The Great Grey Beast

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My name is Kyle Hulbert; I am No-One’s Son, The Boy Nobody Knew, and I am the detritus of the great grey beast that is the American psychiatric system.

I was born in 1983; that might not be particularly important in and of itself, but it’s the beginning so that’s where we’ll start. I’m not sure what happened in the first three years of my life to prompt it, but when I was three I began receiving medications for what has only ever been described in my records as “alarming behavior.” What behaviors a three-year-old can present that would prompt doctors to give it the same kinds of medications given to adult schizophrenics I cannot tell you. What I can tell you is that in 1986, child psychopharmacology was not what it is now. Knowing what they know now, no competent doctor would give such medications to a child.

What I remember most about growing up is confusion, anger, and fear. I knew there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t know what. None of the grownups seemed to, either. That was the most bewildering and frustrating part: that they didn’t have any answers for what was going on. Not my father, not my grandparents, not my teachers, and not the doctors I kept getting taken to. As a child, you look to grownups for everything! They’re supposed to protect you, guide you, and help you navigate your life. But I was alone. I was alone with the voices, I was alone with the visions, I was alone with the inexplicable, uncontrollable emotional outbursts and the gnawing guilt that always followed them. I was scared of what was going on with me, scared of not feeling like I could control my mind, and angry that despite my best efforts I couldn’t seem to get the hang of being a good kid. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, it was only ever a matter of time before I found myself sitting in front of an adult, being asked the same damnable questions:

“Why did this happen?”
“Why did you do that?”
“What’s wrong with you?”

I remember wanting to scream from sheer frustration; how the hell was I supposed to know the answer to any of that? You’re the grownups, you tell me! Much of my childhood was spent trying to avoid drawing attention to myself because I didn’t want to be asked questions I had no way of answering, but that the wardens of my life seemed to expect me to be able to. I existed with a constant feeling of failure, of frustration, of fear.

I didn’t want to be a problem child, but I didn’t know how to stop being one for everyone around me.

As it happens with many inconvenient problems, it was only a matter of time before I was sent away. I was six the first time I was placed in a psychiatric facility. It became a mainstay in my life, up until I was emancipated at age eighteen.

There is nothing I can say or write that will enable you to understand what it’s like being inside that great grey beast. It’s voracious, ravenous, utterly insatiable. The worst of it isn’t the enforced medication regimen or the shots or the isolation. It’s the way that beast devours you by degrees, by inches. You’re eaten away little by little, every single day, until what’s left is barely a person.

Between hospitalizations, I bounced between my biological family until I ultimately became a ward of the state at about age twelve. Then it was foster and group homes. When your life is a giant game of Hot Potato, you learn to live on your toes, always ready to pack up and go at a moment’s notice. Those moments came too quickly, too often, to ever allow me to form any of the emotional bonds that so many people around me enjoyed.

I grew up in the belly of that beast, never looking forward to anything because, really, what was the point? I focused on what enjoyment I could eke from the moment, from the small victories I achieved. Reading was my escape; that, and writing stories about lives I would never live.

In 1999, I was placed in what I thought was my permanent foster home. I thought I’d finally escaped the beast. This family really tried, and with them I enjoyed the longest consecutive period of freedom in my life. But in March 2001, things went sideways and I heard the growl of the beast, felt its shadow eclipsing me once again. It had never been far, and it wasn’t done with me. The Powers That Be were convinced that I was in crisis. I thought I had been doing so well. But they told me I was suffering from dissociative episodes, that I was delusional and a threat to myself and others, and that I needed “intensive therapy.”

So they sent me back to the asylum, they fed me back to that great grey beast that had been devouring me since I was a child. I’ll never escape it.

June came and my eighteenth Hatching Day was only a couple months away. The Powers That Be began speaking of a new thing, they began speaking of emancipation.

Wait, what? Emancipation? Does that mean I’ll be free? No more of this? No more hospitalizations, no more being a ward of the state? No more of being chewed on by the beast? No more having to answer the same damn questions I didn’t have the answers to ten years ago and still don’t have now? Hell to the yesness! Yes to all of that!

But wait! What about my psychoses? What about my delusions and my dissociative episodes you were so worried about?

Good questions, those, but I didn’t know to ask them. I was about to turn eighteen and I had been told that, after a lifetime of being choked on a short leash, I was to be set free of the great grey beast that I feared would never let me go — my only thought was of freedom!

I had no way of knowing it at the time, and wouldn’t learn about it until after I was already in prison, but as soon as my father heard they were talking about emancipating me, he went to war with the psychiatric board in charge of my case. Even with our estrangement years before, he’d kept tabs on me. He tried to convince them to keep me. He told them I had nowhere to live, that I didn’t know how to care for myself. He told them that if they let me out on the street without any kind of monitoring or oversight, I’d end up killing someone within a hundred days.

They didn’t listen to him. I was turning eighteen; they told him I had exhibited “no significant psychotic episodes” in the last month or so, and that I was perfectly suited for release. Me, a seventeen-year-old psychiatric patient who had spent the majority of his life as a ward of the state, with no life experience and nowhere to live except the tent he owned and the couches of the few friends he’d made during his last stint in foster care. Me, a kid whose list of diagnoses included schizoaffective disorder and manic-depressive disorder, and who’d been taking medications for them since before he could read? I was “perfectly suited” for release? Funny, how all my psychoses seemed to clear up just as soon as I was old enough to be emancipated, don’t you think?

There’s no way I should have been released when I was eighteen. I wasn’t prepared to live on my own and they knew it. Just because I had a month of good behavior did not suddenly make me cured. The responsible thing to do would have been to keep me a ward of the state, transfer me into Adult Social Services, and ensure that I was released only after I had demonstrated an ability to provide for myself. That would have been the responsible thing to do, not give me a bus ticket and a three-month prescription for my antipsychotic medications and hope for the best.

I was emancipated on September 4th, 2001, two days after my eighteenth Hatching Day. I’d stopped taking my medication by mid-October. I killed Dr. Robert Schwartz on December 8th, 2001 and was arrested for it on December 12th.

Ninety-nine days.

I have never blamed my mental illness for what happened that night. I have never shirked my responsibility for what I did. But it cannot be denied that what I was then is a direct result of that great grey beast being allowed to have its way, being allowed to devour a child by those with the power to do more but who chose to do less because it was easier; to feast upon a child’s youth and innocence, only spitting it out because it had legally become an adult and to keep it any longer would mean more expenses.

My name is Kyle Hulbert; I am No-One’s Son, The Boy Nobody Knew, and I am not the only child to have been devoured by that great grey beast. It is too late for me. It’s not too late for them.

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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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21 COMMENTS

  1. I knew you. I saw you; I was that weird loud BRAIN kid that helped you with spelling and math!
    You were friends with my cousin, the one who disappeared in 3rd grade, and showed up at Granny’s before he was 20. He stayed in the basement, where he had a bed and dresser and TV, and she said he was company and helped, but everyone else said he was using her and taking her money and so he left.
    She went to the nursing home in less than two years, and he was in prison instead of a hospital or the county jail.

    Where he ran into you again; I know because I’m the one who wrote him letters and put money on his books and sent you both a few things at Christmas because he asked me to do it. At least, that’s what you thought, I guess.
    It wasn’t. You see, they all had made fun of me in elementary, and ones like you that were trying to learn were the closest to friends I had. I didn’t ask about the bruises, or why you would get angry, or about the fights, because my cousin and I were more like brother and sister since they kept putting us at the same places. You were never mean to me like that and even though you didn’t seem to notice I sat alone at break and lunch and on the playground at school, at least you didn’t pick on me. You hardly ever asked to copy my work like everyone else, and I knew it was likely that you were like my cousin and even though no one really noticed what you were doing, they noticed if you didn’t, and bruises or fights came then.
    I got caught by the grey beast too. I didn’t think you knew. Bipolar 1, when I finally lost my temper, told everyone what I really thought about them and their pretty picture post card family of skeletons and empty pastures and their insistence that whatever wasn’t their ideal way was wrong. Including telling what I really thought.
    I wish I’d known where to write you then, when I woke up with those weird injuries in that bare room with 3 other beds, and all the dumb rules, and honestly, there’s 1-3 people who have been screaming 24-7 for 13 DAYS, AND THIS IS NOT A MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY PLACE!!!
    Maybe they wouldn’t have given me that shot if I’d known to ask you. It’s been 20+ years and it still comes back and I can’t chew or sleep or stop twitching and shuffling and they never even told me what it was! Or why.
    They never tell you why.

    I saw you. Sorry I didn’t write sooner.

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    • Dear Angela,
      I think I do remember you: did you have very pale blonde hair, and your cousin have the same hair? Yours was very long and I think his was kind of shaggy.
      If that’s you, then yeah, I do remember you because you were one of the few people that didn’t make my life shit through school. You taught me “‘i’ before ‘e’ except for after ‘c’ except for when it sounds like ‘a’ as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh’.” I thought the rhyme was so cool. You were the only other person in class who was ahead in math and you helped me get there, too. We didn’t like the constant lesson reviews from the year before and wanted to learn new stuff, right?
      Please, Angela, it may have been two decades but you’ve found me. My Wife can help you get in contact with me if you want to talk. I have a lot of questions and you’re literally the only one from Caroline County who’s reached out.

      Blessed Be!

      Carpe Noctem,
      Kyle

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    • Dear Angela,
      I think I do remember you: did you have very pale blonde hair, and your cousin have the same hair? Yours was very long and I think his was kind of shaggy.
      If that’s you, then yeah, I do remember you because you were one of the few people that didn’t make my life shit through school. You taught me “‘i’ before ‘e’ except for after ‘c’ except for when it sounds like ‘a’ as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh’.” I thought the rhyme was so cool. You were the only other person in class who was ahead in math and you helped me get there, too. We didn’t like the constant lesson reviews from the year before and wanted to learn new stuff, right?
      Please, Angela, it may have been two decades but you’ve found me. My Wife can help you get in contact with me if you want to talk. I have a lot of questions and you’re literally the only one from Caroline County who’s reached out.

      Blessed Be!

      Carpe Noctem,
      Kyle

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  2. Dear Kyle,
    Yours is another story of the horrors of the psychiatric system. And that system, the Great Grey Beast, created a killer and took your life away. And yet, it may not be too late for you. I am so sorry. Keep writing and all the best to you!

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    • Dear Louisa,
      Thank you for your kind words. I am trying very hard to right the scales. It’s not easy, and even if my Clemency Petition works it’ll be hard work out there. But one thing I can promise you: this world will hear my voice, and hopefully it will be enough to change the system.
      I do not have direct Internet access, if you desire to communicate more my Wife can guide you on getting onto JPay. But even if you don’t, thank you for believing in me. It matters.

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    • Dear Someone Else,
      Don’t cry. Change demands tribute, and that tribute is rarely painless. The change I intend to effect in the mental health system required my childhood, my innocence. But if it leads to the Beast being slain, it will have been worth it.
      This world will hear my voice, it will see my scars. And the world will not stand by.

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      • for You! Some of us have sobering traumatic experiences to share. God has always known You. Nobody knows what life is gonna deal us at the hands of others but w/sincerity & courage we can break free & stay free from bondages that seek to entangle us in despair. With God; honesty, courage, & hunger for goodness, peace, joy, love ….can be our character. Keep up the good fight of faith.

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  3. Hi Kyle I always feel sad when I see a photo of my autistic grandson and grieve at what might have been his life. However your story shows that the rabbit hole is a lot deeper than I could have conceived. As a writer myself I notice your imagery is very powerful and I wonder if good writers have non ordinary psychology. Eg Richard Flanagan’s writing took off after he nearly drowned and Roald Dahl benefited from punishment by a psychotic teacher who became the Archbishop of Canterbury. I find that self-directed counselling reading A Course in Miracles beneficial. In one section it says you don’t have put up with people’s negative opinions. Their attack thoughts are not your problem. You can just lovingly move on. Very empowering. Good luck with your future plans.

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  4. One problem with forced/involuntary treatment is that it takes away responsability for almost any outcome away from the will and intent of the victims.

    It’s a basic principle of responsability in ethics: one cannot be responsible for something one cannot control, particularly when it was imposed on oneself not by happenstance, by chance, by fortune, but by the will of another human being. Specially when it was a community or group of them. The enforcer is THE responsible individual in such cases.

    And in psychiatric treatments the effects of such harmfull actions takes sometimes years to materialize. And the judiciary and the medical publishing record has been negligent in adressing the lack of data, or it’s derogation when published.

    They refuse to acknowledge that psychiatric treatments make things worse, many times, in forms that seem like failures, when in fact they are causal for future bad outcomes.

    Tardive akathisia, tardive psyhcosis, the not yet described tardive impulsivity, or the forced impoverished social environment coerced into minors cruelly and callously thrown into the hells of the “gray beast”.*

    As an example: navigating the wider community when most of the time socialized in the innards of the “grey beast” seems to me harder than this narrative points to.

    I am not denying the sense of responsability, that is inherent to most humans beings, it’s part of the human dignity. Just trying to provide context…

    As for explanations, well, I have one that may not apply to many people: covert medication.

    From my personal experience, there are parents and practitioners who used, maybe still do, medicate covertly people for alcoholism, particularly when of the violent/aggressive type, not merely “negligent”.

    They used to prescribe disulfiram, maybe they still do, to the “alcoholic” and sometimes the whole family, in the belief that absent alcohol consumption it was safe.

    I imagine the mother with magical thinking believing it can prevent “alcoholism” in the child…

    Not the case, disulfiram in minors tends to be way more toxic without alcohol consumption than in teetotaler adults. It has effects similar to insecticides: it inhibits the acetylcholinesterases. And many other biochemical effects that can cause hallucinations and delusions. I guess even violence not otherwise specified. I am no expert in disulfiram…

    The half-life, the time disulfiram stays in the body of minors can be up to 3 days, three days, from a single “meal” loaded with it. Very different from an adult. The grams per weight consumed of disulfiram by a minor are also way bigger than it is for a “targeted” adult. The dose, is most likely in the “toxic” range when used against minors.

    And even a simple orange juice from a too ripe orange can cause disulfiram reactions, I speculate, in minors exposed covertly to disulfiram. The kid with the red ears/hands after an orange juice, son or daughter of a violent alcoholic kind of thing.

    The kid that faints inexplicably on a vasovagal reaction induced by disulfiram. Perhaps, I speculate, long term. Perhaps? diagnosed as a genetic condition, that could be caused by chronic exposure to an insecticide-like chemical substance. Even parkinsonism? who knows, I imagine it has not been properly researched in animal models…

    And that is not the only chemical, antidepressants of the trycliclic/atypical kind used for bed wetting or bed pooping are another source of hallucinations, delusions and what have you not “psychological” reactions.

    Sometimes “tardive”, since rats and mice do not get reinforcement from their community as humans do. It has been described in animal models, that’s my point.

    So, in the past, concerning children behaviours might have been imputed, mostly wrongly, to genetics, more accurately to environment. But nowadays, to me, biased addmitedly, to covert medication.

    Some practitioners without even seing the child prescribe powerfull psychotropics, neuroleptics, lithium, to minors, based only on the complaints of parents and teachers. And thus exposing them to bad outcomes and bad actions in the distant or not so distant future.

    Without proper legal guardrails, that protect minors, without considering the long term prospects for those minors. And yes, admitedly their future victims.

    Such covert, dangerous, hatefull and negligent prescriptions, many times not even in the medical records. You know, child psychiatrists who hate OTHER children, colluded with parents, family or wider community who also hate other children with “unmet needs”.

    How many humans are suffering and will suffer from rare, orphan, “genetic” diseases like Railey-Day, frontotemporal dementia, progressive aphasia, etc., that in fact, in reality are or will suffer from delayed, tardive effects of psychotropics, “prescribed by their physicians”?.

    Simple animal model experiments could provide more clarity. But that is lacking in modern scientific research. Pitty, medical science gone rogue, at the trumpet blow of big pharma and gilded interests…

    *Just the case of Lauretta Bender and it’s prescription of LSD to minors speaks volumes about the criminality of Psychiatry going sadly unpunished. I never read Mrs Bender expressing any kind of guilt or remorse, let alone: Responsability.

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  5. I was born in 1982 and experienced a lot of that same system so did my brother. I remember feeling like I didn’t belong in the psych ward, and it was so much worse to return three weeks later to find out all my fifth grade classmates knew I was there. My brother was heavily medicated from an early age. As adults we’re both a mess. Turns out our mom was an asshole. Cold mother syndrome and adverse childhood experiences just ruined us by the time we were three. Our dad wasn’t much better, but he GOT better and I give him a lot of credit for that. The foster care system is paid child labor, essentially. But it’s the parents getting paid, to have the foster children clean their homes or work their farms. Not conducive to recovery. It’s a god damn tragedy.

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  6. I am curious if anyone else has seen this Beast.

    After having been harmed by TMS – long years after but still in a state of serious injury, I had a dream about a large grey beast that is almost identical to this picture for the article except the head looked more like an elephants, but otherwise very close.

    The amount of fear I felt at its presence penetrated me so deeply, I cannot express it with words. The adequate expression is what happened next. I woke up with internal akathisia that persisted for over a year.

    It only resolved after a prolonged water only fast of 23 days.

    The dream was so lucid, I remember it with almost crystal clarity to this day. In the following days, weeks and months – I attempted to tell myself that the creature was not real, until one day I realized that the only reason I was telling myself that was because I was certain that the beast was real. In whatever way, I am sure it is real and I have heard other descriptions of it as well.

    Writing this is a way for me to move past it, just like reading this story without fear.

    If we forsake this beast, all it stands for, and everything that has been done to create it and embrace the deepest recesses of ourselves I do think we can get free of it – but that is no small task.

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    • Beautifully expressed, James, thank you.

      Perhaps the beast represents all the negativity of our personal and especially collective unconscious, faithfully passed down to us by countless generations of ancestors?

      And perhaps a part of us is afraid to look it in the eye not because WE fear it but because a part of us so fears that it senses that to do so would mean death?

      If that fearful part of us is our ego, our unobserved minds, our unobserved thoughts and emotions, and if honestly, courageously observing ourselves means the end of ego, then the other part of us, of our psyche, the higher, deeper, essential, indestructible part may emerge when the grey beast is fully faced.

      In “How to Train Your Dragon,” the first movie in the series, history is forever changed when the dragon is finally looked in the eye…and transformed to ally.

      Perhaps the tumult we all seem to be living through nowadays, the world over, is the turbulence of transition as we struggle to transform ourselves, to emerge from the rigid shells of our egos, not least by finding it within us to understand and so to forgive all the generations that went before us, and struggled as best they knew how, too?

      Thanks, again, for a most wonderful insight, so beautifully expressed.

      Comfort and joy.

      Tom.

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  7. Dear Kyle, I am astounded by the visual portrayal of your inner universe. I was born in 1981, I have been diagnosed all over the books, and I have refused to take any psychiatric meds. I have refused over a dozen times. I have six pill bottles of ADHD meds they kept prescribing me most recently, just sitting on the shelf. I am not saying that my head is a great place to be in, I am just choosing to find alternative routes to change and healing. I didn’t think that what I have done thus far is a massive political and societal statement against the evils of the vast majority of psychiatry…. I wish you the best and I hope you can find an even stronger, valiant, and brave beast within you that can fight off and overthrow that great gray beast…

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  8. I enjoyed and learned from your article, Kyle and I’m sorry the system gobbled you up. It did that to me too, so I get it.

    I hope you keep writing as you are good at it and your experience could help many others.

    Take care of yourself. I’ll keep an eye out for your work.

    Be well, Jeanette Bartha

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