Sleeping Beauty was gorgeous and disgusting. I’m not sure what it was about but it got me thinking about some awkward things. If you’re into pretty actresses walking round in the nip, you’re in for a treat.
I am mad, a proud member of the mad community. Of course, madness exists – it’s normal, it’s as old as mankind, and it’s in every family. But if I have a disease in my brain called “mental illness”, I want the doctors to prove it. The brain is the most complicated organ in the body, yet doctors diagnose mental illness just by looking at you, and then you are labelled for life.
I’ve been diagnosed with unipolar depression, bipolar or manic depression, dysphoric elation – whatever that’s supposed to be – and paranoia. I’ve been told that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that shows I have a mental illness. Yet not one of these fellows even took my pulse. They did it by sitting looking at me and talking to me.
Our mental health laws allow two psychiatrists to sign a piece of paper and lock you up for the rest of your life because you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health problem. It’s based on nothing more than opinion, and that’s part of the cruelty of the mental health system in this country. You can be incarcerated and force treated against your will.
Why try to define madness? We should stop defining. We are all individuals with individual lives, and people react differently to different life situations. But the pharmaceutical industry, working with psychiatrists, tries to mass treat the individual, putting everyone in the same box.
Society has bought into this idea that the mad community is dangerous and to be feared. The nuns got away with the same kind of thing for years with “loose women”; they took the problem part of the community away and buried them.
But we need to be free to ask awkward questions, to challenge the ethos of power and control. There is an aura of fear around psychiatric units. If you’re hopeless and helpless, you’ll be embraced and looked after. If you start asking questions, if you speak out with strength, they don’t want to know. When I started questioning things, I was offered more medication and told I was developing paranoia.
Today I am lying here with motor neurone disease. I prefer the old name for it – creeping paralysis. You lose the use of your limbs, the ability to swallow, you end up incontinent. It’s a relentless disease. But there’s an honesty about the way neurology approaches it. Neurologists admit they don’t know the cause or cure for it.
They have done every test under the sun, I’ve undergone the deepest brain scan imaging in the country. But they admit they don’t know where it comes from and there is no fix, no treatment. Yet a psychiatrist can diagnose you just by looking at you.
I am happy for the psychiatric diagnoses I have had to be scientifically tested. I have a suggestion: I will put myself forward for psychiatrists to carry out any test they wish to do, in public, and I will publish the results. I’m dying, so I have nothing to lose.
But no-one is ever going to get a diagnosis of mental illness out of science: you will only ever get a diagnosis based on an assessment of behaviour. There is no science behind this disease, yet we have given the power of law to this guesswork. How are they getting away with this?