Sunday, June 24, 2018

Comments by Eric Coates

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  • Thanks so much for sharing this. My mother also did not give up hope, even if she went with the drug model. I guess that’s the only choice for some people. I hope your son is doing well and that you yourself are doing okay. It’s very important for people to share their personal stories. I’m glad that you have.

  • Thanks for your very enlightening and obviously time-consuming reply — I appreciate the effort. You did a better job of explaining my four points than I did, but I was going for brevity, not the whole experience itself.

  • I am neither a scientist nor very well mathematically informed, but what you say about the numbers only makes sense. This is a very clear piece of data (NNT numbers) that I should hope the public would be informed about, but when even I, who reads everything he can about the subject, have no idea what all of this means, then the general public is bound to be hopelessly misinformed of what’s happening. I can only hope that these conclusions will form a chapter of your latest book.

  • Thank you for your comments. Very interesting.

    Personally, I believe that neurofeedback in all its different forms will replace much of what psychiatry is doing now, and the more information we get out there as soon as possible about it, the better. It sounds like you had a more positive experience with it all than me, and I congratulate you on it. Perhaps it will become truly useful and safe in the future.

  • I appreciate especially that you are going to deal with the issue of suffering among those with unusual experiences. There is far too often an emphasis by writers that what they experienced was purely an uplifting experience. This is something that is simply and blatantly untrue for many of us, if not most of us. I hope you are able to explore it well and that people come to a better understanding that it is not one, but both.

    Good for you that you are so willing to do the work that needs to be done.

    Eric Coates

  • Monica, it’s always great to hear from you.

    Like you, I believe that given enough time, we can recover from what was done to our brains.

    However, my experience unleashed a period of psychosis that lasted two and a half years. That was when I contacted you for the first time, and you were the only person to respond to my cries for help. For that, I am eternally grateful.

    However, neurofeedback is brand new, and they don’t know what they’re doing yet. I’m glad that it helped you, but it is very important that people know what they may be in store for. I myself had no idea of the profundity of what was about to happen.

    There are people who swear by the drugs, and I am sure there are people who swear by neurofeedback. In the end, I believe that neurofeedback will be a very powerful resource, but I am also sure that when done the wrong way on the wrong brains that it will be just as dangerous, just as powerful, and just as overwhelming as the drugs ever were.

    And with all that said, I hope that you call me some time. It’s always a great conversation, and regardless of our different perspectives, I always come away with something new.


  • i appreciate your concerns, and I also believe that neurofeedback is the future. At this point, however, it is still in in its most dangerous stages, much like drugs in the latter half of the 20th century, or like metrazol or insulin shock in the thirties and forties. There is a lot of work to be done — and there is nothing to indicate that neurofeedback, practiced with our primitive tools, will be any better. In fact, in combination with brains surgery (implants like they do with depression) there is no indication that with our modern technology that they will be any better. But thank you for your response, which I am sure is based on good experience and may lead to improvements in the future.

  • Ummm . . . diagnoses never go away. I hate to say this, but once your medical record is established, any practitioner who reads them will see what other say and what others have repeated. You can disagree, of course, but it’s like any institution. The records are the records. I have personal experience with getting something as simple as high blood sugar taken off my record (gone long ago), and yet no one listens or records this. Never mind a diagnosis of schizophrenia or depression. But good luck to you if you try.

  • The doctor was quite concerned and wanted to do what he could to reverse the process. I guess that’s possible with the kind of neurofeedback I had experienced. At that point, however, with my voices back in full command of my mind, I didn’t feel that going back for more was really the answer. In fact, I will not be willing to undergo any form of neurofeedback or anything else, like transcranial magnetic whatever it is, as these strike me as dangerously powerful and yet very primitive in their effect, which no one really knows about. Thanks for your question.

  • Believe it or not, it is directly physical. Sound entering your ears, magnets on the back of your brain, tapping your fingers to reinforce a good thought — these are all real, and they do have powerful effects. Nothing, however, affects your brain like light entering your eyes or like magnets pulsing in your brain. These are the equivalent of a nuclear bomb going off next to a computer. Your brain is an electric device, not just biological, and the power by whatever means that enters directly into your brain is considerable.

  • Thanks for your reference to the article. Neurology, as it is currently practiced, is a brand-new field with almost limitless potential for damage as well as possible enhancement of human abilities, but I happen to believe that letting nature do its thing like it has for a few million years now is probably the best course — especially with my experience of it all.

  • “Precision medicine” — excuse me, but what the fuck is that? Is this like cancer, where you go after specific cells? Or is this like mainstream fundamentalist religion, where you tell desperate people what they want so awfully to hear?

    The acid test, of course, is whether it works. It won’t. But once again there is going to be a lot of hoopla to make people forget the last round of hoopla, which also meant and did nothing more than the meaningless round of hoopla that came before that. And so on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

  • Yes, I have been force-sedated a few times. I have also been forced to take Haldol, which, as you probably know, can cause some pretty severe akithisia. Why? Is this some kind of contest about who’s had it worse, or was it maybe just that I eventually figured out how to deal with the system better than some other people have?

  • I would like very much if you contacted me, phoenix. We seem to think in very similar ways, and to express ourselves in similar ways. I agree with almost everything you say about the experience, except this: perhaps there is something more to psychosis than we know. It’s horrible at times, yes, as you say, but there is also the incredibly enlightening aspect of it all in which one learns things that would never have been available to use as mere ordinary mortals. If you would like, please contact me at: [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you.

  • I would like to add a corrective at this point, which is that there are, in fact, certain real things that psychiatrists should be dealing with sometimes, if only they were trained correctly.

    An example of this would be infantile paralysis, in certain manifestations. There would also be dementia. At one point in time, the only people who were making significant progress in protecting us from syphilitic brain problems or epilepsy by trying to find out what was at their heart, was psychiatry (with neurology for an assist). The problem, in other words, is not with psychiatry itself as a general field (there are actual brain diseases and disorders) but with how their practice is plagued by conditions that are simply outside their range of experience and ability to determine a cause because it lies outside medicine. Schizophrenia, so-called, is outside their domain. So is bipolar, or personality disorders, or whatever. But your daughter’s problem is exactly the sort of thing that a psychiatrist, a medical doctor dealing with the effect of disease on the mind, SHOULD be dealing with. And good for you that you stuck it out until a real medical problem was determined, rather than the elusive and chimerical “mental illnesses” that they talk about. If only they concentrated on actual diseases instead of these chimeras, there might not be such hatred of them as there is nowadays.

  • You’re right, Frank: just going along with what they say is usually the quickest way out.

    That said, I have asked a psychiatrist why they were releasing me — what had made them decide on that course of action. What the psychiatrist said was, “We don’t feel we can help you.”

    Sometimes it does work to resist.

  • Sounds like you had a pretty bad experience. Even as a man myself, I have a sort of knee-jerk dislike of anyone who harasses anyone else, and these harassers are usually men.

    I think the forgiveness thing is not so much for them as it is for yourself. I’m not advocating it, just noting that it has its effect on your mind. You relax a little more and you hope for the best, even when people don’t live up to it. Again, I’m not advocating it. Sometimes anger is a better route to go. Let it change how you think about yourself and world so that you are more motivated to change things for the better. Different ways of dealing with it has different benefits. Which one do you really want?

    Again, sorry to hear about your experience. Good luck.

  • I’m sorry to hear that you’re suffering with the damage of the drugs. I have been extremely fortunate in that none of the damage done to me has been permanent, in terms of either my body or my mind, but I’m completely aware that things might have been otherwise. I hope you get better.

    I was also, by the way, an extremely self-conscious person when I was young, largely due to the bullying and hazing that I had to deal with from other people my age. I don’t have a story filled with the kinds of obvious trauma that so many people have had to deal with. But, between my older brother and my peers, I lived more or less in terror half the time as a kid, to the point where I not only developed such a hard shell that no one realized how nervous I was all the time because I got so I just kept an armor shell on all the time. I learned to at least look like I was fine, to the point where people thought I was extremely arrogant instead of realizing that I was just good at walking around like I couldn’t give a shit. Anyway, I feel for what you had to deal with, and I hope that you’re able to come to some sort of peace with it, if you haven’t already.

    Good luck to you.

  • That’s an interesting thought. I have had it myself: why change the language, since anything you come up to replace it will only be warped and distorted in its turn? The recent spate of interest in abolishing the term “schizophrenia,” for instance, is often based on the ideas that 1) there is no discrete entity that could be called schizophrenia, since the diagnosis is based on such variable factors that you might as well say they’re just aspects of that person’s experience that may be unrelated to each other in the way that a disease entity actually would have its parts related to each other as part of a clearly distinguishable whole, more or less, or that 2) it’s just stigmatizing to label someone that way. In terms of the second, it might be an uncommon point of view, but to me switching the name instead of simply using it and then working to change the perception, as the gay pride movement has done with words like “queer” or “gay” or whatever, is sort of a waste of time. By switching to the term “psychosis spectrum,” we will in no way substantively change the perception that people have from how they saw the old schizophrenia. Sooner or later, some people will start talking about “psychotics” (or “psychos”) the same way they talk about “schizos” now. But who am I? The powers that be have largely decreed that the change of name will take place if they have any power over the situation, regardless of the fact that it’s just polishing brass on the Titanic, more or less. I would think the preferable alternative, if you have to switch names, is simply to abolish the naming things as a group completely and drop everything, including the catchall term “psychosis.” If someone hears voices, say that. If someone has unusual beliefs, say that. Just drop the whole thing about generalizing a category and call things by specific name.

  • Couldn’t agree with you more. Unfortunately, the only vaguely complete language for it all — misleading and non-illuminating as it may be — is psychiatry’s. Some day I hope we will change that. I’ve brought the language issue up with people many times, but I can’t seem to find anyone who wants to sit down and create a new one that actually represents it all as it really is.

  • Thank you. I’m glad you liked the piece. I am also, like you, opposed to forced treatment. Although it may actually have so-called “benefits” in the short term, I think that it inevitably costs you in the long run, whether in terms of turning you into a zombie, destroying your health, shortening your life, or actually denying you the opportunity to come out on the other side of it all as a new person with new possibilities and potentials in front of you. And like you, I do grow a little worn out from all the expressions of pain and rage, even though I can relate to them. There is, after all, a lot more to all of this than just what was done to you, important as that may be. But, people do need to get it out of their system sometimes, so I can more than understand, and I do my best to pay attention to the people who need to speak out. Hopefully we can get to a place where the first thing (forced treatment) and the need for the second (anger) will go away. Good luck to you and your daughter and the rest of your family.

  • Thanks for this important podcast.

    My only complaint about all of this is that the very term “Power Threat Meaning Framework,” while it is quite clear about its different subject matters, is actually sort of alienating. Once one is familiar with its constituent parts, it makes sense, but when approaching it at first sight it is quite alienating. I hate to say it, but a simpler name would probably have put people off less.

    As usual, James, you home right in on important questions, and I want to thank Dr. Johnstone for explaining what she and the others in her working group have done to advance the cause of psychology.

    Eric Coates

  • I haven’t listened to every broadcast (they started before I was aware of them) but those I have listened to have always been full of valuable information. I thank you, James, once again, for taking the time to make these broadcasts available to us all.

    I want to also thank Dr. Moncrieff for taking the time to make her views clear. I have read many articles on MIA (and increasingly in the wider-spread media) that are critical of antidepressants and other drugs. As a psychiatric survivor who was on antipsychotics for many years (during which time I degraded and was turned into a zombie), I am still learning about the effects that all of these drugs — antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti-ADHD — have on the people who are unfortunately either convinced or forced to take them. Thank you.

    Eric Coates

  • Congratulations, Sera! You’ve now outed yourself as a voicehearer. Not every voicehearer is the same, but you seem to more than qualify. A voice in your head that seems to not be yourself that talks to you? No better definition of it. It may be subtle, it may be quiet, but if it’s talking to you from the outside, then you’re a voicehearer. Congratulations! It’s a very select, special club.

  • Julie, love it!

    On my last psych admission I got really out of control. I basically stole a huge, plastic Scrabble board and the tiles to go with them (assembled from who knows how many different Scrabble games?). I had to get this monster out of the game room and into my own room and then sweet-talk the staff into letting me pay for it all with a replacement scrabble set, which I promptly handed to the biggest scrabble player in the place and encouraged her to steal.

    There was actually a sort of thievery ring at my last admission, who raided people’s rooms and sold stuff between the different units. I figured out who they were pretty quickly, and I would taunt them with my iPod Nano all the time. But I was smart: I kept the iPod in my pants pockets 24 hours a day, whether that was in my daytime shorts or my pajamas at night. No one was able to steal my iPod. I did the same thing with my money.

    One last thing I will say is that I always make sure to steal a book from the library. You can only have 1 book out at a time, and you pick the very best book you can and hold onto it until they let you out, and you take it home with you. I have two awesome books that I would never have otherwise had because of it. Thank God for the prison library! I have also acquired 4 Bibles in different versions (Bibles are a kind of addiction for me) and a magisterial version of the Koran — all books that were just out on the ward.

    Anyway, congratulations on that pool ball!

  • Sa, I did perhaps overstate my case about violence a little bit. There are indeed some people who are so far out there with their beliefs that they can’t help reacting with violence, whether out of perceived self-defense or some other reason, and I appreciate that perspective. However, most of the people I’ve known in psych wards who were violent were simply aggressive persons to begin with, and they would have been violent in any aspect of life, whether in a psych institute or some other aspect of life — normal life included. But thanks for speaking up, because it is important to do so.

  • Thank you for being one of the few psychiatrists out there who is willing to speak about the human cost to your profession as well of the medical model. People quote Dr. Szasz all the time, but tend to forget that he, too, was a psychiatrist. I hope there will be more like you in the future.

  • I am glad for you that you finally realized what was happening. It also took me about 8 years to realize what was happening to me, although I was on an antipsychotic (Zyprexa) which has very different effects. I am sorry that you had to lose as much as you lost, and I hope that you, as I have been able to do, are able to recover what you have lost now that you are not drugged into oblivion.

    Good luck!

  • You write about how non-Western experiences all relate to spiritual experiences and shamanism. I appreciate that immensely.

    You might want to also consider how this is happening in the Western world. This is something that I wrote about for MIA about a month ago. There is not only a non-Western, shamanistic world; there is also a Western world, with its own spiritual and artistic tradition. Perhaps instead of privileging non-Western approaches, you might consider those closer to home, and realize that they are just as valid as any others.

  • Thanks to you both for supplying us with this podcast.

    Even here on MIA, there is still talk (and the language) of “mental health” and of “diagnoses,” etc.

    It is time for this to end, and though I have spoken to Mr. Whitaker about rejecting this medical language, and have in fact called for a world conference for us all to get on the same page and begin to speak a unified language that calls it all what it is — spiritual emergence — I have so far been unsuccessful in garnering any support. I keep trying and trying and trying to get people to come together and create a new language, but to no avail.

    I understand fully that Mr. Whitaker is dealing with a situation where the language is controlled by psychiatry and Big Pharma, and that in order to successfully communicate with most people, that he has to allow medicalized language, just to bring people in. But at the same time, this is killing us. We have to update the language now, or we will never succeed.

    The power of the psychiatric/pharmaceutical establishment is that they control the dialogue. They all speak the same language — “mental illness”, “chemical imbalance”, etc. In this way they control the media, the advertising, and the public dialogue. Until we unify and begin to speak an alternate language that is consistent, rhetorically powerful, and related to what real people experience, we will fail. You, Mr. Hall, have written quite recently about how we can’t succeed until we reform campaign donations. The other half of this is to stop speaking THEIR language — to change the way that the situation is discussed, and so change the paradigm in people’s heads.

    Thanks for this podcast. It is what I personally relate to, and it is the direction that our movement needs to move in.

  • Thank you, sir. I sincerely believe that the average psychiatrist, even today, started out with the best intentions, even if Big Pharma’s marketing money has mostly corrupted the entire establishment and skewed their conversation, with their relentless propaganda, in the direction of pharmaceuticals. It is good to see when a psychiatrist, especially one of his apparent eminence, also realized the dangers implicit in the use of psychotropic drugs. I am not opposed to the use of drugs in all circumstances, even if I believe that their long-term use is harmful. Thank you for reminding us of this person, who clearly meant to do good, and was humble enough and cautious enough that he did the best he could with a balance of therapy and drugs. Best to you, sir.

  • This is a far, far more important issue than some people who are new to it all might realize.

    First of all, you start your advocacy group from the grassroots — real people with real issues.

    Then you get it organized and up and running. Success!

    Then, all of a sudden, when you are beginning to change the conversation for real, but maybe you’re still struggling to get those dollars to keep the thing going — like peer support agencies — you hear from a major pharmaceutical company or some other vested interest that offers to fund you.

    You accept the funding.

    What has now happened is that you have a board that is worried about whether they are performing up the expectations of the people from whom they are receiving their funding. All of a sudden, peers who are working in support are no longer encouraged to speak their minds all the time against drugs. All of a sudden, there is no longer a drive towards independent thinking in the organization. The organization is thinking about the source of its funding, and keeping that source happy with what it is doing.

    And this is how grassroots movements are co-opted: taken over by the organizations (drug companies, etc) that come in to fund them.

    The next thing you know, the organization no longer serves its original purpose. In fact, as it falls further and further away from that purpose, it starts to die. People are no longer motivated to come, people don’t want to come any more. Those peer support “professionals” no longer represent anyone. And what happens then?

    The pharmaceutical company sees that it has destroyed your organization quite successfully, and it stops funding you. And one more honest initiative has now been laid down by the side of the highway, as another piece of mental health roadkill. Congratulations! You’ve just been played.

    That’s how it works, folks. Never, ever accept money from any corporation who is outside your organization. It will destroy you. Accept only money from individual donors, or from people who have no agenda. That is the only way you can take money and not have it affect you. And as soon as you feel the money affecting you: get rid of it. Get rid of it, or it will destroy what you have worked so hard to build. That is what has destroyed the peer movement for the last 40 years, and it is what is destroying it now. Get rid of the donors, and fight through on your own. It’s the only way you will survive.


  • I have been screaming about how nursing homes, schools, and jails all use drugs on people for a couple years now. In fact, I am trying to get Mr. Whitaker to take me seriously and publish an extended study that I wrote, called Death of a Psychiatrist, for a couple years now. The use of the drugs in these places, where people are held against their wills, and where they are subjected to all kinds of physical and mental torture, is unbelievable, and I salute your efforts in trying to address this. We are the very few who realize that schools, nursing homes, jails, and psych hospitals are all using the very same methods to confine and contain people, to drug them and control them, and to profit (both themselves and their subsidiaries, such as drug companies and security companies and the borderline “medical profession” such as nurses and aides), and all while they do it with no regard for the human rights and the dignity of the people who are in that way victimized. Thank you for doing this extremely important work. I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are working on the behalf of the psychologically oppressed. You are the most important of them all, because you are addressing this very real need that is out there that no one else is addressing. I have tried my best, but even I have failed to get people’s attention to this very real situation. Good luck to you.

  • I respond only to say: thank you. Schreber was obviously one of those who blazed our trail, and his successful bid to free himself from forced psychiatry at a time that was even more benighted than our own (believe it or not!) is a standard to measure one’s own efforts against. That he was a judge — which, in France, means that you are a lawyer who is trained to be a judge — no doubt helped him in his fight.

    He was adventurous, he was brave, and he was an unremitting critic of the system that held him hostage. And he was, like me, a brave “schizophrenic” who was not afraid to speak his own truth in public about what he had seen and experienced.

    I realize full well what I risk, in terms of public and private reputation, by coming right out and speaking about all of this. But what gives me strength is that I know, and I know it intensely, that no matter what else may be out there, is that there is a God who will protect me and sustain me, if not in this life then in the what will follow.

    Thank you. To be put in the same class as Schreber is a great honor. I will remember.

  • Every single one of us who is chosen to go through this has unique qualities which are the reason they were chosen for it, and so God basically tailors what you as an individual will be expected to go through. So: there are similarities between one person’s experience and another’s, but not with every single part of it; while there are also similarities to another person’s experience, but not with all of it. What we go through is genuinely tailored to that specific individual. God is so all-encompassing in His knowledge that He truly can, and does, create a very specific experience for each of us.

    And it is not just we who hear voices or have visions or whatever: you are also chosen to be part of this, and your own experience, even if may feel that you are excluded from what is happening sometimes, was chosen for you quite specifically. This does not mean that you have a cross to bear that you can never leave behind if that is what you need. But you were chosen to experience this, just as your loved one was chosen for their own experience as well.

    I have not only been the one who was psychotic, I have also been around other psychotics a lot, and I have learned that all you really need to do is simply listen, and then do your best to believe that what they are describing is a very real experience, and once you accept that it actually might be real (sometimes it isn’t, but in the end God does integrate it all into one experience), you will begin to be able to relate to the world that they’re talking about. The hard part is finally just letting go of the world you are used to, but once you do, it actually becomes very interesting and sort of wonderful. Painful, yes. But amazing at the same time.

    Maybe that is the lesson that is meant for you.

  • Yes, I have also been almost completely incapacitated for long periods of time. Yet I am a very logical person, and I think that God respects who you are as an individual in the end, and so in the middle of chaos He has reached out and given me the logic I need. I don’t know exactly what it is that your own loved one needs, but if you give it time, you might see that she gets it, even if it doesn’t resemble what I need. Each of us has our own purpose, and therefore our own understanding.

    As I said in the article itself, there was a period of very intense psychosis and voicehearing that I had to go through before all this stuff that I presently experience started to happen. In fact, it has taken a very long time for it to start happening, and then for it even to become the dominant thread in what I experience. I started to hear voices, etc., in 2005. There followed a period of about 8 years in which I was drugged to the gills and didn’t really feel anything or experience anything unusual. Then, after I finally got off drugs, the process resumed, and it took a few more months before the really meaningful stuff started to happen. It has taken another 2 years for it to really become the dominant type of experience that I have. So it takes a while, at least in my experience, for God to do His work with you.

    Let me suggest to you this: that God, looking through Time itself, decides that He wants you to have a special purpose of some kind. But along with that, He wants to put you through Hell — to make you suffer for your sins, and to learn the lessons from your own past life that He wants you to learn from — and that this needs (for reasons of His own) to take place before He truly brings you in. In other words, if you stay drugged, outside His reach, the process is never completed. But if you open yourself up and let it happen, you will — I promise you, based on what I have learned about so many others who have gone through this — you will, in fact, finally come to a point where all the confusion and the disorder and the chaos and the pain of it all finally reaches a point where all the voices and the delusions and what God is saying all come together and create a new kind of understanding of what is happening. Or at least that is what I have experienced, and what I have read about. All the stuff that you go through as you suffer and pay for your sins in order to make you a better person are, believe it or not, intended to teach you something that you would never be able to understand if you didn’t go through it first.

    So what I am saying is: Let it happen. It’s bizarre and chaotic and horrible, because your sins are being burned out of you, even if you are forced to repeat them (nothing will make you sick of a sin as much as being forced to repeat it!), but when you finally come through on the other side, which takes a lot of endurance and patience, you will finally be the instrument that God wants to use. I know that’s a horrible thing to contemplate, as it can take years, but it’s what I’ve seen.

    And there is this one thing: once you finally comprehend what is happening, once you finally see for the first time that there really is a purpose to it all and that it is so much greater than anything you ever knew about in your old life, you would never, no matter how much suffering is demanded from you, ever go back to your old life. Never. Trust me. Once you catch a glimpse of the bigger meaning and purpose that is there, you would never go back to the ignorant, meaningless life that you thought you were living before.

    God bless, and good luck.

  • Thanks for alerting us to this very important article. I have bookmarked the site itself for inclusion in my list of regular news sources.

    I would like to point out that the use of PR firms and the fake “institutes” and fake grassroots organizations they organize (called “astroturf”) was a system that was developed by Big Tobacco’s principal PR firm in the 1960s, immediately following the publication of the Surgeon General’s report on smoking in 1963 or 64, I forget which. At that time it was crucial for Big Tobacco to start making sure they controlled the conversation about smoking, and they did this largely by paying fringe “experts” (sort of like climate deniers today) to produce spurious position papers, etc., and then distributing them to the media and counting on false equivalence on the part of newspaper and magazine editors to gin up the idea that there was still a “controversy” about the effects of smoking.

    For a detailed account of how they did this, which I assure you is quite educational (or it was for me), check out the book The Cigarette Century, which I believe was produced by a Harvard Medical historian. I’ve never seen the world the same way since I read it.

  • As you write, money in politics is indeed our greatest obstacle.

    I had considered leaving the movement entirely a couple years ago, and actually did check out for a while, on the very same basis that you talk about: that the movement was a failure, although what I thought was that it would remain one because everyone was doing their own little thing with no unity between them, and unless someone went out and did the necessary work to change things on their own, nothing would ever actually change. My mind has since changed about that. My own specific way of looking at the problem was centered on different issues than the one that you present here, but I can see that without the kind of change you are talking about, even the changes that I was considering would stand very little chance of ever succeeding.

    Thanks for advocating for your point of view.

  • Thank you, Sarah. Your experience and knowledge really show here. I hate to complain about it, but one sees and hears so many screeds — well-intentioned, and informed by some pretty harsh experiences, but still screeds — that seeing someone lay out a well-reasoned and well-informed and articulate expression of their concerns about the need to uphold human rights against the usual practices of the “mental health system” in a way that makes clear how important those concerns are for all of us is quite unusual and quite welcome. Thank you. I’ll share this.

  • Thanks very much for this very informative article, Mr. Oaks. I would like to respond in the spirit that you requested we do.

    I have been working recently on a new article for MIA which contained a section which, unfortunately, it was best to cut simply because the piece was a little too long as it was and, even though the ideas were important, it wasn’t directly connected to the main thrust of the piece. However, the part that was cut bears on a subject which I feel is extremely important, and which I have been trying to draw attention to for some time now, and which I had thought I might devote an entire article to. However, if Mind Freedom is actually looking for these sorts of initiatives, you might be more successful in gaining some traction for it than I have been. This issue is our use of medicalized language.

    In this article of yours, for instance, you used the expression “mental health system.” I’m sure that you’re more than aware of the idea that “mental illness,” so-called, is a contradiction in terms and that no such creature ever has or ever will exist — that it is nothing more than a metaphor at best, yet it is a very dangerous and perilous metaphor for us to allow people to believe in. One of the ways that we allow it to continue is by allowing others to use such terms as “disorder” and “disease” (as opposed to difficulties) “mental health” (as opposed to state of mind or experiences or alternative realities), “medication” (as opposed to drugs or chemicals), and so on ad nauseam. Even worse is when we adopt this misleading and damaging language ourselves and in so doing perpetuate their system by allowing it to remain the dominant paradigm in both our language and in the public’s conception of what we are experiencing. As I say, I’m sure that you’re fully aware of this, and in fact MIA itself uses a default medicalized language, probably for lack of anything else, and though I have approached Mr. Whitaker about it, he seems to be unable at this time to be able to see what would be a solution to that problem at this time. So this is not just you, this is many of us.

    But it’s a major problem. The continued success and power of the psychiatric establishment and their cohorts (the pharmaceutical industry and the prison industry/Jim Crow system that is disguised as psychiatric hospitals and as AOT, for instance) are only able to maintain their power by maintaining control of how people perceive what is going on. As long as I have a “mental illness” which can only be “medicated” because it is an inherent “disorder” and would otherwise be “uncontrolled,” then it is perfectly justifiable for society to take over my “health care” and also protect itself from my potentially dangerous “delusional behavior.” And if that were in fact the case, I would probably agree. And that is how the public perceives the situation, a situation that is created by the power of psychiatrists to move in lockstep with each other on a rhetorical basis by speaking a unified language which everyone thinks they understand, even though we (and they, most of them) are fully aware that it is false. This rhetorical unity and universal understanding then gives them the power to enlist the media, which promotes their ideas, and to publish articles and talk to people on the street and publish ads that then go to perpetuate this rhetorical hold on public discourse and public power. And until that hold is broken, we will never succeed.

    We have no unity. One person calls it extreme experiences, another calls it alternate realities, another calls it spiritual emergence, while others default to psychiatry’s own language. We fail to break down their power structure even when not actively supporting it by default. It is imperative to change this situation and for us all to get on the same page so that we can shift the course of this public conversation into the path that we need for it to go and into which we know it must go in order to save lives. It’s that simple. As the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states, the structure of my language is the structure of my world. Until we set up the right structure, one that accurately reflects our shared reality (even though composed of many different perspectives), we will get nowhere. It’s really that simple. The first thing to do is clean up how we talk and get on the same page with each other and start talking in unison so that we can finally change the whole conversation. Until then, no one will ever understand what we’re talking about. The word will never spread.

    Just as one for instance, I myself do not care for or ever use the expression “extreme experiences.” For one thing, my experiences are not at all “extreme” — for me they are perfectly normal and routine, even if they might be odd to an outsider. Yet I am being branded with that outsider’s perception. Likewise, I do not ever use the expression “mental distress.” I am not at all distressed. I am “schizophrenic” as hell, all day long, every day, but I am not distressed. Maybe some people are, and maybe outsiders are, but I am not, and the term is not up to being a catch-all for every form of mental oddity or individual experience out there. Some manic people are quite delighted with what they’re going through, after all, and so am I.

    So let’s have a conversation. I believe that a conference of some kind, or some other kind of organized communication, and some sort of organized body, such as Mind Freedom might be capable of organizing, should be brought together in order to sort through the various language paradigms, where everyone can say their piece and we can all have some debate and discussion and maybe even some disagreement with each other for a while (in a polite and respectful forum, of course) so that we can finally come to agreement with each other on what you might call “a party line.” This could very well be a virtual conference, one that even meets periodically in order to have new reports and an evolving discussion instead of trying to get it all done in one single shot. There could even be little subcommittees that put reports together. Who knows what such a diverse group of extremely creative people could do?

    For instance, I use the term “alternate reality” myself because 1) I believe that what I am experiencing, no matter how strange it might seem to you, is quite real, and that it’s time for people to open their minds to that possibility and have it acknowledged, and 2) because it’s actually quite inclusive. There are, after all, many, many, many different realities that people like us talk about, and I see absolutely no reason at all that every single one of them isn’t legitimate and important. You don’t have to buy what I say, but what I say needs to be respected in exactly the same way as what the next person says, and it’s time that that was acknowledged. In this way, we could replace the term “psychosis” and “delusion” with a simple term: people who are experiencing another reality. It’s really that simple. Yet I am sure that my own term might not reflect everything that others might think is important to express in our new language that we’re creating, so I think it’s absolutely crucial that there be a forum in which all viewpoints are heard, discussed, and if possible a consensus reached so that we can finally, finally, finally make some progress. We are losing this fight. Badly. And until we begin to move like an army, with a common language and set of goals, we will never get where we want to be. That’s what psychiatry and the whole “mental health establishment” and the pharmaceutical industry does. And that’s why they’re winning. And probably only an organization like Mind Freedom could pull something like this off. I’ve tried on my own, and gotten nowhere. Maybe you would be more successful.

    Bear this one thing in mind: No political party that ever let itself be controlled by the terms that its opposition created the way that we are controlled by their terms would ever be successful. You have to take control of the conversation, or you will never be heard, and you will never succeed. This is not a fight against psychiatry, because they will never concede. This is a fight for public opinion, and with that on our side we can do anything.

    Thanks for your efforts. And good luck with that new chair!

  • I had a numerous short conversations with him, although I never knew what his real name was. It seemed that whenever I visited the comments section of an MIA post, he was there, commenting on something. Whenever I had a post up, he would comment, always in the most supportive way, and when I was gone from posting for a while and then came back, he was kind enough to take the time to be very welcoming and to express the thought that he was glad to see me writing again. A wonderful individual, and I can understand why the staff of MIA and so many others have taken the time to write so many tributes to him following his death.

  • You’re describing something that all of us who are willing to be right out there about what we have experienced have to go through. Even I, a noted author on the subject of voicehearing and schizophrenia, have to go through this. Fortunately, I decided a few years ago to simply stand right up and say fuck you and just be who I am, and it hasn’t really hurt me a whole lot in society. Yet, I have been taken to psych hospitals and confined, and when I was there it didn’t really help me to say fuck you and fight back, saying that I am who I am.

    It doesn’t help me now that I say fuck you and fight back against the local community mental health center.

    But you know what? In the end, all we can live with is ourselves. Yes, it makes life harder to fight back the way that we do. And yet that is what God demands of us. I’m not trying to be delusional here. It’s simply that what God demands of us — that we truly obey our own consciences — is what we do. We have to do it, whether we like it or not. It’s just how it is, even if it hurts us most of the time.

    I’m sorry that the churches don’t understand, but they aren’t the spiritually informed that people like you and me are. They see Jesus up on the wall, on his cross, but they don’t see that Jesus is sitting in the aisle next to them, suffering on a cross that is called society. You have to forgive them. That doesn’t mean you have to hang out with them. Just forgive them, and then go do your own thing. A real saint isn’t worried about what people in a church say anyway. A real saint is doing whatever God tells them to do, and you’re probably out there in the world, working for people. Like in a soup kitchen. A soup kitchen is worth 10,000 times what a church service is worth, believe me. And in a soup kitchen, you will be appreciated. Not judged for what you are, but appreciated for who you are and how hard you are willing to work and what you are willing to give. That’s how it really works. I’m sorry that your churches are full of people who don’t understand that. But you know what? The people who created the churches were creating a space for the weak and the lost and the confused to gather together in safety. The real warriors are the ones who create the churches to protect the weak and the unimaginative. Don’t be one of the weak ones. Be one of the ones who creates something new. You can do it. I believe in you.

    Best, Eric

  • Too true, too true. The scary thing is that most of them probably don’t even realize it. I call it “The Ever-Expanding Mental Health System.” Everyone bitches about how “the system is broken.” Yet all that they do is add yet another professional, at yet another salary, to the system as it already exists. There is never any fundamental questioning of the system as it exists. “The system is broken.” You hear this every day. Yet the very people who say this, from inside the system itself, never actually do anything to change it all radically, from the ground up. It’s the same thing, over and over.

    Thanks for your comments. Be well.

  • I believe that God created a physical universe. And in a physical universe, there are many things that can happen that affect our spiritual universe, which is also physical. And I do believe, quite sincerely, that it is possible that mercury fillings, or even a bad tooth, can cause you to have interactions with a so-called “spiritual universe” that might have been giving you trouble. I hope that you are truly feeling better now, and that you sleep the sleep of the blessed. I’m sorry that it took me so long to reply to your post, but I haven’t been paying close attention to this one for a while. My best to you.

  • I have read the comments by Elaha, Sa, Stephen, and AnotherAccount, and I would like to say right now that you are the most important people on our side of this discussion. There are those who understand the social dynamics, etc: those are the others in this conversation. I wrote this article with those people in mind. Yet I, myself, am one of you. And I believe that this is all a spiritual question, and I am on YOUR side when it comes to all of this as a larger question. God bless you all. I can tell by your comments that you are all God’s people, and that you are all on the right side of things. God bless. Thank you for bringing our side into this conversation — even if no one realizes what you are doing. I hope to see you all again, especially after my next article is posted.

  • Thank you, sir. With my only primitive Spanish (at best, believe me!), I can see that you got the idea. What a wonderful thing that this has crossed the language barrier! My best to you, sir, as you move ahead. A friend once told me that they say: Muerte o suerte! Maybe that’s how it works for us. Bon chance!

  • You certainly seem to have a real grasp of what was going on for these people. Are you German, or of German descent? You are describing the kind of thing that normally only someone inside the situation would know — much as one can tell immediately from a written account if someone has actually spent time on a psych ward. There are certain things about an experience that are almost impossible to imagine unless you’ve actually had the experience.

  • After your inquiry yesterday, I did ask Mr. Whitaker to put one of them back up. He immediately CCed his associate to have it put back up. However, I hesitate to burden Mr. Whitaker or his staff on the basis of my own requests, which might seem needless. If you find the material valuable and would like to ask him to put them back up yourself, please do so. I have no problem with the material being available again. In fact, I would like it if it was. But I wouldn’t want to ask him to put himself or his staff out just to satisfy my own vain, personal desires, especially after I made such an ass of myself when I was psychotic a couple years ago.