To the editors:
Halleluia! Timothy Beneke's superb article on Jeffrey Masson [December 2] is so truthful it should be reprinted in every major newspaper and magazine in the United States.
Why? Let me explain.
In January of 1962, I entered an ASC (altered state of consciousness) wherein my perception changed. I wound up in a psych ward in a hospital on the South side for 4 weeks. Since I had been given Thorazine, I was probably diagnosed as "schizophrenic." I took Thorazine for about a year after that and then voluntarily stopped taking it.
For the next 11 years, I took no Thorazine and held a good job. Then in July of 1974, after a series of losses, I again entered an ASC and found myself in another psych ward suffering from "an acute schizophrenic reaction" and was put on Thorazine. Five weeks later I was discharged, but the experience had been shattering because I had thought I had "beat" mental illness.
I moved into an apartment in an impersonal high rise and couldn't find a job. Because I was jobless and friendless, I woke up one morning feeling suicidal. I signed myself into one of Chicago's leading hospitals which had a national reputation for its psych treatment. I was given a doctor who was starting his residency whom I shall call Ron (not his real name). Ron kept me in that psych ward for 5 1/2 months. Why so long? To make me dependent on him so that when he finished his residency 3 years later (during which time I saw him in therapy for $4.00 per visit at the hospital's outpatient clinic) I would pay him $40.00 per 1/2 hour session.
To make a long story short, Ron failed in his scheme, but after the state of Illinois passed a law allowing mental patients access to their medical records, I wrote the hospital where Ron had done his residency and specifically asked for Ron's comments. He got his revenge. He had labeled me a "paranoid schizophrenic." My suspicions of his being a cold, analytical technician were confirmed. And his assessment of my "problem" would be taken (by a prospective employer, for example) as the God's truth because, after all, he was a psychiatrist, wasn't he?
But psychiatry wasn't through with me. To make another long story short, I wound up in therapy at another Chicago hospital where, for the first time, I met a real professional and she turned out to be a genuine human being who respected me as a person and who told me (after I had asked her) that my only problem was that of "a broken heart." So Masson is right on target--women do make better therapists.
Psychoactive drugs, as Masson says, are sometimes necessary. But they are merely "crutches" for very vulnerable people. If the psychiatric profession as a whole viewed its clients as simply suffering human beings (and not only as a source of income), we would see a revolution in this "helping" profession.
Masson is truly "a voice crying in the wilderness." But I hope that his voice will someday be that one which leads the myriads of mental patients out of bondage to a new promised land.
An Enlightened One