Comments by Greg Benson

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  • Awesome awesome awesome that you are fighting for people’s right to come off of drugs and working to better supports we offer people going through the often harrowing coming off experience.

    Work around coming off is simultaneously a systems change advocacy hammer and a non-bio-psych way to directly support individuals experiencing intense human experience.

    Thank you for this piece.

    In particular I resonate with these excerpts:

    “I listened to my mother’s advice but had made a decision that if ten years hadn’t brought sufficient improvement then I had earned the right to end this misery.”

    “Even though psychiatrists are more skilled at predicting the future than they are at discovering the cause of ‘schizophrenia,’ the dismal future the psychiatrist predicted in that small office in 2004 was not to be.”

    “I suddenly realized just how emotionally numb the drugs had made me as I heard Jacqui Dillon telling her story and saw how it affected the people around me, while I was more focused on getting my next shot of caffeine.”

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  • James,
    I appreciate your conscientious response.

    You clarified your intent quite well but my philosophical objection to the post in question has not changed because of your response.

    I believe that you are using the word normal in a way that implies that we cannot identify and address debilitating problems in living without labelling human experiences normal and abnormal.

    I think this is an incorrect and harmful framework through which to approach building collaborative relationships with individuals who are cutting themselves – or any individuals for that matter.

    If cutting is normal within one’s peer group, the commonality of the behavior doesn’t negate that it may be harmful, dangerous, unhealthy, et cetera.

    Normal experience/behavior does not equal homogeneity of experience/behavior – I will refrain from spouting historical allusions which demonstrate tragic ramifications of doctrines, texts, or frameworks which pit the concept of diversity as at odds with normalcy.

    Agree or disagree – my main point is that within the diverse human experience of existence all sorts of vulnerability, unhealthy and destructive behavior, and inconvenient and intense experiences – are normal.

    What follows from this belief of mine is that discussing our lives with words such as hard, crippling, unhealthy, painful, destructive, inconvenient, intense, scary, crazy, et cetera – does not and should not connote abnormality.

    Conversely, celebrating our travails as well within the range of normal human diversity – in no way white washes the gravity of transient and torturous suffering.
    i.e. Acknowledging experience as destructive or debilitating does not satisfy my definition of abnormal and calling an experience normal does not prevent acknowledgment of its destructive or incapacitating nature.

    Furthermore, I believe it matters that we call these experiences the mouth fulls that they are – not mental illness or aberrations or any kind of discrete condition within individuals. I think this matters because processing life through the lens of – the individual is abnormal – diverts attention from the opportunity to treat the society or context in which people struggle.
    In processing life through the labelling of the individual instead of processing the mouthful of their experience, we also diminish opportunities for individuals to take ownership of their lives and change what they can – if they choose to change.
    If you tell someone that they are abnormal and we are going to treat your abnormality – the emphasis shifts away from them engaging and addressing their daily lives – toward addressing nebulous and erroneous causality which is misleadingly presented as an understood DSM or psychological entity.

    Thank you for writing and for giving thought to my ideas. I considered your thoughts and still adamantly disagree but am open to and look forward to contemplating your future writings.


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  • It certainly does matter what we call it. If unhealthy behaviors and/or inconvenient experiences continue be erroneously understood as the result of disordered minds or deficient brains – discrimination against people with said labels will continue to be rational.

    It is absolutely possible to address unhealthy behavior without attributing it to erroneous causality. Whether or not behavior is healthy ought to be determined and addressed contextually via relationships.

    I disagree with the way you’ve employed the word normal. I think your usage of the word normal implies that disputing the validity of mental illness – which the psych-industry repeatedly tells us is not a verified entity – invariably entails connoting health or functionality to intense or crazy experiences or behaviors. Disputing the validity of mental illness does not in and of itself connote functionality to crazy experiences or problematic behavior.

    Nor does acknowledging intense experiences or unhealthy behavior, in and of itself, connote discrete illness, disease, or disorder to an individual.

    What is normal to the human condition – based on my studies of civilization and the history of the human race – is a bit of craziness, struggle, strife, and triumph.

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  • Dorothy,
    Your writing style elegantly exudes peacefully profound (I’m not trying to prove myself) energy. In your gentle beautiful way you’ve offered your story in order to contribute to social progress.

    You have for many years impacted our community with your story and activism. Your narrative, particularly through a historical lens, is a form of social commentary that I hope is read far and wide.

    Your gentle loving nature – given what you’ve endured – speaks volumes about your character. This piece reinforces my respect for your character and increases my gratitude for all that you continue to do for our community and for the fact that I am lucky enough to know you in person.

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  • I’m going to be maybe both lazy and honest and avoid the question. I admire your work Chaya and see the growing “coming off” movement as the biggest advocacy hammer against bio-psychiatry.

    I think the profit motive is problematic in that once the incentive becomes building community and economically sustaining me as an individual – the community building is compromised.
    While admitting that I am not free from the influence of profit motives in my own endeavors – I’ll just say I don’t know what my thoughts are on how to fund these types of services. Maybe one just keeps doing what they passionately believe is right and funding works itself out without conscious planning. Again, I don’t know.
    That said, I believe that with the efforts of individuals like you all over the globe – we will make bio-psychiatry largely obsolete in my life time.
    This excerpt in particular excites me: “The numbers of people seeking support outside the system because they don’t trust mental health professionals, people who want connection and transparency in that support (to know the story of their “supporter” and have a reciprocal human relationship) and the number of people getting off psychiatric drugs and feeling called to reach out to others in distress are continuing to grow and will not stop anytime soon.”

    Keep up the great work that comes from your heart.

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  • Steven,

    This is a great piece of writing. Well worth reading thoroughly.

    You’ve synthesized poignant and convincing analysis of profound and expansive cultural conceptions – in an impressively succinct way.

    In particular these two excerpts mean a lot to me:

    “It may seem like trivial semantics, but the mistake that mental illness is something concrete has led to an epidemic of mythology. Every day, someone is told they have a thing inside them called mental illness that must be contended with long-term in order to achieve health. What follows is people learn to see themselves as having ill experiences and well experiences, unlike the normal population who somehow manage to live without sick feelings and thoughts. This attitude can have devastating effects psychologically, as it assures a person that something is wrong with them at their root – their mind, and that they cannot live confidently in their understanding of the world. Physically this attitude can lead to injury, as it assumes and often persuades anyone diagnosed with major mental illness to take risky medications indefinitely as opposed to selectively, which can lead to long-term addiction and a wide range of disabilities, bodily dysfunctions, and disturbing behavior.”

    “Of course, there is a difference between feeling elevated and thinking the CIA has installed cameras in your mind. The latter can cause much more functional disability within our society. In some contexts, it may be useful to view breakdowns as part of an illness, as long as we recognize that we are talking in metaphor. Some people find great relief in believing they have a brain pathology, and some folks feel invaded and possessed by their experiences to the extent of losing control over their selves. That can certainly feel like a disease taking over. These viewpoints are valid and important if one chooses to make meaning of their experiences in such a way. But let’s not pretend this perspective is empirical – “just like having diabetes” – and therefore applicable to all subjects who have similar experiences. Nor should we ever build far-reaching policies and laws upon such a porous foundation. Let us instead call the brain disease hypothesis what it is: a worldview, a theory with contradicting evidence, and a cultural bias. We can then make room for other perspectives, for one person’s shrunken amygdala is another’s child abuse is another’s combat experience is another’s religious mission is another’s salvation.”

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  • Jonah,

    Very fair criticism. The above comment of mine is glib and can alienate people and muddle my main point.

    What I want to say is: can we ignore psychiatry framed as psychiatry and talk about it as manipulation of universal wishful tendencies of humans, eugenics, genocide, or many other deeper issues about ourselves which the perpetuation of a phony science might make us contemplate?

    Hard to do granted – but can we ignore the debate about wether or not bio-psychiatry makes sense or how harmful versus helpful it is?

    We’ve already won that debate.

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  • Why does an openly fraudulent and harmful paradigm persist and grow? Drugging each other is a product of capitalism, poverty, racism, imperialism, and infinite systems far grander than psychiatry.

    Systems created by the downfalls of human nature and whose ills reflect flaws within us all. Biological psychiatry is born from and feeds off of our generalized unwillingness and inability to connect and interact. If psychiatry is but one problematic system of many resulting from and persisting because of our indolence, fear, and selfishness – it seems to me there is no “them” for “us” to overthrow. We must occupy and alter our behavior in order to dismantle the psychiatric powers that be.

    After all, humans run psychiatry.

    I am not suggesting that the down with mantra is discreditable. It is quite credible in an intellectual sense and it creates space for more people to avoid psychiatry. I am suggesting – in my slightly young, slightly tall, Caucasian, heterosexual male, self-absorbed, can’t sleep at night ambivalent kinda way – that biological psychiatry is one manifestation of our overall inharmonious way of coexisting and our tendency to distance ourselves from that which is messy about being human.

    So perhaps we should evolve our degradation which biological psychiatry grows out of – not as a “systematic” form of support or a way to foil current “treatment” – but as an end in itself that has nothing to do with biological psychiatry – lest we dismantle biological psychiatry and humans up against marginalization for more than just active minds become manipulated by whatever manifestation of our collective degradation replaces psychiatry.

    In this way instead of fighting an insidious force to which we’ve conceded control, we sort of say: “Who cares about biological psychiatry? It is already dead!” Or, “Biological Psychiatry!? Psssssst – who cares?”

    Maybe we should ignore psychiatry and do what we want. Independent of what psychiatry does or doesn’t do maybe we should advance the fabric of our collective existence.

    Maybe psychiatry is an insignificant pawn in a collective consciousness that we control. In the spirit of Frank Zappa maybe we should eat a doughnut and stick to wholesome activity.

    Hypothetically, if we were to dismantle the psychiatric powers that be – regardless of whether this were accomplished via the down with message, occupying our behavior, or some combination of the two – a war ridden, patriarchal, and poverty stricken world absent of psychiatric abuse – is not a world I’m satisfied with.

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  • Thank you Fred.

    You raise an important distinction.

    What I was trying to express is that i think we as a culture emphasize a false belief that (even if it were possible) knowing and reducing the cause of our pain – somehow is the end all be all in itself in that it gets us somewhere in terms of feeling less pain. Versus focusing on how who and what we are (which is infinitely complex) engages, interprets, and interacts with the goings on of our daily worlds.

    It is vital to view suffering contextually and ask if tragedies, frictions, disappointments, abuse, etcetera – have to do with the way we are experiencing our worlds. Versus reducing our experience of our worlds to erroneous “mental illness” and devaluing a person as defective when it is what has go on in their world or in between them and other people and their world that is problematic – not a microbiological deficiency inside of them.

    That said I don’t think my above rambling paragraph amounts to advocating for replacing bio-psychiatry causality with any kind of contextual causality model (trauma model, etcetera) or any causality model for that matter.

    I feel that scientific causality models are all inherently limiting and dangerous when it comes to human perception and experience.

    Thank you for asking for clarification.

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  • Hi Darby.

    I am thrilled you weighed in on this.

    In my opinion a duality exists in that it is simultaneously true that disease model psychiatry’s suppression of human potential is caused and perpetuated by its manipulative underpinnings and coercion – and this suppression of potential is not caused and perpetuated by the disease industry’s erroneous manipulation and coercion.

    I am careful to appreciate the harm perpetrated by an industry that presents a metaphorical brain abnormality as an objective laboratory measure of biological pathology – and then encourages: 1. Viewing this metaphor as the cause of contextualized suffering, intensity, and confusion inherent to the human condition. And 2. numbing your ability to acknowledge and experience suffering, intensity, and confusion with physically and spiritually toxic drugs.

    The psychiatric industry to some extent manipulates everyone who “chooses” to receive “treatment” because it offers daily regimens of pills – falsely represented as the most viable option. People who desperately want a solution are offered daily regimens of pills as a safe and effective approach they should want and an approach that makes sense to want. But everyone is instinctually uncomfortable about wanting this approach and no one ever wants to want this approach.

    While the psychiatric industry deserves blame, as the psychiatric survivors “movement” says it does, the general population accepts what we correctly deem oppressive and scientifically dishonest medicine.  The general population accepts the – at first – reassuring explanation that “you have a serotonin or dopamine imbalance” when someone’s experience of – or way of relating to – the world is inconvenient.  The general population accepts the notion that the most viable intervention for someone who “might have a serotonin or dopamine imbalance” is a long-term or life-long regimen of psych-drugs that will ultimately destroy their health. 

    I am not suggesting individual charlatans and institutions be absolved from the crime of proliferating manipulative conjecture. I am just fleshing out my perception of current societal dynamics.

    While the psych-industry is the driver of this mess and a marketing machine primarily concerned with the economic aggrandizement of a tiny sub-set of the population, I don’t think the psych-industry is our biggest problem. Nor do I believe psychiatry controls whether or not we continue to perpetuate the destruction of human potential via daily drug regimens.

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  • Thanks Steve.

    I really appreciate you broaching the issue of our society’s over zealous faith in science.

    On some level everybody already knows that drugging a metaphorical brain disorder in response to peoples’ struggles has terrible consequences. A growing number of psych survivors know this in a visceral way, having been on daily psych drugs, and now living drug-free. Parents know this seeing the bodies of their children deteriorate and witnessing the evaporation of their kids’ ability to acknowledge and connect to their emotions and the emotions of others. School teachers know this. And yes, biological psychiatrists and pharma salespeople already know and openly state this. Just listen to or read the legally required list of “side-effects” accompanying any psych-drug ad.

    Everybody already knows that psychiatric “services” suck. Whether you believe that “mental illness” is a myth and we’ve been lied to, you believe that after one hundred years of unsuccessful hunting it still makes sense to try to scientifically understand for the first time – biological causality of distressing human experience, or you believe that biological reduction of human distress is proven science – you already know that drugging the soul out of one’s self is less than ideal.

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  • You raise a very important consideration – the fight against force and coercion needs to go on.

    When I say Psychiatry is dead it’s a bit of a rhetorical trope. It’s not that it actually is, but it is rhetorically, in that the debate is over, and we won.

    Insel acknowledged it, so we best just start talking as if it’s true, because it is true. It’s not an argument any more. The only question is why we’re still even talking about it, which is about much deeper issues than whether or not there is a mental illness boogieman or not; there isn’t.

    You are absolutely correct though – the fight against force and coercion in many contexts including psychiatry – must be intensified.

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  • I don’t view our aspirations for richer human communities – as revolving around deciding between values and cash flow.

    I write this because while appreciate what I think is your point – that people are left out and isolated without resources -I don’t think we necessarily need research or more money to act upon what we believe is tried and true and garden and interact intertwine our happiness with the pursuit of leading a meaningful life as a member of a community. And I believe that the existence of governmental research supported bio-psychiatric inadequate and harmful safety net – actually impedes our albeit lackluster engagement of that which is tried and true (inherently unscientific and unsubstantiated by research) basic human interaction.

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  • madmom, thank you for reading and for your well thought out comment.

    I have no use for erroneous science. That said, the gulf between my outlook and your outlook may be smaller than you or I might perceive at any one moment.

    I don’t know what tough experiences are caused by and I feel that the value of the pursuit of causality for tough experiences is grossly exaggerated and dangerous – in our culture.

    What is true to me is that tough experiences are not symptoms and that “mental illness” is not a verified entity.

    Tough experiences are real though and I don’t know what they are or what causes them.

    What I am suggesting is that maybe value and healing lies in appreciating tough human experience as something we can’t understand, fix, or eradicate.

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  • 🙂

    Thank you skybluesight.

    Changing our cultural conception of suffering and struggle might do us good.

    This is not to suggest that joy and pleasure and ease aren’t present or shouldn’t be sought out.

    It is more to protect ourselves from the harmful ramifications of the warm and fuzzy wishful fantasy that the meaning of life is happiness – simply not true IMO and I think most historical, philosophical, religious, spiritual, and artistic documents since the dawn of humankind – support this perception.

    Yes changing our goalposts might be powerful. I perceive that I grew up in a culture which implied that if someone was suffering – that was a bad thing or inherently wrong thing. Suffering is uncomfortable and hard and it is often an experience that we instinctually try to avoid or overcome – but the experience of pain is not bad or wrong in itself, and it serves an important function in civilization.

    For me, in response to psychiatry distorting the causality of contextualized suffering and causing immense harm – it is not so much about asserting a “real causality model” and “fixing suffering,” but more about acknowledging that things that feel incomprehensible, torment us, or make sense to feel deeply about – need to be left and explored in their recondite form – not reduced or resolved.

    I believe it is not the paradigm and sales pitches of bio-psychiatry which make us vulnerable to eugenic pseudo-science – but rather our innate tendency and desire to want to reduce the profound and messy – that makes us vulnerable to eugenic pseudo-science.

    IMO, on some level (albeit to drastically different degrees) no one believes in the the BS of bio-psychiatry.

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  • Thanks.

    Yes, on some level this post is hopeful hyperbole.

    On another level though I do believe that declaring the death of bio-psychiatry and shouting that a defeated industry is no longer to blame for our 2014 cultural crisis – is a serious vein of thought which can contribute to constructive change.

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  • Thank you. I want to be a part of creating. Just as dismantling can contribute to creating, creating can contribute to dismantling or making obsolete.

    Creating more coming off groups which a few awesome people are doing around the country.

    Creating things that are fun ends in themselves – wiffle ball leagues etcetera – no sarcasm, I’m serious, I want to be a part of this sort of thing.

    We don’t have to fuel a powerless consciousness.

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  • Thank you Ted.
    You are absolutely correct IMO – that placing our concerns and aspirations in a broader context which resonates with humans whom have little connection to psych-survivor identity – is one of the most if not the most vital strategic priority.

    Maybe talking about the reality of life being hard and not for the faint of heart and the drawbacks of indolently drugging our children, taps into any US social capital/neighborhood communal culture that existed prior to the nearly complete subjugation of social fabric to corporate interests which has taken place in my lifetime – more effectively than talking about the evils of bio-psychiatry and the dangers of psych-drugs specifically?

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  • Thank you for reading.

    That line in particular is a bit of discursive jest in the name of pragmatically elliciting – via oversimplified means – community action.

    Bio-psychiatry does to some extent control and manipulate people into “believers” and the industry does exploit other societal mechanisism of mariginalization, repression, and oppression.

    I wrote that line hoping we can question whether or not we sometimes concede power to bio-psychiatry by assuming that the disease paradigm unless publicly dismantled – will always continue to grow (which it currently is in an insidious way granted)and continue to sucessfully manipulate more and more people.

    Maybe bio-psychiatry can be made obsolete without multibillion dollar corporations being dismantled?

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  • “But this is a moment when we have the opportunity of showing that the unchecked power of psychiatry puts everyone at risk.”

    “Children and their parents abused by psychiatry is an issue that most people resonate to, and we must use this opportunity to educate the public. It’s a rare chance to get out of our little bubble, where we mainly preach to the choir.”

    Thank you for posting this well written call to demonstrate. I will be there this friday.

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  • Wonderful and important piece. Funny and fun too. An all around delightful read.

    I appreciate the way you broached the issue of our relationship to suffering.

    “I would argue that the most effective single weapon against psychiatry is psychiatry itself, which exhibits all the hallmarks of its own definition of delusional disorder.”

    “The vexing question is why, if the public have such a negative view of psychiatry and psychotropic drugs, they are not rejecting them as logic would suggest they would.”

    “I think it is a particular form of cruelty to inform people of the risks of psychiatry and psychiatric drugs but fail to offer credible, acceptable, accessible alternatives.”

    “In my view, we need to build on people’s already high levels of suspicion and disdain for psychiatry in the context of providing alternative solutions to the challenge of living happy, fulfilled lives and promoting the notion that human existence cannot and should not be 100% free from pain.”


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  • Interesting points. Can someone simultaneously be good and to some extent be at fault for their troubling situation/experience of the world? I say yes. I think bio-psychiatry manipulates by saying you are not a bad person or a weak person, it’s not your fault that your life is intolerable, your situation of torment is primarily beyond your control and primarily the result of an erroneous neuro/microbiological imbalance in your brain. I believe that one can simultaneously be at fault for their dissatisfied situation and not be a bad or weak person. Biological reduction of experience seems to see these causes as exclusive. If you are at fault you don’t have a chemical brain disorder. If you are not at fault you have a chemical brain disorder.

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  • Cyndi,
    Your understanding of your journey and fight is a change affecting tool. I am deeply moved by your emphasis on fighting for your life. This sequence of having problems with one’s experience of living, reaching out to psychiatry, becoming morbidly sick while being “treated”, and then leaving “treatment” with the instinctual fight for survival – is unfortunately quite common.

    We need more people to find that fight and go live because tragically most people’s bodies are destroyed prematurely when they are “treated” by psychiatry. We also need more people to go through different doors to begin with and engage their contextualized suffering and or strivings in a self-directed way. I think that your well written story conveys these messages powerfully.

    I must offer a nuanced complexity as well though. I appreciate your call to not play the victim role and your argument that self-responsibility is the only way. I can’t overstate how important I think self-responsibility is to our human experience/psych-survivor movement and love the fact that you are stressing that. That said, while I think sometimes our movement drops the ball on self-responsibility, the psych-industry does need to be publicly blamed and held accountable.

    I believe we need both self-responsibility and a concerted societal effort to expose the manipulative harm biological psychiatry has perpetrated.

    I think you may have been focusing primarily on how you think you overcame and how maybe others can overcome and mentioning your responsibility for choosing to swallow pills, fill scripts, and choosing to want to believe in an erroneous diagnose – and just ignoring the blame psychiatry deserves. Maybe you weren’t suggesting psychiatry should get off Scott free and were just focusing on your personal role and ability in building or re-building a great life and living.

    That said, while I think this is a fantastic post overall, it is important for me to remind myself that in order for fundamental systems change – it is necessary to point out the blood on biological psychiatry’s hands. i.e. Just because someone who is to an extent desperate or compromised by being told lies and being manipulated – “wants” to believe in an erroneous biological brain imbalance and take drugs that the doctors know do more harm than good – doesn’t mean that Doctors shouldn’t be blamed for proceeding with diagnostic and drug interventions.

    Just because someone wants harmful treatment doesn’t mean it is okay for doctors to give it to them. It is manipulation, it is not ok, and they deserve blame just as much as we need to pursue self-responsibility and hold ourselves accountable.

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  • Dear Dr. Shipko,
    I will be upfront about barely skimming comments on this post of yours – so you may have already received comparable responses.
    After reading this post about playing the odds I feel compelled to share with you that I think I appreciate what I think you are trying to convey and borderline resent the way in which you are conveying it. I commend you for arguing for informed consent that includes discussion about the effects of coming off of psych drugs and for your message that we need more transparent research and information about the harmful effects of psych – drugs. On the other hand I want to candidly and hopefully respectfully express to you that in my eyes your clinical observation or opinion means very little. I don’t appreciate what I perceived to be a belittling and didactic lesson in clinical semantics. I perceived the usage of the term “citizen scientists of the Internet” as patronizing and particularly weird given the rudimentary, deductive, and confused understanding the discipline psychiatry has with regards to what these drugs are doing and what they are treating. I don’t think that your understanding of what psycho-active chemicals do when someone puts them in their body is more authoritative than the opinions of those putting said chemicals in their bodies. I didn’t appreciate your assertion “It is a very uncomfortable sensation.” Are you speaking from first-hand experience? What the definition of withdrawal is and isn’t may be important for you to educate people about but I encourage you to be prudent when assessing the suffering others experience coming off of these drugs if you haven’t had that experience yourself or are unwilling to disclose said first-hand experience. You wrote, “Because people are thinking of the discontinuation problem as withdrawal, they are not considering the later onset symptoms as related to stopping the drugs.” Whether protracted problems are correctly or incorrectly attributed to withdrawal from a drug – I don’t understand how attributing protracted problems to withdrawal from a drug is anything but considering the problems as related to stopping the drug. On the one hand I think it is important that you share observations about how bad you think it is when people come off of these drugs – in an effort to inform the conversation about whether or not individuals should go on these drugs in the first place. On the other hand – as someone who had over five years of cumulative exposure to various “anti-depressants”, over five years of cumulative exposure to various “anti-psychotics”, and at least 4 years of taking benzos every single day – and now takes none of those drugs – I don’t like articles about improving societal understanding of psych-drugs that in my opinion imply in the first paragraph that it may be impossible to support a lot of people who choose to come off of psych-drugs. I don’t search for antidotes to pain in my existence. For me improving our communal and individual response to dissatisfaction with one’s experience of living – requires us to do a 180 in terms of our willingness to numb experiences away with drugs. So to start an argument about making things better by in my opinion implying that it may be impossible to adequately support people who want to come off nationwide – in my opinion is not constructive. Coming off can involve disabling experiences but in my journey the disabling experience of being on psych drugs was far more damaging than the experience of coming off. I came off of years of daily benzos in a matter of days and went through months of soul shaking harrowing hell. I then went through a relatively fast taper off of “anti-psychotics” and experienced a moderate headache and fatigue for about a month. I then went through a relatively slow taper off of “anti-depressants” and maybe experienced some sleeplessness as a result. Oh yeah and while on psych-drug cocktails I experienced what the experts called dystonia and or Tardive dyskinesia and said may or may not be permanent (for the past three years I have not experienced what the “experts” called TD and dystonia), gaining fifty pounds, sexual dysfunction, and lost three years of my early twenties sleeping and tortured by a perpetually losing and demoralizing battle to stay awake. Loving family and the fight in me – saved me – not “experts.” The “experts” only acknowledged that the psych-drugs had probably done more harm than good in the risk/benefit ratio analysis and then repeatedly demonstrated in the various tapering processes that they had no clear intelligible understanding of what the hell these drugs do and hardly any peer reviewed references about how to effectively come off. And in the process of coming off I grew and cultivated profound inner-fortitude and incredible eagerness to pursue joys of living. Psychiatrists might be biased by the fact that people who come off successfully don’t come see them anymore. I don’t talk to psychiatrists and depend on them and present as disabled by coming off to them because I’m busy living instead of asking them how I should go about living better. The growth and pain I went through coming off might have been something I needed to take self-responsibility for and be encouraged to persevere through when I initially reached out to psychiatry – instead of being offered drugs first, drugs second, and drugs third. Might I experience tardive dyskinesia and or akathisia or what you call depression and anxiety “symptoms” months or years from now – yeah I might – but if I do I don’t think an antidote will be what I need. I encourage you to go forward presenting your observations about scary and harmful long-term effects of coming off of psych-drugs and how you think the harm may be far worse than is generally acknowledged – but I discourage you from framing it in a way that in my opinion implies that you have scientific understanding of said effects. Your observations about such an experiential trial and error process are certainly not more scientific than those who have gone through it. I also encourage you to contemplate that the number of people who have had coming off experiences that were more good than bad might be grossly underreported because they don’t “receive mental health services” anymore. IDK maybe I am misinterpreting your post. Maybe you are open to the need to explore ways for those who want to come off and are suggesting those ways will be things other than antidotes and clinics which fail to address what you percieve to be severe and long lastings effects of coming off. I hope you aren’t arguing that since clinics have no antidote for the effects of coming off psych-drugs – it is impossible for people who chose to come off to come off nationwide.

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  • Marian,
    You make a lot of very good points and I agree with the vast majority of what you, Rossa, and Seth expressed regarding criticizing the mother. I did not intend to suggest that it is good or even ok to give the mother a pass or by default even credit for doing the best she could within her victim status. Admittedly my comments did in some ways seem to suggest this and that is due to a combination of me not being thoughtful enough before posting and poor word choice on my part. What I believe is that the Mother’s approach with her son needs to be disputed and criticized and she deserves criticism for buying into, carrying out, and selling this approach. That said I don’t think it is an all or nothing dynamic – i.e.criticize and attack her or don’t even criticize her. I think that one can not attack someone without not criticizcizing them. And I think that one can criticize someone without attacking them. When I was locked up in psych wards I sometimes to some extent bought into medical model psychiatry and viewed organizations like mindfreedom as romantic idealists. I came to believe what I now see as the truth through people challenging my beliefs and through personal epiphany – not through people saying that I was ridiculous and hurting society by believing what unfortunately most of our society believes or that I was ridiculous for not exploring research by Robert Whitaker which unfortunately most of society views as uncredible without taking the time to read it and see that it is far more believeable than the stance of the biological psychiatric industry. I can respect people who decide to right off mothers like this and believe that it is impossible for them to change their ways. That said, that is not my stance. I believe that people other than the mother can benifit from criticism of the mother absent of personal attacks just as much as they can benefit from criticism of the mother which includes personal attacks. I also believe and feel that I have to believe that people like this mother can change. In short, I think you are right that it is vital to criticize the mother’s beliefs and to criticize her for buying into, acting on, and selling damaging beliefs. At the same time however, I think that in the name of compassion and in the name of strategically advancing our human experience movement – I should temper such criticize with awerness that genaral public sentiment reinforces this mother’s beliefs and general public sentiment reinforces her decision to dismiss research such as that done by Whitaker without reading it because the general public views this type of research as lacking credibility – even though they haven’t read it. I know I did this for years.

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  • point well taken. I think criticizing the Mother is warranted and can be constructive. I guess it is a matter of whether the criticism is done with compassion for the realities she may be facing and confined within. And whether or not our criticism allows for the possibility of people like her to start demanding that society no longer fail them with misinformation. I completely agree that the Mother needs to be criticized for believing and promoting damaging misinformation. That said I think it should be done in a way that acknowledges that she may have been manipulated by the psych-industry’s monopoly on scientific info. regarding psych-drugs and doesn’t attack her character or her as a person for believing misinformation but rather attacks the misinformation she believes and leaves a little possibility for her to question what she has bought into.

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  • Thank you for all you have done and continue to do – in an attempt to encourage our society to move towards an honest dialogue about science and particulary “psychiatric support” within the current realities of our communities.
    We as a society should discuss what science tells us about psych-drugs. And we as a society should not keep this discussion from the public. We have a collective responsibility to pursue and promote experiental truth.
    Not pursuing this conversation leaves all of us with blood on our hands. I took “anti-psychotics” for years and the quote you incorporated at the end of this post deeply resonates with me. I don’t know that these drugs did anything to adress “psychosis” – whatever that is – but they definetly disabled my brain’s ability to acknowledge my perceptions thoughts and emotions and disabled my ability to care about my perceptions thoughts emotions and much of anything. Oh yeah, and the effects of the drugs also included weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and involuntary facial movements. “Is the cure worse than the disease?”
    You aptly stated that in the absence of talks like your recent one at this NAMI event in Texas – our society won’t have enough mechanisms for people who want to come off of psych-drugs to do it more thoughtfully, safely, and hopefully with a better chance of positive outcomes – than just doing it cold turkey without much external support. Not having these conversations you have been championing increases the blood on all of our hands for another reason. Accepting the 25 year life disparity that atleast partly results from a med. first, med. second, and med. third approach to “psychiatric treatment” without analyzing the costs and benifits of these psych-drugs – prohibits or society from ever pusuing “psychiatric treatment” approaches that might allow, encourage, and facilitate people who are suffering to build or rebuild meaningful and active lives without psych-drugs and the harmful effects of psych-drugs. I believe that a bell-curve analysis of the history of mankind reveals that people can and have overcome intense emotional distress without psych-drugs. If we don’t have the conversations you are championing and if our society views people acting on what they percieve to be the truth based on honest and thoughtful rational analysis of science – and potentially getting hurt – as more appalling than the number of people recieving “mental health services” who are obese and have diabetes – we are not a society comitted to supporting humans in extreme states – we are a lazy society comitted to being comfortable. I also want to express that I believe that the number of people who feel that taking psych-drugs does more good for them than harm – is exagerated by our culture’s mass modes of thought. And that I believe that the number of people who despise taking psych-drugs every day and want to stop – is grossly under reported and minimized by our culture’s mass modes of thought.

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  • 🙂 gradualism has particulary frustrated me of late – given that I am sometimes viewed as anti-psychiatry for nothing more than reiterating what Insel, former contributors to the DSM, the British Division of Clinical Psychiatry (and others to varying extents wedded to the perpetuation of biological psychiatry)have said. Sometimes people deem me anti-psychiatry for referencing admissions on the part of biological psychiatrists that biological psychiatry lacks validity.

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  • “I suppose it’s also a call to action for others, because when some of us get this tired, others need to be on the ready to step up. And, eventually, if there is enough of us (and we are growing), the blows will shake us far less and who makes the rules and sets the standards will simply have to shift.”
    I have tremendous respect for what you have done and continue to do Sera. I will support you and work alongside you any day of the week.

    “After all, how can we ever hope to make any progress if we are not at least having these conversations?”
    Tremendous post! I was so appreciative of David Cohen’s presentation and of the fact that you and others at the RLC made this dialogue happen. I thought David’s presentation was markedly not anti-psychiatry – but in a refreshing way despite me personally being somewhat anti-psychiatry. I thought David importantly exposed a lack of peer reviewed literature on coming off of psych-drugs and expressed a sentiment that I think is good for any community. In my oppinion that sentiment was that there is value in anyone sharing the effects they experience when putting any psycho-active drug in their body and that their is value in describing their expeiences coming off of any psych-active drug they CHOOSE to come off of – and that everyone has the right to do or not do this.
    “Or when they have to fight, play games, and attempt to ‘pass’ according to the standards of those truly in power just for a few scraps of being heard?” I worked as a so called “direct care” change agent for three years in various residential facilities. I was a “peer support specialist” who started getting invited to a lot of meetings with suits. When i really started to advocate I got slammed and was very lucky to meet Deron and start working for Advocacy Unlimited right when I had pretty much three options – get fired, quit, or get co-opted. I was told things by administrtators to they effect – we agree with you Greg but it takes time organizations move slowly relative to other organizations we are making progress and you can’t disrespect people or organizations for being in accord with the current and longstanding realities. As you alluded to I felt I did my job when I offended those that were complacent in the face of a 25 year life disparity and don’t assess my performance or contribution based on whether or not I do a
    little better than employees around me. I measure myself based on whether I do my job well or to the best of my ability. I don’t think organizations should assess their contribution based on whether or not they meet the standard of being “better” than horrible industries and corporations. In the “peer role” the system said you’ve been labeled Greg and even though you work your tail off, out perform most, and connect with people many can’t handle being in the same room with – here are some crumbs – be grateful. I said no thanks, rejected their damaging gradualism, and started working with Deron who encourages me to cultivate my truth and my voice.

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  • Assuming that this methodology and these findings are sound, which admittedly I am not qualified to asses – I don’t think it is a good thing that the likelihood of being arrested was decreased via possession of 90 day drug prescriptions. I am more than qualified to state that when I was taking frontal brain lobe disabling neuroleptics for a schizophrenia label – I was a lot less likely to do much of anything including get arrested.

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  • Badass short film in a fun way in that you seem content with your exciting and also humble life. Also in the sense that you expressed the hell of benzo detox in a way that needs to be heard more often. Terror terror terror. As I think you kind of alluded to – I am also perhaps uncomfortable conciously remembering my benzo withdrawl. Even watching and hearing you talk about it through a computer screen – while important – was hard. It is sort of important for me to not not forget but to not let my being ever completely de-emphasize my memory of benzo withdrawl. I really appreciated your framing of the experience as umitigated hell and terror and playing a waiting game with the torture of not being able to process or experience one’s existence and human sensations as anything other than fear or pain. I tell people that my fast taper off of years of four yellow benzo pills per day – was like being somewhere in between dead and alive for five months. It was a long long harrowing nightmare that brought me to my knees every single concious moment for months. Hell. Paradoxically this terror strengthened me and the tortourus experience is I think a big part of why I take really good care of myself today and my life is rich in terms of being rewarding and fulfilling. This detox for me was five years ago and I used to regularly conciously channel memories of the hell and appreciation of the strength I mustered to get through or over it – as motivation and daily optimistic energy. I haven’t channeled these memories in a good year or so except when watching or reading things comparable to your narrative.
    PS the still photos in the film really capture the differnt emotions or stages in your life when you are describing. I saw the not feeling anything but maybe longing for something more in your eyes and face in some of the stills – I can really relate to this.

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  • I believe we all can leran from each other. That said sometimes I throw respect around a little loosely, liberally or flippantly.
    I want to express to you Wyatt that when I say I have tremendous respect for you I’m using that word with a deep and powerful genuiness – I have respected the way you carry yourself to an extent which I only reserve for an ever expanding yet inevitbly limited number of people I come accross or get to know on my journey – while I try to demonstrate respect for everyone and tell a ton of people that I respect them.
    My eyes got watery a few times reading your piece and I had to be honest that there are insights you articulated that worse than not caring about (as you said) I haven’t done as well as I can to realize or know at certain points in my life. Way more days than not I’m convinced you exude the most important qualities for being parent, friend, comrade, or whatever role you choose to occupy – thoughtfullness, bravery, dedication, and passion for loving and respecting yourself and others – and indiviuals choices. Go to see your dying grandfather and contemplating “what if it didn’t matter” amidst being humilitated in a court of law – struck me as the strength people can feel and sense around you without you even saying a word – brave strength and willingness to wade through discomfort and fear in order to power something higher or something you think is righteous.

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  • I just read your essay again Dorothy and feel compelled to tell you again how beautiful it is. You should be very proud of what you have done and continue to do with your life. I found these sentences particularly important:
    ” There have been some small changes, but not nearly enough. Damaging drugs are widely prescribed to silence those (including many, many young children) expressing their natural life emotions in response to normal stressful life situations. Shock is still widely given to people without real consent. Mental pain is something which we all feel at some times in our lives. Some feel it more than others. It is certainly easier to isolate and silence those with intolerable pain, those who are different, for being around them is a constant reminder of our own vulnerability.”
    And of course I appreciate immensely your final two paragraphs about youth, the bond of those with comparable psych experiences, and what we can do in the future.

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  • Thank you Dorothy. The brutality you survived (and describe with such literary talent) inspires me to do better. As I heard you say on youtube – it doesn’t matter that they now give people anesthesia and you are speechless that this still continues today. We should all be speechless that this barbaric practice still happens quite regularly in the name of “treatment.”

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  • Well said Richard. We need to start doing something tangible with our current ample source of knowledge and desire for change. As you stated, spreading knowledge and desire for change will increase the likelihood of political action – and changing the world via political action will help us know the world and contribute to the dissemination of knowledge and desire for change.
    As long as we don’t go too far in the direction of absolving ourselves from our contribution to the current status quo or self-responsibility – I agree with your first criticism.
    Overall, I think this essay by Paris might articulately lay the groundwork for the creation of a platform of demands and goals. And also articulately lay the groundwork for the creation of a conceptual paradigm which we try to keep all of our efforts in accord with and consistent with.

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  • Phenomenal piece of writing. Devoting effort and passion to pieces like this – makes our communities better. I want to echo Sera – I particularly appreciate the paragraph that reads, “In my worldview, the violence and harm done to folks in the name of suicide prevention (in “doing what’s best for them”) is far more damaging than mental health school screenings, databases and ever-expanding commitment laws are ever able to be helpful in preventing the violence of school or movie theater or temple massacres.”

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  • Dear AA,

    Let us hypothetically consider an individual whom might share their story of coming off of psych drugs cold turkey and omit the caveat – (which I agree with you is the prudent thing to do) – that cold turkey can be quite dangerous. If an individual shares their personal story of coming off cold turkey and doesn’t state that this can be dangerous or maybe isn’t prudent about when and where they share this story – (which by the way is not at all a sentiment contained in Laura’s words) – are you suggesting that they have done something wrong by expressing their perception of their experience – because someone else may get sick or die coming off cold turkey because they infered that they will likely have a comparable cold turkey experience as someone elese?

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  • Thank you. This message you’ve devoted a significant portion of your life towards effectively promoting – is essential in order to create communities of acceptance where all have an oppurtunity to thrive. I’ve heard you speak on this topic and am grateful that you continue to communicate that thoughts about wanting to die can be very constructive (as a manifestation of wanting something better and not accepting suffering). As you so powerfully wrote – we need to continue to do a better job of listening to each other and hearing that suicidality is not giving up but demanding a richer existence and refusal to accept a disatisfying existence. Sucidality is far more common than is suggested by some paradigms of thought. It is not the result of a pathology, disorder, disease, or chemical imbalance – and it is not abnormal. It is the result of legitimate responses to the context of one’s human existence – and it is very human. We need to encourage and try to facilitate individuals believing in the capability of their personal agency to fullfill their healthy need for change – which is suicidality. We have need to continue our process of not putting fear of responsibility and liability, before listening to each other and compassionately honoring what others are expressing.I think your last paragraph presents a humane approach that is feasible in every community – “I want to live in a world where we can talk openly about what happens to us, our feelings and our dreams, including the feelings we sometimes have of wanting to die. I might ask you to call me later, or stay at my house, I might ask you to give up the bottle of pills you have or I might even ask if you would feel safer in a hospital. But I won’t substitute listening to you for risk assessment, the false safety of forced confinement, or the reassuring belief in simple explanations and solutions. Suicidal feelings are among humanity’s worst forms of suffering: the response we give is a call to our greatest humanness.”

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  • Thank you Laura. This blog post about coming off you wrote – is important and powerfully impactful. Your post helped me frame several thoughts about my narrative (which I’ve written and spoke about in disconnected forums) – into one reflection which is a tool for myself and can potentially be a tool for anyone who chooses to consider my thoughts about my own coming off story. Like you eloquently expressed in your piece, we can draw strength from thinking about those who have come before us. I have gathered strength in a visceral sense from many of my fellow humans who have been “treated” by psychiatry. I have also drawn strength in an intellectual sense from the words and thoughts of people like David Oaks, Will Hall, and Darby Penny. This intellectual strength is a synthesis of their ideas and words – interpreted by me and infused with my own perceptions. Reflecting on my life via written word is one of the most cherished pursuits I engage. Your words in your blog post apparently motivated me to reflect on my journey through a lens I needed to look through – (hence I wrote a rambling tome as a comment). Thank you for helping me clarify for myself – that my reason for coming off of drugs was an integral part of myself. It was the manifestation of knowing that I owed it to myself to try to overcome my existential pain by moving towards a meaningful and fulfilling life. Instead of either doing nothing or drugging away my humanity. In other words – I innately knew I owed it to myself to engage my existence – which I had failed to do when I first reached out to psychiatry to talk about my life. I knew that if my life was to be worth living – there had to be a way other than drugging myself and other than shrinking from my experience of the world and doing nothing intentional when psychiatry expressed to me – “come back if you change your mind about not drugging away your humanity.”

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  • Thank you for your insights, offered motivation, and for your continued effort towards the creation of a resource directory for those wanting to come off psych drugs. I identify with your withdrawal experience you’ve shared, in several profound ways. My suffering and intense perceptions and experiences which drove me to rely on and trust psychiatry – in a paradoxical way, were overcome by the effects of psychiatry’s drug cocktails being far more intolerable than the agony of my experience of my human existence (which drove me to accept psychiatry after resisting several times initially). The cultural and social norms within which I interacted when I began to experience extreme states of mind – did not promote any arenas other than psychiatry as appropriate responses to or forums for exploring said experiences. So I went to psychiatry and was told that the most viable thing to do was to view my experience through the lens of a chemical imbalance and that any deliberate effort on my part that didn’t include psych drugs (which might cause sexual dysfunction, lower my white blood cell counts, or cause weight gain and or diabetes – would most likely fail (I guess this anecdotal argument was based on the psychopharmacological industry’s revisionist history of the world and human civilization). But some innate or primordial instinct told me that this line of thinking seemed inconsistent with my intuition about me and human communities – and that this plan didn’t seem healthy or likely to be successful. So I left psychiatry and didn’t take their drugs and wasn’t encouraged by anyone to intentionally respond to my overwhelming experience of life in any other way – nor did I take it upon myself to respond to my debilitating experience of life in any deliberate way. And eventually my experience of the world consumed me in a crippling way and I couldn’t function or be present or engaged in my life in any way that satisfied me. So I went back and took their drugs and became a professional patient. I’ve rambled on in an attempt to provide context for my interpretation of a profoundly empowering concept I perceive in your thoughts about coming off of psych drugs. This concept I perceive is that perhaps the most important variable for coming off of psych drugs is having a personal reason that is part of your inner-being, for wanting to come off. For me, my inner-motive for coming off was to give myself another chance to have an exciting and fulfilling life rich in texture and joy. The effects of the ten drugs I was on (at least three and as many as six different ones per day) every day for four years – made my life an exhausting and torturous constant battle against fatigue, involuntary muscle movements, and an irrepressible desire to eat. I slept at least 16 hours per day for over two years. This daily torture consumed me and distracted me from whatever distress propelled me to trust psychiatry. So I decided that my mission was to give myself a chance to live a life that I am engaged in by coming off of psych drugs – even if this life involved extreme states (I vowed to experience them without psych drugs). I tried to come off unsuccessfully several times “outpatient.” Then I checked myself into a psych hospital with no intention of coming off of drugs. I was just tired and beaten on so many different levels and knew that I had to change my approach to life even though I had no clear thoughts about how to do so and wasn’t optimistic about being successful. Many of my psych-survivor friends find what happened next hard to believe. I met with a psychiatrist who encouraged me to stop whining, take responsibility for my own life, and suggested that I had received poor psychiatric treatment and recommended that I come off of all of what he called “psychiatric medications.” This floored me and possibly influenced the trajectory of my life more constructively and beneficially than any other singular interaction. So against, the quite vocal opposition of my “outpatient” “treaters,” I began a rapid detox from klonipin, geodon, risperdal, and effexor – even though I didn’t want to at the moment, I took the psychiatrist up on his suggestion because he had struck on chord with me on a fundamental level because I knew that I had been wanting to come off of drugs for at least two years because I knew that I deserved another chance to enjoy my life and knew on a profoundly deep level that giving myself this opportunity required me to come off of drugs – which I had tried several times and was unsuccessful in frightening ways. My experience suggests to me that coming off of a daily regimen of benzos that I had been on for years – in one week inpatient – was a blessing in disguise. It was a blessing because it was so harrowing and hellish that it sort of desensitized/strengthened me and my resilience. I was in a sur real nightmare full of illusions, constant panic, disturbing noises, intense temperature swings, and sweating – for the time I was inpatient. When I left the hospital benzo free and with a plan to taper off of geodon, risperdal, and effexor, I was still constantly panicked and in a hellish space somewhere between life and death for most of the day every day. But I was resolved to keep going and was committed to listening to whatever I was experiencing and sitting with it and I changed my relationship to my experiences and drastically increased my tolerance for suffering. I found profound comfort in my commitment to try and create/return to a life in which I was present and energetically engaged. And I wasn’t worried about any potential withdrawal experiences from geodon, risperdal, and effexor – after benzo detox brought me to my knees and I found peace and inner ease in accepting that if I died at any moment or something terrible happened at any moment, “so be it,” I wasn’t going to worry about what might happen or be afraid of dying. After about four months my psychological hellish fog lifted, I was drug free, and have been living an exciting and happy life which involves deliberate discipline and structured wholesome activities – ever since.

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  • “Second, it will likely wind up doing much more harm than good for the kids who are identified as being at risk for mental illness.”

    “I really can’t imagine the content of the training programs. There is nothing to teach — no proven way of detecting early signs of mental illness in children and no proven way of preventing it.”

    “And attempts at prevention and early treatment are likely to increase the already rampant overuse of inappropriate medication in children. Many, if not most, of the kids identified will have no more than self-limited developmental or individual differences. But many will get unnecessary and potentially harmful treatment.”
    Thank you for these lines and for your overall opposition to more unsientific “treatment” in the form of pretending that we can predict what children are likely to experience in the future and then pre-emptively make that experience better with drugs that in terms of clear proven effects – have only harmed. That said, I encourage you to consider that what you advocate for in your last paragraph may be the same flawed paradigm of “care” which you critique – just in physical settings other than schools.

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  • Great work Sera! If the assertion of power over those labeled is not inherent in the act of psychiatrists labeling an individual’s human experience -(without their input or approval)- as something that cannot be accurately explained, described specifically, or proven to be a real medical condition that exists in any understandable way – why are the thoughts of those labeled, regarding the impacts of labels – excluded from and/or seen as less credible than the thoughts of doctors, within the discipline of psychiatry? Surely Mr. Pie’s decision to exclude certain voices – implicit in the decision to write in an exclusive forum for psychiatrists – was not in violation of any civil law.

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