Why was INTAR India 2016 important to me?
When A Drop of Sunshine
was screened in 2011, the film-maker and me found it difficult and overwhelming at times to have many people undermine the stand we were making. No one believed I lived without medications. Many doctors and psychologist didn’t want to have anything to do with me or the movie.
They claimed: it was impossible, we were lying, I was a good actor, my parents are privileged, and the movie even a bluff despite my psychiatrist in it.
The documentary was questioned at so many levels by so many people even including having asked to not be screened because it would influence others in stopping their medications and sending the wrong message. The film-maker was told ‘She doesn’t look schizophrenic’ and I received another label following my work with The Red Door as being ‘anti-psychiatry’.
You might be wondering how this is related to INTAR and why am I making this about me? I’ll explain…just read on.
You see, A Drop of Sunshine didn’t ‘show’ the psychosis of me running about with a knife or yelling. There was nothing in it that could give the dramatic effects which everyone wanted to see. I thought people were mad to have asked for that. The film-maker was once asked ‘Why didn’t you show her with the psychosis?’.
When I heard that I thought to myself, how selfish and insensitive can people be? Do they not know that I am the very protagonist and having such a performance can and will trigger me since I was coming out of the closet publicly? It would also make things difficult for my family which it did! How much more insensitive can people be? We weren’t getting paid to for this either. We did it because we believed it was necessary for a message to reach whoever is willing to hear it. My parents were called names by other families. I lost out on funds and opportunities cause some individuals even said ‘Well, she is famous why is she complaining about no money? She must have got something out of it’.
Students from reputed educational institutions called me awkward. Because I look as young or even younger than them, they found it easy to undermine my stand and question me. Although I allowed the questioning, it came with a lot of disrespect and arrogance.
Friends passed comments ‘Oh, now you’re famous so you don’t have time for us’…without ever realizing how much more difficult and alone it got for me as I would get triggered after every screening and needed days to self-heal. Very few really understood.
Despite the documentary having reached many festivals and screenings, the voice of an Indian woman living without medications and being queer at many levels wasn’t easily accepted. It was also challenging Western constructs and ideas of alternatives because I refused the idea that my story was an alternative. In one screening I said ‘My story is what is natural because what is called an alternative to one culture is what is natural to another’. Therefore even in this dialogues of alternatives another challenge was raised.
But at INTAR, I did meet few individuals who said ‘In some cultures and their own, if you do not hear voices that would mean something is wrong with you’.
After the documentary, came my book…’Fallen, Standing…
‘ which again raised other issues and challenges because it wasn’t written in a conventional form. It wasn’t like other books on schizophrenia and mental illness. In fact, I hardly wrote about my diagnosis, prognosis and everything in between since that was kept for my second book. As an author, my book hasn’t really sold much. Even worse was when there were professionals and individuals from the very field who passed rumours around that ‘Reshma’s father paid someone to write it for her’.
Doctors who met me were trying their level best to proof that my brain tumour (which showed up in mid 2011) was the cause to my schizophrenia and therefore my story isn’t credible.
But at INTAR, I met individuals living without medications too. They might have taken longer than me but they have, and they valued my narrative when I offered the whys behind recovery timeline.
writes on INTAR 2016: A global call for a new paradigm in psychiatry:
“…it brought together people from 40 countries, including representatives from the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and the International Disability Alliance, and by conference end this gathering had embraced a common thought: a new global health narrative was needed, one that could replace the failed “medical model” that dominates mental health today…
…In the process of co-writing Psychiatry Under the Influence, I became convinced that the best way to understand the problem with our current system of care is that it arises from a “false narrative,” which comes wrapped in the gauze of science. Societies have organized their thinking around that false narrative, and that is producing social injury on a vast scale. And so I spoke briefly about how the disease-model narrative arose, and all the ways it is belied by scientific findings…”
to read the rest of the article written by Robert Whitaker.
There will be more INTAR updates and blog post from different participants surfacing soon, which I will share.
There are a flood of online platforms and organizations taking on the cause of Mental Health. When they reach out to me and share articles or narratives I accept the first steps but reject the stand later and tell them to look away from the disease and medical model. It has got me in a lot of trouble since I am direct and individuals don’t want to ‘communicate’ with me later since I am challenging their years of studies and investment. But this is advocacy…and it is political.
I really hope educational institutions, psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, doctors, and others who have often challenged, undermined and personally attacked me reconsider themselves.
It’s a very lonely and difficult journey to walk in advocacy when the field itself is against those of us that they claim to help. ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ is the motto of UNCRPD and I hope experts in the field keep this in mind.