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Archive for the ‘Mad in America’ Category

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

Ω

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.

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meansanta2Not another post about nuance! Yes and it all started when I heard benevolent superstar Jon Swift is offering exposure to his blogroll writers with another year-end round up of Best Posts Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves. Last year was a great success, providing hours of enjoyable reading and oodles of new visitors to the entrants’ blogs. This is not a contest, but an invitation for writers of all kinds who want a little more attention. I’m posting about it in the enduring hope of seeing psychiatric bloggers do more crossing-over into the wider progressive blogosphere. Of course you have to be on his blogroll, but since his blogroll is famous for being open to anyone I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t be on it.

I had little trouble choosing my own favorite post from this year’s slim pickens because I’m still pissed about that blogger from last year’s round-up who decided the most important post she wrote in 2007 was an injunction to readers to take their psychiatric meds. I don’t easily let go that sort of bullshit and it’s not because I’m against people taking psychotropic drugs. It was the compulsion to thrust her garbage onto the faceless reader as if the reader was any of her damn business, it’s that sort of foolishness gets stuck in my craw.

It looks like we’ve come full circle in one year’s time. These days the big drag in the psychosphere is seen in the browbeating of bloggers who actually do take their medication, to the consternation of antipsychiatry bullies who know for a fact that using meds does nothing but support corrupt big phRma. The DSM’s a bastard, mental illness a social construct, everybody hurts, but if you need a crutch there’s always B-Vitamins and Omega 3 fatty acid, looser! You may think this a caricature and sadly, so do I. But it’s for our own good, the twisted stigmatizing by double-talking activists who seem to think unvarnished contempt of their own (imagined) constituency is lost on anyone who believes other people’s choices are deserving of respect.

What are we to make of it? Unsolicited warnings about disabling side effects, but ZOMFG stopping drugs cold turkey without “tapering” will make you a school shooter, calling out fellow bloggers in a keyboard-pounding frenzy to justify their failure to denounce the modern tools of psychiatry, and without a single self-deprecating nod to their own fixation over this grave and pressing life and death matter.

One popular no-med blogger did just that to your shy and retiring flawedplan this year and thankfully I was able to maintain sufficient wit to persuade her to swiftly remove the nonsensical post but these displays of nerve can leave a chilling effect. And they’re accumulating, some phase, the pendulum swinging, whatever the reason, antipsychiatry abounds. Yes I know, google antipsychiatry and you’ll end up here, isn’t that ironic. Something’s gotta give.

Just this October while cleaning out my medicine cabinet I found a two year old bottle of un-opened Effexor and decided I’d take one a day to see what it did to my mind. First time I try psych drugs in over three years but can’t bring myself to share this experiment on my own damn blog because who wants to fight with competitive antipsychiatry ass berets? That’s fucked up . And more fool me, being so wilting lily sensitive but
when
I
can
I
will
so let the record show, Effexor kicked ass in the third week, got me talking to people, telling jokes, on the phone and off my computer, playing with kids, looking up at the sky above, cornbread moon and twinkly stars, take that, assholes! all very banal and run-of-the-mill, a mood elevator doing what it was designed to do, someone better call Ripley. But I dreaded the outcry — Placebo effect!— Uh huh, and it only took 32 trials with prior “placebos” til Effexor hit the sweet spot, what a mystery these dadgum sugar pills, 31 fakes til the real placebo kicks in.

Now, wait just a dadblasted minute. Did I not just say I’ve been off psych meds for three full years and now I’m going on about undergoing 32 drug trials? Which is it, what gives? I get these triumphant gotcha emails and don’t know what to make of them that seem to be saying “Come Clean!”

Because nothing says you’re filling a necessary void like an excruciatingly detailed exposition of your journey with psychotropic medications, therefore a blogger is beholden to describe her course in its entirety, stops and starts, gains and losses, why I changed my mind, then changed my mind again, til I came upon the final wisdom, whether from compliance to non-compliance or non-compliance to compliance and the road back to where I was before the meds destroyed my fill-in-the-blank, the fact of the matter is every veil that falls from my eyes will be validated by matching veils falling from your own. Or else.

Else what?

You can face the pathetic need to have complete strangers put their stamp on your own life choices or you can assume the identity of a pharmaceutical fetishist, choose to troll blogs, shut down discussion, expect everyone to be similarly obsessed with pharmaceuticals in a vain attempt to normalize batshit insanity by projecting your issues into the environment, which no one in the history of the world has ever tried before.

They’re out there. Trolls are meant to be smacked down, though I wouldn’t call them concern trolls, because they’re incapable of misrepresenting the concern part of the concern troll protocol. It seems more like a minority of angry antipsychiatry usurpers have united in an effort to seize the mental health discourse, make discussion ugly for any mental health blogger inclined to post about a casual relationship with said drugs and prescriber, who gives the topic due proportion, as an aside, one detail in a multi-faceted narrative. Not to mention any blogger who feels conflicted about using pharmaceuticals, you will watch your mouth or rue the day you turned off comment moderation.

Antidepressants aren’t that interesting, they are just the device in a battle of wills. It’s about control, over-powering the blight of personal sovereignty by those who feel personal sovereignty was stolen from them, and by the looks of things it was. But there has to be a way of reclaiming what’s yours without destroying the self-esteem of psychiatry’s willing guinea pigs as if their peace of mind is what’s wrong with this picture.

Perhaps I’ve gone far afield of the original subject, but it seemed some preamble was in order. I’ve come to realize that anticipating a jump to conclusions has become necessary in blogging and guess there’s nothing to be done for that but learn to address it in fewer words. I’ll aim high, meanwhile my favorite 2008 post at Writhe Safely remains this one, but I won’t submit that since it’s pure link love, I didn’t write anything. My own best typing in 2008 combines social criticism with personal confession (and if you think I exaggerate the violence of online antipsychiatry read that thread) but will submit this instead with a thought for public service. If you come away from that convinced of what I stand for you are privy to a truth that is not even in my own possession. Why would you want that responsibility? Just think about the post, not a bunch of interesting ideas about the person who wrote it.

Right now I am thinking of various mental health bloggers who deserve a wider audience. Here’s hoping half my blogroll makes an appearance in Jon Swift’s self-selected personal bests for Election Year 2008! I’ll be clicking along with my Christmas toddy, in solidarity, basking in the plenitude of complimentary hits.

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It feels good to be blogging again, get this down. I’m spending time here now, and went in on a shrug and a guess but it’s everything I want so let’s just pause and bow our heads for the miracle of work without pay. As a volunteer you choose where to go, what to do, learn at your own pace, you’re in demand by all departments and are treated like a hero. That’s what all work should be like, but since it’s not hooray for service, it’s given me 10 times what I’d have in my life without it.

This is Texas, hell on earth. Here’s the TCRP video describing their services. They fight to uphold the First Amendment, disability rights, battered immigrant wives under the Violence Against Women Act,  they’re all over the Texas Youth Commission, and it all boils down to hope.

I’ve been overwrought because I knew I had to go there but I’m not college, don’t know about law — ask me, what’s a plea, what is disclosure, what is a brief? I don’t know shit. You’d say that’s okay but I can’t get that through my head.  I’m terrified, shakes, humiliation and being ashamed of the humiliation, I’m sorry I’m sorry, head down, obsequious, problems with information processing, how to be, afraid to ask, a willing victim, it’s my whole personality, placating, fear of exposure. You can’t hide that, so what can you do? Bless this mess and watch them wait. I’m safe. Everyone knows that but me, I know they know I’m afraid and are too classy to interfere while I come to my own understanding. I am a rather steep learning curve too.

A word about magic. Twenty years ago while deciding if I would take the job at WOXY or a station outside of Chicago I went to a bookstore and pulled A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man off the shelf and started reading. I near fainted on the spot to see the protagonist’s name is Stephen Daedalus, because I just got off the phone with him, WOXY’s program director! That was his radio identity, I had no idea he took it from a story. I took it as a sign. Nothing like that has happened before or since til last month after taking the job at TCRP I went to the library and picked up a bunch of books. That night while reading Molly Ivin’s last tome I got to read 2 chapters praising Texas Civil Rights Project! It’s a coincidence, I know, everything is random but still somehow connected, isn’t it.

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Bukowski: the shoelace

a woman, a
tire that’s flat, a
disease, a
desire: fears in front of you,
fears that hold so still
you can study them
like pieces on a
chessboard…
it’s not the large things that
send a man to the
madhouse. death he’s ready for, or
murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood…
no, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies
that send a man to the
madhouse…
not the death of his love
but a shoelace that snaps
with no time left …
The dread of life
is that swarm of trivialities
that can kill quicker than cancer
and which are always there –
licence plates or taxes
or expired driver’s license,
or hiring or firing,
doing it or having it done to you, or
roaches or flies or a
broken hook on a
screen, or out of gas
or too much gas,
the sink’s stopped-up, the landlord’s drunk,
the president doesn’t care and the governor’s
crazy.
lightswitch broken, mattress like a
porcupine;
$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at
sears roebuck;
and the phone bill’s up and the market’s
down
and the toilet chain is
broken,
and the light has burned out –
the hall light, the front light, the back light,
the inner light; it’s
darker than hell
and twice as
expensive.
then there’s always crabs and ingrown toenails
and people who insist they’re
your friends;
there’s always that and worse;
leaky faucet, christ and christmas;
blue salami, 9 day rains,
50 cent avocados
and purple liverwurst.

or making it
as a waitress at norm’s on the split shift,
or as an emptier of
bedpans,
or as a carwash or a busboy
or a stealer of old lady’s purses
leaving them screaming on the sidewalks
with broken arms at the age of 80.

suddenly
2 red lights in your rear view mirror
and blood in your
underwear;
toothache, and $979 for a bridge
$300 for a gold
tooth,
and china and russia and america, and
long hair and short hair and no
hair, and beards and no
faces, and plenty of zigzag but no
pot, except maybe one to piss in
and the other one around your
gut.

with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces,
one man, one woman, one
thing
enters a
madhouse.

so be careful
when you
bend over.

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Ah well they rejected my panel so fuck ’em I said, prepared to be all pissy and dismissive of the convention on its way to Austin town, but that’s just not me. Three thousand progressive bloggers flying into the state responsible for the neocon stronghold on this country is a marvelous event that didn’t happen by accident. Bu$hco absolutely rules Texas on every level of government, what better place than Austin to say goodbye to all that?

I plan to volunteer and serve the psychobigots in some capacity but will first clear the bitterness away. Maybe I’m not seeing it, but looking over the agenda it appears once again as a “Sea of Middle-Aged White Males” with no disability caucus or mental health activism included anywhere.

As usual civil rights are well-represented by GLBT bloggers who I certainly do recognize as mentors, but that’s not the only civil rights game in town, y’all, isn’t it time to embrace liberal diversity and engage the unwanted stepchildren/lifelong organizers under the big tent? I wonder if any other disability rights bloggers submitted a proposal to NN, and am anxious to read their layout and hear what they have to say about being excluded during this momentous era of Change.™ Party unity my ass, there is something very missing here, and yes, you’re lookin at it.

This proposal, penned by the illustrious Candid Psychiatrist, is as stand-up as anything going on this week, and it received a standard polite brush-off by the NN gatekeeper. Hmph. Methinks the elite liberal establishment resists education, and I think we would have killed.

CHALLENGING THE CORRUPTION OF PSYCHIATRY
A Proposed Presentation for Netroots Nation 2008

ABSTRACT

The institutions and practice of contemporary psychiatry are corrupted by the pharmaceutical industry, managed care, and other commercial interests. The prevailing treatment model today is biological psychiatry, a worldview that systematically dehumanizes patients by reducing their life stories, individual concerns, and emotional needs to a bunch of dumb molecules. This clinical model is driven by fiscal priorities, professional insecurities, and an elitist/authoritarian mindset—and is propped up by a vast research infrastructure that is drunk on drug company money, generating sham science in support of diagnoses and theories that have no firm basis in fact.

The above paragraph may seem hyperbolic, but it is more supportable than much of what passes for conventional wisdom in psychiatry today. Many progressives resist education on these issues because they are accustomed to defending psychiatry from perceived enemies of science. Others generalize from their own positive experience of psychiatric treatment, and/or question the credibility of psychiatry’s opponents. Nonetheless, recent news stories about the selective publication of antidepressant studies, the systematic diagnosing and drugging of children, and other outrages hint at the widespread dysfunction in our mental health system. Many in the progressive community are being seduced by pseudoscience and unwittingly enabling corporatism. We would like to correct this misjudgment.

The movement for psychiatric reform is evolving and broadening as awareness of this institutional corruption increasingly comes to light. The internet has opened doors for free communication between consumers and providers, and its anonymity has allowed psychiatrists and other providers to speak freely without fear. As parties that used to oppose each other find common cause and coalesce, we see ourselves on the threshold of a new front in netroots activism.

PANELISTS

Dr. Paul Minot is a psychiatrist with a medication management practice in Central Maine. He is part of the burgeoning critical psychiatry movement, attacking the institutional corruption and sham science that taints its contemporary practice and dehumanizes patients. He cites his experience playing in punk bands in the 1980s as significantly influencing his worldview. He now promotes psychiatric reform through his website, Candid Psychiatrist (www.candidpsychiatrist.com), and also posts frequently at Daily Kos. Perhaps his greatest notoriety to date comes from a diary there entitled Bush’s ‘Delusions’: A Psychiatrist’s Perspective which was linked throughout the blogosphere and subsequently became a viral email. Dr. Minot will be examining the scientific underpinnings of biological psychiatry.

Robin Plan is a consumer advocate addressing psychiatric issues on her website, Writhe Safely (https://writhesafely.wordpress.com). Her background is in alternative-rock broadcast media, and she now works tracking Texas state legislation. She is an award-winning SLAM poet, pioneer in the DIY poetry zine scene of the 1980s, and her work has been taught at Miami University Women’s Studies and Stanford University Introductory to Writing courses. Robin describes herself as a radical humanist, for whom advocacy has been the enduring presence in her life. She has shelter experience counseling victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, child abuse, Alzheimer’s victims, and works on campaigns addressing hunger, patient rights, the democratization of the arts, and the mental health consumer liberation movement.
Ms. Plan will discuss the impact of biological psychiatry from the patient’s perspective.

John Breeding, Ph.D. is a counseling psychologist in Austin, Texas. He is the director of Texans for Safe Education, a citizens group dedicated to challenging the ever-increasing role of psychiatry and psychiatric medications in the schools. He combats psychiatric oppression in other arenas as well, and is a steering committee member of the Coalition for the Abolition of Electroshock in Texas (www.endofshock.com). His personal website, Wildest Colts Resources (www.wildestcolts.com), is an exhaustive resource for information on parenting, psychology, and psychiatry. Dr. Breeding is the author of four books, including The Wildest Colts Make the Best Horses and The Necessity of Madness and Unproductivity: Psychiatric Oppression or Human Transformation. He has 37 video clips posted at http://www.youtube.com, with tens of thousands of cumulative views logged there. Dr. Breeding will explore the ethical and spiritual impact of biological psychiatry.

The presentation will be live-blogged by Philip Dawdy, an award-winning investigative journalist and patient advocate who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Mr. Dawdy has reported extensively on mental health issues on the local and national level, and worked as a staff writer at Seattle Weekly until November 2006. Since then Philip has been running the popular consumer blog, Furious Seasons (www.furiousseasons.com) and is a frequent diarist at Daily Kos.

GOALS

We hope that this presentation will increase the audience’s understanding of the extensive corruption of science that is used to justify the biological model of psychiatry, and the many ways in which the application of this clinical model degrades patient care. We would like to overcome the perception that critics of psychiatry are enemies of science, and thus attract wider support among progressives in opposing rampant corporatism in psychiatry. Finally, we would like to demonstrate how the internet is enabling activists with diverse perspectives to communicate with each other and come together in common cause.

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Our sensitive overlords at the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care are holding a conference this weekend; their 3rd in a series spanning two decades. I must be in pretty bad shape to consider this good news, but beneath the layers of shmooze and self-congratulation must lie some potential toward changing hearts and minds in the bureaucracies they toy with. That’s what I tell myself, looking over the program schedule (PDF), which kicks off July 10 with a private all-day Consumer/Survivor/ Peer/Expert Meeting to develop a National Consensus Statement on Trauma-Informed Care. Heaven knows it is time for that or something like it.

From the pink flower-embossed, healing brochure:

The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) has been sponsoring conferences that have defined the agenda of what needs to be done to recognize, understand, spark, and speed the healing and recovery process from violence and trauma.

From Dare to Vision in 1994, to Dare to Act in 2004, and now Dare to Transform in 2008 we are moving closer to real action for positive and lasting change. Our Goal: Revolutionizing Human Services with Trauma-Informed Care.

Trauma-informed programs and services represent the revolutionary transformation as the “new generation” of mental health and allied human services organizations and programs that serve people with histories of violence and trauma. Trauma survivors and consumers in these programs and services are likely to have histories of physical and sexual abuse as well as other types of trauma-inducing experiences.

These adverse experiences often lead to mental health and other types of co-occurring disorders such as health issues, substance abuse, eating disorders, HIV/AIDS, and contact with the criminal justice system. Unrecognized trauma also may lead to misdiagnosis or mistreatment of consumers and survivors.

When a human service program becomes trauma-informed, every part of its organization, management, and service delivery system is assessed and potentially modified to include a basic understanding of how trauma impacts the life of the individual seeking services. Trauma-informed organizations, programs, and services are based on an understanding of the trauma survivor’s vulnerabilities, which traditional service delivery approaches may inadvertently exacerbate and, as a result, cause re-traumatization.

This shift marks the change from a place that merely
carries out services to one that becomes a safe place of healing for the people it aims to serve. It is from this place of understanding that we have come together at Dare to Transform – a starting point for revolutionizing our systems of care.

Program highlights:

(more…)

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You remember that lady who fell down and died in front of everybody in a New York hospital? What are you, living in the past, that was 8 whole days ago! But here’s a footnote lest you were to think something relevant was about to happen — that video didn’t hit the airwaves as the result of an investigation into the deplorable conditions of our nation’s yadda yadda, it was a fluke stumbled on while investigating some other unrelated everyday civil rights violation. See that puff of smoke going up, that would be the change in the air, an allowance that what happened in Kings County Psychiatric Hospital happens all the time in those places, in your neighborhood and mine, standard and unremarkable. Putting eyes on it is what’s remarkable, which leads to necessary outrage which leads to — oh look, something shiny!

“WHY?” asked NBC. Why in the name of all that’s sacred did this poor, black, aging, psychiatric, involuntarily committed woman slump to the floor and die in the space of one hour to the callous indifference of everyone around her?  If only there were some dots to connect, we might begin to understand.

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