When I first read Anatomy of an Epidemic in 2010, something inside of me ignited. I had no idea that such a sensation was possible to experience, let alone for someone like me, who hadn’t felt alive in a long, long time; who hadn’t felt hope in years; who hadn’t felt human, like everyone else around her, since becoming “bipolar” a decade earlier and conceding that I needed to take psychiatric drugs, likely for the rest of my life, at my doctor’s request.
In an instant, my eyes saw the world, and more importantly, my place in it, through a profoundly different lens. My thoughts were suddenly centered around a feeling that was foreign, yet vaguely familiar, as though I might have felt it once, as a child, or in a dream— the drive to take action. I was suddenly investigating, challenging, and questioning the way I’d come to think about my Self, connecting to a sense of purpose and determination that came from a place deep within me. Years of stagnancy were gone in the snap of a finger, and I was moving forward— to where, I did not know— and coming into a new awareness of myself that was the beginning of what I see today as my full recovery from psychiatry— from psychiatric labels, psychiatric drugs, and psychiatric “treatment”. It was powerful, beautiful, scary, and the turning point of my life.
I’m sure that many of you out there can relate to this, upon having read Anatomy. The words I write here just don’t do justice to the experience, which I see as nothing less than a rebirth, an awakening, and an enlightenment. I was left champing at the bit, energized and rejuvenated, and I wanted change, both within myself and in the way I related to the world around me. At the same time I experienced these beautiful shifts, however, I was riddled with fear— fear of the unknown, of the future, of my emotions, of a life without psychiatric drugs, and of just who I’d end up being once I got off of them. Can anyone identify with this, whether as a part of your past or as something you feel today?
For the last several months, I have been fleshing out a vision of a communal space here at madinamerica.com for people asking the same questions that I’ve been asking since discovering Anatomy: Now what? What can we do to take action? Now that we understand the message of Anatomy, which clearly shows that the current system of drug-based “care” isn’t working, and that its long-term “treatment” is, in fact, making us “sicker”, how do we do something about it?
I asked Bob Whitaker if I could create a new space at madinamerica.com for investigating this subject, and he said yes, as long as it was understood by readers that Mad in America, Inc. was simply providing a home for such discussion, rather than advocating for any particular change. As a first step, I have created a forum, called ‘Beyond Anatomy’, which I see as a space for dialogue, discussion, and organization around the question of how to take action, whether that means in your own life, in your local community, or in society at large. Eventually, I envision ‘Beyond Anatomy’ to evolve into something much bigger, but by getting it started in the forum space, we can build a foundation and make a start. Topics in the ‘Beyond Anatomy’ forum include:
- How do we help our broader communities and society at large understand this issue as one of human rights and civil rights?
- How do we effectively spread the message of Anatomy of an Epidemic, as well as the greater message that the current biomedical paradigm of understanding intense emotional experiences is false, to communities beyond this one?
- How do we effectively provide support in an inexpensive, accessible way for people who have decided to come off of psychiatric drugs, and what does that support look like?
- How can we learn from past civil rights movements to see what will make ours successful?
I truly believe that reading Anatomy not only saved my life, but also set me on a path towards becoming the person I was always meant to be but had been blocked from by the diagnoses I was given and the “treatment” I received for nearly half my life. In accidentally discovering it in a Vermont bookstore in 2010, I unknowingly began my journey towards the freedom I have today from believing I had a “mental illness”— from the hopelessness, the social marginalization, and the isolation that came with believing I was abnormal and different than everyone around me. Today, I feel a deep drive to make change happen so that others can find their own paths to freedom, and I am hoping that ‘Beyond Anatomy’ will bring together others who feel the same calling.
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.