Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Behind The Label: Scene 1

The View from Here

By Patricia Lefave, Labelled, D.D.(P)

I am going to write these scenes from the point of view of the psychiatrized. This is to demonstrate what it looks and feels like to be rendered invisible as a normal human being.

Though I will frequently be writing of incidents in my own city, many of them were not my own but were witnessed by me. I also include in this my own personal experience in the hope that the demonstration of the reality of this will open up the minds of those who deny this truth, and also expose it on behalf of many who have been effectively silenced by their labels and their "treatment." I will be speaking of things the "normal others" do not want to see or to know. For purposes of growing empathy, I will write all of it in the first person; so that the reader who is lacking in it can learn to feel it, and so that those who already have it will know they are not alone in this. I will also write this way to protect the specific identities of the local labelled who already often take more community abuse than they can handle without breaking under the weight of it; sometimes, over and over again.

At The Pharmacy

I am 37 years old and I am with my mother, just as I am every day. People think she is just wonderful for putting up with a crazy daughter like me. Sometimes, they even tell her so while I am standing right there beside her. They don't see me. I think my mother likes the praise and the image she has with others.

One day, we went to the pharmacy where we have gone for years, to pick up my supply of the drugs I have been on, in one form or another, for the last 22 years. I am very fat now and there are some days that i can barely stay awake. I asked the doctor to at least lower the dosage but he said he wouldn't because it would b like telling a diabetic it was OK to go off her insulin.

As we walk into the store, there is a cashier whom we pass, and a woman making photo copies of something. The druggist seems to think the photo copy woman is very amusing for some reason. We go to the back counter to speak to the pharmacist before we can pick up the drugs.

Recently, I heard a rumour that some people have managed to get off the drugs. I don't know if it's true but it made me think maybe there was some hope for m after all. They make me feel so awful. My mother says it is just my in=imagination or that I just like to complain for attention. I decide to mention that to the pharmacist to see what he says.

Before I can finish my sentence though, my mother interrupts me: "You are NOT getting off these drugs she says," Then turning back to the pharmacist she acts as if I am not even there really.
She goes on to him, 'They all think they can get off these drugs. You can't tell them anything you know."
"I know, I know," laughs the pharmacist a little as if sharing some secret joke together.
God how I hate it when she does that, and even more so when others join in the "amusement," so I decide to tell the pharmacist something he probably doesn't know. I was abused very badly when I was a little girl by someone in our family. That was when all of this started you know. I told someone when I was eleven but she didn't believe me."

My mother gave me "the look." There are many things I am not supposed to say to others and I know that I just did by "the look." I thought it would be OK to tell the pharmacist because I really thought he was one of the people it was OK to tell the secret. I was wrong. She looked at the pharmacist and said conspiratorially, " OH, (sigh) It's always the parents isn't it? They sure do like to blame all their troubles on others don't they?"

She and the pharmacist laughed together again. It's like they are in a secret club or something and they believe someone as strange as I obviously couldn't understand the things that they do. I am a very funny crazy woman to them. We get the pills, go pay for them and leave. On the way out, I notice that the woman at the copier looks at me like she sees me. Like she can feel what it is to be me. Maybe I just imagined it though.

As soon as we get outside, my mother tells me to stop talking about these things that went on in the family with strangers.
"I was only telling him how it all started so he would know it was real," I said.
"You are NOT getting off these drugs. It would only mess up your disability cheques and we need them now. So stop wishing for it or talking about it. It's not going to happen."
I suggest that maybe I should just move away so she would feel happier.
"And what would you do to survive Missy? I am the one controlling the money. Remember?"
Just then, two of our neighbours walked by..."Oh, hello Mrs. Jones" they greeted, "You and your daughter are out shopping together again. I think it is just wonderful that the two of you are so close."
The other one turned to me, "You are very lucky to have such a devoted mother. I hope you know that."

I actually have a lot of opinions about my own life and experience in it, and despite the affects of these drugs I must take, I still manage to have some feelings too. But I am always told that my opinions and feelings are not the "right" ones to have, so I am not allowed to express them. They seem to embarrass most people. Every time I try to express them more, I am stopped by someone, and if I try AFTER I have been stopped, I am often reminded that a higher dosage of the drugs may be just what I need. So, I know pretty much how far I can go in my talking. I know from decades of experience.

Yet, I still do hope that one day, someone like the pharmacist, or anyone I speak to, however briefly, might look me right in the eye and see the truth in me that no one has really seen since it all started. I will know if they really hear because they will look at me; ME, not my mother, and they won't think there is anything funny at all about my wanting to be off drugs, and well, and just as normal as they are.


Spiritual Emergency said...

Re: Behind the Label

No doubt, you'll enjoy my most recent entry titled: A conversation with a psychiatrist.


Dear Jane said...

the reason parents deny deny deny is because if they actually admitted that the horrible stuff happened, they would be held accountable for their actions or inaction. It is much easier to live with themselves blaming it all on the imagination of their child.

Any time I even suggested anything to either of my parents, it was met with "it never happened. You're crazy, or you are just trying to get attention." Well, it DID happen, I am not crazy, nor I am simply saying things to get attention. At least I finally realize that now.

Anonymous said...

No, I don't think its neccessarily the case that parents vigourously deny and deny the horrific abuse that their children were subjected to just because they are afraid they would be held accountable (before the Law) for their actions. Its more a case of the the abusive/crazy parents colluding with the overt demands of the abusive/crazy Status Quo to with they are so symbiotically identified.

Dear Jane said...

I didn't mean accountable to the law, but accountable in the eyes of God. They deny it happened because they don't want to be part of the problem.

But if a parent was either harming a child, or ignoring harm that they knew was being done to a child, they ARE accountable for their action/inaction whether they choose to admit it or not.

Parents are people, too. They carry their own baggage to the table & often times feel ashamed of mental illness when I think a LOT (but certianly not all) of mental illness is caused by unresolved trauma.

Patricia, L. said...

Thanks for all the comments folks. I also want to tell Spiritual Emergency, the only way I can, that I did read "A Conversation With A Psychiatrist" and found it very relevant. Thanks for pointing it out to me.