Everyone Has a Story



Greetings to all in the Mad in the Family community. I’m the new editor of this bustling corner of Mad in America, and I’m thrilled to start working with you all.

As I write this, banging away on a laptop at my kitchen table in Albany, New York, I’m filled with admiration and gratitude for everything Miranda Spencer has done with this Family Resources page: Establishing it, nurturing it, filling it with the latest research, stories, podcasts; encouraging dialogue; connecting readers on a wide range of topics affecting parents, children, and families.

These efforts are of critical importance, and not just for those directly affected. Such work is significant for all of us, here and everywhere, who are concerned with the prevailing psychiatric hive-mind that emphasizes diagnosis and disease — and deemphasizes the individuality and diversity of human experience.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has some bendy path that’s brought them to MIA, some rambling odyssey pocked with bumps and potholes. At some point on that journey, maybe you — or your child, or another loved one — got stuck or pitched off the road entirely, landing in mud and thorns. But somehow, tapping strengths unknown and unseen by others, you made it out. On your journey toward healing, you made it here.

And perhaps you have something to say about it. Something you want to share, whether with others in similar situations or with the wider readership. Perhaps both. Either way, I’m here to help.

I’m now in the midst of my third year with Mad in America, where I’ve reported on a variety of topics. But my own story — the one that brought me here — goes back much further, to my father’s suicide attempt and talk-therapy hospitalization in 1974; my sister’s many, many drugs and hospitalizations, leading to her suicide in 1992; my husband’s suicide in 2011; and my life since as a widowed mom of three (now all grown).

To be clear: I’m not a psychiatric survivor myself, and I can’t claim to know how it feels to endure such pains. But in an odd way, my losses and life experiences have illustrated the fraught history of psychiatry, showing me what works — and what doesn’t — in addressing mental anguish. And the pharma-driven disease model isn’t it.

For more than a decade now, Mad in America has worked to shape a different narrative. As you already know if you’ve spent time on the family page, this section of MIA is filled with family-themed articles, resources, and ways to connect. Among them are online support groups, pieces on the latest research, personal stories and other blog contributions.

Also included here is psychiatric drug info, plus explorations of issues affecting parents, schools, children, and youth. There are interviews, profiles of alternate approaches, stories from around the web, and Mad in the Family podcast episodes. And artwork: Mad in America’s “Beyond Labels and Meds” exhibition includes profiles of its extraordinary teen artists, showcased individually on the family page.

All of this builds on a platform for change, providing families with inspiration as well as relevant and necessary information — and giving them a voice. Because voice leads to empowerment.

As anyone who has brought a child into the world already knows, loving and steering them into adulthood is no small thing. They’re the center of your universe, which is forever changed. You’re forever changed. From the moment that baby is born, flailing and howling to be fed, you know you’ll do anything to help them thrive.

So if you have something to say, or something you think we should be covering, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. If you want to tell your own story, or your child’s, please reach out, too. If you just want to express some thoughts via email, but not for publication? Again, reach out.

I look forward to communicating with readers of our MIA family page, helping you connect with each other, and helping you tell your stories.

Communication, after all, is everything. Change can’t happen without listening and learning, then turning that knowledge into action.

I’m here to listen.


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.


Mad in America has made some changes to the commenting process. You no longer need to login or create an account on our site to comment. The only information needed is your name, email and comment text. Comments made with an account prior to this change will remain visible on the site.


  1. The abusive families of Mad people, whose views dominate public policy and mainstream media, would scam you into believing that Mad people really aren’t worthy or capable of being loved or understood by any of their relatives. My experience has proven otherwise, and I’ve always suspected that people like Ms. Biancolli are, at least, a large, but silenced minority. I love that Mad in America, unlike most other “mental health” forums, builds room for entire families. Welcome aboard, Ms. Biancolli!

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    • POSTING AS MODERATOR: I just want to be clear in approving the above comment that I am assuming the author means the abusive families of those “Mad people” who HAVE abusive families, as there are plenty of “Mad people’ who don’t have abusive families, though there are also plenty who do.

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    • Thank you, J. I absolutely agree that it’s important to make room, on MIA and elsewhere, for family members’ experiences. I appreciate Steve’s clarification that not all “mad” folks have abusive families, and I’d go further to add that many loved ones would say the same. My own childhood family, for instance, was wonderfully loving and the opposite of abusive, even in the midst of extraordinary shared struggles and profound individual pain. While my parents and sister are not around to confirm their perspectives on this, I’m sure they would agree. But again, everyone has a story. Some people aren’t as fortunate in their upbringings and family relations. And this is why Mad in America is such a significant gathering place for so many.

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  2. I have no doubt that Miranda poured her heart and soul into her work at MIA. Her talents have helped many individuals and families share important information that has the potential to help countless others.

    The topics that MIA deals with involve many stories of continued injustices and tragedies that can produce a sense of hopelessness for change. It really does take individuals with special qualities and backgrounds to support MIA’s mission and Miranda did a fantastic job of helping to bring forward hope.

    Amy, after reading the beginning of your book, Figuring Shit Out: Love, Laughter, Suicide, and Survival, I immediately appreciated many of the qualities your work displayed, especially maintaining a sense of humor in times of sudden adversity.

    During my first psychiatric hospitalization, I met a woman three years younger than myself who was labeled with bipolar disorder and had tried to commit suicide seven times. From an early age she was abused and repeatedly raped by her father. At the age of 13 she became pregnant and miscarried after her father beat her. Although she was severely depressed, heavily medicated and receiving ECT, just by spending time with her and engaging her in conversation and board games, I was able to get her to laugh, smile and feel good about herself.

    Shortly after I was discharged from the hospital, I found out that I was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I didn’t think it was possible that I could have the same psychiatric disorder as the young woman I spent time with but a college textbook on Abnormal Psychology accurately described what I was going through, so I believed what the psychiatrist told me.

    At first, having a psychiatric diagnosis was devastating to me but maintaining a sense of humor helped a lot.

    I also adopted the philosophy behind the proverb:

    “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

    and have always found comfort when I reflect on these words:

    Desiderata: Words for Life by Max Enhrmann

    Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible without surrender
    be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    and listen to others,
    even the dull and the ignorant;
    they too have their story.
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
    they are vexations to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain and bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs;
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals;
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.
    Be yourself.
    Especially, do not feign affection.
    Neither be cynical about love;
    for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
    it is as perennial as the grass.
    Take kindly the counsel of the years,
    gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    be gentle with yourself.
    You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
    Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be,
    and whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    it is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful.
    Strive to be happy. 🙂

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    • Maria, thank you so much for reading my nutball memoir — and more, importantly, sharing some of your own story. Thank you, too, for sharing Desiderata, which I’ve always loved but haven’t read in some time and can always use as a boost and a check. Its message is as simple as it is profound: “Be gentle with yourself.” Amen.

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  3. I’m so fortunate to be the beneficiary of the talents and service of Miranda Spencer and now Amy Biancolli, along with all the other dedicated, servant-leaders with Robert Whitaker here at Mad In America and all contributors, professionals and lay people alike. I am humbled and grateful.

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