Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I can’t stop being mentally ill.  I don’t mean that I don’t have any hope of reaching some degree of recovery as defined by me.  I mean, that if I stop identifying myself as mentally ill, then who would I be?

I was given a label when I was fifteen years old.  The Army kept me locked away in a mental ward eight months before they gave me my honorable discharge.  I had either lost or been denied more different jobs before 1988 than most people ever hold.  Most of my family, the military, society, employers, mental health professionals and me have all agreed I am a person with a mental illness for more than fifty years.

In 1988 I combined my label with my childhood as a missionary’s kid (mk) and started Christian Friends of the Mentally Ill in Asheville, NC.  The photo below shows a page out of a book put together by a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA which attempted to list all the church or Para-church organizations working with persons with a psychiatric label in 1989.

I am an ordained minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ, but I have a psychiatric label.

I am a writer with over a hundred articles published, two books published and a successful blog, but I have a psychiatric label.

I was one of the leading experts in the country on retreading tires and wrote for two different journals on the subject, but I have a psychiatric label.

I have been told I am a good speaker/preacher/teacher and have spoken at national conferences, but I have a psychiatric label.

I have taken psych medications until now I have kidney disease with the official cause being lithium, but I have a psychiatric label.

I now struggle with my label.  What does my bipolar diagnosis mean?  What does my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder mean?  What does my Dissociate Identity Disorder mean?  

The last we can just forget.  Most people don’t even believe it is real.  Stress after trauma sure, but get over it.  Bipolar?  There is no scientific proof for it. Just ask most of the advocates in the lived experience movement and they will explain to you that it is just a made up label by psychiatry.  That means I don’t have to worry about that one anymore.

What have I been doing all these years?  Trying to survive with no place I fit in.  I am not a card carrying member of the lived experience folks who say there is no scientific proof for anything psychiatry is doing and there never will be.  I agree they are on thin ice now with much that they do and call science.  I agree that any use of force to treat a person against their will is a human rights crime. I disagree the state has the right to say I cannot end my life because they don’t own me.  On many points I disagree with the mental health system to the point I wish it was de-funded, but that does not mean that in the future science will learn something factual about the relationship between our biological brains and our minds.

Bio-psycho-social-spiritual which I started using in 1988 has a real meaning to me.  I can’t prove all the relationships, but I am not going to make flat statements ruling out relationships when I know our knowledge base has changed greatly over the years.  People making definitive statements today whether they are mental health professionals or advocates or other interested parties may eventual be proven wrong.  To pronounce a certainty today may mean you have to renounce yourself tomorrow.

I can stop being mentally ill when the “people” inside me stop living.  I can stop being mentally ill when the bed covers are all in place each morning and the night terrors (nightmares) have stopped.  I can stop being mentally ill when I no longer cycle from hell to heaven.  I can call it by another name if it makes some advocates feel better, but I will remain feeling the same.  I can’t stop being me to fit in anywhere.  One size does not fit all.  I don’t fit anywhere.  There are too many of me. We can’t be anything but labeled. 

©Ed Cooper, March 12, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment