Surviving Child Psychiatry: My Quest for Love and Justice

Jeffrey Craig
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1269

I am 37 years old and have had very little human contact in my life. The last time I experienced intimacy was when my mother would give me touch massages when I was four or five years old. I am not a recluse. I am not shy. I have, oftentimes, desperately put myself out there only to be rejected. Am I a monster?

I think first we can begin with the fact that I had a very traumatic and abnormal childhood. As I explained in my first blog, “Kids on Psychiatric Drugs: Where Are They Now?,” I was a normal kid labeled ADHD, which led to forced drugging—first with Ritalin and then with the neuroleptic Risperdal—leading to painful and terrifying side effects. I was taken from my family and placed in hospitals and special schools, collecting labels and pumped with different drugs, becoming more and more neurologically and emotionally impaired. Today, I still feel damaged.

Therefore, I was not “on the same page” as everyone else when it came to coming-of-age and such. I’ve never learned the “rules,” etiquette, or even what to expect and how to respond to even the most basic of social interactions. From this, I tend to be very open and blunt; I will tell someone I meet as much as I can about myself that I feel is important so that we can move on to him or her and why not be companions. I use negotiation as a means to try to find a housemate; whether platonic, friend with benefits, or a partner. It’s all that I know to do. Please come over, I have a PS4. I promise I won’t hurt you. I’ve failed to attract company even with promises of money.

I’ve had to try to learn socializing by studying people. That makes me even weirder – and gives me one-sided perspectives. The closest I came to meeting someone was crushed in a panic the moment he realized that I did not know what “discreet” means in the gay community. It turns out he had a family. Apparently, a lot of gay guys get married and have families because that’s what they’re supposed to do, and are terrified of how they should really be living.

But now let’s flashback to the first and only “date” I ever had. It was 2002, and I met a young woman on Hotmail Ads. We had both just turned 18, and I took her to a bowling alley and was busy rolling a 220 while she hung out. I had gotten lessons as a kid as part of some recreation program when I was in custody of the state. While everyone else was messing around, I was my typical self: hanging on the instructor’s every word, analyzing his every move, learning how to bowl. But now here I was on the date, and the guy who ran the bowling alley set off an alarm every time someone rolled a strike. I got so focused on the activity and so unnerved by the noise that without realizing it, I was ignoring the girl. Seeing I was no longer “with her,” she demanded I take her home. So I did. And that was that.

I only figured out what happened days later, when she would no longer respond to me online. I had thought the night went well, and that it was only a matter of waiting for her to tell me to come on over. You see, my only understanding of dating was from sitcoms like “Seinfeld.”

I wound up spending my prime years knocking myself out drunk, unable to move on from my upended life following my psychiatrically injured childhood. Stuck on SSI and alone, I went through one mental crisis after another, unable to move on, while rotting in my parents’ attic. I’ve had my own place for over a year now, and things were supposed to change. My “life” just started last year, and I began coming out as both a person and a psych survivor, among other things.

Now it seems that my hope of giving and receiving compassion seems to be a pipe dream. I was rejected through my 20s and now it’s just a tragic reality as I put out Craigslist ads for “housing offered” with headlines like “Seeking Companion” and such. This has all happened lately with the support of my parents, who really hope I find someone before they die.

I spend a lot of time thinking about why it’s so hard to form relationships. Possible obstacles may be:

1) I come on too strong, except I really don’t; I just refuse to hide my past

2) I have no friends for people to check out on my Facebook – a huge red flag.

3) I don’t work; as I say, I’m on disability. Nobody likes coming home to someone that’s just been doing “whatever”

4) Far from being normal, I just want a bedmate to play video games with and watch stuff with and occasionally sleep with – and no, not the Victorian euphemism for sex.

My ultimate concern: Never has there been a better time, with all these evictions and people unemployed, to try to start a life. Yet still I fail to find companionship. It becomes all the more odd when considering how many times I have “cheated” death; one might think I were blessed. My parents do. But jeez, where do I begin regarding that?

Flying down backroads on my Kawasaki Ninja in the hard thunder and heavy rain, as well as crashing it at high speed twice with no injury. Just another day at the office, so to speak.

Police accident report

And just recently, I was driving down the road in a jank old car with a broken sway bar, and had this happen (see photo at right). I woke up with a broken ankle, lying next to my car on fire. No pain, which is why I suspect the officer thought I was on something. They took and destroyed my license, pursued charged of “operating under the influence of drugs,” and took my blood with a warrant at the hospital. I haven’t heard anything back. Been driving on the temporary driver’s permit they gave me and have a photo I.D. coming in the mail. They’re not going to find anything in that bloodwork. I’ve quit calling them about it.

I also lived for over a year with my hemoglobin sitting around 1.5-2.5 (normal is about 15) before losing my colon via surgery, when the surgeons were all completely reluctant to do it because of how wasted away I was. Then came the dozen-plus parastomal hernia bowel obstructions, painful beyond words. Had surgery three times before finally getting a Sugarbaker mesh.

It also might not help that I put out ads for both women and men. I have no libido, or at least, it has to be summoned and might take a few days. And I figure my medical issues aren’t exactly appealing. I just want a person to love, to live for, to keep me interested and wanting to live.

Maybe I am an alien or something, and everyone can kind of secretly tell.

I believe the downfall in my 20s would have never happened if I had had money and support from people who knew I would need re-integration services and psychosocial rehabilitation (NOT psychiatric rehabilitation; psychiatry frequently steals that term for themselves). If I had had help to get my own place and start my own life. Eventually, the only way I would get one would be to grief my father into using his savings to pair with my disability pittance to rent me a house. Oh and trust me, even with just money and no services, I would have been out of there and hitting the world like a ton of bricks when I was 18. I would have made it for sure, if only there had been a government program to stop with the pittance and get me my own place at that point in my life.

I would still have my colon, too, I bet. My four years of sobriety beginning when I was 28 eventually crashed upon my despair, and then I “relapsed” and got re-addicted to alcohol during an ulcerative colitis flareup. That is what led to the need for surgery. But I was so emotionally distressed, it was either start drinking again or try suicide.

My parents, as always, just stay away. They won’t interfere. I’m sure they were traumatized by what happened to me as a kid as well, I think they mourned the death of their son a long time ago. The only place to turn in this society to help a loved one is the same place that tormented us, tortured me, and destroyed my life – psychiatry.

And now they are just griefed into supporting me after I voluntarily give up my government disability pittance this coming spring. My last Continuing Disability Review was an emotionally chaotic experience that lasted nearly a year and almost killed me and my father. What will I do in the future for money? Will I wind up dead, in jail, or involuntarily committed? I burn in the pain of knowing that every second matters in regard to getting something going. Yet I keep winding up in stagnation. Even before COVID-19, I was perhaps coming on too strong, “manic,” excited that I had a place I could finally invite people to for the first time ever— which never happened. And now, of course, there’s COVID.

What will I do about my need for companionship? Dating apps are a complete waste of time. There’s nowhere to go. At my age and with my health problems, there may only be a few people in this whole state that would want to be with me, and yet our government, our society, leaves people like me with no resources to find them. Humans are social creatures. Everybody needs to love somebody. Shouldn’t there be a social service for this kind of thing? For those of us harmed by the mental health system, it’s not going to be possible without assistance.

 

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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.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Jeffrey, thanks for the honest piece of writing.

    Somewhere I read that kids are lucky if they don’t get singled out, or focused on.
    Most kids get all the wrong focus. It’s obsessive focus from parents, teachers and whoever comes along
    to study the child. It’s amazing, but yes, humans are obsessed with behaviour, it has not gotten past
    what dogs do with butt sniffing.

    Our kids are just lucky to escape the clutches of adults. You were caught too early. I mean, what were they trying to do? Did their interference work for you?

    I’m amazed you were able to quit drinking for 4 years. That is huge.

    cliche. Life is brutal. I watched that video of the largest hospital for women in India. 1700 women and girls, stuck, no where to go. Can’t even go on the street. Will never get married or have partners.
    It’s the yucky way of people.

    I can tell you what I would do if I had no one. I would get me a super cheap piece of land build a one or two room shack on it, get a dog and take care of my dog.

    People are selfish, they don’t want my “stuff”. Or they would like something in exchange. There is absolutely still stuff you can do for others. Your parents might one day need your help, to keep them out of a nursing home. To get their groceries. To cook and clean.
    Yes it’s boring. Yes we want more. Many, many people want more. There is a harsh reality. We do not all get the same and some of us get stuck focusing on what we do not have.

    I’m impressed that you seem to write well. You can drive. You can be logical. You think about your parents, not just about yourself. I know a heck of a lot of people who do not have anyone. In fact I personally know a TON of women who see themselves as getting old with no one.
    A lot of the stuff you see is fake, or it doesn’t last. LOL we kind of “act” a lot of the time. It helps if we have other actor partners, or some cash, or earned something, like a degree.

    I get it that you have never had it, that stuff that people have. The friends, the parties. We don’t get born with equal perks. We don’t get equal beauty, or good teeth, or studious brains, or even health or any opportunities.

    It is why it’s incredible that psych exists purely to destroy the little bits, the potentials and possibilities that people DO in fact have. MOST have the possibilities and potential to fit in somewhere. Often I think people would be better off to be sent to a chain gang than to psych.

    And I think you still have the potential. It might not be what you want or need. Perhaps you can volunteer for something.

  2. I think you judge yourself too much. Not that you don’t have a lot to justifiably complain about.

    Sometimes the lack of a partner causes people to feel “incomplete,” but this is based on social expectations that you should “have someone.” So the pursuit of what you believe you’re lacking becomes paramount in your life. However lots of people live satisfying lives without all that, and the paradox is that the harder you try to “find someone” the more your desperation scares people away. And in reality no one else can make you “complete.”

    Everybody needs to love somebody. Shouldn’t there be a social service for this kind of thing? For those of us harmed by the mental health system, it’s not going to be possible without assistance.

    You’ve no doubt heard the (inaccurate) claim that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over & over and expecting different results.” Given the incredible abuse you have suffered at the hands of the system, why would you turn to that same system for a solution? Unfortunately there are no “services” that can teach love. Or if there are they are far, far from the world of “mental health.”

    Have you considered a pet? I’m serious. Animals are far more capable of sharing and expressing love than many people. And when they feel that love returned the bond will be eternal, except you will eventually need to come to grips with them passing.

  3. Jeffrey, I am so sorry that psychiatry had such a negative impact on your life starting at such a young age. Thank you for writing about it as it serves as a big wake up call to parents.
    You have shown strength and resilience to make it to where you are now and can take great pride in that.

    I agree with Sam and Oldhead that having a pet could be a good idea. I know people who met someone special when walking their dog or by meeting up and chatting at the dog park. Also maybe check out the Meet Up site for groups in your area with common interests such as sports, exercise, walks, outdoor adventures, writing, art, music, crafts etc. Some activities are likely on hold with the pandemic but they may have meetings via Zoom etc.

    One never knows what awaits around the corner. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Take care, keep writing and best of wishes.

  4. Jeffrey,
    You did not deserve to be treated so abhorrently by the adults in your life. You were just a kid, and it was their job to look out for you, not to stigmatize you and set you on a course of iatrogenic injury from psych meds.

    I know it must be very hard to be so isolated. Small steps are good. I am close with someone who has some similar issues, although they have more family involvement. I am sorry that your parents seem to have abandoned you. It makes me very angry that someone in your life has not realized that, if they are not able to help you directly, they could at least try to support you in finding the right supports.

    So called medical professionals are betraying their oaths on a massive scale. I had negative experiences with medications, but was lucky that it happened as an adult and I was able to evade diagnosis, etc.

    It might help to find a psych survivors contact or patient advocate that may be able to at least be a source of comfort to you, and may be able to advise. You deserve love and support.

    If I come across such a contact, I will post here.

    Finding intimacy is difficult for anyone in this complex world (I don’t actually seek it for myself in a primary relationship because of my history as an adoptee. I have human connections through my work supporting people with disabilties).

    Take care

  5. I’m sorry that you’ve had the experiences you’ve had. These drugs and the system itself aren’t safe for adults, let alone kids. And being able to be a child is so important to our own development as people.

    I’ve been “treated” since I was a kid and while my experiences weren’t nearly as traumatizing as yours, it has still always left me feeling “weird,” “different,” and fundamentally “wrong” as a human being. It took me a long time to figure out things like small talk and I’m still not exactly sure where boundaries lie (like, when does a person cross over from being an acquaintance to a friend?).

    You deserve love and companionship. Humans are pretty much hardwired to need it since we’re social animals. *Real* companionship, as equals, not the really weird client-therapist connection.

    I think that there are more of us out there, those of us put through these drugs and “treatments” since we children. It feels like I just don’t know what the right term to Google is.

    You might find some comfort and support in the neurodiversity movement, if you haven’t already stumbled upon it. It does draw from the current mental health system that we have in place and it’s far from perfect, but it is nice to communicate with other people who have been designated as “weird” and not get silence or blank stares. Or talk about being on disability in a neutral way, free of judgment.

    Although, it does hold that some people are just “wired” differently than what’s seen as the norm, which hasn’t been really proven. But it does hold that these differences between people (whether or not they’re a result of some sort of physical difference) are good things and something to be embraced.

  6. It may seem counterintuitive, but I think you are focusing too much on “what you want,” i.e. connection with a partner, and not enough on “what you offer.” This is totally a normal thing to do, but it may be hindering your progress.

    You say you want human connection? Instead of seeking people on Craigslist, or dating apps, or whatever, just figure out what you can offer your immediate community (I use the term loosely here to just mean the people in your town/city/area). What can you offer and what are your strengths or talents or interests that would help you help real people?

    Then, get involved. Get involved in things that help others in need. Also, get involved in things that build community around your strengths/talents/interests. Do not see this path as a straight line to romance–it isn’t, and hitting on people in organizations you are new to is not usually kosher, and makes it all about you again when it’s supposed to be about you offering yourself, your time, your energy to help others.

    You are on a long journey, here, not a short trip to the supermarket. Love can’t be “arranged,” purchased, earned, owed, or guaranteed. This may be frustrating news when you just want a relationship, but you need to see this as a journey towards human connection and interconnection, not a straight path to a romantic relationship.

    You have a lot of potential. But right now you’re playing video games and sitting at home, and you have become so beaten down that you don’t even hope for or desire more for yourself. Sitting at home killing brain cells as a lifestyle isn’t good fertile ground for a potential partner, but more importantly, neither is it you doing right by yourself. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing with some games or tv, but your needs as a human will never be fulfilled by that.

    Men have often been taught that a romantic relationship is going to fix everything, that they are owed this by life, and that once they “earn” this by doing x, y, z (having a job, having muscles, whatever) things will be good. But you are not owed a relationship. It can’t be bought, earned, or guaranteed.

    It can be developed, by and through engagement with others that is authentic to you. The engagement that is most authentic to who you are, will be engagement that does not come out of desperation for a partner to fix everything, or out of a desire to find a partner in this project if “giving up on your own life potential”. No one can solve your internal starvation for connection but you–by being your own best friend first, and a servant to others second, you will find out how to engage without desperation and entitlement.

    You got this!!

  7. Hi Jeffrey. Thank you for sharing your story! I have a son with a somewhat similar story. He’s 27 and has always struggled with the school setting and anxiety. I couldn’t get help for him and refused to put him on drugs. I also had mental health problems that I refused to take drugs for so I had no idea what to do to help him. The blind leading the blind. Anyway I pulled him out of middle school and tried to homeschool him. The way things went he ended up not getting any social skills. Now at 27 he is exactly like you and just needs emotional connection and not with me. He still lives at home. He’s so depressed sometimes and keeps going back to any mind altering drug that will boost his mood and ends up being picked up by police. The only thing his state insurance will cover is psychiatry and drugs and therapy by people who only have a master’s degree and could not care less if he showed up or not.
    At one point he had a girlfriend he loved and for the first time I saw him real and shiny and happy and wanting to live life. She ended up leaving him partly because he doesn’t have the social skills and understanding of how the give and take works. It’s so sad.
    I feel for you and can imagine how hard it is for you but don’t give up! Your tribe that understands is out here listening. Keep writing. I encourage my son to write as well. Any creative outlet is a good thing.

  8. Hi Jeffery, thank you for being so courageously open about some of the relationship challenges your having. FWIW, I can relate to some of the emotional and psycho-social losses psychiatry imparts upon the entire life of a developing child. I, too, had to figure out ways to be in an adult world my psychiatric and abusive childhood never prepared me for. Now 63, I can only say that “meremortal” was very wise with the long game comment, and oldhead likewise wise that you (may) be judging yourself too much-both comments echoing my own thoughts as well.

    So….your still (in your young 30’s!) discovering your innate human strengths, strengths that psychiatry and other childhood social and interpersonal relationships failed to recognize and help you embrace and develop. So now-“it seems to me from this vast distance”- your now struggling to find your way back to those hijacked strengths and attributes so as to take them back into your adult life and relationships. Cleary your intelligent, sensitive (a tricky strength in todays world!), and a full-on survivor. I don’t like to give advice, but as your brother of childhood psychiatric abuse-now 63 and having had one hell of a ride that outwardly resembles a good, successful life of-which I’m quite happy and very at peace!, I would only suggest that you get engaged with every subject, interest, and goal you have, and find corresponding organization (group, etc.) with each, and put your self in the middle of as many as you can (school, political groups, volunteering, etc.). Nothing breeds relationships like shared interests, causes, loves, sacrifices, purpose; and nothing beats the bonds forged in these type of relationships. Small steps lead to big changes, people come out of nowhere when we forget ourselves and our losses and temporal limitations. What I’m trying to say my psychiatric brother, is that your “believed” limitations are some of your greatest strengths, the journey to discovering this fact is the” hell of a ride” I referred to above! I will only lastly say, pursue your interest (love!) in vocational and creative expressions, develop them like a man who’s hair is on fire, and you’ll be turning off your phone for much needed relationship down time! I wish for you well Jeffery, you deserve it, and I suspect a few new engagements with a focus on what your unique person offers, will bring many gifts.

  9. Hi Jeffrey,
    I was really touched by your well-written piece. Don’t give up on finding a companion. I have made lots of friends at Narcotics Anonymous who care about me deeply and are supporting me to live off “meds”. It took me years to feel like I belonged in “the rooms” but now everyone knows my name and I get lots of hugs and genuinely caring human interactions when I go to meetings. And in between times too. It sounds like you would be eligible for membership given what you have said about yourself. I highly recommend that you give the 12-Step Program a go. Much love, Elizabeth xxx

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