Robert Whitaker’s Lecture at NAMI – A Parent’s Perspective

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Robert Whitaker spoke to a full house at the NAMI Conference in San Antonio last month.  For many his message was a hard one to hear.  I was among them, a parent, whose son, Max, sat beside me.  He’s been on and off antipsychotics for more than ten years to treat the psychosis that comes with his bipolar episodes.  Whitaker was telling us that might have been a mistake.  His review of various research studies indicates that a significant percentage of those with schizophrenia who did not receive antipsychotics or took them for a very limited time had better long- term outcomes than those who took them on an ongoing basis.

We all know that for years antipsychotics have been prescribed by doctors as the medications of choice and that most of those with schizophrenia have been told they’d need to stay on them forever.  The research seemed to back that up.  Yet Whitaker’s review found that those studies were flawed.  Worse, he cites evidence that using antipsychotics long-term makes one more vulnerable to future psychosis.  It’s called “oppositional tolerance.”  While antipsychotics initially block the uptake of dopamine (the brain chemical believed to trigger psychosis), our brains eventually find ways to adjust, building new receptors and becoming even more sensitive to dopamine.  So what did I hear?  I heard that the medicine that was supposed to make those with psychosis better was making them worse.  Long-term use of antipsychotics wasn’t just ineffective, it was dangerous.

I wanted to believe Whitaker wrong and looked for flaws in every statement.   After all, my son and I had been told for years that antipsychotics were crucial to his recovery.  I’m pretty sure every parent, family member, and person with mental illness in the room was as upset and amazed as I and as resistant to Whitaker’s findings.  I’m not going to rehash those here.  You can find them on the NAMI site.

As a parent, I have many questions:

  • Does Whitaker’s review of the research tell the full story?  Are there gaps?  Is there contradictory evidence?
  • Does it apply to illnesses other than schizophrenia?
  • What particular antipsychotics were included in the studies?  Is it necessarily true that all have the same outcomes?
  • If there have in fact been brain changes as a result of the medication, can they be reversed?
  • If his findings are correct, then what do we do about it?
  • And how on earth do we treat people who are psychotic if not with antipsychotics?

But in the end, I found his research compelling.  Even more so when I heard several times during the conference that Finland, which adopted selective-use of antipsychotics in 1992, has the best-documented long-term results in the western world.

Whitaker’s findings, if true, would require a new paradigm of treatment, one that might require that someone who is psychotic be given “asylum,” or “refuge,” a place to rest and recover with limited or no antipsychotics, using other effective treatments that include more than just medication.  That seems impossible in our country, where the mental health care system is practically non-existent; where people are hospitalized for 3-5 days and released with a handful of prescriptions and a bag of samples; where insurance companies dictate release, arguing that recovery can take place outside of the hospital; and where too many psychiatric units are just holding tanks where little good treatment occurs and where patients are sometimes abused.  If Whitaker’s findings prove true, it will take decades to address them and it will take money.  How can that happen in a country where we don’t provide even minimal care and where funding continues to be cut?

By the time Whitaker concluded his talk, the room was heavy with anger, despair, and fear.   Some people were angry at Whitaker for presenting studies that could prove inaccurate or incomplete and yet could have such an impact on so many.  They were angry at psychiatrists and big pharma for promoting medication that could be harmful.  Most difficult for those with mental illness and their families, me included, was the fear that the medicine they had relied on was damaging and that they had put their trust in the wrong hands.

My son, who as you’ll remember was sitting right beside me during Whitaker’s talk, is angry, very angry about what he heard; angry at doctors and  hospitals who have prescribed and sometimes forced mediation on him, and the pharmaceutical industry that reaps tremendous financial benefit.   I’m scared that he will decide to quit taking his antipsychotic, and yet confused about whether he should.  He’s been stable, healthy, and happy for several years.  What will happen if he stops?  Will he fall back into the pit of mania and psychosis, end up on the streets as has happened so many times before?   Can he find better ways to stay healthy and continue his journey to fuller recovery?

Since that lecture,  my son and I have joined the conversations about the use of medication that are taking place on blogs and websites all over the web, including this one — Mad in America.  We’ve found reasonable responses from reasonable people as well as the inevitable extremes from both ends of the spectrum.   I’ve realized I’d been lazy, taking the word of doctors and other professionals and believing what has been general consensus, instead of doing the hard work of educating myself, knowing full well that when we educate ourselves we can make informed choices and take control.

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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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Kathy Brandt
Kathy Brandt is a vocal advocate for mental health and writes a blog about the issues on her website: www.KathyBrandtAuthor.com. That advocacy and her son’s willingness to speak about his illness resulted in a memoir that she and Max published, Walks on the Margins: A Story of Bipolar Illness (April, 2013).  It’s their honest yet painful story of their battle not only with illness but with a dysfunctional mental health care “system.” Kathy has served on the board of NAMI-Colorado Springs, most recently as president.

122 COMMENTS

  1. Kathy,

    All this is good but, I am curious about what your next steps with respect to NAMI are going to be.

    As already mentioned in the other post by Claire Weber, NAMI publicly advocates for making it easier, not more difficult, to force psychiatric medications onto people, against their will if necessary. I see an intrinsic contradiction between Whitaker’s message, to which you seem sympathetic, and the policies that NAMI publicly advocates. There is no way around this.

    We could spend the rest of our lives talking, and dreaming of Kumbaya moments between survivors and NAMI but in the meanwhile, peoples’ health deteriorates because of NAMI’s current position with respect to the use of psychiatric drugs and peoples’ human rights are being abused in those states that have adopted NAMI’s policy prescriptions.

    If NAMI wants to be part of the solution, it will have to change, dramatically. Otherwise, I am afraid we are witnessing NAMI doing to Mad In America what Olga Runciman so eloquently described in his post “Colonization or Postpsychiatry?” about the attempts by mainstream psychiatry to infiltrate the Hearing Voices Movement https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/05/29260/ .

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    • I applaud NAMI for asking Whitaker to speak, and I think that it shows willingness to give voice to the issues. I understand the concern about NAMI’s stand on issues, but I know a different NAMI. I’ve been volunteering for ten year at the NAMI in Colorado Springs, which was founded in 1983 by parents who were looking for support and help for their kids. Parents founded the national organization a few years earlier. When I walk into my local NAMI office, I find people just like me and my son. We offer peer and family support groups and classes, a help line, and the support that can be hard if not impossible to find elsewhere. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I know NAMI up close and personal. I don’t think of her as a giant trying to force its will on others.

      I’ve met the people on the national board, who are reasonable and responsible people, some parents like me. Last year, Keris Jan Myrick, who has a mental illness herself, was elected by the board as president of the NAMI. She has been successfully living with her illness for many years in her own way and has been a blogger on Mad in America. I believe her election was a turning point for NAMI and shows an understanding that the organization needs to reevaluate its stance on some of the issues and begin to ask the hard questions. I sometimes think that NAMI has been a lot like me, who has believed that medication was critical for my son’s recovery.

      And as I’ve said in my article, I’m still not sure they aren’t. I don’t know what the truth is about antipsychotics or what their best use is or if there is any good use. I want to find the answers. I want to have open, honest, and ethical discussions, free of politics, recriminations, or fear. I want NAMI to support further research. I expect this to happen. I admire all of you who have joined the conversation, and all who are looking more closely at the research and outcomes, and yes I admire NAMI for bringing the issue of antipsychotics to its members when they asked Whitaker to speak. I know it will take time. We have so little understanding of the brain or how to best address mental illness. And most of us don’t have that time. For now we need to make the best choices we can for ourselves and take charge of our treatment. That’s what my son and I are trying to do. And boy it’s hard when there’s so much contradictory information out there and when the stakes are so high.

      Kathy

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      • Kathy,

        While I do not have any reason to doubt of your personal experience, the fact remains that to this very moment, NAMI US wide promotes polices to have as many people as possible, by force if necessary, on psychiatric drugs. That’s what the advocacy page of NAMI says. That page, in the same vein, explicitly calls for an easing of the standard for both civil commitment and forced drugging in all 50 states, even calling for the removal of judicial review in the process by euphemistically empathizing that judges should not make “medical” decisions.

        Since you gave your own personal experience with NAMI, I will give you mine. The local NAMI chapter scared my wife so much about the potential effects of me stopping the drugs that she left me shortly after I stopped them.

        If NAMI wants to be part of the solution it has to renounce to 90% of the policy proposals it officially endorses now. Until that happens, the only thing I want to hear from NAMI is that it has been shutdown. NAMI has ruined more lives than we can count, including my own.

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        • I can only say that in my community, NAMI has helped hundreds, especially family members who don’t understand what is happening to the person they love and who often blame themselves or their loved one.

          I hope we can agree to disagree. When we listen to one another, we learn. Honestly, all I care about at this point in time is my son and I learning enough to make the right decisions.

          All the best,

          Kathy

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          • Kathy,

            I agree that we definitely need to listen to one another. But as one who fortunately was never forcibly committed, I am not sure you are hearing the concerns about NAMI favoring forced drugging. Many people who have had that experience equate it to a chemical rape.

            And even if you are in my situation, the fear of this happening is terrifying because my psychiatric history may be easily accessible by electronic medical records even though I no longer share it with doctors. All it would take would be a misunderstanding which would put me in that situation.

            I definitely understand why people would not want to wholeheartedly embrace anyone connected with NAMI as long as the organization continued to condone forced drugging. No, it isn’t fair but it is totally understandable and should be respected.

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          • Sure, we can agree to disagree. In fact, that has been my point all along. Most people I know in the survivor movement don’t see the point in working with an organization that actively promotes these policies http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=NAMI_Policy_Platform&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=38253 .

            While some self identified survivors might be fine with it, it is not the case of the survivors I have a closer relationship with. This latter subset of survivors is primarily concerned about stopping human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of psychiatry. NAMI is the most vocal organization, outside the APA, promoting those very abuses.

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      • “ We have so little understanding of the brain or how to best address mental illness. And most of us don’t have that time.  ”
        Healing homes of Finland has an 80% recovery rate. I really don’t see those statistics anywhere else. That’s how much we know how to best address mental illness, and yet their method (which is cheaper also than medications) is mostly not implemented, and mostly not allowed. A person in their first psychotic episode, would they be introduced to medical intervention would almost always be forced on medications. NAMI being one of the main organizations which promotes drugging, and as stated by cannotsay2013 wants to make it easier for people to be forced on medications, although this correlates statistically with more mental illness. That’s also something we know about what’s the best way to treat mental illness.

        We also know enough about psychiatric medications that trying to get off of medications can cause psychiatric symptoms in itself. This doesn’t come from any disease, unless you want to look at the imbalance the psychiatric medications themselves cause. And the medications haven’t really been proven to address a chemical imbalance found in a biological disease, but cause chemical imbalance. The same as street drugs. The medications also correlate with more disability and a shorter lifespan, in regards neuroleptics a reduction of 20 to 25 years.
        What the medications do is suppress symptoms of mental illness, they suppress normal brain functions. They alter the normal workings of neurotransmitters (same as street drugs do). For a person to understand their initial symptoms, this often involves being given the right to express dissent against an environment that isn’t tending to their emotional needs, that isn’t listening or acknowledging them. That isn’t allowing them to think or respond. Just suppressing these thoughts, these “symptoms” by disabling the workings of the brain doesn’t allow this, and also statistically doesn’t correlate with recovery, rather with more mental illness. This also colors the expression of dissent from what could be an oppressive environment as something to be suppressed; and it suppresses the understanding of such emotional expression, although this understanding is much simpler than telling a person they have a biological illness there is no real proof of, and calling that a true illness. There’s a difference between the relapse of a yet to be proven biological disease, and withdrawal symptoms from psychiatric medications. And yet these withdrawal symptoms are so often labeled as a relapses, as a symptom of a biological illness, when the only conclusive truly scientific evidence points out that they are a chemical imbalance caused by psychiatric medications.
        Not having the time to look at what you’re getting into beforehand can cause you to have to worry about what the generic treatment itself is doing , although it’s blamed on the disease. The treatment here scientifically correlates with what the disease is said to be, and that’s a chemical imbalance; while what’s called the disease hasn’t been proven to correlate with it. I don’t believe Nami told you this before you got involved with psychiatric medications. Why not? That much understanding of how the brain works has been known the whole time, and easily accessible to anyone, without taking up too much of their time.

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      • Kathy,

        I enjoy your thinking process. I have been an active NAMI member in my state and county for 17 years. My saga is long, complicated, and very similar to the folks who have contributed. My son and I were also in the room in San Antonio when Robert Whitaker spoke. Big difference seems to be, we had both read “Mad in America” and “Anatomy of an Epidemic” prior to our departure from Chicago. I strongly suggest other bloggers read them. I know I personally felt very betrayed knowing what I know now regarding psychiatry and big Pharma. My son is very unhappy with losing so many years of his life to the medication induced cognitive decline he lives with on a daily basis. He
        further wishes he had been leveled with regarding the consequences of quick unsupervised drug withdrawal by his doctor or any of the other ER docs across the country who met him rather unexpectedly in their facilities. Since my son is an acupuncturist, he is drawn to Chinese medicine including Herbal remedies. He takes Zyprexa faithfully knowing a severe relapse will await him if he chooses to stop. His question is, why was he never warned of the psychotic rebound that results? We know now it is not the illness returning, but rather withdrawal itself that is so harmful. He says he would never have stopped his meds if he had known that fact.

        Alternative treatments seem totally missing in this discussion. I would like to suggest it is necessary to look under all the rocks and beat every bush if need be. My son has my support because we are well grounded in our approach to recovery. Doctors do not have all the answers and NAMI does not either. I am glad there will now be an open dialogue because it is clearly needed. No more secrets please! If you all read the books you will be mad at drug companies and some psychiatrists who pass on the lies to line their pockets by keeping secrets. Secretes that often shorten lives by 15 to 25 years. I’m not sure that point is in everyone’s mind either.

        I sincerely hurt inside for all the pain in so many lives. Fear is a horrible bedfellow when missing a child. I have been there 12 times myself. I pray for a better day and comfort that NAMI does know how to give. My Best!

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        • JKA1970, thank you much for your comments and in particular making the distinction that a sudden stoppage of meds causes withdrawal symptoms that look like a relapse but isn’t. I am extremely frustrated and saddened that so many professionals and NAMI members continue to unfortunately to mix these principles up which leads people to falsely assume that they may be stuck on meds for life.

          If your son is interested getting off his meds in a safe manner, he might want to visit http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/index. Don’t let the name fool you as there have been folks who have been able get off of antipsychotics by doing a very slow taper or who are in the process of doing one.

          Many people find they have to taper the dose at 2.5 to 5% of current dose every 4-6 weeks to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Yes, that is very slow but better that it take awhile vs. causing withdrawal symptoms that would risk putting someone’s life in danger.

          Unfortunately, doctors have the attitude that psych meds are for life and it never occurs to them to warn people about cold turkeying meds. Heck, I was on measly old antidepressants and a stimulant and that is the message I received. It is sickening as heck.

          Your son is very lucky to have you as a mother. Much continued success to both of you.

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  2. Kathy, thank you very much for this: for being open to hearing Whitaker’s message, for recognizing that it is the lazy way to rely on the word of doctors and pharmaceutical companies who don’t really know as much as they like to think they know about mental illness and the effects of their vaunted treatments. I know it is not easy dealing with someone with mental illness and I can tell you love your son very much and want the best for him, and it is tempting to accept what you are told by people who seem reasonable, intelligent, educated and in control of their relationship with reality more so than Max has seemed to be sometimes. So to realize and accept that, as confused and confusing as what patient-loved ones say about the effects of medication and why they may not want to stay on it is difficult and frightening. Please be reassured that even though the madness, I am convinced that patients know things about their illness that no doctor, no one outside of their skin, can know, and that knowledge must be listened to with more respect than has been common. (*through* the madness, that should say). I believe that some apparently bipolar symptoms can be and have been caused or exacerbated by some of the medication that has been popularly prescribed due to the iatrogenic metabolic dis regulation they can cause, which has been ignored as an unfortunate side effect by many professionals (some of the “mood stabilizing” drugs end up causing wild and rapid-cycling mood swings, in my observation and experience, as well as the brain changes caused by antipsychotics). In addition, bipolar disorder has been the trendy diagnosis for a wastebasket of various troubles, as schizophrenia was in prior generations. If Max (or anyone else) thinks they might want to taper off meds, I urge them to contactoneof the professionals who are open to working with that. Doing it suddenly and without professional support can be an extremely bumpy ride likely to lead to rehopitalizations and/or run-ins with the law. But if he is a good candidate for it and has proper support, it may be the best thing that ever happened to him, mentally.
    Again, thnk you for your caring, your involvement, your advocacy, nd your openness. The mental health community needs friends like you, and your involvement bodes well for your son’s future.

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    • Thanks for your wonderful comments and for your support too. I know you’re right to say that those with mental illness know a lot about their illnesses that doctors and others don’t. Certainly about how they feel on medication. I learned a lot about how my son feels about his illness as we wrote our book together, how he valued some of his experiences, how he wouldn’t have given them up, how in some ways the illness has enriched him. But of course, I don’t want him to go through another episode ever again and I tell him he’s had enough experiences for a lifetime! I think he agrees! He will be talking with his doctor about his medication and hopefully will work closely with her on any changes.

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      • Hi Kathy,

        Welcome!

        If your son decides to taper off of his medication, I would caution you all that in my opinion, many doctors taper their patients way too quickly. As a result, withdrawal symptoms results that are falsely pegged as a relapse but aren’t.

        You might want to visit http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/index. Don’t let the name discourage you as there are many posts about tapering off of antipsychotics. I would pay particular attention to posts by edted who has posted in these forums. His son had had alot of difficulties previously in getting off of the meds but seems to be doing alot better this time thanks to a very slow taper.

        Obviously, your mileage will vary and many people can get away with a quicker taper. But in my opinion, to be on the safe side, you should error on the side of going more slowly, particularly with powerful meds like antipsychotics.

        Best wishes.

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  3. Kathy,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response to Bob Whitaker’s presentation. Your questions are good ones. Can I suggest some possible resources that may help you sort things out?

    I think it’s Jaakko Seikkula (sp?)who developed Open Dialogue and wrote a good journal article about its outcomes, plus a book that gives the flavor of how Open Dialogue offers community support to those suffering with first episode psychosis, and to their families. It can seem meandering, but I think its pace and gentleness helps the reader experience a bit of Open Dialogue, as opposed to just describing it. I got the book on Amazon – entering his name should turn it up.

    Grace Jackson is an extremely smart and compassionate psychiatrist who can approach the drug issue from a scientific point of view. Her best known book is Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs.

    Joanna Moncreiff is a British psychiatrist who I think presents a detailed and persuasive evaluation of how psychiatric drugs do – and don’t – work.

    Check Amazon for Paris Williams, PhD – a clinical psychologist who himself has recovered from extreme emotional states. His book takes a close look at how those with “psychosis” recovered after years in the conventional psychiatric system by getting off drugs and finding other means of support. It is a very human and hopeful book.

    There are many others whose writing might help. Peter Breggin recently came out with a detailed book on how to withdraw from psychiatric drugs. Almost everyone who tries it goes way too fast and without enough support. David Healy’s book Pharmageddon is a scathing indictment of the evidence base of the current medical profession (including psychiatry). As harsh as it is, he is someone who speaks with authority – former secretary of the British Psychopharmalogical Society and author of the most comprehensive book on the history of psychopharmacology.

    And there is a LOT of important information out there from “survivors” who have so much to say that needs to be heard. There are so many compassionate and intelligent people among them who are willing to share their own experiences. Try this web site, as well as Mind Freedom International and ISEPP.

    A lot of people are thinking and working in this area, and there is so much reason for hope for your son. I wish him and you all the best in making up your own minds about what is right for both of you.

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    • Kathy,

      One more excellent book: The Emperor’s New Drugs, by Irving Kirsch, PhD. It is primarily about antidepressants, but Kirsch’s analysis of the clinical trial process, and how people change, shed a lot of light on the entire medical model of mental health.

      Again, best of luck.

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  4. The medications and the way they are prescribed “keep you sick”.

    They are all in a way like drinking alcohol when feeling nervous, in the short term it works but if you keep drinking it all the time and then quit you get so nervous your shaking and hallucinating. Until you have that next drink and it goes away.

    The same sort of thing happens if you take an antipsychotics or other drugs for “mania” in the short term they work. But then try and quit cause of side effects like sexual dysfunction or cognitive impairment ‘zombie’ , the same thing happens like with using alcohol for nerves. THE ORIGINAL PROBLEM BECOMES WORSE and you need more to ‘treat’ it.

    I don’t think we need the words “may” or “can” this does and will happen to most anyone who takes them, just like it did to me.

    Drugs don’t have to cause any kind of ‘high’ to cause dependence and horrible withdrawal reactions, no way, that’s not how it works.

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  5. I tried to explain how using the medication to prevent the problem actually causes it by comparing it to using alcohol “as needed” vs all the time steady state to prevent nervousness or stress.

    Here is a link to “The Latest Mania: Selling Bipolar Disorder”

    http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030185

    Its very educational.

    My mother believed all the bipolar hype as I was the one in the hospital being forced to take pills myself after they labeled the withdrawal reactions from the pills I was on before them symptoms of bipolar mania.

    I would yell at her on the hospital phone when she called what they were doing to me “help”.

    How dare you call this help !!!

    She read “bipolar for dummies” the book that ruined millions of lives.

    My story was a nightmare and I got better. I finally figured it out , psychiatry was keeping me sick and one of my wishes came true my mother said “you were right”.

    But how can I blame her for anything ? A doctor said her son was sick and needed medicine…

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    • Hi Copy Cat, Thanks for the link. Your comments about the parallels between alcohol use and antipsychotic use are extremely interesting. I’m glad that you and your mom are okay. You put it well–” A doctor said her son was sick and needed medicine.” And we’ve been trained to follow his/her advice. I these days we are more likely to ask for second opinions and look for alternatives, but that wasn’t true 10-20 years ago.

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  6. Thank you so much for posting this, Kathy; there’s so much to comment on what you say. I would just encourage you to keep on doing your own research and questioning what you’re told – be it by a doctor, be it by Robert W. (I’m sure he wouldn’t want it any other way!)
    Doing your own research might feel overwhelming at first but remember that the only thing that separates you from an expert is a few years’ worth of reading – through your son you already have access to first-hand information most experts don’t have. So keep reading and, more importantly, keep talking to your son, keep listening to him.

    And one more thing: perhaps it would help you to stop calling drugs currently prescribed for psychosis “antipsychotics” (as in “And how on earth do we treat people who are psychotic if not with antipsychotics?”). In doing that you are already assuming that they work in the way they say they do, but that is precisely the question, isn’t it? Are these drugs really “antipsychotics”, or are they just drugs, as Copy_cat says above? Yes, they seem of work, but do they work like antihistamines work or do they work like alcohol or heroine works? Perhaps we should start calling them “the drugs formerly known as antipsychotics” as a first step to question what they really do.

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    • Hi Morias,

      I’ve wondered about a better term than “antipsychotic” as well. I’ve thought about psychotropic but that doesn’t seem quite appropriate as it refers to a much wider range of medication in which antipsychotics are one as well as antidepressants, mood stablizers, anti-anxiety, etc. So what other term can be used for antipsychotic? This leads me to a very basic but important question: Just what are we talking about when we talk about antipsychotics? What drugs are included in the category?

      I’d like a clear answer from someone who knows. And which have been the subjects of the studies?

      Kathy

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      • The real name for these toxic drugs is neuroleptics.

        The name, “antipsychotic” was a BIG PHARMA marketing ploy like the names of all their psych drugs giving the very false impression that they target specific illnesses when that is totally false. Psychiatry has uppers like Ritalin/kiddie cocaine and downers like neuroleptics or major tranquillizers.

        Dr. Joanna Moncrieff also exposes in her book, THE MYTH OF THE CHEMICAL CURE, that these drugs do not target any of psychiatry’s invented, VOTED IN DSM stigmas like bipolar, but have the same drug effects for anyone. Thus, she believes they should just be seen as DRUGS and not treatments for so called mental illness that may or may not help people in emotional distress (mostly they don’t help especially long term as Bob Whitaker, Dr. Peter Breggin and many others expose with much harm in the long run).

        Are you aware that Dr. Thomas Insel, Head of the National Institute for Mental Health, just declared the DSM to be totally INVALID, which includes bipolar and other voted in stigmas with no science or evidence to back them? Of course, anyone doing the slightest amount of homework knew this long ago, so Dr. Insel is just stating the obvious to the millions of people harmed by these life destroying stigmas to push deadly drugs in the BIG PHARMA/biopsychiatry cartel. See Dr. Paula Caplan, Psychologist, and her web sites about the huge harm of psychiatric diagnosis that is totally lacking in science or evidence despite its huge influence to cause harm.

        I am a mother too and have been doing research on biopsychiatry for many years to save certain loved ones. My hero is Dr. Peter Breggin who exposed the sham of TOXIC PSYCHIATRY and YOUR DRUG MAY BE YOUR PROBLEM, 2nd ed. as well as RECLAIMING OUR CHILDREN long ago. I highly recommend his many books and web sites as a start to unbrainwash yourself and help save your son from main stream BIG PHARMA and its main stream NAMI BIG PHARMA front group before it’s too late.

        I also recommend: MANIA: A SHORT HISTORY OF BIPOLAR DISORDER, AMERICA FOOLED, RETHINKING PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS, THE MYTH OF MENTAL ILLNESS, DE-MEDICALIZING MISERY, MAD SCIENCE: PSYCHIATRIC COERCION, DIAGNOSIS AND DRUGS as a great overview of the topic by long term experts (http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Science-Psychiatric-Coercion-Diagnosis/dp/1412849764); PSEUDOSCIENCE IN BIOLOGICAL PSYCHIATRY, ADHD FRAUD by Dr. Fred Baughman, NEUROLOGIST and real brain expert who claims ADHD, bipolar and other DSM stigmas are 100% fraud and the worst medical crimes ever perpetrated against humanity; THE BOOK OF WOE, THEY SAY YOU’RE CRAZY, MAKING US CRAZY, THE SELLING OF THE DSM, THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DRUG COMPANIES, MEDICATION MADNESS and of course, Robert Whitakers’s MAD IN AMERICA and ANATOMY OF AN EPIDEMIC.

        I admire you for being open to this information and your willingness to learn new things rather than stubbornly clinging to certain ideology that has probably harmed you, your son and countless others.

        Those I was able to rescue from biopsychiatry’s BIG PHARMA ideology are alive and well today no thanks to those in the profession who sold out to BIG PHARMA in the 1980’s to give psychiatry a false medical status when Freudian analysis waned as detailed by Dr. Breggin and Robert Whitaker in the books I cited.

        The whole house of cards is now exposed and tumbling down also thanks to the Internet and many brave heroes here and elsewhere. I realize this fascist system will most likely continue since it is not about health at all, but rather, about social control in the guise of medicine. But, as Dr. Thomas Szasz, said, we must know about our social institutions if we are to avoid being harmed by them! Since biopsychiatry has nothing to do with real medicine and the idea of “mental health” is a metaphorical scam as Dr. Szasz also exposed in books like THE MYTH OF MENTAL ILLNESS and others, it has become a very real and present danger to everyone’s civil, democratic, human and other rights in many countries like the U.S. that are democracies in name only thanks to oppressive forces like biopsychiatry creating THE THERAPEUTIC STATE with psychiatry the new state religion also exposed by Dr. Szasz in the book, THE THERAPEUTIC STATE. He exposes that psychiatry has become the forced state religious cult subjecting citizens to witch hunts and inquisitions, a very apt description when one considers psychiatry’s many human rights violations including bogus harmful stigmas, forced brain damaging drugging and ECT, forced commitment and others.

        I am sad to know that NAMI has supported such human rights violations with the BIG PHARMA/psychiatry cartel perhaps with good intentions, but with devastating results.

        I hope you become one of the enlightened leaders in society to help turn this around so that our children will stop being prey for BIG PHARMA’S lethal neuroleptic drugs from cradle to grave. You may want to check out the infamous death of Rebecca Riley and the Joseph Biederman child bipolar fad fraud scandal in the BOSTON GLOBE and NEW YORK TIMES thanks to one of many prominent psychiatrists serving as paid shills of BIG PHARMA that cost many children and others their very lives. Thanks to Senator Grassley in Congress, these predatory “doctors” were exposed as well as many leaders of NAMI making it into a BIG PHARMA front group by accepting millions to promote BIG PHARMA’s forced drugging mythology.

        I am being rather blunt because one can waste much time and resources spinning one’s wheels unless one is able to access the best authorities before it is too late.

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      • How about “neuroleptic” which is what they were called before the drug marketing whizzes came up with “antipsychotic.” “Neuroleptic” means brain- or nerve-seizing. This is a pretty good description of how this class of drug “works.”

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  7. Hi Kathy-your story is very moving. I’m wondering whether your son’s diagnosis is BPI or BPII. The story on BPII is that the drug industry made up the diagnosis because too many people were being sent into manic episodes by anti-depressants. BPI and BPII share nothing except the common label. Allen Frances, the Chairperson for the DSM IV, documents this story in an article published in 2012 in Bipolar Disorders. I’ve published articles on Bipolar which are downloadable from the digital archives at Georgia State University. Google Jill Littrell and digital archives gsu. With regard to BPI, the Rennie research of 1940 documents that persons with BPI went 20 years between episodes. I have a friend with a strong family history of bipolar I. Her mother refused meds and experienced episodes every 20 years. The mother died a very competent woman. My friend is a physician and dutifully took her meds as directed. She is now 67. She had a kidney transplant several years ago attributable to the lithium. She now looks like an Alzheimer’s patient. She can no longer find the words to construct simple sentences. What is really tragic for me is that she never had a life. The drugs made her gain a terrible amount of weight. Because of the osteoporosis, her body is twisted. In the years prior to her extreme cognitive decline, I never saw her upset or manic, but I also never saw her laugh. Do what you can to get into the Open Dialog or Sortiria project.

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    • “With regard to BPI, the Rennie research of 1940 documents that persons with BPI went 20 years between episodes. I have a friend with a strong family history of bipolar I. Her mother refused meds and experienced episodes every 20 years.”

      Jill,

      This comment of mine (as follows) regards my view of the “Bipolar 1” label (which, in your comment, above, you’re referring to, as, “Bipolar I” and “BPI”).

      I’m concerned by your presentation of this subject.

      You write about “Bipolar 1” in a way that suggests, apparently, everyone who’s been tagged with that label is going to have multiple “episodes” of a perceived ‘mania’.

      Indeed, you seem to suggest that all who’ve been tagged that way (“BPI”) will, at least every twenty years, experience renewed “episodes”.

      Yet, the ‘official’ definers of supposed “mental disorders” (and, of supposed “affective disorders”) explain that a person need only experience *one* period of what is reportedly a ‘full blown’ “mania,” in order to be tagged, with that label.

      Just one.

      I.e., whoever is, just once, formally ‘treated’ by psychiatry, as someone experiencing “a manic psychosis” will be tagged “BPI” (at least, as long as s/he’s not seen as experiencing a ‘drug-induced episode’ of such).

      Frankly, I believe that “BPI” (“bipolar 1”) is largely a fiction, created by medical-coercive psychiatry — just like (I know you well realize) “bipolar 2” is, too.

      That I call ‘it’ a fiction is not to say that no such sufferings exist; but, they are sufferings created largely in a social context; and, that social context is one where belief in ‘bipolar disorder’ (or, “manic-depression’) exists, necessarily, as a kind of “illness,” which most people believe ‘must’ be ‘treated’ — by ‘medical’ captivity and psychiatric ‘treatments’ (i.e., mind-altering prescription drugs and, perhaps, even ECT).

      Now, note, before I go on, here, I feel I must praise you for acknowledging that fact, that “bipolar 2” is a fabrication of psychiatrists — and, moreover, for writing well about it.

      After all, in my comments responding to your most recent blog (“A Close Look at Andreasen et al.’s Advice to Increase the Dosage of Antipsychotics to Prevent Brain Volume Reduction”), I offered a number of points, strongly critiquing your way of addressing the “schizophrenia” label (and associated so-called “symptomology”).

      To one of your comments (which now stands as the last comment you offered there), I did reply, remarking on your excellent ability to convey your views in writing.

      Here, now, again, because I’ve just finished reading the first half of a paper of yours (which can be found at the following link http://digitalarchive.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1036&context=ssw_facpub ), again, I feel compelled to commend you on your writing skills — but, moreover, feel I must commend you on the content of that paper (at least, as far as I’ve read into it, thus far), as I see you’ve done well, in it, writing on the subject of psychiatry’s “Bipolar 2” label.

      You do a great job of presenting fine reasons to *eschew* that “bipolar 2” so-called “diagnosis”; and, really, that’s great, IMO, as our society must be led to realize the vast harms done (especially, to children) by way of accepting that label and considering it to be supposedly useful and meaningful.

      (I appreciate, especially, your intended defense of foster children who’ve garnered that label.)

      Now, with respect to the label of “Bipolar 1” (which is considered to be separate from “Bipolar 2,” by the implication that one has, indeed, reportedly experienced at least one period of a supposedly ‘full blown’ “mania”), I commend you for pointing out, that: Historically speaking, prior to the advent of psychopharmaceutical ‘treatment’ for perceived ‘mania,’ the outcomes for ‘mania’ were actually much better than they are today; overall, pharmacological ‘treatments’ are actually worsening long-term outcomes, in general.

      On page 13, of your 2012 paper titled, “Is there Evidence for the Bipolar Spectrum and the Safety of Pharmaceutical Interventions?” (which I found, as as a result of reading, in your comment, above, that you’ve published writings available through the GSU digital archives), you explain,

      Zarate, Tohen, Land, and Cavanagh (2000) have also noted the contrast between earlier and current outcomes: “In the era prior to pharmacotherapy, poor outcome in mania was considered a relatively rare occurrence. However, modern outcome studies have found that a majority of bipolar patients evidence high rates of functional impairment” (p. 309).

      Just prior to making that point, you exlain,

      Examining outcomes for those with Bipolar II, Judd et al. (2003) concluded that Bipolar II is an even more chronic condition than Bipolar I.

      Jill, the notion that, “Bipolar II is an even more chronic condition than Bipolar I” is questionable — considering its construction implies it’s widely considered a life-long condition. (All of the ‘official’ literature concurs, on that point — just as it does when discussing those who are tagged with the “SZ” label.)

      Hence, in a study published in 2007 (in “Schizophrenia Bulletin” online), we can find these lines,

      “In bipolar disorder, bipolar I is more stable than bipolar II just because bipolar II may switch to bipolar I, but not vice versa. The stability of bipolar disorder has generally been reported to be high, ranging from 70% to 91%.”

      The authors are referring, there, to the this presumed fact, that: Once someone has been tagged “bipolar 1,” s/he will be “bipolar 1” forevermore.

      Simply, according to its ‘official’ definition, “BPI” is *always* a life-long affliction (completely despite this other fact, that one may experience only a single period of being supposedly ‘manic’).

      (Naturally, being a staunch non-believer in psychiatry’s medical model, I’d argue that, their defining ‘it’ as ‘life-long,’ is just a way to keep the psychiatrists, who tend to “patients” with that “bipolar” tag, in business.)

      That above-mentioned study is titled, “Deconstructing Bipolar Disorder: A Critical Review of its Diagnostic Validity and a Proposal for DSM-V and ICD-11.” Its authors are Eduard Vieta and Mary L. Phillips. You can find it at the following link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2632333/

      That study, like many studies (including studies which you cite in your above-mentioned article), suggests that “bipolar 1” is an “illness” — somewhat ‘genetic’ in origin.

      I do not buy that ‘it’ is an illness; and, I do not see ‘it’ as a genetic issue, but most ‘official’ sources do view it that way — based always on speculation. Quite often, those who write about “BP” that certain underlying mysteries are yet to be uncovered (just like we read that about “SZ”).

      Sometimes, “BP” is called “BD”.

      In a recent Medscape.com article, by Fran Lowry, titled, “DSM-5 Criteria for Bipolar Disorder May Further Cloud Diagnosis,” we read,

      BD researchers now need to follow up genetic studies with imaging and psychological studies to try to unravel the complex biological mechanisms involved in BP and bring biological understanding closer to the experience of the patient.

      “While several genes which increase a patient’s risk of acquiring bipolar disorder have been discovered to date, no clear biological mechanism to explain why these genes affect a person’s risk of developing bipolar has been elucidated,” the authors note.

      [I will not burden you with more links. That article is easily found at Medscape. It was posted May 14, 2013.]

      However, Jill, IMO, *anyone* can become seemingly ‘manic’ — for all kinds of reasons that are not going to be identified by the average psychiatrist.

      IMO (from personal observations, I’ve seen), many people become seemingly ‘manic’ because (little do they realize) they’ve been pushing the edges — i.e., the outer limits — of what they, personally, are capable of tolerating, in terms of sleep deprivation.

      What may have begun as a personal ‘experiment’ in disobeying certain ‘social conventions’ (in particular, shunning the usual advice of what ‘mental health experts sometimes call “sleep hygiene”), they begin to develop features of a seeming ‘psychosis’ …as a result of extended periods of sleep deprivation — and, perhaps, also based upon some measure of fasting, too (i.e., food deprivation); they begin to feel ‘lighter,’ being unburdened by the ‘same old, same old’; and, in the midst of this process, they wind up feeling increasingly uninhibited, socially; if they’ve been ‘depressed’ until recently, then they may have also been isolated and stewing over relational issues, in ways that others didn’t realize they were stewing; now, by ‘loosening the screws’ through sleep deprivation, etc., they’re inclined to become suddenly more vocal, including, perhaps, by articulating these issues which they were stewing over, in their ‘depressed’ state — and/or articulating tangential issues (e.g., perhaps, ‘spiritual’ issues, which now seem more compelling); and, all this activity, together, can easily lead to psycho-social conflicts — backlash from friends and family, who perceive the individual as ‘unwell’ …even “mentally ill”; suggestions of this can be surprisingly disorienting and/or threatening to that individual, who is in a somewhat ‘altered state’; a sense that family and friends are now turning on him/her, colluding to get him/her “hospitalized,” winds up creating fear (even an increasing sense of underlying panic), which leads to ‘pressured speech’ — and to an increased sense of crisis, generally.

      One can reflect on this process and imagine it to be the result of an underlying “psychiatric brain disorder” (a.k.a., “mental illness”), but that’s nonsense IMO.

      Everything in my experience and my observations of many others’ experiences tells me the “brain disorder” hypothesis is pure B.S..

      Because I successfully rejected psychiatry and its ‘treatments’ decades ago, and I know all the underlying causes which led to my crisis, I know it was a one-time deal; though, yes, there were a couple more crises, a couple of years later — because I rejected the ‘meds’ and was not prepared to reject psychiatry, too.

      I wound up thrown back into the “hospital” and forced back onto psych drugs.

      I ask you: Is it any wonder that individuals who have experienced such crises (as I did, at age 21.5) — and who wind up “rehospitalized” only because they rejected ‘meds’ — may, ultimately, come to *reject* the usual psychiatric explanations for what is called “mania”?

      Though I am not in perfect agreement with the authors of the study I’ve mentioned above (Eduard Vieta and Mary L. Phillips), I do appreciate much of what they say, at last,

      In conclusion, the validity of psychiatric diagnosis in general and bipolar disorder in particular deserves further research and alternative approaches. There is a clear need to improve and refine the current diagnostic criteria and to introduce dimensions not as an alternative but rather as a useful complement to categorical diagnosis. Laboratory, family, and treatment response data should also be systematically included in the diagnostic assessment when available. There is little chance that DSM-V or ICD-11 may represent a true step forward if these kinds of data are not included. We propose a modular system that may integrate categorical and dimensional issues, laboratory data, associated nonpsychiatric medical conditions, psychological assessment, and social issues in a comprehensive and nevertheless practical approach.

      IMO, as one comes to truly understand the complete dynamics (biological and psychosocial) which led to ones being viewed and treated as “manic,” there is no longer any reason to presume that s/he will ever be viewed and treated that way again.

      Respectfully,

      ~Jonah

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      • Let’s be very careful about representation of others arguments. Your comments state what Jill’s words “seem to suggest” to you, which are not things she explicitly said. I hope we can assume, as per my recent blog post, that we don’t know what she truly means or thinks until she says it.

        One nuance I might add here is that the scenario you describe, which I agree with, of personal and social circumstances gradually colluding to create an episode that gets called, “mania.” This scenario does in fact include major shifts in a person’s physiology and brain activity. Not sleeping or eating, being shut-in for a time, and so forth make changes in our brain states. It seems from the research and my personal experience that any state of mind a person gets into, especially the very stressful ones, we then have a sort of template for, and can fall into it more easily than other possible states. This includes more common intense states like anger and anxiety.

        That is, my sense is that the chances of someone who has experienced a single “manic episode” having a second one are higher, due to both physiological and social forces, than somebody who has never experienced this style of extreme state. Thus creating the presentation or pattern that gets called a “brain disorder.” I don’t think there’s truly anything disordered about this, like you, I see it as a normal capacity of any brain. All I’m suggesting is that once we extreme extreme depression, or mania, or confusion, etc. we seem to become more entrained to those states, and it often takes some healing work to train ourselves to avoid them in the future.

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    • Jill,

      Again, I think you provide a lot of valuable information and I appreciate that you speak out against the toxic effects of psych drugs for supposed bipolar and other DSM stigmas.

      But, I find it very offensive when you make claims that indicate bipolar is genetic or heritable when experts like Dr. Jay Joseph and now, even Dr. Thomas Insel, Head of NIMH, has exposed that such DSM stigmas including the infamous bipolar fad fraud are INVALID because they have no science, genes, chemical imbalances or any evidence to prove them. Dr. Joseph has debunked all the bogus studies of genes and heritability in his great books, THE GENE ILLUSION and THE MISSING GENE and many articles including some on this web site. Dr. Peter Breggin and others have debunked these false claims of genetic vulnerability based on bogus twin studies that failed to consider environmental factors enough along with many other errors. Dr. Joseph also points out the obvious like many others that it is much easier for those in power to blame the victims for having bad genes or using dangerous eugenics theories for toxic environmental/social stressors rather than absorbing the high cost of actually addressing the real problems like poverty, abuse, hunger, oppression, injustice, violence, crime and exploitation of the majority by the power elite. The eugenics theories of biopsychiatry also aid and abet the neoconservatives in power per Dr. Jay Joseph and promote their agenda.

      So, this supposed bipolar family of which you speak may have had immigrants in past generations trying to escape starvation by moving to the U.S. with nothing without knowing the language and struggling to survive. I have read that many of these immigrants have traumatic histories repeating through several generations. Families can suffer from other stressors that can impact several generations rather than being caused by genes. Families can be dysfunctional for these and other reasons as a result of trauma that causes more trauma per Dr. David Allen, Psychiatrist.

      The worst thing is that trauma, extreme emotional distress or stress breakdowns from abuse, bullying, racism, sexism and other injustice are routinely MISDIAGNOSED as bipolar disorder per Dr. Carole Warshaw, Dr. Heinz Leymann and many others (see THE ENCYLOPEDIA OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE) while they used to be stigmatized as borderline personality disorder, which was an insult diagnosis to dismiss the person suffering “Complex PTSD” per Dr. Judith Herman, trauma expert and author of the classic work on the topic, TRAUMA AND RECOVERY. Dr. Herman coined the term “Complex PTSD” to describe the massive trauma that results from repetitive abuse that occurs with domestic violence, war, concentration camps, school/work/community bullying and mobbing, etc.

      It’s not surprising that biological psychiatry with its DSM III to 5 that refuses to acknowledge any context or environmental/social stressors BY DEFINITION IN THE DSM (Robert Spitzer, creator of the original “biological” DSM III, admitted that if it allowed for any acknowledgement of environmental, social factors or context, the whole DSM house of cards would fall apart).

      Given that the supposed symptoms of PTSD, borderline and bipolar are just about identical, I think the whole bipolar fraud fad to push the latest lethal drugs on patent or bipolar babble/mythology per Dr. David Healy in his book, MANIA: A SHORT HISTORY OF BIPOLAR DISORDER, was/is a despicable scam to cover up and deny all the abuse, war and other trauma suffered by millions of victims to deny them any justice, compensation or validation as is happening now with war veterans, victims of domestic, work and school violence/bullying and other injustice.

      It is well known and a literal joke at APA meetings that bipolar is the latest FAD and wildly overdiagnosed and updiagnosed to exploit the victims’ insurance and get more coverage, compensation while allowing lucrative but toxic drugs to be prescribed more freely to enrich the mental health profession while making global billions for BIG PHARMA while destroying countless lives. There are also many articles and studies showing the massive overdiagnosis of bipolar that is bogus per studies like those of Zimmerman and others who acknowledge that those suffering anxiety or PTSD are routinely misdiagnosed as bipolar. Such misdiagnosis in itself proves that there is not a shred of genetic or other evidence that bipolar exists or any tests whatever to prove anyone has it as is true for all DSM stigmas. I have no doubt that the so called neuroscientists can come up with evidence of stressors or what you call inflammation in the body or measure excess cortisol and make the bogus claim that it proves bipolar and any other bogus claim they wish to make as they’ve been doing all along.

      Given the crimes of those like Joseph Biederman, please forgive me if I get upset when you keep indicating that this bipolar scandal has any validity let alone genes or any science to prove it or back it up.

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  8. Dear Kathy,
    Thank you for your heartfelt post. As a person who once believed she was “Bipolar”, and who took psychiatric “medications” for over ten years because I’d been told I had an “illness” that needed “treatment”, I can say that I very much resonate with the pain you feel at discovering that the story you’ve been told about psychotropic drugs isn’t true. I remember when I had my “aha moment” back in 2010, after accidentally stumbling upon Anatomy of an Epidemic. It blew my mind, and I went through a period of intense shock, followed by denial, followed by rage and anger, and now, years later, deep gratitude and peace of mind. I remember looking back at my own timeline after reading the book and seeing that my life truly began to fall apart (hospitalizations, thoughts of suicide, intense highs and lows, suicide attempt, total loss of social connection, inability to hold down jobs… essentially, an inability to function in the world) at the age of eighteen… At the age of eighteen, I also willingly began to take “meds”. One became two, became three, became four, became five. And, at the age of twenty-seven, diagnosed with “treatment-resistant Bipolar disorder”, “Borderline personality disorder”, “Anxiety disorder NOS”, “Substance abuse disorder”, and who knows what else, the only thing I was, was “mentally ill.” When I saw this, I realized that only after being medicated had I acquired a “severe and persistent mental illness”. This discovery was the most painful, and most beautiful moment of my life. I am so grateful to have made it.

    A short time after reading Anatomy, I was off the five psychotropic drugs I’d been on (lithium, Lamictal, Effexor, Ativan, Abilify, plus a PRN of Seroquel was my “regimen” at the end), and some time after that, I was completely out of the mental health system. While tapering off psych drugs was an incredibly difficult process for me, one that I still find myself healing from, I can say today that I am more connected to myself, the world, and to a place of acceptance, inner peace, and joie de vivre (well, perhaps since being a young child). I know that coming off of psychotropic drugs was utterly essential for this new gift of an authentic life that I have. But there was another piece that was essential, as well. I’ll get to that in a minute…

    My parents, of course, went through their own period of shock that everything they’d been told about me and my fate (life-long “mental illness”) wasn’t true. I have never blamed them for their decision to take me to Psychiatry (even though at the age of fourteen, when they first took me, I was angry and combative, understandably so), because they did what nearly all parents do in today’s day and age— when a child is suffering, they want to help her, and Psychiatry has certainly monopolized the emotional “helping” industry. They did what they thought was best for me; I harbor no ill will towards them, and only feel gratitude that they stuck by my side the whole way, which I can see you’ve done with your son, which is such a wonderful thing. I know I wouldn’t be alive without my family today.

    I am also curious to know what your son thinks, as he is the person taking these drugs. Perhaps he could write a post at MIA?

    Now that I’ve gone along my meandering writing path, I’ve finally reached the main reason why I’m writing to you here, which is also getting back to what I said was the second essential piece of my journey back to a sense of authentic self and inner peace: I’m curious to get a better sense of your understanding of “Bipolar disorder”. You talk about it as an “illness”— again, this is a paradigm I can totally relate to, as I thought about my own experiences as “symptoms” of “illness” for a very, very long time— and I am curious to know where you’ve acquired the knowledge about your son’s “illness.” Who told you this, and where did they get their information from? This is something I never asked myself during my thirteen-year relationship to the mental health system; I’m glad that in 2010, I finally began to do so. Likely, you’ve read about the fact that there is currently no evidence out there supporting the claim that these intense and often excruciating emotional/thinking experiences are actually biological “conditions.” When I first heard this news back in 2010, it was almost impossible to grasp, for my entire sense of self was wrapped up in “my illness”, and the lens through which I saw the world was filtered through a “Bipolar” understanding of myself. I’ve slowly, over the last three years, awoken from this indoctrination (because this is how I’ve come to understand my experiences with Psychiatry), and it has been far from easy. But it has been nothing short of miraculous, and exquisitely beautiful, to have an understanding of myself today, and of my emotional and existential experiences of the world, that lies completely separate from a medicalized framework. It is a beautiful thing to see that my emotions are part of the spectrum of human experience, not “symptoms” of an “illness.”

    What I’ve also found is that internalizing a “Bipolar” identity, for me, became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I was told that I was a person who would always (literally, forever) be going through cycles of “manias” and “depressions”; I certainly went through many years of those cycles. Today, I no longer do. I have a healthier relationship to my emotions than I’ve ever had before. I believe this is because I stopped seeing my emotions as pathology, as medical symptoms beyond my control (and only controllable by inanimate pills and medical “experts”). I stopped seeing myself as a passive victim of “my disease”, and instead, I began the difficult but rewarding process of learning how to feel my feelings instead of medicate them, or lock myself up on a psych ward because of them, or go to an extra therapy session a week because of them. Today, I no longer need an answer to my emotional pain— I no longer need to say to myself, “Oh, I’m feeling this way because I’m Bipolar”, or “I’m doing this because I’m Borderline”, or whatever else it may be. This is liberating, and it has completely transformed the way I feel, think, and am in the world.

    I would love to learn more about your understandings of “Bipolar disorder”. As I said before, I resonate tremendously with your experiences, and can relate to so much of what you said, from who I used to be in my past. I would love to dialogue with you further about the construction of “mental illness”, because to me, in addition to challenging the role that psychotropic drugs play in people’s lives (and raising issues about their potential for harm), I believe we need to have extensive conversations about the way we as a society make meaning of our human experiences.

    With love and in solidarity,
    Laura

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    • When confronted with the difficulty of dealing with unconscious responses that are programmed rather than authentic or instinctive, and not being given the space to gain perspective, and then to be told that you have a biological disease, this is in no ways encouraging. Especially when there is no proof it is a biological disease, although the treatment has been proven to cause a biological disease and this propaganda is largely disseminated and believed. And this is what you hear about yourself. And this is how people treat you. And I have found they often make you out to be a danger you could never be. This is how you make a person disturbed. What Laura is saying here, in her beautiful opoignant post, about it being self fulfilling prophesy to have a diagnosis is very true, very pertinent to what’s going on.
      Instead of seeing yourself as having a disease, but seeing you have a very fulfilling challenge to face, a challenge to find out who you are, and how life is already waiting there for you, this is by no means a dangerous idea.
      I had to learn how to let go of what was getting in the way of me seeing what the trauma was I could let go of. That basically was that I didn’t have to go along with the world’s way of judging, of seeing offenses. That it was OK for me to not seek some sort of justice. Then I could let go of the initial trauma, and it wasn’t controlling me. Then I didn’t see that as trauma anymore, but as a challenge, a learning experience. And the people that had “traumatized” me were off the hook as well. I didn’t feel I needed to perpetuate suffering by wanting to traumatize them to discipline them. They were also free to become themselves. And then really, the humanity of everyone was allowed to emerge. And healing occurred on all sides rather than everyone was being controlled by fear to “fit in.” I think you can compare it with entanglement in quantum physics. All the different particles are connected beyond time and space as we know it. And we aren’t separate from what we’re observing.
      And I’ll tell you, when one is supposedly “psychotic” you do a lot of observing. You take a lot in. You find people behaving in extremely phobic ways towards you. It’s really up for grabs which is worse, the initial trauma, or how you are treated when ostracized because you can’t fit in anymore because of it. And it’s a big struggle to let go of all of that, when coming out of such a state, remembering all of it. But it is how I healed. And it is possible. And it is worth it.

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    • Laura:

      I love your questions. I myself had the same question because as the mother of a psychiatric consumer/survivor I bristle at the word ‘illness’ and better you than me, because I am not feeling as diplomatic as you today

      I do not feel so diplomatic with representatives of NAMI because that organization will not use its’ considerable weight to take a strong national stand against forced commitment and forced medication, nor offer parents like me any support for helping my loved one safely taper off harmful medications or help families like ours find the services of an alternative practitioner who will honor our daughter’s right to choice of treatment.

      But I am inclined to read Karen’s memoir after visiting her site. We may have some shared language. Not sure until I read the book.

      I own my anger over labels such as ‘illness’. The very language we have constructed to describe the symptoms of ‘mental illness’ make me upset, combative, angry and aggressive because they always point back to a meaningless one size fits all approach to ‘mental illness’: a biologically based disease that has no scientific proof and no relevancy to my daughter’s situation.

      These labels have become the cultural ‘norm’ through commercial marketing, and a multitude of well intended blogs and ‘memoirs’ of consumers/survivors, and their loved ones. These bloggers and celebrities who come out of the closet to speak of their lived experiences usually fall into two categories: 1) Those who have already drunk the poisoned kool-aid and they always include a link to NAMI, rarely, if ever to consumer run organizations like MindFreedom or:

      2) Their blogs and self help books are actually purchased because the author is receiving a ‘fellowship’ from Jansen, Bristol Myers Squibb,Pfizer, etc.

      It’s a free country where corporations are human beings and artists and self claimed ‘advocates’ are free to speak as they choose. The manner of their lifestyle and their opinions are molded by the level of support that they receive from ‘patrons’. It’s perfectly legal in our system.

      While we struggle to protect our daughter from psychiatric harm, abuse, and neglect our society is fighting a cultural war and the playing field is not level because one side has all the power and money. What do we do? Tirelessly educate everyone in our personal support network (middle class family members, everyone at our place of worship, our friends, etc.) or say f**k it. We will never be able to fight this battle and create a safe refuge in our community for our daughter free from stigma and labels. Let’s move to another country!

      Big Pharma has so much marketing money they can safely move away from purchasing ‘thought leaders’ and funding organizations like NAMI. They will continue to shape our culture by purchasing movie rights (The producers of A Beautiful Mind already conveniently rewrote John Nash’s life by tweaking the script right before release, making it appear that John Nash continues to take medications to control his ‘illness’ and when John Nash himself tried to retroactively expose this fabrication in front of a large audience at a Gala NAMI event, the microphone was literally taken from his hand (!!) mid-sentence. Shame on NAMI! Look it up if you don’t believe me!

      Words like illness or disease are pretty meaningless. Words like withdrawal syndrome and iatrogenic illness are targeted words that have more relevance to our situation. But words still can hurt. Words like Bi-polar or schizophrenia or disease can impede a person’s recovery because they separate ‘us’ from ‘them’. Words have power, period. Words can put people into hypnotic spells. Words can harm. Words can be used to bind people, oppress them, and keep them in a class.

      Once, in a ‘meeting’ with a pompous but likeable psychiatrist, my husband and I sat through the usual lecture. The psychiatrist clearly relished the role of sole authority on my daughter’s condition and enjoyed the power of picking and choosing who would speak, when and for how long. he enjoyed the power of his words and how they revealed his mastery of neurobiological
      ‘facts’ accumulated through many years of medical training and clinical practice. I respected his dedication to his craft and it was usually not hard to be patient with his humanness because you could tell his intentions were good and he did read my daughter’s medical records, to the last detail which many psychiatrists fail to do.

      One of the things he was pathologizing was my daughter’s silence. I think he was categorizing it as catatonic or something. I had tried in vain to explain to him that she was on a ‘strike’ When workers go on strike, they stop working; Involuntarily committed patients must use more creative means of non-cooperation. He was calling her non-cooperation a symptom of her ‘illness’! Whoa! This doctor revealed his cards. This medication and labeling thing is more about social control and deep down, he and everyone in his field knows its less about healing and more about law and order.

      Non co-operation with unjust systems is a time honored form of social change used by Ghandi and Martin Luther King. I couldn’t believe I had to explain this to a person with a college degree! Don’t doctors have to take history before getting into medical school?

      My daughter was using codes, written language and even grunts over the phone to communicate with those she trusted. She’d been doing it for weeks and I was OK with that. It had taken my husband and me countless silent visits and experimentation to find this out and even more hours to arrive a mutally agreed on form of communication. This is simple, respectful boundaries 101. Should have been old hat for someone with even minimal training in psychotherapy.

      My daughter broke through the psychiatrist’s lecture babble with a beautiful verbal remark. I had been fascinated by observing this utterly pompous but humorous, likeable person talk and his obvious pleasure in listening to himself, but I was stunned by his reaction to my daughter’s first words in weeks. Instead of expressing “I guess I was wrong! She does have the power to communicate!” Must not have been catatonic like I thought!”

      He utterly failed to hear or acknowledge what my daughter said even though it was insightful, syntactically perfect, relevant, elegant, and even poetic, it nearly moved me to tears and the meeting should have ended joyfully but instead the doctor’s reaction was strange. He became angry. The meaning of my daughter’s remark was so clearly affirmational that a three year old could understand the goodwill behind it and that was all that was important to me. But I felt lingering sadness that a valuable opportunity for a ‘team’ effort had been lost. Another potential ally down the drain, and why? Because of vanity?

      There were many times when communication and language became a barrier in treatment settings and many times when it revealed truths about those in power and truths about those who are so-called disabled. Any time you grapple to understand someone with a speech impediment, don’t give up on the person, give up on the language. Create a different language, play a game of cards, blow bubbles, but don’t try to medicate someone into conforming to your language: that is plain wrong

      Instead of creating a dialogue between patient, treatment provider, and family, the meetings we were invited to usually went something like this: Everyone must listen to me because I am the authority. Your daughter has Blah blah blah. label, label label, blah, blah blah, (a few medical terms to show that I passed neuroscience 101) and cite a few examples of your loved one’s past behavior that is consistent with DSM 5 categories. To conclude this meeting, throw in some recovery words to show how politically correct I am even though I can’t open up this dialogue and question you or your daughter about how you/she define recovery, no that would be too dangerous and filled with risk of conflict. And god knows I didn’t learn any conflict resolution skills in medical school.

      I can bear all the clinical language in a clinical setting. But when the language of illness and the clinical labels and terms sneak into our household and the psycho babble from the incessant drug commercials are picked up and used by allies and family members and friends, I can barely contain my anger and despair. I want to shout ‘traitor!’ That is my daughter you are talking about!! Can we find no better ways to describe our loved ones without using hurtful labels that separate us into two groups, sane and insane? If it is ‘normal’ to label people than I would rather be insane.

      Plus, I don’t want my daughter to be normal! Normal is killing the planet! Normal is over rated. Normal is the ability to work in a cubicle and purchase sweat shop items at Walmart without a pang of guilt.

      I want my daughter to simply be herself and I’m convinced that the labels and the forced medication is inhibiting her from being herself and finding her place in the world. In these blogs people have spoken a great deal about how medications harm but what about labels? Paula Kaplan is one of the few treatment providers who consistently brings up this issue.

      NAMI hasn’t even begun to address its use of hurtful language. How can they? They use the word biologically based on their national website over 700 times! The national NAMI website is a giant commercial for medications! They actually cut and paste language from pharmaceutical websites directly onto their site. So much for being a so called ‘information’ and ‘referral’ site for parents. The sad thing is that parents are so exhausted by the process of keeping their loved ones out of jail, out of the hospitals, and off the streets, holding down their jobs, etc. that they simply don’t have the time or energy to do what their inner voice tells them: think critically, be aware, do your own research, resist normality, organize a revolution in mental health care!!

      It is also dangerous to rebel or resist because its easier to accept the labels and the existing standard of care when there are no other parent support groups out there if you live in Nebraska, or Utah, etc. MBCAN is starting up in NC and emphasizing building an online community (YEAH!!) and there are some peer led groups that are open to parents but NAMI is the only group specifically for loved ones and allies with an established nationwide foothold, and parents are so desperate they will accept any kind of support over nothing. Even the most educated, amazing parents will willingly abide by the soul crushing conformity and allegiance to the biological model of ‘mental illness’ required to sit through NAMI’s so called ‘Family to Family’ ‘educational’ sessions.

      Where is the language that can describe the fullness of what my daughter is experiencing, as opposed to the half lived lives of millions of so-called sane people who work in cubicles, vote for morons, call their insecticide laden grass lawn ‘nature’, purchase wasteful appliances that save time and labor so they can do what? Watch reality television?

      Laura, I am not as forgiving as you.

      When people use stigmatizing words or clinical labels to describe my daughter’s precious and unique experiences, or use their loved one’s experiences to be ‘advocates’ and influence families to potentially overly medicate or harm their children, I have to find an outlet for my anger. Even a new language emphasizing recovery and hope may be presumptuous and fall short of describing my daughter’s experiences. What she is experiencing may be beyond words. It is her soul’s journey. It may be none of my business to describe. It may not be my privilege to enter in her world. It may be out of my league.

      It is her journey and her mystery and what she deserves is privacy and space while still being afforded to live in a supportive community that respects her choices and rights.

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          • Hey, I’m not a mom, but as a survivor I totally applaud every last word that you posted here! You’ve expressed everything so eloquently and so well. I’m printing it off so I can save it and share it with others.

            Thank goodness your daughter has a mother who truly cares about her and will not blindly accept the stupid babblings of the “system” that wants to destroy her with its so-called “treatment!”

            Thanks for posting.

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      • I applaud you for standing by your daughter as well as standing up for her!! They say that children who have traumatic, invalidated childhoods can survive and even thrive if even only ONE PERSON VALIDATES THEM, loves them, is there for them and makes them feel special by giving them unconditional love. You are making a great difference just by validating and being there for your daughter!!

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        • I wish I had stood up for her earlier and better. I failed to protect her when she was the most vulnerable and its a humbling experience when the children lead the way instead of the other way around, but what can I say? My daughter with her soul’s journey is teaching me about grace, dignity, forgiveness, and resiliency. I’m the one with the issues!

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      • MadMom,

        Can you provide a link to this? Thanks!

        “when John Nash himself tried to retroactively expose this fabrication in front of a large audience at a Gala NAMI event, the microphone was literally taken from his hand (!!) mid-sentence. Shame on NAMI! Look it up if you don’t believe me!”

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      • Hi madmom,
        Thank you SO much for showing us your truly beautiful, human, humble understandings of your daughter and the way she lives in the world. I was incredibly moved, and so encouraged. Knowing that you’re out there in the world supporting your daughter in the way you are is incredibly inspiring to me. When you recounted the interaction with your daughter’s psychiatrist, it was as though you were describing several of my old shrinks, and in particular, one of the last I ever saw. Not until the very end did I see what you see when I’d sit in hour after hour of “treatment”—my psychiatrist was a man completely power-hungry, completely closed off to any understanding of me as person besides the one he’d decided for me, which was, of course, entirely medicalized. I know my parents used to sit in our family meetings, completely controlled by him, their voices silenced when he felt like it, their words warped into whatever he needed them to be to justify the way I was being “treated.” You are a true gift to your daughter; I had tears in my eyes when I read about the language your daughter developed to communicate, which you took the time to learn.

        A woman a couple years younger than me who’s a friend of mine experiences the world in a way that has gotten her labeled “schizophrenic”. I wish her parents could read your post, because they see her as a walking disease, as a “poor girl who’s being devastated by the progression of this debilitating illness that doesn’t seem to get better even when she agrees to stay on these new medications.” When I was with them months ago, I’d watch as they cringed when she spoke about her beliefs, which they would immediately say weren’t real. They’d say, “If only you could have insight into your disease, you’d be able to recover.” By “recovery”, of course, they meant “stay on meds.”

        I don’t see them anymore, since I left my job a few months back, but I think about them all the time. I’d given them info about this website, and about Anatomy, a year or so ago, but it’s likely they never explored these venues.

        All I can do is remind myself that there are parents out there like you, staying present with their children without judging, labeling, pathologizing, incarcerating, and drugging. Of course, you’re in a horribly tough place in that you are witnessing others do that to your child instead; what a beautiful thing that you’ve hung in there and stayed with her through all of this. I have no doubt that there’s light on the other side of the tunnel for her, in large part thanks to her family sticking by her. 🙂

        In solidarity,
        Laura

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      • Great comment madmom, thanks! Much to consider. As a mother of sons who’ve been through the system and mad myself I can identify with what you’re saying. I agree that the psychiatric labelling stigmatises and discriminates, and in my family’s case put us in a cul-de-sac of ‘severe and enduring mental illness’ where talking therapies couldn’t be found.

        And thanks Kathy for speaking out your doubts and concerns about the pros and cons of psychiatric ‘medication’. Many of my family members have been through the psychiatric system. Some chose to stay on anti-psychotics, others of us tapered and came off them. I preferred coming off, and did so on 3 occasions after psychotic episodes.

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    • Hi Laura,

      I think my reply went thru before I finished. Anyway, most of my understanding about bipolar disorder comes from my experience with my son. Though of course I did a lot of reading after he was diagnosed, books written by doctors, families, those with mental illness, etc. Max was diagnosed with Bipolar I. It came on suddenly when he was 20 and a junior in college. I began to realize something was off when his phone calls home didn’t sound like my son. Of course, mental illness was not something I ever even considered. He was picked up by the police near his dorm, walking down the middle of the street barefoot and taken to the hospital. Nothing I say here is breaching my son’s privacy. He and I write about it all in our memoir, which just came out. He describes that first episode in vivid and in fact, very poetic language.

      So that was the beginning, followed by future episodes every year with extreme psychosis and hospitalization. Between the first and second episode he went off the Depacote he was prescribed, I think he stopped pretty early on–next episode a year and a half later. Finally prescribed lithium, a mainstay for him for many years. Antipsychotics while he was psychotics, eventually going off either with the doctor’s okay or sometimes just on his own. His last episode was pretty bad with horrible suicidal depression that lasted a year. I am amazed at his fortitude in getting through it. Finally a new doctor prescribed seroquel, lamictol, and lithium and he slowly came out of his depression. He’s tapered himself off the Seroquel and since hearing Whitaker’s talk, is going to talk with his doctor about getting off the lamictol. He feels he needs the lithium. So that’s the long and short of it, with lots left out in between about all the trauma. I have to say I have a huge amount of respect for my son. He is amazingly strong and I just don’t know how’s he’s managed to get through the rough days. I’m pleased to say he is doing very well now.

      I’d love to hear more from you Laura.

      Warm regards,
      Kathy

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      • My sister was on lithium for years when she was a young adult but she said that it ceased to work.

        I read Bob Nikel’s blog on this site and he used a term I’ve never heard before called ‘breakthrough symptoms.’ I think this is the term that refers to when the body learns to tolerate a particular drug, as determined by unfavorable or inconvenient behavior. This is the critical juncture that many consumers find themselves asking, do I want to continue down this road with this medication or this prescriber? Because the typical response by a provider/prescriber to ‘breakthough symptoms’ is to simply increase the dosage or add to the cocktail.

        This reveals a massive failure of imagination and lacks any semblance of scientific methodology, especially in few of what we are finding out about the risks of long term use of neuroleptics, tranquilizers, SSRI’s, etc.

        My sister never told me her diagnosis for which she was prescribed lithium and I never asked. What is important is that I love her with all my heart. She told me that Catholic agency once paid for her to have Gestalt treatment in New York City. She is well loved and respected in our tight knit family and obviously made good friends wherever she went.

        She had a ‘break’ while in a foreign country and my mom worked with the embassy to get her safely back to the U.S. If you are going to have a ‘break’ have it in the UK where the people are very kind. I think it took about a year for my mom to get my sister back home. But after living at home for a brief spell, my sis had a soft landing in San Fransisco where she enjoyed a large network of friends and some good affordable, Jungian therapy. the important thing is that she is living med free and happy today, with tons of friends and she has been enjoying the same teaching job going on three decades. My daughter has had much rougher treatment in the US system and my frustration is to get her out of the big box institutions into a home like environment, preferably our home, where she can do as she chooses, but hopefully all of her choices will be consistent with someone who loves oneself. Empowerment is important when you’ve been institutionalized.

        Nice to hear that your son is empowered enough to ask his doctor for support in getting off one of his medications. I am glad to know of someone in the NAMI program who still has an open mind on these matters.

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      • Kathy, Did your son happen to get into pot and other recreational drugs as a college student?

        Some young adults feeling much insecurity and pressure being out on their own for the first time with the stress of performing in college can fall into binge drinking, excess pot smoking and other excess that can lead to temporary psychosis or extreme states.

        David Oakes, former head of MIND FREEDOM, explains that is what happened to him when dealing with young adult college stressors. He went through the psychiatry treadmill while in college, escaped it and fully recovered like many others.

        This is just a possibility among many others because Dr. Steingard here at MIA and Dr. Timothy Scott in the book, AMERICA FOOLED, talk about how such excess recreational drugs during this challenging young adult period may cause severe emotional distress, trauma, psychosis (many psychiatrists falsely accuse people of being psychotic and delusional just for disagreeing with them or objecting to abuse and toxic drugs), etc. Young people also are not always inclined to take the best care of themselves with proper sleep and diet along with binge drinking/pot, so, they may bring on extreme states that biopsychiatry stigmatizes as permanent severe “mental illness,” or the latest fad fraud stigma of bipolar disorder, which is totally false except when people believe them, take their toxic drugs long term and become permanently ill and destroyed. Of course, there are many possibilities including self fulfilling prophecies as with the Pygmalion effect. This is just some food for thought.

        Also, since bipolar is the latest “sacred symbol” of psychiatry justifying its existence, just about anything other than robotic positive thinking is stigmatized as bipolar including any recreational drug use whatever as Dr. Jill Littrell can tell you.

        Finally, I will end by posting the letter of resignation from the American Psychiatric Association or APA by the famous Dr. Loren Mosher, an expert in treating psychosis without drugs in the famous Soteria project:

        http://www.moshersoteria.com/articles/resignation-from-apa/

        Also, since you seem to be the type of person who has leadership skills, if you learned that your son had been harmed by the false bipolar epidemic and the toxic drugs used to supposedly treat it, you might not only help your son but many others much like those in other groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving who try to divert their anger and pain into something productive, which has been my own experience.

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        • I agree with you Donna! Karen is a published author and a president of NAMI. If Karen questioned some of the assumptions shared by her fellow advocates, a lot of bridges could be built. People couldn’t paint her with a broad brush as they usually do with critics and whistle blowers, by calling her a part of the ‘anti-psychiatry’ movement or a scientologist, or use some other ridiculous label that one receives when one tries to publicly engage mainstream psychiatrists in a meaningful dialogue. Problem is with psychiatrists is that they rarely enage their critics in front of mass audiences. Have you noticed that people like Robert Whitaker will commonly address a room full of psychiatrists, even ones that are predominantly hostile, but psychiatrists will rarely speak to mass audiences of consumers, survivors, or allies of those who identify with having been abused by psychiatry? How can we get this dialogue going? When we invite psychiatrists to speak at public events and they are not getting a free lunch, adoration, or some other remuneration, they rarely accept. I’ve spoken at hearings where I was the only environmentalist in a room full of angry loggers and I would do it again if there was an old growth forest in danger. If I can defend my position because I believe in it deeply, so can they. Why don’t they? In public?

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          • Exactly. Some of us are asking this same question here on MIA. Why aren’t the psychiatrists willing to address their position in front of groups filled with survivors? Bob stands up in front of them to answer questions but they won’t reciprocate. So far, the supposed “dialogue” is only a monologue where we put forth our concerns and we defend them but they aren’t willing to engage with us in the same manner. Of course, it might end up with many of them being tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail!

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          • Kathy here (alias Karen?)

            Just to clarify, I’m no longer the president of NAMI-Colorado Springs as my term ended last year, in time for my son and I to finish our book and publish it. That book is a big part of speaking out for my son and others with mental illness and their families. And my son wanted to tell his story so that people can see the face behind mental illness. Once you really SEE someone, it’s a lot harder to judge them. Though we did it in a book, so many are telling their stories in other ways–in posts like these, and by speaking out when they need to. I think we all need to do that in order for change to occur.

            I’m speaking to my friends at NAMI about medication. How could I not when I have so many questions? I want them to be asking them too. We’re talking about what I heard at Whitaker’s lecture and I’ve asked to read the blog that I wrote as well as about my op-ed piece here. Like me, they have son’s, daughters, spouses, siblings, and friends who are on antipsychotics and some are on those drugs. They want answers too.

            I truly believe we are all in this together. I like the way Laura ends her posts. “With solidarity.”

            Kathy

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        • Hi Donna,

          The marijuana and recreational drug issue is something I’ve asked myself about many times and Max and I both talk about it in the book. He and so many others at his college were certainly smoking pot. Was it a factor? I just don’t know. I do know most who engage in that don’t develop bipolar disorder, but then perhaps it’s a trigger if you’re already genetically disposed or whatever. Too many questions, not enough answers.

          Kathy

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        • Donna,
          LOVE your idea. A group like MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers! We could have MAD, Mothers Against Diagnosis, as activist Becky Murphy has suggested. I so agree with Dr. Paula Caplan’s position that ALL the harm of psychiatric “treatment” BEGINS with its bogus, unscientific, and pejorative “diagnoses.”

          How about Mothers Against Diagnosis & the Medical Model Of Mental “Illness”? MADMMOM”I”?

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      • Kathy, I wonder if you are aware of how much you use terminology which doesn’t actively engage a person with what is going on conceptually. Have you considered how much taking on the term “mental illness” might have disabled you from being able to relate to what was and is going on? Because that term was used to condone treatments that also don’t relate to what is going on conceptually. There is no proof there’s a biological disease, and this theory used to implement a biological cure has only caused more mental illness. In regards your son, I would suggest that contributed to what is going on, and I will not repeat the terms used. I can’t imagine being told that I have an organic illness, and then to be given “medications” which only suppress organic workings of my brain, and correlate with more disability and more mental illness, and to be told this is a cure: I can’t imagine that this would help make me happy unless I wanted my happiness to depend on what others told me to think and disregard my own instincts. Many veterans, after society has used them for violent action, also become homeless, and do not want to be part of such a society, and it’s lack of flexibility in finding answers. And here we are talking about a war on the brain. It’s all about disabling natural brain functions. I can’t really speak for them, but to me this is only logical. Is this because they have something organically wrong with their brain, or is something else going on? Is this even fair to them to be treated in such a manner: To be told they have an organic disease there is no proof of, and be given a treatment which has proven to cause exactly what they are told is a malfunction of their body, when it has never been proven to? The drugs cause the brain to malfunction, the disease has never really conclusively been proven to.
        Perhaps try counting how many times you use a diagnostic label; or how many medications you mention. All of that, I believe, has been proven statistically to only complicate what’s going on rather than introduce healing; and then that effect it used to demand more of the same “treatment,” rather than a different approach. That’s how the statistics are used by the people manufacturing those labels and those medications.

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      • Hi Kathy,
        Thanks for your response. It certainly sounds like Max is a very strong person who has been through a lot. I’d love to connect with him one day and exchange stories!

        I know many people who were introduced to Psychiatry as college students (I certainly surrendered to my diagnosis and “treatment” then, too, as a freshman). I look back on that time in my life now and see that of course I was having a difficult time, having racing thoughts and debilitating obsessions about the meaning of life and death, about space and time and social constructions, about whether or not anything about me or in my world was real. Transitioning to a new environment, especially when you’re a late teen/early twenty-something is not meant to be easy. It’s a painful intersection of the past and the future in an overwhelming present.

        I know that now, and see that when I turned to Psychiatry to heal the pain and profound angst I felt during those years, I was surrendering the opportunity to understand my intense suffering as something meaningful and important. When I started to see my experiences as signs of “mania” or “depression”, I closed off the opportunity to grow from them, because they were now symptoms to be eradicated.

        I guess I’m still a little unclear by your understanding of “Bipolar illness.” I am eager and curious to learn more about how you make sense of this word, “Bipolar”. Do you think it’s a physical/biological illness that your son has? Do you think it is a condition he will have for the rest of his life? Do you think his emotional experiences of the world are somehow different than others’? If your answer is yes to any of these, what evidence do you have to support these beliefs? I would love to learn more from you about your thoughts on this.

        Really enjoying this dialogue, and I am very glad to be connected!

        Love and solidarity,
        Laura

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        • Hi Laura,

          I’m going to try to answer your questions: I’d have to say that “bipolar” has been a word to use to express my son’s episodes, one that was given to us, yes by the doctor. I don’t know if it’s biological. There’s no proof that brain chemistry is a factor, though that’s what we’ve been told. Do I think he’ll have it forever? I’d love to think he’ll get past it–he’s almost died more than once, in so much danger roaming the streets, missing, homeless, lost to himself, me, his sister.

          Do I think his emotional experiences have been different than others? Absolutely different from “mainstream.” I think he’s had experiences that have enriched his life in so many ways–he’s deeply insightful as a result. His experience of the world informs his art and his writing in unique, vivid, and allegorical ways. I have a feeling this is true for you too, Laura.

          Aldous Huxley said, “The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.”

          I understand that and think it applies to my son in some ways.

          I’d love to find a way for you and him to connect. Any ideas?

          Warm regards,

          Kathy

          I

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          • Hi Kathy,
            Thanks for your response, and apologies for my delay in getting back to you! I have no doubt that your son’s art is greatly influenced by his emotional experiences of the world— my writing certainly is, and while I used to credit my creativity to “my Bipolar”, I understand it today as simply a part of who I am, and not evidence of any sort of abnormal “disorder” (because, in educating myself with the existing science, I’ve concluded that there simply isn’t such a thing).

            I’m curious— if you ackowledge that there’s no proof that Max’s brain chemistry is “abnormal” (and I’m assuming that you’ll take it one step further to acknowledge that there are no other biological factors that are “abnormal” in your son? Correct me if I’m wrong in that assumption… and if I’m wrong, I’m eager to hear how you’ve come to your conclusion), why do you call it an “illness”, and why is this “illness” something that makes your son “different”? And, you say, the “mainstream”… I’m curious to know what you mean by that?

            I too almost died more than once (in fact, after a suicide attempt, I’ve been told by my mother, who was with my body in the medi-flight, that I flat-lined), and doctors told my parents that they should accept that I would be in and out of hospitals for the rest of my life because of my “illness”. I now understand that the psychiatric drugs I was on, and the “mentally ill” identity I’d internalized, were completely disconnecting me from myself, and completely shutting me off from a life of joy, which is what led me to suicide and total self-destruction— this was something I had no awareness of while I was medicated, unfortunately; it is only something I’ve discovered after recovering from psychiatric drug withdrawal. As I say often, internalizing a “mentally ill” identity— of a “life-long illness” needing “life-long treatment”, etc. — becomes, I believe, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

            I love Huxley, and am intrigued by your use of this quote here— I take the “door” you feel your son has come back through to be his “Bipolar illness”? I once might have interpreted the quote in the same way. Now, if I were to apply this quote to the conversation at hand, I’d say that it was actually my belief in a “Bipolar” diagnosis, not “Bipolar” itself, that changed me in that way, making me less sure, less self-satisfied, humbler in my ignorance, and forever trying vainly to comprehend. It wasn’t the “Bipolar” itself— because really, that “illness” is a social construct that exists only in the minds of those who believe in it— it was the belief in the “Bipolar” that sentenced me to “never be quite the same”.

            I am eager to connect with Max! I think it would be wonderful. Email is the best way to reach me, so feel free to pass my contact info along to him ([email protected]). Perhaps our paths will cross in person in the near future?

            Warmest regards, and in solidarity,
            Laura

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    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks for your great article and sharing. You are a great inspiration to all.

      Like madmom, I can’t be as mellow as you about the bipolar scam that has harmed so many people including so many children. But, I must say I’ve learned the most from the education I very reluctantly obtained with much pain and effort at SCREW U, that great university of life with all its joys, pains, mistakes and challenges. As a result of this great education, I have saved many family members from dangerous drugs and treatments from mainstream medicine in general after my great learning experience of TOXIC PYSCHIATRY with loved ones I managed to rescue thanks to Dr. Peter Breggin as well as tons of other reserach.

      I can say that one of the great benefits of learning about the so called mental health system and others is that I am no longer the trusting fool I used to be with medical or other so called experts. Dr. Thomas Szasz, Psychiatrist, ticked me off at one point when he said we have a responsibility to learn about our social institutions like the biopsychiatric establishment when I was licking my wounds, but I sure learned he was absolutely right. The same is true for the so called legal system, educational system and government in general. If we don’t educate ourselves about the perils of these very powerful groups, we run the risk of being run over by them if not destroyed by them all in the guise of democracy and social welfare.

      Anyway, you are a great light and source of wisdom on this web site and I’m so glad you are here.

      Always,

      Donna

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    • Thank you for sharing Duane. I have really learned a lot from this vigorous exchange and appreciate everyone’s honesty and courage.

      Kathy, I appreciate your willingness to question long-held beliefs and what sounds like your willingness to support your son in taking the lead in his recovery choices. As a fellow mom, I know that can be scary territory.

      Good luck to you both in your family recovery journey!

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  9. I am the mother of a son diagnosed by psychiatrists as “severely mentally ill”. Luckily I never believed any of it. “Leave it to the experts” said the doctors. They sent my son home incapable of thinking clearly, shuffling instead of walking, depressed and totally traumatised. I took him off the medication behind doctors’ backs following Dr Breggin’s advice in one of his books. He is back to his normal happy, healthy self now but it took 5 years for him to get over the trauma caused by his experience and 2 years to get rid of the physical side-effects caused by the antipsychotic medication he was forced to take in hospital. The most shocking thing is that his doctors genuinely believed that they were doing their best to help him because they are blinkered by what they have been taught at medical school.

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  10. Kathy,

    I truly hope the best for you and your son, and meant what I said in the previous comments.

    Regarding your apparent involvement with NAMI, in a position of leadership….

    This gets so frustrating for a several reasons for me personally. How are people like myself suppose to dismiss the *actions* of NAMI? If we speak up, we are seen as polarizing, unwilling to have dialogue, close-minded, etc…

    There are *many* things NAMI does that IMO are non-negotiable, not the least of which is involvement in forced treatment. This comment was left on the NAMI post by Claire Weber. –

    From an online newsletter from the NAMI, Western Carolina:

    … “If a family member/caregiver is concerned about a loved one, they must attempt to encourage the loved one to accept a call and/or visit from the MCU. If the loved one refuses and the family member/caregiver is concerned, the other option is to call law enforcement and request that a CIT officer visit the person.
    So how often does a visit from the MCU end with Involuntary Commitment to treatment? MCU reports that of the 91 cases they worked in the month of November 2012, six ended with Involuntary Commitment, four went to Crisis Stabilization Units, one went to detox, one went to jail and the rest of the people stayed in their community and got connected to other services.”

    Full article (page 2):

    http://namiwnc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/NAMI-WC-Spring-2013-FINAL.pdf

    IMO, there is simply no room for compromise on some of these issues.

    NAMI works tirelessly at the state level to promote more drugging, particularly in Medicaid, foster care and juvenile justice systems. Kids need our protection.

    NAMI promotes forced treatment. We need to uphold the constitution. We need to allow for options, and work on making those options available.

    Duane Sherry, M.S.
    Retired Counselor
    http://discoverandrecover.wordpress.com/freedom

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    • I did take a look, but I also took a look at this page,

      http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=NAMI_Policy_Platform&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=38253

      Particularly (9.2.5) , (9.2.7) and (9.2.8). So while I have no doubt that some at NAMI might be questioning some of NAMI’s official policies, the fact remains that NAMI publicly, and aggressively, advocates for policies like these that I consider to be human rights abuses no different than when say homosexuals where forcibly “treated” for their disease. In a 1967 60 minutes special about homosexuals, of which you can hear a summary here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AXAOT_swIE , a psychiatrist can be heard saying (in that summary around minute 1:20),

      “homosexuality is in fact a mental illness which has reached epidemiological proportions”

      This is the type of stigmatization that NAMI promotes against people like me.

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      • It’s quite amazing to me that when they see someone homeless, but not in a “psychotic” episode, they do nothing. That person could die on the streets. And yet they will spend 1000 dollars a day (you add up how much this costs, and who gets paid for it) in order to keep someone in an asylum against their will; put them on “medications” which statistically shorten their life by 20 to 25 years, don’t correlate with healing and are extremely addictive.
        What if all of this money were put into actually feeding people and giving them shelter? I mean people that are hungry and have no home. That might even make it safer to be homeless or “on the streets.” And at a fraction of the cost of 1000 dollar a day, you can provide shelters, true asylums for people who have gone into periods the psychiatrists would call psychosis, and supposedly need to be medicated whether they want to or not. And in these shelters, when the usually 500 to 1000 dollars a month of “medications” aren’t forced on someone, it has consistently been shown that the outcome is far better for recovery. What if the target wasn’t vulnerable people, and forcing them on highly addictive medications? What if the focus wasn’t on making them out to be a danger to themselves and others? If you look at it closely, the medications (their withdrawal symptoms or as with anti-depressants their side effects) have been shown to be the strongest correlation with what causes such violence!
        The article called the changing face of Nami mentions the Newtown shooting, but it doesn’t mention that these shootings basically didn’t happen before we had anti-depressants. And that anti-depressants or another psychiatric drug is it seems always involved, or the information is withheld, which would indicate that it likely was involved, otherwise the information wouldn’t be withheld. These are the medications Nami says it needs more leeway to force on people. Read the black warning label on anti-depressants, something the drug companies were against. The drug companies also stopped taking in reports of the violence anti-depressants caused, and said that they weren’t getting reports. They also changed the rules for clinical trials in many ways to get the results they wanted to make them legal, in the first place: when people started getting better in the non control group the first few weeks they were removed from the statistics rigging the results in favor of the anti-depressant; when they didn’t get the results they wanted, they allowed people in the trials who were already on psychiatric drugs (not really appropriate for a clinical trial), not incomparable to asking drug addicts whether they wanted to try a new street drug; when most of the people in the trial in the control group had to leave the trial because of horrible side effects from the anti-depressants, they didn’t count this, and this happened repeatedly; when people in the control group had horrible side effects the last 7 weeks of the trial period (flue like symptoms, seizures, couldn’t sleep), because they were getting off of the anti-depressants, this at first wasn’t included in the material about the trial. With the amount of court cases where the drug companies have had to pay billions of dollars for falsely marketing psychiatric drugs (mostly newer psychiatric drugs than anti-depressants); with the intense rise in mental illness rather than a decline; it would be only logical that NAMI needs to change what it’s doing. But sorry, I don’t think this is some amazing new development, given how late it is, how minor the change is; and given the results of all the methods that weren’t mainstream drug treatments, results that have been there before they ever started the biological theory, and forced it on people without appropriate proof that it was valid. I guess I don’t know if I should find this an amazing new development, because if I do, it only colors NAMI badly as well; because any reasonable organization actually interested in a perspective on what’s going on, and articulately assimilating information would have changed their policy a LONG TIME AGO…
        And Kathy I’m not trying to criticize you. I think it’s immensely heart warming to hear your story, and see how much you are willing to see that there are different ways. And how much you love your son, and have stood by him. And show that NAMI actually isn’t completely stolid. But this evidence about NAMI, and how much they were involved with promoting what correlates with the great increase in mental illness, and how many lives were mislead, were given information that wasn’t accurate…When I look at their main website, what I see is information that’s mostly the same as what correlates with the increase in mental illness. Just because they are treating more and more people doesn’t make them some wonderful organization, when you look at how what they promote correlates with the increase in what’s termed mental illness. Instead, it points out to me that they monopolize on people’s fear of something that could be better understood and treated without the alarm about it.

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  11. Kathy,

    Hello, from one more parent trying to figure out how to be supportive and not cause any more harm. Thanks for jumping into the fray.

    There will be a public series of special events with Laura Delano at the end of July up here in Vancouver, BC, which is a hop, skip and a jump from Colorado. On Monday night, July 29th, she will be leading a Q&A after a screening of Daniel Mackler’s documentary film “Coming off Psych Drugs: A Meeting of the Minds.” The next day, she will be leading a workshop, “Is it Me, or My Meds?” Finding Self Beyond Psychiatry and Reconnecting to Our Human Spirit.” Perhaps your son would like to join us for these events. And if he doesn’t mind, you too.

    You have been offered an overwhelming wealth of resources above. When I started exploring this information and experience rich world of critical thinking about the medical model, the madnessradio.net archives of interviews introduced me to Robert Whitaker and several of the authors mentioned above. Through the archive list you can find interviews with authors, researchers, survivors and doctors looking critically at the pharma/psy industry (http://www.madnessradio.net/shows_list). For example, you can listen, for free, right now, to an hour long interview with Laura Delano.

    Peter Breggin also has a radio interview archive from which you can download an hour of Paris Williams, now, for free (http://prn.fm/tag/paris-williams/#axzz2Z4MSQnoK).

    Enjoy exploring this fascinating world of intelligent, compassionate and innovative people.

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  12. To Kathy, Donna, Madmom ,
    As the Mom’s who have seen our beautiful children as young adults suddenly spiral into an altered mood state given the title “rule out bipolar and /or psychosis NOS ( not otherwise specified)” which as we know from RW’s Anatomy of an Epidemic used to be a rare and episodic disorder to now so commonplace. It is just widely accepted in society. For any parent whose young, adult offspring has been sucked into the mental health care system yet whose toxicology screen was positive for cannabis ( also many other ” recreational” drugs can lead to altered mental states) ) shouldn’t we unite? My son admitted to us just after turning 23, getting married, and other stressors, the night he was having a breakdown ( I still call it a nervous breakdown) he had been using cannabis “often” for about four months. Since my husband and I had not known our son to indulge in illicit drugs before, we were shocked. But now realize far too many teens and young adults are using today’s potent THC with increasing psychoactive properties as the natural buffer against the psychoactive properties in the cannabis plant itself, cannabidiols (CBD) are being bred out which creates a ” double whammy” to the young maturing brain < age 25. Emergency visits are significantly increasing for cannabis related issues. See pg 180 of RW's Anatomy…Epidemic for first time psychosis related to cannabis. In the locked psych unit, we took our son to that hellish night we drove around helplessly trying to find the most caring place to get help, trust me we opened up the door to Dante's Inferno once we were forced to leave that facility as our son " voluntarily" agreed to enter the hospital, not realizing what HELL he would be subjected to inside. Since I knew " bipolar" was highly genetically related, I kept asking " how can this dx be possible given both family lines back to the Mayflower and have longevity, great health and NO severe mental disease?" Lies, rush to judgement, deception followed just to make a buck or two at these facilities and especially the authoritarian p- docs( out-pt ones just as bad or worse). Sadly, I had NO idea the system is so flawed, actually broken, and that no-one we encountered was truly concerned what caused my son's break, whether it be too many stressors ( and there were plenty) or even tried to educate us that his drug use ( mostly cannabis) has ties as far back as 1987 with the big study out of Sweden linking psychosis and pot use. The hospital told us pot is " virtually harmless" one p- doc even suggested a " little pot" can be good! Really, if one has the wrong brain for cannabis and just do a search to find the answers globally, the truth will set us all free. I fear the HELL many other teens, and young adults will face as the perception in. 2013 is marijuana has no negative effects, for anyone.
    Yes, let's start looking at the ROOT causes why bipolar (especially bp one) and other mental dysfunctional disorders are increasing…let's connect the dots. A fascinating study done in the UK last yr has shown some credible data about those who use cannabis on a " regular" basis who have a certain genetic underpinning and developed a 7 fold increase in psychosis- http://www.kcl.ac.uk/iop/news/records/2012/November/cannabis-psychosis.aspx

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    • As a past teen cannabis user, and the twin of a heavy cannabis user, and I ran around with many cannabis users I really really question connecting its use to the cause of psychosis. Legal synthetic drugs/cannabis is another story since it can contain amphetamine like substances, and is often passed off as the illegal substance. It can and does often cause psychosis. Major problem!

      A few years ago I gathered my son up from his spiritual emergency, that include full blown psychosis, he suffered while attending MIT in Cambridge MA. 6 or more pdocs and we quickly fell into the medication trap. The story is much longer than I care to post, but thanks to Robert Whitaker’s books we quickly learned that maybe there were other options. I even emailed Mr. Whitaker with our short story and he emailed me back with a “he will be fine response” refering to our son.

      We only see our son a couple of times a year (we live in IA and he stayed in MA) and today just ended his recent visit. He is fine and drug free and most importantly we are better prepared for the next spiritual emergency should one occur.

      Time heals and patience prevails!

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      • Just do the research as suggested. Then return with more current factual info. Check out pg 180 of RW’s book, Anatomy.. Epidemic since you mention him or better yet, ask RW his opinion on what the research and findings about TODAY’S MJ are. It’s just so sad me that in the 21st century, opinion about cannabis can not include the studies that show this link to mental changes in certain brains. I only wish I had found MIA in time for my son who did not survive what the mental health system did to him. I totally believe the ” spiritual experience” as our son did initially, but then the massive amount of neuroleptics just added more injury to his poor brain that should have been helped to get sleep so his brain could reset but instead was massively drugged, warehoused and brainwashed.
        The horror we watched our son endure by the mental health system will never be forgotten. Hindsight is 20/20 and sadly, there are no do overs for our son and our family is forever broken. I’m so happy your son survived his spiritual awakening, just know not every story ends so happily.

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        • I’ve done the research. I’ve read the books. I’ve walked the talk as well. Legalize cannabis (POT) and you wouldn’t have the legal synthetic drugs that are devastating our youth. Please reread and listen! The same rightious people hand their kids amphetamines every day then turn their heads to the incarceration of a harmless POT smoker. Both ruin lives. We cannot afford to point a finger in the wrong direction and pass the blame.

          Psychosis from cannabis is an interesting study for sure. I have to believe that psychosis from cannabis is very rare. Can POT use lead to other drugs? Sure it can and does. How about the benefits of cannabis over the cruel man made drugs?

          The point I was trying to make is that the focus should be on the legal drugs that are being handed out like candy. The legal substances that our youth can buy at the local tobacco outlet.

          I feel deeply for your loss. Love and gratitude will prevail over time.

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          • @Duane,

            With your reply you want me to believe that if cannabis were eliminated from this earth that 1/3 of bipolar cases would be cured or never would have occured at all.

            Wishful thinking at best!

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          • It could be that the cannibas use comes from a need to relieve anxiety or deal with emotional pain.

            I don’t think there are simple answers in most cases. However, I’ve come to understand that in some cases there are simple (not always easy) answers.

            Every individual is unique.

            Duane

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          • I think that medical marijuana advocates minimize the potential risks of abusing pot and the dangers of using
            tainted stuff that is available on the streets, while prohibitionists exaggerate the risks.

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          • Madmom

            I agree with you. I have worked over 20 years in community mental health with a focus on addictions.

            My research and anecdotal experience tells me that some people are very sensitive to pot, and when the use of this drug is combined with other life stressors it can be a “trigger” or a “catalyst” for psychotic like symptoms or paranoia.

            If fact most people have an evolving relationship with this drug. Many who eventually quit using pot will often refer to it creating a “paranoid edge” to their thought process that makes them uncomfortable and more anxious. I have interviewed hundreds of people who have told me this.

            I would speculate that with today’s youth most young people who have experienced a first time “psychotic break” not only have some trauma in their life experience but also considerable pot use as well.

            Just one more reason to NOT refer to these problems as a brain disease.

            Richard

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          • Marijuana in larger doses did eventually start making me paranoid (though it only started after an incident where someone had slipped me another hallucinogenic drug). I have heard this from other users as well. I think it is very possible marijuana can trigger psychosis, especially if used long-term or with other drugs (including legal psych drugs).

            That being said, I agree with you, the legal drugs are far more likely to cause psychosis and other problems than marijuana ever could. In fact, marijuana in low dosages is probably a more effective “antidepressant” or “anti-anxiety” drug than anything on the market, and it certainly has a much milder side effect profile! The problem, of course, is dosage control, but as we see with the incredible rise in prescription drug abuse, that problem exists with almost any psychoactive drug.

            So I agree, it makes no sense to give kids amphetamines and then be worried when some of them smoke pot. I’m a lot more worried about the speed!

            —- Steve

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          • Thanks for the responses. I bow to all of your good works. It is important to understand the symptoms of these drug interactions. Psychosis brought on from amphetamines is real and takes a long time to recover fully from. Much different from the pot use or even being a heavy pot user. The “paranoid edge” is real when using pot but it is short lived and I believe different from the paranoia experienced during psychosis.

            Pot is like playing with a match that remains unlit or is never lit. I believe pot may even help to heal the mind. Amphetamines are like lighting the match and starting a fire and getting burnt, and the more often you use fire the more burnt you get and maybe even scarred. Psychosis occurs when you run from the fire after you are burnt. You have all probably been up close to a big bonfire and felt the heat and the intense light, then turned away and felt that rush of coolness, and your eyes had to adjust to the darkness, and you see nothing but brightness for a period of time. In psychosis you are stuck in the brightness.

            I agree with you Richard that it is
            “Just one more reason to NOT refer to these problems as a brain disease”

            Our thoughts and feelings are more our conditions in time and should we push or pull away from the cause of our condition (the fire) our mind and body will naturally refocus and heal.

            Sure there are chronic conditions that will take a long “time” for healing.

            Gratitude and time heals all.

            No time to continue this post…

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    • larmac,

      First, I am thrilled about the latest op-ed on so called bipolar exposing the fraud that this stigma represents a biological cause in the victim so stigmatized.

      http://www.madinamerica.com/2013/07/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-bipolar-disorder/

      I would like to say that I did point out to Kathy here that many experts claim that substance abuse including binge drinking and/or pot CAN contribute to extreme states of emotional distress, but I made it clear that this is also COMBINED with many other stressors young adults suffer when having to leave home and function as an independent adult in a stressful, very competitive college environment that is even worse now with the economic meltdown. Of course, vaccines, toxic junk food and tons of other pollutants can impact our health and minds in very negative ways with bogus DSM stigmas always a convenient coverup while they remain unproven pseudoscience as in the book, PSEUDOSCIENCE IN BIOLOGICAL PSYCHIATRY by Dr. Colin Ross et al.

      And to show the Catch 22 of biopsychiatry, Jill Littell in her articles at MIA and elsewhere on bipolar I and II shows that anyone engaging in any substance abuse today including alcohol is routinely and automatically given the junk science bipolar II stigma, which was also being done routinely for bipolar I when the symptoms often were iagrogenic effects of other psych drugs like SSRI’s and Ritalin for so called ADHD and depression, known to be gateway stigmas/drugs for bipolar contributing to the mass epidemic of bipolar for adults and then children to expand this horrible “market.” Also, Dr. Healy exposes that corrupt BIG PHARMA hacks came up with the brilliant ploy of always blaming the victims’ so called “mental illness” for all the lethal effects of psych drugs including mania, aggression, irritability, suicide, worse depression, akathasia, etc. Dr. Healy and Robert Whitaker expose that those with so called “manic depression” (supposedly former bipolar) used to fully recover and live productive lives for the most part before the advent of biopsychiatry and its lethal stigmas and toxic drugs forced on people for life along with many other horrific human rights violations per many studies.

      In all of my posts I have pointed out that based on my extensive research and experience that so called bipolar is a total fraud in terms of any biomedical cause to cover up social stressors, abuse related trauma and other problems. I have made it all too clear that bipolar and other VOTED IN DSM stigmas are totally bogus with no scientific, biological or other evidence, reliability or validity with no tests to prove anyone has it or known genes/causes underlying it. The recent extensive flak over the obviously junk science DSM V debacle and Head of the NIMH, Dr. Insel’s admission of the lack of validity of the DSM and bipolar by extension validates my own reality and claims I’ve made for a very long time as have many others including many experts/psychiatrists/psychologists, etc.

      So, when I say that excess recreational drugs to cope with an already overstressed young adult body may cause extreme emotional distress, I am in no way agreeing that this combined social/physical state is what is known as bipolar disorder invented to pad psychiatry’s pockets in bed with BIG PHARMA to sell the latest lethal drugs on patent including so called mood stabilizers like Depakote and atypical antipsychotics as exposed by Dr. David Healy in his great book, MANIA: A SHORT HISTORY OF BIPOLAR DISORDER, and his many good articles on bipolar mania/mythology/babble.

      Therefore, my personal experience with loved ones was with those suffering great distress from domestic/work/school/community abuse related trauma who were in NO WAY PSYCHOTIC, CRAZY, MANIC, DELUSIONAL or exhibiting any of the usual symptoms that psychiatry falsely accuses those they wish to target with their life destroying stigmas like bipolar and toxic drugs to create another permanent patient or life annuity to profit from another human being’s suffering. People should bear in mind that it has been common for the mental health profession to UPDIAGNOSE to qualify for more extensive and longer “treatment” payments and bipolar is one of the most lucrative stigmas today. Bipolar is most used to justify long expensive hospitalizations and life long predation by biopsychiatry and our fascist therapeutic state on normal people in crisis forced into the permanent patient role in the guise of mental health while being forcibly subjected to what Dr. Peter Breggin exposes as psychiatry’s barbaric brain damaging/disabling torture treatments including neuroleptics and ECT (TOXIC PSYCHIATRY, YOUR DRUG MAY BE YOUR PROBLEM, 2nd ed.). So, biopsychiatry does create a self fulfilling prophecy in that their brain damaging/disabling toxic treatments do create chemical imbalances in the brain, brain shrinkage and other brain damage/reactions that may become permanent and cause the very symptoms of their bogus stigmas that have resulted in an epidemic of illness, disability and other suffering resulting in more corporate welfare for the biopsychiatry/BIG PHARMA industrial cartel.

      So, I hope everyone here and elsewhere understands that so called bipolar is now what Dr. Thomas Szasz called psychiatry’s “sacred symbol” or a justification of its existence that used to be psychosis/schizophrenia with all the supposed symptoms of that now incorporated into bipolar created by committee with huge drug company ties to justify biopsychiatry’s alliance with BIG PHARMA and others in power wishing to blame the victims of all social/domestic/school/community abuse, oppression, injustice, exploitation, etc. so that the power elite can avoid addressing the real social crises and suffering that exist and/or they create.

      Therefore, when anyone speaks of bipolar, I hope you understand that you cannot assume people are speaking of the same thing. Dr. Carole Warshaw, Psychiatrist and Domestic Violence Expert, along with many others expose that women and children victims of domestic and other abuse/violence are routinely MISDIAGNOSED or falsely accused of being bipolar, paranoid, delusional, ADHD and other bogus stigmas while not bothering to ask about the abuse/violence and/or deliberately covering it up to create a cowardly gang of misogynist bullies/mobbers/oppressors against lone, vulnerable abused women and children to aid and abet the original abusers/bullies/mobbers. After all, the DSM by definition refuses to acknowledge any causes of the alleged bipolar and other stigmas making it a pathetic, sadistic joke once this unbelievable con job and life destroying fraud is understood and exposed to its many shocked victims. This also causes retraumatization when abuse victims learn that most if not all from whom they seek help including the so called mental health, legal, medical and other systems mostly blame the victims and aid and abet their fellow abusers in power. This too can drive the victims “crazy” if the victims don’t learn to do their own homework and become totally self reliant by necessity while avoiding the DSM mental death system like the plague it has become along with other oppressive patriarchal systems.

      Dr. Allen Frances, Chairman of the DSM IV, acknowledges in a WIRED article by Gary Greenberg that “defining mental disorders diagnosis is bullshit…there is no way to define it…or tell who’s normal and who’s not.” Dr. Frances also makes the horrifying statement that the “collective fantasy of science behind the DSM was good for psychiatry and patients.” For Dr. Frances and Dr. Robert Spitzer, editor of the DSM III, to maintain this delusional belief despite the millions of lives destroyed including children by the fascist, fraudulent DSM paradigm globally boggles my mind. Gary Greenberg’s enlightening new book, THE BOOK OF WOE, includes many interviews with Dr. Allen Frances, DSM IV ed., and exposes more of the history and fraud of the DSM biopsychiatry paradigm and why he believes that this harmful, dishonest, fictitious junk science should be abolished.

      So, though I appreciate your including me among those whose loved ones have been harmed by what I now call the mental death profession, we in no way share the exact same experiences because they are totally unique and diverse just as every precious human being is unique and precious making biopsychiatry’s one size fits all book of insults/abuse or DSM life destroying stigmas used to unleash a literal barrage of human rights abuses and violations all the more pernicious and deadly. See Dr. Joanna Moncrieff’s articles like “Psychiatric Imperialism” and “Psychiatric Diagnosis As A Political Device,” along with the book, DE-MEDICALIZING MISERY to see how psychiatry functions as an agent of fascist social control in the guise of medicine to coverup its illegal, coercive practices.

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  13. To all the moms and parents who have been actively involved with your child’s treatment what you have done is trying to have your child’s back which is wonderful. The system is so messed up that it is hard to distinguish which is the best way to go. You try to do the right thing and the then have to deal with horror when you find out how badly the system cares for its patients at times. I have found this out in regular medicine as well. It is so confusing to meander the current state of affairs that is modern medicine today. The polarization and fear are great. One wrong word and things fall apart. There is no good place of dialogue at times.
    I applaud those parents who express outrage at the inpatient system. I have been there and it is hell. I wish I had a spouse,children, or friend who have been behind me as the mothers here have been with their children and young adult children. Even those there have been different pathways the love is apparent. I also send congrats out to those who have realized their parents tried to help them but ended up harmed by the system. I thought as a professional I knew what and where to go and was I wrong. The current state of affairs is so different than twenty or thirty years ago. It is not cool to be angry and outraged these days. It is not what some professionals want to hear. This was not always so. I remember when some docs did tolerate anger from their patients. I always did. Anger is a human emotion. Coping with it can be hard and not being heard goes way beyond frustration.
    I realize I came close to getting my son in the system and I am so glad it didn’t happen. Less is more I think is the lesson. There are no medical gods just human beings imperfect and if you are lucky caring and able to listen and see and understand all the nuances of Mental Health.

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  14. Yesterday, my son, Max and I had a wonderful book signing for “Walks on the Margins.” Some 60 people were there and yes we did sell a whole bunch of books. But more importantly, those 60 people were moved by our reading and discussion and they wanted to hear from Max. They wanted to understand his journey; they wanted to understand him. They left with a better understanding, having listened to him speak about bipolar disorder with intelligence and wit. They saw the person behind the disorder. They saw how smart, articulate, and creative he is. I couldn’t be happier. It’s why we wanted to write the book–to show the face behind the illness. 🙂

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    • I’m glad to hear that Kathy, and I’m very interested in your book which I have added to my reading list after looking through it in Amazon (although I must confess my reading list is quite long at the moment, but I’ll get there eventually).

      I find very interesting your last phrase “to show the face behind the illness” – when I read it just now it struck me what a powerful metaphor this is.

      The face behind the illness… and indeed, the illness is something that covers the face, the real face of the person. Or is it? I mean, is there really something there, this “illness”, covering like a mask the true and real face of the person underneath? And if there is such a thing, this mask, this “illness”, where does it come from? From inside the “ill” person, perhaps? From a “broken brain”, as the say? But then, if it comes from inside the person, from their brains, in what sense can we say that it is like a mask that covers the real face of the person, rather than part of that face? Or is it rather that this mask is something that other people put over the face of the “ill” person? Something we put on them precisely so that we don’t have to look at their real faces, so that we don’t have to look at faces which are sometimes full of pain, and full of anger, and suffering, faces which makes us very uncomfortable? Uncomfortable because to a greater a lesser extent we are responsible for that pain, anger and suffering, so that their faces are also an accusation, and accusation we would rather cover up with the mask of “illness” so we don’t have to look at it any more?

      I don’t know, but like all good metaphors I think this one invites many reflections – thank you so much for bringing it up.

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      • Very interesting reflections and questions Morias, thanks for bringing them up.

        The mask idea I hadn’t thought of, it makes sense somehow, that society would rather see the mental illness label than a mad person. Hide the pain behind a label and under psychiatric drugs. Then zombie like we can walk around or that’s how it felt like for me on psych drugs, like my personality and the real ‘me’ wasn’t acceptable, the fact I was flat and humourless wasn’t important. More important that I quietened down, did what I was told, swallowed the drugs, accepted the labels.

        Well of course I didn’t. And even when on the drug cocktail I challenged the psychiatrist about the bipolar disorder label. Then he gave me a schizoaffective disorder label. I suppose for daring to challenge him? It was probably an embarassment, and still is, the fact that I took charge of my own mental health and made a full recovery. The schizo label has now gone into “perpetuity”, whatever that means. Because they won’t admit they were wrong, the psych labels are written indelibly. But I’ve tippexed them out. They don’t exist except in the imagination of the psychiatric system.

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  15. Kathy, I read the free chapters on Amazon and teared up for sure. We traveled from Iowa to Boston MA for what appears to be similar reasons. I got the same rush of thoughts as well. I often thought that if we had convinced our son to stay in Iowa things may have been different. Your story covered that doubt for me.

    Great read that i too will add to my Amazon wishlist. Thanks to you and Max for sharing.

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  16. Kathy,

    I’m confused.

    You sounded outraged with the words you chose in your post:

    “Most difficult for those with mental illness and their families, me included, was the fear that the medicine they had relied on was damaging and that they had put their trust in the wrong hands.”

    “My son, who as you’ll remember was sitting right beside me during Whitaker’s talk, is angry, very angry about what he heard; angry at doctors and hospitals who have prescribed and sometimes forced mediation on him, and the pharmaceutical industry that reaps tremendous financial benefit.”

    And there seemed to be a sense of urgency:

    “I’ve realized I’d been lazy, taking the word of doctors and other professionals and believing what has been general consensus, instead of doing the hard work of educating myself, knowing full well that when we educate ourselves we can make informed choices and take control.”

    Now your comments are about a big book signing.

    And once again, I find it very hard to trust anyone in NAMI leadership (past and present), for several reasons, not the least of which is any sense of urgency or commitment to change the status quo.

    I hope the best for you and your son.

    Duane

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    • AA,

      Thank you. It helps to know I’m not alone.

      IMO, a paradigm shift, unlike any in history is in the works, and it will not be NAMI that takes the lead.

      There may be a few NAMI folks who decide to join in (at the 11th hour), but it will be after the fact. The others will remain busy with their NAMI walks, fundraisers, propaganda efforts, etc, while the tide turns – like a tidal wave, a tsunami!

      Duane

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  17. Duane, I can understand that if she has written a book, she wants to promote it as any author would. But the reason I am critical is I see no statement at all from her indicating attempts to continue to understand what the MIA movement is all about. This also concerns me because she hasn’t addressed any of the concerns we have about NAMI cohersive practices.

    As I previously mentioned, I am not even in the mental health system but if god forbid, I don’t say the right things in describing my condition to my doctor, I very easily could be. And we have NAMI to thank for that in my opinion.

    I sadly have to agree with you about many NAMI folks being joiners after the fact.

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    • I’m confused too Duane. Why is it necessary to focus this discussion need to focus entirely on problems? Why does the rhetoric need to be angry? I think people should be talking about their successes too. My son, who has had plenty of trauma in his life, has written an amazingly honest narrative, that is insightful and poetic, and he touched many people at the signing–which was my point. That’s huge and others who struggle should be able to celebrate that. His success is everyone’s success. We need to hear about those from all of you. What is happening in you’re lives that you’re proud of? I’d like to hear those stories.

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  18. Whatever personal opinion one may hold of NAMI and Pete Earley, there is a lot to cheer about re NAMI’s shifting focus. (See quote from Pete Earley below). Why not put our money where our collective mouths are and make a positive statement by responding to Robert Whitaker’s plea for MIA funding. Shocking that the site has raised so little money for a site that has such a loyal following. There are 228,148 unique visitors to this site. How about $1 from each one to make a positive contribution to change? (Put $1, a pound note, etc. into an envelope and mail it!) Why waste precious time and drain our energies constantly trashing an organization like NAMI (and people within it who are struggling to come to grips with the new reality) when there are family based recovery networks and educational programs like Mother Bear, Family Outreach & Response, and Practice Recovery that are not tied to the pharmaceutical industry. I dug out this quote from the Pete Earley blog that Kathy references.

    Pete Earley: For me, this shift away from Dr. Torrey’s views and the welcoming of Robert Whitaker as a NAMI speaker reflects how NAMI’s membership — or at least its board of directors – has moved away from its traditional parental based roots. I would not be surprised if NAMI soon drops its long-standing support of Assisted Outpatient Treatment. Whether you consider this shift a good or bad thing clearly depends on your individual views about such issues as AOT, medication, involuntary treatment, Dr. Torrey and Whitaker. The point of this blog is simply this: NAMI’s views are shifting.

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    • Rossa:

      How exciting to think that NAMI may drop its stand on forced commitment and distance itself from Dr. Torrey. I hope you are right. I will make a donation to MIA in the meantime. Thanks to your reminder about the importance of this.

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  19. Hi Rossa,

    You make some good points and as an FYI, I just made a contribution. To digress, I plead with folks to make one who haven’t yet done do. This site cannot die.

    I apologize for my negative attitude. I think I was a little discouraged at some of the discussions on Linkin that I know you were a part of. So I guess I was thinking, “Ok, Bob spoke, now what are you going to do NAMI?” And when Kathy wasn’t addressing the concerns about AOT and other negative points about NAMI and changed the subject, I think that fueled my negativity.

    Again, my apologies.

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    • A NAMI discussion group on LINKED IN? I find that to engage in a discussion with older members of NAMI is a traumatizing experience in itself. I would rather listen to Rush Limbaugh for five hours. Never have I heard such dispiriting,, hopeless nonsense as in a roomful of NAMI moms all talking about their loved ones. Gads! I leave such activities to the more stalwart members of the moms movement.

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      • I admit, I always start laughing when I hear people refer to their “loved ones.” Like, are they funeral directors? Paris Williams urged people here at MIA to join the NAMI LinkedIn discussions in order to present a more critical view of the biochemical model, etc. There are lots of MIA people who have taken up his challenge, including me. And, there is no content control so people can post all kinds of articles. There’s the usual fluff and biochemical beliefs, but there is quite a lot of coverage of the important issues, and lots of discussion is generated.

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      • LOL madmom as one who is not a fan of Limbaugh’s in the all time understatement. All jokes aside, I think it is important to know what arguments are being used for the opposite points of what most of us on MIA believe so we can effectively counter them. I just picked a bad day to visit the discussions.

        And in all fairness, when I deeply believed in meds for myself, I was like alot of those NAMI moms. I greatly resented anyone who implied that I could be drug free. It was just hard to believe that anything I had tried to make so hard to work was a total failure.

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  20. First Duane, We all have such a stake in these discussions, so I understand but thank you for the apology. It means a lot.

    I should explain why I haven’t continued to address the NAMI issues. It was a conscious decision. Early on in this conversation, I talked about what I saw happening at NAMI and that I believe things are changing with the new president, bringing Whitaker in etc. I expect that to continue and will work within the organization to push that along and speak out. I think that’s the best thing that those of us who believe in NAMI’s mission can do. I also wrote that NAMI does so much good on the local level. It has helped me tremendously and I’ve seen how it’s helped others. So I figured I’d said what I needed to say and anything more would just add fuel to the flames. Perhaps that was a mistake.

    And Duane–Your comments were the impetuous for my request for stories which I’m excited about doing. I mean it when I ask folks to send their stories of trauma to success and accomplishment to me at my website. It might be as simple as waking up clear headed for the first time in years or it might be finishing a degree, or becoming a CEO or volunteering for a good cause. It would make for a wonderful series on my blog. I truly believe that when we tell our stories, people listen, understanding occurs, and judgment falls by the wayside. And then maybe change happens too.

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