“Aha” Moments: In the World of Electroshock

Bonnie Burstow, PhD
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“So Bonnie, what have you done about electroshock this week?” (critical question put to me approximately once a month for over twenty years by now-deceased ECT survivor Sue Clarke)

Pound. Pound. Pound. Adonoi, Mary Mother of God, Buddha, Ishtar, Inanna, Allah, anyone with ears that receive and a heart that quickens, make it stop. Pound. Pound. Pound. I swear on the holy Torah, I swear on the blessed cross, I swear on the winds that lift up and the rivers that tumble from the Creator’s bountiful lips, I will do anything. Do this, and lo, I will walk through the rest of my days humbly revering thy name. I will set up a table for thee in the presence of mine enemies. Night and day, will I sing halleluiah, my knees flat against the earth, my eyes lowered, my hands brought together in prayer. I will press the horn of a ram to my grateful lips and issue a call to all corners of the earth; and the sweet young children, innocence dripping from their milky breath, will come running, running, running toward the sea; and we will all join hands and ascend to the glorious orchard. Then we will gather together in the New Jerusalem and sing hymns in thy praise. But please, I beseech thee: Make it stop. Make it stop. (from Burstow, The Other Mrs. Smith)

Probe, if you will, the passages above—the thoughts running through the mind of a fictional shock survivor in the midst of an ECT series. Then let them simmer quietly at the back of your mind as we focus in on the subject of this article. To begin with a brief discussion of “aha” moments:

Throughout our lives, times inevitably come, sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes not, when we are blessed with “aha” moments. Those are moments when a “light bulb” seems to go on. One type of “aha” moment is commonly known as a “Eureka” moment, a concept named after Archimedes, who allegedly exclaimed “Eureka” upon lowering himself into a bath and seeing the water rise. What he had purportedly discovered at that moment is that the volume of water displaced by an object immersed in it is equal to the volume of said object. “Eureka” comes from the Greek word “heureka,” which means “I found it.” When one’s “aha” moment is of the “eureka” variety, one has discovered for all intents and purposes what was known to no one earlier. A still more common type of “aha” moment relates to suddenly coming to understand a phenomenon on a far deeper level, irrespective of what others do or do not know. Both types of “aha moments” are deeply significant and both tend to lead to abiding personal transformation and commitment. Which brings us to the point of this article.

The overarching topic of this article is electroshock. Its purpose is to uncover some key “aha” moments which I have had with respect to electroshock. My hope in sharing these is that the very uncovering will open up a heightened understanding of both shock and of combating shock, and in the process help improve our activism.

One of my First Big “Aha” Moments around Electroshock

As far back as the 1950s, I was acutely aware that ECT causes memory loss as well as brain damage. And well before the 1980s hit, I had taken in the horrific stories of a large number of shock survivors, including my own father’s (during the 1950s and 1960s my dad was subjected to over 200 “shock treatments”). Moreover, I was conversant with the critiques and the medical literature. Of course, embedded in those earlier years were a number of mini “aha” moments. This notwithstanding, it was not until 1984 that my commitment to do whatever I could to end ECT solidified, and yes, it was connected with “aha moments.”

In 1984, as co-chair of the Ontario Coalition to Stop Electroshock, I was involved in mounting an official public hearing involving four days of shock testimony by shock survivors. This took place over two weekends at Toronto City Hall. What happened to me at those hearings? I came to understand the ECT experience on a far deeper level. For one thing, the enormity of the obstruction to people’s lives became far more pressingly real to me, as survivors went into intricate details of the skills they had lost—not being able to do mathematics, no longer being able to hold down anything except the most menial job, not remembering from moment to moment what was happening to them. You cannot be the same person that you once were if you sit in a hearing day after day hearkening to words like Connie Neil’s:

Well, the piano’s in my house, but if just sits there. I don’t have that kind of ability any longer… People come up to me… and they tell me about things we’ve done. I don’t know who they are. I don’t what they’re talking about, Mostly what I had was . . . modified electroshock. And it was seen as effective. By “effective,” I know what they mean is that they diminish the person. They certainly diminished me… I work as a pay clerk. I write little figures and that’s about all… And it’s a direct result of the treatment. (Phoenix Rising Collective, 1984, pp. 20A-21A)

Complementing this awareness were veritable “eureka” moments where I took in various gender-specific issues. To be more specific: while it was abundantly clear that both women and men were badly affected, the enormity of the gender difference became blatantly obvious as woman after woman testified to losing, for instance, ten to eleven years of their life. What became clear, to focus in on this, is that women’s memory is far more damaged by the treatment—a difference significantly and empirically confirmed decades later in Sackeim, 2005.

It likewise became clear how women uniquely and disproportionately were pressured into shock. Correspondingly, as woman after woman made statements like, “I was so depressed at the time; it was just after the birth of my first child” or “it was just after the birth of my second child,” it hit me like a thunderbolt that women were being electroshocked and consequently brain-damaged for postpartum depression—something that happens to most women and eventually resolves on its own. Needless to say, I was horrified.

How was I personally transformed by these “aha” moments? I doubled my efforts to combat electroshock because I knew deep in my bones that I could not in good conscience do otherwise. That is, I could not witness what I had witnessed, hear what I had heard and do less. Herein lay a commitment from which I would never shy away. I began writing voluminously about electroshock. And holding fast to the feminist insight, I explicitly began theorizing electroshock as a form of “violence against women”, e.g., Burstow, 2006. In short, an awakening had happened, and what was to be a major trajectory of my life began taking shape. I wrote, I gave speeches, I organized more hearings (for transcripts of testimony from a more recent hearing, see these personal testimonials on the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault site). I mounted educationals, I was the principle investigator of a number of research projects, I appeared frequently in the media, I co-created petitions, I helped draft reports and submit demands to government. Moreover, I was part of organizing demonstrations against electroshock in Toronto and around the world—demonstrations that we continue to this day.

Now in this, the heyday of the anti-ECT resistance (1970s to the early 1990s), we largely had the media and the public on our side. Expectably, however, the ECT industry poured ever more time and money into the creation and dissemination of ECT propaganda, with the long-term result being that we lost the ear of the media and the general public. Additionally, and not unrelated, we in Canada had made a strategic error. We demanded a government investigation. We got it. And in that very act of picking the wrong goal and being granted what we had asked, we for all intents and purposes had “shot ourselves in the foot.” What happened, you may wonder. A government committee was formed to investigate ECT, just as we had requested. It took two years before the task force presented their findings and recommendations. By that time, the media has lost all interest in the story. And not coincidentally, not a single one of the recommendations were ever acted upon. You might call this an “aha” moment, though it was not about shock but about what is and is not good strategy.

This said, we continued to mobilize as for sure we had to, but try though we did, we in no way could regain the momentum—this despite hearings, educationals, and reams of research.

Later “Aha” Moments

Fast forward to 2009. In what was itself a mini “aha” moment, I began asking myself: Just how do we get the issue of ECT back on the political agenda? Whereupon I was reminded of the power of art. The average person does come to hearings nor read transcripts of them; nor do they tend to be affected by them to the degree that I am. But they do read novels and are uniquely affected by them. After sitting with the question and with shock material for several months, I began penning a novel centered on a fictional shock survivor.

I knew instinctively that if this novel were to have the power it needed to, it had to engender in the readers something like “aha” moments, which would happen most poignantly if readers found themselves inside the head of a shock survivor. Which in essence meant two things: One, that the novel’s central protagonist should be a fictional shock survivor. Two, that the novel had to be narrated in the first person by that protagonist. This was the gambit. And herein lay the decision that would make or break the novel.

Upon so deciding, I called shock survivor and former lawyer Carla McKague to tell her what I was doing. Was she ever ecstatic! “Bonnie,” she exclaimed, “this is exactly what we in the movement need, and be assured, I will be there to help you with any editing work that arises.”

What happened? In short, a whole lot of hard work. Now the novel (soon to be named The Other Mrs. Smith) was largely on course for the first year or so. Nonetheless, the time came when the chore that I had set for myself began seeming impossible. What was the problem? The problem was the narration. While I personally would have no trouble telling this story, I was not the narrator. Naomi, the fictional shock survivor, was. And the fictional shock survivor could not narrate. Why not? In large part because her memory loss was such that she did not know huge sections of the story that she was trying to tell. She kept hitting dead ends, memory voids, vacuousness. And as a result, as author, naturally I too kept hitting dead end after dead end.

About a year and a half after starting, accordingly, I called Carla to tell her that I might have to stop the novel. She answered, “Bonnie, you can’t stop. This novel is exactly what the movement needs.” Whereupon I nodded and returned to my labours.

Another year or so passed, with promising moments here and there, nonetheless with the task which I had set myself mainly feeling harder and harder; indeed, mostly, well nigh impossible. What with all these dead ends, I felt as if I were “going crazy”. One day I said to myself: “I would do anything to get my life back.” And suddenly, it dawned on me. Of course, I can get my life back. All I have to do get my life back is give up writing this novel.

Now for a few seconds there, I felt absolutely exhilarated, so clear did the course ahead of me seem. When suddenly, I stopped myself. “Yes, of course,” I said to myself, “by stopping writing this novel, you can get your life back. However, shock survivors cannot get their lives back. And if shock survivors cannot get their lives back, then you shouldn’t either.” This is what solidarity means. And herein lies the moral imperative.

What were the “aha moments” embedded in this part of my tale? One clearly was the discovery of the moral imperative. If shock survivors cannot get their lives back, then it behooved me not to give up. What was every bit as fundamental and what constituted a discovery in its own right was my greatly increased awareness of the sheer arduousness of the journey, the double bind in which Naomi’s memory loss placed me. The point is that in the very plight in which I found myself was an echo, however faint, of the plight of the shock survivor herself. Now to be clear, my plight was and is utterly minuscule compared to what shock survivors experience moment by moment. In facing it, in struggling with it, in trying to work through it, nonetheless, I came to understand on a whole new level the daily travail of the shock survivor. “Aha,” went something deep in my soul.

This lived experience profoundly enriched the novel. Albeit in a comparatively minuscule way, the problems which I faced as author—e.g., how to navigate the memory gaps—paralleled the day-in day-out problems of shock survivors. Moreover, bit by bit in finding solutions to such problems, I came to take in as well not only the extent of the injury but the sheer ingenuity that entered into the daily work of shock survivors—that is, the work the survivors have to do to manage and inject meaning back into their lives.

An Update

In the fullness of time I finished the third draft of my novel. And about two years later, it looked like I had found a publisher. Whereupon I called Carla, who at this point, was near death’s door.

“Carla,” I said, “I know it’s hard for you to be on the phone, but I’ll say one thing: It seems like I’ve landed a publisher.”

“Bonnie, thank God!” she exclaimed.

Never again was I able to speak to Carla, for she died but a few weeks later. But she died keenly aware of what her insistence had helped make possible.

And where am I at this point? The novel is out; the reviews are pouring in. And once again, I am doubling and tripling my efforts—for how conceivably could I do otherwise? Moreover, I have heard from a number of readers who had barely given a thought to shock previously, who were truly aghast by what they had encountered and moved to do something about it.

Lessons to be Gleaned from the Above

The shock industry can and does disseminate ever more propaganda which runs counter to what survivors know and say about shock, even what good research solidly establishes (although we absolutely must continue to engage in these endeavours). What it cannot do is stop “aha” moments; moments which are critical to our own understanding and critical to good activism.

“Aha” moments in this area are not easy. They will often tie you in knots and leave you feeling like you are getting nowhere. Commonly, in that very frustration and “lostness,” nonetheless, lies the route to better understanding and better consciousness-raising.

Praxis: Concluding Remarks

Hopefully, this article has given the reader an added appreciation of “aha” moments, their possible place in activism, and how they do and can play out in the world of electroshock. What guidance for your own anti-ECT activism, can be gleaned from them, you may be wondering? To name a few:

Beyond demonstrating, beyond joining lawsuits (both of which, of course, are critical), consider helping facilitate ECT testimony and witnessing—for this has an obvious multiplier effect. Then step back and work at incorporating what you have learned into the education and activism that you do—because no, most people do not read testimony or attend hearings.

By the same token, talk to any shock survivors that you know. Figure out what grabs you about their story and work at distilling it and/or assisting them to do so. Of course, going this route may be far too traumatic for many shock survivors—and this too needs to be respected.

Art is particularly key, and we have not used it anywhere near enough. You might think back on your own “aha” moments with respect to ECT, then construct works of art that transform these into “aha” moments for others. Alternatively or additionally, incorporate art more broadly in your educationals.

On a simpler level, if you have not done so already, insofar as this feels safe for you, do read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, then follow up with The Other Mrs. Smith—and see where this inspires you to go. If you belong to a book club, of course, see if you can add such fiction as material to be read and discussed. The more people reading such works, the better. The point is that fiction both encapsulates and gives rise to “aha moments” in its own right, and as such, can move the public in a way that non-fiction seldom does.

What might survivors themselves do? This of course is totally up to the individual survivor, and indeed, a huge variety of responses are possible. To use The Other Mrs. Smith once again as an example, there are those who find it too traumatizing to even read such a novel—and what better judge of this than them? And so they keep the novel at arm’s length. Others such as Connie Neil and Helene Grandbois both have read or are reading the novel and helping promote it. Finding her own way, still another survivor Nancy Rubenstein chose not to read the novel, but nonetheless helped promote it on national television. On an individual level, everyone ferrets out what works or does not work for them—and everyone’s choices need to be respected. The point is to consult and heed your own wisdom.

In ending, I invite the reader to consider making abolishing ECT a priority, while leveraging the heuristic and the personal. Whether or not you directly engage in art, consider making what you say/do/draw personal and conveying the urgency. While, to be clear, this is one option only—and one which is not always wise—taking a page from Theatre of the Oppressed, one might even go so far as: a) bodying forth the horror vividly, and b) letting the audience know that the horror will continue unless they personally do something to stop it.

Correspondingly, in line with this, and in the spirit of survivor Sue Clarke, with whom this article began, as my parting words, permit me to inquire:

So, what have you done about electroshock this week?

101 COMMENTS

  1. Bonnie, Here is what I think. I wouldn’t take away persons right to do ect if they wanted because it may be only thing that helps. No forced ect! 100 % opposed to that.

    Point two is that I think ect is an ultra powerful machine and probably too powerful. There are probably more ideal or sophisticated ways to use this this technique or technology.

    Also see my video message highlighting the duality here? Tell me all that you know and I’ll show you snow and rain?

    https://youtu.be/-4l4ULkkyZ4

    • Congratulations Bonnie on such excellent work. I am currently reading the Other Mrs Smith which as a psych survivor myself I find riveting. I am referencing both the novel and Madness and the business of psychiatry in my trauma fiction studies for my PhD in the UK. Well done and thank you for such an illuminating story.

  2. I knew right away how I would answer this question, Bonnie. I will take up an issue about which I am often questioned and which I feel might be of help to others. The Day I Woke Up From Shock.

    It was my 40th birthday. I had named the effect of the shock, The Thing. This was the name I had given the confusion, because the confusion had taken on a character of its own, as if it lived and breathed inside of me, as if it was an evil creature that refused to leave me ever since…Ever since when? It was a question I could not answer but the doctors should have answered. Of course, I know now. I didn’t know then. Since the ECT. But this they kept from me. Instead, they told me the confusion was a symptom of my “mental illness.”

    I believed them, believed The Thing to be a psychosis, even though it didn’t quite add up to one. My psychiatrist suggested I was “dissociating,” but I told him I saw no similarity between what I went through and what I read about dissociation. Finally, they had told me I was “so severely mentally ill” that I would have to be hospitalized in a state institution. That was around the fall of 1997.. I was very scared!!! I did not want to go.

    The day The Thing left me was in early January, 1998. It lifted from me suddenly. I woke up and it was gone. No more mixed-up thoughts. No more having my thoughts disappear from my head. No more having my thoughts get tangled up like my hair tangles. No more having them slip away like sand slipping through my fingers. No more scrambled thoughts. They were just like they were before. Me. I was me. And I was 40 years old. My birthday.

    Right away, I did what I had gotten into the habit of doing. I started writing stuff down. Everything. I wrote emails, because now, I had email friends. I wrote down so many things. And that day, I started my very first novel. I wrote every day and finished a draft in eight months. After that, I took many writing classes, got two degrees, and I have written about ten books since. Two of them I published. Oddly, those psychiatrists had told me I would never succeed at anything and that I was “incapable of sitting in a room full of people.” (John Gunderson said that.)

    The tendency of shock survivors to write is probably documented somewhere. If it’s a gift, it is a bittersweet one. I would like to encourage all shock survivors out there to keep on writing, keep doing it and don’t let anyone stop you.

      • Stephen, i laugh because THEY should have asked that question. I had been a slave to them 20 years and had told them repeatedly that I had an eating disorder. So in their infinite wisdom, they responded by saying, “Oh, so you must have bipolar! We’ll give you treatment for that.” This is due to the total logic of psychiatry and it’s best friend, therapy.

        For an entire 20 years they never listened, never heard, and even jeered at my complaints over my eating problems. Now, my insurance was running out which was the reason for the ECT, the ONLY reason. The reason I agreed was because deep inside, I hoped that something, finally, would help my ED. Nothing else had, none of their “treatments.” Gee, I wonder why! But I never told anyone that. Why? Because they’d just poke fun at me all over again.

        Six months later, I could barely put a sentence together.

        It wasn’t until I was 50 years old, a good decade after shock, and three decades of MH “treatments” later, that I got a MH professional, a therapist working for a community agency, to “notice” I had an ED. God bless her.

        • Am glad that you survived.

          The idiots with their shock machines destroyed my grandmother. They didn’t physically kill her but it would have been kinder of them if they had. She didn’t even recognize her grandchildren and sat and smoked cigarettes all day long as she looked at the floor. This was a woman who was an artist and an avid gardener who created over a ten year period of time, a veritable jungle in the New Mexico desert. Once they got through with her all she did was sit and smoke. And they called that “good treatment”.

        • My problem is that I always expect things to make sense, to be reasonable. What I’ve come to realize is that psychiatry never promotes the reasonable, nor does it care to make good sense. It only promotes itself and it only promotes the toxic drugs as treatment. I’ve finally quit trying to make sense out of it all.

  3. ugh. i wrote a bunch of material, now i’ve changed my mind. I’m glad Dr.Burstow’s novel is bringing attention to the subject. my shock ‘treatments’ were…well, basically the end of who i was. nothing ‘therapeutic’ about the junk, but i guess that’s one of the fun things about psychiatry…once you’ve gone thru treatment, no one will listen to you. “but after the lobotomy, who will listen?”

    🙂

  4. As far as I can see you are all doing the impossible .I know it is possible to do the impossible and succeed .I just don’t know how long it takes . I’m sorry so many have been hurt so bad . I hope you can find in your lives that which make you happy . I think of myself as brave but in this blog and comments I see another higher level of courage . I wonder if , if even the money was available and one of the most famous directors was willing ,if a remake with appropriate modifications, in this day and age, would even be allowed to be made of the film” One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest ” with a Woman in the leading MacMurphy role plus some updates .I’d leave nurse Ratchet as is and put in more scenes with some thought leader psychokiatrist. Maybe a scene of hijacking a truckload of shockboxes and burning them in fire .And chaseing big Farma Executives and some of their flunkies ,into the hills with pitchforks and lanterns in the night .

  5. I dealt with my own nurse Hatchet. I had been attacked and raped, then sedated and put into a “well-regarded” mental hospital. All I remember is her calling me “disgusting,” saying “you should be a vegetable,” and then ordering the burly male nurse to turn up the AC. Then…nothing, until I woke up, screaming, in a hospital gown. My head hurt, I could not concentrate. An orderly was staring at me, looking a bit frightened.

    The shrink later said I tried to hit that nurse. What he didn’t tell me, or my parents–those would be the people paying for all this, btw–was that he seized upon the opportunity to hit me, electroshock me, and “break me,” because “he tried to hit a woman.”

    And so…an upper-class, heterosexual psychiatrist justified destroying an impoverished, homosexual “mental patient” by pointing to “chivalry,” or…something.

    🙂

  6. Hi, Dr.Burstow….

    I was just trying to point that, in the world of Mental Health, Inc., there’s remarkable equality between the sexes when it comes to cruelty and destruction. Female psychiatrists destroy their (mostly female) patients just as surely as the male psychiatrists destroy theirs. I assume that rape and other acts of sexual violence towards mental patients are more common w/ the male psychiatrists, but…the core values of Mental Health, Inc (force, fraud, violence, and coercion) are the fundamental values of psych “professionals” all over, of any and all races, sexual orientations, religious backgrounds, and gender.

      • Slaying and Yeah, in my opinion, criminals of all sorts commit crimes because they know they can get away with doing what they are doing and won’t get caught. The mentality is so simple it even explains why my dog, Puzzle, raids the trash. She only does it when I leave the trash can open and I am not looking that way. This is the basis for much of crime, especially white-collar such as psychiatry. They will stop if they find out we’re peeking and we’re covering the stories.

        • Puzzle can’t tell right from wrong. She would never knowingly harm someone without cause.

          Unlike gifted human beings who use their intelligence and social standing to lord it over others–knowing right from wrong but rationalizing it or ignoring whatever shreds of conscience they still have.

          • I don’t agree. Puzzle very much knows right from wrong. It may not be a higher moral sense, but her sense of whether to act or not act is based strongly in her remembrance of my approval, current or past, of that act. She will gladly do something if she is certain it will get her food or a petting. From what I have observed, I do not scold Puzzle because she reacts to disapproval deeply, not that I really know what is going on in her head. When I hear people scolding dogs I feel bad. I identify, remembering times I, too, have been shamed, so I do not do this. The fact that she feels she has to sneak to raid the trash tells me that she does know it is a no-no.

          • Puzzle knows what makes you happy, Julie. She doesn’t want you upset or angry with her. The canine equivalent of a conscience.

            Cats often act the same way. They love their owners too. But it shows differently. And felines are more likely to run away if mistreated.

  7. I was just thinking today how psychiatric torture is like water it takes the path of least resistance and flows fastest at the most vulnerable ,and yet like a tidal wave carrying the fast moving debris is mindlessly prepared to take on most anyone else as well . Accept its been an ever long time and they still keep building up momentum without subsiding .While the perpetrators have access for themselves, expensive shelters and protective delusions . And the top part of them have secrets that are too painful for the people to entertain .
    Like the fact that for the multitudes of people ,both “educated” and “not”, AMA medicine and heavy metal ADA dentistry have long established a humungus beachhead of an intricate pseudo scientific torture network as standard of practice bringing to them cash and prestige and have set an example and create “clients” for the psychiatric juggernaut infinitely financed which joyfully carves out for itself a pseudo scientific niche of it’s very own with a free floating standard of torture that can be dialed up at will for self protection . Electric Shock is a horror part of the web of torture . Anyone really think we can abolish shock without working better together somehow . I was thinking a huge blockbuster movie series that the mass of people will want to see like the Matrix series is needed to at least throw a monkey wrench at psychiatric momentum. We all got to pick our spots . I stopped commenting for a while, for a few weeks, when I awoke in the night reliving a forced explosive electric shock treatment just like I literally not symbolically had forced on me 54 years ago . I just don’t want to read this particular new book of Bonnie’s as great a writer as I know she is . Self preservation comes first . So I can live to fight another day . I live with the woman I love , we love and support each other , one of us is for now forced to go to appointments with the enemy. We are both anti- psychiatry, day by day we and our dog take in the level of survival we can which is bathed in the love we shine on each other .

  8. My “aha” moment 5 years after being shocked is coming to the sad conclusion that shock will never be abolished.
    The books, demonstrations, petitions, hearings, testimonies have accomplished nothing much. In fact, shock proponents have been building a market in autistic children and the elderly with dementia and selling the concept of maintenance ECT/TBI.
    High profile hospitals like McLeans and Mayo are “providing” and heavily advertising this insane “treatment”. High profile doctors like David Healy refuse to look at the scientific evidence that ECT causes brain damage; he promotes, administers, and defends this assault.
    Real doctors, especially neurologists, have failed to speak out or to work to have shock abolished. Film makers aren’t interested in exposing this lunacy. News media is busy writing the “ECT saved my life” stories. No one in government is willing to address this issue.

  9. I no longer have my original symptoms. Out of curiousity I have taken an online test for “bipolar” a couple times over the last two years. I definitely would not qualify as “bipolar”–except I did a long time ago once upon a time. That one question sets at naught all the progress I’ve made in emotional maturity.

    If I had a real medical problem like cancer and it went into remission would the doctors say, “You tested positive for cancer ten years ago. Therefore you will always be regarded as cancerous and forced to take chemo and radiation till you die”?

    An “illness” like no other!

  10. I tried to post this once but it came back marked as spam… weird. So here’s my second try. I have been reading the comments daily since Sunday after your blog was put up, wanting to comment myself but finding it hard due to intense and intrusive memories. I will never understand why I was treated as less that a human being by those who were “helping” as my family, my mother, stood by and allowed it. Blaming me when it just compounded my agony. I was brainwashed at the age of 14 into believing something was wrong with my brain, with me, because I found living in a family who coddled my pedophile abuser after disclosure, unbearable to live. I was held down and mouth pried open by my own parents as they forced that first pill. After that, I knew better than to fight them and always placed those drugs in my own mouth. They never helped but I did become increasingly “mental” resulting in self harm and ending up with a severe eating disorder which I still struggle with at the age of 37. Treat for that just resulted in poly drugging and then sending me in a zombified state to a shock doc, because in 9 weeks and over a dozen “medications” I was “medication resistant”. Mind you the abusers were still in my family and one welcomed into my childhood home constantly telling me how God wants me to forgive and that’s the cause of my distress. Those shocks killed a huge part of me. They DESTROYED what little trust and hope I had in my relationship with my mother. There is a before shock person and and after. They look they same but I can tell you that I am not the same, at all. I trust no medical practioners and question everything. I break out in sweats and find it hard to hide the intense fear upon entering a hospital for any reason, and that’s hard when I now have a feeding tube in my abdomen to help keep me going. I find that being out in public, even saying not one word, I feel so far away from the strangers walking through Target, wishing I could once again wander the aisles without the knowledge of what humans are truly capable of and still not quite knowing what exactly I did to deserve that, all of it. I have a child, and because of him, I stay. I know that sounds heavy but, without him I have no want or will to continue on this hell of a place we call earth. I just never want my kiddo to ever feel that no one has his back, that no one will stand up for and fight for him. That is why I stay. But it’s so hard to keep going when my soul is more than tired. I still have yet to find the point of fighting so hard to keep me alive if they were killing everything that made life worth living. I am surviving, but that is far from thriving. 5 years med free now, I am more clear and able to sense danger and know that I did not deserve any of that. I just wish the heart and soul would mend enough to make every day here not a curse that must just be gotten through. Thank you Bonnie for your hard work. I am in tears and my heart is overwhelmed that you think enough of us to fight for us. Thank you…..

  11. I cannot find psmama’s comment. Psmama, I saw the horrors of ED “treatment.” I know what happens in ED “treatment” when you try to speak up for your rights. Any mention of “rights” is labeled a mental disorder. It sounds like you went through horrible torture and the “treatment” harmed your family also. My heart goes out to you. I want to thank you for posting here the truth here even though I cannot locate your post right now.

    • Wow Julie, thank you. Yes, everything in treatment that you say is your “ed talking”. They try to condition you to believe that ed is another entity inside of you. Talk about crazy making. And when there are rational reasons that one could use a harmful coping skill, it’s minimized and said that is ed just trying to take control. No bitch! Maybe I find it hard to meet my needs because I was conditioned to believe my needs weren’t deserving of being met. Although on a logical level I know that is untrue, it hard to compute that to the treatment I received for being an honest human being asking for help in an abusive family setup. There are so many days I wish I had never told or spoke up about my uncle’s abuse of me, because then I wouldn’t know the pain of my entire family discounting the pain and trauma it caused justifying their torture of my very being. I am in a place of accepting nutrition as long as I am not having to place that food in my mouth. I am still very much trying to allow myself to meet my basic needs and took control of how to go about it. No more dbt, fake it till you make it. No more being removed from society to “get well”, because I only ever came back more broken and fragile each time. Thank you for hearing me, really hearing me. That means so much.

      • psmama, I saw so many young people cycle in and out of the ED places and come out worse each time, yet they continued to insist they needed the “treatment.” I woke up one day realizing the “treatment” was the problem. The “treatment” had caused most of what ailed them, and had perpetuated their ED’s. I agree totally that personifying ED as “Ed” is like kindergarten and totally insulting. It is like creating this false Devil, setting up the Devil as a scare tactic, and telling very vulnerable people that “If you disobey, the Devil will get you.” This is scary similar to what is done in brainwashing religious cults. “If you leave the cult, the Devil will get you.” Or, “If you stop treatment, you will Relapse.” Here, Relapse is the Devil-character that snatches people up. The scare tactics in ED treatment are rampant. “Don’t trigger each other!” in other words, don’t talk human rights or Ed will get you! which is bullshit.

        I went through it with them, too. As soon as I started talking human rights they tried to silence me. They didn’t succeed Then they tried to discredit me in the eyes of the other patients. They called me psychotic and paranoid over and over. It was traumatizing to say the least.

        I applied to speak at the recent NEDA conference and after I accepted the invitation, two months later, after I was sure it was for real, they contacted me and informed me they had just figured out who I was and they were uninviting me. Their claim? That I was “not recovered and would trigger others.” Obviously, none of them knew me well enough to determine if I was recovered or not. This was not the reason. They did not want any talk of human rights at the NEDA conference, that was the real reason! So how was I to take this? I see it as a stripe on my uniform. How many get UNINVITED to the NEDA conference, after all? Am I that powerful? Wow!

        • You scare them because they know you are right. The last time I was in treatment, 2 years ago, under the condition that if I didn’t go, due to my weight they would court order me, I was a thorn in their side. They were frustrated that I refused to do trauma work with them, strangers. I was there for one reason only in my mind, to get enough weight on to not be court ordered. I did speak of my torture to the psych and told her I refused any labels she was going to give me besides post traumatic stress injury and that under no circumstances would I take their drugs. Since I was “voluntary” that was the only right I could assert. I watched as they sent a young baby, 19 years old, drugged to the max, off 3 days a week for shock treatment. It was horrible to be watching what they had done to me and being helpless to stop it. I was scolded after sharing with patients that their “anxiety medication” was not in fact that but that seroquel was a heavy antipsychotic. They lies and manipulation were so hard to watch and even moreso traumatizing than when it was being done to me. They don’t care about the person, they care about keeping clients.

          • Same here, psmama. I went right up to the head nurse and told her that telling the patients that Zyprexa was for “anxiety” was illegal, or at least unethical, that Zyprexa was not FDA approved for anxiety, and to outright lie and tell them it was for that, and really, they were giving it to put weight on the unsuspecting kids. was total fraud.

            I have been hoping to have black box warning on Zyprexa and Seroquel because these will backfire if given to anyone with history of anorexia. They WILL put weight on, but weight gain isn’t recovery. So…of course you know this…The weight gain leads to Revenge Anorexia…As I put it. I know many who, after the Zyprexa (or Seroquel) weight gain, then, dieted like mad because they were rightfully PISSED OFF. Revenge Anorexia will literally kill a person. I have also heard of a few who developed bulimia in act of Revenge against drugging with drugs like Zyprexa.

            And I told this to the nurse. She said the ends justify the means and they needed to put weight on the patients. Because the insurance companies demand it. So she said lying was perfectly okay. The short term result was what mattered, she said. Really? Maybe because they had not yet been caught breaking the law.

  12. It was neat to see the support given to folks. Happy Birthdays to Bonnie and Julie and a very unbirthday wish to the rest.
    Sometimes I wonder if I was given ect superticiusly. My experience was so bizzare and I did get a hip fracture and do you trust the memories of those times? How much fog was real or not?
    I have interacted and failed so I go day by day.
    I am unable to find away to integrate my self before in system my self in system and my self outside system though every time a police car passed me by I inwardly and outwardly cringe because I was hauled off.
    I can ride or walk and give an historical trigger trauma life recount.
    Leaving is an option but where and when and what would constitute a safe place for me?
    The sum of my being is deer in the headlights frozen
    The risk of being hauled away with face mask and five point restraints and forcibly medicated is to strong to overcome.
    If there were pathways of acknowledgement of apology or amends it would help but no.
    Silence from written correspondence and the records I have obtained – many Un obtained are not helpful and just the fact second parties are used to copy them means another human being has seen my history without my permission.
    I don’t comment much anymore.
    Best to all.

    • Catnight, I also cringe when I hear sirens, as I, too, was hauled off. I especially fear ambulances. I cringe at flashing lights. I am very fortunate we just do not see them much around here where I have moved to. I believe this is because the county is so poor. Likely the “force” is understaffed. They are busy enough with house fires and car accidents. Where I used to live in MA, I saw them all the time, it was crazy.

    • I relate to the police cars. I freeze. I was innocent before but hauled of like a criminal and put in a cage. I too struggle with the before, during and after selves. Who would I have been had I been allowed to be me? That one aches in my heart daily. Wondering if my interactions with others was “normal” because I still don’t know what I did wrong to be punished to begin with. I was just honest. It is bittersweet to hear that I am not alone in this struggle to now figure out where and how I belong. I also feel that if there was validation and an “I’m so sorry” by those who directed and completed those assaults on my very being, I would not be so afraid of the world. But all I have ever heard is baseless justifications. I hear you Cat. I believe you. I wish for all of us to find our place and some peace in this world.

      • Psmama and cat, I believe we as a culture are taught to fear saying “I am sorry.” This is basic good manners. However, we fear apology and are told to avoid admitting we are wrong. Since I realized I was wrong for three decades, I now celebrate apology. I love admitting my errors. I celebrate the right to change my mind, switch gears, or plod onward to Plan B. Sadly, most of society stubbornly clings to the delusion of its own faultlessness.

  13. Thanks Julie ad Pam’s for your kind words.
    It helps to not be alone with this issue.
    And to have the dx label taken away.
    To have this step put in would be utterly invaluable.
    A was a for Social Worker and I was always aware of the power dynamics. I would say I am the pilot you are the navigator we work together as a team.
    To have mostly male docs treat me like dirt- to have them and most staff treat me worse and in ways I would never treat another human being in a professional capacity I still find shocking and the wounds to my self image, esteem,trust, hope are still open and the scars still not formed enough.
    To still be confused to the why and how come and what the hell did I do wrong questions is maddening no pun intended.
    The layers of trauma that put me in harms way and the trauma that was called treatment and then the lack of clarity is every day hard.
    And Julie to put salt on my wounds- I told folks I worked with that the only perfect human is a dead human. If I did something I would admit,take responsibility, and make some sort of amends.
    If I were to call CPS I would have the kid sit in and hear every word and then I would give them the scenario facts good and bad.
    This what should happen and this is what might happen. No guarantees because the system even way back was broken
    I would advise tell Again and again til someone hears you.
    Now I know in some cases no onehears you because iPod facto because of where you are in society you are basically s non human.
    All the professionals who are in support need to think long and hard on what to do.
    We have our voices but need a way to become hear able.
    Novels like Bonnie and art in all its form helps.
    There needs to be a way to remove dx labels and a forum for professionals to apologize – take responsibility and make some sort of amends.
    That this process is not legitimized in any areas of our society today shows how off course we are.

    • streetphoto, it looks like a case of the new clinic (the University one) not having an understanding of what eating disorders were, total ignorance on their part. Yep. They very well may have done a thorough mental health screening on her at the U and totally not asked about her eating. You could call it either stupidity or neglect. Most MH screenings don’t cover ED! That’s how I went 30 years through the system misdiagnosed myself.

      In late December 2011, I showed up at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts after I had not consumed any calories (not eaten) for six days. I felt dizzy and weak and honestly, was a little worried since my weight was around the danger point. This was disregarded and I was told “You feel dizzy because you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.”

      What? I was 53 years old and NOW they give me some new diagnosis? I was handed an information sheet on GAD. Then they told me, “We want you to leave since other patients have more pressing issues than you do.” I was not even offered food nor told to eat nor given an IV. I left the ER, was very out of it, could not find the exit door, which they had to point out to me, and finally, caught the bus home. I could NOT believe what had just happened.

      Less than two years later I nearly died in that very same ER (I coded, and I don’t have much recollection of the exact time frame, obviously), likely because they saw my complaints as trivial.

  14. This is a little late to bring to the discussion, but I feel obliged to point out Hoffer and Osmond, renegades from British psychiatry, pointed out that simultaneous use of mega-B3 at 3g/day or more, prevents the long term memory loss that goes with these alleged treatments. Alas, I only knew one guy on vitamins, who’d had previous ECT, about 200 of them, before he started on B3 and other nutrients. His memory was intact, despite not getting B3 while he was getting zapped. He’d been chronically ill, so he was also taking 8g niacin per day, same quantity C, and high doses of the other B’s. He also did short therapeutic fasts once a month or so.

  15. I have been thinking about retaining ones cognitive abilities in general and why some people are able to remain (excuse me, this term gets to me) “sharp” in their senior years, and others are not able to. Obviously the issue is so complex I don’t think science fully understands, but I am thinking lately about brain plasticity…and the following:

    People ask me why I do not use a screen reader. A screen reader is a way to “read” text by having a voice read the text instead of using my eyes to read it. This sounds nice, and I know it helps people, but I do not want to do it even though reading can be tough sometimes. I continue to read quite a bit and strongly prefer text over video-style learning. I believe I should continue doing this. I KNOW a part of my brain is in charge of reading and writing text. I believe if I stop reading text I will lose the ability (over time) because that part of my brain will stop developing…or functioning well. I have psych and ECT to thank for all the text I write….in a rather bittersweet way I must add.

    In fact….While after ECT I really started writing up a storm, I REALLY wrote like crazy after they abused me in the hospital in 2011…And even more after I was threatened and told NOT to write (by both psych and the cops!). Screw em. I won’t stop till I die and I credit psych because I am alive in spite their “treatments” and threats.

  16. Ah ha moments and others : The Horrible cruelty of the system knows no bounds . Within the last 2 years here in “progressive” Oregon this is what happened. The “insurance company” notified a woman in her early fifty’s that after 15 years on Abilify the company could no longer afford to cover the costs of this “medication”. The woman’s social worker and supervisor called and told her if she came in and signed some papers they might be able to help her get some Abilify some other way . The woman told me she could not give them the satisfaction .She cold turkeyed and tried to compensate on her own with various THC- CBD marijuana oil combinations . She bounced in and out of 3 different hospital emergency rooms in less than 2 weeks . She called me and and asked me to pick her up each time . Soon after, she grew afraid trying to sleep in the sand dunes, afraid a homeless man she saw might rape her . She dropped her purse in a dept. store parking lot , knocked on a mobile home door and asked the man who answered if he could drive her to the nearest hospital emergency room . He said no and closed the door . She removed her dentures and left them by his door , then she went in the dark to the coastal highway and sat in the middle of the road on the yellow lines. A police car stopped and an “officer of the law” started questioning her . She just asked if he would take her to the hospital emergency room . They were 1 1/2 miles away from it. The officer said to her ” The only way I’m taking you to the emergency room is if you threaten my life. ” the woman looking at the ground replied softly “I’ll kill you if you don’t take me to the hospital.” The officer stood her up ,too tightly handcuffed her and put her into the back of his squad car . Meanwhile a man showed up telling the officer she had left these dentures outside his mobile home . Meanwhile in the tight cuffs scared to death the woman pee’d her pants as she sat in the back seat of the squad car . The officer yelled at her, that he would be the one that would have to clean that up. When he got to the hospital he told them in the emergency room that this woman had threatened his life . Now she became in their eyes a dangerous person to them. Even the local preacher when I asked him for some kind of help said he didn’t care if she died .There were more hospitals , a Guantanamo like place , a court hearing and somehow she avoided being locked away in a state institution . She even got an assisted unannounced home visit from a competing county’s mental health system asst. supervisor and one of his goons. This was even before the Murphy Bill was supposed to be passed. She is now too terrified to even think about trying to wean off wean off the 20 mg of Zyprexa she is now on or even to defy them anymore . She’s afraid of what might happen to her next time . She asks me to drive her to her appointments with them, and to help her get there on time.

    I also wanted to write more about flushing niacin and mineral baths that can be taken at home and other tools to avoid the mental death professionals and even electric shock , but maybe later , I’m too tired now .

    Also that the most vulnerable point in the present climate now within psychiatry, having to do with another type of electric shock torture ,is written about in the Torture – Massachuests Blog of March 9th here at MIA.
    Would be much easier to mobilize great numbers of people that could actually lead to millions showing up at the best location to protest and stop ongoing unrelenting electrical torture of a most vulnerable population .