Joanne Lutz Speakout

Submitted by admin on Fri, 02/23/2007 - 04:21

Joanne Lutz

Joanne Lutz

I have a rather dramatic story of my introduction to the "mental health" system and my recovery from it.

I had a "normal" childhood and adolescence and did not know anything about the "mental health "system.

Back in 1969, in my senior year at UMASS Amherst, I became involved with a man who I thought was the man of my dreams. That belief crumbled when he tried to rape me. I woke up the next morning feeling unusually sensitive and vulnerable, with a pain in the center of my chest.

I couldn't focus on my classwork and decided that I should leave the area as soon as possible so that I would not be exposed to him again. Also, my friends were either getting married or going to graduate school. I had no plans.

Fortunately, on the first day of this crisis I picked up a book in yoga which I felt described the kind of internal experience that I was going through. I decided to begin studying yoga as soon as possible. I also had a reassuring conversation with a dorm counselor on campus. He told me that I would be alright and I believed him.

I went to live with a relative whom I trusted in another state who was an M.D. He recommended that I see a psychiatrist, which I did. To summarize, I was interviewed briefly by the psychiatrist and put on medication-thorazine, stelazine, and cogentin. I wasn't sure I wanted or needed the medication but I really had no other resources. I became an instant invalid, unable to read, drive or sit in the sun. I must have looked drugged; some of my relatives stared at me strangely. I felt stigmatized in my new role as mental patient.

I lived with my parents and saw the M.D. twice a week. My mother caringly drove me to dance and yoga classes, which I continued even though the medication affected my ability to move. The yoga postures became good company; my best friends.

I was lucky; I had some accomplishments to be proud of, caring parents who had enough money to pay for my psychiatric care, and I was not hospitalized. At this time I also had a vision of my life purpose: If I ever felt well again, I vowed to help people who found themselves in the position that I was in. I instinctively knew that I would become a social worker.

All this is very ironic since I suspected then, and know now, that there was nothing "wrong" with me. I was a sensitive young woman with a "broken heart." In psychiatric terms, I experienced a major depression. It has never recurred.

After a few months my M.D. lowered my dosage and then took me off the meds altogether. I began my quest to understand what had happened to me, internally and externally. That search led me to the work of Stan and Christina Grof, founders of the Spiritual Emergence Network; to Jungian psychiatrist John Weir Perry, author if "The Far Side of Madness"; to the Human Potential Movement; to graduate school to earn an MSW; to becoming a professional yoga instructor; to becoming the first liaison between the State of Connecticut and the battered women's shelters and rape crisis centers; to becoming certified in Psychosynthesis, a spiritually-based approach to psychotherapy; to becoming the New England Coordinator of the Spiritual Emergence Network; to becoming an EMDR psychotherapist. I have watched as my life purpose unfolded, and continues to unfold, in front of my eyes.

In writing this bio for the Freedom Center, I am remembering my commitment to doing what I can to assist people who are in psychic pain to empower themselves and turn their lives in the direction that they want to go.

Joann Lutz, L.I.C.S.W., is a practicing psychotherapist in Northampton
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