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


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.


  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.

      • 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.

  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”.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

  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)

  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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

          • 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.

  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.

  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?

  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.

    • 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.

      • 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.
        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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

    • 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.

  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?

    • 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).

      • 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.

  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?

    • 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.

    • 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?

      • 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?

          • 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.

          • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.


    “….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).

  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.

  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.

    • 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.