Thursday, March 23, 2023

Comments by julia26

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  • so if Robert had added an appendix to his article along the lines of:
    “Please note that Israel is an apartheid state where arabs are persecuted etc. etc.” then you would have been happy?
    Or, you want to take Susan’s argument all the way and totally ignore the existence of Soteria in the Holy Land because it’s in the State of Israel? Wow! Let’s all NOT learn from people who do good things if they do bad things as well! How enlightened!

  • I think you’re deliberately missing the point.
    Here on MIA we have a concentration of well-informed people who are full of energy and enthusiasm – but it doesn’t seem to translate into anything other than telling each other the same thing over and over.
    I do what I can – which isn’t much, given that I don’t live in Europe or the U.S., have zero spare money, and am busy raising a household with 7 children under the age of 10. But even if I could do more, what is lacking is not individuals doing what they can, but organized, planned action.

  • Szasz did a lot of good work, wrote a lot of good books.
    Where did it get us?
    All of you people write lots of good stuff – to people who already believe that “there is no such thing as mental illness.”
    Great! Now that we all agree, can we also agree that there is no point in telling each other another million times the same thing?
    Can we agree that in order to achieve something we have to do something?

  • What sort of action?
    Something that can reach 10s of 1000s of people. I’ve written before about Bonnie Burstow’s new book against ECT – that’s an example of something that can reach many in an easy-to-swallow format, for people who won’t read scholarly articles (or even non-fiction blogs) but will read a story.

    The thing is, there have always been options people used for an easy way out instead of dealing with their issues in a productive way. In the past it was alcohol, or opium, or kava-kava etc. All those things had their nasty side effects, though nothing like modern psych drugs. Even when communities were more supportive, families were intact and even extended, there were still people who felt things were too much to cope with either once in a while, or all the time. And going the route of “Drop the Zoloft – drink a few glasses of wine instead” is probably not going to work.

    Wow, I really thought that someone, finally, might suggest something productive – that’s pretty disheartening that nobody so far has had anything to offer.

    We could print leaflets to hand out to college freshmen that outline the kind of issues they might face, and what non-drug solutions they might consider, and the real issues with using drugs instead. That’s one suggestion.
    We could fundraise to put out ads on TV or whatever people do these days.
    We could organize groups of people damaged by drugs and start up class-action lawsuits, and find lawyers who will represent us pro bono.

    I’m not so much in the loop as I live in the Middle East so there are people who know much better than me. But all I hear is silence… so, keep on waiting for that tipping point, and meanwhile how many more people are going to die?
    I at least never got myself on drugs despite my own “mental health” issues, and got my spouse off drugs, and talk to anyone I know who will listen. That’s about all I can do. But I don’t count commenting on MIA as positive action. Sorry…

  • Hi Julie. I didn’t know there was an “ED community.” Back when I “was anorexic” I don’t think I would have wanted to be part of any such community, and today I for sure wouldn’t want to.
    In fact, anorexia removed me from society even more than I already was. When you can’t eat with other people, then you are so obviously different, so you avoid people – at least, that was my experience, though I was already quite different in many ways before, as well.
    I agree that “EDs” can appear simply as a result of dieting. Studies have shown this result when people were forced into semi-starvation. But I think that there can be a lot more to it as well. There is a definite sense of “reward” from starving oneself that is very satisfying in a way. Being constantly hungry can be similar to being on a high. I don’t think people start starving themselves to get that feeling – who would guess that being hungry can be so “enjoyable”? – but once you’re in it, it’s one of the things that keep you there.
    I think also that one of the big motivators is feeling that one has to earn the right to exist, that one doesn’t have a natural, inborn right to live and thrive. For me, I trace that back to my parents’ ambivalence about bringing a child into the world that would cost them so much money, though of course I can never prove that, as they are hardly likely to admit to such feelings. Therefore, “anorexics” will “earn” the right to eat by exercising first, by starving all day in order to “deserve” an evening meal, etc. Of course this is not really conscious at the time. These are things I realized many years later.
    About the “perfectionism”: I definitely wanted to feel that “I was all right.” Not perfect in general, but perfect within the tiny little box of eating-exercise regimen that I set up around myself. Nothing else in the entire world interested me in those years. Of course it was an artificial, delusional construct that makes absolutely no sense at all, but there it is. Perhaps it is similar to the person “with OCD” who “knows that everything’s okay as long as I wash my hands 20 times an hour.” I don’t know.
    I see that I was blessed to have lived in England during those years, not the US, because pills were not given to anorexics then. Maybe they are now, I don’t know. I do know that part of me wanted to be forcibly fed, because then I would not have to justify my food consumption and could feel at ease in the sensation of eating and becoming satiated. Of course, that would not have cured the underlying problems, although perhaps regaining a more normal weight would have allowed my brain to function more capably.
    Therapists – so useless, and I am blessed that the only therapist I had was not worse than useless. He just let me talk and took notes. The nurse weighed me, and that was it. Nobody noticed that my “weight gain” was faked by drinking increasingly more cups of water each time – up to 18 I think. When I reached 18 cups and my weight “didn’t increase” I first contemplated suicide. Because now I would have to tell my parents (I was 17) and something unknown and scary would happen. In the end, I told them, and the result was that I was under house arrest, but an arrest so imperfect that I found it easy to break out every single day, in order to exercise compulsively. I hated deceiving my parents, hated lying to them, hated being “forced” to exercise and to avoid eating when I was so hungry – but the alternative was too scary to contemplate.
    The alternative? Was unknown. It meant knowing how to live spontaneously and not feel guilty about it. What if I ate too much? I would be “all wrong” and feel so flawed. In my delusional system, I “knew I was okay” if I exercised a certain amount, ate no more than a certain amount. Anything outside that would make me “not okay.” And being “not okay” was worse than death.
    How does one get from there to here? It’s really hard to know, although one incident stands out in my mind. It was during a class in a post-high school program. The teacher asked me a question, and I couldn’t remember the answer and sat there in silence. One of my classmates turned round to me with such an expression of sympathy on her face – this was over 20 years ago and I remember it so well. I have no idea why, but I am convinced that her caring about me – and we weren’t even really friends – was a turning point that made me feel somehow worthy.
    Were my parents so evil that they never made me feel worthy? Not in an obvious way at all, and not intentionally either. However, it’s not good enough for parents to say, “I didn’t know.” They should be trying harder to figure things out when it becomes obvious that one or more of their kids has a problem. They should look to themselves as the source. I write this as a parent who tries to practice this myself. Not in order to place blame, but in order to take responsibility and do something about it.
    Of course “society” is also “to blame” in the sense that it’s a tough world out there. But I think 99% starts at home with “good enough” (or not) parenting. And that might include relocating to a community with more healthy norms if the place where one lives is not conducive to bringing up healthy, adjusted children (whatever that means). (And yes, finding a place where women are not objectified and there is no pressure to be thin is not easy, but it is possible. And the pressure to be thin is certainly only a small part of the story of anorexia.)
    There’s so much more, but this comment is too long already.
    I hope that one day, I might be able to help someone else with what I’ve learned.

  • The young man you describe as “reasonable” – well, if you asked him, i think he would say he was suffering. I don’t think he would be enjoying his “psychosis” whatever you like to call it. Maybe you could tell him, “There’s nothing wrong with you! In fact, you’re prime material to become a shaman!” But he doesn’t live in Africa. He lives in NYC and wants to be able to function.
    You are very eloquent in your arguments that “there’s no such thing as mental illness” etc. and somehow, i’m beginning to wonder if you have any first-hand experience with “madness.” Sorry, but it’s not something you can let go along its merry way. Things don’t usually end up so merry if you try that. Laing didn’t do that either. He recognized the need for a place to “chill.” Call it what you like, but there is a problem to be dealt with. The question of prosecuting psychiatrists for crimes against humanity is unrelated. Why do you have to conflate the 2 issues all the time?

  • How about making a study of what sends people for the first time to psych services? Maybe such a study already exists?
    Or, a study of the key differences between our culture and another culture that has a lot more success dealing with emotional crises, and seeing what we can learn and implement.
    My guess is that one key issue is going to be the breakdown of the two-parent family. Another would be a lack of outside support for the nuclear family, meaning that even spouses that stay together make demands on one another that in more traditional societies would devolve onto outside helpers.
    My sense from so many blogs and comments on MIA is that a lot of people here have good, even devoted friends, but that it’s just not the same as being in a committed relationship, of having family around.
    And of course part of having family is having them even when you think you don’t want to have them – of dealing with them because they’re family rather than withdrawing from a friend who has become too needy/irritable/whatever else.
    Of course friends can and often do come through in a crisis, but life is made up of more than crises and not having a day-in-day-out relationship adds a lot of stress to life that people may not even be aware of, because it has become normal today. Historically, it’s not normal for people to live alone, to not marry at all or only in their 30s, to have only a one or two children.

  • Universities are actually a great place to start focusing attention, as for many people, it’s their first time without a support system around them. So, where could they go when they’re in emotional crisis, other than the ER? Some will go to a religious figure. Others to a trusted friend. And the rest? Can we print leaflets with helpful advice? Set up a hotline with volunteers to give support? Other ideas?

  • Your points are interesting but hardly conclusive.
    The Holocaust for the vast majority of those targeted was not dependent on psychiatrists or those who trained in psychiatric centers. Mengele was a “regular doctor.” The mobile killing squads who murdered hundreds of thousands if not more in Eastern Europe were not trained by psychiatrists or even informed by them.
    I fail to understand what you think you are achieving by trying to score points on the back of the Holocaust. If you want to say, “Some psychiatrists in the past have used their profession to rid the world of people they saw as undesirable,” okay. But why do you have to push your argument to ridiculous proportions?
    And to the person who wrote that “some things are worse than death,” I couldn’t agree more. I think that if I had the choice between watching my children starve to death in a ghetto, and taking Zyprexa at high doses, I would take the drugs. But Holocaust victims weren’t given that choice.

  • You keep writing a lot of sense, but your voice is drowned out here on MIA by people who seem to be more interested in sowing hate and promoting revolution – and, as history shows, revolutions are usually violent and tend to hand power to the people with the least scruples about using violent means, and not the people most devoted to the ideology of the cause.
    Some people write about a tipping point when there are less than 2000 people even reading this article.
    Few of the commenters have even answered the questions posed by the author of the article.
    And several seem to be determined to make sure that everyone “knows that psychiatric survivors have a monopoly on suffering.”
    Frankly, I think it’s become a waste of time to read or comment on articles here. It’s become a place to vent, blame, and vilify. I wish the few people here who want to do something productive would start up their own website – and not just a website, but a real program for action.

  • No, psychiatric genocide was a part of the Holocaust, which was about getting rid of “undesirables” of whom Jews were the primary category. But you didn’t find “schizophrenics” confined to ghettos, forbidden to enter public parks, deprived of all their legal rights, informed on by their neighbors, killed in pogroms even after the war ended, hunted with no place to go, their children also targeted…
    Your comments are not merely contrary to actual history, they are an insult to Jews who suffered – sorry to say it for you – much more than psychiatric survivors suffer today, on average. If you really want to dispute that, go do so with David Irving. I have nothing more to say to you.

  • That’s a bizarre reading of history. Yes, the Nazis also wanted to eliminate the “mentally ill.” But their hatred of the Jews was unrelated to that, and the Jews were their primary target. You only have to read Mein Kampf to get that. Maybe I am missing something, but anti-Semitism does somewhat predate psychiatry and it is ridiculous to say that the Nazis would not have exterminated Jews without psychiatry.
    I’m not a Holocaust survivor, but if I were, I would find the comparison deeply disturbing. Making such statements doesn’t do the anti-psychiatry movement any favors and will alienate many, imho.
    Peter Breggin does much wonderful work. You may want to call him “the conscience of psychiatry” but that is just your personal opinion. “Psychiatry” is not evil or good. It is only a tool in people’s hands, which, like any tool, can be used for good or evil. There are (admittedly very few, but they exist) times when drugs have their uses, just like so many people on MIA support legalizing cannabis for its potential benefits.

  • So, you agree that the general public is not listening. Doesn’t anyone have any good ideas for what to do about that?
    Without that, the journalism and legal aid doesn’t help. I once wrote and saw published a series of anti-drug articles. Reader response was negative. People are brainwashed. They are scared.
    My in-laws would rather my husband divorced me than he got off medication at my persuasion (they don’t know that he is currently off). They are scared at what he might look like when not drugged, because of what happened in the past in withdrawal (gradual). It is scary. How many people know how to deal with it? How many people can take “time out” of life to deal with all the suppressed stuff? Most people are just keeping their heads above water as it is. If you have kids, then you can’t just disappear to detox for a half year or however long. So people are trapped in this. Let’s see someone with a viable solution – waiting, waiting, waiting…

  • That’s the thing – people are “stumbling into” psych offices because they don’t have some other place to stumble into. In the past, it might have been a pastor, a spouse… today, marriage is usually a disaster, religion has been dumped, friends believe in drugs, so what’s left?
    So, we’ll abolish psychiatry. And then people will just stumble around? And? End up in jail?

  • It’s great that you brought up the example of Bonnie Burstow, Julie. She’s actually doing something that potentially could achieve something big for the anti-psych movement, namely, publishing a book that can reach thousands of people in an easily accessible way. Breggin and Whitaker have also put out books that people read, but a novel is likely to attract many more readers who would not pick up a non-fictional work.
    We can abolish psychiatry (probably only via a bloody revolution, and we don’t have enough supporters to push that through, but never mind that for now) but if there isn’t something better instead, society’s fear of “madness” will just find another way to make us “other,” as we see throughout history. Once we were called witches, or demons, or devils, or possessed, or evil, or immoral, or lazy… Few are the examples where we were treated with compassion and helped to heal. Especially in the developed world.
    “Realistically” speaking it’s hopeless, but we can still try for changes via educating people at the grassroots level and getting them to reject the psych paradigm. Yes, there is a problem of forced treatment. But, many people want treatment because they don’t see an alternative. Can we provide it? Can we tell them what they can do instead? And can we get the message out in an effective way? Commenters and bloggers here have a lot of passion but it just doesn’t seem like they are channeling it effectively.

  • Well, I’m not familiar with the history. I don’t think the majority of parents with “ADHD” kids are either. For the record, I also don’t believe there is a disease called ADHD. BUT THE MISERY OF KIDS WHO DON’T SUCCEED IN SCHOOL IS REAL. For the most part, they WANT to be able to learn like their peers. Telling them, “You’re not sick, just different,” or however else you want to put it, just isn’t going to help much if at all. They want solutions, not ideologies. Guess which option a kid is going to choose if you tell him either, “You have a problem and can take a vitamin cocktail to deal with it – it will help,” or “You don’t have a problem, so just chill – who cares if you can’t read?”

    Maybe in years past kids didn’t have to sit through boring classes and they did just fine in life. So what? Today’s reality is different. My kids would have a miserable life if they couldn’t read fluently, and I would be an abusive mother if I didn’t get them the help they need to acquire the necessary skills in life.

    Once people get used to the idea that some “ADHD” is treatable by nutrients, the next – easy – step is to say, “By the way, it isn’t ADHD if a B-vitamin supplement cures it. What do you say?” And the final step, “By the way, ADHD is just a description of a variety of symptoms, as you can see from your own kid’s experience,” will follow on naturally – and so much more easily than by following your method of proofs and rebuttals and whatever else.

    This is why I call your method utopian. It sounds great, makes some sort of sense, but in the real world, there are much better ways of doing things in order to reach the goals both of us are aiming for.

  • Thank you for a great article.
    When I was a teenager, I was “anorexic” (which I put in “” in order to avoid the censure of all those who hate labels of any kind). I was, obviously, starving, and nutrient-deprived. Resuming a healthy, sufficient diet enabled me to address the emotional issues that brought on the “anorexia.” I was unable to do so in a starved state.
    My husband’s “psychosis” and “schizophrenia” is kept at bay by many things, definitely including large doses of B vitamins and other pills. When he is stable, he can deal with issues. When he is not, he can’t.
    Unfortunately, there are those on this site who think that the only problem that needs dealing with is that people think there is such a thing as mental illness. Call it what you like, but people go through stuff, and it affects them. The mind and body are intimately connected and who cares what comes first, the nutritional imbalance or the emotional instability? If the vitamins help, go for it.

  • While you are right in a sense, there are 2 ways to address this question. One is looking to make utopia on earth; the other is dealing with the reality we are in.
    I’m making a pretty safe guess that you don’t have school-age children. Homeschooling is beyond most people’s means and ability. It’s so easy to bash people who propose a less-than-perfect “solution” to a real problem, especially when it’s not something that you are personally dealing with.
    By the way, what are you doing, in practical terms, in order to enable the myriad parents out there who would love to provide their children with an optimal education yet are unable to do so? Talk is oh-so cheap. Surely a partial solution is better than a lot of idealistic hot air.

  • I take your point. So, the question remains: What can we do to combat the megabucks invested in their version of the story? They are offering hope in the form of a pill. What can we offer? Even if we could persuade everyone that the pills are killing them, what do we have to offer instead?
    There will be no successful revolution without painting a picture of the better tomorrow it can bring. Yes, many people will do much better without drugs even if they don’t have the support system they really do need. But it’s not going to be enough to tell them that. Pills offer the illusion that “everything’s going to be fine now.” So what do we have to offer instead?

  • The person is then brain-damaged.
    They may indeed never be the same again.
    But the brain is very resilient and if stroke survivors can recover use of paralyzed limbs, certainly psychiatric survivors can recover use of their brain cells.
    Achieving a measure of recovery from iatrogenic brain injury will probably in all cases entail a complete severance from all psychiatry. In other words, keep away from doctors. They will tell you that a) the brain-damage is “really the disease coming back” and b) you need the pills for life to prevent relapse.
    The truth is what Dr. Breggin writes: This is the time to turn to other methods. A support system; nutrition and exercise; a new focus on life looking for meaning and purpose rather than happiness (my input, not Dr. Breggin’s).

  • Great! Let’s abolish psychiatry! No more “meds,” no more “doctors of the mind.”
    But let’s also stop writing as if no more psychiatry means no more human suffering.
    In the 19th century, many people dealt with their distress by turning to opium (among other things). That was usually their ticket out of society and into the dregs. Many of them ended up in prison or dead. They were also marginalized by society who feared and loathed them. Okay, they weren’t told that they have permanent brain diseased. But their emotional distress disabled them nonetheless.

    We have to take the fight that one step back – identifying the REAL causes of “mental illness,” making “mentally ill” people human again, humans who go through stuff and don’t always get the support they need to make it out the other side.

  • Getting rid of forced treatment would be excellent.
    But – does anyone know what the relative percentages are of people forced onto treatment (drugs or incarceration) versus those who go seeking drugs?
    My guess is that the latter group massively outweighs the former.
    And in an environment where a large majority supports the idea that drugs help, a correspondingly large majority will support the idea that some people need to be “helped” forcibly, “for their own good.”
    How can we counter the megabucks invested in pushing the “drugs are the solution” narrative?

    Also, I suggest that the once-upon-a-time there was less “mental illness” is more to do with the breakdown of communities; the breakdown of conventional morality; the pursuit of happiness as a goal in life – than anything else, including big business. They just hooked up with something that was already happening – they didn’t create this mess. We did.

  • “It would be staffed by people who are comfortable with psychotic experiences and who actually like being around people who are suicidal, angry, confused, hearing voices, or whatever.”
    I really wonder if the author has ever been around someone psychotic. If I found anyone who told me they “liked” being around someone psychotic, I would run a mile. Why would anyone “like” being around people in deep distress? It’s painful. It’s not pleasurable. It might be rewarding if you can help them, but that’s not the same.
    I confess, I have never been psychotic or suicidal, but I have been “mentally ill” as a shrink would call it. I would not have felt comforted in even the nicest ER ward designed to “calm me down.” I would have felt intense distrust and fear at being surrounded by strangers. I would not have allowed myself to talk to anyone I hadn’t built up a relationship with over months if not years. There is close to zero hope that an ER of any kind can be a healing experience, in my opinion. We have to take a step back and keep people from getting to that point.
    Ways to do that? Stop relying on “professionals” whether “informed” or not. We have to reach the people in the trenches so that they can look after their loved ones and spot the danger signs before crisis strikes. There will never be enough “good shrinks” to change things.
    And as for ending forced treatment – it’s not going to happen. People perceived as dangerous have always been “dealt with” in one way or another. People are scared of “the mentally ill.” Sometimes they are right to be scared. It is scary seeing someone who is mad. I know it – I’ve experienced it.
    Open Dialogue sounds so great – but realistically, you guys – you are talking about doing things that can change maybe about 1% of the picture. Who is addressing the big picture? Maybe people like Bonny Burstow with her book “The Other Mrs. Smith.” It’s methods like these we should be looking at, ways to reach hundreds of thousands of people, not preaching to the choir like MIA so often does.

  • It cannot be abolished as long as 80%? 90% 70% (who knows, but a majority) of the population wants a quick fix. Most people assume that the nasty “side” effects will only happen to someone else.
    People have always used drugs. Always wanted to use drugs. Always felt a need. Because they didn’t have the emotional support, or the answers to why they were alive in the first place and how to understand the suffering of the world. Until that changes, we’re just tinkering at the edges.
    The article is interesting, but the author is only really addressing what we do with people already in crisis. Forget it – it’s too late by then. We should be exploring how to keep them from falling into crisis in the first place.

  • Yes, I see your point, that labels can be used against a person.
    Wait to be jumped on by certain people on this forum who object to the very concept of a person actually being “mad.” I do believe that psychotherapy can in theory help someone with psychosis, but unfortunately I have yet to find the person who could actually achieve that with my husband. He “got out” of madness with short-term meds (only short-term because of my insistence – of course the “doctors” said he needs them for life). The extreme fear – I’m impressed that you worked through that yourself. In our case, it didn’t look like there was any chance of that happening. It wasn’t a negative preoccupation – it was literal terror of being killed at any minute. And this wasn’t just after coming off meds, but about 2 years after coming off. I wish I had some good answers instead of short-term poison.

  • Yes, I see your point. I remember there was already a study done on stigma, when they wanted to investigate whether a biological “diagnosis” made stigma worse or better. The conclusion was that people who self-IDd as “mentally ill” were treated with less compassion then those who said they were having emotional difficulties.

  • I guess all terms are nasty and stigmatizing. What would you prefer to write instead of “psychosis”? I suppose you don’t like “paranoia” either. So what do you call it when a person thinks that they are being spied on by the CIA?
    When I was “anorexic” I hated people calling it that. On the other hand, I knew there was something wrong. I guess you could call it “emotional distress manifesting itself in an inappropriate relationship to food.” Or call psychosis “emotional distress manifesting itself in false beliefs about the world.” But there is something wrong there. The main point, I believe, is that one side is calling it biological and telling us that pills can fix it. The other side is saying that this is part of the human condition, and should be healed by human relationships and healthy emotional connection. I don’t think we need to get so hung up on terminology although I do understand the sensitivity to labeling.

  • Yes, absolutely he was misdiagnosed. But I wouldn’t expect any type of doctor to diagnose him with “acute and/or chronic emotional distress resulting from trauma and the belief that he is incapable of coping with the stresses of his life.” Nor would I expect any type of pill to be able to solve such problems. If what he was looking for was oblivion, then I would advise alcohol any day over zyprexa! But no MD or PhD would likely concur…

  • My husband has a schizophrenia diagnosis. The “correct” pill stopped a lot of things. It blocked the delusions, but it also blocked his ability to express his emotions. It blocked his power of imagination from operating (which, of course, is why the delusions disappeared). So if you like you can call it a cure. Let’s just say it wasn’t great for our marriage, or for his life in general. Thank God he has learned to live without “medication” and without delusions too. There are other, much better ways – without side effects. I hope that you find them too.

  • You are continually distorting what I write.
    I have included virtually no details about my life and yes, as you admit, you have no idea at all about me or my husband, and that’s the way I would rather it stayed.
    You write: “Why bother if we’re just like additional children who need to be cared for?” Absolutely. That’s my point. If a “mad” person wants to see him/herself as a child and incapable of a mutual relationship, then I would call that dysfunction.
    I listed all kinds of contributions any person can make to any relationship. You instead set up a straw man to attack.
    If you believe that you have what to offer in a relationship, including the understanding that your behavior impacts on those around you, then that’s wonderful, and I wouldn’t call you “mad.”
    Thank you, Rossa, for your support. It’s a shame that the comments section here has revealed a very clear divide in those on each side of the story. Some people have clearly used their traumatic experiences to take things further and help others in their trauma, but others are more interested in blaming.
    I see my husband as healthy when he manages to step outside himself and take other people into consideration despite his own difficulties. I see him as sick when he is so self-absorbed that other people’s concerns are irrelevant to him. Yes, at times of crisis people are generally (though certainly not always) incapable of taking other people into consideration. But to turn that into an acceptable way of life is wrong.
    Everyone can be a burden at times, regardless of DSM diagnosis. I hope that if someone told me that a certain aspect of my behavior was causing someone else pain, I would be able to respond honestly and with a desire to solve that problem. I understand that it’s painful and that people with a background as psychiatric victims are defensive about this. But denying that aspects of your trauma-induced behavior causes others very real pain is not going to help anyone.

  • Anyone can define it as he pleases. Yes, often it means making money. It could mean cooking food, doing laundry, changing diapers… It could mean offering a listening and compassionate ear when needed. It could mean contributing to decision-making and accepting an equal responsibility re: consequences.
    I won’t comment on anyone else’s situation, but I would like to point out that many SOs are doing all of the above alone. They are the ones offering the listening and compassion and many times, they are not getting it back.
    Sometimes they get help from their SOs but that’s not the same as having someone there who takes initiative.
    It’s easy to pooh-pooh the value of making money – but just remember that if your spouse isn’t doing it, then you will have to. Maybe you grew up with the expectation of having to financially support your husband – I know I didn’t. Not every woman wants to work while bringing up children. Not every man wants to come home after a day’s work and cook supper, wash dishes, and do the laundry.
    Where I am now, it’s 2am and I’m at my computer working. My husband is asleep because “if he doesn’t get enough sleep, he is emotionally unstable” – in the past, chronic lack of sleep has contributed to psychosis.
    Now, you may want to say that this is a perfectly mutual relationship, and that I’m simply not appreciating my husband’s many gifts. Maybe you’re right. But would you please try to see it from the other side?

  • Thank you for expressing yourselves so clearly. The fact is that not all people can. If only my husband was as eloquent, as able to access his emotions. But, not all people have much insight into themselves. Not all of them are motivated enough to try to figure it out. So in many cases, there is a very one-sided relationship which is very painful.
    Of course it is painful to feel that one could be a burden on others. I think that anyone who reached that stage of feeling the pain that they cause others, is already not such a burden at all. I’m more writing about the person who didn’t get there yet. Of course the psychiatric system only encourages “mentally ill” people to see themselves as incapable. Trying to undo about 25 years of people brainwashing my husband that taking responsibility is somehow dangerous for him is hard. Maybe impossible. Maybe he really isn’t capable of shouldering a normal adult burden and I will have to keep struggling to find the contribution he makes.
    Yes, there are things I gain, actually invaluable things such as working on my anger, my desire to be in control of my life, my ability to empathize. But just because it’s painful for you when you hear us say, “Look, it’s hard work being father and mother all at once,” doesn’t mean you can just ignore it and take it for granted.
    I’m sorry if I hurt anyone through what I have written. It certainly was not my intention. I am no martyr, I often lose my temper and yell at my husband and get overwhelmed by everything. I would value any advice that can help me see things more clearly and move in a positive direction.

  • I don’t think that SOs in general are wannabe therapists. I think the opposite is the case – that we would much prefer to be in a mutual relationship but for whatever reason, ended up being default therapists without the skills, information, available time, finances etc. to do so.
    It would be my guess that you could very often rely more on a committed, long-term SO to treat the “mad” relative with love and respect, than you could rely on a paid “MH professional.” I personally don’t understand how one can treat attachment issues successfully by going to a paid therapist for treatment. After all, at the end of the day, they are in it at least partially for the money.
    I think you could give a little more credence to those of us who have stayed married to emotionally complex spouses for decades rather than taking the easy way out. There is nothing really “in it” for us. We don’t have support systems either, usually, because of privacy issues.
    I make no assumption that people use “madness” as an excuse to treat others badly. What I did suggest is that part of healing is to realize the impact one’s behavior has on the other people in one’s life. There is a big difference between these.
    Personally, I have no desire whatsoever to post my own story here. I have never and would never presume to understand my husband’s challenges, though I would love to understand better. I would also hope that he would want to understand mine, and that is where we differ, because you don’t seem at all interested in seeing things from the other perspective.

  • Firstly, maybe you can stop the personal attacks?
    Next – I reread what skylar wrote. My interest is not to describe to anyone else what goes on with my “significant other.” If he wants, he can speak for himself. But, if “mad people” are so totally uninterested in hearing how they come across from the outside, then… enough said.
    Finally – you still didn’t answer my question. Why do “nice quacks” get a voice here and SOs don’t?

  • 1) Very few of the “psychiatrized commenters” here have even expressed an opinion on whether SOs should have a voice or not.
    2) None of the SOs here have expressed any desire to be “centered” on MiA.
    3) So many of the “mad” people featured here have tons to say about how they want understanding, acceptance, assistance, warmth, caring – you name it – from people. How about that going both ways?
    4) And when you do get all the help you want from people like samruck who have basically dedicated their lives to helping “mad” people, all you have to say is “give, give, give, and then shut up – i’m not interested in your opinions.”
    5) People at MiA can do whatever they want with their site. But I have yet to hear a convincing explanation as to why psychiatrists (the “nice” ones) can blog here all they like, but people like me who are “nice” (or trying to be) therapists all day long with never a break, are denied that. How about making some sense rather than just attacking?

  • I would agree if this site only featured “mad” people. But since “therapists” etc. are also given a voice, why not also those “amateur therapists” such as samruck who are, as he writes, in the trenches 24/7? Do you really think that we have learned absolutely nothing after years upon years of trying to help our loved ones?
    I’m also going to be absolutely loathed for writing this, but too bad: I think part of the process of “getting out of mad” is seeing the other side of the story. It’s so idyllic to say that a psychotic person “just needs to process stuff, to have his own space and time etc.” but if that same person continues to believe that any time he goes through stuff (you know, like we all do) he can take a vacation from regular life and figure it out – regardless of the fall-out on his family – well, then I don’t think he’s very emotionally healthy.
    I don’t know about what is dysfunction and what isn’t. But if a person is controlled by their emotions to such an extent that they figure that “too bad on my spouse/children/parents, because i’m going through something,” then this a place that needs healing. It’s wonderful if a person who underwent trauma can find a partner who knows how to deal with this. But don’t take us for granted. It’s not easy! How many times have I felt tremendously resentful that it was me left looking after our kids, worrying about money, dealing with absolutely 100% of everything because my husband’s story is “I’m not emotionally strong enough to deal with responsibility.” Maybe he’s right! But to accept that as the way things can stay without taking into account how that impacts on those around him is not healthy.
    Yes, we have to accept people as they are NOW. But that doesn’t mean that we have to tell them, “stay that way forever.”
    And, surely there is a difference between looking for a partner because of a deep love of attachment and the sense of fulfillment it brings, Vs looking for a partner because one feels defective without one?

  • I guess if that’s what they want, then it’s their website, though I agree with you. Maybe we should start a site of our own?
    I’m constantly amazed at what you write, about the incredible energy and devotion you give to your wife. I think you mentioned once that you have a blog? Could you post its address? I would so much like to learn from you and see what I can apply to my own situation.
    Keep strong!

  • Yes, it would be so much more helpful for us all to be working together. However, we’re not all united on what the struggle means. We have different opinions on “mental health.” Some people think that there is no such thing as malfunction – they get offended at the very usage of the word “psychosis” for instance and want every single emotional state just to be a different place on a continuum, without any judgments being made about whether it’s okay to stay that way or not. That sounds ideal and I guess if it was me in that extreme state, I might want to avoid being labeled. But as the wife of someone who has been what I will hesitantly call “psychotic” a number of times, it’s a bit complicated to say that it’s okay to be like that too. Is it okay to call psychosis dysfunctional, or does that mean that I’m beyond the pale on MIA? Should I (and my little children) somehow be able to deal with a husband (father) who runs through the streets screaming “Murderers! Murderers!”? Sometimes, the posts here seem to be taking such an extreme position that it alienates those of us who are on, for want of a better term, the receiving end of “madness.” FYI, my husband is currently not on medication, and is relatively stable but I do, I admit, live in fear of what could happen. And I also know, a little bit, what it’s like to be “mad” having been anorexic in the past. And no, I was not happy with that consequence of childhood trauma. I was totally and utterly miserable. I desperately wanted to be happy but had no idea how to achieve it. So I absolutely think there is a place to say “Yes, this is dysfunction. This is no good. I am suffering and making others suffer and something has to change.” I think most people on MIA do feel this way too, but those who don’t are often very vocal and aggressive about it.

  • How do you think it’s possible to persuade communities to be more compassionate? Were they once more compassionate, and if yes, what happened?
    I think most of western culture is all about “I’m in charge” especially in the U.S. where it’s all about getting “ahead” and “pursuing happiness.” That just doesn’t fit well with compassion. Once religion got thrown out, what was there left to tell people to care for one another? It’s not for nothing that surveys consistently show that religious people are more philanthropic. I think the debate happens here because this is where we find someone to talk to who’s willing to listen. Try this anywhere else and you’ll find yourself alone. People absolutely do not want to hear. Why is it that the “mental illness is just like physical illness” garbage has been so widely accepted? Because it makes life easier for those who aren’t “afflicted.” And if life is all about being happy, that makes sense. So what are you going to tell them? Put yourself out for someone else? They don’t want to! You can’t threaten them with Hell or promise them Heaven. That’s all gone. It’s back to the Roman world – carpe diem.

  • Thank you for the long reply. It answers some of my questions!
    But I specifically asked about a young child because they won’t usually understand any explanation of “meltdown.” They might just be scared and feel insecure. And surely most people’s definition (maybe not yours) of meltdown involves some measure of loss of control? It’s an emotional outburst, not calculated. So how are you going to simultaneously explain to a three-year-old that it’s nothing to worry about?
    It’s great that your partner is so able to accept your meltdowns. But what if instead, they were triggers for him, reminding him of painful times in his past? Then you might end up in the position of having to choose between free expression of your emotions, and the relationship. In fact, we are always making similar decisions.
    I would have preferred to have a private discussion with you, not on a public forum, so if you want, just ignore me from now on.

  • I assume you’re addressing me. Look, we can learn a ton from what Emily wrote. And I certainly don’t expect her – or anyone – to be perfect. And that’s not what I wrote or implied. But, isn’t this supposed to be a forum for trying to understand people better? For trying to figure out what goes on with people, and learn from them? Putting oneself out in public like this is brave precisely because of this – because it invites comment and honest discussion. I know I’m full of inconsistencies and I don’t necessarily enjoy it when people point it out – but I value it, nonetheless. From what Emily writes, I gather that she, too, is a truth-seeker and isn’t just looking to have us all give her a round of applause.

  • I’m just wondering if there isn’t a certain degree of self-deception going on with so many of us. You write “I of course did not want to remain depressed,” and later that you are “proud” that this was your response to “prejudice.” Later you write that you enjoy the depth of your emotions as it also enables you to feel happiness, for instance, more deeply. So, do you enjoy the depth of depression too – or do you just like being happy? Or is it worth the trade-off? Do you still feel that way when you’re depressed – that it’s worth it?
    Also, you don’t attribute your depressed feelings to yourself, but rather to your environment. But no – depression is your choice of reaction to that environment. Another person might choose to go out on an aggressive program of “reeducation” for “prejudiced” people instead of getting down about it and doing nothing. Why is your depression “their” fault?
    And as for the “prejudice” thing – why is “their” opinion prejudice, but your opinion of their opinion is not? You are judging them just as you say they judged you!

    On some level, the discussion on this thread is really going nowhere, because there are no clear lines being drawn anywhere. Let’s say it’s fine to be terribly devastated at the end of a romantic relationship. But what about the other person, who may be left with awful guilt feelings if you had a meltdown when they left? Is that simply their problem – they shouldn’t be so concerned about you? Should we take the position that each person is responsible for his own emotions and responses, regardless of outside circumstances (which you are not doing, as I illustrated above) or, that people have a responsibility to try to reduce causing pain to others (which you are not really doing either)?
    This all sounds so nice and ideal – I accept myself, I love myself, my emotions are mine and I own them etc etc… but when you analyze it (which some people will automatically object to, with no good reason) then it really isn’t so simple at all.
    The terms “mad” and “dysfunctional” are really irrelevant to the discussion, when we get down to it. What we are really talking about is pain – the pain we feel ourselves, and the pain we cause others. Is it okay to accept that I have meltdowns, even though my partner is devastated every time it happens? Or should I try to be more even-keeled? What about if I have a “meltdown” (what does that even mean?) in front of my young child. Is that okay too, because it’s part of my mad-pride image?
    Sorry if this comes across as a bit caustic, but I think this discussion needs some clear lines drawn in the sand…

  • Julie, thanks for the excellent post; you make great points.
    I would add that most young med students, despite their good intentions, go into the field believing that “things” are going to help us. In fact, almost everyone believes that “things” can be used to fix problems. We use “things” like coffee, sugar, relationships, power, money… to fix our inner problems about 100% of the time, and it’s ingrained from the tiniest age to do so. Psychs think that the “things” are pills but really, what difference? (Okay, the pills are murderous, but apart from that…)
    Thing is, most of us never ask the question, “Okay, now you’ve got your fix (love, prestige, approval, cocaine, anti-depressant…) what are you going to DO with it?” Eventually, the more truth-seeking ones of us get to the point where we realize that the fix doesn’t fix anything. What we do then is the real question.

  • Just because there are a lot of planets doesn’t mean that mankind is insignificant. There are probably a lot more ants than people, but I haven’t yet noticed any of the great civilizations they’ve built. You seem proud to be above all these petty concerns of human beings who take life “too” seriously. What exactly is precious in your life, if anything? Well, don’t answer that, it’s really none of my business. But if we’re all specks of dust, where do morals come from? Where is right and wrong? I don’t see how your perspective is helping anyone to live a fulfilled life, or even a happy hedonistic life, to be honest. I think you’re trying to deceive yourself too and not even succeeding.

  • “We are a speck of dust…” I’m stunned to find this on MIA. I was also stunned to hear that Matt Stevenson is gone. I knew him only via email as a very caring, empathetic person. If we really were just specks of dust, then who cares if we take drugs or not? If we live or die? That’s your belief – it sure isn’t mine. Maybe this is the dichotomy between East and West. East is all about trying to disappear into the nothingness; West is all about the value of the individual. That’s a crude simplification, I know, but there is truth in it. When psychiatrists and anyone else want to reduce us to specks of dust, then why bother with MIA? Why try to figure out this riddle of life? Why worry if you’re drugged and can’t feel emotions – after all, the Eastern ideal is something like being “above” all that “petty mundane” stuff, isn’t it?
    Yes, Emily is taking herself very seriously. She should! I’m sorry – you can’t just ridicule someone’s entire outlook on life and condemn them for thinking that there is something inherently valuable about being here and thinking that it’s significant enough to try to get it right.

  • I don’t know much about cannabis, but I know a lot about people thinking that whatever drug/”medicine” will be the solution to all their problems, or just some of them.
    People thinking that there’s an easy way out.
    Thinking that they can numb the feelings and get through life like that. Well, they can. But don’t call it healing.
    Just be aware of what you’re doing and why. Taking marijuana – or coffee, or sugar, or heroin – why?
    And not kidding anyone that any of this stuff is harmless. You can never predict how it’s going to affect YOU.

  • Why “shouldn’t” we conflate the 2? If you spend any time listening to someone “psychotic,” then it soon becomes clear that what they experience is on the continuum of inner-outer voices. Learning to listen to the voices is like a process of adopting oneself and getting to know the different parts, and deciding which ones stay, and which have to go. But we’re ALL crazy.

  • Only the 3rd leading cause? I’m surprised… Do you have a link to the statistics on this one?
    And since when was “some neurotic people live longer lives” considered a scientific statement? Maybe some do, and more don’t!
    Unbelievable – people get research grants to put out this tripe.

  • Maybe you’re fortunate to have a “professional” who cares, but she doesn’t know how the drugs work! Nobody does… She explained how the drugs “may” affect you, which is a way of hedging her bets, as nobody can predict how any individual will respond. Personally, coffee calms me down, but it makes my husband manic. Of course none of the “professionals” advising us along the way ever suggested that my husband avoid coffee. Advocate mom, you have to be your own best advocate, because no “doctor” is going to do it for you.

  • No, you’re not the only one, and i’m so glad to hear that it worked out well for you.
    My husband was on lithium for about 20 years, along with an antipsychotic. He tapered off (with no doctor support, as no doctor would give it), and went psychotic, slowly. Then, after a brief, nasty episode with another doctor who prescribed valproate, he got on Geodon to replace both the lithium and the risperdal. Then he got off the geodon (a very small dose, which was quite enough, thank you) although he doesn’t actually know it… I empty out the capsules. He’s been fine. Although some people such as psychiatrists wouldn’t agree, because for them, being in touch with your emotions and consequently getting angry, sad, down etc. from time to time is what they define as illness.
    I’m not suggesting that someone switch drugs in order to stop entirely – although I know there is such a thing and it can help – it’s just that that’s the way it worked out for us. Because we had little kids, and taking time off to figure things out wasn’t an option, it wasn’t possible to work through the psychotic thoughts and come out stronger the other side. But gradually, that is what my husband is doing, from a more stable position, and things are already so much better.
    Hey Sascha, don’t give up! You can do it! Just make sure you have good people around you to help and care.

  • Yes, i think it’s a Christian idea, that evil/the Devil exists independently of God. In the earlier Jewish thought, evil is God’s servant and has no independent power. If it did, then there would be two gods, fighting it out.
    I understand what you’re writing that the thoughts weren’t part of your deeper awareness. I think that’s what I was trying to say, or what I meant, but I didn’t express myself very well. What I meant is that we can only really access this deeper awareness by peeling off the layers of thoughts that obscure it. So are the thoughts part of us? What exactly are we comprised of anyway? Who was it that made that nasty comment that I regret afterwards? Certainly not my higher self. But it wasn’t imposed on me by “outside forces” either. Who is the “me” who decides whether to act based on my higher self, or based on my lower impulses? I don’t really know, but I feel intuitively that all the parts of me, everything that happens to me – it’s all there for a purpose, a good one.
    Thanks for the great discussion!

  • thanks for the clarification. i don’t know much about eastern schools of thought. maybe this is one of the places where they diverge from the western ways? especially since quantum physics shows how things are basically all interconnected, whereas Buddhism is more about how everything is an illusion (a gross oversimplification i know). So, in western thought, if you see something, it’s because you looked at it – the actual looking is what “creates” the object. by extension, thinking something would create the thought.
    Jewish Kabbalah teaches that “a person is where his thoughts lie,” and that a person has the power – and responsibility – to control his thoughts. maybe not to stop things popping into our heads the first time, but certainly to not dwell on certain things. And it seems kind-of obvious that, for instance, a murderer will think the kinds of thoughts that a nice, kind person won’t.

  • Hi Fiachra,
    Funny idea that of Chopra – my thoughts aren’t my own? They just happened to appear in my mind? There are all kinds of ideas and thoughts floating out in the world, but only certain ones ended up in my head, and not others. Why? I would hazard a guess that there’s some kind of resonance between the thoughts “out there” that wound up in my mind, and “my self” which somehow attracted those thoughts. I might end up rejecting them, but I think it would be helpful to try to figure out how those thoughts got into my head in the first place. I don’t think it’s helpful to pretend that I’m above it all, that I can sit and meditate and just disown all the “bad thoughts” that “aren’t part of me.” I think it’s just self-deception and haven’t we all met some of those meditative types who are so self-righteous but their character traits are just awful, when put to the test?

  • Thanks for an amazing post, one of the best I’ve read on MIA. I think that you’ve pretty much summed up mental “illness” here, as well as the way to move towards real mental/emotional health.
    I’d just take issue with one thing: I wouldn’t call the “voice” a parasite. I admit I’ve never heard actual voices, just the “normal” running commentary that most if not all of us have going on within. But I think – correct me if I’m wrong – that it’s basically the same idea.
    I’d prefer to call the voice/commentary the “inner teacher.” Although we might need to reject much of what it’s saying, it tells us an awful lot about ourselves, where we’re going wrong, and where we’re going right too. For example, if I have a voice telling me that “You should have bought him a present – you really messed up there,” then I can discover my ideas about what “should” means to me, what “messing up” means, what my real values are right now, and then, I can think about where I want to go from there.
    I don’t think that we can get in touch with our “real selves” without owning these voices too – because we are all composed of parts, each motivated by different things. Let’s say the inner core (what some call soul) is motivated by truth, love, giving… But we can’t access it without peeling off the outer layers/voices. And we can’t peel off those layers without owning them first. Pretending they’re “not part of me” isn’t going to help. That’s probably the origin of my husband’s psychosis, all the projecting he does, because he doesn’t know how to own his flaws without rejecting himself totally.
    Someone wise once told me something very powerful: We should love our flaws, because they were given to us in order to make us great. The athlete doesn’t hate his barbells – he loves them, because by pushing against them, he gets stronger. Every time we answer back to the voices, pushing back the honor-seeking, the empty desires, the lusts for money or power, we get stronger and closer to our goal of being integrated human beings, proud possessors of soul-truths.
    It’s also important to remember the positive side to voices. If I have a voice telling me that I’m not measuring up to some ethical standard, then great! I know that I’m a person who is striving for good things; it just needs to be modified a bit.
    In my spiritual tradition, the “tendency to evil” is also called “good” precisely because of all of this – because we can learn from it how to refine ourselves and become truly great. Because there is no independent evil force in the universe – everything was created for good, and every voice has its part to play.