2014 and the winds of change are blowing.
Danish psychiatry has been besieged by scandals. Or perhaps it is better to say ‘exposed’, as many of the scandals – like massive overmedication, deaths etc., – have been an ongoing problem for years. 2014 has started off with a bang. Two deaths due to psychiatric drugs acknowledged as being the cause of death. This is the first time this has happened.
I go back in time to November 2008, the morning when my phone rang and an almost unrecognizable voice at the other end was screaming “she’s dead, she’s dead, she’s dead.” The months that followed I watched as psychiatry closed in around itself, untouchable, and a family destroyed. That was the first time I came in contact with psychiatry’s dirty little secret: People die in psychiatry.
I wrote this after she died, when I realized that psychiatry had a whole system in place to remain untouchable and the family would never receive justice. We gathered together with others who had lost a loved one to psychiatry and together created the organization ‘Død i Psykiatrien’ to work for change.
Her death has never been acknowledged as drug-induced despite clear evidence, but 2014 has seen two families who have, and that bodes well for the future.
This story is her story but I changed her gender, age and name. It is in three parts and has been performed as Spoken Word with and without music on a variety of occasions.
The ultimate end
Taste those words, roll them round your mouth, and repeat them, for in the beginning your taste buds only register disbelief. “No” you say, “not my son he is only 32 how can that be, they must have made a mistake.” Heart attack, you hear them say? “Ha,” you laugh, “then they really have made a mistake, he is young and fit; besides we don’t have heart attacks in our family.” Death, dead, blue in the face, you shake your head, “no, no stop saying those stupid words, of course he is not dead, I just spoke to him last night, we were planning our weekend together how can you be so cruel and keep repeating those words your son is dead. My son is alive so shut up, shut UP SHUT UP . . . sorry, I didn’t mean to shout, I just really wanted to say, stop it please because you are scaring me with your words. He has his whole life before him, he has all his dreams, yes he has problems right now, that’s why he is with you, you have promised to help him, that’s why he is there, there in your ward, your psychiatric ward . . . ”
But now the fear is creeping in, death dead blue in the face, you try again. “Please check once again that you are referring to my son, are you sure you don’t mean the old man who lived in the room next door, the one who wandered aimlessly around with those vacant eyes mumbling incoherently to himself. He had nothing to live for, I could see that, and besides he’s old, old as the hills, it’s him, it has to be him, oh God please may it be him, or someone else, anybody else, just not my son, NOT MY SON.”
You hear yourself scream and the words – death, son – now seem to be echoing around the room moving ever closer, like a macabre dance of light and darkness, color and blackness, life and death and . . . Oh God, it’s Peter there in the middle, fighting for his right to light, to color, to life and he is losing . . . your son is dead, he died of a heart attack sometime last night in his bed, interrupts this professional, distant doctor again and again and again, and each time he says it you scream “no he is not.” But death and son are much closer now. “Peter” you scream “come here get behind me, I will fight this battle with death for you instead, you are too young I should die before you, that’s the natural order of things, I am your mother, let me fight for you, please let me die instead.”
But you can’t get to him, no matter how hard you try, – your son is dead, he died of a heart attack sometime last night in his bed, interrupts the doctor and suddenly, inextricably, death and son are joined. They have now become one and light starts to change, getting darker and darker, color starts to drain, changing, getting blacker and blacker and death, death blue in the face for now you are looking at him, your son, and his face is contorted, not blue as they had tried to warn you, but more like purple. You hardly recognize him and a last pathetic attempt is tried, “that’s not him” you scream, “he has never looked like that, he is beautiful with a pale skin and lovely green eyes, not bloodshot like that, not purple like that, this person looks like a monster something out of a horror movie, how can you be so cruel and make it look like it almost could be him, but distorted and twisted, that is NOT MY SON…” But now you are sobbing, deep shuddering sobs twisting your guts and suddenly, you are throwing up and a nurse is holding your forehead wiping it, as snot, sobs and vomit mix into one.
How do you survive a loss so huge, so devastating, that once where there was light, there is now only darkness stretching from horizon to horizon, seeping into the soul, crippling you, sucking your color out leaving only blackness, sucking your joie de vivre, your life and leaving a wretched, tormented body, yours, writhing on the ground in utter, desperate agony?
THE UNHOLY ALLIANCE
How do you survive a loss so shocking; shocking because it is induced by the system in the name of cure? They come preaching the gospel of normality, they say they have eaten from the tree of knowledge and they partake in the ritual of the drinking of the blood, but, in reality, they are the blood letters of bygone days, they are the state-sanctioned murderers, the killers in white. “We know what is wrong with your son” they say, “we can help him, we know what to do, come bring him in; we will give him a bed and a pillow to rest his crazy head.” The bible of insanity is bought out and the pages are turned; “ah, here he is, a schizophrenic, no less,” they say and their expressions become serious as they look up from the bible and explain to his mother, and father, and his sister from England. “This is a serious disease and requires medication; fortunately we have just the thing, a new pill, one that we know is perfect for him. Serdolect is its name” they say with a reassuring smile, “a little bit of this will be just the ticket…” Only, they don’t explain a ticket to where . . .
Serdolect is special – only they `forget´ to say why – for it, too, was a reject; banned from production, it killed, you see, gave the crazies heart attacks, not a good thing, at least not on paper. But money makes blind, money makes you forget, money promotes greed and ethics are flushed down the you-know-where. Eight years go by and then Serdolect makes its “debut”, “the new pill on the block” they all say preening themselves in pride over such a good pill, “it’s so special” they say, “that only psychiatrists are allowed to prescribe it, and as an extra service we will monitor your heart” and all gasp in wonder over such a good offer, failing to see the hidden message -the message of potential death.
The state-sanctioned and -condoned machine of death has lined a new victim up in its sights. He’s been selected or should we say, serdolected; “he’s a loony, a crazy, a schizo; who cares if he dies as long as we get our money. He’s probably better off dead, though if we are honest, we want them alive eating our pills for the rest of their lives because that’s where our money lies -our profits become huge. Is there a recession? We haven’t noticed, we are immune to that sort of thing. When everyone else suffers the economic bite, we are still smiling because our army in white is fulfilling our prophecy playing all-knowing and are filling the coffins . . . err . . . coffers with money. So a few do die, die on the way, an economic loss for us, but never mind: the rest we ensure die but not completely. We just rob them of their soul, their essence, make them into zombies, the living dead and tell the world that it is because they suffer from a serious illness and we have the cure. More pills, we say, they cost quite a bit but they really do help, especially the new ones, the second generation, which makes them so much better than the old ones, old ones which, by the way, have no patent anymore, and cost a dime a pill, which as you can appreciate is not profitable for us. But our second generation of pills, oh we are so proud we have peered into our bible, our holy book of diagnosis and created these pills which cost an awful lot but are, we repeat, so very much better!”
And because psychiatry is a pseudoscience and an expert in illusion or, to use their words, delusion of the grave(st) of kinds, they have no idea who is insane or who is not or even if there is such a thing as normality for the whole industry is all based on money and greed, and judgment is the tool from which money is made. “You are not acting in a manner I consider appropriate to my norms, lock him away!” Or better yet, are those who say, I don’t feel well and you are the experts, help me, for they are like animals being brought to the slaughter house. They trust you implicitly and they will not question.
There are no tests or signs to show that schizophrenia exists, that Peter suffered from this so called chemical imbalance of the brain, and since psychiatry does not believe in life playing a role in the pain of the psyche – after all there is no money in that – nobody asked, “Peter what can we really help you with?” He believed in the system; he trusted them as so many do. “The drugs, they are great, they really do work!” The irony of it all, the horror of it all, for it was he who was killed, he who was murdered, he who was the only one who really believed that this was the cure the way to go, but now he is dead.
He was on the maximum dosage and now he needed more, or so they said, “you need to have a new pill; Zyprexa is its name and it really helps. It can make you fat, give you diabetes and along with the other one it might . . . oops we don’t really know, we haven’t researched the combination of the two, but we will peer into our crystal ball and . . . yes, this is a perfect combination especially for you. W.H.O. and the ministry of health recommend only one antipsychotic at a time but even though you are not a danger to others or yourself, we think you need two kinds; the second-generation ones, of course, far more money for our coffers . . . oh dear, in your case, your coffin, for you are now dead, turns out we were the danger for you, not you for yourself – oh well, never mind, someone else will be walking in the door as we speak . . .
Hello, you need a bed, a pillow to rest your crazy head, well you have come to just the right place for we have just the cure for you . . .”
OF CHANGE ARE BLOWING
There he lies inside his wood-box in the wooden church dressed in his suit wrapped in his downie his head resting on his own private pillow. Alone he lies there but that is only his body, for he is not alone for he has left, and is with the spirits of his ancestors, singing with the angels, dancing with the wolves or perhaps, he is one of those new stars bursting forth in the sky. Alone he is not and neither is he forgotten, for his sisters and family will carry him in their beating hearts for the rest of their lives and the next.
The time was drawing near to his funeral, to his burial, to the final farewell and as the clock ticked and moved nearer and nearer to twelve, so the wind started to blow, so the rain started to pour. The winds of change are blowing they whispered, the winds of change are coming. His death will not be forgotten as just another victim of the psychiatric system, meaningless and timeless, his voice silenced as so many before him. Not this time, for the winds they are a blowing.
The church is filled, the rain is pouring and the wind, the wind, it is a-blowing, whistling round the corners, bending the trees. We sit there, the pain of loss palpable filling the air the quiet sobs of those who care. Why, why him, is the question on many a lip, he had begun to find hope, was beginning to plan, a future was unraveling and then, suddenly brought to a halt, that horrible, lonely Wednesday night.
His sister when she heard her brother was dead, knew what music to play in a flash it entered her head, “I’m Still Standing,” and play it she did. In every tone, in every note you could hear her love for the brother she had lost; she became one with the music filling the church and joining the wind. The priest, he spoke, his voice so quiet that us at the back could almost not hear, but sing we did and our music, it too joined the wind, for the winds of change they are now blowing.
Together we walked, following his casket out of the church and into the wind, a wind roaring now, and at the same time it was absolutely pouring. A message was being conveyed, a message of change. The priest’s collar blew off, the umbrellas twisted and turned inside out due to the force of the wind which now was a storm. Slowly, we walked following his casket, the rain, the tears, the wind, the change and then, suddenly we were there, his final resting place, fifty years too early. His time had come and now all that was left was a hole in the ground. In they lowered him and silently we watched, but in our silence the noise was deafening for the wind. Oh the wind it was really roaring.
Deep in the hole there he lies, forever silent, forever gone. But his spirit, yes his spirit, it is free, not in the dark but out in the light. His family stood there, huddled together dripping wet, their misery obvious, and then, the flute was played shaking and wavering the sobs noticeable with every note. As for us, well, we tried to sing but could we be heard? No, or so we thought, because of the wind, the storm, the rain, it drowned out our voices, but yet, not really. For we all became part of the wind, together we sang the song of change, for though his voice is forever silent, ours is not. They are there, swirling up, up higher and higher, growing louder and louder, as we become and became one with the wind, for we are many who will bring about this transformation
For the winds of change, yes the winds of change they have now come . . .
* * * * *
“Dear Luise” by Dorrit Cato Christensen. Dorrit has written about losing her daughter to the Danish psychiatric system in a deeply moving, well-documented book.