A good bye of sorts 

As things stand right now this will be my last “movement”  post.  My role had been very small and I doubt that my presence will be much missed but I really wanted to tell some people who have been very kind to me thank you and not just fade mysteriously away. 

Hopeworks Community will continue and some of what I post I hope will continue to be of some interest to the people in this “movement” and if that is so I hope you will continue to read. For some time now I have had increasing doubts as to whether or not this movement makes or is likely to make a difference. And recently I have begun to have doubts whether or not being involved is me taking care of me. By and large I have no serious complaints with the way I have been treated. I think most people have tried to listen and when they think I am wrong have tried to tell me that without launching personal attacks. For that I am grateful. Far too many people have not been as lucky as me.

The Murphy Bill was the beginning of my real involvement. I thought and still think it offered as much harm and as much danger to people I care about as anything I have encountered. I wrote furiously about it. At times it seemed like I wrote about little else. At last count I think I had about 60 posts that directly or indirectly dealt with Murphy. I don’t know that I had much of an impact. I am one extraordinarily ordinary person with no organization, no title, no real role or influence but I tried. My goal was to persist and try as I could to spread the word about a real danger. There is a Murphy Bill and although there is much in it to hate and fight against it is still no where close to the Murphy Bill that Rep. Murphy really wanted. And even if that is a small victory it is still a victory for which I am grateful. My role I think was fairly negligible, but it was a fight I was thankful to be part of.

The other primary question that concerned me was the future of this movement as a force in advocacy. We are not kind to each other. Many people have told me that they don’t feel safe. If they say the wrong thing or make the wrong person mad the personal attacks they say are vicious. The word I have used more than once that still makes the most sense is cannibalistic. In so many ways we have been a circular firing squad and at least to me it has seemed that our proclivity for self injury and even self destruction has minimized our ability to have that much of an impact in any wider context. Someone along time ago told me something to the effect that people who can’t stand each other seldom stand for anything that matters. I have had many people express similar concerns and that they too are worried. I have had many people tell me it will never change and is just wasted breath.

To be fair I have had people tell me I am wrong. They have told me I don’t have an accurate sense of the context of much of the conflict. Others have told me I have blown small things way out of proportion. Some have told me the story of many movements.

There is so they say no movement, but many smaller movements and that they say is the source of conflict. Some people I really respect have told me this. I have heard anywhere from 7-12 movements but this seems to me to be such a pointless argument. Even if it explains conflict to some degree it doesn’t explain the almost casual cruelty that I have observed from people towards those they disagree with. Secondly I really question if one movement is really 7 movements or 12 movements or however many it really is what real chance does it have of making an impact on anything. A movement that breaks itself into smaller and smaller pieces eventually is no longer a movement. At best it becomes a church of many denominations with each arguing who possesses the true faith.

I believe we have many committed people. I believe we have many gifted people. But neither of those are enough. We do not have enough people and as a movement we lack the capacity for effective advocacy. Advocacy is a competitive sport. Someone always loses. . Normally it is us. Look at the scorecard. AOT is in virtually every state. There is pressure in many states for them to add more teeth to their AOT statutes. How many fights have we really won? We lack cohesiveness, we lack resources, we lack leadership that people buy into and we lack a common vision, a common something we are for. We are much more skilled against people than for people and there is I think a limit as to how far that will carry us.

One friend told me it all comes down to a conflict between those in favor of abolishment and those in favor of reform. Some people she said think there is no hope and psychiatry should be abolished and some think real change is possible….. maybe hard maybe slow but real and possible. I have friends who I believe are smart, intelligent people on both sides of the issue and perhaps it really is the central issue that divides people…. I don’t know.

My take like it is on so many things is to a degree in the middle (one friend has told me for a long time I am a terminal moderate). I don’t know how much real change is possible or likely. To some degree that depends on us and I am not convinced we have made much more likely. However I don’t think psychiatry can or ever will be abolished. As honestly as I can say it I can’t imagine a set of circumstances regardless of how loudly or sincerely the group of people who oppose it think so that would make it likely to happen. Like I said before I know people who disagree with that sentiment. When I told one person I was going to share my position they told me to be careful that I would be astonished how many people would say that making such a statement was an ethically suspect act on my part and some people would be out to get my head. I hope to goodness she is wrong.

Tennessee is my yardstick for many things. Sometimes it is a misleading one but more often than not it is the one I rely on. Not many people that I know in Tennessee self identify as being psychiatric survivors or especially anti-psychiatry. In most places I am a moderate. In Tennessee I am perhaps an extremist. The way most people here would identify themselves is consumer and the notion of recovery has real power and a lot of leverage. Tennessee is increasingly a state that relies less and less on coercive alternatives and the idea of peer support has had a growing influence on the way services are delivered. We have no AOT and no real support for starting it. One out of four state psychiatric hospitals have closed and this past year more people took advantage of voluntary community based options to hospitalization than were hospitalized. There are a lot, lot, lot of problems but Tennessee makes me believe that hope in the possibility of change is not totally foolhardy or wishful thinking.

I don’t know to what degree anything I have said is true. A lot of it I hope is not. On a personal level I need to do a lot better job managing the noise in my life and right now at least I have a great deal of difficulty separating the noise of this movement from the sense of it. We speak loudly but so much of it seems to be at each other and not with each other. I can not fairly impugn the motives of anyone but some of what I hear just seems to be people advocating for their own importance rather than the importance of the shared concerns we all have. I think it is time to step back for awhile. I view it as goodbye but as I get smarter I realize most things I think are forever seldom are so maybe it is a see you later. Again I don’t know.

My original purpose was to say thank you to many people whose integrity, intelligence, and patience with me has met so much. I suck at lists and please realize that no where close to all the names that should be on this list are on it. I have been blessed by many and memory and recall are not my best things.

Thanks, many many thanks go to: Sharon Cretsinger, Darby Penney, Sarah Knutson, Kathy Flaherty, Leah Harris, Joseph Rogers, Val Marsh, Jennifer Mathis, Alan Michelson, Alfred Jefferson, Jennifer Padron, Chacku Mathai, Christa Turnell, AJ French, Susan Isadore, Michael Corbin, Jessica Jiang, Elizabeth Richter, Yvonne Smith, Eric Harph, Marty Felker, George Ebert, Kathy Herdman, Andy Katsetos, Andy Behrman, Diana Egly, Robert Olcott, Ted Chabasinski, Marilyn Welton, Vickie McCarty. And this is I promise only a small portion of those that deserve thanks. Some I know well. Some I don’t know well at all. All have made a difference and I am grateful for each.

If I have said anything that anyone took as a personal attack I really apologize. I hope that if I have said anything you think is important you will consider it. I hope time will prove my criticisms misplaced.

I would be okay if in time it seems more sense and less noise. I would be okay if it became a kinder place to be.

Much is hard for me right now and simply doing the same things will not serve me well. I have to make choices about what matters and how I matter.

I hope to continue pressing for health care reform in Tennessee. I hope this will be the year of success. It has been a long road. I hope to do all I can.

I am horrified at this election. The idea that there could ever be a President Trump seems like a bad dream. If you have not registered to vote I hope you do.

Many things are of daily concern to me now I never thought that long ago would be. There have been a lot of losses in the last years. Things like poverty and transportation and even food are daily issues in ways I never thought they would be. As I approach my 65th birthday and find myself looking for work to survive age has become an issue I never thought it would.

I think we are a people about justice and I hope you will do what you can do to make a difference. With it all being said I think ordinary people do matter. You matter and you count and I encourage you to do that in a way most meaningful to you.

Last thing and more of a housekeeping matter than anything. Many people have read the Hopeworks Community blog and many of you are used to finding it in various “movement” groups on Facebook. I will still share it on Facebook but it will no longer be in any of these groups. If you would like to read it still it will be on my page and for the most part only there.

I apologize for the length of this. Again thanks to so many and I hope you find each day the life you so richly deserve.


7 thoughts on “ A good bye of sorts ”

  1. I am sad to read this, and I think you have made a much greater contribution than you think you have. Even when I (occasionally) disagree with you, I still recognize your sincerity and honesty. I myself feel a lot like you do right now. The imminent passage of the Murphy bill, even if it is the current Senate bill, is a great blow to our rights, and I don’t think people in the movement completely grasp this. They certainly don’t seem to have learned that the constant attacks on one another have done us terrible harm. I want to leave the movement myself, but it is hard to stop what has been close to the center of my life for so long.

    Unless you object, I am going to share your post on my Facebook page.

  2. I am so sad. I understand your decision, and I so wish you peace and justice, as you and Linda continue to search for both.

    I will miss you more than you know. Your words have always been like warm honey on a sore throat. Always. The world will be a less logical, compassionate place without your voice.

    I have come to love you as a dear friend, seemingly from a previous lifetime. And we haven’t even met. But I felt a call from your spirit; I felt a need to connect with you. And I am so much richer for it.

    Your Hopeworks blog was well-named. It was, indeed, a conscious chronicle of compassion and justice. Thank you for fighting as long as you did.

    I don’t know how you keep your angel wings tucked in. I’m convinced that they are well-hidden. I imagine others don’t even notice when they walk past you. But I know… in my mind, I know…

    So fondly,


    Valerie L. Marsh, MSW Executive Director National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery val.marsh@ncmhr.org 207-355-5530 (cell) http://www.ncmhr.org “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

  3. I have appreciated your POV and advocacy. I identify with your sometimes radical and sometimes moderate stance. I am hoping that once the presidential election is over that discourse over a number of important issues will cool down a bit. It would be lovely to disagree with others, and assume that neither myself or the other is actually Satan, but just concerned people with different perspectives!

  4. I am sad Naomi Pinson. I love your dedication and appreciated your posts. I understand quite easily your reason I have been there a few times in the last 30 years. Take care. Love from Québec.

  5. As an advocate I’ve had to accept that some, even many, won’t accept my comments. If their words shake my confidence then I should reconsider my own involvement. Can’t stand the heat? I better get outta the kitchen

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