What Happens When There Is No Help?

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My long and complicated lifelong relationship with mental health issues and mainstream psychiatry takes place across three different countries.

It all started quite early in my life. I experienced severe emotional neglect and abuse by my parents while growing up. They were respected people; they both had successful careers. They were also both amateur photographers. As a child, I was mainly a prop for their many different projects. And after their divorce, just something to use for expressing their hatred towards each other. During this period, as an unprotected and physically below-average-sized child, I was an easy target for bullying at school, as well as sexual abuse by an older cousin. Then later, around the time of my parents’ divorce, I was sexually abused by the older son of a family friend. Naturally, I developed an eating disorder and OCD at an early age. This wasn’t really taken seriously by the family. I was simply told that I was a spoilt, naughty child who wanted too much attention. I tried really hard to do well at school and be a good enough child for my family, to keep the accusations at bay.

Around age 11, I had a classmate commit suicide. He used to sit next to me, and some other children blamed me for his death, because he had left a letter for me. I didn’t know what to make of it, since we weren’t close friends. But after this event, I started visiting the school counsellor frequently. She caused me to blame myself more, but I didn’t see it at the time.

what happens when there is no help

The first time I saw a psychiatrist was around age 12. My mother was worried about some sexualised jokes she heard when I was on the phone. Because we didn’t have a close and honest relationship, she just took me to see a professional to put her mind at ease. She was worried I was being promiscuous. The session with the psychiatrist must have worked well for my mother because I only saw this professional once. I assume my mother received positive feedback from the professional and was told not to worry, since I didn’t tell this person anything of importance.

Later on, as a teenager, I was subject to more violent and scary sexual abuse, and was forced to use drugs and alcohol by my abuser. I got trapped in a “relationship” and I was unable to escape him. Over time, a severe dissociation took over me. I had to split from my body to cope with what was being done to it. It didn’t feel like my body belonged to me anymore. I started self-harming, just to feel my skin and keep the emotional pain at bay. I was disgusted by my body. At age 15, I was sent to a psychiatrist when I was unable to stay awake for more than a couple of hours, or eat proper food for several days, and my self-harming with sharp objects and cigarettes got too visible and out of control. I tried to open up to the psychiatrist, but he decided that I had a chemical imbalance in my brain and told me the only treatment was medication. I believe he told my parents that I was just seeking attention from them, since my father had recently had a new son from his second marriage and I was expected to react badly to this. An attention-seeking spoilt teenager was the label I had accepted.

Despite all the issues, I was still doing very well at school and never getting in trouble with teachers, so this made me look healthy. In reality, I was still being groomed and raped, but now I had the medications to cope with it better. Sadly I had nobody safe in my life who would not react to this information with something like: “How could you be so stupid and allow this to happen to you?” Or “You are lying/exaggerating.” Or “This is all your fault.” So I told no one. The anxiety disorder eventually made me afraid of ever leaving the house alone, or staying at home alone. Thanks to this, the abuser couldn’t have access to me anymore and left me alone. I stayed away from boys after this for over two years.

Looking back, I clearly see that my poor body did what it could to protect me under these circumstances, since nobody in my life who had the power to protect me was interested in doing so. I hated the “anxiety disorder” back then, but now I see that it saved my life at the time.

I survived to the end of high school. By then my anxiety attacks had morphed into severe agoraphobia, so I was put on antidepressants by the psychiatrist because my agoraphobia was inconvenient for my parents who were busy people. With sufficient antidepressants, my “mental illness symptoms” went away, and so did the negative feelings attached to most of my childhood memories. I didn’t feel my skin or my body much, but I wasn’t aware of this dissociation at that time. The SSRIs also gave me a lot of side effects such as digestive problems, appetite and weight loss, excessive sleepiness, unexplained bruising… But I was told I had to take these long term because apparently the only options I had were either being locked up in a psychiatric unit or taking the medication.

At age 17, with enough medication in my system, I wasn’t scared of boys anymore. Thanks to not having the protective emotions I needed (because SSRIs!), I got into a horrific relationship with a drug addict. I stopped worrying about anything, and I stopped going to university. I got pregnant soon after my 18th birthday, and had a secret abortion and paid for it with what I saved from my pocket money. My “boyfriend” contributed to the payment, but he was very shaken by my abortion, so I had to be extra nice to him for a long while. A year or so later, his parents sent him away to another country. I then decided to go to Germany to study at university there, since I had two uncles there who I could stay with. Despite medication, I didn’t feel safe anymore, so I was desperate to leave the country.

Germany was good to me until some of my childhood memories started catching up with me again. I tried to quit the SSRIs but the withdrawal symptoms were very severe, so I phoned up the psychiatrist who had put me on them and asked for help. He said it was my original condition coming back and that I wasn’t his patient anymore anyway and not to call him anymore. I searched for a psychotherapist, but could afford none of the ones who had space. The only available therapist that my insurance paid for was a vegan Buddhist. I tried Zen meditation with him for many months but was not getting any better with my anxiety. He was adamant it was because I was not meditating enough.

I powered through all this, went to university, worked two jobs, went to the gym, tried to take care of my health. Didn’t help. At age 21, my energy levels were only getting lower and my body weaker. My brain wasn’t functioning the way it used to, which made studying very difficult.

I wanted to be safe, and with somebody who would never leave me. I got married. As a result of my issues, my husband was a very controlling and possessive man. I didn’t see how abusive the relationship was, and ignored the violent incidents in his past. I thought if I could control him by behaving however he wanted me to, he would not hurt me. For years, I put all my energy into keeping him happy and his anger under control. He wanted me to give all my attention to him. I quit university again, since he always wanted to do things together and I didn’t have any time and energy left for anything else. I didn’t have any more friends. I rarely saw my relatives who lived in Germany.

Eventually, with the referral of a psychiatrist, I voluntarily went into a psychiatric unit, hoping it would be a safe enough place for me to quit the SSRIs and ride out the withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately they gave me random antipsychotic drugs, which turned me into a panicky mess, since I was not psychotic at all. I managed to get myself out of there, and even the psychiatrist who referred me to the clinic was surprised by their incompetence but he could not offer me therapy and suggested I increase the dose of the SSRIs. I refused and stuck to my usual dose, where I was at least semi-functional. A while later, I found a psychotherapist who did something called Primal Therapy, and had some sessions with him. This was the first time someone was interested in my childhood. This was also the first time I opened up slightly about some of my childhood abuse. However, around this time, due to my husband’s job, we had to move again. This time to England, UK. As a result, I was unable to continue therapy with him. So I went back on full-dose medication and buried the memories one more time.

A huge culture shock expected me in England. This time, I didn’t have any relatives or friends. I was all alone. The only person I had was my husband. I tried to distract myself with two part-time jobs. I still wanted to go back to university, but I didn’t have enough money for the fees here.

The longer I went without trying to quit SSRIs, the more numb I got, and the less I could remember memories of abuse. The antidepressants also helped me tolerate and normalise mistreatment in my daily life. I wasn’t aware of this at time, of course, but I still didn’t want to use them because the side effects were unbearable. I hardly felt anything, I was like a zombie. I slept too much, found it difficult to communicate with people, and just went along with life.

Years went by, the doctors kept prescribing the SSRIs every month, and nobody questioned this very long-term use. I tried to talk to some doctors about quitting, but they discouraged me since I had a ‘chemical imbalance’ in my brain that needed correcting with medication. So I gave up too. Until my late twenties. By then, I was a mother. I knew in my head that I loved my children, but I didn’t feel it in my body. I also realised around this time that I hadn’t cried for years. Realising this level of numbness was too unbearable for me. I could not accept giving my children this kind of mother who did not feel. For over a decade, I had been relying purely on my intellect to live, and had no emotions.

Then at age 31, I was lucky enough to come across a kind doctor who genuinely wanted to help me. He suggested that I try quitting my SSRIs extremely slowly, over a period of a year, maybe. He tried to find the medication in small doses or a liquid form to make the tapering easier, but it wasn’t available. So I started tapering by taking half a tablet one day a week, and made a plan to eventually take half two days a week, then three days and so on. After five months I was taking half a tablet every day. And at that point the withdrawal symptoms hit me. All the information I got from the doctor and the internet was that I should not be having these symptoms from simply reducing my dose over such a long period of time. I was on the brink of going back to full dose again when I discovered an American website, a peer support internet forum called “Surviving Antidepressants.” This was a godsend. I had finally found people who could help me quit SSRIs. I adjusted my tapering speed and method according to their recommendations, which was 10% reduction a month, and everything was bearable for a little while.

Unfortunately the relief didn’t last long, because the speed of tapering was still too fast for me, due to the fact that I had been on psychotropic medications since age 15, had a huge amount of unprocessed trauma, was stuck in an abusive relationship in a foreign country with no family or friends, as well as having two little children to look after. I sought help from a psychotherapist, who was actually helpful for the first time in my life. I opened up again, purely about the frustrations of SSRI withdrawals, because by this time I had completely forgotten about all my childhood abuse. But I was listened to for the first time, and I was hopeful.

However, about a year in, my husband lost his job. We sold our house. We weren’t happy in the new house, and my family were all asking us to move back to my home country. They said that they missed me too much and wanted to have a relationship with my children too. So, we moved back to my home country.

In the new country, I wanted to continue therapy with someone local. Because some of my memories were returning due to the reduced dose of SSRIs, or due to being back in the same country and around the same people who abused me. Unfortunately, each psychotherapist or psychiatrist I tried had some method that they were insistent upon using, such as CBT, EMDR, parts work, somatic experiencing… I didn’t feel comfortable with any of those, I just really needed someone to talk to and be understood by. I tried opening up to one of them (a psychiatrist) about early childhood sexual abuse, and she kind of insinuated that sexual experiences are normal in childhood, so I put that idea to bed and decided I was exaggerating it. To be fair to her, a few sessions later, she was the only person who told me that if someone locks you in a room and they have a knife in their hand, and they try to convince the 15-year-old you that they only want to have sex with you because they love you, and when you run away they chase you and in the end you give up fighting and let them do whatever they want, this is still classed as rape. At the time I genuinely thought this experience was all my fault and classed as consensual, since he hadn’t actually stabbed me. Sadly, this psychiatrist also became unavailable, and I eventually gave up on finding someone to talk to face-to-face.

Then came 2020 and my living situation became extremely stressful. Family issues were crushing me. I started becoming physically unwell. Then eventually, I developed a very severe chronic illness. Every medical treatment the doctors and hospitals tried on me made me worse. Until my nervous system became so hyper-sensitised that I could not tolerate any medications without dangerous allergic reactions. This slowly spread to different foods, chemicals, materials, temperature changes, even to tap water. I became allergic to life. This stopped me from eating, moving or living as normal people do.

At that point I got very depressed and hopeless. My family blamed me as usual, and they assumed that my illness was all in my head. I repeated the mistake of seeking help from psychiatrists, since I was still tapering from a low dose of SSRIs. When I tried to explain my issues, I was told that I had no choice but to go back on a full dose of some kind of psychotropic medication if I ever wanted to get well. The last psychiatrist I saw told me that I was wrong about the side effects of SSRIs and withdrawal symptoms. He did not believe that I never took any other, non-prescribed drugs or used alcohol in over a decade. He said that any other doctors or therapists who ever agreed with me must have been manipulated by me. I had to pay a significant sum of money for the privilege of being insulted and gaslighted, so I will never forget the regret, despair and humiliation I felt after these accusations…

Understandably, that was the last time I sought help from mainstream psychiatry. After all these disgusting experiences I had with the mental health system, in three different countries over 20 years, I am not in favour of seeking help from them unless one is at the brink of death.

I am now in a place where life seems more hassle than it’s worth. My physical health is in a worse state than my mental health. The medical system broke me completely. The pieces of my shattered soul are waiting to be retrieved from each and every memory of abuse and exploitation. I don’t have the strength to do that alone… So today I am just surviving. I only hold on to life for my children, and nothing else.

When I look back at my life, it seems that nobody was interested in actually supporting me. They just wanted me to take the drugs and keep quiet. My family and my rapists, abusers and psychiatrists all had it in common that they wanted me to “take something” to become more obedient and quiet. It is as if they were working together without even knowing each other.

The worst part is, I was completely unable to see this pattern until I had a medication-free, clear mind to realise what was being done to me. It is a miracle that we, the victims of psychiatry, ever make it out alive. The system is broken beyond repair… And I hope that the same doesn’t apply to my beaten body and soul.

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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.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Dearest B. Stone, is this a metaphorical pseudonym? I can hear the sense of betrayal echoing along the corridors of your descent. I have been there too. The sentence in which you state that “…the session with the psychiatrist must have worked well for my mother…” chimed a death-to-recovery note that is so familiar to me. It is all too true that when “help” works well for the family of the person being “helped” you can be sure it is because the family can remain ignorant. My family happily and ignorantly chose to believe I had been cured — by a ton of zombiefying psychotrophic medications, by months of therapy where I was too dissociated to answer any questions, and by “proper” medication management every 3 months by a doctor whose accent was so foreign and distorted to their ears they would ask me later what he had said to them. I was not allowed to speak of my illness, even though they must have seen me laid waste by its effects. And as long as I did not speak, and they did not listen, denial delivered happiness to any and all who were ready to receive it. Any but me. Now I have chosen estrangement from them, I tapered off all the meds successfully, stopped receiving treatment, and cope as best I can in a very solitary and stultifying small apartment atmosphere by writing poetry and painting pictures. And self-soothing with food and television. So be it. Better this than zombie. Better this than being congratulated for my “full recovery” as I suffer through the hours of each day. Better this than that.

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    • Thank you Donna. If our own family is hurting us “for our own good”, maybe their idea of “good” is distorted. And maybe they are not “good” themselves… It seems like the only cure is cutting off all the harmful people from our lives, whoever they may be.

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  2. “It is a miracle that we, the victims of psychiatry, ever make it out alive. The system is broken beyond repair… And I hope that the same doesn’t apply to my beaten body and soul.”

    I hope that you don’t mind, Ms. Stone, if I pray for your healing. Thank you for telling your heart breaking, but likely much more common than we are led to believe, story.

    Especially given the systemic, and by DSM design, child abuse covering up crimes of too many within the paternalistic psychological and psychiatric industries.

    https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2019/01/23/18820633.php?fbclid=IwAR2-cgZPcEvbz7yFqMuUwneIuaqGleGiOzackY4N2sPeVXolwmEga5iKxdo
    https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/04/heal-for-life/
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-child-does-not-have-bipolar-disorder/201402/dsm-5-and-child-neglect-and-abuse-1

    Not to mention, their child abuse covering up pastor and bishop “partners” in the paternalistic religions, like my ex-religion.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=xI01AlxH1uAC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=
    0#v=onepage&q&f=false

    God bless you on your healing journey, Ms. Stone.

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    • Thank you, I really appreciate your prayers.
      I found those links very interesting, especially the interview regarding Freud’s betrayal of his patients. The subject of not believing or even blaming the abuse victims, especially women and children, is talked about in Judith Herman’s book “Trauma and Recovery”. I found it very eye-opening.
      God bless you too.

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  3. In a Modern society this level of “professionalism” are stunning. There are no words that describes the humanitarian neglect some people experience. But I would like to recommend something that saved my life from complete despair. Join a climbing gym!

    im not sure if its a good recommendation and if its worth anything due to physical struggles, but simply can’t help myself. When you climb it can become magical, just being in the present solving a climbing problem. But its also in a chill atmosphere, its a bit egoistic, its just you on the wall, and only you that can reach the top. But down on the mat you have a variety of people enthusiastic in climbing, motivating people climbing a problem, giving tips, and share thoughts about the climbing problem while they rest, until they have a go at climbing their own climbing problem(people also just chill and are in a happy energetic state). And you can bring your children, the balance and mental growth you gain as a climber, can give you good values for your kids, but also self-confidence and so on.

    thank you for taking the time to share, its good to read these stories, knowing we are not a isolated freak show, and knowing its not right what many people have ben put trough, so bless you, wish you the best in you’re recovery.

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  4. I can relate to too many of your experiences. It’s so hard. I just keep going because 1) I love my kids, and 2) I will not let everything I’ve done to survive be in vain. For what it’s worth, I send you good energy for hope and strength. I don’t know how to help, or I wouldn’t be in the life I am. The medical system has become just another source of abuse. Hold your children tight. My manipulative, controlling ex has turned mine against me without any explanation. He has convinced my family and community of something I don’t even know and therefore cannot defend. I am still invited to holidays, but only if I pretend life is good. Not that my family knows how to care. They only care about how things look to the community. They are in politics. I, too, was dismissed as spoiled and attention seeking.. continually told to put a smile on my face or come back when I could. For 45 years, that pretty much sums up my relationship with my family. Two controlling, abusive marriages and two beautiful children (that I’ve been recently alienated from) and my health is in ruins. Even with degrees in kinesiology, sociology, human environmental science, I can’t fix me. I’ve only left my house a handful of times in the last three years. I’ve always tried to be kind to everyone because I care about and love everyone. Yet, not a single person cares if I’m suffering or dying. Not one. I just know the odds are better of a future with my kids if I’m here, than if I’m not. Hearing your experiences helps. Thank you. I would give you a hug if you approved and it was possible. Your strength and perseverance through unimaginable pain and torment strengthens me. This is as close to a human connection I have. I’ll take it. I wish you rest and comfort and a safe sense of belonging. Thank you for bravely sharing your story.

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    • Thank you Dana. You are so right about not letting everything we’ve done to survive be in vain. I too struggle with the fact that I cannot fix me, despite trying so hard. I feel like a massive failure as a human being. But all we can do is keep going and trying… If you ever want to talk more, please e-mail me at [email protected]
      Kindest wishes

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  5. My life has been somewhat different, yet so much the same. I’m 55, all alone, blamed, medicated, abused, harassed, not believed, morbidly obese, scared, sleepy much of the time, have physical issues that keep me from getting enough sleep and things done, mental issues that make life a daily struggle, so much taken from me, and I could go on. I have no faith in the mental health system. I don’t even trust physical doctors. I’ve been alone for so many years. No friends, no family. The loneliness is unbearable. I need someone who listens, believes, cares, and makes me feel safe.

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    • It is so unfair Jennifer. Especially the part where we are harmed by people and systems that were supposed to help us. Facing so much pain and suffering makes me question the meaning of life everyday. I have no answer but I feel like I have to keep going to see what happens in the end.

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  6. B. Stone, THANK-YOU….yes, some people might consider your story “hard to believe”, or “incredible”, or “courageous”, or whatever, but I just see it as your simple truth of reality.
    So in that sense, there’s nothing heroic about it.
    But it’s the “Hero’s Journey”, only fighting against evil quack shrinks and their neuro-toxins.
    You’re my new hero, B.Stone. I hope you’re OK with that.
    I’m a simple man. I believe in God. But God didn’t WANT all these these to happen to you.
    No, God ALLOWED them to happen, because everything that was done to you, was done by other’s FREE WILL. Why did God allow those evil people to hurt you like they did? Because God allowed OTHER people to hurt those other people, who hurt you.
    Cycles, and circles, and patterns of abuse. And all done by man’s God-given free will….
    When you reject God, when you turn away from God, you become evil.
    Psychiatry is evil. Psychiatry is genocide. Psychiatry pushes genocide-by-neurotoxin….
    But the HERO B. Stone helps lead the people OUT of evil….
    We don’t have to go back to God, but we do need to leave evil behind….
    Psychiatry needs discarding on the scrap heap of history….ASAP!….

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    • Bill Bradford, this is so kind of you. Thank you. At this point I am still very detached from my own story. I remember the memories, but I do not feel them. Logically I find my story hard to believe too, and I even doubt myself. But thank God I have old photographs, scars, medical records, letters and other “evidence”, so the truth of the story is not actually questionable. Still, it’s hard to accept. It is especially hard to accept the existence of bad people who do evil things. Sadly they are out there, and psychiatry helps them by silencing their traumatised victims.
      Anyway, your comment means a lot. Blessings to you.

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  7. Have you tried ketamine therapy? It’s truly not like any other medicine – had a very similar experience to yours. I’ve lost all faith in Western medicine, but I highly recommend looking into it. I know life’s a struggle, but don’t give up hope. Best of luck

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  8. Dear B Stone, As I read your article I tried to put myself in your shoes. All I can come up with is that you are still here for God’s purpose! I don’t understand why he let’s us suffer like we do! I hope you feel some better writing it all down for others to read & sympathize with you! All I can do is PRAY GOD KEEPS YOU GOING & KEEPS CARRYING YOU THRU UNTIL YOU JESUS COMES FOR YOU! WE LIVE IN A SELFISH WICKED WORLD RIGHT NOW! BUT JESUS, WE WILL BACK SOON TO SET US ALL FREE! HOLD ON FOR JESUS, I UNDERSTAND YOU & WILL NOT FORGET YOU & WILL PRAY FOR YOU WITH ALL MY HEART! LOVE YOU ❤️

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  9. B—thank you for summoning the energy and courage to write and share your story. It is incredible that you are still here. The fact that you are proves to me that you are incredibly strong and incredibly resilient and incredibly resourceful.
    I believe every word you said and I respect you so much for saying it. I also am so appreciative that you shared your experiences. It makes me feel validated. It makes me feel respected. It makes me want to be resilient too.
    And it makes me want to be your friend. This is part of the story of my life. https://www.madinamerica.com/2023/01/can-barely-breathe/
    I want people to stop punishing people for “what’s they are doing wrong” with them and start focusing on what happened to them.
    THANK YOU. [email protected]

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  10. Hi B Thanks for writing your story. Reality is really warped sometimes. I constantly wonder how I can improve my thoughts and my life. I discovered during a meditation intensive many years ago that deep seated subconscious impressions having their genesis in previous incarnations create the scenes of a life. Eg deep seated remorse creates situations for which remorse happens. As if the remorse likes to maintain itself. Also fear/anxiety attracts fearful situations. So how do we heal these Sponsoring thoughts? Have a read of Neale Walsch’s conversations with God or Tina Spaulding’s A Year of Forgiveness. Ultimately only I can pull myself up by my bootstraps. But importantly this is a power I have within. Great Good Fortune to you. Currently I am trying using Reiki distance healing on my previous incarnations to heal. Bizarre hey?

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