Reconstruction: A Recovery Narrative


When I read recovery stories, I am sometimes challenged by the prospect of thinking about my life in linear terms, “Here are the years that I was Sick, here are the steps I’ve taken to become Well.”  Nothing is ever quite so simple in my mind. How does one adequately capture 23 years of distressed dysfunction, and all that such a span of time entails?  It is difficult to tell a survivor story without telling what, precisely, you survived. The world is full of trauma, slow and sudden, sustained and quick-wounding.

I tend to think in geodesics, in some fuzzy-system algorithm that I don’t fully understand.  For a very long time, I thought that everybody thought in pictures and dreamt in color and saw shapes in everything.  I thought that everybody noticed.

As it turns out, that apparently isn’t exactly the case.  There is ample evidence that automaticity and regimentation in our frameworks of experience lead to an enhanced ability to filter stimuli.  In other words, many people do not notice the vast majority of their lives.

It’s true, some people have learned to practice mindfulness and some have been lucky enough to be nurtured in an environment that values the skill of knowing what is going on around you.  Some of us just can’t help it.  We notice things. We cannot stop noticing.  The modern life can be a bit much for those of us who care to notice.  It is abundantly beautiful and complicated and simple and tragic.

Isn’t it interesting that “Stress” has been shown to exacerbate or bring about the onset of psychiatric symptoms of disorder? Isn’t it interesting that a great deal of our stress is specifically people or task/event related?

Since slowly realizing that perhaps my quirkiness was more than a flawed personality and that my distress was caused by more than a chemical imbalance, I have been talking and listening to people, trying to figure out how we might be able to see the world in the same way and learning deeply about just how truly different we all – each and everyone of us – are. I have also been noticing the ways that we are all the same.

I have found a lot of people that seem to process in a way that is similar to mine, the not-so-simple result of an “intelligence” aggregate that leaves us brightly scrambling in some areas while other areas are bounding ahead in svelte dominance.  We are always traversing the cognitive intelligences, leaping and lurching across the span of emotions that exists between words and space.

My story almost killed me and, in some ways, it probably actually did kill some version of me, perhaps even several.  This is a good thing.  Those stories weren’t doing me or the world any good at all.

I knew I was smart, but what did I care about the word “genius.” I heard the word uttered, once, at age twelve. A set of numbers, and a vague sort of immature pride in how remarkably clever the story I’d told about the picture was… a hard-lined sketch of a girl by the water, with trees in the background, a field at right, a picture of somewhere that seems far away, where the sun would be lighting the grass… and there would be a boat, and she was a little pensive, but she knew that there was always someone watching. I liked telling the stories, it was my favorite part of the testing, though the electrodes were interesting, too. The current conducive gel was cold, and I wondered how I fell asleep so easily?

I wasn’t even tired. I was wide awake, but somehow I fell asleep fast and when I woke up they told me that I wasn’t an epileptic.

I lived in a state of misinformation for a very long time. I was not ever told how my brain works, only that it did not work the way that it should.  My recovery began in earnest when I began to recognize that perhaps what I had been told about myself was incomplete and sorely biased. A lot of people go through identity crisis. However, I lived in a constant state of never quite being sure who I was or who, for that matter, anybody else was. People did not make sense to me. They are surprising and hurtful, surprising and kind. They care about things that I don’t care about and sometimes they laugh at the things that I love.

When I was four, I stood at the edge of the play area at the preschool. I watched the kids running and it didn’t look like fun to me. I felt weird. I wanted to go home. This was a problem. I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing. I was not having fun.

By the time I entered high school, I had already had extensive psychological evaluations and had been in a locked facility for almost six weeks. It was there, at an outpost of a late-1980s for-profit chain of adolescent treatment facilities, that I learned I “had depression” and “tended to be manipulative and destructive, with suicidal tendencies and ideation.”

We said it like catechism, “My name is Faith, I’m 13, I have…” If we did not say it, if we sat in our chairs and sullenly stared at our hands, notes were taken about our “behavior” and if we questioned these notes, or raised our voice at all, we were put into a “Quiet Room” with literal padded walls, clad in vinyl for easy cleaning lest someone bleed in there.

If the way that a person experiences the world leads them to increased vulnerability to trauma, or if they experience trauma in things that most people do not find traumatic (such as fluorescent lighting) and are then punished for their attempts to communicate distress, painful pathology arises within cognitive/emotive frameworks that may not be inherently distressing or destructive.

On the days I went to school, I would rub the stiff brown bathroom towels against my eye – wide open – until I managed to scratch the cornea.  That way, I would get to go home because of a “problem with my contact lenses.” I was in 9 different educational placements before I finally dropped out.

At age 25, I had navigated four psychiatric commitments and was taking 9 pills per day. My hands shook so badly that I could not sign my own name.  I slept in anxious fits and the sheets smelled sour like chemicals.  These were not good times.

Several years ago, I began experimenting with being very honest about my history in the psychiatric system. I left less and less out of my history. I put the lost years back in and filled the gaps in my story with the truth.

Through radical mental health and the process of becoming a Peer, I found the language and ideas that formed the basis of my recovery.  I hadn’t quite realized how much I had wanted to just be honest about how hard it all is sometimes, to be honest in my admission that I understand what it is like to want whole-heartedly to simply die and to find the most beautiful things to hold onto as you try to stay alive, about what it is like to live moment-to-moment, everyday a crossroads, a conscious choice. I wanted to be honest about how hard it is to feel at odds with the world you live in.

I am often crediting people and particular technologies with saving my life. I’d have to say that the sociology professor who taught me about objective participant observation did me a great service in doing so.  I think sometimes that dissociation saved me.  In times of significant indignity and emotional trauma, such as forced injections and dealings with the police, I could simply shut down and consider the circumstances with a buffered and detached interest. Finding ways to look at what was happening to me in terms of broad context, making the personal political, was a life-saving mechanism for me.

This is happening because they do not see me clearly. They do not understand what I am saying. They are operating from a different perspective. Words mean different things to them. Crying is bad. This is happening in the framework of an oppressive and inhumane system of social control, but they are trying to be nice. They are following the rules. Follow the rules and you can go home.”

Delusion has been helpful, as well. Note: Delusion, logically, does not exist. There is no such thing as a false belief. If you believe in something, it’s real.

This is happening because I am going through a test and there is a strong possibility that the nice officer is Illuminati, but he might not know it yet…”

Delusion can also be frightening and worrisome. However, rarely is it as frightening and worrisome as real life.

When I speak about recovery I make it clear that, to me, this is not an issue of eliminating my psychiatric symptoms, my lofty highs and my tragic lows, my far-flung thoughts and peculiar imaginings, the things I notice and the way that they stick in my mind and unfold.  These are the things that make me who I am and I am learning to manage myself in a way that empowers me to live my life as I see fit.

I began to recover in earnest defiance when I realized that I had “been written all wrong” and that all the people who, on a regular basis for years, offered their professional opinion on the inner-workings of Faith R. Rhyne really had no idea what they were talking about.  I was playing a part.  They were playing a part.  I became what they told me I was, because that is what happens to people. I became a loser when I lost myself to their perception.

They say that Mind is our perspective. I saw myself as I saw them seeing me and they saw me as I saw myself.

I hit the diagnostic marks for more than a couple SPMI, Axis 1 disorders. However, I don’t think that I was, upon birth, doomed to have a mental illness.

I may have been blessed with a brain that works in interesting ways and a keen sensitivity to environmental stimuli, a strong visual memory and a way with language.

These attributes didn’t turn into a curse until I went to school and experienced invasive psychiatry.

I understand that people have pain. I have pain. It comes and goes, sometimes several times in the course of a long day or a short hour. I live with active psychiatric symptoms. I understand that such things exist.  They can be profoundly distressing, given circumstances and reactions.

I wonder sometimes if I would have the disorder that I have if I had not had some of the experiences I have had. I am pretty sure that I would probably be a brilliant academician or quirky vagabond or meticulous gardener, a brilliant homeschooling mother, fearless and self-assured.  I could be all those things, and have – at various points – been all those things. These are the parts of me that got obscured. These are the parts that I had to fight to keep and some of them are badly tattered.

They got torn up in all the construction and deconstruction, damaged in the treatment.

I have had three severe and total breaks, when I lost control of consciousness and could not adequately navigate my experience for long periods of time. All of those times are bracketed by significant social/emotional/frightening event trauma. Bad things happen to people.

This is a truth we all must share.  We live in a world where very bad things happen.

I do not ever diminish the profound struggle it sometimes is to stay alive in such a cruel and confusing world.  I do, however, need to question the etiology of mental illness and the “therapeutic value” of approaching people with complete disregard for the legitimacy of their human experience and the truth of the pain that some stories carry.

To suggest that our concerns – be they symptom or side-effect – are not relevant is to suggest that we have no authority in determining who we are.  That is disabling in a very basic way.

There are a lot of lies in medical psychiatry.  For all the lives that have been “saved” far greater numbers have been lost.  If we consider figurative death, when people shut down and resign themselves to a life of endless misery or when they are assisted in doing so by practices such as malpractice and chemical/social restraints of humanity, well… the figures must be staggering.

 I don’t want medical model psychiatry to exist anymore.

There are better ways.  We know this to be true.  These are the facts that hold my attention.  I am a problem solver by nature, but sometimes it takes me a while.  I do know that, as psychiatric survivors, it is vital that we stake our claim on the legitimacy of our voices.

We are The Experts and The Professionals.

They need to listen to us.

They are making terrible mistakes.

 Giving children risperidone!? What a dreadful idea!  

This is why I keep trying to sort my ideas and clarify my voice.  Good stories are powerful.

The more people tell their stories, the more the truth prevails and that gives me Hope.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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    • Thanks so much for reading and for responding. I am deeply appreciative that there are people in the world that value the truths that we hold close to our hearts. Thank you again for spending a bit of your day with my story.

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  1. Thanks for telling your story Faith and for the exploration of your journey. I remember a psychiatrist who kept asking me if I was ‘tearful’. On the risperidone I felt flat and would have been glad of tears.

    I think that women crying must be too much for psychiatry to bear, or for the men who manage in mental health. Maybe reminding them of mothers or sisters or lovers. Grief remembered. And we are drugged up accordingly. Passion restrained and feelings numbed. Until we take charge of our own mental health and recover.

    Regards, Chrys

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  2. Thank you for your beautiful expression Faith …
    “In other cultures, the one who sees, or experiences things differently is revered as the “shaman/shamaness” or spiritual leader … and where the tribe looks to them as having special insight into the mysteries of their existance.”

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    • Thanks for “getting it” – I have thought a lot about delusions after I realized that I had acknowledged my experience with them on a very public site. I am honest about my lived experience, but there is some great step that is taken when you show the world your truth without shame. Discusssion of ‘psychotic symptoms’ is still very much hemmed-in by stigma and I so appreciate your acknowledgment that sometimes there is a rhyme and reason driving our interpreted experience and that the manifestations of thought and sense that are encapsulated in the term “psychosis” may in fact have some functional origin.

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  3. I read several times your story to take in all the nuances of what you are saying.Life is so rich and complicated and certainly to be able to dissociate during traumatic times is a blessing and allows the real you to survive intact while just observing. Delusions too can be a life-saver. I so agree with you in everything you are saying.And Yes:”They are making terrible mistakes”

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  4. This makes for riveting reading. That “many people do not experience the vast majority of their lives” is a truth too evident in our world right now. Maybe there are only some people who see the whole of their lives or most of their lives no matter what society is doing, but it seems that “checking out” is what we are doing best right now. I get it: seeing everything is hard, too hard to bear in a vicious world.
    Thank you for showing up and for speaking your truth. It resonates.

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  5. Thanks for reading and resonating! I truly believe that, in considering experiences of the so-called mad, we can learn quite a bit about what makes our human experience what it is and identify some vital truths about our shared humanity. It is powerful and inspiring to me to consider all the ways that stories teach us about ourselves and about one another. Thanks for commenting and keep noticing!

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  6. Thanks for sharing your story Faith:))

    “I was playing a part. They were playing a part. I became what they told me I was, because that is what happens to people. I became a loser when I lost myself to their perception.”

    This resonated with me so much, and these days reminds of Shakespeare’s “all the world is a stage,” and how little we really understand ourselves despite our postures of self-awareness.

    Psychosis has been with us for a very long time and is certainly not judged so negatively beyond the so-called 1st world. Moving to a different culture I learned not to judge my own experiences of psychosis as a symptom of illness as I once did. Viewing these innate reactions to life as a self defense mechanism brings a new perspective to mind beyond the reactions of denial and suppression.

    In the past, individuals with a “sensitive” gift (although it is a curse for many) were often the prophets of our future, as noted throughout history.

    “Madness, provided it comes as the gift of heaven, is the channel by which we receive the greatest blessings.” _Socrates.

    The judgment of psychotic states has swung back and forth down through the ages. Yet I’m sure its all part of our long journey to the realization of heaven? Delusion is more than a symptom of illness, once we get past the negative reaction to it?

    I wish you well on your journey.

    P.S. Do we really recover from the human condition, or do we navigate the process of a maturing self perception?

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  7. {“Madness, provided it comes as the gift of heaven, is the channel by which we receive the greatest blessings.” _Socrates.}

    You offered such strong insights and I thank you for responding, for resonating.

    I think we recover from the human condition when we begin to understand that it may not be what we thought it was. Shifting worldview and the lexicon of understanding is so vital in recovery. The ugliness that surrounds the word “psychosis” created an enormous amount of dissonance in my personal experience. How could the most beautiful clarity and sense of understanding I had ever felt possibly be…sick? How could a state of grace be something that needed to be medicated?

    I think that some people do have sensitivities and I believe that some may be more neurologically prone to flights of exaltation than others. However, it seems to me that everyone is privy to this basic element of our human construction, the ability to feel deeply and personally connected to the world we live in. It saddens me that our culture so often denies us the right to understand how our minds work, how our hearts work, how our sense of spirit works. I am, more and more, beginning to feel that some very basic human rights have been violated for a long, long time.

    Thanks so much for leaving such a thoughtful and storied comment. There has been some amazing dialogue on this subject going around. People are having some very intelligent talks about the dynamics of function and idea that exist between psychosis, neurology, and spirituality.

    Accidental inquiry into grace and sentient understanding were driving forces in my last long period of…um, experiencing my humanity. 🙂 It’s interesting that I didn’t really even scratch the surface of that aspect in this narrative. Yet, you seemed to recognize the connection.

    You’re not Illuminati, are you? Hahaha, just kidding. Really.

    Have a great night and keep living the truth: The World Is A Beautiful Place.

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  8. Faith, your words moved me to tears today.

    I often feel as though I dodged a bullet in my early 20’s. I had started down the path of uber-medicated depression and anxiety since turning 17. Given my family of origin it’s a miracle I somehow gutted my way out of SSRI withdrawal on my own and refused to ever speak to another psychiatric ‘professional’ who wanted to prescribe me further medication during future difficult episodes.

    I’m a woman of 43 who “still” cries far too much. I’ve slowly come to terms with that. It is who I am, and I’m not ashamed that I’m easily moved to deep emotion. I have experienced a lot of depression and anxiety in my adult life, and wondered how alone I am in being unmedicated during the majority of it. However, for over 15+ years I wouldn’t have it any other way particularly knowing the horrors members of my family subject themselves to, who have been dependent upon SSRIs, benzos, and most lately atypical antipsychotics. My dad is currently on a cocktail of an SSRI, anti-seizure med and an atypical antipsychotic. He is as flat, miserable and despondent (yet depressingly accepting of his ‘fate’) as I’ve ever seen him since he first started taking antidepressants for situational depression in his 30’s.

    I wish you well in your journey. We are all human beings who deserve dignity. In figuring out how we’ll respond to the traumas and cognitive dissonance, we have so far been far too willing to submit to authoritarianism that says “Your coping methods are wrong. Furthermore, they are inconvenient, socially embarrassing, and confusing to us. Take these pills instead, no matter how much irreparable harm they may do you.”

    Once again, I feel extraordinarily lucky. I don’t look back on the past 15+ years as a cake walk, but I am so relieved that I chose to kick the psychiatric medications to the curb and gut it out, relying upon a small cadre of close family members who were (brave), patient and willing enough to let me flail around in their presence, figuring myself out but never failing to tell me they were willing to listen to my side of things, no matter how alarming or nuts.

    Won’t it be nice if in a few decades our descendants look back on all this madness and say, “They were so misguided. Thank God we live in the age we do when being human, in all its variation, isn’t an illness to be medicated but a condition to be nurtured in order that all talents and contributions can be both maximized and celebrated?”

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  9. “Won’t it be nice if in a few decades our descendants look back on all this madness and say, “They were so misguided. Thank God we live in the age we do when being human, in all its variation, isn’t an illness to be medicated but a condition to be nurtured in order that all talents and contributions can be both maximized and celebrated?”

    I believe that this time of sharing stories and science will, inevitably, lead us to new understandings about the human condition. Thank Goodness!

    Reading of your father’s dulled eyes was painful to me, as I could picture the state quite clearly. I see it all the time, people who feel they’ve no option other than to blunt themselves with prescribed medication. I do believe that medication can be a valuable tool. However, it is so very clear to me that, often, people are over-medicated to the extent that their basic quality of life is significantly impaired in ways that may be equitable or perhaps even more distressing that the effects of disorder.

    It is for this reason that practices such as WRAP (see Dr. Mary Ellen Copeland’s blog on this site) are so vital. When proactive, rather than passive, alternatives are offered, people tend to become empowered toward self-directed participation in life. That process in and of itself seems to nurture vitality and resilience.

    People find hope again and the light comes back to their eyes. True recovery is a beautiful transformation to witness and I am thankful everyday that I get to share in so many people’s journeys.

    I wish that the opportunity to explore different approaches to Wellness were available to everyone seeking relief from the challenges they may face in navigating their human experience. There is no sensible reason in this world why accessible, affordable (WRAP is FREE!) responses to disorder are not more widely available.

    (Please see, under events at the bottom of this site’s homepage, Occupy the APA, as it certainly brings about much to consider about how we approach care and what that care may involve.)

    I so appreciate you responding and sharing with me that you felt something. Thank you for reflecting on your own story and the stories of people you care for.

    I am a Peer who is strongly oriented toward mutual aid and sharing skills and ideas. I used to cry all the time, too.

    That being said, please feel free to reach out at any time. My email address is [email protected]

    Mad Love, Faith

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  10. I’m not quite sure what to say. Your story/experience spoke deeply to me. I’m currently experiencing real conflict concerning my hopes of recovery. I have read some of the information on this site regarding the harmful effects of medications, and feel like I’m doomed. I have wondered at different times over the past 20+ years about long term effects of medications I’ve been on, but I’ve been lulled into accepting the “doctor knows best” line of thinking.

    I have been on medication for at least 20 years, had many suicide attempts and several hospitalizations. I feel I’m a shadow of who I once was, however I think I’ve held onto some of the awareness you spoke of. It is that awareness that seems to push me to want to cope better.

    I now feel the chemical balance in my brain may be forever altered and fear I might actually go mad if I were to try weaning off of them. I actually recently wondered if the chemotherapy I had as a child may have altered my brain development at a critical age.

    As you can see, I’m quite conflicted. I can’t express what a profound impact your story has had on me. Such truthful expression is so refreshing and gives me some solace.

    Thank you.

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    • Kim

      As a recovered mental patient (depressed, suicidal and psychotic at 17 y/o) I can say that the issue is not one of getting off of medication, but getting better. I happen to ba completely off of medication and have been for 30 years. As a therapist, I work with people who have had these experiences and in most cases if they take it very slow, building confidence in each reductionsd they achieve, they can be on far less meds, if not completely off. The point is, improving, even if still on meds.

      My good friend Pat, who’s been on SSRIs for 20 years, undergone hospitalization and shock therapy, has been off of meds for 6 months with the reluctant support of his psychiatrist. He attributes if to walking. He walks 4 to 5 miles a day 5 to 6 days a week. Recently, he told me he had a particularly “dark” day so he walked 11 miles. He said “my feet were to sore and I was to tired to be depressed — went to bed and woke up feeling better.”

      Having gone through it, I know it’s scary to reduce/go off meds. Pray, ask God for mercy and help, find a doctor who is willing to work with you , a community to support you (mine was a good church) and go for it. Also, remember that recent research of the brain says we keep on growing new cells even into our 70’s. The brain has a wonderful God-given capacity for recovery.

      God Bless you in your fight,

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  11. Solace? I gave you solace? You telling me that is a gift and reinforces so much of what is best in my heart. Thank you. As for your fears and falterings in hope, it can be terrifying to think “What if I can never find equilibrium? What if I’m doomed to disorder for the rest of my life?” I think I am starting to realize that all humans are fairly bungled in the brain, but that none of us are doomed unless we believe that to be so. I don’t consider recovery to be med-free or symptom free, I consider it to be the unique state of loving your life for whatever it may entail and a steadfastness in making the conscious choice between hope and fear in a way that works for you. The neuro/cognitive/emotional frameworks that support fear, anxiety, and despair can be very entrenched in people whose stories have been shaped by the unfortunate and traumatizing things that have happened in their lives. We can become quite caught in a stress-bound state of pervasive distress that would leave any reasonable individual feeling a bit hopeless. Whenever the conditions in my brain align in such a way to prompt me toward misery or miscellaneous awfulness, I remind myself that it is a temporary state and that there are things I am able to do to bring my experience back toward better-for-me.

    If you are really interested in seeing what your brain might be like without medications, seek guidance from a conscientious provider and do as much homework as you possibly can. There are some great resources for coming off of psychiatric medications. Here is one example: Just like I don’t like to see people coerced into taking medication, I also don’t like to see narrow radical recovery paradigms coerce people into coming off medication. I think everyone has a right to know how their brains work, what their baseline is, and I believe that it is infinitely possible for people to develop a highly individualized strategy for effectively and triumphantly living with our brains and our hearts and our pasts and our futures. For some people, this involves medication as a tool to address specific points of disorder that may currently challenge wellness self-management skills. For others, they find – often through trial and error – other ways to effectively manage their experience.

    I’m glad you found a bit of solace. One of the things I am most grateful for in thinking about my experience with disorder is that I am privy to the gratitude that comes about when we begin to realize that small things save us immeasurably. Thanks for sharing part of your story with me.

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  12. I love that your name is Faith. Seems perfect!

    “Just like I don’t like to see people coerced into taking medication, I also don’t like to see narrow radical recovery paradigms coerce people into coming off medication. ”


    Tripping upon this site has been pivotal for me. Reading for instance, Laura Delano’s story, I feel a deep connection to the despair she felt as being labeled “abnormal” and I am buoyed by her subsequent recovery. But I am so relieved by your post!! I have been undergoing a much more subtle paradigm shift with regard to psychiatry and my relation to it ( depression on/off since early twenties, ADD diagnosis at thirty), because frankly, I don’t think it’s all bad. I haven’t haven’t had traumatic hospitalizations or negative experiences with therapists, which I’m sure if part of it. I have found great solace in talk therapy, though I am definitely feeling stalled with that now. What I find divisive and isolating, even within part of what I have read at this site, is the fact that people seem to hang at one poll or the other–drink the medication koolaid or don’t drink that shit it’s poison!!–as if it has to be one or the other. As if it could be. In my experience, being human is just far too complicated for anything that easy. I have to avoid my desire to nail things down to words that can’t move or change in order to feel safe.

    I can honestly look at my life and know that I have relied far too long on the “expert” opinion of who I am mattering more than the one I have for myself. I have taken too many pills for too long and thought that was going to do the work for me. I am now in a place where I am wondering if the medicine that was once helpful has become part of the problem. I don’t feel good. I am currently attempting to wean off klonopin, and if this buzzing in my head is any indication, it’s not going to be the easiest pill NOT to swallow. So reliance on medication and ignoring intuition is not the most fabulous treatment plan. On the other hand, had I not been under the care of a psychiatrist after my daughter was first born two years ago, and given medication to alleviate the hell I was experiencing, I wouldn’t be alive right now, end of story. The almost drowning tidal wave of feelings labeled “PPD” was also miraculous, because for the first time since my twenties (when these feelings, to a much lesser and more subtle extent, took hold) I was able to see my symptoms not as personal weakness but as at least in part, as a response to a hell of a lot of progesterone and the enormity of a new little person to mother. Taking that medicine was saying yes to my life and saying yes to my daughter and my family. But it’s not that simple sitting here two years later, on a combination of Prozac, Wellbutrin, Adderall, and Klonopin, knowing that what might have worked doesn’t seem to anymore, and understanding that my response to that is crucial.

    I am looking for a way to be kind to myself. That seems, at a gut level, to address so much of what I am striving for. What I object to is the soul crushing idea that I have to hide who I really feel I am, my sensitivities, my SELF, to fit into the day to day–whether my self is someone who takes pills or not. Not denying myself has so many implications not just for me, but for my family. But sometimes words just aren’t enough. So we reach for these labels in an effort to communicate and we end up pigeonholing ourselves, accepting the social handcuffs of believing we are a diagnosis. Where is the middle ground?? Where is balance?? Why is that so ridiculously hard to find?? I am at a crossroads, to steal from Robert Frost. Only there are way more than two directions to go, and I’m feeling paralyzed. Your post gave me something to think about, for which I am profoundly grateful.

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  13. “Not denying myself has so many implications not just for me, but for my family.”

    Well, as I read through your post, I was highlighting and copying almost every other sentence. I value your appreciation of the “people have to decide for themselves what works for them” approach to managing wellness and thank you for providing a great model of reflective consideration of your personal pros/cons relationship with meds.

    Good luck transitioning off klonopin. I remember the first few days of thinking about life with no benzodiazepams. I’ve since realized that, without medication, my anxiety levels dropped way down, and I was, after some time, less generally anxious than I had been on the medication – though this may also be attributed to factors relating to general stress levels.

    If you experience anxiety within the withdrawal process, there are a lot of non-pharmaceutical self soothing skills to ease you through it. You probably already knows what works for you, but a quick google search on non-pharmaceutical anxiety reduction will yield vast resources.

    Self care, for all mothers, is a huge balancing act and high-five for recognizing that you and your family deserve your best and most true self.

    I actually feel like my kids have learned a lot in their experience with a mother of dynamic function (that’s my new euphemism for being all over the place sometimes). They have an enormous amount of compassion, empathy, and tolerance for a wide range of human experiences. Also, they have gotten to learn a lot about things like how to calm yourself down, being mindful of triggers, and how to effectively stand up for yourself.

    Great acknowledgement of the link between hormones and the experience of distress – or, conversely,deep contentment, as with oxytocin. Learning how our unique physiology interacts with our minds and hearts is such an important tool in recovery.

    Thanks for the good dialogue. It is absolutely invaluable that people share their process of considering wellness and what works best for them. In so many ways, we have become so accustomed to being told what will be best for us that it can be difficult at times for us to grapple with the process of informed decision making.

    Have a great night and take care.

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  14. You know, it’s interesting to look back on this writing and reflect on everything that has happened since May.

    Not too long before I got in touch with Laura, I wasn’t really sure if I could manage to get my thoughts organized enough for a coherent essay. I was able to write if inspired, but the boundaries of topic and my ability to maintain emotional distance from whatever I was writing about were really compromised.

    Even a year+ after my last psychiatric trauma, my mind was still in shambles in a lot of ways. Thank goodness Laura didn’t find the non-linear, mosaic form of this little writing too confusing or distasteful.

    Making this declaration here was a powerful step for me and through this writing, I made many friends and found some very important mentors.

    I went to Philadelphia on May 5th and met many amazing people, spent the summmer working and writing and processing my way through some long standing emotional wreckage that was cluttering up my heart.

    Last weekend, I was up in NYC, attending another rally and meeting people who have become friends and allies. I was worried that I’d get anxious or scattered, that maybe the noise and schedule would fray me or make me panic. It didn’t. I was absolutely fine. Better than fine, actually. I had fun.

    This January, I’m going back to graduate school, studying psychology and social transformation at Saybrook. I’ve been doing a lot of organizing in different ways and I’m increasingly really interested in building coalitions and supporting networks of alternative resources, a culture of mutual aid.

    In the meantime, I have re-thought a lot of the language I use. Even the word “recovery” is a little complicated. I use it in the sense of retrieving something that was lost. In my case, I do not think of recovery as regaining acceptable normalcy or getting to a point at which my brain works in some new, uncomplicated manner. Rather, to me, recovery means learning how to be myself again.

    I’ve been very pleased to see some of the lawsuits and shifts in dialogue. I can’t imagine that the medical model will be able to maintain viable integrity for too much longer, in spite of the systemic structures that support medical model practice and protocol.

    The marketing of mental illness has gotten very stealthy, however. I’ve noticed that now the industry is using de-stigmatization as a tool to encourage more people to feel comfortable getting diagnosed with and “treated” for a mental illness.

    That being said, onward…

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  15. This is such great writing. Thanks for taking the time to gather your amazing thoughts. I can’t get this particular one out of my head:

    “They say that Mind is our perspective. I saw myself as I saw them seeing me and they saw me as I saw myself.”

    Self-esteem (seems like in inadequate word) or self-perception is such a confusing hall of mirrors. And so disturbing.

    The dime store psychologists chirp at us “Nobody can love you until you love yourself” or “Others see you how you see yourself” (installing the fear you better see yourself in a positive light or no one else will”)

    …but it’s not so simple is it? It’s not that black and white. It’s all more permeable than that.

    I couldn’t love myself until someone else did b/c I’d never seen love modeled before. It was such a touching experience that I wanted to give that gift back.

    It somehow reminds me that whole heartbreaking wire monkey mother experiment. The baby monkeys who never received nurturing see others as a threat and lash out at other monkeys who try to come into contact with them.

    I’m still so confused by it all, and how my lack of confidence has effected my life and how others perceive me, my status in the pack. It can feel really enraging.

    But I so appreciate you putting words to it, and not making it simple, giving it the complexity and the nuance it deserves.

    Thanks again.

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  16. This morning, I was searching the phrase “narrative recovery” and Google threw my own words back at me.


    I appreciate the real world, all the different ways people make sense of who they are and what is happening to them within their lives.

    I think most people pay attention to what is going on around them.

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