As a psychotherapist who works with other Mad individuals, it seems to me that the wider Mad community is not always aware of the diversity that exists within.
Many of us who have survived may fail to see the privileges that we have that have enabled us not to get sucked into the institutions. We may think our way of making it is the only way. We may take for granted what we have used to survive. And, we may not always learn the diversity lessons that we need in order to be there for our brethren.
Historically we are divided by DSM labels and social inequality and we may easily reinforce those divisions without knowing it.
Some may consider themselves members of a spiritual emergence narrative rather than a schizophrenic episode.
Others in recovery are okay with being part of the bipolar community rather than among individuals who are genetically impaired with schizophrenia eugenics.
Some want to divide up into individuals who hear voices versus those who are just delusional.
And, then there are individuals who evade intrusion by coding up their words. Of course differences in heritage, class, gender and relation to historical trauma are likewise things that many survivors may not completely acknowledge.
Those who are wrapped up in the current debate in the Mad community over the use of medication run the risk of dividing us further without acknowledging the diversity of people’s experience and trauma.
The claim that I really object to is: “This works for me, therefore it must be what everyone else needs.”
Demands for Inclusion in the Movement
I experience the social order in the local survivor movement to be cutthroat. The demands for inclusion make many in it seem intolerant. From my vantage point, to really become promoted in the survivor community, you have to be off your medication, able to afford the conference circuit, able to volunteer, bearing of a prestigious university experience or open to using stigmatic discernment in terms of with whom you do or do not associate.
When I interact with both the “chronically normal” and survivor communities, it is easy to feel invisible and irrelevant.
I admit that I was given fair warning when I heard local African American people say, “The thing about the recovery movement is that it is clearly a white movement.”
Still, among the very repressed individuals with whom I work, I’ve promoted recovery and inclusion with success. I have pointed individuals in the direction of the survivor community and then bound like a puppy into its arms only to face dominance.
To my relief, some people I’ve helped may have fared better, but I also understand why a large concentration of brilliant people do not want to change what they are doing and embrace the movement.
Fitting in with the Misfits
To be fair to local movement leaders, not fitting into community is something with which I have a lot of experience. It’s easy for me to sniff out familiar things that have alienated me in the past, go flat and withdraw.
Although in my group work with “psychosis,” I teach Mad people that social skills are extremely important to counteract our retaliating and reacting to our Mad experiences. I still do not always use them.
I am known to get off popping in some ghetto references amid stodgy and insulated contexts. Walking like an Egyptian in Rome is a hard habit to stop. No doubt, these times are when I need to take my own advice. But maybe being excluded is part of what make me who I am.
A Little on my Vision of Learning from Mad Diversity
But I have seen in Mad groups that Mad learning can come from Mad people connecting with Mad diversity. Higher levels of flexibility, humility, social functioning, and social justice can result.