"Whenever I'm sitting with a patient, and I begin to get the feeling one of us is mad, my first assumption is that it is the patient" ~ Thus began a psychiatrist giving a talk to myself and fellow Relate counsellors back in the late 1970s. Sadly, that assumption won't always prove accurate. This book, a personal memoir, sheds light on the awful and disturbing chain of events that unfolded back in the late 1960s when a teenage girl made the simple mistake of asking the right question in the wrong place; a mistake that led to five almost unimaginably painful years which threatened to ruin her life.
One of the most fundamental human rights is the right to be unhappy, and one of the most valuable human qualities is the capacity to bear, and voice, doubt. Sadly, this young woman made the mistake of voicing her doubts and unhappiness in a context that lacked the imagination to see these human qualities as anything other than dysfunctions to be treated with copious doses of mind-altering and dependence inducing drugs, and sending electric currents zinging through her brain. Thankfully, she survived the dark tunnel of psychiatry at its most myopic and arrogant, to emerge to recount her tale with a quiet, determined strength and, what must have been a painful honesty. Hers has been quite a journey.
This book is not for the faint-hearted, no easy bedtime treat to send you contentedly off to sleep; but it is well worth reading and the themes stayed with me long after the last page. It is a patient's personal story with much to teach the psychiatric profession, and all who append labels to that which they do not understand, and most probably, regard with fear. There is much arrogant mis-diagnosis and subsequent `bad medicine' described in The Dark Threads, and it would be all too easy (and dangerous) to take comfort behind the conviction, `of course it wouldn't happen nowadays!' Mercifully, despite the book's vivid details of much damaging, inappropriate, and inhumane medical treatment; and an undeniably difficult home life and upbringing, there are also bright shards of humanity that shine through the chapters. Thank goodness for the brave independence of Dr Copeland, for young Danny's faith in his own judgement, for a teenage girl's best friends, for a loving Pastor with his head screwed on, and for a young woman's instinct to never quite lose faith in those rare shafts of light... and for having the courage in middle-age to remember back to those dark days and enlighten us with her brave story.
Author, and therapist.