Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journal Through Madness by Elyn Saks - a Book Review

After a few more rounds of questions, the doctors carefully explained their recommendations to me. In England, treatment recommendations were always just that-recommendations. To leave a hospital, to stay in it, to take medications, to participate in group activities or not-they never forced any of it on me, and each time the decision was mine. Even at my craziest, I interpreted this as a demonstration of respect. When you're really crazy, respect is like a lifeline someone's throwing you. Catch this and maybe you won't drown.

from the book, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, by Elyn R. Saks

Respect is so important. I firmly believe that along with the essentials needed to survive like food, shelter, and clothing, that human beings need respect and love. When I was in the fifth grade, which is when I learned about Maslow's hierarchy, I wrote my health book company and stated this belief. I stated that it has been proven that babies who are never touched except to change their diapers do not learn how to walk or talk. We need each other to care for each other. The health book company said that while this is preferred, technically, though, the baby is still alive, even if it is developmentally delayed. I still stand behind what I wrote at age eleven. There are plenty of people who are technically "alive," but are spiritually or emotionally dead. This is unacceptable.

As Saks observed, respect needs to be shown to everyone, even those who are "crazy." We are all human and we all have the capacity to be great people and so should be respected. It has been very hard for me to read Saks' book, which is a book about her experiences with schizophrenia, because I have schizoaffective disorder myself. Her story is one of success, but it is too hard for me to read about her struggles and so I am making the decision to set myself up for success by recommending it, but waiting to finish it another time.

Unfortunately, perhaps, I have never been hospitalized in England, but I have in America four times-each time in a locked unit and each time, I had an experience that severely lacked respect. Respect IS a lifeline and the people that have shown me respect and compassion when I have been "crazy" mean more to me than words can say and I would do almost anything for those people. Medicine helps, but so far there is no medical 100% cure for any kind of mental illness. Respect cannot cure all things either, but when it is combined with the medicine, miracles happen. It should not have to be said that therapists should respect their clients (note: I consider the word "consumer" to be derogatory and it will never be used on this blog to describe those living with mental illness. We are not walking dollar signs.), but I have run into many therapists and doctors who I think consider themselves above respecting their client as a person. Fortunately, the one I currently see and my last one are/were fabulous therapists.

Respect, compassion, and love need to be shown to every one you meet. Give dignity where it's due.

1 comment:

  1. Everyone does truly deserve respect but what is one to do when you have to not only learn how to swim out of your personal ocean of clinical depression brought on by chronic illness, all the while trying to be respectful towards a colleague who clearly exhibits symptoms of paranoia, and schizophrenia, so much so that the unit we both work in is in danger of not working well together--at all?

    Suggestions/books/articles are all welcome which speak to how to help a mentally ill colleague...