Aworried sister phoned the clinic for me to have a check-in on a Saturday, and the psychiatrist, whom I had never seen before, observed my disassociated state and decided to certify me and commit me to hospital. I promptly walked out of the doctor’s office and into the street before he could call security. Several hours later, I was at home taking my basket of dirty clothes down to the laundry room when three plain clothes officers suddenly appeared out of nowhere in my backyard.
An officer threw me onto the pavement in my carport, forcing me to spread my hands and knees, and I had to plead for mercy before he ceased putting pressure on my neck. The SWAT team member had almost killed me for taking too long to put down my laundry hamper and lie flat on the ground. There I was, this gentle professional architect, with no criminal record, a good citizen who had faithfully worked on government projects for about 20 years, being slammed onto the concrete. After a month in hospital I was released on a community treatment order where I would be force-injected with a long-acting antipsychotic.
Opening my eyes to the state-legalized violence of the healthcare system was terrifying, and made me realize that I was caught in the center of a publicly funded power triangle of law enforcers, judges, and psychiatrists. The question was, how could I escape this triangle and maintain my sanity in the future? My whole identity was in doubt and I wondered how I could live my life more truthfully to gain strength in the face of seemingly insurmountable forces.
With my unusual thoughts, I took a step back and I began to see myself in architecture as a participant in a worldwide construction army — a vast enterprise that was sucking up much of the world’s resources and rapidly contributing to the destruction of the ecosystem. Architects spoke of being green and saving fossil fuels, yet they were designing thousands of buildings and their product was creating 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions. At the heart of the business, just as in mental health medicine, was a terrible reality to behold of a very destructive profession at the service of late-stage capitalism. Some of the high-rise towers I had helped to put up had created brutal, cold, sunless neighborhoods and people would get 25-year mortgages to live in small one-bedroom apartments. Massive machines were digging five-story parkades in the earth for a 50-story tower above that was intended to house hundreds of new immigrants from overpopulated countries.
I switched to working for a government housing agency, and soon realized that it was no different in terms of eating the planet and my soul too. My time as a staff architect had taught me to essentially be an office slave chained to a workstation and following orders so that I too could pay my mortgage. My willpower was depleted after so many years of “working for the man,” and it may even be that major tranquilizers helped me stay calm and subservient.
Who else could I be and what else could I do? I decided to retire early from architecture and retreat into a private world of meditation and writing, and to explore my inner reality in an effort to understand what had happened to me. I was sorting through truth and also my own confused notions. Covid shots for work were no longer necessary, and the psychiatrist let me go back to my GP for a small dose of antipsychotic pills. I was feeling liberated but it was also terrifying. Over the years my body had slumped over my desk with kyphosis, my voice had gone almost silent, and my will had been broken by work and psychiatry. How could I get my self-power back after so many years and so many brain-damaging meds as well? I would need to search for everything uplifting and inspiring that I could find, and put a stop to energy drains. Joining a choir group raised my spirits and the singing helped me feel more elated and in sync with everyone.
I also started to study astronomy and was opened to galaxies and wormholes and the vastness of our Cosmos. I imagined distant beings from far-off exoplanets trying to help us and help Earth escape planetary destruction. The beings offered hope in this dark time. This inner vision was fascinating to me as a yogic siddhi concept and as a way of interpreting. I had been in the construction army on earth, unaware of the net consequences of all of that building, and I was chained to a desk for many decades and glued to a computer monitor. Psychiatry had helped me to stay in my career, which was good for a time perhaps, though it no longer helped and I was starting to wake up.
The problem remained of reducing brain-numbing meds and falling into a lengthy dopamine high as my brain readjusted to a new equilibrium. I definitely started to feel more alive and more like my old self. This extended withdrawal confusion is often denied by psychiatrists who simply cannot accept the truth that the brain changes resulting from the “antipsychotic” meds lead to severe mental dysfunction for a significant length of time after med withdrawal. The doctors would prefer to keep their heads in the sand about the fact that the antipsychotic meds cause brain damage in the long term and especially at higher doses. This reminds me of how I felt when I realized as an architect that the 50-story concrete building was not good for the single-family residential neighbourhood. Why do we have to take these drugs for life when they feel so awful and seriously damage our bodies? Mental breakdowns in the old days before meds were usually a short-term natural condition that people recovered from, and most people on the mental trouble spectrum would go on to lead mostly normal lives. The breakdown was supposed to bring a person to a moment of epiphany that would help oneself and one’s people.
I did not want to be left in a state of confusion and fear of authorities, or deal with police knocking down my front door. Family would try to convince me to go back to my former career and my spiritual moment would crumble away again, and I would be left back at square one. The other side had beckoned me, and revealed itself in all of its beauty. If the universe is kind and generous then I was supposed to learn something uplifting and informative from all of this struggle, otherwise there would be no reason to be alive.
I discovered after considerable study that there are levels of life that we all exist on and some people live in blissful ignorance, some live in anger, some are in a state of fear and sadness, and there are many planes of reality. It is important to never let go of these insights gained and to always try to live in higher mental and emotional states. With the time we are given, we should reject old ways, knowing that even great professions can largely be on the incorrect path. My realizations helped me to open my eyes to state violence and to search for better sources of emotional energy in an effort to live in a more satisfying and truthful way.
We must move away from fear-based drug treatments with negative outcomes, and move forward to mental healthcare founded on non-violence, kindness and human rights. Spiritual approaches to recovery are an effective way to escape the current healthcare system’s power triangle and its damaging effects on us, and also to grow as individuals.
I never wanted to be dragged down again. The glimpse was all I would have to live by for now, and hopefully would be soul-sustaining for many years to come, perhaps even helping me to change and live without fear of state forces, and allowing me to live freely on a more enlightened level of reality outside of the harmful power triangle. Singing and stargazing offered new hope.
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.
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