“The challenge is to draw on the past but not be bound by it” – David Brazzeal
A friend and I relaxed over coffee in a trendy bistro talking about our experiences as psychiatric patients. She, like me, had been on psych wards many times, prescribed numerous psychiatric drugs and, like me, had regained her health after escaping the psychiatric trap. We talked about the lingering effects of the psychiatric drugs, how hard it was to get enough sleep and how our nervous systems were still jumpy. We discussed the books each of us is writing about our experiences.
All of a sudden I spaced out thinking that I was not telling her the whole story. I had neglected to tell her that when my 100 billion brain cells light up with frightening memories, to calm my nerves I resort to reading literature with unsettling messages—books such as Toxic Psychiatry by Peter Breggin, Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence—from domestic abuse to political terror by Judith Herman, and Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to your Mental Health by William Glasser.
I believed that my reading choices were a form of wallowing in the muck of my past, a habit that I didn’t want to share because I considered it a sign that I was still sick. As I sat wondering about who in their right mind would read such disturbing literature to settle their flashbacks and decided to come clean and confess. I told my friend my secret. Her face brightened. , “I do too!” she replied. This was only our second meeting and already I felt like she had become a lifelong buddy. Over the next few weeks, I thought about our conversation and realized that I also calm myself by reading manuals on client rights in therapy, patient rights while on psychiatric wards and individual rights under mental health legislation. Reading such literature reassures me that the psychiatric bungling I endured was real and reminds me that others have been through similar bungling.
It is my hope that my upcoming memoir, The Daisy Project, will enlighten and reassure others as my reading choices have done for me.