Letting Go of Lithium

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“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that really isn’t you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” —Paulo Coelho

I never wanted to take psych drugs. I took them because I was desperate to get out of pain, but not the kind of pain most people associate with psych meds. I had headaches, brain fog, and fatigue. I developed asthma and chronic sinus infections. I visited doctor after doctor until I eventually met with a neurologist. Being a brain doctor, he focused on the headaches. Without a diagnosis, he suggested Paxil, considering I was 17 and that I felt sad sometimes. My sister took antidepressants and my family has a lot of mental health issues, so based on that, I was thrown into the same category.

I took the drug as prescribed and felt amazing. I had more confidence, more energy, and I felt like I was on top of the world within two weeks. I started talking fast, coming up with ideas and creative projects and I stopped sleeping. Everything felt good and connected, and I had theories about the world I never could have come up with otherwise. I felt like I had taken a magical pill to cure whatever might have been wrong with me… until I crashed, became paranoid and landed in the hospital.

The magical pill was later explained to me by a doctor to have a side effect of bipolar and that if you have a predisposition for it, then Paxil can trigger the onset of the illness. None of this sat well with me, but coming home from the hospital completely overly medicated and numb, I was in shock, disassociated, and unable to question the doctor’s theory.

On the drive back from the hospital I found out that we had evacuated our home due to black mold. Tragically, if we had found out about the mold a month prior, the treatment for my symptoms would have been drastically different.

The doctor in the hospital who diagnosed me had a great impact on my life for years to come. He explained that the divorce rate for individuals with bipolar was around 90%, that they couldn’t hold down jobs, and that they couldn’t have children depending on their medication. All of the dreams I had for my life, to be a mother, to get married, and to live a stable, healthy life, were shattered. His words fell upon me like a curse, and under his spell of limitations I surrendered my hopes and dreams. Without question, I believed him, and his words gravely influenced my choices and beliefs about myself going forward.

I never felt like I had a choice about the whole situation. I surrendered my power to modern medicine the day I took that first prescribed Paxil. The memories of the hospital are foggy, but I do remember being pinned down and injected with a drug one night after being unable to sleep and incredibly scared. I was yelled at by one of the behavioral techs and then threatened by them. They said if I didn’t go to sleep they would make me. And they did. My hospital experience was dehumanizing and violent. There was no compassion or empathy. I felt like I was being punished because I had done something wrong. The messages I received from medical authorities were that psychosis is bad, bipolar is genetic or can be triggered by medication, and that if I didn’t take medication, I would have to go through a similar experience again, which was terrifying.

The only medication I could tolerate after this was lithium. I was put on Depakote and Zyprexa, which caused major weight gain. I tried Lamictal which caused a rash. Eventually I just took lithium, which had the least amount of side effects. I could tolerate it, which was the goal. While everyone else my age was dating, going to parties and starting to think about college, I was busy talking to my psychiatrist, navigating symptoms, and trying to figure out how to live a bipolar life. One where I managed my moods, made sure I didn’t get too excited or too depressed, and my life began to feel very small.

I made up stories about what happened to me that year. I explained that I had taken a medication and experienced adverse effects, which was true, but I would never tell anyone about my diagnosis or the abuse I experienced inside of the hospital that year. I decided to agree with the medical model, that it was a genetic disease that could be treated with a medication, like diabetes. I knew I didn’t have a problem with mood swings, but surrounded by a family and doctors who all agreed I should take medication, I didn’t feel like I had much choice in the matter. I was only 17. I just wanted to live a normal life and move past this experience as quickly as possible.

I tried my best to live within the parameters of safety the doctors described. No partying. Bedtime routines. Working out. I was motivated by fear. I was afraid of the part of me that lived in the shadows of my psyche. It was dark and wild. It felt powerful and confident, but could not be controlled. Psychosis was something I didn’t want to know more about. It was easier to just believe it to be bad and squash it deep down inside of me. Life became about management, control and doing my best to fit in.

Growing up, my family turned to doctors and science for explanations when it came to any sort of symptom me or my siblings experienced. They began turning to psychiatry when my older sister’s behavior was out of control. Starting at the age of five I can remember being fearful of her. She was three and a half years older than me and experienced fits of rage and mood swings. Typically she would lash out on me. I grew up feeling very unsafe inside of my home, so I spent most of my time in the woods or playing with friends. My sister was diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality among other things, and based on her behavior, it made sense. She was unpredictable, and I never knew when I might be a victim of her abuse. My parents didn’t know what to do so they turned to psychiatry, and she started taking medications as young as 14.

I learned to go to psychiatry when you express odd behaviors, thoughts, or feelings outside of the normative range. I visited my psychiatrist regularly, and took pills as prescribed. I was a good patient.

I went to college, got a liberal arts degree and went to work. Within the next decade I would go on to become a leasing coordinator at an apartment complex and later a recruiter for a consulting firm. I became a yoga teacher while working in recruiting and aspired to move my career towards health and wellness. Within this time I would go off of lithium twice and experience two manic episodes as a result. I got off due to the recommendation of psychiatrists who thought you could just get off and be done with it. Clearly they didn’t know much about lithium, and neither did I. Each time I experienced a traumatic hospitalization including abuse, forced medication, and witnessing others in their psychological distress. I blocked it out of course, and pretended it never happened. After the second experience, I just decided I’d stay on lithium and I needed to come to terms with this whole bipolar diagnosis. Although I was beginning to experience some physical problems like food allergies, IBS and anxiety, I had to figure out how to be medicated and be okay with it. No more attempts at getting off.

I went back to work, rebuilding my life once again. I saved up to travel, and in 2015, I explored Colombia and Nicaragua, teaching yoga, exploring and meeting inspiring individuals. I brought my Seroquel and my lithium and took it religiously while teaching yoga. At this point I was taking 50 mg of Seroquel and 300 mg of lithium. After my second trip to Nicaragua, I met a woman who shared about her experience with bipolar and how she was able to deal with the trauma in her family line and take ownership of her experience, without medication. She shared stories of Will Hall and Laura Delano, and the book Anatomy of an Epidemic, by Robert Whitaker.

“Oh shit,” I thought to myself. The truth I had felt my whole life was being explained to me with facts to back it up.

A few months later my father came to me apologetically sharing the exact same information. It was then I knew that the story I had believed about my experience, my diagnosis, and the medication were a lie. My world was shattered.

This began a journey of eight years of deconstruction and healing. I was 32 when I started my first taper off of lithium. I was angry. I felt betrayed by my family, psychiatry, and the drug companies. I was angry at the mental health system, and the lies I believed as a result of buying into the bipolar diagnosis. I wanted to find out who I truly was.

Looking back, now medication free at the age of 40, I wish that I would have paused there. I wanted to find out who I truly was, without the medication. I now know that finding yourself has much more to do with healing the trauma than simply getting off medication. I shoved the traumatic experiences of being hospitalized into an identity wrapped in shame. I also had learned to relate to myself based around the doctor/patient model. When I experienced any sort of feeling or symptom, I thought I needed to reach for something outside of myself to fix it. I analyzed myself constantly, monitoring symptoms, whether physical or emotional. I didn’t know what was normal. I didn’t realize that finding myself meant experiencing my joys and passions, living those out and learning to relate to the world from a different mentality. I viewed the world as a victim rather than living from a place of agency and empowerment. My initial taper was fueled by victimhood and a place to put all the blame: psychiatry.

Interestingly enough, few psychiatrists have taken the time to learn the true effects of lithium. However, psychiatrist and author Joanna Moncrieff clearly explains on her website that lithium is a neurotoxin, and that it slows down one’s cognition. It made me numb. It affected my taste buds. Long-term use causes damage to your kidneys and thyroid. And getting off of lithium triggers mania and psychosis due to its effects on the nervous system. The brain is simply attempting to find balance. The fact that getting off of lithium can trigger mania in a person who has never even experienced it was mind blowing to me. It was bone chilling to read over this information and reflect on how this drug affected my life, and the dangers of what would happen to me if I continued to take it as prescribed.

In the spring of 2017, I set out on a mission. I was going to get off of lithium, prove to the world that I didn’t have bipolar, and stop the cycle of trauma that ran in my family. I set up my life the way I thought I should in order to be successful. My parents agreed to help support me during this time, and we all kind of assumed it could be a 6-12 month process. I moved in with my parents and got a part time job. I told a couple of friends about what I was doing, but they didn’t really understand. I never told anyone about having bipolar. I simply explained that I was taking some time for healing and withdrawing from a medication that was no longer helpful. Little did I know the gravity of the journey I was about to embark on.

I started working with an herbalist and going to ecstatic dance circles. I went from 300 to 150 mg in about six weeks without any issues. I went from 150 to 75 mg in another six weeks or so. I browsed resources about safe withdrawal protocols, but continued to do things my way. Despite the herbalist’s encouragement to go slowly through the process, I felt a sense of urgency. I wanted this drug out of my body. I wanted freedom. I was independent, able to travel the world alone without any issues, so I decided this would have to last for a short season of my life. Boy was I wrong!

Since I had trouble cutting the tablets down I just started taking less and less, alternating days that I took the drug. Within a few months, I was down to nothing. Soon, an entire cascade of new symptoms presented themselves. It began with vertigo and evolved into constant anxiety. At that point I could no longer work, believing this was a part of the process. Next, I experienced insomnia. Within a matter of weeks, I had trouble digesting food, which eventually evolved into leaky gut. Next, my hormones became completely out of whack, which led to becoming perimenopausal. I remember that everything inside of me seemed to speed up. I was always hungry. My heart was racing. However, there were no racing thoughts or mood swings. I now know my body was experiencing extreme fight or flight. The fear was overwhelming. The stomach pain was excruciating and the insomnia, with only an hour or less of sleep each night, was exhausting. I sought out help from a chiropractor and an acupuncturist to address the symptoms, failing to acknowledge that my body was craving lithium.

What was supposed to be a healing journey had turned into a nightmare within about five months. I continued to go to dance and practice yoga, focusing on reclaiming my body. I wanted to be able to feel more, so I thought I just needed to learn how to deal with what I was feeling. After reading stories about the chronic illnesses others experienced because of withdrawal, I started to believe that I would be one of those people. As my body fell apart, I continued to seek support from healers. The fear drove me to Christian healers who led me through prayers to break off generational curses. While I experienced some relief, I also became even more paranoid about protecting myself spiritually, fearful of people, places and things that might be inviting in evil spirits. I was a hot mess.

Things had gotten so out of hand I felt like I needed to consult with a doctor, but not a psychiatrist. Instead, I went to a family friend who was a functional medical doctor who was researching and using ketamine for a number of health issues. It was the doctor’s contribution that sent me into psychosis. I agreed to take ketamine with the idea that it would reset my nervous system. I agreed before doing any research, consulting with Will Hall, or talking with any other psychiatric survivors who would likely suggest getting back on a higher dose of lithium. The ketamine sent me into psychosis and I landed back in the hospital.

My body did not fully recover. I sought help through herbs, supplements, and an acupuncturist. I continued to have trouble with my digestion and hormones, but I had to find a way to go back to work. I could not stand living with my parents. After going through this trauma together, even though the intention was support, it began to feel more like control and a power struggle. None of us were equipped to deal with the trauma I was experiencing.

From 2018 to the end of 2019, I went from Austin to Colorado to Oregon to Costa Rica to Nicaragua to West Texas to Austin. I was hospitalized three more times, worked several jobs, and searched for a sense of safety. I tried going back to Oregon and Colorado to start my life over, but my nervous system was stuck in fight or flight, and I couldn’t stay put for long enough to make anything happen. I was literally shaking all the time, unable to focus or be present. In October of 2019 I was hospitalized in Austin after getting hit by a car as a pedestrian. By that time my nervous system had had enough. I could no longer cope by living the gypsy life, and I found a somatic coach to help me process, heal and learn self-regulating skills.

I wish I could say that from that point on, my life got better. In some ways it did. I had more awareness. I knew I could no longer rely on medications or doctors, but I continued to struggle with listening to myself and my body. Working with a somatic coach was extremely helpful, because it was empowering. She taught me tools and helped me work through a lot of my trauma. I felt safe with her because she focused on healing the nervous system and helping her clients step into their true identities. She inspired me to work harder and reclaim my power. I worked with a doctor during 2020 and in the spring of 2021 to deal with my autoimmune symptoms that showed up as brain inflammation, but this was the last time. I did the supplements, hyperbaric chamber, red light therapy, and neurofeedback, and eventually I just quit. I no longer wanted to be a patient. I felt like I had healed enough and it was time to move on with my life.

To summarize the next couple of years of my life, I struggled with self-regulation, and altered states. I became drawn to people, jobs, and places that triggered me. From working for chaotic and intense startup companies to dating intense and volatile personalities, I found ways to play out my victim identity. After an intense experience of withdrawal from Klonopin, what surfaced was deep resentment and anger towards my family.

My somatic coach guided me to ACA, which stands for Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional families. I had tried other 12-step groups in the past, but I never felt like I truly belonged with alcoholics or their codependent partners. The behaviors of my altered states of psychosis and my automatic reactions when I was triggered were the same behaviors of adults who experienced abuse and neglect as children. The acting out, the running, the fear and the lack of an internal sense of safety were issues I shared with everyone in the group.

Through all of these experiences, I have learned that if I want to experience the privilege of feeling and expressing an entire range of emotions while living independent from the mental health or medical systems, I must take ownership. Taking responsibility for me requires intentional and conscious awareness around my patterns and behaviors that become automatic in the face of stressful situations. Even though I want to put a time limit on how long I’ll be working on my healing, I now know that this shit takes time and a willingness to try different approaches. But as a wise chiropractor recently taught me, less is more when it comes to the nervous system. Gentle and slow are the best ways to heal.

I am still learning to trust myself. I’m learning how to interpret the signals my body shares with me, sensations and feelings. Slower, and gentler movement practices like restorative yoga and non-linear movement have helped me with this. While I struggle with getting stuck in trauma responses, I’m learning how to move through them. I have experienced the benefits of breathwork to help me navigate my freeze response. As Brené Brown says, “Trust is built in small moments.” With practice, I can continue to rebuild trust in my brain and my body’s ability to heal, protect and guide me.

This year I have focused on doing things that feel like me, to get back in touch with my true self. I completed some neurofeedback this spring, continued with somatic coaching, and worked with a therapist to do Accelerated Resolution Therapy, which is similar to EMDR. I completed an introduction to somatic coaching course and I taught yoga in Wyoming for the summer. I knew I needed time away from the city and everything familiar to gain some clarity. This experience reminded me of my values and the necessary ingredients for my happiness, which includes but is not limited to dancing, live music, dog parks, and ethnic food.

I have since relocated to Colorado where I plan to put down roots, which is a personal challenge, to stay put and invest in community. I continue to participate in ACA, where I’m learning how to build a support network and reach out to others rather than fiercely relying on myself. I achieved my goal of living medication free, and I keep lithium and trazodone available as needed. I also use herbs for sleep and nervous system support. I try to limit the act of reaching for something when I feel anxiety, fear or sadness, focusing on movement, journaling, or connecting with a friend instead.

I now know that the psychosis I was so afraid of at the age of 18 was really my inner child trying to tell me something. I was afraid of her. I’m working on reparenting myself and befriending the scared little girl who never felt safe in her own home growing up. And I’m learning to recognize the behaviors when my inner child does not feel heard, needs to express and needs to feel safe. Removing the shame, allowing myself to be seen and learning to have fun again are all a part of healing my inner child and ultimately moving from being the victim to living as the hero of my story.

The healing journey is less about being free from medication and psychiatry and more about connecting with myself now. I am grateful for the freedom to feel. I understand that underneath the feelings there are needs and messages that I can choose to listen to or choose to ignore. I have learned to do something that makes me happy when I start to feel stuck in sadness. It is a privilege to feel the pain and move through it. I am free to cry and grieve without fear of depression. I get to experience joy and pleasure without fear of mania. When I am experiencing the deepest pain, I remind myself that this is what I worked for: the freedom to feel.

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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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90 COMMENTS

  1. 100% agree with your experience. I have exactly similar experience. Psychiatrist don’t want you to be off medication and learn to cope with your inner self. They don’t teach how to control your emotions and do relaxation yoga and meditation. They just want to feed more medicine by inducing fear. Lost years aren’t going to come back. Every time I took some medication it made things even worse. My life didn’t take off until I stopped it after 10 years of futile attempt. It makes your memory weaker and depersonalize you.

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    • “When I am experiencing the deepest pain, I remind myself that this is what I worked for: the freedom to feel” I love that!!
      I’m happy for you but also very jealous. My life sucks so bad. I am so sick.& tired of being so sick & tired. Protracted drug WD, tardive chronic akathisia, 15 other chronic illnesses, plus mold exposure in the past year.
      What is somatic therapy and who does that?
      I am jealous bc I am confident that if the system would just leave me alone I would be miserable but eventually work through all this & thrive. My future seems hopeless. I’m so scared. My CNS is malfunctioning but what I fear is rational. My civil liberties are compromised; I am in danger of being both force drugged and conserved. I’m so tired of being a victim.
      I want to thrive now!! Not content to keep pluggging along. Help?!?!?
      But I do now know who I am —beautiful peaceful, yet a fighter, compassionate and simply just not a crazy mentally deranged person at all. Your article was great and I can see like me you’re a STEEL MAGNOLIA!!

      (MODERATOR:Are there possibly bots on here? Some of these comments seem “programmed”)

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      • Google Adult Children of Alcoholics andDysfundtional families. This is what the author mentioned (ACA). This is where you can find peers and get in touch with your inner child. There are lots of online groups– keep trying different ones until you find one you like. They also have a “Big Red Book” so you can read about the group first. You don’t need to be jealous– the same path is available to you too :)))

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      • The UN/WHO put out a treaty (the US didn’t sign onto this statement) The Helsinki accord on human rights was explicit about having informed consent. (The US didn’t sign that either). My civil rights are trampled on a daily basis. It’s also gets worse everyday. I live in DC. The place where the ADA was signed. I believe that I am collateral damage to the fraud of psychiatry, the arrogant ignorance of truth of these medications. I’m amazed how many times I have to explain the law (to law federal and metropolitan enforcement).

        Like the author I am stuck in constant fight or flight. This has a lot to do with domestic violence. Nobody would help because I was “mentally ill”. I was obviously the abuser. I am on the constant search for a new country to move to.

        I have not just freeze but also collapse. I will literally fall down and not be able to much. This coincides with tardive dyskinesia and dystonia. I have problems with every part of my body. I hurt all the time.

        This been some of the best time of my life. If I could stop my ex from still trying to ruin my life. I stopped questioning all my symptoms. I stopped worrying that down days would last forever and good days wouldn’t last forever. It’s the nature of my brain no matter what’s causing it.

        I have had my one Service Dog since 2019. He has helped with involuntary muscle movements. He’s also the love of my life. He was with me through worst and now he’s seeing more of better. He talks (dogs talk), he howls along with sirens, he loves chasing squirrels at the Capital lawn. He deserves the same happiness and peace.

        I also have a new Service Dog. She’s been with me for three months. I got her from the pound when severe abuse caused her to lose one of her front legs. She lives in carrier I wear where she can snuggle up against my chest. She loves to play. As she is always in front of me she can be a barrier and knows when I freeze and kick me. She too has become the light of my life.

        I have stopped analyzing everything and which system is from what. I don’t listen to doctors that don’t listen to me. Even Johns Hopkins. I have spent a life time being fodder for my mom’s abuse. I wish my ex would just move to another planet. Preferably without oxygen. I want the APA to admit they lied. I do want one book banned. The DSM.

        During one of more Yoda moments, I think as a society if we got a divorce from the chemical paradigm. Gave people real informed consent. Stopped forced confinement and forced medication. Stop giving kids drugs for no real reason. Stop giving prisoners drugs leaving them alone without further medical support and proper taper methods so they don’t go into withdrawal and end up back in prison when they go find “illegal” drugs. Let’s change our laws so that we can live in a safer, kinder, slower and morally based society.

        Sorry, that kind of manic cure for our woes just left the brain. Back to reality. No one wants to change the status quo in the US

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  2. Good luck on your healing journey. Hopefully stories like your help to get the word out.

    My story started similarly, I experienced psychosis a few weeks after starting and then stopping Sertraline(Zoloft). These experiences can totally rip your life apart.

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      • Self acceptance and few strong connections go a long way. I was seeing a therapist who didn’t buy into the standard psychiatric model and was supportive. Fortunately,I was only on antipsychotics for a month, but was still challenging dealing with the insomnia coming off them.

        It looks like you’ve found similar things as me. We should learn breath work and activating the parasympathetic nervous system when we’re 12 and not years later as adults 🙂

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  3. Thank you for sharing. I can’t stop crying. For my son. On top of his traumatic childhood. He experienced a TBI when he was barely 13. He never got the help he needed then. In hindsight, I know now why his behaviors changed so drastically. And then he had another TBI when he was 20. Again. Never got the rehabilitation he needed. Frontal lobe damage. Complete personally change and things began to morph into ” mental health” issues. Since 2017, he has had at least 2 dozen hospitalizations and 6 psychiatric hospital visits ( forced medication as well). So much trauma. Undealt with trauma. It’s toxicity is consuming him. He’s been in and out of pyschosis so much lately. I’m wondering if this is his new normal. I’m his mom. His advocate. His enemy. I feel so much guilt and shame. He was supposed to be taking lithium ( this time). But I am not giving it to him. I’ve done my research as well. He’s only taking riserdone. And I give him NAC and other supplements. I’m also trying him on lithium orotate. He has so much anxiety he will smoke cigarettes nonstop if he has them. Everything you wrote about, is true. I don’t know how he still loves me after all of this pain he’s been through. And is still going through. Through no fault of his own. He’s been in jail. He’s been beaten by police and tazed. The trauma has been compounding every year. With every accident and incident and irreversible childhood traumatic experience. We are living in our van again because we lose our place to live due to his behavioral issues. He could really benefit from neurobehavioral rehabilitation. But Medicaid doesn’t cover it. Just like all of those wonderful therapies you tried, aren’t covered. I can’t even work. He hasn’t even had the chance to experience any amount of healing. We barely get by on his SSI. He has a court date in Colorado for a trespassing ticket and now a felony in California for resisting arrest. Where and when does this end? Maybe we should both just take a bunch of lithium!

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    • Hi Susan. I’m so sorry for what you’re dealing with!!! That sounds awful. Most of the treatments I was able to access were donated to me by a very generous doctor (after I was hit by a car and diagnosed with autoimmune). It sounds like you have also experienced quite a bit of trauma. I wish that the therapies people need were available to a wider audience… not just the privileged. I’m happy to be a resource, even just someone to talk to while you navigate these challenges. Feel free to reach out <3

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    • I’m a mom too. We have to own our part in the generational trauma and heal ourselves. ACA as mentioned in the article (Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families) is a great starting place. My son also needed to completely cut off from me, and I must sadly accept that and do my work separately. He is doing better now I hear.

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  4. Oh, Elisabeth, thank you so much for writing your story. As the mother of a child abuse survivor (the child abuse happened outside the home, and thankfully, I did get my child away from the child abusers pretty quickly).

    Nonetheless, your too common story of psychiatry and psychology systemically covering up child abuse, is so much needed. It made me cry – out of respect, and with gratitude to you – not because of any “mental illness.”

    ‘Tears of Joy and Sadness’ is a painting I did not long ago. My brother loved it, because I based part of it on an ugly photo of me crying, with tears of joy … at his wonderful toast at my wedding.

    Nonetheless, I think your idea of setting up an AA or ACA type twelve step program specifically for psych survivors, and those trying to wean off the psych drugs, is potentially a really good idea.

    I’m of the age, I could be the loving mother you never had, so I am too old to really want to try to – alone – set up such a potentially good idea. But if you do ever want to find a like minded and mutually respectful investor into such a project, please do consider contacting me.

    I do give Steve the right to give you my personal email … but will warn you, I’m better reached in other manners. So if I miss an email, please take no offense, and re-email.

    Thank you for telling your very important story, Elisabeth Walter.

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      • When I was younger, I went to ACA meetings. It was all about victimization and I didn’t want to be a victim so I stopped. My hospitalizations stopped when I was 19. I take my bipolar medication and I’m thankful for it. I’ve engaged in therapy for PTSD due to child physical and emotional abuse. I have a university degree, am a retired professional, and currently married for 36 years with two adult sons who show no signs of illness. I respect your choices but I didn’t have the instability you’ve described after age 26.

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        • I personally got more out of reading The Big Red Book than I did out of the meetings, although there are lots of different groups that might be a better fit. I also have heard that ALanon groups are good. I personally find my study of Buddhism through Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village tradition has made the biggest positive effect in my life, next to spending a lot of time in nature. Best wishes, I guess we all have to find our best resources.

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  5. Elisabeth, what an interesting article, thank you!. I am a Costa Rican lawyer (wont do it again, ha ha!). Started using lithium maybe 3 years ago. It was prescribed I would say “baseless”. I have a normal life in spite of having to take meds, which I dont want either, just like you. Is there really such a thing as stop using these things?. I have failed every attempt because at the end of the day I have to go to work and cant afford to feel anxious or dizzy. You look radiant in that picture, eyes, skin, and that says a lot! My dad suffered from menthal issues and still graduated from Cornell. This is my first visit here but I hope to participate again and share a story.

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    • The millions of life saved by lithium and just by a personal experience that has not yet shown consistent improvement we are contributing to stigma and worsening the reach to those in need. I respect your experience and hope you get a better life in any way possible, but be careful that your situation may not be the general situation and how it may impact negatively other people that are doing good on lithium or others.

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      • Jquelin, I respect what you are saying, as Lithium is the gold standard for bipolar 1 (at least for Lithium responders). However, there are many people who identify strongly with this experience and are going through the same process. Surely finding out what is best for yourself, and by this I mean being open to exploring alternatives if you want, is worth writing about.

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      • “we are contributing to stigma and worsening the reach to those in need”

        I see comments like this a lot but I don’t understand them. How is the author, simply by sharing her own experience, contributing to stigma? How is the author “worsening the reach to those on need”?

        I truly don’t understand the logic that would lead someone to make these statements.

        The author is sharing her own story based on her own experience. Do you believe that people should be censored?

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    • Hi Edgar, I feel like, aside from tapering slowly (there are suggested protocols, i.e: https://willhall.net/comingoffmeds/) learning how to listen to your body is key. If I had tapered slower, I may not have developed all the health issues or damaged my nervous system. Symptoms typically mean you are going too quickly. Ideally the taper is slow enough (sometimes several years if needed) that you don’t notice any withdrawal symptoms. So yes, it is possible, but going through the process. Definitely share your story! It was helpful for me to go through the writing process. And reach out if you would like me to share more resources or connect <3

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  6. You are dangerously WRONG about lithium being toxic. When you first start taking lithium and at occasional intervals thereafter your lithium levels are tested and they have to be within a very small and narrow range. Lithium is neuroprotective and actually helps to regrow gray matter in the brain. It slows down your thinking because it is supposed to slow down your thinking, too fast of thinking is associated with mania and mania is associated with brain damage. It’s like if you were to run a marathon with little to no training you would deplete every cell in your body that’s what mania does to your brain except with mania you eventually have to be hospitalized to recover. Gray and white matter can be severely damaged during psychosis and lithium, though it is toxic in levels that are too high for your body, if taken within the range you’re supposed to take it, which your doctor will test you for, it is actually neuroprotective and not a neurotoxin. This is a dangerous article to be honest with you. And I’m the one who absolutely hates medication I only take lithium because it has the least side effects and is the least toxic of the mood stabilizers.

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  7. God Bless you for sharing your story. Every word you wrote resonated with me, in me. Like you I’ve struggled my whole life desperately trying to find my real self. I was looking for answers everywhere when the answers were within me all the time, I just didn’t know it. The journey is painful and confusing, filled with anger and shame. I read a quote I can’t fully remember but the message was, don’t be afraid of being broken, that’s where the light shines in.

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  8. Thanks for sharing!

    I kept getting stuck on the part where you said

    “I agreed before doing any research, consulting with Will Hall, or talking with any other psychiatric survivors who would likely suggest getting back on a higher dose of lithium”

    I think at this point in your story youd been tapering off lithium for months and were off it, continuing to have bad symptoms. At the end of the story youre off it but have it around in case of need. Why would others suggest getting back on a higher dose of lithium? Why, if you think you do not have bipolar disorder, do you still use it or need it? No judgement here, Im just confused and genuinely curious

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    • Hi Jess! To clarify, since I was tapering too quickly, I experienced severe withdrawal symptoms. Before getting to this point, it would have been advisable to increase my dosage of lithium back to a level where my body was stable before continuing to decrease my dose. It was not about the mood stabilizing benefits, it was about my nervous system being dependent in order to function properly. Does that make sense?

      Because my brain has experienced manic states in the past, I could experience it again. Bipolar or not, my brain has gone into those altered states before… this may not be accurate, but the way I see it is like a neural pathway that has been well worn and used so many times that it’s just easier for the brain to go there. I personally feel better knowing I have it available. Does that make sense?

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  9. Thank you for sharing all of this. It’s such a well written story and pulls no punches about the abuse many endure in hospitals and the complexity of churning a human psyche through a relationally-deficient and psychoanalitically-ignorant medical model. It seems that Adam’s abusively dismissive comment offers a caricature of that shallow and narcissistically uncurious epistemology. Sadly, there is a latent and passive aggressive trace of this attitude in the socialization of many prescribers and clinicians who received their training primarily in cognitive-behavioral models of psychotherapy. I hope you find a good life and fulfilling relationships within, with nature, and with others in Colorado.

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  10. Thank you for sharing your story. Our journeys are similar and yet decades apart. In my mid-forties, I became very depressed. I knew I had unresolved childhood trauma, so I blamed that and sought out a psychologist. I was looking for answers, but one of his answers was to try medication. That is where my life went into a tailspin for over a decade.
    What I didn’t know then, but can see so clearly now, was that I had multiple life events that were compounding the effects of my trauma. I was transitioning into peri menopause and my children growing up. I had serious financial issues and a troubled marriage. I had no support system, so for years had been stuffing everything in. From all of these, I had zero feelings of self-worth and no confidence in myself.
    I literally handed myself over to the medical model. I had never taken medications, but with each medication, I would be sent over the edge and end up in the hospital. The diagnoses began to stack up. Major depression, anxiety, bipolar 2, OCD, …etc. Nobody ever asked why, and that’s all I wanted to know.
    Through work with a new therapist, I began to see myself differently. He helped me build up my view of myself and helped me discover the answer to the why question. There were lots of good reasons why I had become depressed and anxious. It was trauma and more. But he was still a medical model person in many ways. He bought into the belief that I would always be “sick” and need help.
    But my real change came through the things you talked about. Through reading, going back to school, and searching, I have found mindfulness, IFS, and somatic work to be my true medicine. I finally see who I am, where I’ve come from, and what I truly need and want. I am slowly backing off of my meds very gradually. I’ve done this on my own with little help from my NP. But I feel better than ever. I’ve found purpose and meaning in my life. I’ve found my self-worth. But it is a journey, an ongoing journey.
    I wish I could change the past decade and never have taken a single med. But I can’t change that. What I can do, like you, is share my story. To grow and change we must do the inside work. We cannot do it alone. I’ve had help through my therapists, support group, books, colleagues, online speakers, and friends. It’s the internal body and mind work that is the way out.
    I’m still learning, growing, and changing. It is a slow, beautiful process as I emerge into me. BTW, I love the quote you started with. I am in the Fort Collins area too. As another commenter said, I would love to start a group of people finding their way out of the medical model.
    Thank you!

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  11. Few thoughts:

    As someone dealing with bipolar I and BPD, I’ve had plenty of calm stable periods unmedicated. Some as long as a decade. Over the years, I’ve been wildly successful at work, raised 3 amazing kids, and been active in my community. I’m rarely depressed. But you do not want to meet the manic, and definitely not the psychotic.It will start subtle with me, and often the signs are overlooked as being super productive, laser focused, and creative. I’ll get a lot of “You’re a machine/superwoman/blahblah” comments. The unraveling takes about 6 months, and the “game over” is nuclear level. (RIP Bill Paxton).

    Having a multipronged wellness strategy is wise, but don’t become complacent because you feel fantastic off meds. For now.

    Second, childhood trauma is not synonymous with Bipolar or BPD in so far as trauma wont be “healed” by meds alone. Why people think they can pill swallow trauma away is beyond me (although one could argue Ketamine IS a psych med at this point). Meds do nothing for my BPD. If I’m sitting around waiting for Lithium to make that better, I’ll be waiting a LONG time.

    Lastly, my usual plea to those faced with mental health challenges: stop making this your total identity. I am not Bipolar, I have a name. I am a person who deals with a medical condition like any other. Yes, it can impact my day to day on occasion, but it is not the be all, end all of who I am. And if it’s dominating your life like this, I’d say some discernment is in order and there’s work to be done.

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  12. Sounds like lithium was good for you. It was the only time you weren’t struggling and without any troublesome side effects. You should have gone back to the low doses that worked for you before stopping it completely. You spend all those years in pain trying multiple uneducated methods that made you even worse and sent you to the hospital again and again, instead of the only thing that really worked. Lithium also is not neurotoxic, the opposite is actually true.

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    • A quick Google search found this PubMed article on lithium nurotocicity:

      “Lithium neurotoxicity may be reversible or irreversible. Reversible lithium neurotoxicity has been defined as cases of lithium neurotoxicity in which patients recovered without any permanent neurologic sequelae, even after 2 months of an episode of lithium toxicity. Cases of reversible lithium neurotoxicity differ in clinical presentation from those of irreversible lithium neurotoxicity and have important implications in clinical practice. This review aims to study the clinical presentation of cases of reversible lithium neurotoxicity.”
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3357580/

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    • “Sounds like lithium was good for you. ”

      She could tolerate it at that time. It “had the least amount of side effects.” That does not mean it was good for her, or it would be good for her for later or for the rest of her life. It made her life feel very small. Later she felt betrayed by her family, psychiatry, and the drug companies after being informed of critical psychiatry, critical psychology and how other psychiatric survivors got free from their psychiatric drugs.

      And she is now medication free at 40 – her life is really good now! After suffering as long as eight years, it is great for her to have finally gotten off of lithium, having proved to the world that she would not need it any more for her good life!

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  13. There is no mention here of the antisuicdal properties of lithium which has saved many lives. It is certainly possible to wean off lithium and bio polar depression is not mentioned. Also lamotrigene is a good option for maintenance in bipolar disorder, mainly bipolar depression. There is a vast literature on Averse childhood experience which set off serious mental and physical illness and shorten life spans. The longer one is stable on lithium, the better the chance to decrease the dose. Do not throw out the baby with the bathwater

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  14. I’ve never listened to psychiatrists fully or really trusted them, but I do try what they prescribe me. My trick is to take their prescriptions and cut them in half at the very least. If I’m getting side effects like zombification or depression/brain fog etc I just stop taking the med, build up a good amount in case I want to try later, then drop the med. It’s like alchemy, and of course we can try cutting off all meds altogether if that’s our plan…but the pne med I’ve stuck with os seroquel. It makes sleep so easy and no real side effects I’ve noticed. As far as mania goes, well that’s an article in itself…but let’s just say there’s some alchemy and experimentation available there as well, as long as we have something available for when things go sideways. Happy travels.

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  15. I grant that people can have individual experiences but it is dangerous to treat this kind of article prescriptively which I suspect is exactly what this publication is doing. I have experience with a parent who went for decades of one manic episode after another, each worst than the last, refusing medication for reasons like these, before finally getting on lithium at age 70. For him it meant 2 divorces, self medication with marijuana (which varies per person but made him withdrawn and grumpy), being abusive and barely speaking to his children now. It can also mean draining one’s life savings and risking the lives of self and others. Lots of bipolar people think they can will themselves out of it or that it isn’t a problem. Denial is a part of mania. I wonder if the author was manic when they wrote this.

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      • Also, it sucks that your dad was so horrible. I can relate. I also get you don’t want others to experience what you experienced. By saving others from such situations it’s like we’re saving ourselves.

        But becoming prejudicial towards every person categorised the same as your dad because he was that way to you without knowing why they were categorised that way or their individual problems and hence becoming just as bad to others (in a different way) as he was to you is pointless.

        It kind of reminds me of the first and last shrink I interacted with. He lost his own parents when he was young and I spent half my life trying to escape one. Instead his perverse advice turned into how I at least have a parent while he did not even have one, and that one day my parent’s affection will come etc. With his views and the authority he had, he was putting my life in danger.

        It is clear that the author experienced antidepressant induced mania which resulted in a “bipolar” categorisation. It is a common practice in psychiatry to take the side effects of psychiatric medication and stamp that categorisation on a person. It’s double damage. First the drug doing something causing you to behave in an aberrant manner, then getting labelled as “bipolar”, then having to face the problems and stereotypes that come with that label.

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  16. Hi, Elisabeth, thank you so much for your story. Very similar to mine, Paxil at 18. Schizoaffective Disorder by 20. Needless to say, didn’t get to finish university.
    Took meds religiously, and thought I was doing great. Finished college at a different school. I even got married, and still am, 18 years later. I tried to leave the meds behind, you know for babies and such, but after a careful taper with terrible withdrawal, I had to get back on the drugs anyway, to keep my job. I really tried, but now I’m 50 and barren, but I love my husband so I take meds to keep working. I can’t hardly wait to retire and try again. Needless to say, I’m still pretty mad this has gone on for so long, and that I sacrificed my childbearing years for psych meds. I pray they get this worked out, for the future! Glad you made it free. Nice work, and great article.

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  17. Thank You Elisabeth for letting so many people know how incredibly difficult it is to go through this. For every person that reads this who’s going through it or has gone through it or even if one of their loved ones are friends is going through this, you have conveyed how complicated and frustrating and difficult it is so that others may better understand. Sometimes understanding just a little bit of something like this can make all the difference and help people to had in better direction. For parents who are suffering with a son our daughter going through this or a son or daughter whose parent is going through this, I believe you opened a very important door with the words you’ve written so that they can better understand this and see through the fog and find their way to knowing how to deal with this and how to help their loved one. When I went through a very difficult time at the age of 18 over 40 years ago, I didn’t say a word to anyone except for a friend who was also going through a psychotic episode. It helped me to talk to him but it just wasn’t enough and I kept it all to myself for most of my life. I thought if I let my parents know or my sisters that I would be admitted to a psych hospital. It’s so sad that this is the way our society was back then. Just know acceptance or understanding. How can such intelligent people act so stupid and what is it today that we’re acting stupid about that in 10 years will all look back and say how did we do that to other people and why didn’t we recognize the need to help others and conditions that we just shunned. This doesn’t just go for mental psychosis but for a broad range of things in life. I am so happy that people came forward and share their experiences and now it’s shunned if you don’t seek help instead of being shunned for seeking help. You’ve really helped me to see something that now can help me to reach out to people who are going through this. I wish you all the best in life and I see you being a complete success because you will not give up until you have what you want. With Love, Berkley

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  18. I’m curious as to why you didn’t think you had bi polar disease when you were having mania and psychosis. You do say that you didn’t have mood swings, but you describe other classic symptoms of bi polar such as insomnia. I was diagnosed with Bi Polar and did well on lithium and Depakote. There was a time that I couldn’t afford all my medications and went off one of them. I experienced severe manic episodes worse than before I began taking meds. I would never advise anyone to take themselves off meds without close psychiatric supervision. I don’t want to live through that hell again.

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  19. Elisabeth, this is a great personal story! Thanks a lot! I like it in many ways, and will take time to share. For now, I am really interested in knowing more about this somatic coach, if you don’t mind sharing.

    “I wish I could say that from that point on, my life got better. In some ways it did. I had more awareness. I knew I could no longer rely on medications or doctors, but I continued to struggle with listening to myself and my body. Working with a somatic coach was extremely helpful, because it was empowering. She taught me tools and helped me work through a lot of my trauma. I felt safe with her because she focused on healing the nervous system and helping her clients step into their true identities. She inspired me to work harder and reclaim my power. ”

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    • Hey Grace! Sorry for the delay in response. My coach was originally trained in somatic experiencing: https://traumahealing.org/

      She has since added many other modalities, and she talks a lot about brain retraining and retraining the nervous system. I felt safe with her because she believes in healing the nervous system, and takes an approach of empowering clients with tools for self-regulation, which ultimately gives a person more choice in their life. Less reactivity = more autonomy over choosing a life, relationships, and responses to stress that are life giving. You may also be interested in people who are trained by Richard Strozzi: https://strozziinstitute.com/coaching-directory/ – I’d love to do his training! Reach out if you have more questions or want to connect! <3

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  20. Did you ever detox from the black mold exposure? That is no joke and can lead to many of the debilitating issues you describe! My partner and I are on this journey as well as healing from childhood trauma. You didn’t mention resolving the black mold exposure so I was curious.

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  21. Bipolar 1 is a serious disease, and no matter how unpalatable the reality is, lithium has saved more lives than somatic therapy and finding your “true self”. Lithium is not a “neurotoxin”, but a natural wonder-substance. I think your article is dangerous. How many young people with bipolar are you going to give the “courage” to stop taking their medicine, and end up jobless, pregnant, or in the hospital as a product of their manic symptoms? Lithium is the only substance ever found to reduce the suicide risk for those with mental illness, and you’re telling people not to take it. Shame.

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    • “How many young people with bipolar are you going to give the “courage” to stop taking their medicine, and end up jobless, pregnant, or in the hospital as a product of their manic symptoms? Lithium is the only substance ever found to reduce the suicide risk for those with mental illness, and you’re telling people not to take it. Shame.”

      The author’s response to another comment may also respond well to you —- “This is my personal experience, that’s why it was posted as a personal story. I have no agenda. I’m not encouraging anyone to get off of any medications, ESPECIALLY if what they are taking is helping. Everyone has the right to question and seek out information. Everyone has the right to be informed.”

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    • “Bipolar 1” is not a serious disease. “Bipolar 1” is a psychiatric categorisation. Depression and mania can both be a significant problem, and yes, the consequences of those can be serious (they themselves can be consequences of trauma or drug use). But without knowing why they occurred in an individual, using a psychiatric categorisation like “Bipolar 1” as a scaepgoat term and making a blanket statement like “Bipolar 1 is a serious disease” is an even more serious problem.

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  22. I just turned 33, and after six years, usually on six or more meds at a time, it’s now been 62 days medication-free for me.

    The last sentence encapsulates what I’ve tried explaining so perfectly.

    “When I am experiencing the deepest pain, I remind myself that this is what I worked for, the freedom to feel.”

    I will print that out and add it to my wall of positivity.

    Thank you for sharing this; it gives me hope that this time can be successful because I’ve shifted my mindset and am working on genuinely healing. I’m not afraid of getting angry any more because I’ve learned how to reset myself. Or, like you said, how to do something to make myself feel happy when the sadness tries to settle in.

    I never realized how much power I had within myself. The medication was a crutch. Now, after watching my life fall apart so many times, I truly feel empowered and inspired. Thank you again, for sharing.

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    • Charnell – I love that you are recognizing the power and agency you have over your life. I hope you continue to show love and compassion for yourself as you heal and experience life without medication. I had a very unrealistic picture of who I would be and what my life would be like when I became drug free. I am still working on reclaiming my identity and discovering my true self. Trust yourself. Trust your body. And keep listening to your body. I had no idea what it meant to nurture myself, but I feel like that is a very important element of healing and recovering from these kinds of experiences. Feel free to reach out if you want to connect and keep doing what you’re doing! <3

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  23. Thank you for your fascinating story Elisabeth. Like you I was the victim of a faulty medical paradigm and don’t need to be coerced back, as some would want to do out of sheer lack of knowledge and a seeming unwillinglness to understand what it means to be human and to really feel and think.
    I greatly siympathize with you for having had to move around so much though I fully understand that changing medical jurisdictions can be very helpful and one’s success greatly depends on their personal strength and financial means. Nothing like saying “hasta la vista” to the MD who’s cramming pills down your throat and force injecting you. Maybe some day the docs will listen to the experts on human rights, including the UN and we will be granted our freedom from the tyranny and the fake science will fall away. This is a difficult journey and it takes years to overcome the damaging effects of the perscription drugs. Wishing you all the best!

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  24. This is the importance of Robert’s MAD, books and lectures- Long term based on evidence are patients who are compliant and in the “treatment carrousel- musical chairs- rollercoaster system of psychiatry and its treatment modalities are these people getting cured, better or what?
    The answer is that long term people who get on the bandwagon of psychiatry have very poor outcomes long term. This is a fact going on for the last 60 years.
    This is the question that few want to look into or challenge!

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  25. Personally I love my lithium. I’ve been on it for about a decade and it’s never caused any health problems. It’s Honestly been a God send and is the main reason I’m stable and why I made it past 26.

    It’s why I was able to go back to college, complete my coursework and is one of the reasons I can handle a high stress job.

    My meds have never been forced upon me, encouraged yes but never forced. I’ve had bipolar disorder since I was 14. I went into my first manic episode with psychosis my freshman year of high school but I wasn’t able to get treatment until I was an adult for various reasons.

    I get a little brain fog from my meds but it’s well worth it. I do have the essential tremor from lithium but it’s a side effect I tolerate because the good far outweighs the bad. I get blood labs done every 3-6 months (cbc and liver and kidney functioning panels) and they’ve never been less than stellar. While my hormones aren’t fine it’s not from the lithium but a damaged ovary.

    The way you write your article just comes off like you’re encouraging others to get off their meds and that’s Honestly a bit dangerous. People should be listening to medical professionals, not strangers on the internet who clearly shouldn’t have gone off their meds and gotten into therapy years prior.

    BP can get better as you age but it never goes away. You can’t magic it away with chiropractors and getting needles put in your skin. You can live with being unmedicated but medications are the best treatment for it.

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    • “The way you write your article just comes off like you’re encouraging others to get off their meds and that’s Honestly a bit dangerous”

      Do you support censorship? Do you believe that people who had bad experiences with psychiatry should be prevented from speaking or writing about it?

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    • I did not feel that way at all about her story. She was very open about the difficulties she experienced and even remarked about how she wish she had paused at some point in the process. I think learning from others failures and success is an essential way to learn

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  26. Whenever I hear people say “I have bipolar 2” disorder or anything of the sort, I’m curious to know what their actual problem is. Those categorisations don’t always end. Depending on the scheme of categorisation you choose, there’s “Bipolar 1”, “Bipolar 1.5”, “Bipolar 2″,”Bipolar 2.5”, “Bipolar 3”, “Bipolar 3.5”. On top of that there are “comorbities”. Categorisations like BPD, ADHD, OCD, SAD, PTSD go hand in hand with the first categorisation.

    The patients so-labelled then become like disease vectors of this mentality passing it around like an infectious disease from one to another: “Oh you have ‘Bipolar 2’! Me too! Same pinch. So what meds are you on?”

    To me, it just sounds like internalised psychiatric language: “my psychiatrist has categorised me as such and that’s what I have”.

    This is not merely a matter of semantics. It’s a dangerous mentality that causes harm by way of reducing (and entirely removing away) the truths of one’s life to a categorisation, perpetuating further stigma and even defaming people.

    What are your actual issues? Why did you feel depressed? If you had episodes of mania, what caused it? Was it drug use? SSRIs? Stimulants? No reason at all?

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  27. It’s also funny that when antipsychotics/neuroleptics cause diabetes in people with no prior history of it, they don’t say “it’s uncovering a latent diabetes” or when anticonvulsants cause skin rashes, they don’t say “it’s uncovering a latent skin issue”.

    But when SSRIs and stimulants cause mania, it’s because “the person was bipolar to begin with, that’s why it happened” or that “SSRIs must not be given to bipolar people” rather than saying “he was labelled as bipolar because the drug caused mania”. They should stop labelling people as bipolar due to side effects of psychiatric medication.

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  28. “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that really isn’t you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” —Paulo Coelho.

    If the journey of alchemy in which we are all engaged is seen as the burning up in the fiery light of our consciousness of all the baggage with which we arrived in this world and all that added to it since, then consciousness-dimming neurotoxins, for those of us who survive them, may potentially serve as a cool breeze which, having failed to put out the fire, ultimately make the flames burn that much brighter, and with greater zeal and fervor.

    Plato’s (“Republic’s”) account of the Cave Allegory of Socrates (the basic hero’s journey plot of so very many Hollywood movies), though conspicuously leaving all sex out of it – I think Socrates had a complicated sex life, didn’t he?) tells of the trials which those who have seen the Light may expect, as well as of the trials we all undergo before coming to Consciousness.

    The parable of the Prodigal Son, too, may be seen as every human’s/heroine’s/hero’s journey.

    The journey, presumably taken on equally by and for every single last one of us heroic, Sisphusean human beings (for we are heroes, one and all, are we not?) who has ever lived, is about coming to consciousness – about coming “here” to help one another to it.

    Jung said that there is no coming to consciousness without pain.

    The Buddha reportedly said that enlightenment is the end of suffering.

    Jesus spoke of “the Kingdom of Heaven,” presumably meaning “the realm of formless Consciousness” as being, among other things, like a pearl of great price, or a priceless pearl – worth everything else, and more. “Seek first the Kingdom!”

    “If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion. You would not be reading this now. Suffering cracks open the shell of ego, and then comes a point when it has served its purpose. Suffering is necessary until you realize it is unnecessary.” ― Eckhart Tolle, “Stillness Speaks.”

    It’s 25 years since Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” was published.

    It’s 75 years since Gandhi died: “The only devils in this world are those running around in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.”

    It’s 116 years since Jung met Freud, and reportedly chatted for 13 hours straight, and hardly all about drugs rather than about the individual and collective unconscious.

    It’s 123 years since the birth of quantum physics, if we credit this to Max Planck.

    It’s 133 years since Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” was published (119 years since Bierce himself mysteriously disappeared), and 38 years since Carl Sagan’s “Contact” was (both stories offer parallel timelines in one human life) – a couple of thousand years after perhaps the real father of quantum physics reportedly said that “In my father’s house are many mansions,” and 66 years since Everett and his Many Worlds Interpretation (of quantum mechanics), which, for me, at least, suggests that only in (or from?) those universes in which we (“the light of the world,” as Jesus reportedly called some “mere mortal” men) shed light on our shadowy subconscious that we can evolve to Consciousness.

    And now Elisabeth reminds us that not all of us currently enjoy the privilege of being able to confront our own pain/suffering/demons/unconscious/subconscious unsullied by consciousness-lowering drugs.

    In 2023, psychopharmacologists may believe that we are our minds or even our brains rather than that which can observe them. If they are entitled to such beliefs but if law-abiding citizens who disagree with them may find themselves deprived of their liberty on their say-so, then Orwell’s Thought Police are a fact of contemporary life, although one to which, thankfully, the WHO and, hopefully, Amnesty International, and all of us may now be waking up:

    “Coercive psychiatry does not commit human rights abuse: coercive psychiatry is human rights abuse.” – Thomas Szasz.

    Whether or not psychopharmacologists claim to espouse “bio-psycho-social” theories on human suffering, to suggest that a drug might cure any other than a purely bio problem seems stupid or disingenuous.

    The fact that we have for so long continued to allow states to sanction the forcible infliction of such beliefs on law-abiding citizens by coercive psychiatry, much as state-sanctioned Inquistions were mandated to torture “heretics,” may soon beggar all belief.

    Heroic sacrifices by survivors of coercive psychiatry well as by Robert Whitaker, MIA and all who contribute stories and comments here, by Michelle Funk and her colleagues at the WHO, and by more and more courageous, outspoken psychiatrists themselves may be ushering a true Age of Enlightenment, at last – one from which we may look back on all our blunders not as “evil” but as less than enlightened.

    Thank you very, very, VERY much, Elisabeth, and MIA for bringing this to our attention, to our awareness, to our consciousness – now.

    Tom.

    Now, if only I can remember where I left my sense of humor…

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  29. I have been taking Lithium for most of 27 years. It worked to give me a stable life, which all changed at the age of 40. My soul started talking to me and led me to working on integrating all aspects of myself. I have been off of lithium for a few stretches of 3-4 months because it is the only way I can move forward in my life. Connecting to myself on a spiritual level has eliminated my fear based momentum and I am stuck in a place where I can’t feel the part of myself that I have integrated over the past 7 years. I cannot adequately run from or even feel my fears or chase a passion any longer on this drug and it is ruining my kidney’s. I feel like the only door opened to me is the one where I let go of lithium. I have tools for dealing with my emotions but I worry it won’t be enough.

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