In Memory of Julie Greene

MIA Editors
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With deep regret, Mad in America announces another loss in our contributor community. Julie C. Greene, writer and antipsychiatry advocate, lost her battle with kidney disease on November 29 at her home in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.  She was just shy of 62 years old. She is survived by her dog Puzzle, her brother Philip and his wife Linda, her brother Nathaniel (Ned) and his wife Barbara, two nephews, and one niece.

Julie had been an MIA blogger since 2014, including several pieces on the dangers of lithium. Her last essay was about the psychiatric labeling of students at an online charter school where she had briefly taught. She was also a frequent and outspoken commenter on others’ blogs, posting over 2300 comments over the last almost 6 years.

Julie spent many years in the psychiatric system and was given a host of diagnoses, including “bipolar disorder.” She was prescribed multiple psychiatric drugs, including antipsychotics and lithium, and she was also given ECT. In addition, she was treated for an eating disorder, and in her writings, she described the coercive and shaming tactics she endured, even while those “treating” her neglected to look at the physical/nutritional issues that were contributing to her situation.

After many years of such “treatment,” she chose to “escape” from the psychiatric system, and at one point left the country to fully do so. She often worried that the damage from lithium and other psychiatric drugs would lead her to an early death, and thus she would become another statistic in studies that find the “seriously mentally ill” die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population.

Julie was also an active blogger and support person in the broader antipsychiatry movement, penning a personal blog and creating educational YouTube videos critiquing the mental health system. Julie’s books include Breakdown Lane Traveled: An Anthology of Writings on Madness (1st Books Library, 2002) and This Hunger is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness (Chipmunka Publishing, 2012).  Her most recent manuscript — not completed — was Life After Lithium. The title is poignant, as the chronic kidney disease that took Julie’s life is a documented side effect of long-term lithium use.

Her obituary, written by her brother Ned, offers a sketch of her life:

Born on January 8, 1958, Julie Carol Greene was the eldest child of Erna and Alan Greene. She was raised in Lexington, Massachusetts, where she attended Temple Emunah.  Julie was an undergraduate student in music composition at UMass Amherst and later at Bennington College. Her time at Bennington culminated with the performance of her symphony titled For Tara. Alas, she did not graduate due to her entanglement with the mental health system, which lasted for more than three decades.  Julie developed an interest in creative writing and earned a bachelor’s degree from Emerson College and a master’s in fine arts from Goddard College. She was a longtime resident of Watertown, MA.

Seven years ago, Julie decided to start over — without the stigma of a mental health history — in Uruguay, South America. She and her cherished dog Puzzle lived near Montevideo for two years. By this time in her life, she had weaned herself from all psychiatric medications. Five years ago, Julie and Puzzle moved back to the US and settled in greater Pittsburgh. For the past two years, Julie was thrilled to be working productively at several jobs. She excelled in customer-support roles and branched into substitute teaching for public schools in Beaver County, PA. Julie was proud to become a taxpayer, and she requested to be removed from the federal disability rolls.

To honor Julie’s mission, donations can be made to Mad in America (https://www.madinamerica.com/). A graveside service will be held at Westview Cemetery in Lexington, MA, where Julie will be interred next to her beloved parents, at 10 AM on Sunday, December 8, 2019.

We at Mad in America remember her as sharply intelligent, quirky, feisty, and determined. We will miss her passionate advocacy and her kindness to her fellow humans.

61 COMMENTS

  1. Oh my Gods, this hits so hard! Julie saved my life. This past summer, when I discovered my BP was through the roof, and the pharma pills the doctors prescribed were not only not working but put me in the ER 3 times in a week, I was losing hope. Julie told me about Ayurvedic herbs that she takes for BP. Brought it down to normal in one day, with no adverse effects. Whenever I would call, Julie was happy to hear from me. She was my friend. She was one of the good guys, like Stephen.

    I miss Julie.

    • Yeah, this doesn’t begin to convey how I feel.

      Julie was one of those people (like Stephen, but in a different way) who was being a force of good in the world just by living her life and putting herself out there and being who she was full-tilt. She was more brave than me. I live who I am full-tilt, yes, but I don’t put myself out there, really. I share who I am with people who express an interest (unless there’s reason not to), but Julie took that extra step of broadcasting herself- she wanted to share with as wide an audience as she could, share her missteps, so others could avoid them for themselves, and share her victories, so others could attain their own. Julie didn’t just live her truth, she shouted it from the rooftops. I admire her; takes guts.

      We are losing the good guys. These are hard blows.

  2. I have no words for this. Not so soon after Stephen. Julie and I didn’t always see eye to eye but I was lucky to know her in a private space where she spoke even more freely than here at MIA and I had a secret admiration for her fighting spirit. We agreed on far more than we disagreed over. I thought of her when driving through SWPA recently and I almost mentioned so to her on her last reply to me here. I’m so sorry now that I didn’t.

    Julie was a fellow comrade in struggle and won’t soon be forgotten. Rest in Power, sweetie.

  3. I am very sorry to hear of Julie Greene’s passing. She contributed quite a lot to The Struggle in the last few years with her brilliant writing, and there was the feeling, that the best was yet to come.

    Julie Greene was also one of the very few people to honestly acknowledge my own Psychiatric Experience:-

    https://www.madintheuk.com/2018/08/a-disorder-for-everyone/#comment-49

    Julie C. Greene when she Spoke Out, personally identified herself in the same way that Stephen Gilbert did.

  4. Yes.. this really hits (me too) hard. Julie and Stephens post and articles a ray of courage and hard won intelligence. As sad as the loss of both is, it-for me at least-makes this space and MIA all the more important, if not critically necessary. Namaste Stephen and Julie (I see you and you were seen!), and you made a difference!

  5. The Universe has now recalled TWO heroic abolitionist survivors in the same month.

    I am too shocked to process this yet. I won’t even try to articulate till a later point. Julie had confided to me that her kidney condition was terminal. But I can’t help noticing that this occurred, for whatever reason, within two days of people first learning about Stephen.

    I don’t recall if Julie’s dog Puzzle has been mentioned in the above piece, which unlike the tribute to Stephen took me totally by surprise while Rachel & I were in the midst of a de facto “wellness check” on Julie.

    I’m very concerned about Puzzle, to whom Julie was totally bonded and whom she told me would be clutched to her heart when she took her last breath. Unlike Sweeney, Stephen’s cat, I don’t know if there are resources to care for Puzzle, or volunteers. Maybe, if necessary, someone could organize a fund for him as well.

    I sure have more to say about Julie. But probably not tonight.

    • Correction: Puzzle is a “she.”

      I guess there’s no harm in repeating a quote from what was probably the last “personal” email (i.e. not involving anti-psychiatry theory and tactics) Julie & I exchanged, which was just after Stephen had privately announced that his physical state was deteriorating. We were talking about the trauma of pets left behind; she said:

      If it is getting kinda obvious then I would certainly try to find someone for Puzzle. I can’t bear the thought of her being without me. She will be 13 next month and I do not want either of us to go first. Except I want to be together when it happens, one way or the other…

      Puzzle cries when I have to bring her to the groomer. She looks back at me like she’ll lose me forever. Same if the vet has to bring her out of the room. Once, a long time ago, I had a tape recorder running the entire time the cops came to get me. I left it on my desk. Much later, I listened to the recording. As they hauled me off on a stretcher, Puzzle was going crazy. For an entire three minutes she howled and cried. All that got caught on tape and I would never have known if I hadn’t decided to record the cops. On the other hand, if I go out in the normal fashion, getting my jacket and my bag and locking the door, she is fine and doesn’t complain.”

  6. I am very sorry to hear of Julie’s death. She was a passionate activist and advocate who was never afraid to tell her story and speak out. Even coping with her own serious kidney issues from harmful psych drugs she was still recently advising other commenters on the damaging effects of lithium. It’s very unfortunate Julie did not get to finish her manuscript. She will surely be missed. RIP Julie.

  7. It makes me sad and angry to hear of the death of this brilliant, kind, compassionate soul. How different her life would have been without the introduction of the black spider that Is psychiatry. To be tortured and misdiagnosed and electroshocked and drug poisoned by the worst of the ignorant cult of psychiatry is tragic.

    Her efforts to help others, to write and tell her story, to advocate for change will be remembered. She was so brave and special and psychiatry killed her.

        • Honestly, I am “puzzled” as to why there’s such a lack of internalization, realization, and thus correct action on the basis of the knowledge facts that psychiatry is a pseudoscience, a drug racket, and a means of social control; – that it’s 21st Century Phrenology with potent neuro-toxins; – that psychiatry has done, and continues to do, far more harm than good; – and therefore all so-called “diagnoses” are fraudulent, bogus and false; – which Julie Greene learned the hard way. If it hadn’t been for psychiatry and psych drugs, Julie would have lived until at least her late 80’s, or 90’s. We dishonor her memory when we fail to LIVE HER TRUTH. This is my memorial to her. What’s YOURS….????….

  8. This news, for me, comes as a shock. Julie wrote openly of her experiences in the eating disorder world of treatment, one which I related too well. I don’t have the words right now as I am trying to let it sink in, this stranger in the computer whom I had come to look forward to reading all her comments and writings. My heart is heavy. Rest well Julie…

  9. Julie was a fighter, and she will be missed greatly.

    We need more people with the strength to reject psychiatric interventions altogether, and in that sense, Julie was one of us.

    In the long list of casualties of treatment, here’s another. People need to know about lithium. I would say it’s a much more dangerous drug than people give it credit for being, and here’s another example of the consequences of putting people on it.

    Julie was, she claimed, gathering material for another anthology. Others should take up the challenge. I can’t help but wonder, if MIA were to publish such a volume, who would be censored, exiled and de-voiced, further victims of a conspiracy of silence (and silencing). We need more collections of the narratives of psychiatric survivors in solidarity against the graveyard making system. Hopefully, the example of Julie, and people like her, might draw more people into the movement for change.

    Anonymous was never so anonymous as he or she who bore a name.

  10. I’m also having trouble processing losing another courageous MiA writer who spoke truth to power. And from what I’ve read in this article and from Julie’s own writings, it sounds like her “treatments” were what cut her life short.

    Psychiatry kills.

    I hope Julie’s beloved friend, Puzzle, has found a loving home.

    Let’s keep the faith that psychiatry can be ended before it takes any more lives.

  11. A message from Sharon Crestinger, who has been an MIA poster in the past:

    I am thinking of Julie Greene today and am very sad for her transition from this dimension. I have many comrades and friends, but few contemporaries in the world of survivor and abolitionist essayists. Julie was usually the first one I could name. This was the context of our relationship.

    Writing was never a problem for Julie. She wrote and wrote, every day. It’s beyond an outrage that she was murdered by psychiatry at 62 with so much left to say. And, I am glad she said so much while she was here. Julie got discouraged and frustrated sometimes that her work didn’t find a wider audience, but she never gave up. I greatly admired how she kept going through the discrimination, marginalization, health problems, and everything else she faced as a survivor. She believed her writing and her activism made a difference and that if she and others just kept going, abolition would be a real possibility one day. Julie believed the work of abolition would eventually succeed in a very real and material way I greatly wish I could share.

    Julie was my best editor. The way she lived her life inspired me.

    I see a lot a grief for the end of Julie’s life. I’m trying hard to be outraged, but I am so sad and tired.

    I wish more people were outraged. I wish more people used the words murder and genocide to mark our passings.

    Safe travels, comrade. I’m so sorry you won’t see your writings elevated to the place of importance they will eventually occupy in our history.

    Sharon Jean Cretsinger
    Tijuana, December 7 2019

  12. I was always afraid to register here, but just did so I could share some things about Julie’s life. We became friends around the time she was moving back to the states. I became concerned when I didn’t see any blog posts for a week, and was going to email her when I saw this post.

    Julie was so happy to be living independently. She had a separate house on a lot with a yard. She was wanting to buy a home.

    She was working as a substitute teacher in the local public schools. She loved being with the kids, and had good rapport with them. She was frustrated that they ended up mostly using her as an aide. She also was a phone rep for Nordstrom. The system kept her from the work world for so long, she was uninitiated about it. I remember how excited she was to get her first job, in a call center. She tried a couple of online jobs that were scammy and didn’t work out. She was reading drafts of books for authors through some website. She was in a bit of a jam; she had spent all her money on a scammy publicist for her new online pay TV channel, and had reported the guy, who was threatening to sue.

    A couple years ago she had cataract surgery on one eye, which gave her a new lease on life. She was almost blind at that point, and constantly losing things. She started running and competing in races, and was talking about buying a bicycle.

    It’s a shame her last book wasn’t quite finished. She only lived as long as she did because of the kidney health protocol she created and followed, which was going to be in the book about life after lithium. She refused the trap of dialysis.

    Julie was so tenacious and determined to be heard, and make a difference in people’s lives. Feisty would be the word. She was always starting new projects only to see them stumble, but never gave up.

    Her daily life was haunted by insomnia from neuroleptic damage. She was always exhausted, taking caffeine to make it through the days.

    Her relationship with her brothers was contentious at times. It was good to see the short obituary by her brother, a physics professor. They administered the trust fund from her parents, and doled it out in tiny dribs, just enough to keep her stressed out and poor. She hadn’t mentioned any more about that since she was working. She was afraid that they would have her put away. Seems like things had improved between them. I think they were happy to see how things were going with her lately.

    Julie loved her parents, who were very supportive of her. The shrinks insisted that they must had been abusive for her to be in the system.

    It was sad that the system stole her music from her. She was trained as a classical music composer, and played trumpet in the orchestra. She told me that she never listened to music anymore.

    I don’t think she was practicing her Jewish faith, but she mentioned a belief in a central deity or creator, “God” she called it.

    I am grateful to have known Julie. My life feels richer for it. I will always remember her.

  13. I am so sorry to learn of Julie’s passing. I greatly admire her courage, her sense of humor, and the way she expressed herself in her numerous posts and comments. In the past year she and I exchanged a few emails and I was so looking forward to reading her latest book. My sincere condolences to her family.

  14. Syd

    Thank you for those meaningful words and details filling us in about her life.

    I remember her as valiant warrior against psychiatry and the Medical Model who never let her wounds keep her from helping others or speaking her mind against all forms of oppressive authority. May her spirit live on and inspire others to step forward in the struggle.

    Richard

  15. Oh Julie. This is so surreal. I don’t think I believe in coincidences like this.

    Julie had told me in October that her condition was terminal. But she couldn’t have known about Stephen’s passing for more than two days at most when she joined him in the next phase of whatever this is. So Julie and Stephen have become indelibly etched in my consciousness at least, and I think in history as well, as sharing a legendary bond as heroes and martyrs in the struggle against psychiatry.

    This bond is more than spiritual or symbolic. Both Stephen and Julie believed that psychiatry cannot be reformed, that it must be abolished, and that survivors must lead their own struggles. They were actively involved in concrete activities — and working with each other– to further this end. The fruits of this shared energy will become more apparent in due time. For now it’s important to understand that neither Julie nor Stephen supported any form of reformism; they wanted to make psychiatry history.

    But back to Julie. While I wouldn’t say she was more complicated than Stephen, she is definitely more complicated to discuss. Speaking personally (and as a friend) it would be slightly disingenuous to deny that she could be difficult to work with at times, as well as warm and caring at others (and I had occasion to collaborate with her in various projects both on and off of MIA). But she made the effort worthwhile in the end. And as time went by I became more impressed not only with her uncompromising anti-psychiatry consciousness, but her knowledge of natural healing and herbal medicine. (I’m currently using turmeric to good advantage thanks to her, and Lavender Sage credits Julie with literally saving her life.)

    I also recognize more than I had previously the level of frustration she was feeling about her writing efforts being stymied, being ripped off by an agent she’d hired to publicize her book, and numerous other walls she’d run into in her efforts to bring her message to the world — something she was passionately committed to doing. She needed desperately to share the information she had because she believed the world desperately needed to hear it. And it just wasn’t happening fast enough (the feeling maybe accentuated by her sense of her personal clock ticking down). I have no doubt this added to the burden of life.

    Though Julie was victimized and probably killed by psychiatric neurotoxins — especially lithium — she nonetheless understood that the overriding problem with all psychiatry is not simply drugs, but the internalized mindset it engenders of being diseased, inferior, weak, dependent and powerless, and of people being isolated and othered for experiencing the daily dehumanization we all face for what it is, rather than becoming “comfortably numb.”

    I’m still not accommodated to the idea that Julie is really gone (or at least inaccessible for the remainder of this incarnation). While thinking of things to mention here that I wasn’t sure I had right I would briefly think “I’ll have to ask Julie.” Oops.

    And who knows — maybe in time she’ll figure out a way to telepath us information we need, and someone will learn how to pick up her signal. Until then I’ll just have to say I miss you Julie, and love you. I hope I get a chance to know you better sometime.

    Julie Greene Presente!

  16. I am so sorry to hear of Julie’s untimely death! We never met in person, but I got to know her a tiny bit via phone and email when she wrote an article that I published in the Winter 2017 edition of People First, a now defunct newsletter. For anyone interested in reading the article (which includes a photo of Julie holding Puzzle), it is called “Smashing the Golden Calf: How I Demolished a False Idol and Rebuilt My Life,” and I have included a link below. Here is the last paragraph:
    “In so many ways I have answered the question that long ago plagued me: God is the passion within us all, the intense drive to act and do good in the world, to achieve and be who we are. We will not find this in an office, in drugs, or in a psychiatric institution. Within each of us we will find everything we need to survive, thrive, and be happy.”
    Julie’s article starts on page 10 of the issue at this link: https://tinyurl.com/ycbuoeh3

  17. I can finally read this without being blinded by tears.

    Julie Greene was a true friend. We never actually met but talked on the phone a lot. As well as texting and emails.

    She encouraged me to come off my “meds.” Gave me great advice for my own writing, job hunting and reintegration. (Hard for those who spent all their adult lives in the MI system.)

    Sad she died so young, but she outlived the average psychiatrized person by ten years. There’s no doubt fleeing the system prolonged her life.

    And she died at her own place with Puzzle. Not in an institution as she feared.
    I find comfort in that thought.

    • Glad you could finally get through the comments, you should find the broad spectrum of people here comforting I think. Julie may have had a wider audience than she realized. And as you know once the clouds have lifted her example will motivate at least some of us to raise the level of struggle.

  18. Another tragedy in a place where tragedy is already abundant. I have been an MiA reader for a few years now; I have been reading Julie’s articles and comments here and also remember her appearing recently on Dr. Peter Breggin’s podcast:

    https://drpeterbregginshow.podbean.com/e/the-dr-peter-breggin-hour-%e2%80%93-082819/

    And despite never having written anything myself, I have always appreciated and admired Julie’s work, and her honesty. She seems like someone who has seen a lot of abuse and who has herself been deprived of much. It is very sad that is should end this way, and now.

    It is terrible what is being done to people in this system. So many wonderful people, gone… My sympathies and thoughts go to everyone affected by this loss.

    • Oh JW this is a vital point.

      Can we take up a collection to see that her writing and videos remain?

      YouTube will likely keep them indefinitely – but her hosted blog may not. Is there some way we can check on this?

      It is likely her main Legacy, and needs to be “out there!”

      • Jan,
        I’m so sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I hadn’t signed up for email notifications and didn’t know you’d remarked my comment!
        Below, I’ll put the link below to Julie’s main blog, where there are links to her books and articles. I’ll start archiving it today in case it goes off line. I don’t think it would be necessary to take up any collection.
        As for her videos, there is a very good free download tool that works on youtube called the 4K Video Downloader. It’s easy to find with a google search. I hope these links work with a click:
        Julie’s Blog:
        http://juliemadblogger.com/wp/
        Julie’s Youtube channel:
        https://www.youtube.com/user/Juliemadblogger/featured

  19. Julie Greene had a dream of consulting to help people going through extreme states see it through and avoid the mental system entirely. Or leave the system after getting sucked in.

    I really would like to see her ebook “Life Without Lithium” get published.

    One of her brothers came over to the anti psychiatry side. Maybe he would be agreeable to getting it published as Julie wished.

  20. I didn’t know Julie and we had only a few “exchanges” on the comments section in MIA. But one thing I do remember is that she was the only person to bother to respond when I, in a comment I made, disclosed stuff that I went through with “anorexia.” Customarily on MIA such personal accounts are responded to with compassion, praise for having the courage to write, and so forth. But Julie was the only person who responded to me.
    Perhaps because “anorexia” is not “respected” as a “mental illness” here as something that is worthwhile to discuss? Perhaps because depression and psychosis and so forth are recognized as “things that cause suffering” whereas “anorexia” is seen as self-inflicted, or less severe, or not within MIA’s sphere of interest?
    (Sorry for all the “” but I don’t want to get attacked for “insinuating that mental illness is real” and so forth.)
    I just looked up anorexia on MIA’s search and found very, very few articles. I think the last long article was about 4 years ago. Julie’s comment there was along the lines of “thank you! Finally anorexia is getting some attention here!”
    And while Julie’s relatively young death may well be mainly due to lithium, perhaps years of suffering from malnutrition brought on by “anorexia” also played its part?
    One big tribute to Julie would be more attention paid on MIA to eating disorders. As she herself wrote, they have the biggest association with death of all the mental “illness” categories.

    • Vanilla,
      I did not know Julie, but her presence here suggests to me that
      the buying into MI did not help her with her state.
      I don’t see MIA supporting one state more than another and I certainly don’t expect them to “help” me with my states.
      I understand that they are compassionate of whatever someone is going through or went through, and they do have peer supports and other available practitioner listings.
      I think the overall support is for those who have realized the harm’s and no help from psychiatry and that is not a dissing of anyone’s current or past state.
      I doubt anyone has a vested interest to respect one MI category as more important, since it is about the idea of being MI to begin with, which I think was an idea Julie was against.
      And I believe she must have been against the idea of it, and the treatments for her ED.
      In the end, I think it’s about unreliable evidence, bogus diagnosis, bogus drugs.
      We can obviously see if someone is having hallucinations, or anger, happiness, not eating well, habits. It is describing the states or coping as the problem, and that the problem has names or diagnosis, that in itself is the discontent of many who have been there.

      In no way would I ever minimize an ED, or sadness etc and I do not think anyone here would. Perhaps sometimes people do not respond because my own experience does not mean someone here has an answer to that experience. I don’t expect one, since I realize that we are a unit of same basic inquiries, and a coming to some basic conclusions, yet with individual experiences.

    • I agree with Vanilla that MIA should do more to recognize Julie’s suffering. She was so angry, because the so-called “professionals” had no idea how to help her with ED. That is what generally happens in psychiatry. A person goes for help in a state of distress; but finds out that the “helpers” are not actively caring about the people who seek help. How confusing and disappointing is that?

      And so begins a bad situation that drags on as long as the patient or insurance can afford to pay the bills. And of course, there are the drugs, which are disabling and addictive. What a waste. Of course Julie was angry. All of us should be angry.

      I felt affinity with Julie mostly because I was duped by a cultish religious group, as she was. This was the first duping / gas lighting before the major gas lighting by psychiatry. I think Julie was pretty accurate in
      recognizing how similar a cult is compared to the cult of psychiatry. There is peer pressure to do what the group wants you to do–even though, if you stepped back at the time, you would have seen it as a hoax.

      • Another thing about Julie that I think about is a sense of shame for not believing in herself more than she did early in her life. Perhaps I am reading too much into what she wrote, but I know it is true for me. She seemed to be telling readers: believe in yourself strongly so that you won’t be taken for a fool by the cults or by the shrinks.

        She had tried very hard to trust those fraudulent “doctors” and she paid the price when her kidneys shut down. Learn from her; and believe in yourself. You can heal yourself without drugs. She knew this in the end; and she knew that the drugs had been causing her constant suffering in the last years of her life.

        I am skeptical of all of the so-called mental health “categories”. However, when a person goes to a doctor or therapist and they are in distress, the professional has got to be honest. I think it could have been a lot different for Julie if her professional simply told her the truth–that they just did not have much or any experience with EDs. Then, probably, Julie would have taken more responsibility for her own situation.

  21. Finally, Julie Greene spoke to me when she talked about the way mental health professionals purposely made her feel bad. This is gas-lighting that is all too common; and when people are already down, it can be paralyzing to self-esteem. It is spellbinding that is similar to the cults; because you don’t know how to move forward. The only answer is to move away from the oppressors –or stop going to appointments that are self-destructive– who are talking down to you; but it may take years for the patient to realize this.

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