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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Editor's Note: The author has written her story using a different name. Here, she's explained why: "In my country, Poland, the stigma attached to the...
I am a psychiatric survivor of over thirty-six years. Since my nervous breakdown in 1978, I have undergone multitudinous experiences ranging from the subtly humiliating to the horrifically debilitating at the hands of incompetent psychiatrists and psychopharmacologists who, in the name of medicine, did more harm than good.
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.
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.
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.
This was my son’s answer when I was questioning him, trying desperately to find out what was going on in his mind. Why did...
Being mad is liberating. Well, at least with practice and determination, because, let’s face it, being mental (with a confirmed diagnosis) is not a high status on the scale of popularity in our society, defined as it is by the standards of normality.
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.
Six months ago, I was just starting in a position called "Treatment Team Coordinator" at a secure residential treatment facility. In my home state,...
In July 2006, I wrote about Electroconvulsive Therapy and stated, “If I had the opportunity to have another series of treatments I would do...
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.