psychiatric survivor explains what a diagnosis is

what a diagnosis is
by Laura-Marie River Victor Peace

pills in the spirit dish

a way to justify a pill prescription,

a dull tool,

one doctor’s opinion,

an idea we can ponder

in the isolation room, 

a concept I can give a lot of weight

or no weight to, 

a term that’s as meaningful as I make it,

an attempt to pigeon-hole 

a complex, unknowable, unfathomable miraculous animal, 

an attempt at making me responsible 

for what was done to me,

a way to say the trauma was my fault.

a culture’s attempt to sidestep 

responsibility for failing 

to protect its most vulnerable victims,

a joke,

an antiquated label based 

on guesses made by a committee 

of rich people who never met me

(they might have had daughters like me, 

but they didn’t understand their daughters either), 

an insult to my soul, 

an insult to the miracle of survival,

a denial of my uniqueness, 

a death sentence, 

a mistake others will try to fix later, 

the word-version of a billing code, 

an excuse to dismiss me and everything I say,

a way to marginalize my intelligence,

a denial of my experiences 

as part of the shared human experience,

an attempt to take away 

my place at the table of life,

an excuse to take away my children,

a way to other me,

a source of pain,

a partial explanation,

a decoy, 

a generalization based on error, 

a static observation about 

an always-changing organism,

a lazy way of seeing me. 

a lie, 

a construction,

the best a rushed psychiatrist could do, 

shorthand for something that can’t be spoken,

a weird way of imagining me 

that’s wrong the moment you speak it.

Laura-Marie with zine

A diagnosis is supposed to help us get what we need, but it often is a way to harm us and try to justify taking things away from us that we need to live.  Laura-Marie River Victor Peace is a psychiatric survivor who makes zines about mental health and radical mental health.  Please consider what a diagnosis is, in your experience.