This is the introduction to Sue Westwind’s book Lunacy Lost.
Marie Elton stared at the dust balls revealed by morning light. How did those get there? Hugging a baseboard behind the sectional sofa, dirt in corners always accused her. Their gray, puffy dots marked her secret scorecard: how was she managing house and family? Marie turned on her heel to find a mop. She was not my mother yet.
Agnes’ door was wide open; to Marie, it sounded like the old woman was clearing her throat. Was she congested today? Marie thought she’d check, and padded closer. Now the sound was clipped, random, and distraught. Her mother-in-law was choking to death! The mop handle slapped the hardwood floor as Marie bolted.
Inside the elder’s room. the bed was in disarray. On top of it Agnes was even more undone. She was not my grandmother yet. But if she’d had her way that morning, we’d have never met.
Agnes Wohler Elton lay across twisted sheets, pillows flung to the corners. Her bathrobe gaped, a nightgown hiking up with the effort she made: the robe’s terrycloth belt was wrapped around her throat as she pulled, tighter and tighter.
She was choking all right, in fits and starts, but seeing Marie, hearing her cry out and having her rush over — it was enough. Agnes stopped yanking and gasping. Marie was tearing at the belt anyway, freeing it from the soft, creased neck.
Daughter-in-law didn’t realize the deed could not be accomplished. No time to think: how even if a person lost consciousness this way, the tourniquet on the throat would go slack, and breath would rush in. Marie was too innocent to realize you couldn’t strangle yourself this way. But Agnes’ intention was clear.
Almost a suicide. Here in this house. My house. Marie stood immobilized, unable to help or hinder the tears of the woman who birthed the man that she loved. It was a twenty-five-year-old day in her life, two years before I was born. For Agnes it was also a first.
Though far from her last cry for help
Mental Illness Can Be Cured through the Nutrient Cycle
Most of my life I’ve felt captive to the question: what exactly makes mental illness happen? Its specter was ever present at the edges of my family, erupting time and again into catastrophe.
My grandmother came to embody this curse, living with us between hospital stays, heiress to those who purposefully ended their own lives.
Later, as my older brother grew into a young man, madness stalked him with some powerful stigma: paranoid schizophrenia. When puberty claimed my own body, I had a drastic change of mind, and family saw it as the descent of our genetic disease. I too gained a diagnosis.
Then came the children, garnering in short order the labels of their day: autism, attention hyperactivity disorder.
Today, I suppose mental health professionals would call me “recovered.” I’ve worked as both hypnotherapist and Holistic Mental Health Coach, grateful for students and clients who’ve taught me volumes about life.
I question Big Pharma’s proclamation that medication is the answer to their travails, for reasons made loud and clear in this book. Yet despite the great failure of antidepressants and antipsychotics, despite the immoral antics of the pharmaceutical industry, its dominion goes largely uncontested.
Sadly, the accomplishments of over 400 modes of psychotherapy are also spotty.
No one chooses what conditions to be born into. Though it may be inauspicious to sound a note of confinement. the absence of freedom (and justice) for sufferers of emotional and behavioral disorders is the recurrent theme among various critics outside the mental health establishment.
Whether the jail is literal, electrical (shock treatments), surgical, or pharmaceutical, the emancipation that a cure would bring is not on psychiatry’s wish list.
A Cure for Mental Illness
But here’s what puzzles me most: critics of the mental health system — even the most rabid hold-overs from the days of anti-psychiatry — join the industry in clinging to the notion that mental illness is a bonafide condition or disease. And why not? There is little momentum for full recovery —tried and tested alternatives, real and complete healing — in their midst.
But in the autism community, there is.
What I have found is that a full turn-around from abject mental pain is possible —not for a few, but for many. I would never have been so lucky had it not been for the mood and the efforts of the cutting-edge, autism advocacy world.
In my case, healing was exhilarating and profound: I had not logged years psychiatric drug use. Decades of pain, hiding, addiction, codependency, labels and more labels, countless therapy sessions and chronic physical limitations? That pretty much sums it up.