Psychiatric survivors, labels and me

If any organism fails to fulfill its potentialities, it becomes sick. William James


The deleterious effect of evil, pernicious, stigmatizing labels is at the core of psychiatric survivor discourse™, so of course it makes me wonder why I don’t care about mine so much, like — what am I missing here, am I insufficiently outraged about a civil rights injustice?!
Borderline, Bi-polar, Schizophrenia, these official stamps of psychiatry will lead to life of ruin, they say, while saying not so much about the label that actually got them committed. Puzzling, but later for all that. The thread on BPD at the only blog that matters has me head in a spin.

I identify with borderlines, my life’s been filled with them, I have it in me, it’s a hellish disorder. I’ve only seen doctors in offices. In the room, every diagnosis came at a snail’s pace by reluctant treaters who always provided the caveat that what they do are “diagnostic IMPRESSIONS” — their best opinion, that others might not agree with, including me. Fair enough. Over many years 3 different diagnosticians gave me a Cluster B (Dramatic) Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, all of them working independently without reading each others notes, and all of them placing an AXIS I diagnoses as the primary concern, whether major depression, bi-polar, PTSD, hysteria (conversion disorder) or some kind of schizophrenia. The docs I saw regularly who presumably knew me best were adamant that I do not have BPD, and I wanted that diagnosis, to feel closer to the people I love, and the musicians I relate to, all the luminous, sullen and delicate cutters.

I just last week sat down for the first time to read the opinion of the psychiatrist who evaluated me for the Social Security Administration. It’s been sitting here seven years and I’m aware that I have feelings about it before even reading it, the language is very sobering. I saw this SSA psychiatrist for 90 minutes and turns out he settled on “a long-standing and well-documented history of borderline personality disorder” with the following attached:

Dr. Aitcheson’s testimony is well-supported by the objective medical evidence, which establishes a deeply ingrained and maladaptive pattern of behavior associated with oddities of thought, perception, speech and behavior, … extreme difficulty getting along with others…panic attacks, psychotic features, vegetative states, hypersomnia… emotional lability as well as intense and unstable interpersonal relationships and impulsive and damaging behavior. This symptomatology has resulted in marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning, marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, pace, and repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.

I’m supposed to be offended by that? It’s the truth. I guess I could be offended, but appears I have a rather full plate to be upset by something so removed. I mean, it seems removed; I have my life and I have these labels. Now I finally have one that makes me chestpuff, I’m in with the out crowd.

I don’t care. That’s the problem, I am perceived as falling short in the victim identity. But listen, schizoaffective disorder was real tough on me, due to all the research it requires, but okay fuckit, overall I have no personal issues with labeling, I’m not outraged by the iffy nosology in psychiatry because the iffiness has been established for me by psychiatrists throughout my treatment course. Now I’m getting shit at Furious Seasons because what happened to me just don’t sound right. It’s a competition, this shit right here.

I feel protective and territorial about my newfound BPD label and don’t like how things are going over there. I am nobody’s victim and am sorry to say have always felt supported by my treaters, but do hang on to anger for the lobotomy and expect I always will. My gramma was the only one in that house who loved me, I saw what it did to her. Saw what psychiatrists did to my whole family, who, hang on a sec, unlike me were all involuntary patients. I guess today they’d be psychiatric survivors, since they were forced into asylums and treated against their will.

The difference between voluntary and involuntary patients is something. Seriously, cartoon king Szasz got one thing right.

Still, I am against the BPD dx for all the right reasons. People are negatively effected by that specific label in all kinds of specific ways and they don’t like it, and that should be reason enough to say it’s got to go. Period. But none of these DSM labels, invoked like mantras are what I look for when psychiatric survivors say they are sharing their feelings about what society thinks about them. The label they avoid is the one I’m most interested in hearing about  and what they do with it.

Yeah. What’s it like to be considered dangerous by the powers that be, and is it too late for me to get some of that juju?

The sole justification for involuntary commitment. You must be found to be a danger to self and or others. You might think that would make some impact on a person, an activist, a truthteller, but damned if I’m onto that discourse, in fact I’m seeing more like a taboo around meaningful discussion in the psychiatric survivors, but hey I’m borderline now, I get to stir shit up.

I realized something the other day, how the same thing happens when visiting a General Practitioner for the first time. The Physicians Assistant does the standard intake on medical history; surgeries, cancers, allergies, heart disease, mental health issues? “Yes,” I reply breezily, I’ve been treated for psychiatric conditions. “Any hospitalizations?” Why do they always look up and ask that? They do it every time, ask and look up, make eye contact and hold it.

Any hospitalizations for mental illness?

They are trying to gauge how much they need to be on guard in my presence. I guess we’re all doing that to some extent, but this makes it rather stark. I’ll remember next time to say “Nope, you’re safe!”

As am I, so far at least. I imagine that things could be different for me.

Posted in BPD et al., CBT is shit-for-brains., DSM, Etiological ignorance, Family, Fourth Street, Letters to Woody, Mad in America, Mental illness, Murder is a Crime, Psychophobia, Sexist bastards
8 comments on “Psychiatric survivors, labels and me
  1. Alison Hymes says:

    In most states nowadays “substantially unable to care for self” is enough reason to commit someone, don’t have to be dangerous. Also I think a lot of folks are angry at their core because someone or more than one lied on paper and in person to get them committed, made stuff up about them that wasn’t true and put it on their “permanent record” to get them forced into the hospital. No real legal representation in any state of the union, lawyers who cooperate with the justice not their client because that’s who appoints them, no sense of procedural justice. It feels like shit to have people lie about you, especially if it’s someone you love or someone you have known for years and especially if they tell you later it was for your own good when you got hurt and assaulted etc. because of their lie about you. You are supposed to be grateful, not angry. Or you are supposed to be ashamed of having been ill if you were ill. You aren’t supposed to be ashamed of having a heart attack but you damn sure are supposed to be ashamed of having a psychotic attack. So people say it doesn’t exist so they don’t have to feel shame or gratitude. JMHO.

  2. flawedplan says:

    You could be right. Who knows? Funny but true, I have the stereo on right now and it’s playing Elliott singing this:

    I got a question mark
    You got a need to always take some shot in the dark
    I don’t have to make pretend the picture I’m in is totally clear
    You think that all things have a way they ought to appear
    ‘Cos you know you know you know you know
    You know you know you know you know
    You know I don’t
    I dream
    Don’t know what you mean

    Panic called you out and took you in
    Giving you an easy game and letting you win
    Giving back a little hatred now to the world
    ‘Cos it treated you bad
    ‘Cos you couldn’t keep the great unknown from making you mad
    ‘Cos you know you know you know you know
    You know you know you know you know
    You know I don’t
    I dream
    Don’t know what you mean

    Said your final word, but honesty and love could have kept us together
    One day you’ll see it’s worth it after all
    If you ever want to say you’re sorry you can give me a call
    A Question Mark Lyrics
    Artist(Band):Elliott Smith


  3. Jaye says:

    Happy New Year. Think of you often, admire you so. When I think I can’t, I know you struggle with me. Dysthymia, major depressive episodes, conversion, attachment disorders, PTSD, I am a I have some problems and my yet they don’t have me. There is still me. Meds? Sure. I am better with them than without them and I have to take them on time, on schedule, go to therapy, and have routine exercise, order at home, order in my life or I don’t function.

    I have an old friend, I have known for over 30 years, more like 35, and he is bi-polar and I believe it given what I know but he is taking Abilify and I am terrified. We don’t talk much anymore. I wonder if he is ashamed, having side effects. He read my blog, says he thinks it is over his head. I am grieving the loss of my friend.

    Who knows what he needs to take–if is so personal, but given what I know about that drug–I wouldn’t take it. There has to be another way.

  4. Poodle says:

    Happy New Year (((Robin))))—-

    Wow-Iam waiting on my psy notes just now-11 disorders of fuck-her–even side ways-
    Still in therapy-only 3 sessions too go-then phone contact-then I will bump into Ron the T @ gigs Iam sure-

    Ya know the DBT skills did help me-but it was The Schema therapy which -took me towards myself–if that makes sense-I re-do my schema form this week-last one I did was 3 years ago-I got the lollie mixture of therapies and Iam very grateful for All of them-

    Wow Ive just started in play rehearsals a couple of weeks ago-the history of the Psy Hos I was locked in-

    I love it-Director is talking about me doing a peace of performance art–we will see what happens- and I will keep you informed-I miss ya- lifes bin busy-aging mother-angst Louise- Love ya Poodles-

  5. flawedplan says:

    Eleven disorders, we’re about even, and I was on as many drugs for each. This weekend I glanced at my psy notes for the first time in years and these people are fucking nuts. What they look for and what they consider significant, like foreigners who can’t figure out the local fashion — they all talk about my clothes and hats!

    Yes to schema therapy, Ron the therapist, performance art and life as performance art. I think about you every day, and look for you around the web. You keep me online (((Poodle, confused and in love with these times))).

  6. Poodle says:

    Wow Robin-it goes on-Ron the T is having a meeting with the director and his brother-its all fucting funny- It will be a very interesting meeting-wow-3 men talking about me-?-ALL very nice men but stil its an uncomatble fit is some-ways. It triggers the fuct outta me-dat be it. PTSD-the gift that keeps on giving-

    They wanta do more work with me-this is like a job-interview-LOL-its all stacked in poodles fav.
    Ron will have a ball-he gets an outing 2 the -off duty theater-.He” ill love it-Iam laughing my head off-the director is worried that what-?–I may get re-traumatized-what a nice bunch of men these are. -I”ill be fine-I do appreciate the attention Robin because I will have 2 teach them –how2ground me if I have a flash-back in rehearsal etc”-is all very practical as well-they are looking at investing a lot of time and work into me-etc–I like them–Lot’s— I wanta be in that theater company (((Robin)))))—is really what Ive wanted All along-my favorite line from Tony the director so far

    “There’s just so much of you”

    Iam very different in person Robin-Ya know first thing Most Psy ppls wanting do to me is shut me up–LOL-and No its not funny- thank God4Ron- I will be staying a little longer now-I will need phone sirport with him-they need too nail down the basis about me- I am not up too it-its like Ron is my -what?-personal Psy man-press agent-I odnt know-Ronthe T gets an outting-I will keep you posted-

    My theme that day was-Farmagirl- a out fit made of bubble wrap with-drug blister bags as the dress-great idea-but they want too chimp-chatter with Ron also about how I wood hold up for like 10 nights in a row-am I emotionally reliable I think-?–I will find out whats said etc-I don’t wanta be there-Ron will bring this up-whats it like 2 be excluded-?–talked about–?

    why am I trying too make it sound all cuddle-rug-they will be talking about how much stress I can take etc-touring-I don’t know-I will find out–I needed too–drop this poo poodle bit too you—xoxoxo

    Love ya Louise-xoxoxoxo

    I couldn’t find your e-mail addy

  7. flawedplan says:

    Your story and alliance with ((((RON the T.)))) bring back memories of my best relationships in therapy, and the the long complicated good-bye at the end. I was always detached and mean during the goodbyes, but the therapists cried, told me I was suppressing my emotions and would feel it later. They were right and I felt lost and adrift and at risk for weeks at a time. Amazingly when I think I can’t go on, it’s my close therapists I think of and how hard we worked in putting me back together. Grief work makes a powerful connection and though it’s been decades they don’t go away, that’s a promise.

    This new side is you blossoming. There is much more to you than the craziness your caregivers poured into your head, more to you than what they did to your body, more than PTSD, and more than surviving brutal psychiatry. We beat them by thriving in sweet revenge. Courage, valor, we stay together~

  8. Poodle says:

    We beat them by thriving in sweet revenge. Courage, valor, we stay together~

    so beautiful–leaving Ron is hard hard work-its time 2 go-ya can tell hey-?-feels time 2 go and splash in the puddles and have giggle girl goo goos -your right they never leave-I have so much of RontheT internalized how could it end-

    (((Robin)))–Ive had breaks b4 and not been able to follow threw-bad health both physical and emotional-that’s not the case here-I should be so lucky as too be able 2 -bark-for 6 minutes @ a festival audience-
    Engage them-splatter back words at them- small prance-some singing -be good-be fun and I need to rehearse-I have chest infection 2 boot-
    Yeah-leaving Ron-tissues please-its bin hard to let the feelings be there and not wanta run-never met a person like him-I had found it so damm hard knowing how too thank-him-well by going on and having a life would be a great way-)….the best way–the Joe Strummer book was just a start hey-
    I ½ heartily said too Ron a few weeks ago-when we were talking about me being discharged from the unit-

    “Can ya discharge me too the theater company “———–please-

    Iam outta the mental health circus Robin-I like my circus with clowns -not just the nastiness of the joker.
    I do feel that the ppls who are out there meant to help me -well they appear mentally ill-LOL and then they displace it on me-on that line I will get over 2 mums-85 and off for a hip operation soon-
    So good to know your always around-

    Love Louise-xoxoxoxo

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