I began to have transient moments where I would feel oddly disconnected from my environment or wake up and feel like I was coming out of my skin. I did not know it at the time, but I was experiencing interdose benzodiazepine withdrawal and it would end up leading me down a path of polypharmacy.
The problem with being a consumer is that we get consumed. I’ve been the bacon at far too many mental health picnics. Someone’s salary gets paid, someone’s program gets funded, someone’s career gets enhanced, someone gets accolades for being so altruistic and such a great savior — and me, what do I get? Exposed, laid bare, and isolated.
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.
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.”
I was going to leave the 'mental health' system on my terms, with all the paperwork proving them wrong. Or I was going to run for my life with an open diagnosis, hoping I would survive withdrawal. As I surveyed the landscape for any other path, there was only institutionalization. There was no template for what I had to do... so I made it up.
My life flashed before my eyes as my entire medical history over the last decade was rewritten from having a genetic brain disease to being a victim of a medical scam. It was bittersweet, for I realized that I was not sick and dying, but I had been robbed of so many years of my life due to the psychiatrist’s lies. Now I am suing my former psychiatrist for damages.
My sincere message to those whose vitality and lives have been sapped and zapped by this iatrogenic dis-order: most of us DO recover! And even if it is not without some benzo remnants lodged in our cellular memory, what we learn about our own resilience will guide us to places in our lives we didn't expect to reach. HOPE was my key through the arduous path of withdrawal and recovery.
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.
At my job as an inpatient mental health counselor, I had to confront the reality of a hospitalization system with serious and devastating flaws. I felt immensely powerless and understood how my coworkers could end up so negligent, numb, and at times abusive. And I understood how patients could become violent or self-injurious after years in these dismal hospitals.
To be a parent of a suicidal child is to be in a terrible position, where you hold in your hands the life most valuable to you and know that any slip of your hands may end that life. In the 1970s, my suicidality was treated nonmedically and I lived. In the 2000s, my daughter Martha’s suicidality was treated medically and she died.
I have grown a lot through my experiences, and would not have made the changes I have made, nor be the person I am today, had my madness not returned a second time. It returned because I did not pay enough attention to the wake-up call the first time around.
I am a former Lieutenant in the US Navy, and on August 30, I sent a letter to the US Senate and House Committees on Armed Services, and their respective committees on Veterans' Affairs. I titled the letter "Concerning Mental Health Treatment and Suicide in the United States Armed Forces and the Veteran Community." Here is what I wrote:
I still believe I was Anne Frank in my past life, and nothing is wrong with such a belief. I am no longer Buddha, though, because they crashed my spiritual awakening when it was happening. But I go on. I deserve to be happy. I have a family to think of, I want to contribute to society on some level. I want to live. They won’t crash me. Or so I hope.
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.
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.
I had managed to get off the drugs again, this time with practically no withdrawal reactions other than some disturbances to my sleep which eventually settled down. I truly feel that I have been given a second chance because I am aware of how many people struggle terribly with these drugs just as I did.
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.
Although I have usually been the one suffering from side effects, with others watching on, the roles were reversed in this incident. Seeing my mother impaired caused me heartache, and I am now rethinking my treatment regimen. Is this stuff good for me for the long term? Is this the only stuff that can help me, or is there an alternative?
Somehow, something I had said in this “secret” Facebook group had been made known. And now, at almost midnight, a cop was banging at the door of the lady who had been keeping me safe in a secret place. How did a “secret” Facebook conversation bring the cops to an address I didn’t have to perform a suicide prevention “welfare check”? Here’s what their “safe” meant to my safety.
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.
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?
I have nothing good to say about the psychiatric drugs prescribed to me or about the psychiatrists that prescribed them. I did not have a condition that needed to be medicated. There was no informed consent about the severe and indefinite damage that the drugs caused me, and I did not have the appropriate help withdrawing from them.
Although I left Ueckermünde without the ability to speak, heavily traumatized and barely able to move, I managed to reclaim life after more than a decade. Today I am one of the few witnesses who survived the Hell of Ueckermünde, who can tell the story of my companions and raise awareness of the injustice committed against us as well as demand answers.
Watching my son be subjected to continuous harm by the drugs, how can I pretend that it's okay to maintain this abusive system of care? Who will push for accountability? As a mother, I want to share a meaningful connection with my son. I want to witness him happy, healthy and living the life he chooses.
Ironically, my post-traumatic stress disorder no longer stems from the events that led to my hospitalizations, but from the maltreatment I received within the hospitals. Now, every time I take my medication late or miss a dose, I feel the unsettling presence of dissociation creeping in, the terrifying panic of losing my mental bearings and being rehospitalized.