Surviving and Thriving After a Diagnosis of Schizophrenia


My life seems to be divided into ‘before’ and ‘after’ the most defining point in my life — a late spring day in 1994 when a psychiatrist explained to me that as a schizophrenic, I would probably be on medication and under the care of a psychiatrist for the rest of my life.

I was in shock. Schizophrenics were alcoholics or drug addicts or homeless people, I thought. Not someone working as an analyst in the oil and gas industry. Not me: honor roll student for most of my life, and winner of an award for top scholastic achievement as a Finance graduate from the University of Calgary in 1980. I was someone who didn’t take recreational drugs and rarely drank alcohol. I was basically a striving, overachieving daughter of an immigrant.

Yet there was no denying that I had lost touch with reality over the last year and the year previous. Struggling with a troubled marriage and eventual divorce, I had been seeking psychotherapy help for over six years as I struggled with my anxiety and incessant crying spells. There were the private counselling appointments, group therapy sessions and a residential group therapy retreat. Psychotherapists labelled me “codependent,” and although I had no alcohol or drug issues, they obsessively hunted for some sort of addiction problem to label me with. They grew increasingly frustrated with my resistance to being told that I was an abused child and that the treatment I received in my family of origin was the source of all my problems.

I just grew worse and worse despite the various antidepressants that my doctor prescribed. Finally I fell into a psychotic state of long enough duration and severity to be diagnosed as a schizophrenic. In July of the previous year I had become acutely aware that I was being watched. I quickly became convinced that my phone was being wiretapped. I told my brother, and his advice was to go talk to my psychotherapist. I complied. Despite my growing obsession with learning who was responsible for the monitoring of the conversations on my phone, the psychotherapist kept questioning me for details of my childhood and how I interrelated with my parents and siblings.

My behavior grew more bizarre. I started following men in the downtown core who I believed were viewing me suspiciously, and started visiting law offices to see if I recognized any conspirators. I started questioning neighbours travelling on the same bus to work who might be involved. As I shared my concerns with friends and family, their usual alarmed response consisted of “Are you still visiting that nice lady?” However, that psychotherapist was not interested in my distorted thoughts and only wanted to bring the discussion back to my childhood.

Things reached a head when I invited over half a dozen managers at my place of employment (a major oil and gas company) to a private meeting at a local bar because I suspected that they were part of a conspiracy to bring down the company. Although I was in a state of psychosis, I appeared persuasive and coherent. I even had managers inviting other managers to this meeting.

However, my sister decided that the family needed a second opinion and arranged for a meeting with a psychologist, who happened to also be the Director of Crisis Management of a Calgary hospital. He, in turn, selected a psychiatrist to verify his analysis and put me on antipsychotics. This took some time and I was placed on medical leave from work. I was let go from my job shortly after I returned. Somehow, through the daze of the antipsychotics (Orap and then Risperdal), I managed to find a contract position and then a new permanent job. The psychiatrist questioned the original diagnosis and decided that perhaps I was just prone to psychotic episodes under stress.

The psychologist disagreed because of the time span of my psychosis, and kept to the original diagnosis of schizophrenia. I was desperate to come off the medications. It was taking every source of willpower I had to get myself to work and function. I was such a zombie that I was drinking copious amounts of coffee to get myself through the day, and then couldn’t sleep at night because of the caffeine. By then I was under the care of my regular doctor and we decided to follow the recommendation of the psychiatrist and try a drug holiday after a tapering period.

Soon after the drug discontinuation, I walked into a health food store for help with the withdrawal effects. My physical appearance had declined substantially as the whites of my eyes had turned yellow and I had the worst case of acne of my life. The sales clerk pulled half a dozen pill bottles off the shelf and I didn’t know which one to buy. She decided to send me to her own holistic practitioner, an herbalist. She advised me to discover what the root cause of the underlying problem was, and not focus on the obvious symptoms showing on my face.

I didn’t tell the herbalist I had just come off antipsychotics or that I was schizophrenic. Instead, I informed her I wanted to feel better. Within six months I felt better than I had in six years of psychotherapy and antidepressants. I woke up one day and realized that the seemingly endless crying spells had stopped. For the first time since I had started searching for help, I felt I had truly found relief in dealing with my painful emotions.

My herbalist determined an individualized recovery plan based on various physical indicators she would recheck each visit. In the beginning, she focused on detoxifying my liver and improving my sleep quality, my digestion and the health of my elimination system. It may appear like a circuitous, roundabout way of healing mental illness, but the fogginess in my brain lifted. Or perhaps it was due to the lack of medication that my recovery was not impeded? I’m not sure, but I managed to hold onto my oil and gas analyst job while I slowly and surely strengthened my physical health at a subtle level.

Although I no longer had active, outward signs of psychosis, I was now coping with the fact that I had been diagnosed schizophrenic — and that proved to be more difficult to recover from. I was so lonesome and ashamed of whom I was. Every time I read a newspaper article about a mass murderer considered schizophrenic, I would burst into tears wondering if I could ever become that dangerous. Although I felt I had made huge improvements with my herbalist and was free from being on antipsychotics, I still felt like a damaged human being, like something was wrong with me.

I thought I had reached a plateau with the herbalist and interspersed working with an acupuncturist, clearing away energy blockages for an extended time. I also experimented with massage therapy, Qi Gong, and a homeopathic practitioner. Everything had a positive effect and seemed less expensive than the traditional treatments for mental illness I had tried. I grew to truly appreciate and respect the wisdom that all these holistic healers possessed regarding the effects of stress and emotions on the body. They all had their own way to help the natural healing processes of the body to heal itself. Their warmth, directness and practicality also appealed to my personality. However, I was still haunted by the diagnosis of schizophrenia.

I quit my job in 2003 to play the stock market — something I don’t recommend for anyone. However, it gave me an opportunity to focus on my meditation. It wasn’t until I started a serious meditation practice with almost daily group sessions with my teacher that I finally felt like I was healing from the trauma of being diagnosed schizophrenic. I stopped seeing all other holistic practitioners. Meditation was something I could do by myself to help myself as much as I wanted, without the added cost of an external specialist. I loved the feeling of control.

The benefits of meditation are so subtle that there were many times I questioned why I was spending so much time on it. However, every year I kept noticing that Christmas was becoming a happier, calmer and more peaceful time. Over the years I have marvelled about how well I deal with adverse situations compared to earlier times. Before the diagnosis, I had tried so hard to change my personality by reading self-help books, taking self-development courses and attending psychotherapy sessions, and now it was occurring naturally from meditation.

I was shocked and unprepared for the amount of disbelief, opposition, and jealousy that I encountered with my recovery story. I naively thought that everyone would be happy for me that I had recovered without pharmaceutical drugs. However, not only do I have the stigma of once being diagnosed with schizophrenia, I also have the extra stigma of not being on medication. We are taught by the drug companies that any schizophrenic not on medication is dangerous. Well, I believe any schizophrenic on medication is a walking time bomb, because any day they could stop taking their medication — secretly, out of desperation — and all those repressed emotions and thoughts could come exploding out in uncontrollable fury with unpredictable timing. I am not a medical professional, but the release of deeply buried emotions was a common aim with my holistic healers.

I have wanted to go public with my story ever since I started getting so dramatically better via holistic means, but I consistently chickened out. It wasn’t until I hopped on a plane to Boston to meet other psychiatric survivors at the Mad in America Film Festival in 2014 that I found the community and forum to do so. After my return, I enlisted the aid of a holistic healer, someone that had apprenticed with my original herbalist, to help me gather the courage I needed. The publication of this story brings an end to the shame and secrecy of that part of my life.

Yes, over the years, I suffered a lot of emotional pain, but I grew in compassion and wisdom. I am more confident, happier and have more friends than I ever thought imaginable. There is an inner strength in me that I never had when I was younger, and the icing on the cake is that I have been enjoying a relationship with a lovely man for over a year now.

When I was on antipsychotics, I felt disconnected, emotionally numbed, dazed and overwhelmed compared to when I was in a psychotic state and employed. In some respects, I got off easy as I wasn’t on psychiatric drugs for very long. It is those people suffering protracted withdrawal issues that really earn our compassion, or those with brains permanently damaged by prolonged psychiatric drug taking and ECT, who don’t even realize it. Even they are lucky compared to those poor souls that have committed violence towards themselves or others. Not due to their history of mental illness, but due to their history of psychiatric drug use.


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. What a wonderful and courageous story. Congratulations on healing from psychiatry and reclaiming your life. You are a stellar example of natural healing, very inspiring.

    I think when we experience quantum growth and healing, it challenges those around us. That’s a good time to discover where our support and friendships truly exist, and a whole new reality emerges for us–much clearer, and filled with compassion and wisdom, as you talk about. That’s what I refer to as “transformation,” which, I feel, has the power to change the world. I’m so glad you found the inspiration to tell your story!

    I believe in the wisdom of what Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

    Very best wishes on your continued evolution.

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  2. Hi Margaret, Thank you for your sharing and congratulations! I can so understand where you are coming from on multiple levels. Its so hard when your are off medication and the people who are in your support network have no understanding of why you are on the journey. It would really help if there were support for people going through withdrawal. Kind of a support system people who helped out with those who were dying from AIDS. Not exactly the same level of seriousness but I think to be fair to those around us who see us in distress they need to have skills in helping us live and survive the distress. Another metaphor would be the ancient Druid schools where they induced an altered state. Most schools have PTAs and I would guess back then there was probably either a formed or organic support group for the families of druids or druids to be.
    I think the intent of NAMI was sort of like that but they were taken off course in one of the ultimate acts of evil I can think of.The Pharma folks saw an entrance and ran with it. Talk about birds of prey.I have tried and am still working through this with others. There is no societal pathway for this mutual experience to follow, I guess we are making it ourselves.Blood,sweat, and many ,too many tears.
    Good for you. I hope one day to follow in your steps.

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    • Thanks for the recommendation. I read the long synopsis on Wikipedia. The book I would like to recommend is one that I have been reading for a number of years and will probably continue to study for several more. It is “I am That (Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Mahaharaj)” first published in 1973 and considered a spiritual classic. It can be tough to find but I have successfully ordered copies for my meditation group directly from the publisher Acorn Press. Some of the chapter titles from the book: “All Suffering is Born of Desire”, “The Notion of Doership is Bondage.” and “Be Indifferent to Pain and Pleasure”. Certainly not a novel that is easy reading but worth studying. It has helped shape my view of life.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your story, Margaret, and congratulations on recovering from the psychiatric iatrogenesis to which you were subjected. To that point, and as to, “I just grew worse and worse despite the various antidepressants that my doctor prescribed.”

    Combining the antidepressants and/or antipsychotics is known to make a person “psychotic” via what’s medically known as anticholinergic toxidrome.

    So it’s possible your so called “schizophrenia” diagnosis was actually a misdiagnosis of antidepressant induced anticholinergic toxidrome. This psychiatric drug induced toxidrome is not listed as a billable disorder in the DSM, so it’s almost always misdiagnosed by the psychiatric practitioners as one of the billable DSM disorders, since this is the only way the “mental health care professionals” can get paid.

    If you have not yet gotten the “schizophrenia” diagnosis/defamation off your medical history, pointing this medical information out to your doctor may help. Best wishes.

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    • Thanks for the info but I don’t think Toxidrome was the reason in my case. I was never on more than one anti-depressant at a time. When I went into psychosis, I wasn’t taking any anti-depressant and hadn’t for some time because I didn’t react well to them. The six year number was more of a start to end time frame for when I was engaged with the medical system. I was not involved in either psychotherapy or anti-depressants constantly throughout that time frame. Perhaps I should have written it as “I just grew worse and worse despite all the psychotherapy and various anti-depressants that my doctor prescribed.” Please remember that there is a word limit to how long a submission should be and I was trying to be brief so people would finish reading it. Thanks for your input though.

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  4. “My life seems to be divided into ‘before’ and ‘after’ the most defining point in my life — a late spring day in 1994 when a psychiatrist explained to me that as a schizophrenic, I would probably be on medication and under the care of a psychiatrist for the rest of my life.” <– From Margaret Fong, above….
    You don't have "schizophrenia", Margaret, you have IATROGENIC NEUROLEPSIS. I know, because I have it, too.
    My "I.N." came when I was in 10th grade, in High School. My parents took me to see a type of pseudoscientist known as a "psychiatrist", who gave me an arbitrary and bogus "diagnostic label" used as an excuse to sell drugs. I was told the same load of psychobabble that you were. But today, (2017), I haven't seen a shrink ("psychiatrist"), or taken any psych drugs in well over 20 years! Gee, Doc, what happened to my supposed "mental illness"? Today, I'm more whole, healthy, & happy than ever!
    As you cab see, Margaret, as different as you and I are, and as different as our stories are, there are almost identical parallels in our bogus "diagnoses", and subsequent drugging-for-profit.
    I'm really happy to see your story here! THANK-YOU! ~B./

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    • Thank you Bradford. Still not sure about the iatrogenic neurolepsis point but I agree that those sorts of labels as a teenager must have been devastating for you and are for any anyone of that age. It certainly was for me and I was quite older. Parents believe that they are doing the very best for their children, putting their children in expert hands and by doing so perhaps creating problems that may have never occurred. Happy to see your story too. We can tell our stories and add to the evidence that the medical system doesn’t want to know about.

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  5. I was shocked and unprepared for the amount of disbelief, opposition, and jealousy that I encountered with my recovery story. I naively thought that everyone would be happy for me that I had recovered without pharmaceutical drugs. However, not only do I have the stigma of once being diagnosed with schizophrenia, I also have the extra stigma of not being on medication.

    Surprise! As far as the system is concerned you’re another potential Sandy Hook waiting to happen. Even though all those guys WERE being “treated” with psychiatric neurotoxins.

    You broke the code, like the psychically attuned folks in Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind who ripped off their gas masks and went running through the desert when the government was trying to maintain an Anthrax hoax. You’re supposed to obsess on your difficulties and disappointments, identify as a damaged person and consume massive quantities of drugs until you die. And be grateful on top of it. As you are learning, your experience of “recovery” is now to be considered a sign of denial, not something to cheer. But now that you’ve realized all this you can never un-realize it. (Congratulations!)

    If Laura Delano, the force behind the Mad Film Festival, is reading this I know she’ll be thrilled to know that it helped you decide to speak out.

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  6. Mental illness diagnoses exist because our society needs scapegoats, it needs people it can marginalize, as there is an ever shrinking labor market.

    Lots of people are completely locked out of the labor market. And this is only going to be increasing.

    Welfare money is intended to regulate the poor, not to provide for their needs. But we need to have it. So Citizenship Pay would seem to be the only answer.

    And like I’ve been trying to say, if someone has been treated with dignity and respect and allowed to develop and apply their abilities, then the chances that they will be one of those shut out are much lower. So if you see people who’s lives have fallen apart, look to their parents and hold the parents financially accountable. The US is just about the only industrialized country which allows one to disinherit their child. We must change this, because it legitimates child abuse.

    Capitalism has always depended upon having scapegoats. We used to get these in the immigrants and racial minorities who did low wage labor and slave labor.

    But today there is far less need for any kind of labor. So today Capitalism gets its scapegoats directly from the middle-class family. And most middle-class child abuse involves doctors of one type or another. So the scapegoating involves the fallacies of mental illness, or things like Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, or Eating Disorders. What this is, is the resurgence of the bogus sciences of Social Darwinism and Eugenics.

    We must put these doctors out of action. Crimes Against Humanity prosecution would be best. Other counties have the laws which will facilitate such prosecution, according to Nuremberg precedents. And then we must hold the parents financially accountable, as this is the only language they will ever understand. After all, the only reason they even had children in the first place was just to gain social status.


    Move from passive collaboration with injustice, to active opposition, Please Join:

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    • Hi Nomadic, Sorry for not responding earlier but I struggled with the tone of your writing. I laugh a bit when people say how calm I am writing about what happened to me. Well, I certainly didn’t start out that way. Unfortunately I was quite emotional, angry and still grieving. I still will get emotional but very seldom and usually not for very long. I say unfortunate because I think I came across as an emotional mess and therefore more proof that I was mentally ill. Just saying, that now when I calmly state the facts and look people in the eye, I seem to get their attention. At least I don’t give them any ammunition to work with to discredit my story. I think that you make some good points. Just don’t agree with your delivery.

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  7. Hi Margaret,

    It is good to see more people speaking up about having undergone very difficult extreme states and overcoming them in a variety of ways. I assume you have seen some of the many other accounts of such experience on this site, perhaps including my own.

    I think there is nothing to be ashamed of in revealing that one was once paranoid or delusional – it can happen to anyone under enough stress – nor anything to be ashamed of in revealing that a psychiatrist once labeled one “schizophrenic”. As Rosenhan once demonstrated, the darkly funny thing is that almost anyone who goes to a psych hospital and reports hearing critical voices can get a diagnosis of “schizophrenia”. That doesn’t mean that all such people are unable to function and handle their feelings – as is someone experiencing a genuinely incapacitating extreme states of mind – but it does illustrate what I am going to discuss below.

    Reading your piece, I was reminded several times how arbitrary and invalid the label of “schizophrenia” is – how there is not a valid illness called schizophrenia delineated by any biomarkers outside of a psychiatrist’s subjective judgment. From the psychoanalytic viewpoint that I use to look at these problems, extreme states represent an early emotional development state in which terror, rage, and despair result in regression to a childlike state of mind. Usually such a transition can be correlated to specific stressors such as abuse, divorce, job loss, neglect, financial stressors, etc. The terror usually results in a regression to a state of self and other fusion, in which a person cannot really tell emotionally what thoughts/feelings are their own and which thoughts/feeling belong to other people. Thus their own fear and suspicion gets projected into other people having malevolent intentions, as for example in the paranoid fears you once had about your coworkers.

    But the notion that such a regression can be concretized as “schizophrenia” and pegged at “6 months’ duration of psychotic ‘symptoms’” (in a psychiatrist’s subjective judgment) is just bullshit. These experiences vary greatly from individual to individual, plus there’s no sharp cut-off point along the continuum at which one becomes “schizophrenic” or “non-schizophrenic”. Richard Bentall explained this well in his book “Madnes Explained”, in which he discussed how the paranoia, terror, and suspicion that people who get labeled “schizophrenic” experience is not different only in degree, not kind, from lesser experiences of the same things that any of us can and do experience under stress.

    There is not one distinct class of people that “have schizophrenia” and another majority group that don’t carry the “schizophrenia genes”. The mistaken assumptions around all of these issues – which relate to the non-validity and poor reliability of almost all psychiatric diagnosis – explains how psychiatrists deluded themselves over the last several decades into believing that a discrete “schizophrenia” existed (as opposed to a continuum of extreme states varying in severity and without a clear division from less severe distress). Psychiatrists also made the mistake of believing that extreme states are primarily caused by faulty genes, rather than being caused primarily by environmental stress interacting with the brain/epigenome in a dynamic interpenetrating fashion.

    And of course, the notion that “schizophrenia is a lifelong, incurable disease”, is one of the most pathetic, stupid, harmful, and blatantly false (in multiple ways) things research psychiatrists have ever said, an outmoded delusion on psychiatrists’ part that needs to be consigned to the trash heap of history.

    Regarding this, “I was now coping with the fact that I had been diagnosed schizophrenic — and that proved to be more difficult to recover from.”

    Yes, this is one of the most insidious, harmful things that psychiatrists do – tell people that they have a lifelong brain disease and will not be able to fully recover. The terror and pessimism created by such false prophecies can be devastating and even lead to suicide. And many people do not dare believe at first that the psychiatrist is simply spouting bullshit and that the notion that there is a lifelong incurable illness called schizophrenia is, quite simply, an untruth.

    Regarding this, “Well, I believe any schizophrenic on medication is a walking time bomb, because any day they could stop taking their medication — secretly, out of desperation — and all those repressed emotions and thoughts could come exploding out in uncontrollable fury with unpredictable timing.”

    I couldn’t have said it better – the ugly truth is that antipsychotic “medications” are not bonafide medications treating any well-defined illness entity in any way – a far cry from insulin for diabetes. They are nothing more than heavy, numbing tranquilizers that dull down the ability to feel the terror, rage, and confusion that are so overwhelming when one is in an extreme state of mind. This numbing and quieting of the person is what is called “effectiveness” and “response” in reviews of the drugs, pathetic and short-sighted as that conceptualization is. Meanwhile, absolutely nothing is done by the drugs to enable the person to develop more ability to handle their emotions and to face and work on the life problems and stressors that may have led them to break down. On the contrary, the ability to think clearly and to process emotions is progressively eroded by the neuroleptics with long term use.

    Not being on antipsychotic drugs after a diagnosis of schizophrenia to me is something to be proud of. It is a sign of insight, willingness to take an intelligent risk, ability to think for oneself, and often-times the ability to realize that one’s psychiatrist does not know what they are talking about. More than once on this forum I have recounted how tapering off antipsychotics against my psychiatrist’s wishes was a decision I am proud of and never regretted, and would do again.

    Well done again for sharing your story Margaret.

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  8. I am awed with how you questioned your diagnosis of schizophrenia as a lifelong tragedy and going on with your life. So many times I wish I could be more vocal about what happened to me, how the polypharmacy made me into a bizarre incoherent person and the diagnosis stigma. Thank you so much for writing your story on this site.

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  9. There are 2 inter-related reasons shrinks say we will “need to be on drugs (“meds”) the rest of your(our) lives”.
    The first is the drug racket angle. They want you on drugs your whole life, to keep the money flowing to PhRMA.
    If you get off the drugs, you stop buying the drugs, so the $$$$ flow dries up.
    The 2nd reason is more insidious. Over time, the chemicals in the drugs interfere with normal brain function, which reduces chances for recovery, and makes the person less functional, therefore more helpless, and they begin to “look crazy”. The more “crazy” they look, the more OTHER people *think* they need the drugs, (because they’re “crazy” – you see how this SCAM works?). The drugs are a form of self-fulfilling prophecy.
    And very profitable, too. That’s what makes the pseudoscience of psychiatry a drug racket.
    Honestly, Margaret, I have to question your story as you tell it here. To me, it just does NOT sound, – or read – like it was written by a schizophrenic. I was always told that so-called “schizophrenics” are CRAZY people!
    And I’m sorry, Margaret, but you just don’t sound “crazy” to me. Or “schizophrenic”, either! Your story just makes too much sense to me. You sound like somebody I’d enjoy going out for coffee with, or working on a community garden project! I think maybe you were mis-diagnosed. 🙂

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    • Another reason, none of them know how to help folks come off these brain drugs. Admit that their safe, non-addictive medicines are none of the above? Better keep the consumers on them indefinitely. Then blame deterioration and early death on the alleged mental illness.

      Woo hoo! Problem solved! For the psychiatrist.

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  10. Margaret, (and also all my other friends here at MiA!….),
    I want to make explicit how you’re helping us all here. You have taken the brave and healing step of telling your story. That makes it safer for others here who haven’t yet found your courage. You inspire and encourage us by your clear, concise honesty. You give us something to think about, and that helps *US* think about *OUR* situations and life, too. You also give US a chance to put our thoughts into words here, which again, HELPS US ALL. That’s how it is for me. So let me share an idea, and hope it comes out clearly.
    You had “therapists”, and whoever, who wanted to somehow “blame” your troubles on your childhood. You didn’t find that very helpful, and I agree. There’s too much “blame the victim” in that, and blame & victimhood are NOT healthy, in my view. But what works for me, is to look at *RELATIONSHIPS*, both among your family when you were a child, and also others in your life as you grew into adulthood. By looking at these relationships, as relationships, we can begin to see patterns of thoughts, beliefs, feelings, expectations, etc. I have gotten great value by re-framing my own recovery work in this way. Unlike you, I became an alcoholic, like my Father. It was in A.A. that I encountered the “12 Steps” of A.A., and used them as a guide, as a framework to do some very solid self-analysis. So, even though you’re not much a drinker, and probably NOT alcoholic, still, I think you might find some benefit by looking at the 12 Steps as discussed in Chapter 5, “How It Works”, in the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”. A.A. talks about looking at relationships, and avoiding “blaming”.They served as a good guide for me to get my head straightened out after the mess the quack shrinks made of it, with their neurotoxins!Thanks for making my Monday morning a little more productive! ~B./ 🙂

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  11. Schizophrenia indeed exists.It’s matter of human hormones,not matter of dopamine or glutamat imbalance
    hypothesis.Both substances aren’t in group of hallucinogenic substances.Human hormones.This is all what define anyone normal or crazy.Agree with me or not *audience* here,many of you here are only serving some Psychology and Psychotheraphy agenda,with aim to manipulate crazy people for your own *Cause*
    and personal benefict.

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    • Hi Borat, I can assure you that I have never been paid to help people with mental health problems. The reason I wrote this story was to encourage people to look for alternative options, to empower themselves to find out what works for them in letting the body, which includes the brain, heal itself.

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      • Hi Borat, I was so busy defending myself, I forgot some things I probably should say in terms of full disclosure. I did undertake some free training as a peer support worker on a volunteer basis. There was some talk of a paid internship but it never materialized. Now that I have published my story and it’s so obvious I don’t believe in the medical model, it will be interesting to see if that opportunity comes together. I have my doubts though. LOL. Also, after my story came out, the mental health advocacy group I was volunteering with got cancelled until the spring. I was told the facilitator was pulled to work on other things. Is there a connection with the publication of my story. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. I have really felt better since getting my story out. It’s like a burden has been lifted from me.

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        • Well, I’ve crossed the line. Last week I got my first paycheck from the above mentioned paid internship. In some respects, I’m sorry that I can no longer claim that I have never been paid for any mental health related work. On the other hand, it means that I am being taken more seriously and that society respects what I can offer from my experiences. O.K. that’s a bit of a stretch since my pay for a seven hour day is roughly equivalent to one 50 minute visit with a psychologist. However, it does indicate that Calgary is embracing the concept of peer support more wholeheartedly. I am participating in a formal trial training program for peer support workers in mental health. I hope it represents a significant, progressive step forward for this city’s mental health services. This program is through the same organization that facilitated the advocacy group I was in and there is talk that it will start up again. I am pleasantly surprised that peer support work is still moving ahead in Calgary.

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  12. Wow, what an inspiring story Margaret – you are truly a brave and determined woman wanting nothing but to reclaim your life. I have a dear friend who suffers from schizophrenia and he tried nutritional therapy but unfortunately he couldn’t carry on with the program. He was admitted to hospital 4 months ago after trying to come off his meds cold turkey. He relapsed and his family sectioned him. He’s adamant not to take his meds when he comes out. I wish I can do more than just being a good friend.

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    • Please refer your friend to the website Surviving Antidepressants. As I said in my story, I got off easy as I wasn’t on anti-psychotics for very long. My holistic healers agreed that the body is always trying to come into balance and it may shut down normal production of it’s own brain chemicals to compensate for the drugs. The body does NOT adapt that quickly. Your friend is really shooting himself in the foot by stopping cold turkey not just physically but also emotionally. I think a major factor for me was that I started succeeding and the success built. However, I had very low expectations and because I was employed was able to take my time. I was in a stable place so I could heal. I have my reservations about nutritional therapy. If the body isn’t well enough to absorb nutrients then everything’s going down the toilet. Remember in my story that one of the things my herbalist initially worked with was the health of my elimination system. Holistic healers seem to have a better detailed understanding of how the body works. Nutritional therapy seems rather simplistic, maybe too simplistic. I don’t have that much experience coming off drugs but I believe the psychiatric survivor community. It’s dangerous stopping cold turkey! Perhaps give him a copy of Will Hall’s free online Harm Reduction Guide to Coming off Psychiatric Drugs. Recovery takes time and there’s a part of me that thinks the slower, the more anchored it is and the more confidence you can have in it. Hopefully, your friend can give himself some time and give himself more options instead of being so black and white. Don’t know what else to say. Ultimately, it is your friend’s choice and journey.

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      • hannahhermes & Margaret, I’m sure you will BOTH also enjoy Monica Cassini’s ><! Monica has a TON of information there – 5.000+pages worth, and she's sharing her own lived experience. Highly recommended source of support….

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        • Thanks Bradford. I just googled and it looks great. I can barely keep up with Mad in America LOL.. now I have more to read .. thanks, I mean it – if I can take my friend away from this place and let him deal with his own withdrawal symptoms without having his family calling the police on him to detain him.

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  13. God bless you, Margaret. You are not alone. I sat in a conversation with two psychologists yesterday who were casually diagnosing public figures with major mental illnesses, oblivious to their own transference issues or the unethical nature of their behavior. Being a mental health counselor myself – who also was harmed by the industry years ago – I listened and just shook my head. This kind of thing is endemic among mental health professionals; diagnoses becomes a way to gossip without looking like you’re doing so. I wish you the very best.

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    • My sister-in-law was always diagnosing me. A form of passive-aggressive revenge, perhaps, because we did not get off on the right foot.

      Now she is diagnosed with “major depression” and takes all those uppers exactly as told. She has been behaving in a bizarre, paranoid manner. She gets offended over innocent remarks that we have to apologize for repeatedly, because she believes we are out to hurt her. Often bursts into tears over small things. 🙁

      Man, I feel sorry for her! But she has bought into the psychiatric paradigm (used to be a therapist for a mental “health” agency.) So I doubt she would listen to me. Sigh.

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      • Glad you told this story as it demonstrates within one family the different results achieved by following the medical model and not. I’d be surprised if the rest of your family wasn’t more amenable to your story now. Don’t be discouraged as your family and friends are all seeing this unfold and learning from it. You are making a difference being the example at the grassroots level. Eventually, we will all see results maybe not in our lifetimes but we are all planting the seeds.

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        • I love my family including my brother’s wife. (Just glad my easy-going brother is married to her, not someone high-strung like me.)

          I’m hopeful that becoming drug-free will help my mother and sister-in-law decide to go off their drugs. Maybe my “different” nephew will also find it easier to just “say no” to drugs.

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          • You must be a very nice person considering how your sister-in-law was always diagnosing you and you still wish her the best. I would say it’s karma on her part. Yes, you are being the change agent, the leader in your family. Don’t underestimate yourself as with all that opposition, you are still trying a different route. Perhaps you saw on such an intimate level how the medical system failed your family and want a different life for yourself. Good for you and I really wish you the best. If you can, go to a conference. There’s was nothing quite like being at the Mad in America Film Festival, sitting in an auditorium of over a couple hundred people knowing that they had the same beliefs about psychiatric drugs as me. I wouldn’t waste your energy trying to convince your family members of a different way. Focus on healing yourself. Actions speak volumes more than words. Be the example.

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  14. Hello Margaret

    A friend kindly sent me a link to your article. I want to thank you so much for getting into this. I have a diagnosis of schizophrenia and also PTSD and also Bipolar and a variety of illnesses that are linked to repressed anxiety. As I see it.

    After two utterly stupid (too stupid) psych ward experiences I have only ever taken Ativan as I worked with Dr. A Hoffer ‘ s naturopathic remedy using diet and vitamins in combination with therapy and exercise. I have been accused as deluded and hallucinating by psychiatric communities when it comes to how I have chosen to deal with my mental illness. And I agree with you about how much excercise and meditation increase wellness and coping. This is becoming more accepted as research into Excercise physiology for sport increases. Strange bedfellows. ☺

    My brother was diagnosed schizophrenic long before I was and did not fare so well. He was diagnosed very young and it was the early 70s. My mother fought the psychiatric community and was treated to the hysterical mother antifeminist guilt trip. Long story short : my brother died of a seizure from a toxic overdose of his meds at age 45. Right in the new mean of death related to the new order of antipsychotic and psychotropic drugs.

    Resperidol was also responsible for an ex girlfriend of his contracting cancer when she was in her late 30s.

    I am alive and quite healthy but suspect I am more the norm for people who refuse meds. We are struggling at the bottom of the economy and trying to maintain our feelings of self worth and value to our families as we feel guilt and horror for not contributing our share. Stigma and bullying of the mentally ill by the business sector not only can retraumatize us but make Anxiety chronic as we negotiate the reality of loss of belief in any goodness or ability for the culture to perceive that we are essentially no different than anyone after treatment.

    I would underline thst the air role that meds have in treatment is an actual form of sadistic and homicidal punishment.

    I am so amazed that you are in a place where you can share easily your experience and am grateful for it. Thank you.

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  15. It’s odd–but not surprising–that they blamed your family of origin while completely overlooking your troubled marital relationship.

    Despite psychiatrists blaming my defective brain chemistry and genetic makeup, my parents also received a great deal of finger-pointing. (My trauma stems from being sexually harassed in high school for 2 years. They never talked about that.) I think they had it in for Mom and Dad. The charges were that they wouldn’t let me grow up and become independent. By growing up, they meant letting the MI System make all my decisions for me. By independent, they meant depending on the MI system for everything.

    Leaving my family of origin and segregating myself from “normal” society was strongly encouraged. I was repeatedly told I should only date other “bipolars” because only we could understand each other! Not true at all. Lots of folks on psych drugs with labels are too incoherent for anyone to understand.

    I finally got sick of being told who I should hang out with, who to date, how to spend my days, and how to practice my religion. (Plus after 4 years of careful research I came to the sickening conclusion that psychiatric “meds” and diagnoses were a bunch of hokum.)

    So I left the system. How? I simply moved to another town and didn’t sign up for any services. I’m in an isolated, rural area. The people are nice and helpful, which is a safe and effective treatment for me. Best of all, the nearest shrink and Mental Illness center are more than 50 miles away. The closest psych ward is well over 100!

    I feel much safer now. 🙂

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    • Hi FeelinDiscouraged, I am glad that you escaped all that negativity but at the same time you left what support system you did have. Sorry, but I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I thought moving away was a good idea. There’s really no need for something so drastic, just pull away instead and practice setting up boundaries. It concerns me because you have isolated yourself and put yourself at more risk to those that will take advantage of vulnerable people. There are those people everywhere. I consider my nervous breakdown a wake-up call to pay attention, change my attitude, and life. Running away is not that, it’s avoiding the situation and you get the chance to recreate your problems all over again. If you were home then you could build on the safety net you had and you have a benchmark to measure your progress against. You may feel better at first, the exhilaration of a fresh, clean slate but you’ve perhaps just moved your history and house of problems somewhere else. Also, it’s quite stressful going somewhere totally new, without familiar surroundings and faces that you can trust and have stood the test of time. You may have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire and don’t realize it yet. I hope that one day you move back because making peace with your past is part of the final stages of recovery and finding peace in your life.

      I also felt that the psychotherapists were trying to drive a wedge between me and my family. Was it something that they were doing so we rely on them to keep going back? I paid for a lot of psychotherapy out of my own pocket and I just refused to spend any more money on it. It made me feel like a victim of my birth and I couldn’t understand how that would make me better. I still don’t get it.

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      • Thing is, despite all that, if someone has drawn the attention of their local “mh” authorities, their status will sometimes be accessible to other agencies, etc. and, for example, every time they go to a hospital or clinic for a true medical issue they risk the danger of their psych history being used against them one way or the other. Moving to an isolated area with no budget for “mental health services,” though extreme, might be one strategy for dealing with this problem for some. It depends on the specific individual and specific circumstances. If I were facing coerced psychiatric intervention I would definitely consider it as an option.

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      • Thank you for your concern, Margaret. I am a little lonely, but I am renting an apartment on my parents’ farm. Close to their place. Not totally unsupported emotionally. Active with my local church and planning on joining a reading group at the public library.

        I also plan on getting my driver’s license finally, so that will reduce my isolation.

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  16. Dear Margaret,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Our stories are similar in many respects. I was also “late onset” and had been working successfully for many years when I was diagnosed. And like you, I successfully weaned myself from medication and I have worked mostly full-time and mostly professionally throughout my adult life. I think I was successful because I was stubborn enough to question the need for ongoing medication and succeeded in weaning myself – twice – as I was “recovering” from two extended periods of distressing hearing voices and being paranoid. Unlike you, I shied away from meditation, as I’d had bad experiences in my twenties (I started falling all the time because I associated my mantra with negative words – anger and anguish – not healthy). So my forms of focus and reflection included being the best possible mom to my son, joining a faith community that focuses on social justice and social action, singing – to recordings as well as in choir — and of course work—which is vitally necessary to sustaining our lives as well as to maintaining balance—the requirement to keep our jobs forces us to negotiate the terms with the voices—whether negative or absurdly flattering. I would love to communicate with you further about your experiences. The one commonality I didn’t mention above is that we’re both Asian.
    At the risk of shameless self-promotion, I’d like to let you know that I’ve written a memoir, Hearing Voices, Living Fully: Living with the Voices in My Head, which was published last June. I would be very interested in learning your thoughts about my experiences if you’re willing to read it. It’s been very well received and has gotten some great reviews, including one from Ron Unger, who is a leader in the Hearing Voices Movement. I’ve also had occasion to meet and talk with some young people who struggle with voices and paranoia and am told my story helps. Those interactions have inspired me to go back to school – I’m now 65(!) and work toward the clinical degree that I abandoned in my twenties because I kept making myself physically worrying about the student clients I saw in “Practicum” as part of my program. I’ll be going very part time, as I must work nearly full-time for another five years. But by the time I’m ready to “mostly” retire, I’ll have my degree. We’ll see where this leads – but one of the best things that I am doing for myself as I continue to struggle sometimes, is adding my voice and story to the survivor movement.

    Very best wishes,

    Claire Bien

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    • Hi Claire, Thanks for reading my story. I have never heard voices so am probably not the best person to review your book. Might have better luck finding someone at the first North American held international conference of Intervoices in Boston this year. Sorry that you had bad experiences of meditation but I am not surprised. There are many different forms of meditation and different teachers. Unfortunately, many people can get on the wrong track and do meditation for years, and not get the benefits. In fact, for some that seem to get too caught up in it, I see that it it can be risky and not beneficial. We are all individuals and unfortunately there is nothing that I can guarantee in terms of recovery. I don’t try to profess to know the best way just this is what happened in my life.
      I have never gotten a mantra and falling down a lot doesn’t sound good to me. I have had some bad experiences with a couple of Indian gurus so I am NOT recommending that people need to hop on a plane to India to study meditation. If something like falling down a lot happens which I haven’t heard about before, I do advise finding another teacher. Word of mouth is a good way of finding one. Look at the health of the teacher and students for clues of how good the teacher is. Are the students showing growth and progress? Does the teacher have lots of long term students? I would try and find a meditation teacher that focuses more on sitting and being rather than one that wants to teach a lot of concepts. Someone that doesn’t want to be your guru but rather one that wants you to find your own inner guru. If the focus is on money, well that’s a red flag to me. As stated before, there are people that will take advantage of vulnerable people everywhere and that includes the meditation world. Good luck and it sounds like you have been and and are working to a place where you can help a lot of people for a long time. Thank you for adding your story and voice.

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  17. I have been returning to this discussion and have been spending time putting time lines together on the method of delivery of psychology psychiatry medicine social work and the comments left here.

    My perspective comes from a multi-generational family on my father’s maternal side which also is Irish and therefore fighting the stereotype that all the Irish are schizophrenic. Therefore vilification and denial have shrouded the large conservative and extended family. And So, it is difficult to really get the goods but I can tell this: that from the time of my Great Aunt’s kidnapping (for what was likely post partum induced “schizophrenia” ) to the North Battlefield asylum and treatment with shock treatment for three months ar a rate of 12 over the monthly legal limit. Through the years the conservative family both vilified those going through “beak downs” and used the “victims” as allies or foes in their personal politics in the family: a thing which is for me an easily identifiable status war in what has grown out of the situation of the extended family to be a tangible social bureaucracy and is now a multi million dollar industry – – managing the mentally ill and mental health system. Bodies are needed and also are stories. Stories are graded on who is more acceptable to the reigning political elite in MH which is always weighted down by political conservatives: wherein the stereotypes of the male-centric business modal rule.

    Yet: following the time line analysis it is obvious that the Conservative and anti-feminist business modal is not only seriously involved with the dark side of psychiatry but also too easily dismisses the statistical early deaths of the mentally ill; of which my bother ‘ s death at age 45 was a mean.

    The time line establishes that people like me who have struggled with diagnosis with being victimized in the psychiatric, social work, medical, and business communities which then turn their negativity to families who are struggling with the social negativity and the financial stress: take the brunt of abuse while conservatives are careful not to get caught as resposible for abusive social perceptions. We are looked upon from the conservative status as invisible yet we are the ones doing all rhe work and changing the game.

    But: for instance, I clean houses for a living and despite nine years post secondary education I am treated as intellectually challenged and insane. The community as a whole believes the stereotypes of marginalization but adds to it the time line of recovery so that people who have bridged the political gap of socialist vs. conservative medicine are not so perceived. Rather we are eliminated as a trial generation and no one will ever apologize to us or thank us for our revolution which is changing psychiatry: for our courage to stand against the conservative business and scientific community. The thing I resent the most is being castigated to poverty and having to worry about my old age and being a burden to my family: while the next “generation”‘s ( according to the misleading conservative social analysis which is a corruption of scientific reason) conservative cultural elite gets the benefit of the time line of socialists who still bear the brunt of stigma.

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    • Hi Jacqueline, Thanks for this post and the previous one. Sorry to be so late getting back to you. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the effort that you took to write these things. Sometimes it takes me awhile to come up with something meaningful to reply with. Also, not sure if people want me to reply or they just want to be heard and I wanted to let you know that I did read both your posts. You did bring up a new point in this second post though that I did want to elaborate on. You talk about the inter-generational history of mental illness diagnosed in your family. Instead of mental illness being hereditary, I think that you are pointing out that the stigma and financial burden caused by those diagnoses could be the cause of future generational issues of mental health. To me, your story points out, not the DNA factor of mental illness but the social pressures and financial environment that perpetuate the situation. Bravo and thank you for your courage.

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  18. Margaret
    I didn’t mean that you earning some money,by helping any *crazy* person with your voluntary work.
    I warn you,that you are real-life activist with your own mind and each word you wrote and stood for even in hell,
    if needed,until you aren’t payed for your activism!So I think that I was now more clear about what I wrote,then
    in my first comment,it’s hard for me with brain cyst and with over drugged mind,to wrote perfect comments in english.

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  19. O well. The anti-psych movement will still be here for you when you feel the time is right. But if you identify as a “peer,” who or what represents the “greater-than-peer” and what gives them that supposed greater wisdom?

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  20. Dear Borat, oldhead and madincanada: Well, I’m back to being an unpaid mental health advocate. I finished my paid internship and they even asked me to interview for a position, again one day a week. I declined because of the timing and some other personal goals I have. Also, I grew frustrated with the limitations of what I could say or do. I just seemed to be perpetuating the medical system to a large extent. You’ll be happy to know that I passed the police check. I’m lucky that I wasn’t on social assistance because the way the hours were structured, I would have been disqualified. Sorry to inform you so long after the stint ended. I have been very busy with my gardening club. madincanada please try to connect with me via Facebook or through CRAGS. Our new website is up and is looking pretty good.

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  21. Hi Margaret, great article and I am glad you are feeling better. I do know that stress can induce suspicions and I think the suspicions are often not wrong. I am not suggesting the thoughts should mean they are true in the literal sense, but I think are often warnings. Stress also causes huge changes in the cells and people are often found to be depleted in nutrients. All I know is that most often people who are affected by unusual thoughts are in their teens. I have gone through immense stress in the last 5 years and I definitely have to repress my anxiety, (which is caused by fear, frustrations) so I let it out in bursts, which conveniently looks like anger to onlookers, which of course makes me more frustrated.

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    • Hi Sam, Thanks and sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I totally agree that my physical health was compromised by the stress I was under and that I was probably deficient in nutrients. I also believe that my chronic deficiency of hydration/sunlight/exercise at the time was a factor also. My meditation practice and attendance at retreats has helped me release repressed emotions in a safe, private manner so perhaps that could help you too? Find a bit of nature where you can express your anxiety without onlookers? I have been taught that we are compressed bodies of emotions and thoughts and when those repressed emotions are felt, then they are released. However in my case, the clearing of negative emotions just seemed to go on and on but eventually it did stop and those overwhelming time periods of emotion were vanquished. Hoping that I have given you some support and encouragement on your journey in life. Best wishes.

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