In commemoration of World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day coming on July 11th, I am providing an early first time debut at Mad in America of a new song and music video titled “Benzo Blue.” I am also sharing the written lyrics and a brief commentary on the evolution and significance of this song. Hopefully, MIA readers will be inspired to participate in a lively discussion of the particular role of this kind of political art in the comment section that follows the blog.
“Benzo Blue” (by Richard D. Lewis 2017) She’s climbing mountains / Nobody knows how high Such a lonely journey / A ladder to an endless sky There’s millions climbing by her side Unknown to each other /Just tryin’ to survive Life can have its problems / Anxious days and sleepless nights A simple pill and a label / To soothe her fight or flight Oh so safe / So easy / the doctors say Just trust and believe / all your worries away With one pill / Big Pharma / and the FDA --- Chorus: Now, some people think she’s crazy / And she doubts her sanity too But if they only knew / What it’s like to be ‘benzo blue’ It’s a blue so deep it’s almost black / And she doesn’t know if she’ll ever make it back For if they only knew / What it’s like to be ‘benzo blue’ --- It’s an all too common story / So many people must tell All taken “as prescribed” / Good intentions on a road paved to Hell Oh so safe / So easy / the doctors say Just trust and believe / all your worries away With one pill / Big Pharma / and the FDA She lives her life in one color / So many shades of grey With nights that linger so long / They’ll darken the brightest day Oh so sad / So sorry / the doctors say Still trust and believe / all your worries away With another pill / Big Pharma / and the FDA Repeat Chorus: Don’t send her to those meetings / They’re not her people, places, or things Cuz she’s never known addiction / It’s your drugs pulling the puppet strings Oh so sad / So sorry / the doctors say Still trust and believe / all your worries away With another pill / Big Pharma / and the FDA No more condescending saviors / With Bibles and prescription pads No more drugs and labels / For they will surely drive her mad Now she questions / everything her doctors say Can’t trust or believe / all her worries away She has her ‘Benzo Buddies’ / and her friends at MIA Damn all their drugs / Big Pharma / and the FDA And there’ll be no mercy / When Psychiatry finally has its day Repeat Chorus: (last phrase 2x)
Last August I picked up my guitar again after leaving it idle for many decades. I actively played for a brief period in my early 20’s (I am now 69 years old) as part of my post 1960’s radical activities; this included writing a few “organizing” type songs and singing at political rallies.
In 1990, while attending graduate school to be a counselor, I became a major critic of Biological Psychiatry after discovering the writings of Peter Breggin. And then in September of 2015, following 23 years of working as a counselor and fighting the complete takeover of the community “mental health” system by their oppressive medical model, I resigned out of protest from a clinic in New Bedford, MA. Today some of my current artistic efforts are focused on writing and performing music that is exposing of all forms of political oppression. I have especially targeted Psychiatry and all the related harm caused by their disease/psychiatric drug-based medical model of so-called “treatment” that deeply permeates every pore of our society.
Starting in January of this year I started singing at open mics in the southern part of Massachusetts and for a few weeks in Florida. I also wrote and started performing two protest songs specifically targeting psychiatry and Big Pharma. On my guitar I have large printed decals with the words “Psychiatry Kills” and “Resist Now.”
All this has created some interesting responses from various audience members. Interestingly enough, no one has expressed any hostile comments to these very provocative slogans. On the contrary, several people have approached me with personal stories about their harmful encounters with the psychiatric system. One man shared how he lost 12 years of his life to a series of 18 different psych drugs. One woman, after sharing her own successful struggle to liberate herself from psychiatric drugs and their related labels, insisted that I provide a copy of the words to one of my songs. A month later, when I encountered her at another open mic, she was so pleased to finally get a copy of the song’s lyrics, and she expressed strong support for my singing these type of songs publicly.
The song “Benzo Blue” was inspired by what I have learned from many personal conversations with benzo victims/survivors, combined with my reading of perhaps hundreds of firsthand accounts of those harmed by these drugs. In addition to this experience, I have seen many examples of benzo damage in my counseling work over the years, especially while working at the community mental health clinic. I have also known people who have died from benzo-related effects, and currently have close friends who are suffering from their history of being prescribed benzos.
While I have written several blogs at MIA on the worldwide benzodiazepine crisis, part of my focus has always been on the particular hidden role of benzos in the epidemic of poly-drug (opiate) overdoses that is sweeping the U.S. There is documented evidence of at least a 30% benzo involvement in these deaths. I believe, if all the data were available, this figure could be much closer to 50%. (See my previous blogs “Bridging the Benzo Divide: Iatrogenic Dependence and/or Addiction?” and “Who and What Killed Prince and Michael Jackson? Will the Role of Benzos Ever Be Revealed?”)
“Benzo Blue,” however, is NOT a song about addiction OR personal drug abuse, as should be very clear when hearing or reading the lyrics. This song highlights the struggles of the millions of worldwide victims/survivors of prescribed benzodiazepine drugs such as Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, and Valium. These are people whose only mistake was, unfortunately, trusting psychiatrists, primary care doctors, the FDA, and Big Pharma, and then agreeing to take their dangerous and harmful drug prescriptions strictly “AS PRESCRIBED.”
The results of all this has become an international medical nightmare of epic proportions; one that continues to fly below the radar of the medical profession and the general public. The above mentioned institutions have seemingly no interest in ending the prolific prescribing of benzos (100 million prescriptions a year in the U.S.); for all their profit and “power and control” are far too intoxicating for the ongoing maintenance of the current profit-based economic and political system.
Ending this benzodiazepine crisis requires major systemic changes throughout our entire society, thus this situation demands major organizing efforts from among the broad masses of people. Music and other art forms can play an important role in helping to end this crisis. It is my hope that this song, and others like it, will be spread broadly across the internet, and also be sung widely in many public gatherings. If people believe that “Benzo Blue” speaks the truth, by accurately representing the deepest pain and sentiments of benzo victims/survivors, then, by all means, share this music video throughout ALL your connected forms of social media.
Depressed moods, and/or a so-called deeply “blue” state of mind, represents only part of the totality of the benzo experience. Benzo survivors report a host of other side effects (or main effects) such as increased anxiety, insomnia, dysphoria, and loss of balance, just to name a few. There are also far too many examples of people taking their own life to escape the horrible effects of these drugs. This is why the chorus of “Benzo Blue” includes the line “…It’s a blue so deep it is almost black / And she doesn’t know if she’ll ever make it back…” — implying that this is FAR worse than just being “blue” in the more commonly used sense of the word.
The main character in “Benzo Blue” is a woman. Many men are also victimized by benzos and this song represents their experience as well. However, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of benzo victims are women; women are twice as likely to be prescribed various so-called “anti-anxiety” drugs, including benzos. Higher prescribing rates also exists for other categories of psychiatric drugs as well. This represents just one more example of the overall greater oppression women face in our society.
This song does not have some type of “happy ending” or even attempt to characterize so-called “recovery” from these drugs. The “jury is out” on many of these questions, even though there are many survivor accounts of successful efforts to taper off of these drugs and get some semblance of their lives back to normal. However, there are also many stories of very uncomfortable lingering effects still present long after a tapering process ends.
It is clear in the final verse of “Benzo Blue” that the woman character is beginning to show some signs of resistance, and she also has begun to reach out for social support and connection to help solve her problems caused by these drugs. The full story of the worldwide benzodiazepine crisis has only just begun to be told, and there are many more chapters to be written in the future. We all need to do our best to tell the true story, and various art forms can be an important medium to help accomplish this goal.
As many song writers know, we often agonize over the writing of every single line of our lyrical content. I did give deep thought regarding one of the last lines of the song “… And there’ll be no mercy / When Psychiatry finally has its day.” While it is true that all of organized medicine (along with Big Pharma and the FDA) has been involved in initiating and perpetuating the benzo crisis, psychiatry (along with their development of the DSM bible of psychiatric disorders) did have a particularly important initiating and expanding role in this sad chapter in medical history. And psychiatry still remains at the top of the pyramid of power here.
As detailed in books such as Psychiatry Under the Influence (Whitaker and Cosgrove) and Toxic Psychiatry (Peter Breggin), it was the collusion of psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry, using fraudulent science and PR campaigns, that pushed through FDA approval for Xanax and other benzos beginning in 1981. And it was one year prior (1980) that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) codified anxiety disorders in their DSM lll bible, and began their multi-billion dollar promotion and advertising of various benzos as the “solution” to life’s anxiety and sleep problems in modern society. The rest is history still being written.
I believe that psychiatry must ultimately have its day of judgement in our society. Certainly its top leadership must be held accountable for the overall harm caused by this worldwide benzodiazepine crisis. Without such a day of reckoning, there will be no “incentives” or “consequences” in our society for the necessary changes to take place to adequately protect the public from these types of medical abuses.
So I am saying to all the readers of this blog, “sing those songs of freedom” and promote art that challenges the status quo. Make good use of the open mics and other “busking” opportunities on street corners that exist in every city in this country. Sing “music that matters” and share your music and radical politics with other musicians, including a strong message that exposes all forms of psychiatric abuse.
To anyone who wants to discuss “Benzo Blue” and other similar songs in greater detail, including the lyrical content and the specific chords used, and/or how to promote this kind of music in your area, you may email me by using the Mad in America contact list.
“Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win.”
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
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And after everyone became “aware” of those evil benzos millions of people got put on Paxil, Zyprexa, Cymbalta, lamictal and the other chemical nightmares instead !
Epic long discussion on the last one https://www.madinamerica.com/2017/06/world-benzodiazepine-awareness-day-official-launch/
The odds overwhelmingly predict these people are going to make things worse the more they stir up the busybody government control freaks the same way the opiate prohibitionists created the war on chronic pain patients and turned their doctors and pharmacists into probation officers databases black lists and pee in this cup wile we look at your privates and all.
The last thing we need is the government types putting a virtual DEA agent in our doctors offices and practicing medicine with their “legislation”.
Not trying to be a troll here, I survived the benzo nightmare, I know alot about this. I say beware of benzo awareness day.
Congrats Richard on your artful and soulful song of resistance to the good ship USS Commercial Enterprise. I love these stirring last lines of your well-meditated song:
She has her ‘Benzo Buddies’ / and her friends at MIA
Damn all their drugs / Big Pharma / and the FDA
And there’ll be no mercy / When Psychiatry finally has its day.
My only concern is whether this meditation on the material world and the truth of what happens to people is a clear-eyed perception of reality, or an anger-rage fueled and vainglorious desire for revenge. Are these songs you speak of truly organizing or agonizing, I ask respectively of your genuinely authentic desire to see a revolution in mental health.
You seem, as I did and still do, to place your faith (belief) in science to clarify the condition of being human, and quite rightly resist the cloak of pseudo-science that the average psychiatrist wraps themselves in. Yet, after decades of spontaneous experiences, the ancient Greeks called the great Muse of Mania, and modern-day medicine calls an affective psychosis or an aspect of the Bipolar experience, I feel that we may be barking up the wrong tree, in our rational response to psychiatry.
After my first experience of non-normality reality back in 1980, my need to understand the nature of my experience of non-duality (sensations of oneness that refused to named) I turned, by chance (synchronicity) to Joseph Campbell and his notion that: “myth is much more important than history, because history is simply journalism and we all know just how reliable that is.”
While these days, after being a decade free of any form of ‘self-treatment,’ preferring a more embodied sense of ‘self-regulation,’ to ‘doing’ something to myself. I see and call for a Comparative Mythology approach to the illusions of biological psychiatry. For this community knows well the myth of mental illness, the myth of a chemical imbalance and the myth of a chemical cure, while I, through the reality of lived experience know the myth that I truly know myself because I memorize numbers, letters, and words.
It is within this sense of knowing the normal mind’s vicarious (second hand) sense of reality that your argument is coherent to me, yet I feel it is also incongruent to our common experiential reality, where all our ‘idealizations,’ as scenarios of hoped for possibility, fall upon an inevitable probability, as subconsciously motivated behavior claims the day, over and over, again.
I know you do your best to see through ‘homo-normalis-rationalis’ (a term coined by the anarchist alienists of the 60’s & 70’s) much-loved sense of “I think therefore I am,” so I finish my critique with an extract from Descartes first meditation:
“It may be that although the senses sometimes deceive us concerning things which are hardly perceptible, or very far away, there are yet many others to be met with as to which we cannot reasonably have any doubt, although we recognize them by their means. For example, there is the fact that I am here, seated by the fire, attired in a dressing gown, having this paper in my hands and other similar matters. And how could I deny that these hands and this body are mine, were it not perhaps that I compare myself to certain persons, devoid of sense, whose cerebella are so troubled and clouded by the violent vapours of black bile, that they constantly assure us that they think they are kings when they are really quite poor, or that they are clothed in purple when they are really without covering, or who imagine that they have an earthenware head or are nothing but pumpkins or are made of glass. But they are mad, and I should not be any the less insane were I to follow examples so extravagant.
At the same time I must remember that I am a man, and that consequently I am in the habit of sleeping, and in my dreams representing to myself the same things or sometimes even less probable things, than do those who are insane in their waking moments. How often has it happened to me that in the night I dreamt that I found myself in this particular place, that I was dressed and seated near the fire, whilst in reality I was lying undressed in bed! At this moment it does indeed seem to me that it is with eyes awake that I am looking at this paper; that this head which I move is not asleep, that it is deliberately and of set purpose that I extend my hand and perceive it; what happens in sleep does not appear so clear nor so distinct as does all this.
But in thinking over this I remind myself that on many occasions I have in sleep been deceived by similar illusions, and in dwelling carefully on this reflection I see so manifestly that there are no certain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness from sleep that I am lost in astonishment. And my astonishment is such that it is almost capable of persuading me that I now dream.
Now let us assume that we are asleep and that all these particulars, e.g. that we open our eyes, shake our head, extend our hands, and so on, are but false delusions; and let us reflect that possibly neither our hands nor our whole body are such as they appear to us to be. At the same time we must at least confess that the things which are represented to us in sleep are like painted representations which can only have been formed as the counterparts of something real and true, and that in this way those general things at least, i.e. eyes, a head, hands, and a whole body, are not imaginary things, but things really existent.
For, as a matter of fact, painters, even when they study with the greatest skill to represent sirens and satyrs by forms the most strange and extraordinary, cannot give them natures which are entirely new, but merely make a certain medley of the members of different animals; or if their imagination is extravagant enough to invent something so novel that nothing similar has ever before been seen, and that then their work represents a thing purely fictitious and absolutely false, it is certain all the same that the colours of which this is composed are necessarily real.
And for the same reason, although these general things, to wit, [a body], eyes, a head, hands, and such like, may be imaginary, we are bound at the same time to confess that there are at least some other objects yet more simple and more universal, which are real and true; and of these just in the same way as with certain real colours, all these images of things which dwell in our thoughts, whether true and real or false and fantastic, are formed. To such a class of things pertains corporeal nature in general, and its extension, the figure of extended things, their quantity or magnitude and number, as also the place in which they are, the time which measures their duration, and so on.
That is possibly why our reasoning is not unjust when we conclude from this that Physics, Astronomy, Medicine and all other sciences which have as their end the consideration of composite things, are very dubious and uncertain; but that Arithmetic, Geometry and other sciences of that kind which only treat of things that are very simple and very general, without taking great trouble to ascertain whether they are actually existent or not, contain some measure of certainty and an element of the indubitable. For whether I am awake or asleep, two and three together always form five, and the square can never have more than four sides, and it does not seem possible that truths so clear and apparent can be suspected of any falsity [or uncertainty].” -R Descartes.
As Socrates may ask us with a well-meditated ‘nature-philosophy,’ is our fractured and multi-voiced opinion of what is really happening in the world, a sure-footed and true ‘knowledge,’ or is it, as R.D. Laing may ask us, simply the politics of experience?
Fascinating quote from Descartes. Thanks so much for sharing it. It reminds me in part of the Spanish play by Calderon de la Barca from 1635: La vida es sueno. “La vida es sueno y todos los suenos suenos son.” “Life is a dream and all dreams are dreams.” What a challenge we have of trying to determine what is “real”. And especially for those whose experience is not totally in the realm of “consensual reality.” Art and music and myth do help enormously in our quest for meaning and self-understanding.
Hi Bet, its ‘interesting,’ a word/term I use in the context of Silvan Tomkins understanding of our innate (inborn) ‘affect-system,’ of which he believes, “nothing crosses the ‘threshold’ conscious awareness, without the ‘stimulus’ of an innate-affect.
While Karon, a co-editor of Tomkins Affect Imagery Consciousness, a title he refused to be edited with commas because he believed in a whole body creation of conscious awareness, which current researchers suggest is actually ‘edited’ by the brain, in our survival need of ‘foreground – background’ attention to what is happening in the ‘external’ environment.
Interesting too, that Don Quixote, remains the best-selling novel in recorded history.
For we do, do we not, love to tilt at windmills? While simply taking for granted, the ongoing mystification & objectification of our human experience.
I confess, that the ‘impulse’ to take my lived-experience for granted, has been the greatest ‘sin’ ( the original meaning of this word/term, was mark.), in that way that daughters retain the mark of their mothers, with their seemingly effortless capacity to inflict upon men; THE LOOK! “Oh No, please darling, not the look. You make me feel so small.”
The Generalisimo heads of psychiatry have learned this neat existential trick too, have they not? And to respond to your authentic desire to go beyond the ‘politics of experience’ here on MIA, Jungian dream analysis does take note, whenever the subject dreams of a house, in that way of dreaming Freud called ‘displacement.’
Hence, some, Christians are now contemplating whether the New Testament story of Jesus, the Christ, as St Paul often wrote, can actually be pondered consciously, as a ‘parable’ of the human condition, as relevant to any Sun-Day, as it was back in the day.
All I can add to this world-view, in the context of this community, is the possibility that the community is yet to ‘realize’ its role in history, and I suggest that Plato’s ‘metempsychosis’ involves a realization of reality ‘as it is,’ that was understood during pre-history, in the ‘pain-inflicted’ rights of passage, for young men.
IMHO so-called civilization has led us away from a ‘participatory-consciousness’ which every human being is born with, and into a too cerebral sense of reality, as mere words. I do understand the community’s current need of re-energizing its postural attitude towards biological psychiatry, yet I question the selective use of comments by those it claims as hero’s, like R. D. Laing, who as an alienist, was offering an existential critique of what Maslow calls ‘home-normalis-rationalis.’
If Laing was anti-anything, it was stupidity and the commonsense denial of embodied experience. As some philosophers say, denial is the ‘stone’ the builders of civilization reject.
I had some time to spend with your comment.
Thanks for the responses to my music video. It is always nice when someone is inspired to actually quote the words from one of your songs or poems.
You said: “My only concern is whether this meditation on the material world and the truth of what happens to people is a clear-eyed perception of reality, or an anger-rage fueled and vainglorious desire for revenge. Are these songs you speak of truly organizing or agonizing,…”
I am definitely seeking a “…a clear-eyed perception of reality…” and I believe, while there is some definite room for “anger and rage” in our responses to oppression, I think we definitely need to avoid “revenge.” Because “revenge” will eventually eat you up and cause people to take on the mantra of their enemies; all of which will derail our efforts to make a more humane world through Revolutionary change.
However, just punishment for those (in the Psychiatric/Pharmaceutical/Industrial/Complex) who have committed gross crimes of fraud and criminal/medical negligence, is a prerequisite for change to occur in any thorough going way in the world. This, however, will require mass movements toward change, and we have a ways to in order to achieve those conditions.
In fact, I will say that, unless and until, the material conditions exists in the world for their to be true justice dished out to those in power who oppress people, than there will be NO substantial change towards ending the miscarriages of justice such as the worldwide benzo crisis.
I am from the school of thought that says “I am therefore I think.” But I appreciate the role of dreams and mythology to help illuminate the real world and provide different forms of art and entertainment.
Good to hear from you and have your encouragement,
Hi Richard, thanks for your considered response, I do appreciate it, considering the business of survival, platitudes of reply one usually receives in these online forums.
As a boy, my father used to say, “if brains were dynamite son, do you have enough to part your hair?” And in response to my ‘I hope so,’ he would say “me too, for you will have to keep your wits sharp in the face of the unbelievable things that WILL happen to you.” While I might offer a little ditti of my own, in the existential context of hope:
Chicky, chicky dido, dido. Chicky, chicky dido Dido,
There will be no white flag upon my door (of conscious awareness)
for I’m in love (with life) and always will be.
My apologies to Dido for this refrain upon her wonderful ode to love.
As Jung pointed out in the Red Book, mixing sense with nonsense is the great privilege of the creative’s, who resist the yoke of reason’s stiff neck.
BTW allusions to said ‘stiff-necked’ nature of reason, are in the Old Testament. yet who can Adam & Eve it? (slang term for, believe it)
“Thinking begins only when we have come to know that reason, glorified for centuries, is the stiff-necked adversary of thought. -Martin Heidegger
And as Yeats so mystically suggests in his famous poem, The Second Coming, what rough beast do we now perceive slouching ever closer to Bethlehem? (house of bread)
Kepp on thinking and singing Richard, and don’t let them psychiatric norm’s perceive that you perceive the web they weave.
Sorry about the long blocks of uninterrupted text and any grammar mistakes, but the A.R. prevented me from editing, telling me this comment is ‘perceived’ as spam.
While to paraphrase Pink Floyd, this feels like; Welcome my son, welcome to the machine!
Good to see your creative side coming out Richard. With luck we’ll get to jam someday.
The original movement had a rich and multi-faceted cultural side. Our Woody Guthrie was Howie T. Harp, legendary founder of Project Release. Somewhere on the web may be some recordings of him singing some of his anti-psychiatry favorites, including “That’s Called Therapy” and “Crazy and Proud.”
I found a few You Tube videos of Howie the Harp talking but not of his songs. I will keep searching. Hopefully, we can keep “politically jamin'” as well.
I found one of him playing blues harp behind a woman singing, but that’s about it. Speaking of Woody Guthrie, when I saw the slogan on your guitar it made me think of the one he had on his. 🙂
Richard — powerful song and performance and very professional video!! Well done!! Very strong message. I’ve shared in on Facebook. All the best, Bet
Thanks for listening and thanks for the support. With your background in music I take that as a big compliment. All the best to you as well,
That was a shockingly good performance, lovely tune, and surprisingly well produced video. I’ve often heard that the difference between the protests of the 60s/70s and my generation’s protest movements has been the current lack of quality protest music. Music and art remain uniting forces even after dialogue breaks down. We need more of this. Thank you.
Thanks for those kind and supportive words. Yes, that is an insightful comment about the role of art in our movement. Sometimes art can go places and reach people that other forms of protest cannot.
For someone who never experienced it firsthand, you captured it so well.
Thank you – not only for the song, but also for your activism with the MA bills you supported last year and will hopefully support this year.
Your compliment means so much to me. Yes, I will be involved in supporting the MA bill this year
Loved it! Makes me feel sad though, I guess the clue is in the title. Music is such a powerful weapon, it breaches the defences and gets into the soul like nothing else – exactly what we need right now. Encore!
Thanks for the compliment. I know that you have some great anti-psychiatry political art as well. And yes, I do have another anti-psychiatry song (being partial, I think it is as good as “Benzo Blue”) that will take some time to develop the appropriate video presentation in the near future.
This song was really touching. One of my “benzo buddies” you mentioned cried when she heard it. The song came at such an opportune time, too, as the benzodiazepine withdrawal support community is about to observe World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day on July 11th and then the MA “Benzo Bills” are scheduled for hearing later in July, as I’m sure you know. Thank you, also, for making space for the as prescribed victims of this class of drug – that’s so important and means so much. I can so relate to the girl in this song. It feels like she is me.
I just love it, Richard! Keep being creative, you’re so good at it!
My best, J Doe
I can’t tell how important your comment is to me. Of course, you and your powerful blogs at MIA were an important inspiration for this song. And all the other people who have written about their benzo experiences are also in this song.
Knowing that someone became tearful watching the video brings tears to my eyes. It is is the kind of emotion that makes us feel the most human and want to make this world a far more humane and just place to live. I know that it is wishful thinking that by July 11th 2022 (“…and there will be no mercy when psychiatry finally has its day…”) some of the people responsible for this worldwide benzo crisis might be tried in a court of law and justly punished, so we clearly have much work to do ahead of us. Carry on!
Great song Richard. Well done. Great lyrics too. I particularly like these lines:
“It’s a blue so deep it’s almost black / And she doesn’t know if she’ll ever make it back
For if they only knew / What it’s like to be ‘benzo blue’”
If they only knew… exactly. Well done.
Slaying the Dragon of Psychiatry
Thanks for the compliment. Once I had the lyrics you quoted above, I knew I had something important to complete and get out to the people.
My youngest daughter, who is not a survivor, did the video editing and helped me pick out the best images and find the best places to put them in the video.
The picture of the woman hiding her face (in obvious distress) next to the tree, is the one that gets to me the deepest every time I see it – “With nights that linger so long/ They’ll darken the brightest day.”
I was honored to have previewed this. Thank you for not violating one of the 1st rules of social justice- speaking for the oppressed without them.. “Nothing about us without us”..
I love how it follows the consciousness raising and self development in the learning process that it takes to become a “psychiatric survivor”. It’s quite the journey and this song captures that well; following our heroine from ‘labels and prescription pads to benzbuddies and MIA’. You have got to be pretty solid in yourself to say 1. all of these esteemed authority figures dressed up in white coats and degrees as well as SYSTEMS (like “Big Pharma and the FDA”) are all wrong and 2. I’m hallucinating and want to kill myself, and I’m the correct one here. “ “Now, some people think she’s crazy / And she doubts her sanity too”.. It’s unfortunate that trauma is what brings many of us to psychiatry’s doorstep. “A simple pill and a label / To soothe her fight or flight”.By the time we enter the system, we are use to having reality denied (note not ‘our reality’; but REALITY). I can also relate to getting no validation from the ‘authority figure’ of 12 Step groups you touch upon as well and I know many of my fellow benzo/psych victims can too in varying degrees.
Interesting how the standard mental health paradigm (purports) encouraging self- development, freedom, personhood and all the rest. It’s true that psychiatry lead me to all of these things, just not how they’d have it: rather through its’ rejection! On a good day, I view my immense suffering as psychiatric victim/survivor as an odd, great gift.
A line which particularly cut me to the core was “ It’s a blue so deep it’s almost black / And she doesn’t know if she’ll ever make it back”. From my testimony for the MA. ‘Benzo Bill’: “There were many days where every few minutes I would have to tell myself not to commit suicide, both from the uncomfortability of a CNS on fire but also from depressive haywire rumination”. And “also of great concern was my cognitive state, especially because I was unsure of where this was going. Put it this way: at four months off I was attending a psychiatric hospitalization day program and it occurred to me that I was unable to do ‘the math’ involved in trying to calculate crossing the busy intersection near its building”.
“But if they only knew / What it’s like to be benzo blue”. So many philosophical questions to keep picked apart from what is happening to people’s brains really from psychiatry’s tentacles. Questions about the mind-body connection, the soul, about compassion. What keeps me up at night most are the epistemological points about this distance between different people’s experiences which that line draws on. Well done. D. Oakes says we shouldn’t shock the shockers (I haven’t gotten there yet 🙂 ). From my testimony “..”what we go through is beyond the bounds of what is natural, and I find it hard to believe that anyone who has not experienced it would understand”. That of course leads to the question that If people knew, would they care? I’d like to think we’d at least round up some more supporters.
Where is the revolution?? Psych victims, (who are able), quite frankly need a fire lit under their butt. Your life has been ruined, or nearly ruined for corporate greed and you’re just going to take it? Mobilize! We’re no longer “going to be unknown to each other, just trying to survive”: we’re going to organize goddamnit. It’s amazing how victims of all sorts often cling dearly to dominating paradigms.
Where’s the backlash? I think projects like this will help fuel that fire, so thank you, thank you. Thank you for being one the few who has not experienced this themselves who not only ‘gets it’, but takes it one step further, cares enough to do something about it. People like yourself have a rough road. Solace should come from knowing you are on the right side of history. As I said, validating, resonating. Great work. We’re lucky to have you.
That was one of the most in depth and meaningful comments to anything I’ve ever written at MIA. Your support for my work on this video and your suggestions for changes in my blog were incredibly valuable and validating to me.
Just as you believe “Benzo Blue” validates the experience of benzo victims/survivors, your words and support also validates me. I’ve been at this (trying to make Revolutionary changes in society) since 1968. It is hard not lose faith that these kind of changes are possible in the world.
Your call to action to all survivors (who are able), is the kind of passion and commitment that is vitally needed in this movement. We do have to find the ways to ignite those sparks of rebellion that can someday very suddenly erupt into a prairie fire of mass action that will lead to the necessary systemic changes in society.
Sometimes we may not even be aware that the material conditions (which have been developing and changing in seemingly imperceptible ways) are ready to explode in rebellion. So we all must persevere to not miss these historic opportunities when they arise.
The world is now a very volatile place to live and there will be dramatic changes in the not to distant future. HOWEVER it is not clear which historical direction these changes will take us – forward or backwards (towards more fascist control and oppression). It is up to us to mobilize and make sure this direction will be FORWARD.
Over the past 4 decades Psychiatry and their Disease/Drug Based paradigm of so-called “treatment” has gotten stronger DESPITE some very significant scientific and political exposure in the past 2 decades. Benzo prescriptions are rising as we speak. Psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry profit levels (and their system of social control) may have become “too big to fail” for the current economic and political system.
So the movement we are trying to build here cannot ONLY focus on single incremental issues or have a strategy of “going it alone” separate from other movements challenging the status quo. We all must raise our heads and see the big picture here while we search out multiple allies in this broad based struggle for major social change. I do believe the struggle against psychiatric abuse can be an important tributary feeding a much larger river that someday may “wash away the old and sweep in the new.”
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win! Comradely,Richard
This is excellent, Richard. Thanks for using your super-powers to do good.
Your comments are always so meaningful here at MIA. And when you like something I’m doing I know that I’m on the right track in those efforts. That is, “right” or “correct” in historical direction, and NOT “right” in political leanings!
I just happened to have spent the last couple of days recording a new song. It’s focused on ECT, just like my last couple of songs, but there are other issues included.
This was one I did a year ago:
This is really wonderful–the melody and the message stays with you. I particularly like the harp playing! If you open mic in the Berkshires, it would be great to catch this live.
Thank you for the positive feedback. I’ll let you know if I’m ever out that way.
Well done Richard! You’re looking well. Hope Sue is doing fine.
I also picked up my guitar after a while, in 2015 after experiencing another psychosis, recorded some songs on SoundCloud:
Managed to transition the psychosis this time around avoiding psychiatry, just took Lorazepam on a couple of nights to regulate sleep and enjoyed the altered mind states experience, supported by clinical friends virtually, a psychologist and psychiatrist. Took up knitting, swimming again, also a new activity cycling! Been to Rothesay, Isle of Bute, with bike, in a day from Springfield, Fife, where I live. From East to West of Scotland and back. Great fun. Here’s a photo album of the adventure:
My son Daniel is doing better now, over 5yrs after being abused in locked seclusion room of our local psychiatric hospital locked ward. He tapered Haloperidol within 5 months of discharge April 2012 with support of psychiatrist and my peer mentoring. The first year or two was very difficult. Flashbacks from the psychiatric abuse. I eventually got an apology from NHS Fife. They got £4.4million from Scottish Government. It pays to abuse mental patients. We got poorer, can’t afford a car now. It’s not easy speaking out against oppressive systems.
I’m working to promote, eventually develop Safe Houses for Psychosis in Scotland, Fife first, alternatives to coercive psychiatric drug treatment. Had hoped to do a PhD/doctorate but that hasn’t transpired so far. There’s a bit of resistance here to survivor voices. But that won’t stop me!
Bye for now, Chrys
Thanks for the positive feedback and thanks for the update on all your activities, including the bumps in the road in your life’s trajectory.
You are clearly a “survivor” in every sense of that word. You have such a positive attitude about pushing forward and experiencing every aspect of life, despite any and all setbacks.
You have quite a collection of songs and you carry yourself very well musically. I like that woman singer you have on your Facebook as well.
It sounds like you are on the cutting edge of providing some very helpful resources for those people experiencing severe emotional distress. I hope you write about this at MIA.
Sue says hi and is impressed with all that you do and accomplish.
All the best,
Thanks for responding Richard! Also thanks to Sue for her encouragement too.
Your suggestion about writing something for MIA is interesting and I will think about it. I came off as a writer in September 2015 because I was working through another psychosis and had to draw back, focus on keeping well. I’m stronger for the experience, particularly avoiding psychiatric treatment.
Mr. Lewis I sent a direct message you through the contacting option. I was not sure if you were able to receive it so I figure I attempt a different method by replying to this thread. The last comment was made last year, but hopefully you see this because I am in need of your services.
Excellent! Thanks so much.
I see a few others have posted music about problems with psych treatment. My dad had lots of problems with anxiolytics given at the hands of “one of the foremost psychiatrists in the world”. From what I saw, which is admittedly only part of what was going on, it seemed the meds made him much worse while making him think it was to make him better.
I also suffered unjust forced hospitalization in a foreign country, done in the name of “service” to my ex who framed a disagreement about planning as my need for emergency psych treatment. I’ll spare everyone a description of all the problems that resulted, and instead share a piece of music I wrote and recorded entitled “memory of a lightweight lobotomy”. It’s at https://www.facebook.com/william.cotton.9235
Richard! Thank you for this!
I wish I was even just a tiny margin as talented, as gifted, OR perhaps as free to find them.
It is not enough to stop them, they need to answer as to WHY. What were their individual reasons? Besides protecting their pride?