September 12, 2010

Serenity vs Action

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can... and wisdom to tell the difference...

I am grateful to have a sponsor who knows me pretty well, and who knows about my mental health journey. Sometimes it is her well-placed support that helps me to rest before I move towards necessary action.

I went to a conference this past two days, and one of the key discussions was about human rights for psychiatric survivors, particularly those that end up institutionalized. If that sounds like it could have made for a hot and angry crowd, well it wasn't.

At the conference I had the chance to interact with professionals that are trying to help the disenfranchised, who are often poor, minorities... with complex life problems that can never be handled by just making people take medications for emotional illnesses.

I learned that the state hospitals and other institutions are places that really are like prisons. There but for the grace of God, I could have been in one myself. Those of us who care, ought to find our way to go into these environments and see what is going on, and make up our own minds if this treatment is working. Where I live, it took a media expose to uncover the deaths of psychiatric patients. Deaths due to unresolved constipation. We psych patients know exactly what that means: overmedication with neuroleptics (aka antipsychotics). With no doctor oversight. And if someone actually cared enough to know the patient had not had a bowel movement in days, or perhaps weeks, no intervention occurred. Instead, the "patient" died of an impacted bowel and toxicity. Probably dehydration too.

Yes, at some points it was overwhelming to hear about real tragedies that happened to real people, each being told they simply had a brain disorder.

Most of us "on the outside" are just frustrated at how disenfranchised we FEEL about having to fight the system in order to claim wellness. The medical profession is pretty bound and determined to tell us our problems are permanent and that we need to be on medications for the rest of our lives.

Alas we still have a profession that still tries to speak for its patients, rather than listening when patients tell them the side effects are getting in the way of being well.
It was helpful to share with my Sponsor that I am struggling to discern what to change and what to leave alone, as a result of the discussions I took part in at the conference.

Thank God there are still good researchers in the field of psychiatry, who are doing what good scientists do in every discipline. Finally, after years of quiet muttering in some circles, one secret is out. Better long term outcomes for depression result from getting exercise rather than using chronic medications. Now it is time for lay people to ask the doctors about the other diagnoses, and discern whether these medications are really helping patients over the long term.

Plain fact is more and more we are hearing about people do heal, even from schizophrenia.

One day I need to tell my story, because I am an example of a person whose recovery calls into question the psychiatric model that emotional/mental illnesses are always chronic and need chronic medication to prevent symptoms from recurring. Interestingly, now that I have healed, the doctors probably will just shrug their shoulders and say I was misdiagnosed.

It is an interesting journey for a child of a person with borderline personality disorder, whose experience was largely invalidated in childhood. And who was told she was crazy and lazy. I see a system that mirrors, too closely, that experience I'd hoped never to experience in my adult life.

1 comment:

  1. I think that similar things happen in nursing homes as well. There are many who are extremely depressed and perhaps that is mistaken for dementia. I volunteered at a half-way house for the mentally ill when my mother was so sick. So many were on heavy medications there.


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