More from Life After Lithium

Some people realize that their former diagnoses were invalid, and now, they are panicked and grieving over the idea of letting go of sicko mode. We have played the patient role for much of our lives, the one constantly who needs help, the one who needs to turn to “professionals” to stay alive. It’s so tough for some to let go of the habit-forming patient role that they cling to any lingering drug effects as proof of disability. While some of this is certainly valid, we have to stay in perspective. I strongly supported withdrawal communities that help people get off drugs safely, knowing, though, that this needed to be a temporary stop along the way. I knew there was a greater path to follow, leading a world beyond patienthood that was wide open and waiting to be discovered.

I began to read books on antipsychiatry theory and history. This excited me as much as reading about religion and feminism did when I was a young person. I couldn’t get enough of this! I loved reading about how therapy was a bad idea, how locking people up who were suffering did not alleviate that suffering, and how being called a disease-name in itself was disabling. I realized then that what had held me back in patienthood was not a real disease, but stemmed from the way I was treated by society, especially economically. I realized that I had been denied a voice, that I was regarded by many as a societal waste product. I had been denied the right to produce anything useful and was forced to consume resources as much as I could. I was a hated recipient of tax money, resented by others (including mental health workers) because I got freebees from the government, and even worse, I complained when the freebees were taken away. “Why don’t you do this for me?” Wasn’t it time I stopped?

Telling my story again and again stopped being a source of negativity at this point. I realized that it was my job to do this and that I was truly helping others. Focusing on helping the greater good of society changed the way I told that same story.

As I continued to pick up the pieces of my life something else began to happen. People wrote to me from all over the world telling me they’d secretly been following me for years, and were realizing that I was onto something. A few told me they were following in my footsteps, trying out the things I’d tried, and were finding my writing immensely helpful. If this was true, then wasn’t it also true that I had a responsibility to live well? Wasn’t I now obliged to remain as healthy as possible, to sustain well-being, instead of being in patient mode and claiming I couldn’t?

I’m not the only one who owes it to humanity to live well. We all do. Whether we realize it or not, we’re all paving the way for others. We must do this well. At the same time, we cannot demand perfection in ourselves or others. We must realize that life sucks sometimes, that its lousiest moments are opportunities for growth, learning, and true progress, not a disease we should eradicate.

Feedback and comments welcome!