I grew up in a suburb of Boston. My grandmother on my mother’s side of the family was a psychiatrist. I remember asking her when I was young, perhaps 10 or so, how you can tell if someone is mentally ill or not since there are no biological tests for mental illness (she had told me prior to that that there are no tests). Her response was that if someone looked at the ground when asked a question and appeared shy, then it meant they were mentally ill. Thinking back on this, it is disappointing that my grandmother was probably a charlatan, like her colleagues in psychiatry.
Her son, my uncle, was diagnosed as schizophrenic, as was her husband, my grandfather. Besides those two cases, nobody else on my mother’s side of the family had any mental illness diagnosis. My psychiatrist grandmother had divorced my grandfather sometime before I was born in 1983. He was a mortician by trade. He died in 2004, though my family was not told about his death, as my mother’s relationship with her brother (my uncle with the schizophrenia diagnosis) had been ruined due to an argument over the estate of my psychiatrist grandmother, who died from lung cancer due to smoking in 1999. She always declared that there was no evidence smoking caused lung cancer, as she sat smoking away on her Camel Unfiltered. Before she died, she appointed my mother as sole executrix over her estate because my grandmother felt that her son with a diagnosis of schizophrenia could not be trusted as an equal in the management of the estate.
Less than a year after my psychiatrist grandmother died, I was talking to someone in school whom I had known a little through the local Unitarian Universalist church I had attended growing up. He was an upperclassman, a junior, when I was a sophomore. I had looked up to him slightly as I was a musician, a guitarist, and so was he. I remember talking to him about psychedelic drugs, saying I was interested in trying them, and that I had read a Carlos Castaneda book recently that got me interested. He told me that I should try sleep deprivation because it was like psychedelic drugs.
Being naive, and not recognizing that I was being taken for a fool by a bully at worst, or had just been given horrible advice at best, I tried it, and stayed up for over a week. When I started acting strange around my parents, they thought that I had bipolar disorder and brought me to the hospital. I was given some Ativan and sent on my way. I woke up 20 hours later and my parents ushered me away to a mental health evaluation, where I was recommended for treatment. I was then sent to Franciscan Children’s Hospital in Boston. I got a feel for what psychiatry really is there, and my life was upended in many ways that I have still never recovered from.
When I got to Franciscan Children’s Hospital, at age 16, I told them I was suffering from significant sleep deprivation. However, they ordered me to stay up for days longer for an EEG that required the patient to be sleep-deprived. Since I got there on a Friday night, I had to wait all weekend. Every time I was about to fall asleep, a nurse would wake me up. I was distraught. It felt like torture. On top of that, the doctor, Dr. Mark Stromberg, did not diagnose me with anything, yet prescribed me Lithium and Risperidone. (Why, I have no idea.) I tried to escape from the hospital by opening part of a hung ceiling, only to have rat poison fall into my eyes. They fortunately had an eyewash handy (like the kind that are in high school science classrooms).
Once outside the hospital, I quickly realized that I could not function on the medications. I couldn’t even get through three pages of a book without falling asleep. Needless to say, I started immediately failing in school due to these medications. I decided after a few weeks that I had to get off the medication, and rapidly withdrew without knowing what I was doing, and experienced an iatrogenic psychosis, the first of many. The second hospitalization, a mere month after the first, was at Pembroke Hospital, an Arbor Hospital on the South Shore of Massachusetts.
When I arrived at Pembroke Hospital, I was asked by the admitting psychiatrist why I was on all these strong medications, which he said were very odd to be taking without a diagnosis. He asked if I had used marijuana recently, which I replied yes to, and his response I can’t get out of my mind even to this day. He said, “It’s unfortunate that you got assigned Dr. Shrand because he really is against marijuana and drug use, and feels strongly about it, but if it was up to me, I would take you off these drugs because people don’t do well on them.”
Sure enough, he was right: as soon as I saw Dr. Shrand, he asked me if I had smoked marijuana. I said yes. I asked him what my diagnosis was and he replied that it would depend on the results of the drug screening test. After that result came back positive for marijuana, he diagnosed me with bipolar disorder, and completely ruined my life. I believe that what happened to me was an example of the War on Drugs being enforced by gatekeepers in psychiatry — what amounts to political abuse of psychiatry. From then on, my parents made me take all the prescribed medications and I went from being a student in all honors classes to failing every last class and repeating a year of high school.
The first outpatient psychiatrist I had was at Harvard Vanguard in Wellesley, Massachusetts: Dr. Miriam Rosenberg. This so-called expert tried to convince me I was gay (I’m straight), and told me I had neurasthenia, a diagnosis from 1869 that is no longer even diagnosed as of 2012. Eventually I left this quack, and ended up at another Harvard Vanguard facility in Braintree, Massachusetts, with Dr. Daniel Teplin. He told me that if I didn’t take the medication, I might have a heart attack, which pretty much shows me that he was also a charlatan.
After failing most of high school, in the year I repeated, he allowed me to take a half dose of the Lithium and to stop taking the Risperidone altogether, which allowed me to regain some functioning and graduate, at least. I then went to community college and ended up transferring to University of Massachusetts Amherst in fall of 2005, where I safely withdrew from the medication and was able to acquire a Bachelor’s degree by winter 2008. I had no episodes of mental illness in college and took a lot of drugs: LSD, mushrooms, marijuana morning noon and night, as well as alcohol, and never had a single problem. Your mind is yours.
While attending university, I took a class called Victorian Monstrosity: 19th Century English Horror Novels. In this class, the professor showed us a screening of Ofra Bikel’s PBS Frontline documentary titled The Search For Satan which documented medical malpractice in psychiatry in the 1980s and early 1990s, specifically focusing on Dissociative Identity Disorder (which was then called Multiple Personality Disorder). This splendid documentary, though banned by the FCC to save face for interrelated government institutions, explains psychiatry’s biggest folly since the lobotomy: the notion that “Satanic Ritual Abuse” and satanic cults are causing an epidemic of mental illness across America.
As the class was taught, the specious origins of the disorder were sensational literature and the media — moral panics, in other words, from the 1970s and early 1980s. For one, Sybil, the supposed first MPD patient from the 70s, admitted years later that she was making it up (this can be verified with online news articles from NPR, etc.). Another example was Lawrence Pazder’s 1980 sensational tell-all Michelle Remembers, which has been discredited.
The point of the class was to explore the archetype in modern horror of the medically questionable Insane Asylum, and the theme of science-gone-awry, which appears in Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, as well as Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and many others (the horror film The Creeping Flesh from the early 1970s also comes to mind). I was surprised and vindicated to realize that I was right all along, that psychiatrists truly were quacks pretending to be accomplishing something scientific when in actuality they were only producing works of abomination.
The professor’s personal belief is that psychiatry is an example of scapegoating, caused by millenarianism and other cultural constructs. The fact is that Dissociative Identity Disorder, to this day, is still diagnosed despite being debunked. We learned in the class, also, that several months after the release of the PBS Frontline documentary, there was an X-Files episode that featured a serial killer with bipolar disorder. The episode is called “Oubliette” and yes, this caused another moral panic that continues today. It is a reason why psychiatrists claimed in the year 2000 that “bipolar is a rare disorder affecting 1 in 1000 people” and yet today they claim that it is a common disorder, affecting 1 in 100 people. The bipolar scare just keeps snowballing. This college professor was very influential on me and has advised me to avoid psychologists, psychiatrists, and any people involved in those fields. I have taken his advice. Why trust any medical diagnosis invented by eugenicists in the 1800s?
I have been hospitalized many times since my initial mishap, and believe that this is due to iatrogenic effects. In 2012 I had a bout of chronic insomnia and had to quit my job. My parents, who I was living with at the time, thought I was mentally ill and got an antipsychotic drug from my primary care physician (who is no longer my doctor) without my participation. It was Abilify. I was told by my parents that if I didn’t take it, they would not allow me to live in their house and I would be homeless. I took it and had a bad reaction. I couldn’t speak. It was almost as if I was having a stroke. But I was told I had to take it and took it for a month.
Unfortunately, the medication eventually caused me to hallucinate, seeing things and hearing things that are not there, which has lasted to today. My diagnosis was changed from bipolar to schizophrenia after this, and more recently to schizoaffective. (The word “schizophrenia,” incidentally, was coined by a eugenicist.)
The worst thing about psychiatry, besides it being mainstream eugenics (claims of a genetic cause without a single test to confirm as much), is how it convinces your family to do things that they think are correct, which ultimately gets them to participate in harming you on behalf of the psychiatrist’s demented mad science. An actual medical doctor is not even required when diagnosing mental illness. It can be done by a psychologist with no medical training. The “medications” can be dispensed by a psychiatric nurse practitioner. This process is another indicator of the dubiousness of psychiatric treatment and further evidence that it is mere skulduggery.
Psychiatry has harmed me severely, and ruined my family to a large degree. I fully advocate Anti-psychiatry now, and am appalled at the sordid history of psychiatry that has included eugenics, lobotomy, and satanic panic. Luckily, I am no longer taking psychiatric medication and have recently gotten through to my family, having shown them the PBS Frontline documentary discussed above. I hope to see the end of psychiatry in my lifetime.
(After heart disease and cancer, death from psychiatric medication is the third or fourth leading cause of death at any given time. A recent Swedish study showed that one third of Lithium patients develop kidney failure.)
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.