This is my story of forced psychiatric treatment as an eight-year-old girl, from my perspective as an adult mental health professional. Being held down kicking and screaming to be injected with a benzodiazepine is a human rights violation no child should endure for saying no to a pharmaceutical. In hindsight, when I reflect on that day, it feels like a form of child abuse.
My sincere message to those whose vitality and lives have been sapped and zapped by this iatrogenic dis-order: most of us DO recover! And even if it is not without some benzo remnants lodged in our cellular memory, what we learn about our own resilience will guide us to places in our lives we didn't expect to reach. HOPE was my key through the arduous path of withdrawal and recovery.
Recovery is adapting to how your brain works. You accept how it works, observing what makes it worse or better, and learn to navigate the triggers and symptoms you experience. As you do things differently, these 'corrective experiences' begin to undo the negative beliefs you have internalized.
Many have asked: “Why doesn’t my doctor/provider know what is happening to me?” Benzodiazepine tolerance and withdrawal are not new. So, why isn’t it simple to diagnose and treat? As both a health care provider and a withdrawal sufferer, I’d like to offer an inside and outside perspective on this question.
How did I become someone who could barely function? I was a high-performing sales executive ranked in the top 2% of an international business communications company. But now, after using powerful psych meds for depression and anxiety for more than a decade, I couldn’t do basic things like go to the grocery store, plan a meal, make dinner, or get together with friends.
The people that my son and I continued to consult with over the years didn't talk of mental illness as a brain disease, a chemical imbalance, or a problem with one's genes. Depending on the therapy, they spoke in terms of restoring life force energy, changing cellular vibration, learning to listen and understand, and building a self.
There is little doubt in my mind that many school shooters were in an antidepressant-induced state of psychosis, which is a loss of contact with reality that makes it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not real. That's what happened to me. I started taking 60mg of Paxil a day. Three days later, I planned my suicide. Then I planned a murder.
Somehow, something I had said in this “secret” Facebook group had been made known. And now, at almost midnight, a cop was banging at the door of the lady who had been keeping me safe in a secret place. How did a “secret” Facebook conversation bring the cops to an address I didn’t have to perform a suicide prevention “welfare check”? Here’s what their “safe” meant to my safety.
The voice came to me for three nights in a row, and changed me at my core. I believe my voice was, and is, the voice of G-d, of love. But one devoted friend, an influential physician at the University of Minnesota, felt strongly that I had “lost it” and tried to persuade me to see his psychiatry buddy at the university.
I have nothing good to say about the psychiatric drugs prescribed to me or about the psychiatrists that prescribed them. I did not have a condition that needed to be medicated. There was no informed consent about the severe and indefinite damage that the drugs caused me, and I did not have the appropriate help withdrawing from them.
This is not how the mental health system should treat "psychotic" people. Mental health providers should treat them with compassion, empathy, respect, love and understanding. With a circle of loving and understanding people surrounding a person in crisis, I have no doubt that most "psychosis" would normalize in time.
My life flashed before my eyes as my entire medical history over the last decade was rewritten from having a genetic brain disease to being a victim of a medical scam. It was bittersweet, for I realized that I was not sick and dying, but I had been robbed of so many years of my life due to the psychiatrist’s lies. Now I am suing my former psychiatrist for damages.
I am so thankful that my brain healed from the damage caused by psychiatric medications. Most importantly, finding my purpose in life and living an authentic life helped to ground me and prevent further psychosis. Psychosis is the psyche’s cry for transformation and healing. When one listens to the call, one is brought from darkness to light.
The minute you sit down in the chair in a mental health professional's office, you’re no longer seen as a person. The mental health system is incapable of seeing past the solid wall of your current label. Their only cure is drugs. "First Do No Harm" are powerful words. It’s unfortunate they don’t apply to psychiatry.
We’re not dysfunctional or bad just because there are two of us in here. What’s more important than being a socially acceptable single person is that we know how to get along and manage our trauma and our life together. We just need to be accepted as we are.
Here in Israel we are assigned to only one hospital according to our address — there is no freedom of choice. Why is the choice of psychiatric institution so important and urgent? Because conditions in psychiatric hospitals are often unbearable. We believe that if people have a right to choose, the worst hospitals will have to improve.
Although I saw a number of counselors and therapists for my dependency issues, they were unable to help me. Therapists saw my unhappy childhood experiences as part of me, part of who I was, but I did not see it that way. I imagined the experiences circling around outside of ‘the real me’ like moons around a planet, standing between me and the outside world.
I am now haunted by guilt that my daughter never really had a chance for anything like a normal life, because of the choices that were made for her. Choices made with the 'best' medical advice of the day, which I had never quite accepted as correct, but in the end largely complied with for lack of any clear alternative.
In light of the recent events and media discussions pertaining to the issue of sexual violence, we feel that it is of the utmost importance to speak out about this issue in the context of psychiatry and the treatment of those perceived as mentally ill.
The party would continue for a time, but an inevitable crash ensued. I left my family, was fired from my job for uncontrollably screaming at my boss, and gambled away whatever money I had left in the stock market. A debilitating depression soon began, of a magnitude I could not previously have imagined. I had lost everyone and everything in my life.
For the last 24 years, my life has been ruined by the trauma and abuse I have suffered due to a diagnosis of 'BPD,' just as my childhood was ruined by the trauma of sexual abuse. A diagnosis has led to treatment that mirrors the incest I endured.
I survived not because I received excellent care from the staff on the ward. On the contrary, the treatment was far from excellent; it was objectifying and cold. It’s not surprising that many end up in suicide behind locked doors. I survived because I felt, however fleetingly, my experiences mirrored by others.
If I had any legal rights, I knew nothing about them. And the hospital cared even less about them. As a law student, I would like to share the legal rights I did have in the state of California and how they were violated from the very start.
"Let's try the shotgun method," my psychiatrist said — meaning that you load the gun with a bunch of pellets and hope that one of them hits the target. I went through 16 different psychiatric medications in five years, and they were not the right choice for me.
The following are some excerpts from my journal about my inpatient experience. Please know that the people in that hospital often reached out to one another in beautiful ways, but overall felt frustrated and stressed due to an oppressive and sterile environment with little positive reinforcement.