‘Mad’ Psychologist Speaks Out

Helen Williams
104
5503

I am driving to my work as a clinical psychologist, doing battle with the abuse-related voices in my head…

I can hear a voice which goes something like this:

“You are useless.”

“You are worthless.”

“You deserve to die.”

“Kill yourself.”

When I arrive at work, I attend a meeting during which a patient who is hearing similar voices, which also relate to the abuse she suffered as a child, is told that she is suffering from ‘schizophrenia.’ The psychiatrist informs her that she must take antipsychotic medication for life, that she has “no hope of anything amounting to a normal life,” that she “will never work,” “will never improve or recover” and must no longer drive her car. There is talk of writing to the licensing authority, with a view to having her license removed, so that she will no longer be permitted to drive.

The patient protests that she needs the car to take her children to school. What is she going to do, she asks — how is she going to be able to cope without her car? I try to speak up in support of her. The voices she hears relate to the abuse she suffered as a child, I explain. There are ways we could help her to understand the meaning of the voices and manage the voice hearing from a psychological perspective.

However, her protests and my explanations are all in vain. Our voices are not heard. The only voice which counts is the psychiatrist’s. He informs the patient and the team that I am wrong — the history of child abuse is irrelevant and unrelated to this patient’s difficulties. We are told instead that she is suffering from “an incurable brain disease called schizophrenia” for which she “must take anti-psychotic medication for life.”

So begins another day in the life of the ‘mad’ psychologist.

At least this time, the psychiatrist responds to the formulation I provide, albeit to dismiss it completely out of hand. I am often ignored when I raise the issue of child abuse and trauma. Throughout my career, I have come across very few psychiatrists who understand the importance of trauma, whether experienced in childhood or adulthood, and the damage it can do to people. They fail to do this because they have not been taught to understand. Instead, they have been trained to regard trauma-related distress as evidence of underlying pathology — biological disease processes, brain disorders and faulty genes.

It is very rare to see a psychiatrist question a patient about the nature of the voices they hear. As far as most psychiatrists are concerned, as soon as a patient answers “Yes” to the question “Do you hear voices?” they begin to diagnose ‘schizophrenia.’ Evidence that the voice hearing experience is varied and meaningful (Romme and Escher, 19931; Romme et al., 20092; McCarthy-Jones, 20123, 20174; Longden, 20135 and 20166; McCarthy-Jones and Longden, 20137; Corstens et al., 20148) is routinely dismissed and ignored. There is consistently no understanding that voice hearing has a context, can be meaningful, and that it often relates to people’s life experiences, in particular experiences of abuse and trauma. Psychiatrists are trained to work with a checklist, which aims to diagnose people with ‘mental illnesses’ according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. However, this is a far from helpful way of understanding and supporting people in distress.

How do I know what is going on with this person? How am I able to understand the link between her voice hearing and the history of child abuse? It is certainly not because I have learned about the link between voice hearing and trauma during my mental health training, or because this is the way the system understands it. Quite the contrary. I know why this patient is hearing voices and how they relate to her life experiences because I am a voice hearer myself and because of my experience of working and learning alongside many other voice hearers over the years.

The patient is severely reprimanded by the psychiatrist, as if she were a child, and told in no uncertain terms that she must not drive her car as she has “suffered a relapse” and is “too unwell.” Against her will, the medication is again increased and there is talk of ECT if the voices do not go away. She is scolded and put in her place, humiliated in front of the team by the psychiatrist’s punitive, judgemental approach.

The psychiatrist has no idea that the colleague who has been sitting in front of him across the room for all these years, who drives her car to and from work every day, who works full-time and does not take any psychiatric drugs, also hears similar distressing voices, and for similar reasons. I am not able to share this information, even privately, colleague to colleague. I am left with no doubt that, were I to do this, I would immediately be told to leave.

The next time this patient is seen, she is again asked by the psychiatrist whether she is hearing voices. This time, she reports that she is not. When she leaves the room, the psychiatrist congratulates himself, pronouncing the medication “a great success.” He is completely unaware of the fact that the patient’s difficulties have in no way improved. In fact, they have worsened with the increase in drugs. She lied about the voices having gone away, she later tells me, in order to avoid having the drugs further forcibly increased. She trusts me enough to confide in me, putting me in a difficult position, although I understand why she has chosen to do so. She wants to find favour with the psychiatrist, to avoid further increases in drugs, as well as the possibility of ECT, and she hopes to get her driving license back. I understand her concerns about ECT, having seen it forcibly administered over the years, and witnessed the considerable harm it can do9.

Like so many people over the years, she has been forced into a corner, feeling that the only way forward for her in the circumstances is to lie, to play the game in order to keep the doctor happy. Of course psychiatrists are none the wiser because they generally have no way of knowing about patients’ difficulties, other than what they choose to tell them, or not to tell them, as in this case. In this sense, as in so many other ways, the practice of psychiatry is not scientific; there are no objective ways of verifying the reports of patients.

The prevailing medical model means that most psychiatrists attribute problems and solutions to biological factors. If someone is distressed, then they need more drugs; if they improve, then this is due to the effects of the drugs and/or ECT, regardless of what has gone on or is going on in people’s lives. This model keeps psychiatrists from understanding the wider contexts of people’s lives, including the impact of abuse, trauma and adversity.

I bite my lip and button down my anger and pain. On to the next patient… This is another person with a history of child abuse, with symptoms similar to my own. She is again diagnosed by the psychiatrist with ‘schizophrenia.’ She and her family are told that she “will never work,” that she “will be on medication for the rest of her life” and that she “will never improve or recover.”

Over the months, I sit by and watch as she descends into a state of hopelessness, helplessness, despair and institutionalisation. I sit by and watch as she is increasingly affected by the adverse effects of the cocktail of psychiatric drugs. The life force, the energy, the zest and zeal for life she once had, are gradually knocked out of her. This once-vibrant human being changes from a lively, interested and interesting person — a person who actively engaged with life, who had hopes, dreams and goals, but who was in deep pain and distress — into a numbed, shuffling, twitching shadow of her former self. Yet again, I can do little to help.

Placing her trust in the psychiatrists, she accepts what she is told, takes her medication obediently like “a good girl.” Despite the fact that she is a grown woman in her thirties, the doctor even calls her “good girl” when she follows medical advice. So long as she continues to do what she is told, then she will be deemed “compliant” and will be noted to “have insight into her condition.” Doctor knows best… Apparently.

On to the next patient. This is someone who is self-harming, who cuts herself on the arms and legs. She also has a history of severe child abuse. She is brought into the room, which is dauntingly packed with different mental health professionals, in order to discuss the details of her self-harm. It is again a degrading, humiliating and intimidating experience. Numerous intrusive personal questions are fired at her. However, the psychiatrist does not seem to notice her obvious distress. If others do, then they know to keep quiet. Like countless other patients over the years, she is reprimanded in the strongest possible terms by the psychiatrist for her self-harming behaviours, made to feel ashamed, embarrassed and worthless, spoken to like a stupid, naughty and disobedient child. In terms of the self-harm, she is told to: “Just stop it,” “Just stop cutting,” “Just stop being so silly.”

It is an extremely daunting and humiliating experience, and I feel very concerned for the welfare of this patient when she leaves the room. I worry that she might kill herself on account of the cruel, punitive approach of the psychiatrist, who believes that the patient is being “manipulative and attention seeking,” and the degrading, traumatising experience of being interrogated and reprimanded in front of a room full of professionals.

I decide to risk speaking out because I worry for the immediate welfare of this patient. Her welfare now becomes more important to me than the anger I know my comments are going to provoke. I am endeavouring to advocate a more compassionate, respectful and supportive approach towards her care. I am very worried that if I do not do this, then the patient will leave the room feeling so low, so useless and worthless (and she already feels this way, feelings which are linked to the abuse and her self-harming behaviours in the first place), so judged, blamed and misunderstood, that she will either seriously harm herself possibly to the point of death, or take a lethal overdose.

I explain that no doubt she is not self-harming on purpose, that she is struggling with difficult feelings linked to experiences of trauma. We could help by working with her to understand her feelings, difficulties and needs, supporting her to consider the possibility of other coping strategies.

I can feel what the patient is feeling in this situation, but the psychiatrist is oblivious to this and believes they are doing right by her. I am reminded of the C.S. Lewis quote: “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”10

I am also aware of what Dr Z is thinking in this situation and how they are likely to react to what will be perceived as a challenge, a downright flouting of their absolute authority as head of the team.

Later, inevitably, I am taken aside and reprimanded in the psychiatrist’s office in the strongest possible terms for “questioning doctor’s expert opinion in front of the patient and the team.” I do not regret having spoken out and made myself unpopular with the doctor though. I would only regret had the patient left the room without having felt in the least bit supported and understood — had she proceeded to harm herself further as a result of this, or taken her own life.

Sadly, this is exactly what happens to another patient some months later, when I am no longer working at the hospital and with this psychiatrist. The patient, another survivor of child abuse, leaves the meeting and goes home to kill herself. Later, some of the patients at the hospital approach me and say they wish I had been present at the time, as they believe I would have been able to prevent the death of this person.

I am firmly put in my place… Doctor knows best and if I know what’s best for me, then I will keep my mouth well and truly shut! So much for the Multi-Disciplinary Team. I should know by now, after all these years, that MDT does not really stand for multi-disciplinary team, but rather ‘Medically Dominated Team.’ It was the psychiatrist R.D. Laing who exclaimed: “I am still more frightened by the fearless power in the eyes of my fellow psychiatrists than by the powerless fear in the eyes of their patients.”11

I should also know, after all these years, that these meetings in which patients are supposedly cared for are often degrading, humiliating and damaging experiences for the people involved. They are also very painful and difficult for me. The regular, relentless abuse of patients by the system is extremely distressing to watch, particularly when there is little you can do about it.

Psychologist Dorothy Rowe commented, in connection with psychiatry and case conferences: “What is so appalling about cruelty (and why I write about it so much) is that we find it very hard to see the cruelty which is right before our eyes. Nurses and administrators who would be horrified by a television picture of soldiers beating a defenceless civilian see nothing cruel in a psychiatrist humiliating and punishing a patient, as happens every day in case conferences. Not for nothing did Goffman in his study of asylums call case conferences ‘degradation ceremonies’.”12

***

I am sitting in a team meeting, when a patient whose difficulties I have assessed as being related to the severe abuse she suffered as a child is diagnosed with ‘personality disorder.’ My opinion is completely discounted, the history of abuse dismissed, and this patient and the team are told that she is in fact “being difficult,” that she is “attention seeking and extremely manipulative.”

This woman has severe self-harming behaviours in relation to the severe abuse she suffered at the hands of her father and other members of her family as a child. She has difficulties in relation to attachment, self-esteem, boundaries, relationships and re-victimisation. She has developed behaviour patterns around ‘allowing herself’ to be used sexually by men (in many ways a re-enactment of the abuse she suffered, during which time she would experience the only ‘closeness,’ ‘warmth’ and ‘affection’ she received as a child), and then attending the local hospital casualty department, having taken an overdose or harmed herself by cutting her arms, as she subsequently felt so disgusted with herself for having been used by these men, both now and in the past. She has an extremely fragile sense of self, is confused and dissociated, and was abused in the most horrendous ways, the nature of which most of us would not even want to think about let alone experience ourselves.

As the psychiatrist has not enquired into this patient’s history, he is not aware that she has a history of severe child abuse. He is not aware of the motivating factors behind her difficulties and behaviours. Like the vast majority of psychiatrists, he would not even think to enquire into and consider these issues as being in any way relevant to her presenting difficulties.

Over the years I have seen many people, both female and male, inappropriately labelled with ‘personality disorder.’ This can happen when psychiatrists fail to understand the impact and after-effects of a history of severe trauma. It can also be applied as a punitive ‘bin category’ to patients they don’t like, to punish patients who do not obey, who complain, question or challenge their authority. The inappropriate application of the diagnosis to survivors and people in general has been discussed (Lewis and Appleby, 198813; Shaw and Proctor, 200514; RITB, 201615), and many people describe feeling deeply unhappy with the label.

When I write a detailed report and explain to the psychiatrist and the team that this patient has a history of severe child abuse, along with my psychological formulation of her difficulties and treatment needs, this information and my input as a psychologist are completely dismissed, passed over as usual in favour of a psychiatric account of her difficulties.

Telephone calls are made and letters written by the psychiatrist (calling himself a “Responsible Medical Officer”) to those who might make “the mistake” of offering this patient understanding, support and care at the hospital casualty department, should she continue to engage in self-harming behaviours or take an overdose and attend there for treatment again. The hospital staff are instructed by the psychiatrist that under no circumstances is this patient to be offered any kind of support or care. She is “an extremely difficult and manipulative patient who is doing this on purpose and for attention.” She is therefore to be dealt with in the harshest possible way, so that she will “snap out” of these “ridiculous, manipulative and attention seeking behaviours.”

Ridiculous from the point of view of this psychiatrist, perhaps, but not so ridiculous to those of us who have been on the receiving end of severe child abuse.

Thankfully, despite the extensive abuse she has experienced over time at the hands of the system, this patient is still alive and making progress. Sadly, many others have not been so fortunate.

***

Yet again, I am witnessing a dangerous scenario, during which the well-being of a fellow survivor is being put in jeopardy by the overall approach of psychiatry and the mental health system, and yet again I am in a position in which I am powerless to do much about it. That night, not for the first or the last time, I go home in deep distress. I lie on the floor and cry. A friend tries to console me by suggesting that even if I can help a few people some of the time, it will have been worth it. However, I remain unconvinced. Helping a few people some of the time does not seem good enough. I am weighed down by the enormity of the problem, by the enormity of the cruelty, inhumanity and abuse I am witnessing on a regular basis, and which is being repeated regularly in mental health facilities, not only in the UK, but in many other parts of the world too. In deep distress, I reach for my prayer book and read some prayers. The next day, I return to work.

I have been asked to assess a patient who has a history of severe child abuse and trauma and who has some unusual ideas, which the psychiatrist has described as “delusional.” In my assessment report, with the patient’s consent, I describe the nature of the severe abuse she suffered at the hands of different members of her family as a child. I also describe the after-effects of this on her mental health. She hears voices which are abuse-related, experiences visions which are abuse-related, and created a fantasy world for herself as a child, as a way of coping with the painful reality of her life. The psychiatrist has dismissed the history of abuse, has described the fantasy world as “delusional” and is using this as evidence for the diagnosis of ‘schizophrenia.’ I, on the other hand, know from my own experience, as well as that of many others, how and why such unusual thinking can develop. I am describing the beliefs as a protective coping strategy which has been helpful and adaptive for this patient. They have helped to lift her mood, helped her to survive the unthinkable and have prevented her from killing herself. I am aware how such so-called “delusional thinking” can be protective and even life-saving. But the system doesn’t see it this way.

Despite my clear report, detailing the extent of the abuse she suffered and the associated after-effects, including the nature, development and function of the fantasy world, the team and the patient are told by the psychiatrist that I am wrong. The patient is suffering from ‘schizophrenia’ and ‘personality disorder’ and will be treated as such.

She is traumatised by these diagnoses, by the dismissal of her experiences of child abuse, as well as the description of her fantasy world as “delusional.” Having spent quite some time building up a good working relationship with her, as usual I am left to battle with the damage which is being done to her in the name of ‘mental health care.’

Multiply this example by many many more — it is very painful and demoralising to work in a role which, to a large extent, involves trying to help people to heal from the damage which is consistently being done to them by the very system they are turning to for help.

I have lost count of the number of times I have witnessed psychiatrists disbelieve and dismiss reports of child abuse, by patients, myself and others, attribute them to mental illness, and fail to understand the link between trauma and mental health problems. The inherent dangers and potential harm associated with such a position cannot be overstated.

***

I am sitting in a meeting with a psychiatrist and other professionals who are discussing a patient who has been diagnosed by the psychiatrist with ‘paranoid schizophrenia.’ This is a woman who hears voices and sometimes hallucinates. I know, because I have assessed her in the past, that the voices she hears are those of the adult members of her family who abused her throughout her childhood. I also know that the visions, the so-called hallucinations she experiences, are flashbacks to the abuse she suffered. They tend to occur more often at night and involve shadowy figures around her bed. The team discussion is around where this lady is to be housed, since her marriage has broken down further to domestic violence. She has requested not to return to her family of origin, as members of her family were involved in the original abuse. When I discuss my findings with the team, they are dismissed by the psychiatrist as “irrelevant and unreliable” since “she is suffering from schizophrenia and cannot be trusted to provide reliable information about her life.”

Undeterred, I request that she be placed in a safe housing environment, away from her family, until more permanent housing options become available. However, at the psychiatrist’s insistence, she is forced to return to the abusive home environment as he declares that this would be “most conducive to her well-being in the circumstances.” Unsurprisingly, she quickly becomes even more distressed and attempts suicide. Thankfully she survives, and at my ongoing insistence is re-housed. As usual, my professional opinion is discounted, and as usual, it is an extremely painful and distressing situation to witness.

***

I am reading through the file of a patient who has a history of child abuse and whose difficulties I know to be related to this, only to discover that she, like so many other people, has received numerous different diagnoses and cocktails of harmful drugs over the years. The diagnoses have included: Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Manic Depression/Bipolar Disorder, Addictive Personality Disorder, Paranoia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, severe anxiety, severe depression, psychotic depression and Masochistic Personality Disorder. All of these ‘disorders’ so-called relate to the after-effects of abuse.

Assessment reveals that nothing positive has ever resulted from any of these different diagnoses and drugs over the years. Unsurprisingly, after more than 15 years, she is still, like so many others, going round and round the system, no better off than she was when she first entered it — in fact much worse off than she was in the first place. No mention is made in her file of the fact that she had an extremely abusive and traumatic childhood, during which time she suffered severe torture, cruelty and neglect on a scale most of us could not even bear to imagine.

While going to the waiting room to collect my next patient, I find another patient, who I have been working with for some months, crouching down on the floor in the corridor, extremely distressed and crying uncontrollably. Naturally I am very concerned. She is another survivor of child abuse, at the hands of her father. I ask her to come into my room. Once inside, she tells me that she has just had a meeting with the psychiatrist, who told her that she has ‘schizophrenia’ and that there is no chance of her ever making any degree of progress or recovery. She asks me whether I also think she is ‘mad’ (I tell her I do not). She then tells me that as a result of this meeting with the psychiatrist, she has gone into the hospital bathroom and self-harmed, cutting herself on her body. I examine her wounds. She explains that she has now lost all hope and is planning to go straight home to kill herself. Thankfully, after spending some time with her, I manage to talk her out of this and we continue to work together.

Yet again I find myself in the painful, ridiculous and uncomfortable position of having to try to do my best to repair the extensive damage which is being done to vulnerable survivors of child abuse by the system.

***

A patient who was abused at home by her father and while at school by some of the teachers has been diagnosed with ‘paranoid schizophrenia.’ She is struggling with after-effects of the abuse, including voice hearing, depression, anxiety, social anxiety, suicidal feelings and behaviour. She has made a number of suicide attempts over the years, none of which have been ‘successful.’ Amazingly, she is told by the psychiatrist that it is inevitable she will eventually end up killing herself. I refuse to believe or endorse this outrageous and unhelpful prediction and work with her on the after-effects of abuse she is struggling with (which include suicidality and self-harm). I am pleased to report that her life and mental health have improved and that she now works in the community. She has not made any suicide attempts for many years, and vows never to do so again. However, like many others, her progress is in spite of rather than because of psychiatry and the system.

Over the years I have worked with many people who have spent time on psychiatric wards as inpatients. Many are survivors of trauma in childhood and/or adulthood. However, they are hardly ever asked about histories of abuse and trauma. If they do disclose, then these experiences are regarded as irrelevant and/or delusional. The biological reductionism which pervades the system attributes all distress to biological ‘mental illnesses’ and endogenous pathology. The focus is on pills instead of people, on stigmatising victim-blaming labels rather than compassion and support.

Many of the practices on wards replicate previous experiences of abuse, trauma and violence, and can be deeply re-traumatising for people: lack of compassion and support, coercion, compulsion, control, restraint, seclusion, deprivation of liberty, forced drugging and ECT. Not having experiences of abuse considered, believed and taken into account can replicate the silence and shaming many have previously experienced. Not being given time to talk about their problems, offered kindness, compassion, understanding and support can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, alienation and despair. Having their wishes not to take psychiatric drugs ignored, being held down by staff and forcibly injected can mirror and replicate previous experiences of being raped and abused. Being forced to take drugs orally can also mirror previous abuse. Many people report feeling dehumanised and abused, describing feeling worse after an admission than they did before they went into hospital. However, the system consistently fails to understand and respond to such concerns.

***

A male patient who was physically, sexually and emotionally abused by his parents has spent more than thirty years in the system being treated for ‘paranoid schizophrenia.’ He has been receiving antipsychotic drugs, forcibly injected into his abdomen, for all these years. He has never seen a psychologist or been offered a psychological assessment. On seeing me, I assess his difficulties as being the result of the severe abuse he suffered as a child. As usual, I write reports and discuss my findings with colleagues.

For the first time ever, I am listened to by a psychiatrist. Needless to say, I am amazed! With his help, this patient’s antipsychotic medication is gradually reduced and finally tapered off completely. He does not suffer a ‘relapse,’ as previously predicted, and instead makes good progress. He still hears voices and experiences other after-effects of abuse. However, these gradually become less intense and he is able to find new ways of coping with them, with the help of a survivor group, a hearing voices group and psychological therapy.

As time moves on, this gentleman’s main concerns relate to the benefits (money) he has been receiving for the past thirty plus years from the state, on account of having been diagnosed with ‘paranoid schizophrenia,’ told that he “will never recover,” “will never come off medication” and “will never be able to study or work.”

Will he, he wonders, now no longer be allowed to claim benefits? Is it too late for him to think about study or a career? He is an intelligent man, with a lot to offer. What, he wonders, is he going to do with the rest of his life, given that he is now approaching retirement age? He feels angry about all the wasted time and years, believing, as he was told, that he was suffering from “an incurable and disabling brain disease called schizophrenia, from which there is no recovery” and being consistently told that he was “too ill to study or work.”

So many wasted lives and so much wasted talent, so many near misses, so many avoidable deaths, so much harm being done to so many vulnerable people in so many different ways. So little compassion, understanding and humanity. When and how is the system going to change?

***

The examples included here relate to the many people I have worked and learned alongside in different settings over the years. Many people have given their permission for me to use their experiences to educate and inform. In some cases, minor details have been changed in order to protect people’s identities.

Dr Z is a composite term for the many psychiatrists, male, female and from diverse backgrounds, with whom I have worked over the years. The majority of these doctors, however well-meaning, have practiced in harmful ways with patients, although there have been some notable exceptions.

Show 15 footnotes

  1. Romme, M. and Escher, S. (1993) Accepting Voices. London, UK: Mind.
  2. Romme, M., Escher, S., Dillon, J., Corstens, D. and Morris, M. (2009) Living with Voices: 50 Stories of Recovery. Ross, UK: PCCS Books.
  3. McCarthy-Jones, S. (2012) Hearing Voices: The Histories, Causes and Meanings of Auditory Hallucinations. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  4. McCarthy-Jones, S. (2017) Can’t You Hear Them? The Science and Significance of Hearing Voices. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  5. Longden, E. (2013) Learning from the Voices in my Head. TED Books. https://www.ted.com/talks/eleanor_longden_the_voices_in_my_head TED Talk
  6. Longden, E. (2016) The Voices in my Head. Mad in America Continuing Education. http://education.madinamerica.com/p/voices-head
  7. McCarthy-Jones, S. and Longden. E. (2013) The voices others cannot hear. The Psychologist, 26, 570-575.
  8. Corstens, D. Longden, E., McCarthy-Jones, S, Waddingham, R and Thomas, N. (2014) Emerging perspectives from the hearing voices movement: implications for research and practice. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 40, 285-94.
  9. Read, J. and Bentall, R. (2010) The effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy: a literature review. Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale, 19(4), 333-47.
  10. Lewis, C.S. (1970) God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company, p.292.
  11.  Laing, R.D. (1985) Wisdom, Madness and Folly: The Making of a Psychiatrist 1927-1957. London: Macmillan, p.16.
  12.  Rowe, D. (1988) In: Masson, J.M. Against Therapy: Emotional Tyranny and the Myth of Psychological Healing. London: Atheneum, p. 12.
  13. Lewis, G and Appleby, L. (1988) Personality disorder: the patients psychiatrists dislike. British Journal of Psychiatry, 153, 44-49.
  14. Shaw, C. and Proctor, G. (2005) Women at the margins: a critique of Borderline Personality Disorder. Feminism and Psychology. 15(4), 483-490.
  15. Recovery in the bin (RITB) (2016) A simple guide to avoid receiving a diagnosis of ‘personality disorder’. https://recoveryinthebin.org/2016/02/20/a-simple-guide-to-avoid-receiving-a-diagnosis-of-personality-disorder/
Previous articleThe Crisis of Expertise
Next articleWorld Benzodiazepine Awareness Day: Official Launch
Helen Williams
Helen Williams writes from the perspective of both professional and lived experience, that of her own and the many people she has worked and learned alongside in different settings over the years. She has worked as a clinical psychologist in the mental health system for many years, specialising in trauma, 'psychosis' and complex mental health issues. Helen is passionate about human rights, social justice and service improvement.

104 COMMENTS

  1. Helen,
    this was a painful article…I’m sorry I couldn’t even finish it. My wife has d.i.d. I feel so fortunate that I kept her out of the system. It wasn’t intentional…just kind of happened…growing up on the Right…homeschooling our son(though he’s now in a doctoral program at an Ivy-league level school)…and my wife’s csa…she didn’t trust doctors and we kind of lived outside the system anyway…but then after I had found a way to help my wife thru attachment theory and began to read what others were doing…I was truly horrified the more and more I read. That could have been my wife! How fortunate we were even though the stress on me as caregiver and healing agent is overwhelming so many days…and yet she is healing…beyond anything ISSTD says is possible…in spite of their supposed trauma-based model for d.i.d. they really aren’t much better than the medical model of the rest and still use so many of the same methods…

    I don’t know how you do it…but I wish you well…and I wish you strength in such an ugly and invalidating environment.

    Oh, one thing my wife’s d.i.d. has taught me is the absolute ‘naturalness’ of hearing voices…in fact once I began to recognize my own voices and understood both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to them, they helped me develop strategies for my own self care in the midst of the self-denial so necessary to help her heal. I’m almost astounded at the lack of validation when it comes to the simplicity and beauty of the voices in our head and how they give us a roadmap to what’s going on…and how obtuse psychiatry is in writing them off.

    Blessings to you in such a difficult situation,
    Sam

  2. The above psychiatric antics make me glad I’m a fugitive from Mental Health, and encourage me to stay that way. Of course, the shrinks would regard my taking B3 as a sure sign of my mental incompetence and want to medicate me and/or put me on a course of ECT.

  3. Thanks, Helen, for poignantly pointing out that denying child abuse, and silencing child abuse victims, and their concerned parents, is the number one primary function of today’s psychiatric industry … and this is true even according to the medical evidence. Today, “the prevalence of childhood trauma exposure within borderline personality disorder patients has been evidenced to be as high as 92% (Yen et al., 2002). Within individuals diagnosed with psychotic or affective disorders, it reaches 82% (Larsson et al., 2012).”

    The problem with this, of course, is that child abuse is a crime, not a brain disease, which the psychiatrists obviously can’t comprehend. Because they’d find themselves with next to no business if they got out of the business of turning child abuse victims into the ‘mentally ill’ with the psychiatric drugs.

    I was one who was proactively defamed and drugged up, based upon lies from the people who raped my child, according to my medical records, prior to my understanding that my child was abused and that child abuse is rampant amongst the nouveau riche and those who call themselves the “elite.”

    I did get “voices” in my head, the voices of the child molesters who had me drugged up, once I was put on antipsychotics. Most psychiatrists are unaware of the reality that the antipsychotics can create psychosis/voices via anticholinergic toxidrome, likely because this psychiatric drug induced toxidrome is not one of the DSM billing codes, and the psychiatrists want to get paid. Thankfully, the “voices” went away after I was weaned off the neuroleptic drugs, and you are correct, one must mislead the psychiatrists in order to achieve this. I did, however, suffer from two drug withdrawal induced manic psychoses, but those “psychoses” took the form of a spiritual journey, so they were not bothersome to me.

    And you are exactly right, psychiatrists not only ignore child abuse concerns, but once the medical evidence of the child abuse was handed over to me by some decent nurses in my PCP’s office, and I confronted my psychiatrist with this reality, he wanted to drug up my child, which of course was when I had to leave him.

    I am grateful I escaped the disempowering and ungodly disrespectful child abuse profiteering psychiatric system, and that I kept my child away from it as well. My child did recover from the abuse with love, and he just graduated from college summa cum laude, he was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, as well as winning an award. Ironically, he was a psychology major, and it was interesting listening to his psychology professors give me gushing psychological analyses of my “stellar child.”

    Drugs do not cure child abuse or concerns of child abuse, love does. Justice would help as well. I hope we start arresting the child molesters in the US again some day, and the medical industry and religious owned hospitals get out of the business of profiteering off of turning millions of child abuse victims into the “mentally ill” with the psychiatric drugs.

  4. This is a heartbreaking set of histories and all too typical of the biomedical model of mental health operative since the 1950s and even before. I believe that relatively “mild” abuse — emotional and verbal abuse rather than physical and/or sexual abuse of children — often results in symptoms that may not involve actually physically hearing voices telling the person they are “worthless.” Instead, sometimes symptoms of this “less extreme” abuse can involve what has been referred to as “negative self-talk” or feelings of being worthless, stupid, etc. with no actual “hallucinatory” symptoms.

    Even though I never had any delusion or any kind of hallucination, I was diagnosed in the 1960s as paranoid schizophrenic and endured 10 years of major tranquilizers as well as almost 4 years of electroshock. All of this was the result of being the “identified patient” in a family with two functional-alcoholic parents who underneath it all were extremely unhappy and somehow, I believe, did not want their alcoholism or unhappiness discovered. I was “identified” as the patient when I was 17, because of such simple things as the fact that at age 14 I began to be “less helpful around the house.”

    I was among the fortunate in that even after the years of psychiatric abuse, I refused to accept the diagnosis I had been labeled with. I found good, caring psychologists who helped me withdraw from all psychotropic drugs, and with whom I was able to talk about and heal from what had happened to me as a child and teenager. I have recounted my history in a memoir, “From the Lion’s Mouth: Healing from Trauma, Electroshock, Scapegoating, and Grief in a Dysfunctional Family and Psychiatric System” published in 2014. The more survivors of psychiatric abuse speak out, I believe, the more we can help others avoid the trauma of psychiatric abuse, or heal from it.

  5. Helen
    I insincerely hope someone listens to you that can influence and upgrade treatment of mentally ill patients. Both my youngest brother who is now 66 was recently diagnosed as biplor and who I have been his caretaker for the past 4 years. My sister who is 79 now was diagnosed as paranoid schz. when she was about 19. It was blamed on a car accident and subsequent trauma. She never recovered from it, I think due to the horrendous and cruel treatment she received back in the 60’s including the more barbaric ECT. It was literally sheer torture at that time and the state hospital antiquated. My parents completely put their trust in pychiatry to help her, and in their defense it was intimidating. However, our family was quite dysfuncional and she was more or less a prisoner at home, except for brief stays in psychiatric hospitals. As kind and compassionate as my mother was, my father was verbally abusive. My brother went through a great deal of trauma and rejection growing up. I think my parents knew something was wrong because he was in trouble so much, ran away often and became violent at times. Once my parents passed away, he became a full blown drug addict and alcoholic, and dangerous. Until he had a serious moped accident that almost killed him, he didn’t have anyone who tried to help him. I became involved at that point and worked on getting him off drugs with the help of a doctor who diagnosed him as bipolar. However, at that time, we did try a pychiatrist that simply gave him meds, spent 5 minutes with him and didn’t care what he went through. Ron was very aggressive, abusive and potentially dangerous. I got so angry at the treatment I stopped it and found a small mental clinic staffed by counselors. It was a heartbreaking and overwhelming uphill battle but I think we won. Although he can be very resistant and manipulative, he is so much better. It has absolutely broken my heart that my sister who was so musically talented was never treated appropriately. She lives in a wonderful rest home now where she is basically in her own world but functional. I don’t understand the mindset of doctors who think people are not affected by abuse and trauma. NC has shut down all mental hospitals and put patients on the street to care for themselves. One question I must ask. Do you think there is still hope for my brother and sister to be normal again under the right treatment or has time passed too much and its now chronic. I would do anything if my sister could have one day of being normal, although unlikely I guess at her age.

    Thank you for writing that article and I wish much success, God Bless you for your compassion.
    Dale

  6. It must be hard to be at the coal face and see all this cruelty meterred out to tramatised people.

    I congratulate you for carrying on.

    I have witnessed it myself as a friend of people who are persecuted by psychiatry – because that is what it is, a kind of persecution.

  7. I vehemently oppose you wittingly referring to my kind as a good boy for taking prescribed medicine.

    The authors and commenters telling me how it’s done with getting better more often than not white middle aged or elderly men or women. This is same tune different name.

    • You have missed the context. It was the PSYCHIATRIST who called his patient a “good girl” for taking her medication. The author found such behavior appalling, as it reflected the psychiatrist’s authoritarian and paternalistic view of the patient as a little child, almost sub-human. I am not sure why you’d be angry at the author, as she agrees with your views on this point 100%.

        • You are saying the author referred to “your kind” as being “a good boy” for “taking your medicine.” I assume you feel this characterization is disrespectful, which I agree with. That’s what I mean by “your views.” My point is, the author did not use that term at all – the psychiatrist used it to refer to the patient, and the author objected. So on that point, you two agree.

          I find it challenging to communicate with you about simple stuff like this. You seem to get upset by things that aren’t even intended, and seem kind of ready for a fight even with those who don’t disagree with you. This is just one example. It’s frustrating. I have no intention of insulting you, but your comments seem sometimes very far off base to me, and in this case I am trying to simply refer you to the actual statement made by the author so we can have a common ground to discuss things.

          I also fail to see how the author is being cynical by reporting her direct observations on how cases are handled. She is simply sharing case histories that she has been a part of. She has had a different experience than you, as have many posting here. I have acknowledged a number of times that you have had a different experience and have every right to your perception of the value of psychiatric treatment. It seems you have a hard time doing the same for others who have found it less than helpful for them or their clients. Why is that so difficult for you?

          • It’s carthartic for me to be a pompous ass to some of the authors and commenters here and to bombard site with YouTube videos.

            Most people in recovery think you people are way to far left. Being more in the middle is better for me. Even if I have more extreme views I keep them to myself or close friends.

          • So it sounds like you get a catharsis by intentionally annoying other people who don’t agree with you? Is that right?

            I’d really appreciate some clarity about what is cynical about the article, and more importantly, that you misinterpreted both the author’s and my comments about the “good boy” comment. It is very clear in the article that the author was APPALLED that the psychiatrist would call his client a “good girl” for following orders. You seemed to think she was somehow expressing contempt for you or “your kind.” You were clearly way off base. Can I at least get an acknowledgement on that point?

          • If you like. Here is one reason. I’m still thinking of Monica Cassini’s article a while back and the comment she made comparing her article to privileged white people who claim their not racist.

            Ever wonder why most of authors here are white? Well maybe it’s because other ethnicities like better to speak up in more moderate forums. It’s usually the privileged white people she writes against that are the few who feel comfortable speaking up on a radical website and also such an open in public forum.
            That’s hypocrisy for you.

          • I guess you see what you look for. It’s a shame you are looking to find negative things. Monica is only one author, but you get stuck on her and spread it out to everyone else?

            Besides, you still are avoiding my question: can you admit that you misinterpreted the author’s intent? That she never suggested that you were a “good little boy” for following your psychiatrist’s advice?

          • Can you admit it’s only white peoples messing with big pharma?

            I’m gonna get back in touch with inaps international association of peer specialists that represents a bigger mix of people who are making an impact on the field.

          • You avoided my question, so I will take that as a tacit admission that you were wrong but can’t admit it.

            As to your question, it’s not even coherent. “Only white peoples messing with big pharma?” What does that even mean? If you are suggesting that only white people are victimized by Big Pharma, you’re really out of touch. The disproportion of black men diagnosed with schizophrenia and drugged accordingly is admitted even within mainstream psychiatry. Of course, they blame the black men…

            Sounds like you’d be better off on another forum that is more in line with your values, but it’s really not cool to come here just to make trouble.

  8. The “voices” seem to always say the same thing…you are worthless, you should die, kill yourself, nobody wants you, you will never amount to anything.
    So I went to a psychiatrist who basically said the same thing…you will be sick for the rest of your life, you will never have children because this disease is inheritable, you are worthless to society, you will never amount to anything.
    I was never “severely abused”, but the message got through to me somehow, only to be reinforced by the pseudoscience of psychiatry.

    • Pencilect,

      After many years of research, my theory is the Jungian psychologists, and theoretical or meta physicists, are likely the most correct, and there is a “collective unconscious” or a wave frequency or energy level where humans can relate to one another, outside of the normal 3-D means.

      The psychiatric drugs, and the psychiatrist’s hateful and scientifically invalid diagnoses, help to take a person down out of the level where they experience love, which is at the highest levels of this frequency or energy level. And leave people experiencing only the lowest levels of the common frequency, which are the fear levels, thus leaving those psychiatrically drugged with evil “voices.”

      But what’s good is when one is weaned off the psychiatric drugs they can go back to existing in a more normal level of their functioning, and once again function within the “collective unconscious” at the highest love level.

      I recommend you not believe the evil “voices,” or idiot defamatory psychiatrists, and consider praying to find the higher “love.” One which will take away the “voices,” and remind you of your higher purpose in this life, because He (or She) loves you. Concentrate on finding the “love” within, and within all of humanity.

      Walk away from the hate and defamation of character spewed incessantly by today’s psychiatric industry. Our current society is spewing hate and division incessantly, via the mainstream media, so it may no longer be necessary for one to have personally needed to be “severely abused” to experience a distance from the “love” frequency, or God, or whatever love helps you personally. Search for love.

  9. “and must no longer drive her car. There is talk of writing to the licensing authority, with a view to having her license removed, so that she will no longer be permitted to drive.

    The patient protests that she needs the car to take her children to school. What is she going to do, she asks — how is she going to be able to cope without her car?”

    “The Right of the Citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, either by horse drawn carriage or by automobile, is not a mere privilege which a city can prohibit or permit at will, but a common Right which he has under the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    “Personal liberty — consists of the power of locomotion, of changing situations, of removing one’s person to whatever place one’s inclination may direct, without imprisonment or restraint unless by due process of law.”

    http://www.lawfulpath.com/ref/DLbrief.shtml

    The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution each contain a Due Process Clause. Due process deals with the administration of justice and thus the Due Process Clause acts as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the Government outside the sanction of law.

    How do these so called doctors manage to subvert the constitution ?

    I don’t want people who lack the skills driving down the road but that due process thing is very important. To bad for those a holes if its expensive. Give that woman a jury trial.

    • I believe the stories in the article all take place in the UK. In the states you can almost always refuse treatment. Forced treatment is considered a battery. There are only a few medical conditions that can result in losing your driver’s license. I have a friend who is on disability and is a true paranoid schizophrenic (no abuse, just voices telling him everyone is spying on him) and he still drives a car. He would probably have to be in several accidents related to his illness before it would even be considered an option.

      • Have you ever been put in a psychiatric facility against your will? You don’t get out of places like that until you comply with taking the drugs, plain and simple. Forced treatment without proper informed consent takes place in the United States each and every day of the year.

      • Yes, RamonaAStone, you’re completely ignorant about what’s going on in the US. One of my “forced treatment” doctors was eventually convicted by the FBI, for crimes he committed against many including the US government, for Medicaid/Medicare fraud.

        http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-sacred-heart-hospital-verdict-met-20160304-story.html

        But, of course, he was never even charged for the crimes he committed against his patients, myself included. Today’s US government only takes cases that will financially benefit them, not that will benefit or protect patients.

        The evil doctors, including all within both APAs, bought out basically the totality of the US legal system long ago. The lawyers don’t take legitimate cases against psychiatrists or psychologists, even when one has medical proof that the antipsychotics can create both the negative and positive symptoms of “schizophrenia” and “bipolar” in hand.

        By the way, did you know today’s claimed “schizophrenia” treatment can create both the negative symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome, and the positive symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via anticholinergic toxidrome poisoning?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroleptic-Induced_Deficit_Syndrome
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxidrome

        The psychiatrists claim they don’t know this either, since neither of these medically known antidepressant/antipsychotic/neuroleptic induced illnesses are listed in their DSM.

        No wonder the majority of doctors disrespect, although put up with, the ignorance and lack of ethics of today’s psychiatric industry, it’s because they cover up the incompetent doctors’ easily recognized iatrogenesis. And, of course, also because today’s psychiatric industry’s primary actual function in our current society is covering up child abuse en mass, according to their own medical literature, which way too many of the men in our society think is a wonderful thing.

        I pray to God all involved in this “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions” is properly and fairly judged by God, asap. As I am so disgusted by this “dirty little secret,” as are now millions of others on the internet now just being awakened to it, I can’t tell you. An industry that’s primary function in society is covering up rape of children deserves to die.

    • We also have the right to life. But in the name of pharmapsychiatric treatment it’s okay to kill us. Most psych related deaths are not homicide (deliberate.) But considering how no one supervises the industry but the industry’s professionals, how can we honestly know how often homicides do or don’t occur?

        • Manslaughter is certainly common. But I was referring to people who die under mysterious circumstances while in psychiatric “care.” We may suspect the doctor of deliberately pumping the victim full of drugs they are known to be sensitive or even allergic to. Or subjecting them to dangerously high levels of electroshock (dangerous even from psychiatric standards) when the subject has a known heart condition.

          The doctor will simply claim that this was a “necessary risk” because the “patient” might perhaps have committed suicide or a violent act in the future. Ah, those psychiatric psychics!

    • I am much more optimistic. In my lifetime, I have seen radical and surprising change – the fall of the Berlin wall (which no one anticipated), the growing acceptance of gay marriage on the one hand and on the other hand the reversal of many rights won in the 1970s.

      Change is constant. Which way it goes depends on what we do.

      Discussion forums are excellent for promoting clarity; however, to create real change, clarity must be married with organization, the willingness of like-minded people to work together to do something constructive. If we work together, learn together, and act together, we can make big things happen.

      Get-together, meetings, and conferences are important for building activist networks, raising issues publicly, and planning how to reach more people more effectively.

      Isolation kills. At every level, personally, socially, societally, we go forward together, or not at all.

  10. Helen,

    I know you must feel your story will not make much difference in how patients are treated, but please don’t feel that way. It’s because of people like you that I was smart and brave enough to flee from a psychiatrist’s office and never go back, after realizing what I was risking by asking him for advice.

    A little background: many years ago, as a 27-year-old housewife and mother of two young children, I had to deal with psychosis myself. I was college educated and loved to read and ponder all the Big Questions, and in my reading I had stumbled across Carl Jung and his theory of individuation, or psychological maturity, which is something I longed for. Individuation, he said, comes about when the limited conscious ego accesses and assimilates the contents of the vast collective unconscious, the source of spiritual experience and wisdom. I eagerly pursued this line of thought, and one day had an out-of-body experience that convinced me I was making good progress. This was followed by even more impressive — and frightening — experiences that soon convinced me I needed some expert advice, so I went to a psychiatrist to explain what was happening to me, and what I hoped it meant, and to get his advice on how to handle the experiences.

    As I’m sure you know, the psychiatrist was basically horrified at what I tried to tell him. Taken aback at his reaction, I asked him if he thought I was crazy. He pulled himself together and cautiously said no, because I wasn’t trying to talk him into believing in Jung’s theories or anything like that; I wasn’t acting crazy. But he so much wished that I had come to him sooner, so he could have spared me all this.

    All I heard was the part about not acting crazy. I wasn’t crazy as long as I didn’t act that way. Trying to talk to him about what was going on in my head was obviously crazy. What I needed to do was go home and keep my mouth shut, unless I wanted to end up in the looney bin.

    So I went home and kept my mouth shut, though it was the most horrendously painful and terrifying experience I’ve ever endured. I couldn’t talk to my family or friends; their reaction would have been to try to get me to a psychiatrist, and I knew the end result of that: a lifetime of stigma and shame and hopelessness. Death would be better. I hung on to my frail hope that Jung was right, and that if I accepted my experience in silence and learned from it, I could not only survive but thrive.

    After three long years I finally decided Jung was right. But not a day went by that I did not suffer from my self-imposed silence, and long for a sympathetic listener who could simply accept my confession without criticism or fear and let me howl in anguish without being locked up. It would have been such a relief for me, and would have made my recovery so much quicker.

    So thank you, Helen, for telling staff how important it is to listen to suffering people, instead of just diagnosing and humiliating and hurting them. I’ve been waiting for years to hear that someone is doing this. Please don’t give up, and know that others see what you are doing and will take hope from it. Not only patients, but staff too.

    By the way, I eventually ended up going back to school and earning a PhD in psychology; I had a career in addiction treatment and am retired now, enjoying my children and grandchildren and travel. My advice to families is to encourage your recovering psychotic children to go back to school and get the degrees that will let them help others get through the same experience, because now they know what they need.

    Mary Newton, PhD (ret)

    • Wow Mary! Telling a shrink about these experiences. I’m sure you now realize what a huge mistake that was.

      Dr. Shrinkenstein, please lock me up and drug me!

      I tell any shrinks I deal with as little as possible. I even avoid small talk.

      I wish I could remember the quote, but Thoreau once said that if he knew a man was setting out for his home to “do him good” he would take off running. Because stupid, shallow thinking do-gooders are the most dangerous people of all.

      • FeelinDiscouraged,

        Fortunately it only took me about 5 minutes to realize how ignorant and naive it was for me to expect the psychiatrist to seriously listen to me and know how to give me advice. But even after all these years I’m still appalled that these frauds wear the honorable cloak of Hippocrates and do such damage to the poor innocents they “help.” But I guess the priests who burned people at the stake in the middle ages thought they were “helping” too.

        Mary Newton

  11. “Assessment reveals that nothing positive has ever resulted from any of these different diagnoses and drugs over the years. Unsurprisingly, after more than 15 years, she is still, like so many others, going round and round the system, no better off than she was when she first entered it — in fact much worse off than she was in the first place. No mention is made in her file of the fact that she had an extremely abusive and traumatic childhood, during which time she suffered severe torture, cruelty and neglect on a scale most of us could not even bear to imagine.”

    The scenarios laid out in this article are very relatable. Thank you for writing this.

    There was a time when I gave X and Y benefit of doubt to psychiatry. But the repeated occurrences of similar scenarios the world over is alarming.

    I do not believe in silent protests and education. One needs to have a strong opposition which will cause real world tangible consequences to psychiatrists and mental health workers that engage in the present day human brothel of psychiatry, which is effectively just re-abusing already abused people (which is not their intention of course).

    Now, of course, their intentions may be good. They are just “men/women following orders” and what they have learnt. But that does not matter anymore.

    Kids who enter psychiatry at young ages, must be aware of what the consequences may be later in life. Often, when they express skepticism, they will simply be told “Let us read the literature”, “don’t read that negative stuff against psychiatry online” etc. etc.

    It is a simple fact of life that people who are initially vulnerable become doubly endangered because of their initial vulnerability and are easy targets for exploitative practices.

  12. I do not believe in the good intentions of these smug psych doctors who profit from the suffering of others. If you seek help and admit you feel worthless, the last thing in the world you need to hear is confirmation, you have a broken brain, you will never hold a job, go to college, or make any worthwhile contribution to society. Intimidation, humiliation, patronizing language, incarcerations, forced medications all seems geared to one goal: get rid of all the people they truly believe are not worth a damn. They lock us up, drug us and secretly hope that we kill ourselves so that we aren’t a burden to society any longer.

    • I agree with you, RamonaAStone. For the most part. I have been unusually lucky with my shrinks–only one was truly evil. Two actually seemed to take pity on me, but the medical model they used didn’t work. (The doctors who bled George Washington to death meant well. But he still died.)

      It’s not just shrinks who feel that way, but the population in general–fueled by the top dogs like Torey who demonize and defame those they say they want to help. The shrinks would miss us. Fewer cash cows to milk!

  13. You are an articulate advocate for the disenfranchised; you deserve admiration for your community service. It is extremely valuable to “bear witness” to the cruelty of our current “mental health care” system and comforting the disenfranchised. Your story is an inspiration.

    “So little compassion, understanding and humanity. When and how is the system going to change?” I contend that the system will change with the advocacy of thousands of people working independently to create a critical mass that de-legitimizes psychiatry and its medical model. I believe that your writing supports a “social welfare model” of mental distress- a natural response to social injustice (I blogged about the “social welfare model” here at MIA on 1/17/17). Consistently, “delusional thinking” is “a protective coping strategy which has been helpful and adaptive for this patient.”

    Understanding natural emotions is difficult in our cultures. I had no idea emotions were physical until the warm energy that motivated my happy youth slowly turned to a nondescript aversion after experiencing extreme traumatic injustice. The mental aversion of extremely distressful experiences is naturally painful; emotional suffering is not a disease.

    Best wishes, Steve

    PS- A single caveat: psychiatry only purports “biological reductionism.” Psychiatry lacks any scientific validity; its “biological reductionism” is pure pseudoscience and any reference to psychiatry should be placed in quotes.

  14. Sadly it is often too late, but I always tell people to NEVER tell any psychiatrist or anyone in that field, or even a doctor, or anyone in authority who could take away your freedom about hearing voices, and any other hallucinations and/or delusional thoughts. Most of the time by the time they get to the point where they are seeking out information on the internet, it is already too late and they have already become a victim of psychiatry.

    Sadly, as I know, the label of schizophrenic stays with you forever.

    I completely relate to one of the patients in this article lying about no longer hearing voices. In my case I was tryiing to get off Assisted Outpatient Treatment. I stopped talking to my therapist about my delusional thoughts. Stopped talking about hallucinations. Filled up the hour talking about dating issues, which semed to really please her. In essence I started to act normal again.

    Since there is no test, they go off what you tell them. That is their only weakness. And your only advantage.

    If only we could warn every one out there how much trouble will come from telling the wrong people about what is going on in your head. BEFORE they make the mistake of trusting and confiding in the wrong people.

    That’s where these forums can be so useful, allowing people to talk about it while remaining anonymous.

    And wouldn’t it be nice if there were more people in the field of mental health who could be trusted?

    During my adventure through the Assisted Outpatient Treatment phase I was assigned a few peers who were supposed to help me. I very quickly learned that their main goal was to check in on me and make sure I was compliant with taking my meds faithfully and to see if I was in need of a trip to the E.R. if I sounded too delusional. There was only one who I trusted, and he talked to me about all sorts of things. They removed him from program.

    Anyways, if I could go back in time, I would have never told them about the voices or the delusions. I would have never been labeled schizophrenic. I would never have been put on AOT. My life would have been a lot simpler and easier.

      • I would like to think so, but it is probably just wishful thinking. My first psychotic break was in high school and it would have been difficult to hide, even if I had known then what I know now. But I will say this, the more details I told them, the more they wrote down, and it was later turned right back around and used against me for AOT. If I could have just kept my mouth shut as much as possible, they would have had far less of my own words to use against me. I gave them everything they needed to get the judge who was already leaning in their favor to do what he did to me. I was my own worst enemy.

    • You just summed it up perfectly. The whole basis of mental illness except for those few who really aren’t at all in touch with reality. For most of us, this applies:

      “Since there is no test, they go off what you tell them. That is their only weakness. And your only advantage.”

      As long as you can fake being normal, you can fake your way out of it. As I keep telling people, even if you’re in distress LIE THROUGH YOUR TEETH AND SAY YOURE JUST FINE!

      • Shrinks lie all the time. And then write self-congratulatory articles in the APA journal while laughing up their sleeves at the “metaphors” they use. They deliberately deceive not just those who come to them for help but the public in general.

        I have no qualms about lying to them in return. When you consider what seasoned liars most of them are, it’s hard to understand why they’re also gullible and willing to buy into lies we tell them.

        They probably assume we’re so stupid and irrational that they underestimate us.

        Reminds me of the end of the film The Hunt for Red October. After Jack Ryan outwits the conniving Soviet official and saves the defecting captain (Sean Connory) the characters do a bit of a social charade at the end. Joss Ackland’s character and Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin?) smile and shake hands and tell each other how they appreciate their candor. All the while they’re lying through their teeth and know it.

        That’s what psychiatry is. An elaborate charade and deception. A masked ball, but we pretend to think the other’s mask is their genuine face. 😛

  15. Thank you Helen, for this first hand account not only as someone who hears voices but as a professional attempting to validate the legitimate experiences of those who have suffered abuse. Thank you!!!

    Personally, I find it kind of funny that one of the things that has always been held against me with a diagnosis of DID, was that I could never achieve so-called “internal communication”. In other words, I never heard voices. I only experienced dissociation. And only one person – my ex-boyfriend – ever reported that I had others come out. I later realized this was abuse and he was gaslighting me telling me I had alters. I was treated for DID for over a decade. It just strikes me as utterly hilarious that had I actually been hearing voices, I might’ve been diagnosed with scizophrenia instead of DID. Not that the treatment was ultimately any different. Funnily, they still had the backup plan of bipolar and BPD when the DID diagnosis was abandoned. And even then, the only way I escaped the DID diagnosis was to stop seeing the person who specialized in DID and start seeing a different shrink and it turned out that one specialized in bipolar. It seems to me, having read multiple studies on this, that doctors tend to diagnose the “disease/disorder” they have the most education and experience treating. That is what first led me to believe that the diagnoses I had were all BS and only relevant to the doctor I was seeing.

    Anyway, thank you for the validation. By the way, my last suicide attempt five years ago, my (now) fiancé was instructed in no uncertain terms not to comfort me because I was only “manipulating” him. He ignored them, thankfully.

  16. I think that everyone has the need to be seen, heard, understood, and their feelings respected, no matter what those feelings are. And that ordinary people who want to help another can supply this need to those around them if they are determined. That to me is better than any therapy applied by the current system.

    One thing I have never heard mentioned on this site is the Internal Family Systems model and therapy that I read about by Richard Schwartz. It says that we are all multiply part personalities, and it’s about being friendly and considerate to all our parts and allowing our true self to be in the leadership of our minds. It seems like a good idea, certainly kinder and more considerate than the psychiatry system. In that system you fulfill the need to be heard of each part of your mind to get them all working together. And if our minds are multiple parts, then that explains some of the intricate ways in which symptoms present, and to me invalidates the DSM labels.

  17. We were told by our daughter’s social worker​ that our daughter had a disease like diabetes and would have to take meds for life. We were also told she needed ECT. She was civilly committed eight times, forcibly drugged, restrained, and institutionalized for eight years but we never gave up hope that with compassion and solidarity and empowerment she would come through the other side.

    By a stroke of good luck a board certified psychiatrist who is smart enough to question the industry funded data of his profession and who is too young to be cynical is in charge of her outpatient treatment now. He uses accupuncture, prescribes dietary supplements, and is cautiously tapering her.drugs down. He also listens and his very compassionate. She is now on a fraction of the original dose she was on when she moved back home, does volunteer work in the community, gardens, pursues art, music, and yoga.

    She is doing very well. The drug induced akathesia and other adverse drug reactions she was experiencing for years went unrecognized. She knew all along that the drugs she was forced to take for years were themselves causing psychiatric symptoms, immobilizing her socially, cognitively, and physically, forcing her deeper and deeper into her own world, perceiving odd thoughts she could not articulate.

    She is finally starting to climb out of this drug induced prison. We are are somewhat adjusted to the fact that she may never receive any restorative justice for the violation of her rights when she was forcibly treated, and for the iatrogenic harm.

    My biggest regret is that we don’t have the means to support dozens of people like our daughter, providing sanctuary for individuals who need care and support while withdrawing from harmful psychiatric drugs. There are hundreds of thousands of people out there who need love and support not major tranquilizers. What are we going to do?

  18. Thank you for sharing this, Helen. I can’t imagine working in such a traumatic and re-traumatizing environment.

    Your story is important not only because it exposes the immense cruelty of the system but also because it challenges the rigid separation between those who work in the psy-industry and those who are victimized by it.

    People who work in the industry are more similar than different from the people we ‘treat.’ We are more likely (than the general population) to be trauma survivors and to have been given psychiatric labels. Our experience of trauma is a major reason why we enter the field. This is a closely-guarded secret because workers who are ‘outed’ as having psychological difficulties can lose their careers.

    Chapter 3 of Psychiatry Interrogated describes two psy-workers who lost their jobs (one also lost her licence to practice nursing) on the false assumption that mental illness = mental incompetence. https://www.amazon.ca/Psychiatry-Interrogated-Institutional-Ethnography-Anthology/dp/3319424734/

    It’s important to challenge the mistaken idea that providers and users can never work together. The psychiatrists who abuse their power are not on our side, no question. However, most of us entered the field in order to help people, which gives us a common interest with those who seek help.

    We have a common enemy – a medical system that prioritizes controlling people over caring about them. When we don’t see that, when we let them turn us against each other, then we all suffer.

    I know many providers like yourself, I am one of them, and we are organizing for mutual support. Please contact me: [email protected]

  19. Thank you so much Helen.

    During forty years of medical practice, mostly in a district general hospital, the vast majority of staff, across a wide range of
    (non-psychiatric) disciplines, showed empathy and self-sacrifice in caring for their patients with listening and understanding.

    The institutionalised brutality you observe and record in psychiatric hospitals is unforgivable.

    The therapeutic benefit that your patients will derive from your own sacrifice and empathy will afford some comfort and respite from the arrogance and diagnostic incompetence of those who as “responsible medical officers” meter out destruction of their patient’s health, hopes, dreams, aspirations and joy in living.

    Devastation metered out to those who believed they would be helped, and who believed that no doctor would prescribe drugs (let alone enforce them) which are so profoundly toxic to their brain, cardiovascular, metabolic, endocrine and reproductive systems as SSRI’s, SNRI’s, “antipsychotics”, “mood stabilisers” and other psychotropics.

    Amongst these are the “doctors” who cannot differentiate prescription drug induced akathisia from “serious mental illness” and who cannot distinguish the toxic delirium induced by their “medications” from “functional psychosis”.

    —————————————————————————————————-

    “I am a mild, tolerant understanding man. Instead of being accused, I should have been rewarded for all the good things I have done”.

    These are words reportedly stated by Radovan Karadzic, –
    The Bosnian Serb standing trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    It is also documented that Karadzic graduated from the University of Sarajevo School of Medicine and became a psychiatrist.
    Was this his basic training in crimes against humanity?

    ——————————————————————————-

    “I am weighed down by the enormity of the problem, by the enormity of the cruelty, inhumanity and abuse I am witnessing on a regular basis, and which is being repeated regularly in mental health facilities, not only in the UK, but in many other parts of the world too”.

    The examples you identify, occurring globally on a day by day basis, surely must also constitute crimes against humanity?

    How can care be delivered without listening and believing; without compassion, insight, understanding and without sincere respect for each and every patient?

    This is not the practice of medicine. It is the enforcement of dogma and the practice of denial and delusion.
    Marketing masquerading as medicine.
    Enforcement of “guidelines” based on fraudulent clinical trials.

    These prescribers have been deceived by their “training” (aka -indoctrination) – deceived by their “key opinion leaders”, deceived by the psycho-pharmaceutical industry, deceived by the drug regulators.
    Deceived by their “Continuing Medical Education” – CME, and deceived by themselves.

    They proceed to deceive the G.P.s who refer patients to them, and both groups deceive their patients and their loved ones, who so often and so ill-advisedly afforded them trust and respect.

    Kadazic was called to account.

    Surely, we must believe that eventually, so must other psychiatrists who cause such intense suffering and human devastation.

    Perhaps they too regard themselves as “mild, tolerant and understanding”?

    Those like you Helen, who witness and document these events deserve our trust, respect and gratitude for providing some of that fundamental and basic “Tender Loving Care” – “T.L.C” which is routinely and freely dispensed by genuine healthcare professionals.

    TRM 123. Retired Consultant Physician.

  20. Hello

    Unfortunately it is too late for me. Even though am now only 64 and I am finally putting the story together or realized the truth that has followed me my whole life. Let this long comment be my legacy as it may relate to your post. As a teenager I was considered the sick one in the family and eventually labeled as a psudoneurotic schizophrenic by a psychiatrist. I was just a scared kid trying to grow up who felt something was wrong with me and my mother just responded to help me. Once the diagnosis I felt like a broken person who would never have. Children because I didn’t want to pass this on to them. I was given every drug on the market back in the 50’s culminating in haldol which gave me horrendous neck spasms. My father was a good provider who emotionally abused me constantly and was extremely unpredictable. At times being kind and giving me cars etc and at times screaming at me for no apparent reason. I never knew how he would act or how I should react. I was also constantly bullied by neighbors across the street and at times was afraid to leave the house. My sister and I shared a room as teenagers she was 5 yrs older and she would undress in front of me as I pretended to sleep and I would get sexually aroused. Occasionally I would dress in her undergarments. The Psychiatrist heard about this from me and immediately we got separate rooms and I became extremely guilty of my sexual feelings especially after I found pornographic material in my father’s drawer and the psychiatrist confronted him about it. None of the other issues involved any discussions with the family or my sister. I became both the victim of my father as well as his “fixer” and my mother and I became each other’s protectors and whenever I had problems I was the sick one. And I secretly resented my sister. My sister stood up to my father but I didn’t. Meanwhile I secretly masturbated compulsively as a way to deal with stress. I never dated in high school but would imagine all the girls I liked and masturbated thinking about them. My father never really talked to me about sex or intimacy once saying only “you will never really know what love means” Eventually my father did see a therapist after my mother said to him. See what you are doing to your son. I eventually went to college and saw the psychiatrist during the summers. It was during one of these summers that he finally prescribed haldol. I got off it after having neck spasms. I was an excellent student but realize now I was a workaholic feeling superior to others but was also depressed. Many woman were interested in me and oddly seemed to want to specifically get sexually involved but I did not respond. I finally got close to a woman in my junior year who I liked but as we got closer and sexual I began feeling very anxious and stopped communicating. She got very upset about this and I got more and more upset and this time I was taken to an Orthomolecular psychiatrist who also diagnosed me as schizophrenic and prescibed first psych meds and then massive doses of vitamins over the summer. However going back to school my senior year I became more and more upset about the relationship that I had a nervous breakdown and dropped out of school. This was devastating to me and my father stopped talking to me as I came home in an extremely depressed and anxious state. All my peers and friends went on to graduate as I sat at home at times hiding in the basement out of shame when people came to visit. After several months my mother told me I could not sit around doing nothing and I got various menial jobs. Eventually I went back to another college and despite many challenges finally graduated going into therapy RET but no drugs. I also got involved with another woman and was sexual in a satisfying way but was not really intimate. I eventually decided that I wanted to attend graduate school in psychology out of state but never discussed it with her. She came to visit me in graduate school only to tell me that our relationship was over and refused to talk to me about it and in fact we never talked again despite many phone calls to talk with her.
    I never saw her again.

    Right after that relationship ended I became obsessed with another woman. On our first date I was ready to leave but she seduced me with oral sex but stopped me from reciprocating. I was smitten by her but later she told me she didn’t want to see me anymore because she had seen the results of my MMPI that a friend showed her that we were doing in an assessment class and she said I was a depressive. I was crushed as she began dating a classmate and I saw them together all the time. They eventually got married senior year. Once when I saw her she said she was jealous of me because I could just turn my feelings off so easily because I ignored her. I really was confused by this comment. I poured myself into work and used what I learned in RET to get me through. There were a few women interested in me but I didn’t respond well even though they were very nice caring women. One wrote me a long letter telling me she wished I was happy but she wasn’t not able to make me happy and that was why the relationship failed. I was a model grad student and did eventually get a PHD. At the age of 55 my father began to change and we began relating better but he died suddenly at the age of 60 from a heart attack after confiding in me that he had to find some way out of a job he hated. I still feel guilty not talking to him more about it

    To end a long post. I was successful in many ways and in many areas but seemed to sabotage myself each time and now realize I always made myself the victim. When in fact I often made bad choices or didn’t follow thru mostly based on fear. Following yet the loss of my longest relationship 4 yrs and the loss of a Workaholic job I slowly broke down again as I started having obsessive fashbacks to previous events in my life but this time was hospitalized several times for psychotic and delusional behavior including suicide attempts after my first hospitalization. In the hospital I had hallucinations which I swear were real but could not have been. Despite the best efforts of my family and many friends and good therapists I have become severely dysfunctional and pushed away all their help or sabotaged their efforts. Interestingly my sister is a happy successful very functional social worker who has had many serious issues but dealt with them with a family who after trying to help me many times and me lying to her has stopped communicating with me saying I have become severely self absorbed and I am not helpless and need to grow up. I was unable to go to my best friend’s or my mother’s funeral because of fear/anxiety. Many others including many of my friends have battled the same issues or much much worse divorce serious disease job loss child loss etc as they faced them as adults and have not given up I have not done so and that adds to my guilt fear.

    Mad’ Psychologist Speaks Out
    Helen Williams By Helen Williams June 10, 2017462818
    FacebookTwitterEmailPrintFriendly
    I am driving to my work as a clinical psychologist, doing battle with the abuse-related voices in my head…

    I can hear a voice which goes something like this:

    “You are useless.”

    “You are worthless.”

    “You deserve to die.”

    “Kill yourself.”

    When I arrive at work, I attend a meeting during which a patient who is hearing similar voices, which also relate to the abuse she suffered as a child, is told that she is suffering from ‘schizophrenia.’ The psychiatrist informs her that she must take antipsychotic medication for life, that she has “no hope of anything amounting to a normal life,” that she “will never work,” “will never improve or recover” and must no longer drive her car. There is talk of writing to the licensing authority, with a view to having her license removed, so that she will no longer be permitted to drive.

    The patient protests that she needs the car to take her children to school. What is she going to do, she asks — how is she going to be able to cope without her car? I try to speak up in support of her. The voices she hears relate to the abuse she suffered as a child, I explain. There are ways we could help her to understand the meaning of the voices and manage the voice hearing from a psychological perspective paranoid anxious and self destructive. I am addicted to klonopin as well. I am done.

    • Sorry for what you’ve been through, HSN. My condolences.

      I found a way to deal with my inner demons–whom I believe in quite literally. I decided they were fallen angels sent to torment me. But their major goal is to draw me into evil.

      Whenever one tries to talk me into suicide or tells me how worthless I am or how God hates me, I quote Scripture to him or tell him to bug off.

      Of course I’d never tell a shrink about this. Or even most people at church; they believe in a devil, but only as an abstract theory. For all practical purposes, American Christians have embraced the philosophy of materialism. Thus great targets for pharmapsychiatric quackery.

  21. Helen,

    I want to say thank you for your efforts to get clinical staff to see and value the reality of what is really happening in the lives of the people that they say they are providing “good treatment” for. It’s an almost impossible effort. I know because I see the same things happening that you describe here in your writing.

    I work in a state hospital where the clinical staff know that the problem is the chemically imbalanced brains of the people under their “care”. Therefore, trauma has no part to play in the problems that people experience. This is what the staff tell me on a daily basis. Trauma is never considered, talked about, or appreciated as the driving force of the behavior of many people in psychiatric facilities.

    I gave a presentation to clinical staff about trauma and the effects it has on peoples’ lives. Almost no clinical staff came to the presentation and one of the few psychiatrists who did attend stated quite casually that “they didn’t have time to fool with trauma, they had more important work to do!”

    So, I know for a fact that what you state here is absolutely true, unfortunately. It’s almost impossible to get anyone to consider how dealing with peoples’ trauma issues just might set them on their Journey of well-being. Thanks again for sharing.

  22. Thanks Helen for sharing these stories. I commend your strength in being able to continue to work in circumstances where such obvious truths are so routinely discounted, with horrible effects!

    I look forward to a time when it will be routine for everyone who works in the mental health field to understand the possible impacts of trauma. I do think better education is one way to move toward that goal; and related to that, I’m happy that it’s now up to 495 people enrolled in my online course, http://recoveryfromschizophrenia.org/working-with-trauma-dissociation-and-psychosis/ Now only maybe tens of thousands more people to reach…….

  23. To the author and all the commenters on this article:

    Youtube “educational” videos on psychiatric disorders are becoming more and more common these days. While I use a lot of educational material online to learn various things, these psychiatry related educational videos are a cause for concern because they teach things to laymen (and medical students too) with a heavy biological viewpoint. Many (not all) of these creators and content-watchers are people that have bare minimum practical experience with psychiatry, its drugs and the socio-legal and medical implications of psychiatric labels (at least not on the client side).

    The following are a series of video published by a man named Ben Garside (who I must say has some excellent videos on Mathematics):

    Bipolar Disorder Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXgXZ5bdzbE

    Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4QCbsLbFEI

    Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNF6-rW-POQ

    I left a comment on the 3rd part of the video stating:

    “I really liked your Maths videos on Cardano’s solution (given that it was useful to me as a Maths learner). It was a surprise for me to find videos on this topic here, but I have since learnt that you are actually a medical student. However, I have to say something here.

    These days people are being labelled bipolar due to side effects of psychiatric drugs prescribed for anxiety and depression. For example, people with anxiety or depression are commonly prescribed antidepressants, which are usually SSRIs (but sometimes non-SSRIs like bupropion too). A subset of the people who are placed on an SSRI will subsequently experience a manic episode caused by the drug and be labelled bipolar, despite the fact that such a manic episode never occurred and likely would never have occurred without the drug in the first place (to know more, you can see the paper “Age Effects on Antidepressant Induced Manic Conversion” by Martin A et al, which was the largest such study conducted on this phenomenon) . This is not just limited to SSRIs but also to stimulants like Ritalin. This is an iatrogenically created diagnosis in these cases (when the mania is not spontaneous).

    I think such heavily biologically based videos do a big disservice to the people labelled with DSM labels, who sometimes go through great traumatic things and abuse (not always, but sometimes). This seems to only show a “broken brain” viewpoint (though I admit, I have skimmed through your videos). Also, I will note that, some people who have spent long times in psych wards. can sometimes have up to 10 labels attached to them. For example, a single person will be labelled with the following: Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder etc. Are medical students now going to learn and teach about the biological basis of “multiple disordered people”?

    I would guide you to the website MadInAmerica to see how people have suffered through these things, leaving them only more traumatised than they began with. I have published your videos on the website on the article “Mad Psychologist speaks out”. With the heavy biological focus, comes disease mongering, a pathologising of problems in living, having social and moral decisions cast on people etc. Clinical psychiatry is very very different to what it is portrayed in such explanations. No one in practice is going to do any scans or neurotransmitter-level-checking tests in practice.

    Three things happen in actual real life practice: Talking, labelling and prescribing (sometimes forcefully[compassionate coercion]) drugs. If you’re particularly unlucky, having your autonomy taken away in varying degrees.

    Another thing has been missed out is that DSM labels are re-wordings of behaviour, and are not explanatory. Having a bipolar label only says (and is another way of saying) that a person may have experienced depression and mania, and not why those occurrences took place. For example, a man’s father dies, the stress precipitates a manic episode and he is thus labelled bipolar. In another instance, a person is prescribed an SSRI for anxiety which causes a manic episode and he is again labelled bipolar. These are very different circumstances. But, explanations like this give people the impression that there is something specific called “bipolar disorder” and the things explained in these videos are aberrations found in all people with the label.”

    • It’s hard to argue with smart people who think informed consent consists of reading the pamphlet that comes with your prescription. I was discussing this with a friend yesterday but, nice (and smart) as she is, she seems to trust that the info about drug dangers is already easily available and just kind of glosses over when I start talking about the issues such as drug company corruption, drug trial misinformation, statistic says about the ineffectiveness of ssris and benzodiazepines, and the harms of antipsychotics. I think the information just gets lost in her fear that we’re coming for her xanax.

  24. It’s not true stupidity (being cursed with a low I.Q.) A lot of it is simply cognitive sloth. My Mom has that problem. Never reads. Watches at least 10 hours of TV and gets noticeably restless if it’s off for more than ten minutes. She’s happy getting all her information off drug commercials.

    She realizes she may be in the early stages of dementia, but refuses to do anything proactive. Says “they have medicines for it.” I tell her most scientists agree now that these pills do not help cognitive decline. She responds “that’s not what the commercials say.”

    Pretty hopeless!

    • The marketers have spent decades researching what makes different populations tick. Did you hear about the political dossier that was amassed and then left vulnerable on an open server for 12 days this month. Doesn’t matter that it was associated with Republicans, all parties collect that information. Thanks to technology and the amassing of data, The marketers know more about than we know about ourselves! And that’s why tv works!

      • Sometimes I worry there’s something “wrong with me” because I’m almost immune to television. I also dislike stupid pop art (romance novels, country western music, formulaic movies etc.) Actually I hate having TV on for more than an hour a day. A lot of us psych survivors seem to have this oddity. Why, do you suppose?

        • I didn’t grow up with TV – we played outside. I used to have one when I was a young adult I gave it away in 2005 after I hadn’t turned it on for more than a year. We bought one last year to fill the space in a built-in media center in our house but we only watch Netflix on it. One or two shows in the evening while cooking and eating. No commercials that way. Sometimes people will mention some great new commercial and I have to look it up, I’m so out of the loop.

          For me, I find moving TV too stimulating and news channels traumatizing. Ive been reading the newspaper since I was three and have always been a bookworm. Except for the years I took antipsychotic medication. One of the wonderful things about quitting meds was regaining my ability to read, follow along and remember information.

          I think humans have always been able to be distracted by mindless entertainment. I think of the Roman Colliseum games or Pagan festival, English court jesters, etc…

        • Hey FeelinDiscouraged, I too am withdrawing from Effexor. I’m not sure how you are doing it. I have capsules that I take. I have found that the best way I can do it so to remove one ball from a capsule and go at that dose for 4 days, then remove another. I keep track on the calendar of how many of those little balls are in a capsule. I am down from 3 capsules to one capsule that only has twenty one little balls in it. I save the ones I take out of the capsules because now I am making up my own capsules with the ones I had removed previously so I am hoping to not have to buy anymore. I may need to pick up part of one more prescription before my prescription expires. I also take Advaclear to help with detoxing. It is expensive but as I don’t methylate well, it is a huge help in keeping withdrawal symptoms down. That and eating as little processed foods as possible and keeping gluten and sugar as much as possible out of my diet. I discovered dairy is an issue too. That and activated B vitamins as well as a high quality fish oil and magnesium. Make sure you have all the nutrients your body needs. I hope this helps, I don’t know if it will or not, but that is what keeps the side effects to a minimum. They were pretty bad in the beginning and so that is where I found that removing one of those little balls takes 4 days for my brain to fully catch up. It does okay as long as I give it the 4 days and don’t take out one little ball a day. Keep tweaking until you find what works best for you. Sam-e is good I’ve heard too, just expensive. Hang in there, there are people such as myself that understand. I began my withdrawal April of 2016 and am still not complete. Effexor is one of the hardest ones to come off of. Be gentle with yourself.

          • Hey Desi, now that you are down to the pointy end of the taper, you might slow down.

            It takes 3 weeks for your neurotransmitters to adjust to a change, that’s why at www. survivingantidepressants.org we recommend changes monthly, not as often as you are doing.

            And many people react to Sam-e, as it fiddles serotonin receptors. Visit Surviving Antidepressants for more information.

            Yes, Effexor is an evil one, because of it’s multi-neurotransmitter approach and deadly short half life.

          • I bet my nutritional needs aren’t being met. Lots of itching and dryness everywhere. Like my body is lacking oils as well as water. I’ve always had unusually oily skin for my age. Till now.

  25. So what IS the answer? How DO we heal? I have been coming off of an antidepressant for over a year now. My husband tells me I am depressed and need to be back on it all the way. I have digestive disturbances that are in part a result of being on this for so long as well as a cough. I am irritable and I do feel depressed. However, I look at what is going on currently in my life and I feel like what I feel is congruent with life. Does that make me depressed because instead of being numb I feel it? I have been in counseling but if seems like I am going nowhere with it. It seems like I need someone else to temporarily take control of my life so I turn to God for that. I don’t trust any human to do it. It seems to me that the current lifestyle I have is literally killing me but I can’t seem to find the door with the “exit” sign over it to leave. So how DO we heal from the past? I have forgiven all parties as I know they did the best they could at the time with what they had. Is this just the human condition? Does everyone live like this?

    • @desi12 – What a brave and valuable comment!

      How do we heal from the past? Maybe looking at the past helps you understand why you are how you are – but then there comes a time to let go and move forward. The past has made you who you are – and the present is bearing down on you trying to make you more, again. How can you protect your future hope? I think Letting Go is key. And you are so right – that thing called G-d – however you may perceive It – is the essence of healing.

      What is the fine line between your native stress and condition, and what have the drugs and psychiatry done to you? I do think that those of us who have been through the diagnosing and drugging are more sensitive to the life which we engage with. The “killing lifestyle” may not go away all at once, you might need to replace bits of it a little at a time. Some of my bad habits are hard to break, and we get so easily addicted to what is expected of us in society and family. After all, that’s what we’re “supposed to do,” right?

      I have taken a lot of peace from a myriad of little Practices. Right now, I like Natural Breathing, by Dennis Lewis (which might help with your digestion and cough) I have some energetic practices, as well as practical physical practices like tai chi/chi gung for pain, yoga for balance and stillness, karate for expression of anger, mental and social skills, and weightlifting for strength and rehabilitation. I walk in the sun for melatonin and vitamin D. I listen to music to uplift and feel, and heal. I love to read and learn from books and internet. I try to eat clean to prevent inflammation. I manage my daily stress to keep from getting overloaded (it happens altogether too easily sometimes!).

      NONE OF THESE stop the depression, the rumination, the palpitations. ALL of them combined – help, and the more of them I can do, and – (this is key) – express gratitude for – the better I get.

      I still “crash,” I still get depressed, and have my moments of hopelessness and helplessness. It’s probably very realistic in today’s world when we realize that it’s going to get very hard to be human very soon. So I rest, and wait until I’m able to do again. Then, as I re-engage my Practices, and my gratitude for every millimetre of growth, I find I’m growing again. The downtimes are less dramatic, less powerful, and shorter lived.

      There’s a lot to be said for the do-be-do-be-do of the Frank Sinatra School of Enlightenment.

      But I will not submit to doctors again for my emotional well-being.

        • I think job one is realizing that depression is a normal reaction of the body/mind to being in a place and time that isn’t working for you. It sounds like you recognize this yourself. What is it that you would like to be different about your life? What seems to be in the way of making that happen, internal or external? That’s pretty much how I worked with most of the clients I had, and I was very successful in helping them. Another aspect of depression is that it is generally engaged when we feel there is nothing we can do to alter the situation. It’s a self-defense mechanism so we don’t waste energy in a hopeless situation. But there are almost always things we CAN control that we often take for granted or fail to recognize as options. If you can start finding where you want to go, and find things you DO control that can lead you even slightly in the direction you’ve identified, you’ll start feeling a little better. It’s a lot harder than taking drugs and it takes longer and sometimes it’s scary because we have to do things we don’t want to do, but the solution ultimately takes us to a new place and we learn things that help us solve future problems.

          I’ve suffered a lot of depression in my life, but rarely do today. It’s been a long, long road but I’ve stayed on it and it’s led to a better place.

          Hang in there!

          — Steve

          • Hey Steve, I’m having a REALLY ROUGH TIME. Part of it comes from Effexor withdrawal. Severe social isolation, loneliness and grieving over my lost life make things even worse. I can’t stop crying for long. My parents are upset. I spend as much time alone in my room as possible so they won’t see my pain. Mom gets emotionally abusive and manipulative. Dad’s more reasonable but he has a short fuse and it’s hard to keep him from blowing his top.

            I’m not suicidal. I just feel my life is worthless. Sometimes I wish I were dead.

            I’m worried my folks will try to “help” me. Since they buy into the medical model of suffering–easier to stuff pills down me than acknowledge my pain–you can guess what form this help will take.

            I wish I could leave! But I can’t find housing on $733 a month. Too sick most of the time from withdrawals to earn any $$$.

            Do you know anyone who could possibly advise or help me?

            I’m at my wit’s end. Hence my moniker.

          • OK, so it sounds like you’d like to get away from your parents, but feel you can’t afford it. Is that the basic problem? It sounds like they are the ones making you nuts or reinforcing your upsetness.

            What would you like things to look like if you were moved away? See if you can visualize what it would look like if things were better.

            $733 a month isn’t much to start with. Where do you live? Are there housing agencies near you? Would you qualify under some other category for extra assistance – for instance, if you’re a domestic abuse survivor, there are funds that are specifically available to help AND specific housing resources reserved for that kind of problem.

            To really help, I’d need to know the resources in your area. I am sure there are many others who have suffered similar problems and found a way – I’m sure you can find something. But I know it’s really tough moving forward with all of the withdrawal effects, too! So maybe the first step is accepting that you’ll be there a while, and that your parents will be kind of jerky, and to make a plan of how you can respond that will minimally sap your energy? My wife came up with a plan to simply acknowledge the possibility that her mom was right about things – “That’s a good point.” “I can see how you might be worried about that.” “You’re right, life can certainly be dangerous at times.” Never actually agreed to DO anything her mom suggested, but it stopped the arguments when she seemed to agree. That’s just one approach. Sometimes you have to be creative, but that in itself can start to be almost fun if you take the right attitude – namely, this is a problem and I’m going to try different approaches and see what works, meanwhile not bothering to explain how I feel or try to alter their behavior one iota.

            The other thought for immediate improvement is instead of hiding in your room, to get outside, preferably to a wooded or grassy area where there aren’t too many people around. I find walking to be very rehabilitating, and sometimes I walk around and touch the trees and plants and say hello to the insects and birds and just get in touch with present-time reality. The further away you are from your parents, the easier it will be to relax and think straight, at least that’s what I’m guessing from what you shared so far. My guess is that they have been a big part of how you ended up being drugged in the first place. My parents were both really nice people, but they still contributed big time to me being fucked up as an adult. In some ways, I understand they did the best they could, but it was NOT good enough and they caused a lot of pain for us. Dealing with that was the MOST important thing I did to regain my emotional balance, but I had to not be living with them to do it. You can’t move away now, but you don’t have to spend all your time in that house.

            Don’t know if any of that is helpful at all – just kind of sharing what’s worked for me. Another path that can be helpful for some is to find a support group of adults dealing with childhood issues. It can help to tell your story and sometimes you can make friends or at least have colleagues who share your pain. Doesn’t work for everyone, but just thought I’d toss it out there.

            Bottom line, you can’t change how other people act. The only thing you completely control is your attitude toward their behavior. Not saying it’s easy, because it isn’t, but any small step you can take away from being under their control and observation will be a step toward becoming healthier and more capable and less depressed and hopeless.

            Hope that helps a little!

            —- Steve

          • Thanks Steve. I am aware that some of it is grief and not depression. It is difficult to get my husband to realize that as he automatically tells me it is depression and I need to get back on the meds. Some of this is kick back from still coming off of them. I am almost done and it may take awhile before my brain settles. Patience is key for that I think.

  26. Thanks for replying Steve. I probably wouldn’t qualify as an abuse victim. Dad quit slapping and cuffing my head 16 years ago when I told him it was unacceptable and threatened to go to a woman’s shelter if he did it again. With Mom it’s all verbal/emotional/manipulation.

    I have decided I can only deal with one thing at a time. I hate to do this, but I will have to put my Effexor taper on hold till I can earn extra income and move away from this negative situation. After 6-12 months I can continue the decrease. I cannot stand the horrible withdrawal symptoms and put up with Mom’s bologna sauce every day in such tight quarters. Even in my room I can hear her d___ television set blaring through the paper-thin walls of this single wide.

    Mom has no idea I almost developed an eating disorder at 19 because of her. Always telling me I was fat and ugly; I should get used to the fact that no decent guy would ever want me. After my bipolar diagnosis she would say I was too fat, ugly and CRAZY for any decent guy to ever want me.

    When I found guys who wanted me anyhow Mom would freak out. She just knew there was something wrong with the guy! After all, why else would he want someone like me?

    I almost eloped with an abusive lush a few years ago to escape. I’m glad I didn’t. Mom accused me of wanting to elope because I was “desperate.” I was indeed desperate, but it was to escape her and prove I was a woman not a monster after all.

    • I’d be desperate, too! What amazes me is that someone with an obvious historical and ongoing trauma background is drugged because of “brain chemistry problems.” WTF – did they think you’re supposed to be HAPPY about all this? It’s total victim blaming to me, and I’ve seen it a LOT.

      I think waiting to taper the Effexor makes a lot of sense. That’s another principle I try to apply – one thing at a time. Depression is also a reaction to being overwhelmed – kind of like “playing dead” when you can’t fight off an attack. It seems like getting clear from your parents’ influence has to be the priority. You’re like a Viet Nam vet with an apartment under the helicopter pad across from the gun range!

    • Hi FD, I hope you will take a look at some of the research regarding the brain-gut connection and bacterial imbalances in the gut. 80% or so of our neurotransmitters are actually produced in the intestines, not in the brain. This is the enteric nervous system. I have found enormous benefit from months of probiotic and prebiotic loading – both in the form of daily supplements and lactofermented foods, which are expensive to buy but can be cheaply and easily made at home. I believe it would go a long way toward helping you prepare for your next taper. Let me know if you’d like more info.

  27. Yes, it’s pretty funny. Not only do psych drugs not help us and injure us. Once you have a mental illness label everyone assumes you have no real needs beyond your “meds,” the bare basic physiological needs on Maslow’s hierarchy and nothing else. Aside from your psych “meds” you might as well be a dog. Only then the Humane Society would get on their case. It’s okay if you’re lonely, tormented or leading a rotten life as long as you take your meds.

    I am worried. Why am I so angry all the time now? I used to be depressed and suicidal. Now I’m mad as Heck and have trouble hiding it. My family is worried and wants me back to normal–or mildly depressed.

    Mom’s continual nagging and patronizing way of talking to me–like I’m some childish imbecile has been exacerbating my recent problem of picking at my skin and hairs till I’m going bald. Then she nags about that, making the problem even worse! Sometimes I get so upset that when I dine with her and Dad my stomach churns and I can barely eat. She only notices when I eat “too much” though. I am paranoid about eating in front of her and smuggle food into my bedroom where she won’t watch me.

    She’ll repeat things 20 times on the grounds that I won’t remember or obey otherwise. Stuff like taking a shower. My hygiene has been poor (it has also been much worse in the past) but her continual nagging makes me resent doing things I would normally do!

    I blew up at Dad when he accused me of manipulation today. I told him he said that “all the time.” That’s not even true. I don’t know why I said it. But MI professionals have often called me that and I wound up labeled BPD for using the only survival techniques that worked. I guess Dad touched a raw nerve.

    I am going to pretend I have the flu so I can skip church tomorrow. I need to get away from Mommy Dearest. The praise band is way too loud and hurts my ears and make my frayed nerves stick out all over. My senses are way too keen since coming off so many of my drugs. I wish I could find a church that was more open to singles but my dad insists I go where they do.

    • Angry is up the scale from depressed. I had to go through a very angry period before I came out the other side and started feeling rational. I think anger means you’re getting in touch with how YOU have been mistreated, instead of blaming yourself. Because depressed people mind their own business and don’t bother anyone, but angry people DO things – they FIGHT! I’d say respect that anger and see if you can use that energy to take action, as we talked about before. And too bad for them if they don’t like the “new you.” They have contributed to that anger and it’s about time they saw the real results of their behavior. That’s my take, anyway.

      — Steve