Life Sentence: Life Behind the Bars of the Mental Health System

Sandra Villarreal
38
2813

My name is Sandra. I aspire to hopes and dreams just like everybody else. I’m a hardworking woman, taking great pride in my manual labor jobs that keep me physically fit. Because of my love for the great outdoors, my dream is to eventually work in the Parks and Recreation Department in some capacity. I highly value my integrity, honesty and creativity. I am friendly, social and active. I’m fun-loving, inheriting my father’s dry sense of humor, sense of adventure and gift of gab. I inherited my mother’s love of nature, independence and self-sufficiency. I strive to fulfill my American Dream: cherishing my children beyond words, looking forward to my life with them, them with me, settling down with a husband somewhere in a small country home with a few horses, flower beds, a vegetable garden and cats galore. I do not expect nor want anything fancy. My goal is to live a very simple life. I’m ambitious, goal driven and highly motivated, making sure I accomplish my dreams.

But, that was my previous life.

That was before my dreams were shattered by psychiatric labels and drugs. The mental health system displaced me from my normal life, forcing me to live on the other side of the tracks, pushing me to the fringes of society.

Over thirty-five years ago, at the age of 22, my local community mental healthcare system gave me a life sentence. By then, I’d been living with PTSD for years following two violent rapes. The first rape was at knifepoint when I was 13 years old, the other at 19 when I was kidnapped and taken to a cemetery for the night by two unknown men. Both experiences were terrifying. I was also trying to adjust to living with my new abusive, alcoholic husband that I did love. So, I sought out the guidance of a psychiatrist, in whom I put my utmost trust. Instead of the help I anticipated, the psychiatrist labeled me with bipolar disorder, telling me that I had a chemical imbalance in my brain. I quickly found out that the minute you sit down in the chair in a mental health professional’s office, you’re no longer seen as a person. The mental health system is incapable of seeing past the solid wall of your current label. Their only cure is drugs.

Little did I know that the drugs I was prescribed during that visit would change the entire course of my life. Due to the severe side effects, adverse effects and continuous withdrawal symptoms I experienced from at least 60 different medications and rounds of ECT doctors used to treat the ‘diseased’ mind they said I had, for decades, my entire life was stuck in the revolving door of psychiatric hospitals, intensive care units, police stations, jails, burn units, alcohol treatment centers and AA meetings. My twin sister was the only relative that ever helped me. She often flew to Michigan from Florida to help me care for my five-acre property after I became too disabled to do it myself, when I had always taken great pride in doing it myself before. Only rarely did I ever experience true peace.

During the third decade of being stuck in that unrelenting revolving door of hell, Klonopin was introduced into the mix after I developed insomnia due to the Ritalin prescribed to treat my drug-induced depressions. What I didn’t know, nor would any doctor tell me, was that my life was about to go from bad to worse. That I would be in for the fight of my life. I’d already survived two intentional drug-induced comas trying to escape my endless suffering. Into my second year of taking Klonopin, my anxiety actually increased until panic attacks set in and I was no longer able to leave my house. I developed agoraphobia, which I had never experienced before. My crippling depressions, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts and behavior intensified. I developed sinus problems, watery diarrhea, urinary problems and intense migraines, and I increased my alcohol intake to combat the side effects until I became a full-blown raging, violent alcoholic. Over these years, I was no longer a wife to my husband, but had become his patient. This eventually destroyed my eighteen-year marriage; he finally walked out and never looked back. Every day, I hated God for keeping me alive.

After eight years of suffering on my medications, along with my recent overdose, in which I emptied yet another bottle of Klonopin in combination with a fifth of vodka in an attempt to escape from the living hellish nightmare I found myself in, I decided that enough was enough. The mental health system had never addressed my suicide attempts; they just kept prescribing the drugs to do it with. So, I thought I would take things into my own hands.

I’d been attending classes at my community mental health center for exactly a year, so I knew my mental health-care workers well and had good rapport with them all. They came to my tidy, comfortable, country home weekly to refill my medication box, where we often sat at my kitchen table and chatted. It was here where my drug and alcohol addictions specialist informed me it should be “just fine” to stop taking my Klonopin if I wanted to do so, without mentioning one single withdrawal symptom I might experience. So, with his permission in addition to the blessings of my DBT teacher and my therapist, I in fact did just that. I quit my Klonopin cold turkey, and I was proud of myself for making what I believed was a positive life-changing decision to end my addiction to this drug.

Within two weeks, bizarre symptoms appeared. My anxiety levels became so high I could no longer drive. The only way I can describe this is that time and space themselves became too difficult. Severe paranoia set in, and I felt like I was high on acid. Every window in my house was covered with blankets due to my light sensitivity. I couldn’t eat, bathe or care for myself in any sense of the word. I was sweating profusely and had chills at the same time, and I experienced pounding migraines so painful it felt like my head was in a vise twenty-four hours a day. Confusion, hallucinations, vivid nightmares, delusions, obsessive/compulsive thinking and depersonalization set in. I couldn’t walk without bouncing off the walls. Panic attacks and fear of dying haunted my every waking moment.

My mind had become the enemy. I could not process any incoming information of any kind anymore. Not TV, radio or books. Therefore, I lived in torturous silence. I hid in my bedroom under the covers, hallucinating that my skin was crawling. All I could do was sit and cry. I prayed for a gun to kill myself with every second of every minute of every hour of every day until they melted into weeks.

I had no idea why I was losing my mind, going insane, and no one would tell me. I saw my workers every week, who blamed me for my symptoms: “It’s your Bipolar resurfacing,” “It’s because you’re an alcoholic,” “It’s your Borderline Personality Disorder,” “It’s because you’re not trying hard enough to be well.” Blame the patient. Always, at all costs — blame the patient.

As I became more and more psychotic, I lost my sense of what time was. It didn’t exist in my world. I no longer knew that a piece of paper was a piece of paper. I no longer knew how to empty an ashtray, eat or drink water. I no longer knew how to talk. I lost my ability to do things most people take for granted. My ongoing seizures weren’t even the worst part; my terror-stricken psychosis was. It felt as if time and space had begun crumbling in on itself, with no way out of this nightmare. I found myself living in utter panic and endless pain, alone.

I was refused access to my psychiatrist not once, but twice, by my therapist. She said, “Sandy, you have to wait until your next appointment three weeks away.” I informed her, “I’m not going to last that long.” And I didn’t. I ended up in the psychiatric hospital shortly thereafter, after repeatedly stabbing myself in the leg so I could feel something, anything, other than the mental torture I was going through at home alone.

Upon release from the psychiatric hospital, my withdrawal symptoms resumed full force. I went five straight days with no sleep whatsoever, after which my body began shaking uncontrollably and I couldn’t make it stop. Catatonic, I somehow drove myself to the emergency room. I now know what utter insanity feels like, and I shouldn’t. Not one worker on my team believed a single word I told them as my life slowly descended into pure hell. Not then, during or after. Especially my therapist. Her words to me were, “Sandy, you wouldn’t have experienced what you did if you wouldn’t have taken all your Klonopin in the first place.” I filed a Recipients Rights case against them for “neglect of care” for not informing me of the dangers of a cold-turkey benzodiazepine withdrawal after I’d been on it for a decade and beyond. They blatantly lied in their defense, and my case was denied, silencing me further. I was also blocked from receiving any more services from my community mental health center. In other words, the door was slammed in my face.

Eight months following my Klonopin withdrawal, I endured a Trazodone, Effexor and lithium cold-turkey withdrawal, actually telling myself if I could live through a benzodiazepine withdrawal, then how hard could it be coming off these? Keep in mind, mental health workers rarely ever inform patients of withdrawal symptoms they may experience, and they certainly did not inform me.

This withdrawal took me to new levels of utter madness for five long, excruciating months. This time I became not only suicidal but extremely homicidal as well. Every day, for months, I endured wild, unrelenting mood swings, as well as brain zaps, severe insomnia, extreme anxiety and a deep emotional pain causing uncontrollable crying, to list only a few symptoms. I experienced every mental disorder listed in the DSM, and an anger, violence and rage that I never knew before. I was now on a mission to kill everyone inside that mental health building, and I not only knew I would die in the process, but it was expected. My psychotic mind told me I was fine with that. I sought out help everywhere I could to no avail.

I was so convinced I would carry out my murderous rampage that I finally enrolled in a trauma program at a psychiatric hospital in Texas. Considering what I’d been through for the past year with withdrawals and decades of taking neurotoxic medications, I begged them to treat me without using drugs, but they didn’t see it that way. After I refused multiple drugs, the psychiatrist said, “Sandy, if you refuse one more medication, we’re going to start injecting them.” Even though I finally complied, my status went from “voluntary” admittance to “non-voluntary.” I fought as hard as I could to get out. I now knew that there wasn’t one single person on the face of this planet who was going to help me.

I eventually went home from that psychiatric hospital on my multiple “court-ordered” medications, trying to withdraw again. While sitting outside on my deck one warm summer night, I left one of my gas burners on my stove going, again. I’d done this repeatedly since my Klonopin withdrawal due to severe, permanent cognitive impairment resulting from the psychiatric drugs and withdrawal. My house burned to the ground, leaving me homeless for eight months. Who came to my aid? No one. Psychiatry certainly didn’t. Unlike me, none of my mental health professionals ever had give up their warm houses, their loved ones, their very lives, their own sanity. The Hippocratic Oath — “First Do No Harm” — are powerful words. It’s unfortunate they don’t apply to psychiatry.

In the aftermath of the fire, I went on a mission to find out exactly why I had been so sick for so long by researching psychiatric drugs and the entire mental healthcare field, only to discover that every one of my “mental health problems” was drug-induced. I accumulated over 700 pages of scientific documentation proving this. As I began digging into every corner of the world for information, the truth started unfolding before my eyes. I felt like I had opened Pandora’s Box with no end in sight of the negative, very serious, adverse reactions and often deadly consequences of withdrawal, including long-term permanent brain impairment caused by my psychiatric drugs. I was absolutely shocked by this information, which is too often kept secret from the public.

I began listening to ethical, highly accredited psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, pediatricians, scientists and nurses who were exposing the truth about mental illness and the often deadly consequences of taking medicine to treat it. I communicated via email with countless other sufferers (psychiatric patients) from every corner of the world. I read hundreds of personal stories as they described their hell and listened to how they survived while tapering off their cocktail of toxic medications. My heart goes out to each and every one of them, as it was their stories that helped me begin my process of healing and successful withdrawal and eventually attain recovery. I could not have done this without the knowledge, dedication and compassion of Dr. Breggin, Robert Whitaker, Paula J. Caplan, James Davies, Dr. David Healy and Peter C. Gotzsche, and so many others advocating on our behalf. Their listening and believing granted me permission to heal, something I very much needed.

I no longer harbor any ill will toward my community mental health center or any worker there. Today, I pray for them. I pray that one day they will implement a psychiatric drug withdrawal program to allow patients a safe way to taper from their drugs, if that’s what they choose to do, although I highly doubt I will ever see this in my lifetime.

In closing:

While serving my life sentence, my American dream was never fulfilled: I’ve never owned a credit card, bought a shiny new car, owned my own home. I still live on $11,000 of disability payments a year. I never gained a college education, held a professional title or received any prestigious awards, yet I couldn’t be any more happy, content and serene. When the tumultuous waters calmed, when my emotions found their rightful place in my brain, I moved back across the tracks to my rightful place, where there are no labels, psychiatric drugs, pain or misery. Where peace and tranquility reside. Every single day the spirit of my soul feels itself — its true authentic self. This is a true gift. I no longer sacrifice my soul to anyone for any reason. When I was so sick for so long from taking my medicine, I rarely ever smiled. It’s hard to smile through endless tears. But what I’ve discovered since I’ve healed from my withdrawals is that when we give a smile, we get a smile, and this, my friend, is something money just can’t buy.

I will close with a poem I wrote after psychiatry stole from me everything it could steal.

God’s Little Gifts

This mask that I wear, it hides me so very well,
Harboring pain inside that no one can tell.
If it weren’t for this, I would certainly die,
How many times have I tried suicide.

Only, I have to reveal, what I’ve hidden so well,
I have to come out
I have to tell.
They say to feel human, wholesome inside,
Expel your secrets —
Do it with pride.

Let go of the guilt, overwhelming shame,
Self-hatred, self-pity —
Be proud of your name.

Embrace God’s Hand—embrace His help
And never forget to
Embrace yourself.

Be Gracious, Have Patience,
As life always Shifts—
Always be Thankful, They’re just
God’s little Gifts…

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38 COMMENTS

    • Lol, streetphoto. Great tale of the crimes against humanity that today’s psychiatrists are committing against their patients, Sandra, thanks for sharing. I lived it too, and also escaped.

      Woo-who, I wanna get away
      Yee-who, (get away)
      Woo-who, To our sweet escape

      To our sweet escape, thank God. God bless, Sandra.

      • Psychiatrists know that they need to be stopped, and they will thank us for it in the end. To be totally honest, I do sometimes miss my appointments, when I had questions on brain functions that they – well – just couldn’t answer, it was enjoyable. One know-it-all started blarting on about brain derived neuotrophic factor being up-regulated by SSRI’s feeling all smug about himself. I sent him a massive study showing sun light hours up-regulates BDNF and asked him exactly how BDNF is suppose to treat depression or anxiety. No reply and a different psychiatrist turned up next appointment. This is how it went on for three years, and I won.

  1. A horrific story! Thanks for having the courage to share it. It continues to astound me that a person under their care can deteriorate SO horribly over SUCH a long time, and yet at no time do they ever question that their “treatment” is necessary and effective, and that any “failure” that occurs is the fault of “the disease,” never their treatment at fault.

    As I like to say, “Another psychiatric success story!” So glad you’ve figured out how to escape.

    • Steve, I observed this from the “other side.” After 6 years observing my fellow consumers in a day treatment I noticed that:we were getting worse not better. Often rapidly so. While the “meds” caused horrible”side” effects they never silenced people’s voices for more than 2 or 3 weeks. We were almost all suicidal and depressed most of the time–because our lives were Hellish. Aside from numbing our pain the drugs did nothing.

      Unaccountable as this would sound to those supporting TAC–taking massive quantities of mind altering drugs did not make us more conscientious, more considerate in our relationships, less self-centered,or better citizens. 😛

      Anyone who claims that more psychiatric drugs will prevent murder is actually saying that there are pills which can magically transform Ariel Castro into Mr.Sensitivity and Charles Manson into Mother Theresa. I find Robert Louis Stevenson’s fantasy more believable.

      We should call shrinks out on this bovine excrement, demanding how any medicine can transform a bad character into a good one. (Insulin can help stabilize blood sugar, but it doesn’t promote ethical behavior. So, no the brain drugs they prescribe are NOT just like “insulin for diabetes” and their own actions prove otherwise.) Then watch them hem and haw–or dig it deeper till it becomes obvious what lies they tell.

  2. The idea has gradually come to me over the years of using niacinamide (in probably multigram, per day quantities) and magnesium salts, 750 mg./day, for withdrawing from benzos- the B3, because that version occupies the same neural receptor sites as benzos and the Mg. for additional relief from anxiety. I’ve withdrawn folks from alcohol using niacin (nicotinic acid) in their homes, but benzos have a much longer withdrawal period and I’m only a psychiatric version of medics in grunt units, devoid of office or clinic, so I’d like someone more respectable to consider this notion.

  3. Thank-you, Sandra. I’m very glad you survived. And of course there’s some differences between our stories, but what most strikes me, is how the same they are. We’re about the same age, and I’ve been “shrink-proof” longer, but the basic themes are the same. We’ve had very similar experiences. So I bet you’d agree with what I always say:
    “Psychiatry is a pseudoscience, a drug racket, and a means of social control. It’s 21st Century Phrenology with potent neuro-toxins.”
    Welcome to MadinAmerica! BTW, I first read Dr. Peter Breggin’s “Toxic Psychiatry” in the early 1990’s.
    That’s what got the ball rolling for me, and saved my life. And yeah, klonopin(clonazepam) withdrawal is *HELL*!…. *smile*….

  4. There is no one in any branch of the “helping” professions who has any personal integrity whatsoever. Psychiatrists are the worst probably, but I don’t know… The so-called therapists are maybe even worse. Psychotherapy is also an invention of psychiatry from arrogant narcissists like Freud. The therapist pretends to be your friend, but really they collaborate with the psychiatrists behind your back and secretly believe in the evil DSM fake bible of insulting labels. I heard that Freud had bipolar disorder too and was awake snorting cocaine for weeks on end. What’s more psychotic or “manic” than coming up with these absurd and disgusting ways of torturing vulnerable people.

    I got so mad about the ripserdone they gave me that I tracked down my psych at home with their family, should have seen the look on his face when they saw me through the kitchen window. Serves him right, now he knows the terror that they inflicted on my when I took that so called medicine. I heard the voices for weeks before they gave me that poison and it wasn’t til they tricked me into taking it that I ever became angry in any way. Even though the psycho MD psych torturer gave me the poison, they had the audacity to call law enforcement that night. That was just the start of the torture they put me through.

    My therapist supported the forced hospitalization, saying since I was dirty or wasn’t eating or something that somehow justified jailing me. I couldn’t go home because my family was supporting the drugging and I had to sleep in the woods, but so did cavemen. I wasn’t hurting anyone or using illegal drugs. The social workers at the hospital were even worse and the non-psych doctors also supported this charade. The ER doctors force injected me with 5 different sedatives at once, only because I was trying to escape that hell house.

    My point is that no one is on the side of those of use ordained as victims of psychiatry, psychology, etc. Now I’m broke and homeless, my body is a shell of its former self and I haven’t slept in weeks. Amazing that only a couple months of ripserdal toxin could cause so much brain damage. Now only street drugs like crystal gives me any clarity to get my life straightened out and it’s been over 9 months. When does this get better? I would never give them the satisfaction of hurting myself, but enough is enough, there must be a part of the FBI that can deal with the crimes committed against myself and others. Please tell me who I can report this to, there should be a tribunal and the penalties should be severe and archaic to match how I was treated.

    • Slip a little extra crystal in your “therapist’s” coffee so he can think he’s severely mentally ill! Then he’ll see you all over when you aren’t there and know the joys of psychiatric “treatment” first hand. 😀 NO, DON’T REALLY DO THAT.

      That would be illegal and wrong. But it’s a hysterically funny revenge fantasy. Might make a good short story.

  5. Sandra,. I am so so sorry you were tortured by a medical practice. I have a very similar story. Bipolar with 30 kinds of meds from age 15 to 47. Medication induced torture. Now I too am free but I have just learned about this 2 months ago and instead of being mentally I’ll I am in some kind of shock. In today’s language and to keep it short WTF!!
    I so hope you find joy and peace in your life from now on. Lori Costanzo

  6. Sandra, congratulations on escaping the Madhouse Without Walls.

    You forgive more easily than I do. I have promised myself to do those who damaged me good instead of evil if I get the chance. I have quit praying for them to develop terminal brain cancer.

    Someday all the wrongs they inflicted on us will be righted. But not this side of Eternity. Sigh…. 🙁

  7. Sandra, Thank you. I am profoundly moved by your narrative .

    I have spent the last six years observing and studying the devastation – of the hopes, dreams and aspirations –
    imposed upon indefensible “patients” – detained and abused in the perverse name of “Psychiatry”.

    Whist still perhaps incredulous that such evil passes for “medical practice”, I believed that by now, I could no longer experience the overwhelming anguish, despair and disbelief which almost overwhelmed me as I gradually began to comprehend the scale of this evil with its arrogance and absolute absence of empathy.
    (Absence of empathy believed by some to be the root cause of evil).

    Reading your powerful account of: “LIFE BEHIND THE BARS OF THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM” lead me to
    re-experience my initial anguish despair and disbelief.

    If it is so painful for this doctor to read, it must indeed have been arduous to write?

    I am left wondering how much bullying, cruelty, contempt, scorn and additional suffering you were subjected to by those who staff these institutions, and who regard psychotropic drug toxicity as proof-positive of both severe and newly emerging psychiatric “co-morbidities”.
    Mis-labellers who are wilfully blinded to the reality of iatrogenic, prescription drug induced “pseudo-psychosis”, “pseudo-bipolar”, toxic delusion, akathisia, akathisia induced violence as well as suicidality, tardive dyskinesia, emotional blunting, memory loss and body disfigurement.

    Professionally blind to the common, severe neurotoxicity, endocrine, metabolic, cardiac, skin, and other systemic toxicities.
    Blind to the destruction of enchanting pre-drugging personality and humour. Blind to emotional, behavioural and psychological adverse drug reactions.

    Appalling, life changing irreversible drug injuries denied and/or unrecognised by both “trained nurses” as well as by psychiatrists.
    Injuries exacerbated by contempt, deprivation of liberty, loss of all human rights and the inevitable, subsequent, self-righteous patient punishment inflicted by these staff for arrogantly assumed: “Attention Seeking Behaviour”.

    Staff who routinely blame the patient for every adverse drug reaction, then add falsified, additional life-destroying labels – aka “diagnoses”.

    If the now toxic and brain-injured patient tries to alert these abusers to an accurate insight and awareness of drug toxicities, the labelling is extended to include “Anosognosia”.
    That is: Their superiority, and your inferiority, as well as your defencelessness, allow the inevitable case entry recording that:
    “This patient is incapable of accepting and understanding the intensity, severity and seriousness of their (frequently misdiagnosed) mental illnesses”.

    Labels masquerading as meaningful diagnoses, however erroneous, are irreversibly documented.

    They are as visible to all as if they were facial tattoos, fixed and impossible to correct for all time.
    Society does not place much value on those with SMI labels. Nor will those defined by such alleged “Serious Mental Illness” be afforded the attention previously received from other doctors prior to this categorisation.

    Psychiatric diagnoses inevitably identify an absence of worth to society for the rest of that persons life, but psychiatry is also wilfully blinded to this inescapable reality.
    Condemnation by false “diagnosis” when the enforced cascade of psychotropic drug toxicities has never been considered in their differential diagnosis.
    Labels for life which for so many lead to guilt, shame, deletion of any residual self-esteem, in addition to rejection and exile from society.
    Medically induced, devastating, lifelong, soul destroying stigma which psychiatry constantly and vociferously blames upon the attitudes of others.

    Psychiatry means “Never Having To Say You’re Sorry”.
    In addition to disowning “First Do No Harm”, it appears that they have abandoned their Duty of Candour.

    (Sandra – Is it possible that the craving for alcohol might have been induced by SSRIs? – Ref. “Driven to Drink: – Antidepressants and Cravings for Alcohol. RxISK Blog. October 15th. 2012).

    When I read and re-read the appalling sufferings identified in the personal stories and experiences of those detained and forcibly drugged, and otherwise “treated” in medical custody, two quotations dominate my thinking.

    Firstly:
    “THE DEGREE OF CIVILISATION IN A SOCIETY CAN BE JUDGED BY ENTERING ITS PRISONS”.
    (Fyodor Dostoyevsky).
    For those who write on MIA this might be paraphrased?
    “THE DEGREE OF CIVILISATION IN PSYCHIATRY CAN BE JUDGED BY ENTERING ITS PRISONS”.

    Secondly:
    The words of Robert Oppenheimer after the first atomic explosion at Los Alamos in 1945.
    Words that are perhaps the best descriptor of drug-dependent psychiatry and its terrible outcomes:

    “I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture – the Bhagavad-Gita”…
    “NOW I AM BECOME DEATH, THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS”.

    How could psychiatry have become so blinded, so anaesthetised to each individual patient’s WORLD?
    Blinded to their psychiatric-drug induced outcomes as THE DESTROYERS of our WORLDS.
    So oblivious to their annihilation of our dreams and hopes, our futures, our aspirations and expectations: –
    or those of our own devastated, ever-loved lost souls who have been stolen from us?

    Were it not for the courage, wisdom and humility of those psychiatrists and internationally recognised experts in the toxicity and adverse drug reactions of psychiatric drugs, those who have challenged the wretched outcomes of current “treatments” – (and whom you have listed above) – so very many more would have suffered even greater harm.

    TRM 123. (Registered Medical Practitioner and Retired Consultant Physician).

  8. What will prove that a massive crime has/is happening is Pharmacogenetics plus all the known inhibitors of Cytochrome P450. I don’t know why you people are not on it ?

    This evidence given in court before a judge and jury will prove it beyond reasonable doubt that neurotoxic druging is responsible . They can no longer say a person committed suicide or homicide because they were mentally ill.

    This is the test, the full implications of this need to be understood. This is how we hold psychiatry and pharma to account, placed in the context of a court :

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnNI6JEFf38

  9. This story has many similarities to mine…a sh*tshow of labels, drugs, addictions, overdoses, suicide attempts, institutionalizations, poverty, isolation, and serious medical problems and surgeries…which I plan to write for MIA at some point. I also lost 30 years (and i entered the system with an MSW, no less)…and I’m here to tell you, it’s not an unusual story for trauma survivors, especially if they entered the system in years past. The unusual part is that we made it out and are able to speak about it…or that we are alive at all.

    I don’t attribute everything that happened to me to the meds., but also to how we fail to meet (in my case) severe developmental traumas, and poor early attachments, as they need to be met. I could also add to that, the lack of understanding of highly sensitive people. They mostly saw “borderline”, and life was never the same for me.

    I’m sober now from opiates, Klonopin/benzos., and alcohol. I’m still detoxing off multiple, long-term meds., still healing…with some good trauma care, that I’m able also to afford, for the first time. I feel like it’s “too soon” to write…but maybe not? There are a lot of people like this, who have no voice or support at all, whose healing is so prolonged and gut wrenching, that few if any stand by their side with hope. Personally, my higher power has held my hand most of the way, as well as a few treasured practitioners.

    Bless you, Sandra.

  10. Sandra Villarreal, let me start off by saying how sorry I am for what happened to you… The doctor who “diagnosed” you was clearly a profoundly dangerous incompetent who got his MD in a soapbox! A perfect example of a “pill-pusher”. Having PTSD ≠ bipolar disorder!! Any idiot should realise that. The simple fact is there is an unfortunate tendency in some branches of psychiatry (and in particular American psychiatry) to overlook environmental and psychological factors in a person’s well-being/suffering/illness (WHATEVER you want to call it).

    Now, the rest of this comment is addressed to subscribers in general. This website is obviously virulently anti-psychiatry. Fair enough. I myself am not “pro-psychiatry”. I would say I am a “traditional-psychiatry-sceptic”. I suffer from mental illness/suffering/unease/despair/whatever term you wish to use, yet I am continually disappointed by the system and the current methods of care available. I have quit two of my medications, and am very happy for doing so. I am extremely wary and suspicious of Big Pharma, and I am placing my hope in the research currently being done with psychedelic psychotherapy. Make of that what you will.

    Now, I think it’s a bit childish and reductive to accuse all psychiatrists of being torturers and of committing crimes against humanity. I mean, seriously? Without them, I’d be dead by now. My personal hell started when I was 12 years old. I was UNABLE to go to school and wanted to DIE. And guess what, I was NOT put on ANY medication. Therapy and alternative schooling options were suggested. And it did help. I was able to go back to my regular school and graduated with high marks. I was a cutter for the whole of my teenage years, was not followed by any doctor and did not take any medications. I also had an eating disorder. Clearly the self-harm had nothing to do with psychiatry!!! So no, in Europe at least, not all shrinks are blood-thirsty monsters. Even my current psychiatrist, who did prescribe medications, is mostly a lovely woman who SUPPORTED ME when I told her I wanted to shove my anti-depressants (and a weight-gaining anti-psychotic before that). She’s extremely critical of benzos and refuses to prescribe them long-term (and she’s right about that). She respects my opinion, my intelligence and the fact I am very critical of psych drugs and psychiatry in general. We can disagree and still have a very good doctor-patient relationship. The point is she HAS helped me. And I know others who have been HELPED by competent and compassionate doctors. Not all of them are pill-pushers.

    I feel like a lot of you basically agree with mainstream society’s assessment that people who are SUFFERING, in massive amounts of mental pain and anguish, are just creating it out of thin air and can wish it away if they just exercised their willpower. Guess what, a lot of us are trying to do just that. And I can tell you it’s exhausting. The willpower I have to use to go exercise, to not take something in order to sleep, to go outside for fear of having a panic attack, to not succumb to the death urge. To not cut myself when I am overwhelmed with despair. You’re not being revolutionary by being anti-psychiatry. You’re just saying what most people already think. And just like core mainstream psychiatry, you’re not actually helping anyone. You’re not actually addressing the problem. You’re just one extreme end of the spectrum, with hardline “pro-drug DSM-defined psychiatrists” being on the other.

    I don’t care about the term “mental illness”, call it mental anguish, suffering. Whatever. The fact is that not everyone reacts to society’s and personal ills in such a way that death seems like the only reasonable option. That leaving one’s house and seeing people freaks them out so much as to cause massive anxiety and fits of tears. That they feel so depressed they can’t get out of bed. Every other day, or even every day!! That the pain is such a deep pit in one’s chest everything is leeched of colour and flavour. And all of this, as a reaction… to nothing special. No trauma. No major life loss. (Maybe there was one, in childhood, or even later, but the point is the reaction continues all of your life for no outstanding reason).

    Doesn’t mean the answer are pills. Or that our societal structure isn’t completely fucked and needs to change. I completely agree with those two statements. But if you feel like crap all of the time and don’t have any motivation, energy or drive left in you, you won’t be able to change ANYTHING. Either way, you’re screwed. You’re screwed because you’re outside of conformity, and it makes you hopeless. And because you’re hopeless, you can’t find a way to change the world so it has a place for you in it.

    Maybe psychiatry in America believes “mental illness” (let’s use that term for whatever it’s worth) is a purely biological problem (although even that concept in and of itself is flawed), worthy then of neurologists. But I’ve mostly heard from doctors in England and continental Europe that it’s a multi-factorial issue: some biological, some genetic for certain people, some psychological, some environmental. Which is what makes it so complex and sets it apart in the world of medical science.

    And as the concept of mind… This whole mind/brain binary touted by both anti-psychiatrists and pro-psychiatrists is such BS. It’s not ALL about the Brain (pro-psychiatry), or ALL about the Mind (anti-psychiatry). It’s BOTH. The mind alters brain connexions, shapes them, perverts them. And vice versa. Brain alterations have been observed in severely depressed patients. Doesn’t mean it can be used as a diagnostic criteria, though. Anyone with a moderate understanding of neurology knows the strongest learned associations are the ones made with strong emotions: fear, pleasure, the whole dopamine complex. You can’t just “wish” them away. However, the good news is that brain plasticity “is a thing”, so there is some hope at least for reversing the damages. Sadly, a lot of psych drugs inhibit said plasticity which is what makes them so dangerous on the long-term… The neurotransmitter model of neuro-psychatry is incredibly flawed (I’m more interested in the neural pathways model myself), and has never been proven anyway. But it doesn’t mean the field of psychiatry as such doesn’t have any value. As with the rest of medicine, and society as a whole, it needs to CHANGE.

    The “mental illness” definition or debunking issue doesn’t ultimately matter. It’s recognising the fact that a lot of “outside-the-box” thinkers, potentially revolutionary, maybe, and simply good people are incapable of feeling happiness, freedom, or drive to make worthwhile changes in this broken world because they are hindered by extreme sensitivity (which one day might be celebrated) and “coping mechanisms” (to use a term I’ve seen in another article on this site). Helping us doesn’t have to mean hammering us into fitting the life script, or zapping us into becoming a mindlessly productive member of a capitalist and consumerist society, as is expected (I certainly wouldn’t want that). In fact, a lot of psychiatrists probably wouldn’t fit those categories either (mine doesn’t)!!

    Not everyone in the mental health care world believes the DSM is the Bible. Maybe that’s, again, an American thing. Or perhaps more generally an anglo-saxon thing. I’m not sure. But it should be bloody obvious that the DSM was originally meant to be a set of GUIDELINES. And now it’s been co-opted by Big Pharma. Extreme categorisation and pathologizing are bound to lead to abuse and absurdity. But again, doesn’t mean you need to burn down psychiatry completely and declare all psychiatrists war criminals. At the very least, if you’re going to burn it down, build something new and better, instead of saying there wasn’t anything supposed to be there in the first place… You’re just basically spitting in the face of those of us who are suffering, and were suffering long before the meds showed up in our systems. Talk about a lack of compassion…

    In fact, Sandra Villarreal mentioned she suffers from PTSD (my heart goes out to you, I can’t imagine what you’ve been through). Last time I checked, it’s in the DSM and is classified as a “mental illness”. Did any of you suggest she should just wish the memory of her trauma away? Or that her pain is just a construct of the mind she can fix with a little effort and willpower…? Hmm?

    When the pendulum swings, it never stops in the middle (well, it does, but only after an excruciatingly long time). But it’s exactly what we need!!! It’s sad, really. That a comment on an anti-psychiatry website basically reflects a review I did of a book clearly drinking the drug-pushing psychiatry kool-aid. Same shirt, different colour.

    PS: I have stayed in a psychiatric hospital, twice. No, it wasn’t a hellish nightmare. A large majority of the staff were nice, compassionate and caring individuals. I’ve lived with anorexics, women with severe anxiety and depression. I dare anyone to tell me they weren’t suffering from poor mental health and suffering. Most of them had been battling their conditions for YEARS. Some since early adolescence. They weren’t tied up or drugged out of their gourds. I’m not saying it actually solves any of your problems (although it does for some people). It didn’t for me. But it did allow me to rest in a neutral environment, to be taken care of and put some order in my thoughts. What’s wrong with that?

    • Mslilith,

      I agree with you on several key points:
      1. Psychiatrists are not generally trying to torture people, or because they are evil.
      2. Without offering alternatives, simply dismantling psychiatry services could strand many people in the short-term.
      3. Alternatives have to be widely available and affordable to those of us who have profound struggle. I am such a person. Mine is the residue of profoundly severe trauma. I’m counting on neuroplasticity. But the helpers I need and use (and will for some time) are expensive. If I did not unexpectedly find available funds a couple of years ago, I’d be dead. Unlike the author, my struggles do not all go away as I’m coming off these medications.
      4. I think one’s experience with psychiatry varies with money, geographical location, and lots of other things.

      I don’t think trauma and it’s effects are diseases, though…just injuries. I refuse to ever say again that i was the ill one. I never was. And unfortunately, psychiatry was no different than my family, in convincing me that I was.

      I feel the pain and heart in your letter, and your passion as you write. I’m glad you opened this conversation.