Friday, June 02, 2006

A Troubling Relationship

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

Someone near me recently was talking about "troubling relationships" and why different people though different relationships WERE "troubling." The relationship that troubles me the most is the one with psychiatrists, and by extension, the mental health profession in general.

There was a suggestion that I should try to "get along" with psychiatry. I am not sure I want to learn how to "get along" with psychiatry as it is now as I am not very interested in enabling and supporting relationships which seem to me to be dangerously co-dependent in nature. I am interested in REAL psycho-spiritual healing but NOT suppression or control of others.

What I do want to do is be a part of radical change for the better or failing that becoming part of an alternative to the current system of psychiatric thinking and action. In what capacity I don't know. Maybe just as a constant writer on the topic.

I once went looking for the mavericks in the profession, looking for the dissatisfied, where I thought there may YET be hope for relationship based upon mutual respect and movement, so I "googled" using R.D.Laing as my variable for search. That led me to others and Peter Breggin's refreshing attitude led me on and so it has gone ever since. But the maverick's are far too few and I wonder where the people who used to prize ethics and integrity are today?

Many years ago, when R.D.'s books were published (and many dysfunctional families were quite put out about it,) I was in my questioning period of life. (which basically, I am still in, since it has served me well) I was young then and I became one of his admirers from afar. He was so different, so genuine, so human and understood so much more than anyone else I had read about in his profession. His empathy was very striking. I got no sense of contempt for the patient from him. I do not agree with every word he said but I wish I had been able to talk to him to tell him how right he was to see what he saw and also to tell him about some things he did not yet see. He seemed to me like someone who was capable of listening. Really listening.

I think my life has led me to this place, to this experience and this way of thinking; to this moment in time, almost like "destiny" if you believe in such notions. I keep talking so that somewhere, someone, may finally hear what I am saying, which is not at all puzzling to me, nor in need of any "interpretation." If you as a psychiatrist, or anyone else, understand the importance of listening then you really understand something vital which the psychiatric establishment for the most part does not.

You may decide I am speaking nonsense and you have no interest i reading another word, which is, of course, your choice. To read or not to read is about your right to have boundaries just as surely as my write to speak is about mine, and I believe in boundaries. Because I do, I must attack ideas which deny me my write to speak for myself and others the right to hear what I have to say. I created this space for myself because my right to speak was taken away from me and I believe we all need to take that right back and to let the people who try to take it away know we are not at all pleased about their behaviour. So here, I will attack ideas which I believe diminish us as human beings, be direct and open and tell it as I see it.

I am not looking for ''help'' from anyone regarding what I say here. I have already been ''helped'' quite enough, but if you really want an opportunity to relate as equals, in human terms, we could try thinking about that, and writing about that. I would like to offer comments or suggestions from my point of view but it is important, I think, to understand who I am first. For those of you who are already in, or going into the profession of mental ''health'' in some capacity, I am the ''patient'' you want to understand. So just listen.

I was the employee of a health care agency who worked in a psychiatric hospital as a part of my job. I worked one to one with residential patients who the world in general, and psychiatrists n particular, think of as seriously "mentally ill.'' Many of them talked to me and I listened, sometimes while being openly mocked for it by some staff members, who consider listening to "diseases" (as they judge us) to be a waste of time. This gets more interesting still.

As a result of unrelenting externally caused stress (which was not from the patients but from the ''normal'' people) I also got to experience the role of psychiatric patient, whether I really wanted to or not, and I learned a great deal from it; about the experience of psychosis, about other patients, (whom I call the ''psychiatrized'') and about psychiatrists and the inner workings of psychiatric hospitals. I briefly heard ''voices,'' was shocked into non speech, felt overwhelmed by contradictory, chaotic information, operated almost exclusively on the conceptual level of meaning, was attacked by a demon, couldn't stop laughing at the hilarious psychiatrists and staff, felt and experienced time distortion and a whole lot more.

I also recovered completely from this and have taken a pro-active stance against the imbalance of power and lack of understanding in the current system. I am drug free and have been since February 97. I have not swallowed a pill since (other than aspirin etc) and feel no need to do so. Because I was labelled, I still experience the ongoing changes in attitude towards me by a society that defines people by their labels without feeling the need for ANY personal contact with me at all.

I learned a lot about what is wrong with the system and what the patient knows, and feels, and often isn't ''allowed'' to tell anyone. I learned that many who are running the system don't want to think the system is wrong about anything.

What I would do here is present to you, in a relationship of equals, the psychiatrized experience from someone who has had it and wants to share with non labelled others what it feels like to be on the receiving end of an imbalance of power which is very often the major causative factor in the development of this metaphysical illness in the first place.

I want to give you the chance to hear from someone who has been defined as a ''mental patient,'' what many patients would like to say to their psychiatrists but are too frightened, intimidated, drugged, threatened or coerced to risk doing for themselves. If you would like to hear some open direct input from a person (a PERSON, not a ''case'' or a ''subject'') who has had the experience many of you would otherwise only see from the ''helping'' side of it, then my writing here may benefit many of us. I believe humanity as a whole NEEDS a public dialogue, not more mystification or concealment.

I also believe there is Zen of being and a Zen of non-Being, the latter of which many people don't recognize as existing. This is represented by a neat division be the ''sick'' ones and the ''well'' ones but is an illusion based upon ideas of inherent difference. Unfortunately, it is also true that the illusion can be brought INTO concrete reality and exist ''as if'' it were the real thing, gaining more and more very real power because it is supported by people who buy into it. I also believe that if we don't soon manage to expose this illusion for what it is, we are going to bring the whole planet to ruin and that will become our new self inflicted ''reality.''

If you decide to visit here more often, I will tell you what I really think and I will not hold back nor tell you what I think you want to hear. This is my own personal space, so I can say whatever I like without editing it for others. That's my part of an equal relationship. Your part of that relationship is to stay and hear more, or to leave and reject it.

I must contuinue to talk because I fear that if I, and many others do NOT keep talking, neither part of that equal relationship is going to exist for very much longer.

Special Note: Please go to My Nuts R Us blog this week and check out Aubrey Shomo's film. The link is on the home page at the right of this blog


Dianne said...

Well said!!
You just have this uncanny ability to take the words right out of my mouth.
Please visit if you would like to check into starting a support group in your area for people in our situation so that you can continue to talk and listen to people with similar stories.
Anti-psychiatry is a label that I don't mind owning.
Your words are amazing and have a strong impact. I couldn't agree with you more.
Don't let anyone rock your boat.

Patricia Lefave said...

Thank you Dianne. I am already a member of many groups and do my best to juggle my time in ways I personally feel will benefit both myself and others within my personal limitations.