Yesterday a gentleman named Stephen Batson sent me an email.
The subject line? "another country heard from" ...
It turns out that Mr. Batson is the Project Coordinator of the Michigan Recovery Center of Excellence, where "Recovery is the foundation of service delivery in the Michigan community mental health system," it states under Welcome to Michigan Recovery" on this website.
"The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has charged mental health providers, consumer leaders and other community stakeholders to work together to promote recovery-based service delivery models."
Stephen wrote to me because he liked my last post on – Coming Out In Class.
(By the way, I'm happy to report that 15 students showed up in my class this morning. Earlier this week, I had seven students attend with nine registered. This morning, I had 15 attend with 20 registered. This, after I shared with them the fact that my community service is mental health advocacy and I have a long history of mental health problems. I even told them about this blog. Things are looking up.)
Stephen told me in his note that he found me on a blog that's been running since 2006 called The Recovering Life with the tagline – Observations on a Cultural Phenomenon – written by his friend Norm DeLisle.
Norman G. DeLisle runs a small, non-profit organization called the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition and blogs like a house on fire, posting five or six times a day. He's worked in disability advocacy for 37 years, has background in education, Montessori, and psychology. He seems to me to be a powerhouse who works tirelessly to raise awareness and make a difference. He doesn't miss a trick and his blog is well worth investigating.
It seems he posted my Wednesday entry on his blog and that's where Stephen Batson comes in. "Every story makes us feel good about our decision to live real and open ourselves to others," he wrote, inviting me to check out his site. I did. It's amazing.
Then he invited me to a Recovery Conference in Detroit on October 6, sponsored by the Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency, a real going-concern when it comes to recovery judging by its publication, The Advocate News, which is devoted entirely to mental health recovery and hope.
As a matter of fact, I do. Though I've never met him. I know Dr. Fisher's remarkable recovery story and his spiritual and healing approach to severe emotional trauma, often the root cause of mental disorders. Having hope is crucial.
I've read several of his books including "One Vision of Recovery" – his personal story – and "A PACE/Recovery Reader" – an excellent historical anthology of writings about psychiatry, mental illnesses and recovery.
My psychiatrist, Dr. Bob, was the first person to enlighten me years ago about the bogus claims that mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain – a theory that has never been proven. Fisher elaborates in his writings. I'm reading stories from substantial sources that corroborate this all the time, but still, especially here in Canada, the biomedical model which is grounded on this theory seems to stand firm. Psychiatrists prescribe cocktails of drugs and insist on diagnoses that rarely fit the individual. And people are getting sicker all the time, when they could, indeed, recover and live meaningful lives.
We have universal health care here in Canada, but we're in the dark ages when it comes to mental health recovery. We're the only country in the G8 with no national mental health strategy.
Dr. Fisher subscribes to "recovery at your own pace." When I interviewed him several years ago, he stressed that medications can be helpful but only as tools, in the short term. There are other tools. Toolboxes full of them. He stated that he has not taken any psychoactive medication for more than 30 years. Community, inclusiveness, helping people to feel that they are not alone, that there is hope are among his prescriptions for recovery.
His story is recovery story remarkable.
Years ago, as a PhD student, Fisher became delusional, ironically while researching the biochemistry of the brain in schizophrenia. He was hospitalized several times, treated like an animal, shut away and ignored. His psychiatric diagnosis? Schizophrenia.
So demoralized, appalled and angry at how he was treated as a psychiatric patient, Fisher vowed, then, that if he ever recovered, he would become a psychiatrist to ensure that people with psychiatric diagnoses would be treated with dignity and humanity.
He finished his PhD, went on to complete his MD at Georgetown University and his psychiatry residency at Harvard. He has become a leading Recovery advocate, as well as a clinical psychiatrist – one of a tiny handful of psychiatrists who "are out" and openly discuss their psychiatric histories.
His interview on January 20, 2005 in Medscape is fascinating. Fisher is the featured keynote speaker at the Detroit conference, called Redefining Our Roles in Recovery: It's Everybody's Business. Sadly, my teaching schedule prevents me from attending, though I'd do anything if I could, I told Stephen.
But I'm following the activities of the Michigan Recovery Center for Excellence and Norm DeLisle's blog.
Then, this morning, when I came home after my class, there was another email from Stephen Batson.
"Hi again. I was thinking, on the way home last night, that we have recovery stories on this site. In fact, I will be spending the next seven days in Michigan's upper peninsula visiting drop-in and Clubhouses. While up there I will be video recording more stories to post on the site.
"I'm writing to you today because your article IS a recovery story. Perhaps not like the life stories many others have told, but yours talks about an important aspect of a person's recovery ... relationships' socially valued roles. So, I'm asking for your permission to include your story among the collection we have gathered."
Of course, Stephen. It would be an honour. My story is yours. As I tell my students, I have a mantra, one of several. "I live my life out loud. No secrets. No lies."
It's one way to find peace of mind.
Have a great weekend. I wish you the best, always.