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.

The Relapsing Peer Supervisor

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Peer supervision is often silent and stigmatizing instead of including necessary, robust discussions around relapse.
domestic violence mental health

I Navigated the Mental Health System and Never Took Medications

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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.
insight

Chasing that Elusive Insight

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The psychiatric concept of insight rests on the assumption that the psychiatrist, designated sane, knows what’s best. But if we question that assumption and consider that the medical model of mental illness may be incorrect, then the question of which party actually possesses insight becomes less clear.

Us, Too: Sexual Violence Against People Labeled Mentally Ill

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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 Mad Priestess: A Call to Healing

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A mad priestess kicks shame and stigma in the teeth, knowing that we can do better. We could be leading the charge for healing—please don’t call it “mental illness” anymore—and take our place as the wounded healers.
forced treatment

“All for the Best of the Patient”

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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.
suzuki book zen buddhism

Searching for Zen and Finding a Cow

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If I had a clinical problem, why was something as ancient and simple as meditation helping me? And if normal positive human habits could be so profoundly useful, why the heck was the field marketing pills and “clinical” coping mechanisms to me instead? This frustration helped me jump ship from the medical mindset and hop into the world of humanity.

My Place in the Crisis

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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...

Suicide: Shhhhhh

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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.

Being Mad is Liberating

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Being mad is liberating. Well, at least with practice and determination, because, let’s face it, being mental (with a confirmed diagnosis) is not a high status on the scale of popularity in our society, defined as it is by the standards of normality.

Letters to My Doctors (Part 1)

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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.

Anesthetized

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At times I dream about meeting those doctors, and telling them how wrong they were when they told me I would always be a very sick person, needing medication my whole life.
psychoeducation angry teacher

“You Are Completely Screwed” – A Firsthand Experience with Psychoeducation

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Around me in the room I could see the different faces lit up by the big whiteboard raised above us. “There are these symptoms...” The psychiatrist would talk for long periods of time, while the nurses would sit quiet, nodding. I became skeptical and thought: “You are trying to talk me into something.”

Waking Up is Hard to Do

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Finally I’m moving in the right direction, rescuing myself from the pernicious grip of psychotropic drugs. It’s been exceptionally challenging, dealing with the adverse physiological reactions my body’s been going through. Waking up may be the toughest thing to do. Ultimately, the way I see it, it’s the only thing to do.
butterflies healing

A Healing Journey: Leaving Psychiatry Behind

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The world calls what was "wrong" with me "bipolar." I prefer the notion that I went through a birth process to become the healer that I am today. I can't be silent because I know there are people like I was who are trapped and may not realize it yet. When they begin to see the prison bars that surround them, I want to be there for them as others were for me.

Missionary Headshrinkers in Gold Canyons: A Survivor’s Perspective

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Missionaries and psychiatrists have failed not through lack of compassion but through lack of willingness to take a long walk and a long, long talk to ask the neighbors what they need and the people what they already know.

One Gutsy Woman

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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.

Compassion and the Voice of the Tormentor

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I'd like to share some personal thoughts on the nature of the Hearing Voices group method, and the insights that this kind of support generates. Through these groups, a tradition of mutual healing is being created that honors subjective experiences, and sharing our stories with each other in this way propels this exciting movement forward.

Not Just Another Stain on the Wall

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During my 96-hour hold in the psych unit—despite that I was rational and a danger to no one—I was made to feel ashamed and somehow unclean. I went home feeling more depressed than ever.
believe

Bloodtime

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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 Journey Through My Daughter’s Madness, My Research, and My Book

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And so I embarked on the darkest journey of my life, one for which neither I nor my husband were prepared. I soon found out that there was no one who could help us. The psychiatrists, even the more sympathetic ones, were not making sense to me. I was coming from the business world and I was not used to accepting superficial answers. They could not tell me what was wrong with Helia and why this had happened to her. They could not answer my challenging questions about the scientific research in the field.
recovery

On Recovery: Scaling the Wall of Fear

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I pray for a rich life, away from the fear of job insecurity, coercive medicine, and false labels. The question still remains as to how to handle societal fears about the ‘mentally ill’. My blessed family are like hypervigilance officers on the watch for the slightest behavioural aberration.

From Self-Harm to Self-Empowerment: Liberation Through Words

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In contemporary U.S. culture, people who intentionally hurt their bodies are called “insane.” We may starve ourselves or carve ourselves, taking to the extreme culturally-embedded norms like thinness in an effort to fight against marginalization or cope with internalized shame. But instead of obtaining the voice or place in society we yearn for, we are further ostracized.

Pills That Steal Generations of Lives

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Suddenly I had an insight into why my dad decided to end his life in 1976. I learned that, like me, he was on antidepressant medication. It seems highly likely that his illness could have been entirely caused by side effects of medication, just like it was with me.

Made It! – Successfully Navigating Both Mainstream and Alternative Treatment for Mental Illness

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I’ve come to understand that a single-minded focus on either therapy or medication can do great, if unintended, harm. I’m sharing this brief history of my journey, with both my good and bad decisions, to illustrate the importance of conscious care, and of maintaining the ability to change course.