I have come across two blog posts that I think deserve a wider audience. The first is written by WillSpirit, a medical doctor who is now asking those of us who most understand mental distress to speak up. Please read the full post here. I have excerpted two paragraphs below.
I started reading textbooks of psychiatry, thinking I could help others now that my own problems had receded. I applied to psychiatry residencies and psychology graduate programs, but was rejected by them all despite my rather stellar academic background. It became obvious that the programs felt uneasy with my psychiatric history, which I’d disclosed in the naive (or stubborn) belief that it should qualify rather than disqualify me for work in the field. Now I had a new reason to suspect systemic problems in the mental health industry. If it fears those who have most used its services, how compassionate can it really be?
It’s time for those of us who most understand mental distress to speak up. We who’ve suffered with depression, anxiety, confusion, delusional states, and so on are in the best position to understand them, especially if we’ve managed to work through our difficulties to achieve a balanced, peaceful state of mind. We are also most aware that mental health problems as currently defined are not always negative. The ‘system’ has so focused on the shadow side of moodiness and perceptual alterations that the enhancing aspects have been forgotten. But most of us who’ve struggled with powerful mental states recognize that, properly harnessed, they confer a kind of grace.
The second blog post on recovery is by Pamela Spiro Wagner. I have been aware of her writing for quite a while now, but I perhaps unfairly judged her as too tied to the medical model of her “illness.” Without knowing her except through her skillful writing, she impresses me as an innate artist foiled and failed by the psychiatric system, which buries, not praises, those it purports to help. Through her own tenacity she has come to accept herself as an artist. My editorial comment is that the “system” can save a lot of people a lot of grief if it would recognize that creativity may produce bouts of psychosis.
Usually when anyone else but someone with a psychiatric diagnosis speaks of recovery they mean, full-out cure. Let’s not kid ourselves. When you recover from pneumonia, you get better, you do not have pneumonia any longer. When you recover from the flu, you are cured. When you recover from a broken leg, ditto. Yes, there may be residual damage, if you have a heart attack say, or pneumonia, but you do not still have the process itself going on, or you would not call yourself recovered. Rarely do people say that they are chronically IN recovery from anything but either a psychiatric illness or poorly controlled substance usage. But man, do we! The problem with this whale is that like Moby Dick it can lead you out to sea, capsize your boat and abandon you, floundering. What use it is to say, you are in recovery, if you remain miserable, despite all the medications stabilizing you so you are not “in the hospital” or “utilizing resources”?