I was a very sensitive and aware child. I did not know yet what would happen to me when I became a 25-year-old adult. I did not fit in the education system, but I was very intelligent and highly gifted; though I felt pretty trapped in this system, I received high grades. But I was not really myself. My parents barely had time to have a decent conversation with me. They were so busy earning money, buying things and being unhappy.
In high school I felt very lonely and unhappy. I had no friends. But I kept receiving high grades. So my self-worth became my grades and my intelligence. I then went to university, and here, it all went wrong. I was fed up with the system — with the rat race. I started four courses but I did not finish one of them.
When I was 23 years old, I developed serious burn-out. I could only lie in bed, but I could not sleep or eat. I lost weight rapidly. I had some experiences with the mental health care system and these were not satisfying, so I kept a distance.
I wanted to solve it by myself.
I received no welfare. I ended my relationship with a once loving man who was not loving anymore after five and a half years and left the house. And so I had some savings but no income and no house. It was at this point I turned to God and asked Him to take care of me. Apparently the system/government did not do this, so I asked God.
Eventually, I met some wonderful women and was able to stay in their houses. For a year and a half, every day, I was in a safe environment: I had a bedroom to sleep in, and I could eat and shower. After this period, my savings were gone. I went to the Social Security office and got very angry and assertive, and the next day I received my welfare!
Within a few months, I had a nice little house and met my current husband. But by then, I had become a member of a religious sect, which made me confused and “psychotic.” At this point, I was 25 years old.
I was brought to the psychiatric hospital, and I was terrified. They of course gave me neuroleptics, but this made my condition much worse, even though my “psychosis” was over. I felt so terrible due to the drugs that I wanted to kill myself. But they did not seem to notice this and would not simply lower the dosage! So I had a terrible time. First I had to take 4mg of Risperdal, and when I quit that, they gave me 10mg of Zyprexa. I gained a lot of weight and felt suicidal. I was extremely depressed. But they did not acknowledge that this was a side effect.
So in 2008 I lowered the dosage of Zyprexa by myself and, finally, started to feel better. But my trust in psychiatry was as good as totally gone. They gave me drugs that made me feel terrible, and they did not seem to recognize that and lower the dosage.
In 2009 they give me a new drug: SeroquelXR. At the same time, I was hospitalized and placed under the care of a new psychiatrist who seemed to be very enthusiastic about “fighting psychosis.” Already at that point, I had a different opinion — that “psychosis” is not a sickness, and not the enemy, and that fighting it only makes it worse! One needs only to understand the behavior in a loving way and this person will become “normal” in a matter of time. But this psychiatrist did not think of that. So I turned into a rebel, fighting back, defending my real self. I was admitted to this hospital twice, and it was horrible to be subjected to the way they treated “psychotic” people.
Finally, at the end of 2009, I was brought by an ambulance to a mental hospital in the south of the Netherlands (I live in the north of the Netherlands, but my origins are in the south and my family lives there). My mother had arranged that. She apparently had not seen this hospital in advance to make a good decision, because this hospital was the worst experience of my life. It was more like a concentration camp than a hospital!
They locked me up there for 10 months, by force, and injected an extremely high dosage of neuroleptics into my back for 12 months. Because of the side effects of those drugs, I committed eight suicide attempts. The whole year of 2010 was sheer horror. I cannot think of a different word to describe it.
Because I was rebellious (and I had good reason to be!), they locked me up in an isolation cell more than 30 times and gave me injections that made me hallucinate terrifying visions. It was as if they were punishing me instead of helping me. And they did these things to other people as well. This hospital really seemed to be a torture factory.
And this seems to still be legal and legitimate in the Netherlands — to treat people like that. How about human rights? In psychiatry, these do not seem to exist!
This is not how the mental health system should treat “psychotic” people. Mental health providers should treat them with compassion, empathy, respect, love and understanding. With a circle of loving and understanding people surrounding a person in crisis, I have no doubt that most “psychosis” would normalize in time.
In 2012, I experienced “psychosis” and was fortunate enough to be in such an environment, and within two weeks my “psychosis” vanished. (Soteria has such an approach, as does the Finnish Open Dialogue therapy. But the latter two are, unfortunately, not available in the Netherlands.)
In 2011, I went back to the north of the Netherlands, to the city of Groningen, and received treatment from a mental health center. It much went better. I was prescribed fewer drugs, I enjoyed life and I studied and got a job. The people working for that center increasingly seemed to see me as who I really am.
But since April 2017, because of bureaucratic reasons, I had to switch to another mental health center, and I have difficulties with this, even to the point that I’m afraid they will put me in a hospital again. At this center, they seem to be frenzied “psychosis” fighters. This really makes me nauseous. Even today, some mental health providers are still thinking as if they lived in the Dark Ages.
I have been so sick and tired of their talking that I tried to kill myself in May. Afterwards, a woman spoke to me and said that I should not take them seriously because it literally drags me down and could even kill me. I do not feel acknowledged as who I am by this particular mental health center. I do not feel heard nor understood by the staff or providers, and this makes me feel upset.
So my plan to save myself is to let the staff at my new mental health center talk rubbish and stop caring about what they say. Of course, this is not how it is supposed to be! Mental health providers should be respectful, compassionate and understanding, but they are too busy “fighting psychosis” and hence, they do not see their “patients” as who they really are — as whole people. They keep people sick with their unhealthy approach and their suppressing drugs.
If I really listen to them I get sick: I feel unhappy and I feel depressed. So here is the rebel again. This whole Dark Ages approach to mental health care makes me upset and angry. I even sleep less well because of it. The only thing I can do is acknowledge myself and just be.
Only then I can free myself from their grasp.
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.