I’m still having a hard time recovering from mental illness awareness week, migraines, can’t sleep and nightmares when I can, plus waking up crying. I woke up and hollered “Molly!” a few hours ago, and I’ve been drinking a bit to take the edge off, which is nothing to me but a clue. Molly Ivins lived in this city, and this week I’m going to walk the streets she walked, the streets she urged us, in her final proclamation, to run into with glee, banging pots and pans, shouting “We are the deciders.”
No, we’re not. Over a hundred google alerts in my inbox last week promoting awareness of mental illness, and not one word about child abuse, because, do I have this right — because NAMI — a family organization — is in charge — do I have that right — in charge of mental illness awareness — NAMI, is that right? Wait, ok, so the ghosts are in my house, my people, my blood, thicker than water, kinship, my loyal perpetrators, no escape, she’s dead and I’m buried, mom without end. This is how it was, invisibility in the family, this is how it is, invisibility in the mental health system, it feels like I’m in the wrong time frame, I don’t even know where I am, it’s all seamless, positively fourth street. I read the pdf files and feel like I’m losing my mind, they use our language, capital “R” recovery — recovery is possible, expect recovery! Recovery from what? With what? Drugs and denial, symptom suppression, fuck you, my symptoms need expression, space, recognition, discharge, that takes skill, competence, — Expect Recovery — I expect Mark Eitzel is on the stereo saving me “Why do you say everything as if you were a thief? Like what you stole has no value, and what you preach is far from belief?”
That’s what they do, steal a thing of beauty and turn it into shit, “It only takes one person to change the world!” Yes and tomorrow we’ll change it back, because we write, another behavior you’ll never begin to understand.
I have to type more about me and the first thing to appreciate is that I don’t want to. This is one reason we remain invisible in mental health policy and even to our own ignorant CBT “solution focused” treatment providers, we avoid the material, and all the fixers in the system collude with us, by failing to educate themselves about traumatized personality development, because they don’t want to look at it either. It’s a human tendency to avoid the dark and depraved, it’s unsettling to sit with, and take it in day after day, it screws people up to listen. It’s about helplessness, people have a problem with being helpless, they can’t change or undo anything, they can only be witnesses, and that’s enough!
The only therapists who are of any use are not available to most of us anymore, the old school, expensive, time-intensive treatment associated with psychoanalysis is what we need, and that is not an option today.
Therapists can’t just ask outright “were you abused as a child?” Because we’ll say no, dummy, we were indoctrinated to conceal, minimize and forget what was happening. We have no language. I didn’t say a word my first year, I drew pictures, gave my therapist collages made from magazines, took her by the hand and walked her outside and pointed at a tree. It takes a year in therapy to prepare to do the work of trauma, to build trust and go at it at a very slow angle. You need an intentional therapist sitting across from you that whole year, who knows what they’re doing, consciously working to prepare you for doing the work you dread.
I have been scared for a long time, I have been thinking about it all last week, remembering troublewaits, when I didn’t even know what I was talking about, just wailing that some undefined they were taking trauma out of existence. Erasing the concept. Now I am seeing it happening. I think. Who is doing this? Is it NAMI? Am I invisible to my allies too? Do others working as activists in mh liberation who know I insist on inclusion of the trauma model know or care why I say that? Tell me, what are my
Suicide Survivor Notes about? When I talk about “my hospital records” do you assume I mean psych ward, and not the general emergency room where I went to get my ribs taped up after my NAMI did what they always did? I won’t spell that out every time you know, that was my mother.
Fighting biopsychiatry is not just about getting to the truth, it’s about the specific needs and challenges facing traumatized persons in the realm of mental health, and about making general sense out of personalities that are a real foreign land, which is useful for everyone, but of paramount relevance for people in the provider system. There are maps, this has all been studied and paid for, research and books and movies and songs, and 1200 scars on my best friends arms, programmed to self-destruct, still here, heroically in the way. We are in the system, we don’t always know why we end up in a mental health facility, but I am one who does know what happened to me, and what it did to me, and that there is no cure, and that there doesn’t need to be.
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