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.

Daughter of a Psychiatrist

75
Here I was, 15 years old and already in a long-term treatment facility. I was, on paper: crazy! This entire time, all the adults in my life had been speaking for me. I never felt like I was any of the things they said, but I went along with it. What else could I have done? Every time I rebelled, it only confirmed to my mother what she thought of me.
Kelli as a child

The Forced Psychiatric Treatment of a Child

28
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.

Meds vs. No Meds? My Search for Freedom of Mind

16
I have stayed on the same daily, 10 mg dosage of Abilify for the last few years. Although I am compliant, I am not satisfied: I do not feel whole. I do not feel authentic.

Activism, Suicide, and Survival: Healing the Unhealable

13
The present-day mental health establishment focuses primarily on a ‘biological’ cause for despair and other so-called ‘aberrant’ mental manifestations in the world. But when we look at the news, it’s bursting with sad realities. Animals dying, people starving, rape everywhere. Climate change bringing more disasters, racist mortgage practices. Are we to grow a skin so thick that we don’t cry when we read about a government firing scud missiles on its people? How are we to process mass-murder in an elementary school? What is more aberrant: to be so hardened that we do not cry, or to cry constantly? Might the healthy response to depressing realities to become depressed? How do we create hope when so often our world seems so terrible? How much activism is enough?
alice in wonderland

Doctor O’s Adventures in Wonderland

16
I am a female physician who survived my own suicide attempt. I had managed to fly under the radar as a very progressive family MD for twenty years. And when I stumbled and bled, the sharks were there ready to devour the carcass. Do I believe that racism and sexism influenced charges being filed against me? I certainly do.

A Felt Sense of Safety – From Disassociation to Embodiment

21
I know now that I can trust myself and listen to my intuition. Within the mental health system, I trusted everyone but myself.
pill bottle with skull and crossbones label

Gabapentin Horror

34
After suffering PTSD in the late 1980s, I reluctantly accepted antidepressants. In time, I had resolved the trauma, but when I tried to stop the antidepressants (Prozac, and later Zoloft), I assumed my desperate feelings and “return” of depression were an indication I had an imbalance and needed those drugs. I didn’t understand I was experiencing withdrawal. (I was never told that for most people, psychiatric medications need to be tapered.)
off meds onto nutrients

What Happened When I Went Off Meds and Onto Nutrients

17
I remember clearly thinking, “I’m done. I’m not putting myself through this again.” I wasn’t going to settle for the side effects of a marginally better than placebo treatment again. Here is a brief look into my rollercoaster journey of recovery, returning to work, having my trauma re-triggered, finding a way through, and finally living well.
Queen Ekaterina

Dialogue with a Psychiatrist

107
“You need to realise that what we see and hear in our madness might be very real!” I tell the psychiatrist. “It isn’t just delusions, hallucinations or nonexistent voices! What if it is indeed all real? And magic does exist?”

My Partner Abused Me. I Was the One Locked Up

14
Every day, psychiatrists in Australia’s mental health system write reports denying the sanity of women who are victims of sexual assault, rape, or domestic violence. I know: I was one of them.
insomnia drugs

Polydrugged With 12 Different Drugs… For Insomnia

27
Before my nightmare with psychiatric medication began, my life was full and happy. But since being prescribed 12 different psychiatric drugs in one year, I have become bedridden, ill and jobless.
yellow wood therapy

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

15
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.
suicidality

The Failure to Acknowledge Suicidality

19
I feel like I have been failed by the healthcare system over and over again. I expected to be able to rely on therapists, psychologists, and doctors to properly evaluate, diagnosis, and treat me… especially when chronic suicidality is in the picture. Instead, I have a lengthy list of ways I have been failed. These failures have often added to my hopelessness.
overmedication postpartum depression

The Answers in the Attic: A Mother-Daughter Story of Overmedication and Recovery

38
In 1959, my mother suffered what people referred to as a nervous breakdown after my sister’s birth. I puzzled over why Mom never recovered, until I found Dad’s collection of medical records in my sister’s attic. How could anyone give a nursing mother with three small children so many drugs in such a short period of time?

Necessary Powers: How I Became Fire

6
When a person is in hell, surrounded by enemies, without a protector or strong force on their side of any kind, that person needs to become their own powerful spokesperson.

Boy, Interrupted: A Story of Akathisia

55
I watched my son’s life change almost overnight. He developed akathisia from antidepressants, taken as prescribed for just a few weeks for garden-variety anxiety.

Regarding the Impossibility of Recovery

29
Popular illness narratives tend to be of the restitution sort: I was living my life, I became sick, I got well and picked up where I left off. However, this idea that ill health is a journey to wellness doesn’t help someone with a chronic illness or disability to tell her own story, which may not have a (conventional) happy ending. The notion of ‘recovery’ can be damaging when a return to health may not be possible.

A Story of Forced Hospitalization From a Legal Perspective

8
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.
involuntary commitment

What It’s Like to Be Involuntarily Committed

40
Ten years after being fired for taking a mental health leave after the Virginia Tech massacre, I was diagnosed as "schizophrenic" and involuntarily committed to a hospital. Now I have a job and a life, but I'm still forced to take drugs and report to a social worker.
winter sunset psychiatric social control

Involuntary Obedience: Rituals of Humiliation Disguised as ‘Care’

57
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.
revolution psych ward

My Time at Bellevue

24
I've never been so proud of such a display of civil disobedience. These heretofore robots, pumped with power sedatives, still possessed human emotions and had, overnight, found a voice to express their discontent. The riots would continue for several more nights and the ward became a chaotic jungle.
mental health transformation

A Secret No Longer

19
My psychiatrist/therapist was able to give me a true understanding into what addiction and psychosis really are and how they can be treated with little or no medication. I still struggle, but I have been able to manage my symptoms with the help of ACT therapy, exercise, "forest bathing," storytelling, music and art. I am now able to feel a sense of peaceful fulfillment, and that is all anyone can really ask for.
forced treatment

“All for the Best of the Patient”

46
For psychiatric ‘help’ to happen by force is a paradox and makes absolutely no sense. It can destroy people's personality and self-confidence. It can lead, in the long run, to physical and psychological disability. My dear daughter Luise got caught in this ‘helping system’ by mistake, but she didn't make it out alive. I'm sad to say I later discovered that the way Luise was treated was more the rule than the exception.
trapped in mental health services

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

18
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?
passage painting psychosis

Passage

53
When I was twenty-eight, I had what is commonly referred to as a “psychotic break.” It was nothing like what I would’ve imagined, given the cultural stereotypes. It was not in the least nonsensical. There was an exacting inner logic and meaning. Twenty-two years later, I continue to believe in the harrowing greatness of what my younger self went through.