Still, Millett calls "The Loony-Bin Trip" a book of reconciliation. She says she has resolved the issues with her family and a former lover, who is now a close friend.
In 1988, Millett again stopped taking the lithium she had ingested for most of 13 years. To test the reactions of others, she says she kept it a secret. She felt the power of suggestion induced others to view her as mad. "No one noticed a single thing," she said.
Phyllis Chesler, the feminist psychologist and author of "Women and Madness," said Millett's book is the tale of "a great intellect and artist who, in the middle of her life, fell apart and lost her way, like Dante."
Chesler disagrees with her good friend's condemnation of the mental health field. While deeply flawed, psychiatry helps many people, Chesler said. Drugs, when properly monitored, can cure mental patients. And Chesler said, "there is such a thing as mental illness."
Chesler suggests that Millett, like artists throughout history, may be "a true literary eccentric who fights for the right of the individual against the might of the state." The pressures of fame, drinking and loneliness also wore her down, she added.
"Society drives us to being misdiagnosed and mistreated, especially women and minorities," Chesler said. "She should not have been locked up. She should have been given help."
Back at her home in New York, Millett said by telephone that she has just scanned two book reviews that labeled her as mentally ill.
People are missing the point, she said. Her book is a plea for understanding, a radical call for a new tolerance toward mental states that are "at the margin"--from flights of artistic inspiration to states of altered consciousness.
"Please read it again," she told the journalist. "I put a lot of thought into it."