I Am Alive


Of the many reasons I’ll be in New York City this weekend to protest the American Psychiatric Association is this: I am alive.

Today, I feel this aliveness on the bottoms of my feet as they rest on the carpet below my desk, and on the right side of my face as the setting sun crosses it gently from where I sit to write these words. I feel it in the air that fills my nose and throat and lungs, in my belly as it rises and falls, in the beating of my heart that moves me if I’m still enough. I feel this aliveness in the surges of emotion in my gut and chest, in the joy and the pain and the fear and the sadness that fill me today, that remind me second by second that I’m here, that this life is real, that I’m connected, that I’m a human being. (Sometimes, I still feel the urge to pinch myself to see if it’s all just a dream.) Most importantly, I feel this aliveness when I close my eyes and realize that I know myself deeper today than any word or label or category could possible have known me, and that my life is full of meaning and connection and purpose, even on its darkest days. These are the beautiful facets of humanness that only a few years ago, to me, were nothing but my mental patient fantasy.

This — this moment — is a gift, just as every moment of my post-Psychiatry life is, and I view it as a second chance, this life I’m living on borrowed time. This is why I’ll be protesting the APA, because Psychiatry took me as far from this life as I could possibly have gone, and it is my duty to use this gift to fight for the freedom of those still enslaved.

I’ve found that psychiatric liberation is bittersweet, for with tremendous gratitude comes tremendous pain. Close to my heart on Sunday will be the spirits of those taken by Psychiatry— human beings like Dan Markingson and Rebecca Riley and Keith Vidal and Esmin Green—as well as those whose lives are currently dimming beneath the force of psychiatric oppression, like Justina Pelletier and the countless brothers and sisters who’ve been hidden away behind years of heavy neuroleptics in group homes and state institutions. Just as much as my gratitude drives me to New York City on Sunday, so, too, does the pain I feel in my heart at the immeasurable human loss we face daily in the name of psychiatric “treatment.”

I view opportunities like Sunday as a human obligation— we must speak out against this tentacled beast called the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex, whose voracious and unquenchable appetite for the human spirit is only growing by the day. We must take our gifts of freedom and integrity of mind, body, and spirit and use them as weapons and as tools. We must use our voices, which Psychiatry tried so desperately to take from us, to name this Industry for what it is: a powerful mechanism of social and behavioral control cleverly disguised by a façade of science and medicine. If we are to bring our collective human family closer to a future free from Psychiatry, it starts by taking every chance we have to stand up and fight for human liberation. I hope to see you there, with our voices shouting, our posters flying, our feet marching, and those shrinks trembling.

* * * * *


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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  1. Goddamn, I can’t believe the way you combine your spot-on analysis of the political role of psychiatry with such passionate and poetic writing. If anything were to make me feel guilty about
    not showing up Sunday it would be reading this article!

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  2. Great speech, and spot on regarding psychiatry being dehumanizing and being used for social control. According to my medical records, my entire life was declared a “credible fictional story” by a neurologist who didn’t “believe” a word I said, and force medicated me based upon a list of lies and gossip from the people who raped my son and denied my daughter a baptism, a pastoral sin that is recorded in time at the exact moment the second plane hit the second World Trade Center building. Disgust at 9.11.2001 is not “bipolar,” as my psychiatric practitioners apparently believed. “Never Forget.” I will be with you in spirit, and I will always love NY – wish I could be there with you.

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    • Someone Else,
      We will be with you in spirit on Sunday, as well. Wow, so you’ve been able to get access to your medical records! I have about 75% of mine… The primary hospital I went to for “inpatient”/”outpatient”/”day treatment” is refusing to give me my records for all of 2010 (the year I became “non-compliant” and came off the drugs in the “Borderline Center” I was going to every day) and while I’m aware that this is illegal of them to do, I’m also aware of the time/money/effort it’s going to take me to fight them… It feels very important for me to do so, not necessarily because I care about what my records say (I’m sure they say some pretty ridiculous stuff!) but because it symbolically feels like I’m reclaiming my full self from Psychiatry if I can get my complete records.

      Anyways… Enough rambling… Your journey through Psychiatry is, while so dehumanizing, so important to share with the world… Thank you for doing so!

      In solidarity,

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      • Thank you, Laura. I don’t have my medical records in their entirety either. The therapist Sharpie marked over her pastor’s name, and some comment at the top of my first appointment – which is also illegal. And I was also dealing with a cover up of a “bad fix” on a broken bone, and don’t think all those medical records were handed over in their entirety either. But enough was handed over that I realized my PCP’s husband was the “attending physician” at the “bad fix,” which explains her “complex iatrogenic” cover up and paranoia of a possible malpractice suit.

        One of psychiatry’s functions historically, and today, is to cover up pastoral sins for the religions and easily recognized iatrogenesis for the mainstream medical community. My subsequent pastors described with I dealt with as “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.”

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        • They have along tradition in covering up medical mistakes:
          “From the 1600s through the mid to late 1800s, the majority of childbed fever cases were caused by the doctors themselves. With no knowledge of germs, doctors did not believe hand washing was needed. Statements like that of Charles Meigs, a leading obstetrician and teacher from Philadelphia, were the attitude of the time: “Doctors are gentlemen, and gentlemen’s hands are clean.”[12] In the 1800s Ignaz Semmelweis noticed that women giving birth at home had a much lower incidence of childbed fever than those giving birth in the doctor’s maternity ward. His investigation discovered that washing hands with an antiseptic solution before a delivery reduced childbed fever fatalities by 90%.[13] Publication of his findings was not well received by the medical profession. The idea conflicted both with the existing medical concepts and with the image doctors had of themselves.[14] The scorn and ridicule of doctors was so extreme that Semmelweis moved from Vienna and was eventually committed to a mental asylum where he died.”

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      • Someone Else and Laura,

        I’m glad you’re discussing this issue of psychiatric records. I’ve also encountered varying resistance with this (getting my daughter’s records), but I’ve been pretty insistent and have gotten most of them. The discharge summaries from her hospital stays are riddled with errors and, of course, present things generally in a way slanted to justify their “treatment” while giving little or no indication of things that would call into question their “treatment” methods and decisions. I really think we need to press forward with full force in demanding full access to these records. I don’t think any other branch of medicine could get away with denying patients access to their records the way psychiatry does. They use the cloak of “confidentiality” and “best interest of the patient”, in my opinion, as a cover up. I think this one issue, if pressed, would go a long way towards exposing the shoddy, “hit or miss”, injurious practices that seem so prevalent in psychiatry.

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        • Hi Russerford,
          Yes, the “it’s in your best interest to not see this records” and the “these records might harm you” lines were the ones given to me when I tried to obtain my records (oh, and by the way, each page costs 20 cents, or something like that!! Have you had to pay for the records of your daughter’s you’ve gotten?) Really great to hear that your insistence and determination has led to success getting records. I backed off after realizing that it was in my best interest to let things lie still for a while, until I have a better strategy.

          You’re right that there needs to be better organized advocacy around obtaining psychiatric records. If only we had a lawyer committed to this cause!

          In solidarity,

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          • I also had to pay for them, the only way I could get them for free was by asking my psychiatrist to get them for me which he didn’t want to do. In other words: the shrink can demand my documents but I can’t.

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  3. Laura

    A powerful call to action. It was so fitting that it was published at MIA on May 1st which is an international holiday celebrating revolution.

    I am away at this time otherwise I would be joining with everyone in New York. Please carry my spirit in your radical endeavors; hope to talk soon.

    Comradely, Richard

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  4. Hi Laura,
    When you wrote the MIA article “On the Urge to Take my Life, and My Decision to Take it Back From the ‘Mental Health’ System Instead ” Sept, 2013 you promised to remember my 25 y/o son, Shane’s spirit and memory as he sadly ended his young life, 1-13-12 . Shane exited from the joyful life for 23 years he always epitomized because the last of his young life – 27 months- he was sucked into the psychiatric wasteland of brainwashing “bipolar for life, mentally ill for life”- despite he tested( + ) for a recreational drug on his toxicology report the two times his brain suddenly started losing reality. Shane was denied the truth that bipolar is just the latest fad of psycho-babble. We, his family, were denied the facts and truth that the recreational drug altered his brain, and that, as he recovered his mental health again (both times he did) that he wasn’t “mentally ill for life” but the goal of psychiatry is to ensnare more prey.

    In solidarity, with you and all the other MIA community who are joining together at the APA meeting, I am with you. Our voices must be heard!!! Next year, I will come and mount a sign with my beautiful son’s picture and ask why the truth denied him???????? Blessings to each of you, Laura.

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    • Dear larmac,
      Yes, I of course remember Shane and his story and am so glad that you’ve written here. His story will help many, many young people survive Psychiatry; please keep writing and speaking out. Families all around the world– mine included– have been and continue to be denied access to the truth and we must demand transparency and the right to truly informed choices, if we are to prevent young people (and old) from heading down the same path that Shane and I went down, and that I was so lucky enough to have gotten off of.

      Thank you for your commitment to making change happen and for continuing to fight on behalf of Shane so that others have a shot at life free from Psychiatry. Grateful for your solidarity, and sending it back to you!


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  5. Another great article, Laura…thank you! Your story, vision, passion, compassion and bold leadership continue to be greatly inspiring! Carol and I will be taking the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan tomorrow morning. We’ll see you at the protest/rally.

    One other thing: When you spoke of those “close to my heart”, naming some of the fallen victims of psychiatry “and the countless brothers and sisters who’ve been hidden away behind years of heavy neuroleptics in group homes and state institutions” it reminded me of the sad souls i see every week when i visit my friend at a local “single residence occupancy” mental health facility. They’ve been conditioned to dutifully line up every day to take the drugs that are considered so essential to their mental health, while it is abundantly clear that they have suffered physical, emotional and social harm from these toxic substances. There HAS to be a better way, and it’s good to keep these beaten down folks in mind as we meet tomorrow.

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    • Hi Russ!
      So great to see you and Carol yesterday. What a great day it was!

      And yes, the image you paint here of human beings conditioned into zombies lining up for morning, noon, and night “meds” is one that I too know, and it is a painful one to think about. They are walking ghosts, silenced and removed from society, and it is our responsibility to keep them being fully forgotten, and to use our voices to fill their silences, and to fight so that they can have the chance to remember themselves again, as well.

      Big hug, and in solidarity,

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  6. I’m there in spirit with you and everyone else fighting against the systematic and chemical dehumanization of people that is modern medical psychiatry. Thank you for your actions in this regard; someday reason and justice will prevail.

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  7. Yes, psychiatry is one piece of a diabolic puzzle. But there are many more. Presently the USA and EU are involved in the destruction of Ukraine. Just I might add as they were in the destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria . . . the USA has a long history now of destroying nations and calling it bringing democracy. It would like to bring its democracy to Venezuela as well.

    And then there is the world of nuclear power, of GMO’s, of herbicides like Roundup . . . It would seem that the list in endless.

    This nation and obviously a number of others have fallen under the influence of a powerful wizard or something of that sort. They have become subhuman states that treat their citizens like animals in a lab experiment. You are lucky to have escaped.

    Because it happened so slowly and almost naturally it seems most people do not realize what has occurred in this nation. And of course it was always a good distance from being perfect. But now it seems to be accelerating towards a very dark conclusion. What form that will take I do not know. But threatening Russia is a very bad omen. The USA is no longer the powerful nation it once was. Economically it is actually quite weak. I read just today that maternals deaths are so high here that the USA has fallen to number 60 among the nations. Marriage and family have a bad reputation, and there is little in the way of future for young people. This definitely means something but just what remains still half in darkness. I hope your efforts to dethrone psychiatry will succeed. I hope other similar efforts in other areas will also succeed. Otherwise, the future is extremely grim.

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  8. Great post Laura and great speech.
    By the way there is a great movie you might be interested in. It’s called Ward no.6 I saw it on netflix it’s based on a short story by Anton Checkoff about a director of a mental hospital that becomes an inmate in the same hospital. Its a foreign movie with subtitles and a must see.
    Thanks ,

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  9. Laura — if you’re still reading this — I haven’t seen any accounts of the demo on MIA yet (other than D. Mackler’s amazing mini-doc) by anyone who was there; do you think you or someone with MIA blogging capabilities could write a feature length column on your experiences last Sunday before it just becomes another memory?

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