Rossa Forbes wrote a fascinating article at the Mad in America website — see my permanent link — about her son’s schizophrenia diagnosis and his on-going recovery from treatment. One thing among many struck me. She freely admits that when she learned his diagnosis, one of her reactions was to treat her son as if he were feebleminded. Not all the time, but you know how it is when someone seems out of touch or unreachable, it isn’t difficult to feel that maybe she or he really has lost a major portion of intellectual capacity…
But I don’t want to paraphrase, so rather than copy and paste Forbes’ piece here, I would prefer to link to it so you can read it for yourselves. While you are there, check out some of the other Mad in America stories by clicking on the Home button. Mad In America is an incredibly interesting website, and an important one. It has changed my thinking, encouraging me to continue my own investigations, pursuing thoughts that no one has ever before “permitted me.” Sometimes this feels scary even to me, dangerous too. Breaking one’s chains and shaking them off can indeed feel scary, no matter how badly one wants freedom. The only cure for it is to take the first step forward unshackled, breathing freely.
Already I have cut out one of my chains, my medications — lamotrigine– without detrimental effect so far. It has been a week and the one thing I was scared of, a return of the olfactory hallucinations, has not happened. I think I worried for nothing. I still take another anticonvulsant, so as I suspected, the lamotrigine was probably overkill. Why was I on it in the first place? I do know that I never needed lamotrigine as a “mood stabilizer.” As I recall, some doctor switched me to it from valproic acid or carbamazepine which I was taking initially for the hallucinations, caused by temporal lobe seizures. He thought I was taking an anticonvulsant for mood stabilization, and never consulted me, and so from then on it was simply assumed by all the hospital personnel that lamotrigine was primarily a mood stabilizer…
I am wondering about my post title. I chose it thinking about Mad in America and Rossa’s Op-Ed. And yet, she did not necessarily disavow the diagnosis, just the medical model and the treatment. At least that is how it appears, since the title of her book-to-be uses the word schizophrenia…I myself would prefer throw that baby out with the bathwater and reconsider the whole affair. Instead of trying to resuscitate a lifeless baby, perhaps we should recognize that the plastic baby doll was always lifeless, and start casting about for something real. What I mean by that is, maybe there is absolutely nothing to the notion of schizophrenia. Is it possible that we all believe there is something there, when there is nothing, nothing at all? Am I crazy to say this? I do not deny suffering. I do not deny that I myself experience phenomena and feel things and hear things and suffer. And I certainly do not deny that others feel and hear and see and experience things. They certainly have their experiences. But, and this is the heart of the matter: Just because we have these experiences, does that mean they constitute a construct, a real thing, an entity, an illness per se? Why? Why can I not have these experiences by themselves without them having to be something, without them having to be an it?
I am serious. If we did not make all these experiences into something, if we did not scoop up each little experience and mash them all into one big Thing and wrap it up and label it bad, bad, bad, and then hand ourselves over to the psychiatrists to diagnose and treat and to Big Pharma to medicate, not to mention Big Insur to rob us blind for doing nothing, if we did not allow all of that to happen because we decided that our experiences were valid experiences, not invalid and sick, but honest and real experiences that needed to be honored, taken seriously, not scorned or contemned, what would happen?
Wow, I wonder. I wonder.