Ok, mental health advocate friends, tune in: 

I was told today by a psychiatrist (who will remain unnamed) who is writing part of the new DSM, that schizophrenia as a diagnosis is not appropriate IF the person showing symptoms gets better in time. He even used Kraeplin as the reason, hanging on to the age old term “dementia praecox”, saying that the people Kraeplin was referring to when he coined the term were the lost causes, those who never showed any signs of improvement. Therefore everyone who eventually recovers should be given a softer diagnosis, regardless of whether or not they ever fit the criteria of what has been known for years as schizophrenia. So what does this mean for those of us living with psychotic disorders, really? It could mean less stigma for some, but leaving behind, and pushing the weight of the stigma onto those who struggle the most. Not a good idea, in my mind. And since there is no way to know who will recover – and more and more people are recovering – wouldn’t schizophrenia become a cop out term for the cases that physicians felt unable to treat? If all psychiatrists felt this way, what would happen to our solidarity? Would there be any chance of relaying the hope and the progress made in the last 100 years? Would there be any reason to try to treat those who seem most severe if the very definition of their illness (for those who dared define it) meant that it was intractable? 

I am left very unnerved after this meeting, possibly because I fought so hard to get treatment in the first place, because fitting me in the “correct” category meant more to some doctors than finding ways to alleviate the suffering I felt. I also feel a bit strange about this doctor’s suggestion because I have worked hard to reclaim this word, to work with the fear it incites in myself and others, to move forward with it like a tattoo of an ex-lover I must wear forever and make peace with. One thing that this word does evoke, is a sense of gravity. This ain’t no skinned knee, my friends. And many of you know this. I carry this word as a reference for my trials, as a tribute to those who have not made it. I am moving forward not just for myself, but for all of the people whom doctors (like Kraeplin) had given up on; for my clients, for my friends, for those who bear the worst stigma society has to offer, even today. Bearing in mind the ludicrous nature of psychiatric diagnoses in the first place, I am curious to know how you all relate to this, and to your own diagnoses, or those of your clients, your friends, your family members. Thoughts?

 

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