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Committed to the Sane Asylum

Narratives on Mental Wellness and Healing

Susan Schellenberg

Publication Year: 2008

In Committed to the Sane Asylum: Narratives on Mental Wellness and Healing, artist Susan Schellenberg, a former psychiatric patient, and psychologist Rosemary Barnes relate their own stories, conversations, and reflections concerning the contributions and limitations of conventional mental health care and their collaborative search for alternatives such as art therapy. Patient and doctor each describe personal decisions about the mental health system and the creative life possibilities that emerged when mind, body, and spirit were committed to well-being and healing.

Interwoven patient/doctor narratives explain conventional care, highlight critical steps in healing, and explore varied perspectives through conversations with experts in psychiatry, feminist approaches, art, storytelling, and business. The book also includes reproductions of Susan’s mental health records and dream paintings.

This book will be important for consumers of mental health care wishing to understand the conventional system and develop the best quality of life. Rich personal detail, critical perspective, clinical records, and art reproductions make the book engaging for a general audience and stimulating as a teaching resource in nursing, social work, psychology, psychiatry, and art therapy.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

We thank the many people who have encouraged and advised us. The medical record librarians at the former Queen Street Mental Health Centre and Kingston Psychiatric Hospital kindly assisted in locating the clinical records of Susan and her uncle, Leo Marrin Regan. David Guiffrida, Legal Counsel to the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office, provided us with information about ...

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pp. 1-10

It was 1939. I was five years old and the Second World War had just begun.Armed with my father's promise that a day would come when pictures of war would no longer be on the front pages of newspapers, I settled into dreaming as I waited for war to end. Close to VE day, I dreamed a marriage between two fish. The fish, dressed in traditional human wedding attire, sailed off to their honeymoon in a ...

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1. Normal Beginnings

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pp. 11-24

I was born in 1934, into a "power-over" struggle between my mother, her deceased victim mother, and their shared story that began to haunt my life as the rise of fascist governments seeking world domination were determining the 1939 outbreak of World War II. By the time I was a young adolescent, an iron curtain had been drawn through my inner geography that mirrored ...

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2. Protests

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pp. 25-46

On 2 September 1969, as young Americans and students slated for draft into the United States armed forces were questioning authority and protesting the Vietnam war, the real me who had remained divided by an inner iron curtain since childhood erupted in protest as well.My protest probably originated in the legacy of repressed 1840s Irish Potato Famine rage that had gone unchecked ...

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3. Towards Healing

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pp. 47-72

By the early 1980s the dysfunction in my life and marriage forced me to choose between remaining stagnated on antipsychotic drugs or risk the venture into an unknown examination of the decaying inner system that held my own false union of self together. While wise and generous energies brought Mikhail Gorbachev to Russia's aid, I never cease to be amazed at the energies that allowed me to not only ...

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4. Strengthening through Structure, Healing through Art

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pp. 73-88

Mentors gave me the courage to make art and the structures that would enable me to heal from mental illness through artistic expression. If my parents and teachers had been conditioned to guide children according to their interests and skills, my art training would have begun in my teens. From an early age I excelled in art at school, was drawn to artistic images in the ...

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5. Conversations on Mental Health Care

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pp. 89-124

It was 1995. I was alone in the Queen Street Mental Health Centre medical records office. As a condition of my obtaining my records, the attendant instructed me to read my Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital records in her presence. Within moments of opening the records, I began to feel again the shame and disturbing chemistry of my original hospital experience. ...

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6. Conversations on Story, Art, and Healing

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pp. 125-156

Story has been pivotal to my gains in wellness in the years following my psychosis. Story was natural to my visual and auditory ways of learning since childhood. Whether story involved the reminiscences of elders at family gatherings, narrative images in our encyclopedia the Books of Knowledge, the church-imparted Christ story that circled the seasons of my growing up, my Joan of ...

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7. War and Peace

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pp. 157-178

Terror, the blind tyrant that had held me captive since childhood, has also prompted me to go for control, to send troops to foreign lands, and to suppress dissent at home. My initial attack on my badness was aimed at living in better accord with the feminine ideals of parents, religion, and culture but in its time the approach created greater inner chaos. The second offensive ...

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8. An Eye to Delight

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pp. 179-222

World War II ended before I was born, and I never fought on the front lines of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, or the present "war against terror," yet my psychic struggles have mirrored the complexities, contradictions, and protests that have accompanied these great world events. Most recently, my attachment to professional prestige battled inner promptings towards more ...

Appendix I: Susan Schellenberg’s Art and Text

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pp. 223-236

Appendix II: Clinical Records and Glossary

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pp. 237-294

The colour plates

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E-ISBN-13: 9781554581306
Print-ISBN-13: 9781554580347
Print-ISBN-10: 155458034X

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2008