Friday, December 2, 2022

Comments by Phoebe Sparrow Wagner

Showing 42 of 42 comments.

  • Thank you Karin, for this piece. When I first got out of the psychiatric hospital (for the final time) a few years ago, I signed up for a creativity course with Robert Fritz here in Vermont. Instead of this class helping me recover from the years of traumatic experiences both in and out of the hospital, I was immediately scapegoated by this so-called teacher about the “creative process”…He singled me out for nasty commentary and scathing critiques so openly that he only traumatized me further. But one day, a comment he made released something in me. He said, you can’t use art to solve your problems.

    My reaction was one of, Huh?! Then I wrote a blog post listing all the writers, musicians and artists who had done precisely that… and I stopped allowing Fritz’s comments to destroy me. Eventually I was refunded my money for this course and I moved on, but my depictions of what happened to me and what psychiatry did to me have most definitely been healing for me and others. In fact, exposing some of the in-hospital “treatments“ used so often to discipline and control patients has been liberating. Art not only heals, it can help us create a new world, free of psychiatry’s baleful influence.

  • Larry that would be great! So few people see our art work and I think that’s a shame. You can see from the comments that many MANY of us work out these traumas thru art of some sort. It’s about time that we were taken seriously as artists, all of us, and also as experienced commentators on a subject that so few know enough about to become concerned.

  • Hi Boans,

    It does seem as if Australia is one step worse than the USA in terms of how it treats so called mental patients… the dylan voller case is one example but there are also others as you know. Patients kept in restraints almost continuously for months at a time…that used to happen here too, in the 60s and before. And I’d say a lot still happens, including the near murders (and murders even) of which you were a victim, and I myself too. I remember vividly three times that happened, and in the last incident (in 2014) two security guards at the hospital had stripped me naked and four-pointed me spread eagled to a bed, then with a towel one of them muzzled my face and pressed down so I could not breathe, while the nurse injected me with their usual three punishment drugs. I thought I would die, and I know he did it on purpose because he said, Serves you right, after he took off the towel and let me breathe. It’s hard to remember things like this…

    I paint, I draw, I make large papier mâché sculptures, I do a lot of everything in art as it keeps me alive. I didn’t start doing art till I was 55 and I’m 68 (almost) now so it feels like I’m making up for lost time. The pieces here were all very early ones, but I keep learning and growing.

    Best wishes,


  • Ice hospital which is actually titled Self Portrait in Seclusion, is shown in my third book, LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS, (Green Writers Press, 2017) along with the poem, “Ice Hospital“, in the section, Poems in Which I Speak Frankly…this book has many of my artworks in it, which accompany the poems. Just letting you know.


  • Hi Boans,

    Phoebe here, the former pamela of the book Divided Minds etc.

    My twin sister died in February of 2019, but I know that as late as 2016, when she ended all contact with me, something that had started as early as 2009 with her second marriage, she believed in restraints and seclusion and thought such control measures were justified and harmless to the patient. When she was an inpatient psychiatrist at the YPI at Yale, she used to tell me how they taught patients there to ASK to be restrained…which struck me then as now as teaching an abused child to ask for punishment as an indication that his or her parents care or even love them. It struck me as a horrendous solution to a problem that should not exist, and would not, if we stopped feeling that “mental patients” need to be controlled…One of my pieces, called Psychiatrie Macht Frei or “Fork you, Psychiatry” depicts a victim of Abu Ghraib torture in it, as it depicts psychiatric tortures and show a big third finger to it all. You can see this work, which accompanies the poem “Tyrannosaurus rex” and others in my third book LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS, (Green Writer Press, 2017) or if you can find me on the internet or my blog, I will point you to this work, as I cannot post it here. Best wishes,
    Phoebe Sparrow Wagner

  • Sam Ruck, when I read your comment tears came to my eyes. Your behavior with your wife was exactly the kind of treatment my therapist presented me when I went into an altered state, and it is thanks to her and her unconditional acceptance of me that I healed and am here today. Everything you did, she also did…it was absolutely life -saving and the first real caring/care I had ever received in more than 4 decades of psychiatric care/abuse. Thank you for this comment. I for one would love to see an entire article at MIA devoted to the subject.



  • Bravo, Bradford ! I heartily agree with everything you wrote above. Also the “side “ effects of drugs are the EFFECTS of the drugs.

    I myself think we should be free to research and ingest whatever we want, drugs of any sort or brown rice or white glue or you name it. But to nickname drugs “meds” is to sugarcoat poison. That shrinks then force them on others they want to control is a crime.

  • Thank you Eric for this brilliantly readable article. Like the other reader I am impressed that you could write it while simultaneously under AOT forced treatment. I find certain drugs beneficial, as I wrote a few months back in my own MIA article, but I also think that none of the desirable effects are in any fashion antipsychotic or even anti-depressant. I cannot explain why I can do art on the drugs and not when off them, but I am also aware of having gained at least 40 pounds on the drugs (and they are mostly billed as “weight neutral”!) The weight is a problem, and I struggle actively with it every day, breaking my right foot because I walked so much for instance. In any event, what is certain is that we are being lied to, and possibly deliberately placed into a walking vegetative state in order to neutralize our tendencies towards independent and creative thinking. I also believe that altered states or extreme states exist — I have experienced them! — but “treating” such mental states with antipsychotic so-called drugs is a crime against humanity and should be called by its real name: enslavement and torture.

    Best wishes, and congrats again on this wonderful article.
    Phoebe Wagner

  • Yes, but you cannot find anything by the artists name, they have not even NOTED the name of the artist! Which I think is scummy…so unless someone knows exactly what to look for and where, one’s work is hopelessly buried. I resent MIA for this. I did not agree to lend them my word just for it to be anonymous. What if robert Whitaker had to have all his writing published anonymously?!

    Thanks for looking for it anyway. I only saw two pieces of mine, a large collage and — two pics later — the one of me in restraints.


  • Not sure what “it” is here since clearly church abuses sexual abuses and psychiatric abuses hurt the Middle class Family as much as anyone else…

    Can’t possibly read all those links but I have held two hospitals to account by suing them or threatening to and I won settlements in both cases, along with a you-cannot-talk-about-this-case-with-anyone-clause…

    In another case they investigated three times, with the focal nurses giving different stories each time but apparently that was good enough. So long as their concerted efforts to falsify what happened did not jibe with my own story, which by the way stayed stable, the investigators could simply conclude I was lying…and they did, letting the nurses off the hook.

  • I’m glad MIA has the courage to publish this…revealing histories of sexual abuse and rape is becoming much more “acceptable” but I wonder when MIA will actually allow a psych survivor to tell graphically the truth about what happens — the physical, sexual and emotional brutalities — behind the closed doors of a psych hospital, those like the ones our illustrious Resident in the White House wants to build more of. I for one have many such stories but so far as I can tell, even MIA has its limits and is much more concerned about protecting delicate ears than in allowing those like me to speak the unvarnished truth.

  • Thank you, Phil, for this article, which I plan to send to psychiatric professionals. The biochemical, neurotransmitter hoax is very much alive and well, as I know from speaking both with psychiatrists and nurses.

    It used to be implicit, before serotonin became a household word, that for instance in the case of what you so correctly call “despondency” (aka “depression”) professionals attempted to differentiate between so-called endogenous and exogenous depression. (I’m sure you remember this!) While exogenous depression was considered to have arisen because of an externally depressing event or series of events, the supposedly “more serious” so-called endogenous depression was considered “biological” because no obvious external factors seemed to account for it. Now of course we know that the occurrence is widespread of both ACEs and of sexual abuse or harassment to mention only two externally “depressing” traumas, both of which would have likely gone under tHe radar of anyone diagnosing endogenous depression, largely because it was not supposed to be spoken about (sexual abuse etc) or the possible relation to later “depression” was not known, in the case of ACEs…I do not mean that either of these external factors cause despondency, only that if abuse is occurring or has occurred, and you cannot talk about it and be taken seriously, surely one natural response, just one of many, would be to grow sad.

    It is too bad that most people cannot or do not want to acknowledge that depression I.e. sadness, etc is a natural response to trauma and adverse events. And that “psychosis” only means that the doctor doesn’t understand what you are saying, not that it is In and of itself a bad thing or pathological. We at MIA like to think that our understanding is far more widespread than it sadly is. For most people I know, when I say such things as mental illness is not a real illness, only want to jump up and tell me how ill they are or were, and how it is of course biological, what else could it be?

    The damage both to individuals and to society caused by these never proven theories is enormous, and so far as I can tell, continues to influence everything under the sun even today. I cannot help but think that Pies’s disavowal and defense of psychiatry is not just self-serving but also deliberate. After all, if there is really no chemical imbalance, and the world was told and believed the truth, many powerful individuals who have made their life from the lie would not only lose their income, but the source of their prestige and power. Income is one thing, but for many in the profession of psychiatry power (and social control) is the name of the game.

  • Hi Kindred spirit, thank you for your insightful and informative comment.

    I was a writer (3 published book) for many many years, but I would say that much of that time I wrote in spite of the terrible anti-psychotics I was on. Only when I was switched to Abilify and Geodon did writing very suddenly come without fighting thru a drugged haze. I used to go to my writers’ group and say, “well, I wrote a lot this week, but that is only because I had help from these drugs.” I even thought that they could help other struggling writers. Then I fell in love with art, and while my desire to write has fallen off, my urge to produce art has not. People change and I think I grew sick of writing things — that is to say, poems — that few people in this country care about in general. My memoir, the one I wrote with my twin sister, is and was widely read, yes, but poems? Americans by and large have no patience for poetry, even though I frankly started writing poems because it was all I could do, since larger longer pieces were beyond my capability on the drugs I took in the 80s and 90s.

    I am of course aware acutely aware of the dangers in taking these drugs. But most people don’t begrudge or judge others who have wine with each dinner. I try to think of my drugs like that. Something that for others might be “harmful” but overall is for me a life saver not a life killer. After all, how helpful is a drug-free life if it ends in suicide?

    None of us survive our lives, frankly. I’m happy where I am now, able to produce art and also to study French with an absolute passion. What more could I ask?

  • Anatomy of an Epdemic by Robert Whitaker is an eye opening expose of many psychiatric “interventions” chief among them the use of psychotropic drugs. If your son was diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar I also highly highly recommend Whitaker’s MAD IN AMERICA book, the updated edition from maybe 2013. It is a fascinating and extremely disturbing account of how serious mental illness diagnoses have been treated in the US…right up to atypical antipsychotics, and their development. I hope you will look into these two books soon, before things are irreversible. My best to you,

  • Thank you so much for this supportive comment, Bippyone. Like most people I would much prefer not to need to take these chemicals, and I am well aware of the risks as well as the side effects. But I am glad at least at the age i am now, 66, to be relatively free to choose what I take and how. It was not always the case, esp in hospitals where if I refused an objectionable drug’ they would by court order forcibly inject me, most often with large daily doses of HALDOL, essentially as punishment. I no longer allow anyone to hospitalisĂ© me and so this is no longer a problem. But if these two particular drugs were not easily obtainable, I am not sure what I would do…i have become deeply depressed and suicidal when off them, simply due to the all encompassing losses — of art and writing — that I incur. Thanks again for being so encouraging!

  • Hi Don,

    Yes I have read a lot about kusama. What I do not understand is why she chooses to live in a hospital. But be that as it may, she certainly has more freedom than most hospital patients! and probably a lot more money too. Perhaps she funds her own hospital life, I don’t know. No hospital I was in ever let me go out daily to a studio to paint, and usually monitored and severely restricted my access to art supplies. Maybe Kusama doesn’t like cooking and shopping for herself. I don’t either so if the life in hospital works for her, i say, the more power to her!

  • Sedation is by far NOT the only effect of antipsychotics in general. These drugs can — I emphasize can — cause many many psychotropic effects, including the psychotic symptoms they claim to treat. These effects are as real as real can be, and what we call a “drug” versus a medication has much more to do with legality than with real or unreal effects.

  • I have written extensively about my experience with ECT. You can read what I wrote here:

    I suffered from symptoms I now attribute to ECT for years. But I would say that whatever losses I incurred, they have been largely ameliorated. Though I still lack many memories of that now distant past, I form and retain new ones just fine.

  • Anosognosia, in my opinion, is only a doctor saying that if the patient doesn’t agree with him or her that is a symptom. In my book, denying that you have an illness is a sign of health! After all, as you might know if you have read in MIA widely, there is absolutely no proof that such things as mental illness esp as diagnosed by a doctor, even exist. If these are actual illnesses, where is the anatomical, neurochemical or physiological problem or imbalance? No evidence shows up in any blood test or scan, or anywhere else. And when it does, lo and behold one finds out it is not really a mental illness so called but a known physical illness.

    I am sorry your son is suffering, if he is. But sometimes I felt that they were drugging me, forcibly and against my will or otherwise, simply because, well, as I put it, “to put me out of *their* misery”!

    The important thing is not to rush into anything, many extreme states pass without intervention of the medical sort.

    I’m sorry I can’t help you more than this. Partly it’s because of the hour, but partly because I don’t buy the medical model lie that mental suffering is an illness that must be eradicated Asap.


  • As I wrote in my essay, I have had narcolepsy since high school And possibly before then…I was not on neuroleptics continually until I was 30.

    I’m not saying that neuroleptic drugs do not cause sleepiness, and they have certainly exacerbated mine — walking around on 1500mg of Thorazine (as an outpatient!) plus 1000 mg of Mellaril most certainly drugged me into oblivion. Clozaril too I found immensely and horribly sedating. But my sleepiness started well before any neuroleptic therapy. Well before it.

  • Hi Richard,

    Yes I appreciate the role of trauma…it was mostly that I needed to stick to one subject and not meander all over the place…also constrained by word limit. But I also think if I had not felt obliged to go to med school and could have “discovered” art and my abilities before age 55 I might have lived better. No regrets, tho. I learned a lot along the way, and painful experiences teach much.


  • Hey Julie, I think the medical pros most likely are being paid to keep info from “the people” and they may believe it is for “our good” but it isn’t. Dr Google has helped a lot at least for those of us who know how to properly sift the junk science and medicine from the helpful info.


  • Hi Pacific Dawn,
    I’m not in disagreement necessarily although I do feel these particular chemicals did give me something. But what one person needs or decides voluntarily to put into her or his body should be up to them…I just don’t want anyone saying I have to take this that or another thing, OR because they disapprove, that I *cannot* take this that or the other thing. Otherwise if someone wants to self regulate with yoga, great! The more power to them. It’s just that mood altering chemicals and alcohol have been with mankind since the beginning and it is nobody’s business to judge me about what I or anyone else chooses to eat, drink or otherwise absorb.

  • Yes, I have thought this for a long time. And not a piddling $1000 a month which is what I think Julián Castro proposĂ©s but a real income. If we taxed the wealthy and truly leveled the playing field, because NO ONE’s work is really worth multimillions of dollars, it is usually generated from others money not to mention on their backs. I would say 30,000 per year per individual…can you imagine that, along with healthcare and education paid for by the state? I have read research completely negating the predictions of people becoming lazy and doing nothing. Most invested the money in their own enterprises etc…but will it ever happen? When the mental illness system is dismantled as the fraud it is, maybe then!

  • Once again,MIA publishes an article about the “illness” “schizophrenia “ without any indication that there is no such thing, nor any evidence that so called schizophrenia is a “discrete mental illness.” That the drugs seem to hinder all cognitive improvements relative to those who stop AP drugs does not surprise me, having been on many that made me an absolute dullard. But what, pray, is an “illness trajectory” ? are they saying they can read the future and know what will happen to those on higher AP doses? Or are they saying. If you are on higher doses you likely were sicker with this so-called illness to begin with and since you probably are forced to continue taking the AP drugs due to court order, this means your cognitive decline is both guaranteed and acceptable? So many things wrong with MIA publishing this without so much as an alert as to the highly dubious assumptions herein…!

  • Sorry I missed this article, Julie, I only just now came across it.

    Anyhow, the wholesale disabling of America’s children disturbs me. On the one hand, I understand the desire of financially troubled households to welcome the extra income of a disability check, and their ignorance — how could they know? — of the terrible ramifications of labelling any child disabled…The emotional/mental/intellectual consequences alone are enormous, especially when a child is raised with the belief that she “cannot”— cannot do much of anything — both because of her “disability” (which mind you could be putative “ADHD” or some made up conduct “disorder” that has more to do with the parents behavior than the child’s…) because she is and will supposedly always be disabled, she simple cannot do or function as others do.

    But also, once on disability, the income, steady if impoverishing, is a huge incentive to parents and to the child NOT to do anything to interrupt these payments. It’s a vicious cycle, alas, because who wants to give up “free money”? Even if it is not enough, it is more than nothing…

    But nothing is free and the toll both economic in terms of lost productivity and also emotional, with children accepting this message for the rest of their lives, is stunning and enormous. We should be prepared to see enormous losses for the country, both in wasted brainpower (because most of these supposedly ADHD “disabled” brains, or even “schizophrenic” disabled brains are perfectly fine or would be but for the disabling treatments!) and in the financial toll in communities where so many “disabled” need “care”.

    While I do not share the over enthusiastic view of being allowed onto the “autistic spectrum” I see that as a somewhat better bandwagon, if one needs a bandwagon. At least many of those on the spectrum (so called) consider themselves special and unique in ways that do not prevent contribution. Yes, they might demand special treatment for “differences” that are also seen all through the so-called neurotypical population, but at least they don’t sit back and say, “Pay me, keep me poor, i’m Incapable and disabled…” In my experience, many of those on the so-called spectrum are higher “functioning” than most people! But this is another subject altogether. I frankly think if we had a guaranteed national annual income many of these supposedly disabled would suddenly get well because neither the families nor they themselves would need to claim disability in order to eat.

  • Hi pacific dawn,

    This is in reply to your comment about kibbutzes, which I place here simply because there is no reply button under certain nested comments.

    It’s weird, I have a gut reaction about kibbutzes (which spell-correct keeps charging to kibitzers!) largely because of Israel’s policy of taking Palestinian land, which is not a subject to bring up here. However, coming from a home where I grew up wanting only to go to boarding school or be sent to an orphanage, or (knowing as a child nothing about foster care abuses) even a foster family, I am in agreement about how most parents are woefully inadequate at best. And with the notion that many to most parents treat their children as property. I don’t know that older children raising younger children as in the case of, say, the imprisoned immigrants who have dared to try crossing the US southern border, is the solution. I know when I was a child, however, that as the eldest, bearing a good deal of the burden of abuse and abusive expectations, I longed fervently for anyone older than I was to “help” me, to explain things to me, to listen to me, to take some of the burden of being the eldest off me. I wanted even more than a better parent an older sister or brother…And like most young people with Jewish parents (or parent) in the 60s I too wanted very much to live in a situation like a kibbutz…In the end, i accepted that as a child controlled by her parents, I had no choice and in my case absolutely no say in the matter.

    I dunno what the solution is, but I doubt highly that at least in the US parents will ever willingly give up control of their chattel, whoops, children, to the state, or to any organization. We are stuck with parents being the main rearers of their offspring, I suspect. The WordPress blog, Abuse with an Excuse, written by Jeff McGuire, has many other ideas for how to make parenting less dangerous, or even benevolent, starting with stopping the widespread abuse known as punishment. I think parents need formal education and if they have been badly indoctrinated in traditional ideas of child rearing as helpful abuse, REeducation, before they are permitted to have or raise children. As someone who has been enormously helped in later life by a “therapist” who practices NVC (Marshall Rosenberg’s NonViolent Communication) that — NVC — would be the best place to start.

  • I cannot comment as a reply to the comments I wanted to add this to, so I am adding it here. I was surprised by the Kibbutz comment, and looked into it a little. Here is an interesting article with links, about Kibbutz child rearing from one individual’s experience. I think her wondering why in fact Kibbutz communal sleeping, children apart from parents, came to an end is a valid one. Clearly, I think, this practice would not have ended had it been entirely positive. On the other hand, on balance the author is not complaining.

    I guess it did post where it belonged after all.

  • I did a search here on one of the most stigmatized and stigmatizing “mental illness” labels, “Borderline Personality” so-called disorder and the most recent article I found came out this past April, ( with absolutely no qualifiers like quotation marks (I call these DISqualifiers) and an attitude revealed that showed complete acceptance of a rĂ©ified concept, writing as if “reality” of what the author called “Borderline Pathology” exists. I won’t go into all the many, many arguments that this label is only and completely iatrogenic, though I have seen the iatrogenic development of this supposed disorder a hundred times if I’ve seen it once. I only cite this article as evidence that MIA apparently thinks it needs 1) “scientific” backing by means of such establishment non-articles 2) Paula Caplan is right, that while MIA may state it is against such rĂ©ified concepts as valid diagnostic labels, nonetheless it seems to want to eat the poisoned cake of DSM lies and “have it” too. Such cake needs to be swallowed and excreted as the “merde” it is, but once done, MIA cannot then claim a real harmless cake remains on the plate. (Sorry for this lousy metaphor but I just woke up and my brain is not sufficiently functional to come up with something better.)

  • “…to rid themselves of the voices, their brains “need to be persuaded that what [they are] experiencing is not best predicted as being a voice, but rather as being inner speech or a memory.”

    When I wrote DIVIDED MINDS (under the name Pamela Wagner) with my twin sister, Carolyn S Spiro, I never dreamed that one day I would be able to write the words : voices don’t bother me any more. In 2003 when we finished the book, and even in 2005 when St Martin’s published it, I heard voices on an almost constant basis . And these were not nice voices by any stretch of the imagination. 4 months after a lengthy hospital stay in 2003, during which I was forcibly treated with ECT (and with no ability or at least none of the necessary skills and information to help myself deal with the voices) I doused myself with lighter fluid and, at the voices urging, lit a match…

    Today, three years after my last hospitalization, and well and almost fully shed of the mental health system in terms of my dependence on it (I still take meds but largely because I find I cannot do art without them and a life for me without making art is not worth living), I no longer am tortured or controlled by the once constant barrage of voices. In fact, the reason I pasted that quote from the article at the top is that on the rare occasions that voices break through I might succumb to momentary panic until I come to the understanding that indeed they are only memories…memories transmogrified perhaps, but memories or the products of memories. Then magically, the voices don’t so much shut up as, framed in this way, they cease to be voices according to my perception and interpretation.

    I heard voices starting at age 11 and for the following five decades plus…but now at age 66 I am free. And I am productive and happy. I hope this gives others hope, and that readers of DIVIDED MINDS who had been left with the feeling that the “Hopeless” prognoses were correct, will find their way to this comment to learn that even “chronic schizophrenics” as I was labelled can shed both the burden of the label and the worse burden of believing something is wrong with them.

    The fact is, nothing was ever wrong WITH me, though trauma after trauma had left me most certainly with Major life problems…but it was that first contact with psychiatry, in the hospital as a teen that led me to feel I was wrong, that I was broken…rather than that my environment had traumatized me deeply.

    Much more could be said but I just wanted to add to these my own experience of recovery.

    Best wishes,

    Phoebe Sparrow Wagner