Dave's Progress. Chapter 30: Still Angry?

As a user of mental health services and volunteer, I have now been involved with The Media Action Group for Mental Health for around two years. My involvement with them, I believe, has allowed me to work through a number of personal issues related to stigma. Although when I started working for MAGMH, many people (my dad mostly, I think) thought that I was an "angry young man", I now find that I am infinitely more sanguine about my own situation and of the whole predicament regarding stigma. Indeed, as MAGMH themselves might point out, their organisation is not one which is intended as a voice for personal anger against so-called discriminators. One is, on the other hand, invited to channel such feelings into a determined and defined effort to combat stigma in constructive or non-aggressive ways.
At MAGMH we all seem to agree that being angry is a phase, a moment to go through, a necessary coping mechanism for acknowledging the sort of unusual grief and loss that mental ill health can bring. Sometimes we reach out for someone to blame, when really there is no one to blame.
Having said this, after all I have gone through and seemingly resolved, there is still a slight (and it is very slight) glimmer of anger in me at the way I have been treated in the past- the mistakes, the inappropriate remarks, the sometimes downright stupidity of decisions. Indeed, no matter how magnanimous I now feel, sometimes, perhaps as I lay down to sleep with thoughts pouring through my mind, I wonder why I should be the one to feel all the guilt at my conscience-laden past. I wonder why it is that others, particularly professionals, just aren't willing to acknowledge their own part in what was a harrowing demise, which now gladly I am out of, but mostly due to my own efforts. I think the closest I ever got to others acknowledging their own faults was when my psychiatrist said to me- "you've had a rough time, David, and it hasn't always been your fault." So, at least according to her, despite the benevolence of our thoughts at MAGMH, there perhaps is blame to be laid.
So it is that there are still things within the system which make me angry. For example, the way in which people with a diagnosis like mine are often overlooked and put on the scrap-heap, despite their many talents and life experiences. And, I think, this is often engendered in mental health practice, where people are apt to be treated with such low expectations that they become trapped and ensnared within the system, denied, perhaps, the opportunity of moving on.
I remember during my early days in treatment, for example, where all patients, regardless of their aptitude, were all put into the same group. I later learned that some in this group had been there for around fifteen to twenty years. In the group we did simple crosswords, played charades and did memory games. Admittedly for some, who seemed so paralysed by their illnesses that this was all they could manage, this was enough. But for those of us who had degrees and even PhD's, surely this approach was somewhat insulting. Since when did having a mental illness mean that you had suddenly lost your intellect?
Indeed, as I have often mentioned before, I think the abiding impression I get from the mental health system is that of waste. Waste of talent. Waste of human resources. It also does not help that many in practice would view schizophrenia as a chronic, abiding brain condition with an inevitable demise. At MAGMH we would regard this view of schizophrenia as an outmoded stereotype and I believe there are groups out there, like CASL (Campaign for the Abolition of the Schizophrenia Label) who are calling for a whole paradigm shift in how the illness is viewed. With up to a third of sufferers making a full recovery, it would seem about time.
As if to further state this point, I recently looked at some anti-stigma material from the Royal College of Psychiatrists called "Changing Minds" in which it states, along side a picture of a woman with blank eyes and too-thick spectacles, something like- "This woman has schizophrenia. Can She boil an egg? You bet she can, and she can do a whole lot more too." Wow, people with schizophrenia can actually boil an egg, and what's more, they can do other things too! As anti-stigma material, this must win some sort of prize for the most ineffective argument ever. It certainly doesn't inspire me.
Having said all this, perhaps mental health services do deserve some kudos for introducing early intervention into psychotic illness and adopting the "recovery" model. But I think there is still some way to go.
So- still angry? Yes, but in a constructive way. I think if I had continued being an "angry young man" I may have been swallowed up by my own frustrations. But that little bit of anger probably makes me better at what I do at MAGMH, and being at MAGMH just makes me feel better.
That's all for now from your normal, average, delusional and paranoid man.


dcrelief said…
Dear David,
It is my great pleasure to read your postings. This one in particular brings me a wealth of information that I can use with my own exploration of anger. Finally I understand the guilt, the confusion, the professional edge, while keeping my temper at bay. I too would share my thoughts appropriately… after I sort them. Until then, know that “a constructively angry man” has provided this ‘angry individual’ with hope, as I seek the same results of honest evaluation. My life is worth it. Thank you for your analysis, research, transparency, and availability.
Wishing you my best regards,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
I could not have hoped to get a better response. I am so pleased that my blogs have a positive influence on you and, indeed, whoever may read them.
I guess, as klahanie would say, we are all in this together, and I well with delight when I get responses such as yours.
And certainly remember, dc, that your life is truly "worth it", as you say, for I am sure that your own journey inspires many, too.
So thank you once again. As always you seem to be the first to comment on my post, and for that I will always be grateful. Your comment has truly touched me.
Wishing you All The Very Best and Good Health,
klahanie said…
Dear David,
Not much I can really add after Dixie's wonderful comment and your response. I do recall a time when I was always first to comment on your blog. So it is nice to notice that Dixie has, once again, displayed that spirit of empathy that is so vital in our continued journey to a more positive life.
So to briefly summarise; thanks for another informative blog, David. So you are still somewhat still angry "in a constructive way". Well that certainly has got to be a heck of lot better than anger that 'eats us up', metaphorically speaking, of course.
Anyway, you angry? I would never have guessed that from the cool, calm demeanour that I have observed from you.
With very kind wishes, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for your comment and I must say it has been great to see you in 3-D again. And thanks for reminding me that you have often been the first to comment on my blog. I do appreciate it.
Anyway, despite my cool, calm demeanour now, Gary, I think there was a time when I was a bit of a "Mr. Angry", which, needless to say, did not do me much good. Indeed, it was the sort of anger that "eats us up". Now, gladly, I am over that and put what remains of my distemper into fighting stigma. And now I,m beginning to sound like a cartoon character. Yes, it is me- "Stigma Man", once embittered by the system and now fighting the evil machinations of stigma for us all!
I shall go now before this comment descends any further. Thanks once again for commenting Gary, and I will see you soon,
Yours With All the Best,

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