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.

Navigating the Mind: What Medication Cannot Address

9
I believe there's no harm in giving meds a try—it worked for me. Just be aware that they can only do so much. The rest of the journey requires some navigation and self-direction.
domestic violence mental health

I Navigated the Mental Health System and Never Took Medications

44
I kept thinking, why was I the one to be labeled when my husband was doing all this unhealthy, violent stuff? I sought out doctors through health food stores and communities that didn’t believe in medications for a social and family problem. That way no controlling, pill-pushing medical doctor had authority over me.

Still Looking For Answers

20
What is happening in my body? And has being on medication caused long-term side effects or damage? I’ll forever be searching for answers; I want to feel “normal” again and live a life of enjoyment vs fear and anxiety.
nonsense

On Making Non Sense

21
I have lost interest in making sense. Insofar as anti-stigma entails a reassertion of my apparently forgotten humanity via the retelling of some personal narrative in which I generalize my unique experiences toward some universal wisdom, I have lost interest in the reduction of stigma. I would much prefer it if you didn’t need me to be comprehensible.

The Mountain Man

25
Self-acceptance is a very human experience, and a necessary one in the pursuit of personal happiness. In my experience, the mental health field does an abysmal job of addressing this truth.

Only When It Poured

7
Disposable toothbrushes and sporks. Crayons instead of pens. Little pills in little paper cups. Someone would come. Someone would go. The days turned into nights and back again.
mind, body, soul, spirit

43 and Finding Wellness: Attending to the 4 Bodies

10
My personal and professional experiences have taught me that the only way to address mental health is holistically. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, I believe it is necessary to attend to all of your bodies—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—in order to achieve wellness.

Race and Abuse in Inpatient Settings: What Happens Behind Locked Doors

11
The problem of staff brutality towards patients on the psych wards disproportionately affects people of color and continues to happen every day behind locked doors.

The Bipolar Rollercoaster: Looking Beyond the Labels

15
Removing assumptions evoked by my family member’s diagnoses has transformed my understanding of their experience and increased my ability to arrive at solutions applicable to their expressed needs.

Creatively Managing Voice-Hearing Through Spiritual Writing

17
I am a psychiatric survivor of over thirty-six years. Since my nervous breakdown in 1978, I have undergone multitudinous experiences ranging from the subtly humiliating to the horrifically debilitating at the hands of incompetent psychiatrists and psychopharmacologists who, in the name of medicine, did more harm than good.
moral compass

WARNING: May Cause Moral Failure

16
As the SNRI molecules sluggishly evacuated my bloodstream and I progressively regained my emotions, the gravity of what I had done descended upon me. I couldn’t believe I had actually been capable of committing several crimes over an extended period of time, without stopping to think about the risks to my wife and kids, or even myself.
story

Truth-Telling and Consequences

21
It’s at that point of asking for help from someone in authority, someone we should be able to trust, that many have their story stolen from them.

My Place in the Crisis

20
Editor's Note: To ensure the security of her job, the author has opted to use only her first name. My relationship with the mental health...

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.

Suicide: Shhhhhh

9
When we have a strong urge to live, it must be very difficult to understand another person’s wish to die. So far, no one has been willing or able to “go there” with me.

Transmuting Historical Trauma

20
I believe that my surges from the unconscious (what some might call “psychotic episodes”) contain an inner wisdom and force that has a tremendous capacity to encourage the healing of intergenerational trauma. This essay explores an energy that is especially potent and accessible during these periods of unconscious spelunking.

Letters to My Doctors (Part 1)

12
I struggle as to how to talk to you guys, and there can be no progress without communication. Today, I am attempting to begin a bridge so that you will not be afraid of me and I will not be afraid of you.

They Call This “Help”

44
“Won’t they know I’m lying?” I asked. “Won’t they know I’m an impostor?” “No,” he said, “not at all. You can tell them you’re suffering from delusions and they’ll believe it almost without question. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any history of psychiatric illness or hospitalization, just make up some nonsense about hearing voices and they’ll swallow the whole thing hook, line and sinker.”
Little Porcupine Goes to the Psych Ward

Little Porcupine Goes to the Psych Ward

25
I was so anxious about having to raise three boys alone that I felt I was going insane. So I thought of going to see a psychiatrist. I was looking for Carl Jung. Instead I found a system where they give you pills, whether you need them or not.
snakes and ladders

Snakes and Ladders: How Psychiatry Took Away My Choices

77
The psychiatric system takes away all choices and freedom and calls the resulting state "mental illness." Psychiatry justifies alienation rather than repairing it.

I am Insane

121
I have been here at Western State Hospital for almost five years. While I’ve been told that I’ve met all the criteria for a conditional release, the hospital won’t grant me this because I can’t prove that I won’t be dangerous in the future. Can anyone prove this? Even convicts don’t have to prove they’re ‘safe’ before they are freed.

I Made It Out Alive

15
There is no replacing the near 30 years that psychiatry took from me and my family. I am now 70 years old and in failing health which I attribute to those damn drugs.

I Am Not the Next Headline in Tragedy

18
I may be psychotic but I am not the next headline in the news. I am thoughtful and questioning. I am different and unique, but I am not violent and my life will never be anyone's tragedy. Would you like to stand with me?

Dear Son: A Mother’s Experience of Psychiatry, Racism and Human Rights

14
I wanted to spare you, my son, from suffering like I did. I wanted to give you every opportunity I could. You have grown into a good man, a caring and successful man, yet you still have to fear for your life in this country. You still feel pain when you see what is happening.
branch light in the darkness

The Light in the Dark

11
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.