This morning, I had a group of women over for a potluck brunch. It was a “jammies party,” so everyone came in their jammies. It was like a sleep over, without the actual sleeping over. I knew only a few of the women. The other women were new acquaintances, friends of friends of friends.
About half the women left shortly after eating and finishing off their minimum required morning dose of caffeine. That left five of us, who ended up talking for almost five hours. We fell into a very important conversation, and no one realized what time it was until I pointed out that the sun was low on the horizon.
This group of five, loosely associated through social connections, had some profound common experiences. All of us were or had been treated chemically for depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and/or other mental disabilities. At least two of the women had been in abusive relationships with men—one had had her neck broken, one had been married to a porn addict—and both of these women had PTSD. All had struggled with the erasure of emotions and sense of self that was induced by the pharmaceutical drugs. Four women had experienced profound “side” effects from these drugs, including black outs and inability to walk. Three women had had profound experiences of abuse by health “care” professionals (“care” must be put in quotes in relationship to these experiences). For example, one woman was forced to have a pap smear, even though it could not possibly have had any relationship to diagnosing or treating her mental disability. This triggered a major dissociative episode.
Sometimes, this kind of conversation can put me into a funk. However, tonight I feel a renewed energy. Our conversation was not at all like a lethargic support group in which women are dragged through personal disclosure by a professional making a lucrative living off of women’s misery in a violent and abusive society. Instead it involved an almost covert sharing of information. It involved stories of will and resistance. It involved sharing how-tos for navigating the woman-hell that the mental health industry can be. It involved three women sharing how they were now either completely or nearly off of all pharmaceutical drugs.
It is unfortunate, although predictable, that the mental health industry is collusive with women’s oppression. As a major institution under patriarchy, its interests lie with maintaining the status quo, rather than challenging or dismantling it.
But as women, both alone and in groups, we resist.