On Mental Illness: The Sickness of Being Overly Compliant

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday June 15, 2011 - 11:35:00 AM

When I discovered myself getting excessively sweet, nice, and perhaps obedient toward someone in my life who likes me that way, I realized, at some point, that I felt very sick. Then, the anger came, and I left that person an angry voicemail. Of course, that person said that they were unhappy with the disrespect I had shown. And I replied that respect needs to be mutual. Regardless, I realize now that I was in a twisted frame of mind in which I conceded too much. 

There comes to mind an episode of the original Star Trek series about the spores that made everyone happy. They got everyone in the crew, and they finally got Kirk. It was Kirk’s profound anger that cured him of the effect of the spores, and saved the ship. And so it is in life. 

This is what happens to persons with mental illness. To those who want to keep mentally ill people under control, and thus prevent us from threatening the social order, (or, at least the social order that exists in mental health programs) independent thoughts of a mentally ill person are the enemy. Oddly enough, it’s not the medication that’s doing this to people. 

If you are talking to someone at the Berkeley Psychic Institute, he or she might say that you are subject to being taken over by an invasive spirit. If you’re dealing with a former cult member who has since thrown off the controlling yolk of their cult, they might say that mentally ill people, and some other people, are being brainwashed. Regardless of what system you’re viewing it through, including your own, being controlled is distasteful. 

One of the mechanisms that make antipsychotic medication effective is that of raising the priority level of the external environment, and deemphasizing internally generated perceptions. This allows (or perhaps forces) the psychiatric patient to tune into the surrounding environment; and this increases the ability to track “reality.” Because of this reprioritizing in the brain, it is easier than it would otherwise be for other people to control, and even deceive a person who takes antipsychotic medication. 

The mental health treatment system, having “clients” who are chemically predisposed to being externally controlled, is in a position to use various psychological strategies for “managing” us. 

What I have said so far might be fuel for those who object to modern psychiatry. Yet, if you have a psychiatric illness and are mad about being controlled like this, going off medication against medical advice will put you directly into the “trap” of relapsing and then being subject to even more control. 

Ironically, the best way to “buck the system” is by cooperating with treatment, getting well, raising your functioning level, and as a result, being in a position of having a choice about what happens to you. 

But there’s more. Just because you are deciding to be “medication compliant,” doesn’t mean that you must give a “blank check” of submission to mental health practitioners. For example, since I am not, at present, under a legal obligation to obey my psychiatrist, I maintain a veto power concerning specific prescriptions. If a specific medication is really bad for me, (such as a few that I’ve tried that had side effects that were unbearable) I do not wait for permission to stop taking it. 

This practice works for me because I am in communication with my doctor, am not secretive or deceptive, and will work with him or her to find the right medications at the right dosages. My doctor gives a certain amount of leeway since I have dealt with this illness for nearly thirty years, and have worked hard to get well. If it were otherwise, I might not receive as much cooperation. 

My preference, moreover, is to avoid medications that have been on the market for less than ten years. Too many medications have unforeseen, sometimes deadly side effects that do not show up in their first five years of being available to the public. This is an indication that drugs are being approved for general use before we know enough about them. (The general public, and not just persons with mental illness, is being experimented upon.) 

In short, I am helped, but I accept neither supervision nor brainwashing by the mental health treatment system.