Psychiatric Survivors Are Everywhere


It started out as an ordinary visit to Quest Diagnostics to get routine lab work. I was 15 minutes late. The receptionist, who was also the office manager and medical technician, told me she loves my freckles. Well, that wasn’t entirely ordinary.

When she sat me down to draw my blood she asked me if I’d ever had my blood drawn before. “Hello. I just told you my full birthday,” I thought “I’m 33…” But I answered a simple “Yes.”

I realized it had been a while though, and I didn’t want to look while she filled the tubes from my elbow crease so I looked the other way.

“Do you have any plans for the weekend?” she asked, to distract me.

“I’m hoping to get outside and see some friends,“ I said. “I’ve spent the past couple of days indoors working.”

Her: What do you do for work?

Me: I do coaching and teaching, mostly from home, so I’m looking forward to getting outside a bit.

Her: Coaching in any particular field?

Me: Mental health, alternatives to mainstream mental health.

Her: So is that like psychology?

Me: Well, I do coaching and teaching about alternatives to psychiatric drugs for people who want to come off of them.

Her: Oh, my partner might be interested in that at some point down the line. She experienced agoraphobia and couldn’t leave the house, but she’d like to go off the drugs eventually. Do you have a card?

I wrote down my website and email address for her and told her some of the people I work with aren’t ready to come off yet, and it’s very individual. Coming off can be very difficult and I would never tell someone they are or aren’t ready; it’s up to them to know. I don’t give medical advice.

Her: So how did you get into this line of work?

Me: I was on psychiatric drugs myself and they had a negative effect and were hard to come off of, so I wanted to support others who were coming off.

Her: I was put on drugs as a kid, Lithium and Depakote. When I was hospitalized they told me I’d never amount to anything in life because I was bipolar and I’d need to stay on these drugs forever. When I wanted to come off, my doctor got angry at me and wouldn’t support me, so I went off on my own. It was very hard; I was sick for about a year afterward.

Me: Oh, you had intense withdrawal?

Her: Yes, but now I’m 37 and I’m the manager of this office, a medical technician and I’m getting a masters in psychology.

She was proud and triumphant. My appointment was over. I rolled down my sleeve over the taped gauze with a tiny blood stain. She showed me to the bathroom. When I got out I was turned around and couldn’t find my way out of the office. Seeing me going out the wrong door she said, “It’s like a maze in here,” and showed me the way out. I dropped my water cup in the blue recycling bin. It ended as an ordinary visit to Quest Diagnostics to get routine lab work done.


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. I meet survivors in addiction recovery all the time but few of them know about the fight against the fraudulent multibillion dollar making label and drug machine (psych-pharma) that screwed up their childhood and lead them to addiction in the first place. They don’t even know the term “psychiatric survivor”.

    I have heard the story 100 times, It goes like this: When I was (young age) they gave me drugs for ADHD then other drugs were added, then they said I was bipolar and gave me more… This drug screwed me up this way… Then I was put on that drug that screwed me up that way… I got sick trying to quit this one they said was ‘non addictive’… The stories are all the same in a way.

    A place to get the truth about psychiatry out is Right now their is 408 people on the site (84 registered members and 324 visiting guests)

    This website is not that friendly to the cause and will do sneaky stuff , if they don’t like what you are writing but it is not bannable they will do some computer trick to make the page take forever to load . I am pretty sure they came up with their bag of tricks do to the anti 12 step people hitting the site and will also ban you if openly show your intent to expose psychiatry for the dangerous fraud it is.

    But anyway if any MIA readers want to spread the word here is a place that needs a survivor voice and I got better stories

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    • Thanks copy_cat! It’s true, the stories can start to all sound the same after awhile…which is the product of a cookie cutter “medical system.” And a lot of folks don’t see that their story is the product of an industry. Yet, underneath, we all have a more unique story, thankfully.

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  2. Show me something better on balance than 12 step and I’ll try it out.
    It fixes my head. For a dependency like psychiatric drugs its very helpful. I resent half the people in the 12 step, and I resent half of my family as well.

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    • Yes, Fiachra, I hear you. 12 step meetings can be very helpful and supportive for some. I have found some support at 12 step meetings, at times. I like that those meetings have a solid structure, and of course that you can “take what you like and leave the rest.” The way 12 steps intersect with institutional psychiatry, though, can be very damaging if diagnostic labels are being validated and feared.

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      • People at meeting are a good example of how psychiatry and it’s medical model is everywhere, they are always saying my brain this and my brain that or “my brain tells me”.

        “My brain tells me” Oh please shut up already about your brain !

        I like to share that I never had a “broken brain” I had broken thinking and stuff like how the basic problem with the medical model is that people take it literally rather than understanding it as the metaphor it is. The medical model portrays the mind as an object. It equates mind with brain and uses this assumption to justify defining certain thoughts, feelings, and behavior as medical diseases. Simply stated, mind is different than matter, or body, or brain, for the obvious reason that the body is an object and the mind is not. The body is known through the methods of physics and chemistry. The mind is known through introspection, communication and interpretation.

        I have to read this again to get that share right.

        Those meetings can be fun.

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  3. I find it interesting that she is getting her Master’s in psychology. Is the motivation to understand where the system went wrong or to be in the field in order to change it? Or is abnormal psychology (study of the pathology of psyche, soul, spirit) not the servant of psychiatry (medical branch dealing with the psyche)?

    I listened to your interview on the talk show. Good stuff! New Jersey is about to open 4 respite homes (fingers crossed!). Perhaps Laura could add them to her list.

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    • Good questions…Given the short amount of time I had with her, I don’t know the answers. I don’t even know her name. My understanding is that the idea that psychological distress, or “illnesses,” could be compared to medical illnesses and resolved with pills was wishful thinking that was never shown to be true and obviously turned into a multi-billion dollar and VERY harmful industry, disguised as medicine or “care.” The interesting thing is that most “medical illnesses” aren’t simple, isolated and fully permanently resolvable with pills either. So I think we need a new paradigm of care across the board.
      Thanks for listening to Talk With Tenney! 🙂 Would love to know more about the respites in NJ. Do you have any more information?

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      • Yes, we need a new paradigm of care across the board.

        Psychiatrists are not the only specialty in medicine who believe that they are the “experts” on the lives of the people in their care. I ran into a GP who was unbelievable. He told me that I was to do exactly as he told me to do, and there would be no discussion and no collaboration; he would be the one deciding everything since he is the doctor! I pointed to my feet and said that I still had a choice in the end. I got up and walked out of his office and will not go back.

        I consequently went back to my faithful, tried and true advanced nurse practitioner, who actually looks me in the eye when I talk with her and who collaborates with me in my treatment. I believe that doctors and medicine in general are totally out of control and it’s time we begin putting the brakes to their madness and their arrogance and their inflated view of themselves and their importance.

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        • Yes Stephen, good points. And the cool thing is that most of us do have the power to put the brakes on it. We have so much access to information these days that we can certainly exercise our human right to make our own choices. I believe a true doctor or healer wouldn’t be attached to the outcome, but would advise in some cases and trust the “patients” wisdom at least as much as their own. I’m glad you have a faithful practitioner! 🙂

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    There will be one Respite home in New Brunswick. Joe Meany is the Respite Coordinator at Collaborative Support Programs of NJ. It was to open in April but is not open yet. Another is to open in Passaic County. One must be 21 so I am guessing that our Rutgers University students will not be residents. Students will have to disclose extreme states to the staff at the counseling center–a risky choice since that can flag one for special conditions (read drugs) to continue as a student.

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      • Yes, very cool! We live in the shadow of Johnson and Johnson (not just bandaids and baby shampoo, my friends!). Many of the Rutgers School of Social Work professors are working on the psychiatric housing issue. So much more to do.

        I would like to see students have an advanced directive for extreme states when they come to Rutgers. But who gets the directives? Resident Hall advisers? Counseling Center? Parents? Roommate?

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        • What do you mean exactly by the psychiatric housing issue?
          Good questions! I like the idea of college students having advanced directives since they are often at an age and stage in life where so many things are shifting, and think you are right on with suggesting perhaps we ALL need them.
          BTW my dear friend Michael Bloom (who later committed what I believe to be psych drug induced suicide) went to Rutgers and was first labeled “bipolar” and put on drugs while there.
          Of course these things happen at almost all schools.

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          • I am not really sure what it means “psychiatric housing issue”. Our interns work with Dr. Allisonson Zippay (PhD, University of California, Berkeley). She is Director of the PhD Program and Professor at the Rutgers University School of Social Work. Her research areas encompass community planning and community practice, and the ways in which place and social connections affect life prospects, including economic opportunity and social service utilization, for various subgroups of the poor. Dr. Zippay received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to examine the ways in which communities and service agencies plan and locate psychiatric housing. This research identified ‘geographies of opportunity’ that promote social and community inclusion, and factors associated with community opposition to special needs housing. Other research examines resource mobilization and employment among low-income groups. Dr. Zippay has served as Associate Dean for Curriculum, and was a participant in the Management Development Program at the Harvard University Institute for Higher Education. She teaches graduate courses in the areas of policy and management. She is a recipient of the Rutgers University Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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  5. Well that’s all well and good for the people who didn’t suffer neurological and/or movement disorders from the drugs. But it really doesn’t offer hope to those who have. I’m sure that if she were dyskenisiac or dystonic, or certainly if she were both, then she wouldn’t have been working there… or doing much if anything at all.

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    • Oh, and I say this just because I’ve always been uncomfortable by this you-could-move-on mentality spreading agenda, otherwise known as “hope”, as it always leaves a significant population out as if they don’t exist. Some people are irreparably damaged by these drugs, and if would only be fair to make note of that when trying to spread this “hope”, because when just eating once a day or struggling to get dressed or speak to people becomes your reality, there is simply no realistic hope to be had: you will not go back to work, let alone start a career, or do much of anything at all. There are real hopeless victims involved with these drugs, ones that shouldn’t be swept under the rug by those fortunate enough to have gotten away from the drugs relatively unharmed.

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      • I hear your frustration Jeffery C. Sorry that is your situation, or at the very least your situation right now. I don’t believe anything is entirely hopeless or impossible and when I was on 7 psych drugs I struggled to eat, brush my teeth, shower, even walk. I hardly left my house for a year. Still, I acknowledge that some folks have been on more drugs for longer and may never find a way out. Which is horrible.

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    • That is true. However, many people recover from this drugs and the faster they decide to come off them, the better chances they have to avoid the most horrific and irreversible damage. It is a very individual thing and it’s also important to give people hope and examples of how you can recover.
      People who suffer from dystonia etc. get it while on the drug, so it is not the withdrawal which triggers them. It is important to spread the word to prevent people from ever getting on them in the first place but it’s also crucial to offer support and hope for those who are already on them. Not all side effects are irreversible.

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  6. Hi B
    You’re right there, recovery from drugs is individual. Even though psychological effects can be long term, it is possible to adapt to this.
    Most people like myself that have been on neuroleptics as maintenance for the Big Labels, will have some degree of long term physical damage.
    But like you say, its important to avoid the chemical exposure that can cause damage in the first place. The sad thing is that damage is avoidable, as there are solutions to mental distress that work far better than drugs.
    The mainstream chemical solution is more about pandering to doctors.

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  7. Something told me to speak to a lady who was on drugs because she felt she is bipolar and needs to be taking “medication.” I felt it was important to validate her. I kept it brief and to the point. “Psychiatry is bullshit. You’re not.” I didn’t change her mind on the spot about psychiatry, but I think healing begins with validating that person and echoing that knowing “voice” inside of them which psychiatric “treatment” has hushed up.

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