Sunday, 5 January 2014

A strange anniversary

Are the only good ex-patients 
those who stuff deep inside themselves 
the ways the system hurt them?
     - Paula J. Caplan (@PaulaJCaplan)

On January 31st I have been "a borderline psychotic" in the health services for 25 years. Well, somewhere along the years the diagnosis disappeared from my electronic file, but it has never been re-evaluated, so it feels safer to assume that it still exists.

The diagnosis itself doesn't bother me, mostly because my children and others close to me thought it was ridiculous. And I still remember the immense relief when I finally found out that I had been borderlined for almost four years: “I’m not being paranoid, they really do think I’m crazy!”

But the years of not knowing about the diagnosis, and the tangles and confusion caused by what later was determined by the Chief County Medical Officer to be therapeutically correct and legal health care, caused serious problems that I had to put on hold in order to get on with a huge freelance workload and years of taking care of older relatives.  

Putting problems on hold blocked my ability to recharge. 

I used up my strength.

I used up my reserves.

I borrowed from the future. 

And future loans have a very high interest rate.

Four years ago my mind and body finally refused to cooperate with my will, and I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia ... because exhaustion is not a diagnosis. Now I am back to finally being able to do a normal day’s work, after years spent detangling the aftereffects of harmful mental health care.

And the scariest thing I have learned in these four years, is that being compliant and cooperative would have taken me through a labyrinth of “help” that could only end with full disability … similar to the labyrinth health services placed me in 27 years ago, after I came out as a childhood victim of sexual use. I was working well with a GP on psychosomatic problems like myalgia until his psychiatric supervisor told him, without having seen me, that I would become psychotic without professional help.  

The only alternative I could find, both times, was to be contrarian.  To show "lack of insight".

A year ago I had to renounce welfare benefits in order to do things my way, like I had to leave the health services in the 90s to get away from legal and harmful borderlining. Fully realizing how lucky I was, both times, in being able to live off my husband until I could start earning again.

And no, I’m not putting what happened behind me. And I am not going to protest the diagnosis - as I see it, "borderline" is a modern version of drapetomania, the mental illness that caused slaves to flee captivity in the USA. 

My translation of borderline dx: 
'I don't like you, don't understand you 
and don't know what to do with you.' 
-- Lucy Johnstone (@ClinpsychLucy)

Hurt and harm and confusion and tangles are being transformed into experience, and with that experience I can work the words from my peaceful corner of the world. 

But not today.

Today I sing. 

To myself.

As I can’t carry a tune, I’ll let Shirley Bassey sing it to you:

For what is a woman, what has she got?
If not herself, then she has naught
To say the things she truly feels
and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!

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