A psychiatrist since 1949, I was psychiatrically hospitalized on December 21, 1963 at New York City's Mt. Sinai Hospital. I stayed for three months,...
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.
I still believe I was Anne Frank in my past life, and nothing is wrong with such a belief. I am no longer Buddha, though, because they crashed my spiritual awakening when it was happening. But I go on. I deserve to be happy. I have a family to think of, I want to contribute to society on some level. I want to live. They won’t crash me. Or so I hope.
I have wanted to go public with my story ever since I started getting so dramatically better via holistic means, but I consistently chickened out. It wasn’t until I hopped on a plane to Boston to meet other psychiatric survivors at the Mad in America Film Festival in 2014 that I found the community and forum to do so.
In searching for answers as to what went wrong with my treatment, my family and I discovered that there is already much scientific evidence demonstrating the dangers of antipsychotic medications and why they should not be used to treat illnesses such as Tourette Syndrome.
I believed my doctor knew best about my health. I trusted that he knew it would be safe to switch me from an anti-anxiety drug that I had been taking for several years and put me on this new drug. It was only during the horror I went through afterward that I found out everything about this evil drug all on my own. To this day, I still get brain zaps in my sleep.
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.
In 1994, my nineteen-year old daughter, Cristina, was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). It was a diagnosis that came totally out of the blue and as a complete shock. Soon after she was diagnosed, it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep because of the tremendous stress, so I asked the very kind doctor who diagnosed Cristina if he could give me a prescription for something that would help me sleep. He agreed, and so began my “relationship” with Xanax. I had never taken anything like that before and didn’t know anything about it. All I knew was that as my daughter’s primary caregiver, I needed sleep in order to fight to keep her alive.
For weeks I had been trying to get released from the psychiatric ward, and none of my arguments, compliance, or attempted air of normality had made an impression on the barely-visible ward psychiatrist. I had, I was told, made a very serious suicide attempt and this was a predictor of future attempts. They would let me know when they thought I was sufficiently remorseful and stabilized to be released.
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.
As I continued to work in the human services field, I often found myself confronted with my past. I would hear colleagues talk about “borderlines” or describe clients as “low-functioning,” “manipulative”, or “emotionally fifteen”, and I would wonder how people were supposed to start feeling better about themselves when this was how they were seen by those who were there to help them. It seemed that our mental health system had become so focused on symptoms and finding out what was wrong with people, that we had forgotten to look for what was right, how to bring out a person’s strengths.
Free flow had characterized my creative process — and now an art practice that had come naturally since my childhood was extinguished. Not only were my reproductive capabilities shut down on psychiatric drugs, my ability to create art had been effectively disabled.
My therapist and I jointly made the decision to wean me off of the drugs. In the beginning, it was a very scary process for me. Since I had twice gone off medications on my own, I knew how bad it could get. The good news is, I am alive. I feel alive, and I now have emotions, both good and bad. I am very grateful to have all of them.
Upon my release I was dumped at a motel with no ID, no money or method of payment, and not even a cell phone to call friends or family for help. My belongings were still locked in a safe back at the hospital. Where are the real advocates for more low-income housing, and where the hell have they been for those who are incarcerated, whether it be in jails and prisons or mental facilities?
I began to have transient moments where I would feel oddly disconnected from my environment or wake up and feel like I was coming out of my skin. I did not know it at the time, but I was experiencing interdose benzodiazepine withdrawal and it would end up leading me down a path of polypharmacy.
I have known altered states of consciousness since I was a child. I clearly remember staring into the mirror in my mother’s bathroom and...
Six months ago, I was just starting in a position called "Treatment Team Coordinator" at a secure residential treatment facility. In my home state,...
To this day I do not know how I found my way back. I think it might’ve had something to do with willpower, as I was NOT going to lose myself. I was NOT going to end up like those people who were living indefinitely in the hospital—those “chronic schizophrenics”, as they say. I was going to find my way back, back to myself.
Asking the psychiatrist to discontinue medication was one of our bravest moments. It went against everything doctors had told us over the past twelve months—against Rebecka’s regular psychiatrist’s vehement opposition (“You can come back when it doesn’t work.”). It went against what we heard repeatedly in the media and in pop culture. It went against what we saw in the advertisements during the evening news. And it was the turning point in Rebecka’s journey toward optimal mental health.
Last fall, I was invited by Psychiatric Times to write an article from a mother's perspective about what is needed to "fix a broken health system." As part of my essay, I told the story of my son Jake, who was robbed of all hope by the mental health system and died a homeless man. I also told the story of his cousin Kimmy, who escaped from the mental health system and is now doing well. Psychiatric Times declined to publish my essay.
I made journaling non-negotiable. I started sitting in nature and running trails. I practiced being present and prioritized sleep. These things are often seen as what you do if your problems aren’t really that bad. But to me, these are the things I do to save myself every day.
Once your body enters a police car or an ambulance, it doesn’t matter what labels you carry or what the apparent “symptoms” are. It doesn’t matter if you even have any label at all. The moment you acquire a mental illness is when someone who doesn’t like you decides that you have one.
The childhood and psychiatric abuse altered my neurological, hormonal and other bodily functions and it was difficult to say which abuse left what mark. The doctors used medication to fix the changes and the taking of prescription pills became a habit. I took pills to calm me, pills to sleep, and pills to make me happy. A few months after stopping all medications, I was a bundle of nerves and I opened the cupboard for a pill. Living on autopilot as I had been doing for so long had to stop. I switched gears from absentmindedly resorting to pills, to purposefully calming myself without using drugs by breathing the way the psychologist had taught me.
Real quick, as I’m sure you’ve heard my story before: “Medication-induced mania.” Primary care writes prescription for antidepressant to alleviate simple stress. Pill causes...
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.