Resolution for the New Year:
Lay Down the Burden of Proof


When snowfall whitens the ground in Colorado, there comes the inevitable question by way of small talk: “So, do you ski or snowboard?”

“Well, neither…” I answer.

“Really, why not?”

“I, um, well, I…I used to snowboard, but now I have some fatigue issues that make it kind of hard to breathe up high in the cold.”

“Oh, man, that’s rough—bummer.”

“Yeah, it’s OK—I don’t really miss it.”


And so, abruptly, ends the elevator talk because A) I don’t have the energy to explain why and how I continue to be plagued by iatrogenic symptoms as a result of psychiatric poisoning, and B) Because I know most people either can’t understand or would choose not to believe such a narrative anyway. First and foremost, call it the usual failure of compassion: “I don’t really want to hear about your complex, chronic, scary condition because it scares the living shit out of me and threatens the fragile bubble of illusion I inhabit, in which everything is OK and always will be, because, oh balls, oh hell, something like this could happen to me or people I care about, too.”

But that’s only half of the story. The other half, as any survivor of psychiatry knows, is that we’re fighting an uphill battle against a monolithic and moneyed propaganda machine, one writhing tentacle of the gigantic Crap Octopus that has America squeezed in a death grip. (The other seven tentacles perhaps being: the influence of corporations on politics, environmental destruction, for-profit health care, the prison state/War on Drugs, militarization of the police, Constant Global Warfare, and the underfunding of education. I’ll stop the list here; it’s just too depressing. Maybe this octopus has sixteen limbs, or sixteen thousand….)

Thus the blank stares when—if I can bring myself to bother—I explain that I was on a very bad class of tranquilizers called benzodiazepines for many years, which is why I still experience fatigue and other symptoms. That in trying to go off I made many mistakes, including continuing to trust mainstream medicine’s mewling, grasping, half-blind bastard spawn, psychiatry, which had helped me find my way into this mess and which, now that it had a lifetime customer on the hook, was loathe to let go—and so loaded up more drugs and more diagnoses until I finally broke free. And that even now, eight years off my last “medication,” I live with a compromised nervous system, especially in the last year and a half as I continue to heal from a setback.

Yeah, who has time for all that? People just want to know if you ski or snowboard.

They want glib, barely-skimming-the-surface articles on “chemical imbalances” and “Are you or someone in your family bipolar?” cobbled together by unpaid interns at Yahoo and CNN; they want reassuring ads for Gleemonex on the weekend-magazine overleaf, right before the ads for diabetes meds facing fatten-your-fat-ass holiday recipes from fat-ass celebrity chefs; they want to talk in low, whispered voices at family gatherings about “Uncle Dave, who never should have gone off his depression medicines and seemed to be doing so much better on them—I wish he’d listen to his doctor.”

They don’t want to hear the truth. They don’t to lift the curtain. Nobody wants to hear that these psychiatric medications, so part and parcel of mainstream America, destroy and end lives, and that they can make your life a hell beyond comprehension, potentially for a long, long time even after you stop taking the pills. Because to accept just this one truth, which reveals the institution of psychiatry as a big, fat lie when it has long positioned itself as a pillar, as both an alleviator of human suffering and an authority on the human condition, is to risk seeing that almost everything else around us is also potentially a lie, also corrupted, also in the service of fear and arrogance and cruelty and greed.

It’s like John Carpenter’s classic 1988 film They Live: Once you put on the sunglasses, you’ll never see things the same way again. For most people, this is too great of a shock, too much of an existential threat.

And so, it falls upon us survivors to prove that we were damaged, and that we aren’t malingerers or attention hounds or “mentally ill”— if we have any energy amidst the maelstrom to plead our case. Because if we don’t, we risk having our narratives rewritten by others’ “good intentions,” misinformed though they may be by the mainstream narrative. People get weird and pushy about this stuff, both because suffering is ugly and because our truth threatens their worldview. (And sure, you can avoid people, but only for so long. Eventually, you have to rejoin the human race.)

If I’d been exposed to nuclear waste for years and was sick from it years later, nobody would question what I was experiencing. If I fell off the roof and had my leg bones jamming through the skin, no one would question if I were in pain. But because we survivors, who have also been saddled with pejorative, reductive labels, were being “treated” for supposed “medical conditions,” and because our post-withdrawal suffering is so often invisible, so often internal, it somehow falls upon us to A) Prove that we no longer have the original “disease” for which we were being treated, and B) That it was in fact that very “treatment” that’s left us sicker than ever.

I mean, how could such a thing be possible, right? Doctors never hurt anybody. They are Gods. They exact cures. It’s the doctors who know what’s really going on: “Ask your doctor if Gleemonex is right for you.”

These days, I just don’t go into it. If you want to know, I’ll tell you; and if you don’t believe my story, then goodbye. That is the burden of proof: There is none. We don’t owe anyone an explanation. We owe only ourselves, and what we owe is love and time and compassion and healing, and nothing more.

By the same token, I’ve also been careful not to let mainstream “thinking” cloud my view of my predicament; to not stop believing in myself and what I know to be true, because it’s an easy thing to have happen when your thinking is diametrically opposed to that of, well, just about everyone else—when you are the outlier. A few things have been helpful in continually convincing myself that what I’m experiencing is a post-withdrawal syndrome that will heal in time, and is not some lifelong syndrome or inexplicable, untreatable constellation of suffering:

  • Accepting and analyzing my symptoms, and trying to recall other periods when, while not on or damaged by the pills, I experienced these things. With the more bizarre symptoms, like an internal tremor, depersonalization/derealization, neuronal pain and “itching” in my teeth, taut, burning muscles, and numb hands and feet, it’s been easy. Even at emotional low points in my old life, or before I was railed by this setback, I did not once experience these things, many of which are purely physical or related to the central nervous system. They have nothing to do with emotion or life events; they are an island of beasties unto themselves.
  • Going back and looking at old pictures and videos of myself before I got sick, especially before this setback (after I’d healed the first time). This has helped me to see that once, I was well. And that if I was healthy once, I can be so again. This video …

  • … has been helpful over the past eighteen months. To see myself relaxed, speaking in a normal tone and not a hyperventilating wheeze, to see that there was light in my eyes and that I did have a sense of humor in the recent past has been tremendously hope instilling. Given the up-and-down, windows-and-waves nature of neuronal healing, it might even be useful for any of us sufferers to videotape ourselves while in a window, speaking a direct, clear message of hope to future us in a wave: “Hey, Matt, even though you might not believe me right now, you have not always felt this way. In fact, you’ve even felt good and will do so again. I promise it’s true, because I feel really, really good right now, and I was in hell, just like you are now, only yesterday.”
  • Surrounding myself with people who either believe my story, or who, having seen great suffering themselves, can empathize, even if they can’t understand. I don’t really need to proselytize; I just need to not be on the defensive. A good friend will believe you no matter what, even if you say little pink pigs are flying out of your earholes. (And he won’t drag you off to the psych ward to have them flushed out with Gleemonex, either.)

So here’s to a happy, healthy 2015, one full of healing, light, and in which little pink pigs can take flight from your ears and you don’t owe anyone a single word of explanation.


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. It is sick that according to psychiatry, everyone who reacts badly to psychiatric drugs is claimed to have a “life long, incurable genetic mental illness.” How odd it is that seemingly English speaking psychiatrists are incapable of understanding the words, “Your drugs are making me sick.” And they seemingly have delusions this statement means put the person on more and more toxic drugs.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and best wishes for a full recovery. The inmates are running the asylums.

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  2. What a great article and so articulately written. It is so SICKENING what these so called “experts” and the drug industry is doing to people. It is truly criminal how they cause so many senseless deaths and the way they are destroying peoples lives with these TOXIC drugs and it’s time people start really taking action against them. In my opinion they are the ones who are really “SICK” and really need help! The world needs a major wake up call as to what’s really going on and we all need to do our part to stand up for ourselves and take charge of our own health. We need to do as much research and be able to make educated decisions about our health and not just letting doctors/therapists/psychiatrists decide what’s right for us. We need to get the truth out there! I’m so glad that you have come as far as you have in your withdrawal from these drugs and I hope you will continue to be able to heal yourself from the damage that was done. Blessings to you and wishing you a Healthy New Year!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your story. When reading your story the idea of “anosognosia” came to my mind. Because God forbid we be autonomous adults with our own minds and feelings about something. And if you are a child or adolescent who has been condemned to a certain psychiatric label and voice your feelings about the drugs, to me it would seem like you’d be absolutely powerless.

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  4. Matt:

    Thank you for expressing so well what I would say if I didn’t keep it locked up inside me most of the time. You are right about a good friend believing you no matter what; I have deepened my friendship with old friends, made new ones, and broken off friendships, all depending on how people related to our family’s story and the incredible pscyhiatric harm done to my beautiful 24 year old daughter.

    Your willingness to share your story gives me great hope

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    • Actually, if you can medically prove you were poisoned with lots of major drug interactions, based upon a DSM-IV-TR misdiagnosis of the now known to be common adverse withdrawal effects of antidepressants. And based upon lies from alleged child molesters, with medical evidence of the child abuse.

      You can embarrass a lot of doctors by telling them that the “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions” way of covering up child abuse, via psychiatric defamation, tranquilization, and poisoning is known as a “dirty little secret” because it is morally wrong.

      But, of course, none of the doctors break their “white wall of silence” and they perpetuate their illegal cover ups of medical evidence of child abuse. It’s hard to respect a medical industry that has an entire faction whose in the business of covering up sexual abuse of children (85% of those diagnosed as “schizophrenic” are actually dealing with psychiatric cover ups of traumatic childhood experiences).

      I hope some day we, as a society, conclude that an industry whose seeming bread and butter is covering up child abuse, thus also aiding and abetting in keeping child molesters on the streets raping more children, is not actually an industry that benefits humanity.

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    • barrab ~ I’d rather be the “bad” guy then yet another victim. There is power in numbers and if more people speak out, the more validity there will be to what’s really happening and the harder it will be for these murderers and abusers to deny the TRUTH!

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  5. Matt
    Thank you for sharing your story – so much of it rang true for me too.

    I still find it devestating that after going through psychiatry’s torture and drugging and then managing to get myself off meds – a new and totally separate kind of hell – without support or acknowledgement even that the drugs ARE addictive, that you come out the other side and face more stigma and rejection simply because of what you have been through.

    Soldiers, prisoners of war, of kidnapping, of sexual assault and other forms of violence are welcomed back into society, supported, comforted. If/when we dare to tell our stories in “normal” society, it almost alaways leads to further rejection and isolation if for no other reason than people believe it was self-inflicted because we didn’t take our drugs, as per doctors’ instructions.

    I struggle with trusting and associating with people because of my experiences with attempted “re-entry” into society, and I suspect that burn up on re-entry is not uncommon.

    As you so wisely note: we don’t owe anyone an explanation

    ….and I’ll hold your image of the little pink piggies fondly as I walk into 2015.

    Thanks again, Matt.

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  6. I love your article Matt, and you will never know how much you have eloquently expressed so much of what I feel. I hope what I have to say is not taken the wrong way, but I don’t feel that we can lay down the burden of proof.

    That is precisely what psychiatrists and psychiatry have done. No evidence of any mental illness. No evidence that drugging people for these so called illnesses is effective. In fact, our Chief Psychiatrist here in Western Australia whose primary responsibility is the protection of the rights of consumers, carers and the community doesn’t even recognise the burden of proof required for detention of people in the community.

    The MH Act states that

    “a medical practitioner or an authorised mental health practitioner who suspects on reasonable grounds that a person should be made an involuntary patient may refer the person for examination by a psychiatrist.” The burden of proof being “reasonable grounds” which are set out in S.26 of the Act, and an accountability measure (Form 1) is to be completed by the referrer so that we can check that the burden was met.

    Our Chief Psychiatrist writes that the referrer “need only ‘suspect’ on grounds they believe to be reasonable that a person requires an examination by a psychiatrist.” No more burden of proof, and the consequences go from being detained in a locked ward of a mental institution, to a cosy fireside chat with Dr Nice.

    How is this guy protecting the rights of the community when he doesn’t even know what they are? A person could be snatched off the street because ‘tomato’ according to him. It does however mean that no one will ever be held accountable, as there is no burden. Still, we can trust his good doctor friends to do the right thing and not abuse this absolute power to detain a person without reason eh? Can’t see why anyone would abuse that sort of power.

    And this is the guy giving “expert legal advice” to the Minister and government? I want my tax back.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is that I will give the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not prepared to lay down the burden of proof totally. Sometimes there is a need to check that your trust is not being breached.

    Stay strong.

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  7. Very good article, thank you. I too am disturbed by the perversity of IT all , psychiatry being the ugliest head of the monster for me. I hope this year I will be free of this absurdity that has eroded my existence.I hope that many people will become aware of this false disease pushing toxic industry, disguised as medicine.

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  8. Poor psychiatrists! They suffer from a communicable social disease called “deaf ear syndrome.” Perhaps they will overcome the public stigma that comes with “deaf ear syndrome.” The Latin term is “talking-to-a-brick wall-itis.”

    Symptoms “deaf ear syndrome” include: chronic focusing on HOW something is said as opposed to the content of what is said, polypharmacology prescribing addiction (most prevalent in the US), real or feigned ignorance of the cost of drugs they swiftly prescribe, desensitization to physical pain (“out of sight, out of mind” if they delegate blood withdrawals to nurses), desensitization to complications like pre-diabetes or heart disease, desensitization to putting patients on pills that incapacitate them to the point they go on SSD, prescribing as first option as opposed to last resort, extremely brief meetings, off-label prescribing, disregarding the PDR recommendations, and not paying attention to hormones and other underlying physiological ailments that mimic mental illness.

    Side effects include: malpractice, and, in rare cases, poverty.

    Spoken from someone who found out over a year ago I was misdiagnosed for 11 years and had PTSD and thyroid disease instead! No at-risk behaviors. I could have perished for no reason by following a quack’s instruction. He would have been unaccountable for his actions. He can go to Hell. I read Suzy Cohen’s Thyroid Healthy and it changed my life. Licensed endocrinologists could give the shrinks “more time to spend with their families.” Then the psych patients would not have to see the endocrinologists twice, first for often underlying thyroid issues, and then, second, for Type 2 diabetes the psych meds created!

    My penultimate shrink retired after 30 years. What did she do for 30 years but prescribe uppers and downers and wonder why people never got cured? She did not learn a damn thing. My current shrink is ex-Army which is nice, because she’s seen misdiagnoses happen before with vets who have trauma, but get the bp label instead. FYI, Reverse T3 thyroid labs measure many things, including severe trauma. A simple blood test!

    They finally announced they’ve invented a blood test to diagnose Major Depression. Baby steps, psychiatry, baby steps. One day you’ll grow up like the big kids in all the other fields of medicine who’ve been using physical labs the entire time and not reliant on a book. You’ll get to use actual test tubes, instead of treating people like they are metaphorical ones in trial and error.

    It’ll take some time, but we’ll explore this together. You may never go back to normal, psychiatry, but that’s the price you pay for…actually using hard science. Now, it’s a New Year, a new deductible, so go write me a check for $300. Can I offer you any free samples? There’s this new one I’m dying for you to try out. After all, it only got one trial at the FDA pre-approval process, so it’s a gamble. It’s called “Integrify.” You may have seen the cartoon ad?

    At least The Daily Show did a segment on Big Pharma and the FDA.

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  9. Thank you for sharing Matt. Your words are reassuring in a sea of crashing wakes from external and internal forces, I am working to learn to ride with the tide but ultimately choose my own course forward. Best in 2015.

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  10. “A good friend will believe you no matter what, even if you say little pink pigs are flying out of your earholes. (And he won’t drag you off to the psych ward to have them flushed out with Gleemonex, either.)” Exactly.

    If I had the proverbial million dollars, I’d do a billboard campaign across the U.S. with this message.

    True family and true friends don’t call the cops or psychs on someone–only frenemies and families with a lot to hide do so.

    Nice article!

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  11. “Uncle Dave, who never should have gone off his depression medicines and seemed to be doing so much better on them—I wish he’d listen to his doctor.”

    That’s a scary one how people appear “better” to outside observers. In 2007 I was told I looked “better” on Zyprexa !

    I suppose I did if compared to how I looked during horrific benzo dependence, on ADHD drugs and Remeron all mixed up.

    I don’t want to make this all long I just think that explaining that the drug induced blankness causes a person to look “better” to outside observers when it is certainly not needs to be written about and explained.

    Sure someone might appear to “function” better going about daily routines with that deer in the headlights medicated look but its not “better”.

    Explaining this may help people understand why Uncle Dave went off his depression medicines , wasn’t “better” and why he won’t listen to his doctor.

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  12. I love reading your stuff. I am 6 months out from CT off Xanax for 30 years. I’m also a climber. Thanks so much for your pieces and your book, Matt. I had no idea what I was getting into when the rehab assured me that they could get me off, safely, in a week. I am healing. Your writing has been both a source of valuable information and a hope that I will heal.

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