Happy New Year! In celebration of the new year, I decided to change the theme of this blog. The theme is now “Buddhism and Women’s Empowerment.” I decided I will no longer be an advocate for a mental illness I don’t have. In my opinion, the twelve-year long continued perpetuation of the schizophrenia diagnosis (a misdiagnosis that I was given in 2002 – it did not reflect the reality), was partly an effort to silence and suppress me. To some extent, this effort was successful. The letters, emails, and faxes I sent to government officials, local authorities, news organizations, and family members were ignored. Every attempt I made to inform other people about the nature of the problem was disregarded, presumably due to the schizophrenia diagnosis.
The truth of the matter is that I never had schizophrenia, or any other form of the illness. I never was, nor will I ever be mentally disabled. It is important to emphasize that the perpetuation of the schizophrenia misdiagnosis was not ok, and it will never be ok. It was not acceptable to sit idly by for twelve years while I visited a multitude of therapists and psychiatrists, experimented through trial and error with numerous anti-psychotic medications that never worked, and endured three hospitalizations – all for an illness I didn’t have. Of course this isn’t acceptable! Yet it happened.
During this time, I often felt as if my life didn’t matter to the people who were closest to me. I felt as if I had been written out of my own life, and that I had no say in the darkest matter of our time. I also realized the importance of speaking up and speaking out – for truth and for justice. To reclaim the catch-phrase taken from the HIV/AIDS movement in the eighties: “Silence = Death,” and as the 13th century Japanese priest Nichiren Daishonin states, “The voice does the Buddha’s work.”
I ran across a University of Colorado – Boulder professor’s website titled, I Am Subject – Keeping Girls and Women Subject of Their Own Lives. The professor, Diane DeBella recently published the memoir, I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves. This is so important for women everywhere. Women are so often objectified – by men, and by society in general. We need to take control over our own lives, without fear and without hesitation. I often pray for courage, because so often it is fear that prevents me from accomplishing my goals. One review of I Am Subject states:
Women are so often not educated about other women’s lives. We feel we’re alone, and so often we don’t reach out to each other because we’ve somehow learned that other women are our competition. DeBella tells us, through her collective memoir, that sharing our stories is a way to heal ourselves and each other.
This is so true. Women supporting other women is very important for women’s empowerment. We also need to learn how to be the subject of our own lives, not the object of someone else’s.