What's Normal? Narratives of Mental and Emotional Disorders

By Carol Donley; Sheryl Buckley | Go to book overview

From Madness, Heresy, and the Rumor of Angels:
The Revolt against the Mental Health System

SETH FARBER


INTRODUCTION

"I SAW THE BEST MINDS of my generation destroyed by madness," wrote Allen Ginsberg in Howl. I believe this statement is inaccurate: I contend that he saw the best minds of his generation destroyed by the 'mental health' system. Contrary to popular opinion (encouraged by a formidable public-relations campaign) the mental health system has not changed significantly since Ginsberg wrote Howl in the 1950s. But there has been one rather significant change since Ginsberg saw his friends destroyed: at least some of the best minds of my generation have survived this system. They triumphed. This book tells how and why.

As to madness, most of the psychiatric survivors I interviewed (and others with militant viewpoints I've spoken to) agree with the late psychiatrist R. D. Laing: 'madness,' however painful it may be, can provide the opportunity to re-create one's self and expand one's possibilities. In their time of madness the subjects interviewed here became aware of the 'spiritual' dimension of human existence; they experienced their oneness with all beings.

I have interviewed and told here the story of seven individuals. If we could look at their 'case records' we would be able to verify that they were classified by the numerous professionals who 'treated' them as 'chronically mentally ill.' Each person was typically given various diagnoses by different professionals: 'schizophrenic,' 'manic-depressive' ('bipolar disorder'), 'borderline personality disorder,' and so forth. From the point of view of the mental health expert, they were clearly severely mentally ill. The 'expert' would say they are still ill or that their illness is 'in remission.' They exhibited the 'symptoms' that typically warrant the diagnosis of schizophrenia or manic-depression. Yet they do not conform to the mental health experts' expectations: they are not taking psychiatric drugs, collecting disability funds from the government, or manifesting an inability to work and form intimate relationships. To the contrary, those individuals are leaders: keenly aware of the inequities in society, highly

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What's Normal? Narratives of Mental and Emotional Disorders
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Literature and Medicine ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Editors'' Commentary on Narrative xiii
  • Part One - Clinical & Bioethical Perspectives 1
  • The Meaning of Normal 7
  • From Madness, Heresy, and the Rumor of Angels- The Revolt against the Mental Health System 17
  • From the Flamingo''s Smile- Reflections in Natural History 30
  • From Rewriting the Soul 39
  • From "On Being Sane in Insane Places" 54
  • From Love''s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy 61
  • Three Stories from Cases in Bioethics 68
  • Part Two - Narrative Perspectives 85
  • Section One - Children & Adolescents with Mental Disorders 93
  • Silent Snow, Secret Snow 95
  • The End of the Party 110
  • From Girl, Interrupted 117
  • From Equus 125
  • Section Two - Mental Disability (Retardation) 135
  • Two Stick Drawings 137
  • From Joe Egg 139
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own 146
  • From of Mice and Men 156
  • Average Waves in Unprotected Waters 165
  • Lily Daw and the Three Ladies 173
  • Section Three - Women''s Experiences with Mental Disorders 183
  • Three Poems 185
  • From like Water for Chocolate 187
  • From Faces in the Water 189
  • The Yellow Wallpaper 201
  • The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window 215
  • The Avalanche 218
  • "No Name Woman," from the Woman Warrior 219
  • Three Poems 229
  • Section Four - Mens Experiences with War Trauma, Including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 233
  • "1919" from Sula 235
  • Night March 241
  • Mental Cases 249
  • From Ceremony 250
  • From Mrs. Dalloway 257
  • Section Five - Men … Mental Disorders 269
  • Panic 271
  • King of the Bingo Game 273
  • "Cash" from as I Lay Dying 281
  • Gogol''s Wife 285
  • The Tell-Taie Heart 295
  • From the Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge 299
  • Section Six - Alzheimer''s & Dementia 301
  • To You My Mother Lost in Time 303
  • From My Journey into Alzheimer''s Disease 305
  • From in a Tangled Wood- An Alzheimer''s Journey 325
  • Two Poems 340
  • A Wonderland Party 343
  • Notes on Contributors 345
  • Permissions Acknowledgments 350
  • Index 354
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