Two years ago, as I sat here at Thanksgiving time, I was a little over a year off psychiatric drugs. I was still trapped in a body that didn’t feel like mine, and still at the mercy of painful and confusing thoughts and emotions, but shifts had happened. Time had given me distance from Psychiatry, and this distance had slowly brought me closer to a sense that I could eventually be an autonomous person with an autonomous Self, even though I was still completely unsure of what that meant. I slowly started to recognize how afraid I was of myself, of my emotions, of my mind, and while it would be some time before I’d come to see that this fear was the cornerstone of my psychiatric indoctrination, I was at least becoming aware of it, and getting better at naming it. In naming this fear, I was able to create distance from it, and to see that while I couldn’t control the thoughts it was placing in my mind—You are too weak, too pathetic, too broken, too far gone to function in this world! You will never fully heal! You will never be successful at anything and will always be dependent on your family! You will always just be a mental patient!— I didn’t have to believe them. And in this important, albeit painful space of awareness, I began to find respite from the emotional pain. I also began to understand that I was not my withdrawal; that this excruciating pain was something that was happening to me, but wasn’t who I was. Slowly, I began to imagine that there might be life for me beyond this, as a human being truly free from Psychiatry. I began to think of the unknown—the future, who I would be once I’d healed from psych drugs, what it was I was meant to contribute to the world—not just as something to be afraid of, but also something to be curious about. This all started as a fantasy, but in this sacred space between myself and my fear, and between myself and my withdrawal, I began to believe that perhaps I had a meaningful life ahead of me.
complete piece here
As a narrative therapist who also happens to be a psychiatrist, this piece interests me at several levels. It is always edifying to hear a specific story of a person’s struggle to live a meaningful life, and this is a well-told story of such a struggle, with the added zest of coming from the vantage point of some sustained success. It is always appealing when someone else’s worldview overlaps enough with mine that I can find some of my favorite beliefs and practices confirmed in their stories. Ms. Delano provides the frisson of confirmation by writing of experiences that support the narrative therapy practices of externalizing problems, promoting personal agency, and linking lives through shared purposes.
In the paragraph I have quoted above, she begins to perceive fear as her oppressor, and and as something that is “not her,” external to her and not essential to her identity. This allows her to get in touch with her ability to push back against its urgings; to feel personal agency in opposing the fear.
Later in the piece she speaks of her local community and how important the people there are in helping her claim and live out the new life she, with their help and witness, is constructing.
I do think there are a few people with psychiatric training and credentials who are speaking up and trying to change the way business as usual is done in this country. For that reason I prefer to think of “bad psychiatry” as what I’m opposing. I want to hang on to some hope that my profession might change so that the usual practices are something I don’t have to feel ashamed of.
(thanks to madness-narrative)