Autoethnopathography: 2, The Validity of Voice

I am not saying that I wasn’t mad, nor am I questioning the matter of my having met diagnostic criteria, as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, IV-Text Revision, for w/ psychotic features.  I am saying that there are many different words that could have been applied to my experience. The term psychosis is a problematic word, because it doesn’t do what words are supposed to do, which is offer explanatory and definitive information about a state, place, or thing.

Psychosis indicates or suggests the experience of states of reality that are non-usual and disruptive of cohesion with consensus reality. That tells me very little about the actual subjective state of the individual, what the individual is actually experiencing, and what it feels like to be within those uniquely, deeply personal experiences, what their world is like.

Because this word – psychosis  – is attached to me – the researcher – in medical records, in writings, in quiet-voiced conversations about who I am, what my story is, I feel like I have a right to question this word, to put it into quotations, to place qualifiers and excluders around it, to reinforce, again and again, that this is the word that was applied to me, that this word does not necessarily say anything about me.

This word, attached to me, communicates that at some point, in someone’s perspective, I possessed a mind that does not hold well to the agreed upon and socially acceptable reality, a mind which may become unreliable. This suggestion has the propensity to functionally undermine my validity as a thinker in the formal realms of thought.

I am able to imagine that I can imagine the perspective of a traditionally (c. 1950-recent past) trained psychiatrist, as such perspectives have been placed on me many times. I cannot seem to get those psychiatric perspectives out of my head and so I think I know what the anonymous they, the generalized they, the un-nuanced they, might think.

“Here is a person, oh unfortunate and delusional person, so clearly intelligent, but – oh – you can see the effects of the illness in the expression. Can you believe that this person thought such things, thought in such ways? The loose association is apparent, the evidence of delusion. This person is caught in the illness. This person needs treatment. This person should be on medication, these symptoms are not desirable. A person cannot exist with such illness unabated. It is too dangerous.”

Okay, maybe I went a little over the top there at the end. That’s been known to happen, to bound from reasonable surmise to hyperbolic alarmism, the current of fear that pushes the perspective, compels the lens.

Are some thoughts dangerous? Is it dangerous to inhabit certain realities?

I am not suggesting that it is not, I am asking if it is.

I am not suggesting that my thoughts are not always ordered in the usual way, and that my attentions are not always attuned to the things that people would like my attentions to be attuned to. I am not saying that I am not prone to experience somewhat altered states of consciousness and ruptures of reality.  I am saying that I don’t think that tendency in my ways of being necessarily discredits my voice or diminishes the value of my experiences as part of my own story and also as part of larger social and cultural phenomena related to sanity and stigma.

Part of the complication of telling one’s story in a way that is going to be remotely representative of anything real about a person is that there is – at the end of the day, as in the beginning, driving to work – simply too much to tell, some of which I have no right to tell. So, my current state of confoundment as to how to proceed with this is not only a matter of doubting my own mind, my own ability, both out of stigma and due to the reality that I genuinely am troubled by my seeming inability – without great effort and discomfort – to write a coherent narrative of self and intent, a simple overview, an outline, a list of references.