Killing Nurse Ratched
Today my friends and I innocently stumbled into a prime example of the power paradigm implicit within the structures of the mental health system. We went to Coast as we had often done for the friday free dinner. My friends were members and in the past I had gone as a guest. But this time a butch Nurse Ratched type decided to kick us out, including my friends who were members. Was it that we weren’t the right kinds of mental patients to be frequenting Coast? In the past I had often gotten the feeling at Coast that I wasn’t welcomed, someone even asked us if we were students once. Are students not allowed at Coast? Can’t you be both mentally ill AND a student? Apparently not.
Once you become diagnosed as a person with a “mental illness” a peculiar thing happens. You are suddenly shifted into the subhuman category, and there are many expectations for your behaviour. Within the mental health system a good crazy person is someone who accepts medication with a smile, doesn’t talk back, doesn’t have feelings, dresses badly, and accepts their position in life as someone lesser than. Your dreams for the future are pruned back, even by well intentioned friends and family members.
And the people who are drawn towards working with crazy people can be of even more dubious sanity than those who they are working with. The Nurse Ratched who kicked us out seemed to be getting off on her power trip, she enjoyed turning people away from a free meal. She relished the power that she possessed over the already disenfranchised crazy person. And what’s worse is they way she talked down to us, she expected us to enjoy being bullied out of the building as well. What the hell kind of sick person is that?
It reminded me very much of being locked up in the hospital in Quebec.
Power trips happen to crazy people all the time. In fact, while you may read the news and assume that crazy people are violent and unpredictable, it is more often the case that it is the crazy person who is the victim of violence. However that kind of news doesn’t make the papers, because we’re considered subhuman and nobody cares what happens to someone who’s not even a human.
I want to kill the Nurse Ratched’s of the world. I do, and I’m not even a violent person. But when I see One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and McMurphy is strangling Nurse Ratched, I’m all “Yeah! Slap her silly!” Because I know what it’s like to be made to feel insignificant and stupid simply because I have a brain disorder that is still for the most part shrouded in mystery, no matter what the doctors say.
And I am tired. I am tired of me and my friends being disempowered by the very people who purport to be helping us. I am tired of all of my feelings getting pathologized. Things like falling in love or being angry are suddenly symptoms, instead of just letting me be with my own soul-feelings. Some of the drugs they give us completely obliterate feelings (that by the way is why people don’t take their drugs, try living life with a cottonball heart and you’d ditch them too).
How to end this blog about killing Nurse Ratched? I think for me the most important thing is that people become more aware of how they behave towards the crazy people in their lives, whether it be on the job or in social situations. We are not children, or mentally handicapped, or plain stupid. We’re regular people with un-regular brains trying, sometimes fighting, yes, to keep our dignity. So let us have some fucking dignity.
And don’t work with crazy people if you don’t have a grip on what it means to be on the other end of Nurse Ratched.