Identity, Oppression, and the Culture of “The Mentally Ill”

Lael Ewy
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3076

A friend once described me as an “escapee,” someone who never became enmeshed in the mental health system, never became defined by it, despite being diagnosed and treated. A large part of my ability to escape can be ascribed to my privilege: it is easy for middle-class White males with private insurance to just walk away. In the language of literary criticism, I am more properly a liminal figure, someone who exists at the edges of the world in question, both somewhat inside and outside, never of. For a time, I did define myself in the language of a mental health diagnosis, but no longer. It was a passage in my life.

That is relevant self-disclosure. The purpose of this essay is to present a way of thinking about a culture, the mental health culture, the culture of “the mentally ill,” one that I came to work in due to my own lived experience. However, it is one that my liminality did not let me fully understand until I worked closely with those fully immersed in it.

A few terms should be defined, and in defining them, the culture can begin to be revealed, part of the story told. Mental health refers almost exclusively to mental health problems or their possibility. Rarely are “normal” people ever described as “the mentally healthy.” The mental health system indicates everything from highly paid and institutionally powerful psychiatrists and top-level administrators to volunteer members of self-help groups. Mental illness and the mentally ill are also popular terms that are used frequently within mental illness culture. They describe features considered totalizing by those within the culture and outside of it, features completely defining one’s being through the use of diagnostic labeling.

Consumer is a more recent term, adopted in the 1980s by mental health self-advocates and activists. It was meant to indicate that those within the system should be considered consumers of the services they receive, the same as any other person making a market-based choice. This term remains, but it has taken on a similar connotation as the mentally ill, and it is only partially true: few choices exist for those who receive services in the publicly-funded mental health system, and, unlike those making other consumer choices, “consumers” within the mental health system are constantly under the threat of involuntary commitment to a residential treatment facility. Consumer was never used, in my experience, to describe people who use private insurance to access mental health services, the people to whom it most logically applies.

The degree to which one becomes subject to the mental health system is determined by level of functioning, as indicated by the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score, which along with diagnosis and one’s severity of illness as determined by a qualified mental health professional (QMHP), helps decide one’s place in the mental illness caste system. I use caste here instead of class, because, while one can change one’s position within the system, the initial placement there is thought to be due to factors inherent to the person, such as genetically predetermined mental illness, and because it is hierarchical and exclusionary.

The position of a diagnosis in the caste system is a result of how far the thoughts or behaviors associated with the diagnosis fall from “normal,” or behavior expected by mostly White, mostly middle-class, dominantly male QMHPs. Depression, even though it is connected with many deaths by suicide every year, is considered inherently less severe, unless one has recently attempted suicide. Bipolar disorder is considered more severe, as the behaviors of those so labeled are demonstrably different than “normal,” borderline personality disorder more severe still, and schizophrenia is considered the most severe of mental illnesses, with its associations with delusion, talking back to voices others do not hear, and paranoia.

Thus, people with schizophrenia diagnoses are placed lowest in the mental illness caste system, and people with depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder the highest; people with schizophrenia diagnoses are thought to be least likely to re-enter the dominant culture, and those with depression diagnoses often never leave it.

The mental health system workforce has its own class system, mostly separate from but interacting with the illness culture caste system. Those who work most closely and directly with the people who are lowest in illness caste are lowest in workforce class and sometimes ill themselves: attendant care workers, van drivers, peer support workers. Because the workforce class system values education, especially an education within the field, next in line are case managers (who have degrees which often need not be mental-health specific), licensed social workers, therapists and psychologists, and, at the top, psychiatrists and administrators.

James Banks would call this a microculture; common parlance would call it a subculture. However defined, mental illness culture comes to dominate the lives of those within it, “the mentally ill.” The totalizing nature of the system will be described below, but it has been noted by others, such as Will Hall, who likened it to colonialism, and Sera Davidow, who described it as a form of internalized oppression.

Aside from caste, mental illness culture promotes identification with a diagnosis. Receiving mental health services becomes a full-time occupation, especially for those deemed “severely and persistently mentally ill” (SPMI) and for those determined disabled by the Social Security Administration. In day-to-day life, consumers travel from individual therapy sessions to psychosocial rehabilitation groups to appointments with supported employment specialists to “med checks” with a psychiatrist. They often live within settings in which their friends and neighbors are all consumers, and their social contacts consist only of consumers and mental health workers.

NG is a case in point. I will use initials only, which have been changed in order to comply with federal privacy standards, even though doing so follows the norms of the case study, a form many within the mental health activist community might call oppressive.

I first encountered NG while training Certified Peer Specialists—mental health consumers trained to work with others within the system—for Wichita State University’s Community Engagement Institute, at that time known as the Center for Community Support and Research. NG had failed his initial certification exam, entitling him to tutoring sessions in order to improve his prospects on future attempts. When I was tutoring him, NG was both a consumer at the community mental health center (CMHC) in a small town in Kansas and also a part-time attendant care worker there.

NG was a large man but not physically imposing. He had a round face, and his rustic clothing suggested he came from farm stock. At the time, he was shaky and slow to respond. As we discussed his tutoring needs, NG revealed that he had received special education services while in high school and that he preferred learning orally. At lunch, I inquired about how he had come to live in that small town, and why he was interested in this work. (In peer support work, sharing stories is a foundational principle.)

NG had worked in manufacturing in another small town prior to his self-described “psychotic break.” He had been married, and his wife, as was unfortunately common in that town at the time, became involved in abusing and distributing methamphetamine. NG did not approve of this, and they broke up. The divorce was acrimonious, and his now ex-wife enlisted others in the drug scene to spread the rumor that there was a contract out on NG’s life.

NG was a simple man; nothing in his experience had prepared him for this situation. He became paranoid as the rumor spread, and one night he began hearing threatening voices. Terrified, he tried to get away from the voices, driving his pickup on the Interstate at over ninety miles an hour as he fled.

The arresting officer, hearing what sounded to him an implausible story, sent NG for a psychiatric evaluation. NG was charged with criminal reckless driving, but the paranoia at the heart of his flight resulted in a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He pled no contest to the charges and served out his sentence in the prison section of a residential psychiatric facility.

A largely unmentioned aspect of the public mental health system in Kansas is that certain communities, typically those with supported housing blocks or a large number of Section 8 apartments, become dumping grounds for people released from residential facilities and who have no other place to go or who are unwilling to return to their communities of origin. This is how NG ended up in a supported housing unit.

There, it became NG’s “main job,” according to his treating psychiatrist, he told me, to “stay on meds and stay out of the hospital.” For a time, NG’s days consisted of individual and group psychotherapy, psychosocial education classes on such things as cooking and anger management, and monthly medication appointments with his psychiatrist.

All of NG’s neighbors in the supported housing block were also mental health consumers, as were all of his friends. He saw them at home, at “group,” and while waiting for individual appointments. NG, like almost all of his consumer peers, was placed on Social Security Disability and received high doses of psychoactive medications, in his case intramuscular haloperidol, an outmoded antipsychotic preferred by his psychiatrist. The haloperidol had given NG tardive dyskinesia, a potentially irreversible Parkinsonian syndrome, explaining the shakiness I had observed.

Because NG identified with his diagnosis and was fully acculturated as a mentally ill person, he accepted the idea that he would always have to be medicated and that he was supposed to be compliant with his psychiatrist’s orders, no matter the side effects or the personal cost to him.

The mental health center at which NG found himself is thought of as progressive, and its staff strive to make its consumers as independent as possible. NG’s situation improved, and he was encouraged to work. Like most men raised in the Great Plains, he had been taught to place a high value on work, and so he readily agreed when his case manager suggested it.

His identity as a mentally ill person, however, would not let him see work outside of the mental health system as realistic; it was a system that he understood, felt safe within, and that had come to define his life. Even though part of his old identity, the desire to work, remained, this desire had become subsumed into, and limited by, his new identity.

NG’s first step was to become an attendant care worker, helping others like him with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as cooking, cleaning, and remembering to take medications. This job triggered part of his previous identity, and NG found himself frequently exceeding the weekly paid work limitations set by Social Security for disabled people, so his case manager encouraged him to work less. NG accepted this situation: his new identity would not allow him to consider himself capable of living outside of the system, and his supports, supplemental income, and housing were all tied to continued qualification for disability.

Due to NG’s kind and caring nature, his case manager then suggested that being a peer specialist would be the next, logical step. Doing so would place him higher in the mental health class system and would increase his pay, while still allowing for part-time work and continued qualification for disability. The training was rigorous, though, as the position is complex and requires solid reading and writing skills, as well as sophisticated interpersonal interactions.

NG struggled with the written material, and at the lunch break during our tutoring session, I sought to understand him better so that I could tailor the rest of the day accordingly. What I most wanted to understand was why—or whether—NG wanted to do this job. So I asked him “If not peer support, what would you want to do for work?” His answer surprised me. He said “I want to work with horses.” NG had worked at a stable at some point in his past but had been let go because of a misunderstanding with the stable’s owner. His temperament seemed very well suited to equestrian work, as did his gentle manner. In order to both model peer support and to find out more, I asked him what was preventing him from working with horses. Physical labor, especially work outside in the sun, it turned out, was now impossible for him because of medication side-effects.

The barriers to NG achieving what he really wanted in life, then, were twofold: first was his assimilation into the culture of the mentally ill. Within this identity, his main purpose was to remain compliant to those higher in the workforce class in order to stay out of residential treatment. His identity indicated that full time work was impossible for people like him under threat of losing access to health care, primary income, and housing. It told him that his social world should properly consist of others like himself, mental health consumers, and of mental health workers. If he moved outside of the system, NG would lose all of his supports: fiscal, psychological, relational. He would lose his new identity.

The other barrier NG faced was discrimination against people with psychiatric diagnoses. Recall that the caste system for the mentally ill is based on diagnosis and severity: a person with a depression diagnosis would be expected to return to work or to never leave it, to live a “normal” life as a member of the dominant culture. A person with schizophrenia, no matter how “high-functioning,” would not. For NG, with a schizophrenia diagnosis, employment as a part-time peer specialist would show him as rising as high in caste as he was expected to be able to rise, no matter how capable of full-time work he had proven himself.

Theorists such as Davidow, Hall, and Banks characterize mental illness culture in a way that might make it an example of the deficit paradigm. They contend that the behaviors and inner states that result in psychiatric diagnoses are the result of trauma and/or neurodiversity; the mental illness culture as outlined above would therefore be caused by systemic oppression that should be fought against as a matter of civil rights and within that same tradition.

This view can be traced to the consumer/survivor/ex-patient (c/s/x) movement that was inspired by liberation movements for women, Black, Latinx, and LGBT+ people over the past 60 years. (For a more complete view, see Judi Chamberlin’s book On Our Own). If these theorists are correct, the “recovery” model I taught for seven years is inappropriate, as there is nothing from which to recover, only differences to be accommodated and adaptations to be understood.

True to my liminal relationship with mental illness culture, I vacillate between views embracing neurodiversity and the recovery model. This ambivalence becomes acute when reflecting on the differences between NG’s experience and my own. Clearly, processes of acculturation into and identification with mental illness culture do happen, often as a result of the threats and expectations of the system. This was NG’s experience.

Discrimination against those with mental health diagnoses is also very real outside of the system, and, in my observation, as a result of mental illness caste inside of the system. If recovery is necessary, perhaps it is recovery from the ways in which mental illness culture leads one to abandon one’s hopes and aspirations of a better, more fulfilling life, a life that should properly be defined by the person, not by the mental health system or by the dominant culture.

***

Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

90 COMMENTS

  1. “Theorists such as Davidow, Hall, and Banks characterize mental illness culture in a way that might make it an example of the deficit paradigm. They contend that the behaviors and inner states that result in psychiatric diagnoses are the result of trauma and/or neurodiversity; the mental illness culture as outlined above would therefore be caused by systemic oppression that should be fought against as a matter of civil rights and within that same tradition.”

    Absolutely. I have what might also be described as a liminal relationship with mental health culture, too. I defined myself as a “mental patient” after being hospitalized as a teenager for an eating disorder – it’s the way they did things 55 years ago – and being a “mental patient” was a way out of being required to be a success in some form in the mainstream (status-focused white Southern) culture I was born in.

    Eventually, I went to college, didn’t fit in much but graduated, got a job, looked mostly normal. I met another neurodiverse but heterosexual person and we got married, had kids, again looked mostly normal and my family liked me. I thought I was doing OK. No relationships, much, outside of my family, but I felt I was mostly doing OK. I went to therapy off and on when I felt depressed or felt I had trouble parenting well. The trouble I had at work was, when I felt what was going on wasn’t right and the management would do nothing about it, or I felt unable to do the work in a way I thought was right, then I would leave, before and without having another job lined up. So, even though I had had some good jobs, I also didn’t keep them or have much of a career. I now think this is indicative of a personality disorder, most likely OCPD at the time though that was never diagnosed. I defined myself by roles and rules and tried to do the right thing.

    When my late husband died 20 years ago, I looked to, and went to, therapy because I “knew”/felt I would need “help” to adjust. Instead, I fell apart, went into a downward spiral, never psychotic but unstable, often angry and believing that in accordance with the therapy rules as I understood them, that I should “express” that anger. It didn’t work out so well on a number of important occasions, I was clueless about what was going on, clueless about how to improve things other than continuing to go to therapy, which for whatever (obsessive?) reason I continued to believe in.

    Eventually, 5 years ago, a trauma specialist I had been seeing for 6 years, terminated me because she didn’t “have the emotional resources” to continue. I was devastated. The terrifying wasteland reality of my life, enmeshed in belief and trust in the mental health system, became clear. I had fortunately lucked into a good support group and didn’t have to find another therapist to cling to although I checked several of them out, without any rapport or sense that they had a clue where I was coming from. So I’ve been free of them for 5 years, but still not much life, social skills, sense of belonging.

    What I was missing already when I went to therapy as teenager was the ability to define an identity for myself. That was a result, I believe, of trauma and the oppressive, conformity- and appearance-oriented family and culture I grew up in. And my neurodiversity as a female science and math nerd.

    Adopting the “mental patient” identity helped for awhile, compared with other alternatives available to me. All defined outside myself.

    Identity and sense of self are a joint product of the person and the environment. My growing up environment was not so healthy. The mental health culture isn’t either. It’s oppressive and devaluing, and should be fought against, as you said, as a matter of civil rights.

    To a certain extent, as with all oppressed people, it’s so hard, when you are in an un-valued place within that system, to feel that you have value, to have a sense of identity as a citizen whatever your deficits. We can validate and value each other, though – and should. That’s part of what helped those other groups overcome their marginalization and reclaim their dignity, too.

  2. There is NO “c/s/x movement” and never was, I think you should recheck your sources. The “mental health consumer” is a myth conjured up by the system to replace less adulatory terms like “psychiatric inmate” and “survivor.” You need to hook up with the anti-psychiatry movement, and learn some actual movement history, not system-generated disinformation. Not that the current state of affairs is your fault.

    BTW if you weren’t still defining yourself in terms of what you call “mental illness culture” you probably wouldn’t have needed to write this article. No one here at MIA has the “credentials” to affirm what you must realize for yourself.

    Good luck.

      • What a relief that someone with such solid AP cred concurs with me, it’s very validating. I was starting to feel like the Simon Cowell of anti-psychiatry (again).

        I keep thinking of Matt, who intellectually had psychiatry’s ass kicked on every level, but on MIA would always quote “professionals” to validate what he needed to internalize, and failed to realize that his own perceptions were just as credible as those of any “expert.” His self-doubt was later re-instilled by some as-yet unidentified shrink he listened to or read, which led to his self-imposed demise, and I have been since adamant that we must continually strive to root out all remnants of psychiatric mind-rot from our mindsets.

    • Is there a place in the anti-psychiatry movement for people who somehow lost the ability to realize and define themselves? That’s what happened to me, long before I got to therapy. But therapy didn’t help, as I described above.

      Where does one find that ability, once it has been lost? For me, support groups and online forums, etc. have helped. But when I suggest maybe we need to form our own grassroots organization to address the harm that therapy can cause I have yet to find any takers.

      • Short answer, there’s room for everyone for whom working to end psychiatry is at least somewhere near the top of their list of priorities.

        What you describe sounds a lot like what movement pioneers like Judi Chamberlin called “consciousness-raising” — though actively working to expose and defeat psychiatry can be supportive and consciousness-raising in itself.

        Sounds like you are experiencing the sort of basic alienation this system generates in us all, so that just means you’re human. Don’t worry too much about “defining” yourself; identity is fluid anyway (this is not a “gender” reference, at least not specifically).

        In the best of all worlds those who fight psychiatry (and all oppression) together are supportive to each other in the process. The best support is organic, not based on psychiatric proscriptions, and certainly not on prescriptions.

        How exactly would you see the role of such a grassroots organization as you mention, i.e. what do you think needs to be done to “address the harm that therapy can cause”?

        • The harm, in my case, which is all I have first hand experience of, is hard to define – it requires a sense of self, which I still lack in lots of ways. That started because of me and the social environment I grew up in but therapy perpetuated it. I wasn’t aware of becoming addicted to or dependent on the pursuit of “mental health” as a way of life. I wasn’t mentally healthy, after all, so it seemed the thing to do.

          So, #1, therapy was harmful because it was addictive or dependency-inducing.

          Beyond that, my life currently sucks. I’m 73. Therapy failed or I failed or both. Unfortunately, I need to become “healthy” without therapy in order for me to have some perspective on what is the contribution of therapy and what is me. But my mental health, as I feel it now, depends on some kind of social health. That means that I need social inclusion somewhere, social inclusion in a healthy environment, whatever that is. Which depends on my ability to be an inclusive, participating member. It’s a chicken and egg sort of situation.

          This leads to a conclusion of Harm #2, that therapy encouraged (or at least did not discourage or warn about) excessive self-absorption. It did nothing to help me learn and develop a more “healthy” social network at the same time I was working on my “issues”, in order to become a person who COULD participate more fully.

          I believe there needs to be more research on the adverse effects of therapy, and that’s where a grassroots organization could be helpful. It might also be helpful in making information about the potential adverse effects of therapy become better known and discussed. Also better informed consent information given to clients.

          Lots of ideas around on different websites around the internet but no advocacy organization that I know of.

          • Good insight. I like your idea. A shame that we need organizations, but it’s a big world out there, and we can see how well the setup is functioning, leading people to look outside of the stuff that is not working, and never will.

          • Absolutely Mella, when “therapy” (even “good” “therapy”) becomes a lifestyle rather than a mental/emotional exercise it easily can become a problem in itself.

            (Sorry for the time travel but, for those who understand the reference, John Lennon’s final evaluation of Transcendental Meditation was “it’s nice, like brushing your teeth.”)

            My lifelong on & off “life coach” died quite a while ago, and while she played a constructive role in my life I have no need to try to “replace” her, like a cog in a machine or something. As Phil H was suggesting elsewhere, eventually these medically-tinged terms and concepts will be referenced in the dictionary as “archaic.”

          • Therapy has definitely become hazardous. People pay for it, and the counselors (two of the last 3 I was seeing a number of years ago) got to decide what I wanted to talk about. I couldn’t talk about what was bothering me. I finally quit going.

    • WTF.. ‘consumer’, who’d have thought anyone might think that this term might fly. Some 20 years ago I’d been involved in an Advocacy group trying to establish itself. I thought we’d agreed that even ‘patient’ was inappropriate, people were survivors or users or more like used and abused by a coercive or at best time wasting unhelpful service (with rare exceptions).
      But at least my overwhelming sense of disbelief that we might be expected to defend the “rights of consumers of mental health” allowed me to empathise with the sense of disbelief that some mental health professionals feel when presented with evidence from the real world. Who’d have thought that twenty years of abuse and/or neglect might damage someone. No the real world can be safely ignored as the role of adverse events is merely to trigger “mental ill health”.
      The world is obviously a dangerous place sometimes–besides being awesome always- but once you become a ‘consumer of mental health’ these dangers and the damage they cause, the hurt and distress we feel can be safely ignored.

      • I thought we’d agreed that even ‘patient’ was inappropriate

        Tell me about it. The “consumer” term actual was conjured up by the mh establishment over 30 years ago when they were scheming (successfully) to neutralize the “mental patients'”/psychiatric inmates’ liberation movement. Suddenly we were again urged to refer to psychiatric torture as “mental health services,” of which we were “consumers,” not victims.

  3. This is the problem. Organisations represent us without the experience of force, oppression, torture and loss of human rights. We are not being heard and we cannot embed our human rights if we are shut out of the decision making bodies and boardrooms. Disenfranchised and marginalised people must be included and prioritised in that we are harmed and damaged irreparably without changes being made. Please advocate for us in everything you do to not just have a seat but to drive the agenda and force the change no matter how uncomfortable our situations make you feel. Love the article, and the insight.

  4. Oldhead’s comment above is revelatory, informative, and necessary. Oldhead, if you don’t know this already, I consider your input on anything/everything to be ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. I wish we had people like Judi Chamberlin, Sally Zinman (et al) participating in this.

  5. Well, James Hillman was seen as a destructive renegade. Because he told barbarians that psyche is not a branch of medicine. I agree, our ego depend on imagination which is far beyond brain. Those people who think that psyche is an imagination beyond our ego (or brain) are seen as nowadays witches.
    Well, psyche is something beyond our ego. Monotheistic man sets a fire, not the psyche.

    People do not understand movies like Divergent or Insurgent, because this monotheistic culture is too blind.
    “We (psyche) are not the problem, we are the solution”.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqJxDiGXTWc

    James Hillman “Re -visioning psychology”. Dare to fight for freedom of imagination.

  6. “If recovery is necessary, perhaps it is recovery from the ways in which mental illness culture leads one to abandon one’s hopes and aspirations of a better, more fulfilling life, a life that should properly be defined by the person, not by the mental health system or by the dominant culture.”

    I agree caste systems are bad, including the current medical/”mental health” caste system. And I agree, the desire “mental health” workers have to dictate other people’s life stories is appalling, hope destroying, and staggeringly intrusive. It’s actually called gas lighting, which is a form of mental abuse, not “mental health care.”

    I had to leave my psychiatrist once he declared my life’s story to be “a credible fictional story.” No thanks, looney, I’ll write my own life’s story instead. And I’m not a “fictional” person. Oh, how lucky for me, my story fits almost perfectly into the hero’s journey genre.

    I’ll play the hero attacked, reborn, who comes back after finding the iatrogenic etiology of ‘schizophrenia.’ And pointing out that the entire “mental health” system is a child abuse covering up system, by DSM design. Oops, bummer for the DSM “bible” thumping, systemic child abuse covering up, “mental health” criminals.

    “Too truthful,” “insightful,” “prophetic,” “work of smart female,” the “mental health” workers I engaged with seemed to want to steal all my work and money to prevent my story from coming out. And I’ve got the written legal proof. Not to mention I’ve also got the medical proof of 14 different attempts at my life, all via various anticholinergic toxidrome inducing “drug cocktails.”

    Never forget, “a picture paints a thousand words,” so artists have a powerful communication tool. Someone needs to remind the “mental health” system that systemically attacking the artists may win you art history books filled with your child abuse covering up, and child abusing, crimes. The iatrogenic childhood “bipolar epidemic” is child abuse on a massive societal scale.

    America has not only Spirit cooking and pedophilia artists, who are all the rage with the powers that shouldn’t be. But America also has Spirit led, anti-child abuse artists as well. But, alas, one can not stand against child abuse in an ELCA Lutheran church today, without being attacked by a child abuse covering up Lutheran psychologist.

    “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” We all now live in a “pedophile empire,” many thanks to the systemic pedophile aiding, abetting, and empowering “mental health” system. And proof of their crimes is recorded in the aggregate.

    Today, “the prevalence of childhood trauma exposure within borderline personality disorder patients has been evidenced to be as high as 92% (Yen et al., 2002). Within individuals diagnosed with psychotic or affective disorders, it reaches 82% (Larsson et al., 2012).”

    We need to arrest the pedophiles, and stop neurotoxic poisoning the child abuse survivors, and their legitimately concerned family members, en mass. Upside down, and backwards, America. I painted that in 2005, thankfully others are finally awakening to the truth.

    Thank you, Lael, for pointing out how truly sick the culture within the “mental health” industry is. Today’s “mental health” industry is a, primarily child abuse covering up, gas lighting industry. And a gas lighting industry is 100% the opposite of a “mental health” industry.

      • Oldhead, I clicked on the complete link you provided and was taken to some sort of a form to fill out. I filled it out, describing who I was and what my interest in them was. However, it was then unclear as to what exactly to do to send the thing. All I could do was to do the best I could, and hope that that would be good enough. I haven’t heard anything from them yet.

        • I have no idea what happened, it’s an email address, you write a message & click send. It’s not a website.

          I’ve seen your email add. in your comments list, if I get a chance I’ll just write you there sometime.

          But you shouldn’t give out information when you don’t know where it’s going — you should have taken a screen shot.

          • I’ll welcome an email from you at my personal email address, Oldhead. I might even answer it!

            There was no clear cut button to push which said, “send,” on it. I’m not familiar with what a, “screenshot,” is either. For that matter, I don’t even understand what, “tags,” are.

  7. Lael, thanks for your blog. What happened to NG is truly sad but very indicative of how the “mental health” system breaks people down, crushes their spirit and destroys their life – all under the guise of “help”. Some people lose their life because of psychiatry. My younger brother was a liminal figure too, was only seeing a psychiatrist to deal with a depressive phase due to his marriage breakup and his children moving away with his ex but he didn’t survive psychiatry. Rather than “consumers” the people who are snared by the system should be aptly described as prey, pawns or scapegoats.

  8. I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you @ Lael. Your description of NG’s problems show how, when someone is scapegoated (even before therapy), their identity can shatter and a lifelong label of victim, let alone mentally ill, emerge.

    Imagine a wrld where there were no labels, and we just sat and listened – tuned in – to other’s stories, as our ancestors did? What healing might there be, when people are accepted and we create safe spaces in which they can learn to accept that pain naturally leads us to feeling unwell. How much more quickly might we come back to ourselves and integrate the new self who emerged from the pain/trauma.

    There are such egos in the profession, it makes me sick to think about it. I helped my younger brother when he was judged paranoid schizophrenic, at 48. I was able to tell his team about the childhood dysfunction leading up to it. He was on drugs the rest of his life and didn’t want to risk coming off them. Six years later, he took his life. Such a tragedy and a waste. Peace to all…..

  9. I am a US Navy Submarine Force veteran of the Cold War and Vietnam Conflicts. In the 1970s, before the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was developed, or the effect of numerous toxic chemicals acknowledged, I was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder, termed an incurable, genetic brain disease, by Veterans Affairs psychiatrists. After eight years of hostile and unsuccessful treatment with psychiatric drugs which severely damaged me both physically and emotionally to the point of ischemic strokes (Lithium+ Haldol) and suicidal ideation, I was extremely fortunate to recover completely within a few months. I had learned about Orthomolecular Therapy based on tissue mineral analysis of a hair sample and Creative Psychology through my own research and in 1982 was able to obtain a source of these treatments independent from the VA and at my own expense.
    The cost of Orthomolecular Therapy and Creative Psychology is a fraction of that for biological psychiatry and the culture of life-long disability it creates.
    My VA-assigned psychiatrist, who later rose to the presidency of the American Psychiatric Association, refused to acknowledge my use of Orthomolecular Therapy, the hair test results, or Creative Psychology and termed my recovery a “spontaneous remission”. He would not even say the word orthomolecular, calling it instead “The Hoffer Thing”. Since 1982, I have lived a healthy, productive life, free of not only the need for psychiatric drugs, but all other prescription medicines as well.
    I later learned that the lab I used, Analytical Research Labs, Phoenix AZ, recommended to me by friends in the nuclear field, was already a VA contractor. The VA was using tissue mineral analysis, not for therapeutic purposes, but forensic ones, to detect the presence of unauthorized substances vets might have used in an attempt to self-medicate.
    In 2007, concerned about the suicide rate of veterans diagnosed with PTSD, I began to attend a PTSD group at a VA Clinic. After only a few meetings where I shared my story with other veterans, I was taken aside by an unlicensed VA psychologist and VA psychiatrist, a graduate of a one-star foreign medical school. In a twenty minute interview they diagnosed me with paranoid schizophrenia, a rare and extremely disabling condition, and banned me from further participation in the PTSD group.
    When this new diagnosis affected the renewal of my life insurance policy, I requested the medical records of my recovery in the 1980s. I discovered that all such mental health records in DVA VISN 1, in the 1978 to 1990 time period, had been spoliated. No records remain.
    I am convinced that thousands of veterans could have made recoveries similar to mine, with thousands of lives saved, had VA psychiatrists run studies on Orthomolecular Therapy and Creative Psychology instead of destroying all evidence of a veteran’s drug-free recovery and attempting to discredit him. I have recently been examined and tested by well-qualified civilian forensic psychiatrists who find no evidence of mental illness , psychological or emotional impairment.

    • And so you see the true intentions of the “mental health professionals” you were dealing with. There is not any real interest in making people healthy in evidence there. As soon as you started threatening their control of the situation, their interest was in fact to stop you by any means possible. One can only conclude that their real intent was to maintain these people as “disabled patients” for as long as they could get away with it.

    • It is amazing how far they will go, banking on their power that is given to them by our politicians. In Canada all services are heavily armed and protected, except our army lol.

      Psychiatry does NOT see themselves as “doctors”, and I wish they would share that BEFORE people go to them with their troubles. What happened to you is clear they do not view themselves as “medical doctors” but rather as bullies and not even for society’s benefit. They rob our government blind, government knows this. All this is done because they were kids with burrs up their butts, antisocial, psychopathic who looked into careers. Their “careers” they chose had to be as prejudiced and narrow minded, as they already were. Then as they grow, some actually become more conscious, yet too late to have wasted all that tuition.
      They would be well off to watch their outrageous behaviour. One day it will bite them in the ass.

  10. This is a well-spoken and very measured piece of writing.

    I would focus strongly on how this “case” got into the system: By being terrorized by someone who was involved in criminal activity. “…his now ex-wife enlisted others in the drug scene to spread the rumor that there was a contract out on NG’s life.”

    Events like this seldom get spotted in case histories. It was quite astute of this writer to include this, though he didn’t really know what to do with it. It should be noted that the police who arrested him didn’t look for this (you might call it a “trigger event”) nor did the “mental health” workers who he encountered. Yet this is the reason – most likely – that he panicked, and that panic was the only reason he got thrown into the system. And the source of that panic was criminal intent, not any of the “disorders” in the DSM.

    I hope readers see this clearly, because it is key to understanding the most common reason people get pushed “off balance” in this society. According to my data, this mechanism is the most important disruptive mechanism that exists in society, and it has been studiously avoided for all the decades since it was first clearly spotted by various modern researchers. Will we continue to overlook it?

    • Good point l_e_cox , Is there any life event, trigger etc a psychiatrist would ever consider an understandable reason for someone’s worry or insomnia.
      After a cancer diagnosis and told I had little chance to survive even with chemo, I took it in stride as my gut feeling told me it was fear-mongering to convince me to be in clinical trial to add a 4th drug. (it was and I declined as ‘side’ effects were heart attack, stroke, vision loss, trial halted later, too many fatalities) The 3 toxic chemo drugs had brutal effects too, including severe nosebleeds, vertigo, tinnitus, dizziness etc. I fell, hit my head on a tile floor, split my scalp open and laid unconscious and bleeding. The chemo and steroids caused insomnia so cancer doc sent me to a psychiatrist under the guise I would get “help with sleep meds”. Psychiatrist immediately gave me 4 psych labels and prescribed Seroquel, clonazepam, Elavil etc. I was bald, emaciated, had head trauma, but the only psych “symptom” I had and reported to her was the ‘chemo-induced’ insomnia. But of course nothing of my medical situation was of any interest or concern when she slapped on psych labels.

      • Rosalee, what that psychiatrist did was criminal and sometimes I hope there is another life after this just so that these sorts of people will have to face what they’ve done, the pain they’ve caused others. Kicking a person when they’re down seems to be a specialty of a lot of psychiatrists.
        I know from our conversations that you have tried to get these labels removed from your record just in order to get medical treatment that is not harmful.
        A lot of people have told me, when they hear pieces of my story, that I should get over it because it’s in the past. But we know it’s not in the past. The harm is still happening. I was just denied an appointment with a pain specialist because he made a condition that our initial appointment would need to be “coordinated with your psychiatrist”. I explained that I was a psychiatric survivor and would never have another psychiatrist again if I have anything to say about it. Of course I was denied the appointment, which I don’t even care because anyone who starts a treatment that way has nothing but more pain in store for me. In my head I was like, do you need the psychiatrist to explain to you the pain I experience with a fractured ankle that never healed right?

        So how do we just get over it when it’s still happening? I guess it’s just the sort of thing that people can’t understand unless they’ve experienced it.

        • There is another life after this, and that’s exactly what those people are afraid of.
          In this life, the best we can do is to seek help from people who are willing to take psychiatrists to court and to get laws changed. It is a ponderous process, but all we have right now, besides websites like this.

        • Kate, yes many people don’t realize once you are labelled you can refuse to identify with the labels and dispute the labels all you want, but it doesn’t help when you need healthcare services for physical issues as all medical people view you as the ‘labels’ and this very negatively affects all health services you receive. In Canada we have electronic records you can never escape from.
          There may be a few psychiatrists with compassion or who want to “help” but overall psychiatry is not about “helping”. It’s proven itself to be all about pointing fingers, laying blame and judging people. I used to think it was sheer stupidity that prevented psychiatrists from grasping that people have understandable or adaptive responses to adversities and traumas, and these responses are normal, even expected, and certainly NOT some “Disorder”. But now I realize no one can be that stupid.

  11. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia 8 years ago, after a psychotic episode (I have never had a so-called relapse). I completely reject this diagnosis and I came off the prescribed neuroleptic as soon as it was possible.

    I am a PhD holder and I worked for 10 years as a university lecturer (I returned to work after my psychotic episode, without telling anyone at work about my diagnosis). However, I found this job very stressful and I felt extremely isolated in my workplace. I am currently in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

    I have not been able to find a new job after my university job contract expired (I live in Poland where even a PhD does not guarantee a decent job; I could try to find a job as a schoolteacher, but I know that this job would be much too stressful for me). I finally decided to apply for a disability pension last year on the basis of my schizophrenia diagnosis.

    I now feel happy and peaceful, though unfortunately this year I have to reapply for the disability pension despite my diagnosis. (In fact, in Poland – unlike in the US – even people diagnosed with schizophrenia have to prove, again and again, that they are unable to work.) I am worried because my psychiatrist (whom I have not seen for a year) might find out that I have not been taking neuroleptics. I know that I don’t need these drugs and that they are very toxic.

    I think that it is important to realize that some people can be perfectly happy without a job. My life is not boring or empty; I now feel so free and I can do what I love. I must also add that I feel much better with people from whom I don’t have to hide the fact that I am a psychiatric survivor. My best friend is also diagnosed with schizophrenia (like me, he is not taking neuroleptics).

    • What an interesting story. I, too have sailed through periods of unemployment without feeling much discontent. I found ways to stay “productive” from my own point of view.

      But for many, employment defines their lives. And we do, after all, need a fair number of people to be productive or the community could not afford the charity that keeps children, old people, and the sick, alive. Even so, it helps the child to “have things to do,” and likewise it helps our elders and everyone in between. What point is there to life without something to do?

      • I am glad that you found my story interesting! What I meant is that the idea that people diagnosed with schizophrenia should all strive to have a paid job is inherently toxic. For many of them this is simply an unachievable goal, especially if they disclose their diagnosis to potential employers. And many jobs in today’s societies are much too stressful for people prone to psychosis and paranoia… Finally, psychiatric survivors frequently have very limited social networks, which makes it even more difficult for them to find paid employment.

        There are all kinds of meaningful things one can do without having a paid job – including helping other people. This winter I was able to help my brother who had been put on a locked psychiatric ward because of suicidal thoughts. I was able to visit him every other day in hospital and I stayed for a month with him after his release. I would not have been able to do it if I had a job.

        My life is filled with intellectual activity (I even translated a book last year for a publisher), and I also try to support and encourage other people whenever I can. I am aware that I am actually saving the public health care system plenty of money thanks to my recovery and my decision to get involved with the psychiatric system only when it is unavoidable.

        I think that we should question the assumption that people are “productive” only when they are in paid employment. Care work and domestic work is very often unpaid, though it is of crucial importance. Intellectual and artistic work, too, is often unpaid or badly underpaid.

        As I explained earlier, I did try to find a job despite my schizophrenia diagnosis – and I was unable to reach this goal despite my PhD, my work experience and the fact that I did not disclose my diagnosis. I also tried to get admitted to a course in Addiction Counselling, but I was not admitted – for reasons which have never been revealed to me.

        I refuse the idea that I should feel bad because I am not in paid employment… If I had kept desperately trying to find a job without having any source of income, this would have been devastating to my mental and physical health. Accepting a job which might have triggered a breakdown would have been only slightly less devastating.

          • Very true, Sam! I find today’s cult of workaholism and generally of ceaseless feverish activity (you put it so well) both bizarre and depressing. People need time to think, to interact with their fellow humans, to connect with nature… It seems that many people now live without ever really stopping to think about their lives.

        • Joanna,
          I appreciate your comment and understand where you’re coming from. You make a very good point that you are actually saving the government money in not use utilizing psychiatric services, and also pointing out the additional hurdles that people face finding and keeping employment once they’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness. I faced the same hurdles and tried many times to re-enter the workforce but never succeeded.
          When I first went on social security disability about 12 years ago after having been employed full-time for over a decade, I felt very guilty and I felt ashamed. I’m still on disability but I no longer feel guilty about it. The psychiatric treatment that I received is what led to my becoming disabled. After being treated for what was diagnosed as depression for 6 years by a psychiatrist who prescribed dozens of different drugs and, I found out at the end of the six years, kept no records, I was referred by him to another psychiatrist for what was then being called treatment-resistant depression. That psychiatrist told me that I was a good candidate for ECT. I did some reading about it and I read that ECT could cause memory problems.
          At my next appointment with the psychiatrist I asked him about memory issues from ECT. He told me that he had never had a patient who experienced memory issues from ECT. I don’t know how many ECT treatments I received. I did agree to it but I was not informed of the dangers.
          After coming out of the hospital once the ECT treatments had stopped I drove to my follow-up appointment with the psychiatrist (I had no family support and was trying to navigate everything alone even after the ECT despite the severe memory loss I did experience). When I met with this psychiatrist in his office, he had a very grim manner and look on his face when he said, “you have borderline personality disorder. That’s why the ECT didn’t work. You need dialectical behavior therapy.”. The psychiatrist didn’t explain what any of these terms meant to him. I had never heard of borderline personality disorder or dialectical behavior therapy. He left me to look that up on the computer when I went home where I was alone.
          That was just the beginning of the treatment trauma that led to my being disabled. So no, I no longer feel guilty. I do struggle with shame everyday but I believe that is also very much inflicted by the treatment I received. I live a very isolated existence now.

          • The “disorders” are a go to for shrinks, especially towards women. I know many women with those labels. Often given to meek, or women who are outspoken. The labels simply meant that the shrink hated you, and could not control himself. Had ZERO to do with you, but everything to do with him.
            I hope you realize that there is something inherently wrong with those who give you labels. Deep down they are miserable, prejudiced hateful. There is no doubt in my mind, since the labels they invented end up hurting the bearer, not the giver.
            Some people could care less about being called an idiot, however some suffer from it.
            Always keep in mind, you have nothing, nothing to do with what your shrink’s issues were.

          • Sam, thank you, and yes that psychiatrist did hate me. I couldn’t see it then but I see it now. He couldn’t stand the fact that I was vocal once I learned that the psychiatrist I’d seen for 6 years who had prescribed everything from Prozac to Klonopin to Zoloft to Paxil to Effexor to Wellbutrin to finally Adderal had kept 0 records of anything. I knew right away that this was unacceptable/illegal and I did try to report him to the APA. They told me that unless I could prove definitively that the lack of record-keeping caused me serious harm, there was nothing they could or would do. At one point the ECT psychiatrist, who is the one who had asked for the records (that was how I finally found out that there were no records) tried to tell me that the referring psychiatrist hadn’t kept any records “because he was trying to protect you”. Um, protect me from what? I wasn’t buying it and that made him crazy. That made him decide that he had better label my anger as inappropriate, hence the borderline diagnosis. I wish I had had the strength back then to see clearly what was happening and to realize that these people had no concern at all for my well-being and in fact were more than ready to punish me for having the nerve to defend myself.
            i.e. cox, I’m not sure if your question was for me about reporting these abuses to a watchdog group. I did file a formal complaint with Yale, where the ECT was done. They never answered it. At one point I spoke to a woman in patient relations after I had filed the complaint and it was just a lot of BS from her. When I explained to her that the experience I had in treatment had left me very isolated and afraid and physically unwell but also afraid of doctors, she suggested that I get a Life Alert, as though that would solve everything. Of course that just made me angrier and then I started posting tons of Google reviews telling my story of what had happened. I see now that filing the complaint with Yale was similar to if I had been a prisoner and had been abused by a prison guard and had filed my complaint with another prison guard. I considered going to the state but then figured it would just be more of the same. I realize that I have risked legal retaliation based on some of the Google reviews I put up but I was willing to risk it. I tried to go through what they would call appropriate channels, and of course while this was happening I tried to defend myself very vocally, but I was just dismissed, ignored, ridiculed and punished. I learned a lot in the past couple of years about the lengths that they will go to to silence someone like me.

          • KateL, I am so sorry that you have suffered serious memory loss because of ECT. It is truly shocking that the psychiatrist actually later callously claimed that you had a personality disorder!

            I am happy that you have stopped feeling guilty because of being on disability, and I hope that the shame will also soon disappear. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being on disability. The idea that those who don’t have a job should be ashamed of themselves is profoundly toxic and reflects the cruelty of the world we live in…

          • The watchdog groups try to monitor various practitioners and facilities, but depend on formal reports to see what is going on. If they get enough cases pointing at a particular doctor or facility, they can start to make noise about that target and focus media attention on the doctor or facility. This can’t be done without reports.

            It has been our long experience that internal reporting processes are ineffective if not actually dangerous. Watchdogs can use reports to focus on the worst offenders even if you don’t want to personally get involved in that part of the activity.

    • Joanna,
      they gave you that label because they run/follow a business model, not a “medical model”.
      If stress brings on reaction, one can see it as an allergy. Why are we being taught that we have to tolerate
      stress, and if we do not, then we are ill/disordered.

      Many can go into war and blast people. Some crumble after. It is seen as non pathological if you can be a sniper and not suffer and reaction.

      • Sam, I totally agree with you. Why should we assume that “normal”, “healthy” people should be capable of enduring huge amounts of stress without ever “crumbling”? Many people are not aware of the impact of stress on their mental and physical health. We live in a world where people are expected to be like robots – constantly full of energy, productive, enthusiastic and ready to take up new challenges… Unsurprisingly, many people’s minds and bodies end up being damaged under this pressure.

  12. And if you work at a drop in center, you better make sure you attend all the functions, even if you have PTSD and need peace and quiet, have another disability that limits your activities and use long walks for therapy and don’t have the time to go to their functions – seriously. The social functions were not mandatory for employees, though at one point they tried to make them so. I was accused of “not being as knowledgeable” about what was going on at the center because I didn’t go to the social functions – which wasn’t true. They were not part of the job, nor informational in nature. They were supposed to be socializing and having “fun” but would not be for me. They would suck up time I needed at home for other things like mowing my lawn and doing repairs around the house or getting in my long walks. They don’t want you independent; they want you to stay as involved with the “mental health community” as possible. They want you reliant. Dependent. It’s a religion. You suck other people into it if you’re a good patient. You invite them to the drop in center and get them to come to the social groups. You teach them the language.
    They have ways of guilting people into continuing to come. The “mental health community” calls wanting to be alone “isolating”. A healthy person would call it solitude. Whatever terms normal people have for normal, healthy behaviors, the “mental health community” has a negative word for the same thing and use it against “patients”. God forbid you have any time to yourself. Oh no – you must attend their “church” functions.
    I don’t mean to impugn religion. That’s not my intent. But that’s what the “mental health community” is.

    • I worked with a girl who was temporarily in residential “treatment” for issues having nothing to do with “depression,” even by their own loose standards. When she would spend a lot of time in her room reading, they said she was “isolating” and tried to force her to join the group in “voluntary” activities! It was ridiculous. She was fortunate to have an assigned advocate who stood up for her and to have a fairly strong ability to assert herself respectfully. I’m sure lots of other kids were criticized for “isolating” when they were just taking care of thesmselves in various ways. It was highly disrespectful!

      • Indeed – and they did tell us to do what we needed to do to take care of ourselves – then were all over us when we did. We were told to advocate for ourselves as well, but when we did it was taken as “not getting with the program”. Our drop in center was going to do Mary Ellen Copeland’s program – the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) which is voluntary, but then we were told that we HAD to write out a plan and we were going to HAVE to share it. Well, silly me knew the program, knew it was voluntary and knew we did not have to share it, so I contacted WRAP and they told me that the drop in center was not doing WRAP if they were going to force us to do it and if they were going to force us to share. That was the last we heard of it, which was sad. Doing WRAP as it was intended can be very beneficial – but the drop in center wanted control.

        • That’s the biggest problem of all I see with “the system.” No matter what great approaches are invented, no matter what level of training is offered, no matter what written expectations are, the staff have the power over the clients, and “power tends to corrupt” is a very true statement. “Mental health professionals” will say they are doing “Trauma informed care” or whatever, but simply continue their dominating way and put a veneer of “trauma informed care” over top of it. They can’t really ever be “trauma informed” until they are aware of and deal with both their own traumatic histories and the times they have traumatized others intentionally or inadvertently. And there are no real incentives to do this. Anyone with the proper degree(s) and/or credentials can become a “mental health professional.” There is no requirement of emotional stability or emotional availability or personal insight or sensitivity whatsoever. A jerk doing “WRAP” is going to be a jerk, no matter what you try to do to “train” him otherwise.

          As long as the power differential is there, any form of “therapy” can be potentially destructive.

          • Yes. I had a similar experience to DBT, where the so-called “core assumptions” of the treatment we’re completely disregarded by the certified DBT therapist I was in treatment with and when I tried to talk to them about it they acted like I was crazy, overreacting, inappropriately angry blah blah blah which just made me angrier, and then they just flat-out refused to talk to me about it.

            The DBT therapist I was sent to (by another fully certified DBT therapist), and who accepted me as a patient, was not in consultation. The party line goes that you have to follow DBT protocol, including being part of a consultation team, in order to call yourself a DBT therapist.

            I thought that the other certified DBT therapists would be as offended as I was by the crap this woman pulled but they just shrugged it off and still blamed me for what happened. She wasn’t in consultation when she accepted me as a patient, and a couple months in, when the therapy was clearly going nowhere, I brought up my concern with her, during a session, that she was not in consultation. The following week she started our appointment explaining how she had tried to find a consultation team but one was too expensive, the other one was too long of a drive, the other one had therapists who were too inexperienced, blah blah blah. The solution, she said, was for me to go back to the IOP DBT program I had just come out of. She had even gone and got the paperwork for me to re-enter the program. She told me that when she talked to them and picked up the paperwork they said, “tell her this will be her last time”. That really burned me up, that she tried to pass it off like it was my idea, like I had asked to go back there instead of the truth: that she was trying to send me back there so that she wouldn’t have to go and find a consultation team on her own.

            I asked the therapist whether she didn’t need to be in consultation to treat her other patients. She told me no, that her other patients did fine without her being in consultation, that I was the only one she needed consultation for. A couple of months later she dropped me with no warning.

            When I try to report her to the DBT governing board they told me that they don’t deal with complaints about therapists and if I had a problem I should report it through the state. Obviously no one at the state is going to care that this therapist wasn’t following DBT protocol.

            The thing that burns me up is they make such a big deal about their treatment protocol and how important certification is and fidelity to the treatment is so so important and then when I point out their behavior goes against stated protocol, that they’re breaking their own rules that they made such a big deal about, they tell me that my anger is inappropriate and they cut off contact. This was maybe my most painful experience as a mental patient because all the other treatment experiences, basically everyone was an a****** and a hypocrite, but there was one DBT therapist, the one who ran the IOP program and who referred me to this outpatient DBT therapist, and I really thought he had my back. I trusted him. And then it turned out they’re all hypocrites.

            I think the reason she took me on as a patient even though she was overwhelmed in her life and didn’t have a consultation team going was that she was up for a job in a new program that the referring therapist was running, a nice cushy job at Yale with benefits, and I knew she was in trouble at her job with the state because she confided to me in the session where she ended treatment, where she spent the whole session telling me how overwhelmed she was, that her colleagues at the state had filed a complaint against her. She needed the job at Yale so she accepted me as a patient and then she just dropped me with no warning after jerking me around for months and I emailed the referring therapist, the one who ran the IOP program, and I told him that the treatment had ended and that she had never been in consultation. He answered my email but he didn’t say anything about her or have any response to what I told him about her not being in consultation and then years later I found out that he gave her that job probably within a month after my sending him the email.

            And then he refused to talk to me about any of it. I sent him one email where I said this is very important to me, I feel profoundly hurt by what has happened and I need to talk to you about it. If not, I said, I need to write to dr. Linehan. He just ignored the email and months later when I asked him why he didn’t answer it he said that he thought I was being sarcastic or threatening in it. And then I was like, yeah I said I was profoundly hurt, and you read that as sarcastic or threatening…maybe because you didn’t want to address it, how convenient.
            The whole thing just makes me sick. And it makes me sick to think how much time I wasted and for how long I fell for all their b.s.

          • Agree Steve.
            And because psychiatry traumatizes their subjects, there is no way that they are not affected. Unless they simply are not able to be bothered, which is important in social control, but very damaging when personalities like that profess to be “helping”., my sis was married to such a personality.

    • NotCrazyAfterAllTheseYears, I understand you so well. So many people assume that there is something wrong with those who simply love solitude… This idea that everyone should crave and enjoy “socializing” with coworkers etc. is very oppressive. I understand your feeling that you were losing time you needed for other things; this is one of the reasons why I have always avoided all kinds of work social events. And I, too, have been using long walks for therapy (and exercise) for years!

  13. I too “lost” my career as a mechanical engineer after a few hospitalizations and eventually ECT for treating suicidal depression. I was encouraged by the “professionals” to apply for disability and not attempt to work more than part time in unchallenging positions.

    20 years later I am now trying to climb out of that hole of limitation(s). I returned to school, learned 3D CAD/modeling (computer-aided design/drafting) and got a 3D printer. My hopes are to make a living again, support myself again! I don’t want to be a mental health services consumer anymore! I’m trying to do my own business with the 3D printer, as I don’t want to return to the corporate scene in any position.
    Great article and comments too!

    • After reading many others’ comments, I have to say I have been hung up on my career/job title as my identity. I was a welder for 4 years prior to even thinking about college. After college, my best jobs were as a manufacturing engineer. But I had a sort-of “breakdown” in 1999-2000 as a result of 12-hour workdays with long commute, an unhealthy work environment, taking on too much in my personal life, etc.
      Hospitalized in Berkeley, agreed to ECT, fortunately no permanent memory loss. I’ve been hospitalized voluntarily for suicidal depression several times after that (usually 4-10 days inpatient), but not for several years.

      Right now I enjoy getting back into mountain biking, my morning walks, 3D drawing/modeling, 3D printing, TIG welding and woodworking projects. Like I said, I’m hoping to support myself as a freelancer doing 3D printing for local companies.
      My accomplishments have always been my identity, whether it was as a runner or bicyclist or engineer, or grad student. I could never believe any woman would be interested in just me as a person. I don’t even pursue a relationship. I live with my Mom, so I am ashamed. Although she needs help being 82-yrs. old, slightly disabled. We co-own a house. I also care for several special-needs cats with minor disabilities.

      I take psych meds, have tried self-medicating with kratom, that was fun but addicting, so I stopped. I exercise daily and eat well.
      My career was my identity. Now I don’t know who I am! I miss my job title and that cash flow too! But I don’t want to do the corporate scene anymore.
      I don’t socialize much because people ask me, “What do you do?” I have no job title anymore.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Wow! Well, this does give you the opportunity to pick your own identity, should you so desire. But of course it is not uncommon for people to see their work – their job – as their identity. This is why retirement can cause some people to crash emotionally. All I can say is, don’t sell yourself short.

      • Rich, I can really identify with so much of this. It is hard…I think we are taught that our value is based on our accomplishments. For me, that’s been really hard. I think it’s awesome that you take care of cats and help out your Mom. I hope someday to adopt another pet, cat or dog I’m not sure.

      • Rich, thank you for sharing your story with us. You are actually doing something very important and beautiful – much more important and beautiful than many paid jobs. I am sure that there are women who would be ready to accept you just as you are – there are many women who simply look for love and companionship, for a good, caring, sensitive man. And if anyone asks you “What do you do?”, you could say that you are a carer and an activist!

      • Rich, you are leading a good life, 1000%. You may not see it as good, but the fact that you look after your health, care for your mom and look after cats….. What a great heart you have! You could be an ideal partner for a woman who’s had challenges, or someone with a young child, as you model what a caring man is – and does.

        We are not our jobs! Another bullshit message put out by society at large. We are our hopes, dreams, mindfulness, our time in nature, our spiritual beliefs, our spontaneity, our music. Humans are so much richer than the labels the world tries to put on us. We’re made to feel ‘failures’ when we don’t work (that’s how my dad felt when he retired: he only lived 2 years after that.) Believe in YOU, we don’t have to conform. Do what makes YOU happy! Peace, brother.

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