I Navigated the Mental Health System and Never Took Medications

Karey H.
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[Editor’s note: the author is publishing under a shortened version of her name in order to protect the privacy of family members mentioned in the story. Names of family members have also been changed.]

I was fortunate in some ways. Not others.

My fortune was that my mother grew up poor. She learned from her mother ways to handle the health of children without expensive doctors. A doctor visit was rare. Disease was rare. Rare diseases were really, really rare.

I come from families that had 6-14 children so I had trust in my mother’s experiences. It worked. Along with that was a tradition of mothers who didn’t blindly follow doctors. I heard stories like my Aunt Mary’s.

She had a leg issue. She said what the doctor was doing wasn’t working. So she took one of her homemade remedies and healed her leg. When she got back to the doctor, he asked her what she did. Her response was, “None of your business. What you were doing wasn’t working!” I laughed about her spunk against authority. Never forgot it.

That gives you a little insight into how women in my family didn’t treat doctors as all-knowing gods. They were heretics of rich doctors when doctors would say that what women had was only superstition and old wives tales. Not science. Eventually I had to deal with the contradictory messages I got. Still, I had firsthand experience of what worked against the doctor’s social push. It was a struggle that eventually led to clarity out of confusion. Even harder to do when you don’t know what you are confused about because certain things aren’t discussed. Probably the most important thing I learned was that superstition parades as science and some science is simply old husbands’ tales.

But here’s my misfortune. My grandmother was a domestic violence and sexual assault victim in a time when they just said that my grandfather was “mean and ugly.” It meant the same thing. My mother was exposed to family interactions that caused her to live in fear, to develop a fear of her fear and emotions and unworkable relationships. She grew up afraid of men with no words for that either. Where her fears were coming from was somewhat known but also made her ‘look crazy’. Anytime you don’t know why someone is behaving as they do, you can say they are crazy. That’s what my dad did.

If you see a woman screaming and you don’t see a reason, she’s whacko. Take her home, out of public space, and call the psychiatrist. But if you see a man pointing a gun, you get her protected. When domestic violence was not recognized nor its results understood, victims were given depression, paranoia, agoraphobia and delusional schizophrenia labels. Today it’s more borderline, bipolar and PTSD. Fortunately, my mother in marital struggles went to a good psychiatrist — once. He told her she should just leave my dad, that he was her problem. That was the end of her involvement with the mental health system. She didn’t listen to the psychiatrist.

I grew up afraid that I’d have the stigma of crazy like my mom — from my dad. He also had that fear. He had a ‘crazy’ aunt. When asked why she was ‘crazy’, her brother said, “Because she has ideas of her own.” And she was also accused of hexerei (witchcraft) in the 1940’s. I am not making this up. It’s real. I researched her medical records. Her family were deeply entrenched Lutherans. Crazy Aunt Elda was ‘off her rocker’ because she would argue with religious authorities about Christian Science. There was a small note in her records that she had complained about a boyfriend who was ‘rough’ with her.

One other interesting fact: my grandfather, no matter how violent, was never seen as crazy or hysterical. (He was irrationally violent.) He was seen as someone you obeyed and kept distant. A bad man, not a crazy one. And never considered to be in need of a psychiatrist.

But Aunt Elda was scarier than all that because she might hurt someone. Never mind that my grandfather actually did! She would argue, and other unladylike behaviors. She carried a knife which was unusual. It was never mentioned that it was her protection. So her family would lock the doors and pretend to not be at home when they saw her coming. Her psychiatrist recorded that her family life was not good.

She was a school teacher, bought a home and remained single. Most women couldn’t. But when her parents died, her brother and other male authorities thought someone might take advantage of her economically, so they went to court and they did it. They deemed her incompetent to appear in court, and her brother took her portion of their parents’ estate. With nowhere else to go and under a court order, at age 66 she went to a state hospital, was given medications and died there 20-some years later. The reports of her behavior indicated she adjusted well. Huh!

My father was a farmer and said the cause of Elda’s mental problems was reading too many books. That’s from a man that doesn’t read any.

Somewhere in coming to terms with my own confusion of family experiences, I recognized early that what my father considered crazy made me question him… and my mom. Still, no matter what dad said, his word was like God’s word. His counted. Hers didn’t.

Most of my family conflict was between me and my mother. My father was too scary to disobey or confront but mom and I had a pattern of verbal battles that hurt. Normal for me. It started before I can remember. No one mentioned feelings.

So my fortune is that I recognized myself, not as a mental health patient, but as a grandchild of a domestic violence situation and the daughter of an abused mother who hadn’t healed her feelings but tried to live different.

I was fortunate again when I learned what I was feeling and healthy behaviors. I learned to address my own verbal violence and stop the patterns of harm. I learned this by books, groups, and social movements that were addressing social justice, violence and relationship problems. I learned to stop looking like the identifiable crazy person, and felt sadness for my mother and great aunt who didn’t escape that fateful stigma.

domestic violence mental health
Painting by Karey

I became a feminist and learned more and more of my foremothers’ stories and the stories of women who were caught within disobedience and confusion. If I had to choose between a mental illness label or feminist, I’d just have to take the hits of being called a manhater, babykiller or home wrecker. Ironic, huh? All in my quest to learn mental health and love. But in being practical it became clear that if I didn’t know my history and what happened to me and my mothers (and fathers) in fact, any fiction would do. So I developed story and used my words and stayed away from doctors.

But then I had to deal with my husband who also liked to fling labels around at my behaviors. That’s when I learned I could be angry, but not violent. And I didn’t have to be afraid of violence. Anxiety was just a fancy word for a lot of fears you have all together. And I faced them all.

Also, I fully experienced firsthand that an angry woman didn’t get the same respect as an angry man. She just looked batty. I’d be prodded into upset and then laughed at for being upset. I thought it was sick for a husband to do that. I learned to end that. I knew gaslighting and had watched the old movie before it was ever mentioned anywhere publicly.

I never laughed at my husband’s upset. But he got more threatening. I had to leave the house, unplanned, one night after he had his hands around my throat — and that’s when things got crazy with broken windshields, flat tires and other phenomenon meant to terrorize. Not enough marks for a PFA (Protection From Abuse) order.

I sought outside help for this situation. There was no real help.

I had been a full-time homemaker and struggled with having no experience in how to work and take care of my kids at the same time. I feared for my life and my children’s lives because his goal was to hurt me for leaving him. He said so. With his behavior, threats, and no help, I lost the ability to see my children and mother them, though we had a joint custody agreement. And I had been learning the stories of other mothers who were going through the same thing, and these types of men killed — especially if they had attempted strangulation first. I feared that if I got the kids away from him, he’d kill me and/or them. Like mass violence and school shootings, this has become a behavior common for women leaving abusive husbands.

That’s when I got labeled with “adjustment disorder.” I had a woman counselor who counted my reality but she still had to label me with something. After the rug was pulled out from under me in not being able to see my children after being with them every single day for near 15 years since they emerged from my body, I crashed. I was looking for understanding in a world that didn’t see the situation once again.

So apparently I didn’t ‘adjust’ properly to being abused and the chaos of my life. I also visited a somewhat rebellious psychotherapist who wrote a few books on bullying. He thought I should get the PTSD label and get on disability and take a vacation to Hawaii. He said, “Your husband has ruined your life.” I read the book Recovery and Trauma by Judy Herman and found something I related to that gave me some comfort and something to do. I took the advice, except I never got to Hawaii. I believed at that point that I had ‘some’ trauma and PTSD, but I had more reading and learning to do.

And that trauma was going to get worse. I had to negotiate stories, doctors, lawyers and the disability process. But I was getting furious and I kept thinking, why was I the one to be labeled when HE was doing all this unhealthy, violent stuff? I had done lots to be healthy from where I came from. He didn’t like it. Well, he never was held accountable by ANYONE for what he did, to this day. I was accountable for what HE did as well as what I did, when his actions were not counted.

In the process of all this, how I got through the system was by showing evidence that I had taken responsibility for my family problems and my own health. I sought out doctors through health food stores, holistic alternative medical organizations, word of mouth and environmentalist communities who didn’t believe in medications for a social and family problem (or the use of chemicals at all). I made a list of all that I did for my health. They signed my papers and gave authority to what I was doing to put my life into a place of wellness. That way no controlling, pill-pushing medical doctor who felt the need to force me into treatments had authority over me. I had found the right authorities, the people I chose to validate my reality, and I kept records of all my recovery and treatment processes, even lovely massages!

Now here’s the hilarious part. For disability acceptance I had to have appointments with several different doctors. I was concerned about what would happen. What I found is that each doctor labeled me differently depending on what part of my story came out (there is more to the story than space allows here). It appeared that if the doctor was male I was going to get labeled with PTSD and another label or two. One doctor labeled me with social anxiety. One with major depression. He saw me less than an hour. None were exactly the same.

When I talked about my family of origin along with the current domestic violence situation with my ex, they completely ignored the present situation I was in and focused directly on my ‘childhood’. Since this event I realized that you can’t talk about your childhood without ending up being pathologized, even if you have overcome it and were treated for most all of it. Once you have it, you have it. Anything after that may be ignored.

There is no narrative for a normal childhood that has problems. When I saw in my records what mental health workers did with what I told them and what they ignored, I was horrified — and probably traumatized. All the ways my manners and language were displayed were turned to negatives. In fact, they even turned my healthy recovery behaviors into some type of problem.

I didn’t like that. I saw reasons for how I behaved. I felt that I now was in a worse situation to achieve mental health than before I got on disability. It was not helpful at all. I was upset about the loss of my children and the social status I had had. Eventually I centered myself, I behaved and obeyed and devised a plan to get off disability and away from these medical authorities that would define my life in error and stigmatize anything I did.

I was an artist and a writer, and one of the worst things to happen to someone like that is to take away their ability to express who they are or define their life expressions.

When I came up for review, I realized that this was like taking a test in school. I knew what the right answers were for trauma and PTSD and depression, and I knew the wrong ones. That is, depending on whether you want to be labeled or not. I passed the test as I wanted and I was released as no longer traumatized. It was a farce as either way my reality wasn’t counted.

I had studied and learned enough and I had that Aunt Mary story to inspire me to care for my own problems, but I also knew to protect myself from abusive authority. I wanted to sue and fight against those inaccurate records and labeling professionals who had nothing concrete for their varying opinions. I wanted the system to hold accountable my ex-husband who was free to harm women and children — I wanted to stop that legacy for their descendants. Why don’t abusers get a label immediately? Why wasn’t there a system to protect my children and mothers and our relationships from harm? Why didn’t my ex-husband ever once think he had a problem? Why diagnose the traumatized instead of the traumatizers?

I took a lot of deep breaths, talked to good people and decided that fighting a system, not to mention trying to change it, wasn’t my best option.

Privately, I picked a few choice words for my own self-definitions that I felt were most appropriate for my well being. I stuck with the value of autonomy and I understood that value through legitimate feminist therapy that counted women’s realities.

I created a piece of book art I titled Normal to give my point of view about being a normal person.

And I wrote, got published and did public speaking about emotional health, the history of domestic violence, marriage, psychiatry and psychology and women’s historical relationship in a world narrated by men. I created images for my own expression to learn more about me. I did an art show about “Social Explorations.” I kept a few good mental health authorities by my side, who encouraged my well being in the way I wanted it to be.

The words I chose for myself were “creative” and “gifted.” I had truth and through that the right community, one I wasn’t fearful of. And I had wellness — as any normal person might.

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Karey H.
Karey is a visual artist and published writer whose award-winning work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Her wide range of multidimensional work defies common categorical dimensions. Her creative work involves media literacy, violence prevention and wellness and social-environmental themes. For her, writing/drawing are the same activity for expressing oneself. Words and images have always emerged in her work together.

44 COMMENTS

  1. Painful story and very inspiring how you found your way to clarity through all of this. Thank you for sharing your experience. From a family legacy of abuse to systemic incompetence and corruption to self-healing and creative expression. I would say you are a *paragon* of adjustment and personal growth.

    “What I found is that each doctor labeled me differently depending on what part of my story came out (there is more to the story than space allows here). It appeared that if the doctor was male I was going to get labeled with PTSD and another label or two. One doctor labeled me with social anxiety. One with major depression. He saw me less than an hour. None were exactly the same.”

    Yes, this happened to me, too. It is random and frankly, the DSM-thumpers really don’t know what they’re talking about. Congratulations on your very impressive work! And all the best in your continued personal evolution and creative endeavors.

    • Yes, this stood out to me, too. Perfect question to ilustrate the nature of how crap gets projected onto others, while the abuser hides behind their own self-delusion, claiming, “Nothing is wrong with me, it is all on you!” The abuser will make sure everyone believes that with a web of overt lies and covert seed-planting. It is a nasty game, been there, done it, no thanks.

      Breaking the system by not playing that game, calling it out, and then walking as far away as possible from it physically and philosophically is the way to go, imo. That is core change right there, instigated by the would-be victim saying “Fuck you, I deserve and can do way better than this bullshit.” More changes will inevitably follow, like dominos set into motion by pure truth.

      That is how systemic change happens, and let the dominos fall as and where they may…

      • I agree Alex. However if a psychiatrist totally ignores a person’s reality and present circumstances and instead writes false statements to redefine a person’s reality and puts such things on person’s electronic health records you can never walk away or escape the redefined reality because any time you need health care services for physical health issues those records are always assessed and you are treated accordingly.

        • Yes, Rosalee, that is true and it happened twice to me (by one psychiatrist and, later, one case manager). They both screwed me over big time by what they wrote in their notes and to whom they were distributed, unbenownst to me until I requested my case notes, which under law they are required to grant me that. Explained a lot of what I was experiencing while trying to move forward, and I was furious about what I discovered upon reading those notes–a totally ficticious me, and dripping in stigma. Systemic abuse, bullying, and oppression all in these pages. Really crazy, seriously.

          I consulted with attorneys and “professional advocates” who were no help whatsoever, given they’re all part of the overall “system,” so they all believe and perceive the same way, as per their job requirements. So much gaslighting, projection, justification and resignation take place here that it only adds gasoline to the fire.

          Best I could do was to leave very honest Yelp reviews calling out the abuse. I also wrote a letter to one of them whose email I happened to have, expressing very clearly how I felt about what had transpired between us. I can’t say if this had any impact at all, but at least it got it out of me and directly to the source. That felt good to give back their energy, that’s exactly how that felt. Lightened me up considerably.

          Other than that, I chose to learn all I could about natural healing and self-healing, which I have been practicing and teaching for years now. I use only energy healers and Chinese Medicine practitioners when I need medical support. I am not a person of means and insurance does not generally cover these healers (although accupuncture I believe can be covered, and I have found it to be highly effective in bringing healing and balance to our bodies), but in my experience, it is well worth making that change, and way cheaper, in the long run. Best of all, I actually get healing when I need it, nothing complicated at all.

          Indeed, we can find power abusers anywhere, but at least energy healers are not part of an established “system of abuse,” as we’re talking about here. Plus it opens up options a great deal. So these days, whatever they wrote does not affect my life any longer, nor does it influence my healing support. They are not anywhere part of this dastardly system. I am through with all that, it is behind me now 100%. I know the oppression of this, so this is a huge relief.

          The roadblocks you allude to call for radically new ways of doing things, and also new ways of thinking, perceiving, and manifesting. Although for many this is not radical, but instead, the norm–it’s a matter of what has been one’s belief and practice, and if it has been aligned with mainstream western medicine, then what I’m talking about would be a radical shift. For me, it was a new way of perceivning healing, and going way beyond what the system has to offer and what it puts people through, which for a lot of us, has been only more grief than with what we entered.

          • My gosh I can relate to a lot of what you say. After cancer treatment I was trying to move forward and was very baffled by what I was experiencing from other health care providers as I had no idea what they were reading on my electronic health records. (and was stunned when I finally got copies) I agree with you on seeking health care from alternative sources and I do that for everything they can help with. Unfortunately though things like a torn retina or broken bone there is no choice but to go to the ER. You are right that other health advocates or agencies you expect to help are mostly useless and don’t really want to get involved.

          • I am glad to hear that you have turned to healing alternative to mainstream western medicine, Rosalee, as I do believe this is a growing avenue for people. The philosophy of healing is so different and, to me, much clearer, common sense based, and allows for nature to take its course as we self-heal, as the human body can do, and is naturally intended to do, when the process is not interfered with (which is what happens in most of western medicine, and definitely in psychiatry). It’s a whole different philosophy of living, in fact, specifically in tune with nature, as opposed to trying to change and control it!

            I think we can take it in little by little, as more and more of the current and failing systems shut down due to their lack of substance, like a house of cards. The more people who can recognize what you and I are describing, the more they can look for alternatives to playing into the system. It’s a gradual shift, but extermely significant, I believe, and powerful.

            You’re right that what we have at our fingertips (like ERs, walk-in clinics, etc.) can still be useful, but as we embrace the paradigm shift in healing–which is alive and expanding wildly on the planet now– options will continue to grow and become more visible while “the system,” as it exists now, with zero integrity, becomes obsolete eventually and inevitably. That is my very firm belief, in any event.

            I also believe that a lot of this is a matter of how we’ve been programmed, as a society, vs. the process of deprogramming as we continue to crack these codes of insidious systemic abuse. That’s the transformation happening, and I believe it is in progress as more and more people wake up and save themselves from all of this, one way or another. It’s why I share my experience as I do.

        • It isn’t just the mental health system to blame here.

          The type of abuser the author describes is exactly like my ex-husband, whose sadism knew few bounds. Men like this don’t just hit you, they taunt you into responding so they can gather evidence that you’re crazy, so they can make you crazy and then get away with their abuse by pointing to you being crazy. Case in point, my ex-husband would taunt me for hours, verbally picking on me, teasing, mean joking, yelling, eventually I’d respond with a tirade. I later learned he was intentionally inducing this rage in me so he could take audio recordings to use against me if I ever tried to leave again and take “his” child with me. This is not garden variety domestic abuse, this is a person who sees his family as possessions and these men are known to stalk their victims for decades. He put a loaded gun to my head once in front of our child, he’s shown me what he’s capable of and I believe him.

          What the author described, and what I’ve personally been through with a man like that, it isn’t just mental health providers dismissing the underlying causes of issues. Some men thrive on abusing their partner and manipulating the effect of that abuse to further disempower her by crazifying her reaction in what becomes a vicious cycle of abuse and often an inability to leave because of credible threats to the woman or her children.

          I think it’s important to clarify the genesis of how some domestic abuse victims come to be seen as crazy because it’s not as simple a thing as just blaming the providers.

          • Your statements are very consistent with my experience with hundreds of domestic abuse survivors. Accusing partners of being “mentally ill” is a very common and very effective tactic used by abusers in domestic relations hearings and in juvenile court child abuse cases. There has been a lot of improvement in terms of professionals’ understanding of domestic abuse, but this strategy still works in way too many cases. And intentionally pushing a partner to retaliate is also very, very common in domestic abuse situations. The threat of involuntary commitment and/or loss of children is a very powerful tool that a “diagnosis” puts into the hands of the abuser, yet a lot of mental heath professionals seem to have no awareness of this kind of manipulation.

          • Steve it is so common in courts and medical offices because domestic violence is extremely common in general and culturally we treat the victims all the same. It isn’t just a doctor who diagnoses depression and medicated her without taking into account her situation, it’s the advent of domestic violence laws that purport to try to reduce police responses by arresting the victim as well as the aggressor in a misguided attempt to encourage victims to leave. It’s the families who don’t help protect the victim or her children (for many shifting reasons over the changing times). It’s the job history she can’t use to show stability because she’s called in too many times and lost multiple jobs, or he’s made her quit many jobs. It’s the strange ways in which she acts, avoiding people so she doesn’t have to explain bruises or tears. Or even worse when she’s so cowtowed that she starts impulsively saying nice things about him to others in order to quell any inquiries and present a “nice big happy family” appearance.

            When people think of domestic violence, they often seem to think about a woman who is simply not leaving someone who hits her. And certainly there are many relationships, young ones especially, where people have navigated the occasional violence fueled by immaturity or substances. But what I’m talking about and what you’re talking about often entails the participation of entire communities. It needs a paradigm shift in thinking because the current legal/medical/women’s shelter response is inadequate and usually blames the victim.

            I also have a theory that the reason women who have trauma in their pasts end up more frequently on the receiving end of violence has to do with the same kind of “grooming” that happens to child abuse victims. I am convinced that the type of person that commits the deep emotional manipulation that occurs in these situations actually chooses his victims quite intentionally. But if those responding aren’t aware of this and treat her as if she is just choosing not to leave, that then leads straight into pathologizing her actions, which may appear dysfunctional indeed.

          • I agree with all of this, and could go on for days talking about it. My book is in part an effort to raise consciousness, especially in women, regarding how our culture tells us men and women should act, and how acts of abuse are normalized and even romanticized (fighting over a woman, pursuing someone who says “no” as a sign of how much he “loves you,” etc.) I think this is particularly true for those victimized early in life,o or who witnessed their parent being abused, who have little or no model of what a loving relationship looks like and who are therefore less able to distinguish grooming tactics from genuine affection. Our culture does them no favors by romanticizing “bad boys” and making excuses for abusive behavior by men, and putting women in the role of “peacemakers” or “fixers” if the relationship doesn’t seem to be working as it should.

            Domestic abuse is a very, very complex dynamic. It is perhaps natural for those who aren’t aware of this to ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” but too few are willing to look at the very real and very dark and difficult answers to that question when they make the perhaps understandable mistake of asking it.

          • “It is perhaps natural for those who aren’t aware of this to ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” but too few are willing to look at the very real and very dark and difficult answers to that question”

            This would be a good place for expanding awareness around the issues of abuse and why it is so challenging to conquer this and change the dynamic. Childhood abuse and oppressive family dynamics create all sorts of enmeshment issues which we carry into adulthood.

            And I agree with Kindredspirit, there are all kinds of insidious abuses infllicted in all sorts of ways to manipulate others into painful emotions. It’s treacherous and sadistic. I am familiar with this.

            I agree that it can be extremely challenging to look at ourselves in relationship to others, but it can be a very productive exploration for the purpose of greater understanding and empathy toward those who feel stuck in abusive relationships, as well as deepening our understanding of ourselves and our own relationship dynamics. That could very possibly help to open up avenues of change, expanding our collective awareness in this direction.

          • “Some men thrive on abusing their partner and manipulating the effect of that abuse to further disempower her by crazifying her reaction in what becomes a vicious cycle of abuse and often an inability to leave because of credible threats to the woman or her children.”

            Some women do this to men as well. It isn’t common but does occur for sure. I have an aunt in my family who emotionally abuses my uncle. It’s a mess and my uncle feels pretty trapped in the dysfunctional situation.

          • “Some women do this to men as well. It isn’t common but does occur for sure. I have an aunt in my family who emotionally abuses my uncle. It’s a mess and my uncle feels pretty trapped in the dysfunctional situation.”

            Shaun, without a doubt women can pull some nasty shenanigans too. Men get mentioned because there’s a massively disproportionate difference in numbers between male violence towards woman than female violence toward men, so men tend to be mentioned when discussing physical violence. But it’s fair to bring up the male victims of emotional abuse especially as it often involves the same aspects of coercive control, and also point out that women have traditionally used less violent but equally destructive ways to achieve the same effect which is control over the partner.

          • It is also important to keep in mind that while women can be abusive, emotionally and sometimes even physically, men are supported and protected by social structures and gender role expectations in ways women are not.

          • “It is also important to keep in mind that while women can be abusive, emotionally and sometimes even physically, men are supported and protected by social structures and gender role expectations in ways women are not.”

            A lot of mother-son relationships are tragically abusive, potentially causing all kinds problems and debilitation for the men as adults, and which can lead to anti-social boundariless behaviors. Who gets the support and sympathy and who is diagnosed? (Or villified would be the consequential other option). Isn’t that what NAMI is about, for example?

            And, it can easily continue into adulthood, as that’s probably the most challenging dynamic to break up, for what I’d hope would be obvious reasons. Imagine coming to the hard truth that in order to heal and grow, one must get away from their own mother. It’s not uncommon, and it is a sad reality for many.

          • Steve,

            “It is also important to keep in mind that while women can be abusive, emotionally and sometimes even physically, men are supported and protected by social structures and gender role expectations in ways women are not.”

            Not necessarily the case these days. I’ve seen women have their parental rights taken away and given to men for what seemed to be gender bias in the opposite direction. Also, now when the cops are called for a DV situation, it is often the case that men are at higher risk of being arrested, even when they are innocent. There is a belief by many that “women are always the victim” in such situations, which is clearly not the case. Yes, men do have social advantages, but they are shrinking by the year (for the better). 50 years ago DV against women was basically enabled by the system (much like drunk driving), but thankfully today that has changed. Any abuser should be held accountable.

            Typically, in the MH system, however, it is the survivor who is “treated” and “diagnosed”/pathologized for their distress from the abuse. The abuser is the one that needs to change, but usually they don’t see their role as being problematic (which is why they don’t seek treatment unless forced to by the courts). It is the trauma survivor who has to find a way to cope with all the madness.

          • There are definitely points at which men experience bias, but on the balance, women are far more likely to get the short end of the stick, even today (though it is better than it used to be by a long way). For instance, there is this idea that women usually get custody in divorce proceedings. But this is mostly because men usually don’t contest. Many studies done in many US states in different jurisdictions have showed the same thing: men who contest win custody 60-70% of the time.

            There’s a lot more I could say about this, but suffice it to say that while things are better than they were in 1965, men still receive plenty of protection just because they’re men. The Kavanaugh hearing and DT’s comments on how “hard it is for young men” now that they have to worry about being called to task if they’re too aggressive toward an unwilling “partner” should be enough to remind us that there is a LOT of work still to be done.

          • Don’t know who DT is but want to point out that this system doesn’t give a shit about sexism, and men ARE being exploited but in different ways. People are constantly using terms like “systemic violence” and “rape culture” while not dealing with the “system” at all, rather collaborating with it in scapegoating and demonizing relatively hapless and powerless individual men who were in fact obeying the violent directives they have been given all their lives by the system, which is more violent and misogynist than any individual man could possibly be, then publicly — or literally — dehumanizing and destroying them to show they care about “justice.” Meanwhile the system continues unscathed, even invigorated.

            Of course this will be misread as defending male violence. Too sleepy to care.

          • “DT” is Donald Trump, our womanizing, misogynistic POTUS. I’m sorry but Cosby, R. Kelly, Weinstein, et al. deserve every bit of criticism and judgement for raping and sexually assaulting/harassing women. We can’t blame the system for people acting like giant turds. At some people are responsible for their actions. Certainly, men in power have ample opportunity to abuse their status, and unfortunately many do. Trump is a rich ahole who thinks he should be able to do whatever he wants regardless of how it impacts others. This is a personal attitude of his, and all the men I mentioned above fall into this category as well. There are hundreds of female actresses who have been assaulted, abused, or harassed by male producers, actors, agents, and directors. We see sports stars like Woods do similar things. Did the system make Matt Laurer harass co-workers and cheat on his wife? No.

            The truth is that men can and are violent, no matter what system they are in. We abuse both men and women. We men need to learn to control our violent and sexual impulses and respect others. We can never justify rape or other sexual violence. We too often act like animals and don’t use our prefrontal cortex nearly enough.

          • About domestic abuse…
            There are plenty of online forums where well meaning, STUPID people encourage abused wives to not be afraid to seek out “mental help” for the “diseases” of anxiety and depression.

            What frustrates me is the women running the forum mean well–but believe the “chemical imbalance” is an established fact proven by cutting edge medical science. They’re clueless about how a “mental diagnosis” will harm those who seek to leave or divorce an abuser.

            Wish I could get them to read Paula Capplan. But that would be more of a mental challenge than watching a Zoloft commercial. They just don’t wanna!

          • @Rachel — Since it seems everyone under 50 bases their beliefs on what the “cool kids” think and do, maybe part of our strategy should be to get the “chemical imbalance” bs to be seen as “old news,” i.e. mundane, platitudinous and boring, and resistance to being labeled, categorized and drugged seen as “cutting-edge” in terms of “woke”-ness and being “with it.”

          • Oldhead,

            We are all responsible for our actions, that is all I’m saying. Blaming “the system” for men’s actions of abuse is ridiculous. I do point the finger at anyone who deserves it, including myself.

    • Thank you for telling your story, Karey. I agree you were fortunate to have come from a family of strong woman, who had historically challenged our paternalistic medical authority. I had the misfortune of being blindsided by the societal problem that our current “mental health” community is primarily a child abuse covering up and profiteering industry. Since I came from an ethical, non-child abusing family, that was brainwashed into believing that our medical community should be trusted. But my family was forced to deal with the fact my child was abused, outside my home.

      “Why don’t abusers get a label immediately? Why wasn’t there a system to protect my children and mothers and our relationships from harm?”

      We apparently live in a much more evil and paternalistic society than that in which I was raised to believe we live. An ethical pastor, who was kind enough to read my chronologically typed up medical records, with my medical research organized alongside. Confessed to me that my family had dealt with the apparently common, medical/religious child abuse covering up “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.”

      I’ve since learned that the number one actual function of our “mental health professionals,” according to their own medical literature, is covering up child abuse. Over 90% of those labeled as “borderline” today are misdiagnosed child abuse survivors. Over 80% of those labeled with the “psychotic and affective disorders” (“depression,” “anxiety,” “bipolar,” or “schizophrenia”) today are misdiagnosed child abuse survivors.

      https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/04/heal-for-life/

      And all this misdiagnosis of child abuse survivors with the made up and scientifically “invalid” DSM disorders is by design. Since child abuse is listed in the DSM as a “V Code,” and the “V Codes” are NOT insurance billable disorders. So all “mental health professionals” that want to help any child abuse survivor must first misdiagnose all child abuse survivors with the “invalid” DSM disorders, in order to even get paid by any insurance company.

      https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-child-does-not-have-bipolar-disorder/201402/dsm-5-and-child-neglect-and-abuse-1

      And I eventually found that covering up rape and child abuse was also, historically, the function of the psychologists, back when they were in charge of the “mental health profession.”

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

      “Why didn’t my ex-husband ever once think he had a problem? Why diagnose the traumatized instead of the traumatizers?”

      Our medical/religious hospital, child abuse and rape covering up, “mental health system” is a multibillion dollar industry today. And has been a way for the religions to cover up their “zipper troubles” for likely over a century. And neither the paternalistic religions, nor our greed only inspired medical community, wants to get out of the business of profiteering, in the tune of billions, off of turning millions and millions of child abuse survivors, into the “mentally ill” with the psychiatric drugs, for profit.

      The existence of this multibillion dollar, paternalistic, scientifically “invalid” “mental health” industry is why your ex-husband never once had to think he had a problem. And trust me, I know, our police are not arresting the child rapists today. I was actually told to talk to a psychiatrist when I reported to a policeman that I’d been handed over medical evidence of the abuse of my child, and he refused to file a police report.

      I agree, it is morally repugnant for our “mental health professionals” to be diagnosing the traumatized, rather than the child rapists and abusers being arrested and convicted.

    • Because most abusers are socially adept, poised, self confident, with good self esteem. They never seek “help” from shrinks for themselves. When they drag “crazy loved ones” before these self appointed moral judges–the shrink glances at the distressed, disheveled abuse victim versus the smooth talking, well-dressed, smiling villain and promptly sides with the villain.

      To be fair most shrinks who do this don’t even KNOW they’re aiding abusers. Just shows what horrible judges of character these quacks are. And how incompetent they are at protecting society from violent crimes. (Worse than useless in that regard.)

  2. Thanks for sharing your difficult story.

    “When I saw in my records what mental health workers did with what I told them and what they ignored, I was horrified — and probably traumatized.”

    It is sickening that psychiatrists or mental health workers easily twist a person’s words to represent something entirely different and they ignore/dismiss the most important facts or reasons behind a person’s difficulties or distress. They completely control the narrative and make it be what they want it to be. I am so glad you had the resilience to survive and overcome the gas-lighting and madness.

    • And no matter how much that you demand that the falsehoods that were written into your chart be changed and rectified it will never happen. They are set in stone forever.

      I got a copy of my chart four years after I was discharged from the “hospital” and only read 20 pages of it. I was so enraged by the false statements that I read that I took the entire chart and dumped it in the shred barrel outside of my office. I knew that if I read one page more that I’d leave my office and search out all the people that had written all the bull crap and at least give them a huge piece of my mind about how they manipulated the facts. I couldn’t afford to do that as I work at the very “hospital” that I was held in. I would have been fired for being unprofessional.

      You are correct. They dismiss the important things as having no value and they take what you say and twist it all around to suit their narrative about how “mentally ill” you are. As “patients” we have absolutely no voice about what it written and said about us.

      • I got my records, it was amusing. One Dr. contended that my problems included an exaggerated need to “comprehend the unfathomable” (i.e. what causes cancer, I believe). Another that it was unpredictable how I would behave in an unmonitored situation. I discovered once that a grad student(!) had noted in my records that I was “still psychotic.”

        A Black guy I was friends with spoke to the white shrink about wanting to go home see his “queen,” whose name was Esther Matthews. This was described in his records as a delusional thought, i.e. his reference to a “Queen Esther Matthews.”

      • When I finally got ahold of chart records and a report the psychiatrist published to electronic records I was stunned and so was my family doctor. I had told a surgeon about the severe insomnia I was having during cancer treatment (due to the meds) so the surgeon sent me to a psychiatrist for “help with sleep meds”. Some of the meds had made me so weak and dizzy I fell at home, hit my head on the floor and laid unconscious and bleeding from a gash to my head. After I see the psychiatrist a couple of times, bald and emaciated from chemo, and almost comatose as I’m only able to sleep 2-3 hrs a night, the psychiatrist totally ignores I am in cancer treatment and states “The patient is maintaining the sick role to get attention” and also states the dizziness and vertigo (that were chemo side effects) are instead a “Somatization Disorder”. So insightful (not)!

      • A lot of people don’t know they have a legal right to their case notes upon request. When it’s relevant, I let people know of this right. In an oppressive system, it’s good to at least know where one does have some power as a client.

  3. I’m not a published writer or a visual artist but l do have experience of forced drugging and involuntary confinement. I’m equally against paternalism as my Father was a rustic and violent policeman with military service during the second world war, The only person that ever made a difference to me was my Mother who was also forcibly drugged and given electro shock torture many times. She died too young of a brain hemoarrage. You must have had support to be able to have ‘navigated’ the mental health system without being forcibly drugged at the very least. Yours is a very rare case , the truth of the matter is that most people who come into contact with the services are badly treated and not few but many that l have known personally are now deceased as a result of their treatment.
    Whilst l like upbeat and optimistic stories the truth is far from optimistic .Forced medical protocols will always be torture by any other name..

  4. Such a fantastic story of how your own “commonsense” understanding of the situation was repeatedly invalidated or ignored by the “professionals” in favor of their own worldviews and beliefs. It is wonderful that you had the courage and historical models to tell the doctors to shove off when you needed to do so. I also find it important to note that your political analysis of the society you grew up in factored into your ability to resist the inappropriate and abusive authorities. I think such political awakening is often critical to folks “recovering” from their ostensible “disorders.” In the end, our social system has abuse built right into it from the foundations, and recognizing that may be the most “therapeutic” act a person can engage in.

  5. “Why diagnose the traumatized instead of the traumatizers?”

    Karey H., I am blown away by your amazing insight and intelligence. You are, indeed, incredibly creative and gifted. I would love to read your full story in a book. I hope you are writing one.

    I just read through the 27 comments that have been posted so far, and they are all amazing, too. I would love to have everybody over to my house for dinner and a long gab session. I feel like I have found my tribe!

    One thing that hasn’t been addressed here is the fact that abusers come in both sexes. While most of my abusers have been male, by far the worst abuser in my life was my mother. And she seems to have only gotten worse with age. I called her a few months ago. After a few minutes of polite catching up, she said the worst, most abusive, most gaslighting, evil, projecting thing that she has ever said to me. Considering that my mother has verbally abused me for well over half a century, that’s saying something.

    I had been no contact for a number of years before I called her. When I called, I was hoping that age may have mellowed her and taught her a few lessons. But apparently it does not work that way with the worst abusers. So, I won’t be calling her again.

    “Why diagnose the traumatized instead of the traumatizers?” You nailed it, Kari, right there.