Friday, May 05, 2006

Dr. Daniel Fisher: Healing & Recovery Are Real

We who have recovered from mental illness know from our personal experience that recovery is real. We know that recovery is more than remission with a brooding disease hidden in our hearts. We have experienced healing and we are whole where we were broken. Yet we are frequently confronted by unconvinced professionals who ask, "How can you have recovered from such a hopeless situation?" When we present them with our testimonies they say that we are exceptions. They call us pseudoconsumers. They say that our experience does not relate to that of their seriously, biologically ill, inpatients.

I recently re-experienced this negative attitude about recovery. A friend of mine, during a discussion in a psychology class, said she knew someone who had schizophrenia, recovered and became a psychiatrist. "He must have been misdiagnosed," was the professor's response. So my friend reviewed my earlier symptoms with me. I met the DSM IV criteria for schizophrenia in the interval from 1969-74. When she presented my history to her professor, he reversed his position and said that the diagnosis of schizophrenia must have been correct. He doubted I had recovered and said, "we now have a case of an impaired physician."

By having earned board certification in psychiatry, having worked as medical director of a community mental health center for 11 years and having directed the National Empowerment Center for 3 years I have proven that I am not an impaired physician. This episode reveals the depth of negative expectations which are taught to students. After all, mental illness is considered a terminal condition for which there is no cure. Therefore anyone who appears to have recovered must not have been sick. [*] This leaves no one with first hand experience of what helps and what hurts to speak for those who currently cannot speak due to their distress.

This example illustrates the dilemma many of us face who have recovered from mental illness. It would be easier in the short-run to forget and not tell others of our experiences. But for many of us the benefits of telling outweigh the risks. For in the telling we open wider options for peer support, we continue our healing and we help reduce the stigma of others. Yet to have our story discounted after we risked our social position, jobs, and insurance by giving testimony is an affront to our integrity.

Source: Healing and Recovery Are Real

[*Ed. Note: By the same token, if you operate with a belief that "schizophrenia is incurable" and you are firmly mired in that belief, then anyone who actually does manage to cure schizophrenia must be a "quack". "Quackery" is the only reality that can exist alongside that kind of belief without totally threatening the integrity of the belief structure.]


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1 comment:

Miss CIty Zen said...

I think the story of us enables us to understand the we that we have become through the meandering river of current dialogue. I am reminded about something that talks about not being carried away with a gust of social entrophy, and then I reflect ... is about a need to find a constant state of i that strips away the we that we can become? maybe just then we might embrace the fundamental element of humaness that some of us have much love in simply being.