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Joe Mc on feeling like Mattia Pascal / 4 August 2010

Los Acordeonistas (digitised photomontage of gouach, watercolour and acrylic originals)

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'Il Fu Mattia Pascal' (The Late Mattia Pascal), by Luigi Pirandello [1], tells the story of a man who, afer a lifetime spent in a quiet provincial town, vanishes and is believed dead. Elswehere, he begins another life which totally transforms his character. When he eventually returns to his old home, his family and friends can't process the new Mattia and find it easier to believe him dead.

I sometimes remember this story when i visit psychiatrists.

Don't get me wrong. In recent years, I have met more listening, more responsive practioners than I have in the past. However, they always seem locked into a reductive impression of Joe as the tormented creature howling out for their help in periodic moments of distress. Time after time, I try to explain that I see myself as having rather robust mental health and offer as proof my getting through 5 odd decades of living with a genetically damaged body in a not too sympathetic society. (This is said with maximum respect for all those experiencing mental health problems.)

I explain how, from time to time, this gets too much and I either have to close for urgent repair or hit a brick wall. They listen but inevitably slap me with the label 'bipolar' and politely suggest that my own analysis is all well and good, but the problem is really having a brain which skyrockets between depression and elation. And that can be adjusted.

In 'The Myth of the Chemical Cure' [2], Joanna Moncrieff challenges the view that depression is due to a chemical imbalance, clearly illustrating how this theory has never been conclusively proven. Yet medication claiming to address chemical imbalance is readily available. And aggressively marketed by powerful corporations, Psychoactive drugs suppress emotional feelings, or are nothing more than sedatives. This is why they appear so successful in the short term. I am currently on Quetiapine and can feel the emotional sedation. This has been enormously helpful in bridging a raging torrent of distress but has no long-term curative effect whatsoever. And I share with many others the concern about the long list of nasty side effects associated with these drugs.

In a recent blog post our own Joe Kelly told us about going to attend a talk by Moncrieff (Humane Therapy not Drug Tyranny). Hope you made it Joe. I'll wait to hear what you have to say, before returning to the suhject.

A couple of people have told me that I seem obsessed with 'The Myth of the Chemical Cure'. I think they may be right. But the struggle to find alternative holistic pathways to anti-psychotic drugs is inextricably linked to my current compulsion to make art.

Oops! Did I say 'compulsion'?

Probably not the best choice of words when seeking support in coming off Quetiapine.

[1] http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mattia-Pascal-Review-Books-Classics/dp/1590171152/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280889992&sr=8-1

[2] http://www.amazon.co.uk/Myth-Chemical-Cure-Psychiatric-Treatment/dp/0230574319

Keywords: joanna moncrieff