Letter to Ron DiBiase
Fenway Community Health Care, Boston, MA, USA
My name is Julie Greene. Do you remember me from Options Day Treatment? To refresh your memory, I was a music student who had just left full-time study of music composition at Bennington College. I had moved in with my parents and was planning to return to college the following semester. I began the Options program in October 1981, and stayed nine months.
At Options, I was known as “that Jewish girl from Lexington.” To me, this meant little, since I was only one of many Jewish girls from Lexington. However, to the administrators who oversaw Options, this meant $10,000 could be taken from my parents in the name of “help.” Both of my parents were active in NAMI for many years. They both died not even knowing that that $10,000 was used to initiate the destruction of my life.
It is amusing to me now that although I was once brilliant at math, not once in all these years did I ever make that calculation until just now as I write these words. Over $7,000 went to Gould Farm and about $6,000 went to Brattleboro Retreat. I was never told how much the various therapists and doctors were able to syphon from my family over the years. Beyond that, the amount that was taken via public insurance to pay for treatment for diseases I never had must have amounted to millions. This is taxpayer money, Ron, including taxes taken out of your paychecks.
You might ask how on earth a very intelligent Jewish girl from Lexington could possibly be so naïve. Only very powerful persuasion could have convinced her and her parents that her brain was defective. Who would believe such nonsense? A person would have to be drugged and subjected to brainwashing to have the wool thus pulled over her eyes. That’s the Mental Health System in a nutshell.
I remember Options well. I remember the colors of the walls. I remember that each time a “client” called the facility “day care,” that client was corrected. “No, it’s treatment.” But was it?
One day, a “client” asked the staff the following: “What’s the difference between staff and clients?” I remember that day well. We were sitting in a circle called the “community.” I remember several staff were there, but you, Ron, were the one who took up the question.
Your reply was, “The only difference between clients and staff is that staff have their lives together, and clients don’t.”
I recall the silence in the room. I could see stray dust floating randomly in the beams of sunlight that came through the window. I watched each client slowly digest what they had heard, some silently repeating these words to themselves as if they had come from a deity.
The drama of the moment served its purpose well. We were successfully fed yet one more lie. We had no reason to doubt or challenge. It was sealed, and would be sealed again and again to ensure complete compliance without question.
This is how they convinced me that I had various brain diseases I never had. Funny, they kept on doing tests such as EEGs and MRIs, and found nothing wrong with my brain. Still, they had me convinced I had depression at first, then schizophrenia, then bipolar. When my insurance was running out, the diagnosis was quickly switched back to depression so I could be given electroshock to my brain that was never defective to begin with. After the jolts of electricity had the effect on me of being struck by lightning, another diagnosis needed to be added, personality disorder, while they still maintained I had schizoaffective. Years later, after I began to speak of human rights, I was given yet another diagnosis, paranoia and mania. By then, over 30 years had passed.
You remember why I came to the System, begging for help. You told me one day what your assessment was of me. You told me I had bulimia, which was incorrect, however it was true that I had some very serious eating issues. You told me I was a bit shy and had minor family problems. You put strong emphasis on that word “minor.”
Note that “eating disorder” was not among the diagnoses given to me over the years. By the end of three decades, no one even remembered nor listened nor cared about my eating concerns, which I never spoke of anymore. I had given up hope of ever getting better. I lived in public housing and was stuck on disability. For life. My trumpets sat in an attic and all the beautiful music I composed, in a storage box. The person I once was had been obliterated.
Even though my “team” didn’t encourage me to further my education, I earned my BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in 2003. I graduated summa cum laude. I went on to graduate school at Goddard College and finished with my MFA in Creative writing.
The System doesn’t want its clients educated nor informed, apparently. I don’t think it takes a master’s degree to properly answer the question you were asked that afternoon at Options. In fact, wasn’t it a child who first saw that the Emperor was naked?
The difference between staff and clients had nothing to do with anyone having their lives together. In fact, that’s not what I saw. The staff earned paychecks. We clients paid, sacrificing our lives. The staff in hospitals had keys. The patients didn’t. The staff retained their human rights, because they were indeed human, people who make mistakes like anyone else so we needed to forgive and be patient and understanding. Patients and clients were always seen as one notch less than human. That’s how I lived, in mental health ghettoes, for three decades.
The only way I could possibly solve my eating problems, which, by the way, almost killed me a number of times, was to undo the brainwashing, lies, and half-truths that I had been told for all those years. Diagnosis is not so easy to throw off, since it locks us into behavior patterns and low expectations. All of those diagnoses were false. When I realized this, I made steps to leave the System.
On May 13, 2014, my dog a I boarded an airplane at Logan Airport. We left most of our belongings behind. It took two days to cross the equator. We now live happily and peacefully in Uruguay, where by all means I am not seen as “crazy.”
I live in a small house, called a casita, and every day, I take my dog to a nearby field to run. I am learning to speak the native language, which is Spanish. I enjoy walking out to the highway, called the Interbalnearia, where I remember my days as a young 21-year-old hitch-hiker, a girl who could barely imagine “mental illness” even existed. In fact, it doesn’t.