Yes, we need to talk. And the links I have collected here point to a theme I would like to talk about:
There will be more comments later, for now I’m just quoting the conclusion:
Some people benefit from drugs; some from psychotherapy; some from simple lifestyle changes (including cat ownership); and some from all three. Mental health professionals must work together and learn from one another to give patients timely, appropriate, and honest advice regarding the best options for them.
And inserting a relevant question:
there are certain actual needs I have.
Even when the cliff is not of stone.
I need eyes that see the abyss.
Eyes that see me, where I hang.
I need strong arms that hold a rope.
Even when the arms are not of flesh and bone.
I need a friendly presence
while deathfear cramps itself out.
I need safe silence when I have no words.
When words are there, I might need:
I need a clear brain that reality tests with me:
Was I pushed?
What do others own?
What do I own?
I need someone who gives me time and space
to find what I can learn from my past.
When the time is right.
Someone who knows that it is my abyss.
These are my fingers.
This is my past.
Someone with guts to stay beside me
and does not try to show the way.
Can you give me what I need when I hang over an abyss?
If you can’t, more than anything else,
I need sentences that begin with “I”:
When you say it like that
you own your reactions.
You don’t give them to me.
Rude, you say?
Subjective, you say?
Have a look at this:
Is this polite?
Postscript: Have I been “psychotic”? I don’t know. 24 years ago there were months when I was hallucinating, hearing voices, suicidal and very confused, and I managed to hide these symptoms from my family and the health services.
I had an inner image of hanging on to a teetering “me” when people in my surroundings were trying to push me into a void. And this “me” was validated and strengthened by memories of people I had known and loved as a child, so I was actually hanging on to them, to what it felt like to be with them, what safety and trust and acceptance felt like.
And I knew how my mother acted and what she did before she lost touch with reality, so I knew not to go into her world of polarization, of insisting that everyone else was crazy.
And I finally managed to communicate with my inner critic, who knew that I was wrong, and that the world would be a better place when I was dead. That story is in “Psychiatry or liberation?“, but you need to scroll down a bit. That broke the spell.
I decided a long time ago to flaunt my borderline diagnosis as a banner of autonomy. That liberated me from the shame and humiliation that is a harmful side-effect of borderlining. Rebecca J Lester describes this in Lessons from the borderline: Anthropology, psychiatry, and the risks of being human:
Clinicians generally detest working with borderline patients.1 These clients can present as unpredictable, needy, hostile, overly dramatic, and emotionally draining. As McGlashan (1993: 241) observes: ‘Officially, ‘borderline’ is a diagnostic label. Unofficially, in clinical parlance, it is synonymous with ‘anathema.’’ Gabbard (1997: 26) elaborates: ‘A significant number of professionals within the industry regard borderline patients with contempt.’ And as one psychiatrist told anthropologist Tanya Lurhmann (2000: 113), you look for the ‘meat grinder’ sensation: if you are talking to a patient and it feels like your internal organs are being turned into hamburger meat, she’s probably borderline.
The experiences described by some participants regarding making complaints provide food for thought; the idea that making complaints is typical behaviour for someone with a BPD diagnosis seems to be a powerfully silencing one, positioning the client as someone whose complaints are trivial and/or pathological. The idea of BPD diagnosed clients as prone to making complaints probably also has ties to this client group being seen as difficult and angry, and being responsible for ‘splitting’ staff (Gallop 1985).
In my frame, the symptoms that get labelled Borderline Personality Disorder are symptoms of societal harm, loss, trauma and border violations. The meat grinder sensation is discomfort at getting a glimpse into an invisible war zone that the professional does not want to know about, and the diagnosis of “Borderline Personality Disorder” is generated by a professional Somebody Else’s Problem field and upheld by little homunculi that are jumping up and down in professionals’ heads.
In a strange double bind, psychiatry is clear about there being no need to be ashamed of having been sexually used, hit or gaslighted – and then treats the symptoms of having been used, hit or gaslighted as shameful and contemptible personality defects.
Linking to “Is Anakin Skywalker suffering from borderline personality disorder?” This might seem like a reasonable question to a psychiatrist:
Anakin Skywalker, one of the main characters in the “Star Wars” films, meets the criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD). This finding is interesting for it may partly explain the commercial success of these movies among adolescents and be useful in educating the general public and medical students about BPD symptoms.
We are three generations of Star Wars fans in my family, and my children and grandchildren have often started discussions about this universe. Looking at how the character’s lives shape their actions and their options has led to useful explorations of free will, ethics, responsibility and values in the world we live in, far, far away from the mental illness frame of psychiatry.
A huge problem with the limited psychiatric illness model is that it gives up on people with “personality disorders”. I’ll be following this program with interest:
“Some psychopaths can be treated”
David Bernstein, Sacha Ruland
From my layperson’s POV, mental help evidence based on P values is information, not TRUTH. And this article explains how and why:
P values have always had critics. In their almost nine decades of existence, they have been likened to mosquitoes (annoying and impossible to swat away), the emperor’s new clothes (fraught with obvious problems that everyone ignores) and the tool of a “sterile intellectual rake” who ravishes science but leaves it with no progeny3. One researcher suggested rechristening the methodology “statistical hypothesis inference testing”3, presumably for the acronym it would yield.
The irony is that when UK statistician Ronald Fisher introduced the P value in the 1920s, he did not mean it to be a definitive test. He intended it simply as an informal way to judge whether evidence was significant in the old-fashioned sense: worthy of a second look. The idea was to run an experiment, then see if the results were consistent with what random chance might produce. Researchers would first set up a ‘null hypothesis’ that they wanted to disprove, such as there being no correlation or no difference between two groups. Next, they would play the devil’s advocate and, assuming that this null hypothesis was in fact true, calculate the chances of getting results at least as extreme as what was actually observed. This probability was the P value. The smaller it was, suggested Fisher, the greater the likelihood that the straw-man null hypothesis was false.
I do realize that professionals have positive associations to the terms “psychological model” and “medical model”.
Two are related to actions:
- Medical mental help
- Non-medical tools and processes.
Two are descriptions of cognitive frames:
- Frame of mental illness
- Frame of trauma and societal harm
Terms like this, however many, could make “choice” a clear and present alternative for people who need help.
Valuing and empowering choice is just as important for psychology as it is for psychiatry.
When it is natural for people to see their symptoms in a frame of mental illness, trying to force them to look at “what happened to you” is an act of unwitting mental violence.
Insisting that depression, psychosis, PTSD, BPD and so on are mental illnesses when people need to see their symptoms in a frame of what has happened and is happening to them is also unwitting mental violence.
As I see it, coerced medication and coerced CBT or DBT are equally harmful, and both types of coercion are frighteningly common in so-called “mental health care”.
And I do realize how difficult, maybe even impossible, it can be for people in the mental help professions to assimilate information that they may be harming more people than they help.
But there comes a time when information of harm is so ubiquitous and easily accessible that the word “unwitting” loses its relevance. And maybe that time is now?