Mad news and views

This reprinted from Ron Unger’s blog today:

Posted by Ron Unger on January 31st, 2008

Below is the first paragraph of an exerpt from a recent book review, followed by some of my thoughts about the problems caused by looking at experiences as the result of an “illness” rather than as the workings of a mind that could eventually be better understood and worked with until they become something positive: Book Review Essay: An exploration of manic depression. Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture By Emily Martin Princeton University Press, 2007. Reviewer: Sander L Gilman The Lancet 2008; 371:293-294Emily Martin is “mad”—she uses this term in the preface of her book to
provide a context for her account of bipolar disorder/manic depression
in the USA today. Clinically diagnosed as bipolar, in this serious and
engaging book she repeatedly documents the symptoms of her illness.
Martin has hallucinations, including that of the “sinister figure, a
cold gray gargoyle, perched tenaciously on my shoulder, looking at
what I was writing…and muttering a devastatingly negative commentary”,
which haunted the very act of her writing. What that “cold gray
gargoyle” is reading over her shoulder is her study of “mania…a new
continent with a distant frontier, whose receding horizon invites
exploration and development”.
My comments:

My comments:To me, “illness” is an inadequate metaphor to describe what goes on with depression and mania and creativity etc. It just seems inadequate to describe say the “cold gray gargoyle” as being sourced in an “illness” – mood and imagination involve so much more than that. Instead, I tend to see it as about self regulation – creativity involves going out of control to some extent but those who are successful with it learn how to make their way around in that world, to make their way back if they get “too far out” in any particular direction. So if they create a cold gray gargoyle, they also find their way to a counter-figure or some resource that allows them to deal with it, and overall they eventually end up enriched instead of oppressed. Rather than let their creativity ruin their life as some do in mania, they rein it in when necessary, but also let it take them to the edge or even a bit over at times so they find new worlds.
The sad thing about teaching people to think of themselves as having “bipolar disorder” or other such things is that they learn to think of the less ruly parts of their mind as an illness, a defect, rather than as a resource which they could possibly learn to use. We seem to have no notion within psychiatry about the development of wisdom, so the idea that one could learn to have better judgment about when to take those “manic” risks doesn’t occur to us. Nevertheless, despite official denials that any such thing is possible, it isn’t that hard to find people who have been told they were “bipolar” (or schizophrenic, or schizoaffective) decades ago and yet they are doing fine now, without medications. (I know, ” but they still could relapse in the future.” Hey, even many of us who never had a manic episode might still have one in the future, but the existence of this possibility does not justify diagnosis of an “illness.”)

From MindFreedom International:

Save the Date!

Free Panel and Public Forum in Portland, Oregon, USA on:

Forming a New State-Wide Coalition in OREGON
of Mental Health Consumers and Psychiatric Survivors!

All are welcome and invited!



Friday, 15 February 2008



3:00 pm to 4:30 pm



Main Public Meeting Room
Multnomah County Central Library
801 S.W. 10th Avenue
Portland, Oregon, USA



A panel will speak briefly about how mental health consumer/
psychiatric survivor groups can work together in Oregon and
throughout the USA.

Then we hear from YOU in a moderated public forum — your questions,
comments, experiences, input!


* DAN FISHER, MD, PhD. of Massachusetts.

After a diagnosis of schizophrenia and psychiatric
institutionalization, Dan became a psychiatrist. He now directs the
National Empowerment in Center in Massachusetts which he co-founded
in 1992. Dan helped launch The National Coalition of Mental Health
Survivor Organizations. About half of USA states now have
state-wide organizations that belong to this new coalition.

* DAVID OAKS of Eugene, Oregon

David directs MindFreedom International which unites 100 grassroots
groups in an independent coalition to win human rights and
alternatives in the mental health system. David is a psychiatric

* ROLLIN SHELTON is a long-time leader for transformation in the
mental health system who has been diagnosed with a psychiatric
disability. Rollin is director of the nonprofit organization Peer
LiNC Oregon (formerly OCTA)/MHAO based at Portland State University’s
Regional Research Institute.

* AMY ZULICH of Multnomah County, Oregon

Amy develops self-directed supports and planning for mental health
. She works as a mental health peer advocate and program
coordinator for Empowerment Initiatives (EI). EI currently serves 25
people annually with brokerage-style self-directed supports. EI is in
the process of helping people with mental health labels transfer out
of group homes and foster care homes into more independent living.
Amy identifies herself as “a person who has experienced psychiatric

* YOU! All are invited! Mental health consumers, psychiatric
survivors, mental health workers, family members, advocates and
concerned members of the public. Your questions, feedback, concerns,
ideas are welcome.



It is time for mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors to
unite for a strong state-wide voice!

It is time to support the principles of empowerment, self-
determination, recovery, human rights and a full range of
alternatives and choices for our well being throughout Oregon!

It is time for all who care about these important issues to support
this voice!

One year ago a number of mental health consumer and psychiatric
survivor groups supported the adoption of a mission statement and
tenets for an Oregon Consumer/Survivor Coalition (OCSC).

A dozen groups have joined, OCSC is now incorporated, and draft
bylaws are being prepared, all without funding from the State of Oregon.

This year it is time to launch OCSC. Let us hear your ideas,
enthusiasm, suggestions, feedback and questions. Bring a friend!



Free. Wheelchair accessible. Free refreshments.

For more information about OCSC contact Mark Fisher at

See web folder:

To receive updates about OCSC please join this free, private, one-
way, no-spam e-mail announcement list:

For more information about the 15 February 2008 meeting contact the
MindFreedom Oregon office at (541) 345-9106 or


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