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.

One Gutsy Woman

19
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.

Letters to My Doctors (Part 2)

4
Why am I whole when I dance and paint but deathly ill when faced by a European/American medical mechanic? Why was I locked in a room for a week in the first place? Was it to heal? Or was it to fill a bed?

Psychiatry Almost Drove Me Crazy

8
I am a survivor of severe psychiatric abuse. There was a year or so in the early 1980’s when I was in and out...

A Tale of Two Cousins

51
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.

Reclaiming My Voice

22
Everything was not okay, but how could I possibly explain? That I don’t belong here. That I am a phony, a fraud. That I am damaged beyond repair and unsuitable for this work. I felt it happening again: the pressure building in my chest and the tears burning my throat at the prospect of someone discovering my deepest, darkest secret. The precursor to my entire life falling apart.

Letters to My Doctors (Part 3)

2
Rape is to Love what Bombs are to Peace and what Behavioral Eugenics are to Mental Health. So I choose noncompliance with psychiatric force.

Our Day in Mental Health Court

49
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.

A Mental Patient’s View of the Body

7
In 20 years of inpatient hospitalization, the psychiatrists that I encountered focused almost exclusively on treating my diseased mind and had no concept or interest in the body. While the wheels of “progress” turn slowly in mental health, I hope that along with ongoing advocacy there will be a focus on responsible health counseling and supporting people in healthier eating and living.

Dissolving Madness, Ending the Nightmare, Beginning a Better Dream

48
Much of what we term “madness” is, in fact, the awakening of the "Self" to its own Wholeness/Divinity. We are born totally pure. Throughout our lives we are subject to projections, flung at us from a multitude of directions: from Mom and Dad, from schools, religious institutions, the media, and the medical model. We are all buried, to some degree, under projections, and interesting symptoms emerge: nightmares, stress and anxiety, fear, flashbacks, and so on. These are not "Madness," but symptoms of health; of a "Self" attempting to break free from lies.

Just Me: A Series of Reflections on Trauma, Motherhood, and Psychiatry

22
It took coming off psychotropic drugs completely for me to become awake. I had the doctor I was seeing wean me off, though she didn’t want to (instead she suggested I take different drugs.) But here I am almost two years later and I am feeling all of my emotions and managing them well. I knew best what I needed, and I trusted myself. Life has shown me that I can endure many trials and tribulations without giving up, and I trust myself today to reach out for help if I need it.

Not Seen

58
I am The Invisible Woman. A woman with a nice enough bag, a calm demeanor, and well-put-together clothes (they are not “odd,” they attract no attention). You might see me walking my dog near where I live, smiling at my neighbors, making small talk. People make all sorts of comments to me about the crazies. It never occurs to them that I might be among this so-called population.

Heteronormative Violence of Mainstream Psychiatry: A Cautionary Tale

39
I was in a form of reparative therapy in British Columbia, Canada, for six years, after which I filed a medical malpractice suit against my former psychiatrist, “Dr. Alfonzo,” for treating my homosexuality as a disease. If these new laws are to be criticized, it is that the use of “change” therapies on people older than 18 should be prohibited as well. I was 24 when I met Dr. Alfonzo, 31 when I left his therapy, and almost 40 when the lawsuit ended in an out-of-court settlement in 2002. Nearly twenty years after leaving the therapy, I am still affected by the consequences of those six years of “treatment.”

My Journey to Freedom, A Three-Part Story

18
I have written this story, a story of Exodus to Freedom, a thousand times. I retell it to myself late at night while I lie on my air mattress. In the mornings I may recall these amazing events while running along the beach straight into the sunrise. I walk my dog and tell the story again, hoping passers-by don’t think I’m talking to myself, lest I be called “loco.” But that has never happened. The one aim I had when coming to Uruguay has come true: Not one person here considers me crazy.
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.
hearing voices scribbles

Advice on Coping With Voices

16
What are some tactics used by voices, and what can you do about it? I hope the suggestions in this piece can help desperate voice-hearers become more understanding of the forces behind their agony, and perhaps bring a more enlightened perspective to the chemically-lobotomizing tendencies of their psychiatrists who treat voices with more medication.

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...
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.
weight loss eating disorders

Your Weight is Forbidden Fruit

16
In inpatient eating disorders care, we were required to step on the scale but were not allowed to know what we weighed. We were told it was “against recovery” to know our weight; that knowing it would surely cause a devastating relapse.

Compassion and the Voice of the Tormentor

20
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.
believe

Bloodtime

17
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.
drug pushers

Keeping Meili Off Psychiatric Drugs

17
We first came under pressure to give our developmentally disabled and autistic daughter a psychiatric drug when she was in her mid-teens. She was attending a local school for autistic children but was unable to adapt to their program, and we were urged to consult a psychiatrist. What enabled us to resist the pressure to put our daughter on drugs?

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

5
After my VA mental health team prescribed Prozac, I began experiencing rapidly escalating behavioral changes. The drug was never considered as a potential cause.
search for santa

Strange Gifts and the Search for Santa Claus

5
It used to be that the times when Santa Claus would show up were times when I was worrying about whether or not I had the right kind of medicine. I know when I see him that he is the medicine, and that he is showing me how to live.
turtle reason to live

Simple Things

24
Sometimes it's the simple things that keep us going, especially when the complicated ones seem so overwhelming; when there's too much chaos, too many emotions, too many possibilities and impending disasters. No one can give you a reason to live. You have to find it for yourself. Until you do, try simple things. For me, it was a turtle.

Recovering Myself

6
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...