Sunday, 20 June 2010

"My pain is worse than yours!" Some reflections on PTSD vs. "schizophrenia", on the trivialization of trauma, and on responsibility

A commenter, Stephany, at Doug Bremner's blog seems to think that I engage in what she calls the " 'my pain is worse than yours' BS". In my previous post I pointed out that what I did, when I wrote about his loss, was that I looked at his experience from the perspective that most of his colleagues, and obviously, when it comes to others than himself, also Doug Bremner himself, employ. I looked at it from Doug Bremner's own, biopsychiatric perspective. 

If you have listened to the Madness Radio interview with Jacqui Dillon, you may have noticed that she mentions having been denied the possibility to talk about her life experiences not only in her assessment interview, but also throughout her entire stay in the psychiatric system. Whenever she tried to bring up the matter, her "care"givers in the system told her to focus on the present and future, not on the past. I myself hear it again and again, that people are told "You must forgive!" -- Forgive what, by the way?? If there's no trauma, and this is what these people also are told, over and over again, and at the very same time, that whatever pain they are experiencing it certainly isn't caused by any trauma, but by this mysterious, biological brain disease called "schizophrenia", I'd think, there can be nothing to forgive. Hm, strange. But well, logic and psychiatry - they don't really go that well together. -- So, the biopsychiatric approach obviously implies that, no matter what you have experienced in your life, it can impossibly have been worse than to have caused you to react to it with what then earns you a label of PTSD. As soon as your reaction exceeds just slightly whatever standards "experts" like Doug Bremner -- on the basis of their personal, on the at any time prevailing cultural norms and values, not on that of any scientific evidence , founded, convictions -- have put down for a label of PTSD, the label you receive from these "experts" will likely be that of "schizophrenia".  And as soon as you have received that label, instead of the PTSD-one, poof!, all the trauma you ever might have experienced didn't happen but inside your own, diseased mind, it's all in your head.  And even if any of it happened, it wasn't worse than that you just should forgive and forget all about it. 

While, as we all know, telling your story, talking about what happened to you, making sense of it -- which is what Doug Bremner for instance tries to do in writing about his mother's death -- is an essential step on the road to recovery for someone who suffers from PTSD, telling what the "experts" choose to believe must be a mere fantasy, talking about what they choose to believe never happened to you, isn't allowed, as it only would upset them you, make you a threat to their scheme of things "worse", in case they have chosen that you suffer from "schizophrenia".  

So, how convenient that there are no biological tests for neither PTSD nor any other "mental illness", that it is more or less entirely up to the personal preferences of your shrink, mainly depending on how much pain s/he is able to recognize and validate without terror taking over, and having him/her turn blind and deaf, and only looking to shut you up, now!, which label you'll receive from him/her. And, pop!, before you know where you are, you're no longer a traumatized human being, but a brain diseased freak, who risks to have his/her mug shot appear on Doug Bremner's blog, accompanied by a Fuller Torrey-TAC-worthy call for you to be stripped of whatever, if any, human rights you might have left. What a truly sensitive, the human being and his/her pain respecting and validating approach!

Trauma, pain, suffering cannot be measured and weighed in the same way as blood pressure or, well, insulin. An experience is just as traumatic as the person, who experiences it, experiences it to be traumatic. Indeed, it's all in your head. And no matter whether it's called PTSD or "schizophrenia", or whatever else.

So, while I, in applying the biopsychiatric perspective, could claim that there are innumerable four and a half-year-olds in this world, who experience the death of their mother without being traumatized by it (another one of biopsychiatry's favorites: "Other people have experienced the same you have without becoming psychotic/schizophrenic. So, stop whining about your past, and get on with your life [as the chronically brain diseased freak we reserve for ourselves the right to define you to be]!"), thus trivializing Doug Bremner's pain, I for one prefer to see him, his reaction, and to draw my conclusions about the "size" of his pain, the extent of trauma he has experienced from what I see there. The in my opinion only valid "measurement" for trauma, pain and suffering: the individual's individual experience of and reaction to it.

Personally, I didn't lose neither my mother nor my father as a four and a half-year-old, I wasn't sexually abused like Jacqui Dillon, I wasn't battered, screamed and shouted at, or physically neglected in any way. My parents had no financial problems, and there was no fighting, or drinking, or anything like that going on at our house. We were the perfect upper middle class family. Nothing "dramatic" ever happened before I was about 13 years old, and what happened from then on until my father's death four years later happens in the best of families, it happens all the time, and most of the children who experience it do not end up "psychotic"/"schizophrenic". "So, where's the trauma?" I can hear the Doug Bremners of this world ask. And, until 6 years ago, I wouldn't have been able to answer him other than with what he would have interpreted to be the "delusions" and "hallucinations" of a chronically brain diseased, genetically defective freak, because he's too afraid to see anything, but what our culture has decided simply is too obvious to be covered up, because all he would have been able to see was the perfect upper middle class family, in whose bosom I'd experienced the perfectly happy, safe and protected upper middle class childhood that clearly didn't involve any trauma at all.

So, why would I, who cannot even play the "I lost my mother when I was only four and a half years old"-card, want to trivialize Doug Bremner's grief, and why on earth would I, who hasn't experienced anything of what our culture recognizes as "trauma", want to engage in the "my pain is worse than yours" BS -- and it is BS, yes -- Stephany?? In fact, I'm the first to stand up and speak out against the ongoing trivialization of people's pain and suffering, that biopsychiatry so happily engages in -- that is what I do in criticizing Doug Bremner's post about Mark Becker -- as well as against the "my pain is worse than yours" BS that I witness everywhere among consumers, where it, characteristically enough, finds its most pronounced expression in the discrimination against, and demonization of "the schizophrenics", and not least in the invalidation of these people's trauma and pain as "delusions", perpetrated by people with all  kinds of other psych labels, not least those who claim to have been misdiagnozed as "schizophrenic" when in reality they were traumatized. As if "schizophrenia" and having been traumatized were opposites. Well well, also the discriminated against need their scapegoats to pass the discrimination, the violence, on to. And of course it is the most natural and safe thing to pass it on to those, who are assigned the place at the bottom of the pecking order by the almighty authority of biopsychiatry: "the schizophrenics". Of whom I am one of, traumatized, recovered, but still, never misdiagnozed.

I recommend a look at my own story, before anyone next time jumps to conclusions, and insinuates that I would trivialize anyone's trauma, and/or engage in the "my pain is worse than yours" BS.

As for the at Doug Bremner's blog's comment section also present accusation against me that I would engage in a simplistic "blame the parents" approach: if you call holding the people, who according to their own perception of themselves (!) are responsible, grown-up human beings, responsible is a simplistic "blame the parents" approach, then, yes, then I do engage in it. However, the accusation itself is a simplistic, cheap (!) attempt to escape having to take responsibility, and I think, everybody who makes use of it knows this very well. If you don't know it, I recommend reading Laing again (I suppose, you have read him before you went on to dismiss of his ideas?!), as you obviously got him all wrong.

"With rare exceptions, I think parents do their best. They try. But there are a lot of ways in which they can go astray." -Loren Mosher

Is it really so much more painful and terrifying for you to face your own imperfection as parents, your own humanity, than to witness your children lose their mind over your inability to face it?


Stephany said...

Yes, Marian, I said that. It's how the discussion appeared in the beginning, which I believe has turned quite informative now. It's a big topic, and there are important issues you've raised. As you can see in the rest of that thread I've added more thoughts.

The more you write, the better people understand what you are trying to say.

Stephany said...

PS--In other words, you've definitely made some good points, and there are other people who are better at discussing this than I am. The entire view point of psychiatrist toward the public, so many things. Maybe someone can come here and write it better than I'm doing. Remember, that was my first reaction to your first post, where it did appear to be negating his trauma, but over the last few posts, I have understood better the point you are making (big picture).

Marian said...

Stephany: Thanks, and yes, you're right, I sometimes presuppose that people can read my mind -- which of course they can't -- and I should have made myself more clear in my first post.

katiaea said...

Thanks for your post. I believe that PTSD is often disguised as schizophrenia. Please check out my blog at: Thank you for your blog.

Susan said...

Marion - I just found that you had linked back to one of my posts in this article...I'm glad something rang true for you in that piece.

I did another post on schitzophrenia you might be interested in if you haven't seen it: "Youre Nuts not Traumatized". Evidence does support environmental factors as contributing to this dx. Personally - I see this dx as another way for the "helping profession" to deal with trauma issues that they have no clue how to help. Seems somewhere psychology shifted from understanding human emotion and motivation to simply deciding that it was too much effort to try to learn how to help those who suffered.

Anyway - love your blog and hope to see you again:)