PTSD in Withdrawal

Matt Samet
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Can withdrawal from psychiatric drugging be so terrible as to leave you with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — to somehow rearrange your psyche for the worse even once time and hard work have undone the damage caused by the chemicals? To so profoundly alter your core self that you acquire a new diagnosis meriting special considerations or further treatment in order to resume a normal life again?

For myself, and writing strictly as a layperson, I don’t believe this to be the case. This is both because I’ve healed from the damage without further intervention — and precisely because there was no further intervention! — but also because I now recognize that PTSD is simply another psychiatric label, another potential path to drugging and mistreatment. If we in fact apply a little logic, and going by the National Institute of Mental Health’s definition, feeling “stressed or frightened even when… no longer in danger” would seem to be one’s only possible sane reaction to having survived or witnessed “mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.”

I mean, holy shit: if events like these don’t change you somehow, then you’re either dead or a robot.

That’s a long list of horrible stuff, to which we could easily append an acute, symptomatic withdrawal syndrome, or forced hospitalization, ECT, and drugging or other related psychiatric abuses. In any case, accepting a DSM-stamped diagnosis as the result of damage wrought by psychiatric abuse strikes me as the bleakest sort of irony. A tragic misstep, a choice that might potentially trap you in the system forever, or at least mire you in interpreting your experience via the selfsame rubrics that sowed all that damage in the first place. (It’s not such a big step from believing something you’ve been told about yourself to letting someone else control your life, perhaps chemically, as a result of this interpretation.) This isn’t to say that there’s no help nor should there be for what we’ve come to call “PTSD” — talk therapy, exposure therapy, and meditation, for example, are avenues back to wellness after trauma — only that unquestioningly embracing the diagnosis per se could bring you back to square one psychopharmacologically. To wit:

“Doctor, I’m worried that your rapid taper off Klonopin and Seroquel in a locked ward coupled with forced restraint and a volley of ten ECT treatments has left me with flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness, avoidance of hospitals, angry outbursts, and an exaggerated startle response.”

“Ah, I see…Yes. That sounds quite troubling. Yes, very troubling indeed.”

“So what can we do?”

“Well, this sounds serious. I think we should immediately readmit you to the ward and start aggressive treatment with high doses of Paxil and further ECT. You clearly have the gene for PTSD, which these earlier events have, I now see, unmasked.”

And so it goes: the snake devours its own tail.

For me it’s been critical to steer clear of the whole circus, even if I note some changes in how I experience the world. While to a clinician’s perspective these changes might fall under the umbrella of “PTSD,” I would argue that they’re instead adaptive and intuitive, the only sane reaction to having had my personhood and faith in others so roundly and unapologetically violated.

Mine is a long and labyrinthine story, but at a glance I ended up hospitalized multiple times and polydrugged in 2005 while fighting to break free of benzodiazepine tranquilizers. My end goal was to be free of all psychiatric medications, to find out who I was again, even as the doctors (predictably, I now see) were having none of that and simply put me on more drugs each time I fell into their clutches. There, on those locked wards, those hope-snuffing purgatories of endless disinformative “therapy” groups, buzzing fluorescents, Russian bread lines thrice daily at the med station, and Lysol-lemon linoleum floors, I saw how quickly autonomy and dignity can be stripped away. How every last decision, from when you ate, slept, and woke, to where and how you moved about the world, to how you were allowed to frame your reality, was now going to be made by others. Those in control were often unfeeling, uncaring, un-self-aware, and cynical individuals who could barely remember your name, who dismissed every last one of your concerns as symptoms of some sham “disease,” and who seemed not to have your best interests at heart unless these interests aligned with their own.

Namely, they had no “help” for you unless you obeyed and didn’t ask too many questions. Or any questions at all.

If you scroll back up this story, you’ll remember that one possible cause of PTSD is “being kidnapped or held captive”; if you’re held on a psychiatric ward against your will, or once there are forced to ingest toxic chemicals against your better judgment, or are enduring the torturous symptoms of a too-rapid withdrawal from medication, as is often the case, then there will be scars. This is a fact. Even if you’re not on a ward but instead shut up in your house enduring these same scenarios as the result of outpatient “care,” there will be scars.

But are these scars PTSD? Or are they ultimately adaptations that are protective against further abuse?

For me, it’s been the latter. My experience has changed me and I’ll never be the same person again, but I consider this neither tragic nor a “disorder.” In fact, I consider it a gift. As we move through life, and fate bats us about like a cat with a ball of yarn, many great but also terrible things will befall us. And these things change who we are — such are the natural workings of the universe, and there’s no point in fighting or pathologizing them because our job here as human beings is to evolve despite the vicissitudes of life. (This is not to deny that there isn’t a very real post-trauma syndrome, of some sort, that people experience after dark events; only that I don’t think it’s as simple, causal, and easily pinpointed as a DSM diagnosis might lead you to believe.) Instead I see the new me as a smarter, savvier, more outspoken yet cautious man who won’t be duped again by bullshitters. This might not make it easier for me to be around other people, and for others to be around me, but given what I’ve been through I don’t especially care.

Like an old farm dog that’s been kicked one too many times, I’ve earned the right to lie on my blanket and growl at whoever goes past, if I don’t like the way they smell.

Here are some changes to my personality that I’ve noticed that could be considered “PTSD-like” but that I instead choose to embrace as adaptive:


Trust

I have more difficulty than before trusting people—unless they are trusted friends or family members who were already part of my orbit. Moreover, I find it especially difficult to rely on strangers whose actions have some direct bearing on my health and autonomy, especially medical professionals. I realize this can be a liability in today’s overly connected world, where we rely on strangers for so many things, but I don’t believe I’ve suffered any negative consequences as a result. I’ve simply pulled away from scenarios that, and people who, make me uncomfortable. Though maybe we all tend to do this as we age: you figure out what you like and what you don’t, and you seek out the former because happiness is fleeing, the idiots are myriad, and life is short.

If this means I get on fewer airplanes (trust some person I’ve never met, behind a locked door out of sight, to fly a giant bucket of flexing aluminum through the sky with me on it — um, OK?) or try fewer “fun” new activities (whitewater rafting, ziplining, laser tag; yippee-skippee!) where I must rely on templated instructions and some barely engaged instructor, or am less open to new scenarios, then so be it. I’m a simple man with simple pleasures—family time, climbing rocks, walking the dog—and I don’t believe I’m missing out by “only” doing these few things that bring me fulfillment. It’s taken me forty-some odd years to find the things that make me happy, and I’m glad I did. I stick to situations now where I’m in control, because I’ve seen how bad life becomes when you let other people make decisions for you.

Bluntness

Perhaps this is what a psychiatrist would call the “anger” or “irritability” component of PTSD, but again, I see it as a necessary response to having been steamrollered by others—by “medical experts” whose opinions about my mental well-being were ultimately wrong and in fact nearly cost me my life.

If I don’t like what someone is doing to or telling me, I state my objection—often not in the most diplomatic terms, but hey; I’m working on it. This has gotten me into trouble a few times, and even had some effect on a few relationships, but again, I don’t care. If someone is behaving in a hurtful or exploitative fashion toward someone I care about or toward me, then diplomacy be damned. They can piss off, either temporarily or for good, and I’m happy to say as much. I even walked off a high-profile job I’d worked toward all my life for this very reason.

If this sounds extreme, consider that it probably took the same burning anger and force of will to fire your psychiatrist, which for me was a huge step on the road to wellness. If you find yourself quicker to anger than in the past, maybe it’s because the you who opted to take drugs to “fix” your problems was not quick enough to anger — maybe the stronger, more forthright, angrier new you is who you needed to be in the first place, to avoid being victimized. After years of being a timid little mouse while on the drugs and in the withdrawal state, I tend not to keep my mouth shut now to spare someone’s feelings if their behavior is negatively impacting my well-being.

(Anti-)Socializing

I’ve never been the most social person, and have long avoided gatherings, parties, and crowds, but post-withdrawal this introverted streak has become more pronounced. Certainly small talk is never easy for all but the most extroverted among us, but I’ve come in recent years to find it all but impossible unless I’m chatting with people I genuinely connect to. I chalk this up to having had to, while in florid withdrawal, put on a “Matt mask” every day in public just to get by, even as my internal world resembled the ninth circle of Dante’s hell. If you’ve been through it, then you know—psych-drug withdrawal is uncut suffering, but it’s also a hell you can describe only to a select few trusted people, because most people’s reactions will be weird, judgmental, and generally steeped in the tired “chemical-imbalance” rhetoric trumpeted by Big Pharma, the psychiatric industry, and the corporate media.

Hence how much energy it takes to project a facsimile of yourself that doesn’t make others uncomfortable, and spares you all that arguing and explaining.

These days, I don’t have the patience to pretend to be anything anymore, especially on low-energy days; or it takes more energy than I’m willing to invest. So I avoid social situations. But again, for me, an introvert, this hasn’t been a problem. If I previously had a purple belt in reclusiveness, today it’s a third-degree black belt: Kiyai!

Hypervigilance

Is this the “exaggerated startle response” mentioned above? Not necessarily. I’ve merely noticed that I’ve become hyper-cautious about everything from driving to checking my safety equipment while climbing (a good habit!) to constantly surveying my surroundings in public. On psych meds, I noticed a certain blasé attitude toward life; a result of the drugs’ sedating and spellbinding effects. This perma-fog made me less cautious than I needed to be, and as a result I experienced two climbing accidents, among myriad other moments of carelessness, that have left me with bad knees and a limp.

Maybe I overthink, overanalyze, and over-scrutinize things now, but then again maybe not. Taking a pill to insulate you from and make you feel better about the world’s chaotic, violent, and entropic nature won’t change the reality—only your reaction to it (or lack thereof). Now that my senses are no longer dulled, I feel it’s incumbent upon me to notice what and who is around me, and be proactive in protecting my person and that of my friends and family. Now, when I’m in a situation I don’t like, I simply leave. Try doing that on a locked ward and you’ll see what an essential human freedom this really is.

Difficulty Starting Anything

I don’t know why this is, but I’ve heard of other people in withdrawal, and even a few “old timers,” complain of this as well. It’s gotten better over the years, but for a while I had trouble beginning anything, be it a work task, chores, a drive, or even something ostensibly fun like a new book or video game. I would feel this giant wall of inertia—almost a pressure to not begin—that would disappear the moment I was in motion and actually doing, upon having dug deep to find the motivation to begin. Perhaps it was a fear of some negative consequence arising as a result of undertaking the action, but it’s hard to see how washing the dishes could lead to tragedy (?).

Was this “avoidance behavior”? I don’t think so; more just a peculiar quirk of a brain in a compromised chemical state and/or a symptom of the larger withdrawal syndrome of fatigue. These days, difficulty starting anything has become a background noise or a curiosity I can easily overcome by simply acknowledging it, shrugging my shoulders, and then moving on.

***

I believe that we are meant to learn from our experiences, the good and the bad ones alike. We incorporate them into our personality, and evolve in whatever direction as the result of our new perspective. If this means that, as a result of my withdrawal experience, the person I am today is less talkative, more reclusive, and more guarded than the person I was a decade ago, then so be it. I consider myself a better, smarter, and much happier man now than the guy who so unquestioningly took psychiatric drugs.

Who took candy from strangers.

If the real definition of insanity is “repeating the same mistake over and over and expecting a different result,” then embracing a psychiatric diagnosis of PTSD as a result of psychiatric damage would surely make you “insane”.  Sign up for another ride on that rollercoaster and you’ll soon be puking your guts out all over again. If you’ve walked through the fire, you will be a different person and you will have scars. I know that I do. However, it’s what you do with those scars — incorporate or pathologies them — that defines the skin you’ll inhabit this day and the next.

 

****

Of further interest:

Rock climber, author, and MIA Blogger Matt Samet discusses his experience becoming addicted to, and subsequently coming off of, benzodiazepines.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I absolutely think that protracted withdrawal becomes complicated by PTSD with some frequency. Healing from it is not proof of anything. People can and do heal from life-times of trauma from all sources.

    If you study the work of Peter Levine and David Berceli, both experts in PTSD who believe in the possibility of not only full recovery but actual growth and transformation as a result of what people overcome you’ll find that serious (physical) illness is often a cause and source of PTSD.

    I would say you’ve managed to do that…grow as a result of the dark, dark, night you endured.

    Their work and others who specialize in viewing PTSD as they do (embodied etc) have helped me tremendously in recovering from the gross insult of drug iatrogenesis.

    Charles Whitlock MD also has written quite extensively on how psychiatric drugs are agents of trauma. We don’t have to call anything PTSD if you’d like to avoid labels (I too loathe labels), but it’s hard to deny the trauma incurred when one deals with the multiple injuries of psychiatric medications.

    Anyway, I love your work Matt and this difference in interpretation of our similiar experience doesn’t change that at all. Thank your for all you do.

  2. anyway, PTSD is a very inaccurate label in many ways as are all labels, you’re right…and it’s really a garbage pail term in many ways too… I think maybe we aren’t disagreeing at all…I’m tired right now…and jumped the gun a bit in responding before more careful consideration. I need to go to bed!

    The thing is that research done by folks like Peter Levine and David Berceli are very helpful…they do not encourage drug use and and they believe in the capacity and likelihood of complete healing. As you do, as I do.

    best to you. 🙂

    • you know the thing with PTSD…get rid of the word disorder…because you’re right…we respond to horrible things in ways that are natural to human beings…

      but then you’re left with ‘post traumatic stress” which is descriptive. It says, “something bad happened to you.”

      that is unlike any other psych label which all proclaim, instead, “you have a diseased brain”

      I’ve not encountered people talking about a PTSD gene like you did…that’s unusual although not at all surprising and I’m sure there are people working on changing that…

      Something bad happened to us…to all of us. Those with other psychiatric diagnoses in general too….THAT I believe is important to understand and I guess that is why I do use the PTSD label for pragmatic reasons…some of the research on the cutting edge is damn helpful –those which looks at the body/mind connect and healing through embodiment theories and practice.

      it also provides a framework to get people to stop traumatizing their kids etc…programs are being made so that we might stop hurting people from the moment they’re born because of this understanding…our culture is traumatic.

      it’s an important thing to understand.

  3. Thanks, Matt, for this interesting (and amusing, in a way) piece about your psych drug experience. (Thanks to you also, Monica.) While I was abused really terribly by psychiatry as a child, one thing that I did NOT experience was psych drugging, because they didn’t have these wonder drugs then. I got out of Rockland State Hospital just in time, because two months after I left, everyone in that world was put on Thorazine. So I don’t know first hand the prime experience of almost everyone who’s been an
    inmate of a psych ward.

    Lucky me, eh? But anyway, it is important for me to understand the experience of most of my brothers and sisters in our movement, so thanks again for your writing.

  4. Matt,Very interesting article. I have found that using the PSTD label is the only way I can somehow explain to people my life story with trauma and as a psych survivor. But I understand where you are coming from.
    I bought my medical records from my last two hospitalization in psych units. Both times were highly traumatic especially the last one at a for profit national corporate system. I found out through obtain the records that I had Lithium toxicity and least that was what they labelled it. I was put in seclusion and then moved to a high security floor. I was told by an aide I was going to be placed in a Nursing Home. No professional or my husband mentioned this to me. On reading I discovered they pushed for my husband to obtain legal guardianship over me. He didn’t tell me until after I obtained the records. Reading the records and realizing my memories were mostly on target was re abusive. But I am so glad I did get them. It changed my entire view of the system. I was used and abused. I am now drug free but the memories still bother me. I find it hard because I have no one to talk and process what I remember – the floor staff actually infighting, the lack of processing after seclusion which is a state law, the exposure to second hand smoke with no relief when you are dying for outside time and it is spoiled. The locked OT room filled with unused paint and crafts. I brought my own paint and shared it with others. The inane interactions with staff that seemed anything but helpful. The awful food. Everything. Even the patients that were there some I felt were not safe folks.
    At this point in time I cannot see any movie or television show that has a psych unit in the storyline. I plan to stay as far away as possible from that world. I am concerned because it looks as if AOT is coming to my state. All it would take is one wrong word that is traumua inducing in and of itself.
    Thank you and the others for sharing. It really helps to know I am not alone.

  5. Matt thanks for sharing more of your recovery journey and escape from psychiatric system land.

    I think there is a post traumatic stress condition, not a disorder, that can rear its head for people who have been in and out of psychiatric wards and on and off psychiatric drugs over a period. The various psych drug cocktails, forced treatment and institutional regimes can dent a person’s natural resilience and self confidence. I’ve seen it with family members and experienced it myself after my last psychotic episode in 2002 when I recovered quickly, had a relapse then was put on a drug cocktail, getting sucked into the system.

    The drugs caused me to be depressed then I got panic attacks, and I had to work out for myself a plan of tapering and getting off the psych drugs, along with doing various voluntary activities, helping out in projects, getting back my self esteem and sense of worth.

    I like your way of looking at personality challenges as “adaptive”, maybe protective measures, signals that it’s time to retreat or move on to something or somewhere else. We’ve all got the scars and it’s good to be happy in our own skins, scars, wrinkles and all.

  6. Matt, as you describe, it was only after I connected with my intense anger and outrage that I was able to fire all the psychiatrists whom I had sheepishly followed and who almost destroyed my son. Only in my rage could I find the energy.

    At the same time, I know there is much strength in finding peace as preached by Buddhism. In a previous blog you talked about the value you found in the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Can you share any thoughts of that duality?

  7. Interesting article and I am glad you are able to reframe what happened to you.

    I was on benzos for years, and like so many others was never warned at the outset how even two weeks of daily use can mean you’ll have a hard time getting off them. I was put on them for a drug reaction. Didn’t solve anything and made the issues I had infinitely worse, and they did an awful lot of damage to my memory. It was a nice touch too that they gave me benzos for akathisia, without telling me that they also cause akathisia.

    It’s interesting to see here that you have many of the same issues that I have now. Particularly the bluntness. I find I continually get right to the point in a way that, well, some people don’t much appreciate. It’s been quite a change to my personality and one I’m having hard time adapting to. Sometimes in order not to blurt out things which might not be appropriate I have to focus very hard not to talk. Which in and of itself is a bit strange because for the first long while after I started the drugs I couldn’t think of anything at all to say. My conversations consisted of “hi.” At least I was friendly I guess.

    I’m also surprised you have the difficulty initiating something. Good to know I’m not the only one.

    With regards to trauma in general, I was so overcome by what happened to me (and to others I know) that I would find it impossible to reframe some of what happened at least. One thing that has helped a little with trauma is a series of exercises designed to release tension. Trauma Releasing Exercises. I got the book and did the treatments on my own. It was a bit liberating having something i could do to feel less physically tense without having to pay yet another person whom is uninformed about how damaging drugs or the system can be. And it has helped with reactivity–I can now read about psychiatry without freaking out nearly as much as I would before. But the major issue now is trying to come to terms with all that I have lost, and the unrelenting fear that psychiatry could one day harm me yet again. I can’t go in for another round, I’m sure it would be my undoing. And with all the laws coming out lately all over the place that are upping the psychiatric oppression I find the trauma, even though lessened, is like a background hum that follows me everywhere.

    Anyway thank you for sharing your story, it’s helped me hearing it.

  8. Oh, one more point:

    “If you scroll back up this story, you’ll remember that one possible cause of PTSD is “being kidnapped or held captive”; if you’re held on a psychiatric ward against your will, or once there are forced to ingest toxic chemicals against your better judgment, or are enduring the torturous symptoms of a too-rapid withdrawal from medication, as is often the case, then there will be scars.”

    I don’t know if you are familiar with Judith Herman’s work–she’s one of the “experts” on trauma and the effects of captivity. I’ve only read about her work. I wonder if you have read anything by her (or if anyone else here has), does she speak about people in captivity in psychiatric prisons? I’m going to bet that she doesn’t but I’d be happy to hear otherwise.

  9. Thanks for this viewpoint, Matt. It is interesting that as a person who has done therapy with many people who have been traumatized (especially domestic abuse victims), that bluntness and the willingness to drum up some righteous indignation are actually things I try to encourage people to develop! I fully believe that learning to feel and act on anger when it arises is one of the most important recovery tools for victims of abuse and violence. I also believe that being cautious about similar future events is SMART and can often be quite enlightening for those who suffered abuse, as this rational caution often helps the survivor identify how they allowed themselves to be sucked in by the abuser and how to avoid it in the future.

    I even wrote a book about it – entitled Jerk Radar. I have taken stories from victims of domestic abuse and created a manual on how to detect potentially abusive partners up front, when they’re still pretending to care about you. So I am actually advising “hypervigilance!” Many of the same principles in the book would readily be applied to receiving medical care, especially from psychiatrists.

    I think seeing “PTSD” or other reactions to trauma as adaptive responses to bad situations is an awesome way for those who have been hurt to regain their power, and realize that their behavior is not a “disorder,” it is simply a matter of trying to plan a way to avoid being harmed in the same way again.

    Thanks again for a very worthwhile read.

    —- Steve

  10. Hey Matt – I relate to so much of what you described in this post. I did not find much hope in your words, maybe because I am in a very difficult place right now. Reading your post painfully reminded me that I am far from overcoming the effects of the 20+ drugs I was prescribed over 20 years (some multiple times). And I have been free of those drugs for two years now.

    Of all the diagnoses I have been throwing out of my vocabulary, PTSD is one that I have been more hesitant to dismiss. It is very real to me, in the way I have come to understand it. It validates the trauma-focused approach I use in my work as a therapist, and is much more useful than other labels when I am talking with people about how they came to suffer emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually. However, I look forward to a day when we do not have to rely on diagnoses at all, and the work I am doing in my field – which could cost me my job as a mental health counselor – is moving towards that. I am challenging the “mental illness” paradigm in any way I possibly can, along with all of the diagnostic labels that go with it. It is extremely risky work, since I am also trying to provide for three children. There are not any easy decisions in this work! Thanks for your insights.

    • I already posted this on my own post but I wanted to share this with you specifically;

      “It’s easier to disqualify the evidence of cruelty than to end it, especially if that cruelty has been made to seem as inevitable as sexualized violence or war itself. A step toward revealing the cost of such cruelty — and our will to end it — is to stop stigmatizing the victim. The simple act of changing the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Injury would help to make clear that the injured party is not at fault. Naming reality is the first step toward making it visible — and changing it.”

      -Gloria Steinem
      Writer and activist
      Co-Founder, Ms. Magazine

  11. I avoid going into a lot of discussion about my personal dramas online. However would like to share with you that I had to make some drastic decisions after being retraumatized again ten years ago and for the first few years barely spoke to anyone and only would email correspond with a couple of friends. What you describe is very familiar to me. I too decided to “steer clear of the whole circus.” If I had learned anything in the mh system, it was to keep ideas, perceptions, connections/understandings which were new to me but not yet something I fully understood, to myself. The mh system is the bull in the china shop to processing experience.

    I suffer from heat intolerance which I have dealt with since the last retraumatization by obtaining and using cooling compensations but at the time I was hospitalized was sleep deprived and ill from the heat, environmental illness, and was reacting badly to Neurontin which was prescribed off label at the time. After I was retraumatized, I felt the way I looked and acted when suffering from the heat made me vulnerable to another psychiatric incarceration. I’ve had lived through near a lifetime of bad summers suffering from the heat or indoors too much because of it (another story about a different type of trauma).I was released from the hospital because my labs showed that I was physically ill, but in the days before the lab work came back, the psychiatrist was trying to pin so many crazy diagnoses on me just to keep me there including deciding I was paranoid schizophrenic for reporting domestic abuse. He did so little trying to find out what was going on that he never knew anything about the environmental illness or problems with the heat. Most of the whole world once again became very dangerous, “war zone,” and off limits.

    I know having some long term friends in the movement, who I could email correspond with and talk to, helped a great deal, but for the most part still live reclusively and practice avoidance and for the most part have gone underground.

    If there is any possibility that psychiatry would ever clean up its act, acknowledging and dealing responsibly with iatrogenic traumatization and retraumatization would be a good place to start. The lesson I came away with is when a system is getting and giving rewards for suppressing and controlling people, nobody needs to know what’s really going on other than what is required to keep from getting sued.

  12. “It’s easier to disqualify the evidence of cruelty than to end it, especially if that cruelty has been made to seem as inevitable as sexualized violence or war itself. A step toward revealing the cost of such cruelty — and our will to end it — is to stop stigmatizing the victim. The simple act of changing the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Injury would help to make clear that the injured party is not at fault. Naming reality is the first step toward making it visible — and changing it.”

    -Gloria Steinem
    Writer and activist
    Co-Founder, Ms. Magazine

  13. Matt,
    I just wanted to thank you you for addressing this issue. As someone who has C-PTSD (going on 20 years) and being put on benzos to counteract the panic attacks from SSRIs as a teenager, I was not forewarned; I simply trusted the doctor. I was not given the chance to deal with my early traumas (rape, fluke near death virus, watching multiple people die violent deaths and so forth), I was shoved on medications and told that my life was one sentenced to medication with no other options. I fought for 17 years and got off every medication, including the benzos twice. I did a slow taper. I did an Ashton Manual taper. I was cold turkeyed. Each experience was exactly the same for me. I ended up in the cardiac unit of an LA hospital before going out of state for help. I was hospitalized (via mental hospital) during both tapers and thrown on any drug that wasn’t “addictive” that they could think of, against my will and left with Akathisia. It was 6 horrendous months before I could trust enough to treat said Akathisia. I used to think my biggest fear was being locked in a mental hospital and going insane. I stand corrected. My biggest fear was being locked in a mental hospital, sane. For everything I went through, I did get a diagnosis and finally found experts willing to treat the symptoms, not throw drugs at me. I received an apology from the head of a large hospital here in California for what I had been through at the hands of psychiatry and that validation remains with me today. The trauma and horror of those hospitalizations was/is as traumatic as my previous traumas. So yes, I do believe hospitalizations as such can induce PTSD in some individuals. It compounded what I already had. I am familiar with Peter Levine and somatic work, which did help me calm my body, but did not give my mind relief from the PTSD. I also found Dr. Shapiro and now work with a trauma doctor whom assisted in her first studies with EMDR in addition to the somatic work, which has helped. I built a team for the purpose to treat myself in all ways naturally. It took me 18 years to get where I am today, on my own accord. I do hope you find your own relief and continue to thrive as well as those who have suffered the same and/or similar. My best to you.

  14. I am glad I found this article. I don’t know another name to call PTSD, except PTS. Truth is, after the psychiatric assault that happened to me in 2011, my whole personality changed. This had nothing to do with drugging and everything to do with repeated threats, unnecessary confinement, grossly abusive and illegal privacy invasion, restricting my water intake to the point where it was legal torture (I have diabetes insipidus), being scared for my life, abuse by unnecessary, unlawfully placed, untrained, uncaring 1:1 monitoring, repeated, long term abuse (unfounded threats and accusations, sectioning) by an abusive outpatient therapist, repeated dismissive treatment and discrediting by outpatient psychiatrist. After all that, everything that happened to me was denied. I was even told the “unit” I was on didn’t exist! Of course it does. Even two years later, my outside psychiatrist kept changing her story to fit, each time I proved I was right. By 2013, she couldn’t deny it had happened, but in a fit of anger she told me I deserved what I got and that it was “medically necessary.” This, too, was baloney. She begged me to quit blogging on the abuse. So now, my Freedom of Speech was being denied. She threatened me, begging me to take “any antipsychotic” that she claimed would make me stop believing my “delusion” that the abuse occurred. She said, “I am giving you this drug to stop you from writing.”

    I refused the drugs. After that, the abuse got worse.

    Maybe some folks don’t see that as a big deal. What if I said to a doctor, “I am giving you a drug to stop you from practicing medicine”? What if I told a teacher, “I am giving you a drug that will stop you from teaching”? Same thing, lower paycheck but the same. I have a master’s degree in creative writing and writing is what I do.

    All this led to a trauma reaction. I don’t think it’s a disease, as it’s a built-in response we are blessed with. Some of the person I have become is good and positive. I am an activist now and I discovered a whole new world. It caused me to ditch shrinkage. Some of the trauma reaction is so unpleasant for myself and others that for a while, I couldn’t even carry on a conversation. I get angry too easily and snap at people. Worse, I can’t get my mind off the abuse. I go to that awful place in my mind and repeat the stories over and over, and it creeps into almost every conversation, many of my emails and online interactions (here on MIA, too), and of course my own inner dialogue. My mind repeats the story and revisits it, and is pulled toward that story like a powerful magnet. My social problems are so annoying that I have ended up a recluse just to avoid unpleasant human interaction.

    I can discipline myself to at least have manners and be diplomatic. Practice improves my PR skills. Being aware that I tend to be this way, and knowing the real cause (trauma, rather than “illness”) is certainly a help. However, nothing has yet to solve the insomnia I have suffered from for four years now. I am truly suffering and the constant exhaustion I suffer from is putting a complete roadblock in front of me. I believe this is solvable. All I can do is to hope for some answers.

    I have learned that acknowledgement of trauma will prevent this suffering. That was what I was lacking. Not only was the trauma denied, but my friends left me over it and I was at a point for months on end with not only no companionship, no friends nor family, but no spoken conversation. A silent world. I think that would lead any human to end up in the condition I found myself in. Animals recover from trauma on their own, but humans need comfort and acknowledgement, and to have their basic physical needs met.