I am so thankful that my brain healed from the damage caused by psychiatric medications. Most importantly, finding my purpose in life and living an authentic life helped to ground me and prevent further psychosis. Psychosis is the psyche’s cry for transformation and healing. When one listens to the call, one is brought from darkness to light.
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.
I was sixteen and going on seventeen and I had never gone crazy before. I think the most startling aspect of it is how...
In my case, an uninformed diagnosis resulted in a near lifetime of mistreatment and misunderstanding. How does one account for such a significant error? Having my diagnosis changed has felt very liberating, but it hasn’t much reduced the effect of the stigma I’ve internalized.
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.
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.
Imagine my excitement, the hope that relief from the sucking tar of misery that dogged too many of my days was within my reach. From that moment and for thirty years to follow, I was the willing guinea pig for any number of drugs. Nothing helped for long.
I made journaling non-negotiable. I started sitting in nature and running trails. I practiced being present and prioritized sleep. These things are often seen as what you do if your problems aren’t really that bad. But to me, these are the things I do to save myself every day.
If I had a clinical problem, why was something as ancient and simple as meditation helping me? And if normal positive human habits could be so profoundly useful, why the heck was the field marketing pills and “clinical” coping mechanisms to me instead? This frustration helped me jump ship from the medical mindset and hop into the world of humanity.
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.
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.
I’d like you to get to know me as you read this. I think I have an important personal story to tell. Frankly, I...
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.
I may be psychotic but I am not the next headline in the news. I am thoughtful and questioning. I am different and unique, but I am not violent and my life will never be anyone's tragedy. Would you like to stand with me?
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?
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?
Back in 1983, I put myself in a mental ward. I desperately wanted help with my eating disorder, but no one took these types of problems seriously back then. The ward was rather nice, so I returned many times. Nothing good ever came of it, but I always hoped this time, it will do some magic. Every time I left, I'd realize my eating problems hadn't been solved at all.
The people that my son and I continued to consult with over the years didn't talk of mental illness as a brain disease, a chemical imbalance, or a problem with one's genes. Depending on the therapy, they spoke in terms of restoring life force energy, changing cellular vibration, learning to listen and understand, and building a self.
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.
As I continued to work in the human services field, I often found myself confronted with my past. I would hear colleagues talk about “borderlines” or describe clients as “low-functioning,” “manipulative”, or “emotionally fifteen”, and I would wonder how people were supposed to start feeling better about themselves when this was how they were seen by those who were there to help them. It seemed that our mental health system had become so focused on symptoms and finding out what was wrong with people, that we had forgotten to look for what was right, how to bring out a person’s strengths.
There were days that I’d wake up and all I could do was cry for no particular reason, just another miserable day of withdrawal. However, the idea of taking photos would get me out of the house. Especially on those days, the absolutely only thing that would get me to move at all was the idea of taking photos. One particular day, I was just crying, crying, crying, and as soon as I got to a beautiful spot that I loved, I stopped crying, took photos, and felt at peace. I even found that the days I felt the worst were the days I took the best photos.
The following are some excerpts from my journal about my inpatient experience. Please know that the people in that hospital often reached out to one another in beautiful ways, but overall felt frustrated and stressed due to an oppressive and sterile environment with little positive reinforcement.
I wanted to spare you, my son, from suffering like I did. I wanted to give you every opportunity I could. You have grown into a good man, a caring and successful man, yet you still have to fear for your life in this country. You still feel pain when you see what is happening.
I’ve come to understand that a single-minded focus on either therapy or medication can do great, if unintended, harm. I’m sharing this brief history of my journey, with both my good and bad decisions, to illustrate the importance of conscious care, and of maintaining the ability to change course.
When I was born, everyone was expecting me to have arms. The doctor's mind raced; how am I going to tell this mother and the father that their son has hands but not arms? If he's missing so much in his extremities, mustn’t he also be missing a mind? My mom looked into my eyes and knew - in a way that only mothers know - that I had a mind, and spirit.