Sunday, December 15, 2019

Personal Stories

People with “lived experience” tell of their interactions with psychiatry and how it impacted their lives, and of their own paths to recovery.

pain

Learning to Speak the Subtle Language of Pain

It gradually dawned on me that my back pain was another mask that depression wore. Instead of crying and feeling overwhelmed or giving up, my body was sending distress signals to help me realize that I was in a difficult spot. I began to realize some of the metaphorical aspects of the pain I experienced.
stoned or schizophrenia

From Stoned to “Schizophrenic”: My Mental Healthcare Journey

During a period of self-doubt, I chose to see a psychiatrist because I was engulfed in negative thoughts and couldn't find a direction in life. The slightest joys came only when I was high. Though my weed addiction was likely causing all of my symptoms, my psychiatrist’s response was to prescribe antipsychotics.
ACT Assertive Community Treatment

Reflections on a Decade of Assertive Community Treatment

Sometimes I am crazy and sometimes I need help, but that help must not be forced upon me. I need to direct my own care; I need to be listened to. ACT is a method of social control that has more to do with saving money than assisting those in need. Money is saved by turning patients' homes into hospitals.
winter sunset psychiatric social control

Involuntary Obedience: Rituals of Humiliation Disguised as ‘Care’

Like slavery took such a long time to be ‘officially’ forbidden, psychiatric hospitals will be with us for some time yet. Their masters, the doctors or administrators, no longer give beatings with their hands but with the far more treacherous chemicals that allow them to keep a good conscience and distribute what are beatings nevertheless.
veterans antidepressants

Abandoned in VA Purgatory — Misdiagnosed, Overprescribed & Fighting for Answers

Today I’ve recovered a semblance of my old life, and I, like millions of others, deserve answers. What have these drugs actually done to us? Everything I’ve learned thus far shows that antidepressants were poorly researched, and society, especially our military service members and veterans, were used as test subjects.
trapped in mental health services

Mental Health Services Turned My Daughter’s Crisis into a Way of Life

My world turned upside down when my daughter nearly died from a serious suicide attempt. After several years as her caretaker I began to wonder: What can we do to change the way our mental health services are organized so they won't turn a crisis into a way of life for already distressed and vulnerable people?
mental health maze

Functional Medicine: My Path Out of Psychiatry

My blood work indicated a host of issues that had been lurking under the surface of my “psychiatric diagnoses” for years. I’d seen various mental health professionals and none had recommended these types of tests, or stopped to think about any underlying factors, aside from the well-known “serotonin myth.”
mental hospital

Memories of a Childhood in a Mental Hospital

My stay at the hospital had no impact on the problem that led to my admission. But it did exacerbate other problems and change me in fundamental ways. I am a deformed product of that ‘cutting-edge facility’ and the ‘treatments’ I received there — social isolation, pills and shots, ice bath and ECT.
sertraline antidepressant withdrawal

Ambushed by Antidepressant Withdrawal: The Escape Story

I’m alive. More than 30,000 veterans in the past decade alone are not. I was not warned of the risks of this drug. I was not told that once on it, I might never be able to get off it, or the nightmare that would ensue when I tried. I know millions of others were not told either.
mania

Antidepressant-Induced Mania: When My Mind Became a Literal Hell

The amount of anxiety I felt on these medications — and for a couple of years after — was unfathomable. I felt as though I was trapped in an air-tight vat, constantly gasping for breath. And my thoughts were guided by my state of constant worry and panic.
A black rubber duck stands out among a group of yellow rubber ducks

“Please Be Normal!” My Experience Working for NAMI

At my job with a NAMI affiliate, I heard daily from people who looked at family members with “mental illness” as non-people, non-human, the “other.” In the office, it was no different. If NAMI had a tagline, it would be “Please be normal like us.”

Why I’m Glad I Did Not Complete the Mental Health Counselor Education Program

One needs no psychiatric or counseling degree to have the common sense of displaying some good manners in a profession that claims to be all about helping people. I’m glad I did not get further involved within a field that seems to be so hypocritical and moody.
university of chicago

Informed Consent, or Lack Thereof in My Psychiatric Experience

After telling my psychotherapist about my medication-fueled suicidal ideation, he said, “You have two options. We can do this either voluntarily or involuntarily.” Aghast and shaken, but assuming everyone in the medical system had my best interests at heart, I reluctantly agreed to go to the hospital without any protest.

Institutionalized 18 Years Ago, I May Never Be Released

Once you walk through the door to the psychiatric system, all of the protections afforded criminal detainees go out the window. No due process, no speedy trial, no right to see or vet the evidence against you, and most importantly: NO RELEASE DATE!

Recovery Is Resiliency

Recovery is not a bridge we cross and never return to. Rather, it is more like crossing a stream we ford by side-stepping on different stones. Not all of the stones are as sturdy as some of the others. Yes, we slip at times, only to regain our footing and forge ahead.

The Many Battles of a Benzo Injury: Jean’s Story

Jean was never warned about Librium's potential to cause physical dependence or the subsequent withdrawal effects that can result from its long-term use, nor was she counseled on an exit plan. So when she decided to taper off the drug, her withdrawal symptoms were so severe that her life and health quickly spiraled out of control.
lithium

Lithium Toxicity and an Almost-Human Hospital

Lithium is a notoriously toxic substance, and if it isn’t managed carefully enough, can have some very nasty effects. I discovered this the hard way. It got to the point where I could barely eat or drink or walk around. Yet lithium never made a dent — not for a single moment — in what was going on in my head.
military

Broken Is Not All I’ll Ever Be: Military Veterans and Psychiatric Drugs

I had been an excellent combat medic — I had deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan totaling over 28 months of combat in Infantry and Cavalry units. Yet, after over six years on these psychiatric drugs, I felt reduced to a helpless being who would require assistance for the simplest of menial tasks.
buddhist hands peers

“Peers,” Therapeutic Harm, and Buddhist Forgiveness

I'd like to be peers with anyone struggling against persecution, anyone struggling toward the promise of dignity and respect for marginalized communities, for freaks and weirdos. To fit the diversity of our experiences, maybe our definitions need to be as flexible and individual as we are.
yellow wood therapy

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood: A Tale of Psychotherapy

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and not knowing which one to take, I stood straight, watching my life pass me by. But in therapy, I began to feel the knots of my life come alive inside me. The point is not just to talk, it is to feel your story inside, to hear your silences, and to realize who you are… and who you can be.
branch light in the darkness

The Light in the Dark

Darkness began to consume my life, both literally and metaphorically. My surroundings and even my own thoughts would become distorted into something terrifying. As the nights droned on, shadows in my dorm room would contort themselves into threatening figures. The whispers continued to grow, overcoming the thoughts in my head.

Why I Take Drugs and Don’t Plan to Stop

If the drugs I am prescribed did not benefit me overall, believe me, I would no more take them willingly than I would swallow rat poison. I went through many attempts to wean myself, but invariably the loss of my ability to do art brought me to the place where I went back on them. I remain on them and I want to remain on them.
hospitalization hospital

Prepared, Yet Unprepared: My Involuntary Hospitalization Adventure

Overall I learned a great deal during my hospital adventure. The whole experience seemed like a comedy of errors. For me the only people there who were truly out of touch with reality were staff members. All of the patients were very present, albeit in some distress. The reasons for their distress were not unreasonable.
schizophrenia 1960s hospital

Against the Odds: ‘Unimproved Schizophrenic’ to Yale PhD

Forty years after I had first been admitted to the hospital, I was ready to confront my past. So, I sent for my hospital records, and I read them. As an experienced clinician, I recognized immediately what the doctors hadn’t been able to see in 1960: my problem wasn’t ‘schizophrenia’ but PTSD, connected with incest.
iatrogenic harm symptoms

For the Record

Here and now, I am Ativan-free and slowly tapering off Wellbutrin after 25+ years. Unable to work due to the severity of iatrogenic injury, I sometimes think of myself as a healing journeywoman. When the terrain is especially rough, I reflect on the words: "The best revenge is living a happy, healthy life." When circumstances and symptoms permit, I’m doing just that.

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