A Dialogue, with Anger

An excerpt from LinkedIn.  Ebony is a mental health student/worker in Australia; Anne B is a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the United Kingdom; Anne W is me, an angry ex-psychiatric patient in New York.

Ebony • Reading your comment Anne W I can’t work out why you should reply in anger.
Don’t take it so personally, this discussion is about mentally ill people who may need to be detained because they either have threatened to harm another person – or they have stated they are going to harm themselves.

Seriously – would you pefer people who pose a threat to a community, not be detained? It is not about “locking people up”.

Surely keeping people safe from harm until a crisis has passed should be considered as a favourable option – as a temporary solution?

Like I said earlier – mental illness is not a crime – and my reply is not levelled at you personally, so please don’t misinterpret any hidden message you might read into my comment.

Anne W • Dear Ebony, we were created with the capacity to feel anger when we are in danger. Anger gives us the energy to quickly make changes to protect our own health and safety. You are a danger to me. You are one of the self-righteous people who think that I should be “detained” if YOU decide I am a danger to myself or the community. You–all by your little lonesome–are going to call the cops, identify yourself as a mental “health” professional, and get me locked up. I won’t get my day in court; I won’t have my civil rights protected. I will get locked up under mental health law, which provides no protection for my rights.

You are NOT doing it for the good of me or the community. You are doing it because you are afraid that your tidy, in-control, little world will get messed up. And what happens to those people whom you so kindly get picked up? They get transported in handcuffs, striped down, locked up and drugged [in CPEP]. Would you like that to happen to you? You’re doing it to others.

The most dangerous person in the world to me is the self-righteous woman who says she’s doing it for my own good. On the support line I worked on, we stood with our callers and helped them work through their upsetting feelings. We didn’t call the cops. We took the risk that maybe we’d get it wrong, but you know what? We never did. We never once called the cops and we never once had a caller kill him/herself or anyone else.

Anne B • Anne W,

I think anger is a very basic emotion, and can be controlled and also uncontrolled. There is a fun book called the dance of anger, has anyone read it.

And, in relation to anger giving us energy Anne W, you are right, it can give us tremendous energy which can be a good thing, if it is controlled.

Anger also needs to be directed appropriately Anne – to the people you want to have your day in court with, so good luck with that.

As regards professionals, they can only operate within the law Anne, and volunteers, or lay people have the advantage over professionals in that regard, don’t they Anne, but again, the advantage has to be used carefully.

Nobody would like to be locked up as you describe Anne, it is horrific to see, when it does happen.

Othertimes, I have seen many people who actually want and need to get into the care system and can’t. So, it can work both ways.

Sometimes, some kinds of mental health difficulties don’t seem to be treated effectively, except in a care system setting. And often people demand that kind of care, and have to fight for it too.

With all best wishes.

Anne B

Ebony  • Dear Anne W,
I am sorry you have taken this issue at such a personal level.
Any response from me will be taken out of context – this is not about you.

Take care and best wishes.


Anne W• Anne B, anger literally gives us more physical energy. It causes the release of hormones, gets more insulin into the system to carry more glucose to the muscles thereby enabling a person to run faster, and so on. Also, it gives us more emotional energy to deal with problems.

As regards “professionals,” they choose to operate with the law–but what laws? There’s the problem. Society has decided that crazy people need to be locked up and drugged. I for sure disagree with that, which puts me in substantial disagreement with those who choose to work in the system.

Regarding “people who actually want and need to get into the care system”–yes, many of us want and need care–but is it the “care” the system provides? Lockups, drugs, stigma, disrespect–that is not what we want, but it is what the system provides.

Imagine a caring system, Anne. Imagine a farm out in the country with no locks and no drugs–no imbalance of power between the care-givers and the care-recipients. Imagine a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, gardening, music, art, and lots of talk therapy. That’s what we need; that’s what we want. That’s not what we get, and that’s why I’m angry.

Anne W • Ebony, you have said, “Don’t take it so personally, this discussion is about mentally ill people . . .” Just exactly who the hell do you think “mentally ill” people are? THEY ARE ME! I speak for the class of “mentally ill” people. Who do you speak for? You list yourself as a student but have also identified as a worker in the system. In other words, you belong to the class of “mental health professionals.”

And, Ebony, I do not talk about people as groups or classes. I talk about them as individuals. I am 64 years old, have spent half a century dealing with depression, and I have an IQ of 140. What have you got?

What do you know? What teachers have you chosen to learn from? I am your teacher, Ebony. I am the smart, experienced person who has been through the system. You want to talk about “those” people–the mentally ill. You don’t want to acknowledge that mental illness can fall on any person at any time–including you. You want to set us aside, separate us, and then talk about us as a group, not as individuals.

And I have confronted you. I have gotten in your face and said that what you are doing, you are doing to me–and you, personally, are responsible. Are you going to step up and deal with that, or are you going to run? I am the face of mental illness. Look me in the eye and talk to me honestly–if you can.

You live on the other side of the planet. I cannot physically or professionally hurt you; you are safe. But what I can do–what I am doing–is saying that you are learning from the wrong teachers, and they are teaching you the wrong things. I am a person. So are you. Are you willing to stay in this discussion?

Because what I am doing is the most dangerous thing a person can do: I am attacking your ideas about the validity of who you are and what you do. Will you learn? Or will you hide in the safety of a corrupt system?

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in CPEP, drugs, Inpatient psychiatry, mental health, mental illness, Suicide, Support line and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Dialogue, with Anger

  1. telula68f says:

    One thing I notice is the language. The mental “health” professional “talking” like there are no problems but YOUR way of thinking, attitude, oh you are so sensitive, don’t take things so PERSONALLY! the mental “health PATIENT” “talking” like a person who is upset about a situation, trying to make their voice heard, trying to stay on a level where they can express but NOT spiral into full blown anger but at the same time being nudged to do so by the “calm”, condescending, PROFESSIONAL who knows all about human behavior. If only Human emotions came in a box!!! But don’t forget to CHECK that box because a PROPER DIAGNOSIS depends on it! (story for another time)
    The Pros will NEVER see. They are being taught that they are so different from US…The MENTALLY ILL…please! So many things here jumped out at me. Maybe if more people opened their mouths the scale would start to shift in the direction of SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THE WAY MENTALLY “ILL” PEOPLE ARE TREATED IN THIS SYSTEM!!!!! CAPS INTENDED!
    Its very hard to VOICE your feelings when they are always dampened by the “FACT” that you are “MENTALLY ILL” and you dont EVER get the same protection, rights or respect as a different kind of patient would. I’m Probably just another ANGRY, SENSITIVE, MENTALLY ILL PATIENT though!!!!

    • annecwoodlen says:

      AND HOORAY FOR YOU! I am SO GRATEFUL for your support. The way this woman is talking to me is very upsetting. She has no respect for me, and that is deeply hurtful, as well as frightening. She does not view me as a person like herself. (Fact is, I am not like herself and damn well never want to be!)

      “Don’t take it personally”–isn’t that a hoot? How else am I to take it? A “mental health” worker who treats a patient impersonally–that’s really going to be healing, isn’t it? Mental illness workers are all about power and control.

      One of the reasons more people don’t open their mouth is because they are drugged. Dr. Peter Breggin has written insightfully about what he calls “medication spell-binding,” that is, drugs dampen out the ability to think critically. How can you make critical evaluations about your condition and decide to go off drugs when you are on drugs and can’t think clearly? Drugs keep us quiet and under control–and that, unfortunately, is what “mental health” workers want. They want the appearance of quiet, calm and peace–but they don’t want to do the hard work of healing.

      • Susannah says:

        You’re so right Anne… “this is not about you”?? Both your post and the two comments here are right on.

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