’t give a shit. Either way, maybe you just don’t want to rat on them. It was like that. I didn’t want to rat on this therapist. I felt ashamed that she had no clue how to solve my problem.
I wondered if I would ever get better. If there was anyone in the world who knew about eating disorders. Maybe no one knew. Maybe what I had was rare. I hadn’t known anyone, had I?
A good day was when I didn’t binge eat. It was the single driving force in my life. I lived from day to day terrified of the next binge. Therapy had only made it worse. A lot worse.
I had forgotten about music. I had forgotten what a good composer I’d been. I’d forgotten I was once an outstanding student. I’d forgotten I had so much talent. I even forgot the sound of the trumpet.
Do you ever hear a trumpet playing in a church? What a glorious sound that is. That one by Vivaldi often played? Of course, I had that one memorized.
The Mental Health System destroyed all that. I barely noticed. Decades passed. Yep, decades.
You bet my parents noticed. They were furious. They saw their daughter change before them. What the heck was happening?
Get this: The therapists blamed my parents. I feel so sorry for Mom and Dad now. The Mental Health System stole the talented adult daughter of two very fine and responsible parents and then turned around and placed the blame on them.
Not only that, they turned the daughter against the parents. Of course, that’s what cults do. They steal children and convince them to turn against their parents.
In the name of “help.”
That was only the beginning.
I hear a trumpet now and then. I remember I’d hear one in Watertown. I guess a kid practiced at home somewhere. You could hear it out on the street, but not often. I’d recognized the lessons I’d used myself, from etude books we trumpet players knew well. We all had our favorites. And the scales, those too. I had my warmup routine. Forty-five minutes or so of that, daily. It was like brushing my teeth.
I was in Montevideo about a month ago and saw a trumpet in a store. Shiny. Oh my goodness, just sitting there. I checked out the mouthpiece. A screw-on type, I think, that is, the part that your lips touch screws onto a base. You choose the depth of the base and the width of the part that touches your lips. Makes it more “custom,” according to some. They had two trumpets of the same model, differing only cosmetically. No, these weren’t cornets. These were real trumpets. I can tell because a trumpet is mostly cylindrical bore. Cornets have more conical bore. You can see it.
That trumpet sat there, like royalty. I know when a sign says you can’t pick something up in Spanish, but I saw no such sign. The store was crowded. I picked it up. I wondered if the store clerk noted I knew how to hold it. Perfectly, with no apology needed for perfection these days. Of course I did. I felt it in my hand.
Just like that.
I wrote the day treatment bit out in my memoir, which you can read in the chapters “At the Crossroads” and “Family Therapy.” I didn’t use any real names and I changed any identifying features. Another set of chapters is called “Graduation Day” I believe. There are a couple of conversations between me and J.L. in the book as well. One over the phone and one in person. These are written out verbatim, as I remember them. He was a terrific instructor. I hated disappointing him.
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Further thoughts on “success”
Hello and happy very late evening! Or at least for me it’s extremely late…..
I want to wholeheartedly thank those who have supported me during this time and over the past bunch of years. I feel blessed. Wanna know why, specifically?
It may seem trivial to you, but to me, this is a big deal….
I used to have to write copious notes before I spoke in any official capacity. Even when I saw my psychiatrist years ago, I feared losing track of my thoughts or of forgetting what was most essential in our meeting. I usually had a written agenda, a list of side effects and various “symptoms.” I tried my best to report in an organized way.
At some point during 2010, I had to get off the drug Thorazine due to Tardive Dyskinesia. I was able to get off this drug without too much trouble. I was happy that Dr. Pearson was cautious and well aware that TD can worsen as the drug is reduced. These drugs are scary! Anyway, once off, I was delighted with a couple of things:
First of all, the sunburning from Thorazine had become a serious problem in my 50’s. I sunburned so easily that I had purchased special sun clothing, including the hat you see me wearing in the photo now displayed here on my blog in the sidebar. I even had to cover my hands. I couldn’t wear sandals and most clothing didn’t protect me adequately. The sun’s rays would penetrate a t-shirt, my socks, everything. So this clothing helped the parts of me that it protected. I found sunscreen too annoying to apply and reapply all day long. Fighting sunburn was a daily battle, in summer or winter or even cloudy days.
Once off Thorazine, I no longer had this difficulty. I was free to go outside without feeling like I was risking turning into a lobster or perhaps Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This new freedom was a delight to me.
The other rather noticeable difference was in my speech. I was thrilled that the slur in my speech was suddenly gone. For years, I had been embarrassed that I sounded doped up over the phone and in person. I have sound files of myself speaking and it’s appalling to me now. I recall in retrospect so many times the slur was a dead giveaway that I was on drugs. I recall people assuming I was drunk or stoned. Now, with Thorazine off that cocktail list, my speech was becoming clearer. This was important to me because now that I had finished grad school, I was ambitious about giving readings of my written works. I knew that my voice was now clearer and that I could speak faster without verbally tripping over myself.
Dr. Pearson began to make the statement that my more rapid speech was “mania.” This of course wasn’t true. The problem was that she’d never heard me in my own voice before.
As it turned out, I spent a couple of years being quite angry. I know my speech reflected how I felt inside. I was having the Black Box Warning effect from the antidepressant I’d been given. I recall some ten days following the start of this drug I felt like I had a machine gun firing inside me. I did indeed report this to my psychiatrist, who said it was “nothing to worry about.”
Of course, I had a rather good reason to be concerned. I put off how I felt and tried to ignore it, as my shrink had instructed me. It was nothing, right? It’ll go away in a few days……….
Wrong-o. It sure didn’t. I was full of constant fury. I sometimes spoke nonstop. The more people stayed away (not that I blame them) the worse my nonstop speech became, because I never had anyone to talk to. This was an awful cycle that almost ended in my own self-destruction. I thought the way I felt would never end.
It’s been now roughly three years since the start of that drug. I’m happy to say that yes, it did end, and I’m glad I rode it out. The Black Box Warning effect (which I’ll be writing about in my current book) continued and in fact worsened when I was withdrawn from the drug way too fast. Seriously, no one wanted to be around me! I’d complain bitterly of loneliness, in response to the way folks avoided me.
It could have gotten so much worse. What bugs me is that at the time, I was meeting new people who assumed that the Black Box Warning me was the true me. Meanwhile, I’d try to say, “I’m usually not like this,” but hardly anyone believed me. I got so frustrated!
I guess I’d made a bad name for myself. A bad reputation. I couldn’t erase that history. The abuse in mid-2013 further sealed my inevitable potential demise. The scene became more and more oppressive as time went on. I needed to relocate or make a drastic change in my life. As you know, I did just that.
I’m amazed at my progress. I’m away from all that nonsense I had to deal with, and the effect of that drug has gradually worn off. At this point, I feel I am accelerating with my progress, developing increased confidence and strength. I am even feeling the effects of trauma lessen.
Yes, you can get better.
Every time I make a real effort at something constructive, I move forward. Tonight, I was on the Tenney show again. I didn’t have any script I was reading from, nor even notes. I was rather amazed that I was able to be far more organized than I was before, say, a couple of months ago when I was on the same show.
I don’t believe I rambled nor was I overly charged up. I was able to speak with conviction and passion, yet I felt I wasn’t repetitive or obsessive.
Dr. Pearson often complained of my repetitiveness. She said I spoke of nothing but the abuse. Um, maybe she should have listened, eh? Wasn’t she a mandatory reporter? Was she only in the business of making me look like a criminal for speaking out? I think she herself was rather obsessed with getting me forcibly drugged and silenced. I think instead, it was her responsibility to heed what I was saying and request an investigation, instead of assuming I was delusional. I recall her exact words, “Patient rights are trivial.”
I knew then, and of course now, that nothing could be farther from the truth. Patients so often believe they don’t deserve respect. They are the lowest of the low. Staff always know better, supposedly, and patients are assumed to be ignorant children.
I am proud of myself. I do not receive any Mental Health Disservices, nor do I take their drugs. I’m not against drugs alone but I am certainly not in favor of a person’s life being in the hands of a prescriber.
Is recovery possible? You folks know I shy away from that word. I feel what’s to recover from are those 30+ years that my freedoms were not only discouraged, but in the end, completely prohibited. I needed to learn that there’s a whole other world out there. I’m beginning to get that. Maybe you can call it Growing Up. Or Growing Away from the negative concepts driven into me by Mental Health Disservices. Perhaps this realization occurs when a person’s life is fully in her own hands. I am certainly on my way.
New words, a couple of years later
I think the vocabulary we use is essential. I began my exit from the “mental health system” in February 2012, upon having an awakening which turned my attitude around 180 degrees in a flash. After that, of course, I struggled with issues of identity. You will see I have written about this extensively in the book I am currently working on.
So what should I call this System? Just the System? If I speak this aloud, no one hears that System is capitalized. I capitalize it to show that it is what you might call “Another World.” Another term I’ve heard is “Parallel Universe.” But that in itself isn’t descriptive enough.
If I say, “mental health ‘care,'” no one hears the quotation marks unless I use the awkward term, “quote-unquote.” So what to call this?
I’ve used various terminologies over the past 2-1/2 years. I notice some say, “Mental Death System.” I like the play on words here, but I don’t use this term very often.
I love the term, “p$ychiatry,” as often used by one of my beloved regular blog readers. This certainly makes its point when in written form, but out loud, how would it be pronounced so others can hear the $?
I recall my sudden realization upon figuring out that “Mental Health Service” was certainly not a service at all! It’s contradictory!
I noticed this first in the “services” provided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, mostly for poor people who were “mental patients.” The DMH had farmed out their work to an organization called CBFS, and to other organizations. This CBFS consisted of paid people with no qualifications except the required reliable car and cell phone. Some organizations even give the person a car and cell. These folks were largely of no use to me. In fact, it was a nuisance due to their chronic unreliability. Most were grossly irresponsible. They were supposed to have bachelor’s degrees in something, but I’m sure many didn’t. They posed as “social workers.” The supervisors did have such degrees but not the ones that came to visit, or shall I say, impose on me.
My initial complaint was that my first CBFS worker knew nothing about eating disorders. She knew so little that she had the nerve to ask me annoying questions such as, “How would you suggest I motivate myself to go to the gym?” as if my role was to share my weight loss secrets. This was obnoxious and showed her gross ignorance.
When I first signed up for these “services,” on the urging of my abusive therapist, Maria Mellano, I assumed the CBFS people provided rides to appointments if I needed this in a pinch. This wasn’t true. I never needed the paratransit but occasionally I had a minor injury such as an ankle sprain that temporarily kept me from transporting myself on foot or by bus. I called my CBFS worker and she always refused to drive me anywhere, though she claimed she did this for people. Later, I found out that this wasn’t part of their “service.” So what the heck did they do?
They were supposed to find providers for patients. They did this by doing an online search. However, since I had my own computer and often did online searches myself, this CBFS “service” wasn’t necessary. CBFS sometimes called treatment places, but I was perfectly capable of making phone inquiries myself. I found providers myself and when I chose to do so, terminated these providers myself.
They did one thing. I got a ride to an ER once. This was ordered by my worker’s boss, who was threatening to section me. I know now that he wanted to silence me. He was irresponsible and lazy. I threatened to report him to DMH. I’m not at all surprised that he decided I “needed” a hospital. I believe he was fired shortly after anyway. On another occasion, I got a ride home from an ER from a guy that said not one word to me the entire ride home. Beyond this, they provided no service.
I dumped CBFS immediately after I was released from Mount Auburn in August 2013. They called and asked why. I said, “This is not a service. This is a non-service.”
I remember how good it felt to speak those words aloud over the phone to the CBFS people. I felt empowered. Based on the non-service concept, I have a new term for the Mental Health System as a whole. Mental Health Disservices. For now, I rather like this invention. It can be spoken aloud and is rather clear.
That’s my thought for the day. I have writing to do! Have a good one!