We were caught in a tug of war. They wanted my voices gone. I was not going to let go of my voices, my confidants and protectors, regardless of what they did to me. We have the right to hear voices and no longer be hidden away in the attic of taboo and misunderstood experiences. The freedom to hear voices is truly a fundamental human right.
Imagine going to the airport to travel to London, only to find yourself locked in a high-security psychiatric ward a few hours later, paralyzed by psychoactive drugs and deprived of all your belongings. This happened to me, and you will be shocked to learn how easily it could happen to you.
I'd like to be peers with anyone struggling against persecution, anyone struggling toward the promise of dignity and respect for marginalized communities, for freaks and weirdos. To fit the diversity of our experiences, maybe our definitions need to be as flexible and individual as we are.
Forty years after I had first been admitted to the hospital, I was ready to confront my past. So, I sent for my hospital records, and I read them. As an experienced clinician, I recognized immediately what the doctors hadn’t been able to see in 1960: my problem wasn’t ‘schizophrenia’ but PTSD, connected with incest.
I remember clearly thinking, “I’m done. I’m not putting myself through this again.” I wasn’t going to settle for the side effects of a marginally better than placebo treatment again. Here is a brief look into my rollercoaster journey of recovery, returning to work, having my trauma re-triggered, finding a way through, and finally living well.
Overall I learned a great deal during my hospital adventure. The whole experience seemed like a comedy of errors. For me the only people there who were truly out of touch with reality were staff members. All of the patients were very present, albeit in some distress. The reasons for their distress were not unreasonable.
I've never been so proud of such a display of civil disobedience. These heretofore robots, pumped with power sedatives, still possessed human emotions and had, overnight, found a voice to express their discontent. The riots would continue for several more nights and the ward became a chaotic jungle.
It would take decades before I recognized the trauma caused by repeatedly being separated from my mom when she was hospitalized. I grieved almost exactly the way children did who had lost a parent to death. Yet it was grief without closure because my mom was not dead, just... gone.
If the drugs I am prescribed did not benefit me overall, believe me, I would no more take them willingly than I would swallow rat poison. I went through many attempts to wean myself, but invariably the loss of my ability to do art brought me to the place where I went back on them. I remain on them and I want to remain on them.
My prayer to be taken out of my misery was answered, just not the way I used to envision. I managed to escape the system and here I am in the same lifetime, alive and well. I’m slowly getting acquainted with this new setup and am eternally grateful for yet another opportunity at life, which I hope does not slip through my fingers.
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.
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.
The minute you sit down in the chair in a mental health professional's office, you’re no longer seen as a person. The mental health system is incapable of seeing past the solid wall of your current label. Their only cure is drugs. "First Do No Harm" are powerful words. It’s unfortunate they don’t apply to psychiatry.
Editor's Note: To protect the anonymity of her son, this author has published under a pseudonym. With the help of the Internet, my seventeen-year-old son...
A psychiatrist since 1949, I was psychiatrically hospitalized on December 21, 1963 at New York City's Mt. Sinai Hospital. I stayed for three months,...
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.
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.
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.
After working in the field, I have found that the majority of people in the mental health system are not getting adequate care like I received during my first psychotic episode. I was lucky enough to have a doctor who took a nontraditional approach to schizophrenia and worked with me on coming off of medications.
How did I become someone who could barely function? I was a high-performing sales executive ranked in the top 2% of an international business communications company. But now, after using powerful psych meds for depression and anxiety for more than a decade, I couldn’t do basic things like go to the grocery store, plan a meal, make dinner, or get together with friends.
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.
During my periods in forced hospitalization, I did not feel that the psychiatrist understood how much I suffered. When I stayed in solitary, I felt that the earth would vanish. There I was, locked away from my loved ones. I thought I wasn’t allowed by the secret service to talk with anyone. But during my psychosis, I met God, and I found out that God is love.
A year after my twin’s death, I stood in a supermarket and felt my body disintegrating into a thousand pieces. My soul knew it needed the right teacher and helper. Fortunately, I found Open Dialogue. It helped me expose the real childhood trauma, and gradually rebuild my shattered, grief-stricken psyche.
We have all become assembly line workers in the factory of mental health. At the facility, I put in at least 50 hours and live with a constant dread of not having clicked a button, of not having made another phone call, of overlooking the sadness in someone’s eyes. The risk of burnout or empathy fatigue is high, yet the machine hums along.
The drugs combined with my desire to know how life worked and what made a human broke down all past social conditioning of my individual self. I realized I was God. So was everyone else and I shared with anyone who would listen, but found no one who could understand or navigate the territory. There was little internet to speak of then and no Google to find others who experienced life as I was, so I voyaged on my own as best I could.