Thursday, 15 April 2010

"Went off medication - and did not ask for permission before afterwards" - A note to consumers

As mentioned in my post about why the latest Danish research showing "schizophrenics" to do better off drugs won't change a bit about treatment the title of the article caused some indignation among consumers and survivors, and had somebody start a discussion at a Danish mainstream forum:

"What do you think about this title?
As a mentally ill person, don't you have any right to control your own body?
Comments, anyone?"

Well, of course you don't have any right to control your own body - or anything else - as a mentally ill person.

According to mainstream psychiatry "mentally ill" means brain diseased. Now ask yourself which part of your body, which organ, do you make use of as a tool when you have to estimate a situation, and decide how to react to it? Your shin bone? Your pancreas ("It's like diabetes, you know.")? I suppose not. Probably you'll make use of your brain.

I recently watched an interesting documentary about the Mary Celeste , the "archetypal ghost ship", according to Wikipedia. Which the Wikipedia entry, as far as I can see, doesn't tell is that it recently has become known that the Mary Celeste left New York for Genoa, Italy, with only one single chronometer on board. Usually an ocean-going ship of her size would not go anywhere without several, at least three or four, chronometers on board. Turns out, the one single chronometer on board of the Mary Celeste is defective, which of course renders it impossible for her captain, Benjamin Briggs, to calculate the position of the ship accurately. This, in addition to the Mary Celeste taking in water after having been through some rough weather, probably has led to his decision to abandon the ship. A very bad, in fact for him, his family and the rest of the crew fatal, decision made on the basis of inaccurate measurements (make that an inaccurate estimation) of the ship's position (make that any given situation), carried out with a defective chronometer (make that a diseased brain).

The situation would have been different had Briggs known that the chronometer was defective, in which way, and to which extent. He then could have taken the margin of error into account, and calculated the ship's position more accurately - and he maybe wouldn't have panicked and abandoned the ship, as she, although she was taking in some water, easily could have made it to her destination from where she was abandoned.

However, in the latter situation, the only correction tool at Briggs' disposal would have been his brain. And if it is your brain that is the defective chronometer, it is self-evident that you can't use it as a tool to correct itself, and expect accurate calculations. So, to the extent someone accepts the biological model and identifies as "mentally ill" they accept their tool for decision making to be defective, and will consequently have to accept that their estimation of any given situation may be inaccurate rendering their decisions potentially disastrous, maybe even fatal. They will have to accept being defined as incapacitated in regard to everything that requires brain activity. You can't have your cake and eat it. This is either-or, not both-and. Either you identify as "mentally ill", and you will have to give up on your freedoms and rights as a human being, or you don't, and you will have to take responsibility for yourself. For all that you do.

You can't righteously claim control of your body, for instance in regard to whether you want to reduce the dosage and number of psych drugs you're on, or maybe even whether to go entirely off of them, you can't righteously claim control of anything in your life, and at the same time whenever it suits you hold on to the idea that you can't be held responsible for any of your decisions that turn out bad, because you're "mentally ill". You can't even righteously feel offended by a title like the quoted one. It is only logic that you will have to leave all decision making to others, and ask for permission, no matter what you'd like to do if all you've got is a defective chronometer, a broken brain.

This by the way also applies to those who do not necessarily identify as suffering from a biological brain disease, but still think of their mind as being ill, as that which constitutes your mind are your thoughts and feelings, and as it is these you make use of in your decision making.

So, you may want to make up your mind. Do you want freedom, or do you want to be "mentally ill"?


Rossa Forbes said...

Great posting. The defective chronometer and the Mary Celeste analogy fits.

Marian said...

Thanks Rossa!