Still Seeking a Chemical Cure After All These Years: Lauren Slater’s Blue Dreams

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Perhaps there is a part of me that likes my madness, in measured drips, the dreams of rocks and black hats and girls of swirling sugar. Perhaps I like my drugs too. Perhaps I like the act of taking them, which I did each evening, always dropping the fat lithium pill into a tall glass of cool water, watching as it bubbled white and frothy, like some magical concoction.

Lauren Slater, from Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs That Changed Our Minds 

If you are as much of a Slater fan as I have been, you’ve probably picked up a copy of her latest, Blue Dreams, and read it cover to cover, glued to the pages as you likely had been while reading her other nonfiction such as Welcome to My Country. Lauren Slater wears many hats. She has been a patient, therapist, writer, writing coach, and researcher.

Lauren Slater writes mostly creative nonfiction, but I would call Blue Dreams a hybrid form. It is partly a memoir of the demise of her health during the decades she spent on psychiatric drugs. But the book is also a history book, a history of the development of psychiatric drugs, beginning with Thorazine, and speculation into the future of what Slater hopes may be to come. Many survivors and patients alike are familiar with this history, familiar with the overblown promises of these drugs, and the disappointment we’ve felt upon learning that what we had been told was a fallacy. Slater writes these two interwoven stories — her own, and the story of the development of the drugs — parallel to each other, conjuring up meaning in the magic recipe itself.

A common misunderstanding about memoir is the assumption that reader and writer are firm, steady and unchanging. As a writer of memoir as well, I think of memoir as an active process that involves the use of memory and the evolution of written work as it grows and develops. Engagement with the reader through the written word is crucial. The reader, as collaborator, is not a mere passive vessel, because in reading, she processes the work and moves along with it, changing as well. However, a writer of memoir is a character within her own story. She develops, morphs, grows, matures, and goes through a process. She might even change her mind! The memoir writer won’t be at the same place at the end as where she was when she started, nor will you, the reader. Bringing us all from Point A to Point B is the mark of a successful and moving work of art. In that, Slater never disappoints.

In her introduction, Slater piques the reader’s curiosity by telling us where she is right now and how her health has become a mess, nearly destroyed by diabetes and kidney disease. I was horrified to read this. I have a long history as a Lauren Slater fan. I was first introduced to her brilliant writing in 2007. While I was in graduate school I grew to idolize her. To learn that she had deteriorated so much was nothing less than heartbreaking.

Slater remains on psychiatric drugs. She insists that the drugs are necessary. I can only imagine what some of you are thinking, reading that word “necessary.” She is only 54 years old. I am 60, was on a far heavier cocktail than she was on, was incarcerated far more times than she was, including at her McLean Hospital, was so disabled by psychiatry that I was taken out of the workforce for three decades and had become impoverished, and yet, today, I am quite healthy and working full-time again. What gives? Is it possible that my getting off the drugs and refusing to believe the disease model made a difference, or am I just “lucky”?

(The usual argument that patients tell me is “everyone is different.” While this is true, I don’t buy that anymore. After all, wasn’t all-holy psychiatry supposed to account for our human differences when they put us on those pills in the first place? Isn’t that the very accurate, very scientific thing called “diagnosis”? Oh….)

Slater provides an excellent argument against the chemical imbalance theories of depression, anxiety, and psychosis, including mania, right in her book. She validates that these theories were debunked long ago during the development of the drugs. She explains this in very clear and easy-to-understand terms. Her section on Prozac is especially detailed and revealing — not surprising since Slater herself was mostly involved with the SSRI-type of drugs in her own life. She provides a detailed description of her initial challenges with Prozac in her book Prozac Diary, including a chapter on sexual dysfunction. However, even writing those beautiful words did not convince her to end her drug dependency, nor does it stop her from calling herself a disease.

Slater states that depression has been a horrible thing for her to endure in her life and that Prozac seemed like the only relief. Also in the same chapter, Slater validates that Prozac and similar drugs can cause sexual dysfunction, a “blasé attitude,” and extreme violence such as we see today. She states that as a writer, she may have “lost some wattage to the pill.” When she stated this, I felt like reaching out and beckoning her out of the muck, as I have often felt similar compassion toward many of my former beloved friends who have similarly clung to the long and ever-darkening road of psychiatry and its book of hate speech, the DSM.

I’d like to remind readers of what I stated earlier: Memoir is a process, a work still in the making. We must remember this as we read, that we readers do not know what our lives will bring us, nor does the writer of memoir know what is in store for her. Our lives, like the memoir, are also a process. For many, we can only hope and dream for lives that move onward toward better places.

As readers and writers both, we are not omniscient gods. We do not have the wisdom nor hindsight we will possess in a decade’s time. We don’t know the new people who will enter our lives. Conversely, we don’t know whom among those present in our current lives will be gone in a decade or two. For many of us, our naivete, that is, the limitations of our single point of view, is the entire reason we once set foot into the offices, nuthouses, funny farms, and rehabs that ignited the journey into psychiatry that we now regret. Perhaps, long ago, all we were seeking when we entered the mental health system was in essence a second opinion on our lives, an opinion outside of our own. And what did we get?

The voice of the memoir writer is limited because she, too, is only one person, though she may choose to portray other characters, such as a spouse, and speculate on how these peripheral characters viewed her, the protagonist. One thing is certain, though. No matter how wise a writer is, she cannot see the future (some of you who believe in psychic powers may disagree with me on this). In seeking therapy, many of us hoped for the impossible. We wanted assistance from a real human 8-Ball.

When I was working on my master’s thesis at Goddard College I read three of Lauren Slater’s nonfiction books. I suspected that the hospital she described in “Three Spheres,” the final chapter of Welcome to My Countrywas none other than McLean Hospital, where I had spent many a day, but she doesn’t name the place. (I highly recommend the book, by the way!) I was so impressed with Slater’s book Prozac Diary that I used it as my single-most inspiration for the introductory section of my own memoir, my master’s thesis This Hunger Is Secret (now available for free at my personal blog).

Perhaps one of those spheres was that 8-Ball.

I have stated that memoir, like human life, is a journey. You could think of memoir as plastic, like the brain. During the writing, the writer changes, the reader changes, and both may change even after the memoir is proofread, typeset, and published.

I finished the graduation draft of T.H.I.S. in 2009, prior to my antipsych awakening. You can see almost immediately if you read a few pages that at the time of publication I hadn’t quite yet realized that “mental illness” is a fallacy. Clearly, though, as you read along, I validated, and still validate, that I truly suffered for many years. If you read the writings of Lauren Slater you can see that she suffers from what she still calls the “disease” of depression.

Blue Dreams is an extensively researched book. One look at Slater’s reference list and you will see that she did not rely on medical journals and history books, but she also interviewed key people in the world of drug development. She found individual patients and interviewed them, also. I personally noted among this list the familiar name, Alexander Vukovic, MD, of McLean Hospital. I personally knew Dr. Vukovic, as he worked the North Belknap ward and also in the outpatient clinic. Apparently he still works there after all these years. Slater quotes Vukovic as praising the drugs, stating that he had seen “miraculous recoveries” on them. “Pick your poison,” he says. Apparently, Slater interviewed Vukovic twice, in person, perhaps in Vukovic’s outpatient office.

One glaring omission I noticed, or rather, an inaccuracy, was some spottiness when it came to antipsychiatry coverage. Antipsychiatry is mentioned a few times (as the enemy, I daresay) but the term, “psychiatric survivor” or “psychiatric survivor movement” is never mentioned, nor defined. Many key figures of our movement are omitted, as are the non-drug options we know of, such as the Hearing Voices Network, peer-run respites, or Soteria, though it appears that Slater did read (and quoted) Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic. Furthermore, Slater stated that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest had started the antipsychiatry movement. Oops! She portrays the antipsychiatry movement as a bunch of evil and disruptive rebels, a bygone movement that barely exists anymore. (Perhaps a trip to the University of Toronto might clear this one up a bit.)

At the time of writing her memoir, Slater is not yet at the point of realizing that the mental health system is not a productive place to go for answers to depression. We survivors must be patient with this memoir and appreciate that we, too, may once have been in that same place or on a similar journey. When you arrive at her chapter on psychedelics, and read about her exploration into what she thinks might be alternatives, you realize that while she is aware that psychiatric pills disappointed her and made her sick, she cannot sign up for experimental psychedelic “treatment” due to her insistence on staying on these “necessary” psychiatric drugs.

Here, I felt frustrated, not so much by Slater’s insistence that that she “needed” and still “needs” a chemical cure, but her narrow view of “treating” depression. She sees psychedelics as “alternative,” but doesn’t understand that her best option might mean not seeing a doctor at all! She insists that only a doctor can and should treat her, that her depression is so severe that a doctor is the only one competent and knowledgeable enough to do this. Again, here, I feel like reaching out to Slater, who is close to my age and lives very close to where I myself lived for many years, and helping her over that one last hurdle that daunts so many people.

We live in a society where the idea of “treatment” means you see a doctor, a licensed professional, a person exclusively specialized to deal with this horrible disease you have. Until you toss out the “treatable disease” concept, you likely will not be able to shake off the idea that only someone outside of yourself, a professional person or specialist, can fix you.

Lauren Slater is a highly intelligent and competent person, as is evident in her writing. She has carved a niche for herself in the literary world. I’m sure she has a decent relationship with a major publishing house and has successfully marketed her books. She has taught writing, worked as a therapist, and for the most part, avoided hospitalization. She probably has plenty of money. She raised kids and stayed out of poverty. She was happily married for years. She is now divorced.

When she sees her psychiatrist, whom she describes playfully and with an amusing tone, she suggests to him which pills he should put her on. We readers can peek into these interactions as they played themselves out in several chapters of Blue Dreams. Readers, did you ever do this, as well? I did! Trying to be as polite as I could, I suggested various pills to my own psychiatrist periodically, realizing I could put myself on drugs just as easily or better than most psychiatrists could (wait a minute…).

Have you ever sat in a mental health professional’s office and known in your heart that you were likely more intelligent or more insightful than the person you were sitting with? Have you ever felt that the person treating you was totally clueless and that you were wasting your time, even years of your life, sitting in offices, groups, hospitals, therapy sessions, psychiatry, pill after pill, lockup, psychodrama, and group hugs? If you felt like I did, maybe then you readers know what I’m about to say.

Dear Lauren Slater, if I might address you directly, you may think you have tried everything and exhausted your options. You have been on many pills and I think you are aware of the dangers at this point. Any more pills added to that cocktail very well could do you in. You tried to get psychedelics (and you really think they’re safe?) from a doctor, but that little trick failed. You’re cleverly avoiding electroshock and avoided mentioning it in the book. In fact, you glossed over “ECT.” Will that be next? I shudder to think of it.

In Blue Dreams, electroshock was mentioned only in passing, as if the procedure is no longer done. I wonder what Slater’s reasons are for making the choice to avoid electroshock. As a thorough researcher, what ugly findings did she discover, and what are her reasons for the glaring omission in Blue Dreams?

Dear Lauren Slater, you assume your “options” for what you define as a “disease” are limited to what the medical professionals, albeit kooky professionals that dabble in dangerous mushrooms, might have to offer. You have listed everything you have tried, to date, in your book. You attempted, not too convincingly, to instill hope in your readers and in me that psychedelics will be your next miracle cure discovered by the all-holy doctors.

I was cringing as I read those words, much as my own blog readers have cringed for me, as they read along years ago while I narrated my life story as I tried to cure my own eating disorder, watching me fail over and over as I went running from professional to professional, doctor to doctor, facility to facility, office to office, hoping for a miracle cure. Dear Lauren Slater: I learned, and I hope you learn, too, before it is too late.

I learned to stop knocking on the doctors’ doors. I know now that the future is a gift simply because it is always a mystery prize. That 8-Ball, that black sphere I’d prayed for was only a toy.

Dear Lauren Slater, you need to find the answer within yourself. Plain and simple.

I hope MIA readers read Blue Dreams cover-to-cover because it’s truly well worth it — a satisfying read that, like Slater’s other books, I would certainly give five stars to if I were forced to give stars (don’t you hate that?). You are likely, also, to have a visceral reaction to it, perhaps empathy for the writer, as I did.

I had another reaction. Alexander Vukovic, whom Slater interviewed extensively in her research, adding a unique personal touch; he was not my own psychiatrist, but he had treated someone near and dear to me. He had treated my late boyfriend, Joe, both on North Beknap and in the outpatient clinic. It was Joe who had called Dr. Vukovic “Dr. V.” Vukovic had prescribed the supposed “life-saving” drug Clozaril to many patients. He also prescribed Prolisec (for “side effects”). Undoubtedly, Vukovic knew that both these drugs damage the heart. I’m sure he also knew that many patients turned to smoking to relieve akathesia from Clozaril.

The last time I saw Dr. Vukovic, almost 15 years ago to this day, was when he attended Joe’s funeral. Joe died at the young age of 45. I remember shaking Vukovic’s hand. I was drugged, dazed, and clueless. Looking back, now that so much has happened, miles and years away, that day seems like a stained-glass window etched in the center-plate of a book.

At the funeral the priest spoke of peaks and valleys in our lives, and of journeys. We sang Amazing Grace.

Dear Lauren Slater: Reading your memoir, I know that perhaps someday you will be a fantastic activist, or you could be one. I suggest that you keep up your writing always. Learn to step outside of the doctor’s office. Turn the page. Live.

How sweet the sound.

140 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Julie,
    Thank you for this piece. I always wondered where Lauren Slater was and I was afraid she was one of those who would continue to drink the cool aid. I also enjoyed reading about your own journey away from drinking the cool aid.
    The journey you have taken and I as well was hard and st times still hard but with as much empathy and some writer’s envy as I have- I am so so glad I did not continue the way she has.
    And I do appreciate your empathy and realization in the past we were hoodwinked. And the painful aspect is it is s Hood one can only remove by one’s self. And sometimes for many and for many reasons the Hood is the only option seen and or given.
    Your writing hits a painful chord. Lauren came to a local college to speak and was a demigod to an old close friend.
    Because of her, (LaureSlater)my old friend and others did their own ignorant intervention when I told folks I was thinking on separating.About five people were involved including my husband albeit they pulled him in. The intervention went down badly for me and I suspect with hindsight them. I have never ever been the same. There was the me before and there is the me now. My mother was called and she was dealing with a disabled husband and a dying daughter and I was contacted. See a psychiatrist. Implied wax you need medication.
    The trauma of that month made me want to take meds because I felt so NOT ME anymore. And down the rabbit hole I fell.
    It took months for my husband to admit what they had done. He was a StageIII cancer survivor and my sisters terminal illness and his post treatment side affects really made him less than what he had been. We have been back and forth. He is more able to see his role and we have some what but not yet totally resolved our relationship.
    My dying sister never thought I was crazy- She knew the details. But they never asked her.
    So I have always felt Lauren Slater had for me and maybe others a weird non involved but influencer type of role in my life.
    She is like NAMI others in needsee her and those as pathways where in reality they are error prone as all humans.
    I am not surprised at how she is doing. And I am for sorry for that. I hope she can see the light some day.

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    • Catnight, I am sorry that happened. I sometimes hear stuff like “It is a disease like cancer.” This is such baloney unless you really do have a tumor that causes you distress, and very few of us fall into that category.

      My electroshock coincided with my dad’s cancer. I kept telling myself that he had a real disease, and I was being treated for a fake one and didn’t deserve the elaborate “treatment.” As it turned out, after the ECT I ended up brain damaged and then, finally, I told myself, “Oh gee, I must be legitimately mentally ill finally.”

      I don’t even think Lauren Slater would have wanted for you what happened to you. I don’t think she wanted people to interpret her that way. She was a therapist, not a psychiatrist.

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      • Rachel I am not sure what one would call it. And there are still gaps in my understanding because there are walls of silence around that and other things.
        All I know is that I had this friend who was very influenced by Lauren Slater in graduate school. She and others staged this meeting where multiple where aware of what was going to go down. The worst aspect is a a liscenced Social Worker I would never do such a thing to someone and I had already had sought out support. They actually gave my mother a list of shrinks so the message was medication. Not support.
        The really strange layer and their were and still are many is that a relative was trying to withdraw from a med and I was supportive at the very same time.
        Other friends were going through their own family traumas and I didn’t want to burden them and those folks continued to have really really hard times. The best I could do was disengage but life has never been the same.
        My writing hopes were destroyed as were many years of my life.
        Kind of a psychological tar and feathering so to speak. Irish folks did that to women who had the sheer gall to fall in love with a Brit.
        I was just ready to change my life and not just stagnate. So much for that.

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  2. Hi Julie,

    You’re an excellent writer yourself.

    There are lots of ways of overcoming “mental illness” and returning to a good level of productive happiness.

    But there’s no chemical cure for “mental illness” , what’s available is tranquillisation.

    Long term Tranquillisation can turn anyone into a longterm “mentally ill” person because these drugs are disabling, dependency forming, and brain damaging.

    I’ve experienced this situation myself, but I escaped from it through carefully reducing the tranquillisers; and engaging in “Buddhist Type Psychology”.

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    • Golly gee, something safe and nonpharmaceutical (they can’t bottle it and patent it) might actually work! Uh oh….. As far as I am concerned, you get a dx by going to a mental health practitioner. No other way to get one of those labels. Plain ole suffering won’t make the grade.

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  3. Great review, Julie. This fetish with treatment can have devastating consequences if anybody noticed. I would imagine that even Mrs. Slater could have found some pursuit more satisfying than pursuing the chimera of “mental health”. Her memoir and other books for one thing seem to have offered some sort of outlet. Had she been repelled by and rejected treatment, perhaps she would have been spared the diabetes and kidney disease that we learn have plagued her from your review. Sometimes, chasing that little “magic bullet”, the chemical answer alluded to in the subtitle, and physical ill health conditions, as many of us know, are related.

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  4. This story broke my heart. So many stories like it, where the drugs “work” and yet the person they are “working” on lives an increasingly limited and restricted life, beset by continuing “symptoms” and advancing physiological deterioration leading to an early death. It is the story of psychiatry, the “good news.” This is what ‘success’ looks like for many, many users of psychiatric “services,” and it is appalling.

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    • I dunno. To me it is staring me in the face. I saw it in the nuthouses for so long, and one day, made the connection. Ah hah! I suspect that what happens is anyone who figures it out gets silenced in some fashion. You’re silenced in any way they can. Drugging. Incarceration. Outright threats. Illegal use of sectioning. Anonymous online bullying. Vandalism. Spoofing. They will stop at nothing to silence us. This limiting of our Freedom of Speech at all levels is making it difficult to be heard.

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      • A question Julie. Does Lauren still believe what “no well informed psychiatrist” does? Does she think that SSRIs and other drugs are magic bullets or “medicines” for chemical imbalances?

        Or is her approach more pragmatic? “These drugs make me feel better so I don’t care how they work. I’m gonna keep taking them no matter what.”

        For the latter I shrug and say, “Kudos for your honesty!” Even though I have made a different choice.

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        • Well, she fully understands that the drugs caused the harm. But she hates feeling depressed. Almost like feeling bad isn’t part of life. While I agree, bad feelings can suck, I would not (currently) medicate bad feelings.

          For five years I did not medicate the horrific insomnia that resulted from taking these drugs. I chose to stay away from all pharmaceuticals. I chose misery over seeing a psychiatrist. I knew that seeing a psychiatrist and getting psych pills prescribed to me would end up with a diagnosis back on my record. Also, the prescription means the doctor is in control. I wanted to retain control over what I consumed.

          I chose to obtain legal pills, psych drugs, via the street rather than go to a psychiatrist. You may argue that doing this is “risky.” Look at the risks involved in seeing a psychiatrist!!! Do I want to take that risk? NO! Then, remaining in control, I did a slow taper. Every time my sleep stabilized, I lowered the size of the sliver, right down to nothing.

          I am not saying people should break the law. But psychiatrists break the law all the time, institutions have no regard for human rights laws, and none of these have any professional common sense ethics. If anyone outside of the nut wards knew of the violations we patients witnessed and endured, my own petty violation would seem like tiddlywinks.

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          • I believe the imbalance caused by the drug exposure is worse than any original situation. This imbalance is as a result of brain damage whereas the original situation is to do with “life”.

            I’ve attempted suicide (for example) more than once on strong psychiatric drugs, but never off them.

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          • I have friend in London that Practice’s CBT and he reckons that it’s not possible to be depressed without thinking in a depressed way. He’s had his own serious life difficulties and that’s why he retrained as a therapist.

            The thing about him is that over the years he has become very happy – the proof is there. He’s also a very compassionate person.

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          • Yeah, fiachra, I am sure cold weather depresses the heck out of me. I don’t feel depressed emotionally, but I have this very strong urge to go cuddle with Puzzle under the covers ALL DAY LONG to stay warm and cozy. Well? It can get cold in winter!!! The answer? A heater. Oh. Cuddle more with Puzzle! Who the heck wants to get out of bed when it is FREEZING, anyway?

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  5. This is brilliant Julie, probably the best piece I’ve read by you to date. You may have found your niche.

    There are so many of these books by brilliant creative people whose talents have been sucked into the psychiatric void, who then do their fans a great disservice by promoting the “mental illness” mindset, perhaps the most disempowering “identity” anyone can adopt. It’s important to have such works reviewed with sympathy, but at the same time for informed reviewers to point out discredited pieces of “information” being promulgated. It is really quite selfish when celebrities, in the process of trying to validate their own life decisions, draw others into potentially devastating encounters with psychiatry and psychiatric drugging. These sorts of books help shape the public mindset, and need to be reviewed in as objective a light as possible, without appearing to disparage the author him or herself. All this you have accomplished here.

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    • I figured I should take on this task. Actually, Welcome to My Country was the first book I read after I took a break from grad school and then, returned. I had just adopted Puzzle and she was nine weeks old (she is 11-1/2 now). I was recovering from devastating weight gain from Seroquel that had literally crippled me. The therapists had “advised” me not to return to grad school, stating that I “belonged” in day treatment. They claimed if I went back to school, I would “only end up in the hospital again.” Wow…they were wrong! I hope they are seriously embarrassed now.

      I remember the day I met with my advisor and she told me about Slater. I was scribbling my notes at a furious pace, wanting to capture every piece of wisdom she had to offer. I even remember the steam on the windows at the coffee shop where we met. “You *have* to read Lauren Slater, Julie, you will really love her writing,” she told me, without spoiling the end, when she described the book.

      I went home and ordered a good dozen paperbacks. I remember digging in with such enthusiasm. I still have all the critical papers I wrote on Slater’s books, in my files and in my memory.

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      • Not sure if Oldhead had this in mind, but maybe you could write a rebuttal to Dr. Jamison’s Touched By Fire Julie. A bunch of mini-biographies of psychiatrized creatives and what became of their works after long term “treatments.”

        I love My Madness Saved Me. But Virginia Woolf died before pharmapsychiatry emerged in all its dubious glory. Many say “meds” would have prevented her suicide. Countless suicides by folks doped up on psych drugs say otherwise.

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        • Szasz makes it very clear that Woolf killed herself by diagnosis and therapy. She was apparently steeped in the very idea of her madness, which she polished up like one would polish up the best silver in the house.

          The myth that the best creative people are “mad” clearly harmed her, too. And he states that madness got her out of having a kid and out of a humdrum job so she could write more.

          I spent years believing I could not work. This was untrue. I couldn’t work a boring, rote, repetitive, job where creativity and intelligence are not valued. However, there are indeed jobs out there that are a potential good match. Too bad it took me decades to find my current one.

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  6. Szazs might get mad at me. But he was sometimes wrong.

    A lot of what we call “mental illness” is immense unhappiness + creativity. “Hallucinations,” “delusions” of fantasy worlds, belief that you can’t get out of bed are all imagination gone bad.

    You can be creative without these problems. But if you are unhappy enough the temptation to use your imagination to escape reality can be overwhelming.

    The drugs work by killing the imagination–along with the rest of your brain and bodily organs.

    Plus shrinks seem to have it in for creative, artsy types.

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      • Yes. In his biography of V. Woolf My Madness Saved Me, Szazs scoffs at both genius and “mental illness” alike, saying there’s no correlation between creativity and madness. Granted “genius” is pretty subjective and elastic as a category. Like obscenity. “I know it when I see it.”

        I take William Glasser’s position that creativity causes altered mental states such as hallucinations and the belief you can’t get out of bed. Not all creativity causes madness but all madness is more or less creative. That might be why art therapy helps people so much.

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        • Don’t see how his anger might linger then, except in other bodies.

          Szasz was also dismissive of Mary Barnes artistry (and “cure”/recovery) claiming her talent bogus, a fabrication concocted by Laing and company, and I’m thinking that’s all a matter of personal taste, isn’t it? Of which, as has been stated previously, there is no accounting.

          I’ve seen much creativity in madness, however, the madman or woman is usually too disorganized, and/or illogical, to produce great art, the province of the “genius”, at least, while mad. (I tend to think of the art of Vincent van Gogh, for example, as products of lucidity more than madness.) Virginia Wolfe, on the other hand, wasn’t it more a matter of melancholia than mania, something which can be very compatible with great works of art, and, working, too. Didn’t stop her from offing herself, but who would have expected it to do so anyway.

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          • Some say Vincent suffered late stage syphilis or malnutrition from poverty.

            He was pretty sensitive, high strung and given to melancholy thoughts. Things are worse today. No tolerance for those with low emotional pain thresholds. 🙁 No compassion or mercy on the weak. Just punishments and control!

            If things had gone differently and he had learned how to deal with life’s troubles better things might have gone better.

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          • If he had been in a different world, yeah, sure.

            The syphilis theory, in Vincent’s case, I would seriously doubt, although it certainly killed many of his age. Shumann was given as the proto-typical example for “manic-depressive psychosis” in my psychology school textbook. I’ve also seen it suggested that Shumann had syphilis, and I kind of think that more of a valid possibility.

            Syphilis, as you must know, before it was determined to be venereal in origin, and therefore, organic, was thought a very common “mental illness” affecting a sizeable percentage of those confined to asylums during the 19th century.

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  7. People who are killed by psychiatry are voiceless, before and after their death. Victims of psychiatry are pioneers of new, we’re cutting the trails for lazy ones, who can’t see a danger in psychiatry. Not understanding the phenomenology of the psyche, which does not exist in capitalism, is the main reason of dehumanisation and depopulation. Lack of phenomenology shallow psychopatic language and lack of knowledge about pagan mythical roots of psyche is a tragedy for humanity, in that place we have pseudo rationalism,pseudo science, theology = Apollonian ego traits, and psyche begins far beyond ego Apollonian traits of character. Homo psychologicus is banned, and homo psychologicus is the future. I suggest everyone to read Hillman Revisioning psychology, because this is the only book which shows what happened with homo psychologicus and why psychology was replaced by theology and rationalism in medical disguise = inquisition. Psyche, especially psychological Hades traits are banned by state and that state use hidden theology in place of psychology, that’s why people are being killed. They are victims of primitive perception and vulgar psychopatic jargon. Language is everything, and psychiatry knows that. The roots of psyche remains unknown, because we are using teology in place of psychology. State and religion banned human psyche (in place of phenomenology we have the system of judgements from arrogant antypsychological -apollonian EGO point of view -DSM) and that’s why normal (ego apollonian) and religious people does not pay Cezar a bloody death toll. Because only the human psyche is for state antichrist/satan/evil/illness/problem NOT A HUMAN NECESSITY. Inquisition still exists (manufacture of madness)

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    • I think you have a lot of valid points there. Much of psychiatry is rooted in principles that evolved decades or even centuries ago, such as male dominance, which, from what I have read, is not inherent in the species, but evolved in human history as a blight upon us and with that, racism, elitism, and many other isms.

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  8. God, that book sounds frightening! While, I’m sure it’s well-researched and well-written, it is also a tale of suicide-by-quack. I got suckered into the #FAKESCIENCE . No doubt, that’s how many of us became “patients”. But, Ms. Slater knows that psychiatry is a death sentence. Though her upbringing had surely hurt her chances of escaping psychiatry, she had amassed enough resources to do just that. As Julie pointed out, she has an education, a career, a home, and a partner. For anyone, those supports are significant. And, compared to most Mad people, she’s immensely privileged. I quit psychiatry with FAR fewer resources than Slater has. Really, her book is a testament to psychiatry’s power to brainwash. Despite everything Slater has achieved, her quacks have convinced her that she’s still unworthy of life. I’m terrified for her and enraged, as always, at psychiatry. Anytime someone scolds me to “stop romanticizing ‘noncompliance’”, I will refer them, to Slater’s book and/or obituary.

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    • Probably because Slater is so well off she doesn’t choose to escape. Safer and easier to keep taking her “meds” and sing their praises. Though even she seems to find that harder to do now. The same can be said for figures like Patty Duke, Carrie Fisher, and Kay Redfield Jamison.

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      • You have a good point, Rachel777 though I do not want to judge Lauren too harshly though my friends and partner knows how her name gets me upset. Lauren’s education and career was predominately in the mainstream medical model of psychiatry and traditional psychotherapy. She has a certain status as a memoir writer, writing about her own struggles. Though she is courageous in some ways, she cannot go against it completely, It would ostracize her too much. Maybe she just trusts the system too much as it has become her second family.

        Kay Redfield Jamison is also a psychologist, works at John Hopkins and wrote about her own struggles. I just find that they cannot leave mainstream psychiatric model. They both found notoriety due to their struggles. They are both products of their time and have done well in their careers within the system. Fame and money have their blessings and their curses.

        I am still continuing to distance myself from mainstream psychiatric and psychological models. I want some new writers and new perspectives, a new generation that drives out psychiatry and eliminates the power dynamics and abuse in the mental health system. I see wonderful, new perspectives from MIA and elsewhere. The establishment is not wanting to lose power and privilege so keep moving forward. Lots of work to be done.

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          • You are right, Rachel77. I wonder how many psychiatrists would take these drugs themselves knowing what they know? Instead of writing a script for these harmful drugs, why not write on a script pad, “Exercise, eat more fruits and vegetables, go out with some friends, find a meaning role in life, work, love…”? That’s right, would not make for reimbursement, “not a medical necessity”. Wow, what a way to make a living. I was going to become a corporate lawyer when I was in college. More ethics in that then psychiatry nowadays.

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          • Knowledge, I have wondered how my life would have turned out if I went into law instead of music or writing. I find that lawyers know what ethics are. Psychiatrists either do not know or ignore ethics altogether. I believe they may have ethical concerns about what they’re being asked to do in medical school. They are told to ignore ethics, ignore what their moral conscience tells them, and to be dishonest to patients because “the ends justify the means.” This is a logical fallacy, one of many that med students are told and in turn, we patients are told and we’re supposed to accept like the pills we’re handed in a cup.

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          • Rachel, thanks for asking. I have the entire page written but need to iron out a few leftover particulars. The theme will be announced when the submissions open and I will open it up for about six months for people to submit. I will be asking for creative works rather than research papers and preference will be given to those who are personally invested in what they write. I will be looking for poetry, shorts, essays, memoir, and the like.

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  9. Nice review, Julie. Unfortunately I do not think as highly of Lauren as you. She is certainly a good writer. I worked with Lauren during my first job as a residential counselor in Boston area working with a small group of men with some horrific backgrounds and trauma. Lauren was the psychologist in the outpatient practice next store. Her first book, “Welcome to My Country” was written about these men. She made quite a lot of money off their stories. They should have received some of this. She promised them musical instruments but to my knowledge years after did not ever get them. She had them sign releases, most from their legal guardians. I had respect and love for these men and hope that they are doing well.

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    • Yes, in fact that chapter was my favorite. I honestly believed she got their permission and I didn’t realize she had gone over their heads! Guardians…hah! That is exploitation at its worst.

      As a writer I have fallen prey to this and once I literally pulled a chapter out of a book just prior to publication. When you write memoir you *must* be very careful and not tread in this realm.

      If any of you are familiar with the writer Lucy Greeley, she died of a heroin overdose at some point. Then, her friend Anne Hatchett wrote a book about Greeley. Hatchett was said to have exploited Greeley’s death.

      If you are going to write about someone you were close to after they die or after you lose touch irreparably, you have to be careful. You focus on your feelings and what you recall and have record of, and you realize those leftover feelings will evolve and change over a long, long period. You have to be aware that others, the others left behind have feelings, too. You also have to be aware of your own short-sightedness and be sensitive to the fact that there are things you may never know.

      Professionally, this is ten times more essential.

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      • Lauren took the book title itself from a resident, a lovely Vietnamese man who desperately wanted to be an American citizen. The title is from a poem he wrote about the United States. I remember taking him to an immigration attorney and being told if we pursued it she definitely thought he would be deported due to his mental illness. He loved this country very much, more than most Americans born here. He had seen huge violence, poverty and trauma in his own country and found the United States to be paradise compared to Vietnam. I still think of him fondly when I see Vietnamese pizza on a menu which he introduced me. I was young and naive then and learned so much from these men. They helped me to better understand those with trauma and not to be afraid to look beyond the diagnoses that mental health system placed on them. The medications back then: clozaril, mellaril, haldol, thorazine, etc. made them so unhealthy.

        Great point, Julie, about being careful about writing about “someone you were close to after they die or after you lose touch irreparably”. I have a personal experience with that in my own family. My cousin who was a nurse and a therapist, wrote a book about her mother, my aunt who I loved very much. My cousin undoubtedly had a very difficult childhood. Her mother was in and out of psychiatric units during her childhood and had explosive rages toward her.

        My issue with her book was that she blamed a lot of her mother’s issues on our grandmother, an Irish Catholic woman with 10 children. Her oldest died in WWII and another died of influenza. My paternal grandmother died before I was born but my father, the youngest, adored her. He and other family members were very hurt by her book.

        I found out from another aunt when she was in an assisted living facility, that this aunt was sexually abused by a neighbor at age 2 and it was kept quiet by the family. This information that I shared with my cousin seemed to help her understand reasons why my aunt, her mother, acted in the ways she did. Psychiatry by the way, did nothing to help my aunt. Labeled and drugged, she ended up drinking, overweight and died rather young.

        Keep up the wonderful writing, Julie. You are very gifted. Your strengths need to be shared.

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        • Knowledge, I have seen that so, so many times, when kids blame their parents and even call them “pure evil.” I don’t get that. Why do they not call the abuse “evil”? They even go so far as claiming these parents were born “evil” and were “psychopaths.” Or personality disordered, paranoid, bipolar, chemical imbalance, otherwise diseased. Huh? When you dig deep, you invariably find out the abuse was passed-on abuse, that the parents were abused or traumatized themselves, if not by their parents, then subject to trauma, likely early in life. Often it is stuff buried so deep we just never learn. Unless someone just sits down with the person, quits the disease nonsense, and sees them as a valuable and valid human being, no less and no more.

          I just cannot stand hearing people called psychopath, mentally ill, or personality disordered, any of those hateful words. It breaks my heart.

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          • Very well said, Rachel! It is the passing on of abuse and trauma that we need to address. Blaming parents’ brains or demonizing them avoids the reality that they, too, are the products of the distorted and traumatic culture in which we all participate.

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          • Seek to understand versus judge. Healing in my experience takes place in that type of environment. Labeling through DSM V codes hurts and does not help. Often just reinforcing the original trauma and abuse. It never addresses the root causes which are numerous and varied and need time, compassion, and understanding to sort out. We live in a quick, solution-focused, non-processing world unfortunately. Thanks again, Julie. You are kind, sensitive and wise.

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        • Parents or family members are often hurt when family members speak about things that were painful. It isn’t necessarily about blame, it’s about understanding that we all have limitations and that good intentions are not protection against hurting those we love. The “let’s not blame the family” meme has been used to powerful effect by the psychiatric mainstream to keep people from examining their history and culture as contributing agents to their distress. It is possible to be honest about what has happened without being blameful. We all fail our children to some degree or another, and making it safe for our kids to tell us what we did well and poorly is one of the best ways to help our kids mature to their greatest potential.

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          • I agree, Steve. Truth can certainly be painful. When there is love, honesty and trust in families there is room for forgiveness. Mistakes and small hurts can happen without permanent damage. I deal with big mistakes and big hurts and traumas with many of the individuals and families I encounter. Some of the damage just cannot ever be fully repaired. Sincere apologies, accountability and reparation are often needed to at least have the possibility of healing and repair. I have had some wonderful experiences of families healing from traumas and being stronger for it. Sometimes takes many years, but it can happen.

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  10. I have not read Slater’s book, although I did hear interview with Terri Gross. Based on that, there are a great many things in this review that make sense to me, and also some things that don’t. More important, I am dismayed by the condescension towards a smart and thoughtful woman who doesn’t have all the answers but does have the courage to tell her story and offer her opinions, imperfections, uncertainties, and all. Why is it that so many people writing here can not see the way they mirror the arrogance of conventional psychiatry every time they dismiss the experience of real people and announce to us all that they know the truth and the way that everyone else must follow?

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    • I am sorry you feel that way. I didn’t think feeling compassion toward a writer I seriously admire, and wanting to reach out to her, from writer to writer was “arrogance.” I never had compassion from psych. I got a diagnosis. I got bossed around, was told I couldn’t work when I could, and got locked up and got my rights taken away. For that, taxpayers got a bill.

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      • Hey, sorry for being so strident there, I’m afraid I can get my dander up. I really did have many of the same reactions as you–to the interview I heard, anyway. But there were two things that bothered me in what you wrote.

        The first is phrases like: “Dear Lauren Slater: I learned, and I hope you learn, too, before it is too late,” and “Dear Lauren Slater, you need to find the answer within yourself. Plain and simple.” That seems pretty condescending to me and I just think we need to meet people where they are. The reason it pushes my buttons, of course, is that I as once told things were plain and simple by the people who got me hooked on antidepressants and it cost me dearly. I just don’t agree with you on the “everyone is different” thing. I know it’s a tricky phrase and can be used to legitimize really bad treatment, but I also think there’s truth in it–even if just in that some people are “different” in that they really aren’t able to get off the drugs. Or at least are convinced of such, and I won’t put myself in the position of judging them on that, as much as I might disagree, and tell them so. But I think it’s terribly important that the conversation always be respectful.

        The second things is regarding psychedelics. I spent five years of my life trying to get off of SSRIs and might never have been able to if I had not in the end done some careful, guided work with psychedelics. I have now been clean for six years and honestly feel I owe my life to those substances. And I know several other people who would say the same. I think we need to be careful not to counter psychiatry’s “drugs are always the answer” ideology with a reactionary “drugs are always bad” ideology. I think we need to listen and learn and consider individual people and individual treatments on their own merits.

        Thanks for your writing, and for the discussion–really.

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        • Dear Daniel,

          I found it very difficult to come off “Medication”:

          I was given permission to discontinue Fluphenazine depot injection by my Consultant Psychiatrist Dr P A Carney in Ireland, in October of 1983.

          But I didn’t last long. I ended up in hospital in December of 1983 and was re introduced to Fluphenazine while I was there.

          I experienced a Suicide Attempt shortly afterwards (due to Acute Akathisia) in early 1984 and ended up in hospital again.

          When I left hospital I attempted to discontinue the Fluphenazine again but I found this too difficult, so I asked for a “medication” with less side effects, and was offered Depixol depot injection as an alternative.

          I was injected in April of 1984 with twice the introductory dose of Depixol Depot, but I reacted a day or two later (with Acute Akathisia). This was on a weekend and I attempted to gain admission to hospital as I knew I wasn’t safe.

          The nursing staff at the hospital had been instructed not to admit me if I turned up again, but they admitted me anyway. I remained in hospital for less than 48 hours, and then left as the Acute Akathisia had abated. This was my last hospitalization.

          I did manage to come off the injection (and the disability benefit) after this hospitalization in 1984, and was able to return to normal life as a result (- as the injection side effects had been very disabling).

          I found I couldnt survive without any “medication” so I asked for Oral “medication”, and I tapered from there.

          By 1990 I was taking 25 mg of thioradazine (similar to thorazine)/per day (suitable for hiccoughs), and this eventually became nothing.

          In 1980 at my first hopitalization I had been very happy to refuse “medication”; and had asked for the “Talking Treatments”.

          Ultimately the “Talking Treatments” were the Solution.

          (My Diagnoses had been:- 1980 Schizophrenia; 1982 Chronic Schizophrenia ; 1984 Schizo affective disorder).

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        • Daniel, You make very good points. In the book, what happens is that Slater wants psychedelics but she only wants them prescribed by a doctor. So instead of getting them on the street she accepts what the doctor says, namely that she can’t try psychedelics simultaneously with the anti-d’s! Had she used her own head, and gotten the drugs herself, maybe her experience would have been more like yours, and maybe she would have been able to get off the prescribed anti-d’s.

          I also agree with you that anti-d’s are about the worst of the drugs to get off of. I was not on them for the most part. However, if you read my comment that I put here earlier, I had to reinstate due to long-term, very severe (hate that word), unbearable insomnia that would not quit for five years. How I lived through all that, I will never know, but I did until I finally decided to buy psych drugs on the street. I made this decision weighing the risks of street drugs against the worse risk of seeing a psych (or other MD) and getting a dx put back on my record. I chose street drugs as the least harmful option. I was able to taper successfully down to a sliver and now, I am off the pharma finally. Yes it took a very very long time but the good news is that street drugs saved me a lot of grief and got me functioning again. I sleep now. It was very very easy to ascertain when to lower the dose. Easy because the question, “Am I sleeping okay?” is simple, measurable, and cut and dry. I did all this without a doctor and decided based on my own response, which I feel I can measure on my own better than some person in an office can.

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          • Neuroleptics and “mood stabilizers” were easy peasy coming off of. Effexor was horrible. Not just withdrawal–the exhaustion and muscle cramps started a few years before. Long term effects of drug use. But the withdrawal exacerbated the symptoms.

            Been off them for better than 9 months. There is progress, but painfully slow.

            Plus I’m allergic to everything. SSRIs also serve as antihistamines. That’s why they won’t let you take cold syrup if you’re on one.

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          • Hard to generalize. Neuroleptics and mood stablizers can also be hell to come off, even if done gradually. Unless you enjoy living a waking nightmare, getting next to no sleep for months on end, and being scared out of your life that everyone around you wants to kill you. I think I’d take muscle cramps and exhaustion instead, given the choice.

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          • Not true, Rachel. Just because I wasn’t bedridden (or crying….) doesn’t mean I wasn’t having a hard time. Five years of the worst possible insomnia…Is that “easy”? Really? It was so bad that people claimed I must be faking it. I literally lost friends over it, blameful friends, one even had the nerve to claim that the drug-induced insomnia came from a “gratitude problem.” Wow, now I know it didn’t (arrogance, I must say!).

            My ex-psychiatrist claimed I had “mania.” I wasn’t manic but after several years of not sleeping and losing all the friends I had (not sleeping makes you into a bitch…) I was not manic, but so exhausted I was afraid I would die of organ failure. Is that “easy”? I am lucky I did not die. I am lucky I didn’t commit suicide, as many do. It did not get to that point, but my life felt useless, pointless, because I couldn’t accomplish a thing! Never mind dropping things, bumping into things, and short-term memory problems. I am lucky I did not see a shrink during that time.

            My decision to reinstate with drugs obtained illegally saved my life. How long do you think I did that? Two years. Two years to get off those drugs. Easy? I wasn’t crying. I wasn’t bitching or yapping about “withdrawal” because I didn’t have brain zaps. Still, I had to get off so slowly otherwise end up a miserable insomniac all over again. It was easy to titrate, but do you think it was easy to be worst possible exhausted, easy to lose my friends, easy to be accused of mania and scared to death of more forced drugging?

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          • And let me add, I was off drugs five entire years and not sleeping at all during that time. Hypnotic state kept me going. That was all I got, night after night. I was fully conscious and the exhaustion was beyond belief until I finally gave in. Five hellish years later. It’s just that I didn’t say the word “Withdrawal.” I didn’t want to be so trendy. It was more like, “Drug-induced insomnia.” from HELL.

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          • Vanilla,

            A person once put on the drugs (even if they have very little “wrong” with them) could quite easily remain on the drugs and remain Psychiatric.

            This is where the Epidemic comes from.

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    • The main issue people are having is with her promoting psychiatric fraud and “mental health” ideology, whether out of ignorance, fear, or whatever, in a way which could jeopardize her fans by leading them to follow suit.

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      • I am not sure that is what I got from her book. I did not hear her promoting MH. I didn’t hear exactly that. I heard her utter helplessness, her bewilderment over how she got into the predicament she ended up in, and total flabbergastedness over why it all occurred. I do not think for one minute she wants others to fall into the same rabbit hole she did. My concern is that she still goes to these doctors. Why does she not solve her own problems instead? She is smart and resourceful. Why does she still seek the appointments and prescription method? Does she not know this is the road to death?

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        • OK, maybe not consciously but implicitly, in that as you say she doesn’t seem to look beyond the hope of a “better” psychiatric “treatment.” But I guess if she’s still confused she can’t be blamed for that. Do you think she comes across in a way that would tend to pull people into the rabbit hole or scare them away from it?

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          • Oldhead, She is hoping psychedelics will “cure” her. But she insists on getting these psychedelics prescribed by a doctor. She explains that she is just so ill that no non-doctor can deal with her.

            I don’t buy this at all, and most of us don’t, I am sure, as many of us were likewise labeled “severe” at some point, or tx-resistant. We might have been called “severe” or tx-resistant, but this was due to the frustration of the clinician, or due to insurance non-coverage, or because there was no DSM label that we fit into neatly, or because we didn’t like being locked up, or because their pat answers and simplistic therapy didn’t work the first time. Or maybe it was their failure to listen that got us the severe label.

            This is not a reason to believe that only a doctor has all the answers for you. A doctor very well can pull out a bullet if you are shot. They are good for a few things. But not all of life. That is the essence of what seriously frustrated me about this book.

            And let me add that I have been very much a Slater fan ever since I was introduced to her.

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          • Oldhead,

            Laurenne Slater points the physical damage that she says will soon kill her, AT the Psychiatric “Treatment” – NOT AT the “Illness” – that’s what I got out of it.

            “..Now, 35 years and 12 drugs later, my kidneys are failing, I have diabetes, I am overweight and my memory is perforated. My lifetime seems seriously foreshortened, not because of a psychiatric illness but because of the drugs I have taken to treat it…”

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          • Not arguing with anyone here, as you would be preaching to the choir. Just trying to get a sense of what you’re saying/concluding as to her effect on others vis. a vis. psychiatry. You both seem to be saying that most people, fans or no, would be aghast after reading this and stay away. She certainly seems to beset by contradictions, but understands that psychiatry is killing her. Maybe the fact that she has no disease remains at the “radical idea” stage in her consciousness, and she can’t yet internalize that it’s the literal truth. Repetition and reassurance help, so maybe Julie can find a way to whisper into her ear. (Any chance she’ll see your review?)

            On another note, I would never trash the use of psychedelics as tools for expanding consciousness. But using them as medicines for fake diseases would project a negative setting onto the experience from the start.

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          • Oldhead, precisely as you say. “Beset by contradictions.” All of us are full of contradictions. Contradictions pull us this way and that and in fact, keep us alive. If we were serene, we would be static, unmotivated, bored with life, and devoid of ambition and drive.

            As for psychedelics, I’m all for it. What confuses me is reliance on doctors to prescribe them, reliance on their all-holy expertise. Why not just try psychedelics if you want them? Why bother with doctors at all? They’re useful for taking out bullets or setting bones. Everything else, their track record is terrible.

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        • People with authoritarian mind like to search for help among the same psychopats. It is their problem, even if it helps them. The problem with apollonian ego patients is that they are on the same LOW LAME PSYCHOPATIC ANTYpsychological level of perception as psychiatrists. Apollonian ego means – strong authoritarian mind (ARYAN RACE). They hates every aspects of psyche, because they are too weak to face it, their ego is a king and psyche is ruthless army destroying arrogance of ego fundamentalists. Titans, people beyond ego archetype, aren’t weak like them, they are far more psychological than authoritarian mind which is a value only in PRO psychological system, not in this. There is a hierarchy in the psyche reality and authoritarian are not even invited, because their small ego is too lame to conquer with great psychic reality. Whats’ more authoritarians are theologians even if they are atheists. And this is the funniest thing, they think it is rationalism or medicine, but psychiatry is HIDDEN theology in medical disguise,the inquistion. Hillman, Szasz still waits for smart people.

          Apollonian ego is antypsychological despot.
          Psychiatry is an ideology create to destroy psychic reality with hegemony of apollonian ego traits – economy/techne and relligion spiritualism theology which will produce psychological HUBRIS.
          It has nothing to do with reality of the psyche/phenomenology of psyche. It is a terrorism of one archetype, the least psychological one, and in the center of apollonian ego there’s only money, science, technology, theology – TECHNE. NOT HUMAN PSYCHE. To understand that we must read about the roots of psyche, and psyche is pagan, not Christian. And the state is pro spiritualism and pro apollonian ego, the rest of HUMAN psyche – WE – are the antichrist for them. Psyche is evil for psychiatrists, and that’ s why psychiatry should be banned, not the psyche or the psychological man. Psychiatry is antipsychological because it is ruled by hidden theology. not rationalism or science. Read Revisioning psychology.

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  11. Julie, I am glad you wrote this and I like the discussion going on. I hear she is a good writer but I have my own particular issue with her separate from most of the discussion. I have read the other books from Kay to Andrew to Ellyn. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. And Their is the ethical debate that has never risen to any type of solution about client stories and this goes for all sorts of books especially like Mary Piper and her “Raising Ophelia” book. That should be an entire blog and more because with bestseller earnings without those human interest narratives where would the book be? Like Plantation owners where would they be without slave labor?
    One of those things that even when a book’s ideas are good and it is well written there is the reader unease but look at Eugene O’Neil and “ Long Days Journey Into Night” he used his family and his mother’s addiction to morphine – so similar to the opioid crisis now only you don’t live addicted you eventually OD and possibly die. So there is the issue of art and human suffering how to protray? And how else to get an urgent message across?
    Tony Kushner’s “ Angels in America “ and the other works of art that the AIDS crisis brought out were essential in turning the tide that and the forgotten AIDS quilt. So there is that fragment side of the discussion as well.
    Trauma studies also complicate the picture and I still see in my local community people identifying with the diabetes analogy only wow you do have a great chance to become diabetic- how ironic is that?’
    And there in my family and others those that choose to use meds and get benefit. You can’t smash them and I despite my history refuse to be rigid about their choice to take – although some day I hope it will be seen like a tobacco issue. Until that time comes and unless there are varied and solid alternatives most folks have to struggle on their own.
    Since I once was a professional I also wanted to say back in the day
    Termination of treatment was the goal. I would say we are a team and my job is to put myself out of business. And there was one program I worked in that was as trauma focused as possible during the time and it was an enforced two year time period where the last six months was all about ending treatment.
    So at times the thinkingbwas there until it became incovient to the powers that be. And I think there was a knowing downplaying of all of that and highlighting the bio aspect and illness metaphor.
    The system already iffy became solidly rigged. There was no treatment as I had treated my own clients it was pure and simple incarceration.

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    • Thank you, CatNight, for your post and for the other thoughtful responses. I say that all the time to my colleagues, “How do I get myself out of this profession?”. “I want to be less needed”. As a “professional” in this field though much more radical then I ever was, and as a psychiatric survivor and a family member of psychiatric survivors, I too am concerned about authors writing about other’s experience. The publishing industry and editors want a good story and a best selling book. Personal stories often interest people.

      I have no problem with Lauren writing about her own experience in this most current book. I do wish her well and though I had a negative experience with her from her first book, I do empathize with her situation and hope as a woman and mother she finds strength and hope and peace. I wish I could have been friends with her long ago. I will put her name in my prayer box to wish kindness, health and wellbeing.

      Her experience with psychiatric medications does prove to me my own personal experience and my family members’ experience, and from most of those I serve in my role as a therapist and medical social worker who taken psychiatric “medications” and treatment. MIA’s purpose and Bob Whitaker’s findings in Anatomy of an Epidemic just validated years of experience and I am truly grateful for that, because now I have evidence to show my clients and to fight back a system that has truly gone astray from a healing and moral compass.

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      • Thanks Knowledge. I found thee work at times very problematic. Drugs were used with kids in hospitals who were sick enough to need nursing care but to old and rambucious to handle on weekends in the floor units.
        And that was way back.
        The prof organizations need to be woken up somehow.
        BTW
        Dr Julious Richmond Surgeon General began the talk of stopping homosexuality as a sx and issues with smoking. It just takes one strong bearable voice and then the cracks start to open.

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  12. I’m not a book reader but I got Lauren’s history of psychiatry on 10 treatments after reading that daily mail article. There is something fascinating about her recognition of the damage, with the unblinking acceptance that it’s necessary. I gave up about 2 thirds through when there were too many “transformation” stories and ‘scientists believe’. Like someone has said, it feels like this gifted writer has been brainwashed and she needs the mythology kept alive to justify where she has come to. To arrive at the conclusion that your health has been irreparably damaged for nothing may be too hard for any of us to accept. Finally I think I was seeing a story about hope for the future though new drugs and decided that what was about to follow was cobblers.

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  13. I love your writing Julie, and this review of Blue Dreams is a personal best (IMO) so far, although, unfortunately about a sad subject. I read the book preview on Amazon, and the opening page is a “killer.” I felt sorry for her and perplexed along with most others here about why she hasn’t connected the dots in ways that matter to her life going forward. When you go to the book reviews of it on Amazon, you find that some (pharma reps, no doubt) are trying to discredit her supposed lack of research by claiming that she doesn’t rely on “science” and she’s out of her league as a psychologist, by not being a psychopharmacologist. Without having read her book or knowing her writing I conclude that being “ill” is part of her identity, There may not have been much identity there before she reached the tender age of 19, which isn’t surprising as isn’t the cliche of finding one’s identity most assoiated with people in the turbulence of late adolescence? Think about putting this review on Amazon and (hint) give it a low star rating so that it will be more easy to spot. There are only 5 critical reviews there so far.

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      • Oldhead I think Slater very well might be on the brink of joining our side. This was what I meant about process. She is partway there.

        Likewise, many of us did not become antipsych overnight. We had to shed the brainwashing, the dependency, the worshipful belief in them, the bad habit of going to doctors and therapists for every little thing. The System trained us so well. We had to get over the fear of grieving, and of course, the actual grief over not playing the “patient” role anymore. Many simply do not know any other way. I believe that finding another role, or life purpose, might help. That and getting away from those that treat you like a patient!

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  14. Well, Julious Richmond MD supposedly started the questioning of homosexuality as a disease and tobacco dangers. So it can be done.
    Also everyone should read about Henrietta Lacks. Those who have been research subjects or personal narratives in best sellers should have some sort of financial restitution.

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    • True. Henrietta’s family would be some of the richest people in this country now if they’d received compensation for the harvesting of their mother’s cells, unbeknown to anyone but the doctor who did it and one or two of his assistants. If I understand things correctly, most of all the human cells that are used in tests and studies today come from her original cells harvested by the doctor who took her case.

      Many African Americans are afraid to go to teaching hospitals affiliated with medical schools for their treatment because they fear that they will be experimented on. Henrietta was in Johns Hopkins I think. I believe, after being trained in one of these hospitals and after reading Henrietta’s story that they have a right to be afraid.

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  15. “Furthermore, Slater stated that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest had started the antipsychiatry movement. Oops! She portrays the antipsychiatry movement as a bunch of evil and disruptive rebels, a bygone movement that barely exists anymore.”

    Interesting – this is exactly the line put out by lead psychiatrists via blogs, articles and social media. Looks like they are successfully setting the agenda by swaying the opinion of influential commentators like Lauren. How do we kick back?

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    • By organizing, educating, setting our own agenda/s, and “by swaying the opinion of influential commentators”, or, at least, developing some of our own. Anything that DOESN’T represent ceasing to “kick back”! ‘Playing ‘possom’ is okay when it deceives your opponent, not so okay when there is no deception involved.

      Antipsychiatry suffered some tremendous losses from which it still hasn’t completely recovered, 1. when the first wave of the movement (theoreticians) died off in the 1980s and 1990s, and 2. when a significant portion of the psychiatric survivor movement sold out with the rise of the then government funded “alternatives” movement in 1985, creating what has been dubbed the “consumer/survivor/ex-patient” movement. We must, in a sense, (remake ourselves) refashion our movement following these developments, and by doing so, adapt to changing times. It’s not like psycho-pharmaceutical industrial complex, and it’s accomplices (the “mental illness” industry), are going to cease opposing antipsychiatry (due respect for civil liberties).

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      • There are developments, that have eventually appeared in the mainframe and are likely to stay, Like:-

        The acceptance that the psychiatric drugs are killing people 30 years earlier than normal.

        The developing acceptance that “antidepressants” are of no value to Society.

        The growing awareness of the huge cost of Psychiatric Disability in developed countries.

        The Arrival of the Hearing Voices Network (with solutions that work).

        The acceptance that systems like “Open Dialogue” can completely recover the majority of people that use them.

        Other Solutions appearing that present complete recovery from longterm Psychiatric Diagnoses.

        The British Psychological Societys encroachment on Psychiatric Territory in the UK – with psychological solutions that work.

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    • Auntie, I have said this before but I think it starts with each of us. We kick back, but we also live well, acting as real-life demos of what it is like to kick psych out of your life. While I know many are suffering we need to take these grievances to the right places. These complaints need to go to the FDA and even taken to the courts, if possible.

      I know the mantra “psych ruined my life” is prevalent, but we need to state also that psych caused the multiple medical issues we have faced, sustained us as disabled people, loved to keep us out of work, supported and upheld our maladies. We need to state loud and clear that leaving psych did not cause mental illness nor supposed “worsening of mental illness.” We need to make it clear that damages such as tremors, TD, memory loss, and so on are not “mental illness” but caused by the treatment. The general public needs to see this clearly because if not illustrated, the average person will not connect the dots.

      For many of us, leaving psych saved our lives. We need to say this loudly also, and those of us who have immensely more stable and happy lives need to make themselves visible.

      You get to a point where you are not afraid to tell people after you get to know them and they trust you. That trust must be there otherwise “telling” won’t work. It will only lead to distrust. When we give away our background, we win people over to our side.

      I did this at my regular Toastmasters meeting and it worked! I love giving antipsych speeches there. But at another Toastmasters Club I revealed too soon, resulting in their clear reluctance and hesitation when I joined that club. I made the decision to take a long hiatus and try again.

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      • “For many of us, leaving psych saved our lives. We need to say this loudly also, and those of us who have immensely more stable and happy lives need to make themselves visible.”

        I am now in my late 40s, and can truthfully say that I really do have an immensely stable, happy and healthy life. I know damn well this would not be the case had I faithfully followed doctor’s orders and swilled down the daily neurotoxins. But making myself visible is a big ask, especially in my real-life world. I like that I am invisible, normal, a trusted employee – I have never said a word to my colleagues about my stint as a psych-patient or my phoney-baloney “severe mental illness” diagnosis, and I never would because I know they’d see me differently from that moment on. My guess is that there are many other people of my generation who tangled with the system in their 20s, managed to struggle free, and got on with their lives without breathing a word about it. You are right – it would definitely help our cause if these people were more visible – but I absolutely don’t blame them for keeping quiet.

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  16. Thinking of Lauren Slater, I just recalled Lori Schiller’s book, The Quiet Room, which was first pubished in 1994. Both writers have the initials LS and both are killing themselves. In an update to her book in 2009 Schiller says that she’s currently on 31 drugs (31 drugs!) and struggles to get out of bed in the morning. She confides that she and her mother went on the speaking circuit after the book was published because Sandoz wanted them to promote clozapine. If clozapine was so good, why is she on 31 drugs in 2009 and struggling to survive?

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    • My own historical Psychiatrist and drug Researcher/Promoter honestly couldn’t tell the difference between genuine “mental illness” and the side effects of his own “medication”.

      Ultimately, he ended up on the Irish Medical Council – who tried to make out they didn’t know him when I made the complaint. But when the complaint went through they backed him to the hilt.

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      • According to Wikipedia, she is still alive. Not to correct you, because of course the site probably does have a lot of incorrect or out of date information. The reason I bring it up is that they also say she is taking “31 pills a day for her schizophrenia to keep her symptoms to a minimum.” (If that part is true:) Really? Is that the best you can do “psychiatry”? Is it even possible that the benefits even come close to the costs in that situation? Absolutely shocking.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lori_Schiller

        P.S. Oops should have read Rossa’s comment first. Oh well, it bears repeating.

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        • Her death is tragic but avoidable. She seemed to be, in addition to being a lovely caring human being, a person who put too much faith in medicine, rather than bailing out, like most survivors do. It doesn’t have to be psychiatry that is the villain. Half of any given population seems to want to trust their doctor. Nobody, but nobody, should be on 26, let alone, 31 pills per day. This is the only mention I can find of Lori Schiller’s death. (And yet, it doesn’t say she died.)
          https://prezi.com/m0zmcwwl9iwl/remmbering-lori-schiller/

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          • Thank you Rossa. I apologize for not reading your first comment more closely.

            I once had a terrible doctor who had me on 10 or 11 drugs a day. It was probably more pills than that, because I most likely took some of them more than once a day. I was so zombified that I didn’t realize the extent of the problem. I moved to another state (with lots of help from a good friend because I was such a mess) and my next doctor brought the total down to 3 drugs a day. Well, yay… Not. You know what’s good for me? Zero “meds” a day. But in the midst of it, those of us who want to – who were brought up to – believe in the honor and authority of doctors, have a hard time seeing how often they can indeed do harm.

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          • That said, I know I was on three antipsychotics simultaneously at highest possible dose, some even higher, three anticonvulsants simultaneously, and usually one or two other pills to add to the mix. That very well could have added up to 31 pills a day, as I had to take them a number of times per day per order from those fake Messiahs, never counted (maybe did not want to face it, ha ha…)

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        • I saw that, but I suspect that this avoidance of mentioning her death might be because it was from the drugs. People around her supported her drug habit, reinforced it even. So if she dies of it, who will admit to it? Never mind someone from the drug companies could have edited the Wikipedia article. It CAN indeed be done.

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    • I should look up Schlller’ comment again to find out if she was on 31 different prescriptions or 31 pills comprising fewer prescriptions. Thirty-one drugs is definitely outrageous, but swallowing 31 pills a day is still outrageous. And, here’s something to consider. At one point my son was swallowing about 31 pills a day of vitamins and nutrients. That was outrageous, too. Nobody should have to do that. But I get that if the doctor tells us that’s what we need to do, many of us will do it. Doctors bear a lot of responsibility here. Who in hell would advise their patients to do all that swallowing?

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      • If I were to total up the vitamin pills I take no way would it be 31. Not only that, I designed my regimen myself. I did it through self-experimentation. I change it now and then and some are “prn” (wow their word…) but it feels settled now. I take a few for insomnia, a few for ED (you still get physical effects for about a decade after you get better), and a few for kidney disease, and one herbal pill for blood pressure as it has started to creep up (it works great!). I stay away from the medical profession if possible. I let them do my eye surgery but I don’t want them meddling with my kidneys. If I had let them, I would have died by now. I am so afraid they’ll snatch me up and force me on dialysis, but I am fine and certainly not sickly. There are simple natural things you can do, mostly concoctions I make myself and drink, uncomplicated, inexpensive, too, that work as well as dialysis and I have already started that on my own. That’s usually twice a week.

        Okay, counted. I take 16 vitamin pills in the morning regularly, plus a smidge of powdered Niacin. At night, powdered Thiamine and no pills.

        I do not tell doctors that, as they’d call it a mental disorder, ha ha.

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          • Hi Rossa, Glad you asked about what PRN means. It stands for Pro Re Nata. The literal meaning is a little different from how it translates medically. It is a nursing abbreviation for “as required.” If you are given Haldol PRN, this means they either forced it on a patient because they think they know what is best, or, because the patient has complained and this is the go-to solution.

            PRN is not the same as “ad lib,” which in nursing means given if and when the patient asks for it. Ad lib is not often written since it gives the patient too much control. They do not like that. It might be appropriate, in their eyes, for a patient in extreme physical pain (accident victims, cancer patients), because only the patient can feel that pain. I was interred with a woman who had end-stage breast cancer and they had to remind her constantly, “What is your pain level? Do you need something?”

            I remember that situation well. I was there for anorexia and here I was with a dying woman. The staff regarded me with disdain and lavished all kinds of love on that patient. Never mind her constant visitors and flowers. I got none the entire time, no cards, no flowers, abused by “sitters,” and the staff even said they wanted to get rid of me and send me to to the psych ward to get me out of their hair. MGH.

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          • PRN is not the same as “ad lib,” which in nursing means given if and when the patient asks for it.

            Huh. Where I was that was referred to as PRN. Mostly sleeping stuff, I remember someone getting chloral hydrate “PRN.”

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        • hey Julie, which herb do you use for blood pressure? Mine has been a tad high– not enough to cause me any concern except fending off their pills for it, but enough for me to intervene appropriately.

          Any other MIA readers with suggestions for BP, please chime in! Thanks!

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          • Here’s something to consider: Grapefruit juice. But not if you’re on medications as grapefruit juice can cause a lot of scary problems. I have always had low blood pressure, and a couple of years ago got into a habit of having of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice in the morning. The only medication I take is a daily baby aspirin. Well, I could hardly get out of bed in the morning and had trouble walking because I had that “low blood pressure” feeling, which for me is feeling “winded.” It was awful. I asked myself what was I doing differently, found out that grapefruit juice lowers blood pressure, and also that if you have low blood pressure you should take a baby aspirin during that day, not at night (as I had been doing). Stopped the grapefruit juice, switched to taking baby aspirin in the morning, low blood pressure problem solved. No need to go to the doctor (who wouldn’t ask what my habits were.) For people with high blood pressure, grapefruit juice seems like a good avenue to explore.

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        • Julie – I’m experimenting a little with vitamins now, too. I wouldn’t mind having a doctor’s assistance if I knew that the doctor was truly knowledgeable and competent and not married to drug solutions. However, I’m not willing to take the risk that they aren’t. (Funny way to put it, but true.)

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      • Bingo, Rossa, what MD thinks that prescribing multiple psychiatric drugs is the right course of “treatment”? This is where I just cannot work with prescribers (MDs,NPs, GPs) who prescribe these very toxic cocktails any longer. I would make calls and try advocating for my clients. Questioning is never welcomed and I often got the ‘Who do you think you are, you are not a medical professional?”, the “I know better attitude, look at my degrees on the wall”. I would tell them that the client is half asleep now with me, has no energy at all, sleeps all day. The problem is many clients I worked with just are too trusting of the medical professionals and do what they are told, “the good patient”, right?

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          • Hi Rossa, I would suggest that this woman write down the reasons why she wants to get off haldol, i.e. “making me too tired”, “concerned about side effects”, etc. Then she should state why now she wants to get off, i.e. “I have supports such as… in my life now” “I have better coping skills that I learned”, etc. If the MD is not responsive and being “paternalistic”, i.e. “I know better than you the patient” attitude, she can say this is my decision and I want you to help as the prescriber since you know the dosages to taper down. If not responsive she should seek out a second opinion, find a MD then will help her to taper down and finally stop. As long as no Roger’s Order and no legal guardian, she has a right to stop a drug that she does not feel is right for her. if she comes across calm, rational and prepared then a MD should listen to his/her patient and do what they ask.

            The issue I see often is that patients often fear telling their provider their truth feelings and concerns. MDs and other professionals are often overconfident about their abilities and skills and quite often condescending, treating patients like children. Psychiatrists and a lot of mental health providers I have worked with see psychosis and mood disorders as a permanent condition, and if not “treated” by these poisons long term they will be in a psychiatric unit or homeless. They risk professional liability and many do truly believe these drugs work.

            Best to you and your friend. She is lucky to have you on her side.

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          • Knowlege, the situation is difficult as she has a state-appointed guardian, so not much advocacy there. Her mother lives in the USA and is not on the ground advocating for her as any mother worth her salt should be. I am moving to the USA and won’t be here in future to visit her, not that there is much I can do. She also thinks she doesn’t need help.

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        • I wonder why my doctor let me go off the “meds” with little argument…. I think what I said is that I’m just doing a little experiment (and 4+ years later, I’m happy to say it was a success). It sounds like I was really lucky that she didn’t give me more of a hassle.

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          • Ethically, a MD should be telling patients the pros and cons of treatment options including side effects of medications. The patient if deemed competent has a right to make whatever decision they feel is right for him/her given all the information needed to make an informed decision. This goes with all medical care. Omitting the harmful negative effects of psychiatric drugs to their patients has been one of the biggest sins of psychiatry.

            Your MD seemed to do the right thing by listening to you. Remember, we are the customer. We pay MDs for their services. We pay in the U.S. MDs better than any other country in the world.

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  17. https://www.rxlist.com/prolixin-side-effects-drug-center.htm

    “….Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects…”

    “…extrapyramidal symptoms including pseudoparkinsonism, dystonia, dyskinesia, akathisia, oculogyric crises, opisthotonos, and hyperreflexia. Most often these extrapyramidal symptoms are reversible…!”

    “….Extrapyramidal reactions may be alarming, and the patient should be forewarned and reassured. ..”

    (Also:- Tardive Dyskinesia, and Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome).

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  18. “Have you ever sat in a mental health professional’s office and known in your heart that you were likely more intelligent or more insightful than the person you were sitting with? Have you ever felt that the person treating you was totally clueless and that you were wasting your time, even years of your life, sitting in offices, groups, hospitals, therapy sessions, psychiatry, pill after pill, lockup, psychodrama, and group hugs? If you felt like I did, maybe then you readers know what I’m about to say.”

    Thank you for this. It really spoke to me directly. Profound and blunt.

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  19. Was reading an article on maintaining kidney health. Ran across a section on kidney failure warning about how people needing dialysis may suffer depression and should “Not be afraid to seek out ‘treatment’ for it.” WTH?

    If you already have kidney failure putting more crap in your body for them to filter out is as dumb as it gets. Because of their zeal to prescribe unnecessary drugs modern doctors are causing health problems and deaths even as folks come seeking help.

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    • Wow, so now you’re not allowed to feel depressed about your kidneys failing and you needing dialysis for the rest of your life? What, are you supposed to be cheerful about it? And where is all this bullshit about how we’re not “treating” things that would be called “situational depression?”

      How can anyone take this crap seriously? Thanks for sharing this. I continue to be amazed at the depths to which psychiatry will sink to make a few more bucks.

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    • FYI, when I was inpatient for kidney failure, while my kidneys weren’t functioning and my electrolytes were off, they decided to diagnose me with a mental disorder. They tried to force me onto Zyprexa based on my “mental status” while in kidney failure!

      Seems like of all those idiot doctors, only the kidney doctor noted that while a person’s electrolytes are as off as mine were, there’s no way I could have been capable of clear thinking. He alone didn’t feel my “mental state” was representative of “baseline.” The other doctors were too stupid to figure that one out.

      I would be dead if I’d taken Zyprexa. They wanted me on a hefty dose and wouldn’t let me leave unless I agreed to take it. Then they got all panicky because they found evidence of “antipsychotics” damaging one chamber of my heart. This didn’t stop them from attempting to force-drug me.

      I was only able to leave because an outside agency evaluated me and insisted that I should be let out.

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      • I actually wrote the agency a thank you. I praised these workers who recognized that I was only under stress from hospital abuse and not “mentally ill.” I told the head of this agency to commend them and that all their workers should do the same as was done for me. I said they should listen to the patient rather than judging by records and opinion of doctors.

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        • They can only “diagnose” us by words we say. How come they then use this same “diagnosis” to discredit our words ever afterward?

          The drugs are all based on changing feelings anyhow. Assuming it’s consensual. So, if a “consumer” says “This pill makes me sad, sleepless, irritable, angry,” the shrink is an idiot to poo poo them.

          They know how they feel better than you do, you quack!

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