Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grateful


            There’s never been a better time to be insane.
            No, I am not kidding. In 2010, I can live a life indistinguishable from that of the average American. I have a husband, and if I wish to, I can have children. I can go to college, and if I wish to work, and am able to, I am protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. I do not need to fear being hospitalized against my will, or even being forced to take medicine, unless I am actively dangerous to myself or someone else. And my pills protect me from the worst of my symptoms 90% of the time.              
            And now, because of what President Obama has done, I can even get insurance, for the first time since I was diagnosed in 1985.
            It is a really, really good time to be one of us. Any other time in history, it would have been unspeakably harder.
            In the old days, they would just stone you on the streets during the day and lock you outside the village gates at night, to starve or be eaten.
            In the slightly-less-old days, You could be chained, tortured by water ‘therapies’ that could involve near drowning or smashing you with a wall of water the equivalent of  firehose force till you were compliant. There were numerous other hideous treatments, which I gather worked in that they left people cowed and silent, or dazed and half dead. Your jailers could also bring parties of rich young gentlemen and ladies in for a fee, to view you for amusement, like a zoo. ‘Bedlam’ – Bethlehem Hospital – was famous for this.
            But that was a long time ago, right? Wait, there’s more. In the 1940’s, a science called Eugenics justified Hitler in gassing the mentally unstable residents of a facility called Hadamar. This was long before Auschwitz – we were his early experiments. Think Eugenics was just for Nazis? Wrong again. There were laws passed in the United States, and upheld by the Supreme Court as recently as 1927, that forbad the mentally ill to marry each other and caused 60,000 Americans to be forcibly sterilized so they could not pass on their ‘weakness’.
            As recently as 38 years ago, when I was in my teens and already ill, there were no medicines that could have helped me. None. I would have lived in the hell of my extreme moods and depression and psychosis and nobody could have done a thing except made up theories as to what in my childhood had caused it. I don’t think, frankly, that I would have lived long. They could have warehoused me. They could, in time, have put me on Thorazine, that dreadful drug that sedates patients so much that they walk like zombies, with a Frankenstein automation. And you don’t want to know how easy it used to be to put people away for life.
            We are fabulously lucky to have our disorders at a time when so much can be done to alleviate them. Incredibly lucky just to know that they are medical disorders, no more than that, which we can explain and be treated for. So even though there is stigma, even though I have symptoms, even though I will never be able to work a 40 hour week again, I am tremendously lucky and grateful today.
            I can drive like anybody else, with my husband who accepts me exactly as I am, to see my family, who may think I am a little weird but know that they have no reason to fear me or jail me or hide me or sterilize me. And we will have a good day, eating all the food we are so lucky to have, in the country we are so lucky to live in.
            There are many reasons to be thankful – so many! And I am sure my family will be concentrating on them. But my deepest gratitude goes to simple things: that my medicines allow me the use of my own mind, 90% of the time. And that those medicines were invented and sold before it was too late for me.
            Stigma? Side effects? Bah humbug. The worst is definitely over.


Deborah Fruchey
Is There Room for Me, Too? 12 Steps and 12 Strategies for Coping with Mental Illness,
 is available on Amazon.com, Creatspace.com, Lulu.com, and many other online sources; it is also published as an ebook on Kindle Editions and in Apple's iBookstore.