Over the last 3 days DBSA president Allen Doerderlain has visited Tennessee. Linda and I have had the pleasure to be his traveling companions over the much of that time.
More than anything it has been a conversation about community. So much about the conversation is either/or. It is about protecting the rights and ensuring a chance for better life for “consumers” or addressing the concerns of family members who feel hopeless to deal with the suffering of their loved ones and themselves. So much of the debate has been about how to help one at the expense of the other. There is a national debate right now about the Murphy Bill which makes me wonder if any solution that is either/or will really ever solve anything.
Allen met with people in Chattanooga, Maryville, and Nashville. Today he goes on to Jackson and Memphis. Everywhere there have been both family members and “consumers.” What has been most impressive to me has been nothing that he said to anyone although what he has had to say has been very important. It has been his commitment to speaking with people and his clear message that his trip is not about his importance but theirs.
He talked about information, empowerment, and inspiration. His message was about more than the fragility of survival. He spoke of the reality of thriving. It is, he said, possible for life to be easier, but that even when it was hard it could be better.
He talked about the power of information– that everything began with what you knew. That doesnt mean much without empowerment, the certain knowledge that you can and do have the right to make decisions about how to use that information to build the life you want. And finally inspiration: the faith we give each other and ourselves that choice makes a difference.
There was a lot of discussion about the reality of injustice as a fact of daily life for those with psychiatric labels. But, particularly, in Maryville, their was a lot of discussion about the pain of not knowing how to help the suffering of people you loved.
I saw a clear recognition, from many people I would have thought would never see, that a real solution had to be both/and. The real enemy was not “consumers” talking about their “rights” or family members talking about their pain. It was a society, a system that that sometimes does more harm than good, a system that often seems so inept and counter productive, and sometimes blind and uncaring. It was about a journey that we must all take together…. a journey today and tomorrow and the days after that. It is a journey about much more than Tennessee. It is a journey about you and me…. a journey everyday. It is a journey of hope…. a journey of realism…a journey for better life.
It has been a good few days. I have enjoyed the traveling. I look forward to the journey ahead.