Love, Liberty, and Psychiatric Hospitalization

Norman Hoffman, MD
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This article is not going to be about the evils of psychiatric hospitalization or medication.  It is about a love story that happened many years ago. It is a story about two people trying to survive in our world and manage within the psychiatric system. It’s a story of two individuals with their own pain and triumphs: Pierre and Shelly.

I met these two when I was a psychiatry resident at a major psychiatric hospital. Pierre had been hospitalized on the ward where I was working, and the treating staff on the ward were called to a meeting to discuss the situation of Pierre and Shelley.

Pierre had been diagnosed years before as being schizophrenic. He met Shelley, who had been diagnosed as being intellectually challenged and as having occasional psychotic episodes, at the hospital about seven years prior to my meeting them. From that time on they had been inseparable. The problem, as seen by hospital administrators, was that Pierre would often stop taking his medication when he was living with Shelley, but when he would be admitted to hospital, he would not stay as he wished to be with her. A similar story was told of Shelley. It was felt that she would be unstable when with Pierre, but would not be without him.

A meeting was called to determine what should be done with them. Hospital administrators wanted the two to be sent to different hospitals, far away from each other, so that there would be less chance of them encouraging each other to flee hospitalization. Most people felt that Pierre and Shelley would be easier to treat if they were no longer a couple.

This plan seemed inhumane to me. I suggested that we hospitalize them together, in the same room, and treat them like a couple. This idea raised many eyebrows, and was met with great concern by ward nursing staff. But with the support of Dr. Dmitri, my supervisor, we managed to convince the administrators to give it a try.

It did not take long for the benefits of the arrangement to be obvious.  Nursing staff, who were initially concerned about the couple being a problem and about conjugal sex on the ward, became proponents of the arrangement. Other patients began seeing Shelley and Pierre as parental figures on the ward.  It was almost as if the ward was turning more into being a family.  Soon, a dog was adopted by the ward, with Shelley and Pierre being the main caretakers.

I saw the two together in weekly couple therapy sessions to discuss any issues that would arise. Prior to meeting Pierre, Shelley had a baby who was taken away from her.  Hospital staff  had alway been concerned about her getting pregnant. Shelley, Pierre and I talked frequently about Shelley’s child and the pain she felt in having lost it.  Shelley was able to talk about her loss, and not wanting to go through that pain again.  She asked for a tubal ligation so she wouldn’t get pregnant again.  Shelley and Pierre decided that they wanted to get married.  Shelly’s family had a place in the country, so a country wedding was planned. A bus was hired, and all the patients on the ward as well as other friends and staff went down to the wedding on a lovely summer’s day.

The story unfortunately did not have the happiest of endings. The plan that had been discussed was that after a time on the ward, Shelley and Pierre were to be given a place in one of the supervised homes that the hospital maintained.  This did not happen. The staff at these homes did not agree to take them in, and as I had moved on from the hospital, I was not invited to advocate for them.  Instead, they were sent to one of the chronic back wards, where there was little support or positive atmosphere.  They left the hospital shortly after, and went back to living together on their own.  A couple of years later, their relationship fell apart, and Pierre ended up back on a ward, but without Shelley.

But the love story is not just about Shelley and Pierre. It is also about the palpable love that people felt towards them, and the love that was shared by the other patients on the ward.  We cannot help people to survive emotional distress of any kind without some feelings of love.  Sometimes, even or perhaps especially, one can find love in the most unusual places.

* * * * *

Of further interest:

Hoffman, Norman D. Conjugal Psychiatric Hospitalization. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry/La Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie, Vol 29(4), Jun 1984, 344-346.

69 COMMENTS

  1. While it is nice to know, Norman, that you had the right idea about human relationships, it is probably noteworthy that, as a group, your fellow ‘humanitarians’ did not.

    If anything this story illustrates that the state cannot be trusted with our lives. The many recent revelations about what happens to children in ‘care’ and the surprising number of children who are die in state custody from clearly provable neglect and battery makes me sad for the child who was ‘taken away.’ Certainly both Shelley and Pierre would have had a better chance of life with that child. And it was theirs. Human rights cannot be applied only to some.

    ‘Science’ ‘medicine’ ‘expertise’ are all ideas. They do not create God. What they create is a lot of players too big for human souls to fill the part. The rising tide for ‘physician assisted’ suicide should make us all very afraid.

  2. Excuse me, this story is about the evils of psychiatric medication and hospitalization, it’s just your focus is on the love. Together they stopped taking their psychiatric poisons, maybe because it affected their true feelings, and feelings for each other. We don’t get much elaboration here. Quitting psychiatric poisons was never an option for me in the hospital, chiefly because of goons with hypodermic needles. We hear of backwards, etc.

    We cannot help people to survive emotional distress of any kind without some feelings of love.

    It’s a shame that their love did not survive their mistreatment.

  3. I am not sure how to interpret the comments on your article. You are one of the few people who are able to view an issue without the rage and blame that is so daunting and that obscures any message being put forth except for those who are equally enraged. I truly think that constantly re-opening wounds and persistently arguing over words that describe these wounds is not helpful. The mind gets stuck in one track and peripheral blindness occurs. Here is a quote that best sums it up for me.

    Seeing mental illness: Elyn Saks at TEDGlobal2012 http://blog.ted.com/seeing-mental-illness-elyn-saks-at-tedglobal2012/
    She is, she said, “Very pro-psychiatry and very anti-force…. Force is a terrible thing to do to another person with a terrible illness.”
    What schizophrenia is
    Schizophrenia is a brain disease, and the defining feature is psychosis — or being out of touch with reality. Involving loose associations and hallucinations. For example, during her episodes she often has the feeling that she had killed hundreds of thousands of people with her thoughts, or that nuclear explosions are about to be set off in her brain. She reminds us that, “It is not the same as multiple personalities. It’s not split, but shattered.”
    Eventually she realized she needed to take more medication. The wall between the sick woman and the professor was smashed.
    She notes: “Everything about this illness says I shouldn’t be here. But I am.” There are reasons she’s here today, able to talk to us:
    1. She has had excellent treatment, including psychiatry and psychopharmacology.
    2. She has amazing friends and family. Relationships that “have given my life a meaning and a depth.”
    3. The USC Law School is enormously supportive. It is also intellectually stimulating, and occupying her mind is one of the best defenses she has.
    But she still didn’t make her condition public until recently, out of fear of the strong bias against those with mental illness. If we hear only one thing from the talk, what she would like us to hear is, “There are no ‘schizophrenics,’ only people with schizophrenia. We must stop criminalizing mental illness. It’s a national tragedy and scandal that the LA Country Jail is the biggest psychiatric hospital in the United States.”
    She has tried to get off medications, as a way to prove she wasn’t ill. It didn’t work. She began seeing evil beings; at one point she ended up in the office of a consulting doctor who’d thought she had a mild case of schizophrenia. She showed up in his office, curled up in a ball and said, “Is it OK if I totally trash your office? I’m God, or I used to be Recently, a friend posed a question for her, “If there was one pill that would immediately cure you, would you take it?” Rainer Maria Rilke famously said he’d refuse psychotherapy — saying, “Don’t chase my devils away, because my angels may flee too.” Saks, on the other hand, would take that pill in a heartbeat. But she doesn’t wish to be seen regretting the life she could have had, nor does she want pity. What she wants is what everyone wants: “To work and to love.”

        • Altman may not really realize or believe or accept the reality yet that the neuroleptics / antipsychotics actually create both the negative and positive symptoms of “schizophrenia,” both when on the drugs, and withdrawaling from them. And the DSM is wrong in regards to how long after being weaned off the drugs withdrawal symptoms may manifest.

          • Exactly SE. Saks could have had a relapse due to either cold turkeying the meds or withdrawing too quickly. Get so tired of this issue being overlooked but sadly, that is what psychiatry does.

            On a related note, if I remember correctly, Jonathan Keyes, who worked inside psych hospitals, posted about teh revolving door with homeless patients. They were involuntarily held but once they were released, they would CT their meds which of course led to symptoms looking like MI which got them back into the hospital again. It was a vicious revolving door.

          • In one post Norman talked about using major tranquillisers judiciously to get a person through a difficult period – this doesn’t mean a person suffers from a brain disorder.

            A friend of mine (a school teacher) was terrified of dentists and his teeth were dreadful so he took valium to get him through his ordeal.

    • Margie,

      While it may be true that perturbing the neurotransmitter systems in the brain can alter the mind, it is not likely that a complete changing of the minds of those who escaped irreparable;e damage as well as the minds of those of us who were able to correctly perceive what psych drugging and incarceration actually did to people; or rather, some minds will forever remain out of your control.

      “I truly think that constantly re-opening wounds and persistently arguing over words that describe these wounds is not helpful. The mind gets stuck in one track and peripheral blindness occurs.”

      I would elaborate on this axiom by further explaining the phenomenon of a mind that is stuck. If one holds and perseverates on thoughts , excluding, or filtering out any new information— or more likely blocking a critical analysis of one’s own thoughts–“reality testing”, or “meta cognition” (thinking about one’s own thinking); this most definitely is akin to a rigidly held belief likely to blind one to other possibilities. By expanding the description here, I put forth the possibility that your decision to filter out the voices of those of us offering you a clearer view of the reality of aspects of your professional role (as you have stated it), has created a pervasive, and more centralized blindness for you.

      I see your example here as a defense constructed after you claimed to be working inside of a bad system to create essential, crucial change. Actually, you were defending the need this imposes for you to * force vulnerable people into accepting the only help available to you to offer*– generated by a bad system that compels you to to act agains the will of another human being. You want the loaded language and the cries of the wounded to recede. It is unhelpful. Unhelpful to whom?
      Other than you and others who want support as champions of reform whilst you continue to put unwilling victims on the conveyor belt of the system that has destroyed lives.

      I can accept that you aren’t feeling helped by the challenge to your integrity. This is unbearable for most professionals in MH– But, I suggest that you accept have neglected to employ the fundamental tool for changing minds, resonating with your audience– as evident in your recent blog post. It seems that for the survivors of the torture you say you are obligated to perpetuate, have fallen into the category of those you mean to redirect–toward something they inherently know is wrong. Odd that you don’t see this, as the crux of the matter, because really, there is nothing that defends what you say you have to do to keep your job. Nothing. Period. You are simply choosing to filter out what I found to be most crucial in assessing the MH system as it currently exists. The voices of those on the receiving end.

      But then, I was not trained to be psychiatric nurse. Way too much medical, scientific background to be swayed by what I encountered in the MH system over 20 years ago. Yes, I did believe, and still do, that as a nurse I am obligated to do all I can to protect vulnerable people from unsafe, abusive practices of psychiatry that I have to just say, should never have been included in the field of medicine. So, mine is not the voice of one directly wounded, but one who employed the basis of my scientific and professional training to respond to the voices of most important audience — a growing in number audience, who has been directly harmed by professionals who have nothing but excuses for allowing this to continue.

      I am not challenging you from a wounded place, though I will admit I have been deeply hurt by what I have seen and heard in my so-called professional circle. I am close to the point that was described to me 10 years ago by an adolescent tagged as bipolar for having had a manic episode, adverse response to SSRI. She said, there is a conspiracy between psychiatry and the drug companies and, ” all of you are so stupid that you can’t see it. Now, you are crazier than anyone you try to treat.”

      Out of the mouths of babes. My story in a nutshell. I realized this wounded teen was talking about me. I did something about it.

      ~Katie

    • I have no idea how this is quote is supposed to be relevant — to show that someone who has been through the system and survived found some elements of support which, in spite of the obstacles placed in her path by psychiatric mystification and drugging, were experienced by her as helpful? That’s hardly a ringing endorsement. Especially since the support of family & friends and the people at law school were likely the key elements of her “recovery.”

      When Bonnie Burstow recently asked what strategies we should employ to defeat psychiatry one of my responses was ” Make ending involuntary ‘treatment’ a key demand not only of survivors but of the larger movement. Educate social activists and make them understand that they can’t speak on behalf of oppressed people while allowing their own friends and family members to be diagnosed and drugged without consequence. “

      Ms. Altman, you seem in touch with progressive issues and analyses of other social and political issues, and are aware of the effects of capitalism and imperialism in other spheres. IMO you need to better understand the symbiotic relationship between capitalism and psychiatry, and to realize that it’s all one struggle and the struggle against psychiatry is an indispensable part of that.

    • Elyn Saks has very little credibility with me. How can you be anti-force and pro-psychiatry? Oh, yeah. You can be a “highly functional” severely deranged award winning UCLA Law professor. (Or can you?)

      Psychiatry was still very pro-force the last time I looked. Mental health law was still pretty pro-force, too.

      If Elyn Saks is saying she opposes non-consensual psychiatry, she’s going to need to speak up a little more. All in all, the message I’ve gotten from the likes of her is somewhat less than that in terms of clearness, concision, and conclusiveness.

    • In my opinion there is no such thing as the brain disease of “schizophrenia”. Elyn Saks certainly has her own individual experience of great turmoil to relate, as everyone else does.

      I ended up in hospital many times when I tried to stop taking my tranquilizers (abruptly) but was able to stop taking them by means of slow taper (and get back to life as a result).

      I’ve never had a problem with hallucinations so I’m not an expert, but I know that lots of people have learnt to deal with the problematic side to this. I had to deal with lots of other phenomenon relating to withdrawal, but I found practical nondrug solutions for these. This doesn’t happen with a brain disease.

      • The term “schizophrenia” was coined on April 24, 1908, when Professor Bleuler gave a lecture at a meeting of the German Psychiatric Association in Berlin. At that meeting, Professor Bleuler argued that dementia praecox was associated with neither dementia nor precociousness, and emphasized that splitting of psychic functioning is an essential feature of schizophrenia. One of the most striking differences between Emil Kraepelin and Bleuler is that Kraepelin collected information about his patients from their records while Bleuler obtained the information by careful clinical observations. He practically lived in the patients’ surroundings. Bleuler derived his concept from the Greek verb schizein, indicating splitting. The second part of the word goes back to the Greek phren, originally denoting ‘diaphragm’ but later changing to ‘soul, spirit, mind’.

        Paul Eugen Bleuler and the origin of the term schizophrenia, Indian Journal of Psychiatry

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3339235/

        If the original meaning of the word schizophrenia was split soul, indeed. Perhaps it would be more correct to list psychiatry as a school of divinity rather than as a branch of medical science.

    • Margaret,
      While I see the positive aspects of Sak’s story (I have read her book), I agree with others that this particular quote by Elyn Saks is pretty worthless. Schizophrenia has never been proven to be a disease of the brain; that is a flat-out false quote that you are putting out there from Saks… and yes, there are a few people who report benefitting greatly from neuroleptics. But many studies show that the long-term associations between heavy neuroleptics use and outcome for cases of psychosis is bad, e.g. The Vermont Study, Martin Harrow, Wunderink, WHO studies, Jaaskelainen metaanalysis, etc.

      As for ““There are no ‘schizophrenics,’ only people with schizophrenia.” I truly hope people will reject this horrible message. People don’t have something called schizophrenia. Maybe we can just stop using this word, like Japan did as a nation when they abolished it from their vocabulary 10 years ago with many beneficial effects. Trying to normalize mental illness as a brain disease is the path to failure… it doesn’t work to reduce stigma.

      As for “pro-psychiatry and anti-force” that has to be one of the greatest oxymorons in history, courtesy of Elyn Saks.

      I can’t believe Margaret Altman is promoting this unevidenced, stigmatizing crap. It’s sad to see that. Maybe being inside traditional psych wards and prisons has gotten to her more than she realizes.

      • If you are going to oppose forced treatment you must oppose mental health law. I hardly think Elyn Saks has done so, and if you’re a lawyer, the kind of compromises a person makes can be very telling.

        Elyn Saks has been reading the mental health movement propaganda though, hasn’t she? “People with” is a growing cause for lobbying the government for taxpayer money. Otherwise, people might have to go “without”, and when that “without” is “schizophrenia”…Whoa! We can’t have that….”Schizophrenia” is the mental patients best friend.

        Critical psych, as a rule, doesn’t go far enough, that is, it seldom even goes so far as to reject psychiatric assault, and to actually oppose forced treatment. (Doing so, of course, would put too many jobs on the line.) Instead you get stuck with the reformist psycho-dynamic mumbo jumbo versus biological reductionist mumbo jumbo. As I see it, all of this non-sense spells “bad barrel”.

        Psychiatry is, in fact, so bad, I’m not one to make any excuses for it. The less the better, and as that is the case, none must be best of all.

        Does that make me antipsychiatry as well as anti-force? You got it! Psychiatry has an excess of apologists, and if mine is the minority opinion, well, I’m more than happy to entertain it.

        • Frank,

          You have a way with words-

          “Elyn Saks has been reading the mental health movement propaganda though, hasn’t she? “People with” is a growing cause for lobbying the government for taxpayer money. Otherwise, people might have to go “without”, and when that “without” is “schizophrenia”…Whoa! We can’t have that….”Schizophrenia” is the mental patients best friend. ”

          I am familiar with this line of reasoning, though never saw it explained so clearly.Makes me think about the power of straight talk…

          ” As I see it, all of this non-sense spells “bad barrel”. ”

          Absolutely. The reformist or critical psychiatrist is still, after all, in the “bad barrel” … could even be a pharma plant.
          I have often wondered if Allen Frances is doing his swan song for pharma — on their dime. I can almost hear J&J calling,
          “Just open one more market, Allen. Same 4o grand bonus as last time if you can cook up a study that shows just about any on – patent psych drug, taken as directed, by 80% of minority males under the age of 30 in low income urban areas will reduce the incidences of arrest and incarceration for petty crimes– by whatever percent you think people will believe. Oh, and keep on with your jovial pot shots at – you-know-who– about you-know-what–. Just no more debates with that Bob- what’s his name?! ”

          You just never can be too sure—

    • “I truly think that constantly re-opening wounds and persistently arguing over words that describe these wounds is not helpful. The mind gets stuck in one track and peripheral blindness occurs. Here is a quote that best sums it up for me.”

      What you perceive as wound opening is because various commentators feel you are not hearing them and instead keep offering excuses. As one who has never fortunately been in a psych hospital or had the experiences of Katie in working in one, I don’t have as much invested in this thread even though I too was outraged at your column. But I definitely agree with the extreme frustrations of the commentators.

  4. Norman,

    I wonder why it doesn’t occur to you ,as a doctor with a degree in medicine and years of studying the scientific method, that your human subjects cannot be appropriately studied because you have altered them in ways that will always and only taint the conclusions you make about them. Not once did you mention that Pierre and Shelley were viewed through a filter; one that results from the erroneous belief that violating the humanity of vulnerable people is the first line treatment for their distress– or more likely, the distress they are causing others.

    How far away from APA guidelines for first line treatment of *psychosis* or behavior that disrupts the static hum on a psych unit, do we have to get before we can rightly study the course of a person’s life who has experienced severe mental states? You see, there are no validated members of a control group in the U.S.– and you can thank Allen Frances for that (TMAP, DSM III) , and his lemmings who drugged everyone they could get their hands on, opening markets for these poisons beyond the scope of what was once thought to be psychiatry– . How convenient for you and your colleagues to claim to be tackling the problems you created? Although, as I said, you haven’t a clue what you are *fixing* because somewhere along the road, you seem to have forgotten what pure, undefiled humanity looks like.

    I have no empathy– or compassion for your plight– or rather, I cannot feign a connection to something that is lacking in scientific foundations and devoid of rational human thought. I state this as simple fact. Expressing the emotion that is evoked by the story you shared would only feed into yours and Margie’s need to remind us how *unhelpful* it is to challenge your authoritative analysis of your vital role in society. In other words, I will refrain from feeding into your delusions of grandeur.

    ~Katie

    • Again, “delusions of grandeur” is a telling phrase to use. It appears that people who hold on to their anger, their feelings of being violated (or raped as one commenter described it) and to continue to re-open old wounds also tend to have behaviors that resemble the oppressive forces that they are so angry and afraid of. For example; there is a sense of entitlement here the power to label all who do not agree in terribly pejorative terms, there is a perception that anyone who does not agree is pathological (the word delusional is used by the medical community to describe irrational beliefs and perceptions) there is that black or white mode of categorizing that leaves no room for discussion or disagreement. The comments are punitive and demeaning and create no space for divergent thoughts. Does this not resemble the M.O. of oppressive forces?

      • …or in other words, blame the victims of forced psychiatry (for “holding on” to their feelings of having been violated), because what matters most is avoiding your own feelings of discomfort. And no, it is not oppressive for the victims of abuse to insist that was done to them was wrong. How dare you talk about entitlement.

      • What you’re doing actually to me resembles a perhaps understandable but nonetheless reactionary response to criticisms which have been made. When I hear people speaking of “entitlement” it’s usually on the Sean Hannity show. “Delusional” does not automatically imply “pathological” btw. Further, you are, whether deliberately or not, holding people responsible for the anger they feel over concrete outrages which have been committed against them; this is known as invalidation. So to turn all this around and call it a mirror image of the oppressor’s tactics is like talking about reverse racism.

      • Margie, I am very directly challenging your authoritative statements. I can do this as an advocate for former patients who did not survive psychiatric abuse, or give credence as eye witness to the testimony of psych survivors, but, I am choosing to do it as a professional on a level playing field with you.

        As a nurse, with over 20 years in psychiatry (inpatient, residential, addiction inpatient, children, adolescents, young adults, older adults) I have had more face to face. life to life contact with psychiatric patients than you and Norman combined. I have a perspective on yours and Norman’s respective roles as they impacted a population I have come closer to living with than you would probably dare. I have credentials, education, training-professional development– personal experience with *walking the talk* and will not disregard this as I continue to challenge your authoritative stance on “how to discuss forced drugging and forced dehumanizing incarceration.”

        I don’t think there is a nice way to say what goes through my mind reading your latest negative assessment :
        ” For example; there is a sense of entitlement here the power to label all who do not agree in terribly pejorative terms, there is a perception that anyone who does not agree is pathological (the word delusional is used by the medical community to describe irrational beliefs and perceptions”

        Here’s the most direct response, re: the discussion you think is possible–

        The premise for your discussion IS an irrational belief–

        There is nothing to discuss– forcing people to endure humiliation, degradation while they are drugged with brain disabling poisons is wrong. Details of the experience were provided– aspects of the your misperceptions of these unit were clarified.

        Not only is this forced psychiatry issue a violation of civil law– a crime against humanity, it is an assault on the sensibilities of rational, human beings.

        It is you who needs to revise your orientation to open dialogue, based on mutual respect, for the purpose of increasing the understanding of all who participate– A vital tool for advancement, it is, but you have failed to respect those you attempted to engage when you posted your blog and link to defend Norman’s– and you fail to appreciate that your audience here has a better understanding of the topic than you may ever have.

        Academic discussion and debates amongst arm chair clinicians who see through a periscope when it comes to what actually takes place in the system ( and their jobs)) they are supporting–; these discussions abound. The problem– the isolation from the actual issues, will escape you– but make no mistake, you cannot rally or intimidate people whose convictions are strongly rooted in reality–

        Words have meaning and can be powerfully employed, but there is a great deal lacking when words alone are the tools for communicating. Misperceptions about another’s emotional state ,etc. are common– but on this issue, I think words suffice, because they convey all that the issue comprises. Crimes against humanity. Always say, “No”.

        • As long as you continue to perceive and label me as an authority figure and making “authoritative statements and authoritative analysis” we are unable to meet as equals. There is a fear and a rage against those who are seen as authority figures and not as qualified professionals discussing the way forward in the mental health system.

          • Margie,

            You defined your role as “authority” responsible for the lives of vulnerable people, a professional with the credential to write 72 hour hold orders– did you not?

            Then as you say I am perceiving and labeling you as an authority figure ?? Well, yeah–true enough.

            Suggesting this is a detraction from productive discussion you state 9rather authoritatively, I might add) :

            “There is a fear and rage against those seen as authority figures and not qualified as professionals discussing a way forward in the mental health system.”

            I have neither fear or rage against anyone designated as an authority figure. Nor do I see that in the responses of those whose lived experience actually trumps your assessments.

            I said the playing field we are on is level– not that we are equals there. I would not initiate any forced intervention against a vulnerable person. Never. I did have authority to initiate restraints– physical and chemical– Never did it .True, I don’t have the credential to write 72 hour hold orders– but I have no problem knowing what I would do with that authority if I actually had it– or what I would inside the bad system with your credential.

            We don’t really need a MH system– but a re-humanized community- building society– and I think the bad system you are supporting and hoping to reform is a huge impediment to the resolution of the damage it has already done– but it will definitely not impede the community building– actually just makes it more of an urgent priority.

            For that, I thank you 🙂

          • But, Margie, you avoid addressing all relevant points via some aspect of authority you display –but again, you offer…
            Nothing but excuses not to engage on the very topics you raised.

            I am not a psychiatric survivor in a true or real sense — but I did survive the vicious attacks of colleagues wielding ultimate authority, lost my job and had to forbear through the trashing of my professional reputation. But…

            If you conclude I am angry or even fearful of these or any authority figures, you are wrong. My experience was a learning curve, one that I treasure as it supplies me with greater assurance and confidence when I join anyone here and elsewhere who wants to dismantle this system of torture.

            I have a little more material than you do– face to face encounters with the top of the MH food chain, who displayed with alacrity their total disregard for the human suffering they have caused.

            FWIW I truly hope that you consider the myriad approaches at your disposal for doing good– that an act of civil disobedience, refusing to write 72 her hold orders, is actually an endorsement of the basic human rights guaranteed to us under civil law– The law is being violated, and you could aide in making this fact known–, rather than asking for empathy because your role in the system is crucial to making change?

            You and Norman both appear to be asking this survivor community to step up the creation and implementation of alternative *programs* so you and Norman will have more choices. As you imply that I am a thorn in the side of you serious minded insider reformers.

            The more I see this type of response from the insider, MH professionals reform squad, the more I am apt to say– demolish this system, then we can move forward.

  5. Ok, been obviously following here, and participating, and really processing it all, from Margie’s article to this one, obviously a continuum.

    I have this philosophy which I do try to live by and embody best I can to have deep and authentic compassion for anyone, even if what I’m observing elicits far less than loving feelings. That is thanks to the spiritual work I do. Well, I strive for this, anyway, don’t always succeed, but it’s my goal on a daily basis. It’s a practice.

    I also know that on an energy level, this is most sound, to keep myself centered, grounded, and in a relaxed space, even when I feel angry and triggered, which in many cases, is reasonable to the present time circumstance, and not merely a post-traumatic stress reaction. Suggesting that an angry reaction can only be pts, and therefore without merit to the present time situation, is nothing short of demeaning, dehumanizing, and gaslighting. It is also common in the mental health world, as blatant stigma, and used to discriminate and oppress.

    Staying grounded, centered and relaxed while not engaging dominantly with my emotional responses, but still trying to be reasonable and neutral while experiencing them, also feels better than getting caught in a power struggle and pitting my beliefs against those of others, or even my perception of a situation. What others believe or perceive is really none of my concern, unless those beliefs and perceptions lead to overstepping boundaries which is only harmful to others, not to mention a display of blatant disrespect to another human being. Then, we, as a society, become totally unsafe and vulnerable to systemic abuse, and something has to give.

    Norman and Margie, you, like any of us, are on your journeys of life, learning, growing and evolving your way, the way any of us heal, grow, and evolve to new levels of consciousness. This is called ‘awakening.’

    In that journey, we go through a lot to get to our truth and clarity, and this is where my deep compassion comes in, because I know that journey. It’s rich, enlightening, and leads to wonderful clarity and other things. But it is not easy to face ourselves when change is called for. Still, we do it because more than anything, we desire to grow. We have to, that is nature, never static. When we resist change, we suffer.

    With that said, are you aware that you are creating an alliance against survivors here? Is indignation and protest regarding abuse unreasonable rage and blame? Seems like, as usual, the two of you think you have clarity over others that we, ourselves, cannot possess for ourselves. I think that’s painfully clear by what I’ve been reading.

    Isn’t this what we are all here to protest and finally make cease? Is this not the nature of ‘oppression?’ Isn’t this exactly THE SYSTEM?

    • Alex,

      Reading your comment above and most all of your comments on MIA, I renew my conviction that an individual human being can discover the value in every one of her/his life experiences. In that sense, life experiences are all neutral until one assigns them their place in her/his own narrative.

      I am continually in awe of the breadth of compassion, command of respectful discourse and open mindedness you (and many others here) express in response to re-encountering life threatening trauma. I wonder if it is the space created by the on-line forum that allows you all to clearly articulate what I was fortunate enough to hear from people who had been assigned the status of “incompetent ” on the units where I have worked. Amidst their real time, real life threatening crisis, I heard their stories, only because I wanted to– and immediately, I was engaging in dialogues with people who seemed to possess a higher degree of sensitivity, compassion and insight than any of my colleagues who had labeled them.

      I continue to believe that the all that is required for every MH professional to perceive what I call, the humanity and inherent value of each of their *patients* is the desire to hear them and know them. Most MH professionals complain about limitations on their time and various other impositions imposed by the “bad system”– but they never really address the fundamental cause for all of the damaging interventions they must perform to keep their jobs– that is; they have lost or failed to gain the most important information required for them to do any real good in the *bad system*– the essential personal connection to their patients, that would absolutely evoke only action that protects them from being forced into the MH system.

      Thank you– for using this forum to advance the cause for recognition of a more highly evolved expression of humanity– toward those who are supporting a bad system form those who were nearly destroyed by it.

      Breathtaking !!!

      ~Katie

      • Katie, thank you, I appreciate that very much. Hearing this sure makes helps give my experience even more profound meaning. I believe as you do, that we assign meaning to our experience–good or bad feeling–and this is where our free will is most powerful, how we choose to perceive. I believe it makes all the difference. Lots to say about this, but for another time.

        I, too, am so tremendously inspired by you and others, and all that I’ve learned on here over the past 4 or so years. Although I will confess, I’m feeling strongly compelled to move forward at this point. This has been exhausting! The mental health field began challenging me in 1996, when I entered the field as a graduate student. Been going at it ever since on all sides and in all capacities. Being here on MIA is my last vestige, I’ve been through all the layers. Been very helpful in many ways, albeit aggravating at times, of course, which is fine, to be expected. Been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot about activism, especially. But I do have other things that I’d like to focus on, as well, my life is out here.

        So this is my conclusion, at the end of it all–

        I’ve seen the same pattern incessantly, these systems of stonewalling–and in this case like so many, after provoking–that allow for absolutely no negotiation of power. Gets ugly real fast, ‘they’ get defensive, demeaning, then feel victimized themselves, totally turn the tables, and that’s that, it’s a rabbit hole.

        I even remember this coming up for me in an internship group training, the supervisor said to one of the interns, passing along a client request, “No, we don’t want to give the client too much power.” This raised my eyebrows then, but now that I’ve been a client in the system as well as on staff at different agencies, I get how deep this goes, and what a toxic education and example this is.

        So this is the issue, let’s not give ‘them’ power, at all cost. That’s the agenda. Exactly the opposite of what a person would need, imo. To heal is to feel empowered, not blocked.

        I know we each have our own power, but for some, it’s been made virtually impossible to access–and I say it intentionally this way, because that’s where I think society has screwed us, it has actually *aimed* to disempower us, that’s the intention. And this is where things get complicated and twisted.

        For me, when I was in this position and feeling terribly disempowered, the best awakening came when I asked, “Where is my power, here?” Sometimes, it is to call it out and fight it out and see what happens, and I took that route on and off, had good experiences, but was left drained. And sometimes, our power is to walk away, and simply do things a better way. Be the example. That’s nourishing.

        The clarity from all this over the past couple of days feels really good, so thank you and all others. For me, at least online, I can finish a thought and not get cut off. That was the problem I had in any face to face group situation. Did anyone actually get to finish a thought before someone sabotaged the discussion?

        Regards,
        Alex.

        • Alex,

          I am a constant reader here, but only occasionally participate as a commenter. I admit that studying the responses of the regular commenters has been instructive, as my greatest struggle has been to articulate the dynamics of what culminated in my being ousted for essentially doing my job, as a staff nurse in a major academic children’s hospital- 5 years ago. Good thing there was one other nurse who stuck by me and validated the insanity– . We agreed that attempts to tell any part of the story made us feel as crazy as we were certain our audience must think we were. OK. Now, we’re paranoid, and so on. Better just keep our mouths shut and let them all guess…

          I understand how the anxiety state evoked by trauma triggers obstructs the cognitive processes one needs to accurately and appropriately express oneself. I learned early on that my engrained nursing practice, which prioritized the patient’s subjective accounts of symptoms and response to treatment, was what guided my approach to patients in the MH system– they were no different to me than any other patient– I trust them to to tell me what I needed to know in order to effect some kind care, comfort, treatment. My nature and my training, I guess, but it was also the reason I found it so difficult to communicate with most psych professionals– they had no basic training, it seemed, in building rapport with patients — or rather, they came at them with sympathetic expressions, but were only listening for key words, sound bytes that would categorize the person into the model they invented, called treatment plans for psych disorders. Ass backwards! I would say — under my breath–. All this said to make the point that my bedside manner apparently is a charm when it comes to reducing anxiety– and that was the key to seeing early on that there was really no such thing as a psychiatric disorder– . So-called, psychotic patients were communicating painful experiences in metaphor and symbolic language- the more at ease they became, the easier it was to comprehend their stories and observations. When I documented these encounters or shared them with colleagues, I was under suspicion– and probably just hopelessly clueless, but needed closer supervision, for sure.

          Yes, it comes through that you have a command of your thoughts and broad range of experience in all of your posts, and like me have taken to alternative, complimentary practices to enhance your power and find your center. The space between the provocateurs and us is invaluable though– and that is the real benefit of these on-line forums. From just that much breathing room, there are volumes of brilliant discourses on this site– . your comments bridge the gap between the MH system rhetoric and the lay person’s perception of it as a valuable system that just needs to be improved or reformed, a tad. Here, I am learning what I hope will be the foundation for the public campaign needed to initiate political and criminal justice system action — (where I am heading..;-)

          I also have all the evidence (right here on this site;,all the proof I need to back up my claims that the people I met as labeled prisoners on psych wards are the best and brightest amongst us– they (you– all of you) deserve all the credit for warning our society that humanity itself is in the cross hairs of the MH system– and beyond.

          — just wanted to express my gratitude . I do want to validate 40 years of my life as a nurse– create some value. I would have thought this impossible if not for the education I received from psych survivors commenting on MIA.

          Best,
          Katie

          • You inspire sooo much hope in me, Katie. You are on it. Thank you for your unyielding sense of humanity and your incomparable generosity of spirit. To me, that spells victory. Blessings and light to you, always.

    • @uprising,

      FWIW, I find that only those colleagues of mine who had nothing personally invested in their status as MH professionals, and no particular attachment to their jobs as their lifestyle provider–were able to hear strong criticisms about what we were doing–, the mistakes we were making.

      I say this only to point out that I think either one has to be unfettered in the MH system or been ousted for standing up to it, or rather, have noting else to lose, to be truly interested in personal critical feedback.

      And I think this is a strong indicator of how far one can get trying to convert MH system professional defenders– If one bases her/his identity on the status of their profession or depends on that credential and position as their livelihood, not likely they will confront the huge dichotomy between their preferred perception of their benevolent , or reformist role and the crimes they are actually committing– .

      Interesting though– recent reference to the Buddha– . The path to attaining enlightenment is bodhisattva practice– and when one is prepared to lay down his life for the sake of another–they have reached the highest stage of bodhisattva practice. It is truly enlightening to behold the actual result of sacrifice for the sake of others– but it is damned near impossible to convince anyone else to give it a go–

      And that is what you are asking of Margie– IMO.– not impossible, just highly unlikely–

      • We are none of us free from psychiatry until all of us that want to be free of it are. It is not about constantly reopening wounds . It’s about stopping a system and it’s employees from forcefully tearing fresh wounds in anyone they get their hands on ( this reminds us of our own present or past ones.) Yes considering the huge losses survivors have absorbed the only true healing is justice . No more coercion !
        Katie you’re amazing , you reminds me in many ways of the lead character in the movie ” Dances With Wolves” .
        I also agree about Alex’s previous beautiful articulation .
        Sometimes it seems all we have left is to throw our wounds at an enemy that is worse than an unresponsive rock in that it’s made a business out of torture .
        I’ve probably went on too long but I hope we can find a way to at least eliminate coercive psychiatry.

      • And I think this is a strong indicator of how far one can get trying to convert MH system professional defenders– If one bases her/his identity on the status of their profession or depends on that credential and position as their livelihood, not likely they will confront the huge dichotomy between their preferred perception of their benevolent , or reformist role and the crimes they are actually committing

        Exactly, thank you. This is one reason that the future of the anti-psych struggle should be more of an alliance with the prison abolition movement than with progressive-leaning MH professionals. Not that we don’t have real allies among the ranks of the latter, but they are not defensive about us labeling as such the crimes of the system that employs them.

    • @bpdtransformation,

      I’m curious about your take on the story, that is was good to read, and
      your reference to a lot of comments as “bad”. I appreciate reading your take on issues, which you usually present with thought provoking insights, like; your response to Margaret’s posting on Sak’s view of schizophrenia.

      In view the rich comments on this story, I would agree it was worthwhile. Would appreciate your commenting further about your other impressions.

      Thanks,
      Katie

  6. So this is supposed to be a love story about a pathologically dysfunctional couple who was, “tragically”, very much in love but also very much to blame for each other’s “need” to be incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals because they were too “brain diseased” for a life as husband and wife in the real world. Dr. Hoffman could have written an account of Pierre’s and Shelley’s years of being alternately dominated and neglected by our society which centered this two-pronged approach to their annihilation around the family members, clinicians, etc. that chose to make themselves the biggest impediments to Pierre’s and Shelley’s efforts to realize their dreams of escaping pro-force psychiatry, marrying each other, and raising a family. This forum would not have attempted to stop Dr. Hoffman from trying, at long last, to give Pierre and Shelley a voice, but instead of doing that, he sloughed off psychiatry’s violation of Pierre’s and Shelley’s rights to a spousal relationship, reproductive freedom, custody of their children, freedom from wrongful imprisonment, bodily autonomy, a home in the community, and the health gains that people accumulate when they lead independent and active lives. Dr. Hoffman has shrewdly manufactured his melodramatic account of Pierre’s and Shelley’s plundered romance and lives by thinly veiling his paternalistic message with a pitiful and phony show of grief over the very real poignancy of Pierre’s and Shelley’s futile fight for life and love. In short, Dr. Hoffman extols the virtues of psychiatry’s choice to revoke, for Pierre’s and Shelley’s own good, of course, almost all of their human and civil rights, his reasoning being that this man and woman weren’t human enough to do anything, either together or apart, other than “play house” for a few years. No mention is made in this piece of why there weren’t home health care or child care supports available to this couple. By default, then, all of the blame for what became of Pierre and Shelley is foisted onto their “illnesses” even though their formal and informal caregivers had only a shallow and fleeting interest in the quality of their lives. Psychiatry’s victimization of Pierre and Shelley has been renewed by Dr. Hoffman’s piece in Mad in America this week.

    This was the worst article that I’ve ever read on Mad in America. I would expect this from just about any other website, but I didn’t think I’d ever read a piece like this here. Ms. Altman’s article this week wasn’t much better than this one. Mad in America has given the world its first free Mad News source that integrates the viewpoints of EVERY sector of the Mad community. I donate money every month to this website and it is still my favorite website. It’s revolutionized my life for the better. I don’t expect it to be all things to all people, but I hope you’ll continue to keep it a welcoming and an informative place for Mad people who need an online community that emboldens them to make themselves healthy and happy.

  7. Why is it that so many of the interactions narrated by psychiatric behavior control specialists about the people under their power have the feel like preliminary sessions with Josef Mengele SS physician ? Could it be the coercive environment ? The disparity of human rights?

  8. Well I am really afraid to comment here and am halfway out the door ready to exit stage left.
    The story was “cute” rather sad that someone’s tragic life gets used for a defensive maneuver for a philosophy debate. Norman you and Margie both could have done better. It’s really hard to hear anger, especially in these days when it is considered dysfunctional. If you read Judith Herman’s work on trauma – anger is part and parcel of the recovery process. Anger at the abuser or abusers and anger at the by standers. It is what it is. If you are going to write and comment here I would as a prof except there to be anger at my statements even those written in the best of good faith. Sometimes you are the only ones that we can show anger with when the triggers are opened. If I were in your shoes. I wouldn’t even try. I would just listen and respond in the most empathetic way possible. Sometimes even in the trying it just doesn’t work and the best course is to apologize for any pain caused and admit there is no way for a person except maybe for souls like Katie to really comprehend what has and is going on. Check out Eric’s most recent writing.
    Oh yes Margie when I quoted my child in another post, I made a special label for it to be as a preschool not toddler child. If you ever spend time with The Blanks at a top rated Social Work School who wrote the book on Ego Psychology you would have understood the context of my statement.Alice Miller Anyone? You dismissed me because of my history. What if I am writing as journalist who is exploring the mental health world. How would you know?
    Alex I am with you with being tired. They just don’t get it and there comes a point in time where staying healthy is more important that fighting a system that might never be reformed.
    I was talking to someone yesterday and we both admitted we are afraid that things will be going down badly in the coming years. She is not the only person who has said that. I think it is another fear WE ALL live with these days. The old metaphor of the canary in the mining shaft may be more realistic than not.
    So goodbye all. No more comments. Not worth it. I will enjoy my life and keep myself and my family safe. Good luck to you all. I fear we all will need it. Keep safe out there!

    • You have a brilliant mind and a really beautiful heart, CatNight. You know truth, and indeed, that is for others to discover on their own. We’ve tried!

      I, too, am at the end of the line, here. Yes, health and safety now is our peace of mind as well as our joy, and from that we move forward in our own gentle, self-compassionate truth. Be well, and may life bring you all blessings and light.

      • To uprising 9/21/2015 at 1:57 pm

        I think “the good” is, at the present time, still a fuzzy and hesitant place in our hearts that sees the day of deliverance which remains invisible to the concrete realities of our lives, but is clearly sensed by the people who look hard enough for it within this IS. Eric Coates wrote an article this week about “seeing” a community college in the dilapidated ruins of abandoned buildings on the state hospital grounds. He also wrote about “seeing” the doors of the closets in his hospital room that were removed for the “patient’s safety”. I have had dreams about walking into the “special schools” of my teenage years and “seeing” the people there living bountiful domestic, academic, and professional lives. This dream felt indistinguishable from the IS, despite the fact that none of these things have, to this day, ever taken place there. Faith is the lifeblood of progress. We mustn’t let the sanists anywhere, not even the ones on this website, drain it from our souls.

          • To humanbeing 9/21/2015 at 3:29 pm

            Actually, I’ve come across a few first-person stories of psychiatry’s successes. The Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Center looks promising. Susan Weinreich’s story in the book “Far from the Tree” and Catherine Penney’s and Joanne Greenberg’s stories in the documentary “Take These Broken Wings” are some examples of these successes. The catch is, psychiatry will probably have to be blown up and rebuilt, almost from the ground up, in order to make these the typical experiences that Mad people have when they seek help with living through their extreme states.

          • J,

            You are using the word “psychiatry” in a very creative way here. WMRLC is peer run and Take These Broken Wings is primarily about people whose conditions improved through talk therapy (i.e. relationship), which is not something that most modern psychiatrists do.

          • To humanbeing 9/21/15 at 4:30 pm

            You’re right. Most psychiatrists don’t do that. With my last psychiatrist, I had to struggle constantly with him to respect my VERY thoughtful choice to stay off of medication. He was the only psychiatrist out of the many I had sought care from over the preceding 12 years who had grudgingly *let* me control what goes into my body and what stays out of it. Needless to say, my misguided decision to expend all of this energy on keeping my psychiatrist from poisoning me to death eventually backfired on me. By the time I started feeling anxious, frightened, and depressed again, I had already blown my limited resources for self-preservation on his sorry ass. That was when I left psychiatry in my rear-view and tried to gut out the negative aspects of my extreme states on my own, which is where I’m at in my life today. Peer support and talk-based psychiatry could be the cornerstones of mental health care, but Mad people and our allies are going to probably have to lean on these “angels of death” before that can happen.

    • When Paxil Study 329 is disseminated by the public will see that there is no foundation for psychiatry – no science, no morals, no ethics and no concern for the harm it has caused. Study329.org is a peak inside the ivory towers where all of the strategizing and reifying psych labels with drugs attached, marketing schemes and obfuscating, and scapegoating, blame shifting— this web site is like a reality TV show.

      Thus, we take this show on the road—
      “No more rehearsing and nursing our parts,
      we know every part by heart—…
      On with the show, THIS IS IT !!”

      In response to Bob Whitaker’s call to rally- posted today:

      “So what should society do? As Lisa Cosgrove and I wrote in Psychiatry Under the Influence, we see only one possible solution. We cannot expect psychiatry to reform itself, and that leaves only one option: We need to strip psychiatry of its authority over this domain of our lives. The challenge for society is to figure out how to do that.”

      There is nothing *good* in psychiatry– which is why it cannot reform itself–

      Starting where we live– dialogue, w/ friends, neighbors, co-workers, emails to political representatives, notices to schools, community organizations–, local media , . There is a larger network that will be developed– on-line networking -; where ideas for *marketing* the truth and updates on progress will be available–

      All MH health professionals previously disinterested in *anti-psychiatry* rhetoric may be more favorably impressed with the
      documented evidence that is free on-line for the public, and growing interest of the media – Might even decide to speak out against this scourge– silence will not make them golden, that is for sure.

      In solemn acknowledgment of all psych survivors taking a much needed respite after two ravaging posts —

      “Life during Wartime” by David Byrne & Talking Heads—

      ” don’t get exhausted
      I’ll do some driving–
      You ought to get you some sleep–”

      Hi ho!!
      Katie

  9. CatNight ,
    I will miss your comments and especially appreciate your attempts to convince Norman and Margie to throw their pseudo scientific professions overboard or at least actively stand up against psychiatric coercion no matter what the cost . We need your insights ,and the way you present them but you are right health and family come first . Maybe sometime in the future you’ll comment again . I believe when people brainstorm for human rights the chances are better to find solutions . It is difficult to do this knowing how much is telegraphed to the withholders of human rights . The element of surprise which we need is lost . And yet open discussions are also important . Best Wishes for a better future ,
    Fred