Showing 72 of 73 comments.
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“Stigma” – is for people who can’t cope with life, regardless of the label you give it.
In the old days it was “nervous breakdown” or “alcoholic” or “those who frequented opium dens.”
Until relatively recently, nobody would have even considered trying to help these people – they were despised and cast out.
Whatever we think about how much “help” psychiatry offers, they didn’t create stigma. Maybe they redefined it as biological or whatever.
Peer support sounds like a nice idea until you examine it more closely. My impression was that if therapy (of any kind including peer support) is successful, it’s because of the relationship built up between the 2. That takes time, and I really doubt it can be done over the phone. It also takes an open mind, which many peers won’t have – not those who believe in meds, and not those who want to abolish psychiatry either.
just curious… do you know of any non-toxic cultures that exist in the world, or that have ever existed?
Either way, what do you think would be the best way of going about trying to create a non-toxic culture?
From my perspective, having a “constant supply of people who need help” isn’t necessarily a bad thing – of course as long as there is also a constant supply of people who willingly give help. Isn’t that what society is all about? Or do you think that a non-toxic society consists solely of independent and competently functioning individuals who don’t need each other in any way at all?
(This is apart from the question of whether psychiatrists can be seen to be helping in any way – just leaving that to one side for the time being.)
In order to script a new narrative, one not written by old, white, wealthy men…
And the other category I forgot to “defend” – men. What’s the male equivalent of misogyny? Why is this allowed to pass?
“In order to script a new narrative, one not written by old, white, wealthy men, but one written by people and by communities…”
Can I call this comment out as racist? (Disclosure – I am white, although I am neither old nor wealthy.)
Plenty of good things have come to the world via old white and wealthy men. Even if that were not true, it is discriminatory to write such a thing.
I do agree with your other point – that a new narrative needs to be written. But I think that the lack of community structure in much of today’s world is precisely the reason for all this “mental illness,” coupled with (and it’s all the same thing really) the breakdown of family life. Which is probably why it won’t happen.
And yes – it would be wonderful to abolish psychiatry and forced treatment. But somehow I don’t think that would go very far towards abolishing human distress which has always existed (and been “treated” by alcohol and “street” drugs).
“You’ve been following MIA for over a decade [on and off] and you don’t know why most members are anti-psychiatry?”
Of course I know why most members are anti-psychiatry. But that’s not what this article was ostensibly about.
And – one big reason why my engagement with MIA is very sporadic is that over the past decade or so, nothing much changes here. Same vitriol (much of it justified) and very little in the realm of good ideas re: what to do about the problems identified here. Still the cries for “down with psychiatry” and not a single article that I can recall that outlines a realistic vision for a society where there will be no felt need to turn to “the meds” for the relief of very real problems, however labeled and defined.
Sure, there’s no such thing as mental illness. But there is pain, distress, grief, anxiety aplenty. What are all the hotheads on MIA going to do about it? A few peer-run organizations and warmlines and such aren’t really going to cut it with the millions on psych meds. What will?
It does make things clear – but you’re still not addressing Sylvain’s point – instead, you’re trying to indoctrinate him into what you see as “the real problems.” I think anyone even vaguely familiar with MIA already knows your opinions on psychiatry and bigpharma, but that wasn’t what this comment or article was supposed to be about.
I didn’t know Julie and we had only a few “exchanges” on the comments section in MIA. But one thing I do remember is that she was the only person to bother to respond when I, in a comment I made, disclosed stuff that I went through with “anorexia.” Customarily on MIA such personal accounts are responded to with compassion, praise for having the courage to write, and so forth. But Julie was the only person who responded to me.
Perhaps because “anorexia” is not “respected” as a “mental illness” here as something that is worthwhile to discuss? Perhaps because depression and psychosis and so forth are recognized as “things that cause suffering” whereas “anorexia” is seen as self-inflicted, or less severe, or not within MIA’s sphere of interest?
(Sorry for all the “” but I don’t want to get attacked for “insinuating that mental illness is real” and so forth.)
I just looked up anorexia on MIA’s search and found very, very few articles. I think the last long article was about 4 years ago. Julie’s comment there was along the lines of “thank you! Finally anorexia is getting some attention here!”
And while Julie’s relatively young death may well be mainly due to lithium, perhaps years of suffering from malnutrition brought on by “anorexia” also played its part?
One big tribute to Julie would be more attention paid on MIA to eating disorders. As she herself wrote, they have the biggest association with death of all the mental “illness” categories.
To Mr. McCrea:
Maybe there is a “larger” question (though it’s anyone’s call what’s larger or smaller) but what about addressing Sylvain’s and Daniel’s question rather than trying to reeducate them in what is “truly important”?
I understand from your writing that you have most likely suffered unfortunate experiences at the hands of psychiatrist(s) but is that a reason to demonize them (your word) and tar them all with the same brush? Personally I have met caring and responsibly psychiatrists as well as those who were “less caring,” shall we say. So I would suggest that the “larger” question is why can MIA not be an unbiased source of information? Why the psychiatrist bashing that persists through the over a decade I have been following MIA?
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Perfect! You don’t like the survey results. Never mind that those are people’s opinions. You think they’re wrong. “We need more NO people” etc.
What “we” (whoever “we” is) are up against… and statements like that just illustrates why people like samruck are so right, unfortunately.
Most people taking psych drugs got them from their GP because they wanted them.
Many people who were on psych wards approve of the general concept of psych wards.
What “you” are up against is reality. You seem to think people are sheeple who need to be reeducated in your mold. That’s a very degrading way to view them. I think you should reconsider your approach which often comes across as elitist and contemptuous.
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Your great aunt quit acting as flagrantly weird…
I bet her kids were relieved.
Do you think her “freedom” to act weird was more important than the right of her kids (if she had any) to not be picked on by their peers for having a weird mother? More important than the stigma that attached to her whole family?
Yes, there shouldn’t be any stigma. Right. But in the real world…
Taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions is what most people would call a sane behavior, but of course “sane” is a dirty word on MIA…
Well, it’s a toss-up between being considered clingy and manipulative and responsible for one’s behavior, VS being considered mentally ill and not responsible.
What the truth is, is another matter, but all the people getting upset about the labels are concerned about what other people think, not about what the truth is.
So, yes, one can easily make a very good case for lack of responsibility (due to mental imbalance, trauma, etc.) being progress from “He’s just a jerk who uses other people and couldn’t care less.”
What’s a good alternative?
“Poor thing, he’s a victim of trauma.” And yet, most people just don’t buy that when it comes to the damage often wreaked by people who are undeniably victims of trauma. I mean, plenty of people are victims of trauma yet don’t become manipulative and clingy.
So until someone comes up with something viable and better, maybe “disordered” is better than “nasty”?
But why did you go to the shrink in the first place? What did you honestly expect them to say?
From reading these comments, you would think shrinks prowl the streets and drag people into their offices, label them, force-inject them, and then get the judges to put an “always on drugs” order on them, under pain of death.
However, the reality of the situation, as I keep pointing out and people keep ignoring, is that people want the drugs to cope with life, and get them from their local GP.
But hey, don’t expect reasoned discussion of the facts on the ground here on MIA…
You’re implying that people with idiosyncratic behavioral patterns (whatever that means) are in control of their behavior and choose to act what most people (probably including you) would call weird.
However, most people with, for example, severe paranoid fears, would 100% prefer to live without these thoughts and emotions controlling them. Yes, many of them prefer to have them drugged away and not live a life under the cloud of “madness.”
Ignoring these people and pretending they don’t exist is bad enough, but constantly implying that they are stupid for taking psych drugs, or stupid for being gullible enough to believe the psychiatrists, is demeaning.
If only some of you people could get out of your “bash psychiatry” box for long enough to see that there is actually a world outside and that there are people who don’t think like them but are also intelligent, rational human beings deserving of respect.
Okay, so if hallucinations, bizarre beliefs, paranoid fears to the point of screaming in the street that “they” are out to get you, etc. are not “illness” then how would you prefer to classify them? Or just call them those names? But of course, there are people who totally object to the idea that there are “bizarre” beliefs because they want everything to be normal, or perhaps abnormal.
So let’s call everyone crazy, or everyone sane, and normalize everything! No more madness!
Only problem is, that “emotional suffering” or whatever else you want to call it, won’t just magically disappear because you struck the words “mental illness” out of the dictionary.
Would you prefer “demonically possessed” perhaps?
As one poster once put it very aptly on a different article on MIA, when addressing the question as to why people use psych drugs, calling them the “kool aid”:
“They drank the kool aid because you didn’t give them anything else to drink.”
All these comments, and so far, nobody (as far as I can tell) has had anything productive to add into the mix.
All people on psych drugs are tricked into using them? Nobody has any idea that prescription drugs are often addictive? Come on, give me a break.
These days, people know that antibiotics can have nasty side effects. Via the internet, people have access to information like never before. But somehow, the psychiatrists are able to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes?
Yes, some people are very trusting. But most are not. If they are, they’re going to get scammed right left and center, not just in the “medical” world, and they’d better wise up quick.
At some point, getting “recovered” has to mean getting out of the victim mindset. Recovering from the obsession with psychiatry and its evils, and finding out what else exists in their life apart from anger, resentfulness and whatever.
Now that would really be recovery.
This is going to be my last comment here.
I didn’t get away from my father, but knowing that the person I have to deal with is “a narcissist” makes it more possible to have some kind of relationship without causing myself too much trauma.
People who lack self awareness and go through life blaming others for their problems (whether “borderline” or “narcissist” or whatever else) – yes, they’re probably best avoided, for sure in long-term committed relationships unless the other person has a ton of support and really understands what they are getting into.
However, people who “are borderline” or otherwise, and who have awareness of their issues and try their best not to hurt others are in a different category.
At the end of the day, it’s probably going to be a matter of perspective and so if you’re happy telling me that I should be far away from my “abuser” father (yes, I agree that he’s abusive) then you have to understand that other people from their perspective will think that “borderlines” etc. are best avoided.
Oh, so “Mrs. Narcissist” has to acknowledge how “evil” she is, but calling someone borderline is not okay?
They “gladly assume” the role? Personally, I don’t think that people with severe disorders (and we ALL have disorders; the question is how severe) actually enjoy tormenting others, and I find your judgement of them very disturbing given your previous posts pleading for understanding and compassion.
Additionally, I guess you never came across a shrink or therapist who saw clients as human beings and tried to help them, but I have done, plenty of times. Demonizing psychiatrists is unlikely to help anyone.
I guess that’s been your experience with the neuroleptics but it isn’t the experience of the majority of people on them, that they cause violence and only work for a few days; the number of people thus affected is significant, but still much smaller than the rest.
“Understanding the biology of neurotransmitters” doesn’t sound like a very viable alternative to me, because all attempts so far to understand how the brain works have failed dismally (and led to the development of the drugs you decry).
Before the drugs, remind yourself of what there existed instead. People were in closed wards for their lifetimes, in “loony bins,” outcasts from society, drunkards, homeless, suicides… and yes, others recovered. I don’t know of any study (and doubt that one exists) that shows that people did better in the “good old days before drugs.” There are of course studies that show that people in Open Dialogue, for instance, do better, but that’s never been practised on a nation-wide scale, and could it even be?
I find it instructive (but not surprising) that Rasselas’ question: What should be done instead, has been ignored by almost everyone here.
I take issue with what you write, that the only problems with, for instance, borderline or narcissistic behavior, are that they are socially unacceptable.
Is gaslighting merely socially unacceptable, and are there cultures where it is fine to engage in such behavior? And even if there were, would that make it okay?
(You also write that PDs are not a health issue, but rather issues of ethics and respect, which contradicts what you write, that PDs are a social acceptability issue.)
I think that judging another person’s lack of ethics and respect for others is far more damning than calling them “a narcissist” because the latter term at least invites the question of “how did they end up that way?” and often the answer is that they themselves were victims of trauma. However, condemning someone’s ethics and lack of respect is to judge their choices – and indeed, their essence – as wrong, period.
However, it’s really just semantics once you get into the business of deciding what’s wrong with someone else – and by the way, we do it all the time, with everyone we meet, whether we verbalize it to ourselves or others or not.
If you take a look at a family with a narcissist as one of the parents, you’ll see how ridiculous it is to claim that there’s nothing really wrong with that person. People do react to life in patterns even if there isn’t 100% conformity to “the rules” and knowing what you’re dealing with is maybe about 80% of the “solution.”
I’ll take my own family of origin for an example. My father is so typically narcissistic, and also typically, it took me over 40 years to see it. (And meanwhile, I blamed myself for not knowing how to “make things work.”) My mother had all kinds of psychological symptoms from not dealing with issues but rather ignoring them and pretending everything was fine, and she died young. My siblings have their various issues, and I have mine. Knowing where many of my issues originate made so much difference to the way I see and treat myself.
Whether I then go on to condemn my father for “being an evil narcissist” or research a bit more and see him as in turn the product of his upbringing etc. is my choice. But I don’t see what you gain by instead calling him, “a self-centered, selfish, bigoted, unethical, gaslighting liar who uses everyone around him to boost his self-esteem.”
If you were treating his spouse, what would you tell her? That there’s nothing really wrong with him, but that she has to learn, for instance, to see gaslighting for what it is, rather than think she can’t trust her feelings and memories?
You don’t want to call PDs a health issue, but really, what difference does it make? You don’t like psychiatrists being called to deal with them, but then, who should instead? Who’s going to validate that suffering spouse and give her the confidence she needs to deal with the abuse?
Do you also disagree with Ronald Laing’s descriptions of “schizophrenogenic” families? Ironically for you, taking away that kind of label opened the door for a biological “explanation” for “schizophrenia.” Ignoring the very real harm that PD people in their extremes inflict on others basically throws their victims to the wolves. Maybe you just have to accept that there’s no way of making everyone happy and no truly right answer?
I know… but that’s just herbs. With vitamins and minerals it’s a different story there are no cheap shortcuts. Large doses of B vitamins are very helpful in maintaining equilibrium, for instance. Calcium and magnesium very good for sleep, combinations of amino acids also for calming (as well as herbs such as valerian and passiflora). I do think that herbs work too gently for some people and the effects aren’t felt.
But what about the inserts in the pill packets themselves? That should be enough of a warning for someone to check things out and at least be aware that it’s not all a bed of roses.
You’re right about the problems of capitalism – and that by extension, this is all a problem of capitalist society and not of psychiatry per se. Hard to see what can be done about it.
shaun f, if direct marketing is effective, then that’s a problem with consumer gullibility, and hard to blame the producer of a product for trying to sell it the best way he knows how. (If the ads lie, then for sure there is room for legal action, and I’m assuming they don’t actually deceive.) I’m not so well up on this issue, so I don’t know how other countries justify not allowing direct marketing. I’d be interested to find out what the legal basis for that is.
Yes, taking pills and learning to be passive is a survival strategy, and though people are often aware that it’s a bad option, it might still be the least bad of their options available.
concerned carer, I don’t know what you’re referring to with 2 vs 1. I couldn’t open the link you posted as my filter blocks it. I’ll take your word for it as I haven’t lived in the UK for many years now. Good for them that they are taking the problem seriously. But how is it that you don’t get a psychiatrist on the NHS? And who forces anyone to go to one in the first place?
The ratio of mental health workers to patients doesn’t sound so impressive but maybe it’s good enough for some people. Certainly not for others. Without knowing the details of what they provide, it’s impossible to know if it’s a viable option for a huge population of MH consumers.
shaun f, why should marketing be outlawed? Who gets to decide what marketing is allowed, and what is beyond the pale?
Yes, taking pills is vastly easier than options that could potentially lead to genuine recovery. But it’s not always a question of ease. Many people are trapped on a treadmill that doesn’t give them the option of stepping off for a while.
I used to feel very judgmental about people who “choose to pop a pill instead of doing hard work,” until I started to absorb stories like one about a mother who chooses to take antidepressants because she genuinely feels that they enable her to function as a mother and housekeeper while trapped in an abusive marriage. She knows the drugs dull her feelings – that’s actually the effect she’s looking for, because she doesn’t see a way out of her situation. So (and I’m not saying you’re guilty of this – just pointing out a potential pitfall) we have to be careful about not judging people for seemingly taking an easy way out.
The problem with having a problem about a free market is that the alternative is censorship of beliefs, rights, and choices.
Another problem is that BigPharma has the money, but people don’t have to believe what the ads say, of course.
The affordable alternatives you mention in the UK (which I suspect are fast disappearing in the current austerity climate and won’t be brought back by Labour despite whatever promises they make because the money isn’t there) depend on government being willing to provide and also able to do so, but most governments have long ago run out of money and these things are far from priority. I lived for many years in the UK and didn’t see these things and I suspect that the large numbers of people on psych meds there don’t see them either. Nor are they likely to in their lifetimes.
Are there laws requiring doctors (and most prescribers of psych drugs are GPs, not psychiatrists) to list all the things you think they should inform their patients of? If so, then for sure, legal action is the logical next step. But just as a person, when hiring a lawyer, does his research first before putting his fate into someone else’s hands, so too should people do their research before trusting doctors blindly.
Just as a personal anecdote: I’ve found GPs to be worse about informed consent than psychiatrists. But that’s no proof of anything.
It’s a market. You have providers and consumers, putting aside the issue of incarceration and forced drugging which is a minority of cases, unless someone would like to prove otherwise. The existence of advertising and the huge sums invested in it strongly suggest that the drug-taking depends on people being willing users, not people being forced to use.
We already have a FDA which supposedly vets the drugs. Probably you think that it’s worse than useless (and I would tend to agree). What would you suggest instead?
The thing is, you have hundreds of thousands, probably millions of people convinced that the drugs are an option worth considering. Let’s say they’re all wrong, brainwashed, bamboozled, deceived, whatever. So, that invites many questions:
1 – why are they open to taking drugs to solve non-medical issues?
2 – what affordable alternative can be provided to them?
3 – where does the obligation to provide information on the drugs stop, and the responsibility of the consumer to investigate begin?
So, in terms of the market, anything goes if the law allows it, yes. That’s the social contract that we’re part of, like it or not. The social contract might include things like forcing people who are violently paranoid to take pills, and you won’t find many people objecting to that, which is why no amount of complaining on MIA is going to help.
Your only option personally is to run away to somewhere where the government is less capable of intervening in people’s lives, like Africa, for instance, but of course there are trade-offs you might not like. Or, you can start a revolution and create a new type of society. (This, of course, usually involves a small number of people deciding for a greater number of others what is best for them – it’s always worked like that in the past, at any rate.)
However, reiterating the same old tired points on MIA (and I’m not referring to anyone particular) is unlikely to be helpful.
It would be wonderful if someone from the “higher-ups” on MIA could try to change the focus even just a little bit from “let’s all complain” to “what can we do about it?”
I wish someone would provide statistics on who is doing the prescribing, and what percentage is on demand and what is forced.
A very large proportion of psych drugs are provided (not forced down) by GPs, and to ignore this part of the equation is to distort the whole picture.
MIA – Missing In Action
i.e. all talk, nothing gets done…
I have a problem when people write comments such as “I think doctors have abused their influence…”
I think it would be a better idea (apart from being closer to the truth) to write, “I think some doctors have…” rather than strongly implying that all doctors are abusers.
If anyone wants to believe that all psychiatrists went through x years of med school and training, simply because they want to drug others and exert their power over them, feel free to do so. But to me, this proposition sounds rather unrealistic.
Yes, there are power-hungry people in the world – you find them everywhere, in all kinds of professions, in homes, in schools, in courts, in politics… So let’s abolish society, right? Because society is all about people in charge, and making rules, and enforcing them. That’s terrible! Let’s try socialism, where “the people” rule. (People are so happy and fulfilled in Venezuela…) Let’s try anarchy… (well, maybe not). Let’s try…
So, Rousseau had some lovely ideas, but he was a philosopher, so he could get away with it. Guess what? Even hunter-gatherer societies have a hierarchy.
Instead of griping about “people abusing power” perhaps we need to find effective ways of dealing with this phenomenon, since it seems pretty impossible to avoid it? Sure, we can clamp down hard on abusers – who’s going to do that? Other people in power! So who decides what’s abuse and what isn’t? People in power!
If that’s where you find yourself, then the logical conclusion is to stop taking the drugs. However, please admit that other people do find certain benefits (as well as problems) with the drugs, which is why they head to the doctor and ask for a prescription, for a variety of reasons, of which the following are only a small sample:
– You’re in an abusive marriage, can’t get out for various reasons, want something to dull the pain so you can still manage child care without drinking yourself into oblivion.
– You have to keep going at a job you hate to pay the bills, want something to keep you going when it’s so dull, prefer the side effects of whatever drug to the side effects of shooting up cocaine every weekend (apart from the cost aspect).
– You’re feeling desperate about still being single at age 45, chances of ever having kids fast disappearing, need something to fall asleep at night instead of worrying yourself into an early grave
I could go on but I hope you get the point.
For the record, I didn’t write that psychiatry is the best there is till something else comes along. What I wrote is that it answers a real need in a way that many people find more effective /sensible /whatever else than other ways of coping, such as alcohol, illicit drugs, overeating.
Yes, there are terrible side effects to the drugs. There are also terrible side effects to alcohol addiction, heroin use, overeating oneself to obesity and so forth.
The unfortunate fact is that most of us do not have the luxury of taking time out of life to investigate herbs and useful modalities of therapy etc. and most of us do not have the financial resources to do so either. Articles that promote a healing option have to be careful not to be elitist about what they propose, because this option is simply not open to many of us.
For instance – Chaya, how much do you charge for a consultation? (Don’t worry, I don’t expect you to answer.) It’s far from being free, and one consultation is for sure not enough for what you propose to help people with.
Just to add detail: A choice between an antipsychotic or a combination of herbs and vitamins to deal with various issues comes down, in a real-life example, to a toss-up between $5 or over $100 a month. I don’t know what the situation is like in the US. This is a real example from a country where there is socialized medicine.
Mainstream SOCIETY is ableist. Always has been, maybe always will be.
Psychiatry wouldn’t have succeeded without falling on fertile ground.
Many people can’t afford a truly healthy regimen including herbs, vitamins etc. It takes, apart from money, a lot of research, and the information is not always clear and is sometimes contradictory. Also, it really has to go together with a healthy diet, which is also expensive. Pills (at least where I live, not in the USA) are incredibly cheap by comparison.
And yes, the side effects can be dreadful. The alternative for many people is… what? Not herbs, but alcohol (also toxic), or heroin? A struggling inner-city mom of five is not going to seek out a herbal pharmacy to find something to keep her going and give her the energy and enough emotional dulling (yes, desired many times) to get up the next day and go to work to feed her kids. It’s so idyllic to imagine a society where people can take herbs and heal. But it’s so far from most of our realities.
It’s in response to the implicit message that gets put out a lot on MIA, that all psychiatry is about forcing people to conform to social norms, however defined. littleturtle, and others, consistently express a different narrative that represents a huge number of people, namely, that imperfect as the drugs are, many people do not see an alternative when it comes to having to continue functioning in a painful situation. Ignoring this reality often seems to undermine all the arguments for “abolishing psychiatry!” as if that would somehow solve all our social problems.
Small programs like Open Dialogue and Soteria exist in tiny pockets of the world, and I have yet to see anyone on MIA or elsewhere suggest some kind of alternative to psychiatry that could be applied to hundreds of thousands of people.
So, why it’s theoretically fascinating to discuss the questions you raise, and important to do so too, it’s also vital not to ignore the bigger question, because for so many people, the choice is not “freedom or bondage” but rather “function or don’t.” Most people are not in a situation where they can drop out of society for a while in order to go through a real healing process. For most of us, it’s a financial issue, as well as one of relationships – people have interpersonal commitments that can’t just be put on hold because the person wants to be “free.” Yes, the benefits, in the end, of being free of drugs may be worth the effort – but try telling that to a mother of young children, or a father struggling to put food on the table.
Doctors may have bought into the idea of drugs as a valid response to distress, but the concept is hardly new. For as long as we know, humans have been using drugs of all sorts to “deal with” emotions. And although the side effects of alcohol, cocaine, opium etc. may be seen by some as preferable to those of risperdal, prozac etc., others strongly disagree – and included in those others are people who use these psychiatric drugs in order to function in their daily lives. Yes, there is a problem of informed consent, but that’s a separate issue. It’s not like doctors came along and developed a whole new concept of how to deal with life. They just added something to a mix that already existed. They would never have succeeded if people hadn’t been receptive – and for sure they were and continue to be.
Thanks for a great article, thought-inspiring as always.
“How can we support people re-envisioning life free from psychiatric meds without implying that the drug harm is their fault? No one who falls prey to psychiatry is responsible for the harm it causes…”
I agree with you that people are not responsible for much of the harm caused by psych drugs (as almost nobody is informed of the probable “side” effects). However, what people (unless forcibly administered drugs) often are responsible for, when they go to a doctor for relief from emotional distress, is making the choice to take a pill to deal with deep-seated issues, and choosing a quick fix over the long haul.
Yes, many people have bought the idea of “chemical imbalance” and really believe that their feelings should be corrected with medication. But for those who want easy relief, there is a place for accepting the responsibility of the choice to take an easier ride, just as people who use alcohol or illicit drugs make a choice to numb their feelings rather than deal with them.
Please note that I’m not writing “people who choose an easier route only have themselves to blame.” It’s not about blaming or finding fault, and blaming psychiatrists is unlikely to be productive for the future of the individual in question, even though a general anti-psychiatry crusade could be a worthwhile endeavor in a general sense. In many cases, maybe most or all, people don’t have the support systems they need to go the long route. But they still have to recognize that the choice to take a pill instead of dealing with the issues has consequences, many of which they can’t envision at the outset. Even choosing to trust a doctor is a choice that has to be recognized.
Otherwise, we end up with the phenomenon of “I’m just a poor victim” mindset which is possibly an even bigger obstacle to creating a fulfilling life than any of the physical problems caused by medication withdrawal.
I’d also like to add that many people might not be able to articulate their feelings when feeling so desperate, and asking them to be so left-brain and verbal about what they’re going through could make them feel even more inadequate when they realize that they can’t even justify themselves to others (or themselves).
I think there’s a big place here for simply sitting with someone and just holding their hand (if appropriate) and not demanding anything of them.
Van Der Kolk in his excellent book on trauma (The Body Keeps the Score) illustrates how trauma actually shuts down parts of the brain often making it impossible to verbalize feelings and explain things. Thinking about committing suicide – is it really a balance sheet of pros and cons with a “logical” conclusion reached? I don’t think anyone would argue that it is. So words are probably just going to fail here.
“Under this framework, when a person tells us they want to die, we can respond with, ‘tell me more… how did you get to this point?’ ”
I’m just curious why you suggest such an unemotional, distant, cognitive approach. Maybe I’m just ignorant, since I don’t have personal experience with genuinely wanting to commit suicide, but I think that if it was me telling you that I wanted to die, I would be desperately hoping to hear something more like, “I hear you, and I want to try to understand you if that’s what you want, but please know that I care about you and hope that these feelings pass and that you will find renewed hope in life.” With the emphasis on making the person feel cared for, not just an object of curiosity – oh, what happened? tell me more…
It could be that I’m reading you wrong so please do correct me if that’s the case.
Sera, this particular phrase you used jumped out at me:
“He was able to see that his choices had had a direct impact on me…”
Maybe I read your article too quickly, and it does deserve a reread or two, but one thing I didn’t notice here, was the idea of telling someone, “I’m trying to understand your feelings and why you think you want ‘out,’ but I just want to tell you that if you go, I’m going to miss you.”
Maybe some people think that is emotionally manipulative? That it would be playing on guilt feelings? I don’t know.
What I do know from my own experiences is that when I was a teenager with big issues, although I didn’t have the insight to realize it then, one of the main things I wanted to hear from my parents (and didn’t) was something like this: “I care about you so much, and it’s hard to see you hurting yourself like this.” Perhaps society today is too much geared toward problem-solving and doing. That too is a form of caring but it’s often too indirect and it took me years to begin to understand even a tiny bit that my parents actually did care but didn’t know how to express it.
To go back to the phrase I started with: So much (all?) of trauma is based in the feeling of isolation, of not feeling grounded in a network of caring relationships. It’s so easy to sink into that feeling, and it’s also tempting, because it absolves a person of responsibility toward others, of considering how his actions impact others. Maybe this is why your anger was more effective than treating David as fragile. Maybe it jerked him out of his isolation and into a real connection, a mutual one – because any connection that isn’t truly mutual is not really going to have a lasting impact (perhaps).
Sorry this was a bit disjointed.
so you prefer censorship? good to know
Well, oldhead doesn’t see it, therefore it doesn’t exist!
Thanks for invalidating my feelings (just the way some psychiatrists invalidate people’s feelings and decide that they are pathological and need to be medicated…)
Here we go again with the standard way of shutting people down on MIA: Julie “understandably” asked and has “valid concerns” but people who challenge your beliefs are talked down to: “here we go again with…”
I think you learned a lot from the people you like to criticize namely those psychiatrists who like to decide which feelings are valid and which are beyond the pale.
And I’m waiting for a moderator to weigh in on this… (and not holding my breath)
My point is that everyone has things to learn, including from people who supposedly don’t know anything about the history of psychiatry (and since when is that a qualification for being able to comment on current experience?). If people are being shut up and being accused of being too ignorant to have a valid viewpoint (which does happen here quite frequently) then I see that as a problem.
Perhaps let DS answer for himself and explain why he thought it was relevant to include a judgement call on how ignorant or informed people are on the history of psychiatry, instead of making assumptions on what he intended with his words.
Perhaps you would like to write the comments guidelines yourself?
You lost your chance when you referred me to NAMI.
You just prove my point – you class all family members as the same as what you experienced, without realizing that there are other types of loved ones who do actually love and care and help (and, incidentally, want nothing to do with NAMI).
I didn’t call for silencing, but when you refer me to NAMI, that’s what you’re doing to me.
And what’s even worse than being attacked is being totally ignored. I’m sorry about this – it’s my experience too.
And I am openly inviting attack by writing the following:
If “psychiatric survivors” think that the experiences, feelings, efforts of those close to them are too unimportant to be considered and addressed, and that we “just don’t get it,” then they have a long way to go as far as healing is concerned. There is a time and place for being self-absorbed and focusing on getting to a good place etc., but if “survivors” prefer to remain mired in a survivor (victim) identity and disregard the – yes – suffering they – just like everyone else – inflict on others because they think they have some kind of privilege that we don’t, then they will just remain forever victims, unproductive, whinging, complaining, blaming the whole world without one single constructive solution.
You’re right, Sam, none of the regulars on MIA are remotely interested in the 3rd wheel. Maybe that’s partly because they’ve bought into the modern idea that man is an essentially independent being and should be able to make it alone. Although that’s patently laughable because their own experiences should have already made it abundantly clear that we need each other in order to survive.
And of course all professionals are like the stereotypes you describe, right?
Can a moderator please wake up and stop all this “them and us” stuff once and for all? What on earth do you think it’s achieving?
And only “professionals” are guilty of sneering and hurtful tones and comments?
Just more of “them and us” and it’s no wonder why anti-psychiatry has achieved precious little (anything?) in its years of so-called organization.
Well, you’re not likely to ever be on the wrong end of the stick, so please don’t try to step into my shoes.
Yes, comments here can be very nasty. But that’s just my pathetic, uninformed, probably fascist, old-fashioned, anti-liberal, anti-progress, and anti-women opinion, so I’m sure it will be disregarded.
Yes! It’s called free choice. Ever heard of that?
So because her clients aren’t on MIA, she’s not allowed to report her findings? This is taking things way too far.
I have exactly the same experience as Amy – feeling attacked by this clique.
MIA is a forum for exchange of ideas – that’s why R. Whitaker set it up, if you read what he writes. If you want “an agent for social change,” Alex, then why don’t you do it yourself instead of criticizing others for not doing what YOU think THEY should be doing?
Um, it’s not your website. If you don’t like it, who are you to tell the people who set it up that they’re doing it wrong?
Wrote “slaying the dragon..” “Most people know next to nothing about the inner workings or the history of psychiatry.”
Maybe this kind of attitude is what keeps people away? The attitude that implies, or directly states, “Who are you to be commenting? You never read Szasz (or whoever) and what do you know about psychiatry? Your opinions are based on ignorance. Shut up and stay away.” Which is what I usually do.
But you know what? Nobody is an expert outside of his little field. If you think you know more than the next person, then you just degraded him as “less than” and you’ll never learn from anyone else. So, if MIA is a place for learning, I think you’re the one who should stay away.
Personally, I am so sick of reading comments that basically say nothing more than, “Psychiatry should be abolished! It should never have been created! It makes problems and doesn’t solve them!” Just hysteria with no concrete suggestions whatsoever. If you have some good ideas and a way to implement them, great. But so far, I’ve seen nothing here.
That’s great as far as referring to the past. It gives no sense of where the “movement” is trying to get to.
So we can all commiserate together, and bash the shrinks, but where’s the positive, forward-looking side of things?
It’s absolutely not the only medical specialty that can force treatment. There have been cases of forced abortions when the mother was deemed incapable of looking after a child. And there is the immense psychological pressure and threats of social services intervention for women during childbirth if they refuse interventions that medical teams consider necessary. There is forced feeding for anorexics. And probably a lot more that we are not aware of. This is a problem endemic in “medicine.” What about parents who refuse to vaccinate?
Correction – it’s not so much a problem in medicine as a problem in the concept of the State. Once you allow it a foothold in your life, it will suck your whole life out of you if you’re not careful. Because “they” always know better. “They” are also social services, law courts, politicians… But there is no ideal system. It’s just a case of trying to survive in whatever brand of totalitarianism your particular country subscribes to. (And that includes every country in the world.)
Anyone who can’t be bothered to listen – I can’t be bothered to talk to.
End up talking to myself a lot, but it’s not that bad.
Less than what I wrote? Okay, whatever…
Yeah, personal experience – that’s all it can ever be.
On the other hand, it’s my personal take on a reality that we can all potentially experience in our different ways. Everyone says the sky’s blue, but we all describe it and sense it a different way. I know the ultra-liberals/anarchists prefer to dismiss the idea of truth and falsehood, right and wrong, so if that’s where someone’s coming from, then I guess there’s no common language.
The word “moody” works excellently if you want people to dismiss you as overemotional and unreliable.
It might be more productive if you defined it as:
“I swing between feelings of expansiveness, when I feel like I can make a real, positive difference to the world, and build with other people to make it a better place; and feelings of despair and desolation when I contemplate the suffering that is inherent in human existence and realize how insignificant I am in the scheme of things. Then I rally my internal reserves and reassure myself that yes, even just one person can make a difference, and my mind starts whirling again with all the infinite possibilities out there.
Maybe this only works if you have some kind of concept of where you want to see yourself going. But I think it beats “moody” hands over.
My ancestors are from the ancient Middle East. We received a principle called “Don’t judge someone until you stand in their place.” One of the ideas behind that being that you are never going to stand in their place, because we are all dealing with different stuff.
“Those folks” could easily have been you or me. Virtually everyone on this planet is looking for understanding and recognition, and as Chris writes, often, if they don’t get something healthy and nurturing to drink, they’ll take the kool aid instead with its (false) promise of humanity and compassion.
Well, I continue to hang around MIA as a passive observer mainly because of the things I learn here, though most articles and comments do seem to be a rehash of what you might call “the precepts of anti-psychiatry.”
I got my “training” on the job when helping a loved one withdraw from various psychiatric drugs and it’s been a long process over the last 8 or so years and is still ongoing. So maybe I don’t know much about precepts. Or maybe my idea of precepts just doesn’t jive with yours. I admit I don’t subscribe to the view of many here, that “if we would only get rid of the labels, everything would be fine.” But I would hope that there’s room here for respectful disagreement.
You’re missing the point. Psychiatry calls this oscillation a defect. Chris is reclaiming it as essentially human, even as a higher aspect of being human and not something as inherent as, for instance, having two legs. You don’t have to agree (though it seems you do) but don’t misrepresent other people’s views.
Also, not all people oscillate. Many – I believe, even the majority – stay pretty much stagnant. But feel free to disagree.
(By the way, I guess you don’t realize it, but you come across as extremely aggressive sometimes, not at all Spockian.)
Goodness me, oldhead, can’t you give a guy a break? What are you trying to prove? Had a bad day?
I’ve been hanging around here for about 5 years actually.
Got to “know” the commenters quite well over that time, and some of them are clearly very bitter, though perhaps they have reason to be that way and are deserving of pity rather than censure.
I don’t usually comment because it’s basically a waste of time. Most of the “regulars” are totally mired in their narrow way of seeing the world, even if they feel totally justified in their holy (and holier-than-thou) anti-psychiatry.
Am I not entitled to my opinion? Or do we all have to trip over ourselves with PC and qualify every opinion with “IMHO” or some other such waste-of-time verbiage?
Didn’t you read Chris’ reply? I thought he explained himself excellently. Just as all psychiatric diagnoses are simply descriptions of symptoms (real symptoms, in the main part), so too bipolar is a description of a certain way of being. Namely, that people oscillate between different ways of thinking, different ways of looking at the world. He chooses to call that bipolar and, perhaps, in this way, to reclaim the label as a positive aspect of human nature – a higher aspect, I believe.
Just what are you trying to say? That people are just people and we should never dare to describe them in any way? What if psychiatrists start saying that being blond is a disorder? Do you then disown the description blond and deny its reality and say no, we’re all human?
I can understand your aversion to labels, but fact is, we use them all the time to put handles on things. When you look for a plumber, let’s say, you look for someone reliable. Now, what does reliable mean? How dare you label him! He’s simply human!
This has to be one of the best ever comments on MIA.
In the Kabbalah (ancient Jewish wisdom) there is also a bipolar reality, called mochin d’gadlus and mochin d’katnus – expanded versus constricted consciousness.
There is a recognition that we constantly oscillate between these two poles and that it isn’t possible to remain constantly in the mochin d’gadlus mode, although remaining in constricted consciousness is, I believe, a possibility (and certainly one that psychiatric drugs encourages).
Jewish sources refer to higher consciousness as “The Orchard” and warn in the strongest terms about being ready to enter before attempting to do so. Those who try to force their way into higher consciousness risk their sanity, because they lack the knowledge of how to correctly interpret what they “see” there, and also because a striving for character perfection is seen as a key prerequisite for achieving higher consciousness. (The Jewish sage and holy man is first and foremost an incredibly good person).
However, this doesn’t refer to the experiences everyone can have when, for instance, praying and sensing the immanence of God and how we too are part of Him.
I wonder if some people’s experience of psychosis is in fact an encounter with higher realms of subconscious reality, without being prepared for it? Certainly one can try to leapfrog to higher states via psychedelic drugs and be overwhelmed by one’s experiences.
The thing is: Why would someone want to do that? What’s the goal? Without an answer to that question, it’s probably just going to be a random floundering about with random insights that lead to what?
Hard to generalize. Neuroleptics and mood stablizers can also be hell to come off, even if done gradually. Unless you enjoy living a waking nightmare, getting next to no sleep for months on end, and being scared out of your life that everyone around you wants to kill you. I think I’d take muscle cramps and exhaustion instead, given the choice.
Spontaneous and sensitive… that’s great. Both imply that you embrace who you are and see the benefits and enjoy them. I think once a person works through the trauma and mines it for the diamonds, they can embrace whatever person they become. It’s during the process that it’s so tricky, because there are all these people who wish they’d never experienced the trauma, wish they could “just be normal,” whatever that is.
If “being bipolar” means distracting oneself from painful feelings or memories by either getting euphoric or depressed, then that’s something to work through, not get mired in. Accept that NOW this is the way I deal with stuff, but IN THE FUTURE I want to live in reality, not constantly try to escape it.