“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
You’ve probably heard that phrase before. It’s from the book of John in the New Testament (KJV Bible, John 8:32-33). What you might not know is that Jesus said this when speaking with a group of people who so hated the things he had been teaching, they actually wanted to kill him! What I find fascinating is their response to his words: “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?”
I’m very familiar with this kind of response, mostly from my online conversations about the dangers of psychiatric medications on my Benzo Brains YouTube channel. Here are just a few examples of how the conversation usually goes.
#Conversation type 1: These drugs saved my life.
Conversation type 2: What you’re saying can’t possibly be true.
And my favorite, Conversation type 3: The Blame Game
The irony is, in denying the truth I’m sharing, these people are denying their own reality. Some of these comments clearly show that the speakers are not doing as well on their medications as they think they are. Quite frankly, if people didn’t have something gnawing inside them, telling them something was wrong about their situation, they wouldn’t bother to seek out my videos and leave these kinds of comments on my channel in the first place. I feel compassion for them! I know the fear behind their accusations. I was once where they are now.
In the process of writing my recent memoir, Seeds of Hope: a Journey Through Medication and Madness Toward Meaning (Moonglade Press), I discovered my truth by slowly piecing together my hellish experiences with psychiatric drug injury and laying it out like a jigsaw puzzle made of words. I can see the picture clearly now. Like the fear in the words of my online accusers, it was fear that led me to seek out a doctor and ask for a prescription for my insomnia.
There was a lot that led up to that decision, but to state it simply: I had a toddler at home and a newborn who had just been released from the hospital after battling meningitis. My husband was out of work and money was tight. But I could make do if I had the energy I needed to be resourceful. I needed my strength. I needed my wits about me. I needed sleep! I was scared, and so I made a decision based on fear. What was even scarier to me, though, was how the Ambien (a benzodiazepine receptor agonist similar to Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan) affected my nursing baby. Alert and engaging even when she had meningitis, now my baby girl was sleepy and lethargic day and night. I didn’t want to risk anymore harm to her. So after less than one week, I cold-turkeyed the medication. That’s when things went from bad to worse.
That’s when the lies started:
“This is post-partum depression.”
“You just can’t handle being a mom.”
“You’re having a nervous breakdown!”
Well-intentioned friends and physicians forged the links to my chains of bondage with their assumptions. At first, I rejected their lies. I sensed there was something wrong with my body, but all the medical testing I sought out made me a liar. There was nothing wrong with me on paper. Not one scan, not one lab or test validated what I was telling people. I really couldn’t read a book or watch TV anymore. I didn’t know why I felt like I was going to pass out every time I stood up, but it wasn’t all in my head. The bodily pain really was severe enough to make carrying a little baby too difficult. Yes, I felt suicidal, but wouldn’t you if you couldn’t think straight, keep food down, or sleep for even one hour a night?!
After months of fighting off the shackles of false labels others wished to fasten on me, I finally gave in. I bought into the diagnoses of anxiety and depression and took their proffered solutions: Effexor, Ativan, Cymbalta, etc. For years I thanked my lucky stars I had those drugs to keep me going. I believed I needed them, because every time I tried to get off, I couldn’t function. Like those people on my YouTube channel, I was convinced I would have died without my meds!
It wasn’t until years later that I learned the truth: The medications had only been masking the festering sores beneath the surface of my stability. More than that, they kept me numb as they continued to eat away at my body and mind until little more was left of my soul than a rotting, cankerous wound. Yet here I am today, five years after tapering off all meds, typing on my computer, and homeschooling two kids through a pandemic with an unwavering sense of aplomb. How is that possible, when just a few years ago, during my hellish one-and-a-half-year taper, I couldn’t even shower or watch TV without feeling like I was bathing my injured brain and body in a vat of acid?
It was because I accepted the truth.
The truth is what freed me from my prison of pain. It’s the truth that resurrected me from the endless cycle of more diagnoses and more drugs. And it’s in sharing the truth that I found a purpose for my pain and a path to real healing. There will always be people who deny reality and proclaim “We were never in bondage.” Some may zealously hate those of us who work so hard to share what we have learned with others. Some will even expend considerable time and resources to figuratively crucify and bury us along with the truth they find so repulsive. But through my efforts to educate patients and doctors about the real nature of these drugs, I find I encounter far more people earnestly looking for the truth than running from it – and when they find it, they find freedom too.
These are the online conversations I love:
Obviously, I’m no savior. All I do in my memoir and on my channel is to stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before and shout to the world: “I know the truth and it has set me free!” It’s up to others whether or not they listen.
Are you listening?
Here’s the truth: You can’t avoid pain. Running away, pretending the bad things never happened, acting like everything is OK and you can move mountains on your own is what leads to this thing some call “mental illness.” Oh sure, it might start out with receiving a benign diagnosis like insomnia or chronic fatigue, but eventually, the darkness—psychiatry—and your circumstances will catch up with you. And now you’re not just facing your own demons, but generations of demons who have handed down lies perpetuated by industries who don’t care if you’re happy and healthy, only if they can profit from using you in some way. It’s harsh, I know. The truth is often uncomfortable. But it can also be wonderful! Get ready for some more.
The truth is, I see people heal every single day and not a single one of them was healed by a doctor or a drug. Sure, there are things that have helped me and others to heal. But if you understand biology, you will know that things don’t heal you, you heal you. To be more precise, a higher power heals you. Somewhere in the process of your RNA creating new proteins, a signal is received that says to your body: “Change. Stop doing things the way you have been and do it differently.” Then at some point, your amazing, incredible, miraculous body listens and says “OK, this is our new truth, let’s start doing things right!”
That’s how healing happens. The good news is, this means it’s possible for anyone to heal at any time! I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people I never thought could possibly come back from such extreme injury suddenly turn a corner and merge onto the fast lane for healing. So have hope, my fellow travelers.
I called my memoir Seeds of Hope because I share the little kernels of hope and truth that helped me, and are still helping me, to heal. Maybe you’ll find your meaning, your healing truth, in my story. Or maybe you’ll find it in New Age spirituality, alternative medicine, nutrition, religion, a loving relationship, therapy, charity, art, or some other avenue you haven’t yet considered. Keep searching for the truth, keep hoping, keep healing.
Because the truth is, accepting the lie that we are powerless to our “illness” is what keeps us sick.
Stop giving your power away to doctors, medications, your ex, friends and family, the past, the future, money, and all other outside sources. Accept love and support when it is freely offered, but know that they don’t have the power to heal you. You heal you.
And that’s the truth.
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.