Thursday, August 25, 2016

#25. Prescribing Pacification- Illusions of Choice for the Brave New World

This is Day 25 of our 30-day blog on the Declaration of Principles adopted by the 10th Annual Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression held in Toronto, May 14-18, 1982.  (More info here.)  Today we are talking about Principle 25.

Principle 25 reads in full as follows:

We believe that the psychiatric system is, in fact, a pacification programme controlled by psychiatrists and supported by other mental health professionals, whose chief function is to persuade, threaten or force people into conforming to established norms and values.

Today's commentary is from Sharon Cretsinger, blogger at Mildly Dysthymic in America. Here Sharon elaborates on a piece (Drug Store) that she published a few months back:

Illusions in Orange Neon: Snap Chats from the Drug Store

I have written a fair amount about the experience of the woman survivor. The blunt trauma
impact of force, in its afterglow. The subtle, seductive-wet mouldering and eventual erosion of
self esteem that accompanies a few sweaty rounds of coercion. What interests me most today
is neither force nor coercion, but illusion. Most specifically, the illusion of choice. The promise
that is a sparkling mirage for those who have been lost too long in a chaos that is possibly not
even their own.

Drug Store

I can recognize the complaint ones.
The mental patient women,
in front of me at the drug store,
without enough money to cover their inane purchases
of hair dye and flavored potato chips.

They are overweight,
but not so grossly obese that some asshole
wouldn’t fuck them
just because they can’t fuck anyone else,
or perhaps because these compliant ones
will take a dick up their ass
or do whatever else they are asked.

Know our people by what they choose and what they carry with them to the counter of the CVS,
Walgreen’s, and Rite Aid. Or, perhaps, it is the drug counter at the Stop and Shop or Target, if a
trip to a completely freestanding monument to pharmaceutical domination and state mind
control is too much of an inconvenience. There isn’t much to worry about in that respect,
though. If CVS is your favorite, as it used to be mine, you will find at least one in any
reasonably sized municipality. Their numbers have, in fact, almost doubled from 5,474* in 2005
to 9,681* in 2015. Other people do not like CVS; and, that is okay. On the other corner, within
walking distance, there will almost certainly be another choice. Walgreen’s? There were 8046*
of them in the US in 2010*. It is so important to have a choice.

It is as though they have a giant,
orange neon arrow above their heads.


screams the text above the arrow.

Their hair is cut too short for their large bodies,
partially shaved and partially spiked up
with more product of the drug store.

Their pants never fit.
These women are cut in half
where the pants expect their waists to be.

Something is for everyone at the drug store. There are hundreds of varieties of sugar and
carbohydrate nightmares, guaranteed to satiate the late-night-early-morning-mid-morning and
just before noon Zyprexa fueled cravings. Chose a Coke or a Pepsi to make things go down
more smoothly. Substantially different, aren’t they? Fifty different ways of “family planning”, or
perhaps just plain old pregnancy prevention if you are like me and many thousands who have
been told we will never be able stop our medication long enough to sustain a pregnancy. If
family planning is forgotten today, there is Plan B for tomorrow. Growing older and finding it
more difficult to be smoothly objectified? The lubricant comes in liquid and gel forms, right here
at the drug store. Through chemistry, better living. Behind the miraculous pharmacy counter, at
least a thousand ways to die. Today. Tomorrow. At age 30 or 63. Feeling a little blue on that
Zyprexa? Add Abilify. Still anxious on Klonopin? What about a cheap, purple bottle of
something pretending to be Merlot? Right over here. So many choices.

They speak too much,
and too loudly,
attempting to hold a full conversation with the cashier
about WHY they THOUGHT they had enough money
for the hair dye in a brassy cheerful color.
(Their THERAPIST has recommended bright colors)
along with other bits of useless magical thinking.

It is 2016, the middle of July, six years almost to the day since psychiatry killed the brilliant,
artistic woman I felt as my child from a dimension only slightly removed from this one. She was
30. A junkie, her father, my ex, said. “Who cares what she overdosed on or why?” Tore me the
fuck apart with his goddamn indifference, and confirmed I was wise to have left him two years

It’s a month out from when I held the hand of my best comrade and offered him whatever he
could take from my being to make the opening of the channel easier for his passage into the
next dimension. “I don’t want to die,” he said. I told him I knew, but I would also understand if
he changed his mind. Congestive heart failure, they said. Years of smoking, they said, heads
shaking. Overweight. Silently, I filled the blanks. First generation antipsychotics. Tricyclics.
Atypical antipsychotics. SSRI’s. Benzos. He said many times, “We die 25 years before our
peers who are not psychiatrically involved.” Two days later, I documented this for him one last
time. Then, I placed a period at the end of his obituary. Full stop.

I wait
for them to finish
in a line of five, then eight.
The eight cannot see the orange neon sign.
Only I, in my fat, blatant insanity—
a woman with long, greying hair
who speaks infrequently and softly
know it is there.

They leave, the compliant ones,
with only the flavored chips and pharmaceutical poisons
that can be purchased with welfare.

I wait
and hardly ever speak.
No one would ever guess I have somewhere to be.

It’s still July and it finally rains—torrents. Even the chilly Northeast is as lush as the tropics, and
oppressively hot. I watch the rain blur the hanging greenery of the branches outside the window
and absently take in the too-loud motor of the window air conditioner that has been installed
through a hole cut just for that purpose in the back, outside wall of this cheap motel room. I
chose the man next to me for his brain, his cock and his politics, not necessarily in that order. I
am not ashamed of my thick, naked waist as he puts his hands there. I want his cock in my ass
and tell him as much, happy, max-chilled and even smiling with the lines on my face softened in
a haze of the Ativan that will facilitate my multiple orgasms directly. I don’t know if this man will
keep my psyche safe, but he respects my freedom and will continue to do so throughout infinity.
I don’t know if my heart is safe with him, but I can, without fear, tell him the truth about exactly
what I would do with a locked building full of shrinks, all the gasoline my heart desired, and a
beautiful, sterling silver cigarette lighter etched with some exotic, foreign word for liberation. In
this moment, I have no fear; only deep, delicious peace.

He pulls the clip out of my hair and it falls everywhere as my energy rises toward him, more
intense and insane in each moment, proportionate to rage and frustration that flowed before
through my bondage. No one is looking for me. My treatment team dissolved eight or ten years
ago. There is no therapist, not even me, to dissect the next two hours of my life into five or ten
bad, terrible, regrettable choices.

Forced treatment is violence
Coercion is violence.
The illusion of choice is violence.

I am as free as most of us get.

I can see the the orange neon motel sign through the rain and steam outside of the dirty window
pane rather indistinctly. It says there is a vacancy. I move in for a deep kiss with my lover,
betting the vacancies are far too few for those who substantially need them.

*quantities of CVS Caremark and Walgreen’s stores retrieved from
statistics/241544/cvs-caremark--number-of-stores-since-2005/ on July 24, 2016

September 25, 2016:  Conference on Principle 25

We will talk about Principle 25, including your responses, on September 25 from 9-11  PM EST.  Call-in information TBA soon.


  1. why is this acceptable? why is this what is being discussed in connection to the declaration of principles? To destroy them, also? This is such a shame.

  2. Lauren, a lot of people were deeply my moved by Sharon's piece. It's VERY important for people, including Mad people themselves, to know that "bad choices" may not *really* be bad choices, and that, good or bad, our choices are part of our wholehearted efforts to live well.

  3. Shame is no longer an acceptable currency in the world of my woman survivors.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.


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