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.

I Made It Out Alive

15
There is no replacing the near 30 years that psychiatry took from me and my family. I am now 70 years old and in failing health which I attribute to those damn drugs.

Put Psyche Back Into Psychiatry and Add Psychological Intimacy

9
Dr. Jones spoke to me in a way no doctor ever had. His affect, his demeanor, his presence, lit an ember in the darkness within my soul.

August 20, 1985: The Day My Psychotic Episodes Ended

10
I didn’t know that I had never fully experienced my emotional pain until I was thrown into an altered state. With “psychosis” I plowed through layers and layers of pain, alone in the night.

The Other Side of the Cage

40
My doctor estimates that I have less than a year to live. I do not want my life to end as it began, with trauma, pain and dehumanization. I would like dignity and compassion in my final days.
Wooden pawn-like figures surrounding a gavel

Guardianship Destroyed My Family

37
People who can’t take care of themselves need support and protection, but guardianship provides neither. I know: I've lived it.
trauma informed world

The Year Of Potentiality

13
I lost three years of my life to my first psychosis. I am living proof that your entire world can be smashed into a trillion pieces and you can recover and turn the broken pieces of glass into a kaleidoscope.
regret

Consumer Regret

24
Eventually I realized the drugs were safe and effective—for those prescribing them. Shrinks can never be sued for malpractice since it's "standard care" even if they kill you.
power threat meaning

Fatherland Dreamland Motherland Hinterland

14
I grew up in Rhodesia, a British colony in southern Africa. Until the age of 16, I lived on the grounds of Ingutsheni Mental Hospital where my father worked. As a psychiatrist, he had enormous power.
akathisia suicide

No More Tears: In Memory of Kathleen Fliller

66
My friend Kathleen Fliller ended her life last month. She had written a chronicle of her struggles with psychiatric drug withdrawal and akathisia, which she asked me to share with Mad In America to be published in hopes that it might help others not feel so alone.

Lessons Learned While Sharing About Voice Hearing

5
I slowly recognized that I wanted to fight every single person who used language based on their learned beliefs about “mental illness.” They didn’t know any better—so why did I feel so angry?
sister

“Floss on the Waves”: My Sister’s Journey

8
It takes a long time to recover from a psychotic episode, I understand now, and I wish someone had found a way, especially during those early years of her troubles, to give Rachel more space and time to find her own path to health.

Childhood Gaslighting: When Difference Receives a Diagnosis

10
Aside from the home, school is typically where we learn our worth or lack of it. We learn what we are taught, and how we are taught is often what we are taught.
criminal psychiatry

People Don’t Recover So Spectacularly from Criminal Psychiatry

75
Psychiatry and Catholicism have too much in common, both founded by men, upon questionable source materials. I knew I was in danger, not being helped.
postpartum anxiety

Postpartum Anxiety, Psychiatric Drugs and Paternalism

32
My postpartum anxiety diagnosis became subsumed by an arbitrary diagnosis of depression. And this diagnosis has followed me for 30 years and counting.
reversing diagnosis

Reversing My Diagnosis

15
I was fine until traumatic events collided and pushed me to a state of emotional crisis. Yet I emerged this time as a different person, and knew I had to exit the mainstream mental health system.
NGRI island

NGRI: The Gilligan’s Island of the Criminal Justice System

16
I approached the NGRI system with the belief that my commitment would be short and sweet and that in less than one year I would be back to living in the community. That year turned into nearly two decades.

Breaking with Disorder: The Invisible Flames of Mental Illness Labels

43
These labels left me docile to a broken mental health system—a carceral system that viewed me interchangeably as a patient or an object, but never a person.
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Truth-Telling and Consequences

21
It’s at that point of asking for help from someone in authority, someone we should be able to trust, that many have their story stolen from them.
akathisia

Akathisia: Very Nearly the Death of Me

19
Akathisia is truly an indescribable thing—and has to be one of the most hellish experiences on earth. It’s like your brain is hijacked. Every day I thought could be my last.

My Partner Abused Me. I Was the One Locked Up

14
Every day, psychiatrists in Australia’s mental health system write reports denying the sanity of women who are victims of sexual assault, rape, or domestic violence. I know: I was one of them.

Necessary Powers: How I Became Fire

6
When a person is in hell, surrounded by enemies, without a protector or strong force on their side of any kind, that person needs to become their own powerful spokesperson.
insomnia drugs

Polydrugged With 12 Different Drugs… For Insomnia

27
Before my nightmare with psychiatric medication began, my life was full and happy. But since being prescribed 12 different psychiatric drugs in one year, I have become bedridden, ill and jobless.

Why I Fight for Trauma-Informed Systems

5
I am not sure what was worse: being abused growing up while my community documented—then ignored—my torment, or being attacked for going public with my story.
Photograph of a blue plate shattering

When Treatment Makes You Sick: The Eating Disorder Clinic

6
Eight years after beginning ‘treatment’ for an ‘eating disorder’, I was eating worse than ever. Yet three years after quitting that ‘treatment’, food is a pleasure, not a problem.
trauma-informed exercise

Becoming the Trauma-Informed Trainer I Needed

4
It was my experience, which I later found was supported by research, that exercise had the power to help me heal, but it also had the potential to exacerbate my trauma symptoms.