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.

Corrections Officers, Not Clinicians

15
Six months ago, I was just starting in a position called "Treatment Team Coordinator" at a secure residential treatment facility. In my home state,...

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.

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.

To My Black Crows of Wisdom

7
Some might wonder why I'm still stumbling in the desert when there are cars and jobs and museums downtown, but really, the turquoise dawn is in the canyons. The thing is, my people seem to need this nutrition, the rarified medicine of this particular cactus and that specific root that I haven't found anywhere else.

A Thief in the Hospital

16
I knew by then that there was a thief, but I tried not to rush to conclusions. I couldn’t even think of the possibility that it could be one of the staff. They go into the field in order to help people.

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.

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.
Boy with wings in the field in the afternoon against the blue sky

Trying to Fly Above—An Example of Sequencity

2
I consider synchronicity and sequencity connections to be gifts. The meaning involved is often much deeper and more personal than other people will recognize.

My Recovery from ‘Schizophrenia’ through Psychotherapy and Writing

7
I was never told directly that I had 'schizophrenia', and I am very glad about this. I know I was feeling bad, very bad, and was unsure of what to do, but I don’t see how a diagnosis could have helped me at that time. What could I have done with it? To be marked with a label like that would likely have caused me to rebel even more.

Voicehearing, Reinaldo, and My Work as The Writer

5
The Writer has outlined a significant work through my hands, dictated by the voice of someone who lived at some point a long time ago, such as London in 1682 A.D.

Missionary Headshrinkers in Gold Canyons: A Survivor’s Perspective

14
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.

Did Something Happen?! The Power of Poetry in Telling My Son’s Story

4
It's hard, if not impossible, to impose on my son’s story any kind of literary “sense.” As a writer and a mother both, this has been my challenge. 

Words from My Heart to ‘My Heart’: What Might Have Helped My Late Friend?

6
More than two and a half years later, I’m still processing my grief, still picturing our happiness and innocence as kids, and still acknowledging our struggles and pain.

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

46
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.

My Red October – An Army Veteran’s Crucible to Recovery

7
After my VA mental health team prescribed Prozac, I began experiencing rapidly escalating behavioral changes. The drug was never considered as a potential cause.
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.

The Wind Never Lies

29
When I was young I believed the world spoke to me.  Lightning split across the sky to the pulse of my thoughts.  Rings around...

Did Electroshock Save my Life?

15
In July 2006, I wrote about Electroconvulsive Therapy and stated, “If I had the opportunity to have another series of treatments I would do...

Reconstruction: A Recovery Narrative

25
When I read recovery stories, I am sometimes challenged by the prospect of thinking about my life in linear terms, "Here are the years...

Being Mad is Liberating

0
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.
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.

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

41
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.

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?

Polypharmacy Poisoning, Dependence and Recovery from the Psychiatric Paradigm

54
It took surviving all of the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, including derealization, gastritis, auditory hallucinations, wasting, dementia, panic attacks and profound depression, for me to come to understand that not only had I really been a cool person before all that shit, but also that nothing was wrong with me. I was smart and a little neurotic at times, but that was it. Drugs caused me to be mentally ill where I had not been before.

Engaging Voices, Part 2: Working Our Way Toward Connection

2
Sam Ruck shares his fourth excerpt from his book Healing Companions, which describes his life with, and love for, his wife and her “alters.”