Friday, December 6, 2019

Comments by Laura Delano

Showing 339 of 339 comments.

  • Hi Gabi,
    I appreciate your thoughtful message. I made a video a number of years back in which I talk about this process for myself (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlGEopFOWD4), which might be helpful. I’ve also touched on this process over the years on my blog (www.recoveringfrompsychiatry.com), though you’ll have to dig around there to find those posts! In a nutshell, I believe that each person is on their own path in terms of making sense of self and identity in the wake of psychiatrization, and that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to go about it. This letting go of victimhood was essential for me, but I wouldn’t ever say that it’s what all people “should” do. I can also say that it was a process that unfolded slowly for me, and that needed to unfold completely in my own way, on my own time (i.e. if outside people had tried to “help me stop feeling like a victim” it would have probably backfired).

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi littleturtle,
    I am sending you a virtual hug :). Thank you for this message! I hope you’ll get involved by joining our two Connect platforms (click on the ‘Connect’ tab at the ICI website, http://www.theinnercompass.org to join ICI Connect, or the ‘Connect’ tab at TWP’s website, withdrawal.theinnercompass.org to join TWP Connect). You can also check out our ‘Get Involved’ page at ICI for volunteer opportunities. There is so much hope for our collective future and I really believe that change starts at the local level. I am full of that same faith you’re carrying, too.

    Love and solidarity,
    Laura

  • Thanks so much, humanbeing!
    And yes, recognizing and validating the reality that for many, getting off psych drugs means an extended period of serious impairment of basic day-to-day living, is a crucial step to be taken in the medical community, and of course, in society at large. The intolerance, cruelty, coldness, and lack of support and validation that people in withdrawal, and especially those in lengthy withdrawals, experience on a daily basis is simply unacceptable. There are some great videos and pieces of writing in our section that talk about this.

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi Alex,
    I agree- in my personal experience I too found that there was a tremendous amount of internal work to be done (especially in regards to the “issues” that got me into the “mental health” system in the first place as a 13-year old, which of course I’d never really had a chance to truly address once I was labeled and put on psychiatric drugs). For me, this inner work happened entirely outside of the realm of “mental health” and far away from any “professional”, and only really began once I got through the serious impairments I had in the first part of my withdrawal journey. That work is what really allowed me to change my life, and reconnect with an authentic sense of self.

    Thanks for your supportive words about our new initiative!

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi Fiachra,
    Yes, isn’t it amazing how options that on the surface might sound so simple– too simple it feels like, when in the throes of serious withdrawal struggle, to really have an impact– actually end up making a huge difference, even if it’s just a short-term respite from the storm? I found needlepointing and doing Sudoku and crossword puzzles to be absolute life-savers for me in the worst times of anxiety and akathisia. Who would’ve thought!

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi Jonathan,
    No lawsuits to my knowledge… And I hope it stays that way! I completely, totally agree that given the inflexibility and close-mindedness of the conventional system it’s especially critical to build spaces at the grassroots level for people to support one another. And though I certainly think it’s important for doctors and therapists to get educated about safe tapering (even more fundamentally, for proper research to be conducted on withdrawal in the first place, and for the voices of those of us who’ve come of ourselves to be heard and listened to, especially by professionals), I also think it’s important to emphasize that people can and do successfully come off without the support and guidance of doctors and the mental health system. Of course, it’s much easier to have the support of a knowledgeable doctor (and one is necessary to write prescriptions), but people every day are coming off on their own and with the support of each other, family, and friends, and this is a message that people need to hear.

    I’m curious, Jonathan– how many colleagues do you have who are both supportive of withdrawal, and have a sense of safe tapering protocols?

    Glad to be connected here!
    Laura

  • Hi sanderella,
    I am so sorry to hear about the terrifying and painful experience you had as the direct result of not being properly informed about safe drug tapering! I hope you are hanging in there OK on your healing journey.

    It is certainly our intention to house information pertaining to safe psychiatric drug tapering so that people out there can make better informed choices around how to come off psych drugs, and not have to go through the experience you’ve had to go through. Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your story here.

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi lvoo,
    Indeed, it’s like there’s an entire realm of potential dialogue, engagement, exploration, and discussion that’s being left unspoken in society, and even worse, is totally invisible to many. In all the years I was on psychiatric drugs, it never once crossed my mind that I could perhaps find a way to live my life off of them, bought into the medical model as I was. So there are plenty of folks out there who don’t even know it’s possible. And for many people today who do in fact think and wonder about withdrawal, just mentioning the word can be dangerous and alienating (losing friends, family support, and of course potentially one’s freedom if their doctor doesn’t like the idea.) So the stakes are high, and it’s kind of like the “wild, wild west” out there much of the time for those who try to forge a path on their own.

    The message that there is life after psychiatric drugs, and that there are safe ways to get there for those who so choose, is still largely invisible to the greater world. (This of course is both due to fear and lack of access to information, and also to greater forces of industry– Pharma/Psychiatric/etc.– that intentionally try to keep these message silenced.) The more we all speak out about this, and force open spaces online and in person, the greater the chance that people like the person you heard speak last night will feel like they have a chance at another way, and can get empowered through information and support to try getting there.

    Thanks so much for commenting.

    Best,
    Laura

  • AA,
    Yes, indeed, a very real fear. In my life outside of MIA (i.e. something totally unaffiliated with MIA), I started a mutual support group almost two years ago for people thinking about/in the process of coming off psychiatric drugs and though we have a very clear disclaimer that it isn’t therapy, counseling, medical or clinical advice, and the group is structured in way that tries to ensure no one tells anyone else to do, it is, of course, a real fear nonetheless. But regardless, in my opinion we must force open these kinds of spaces in society, otherwise, how will people support one another and make change happen? Haha, wouldn’t it be great if we had a team of international lawyers who could help every group make sure they were structuring themselves safely?

    Best,
    Laura

  • Glaucus,
    I’m chiming in here as personal stories editor. Mad in America doesn’t support/endorse any particular withdrawal program, but we do respect the many ways that people find healing from psychiatric drugs, which might include use of a program, and feel it important for us to keep space open for these individual experiences to be shared. I think it would be great if folks from our community had feedback to offer about this program or others, and wanted to start a respectful discussion about the benefits/harms, efficacy/inefficacy, etc. of supplements, the Road Back program, or other withdrawal programs. And perhaps the author of this story will choose to chime in here, as well.

    In fact, this might be a good topic to get a thread going on in our Forums, which can be accessed here: https://www.madinamerica.com/forums/forum/psychiatric-drugs/

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi Rossa,
    As the editor of the personal stories here at MIA, let me respond. Many of our readers have personal experiences with forced psychiatry—experiences that have altered the course of their lives in significant ways. This note is for them, so that they can have a head’s up on what they’re about to read.

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi Julie,
    Thanks for this comment. I really appreciate you expressing how you’re feeling—I think it’s brave to do so. We’ve missed you in the group since you left the area; it’s not the same without you.

    I can relate very much to feeling lonely and isolated. I’ve found that out of all the obstacles I’ve had to move through in getting out of The System, learning how to be in relationship with other human beings has been, by far, the most difficult. I think this has been true for a number of reasons, but two in particular: the shame and all the secrets I’d carried for so many years about who I “really” was (i.e. a mental patient) had led me to compartmentalize myself to such a degree that I didn’t know how to feel integrated and whole again. And secondly, being labeled and put on psychiatric drugs beginning as a fourteen-year old completely impacted the way I saw myself in relationship to others, and the more I believed in the story Psychiatry was telling me about myself, the harder it became to maintain sustainable relationships, to establish boundaries, and to be present with myself and others. So, putting my life back together post-Psychiatry has also meant letting go of all of this, and learning how to interrelate with my fellows.

    I share this to say that it really is hard to find meaningful, sustainable relationships in life post-Psychiatry. I’ve had to learn through practice, and through making mistakes, about how to find the balance between using my voice and listening; how to establish boundaries; how to sort out who is nourishing and enriching for me and who isn’t; etc. It is hard work. And when one has come from near-total isolation, it makes it even harder to learn these “skills”, so to speak. (I put that word in quotes because it feels kinda funny to use, though I believe that all of these are, in fact, skills that one can learn through practice.)

    While I’ve never made the promises you’ve said here that I made—that becoming an ex-patient will guarantee you friends and a “great life”, I can understand how you’ve drawn that conclusion. Through a lot of determination, commitment to myself, and energy, I’ve been lucky enough to have established some really meaningful relationships in my life today. It is something I view as sacred, this gift of friends. And being given the chance to write my story at MIA back in 2010 was HUGE for me—I literally and symbolically took my life story back from Psychiatry through the experience. It gave me a space to express myself. It led me to many of the meaningful connections I have in my life today. And it was all through luck and circumstance—I happened to connect with Bob at a time when he was looking for a “person with lived experience” to write their story for the website. Becoming a part of MIA has been instrumental to my process of knowing myself and then expressing myself to others. Not a day goes by in which I don’t feel gratitude for the opportunity Bob offered me. But all of that said, establishing the relationships I have in my life today has happened solely through commitment to myself to unlearn all those lessons I was taught by Psychiatry, and re-learn how to be in authentic, balanced, meaningful, sustainable relationships with others. It has been a lot of work, and it’s something I’m still learning about each and every day, despite what you may think.

    I must say that it hurts me to read some of what you’ve shared here—that I “had a bunch of admirers around me”, that you see me as someone who “makes false promises” or is a “guru” (while you didn’t directly call me that, I’m assuming it’s what you’re insinuating.) I am acutely aware of power today as the result of spending the most formative years of my life entirely disempowered, and it is incredibly important to me that I live each day with intention, and with an awareness of how each and every one of us has power, and how the power I have as a human being in this world should be used justly and in the spirit of equality and dignity for all. So, as I said, it hurts to hear you suggest that I might somehow be using my power unjustly, though I respect the hurt you feel and like I said at the start, I think it’s brave of you to express it here.

    All of this said, I want to acknowledge how difficult it is to navigate the world post-Psychiatry. What I’ve found, Julie, is that it’s not about making a “great life” for myself that is happy and sunny and joyous and care-free every day. My life is far from that, nor would I want it to look like that. What I’ve found is that, for me, it’s about building a meaningful life for myself, one in which I see each day as an opportunity to learn something new about myself, to practice being in the world so that I feel more settled in it and a part of it, to live my life to the best of my abilities with the utmost of intention, and to immerse myself in whatever I’m feeling, even if it’s painful (which it is, a lot of the time.) If I’ve somehow conveyed to you that life is about being rosy and happy and free from pain, please let me know when and where I did that, so that I can learn from that miscommunication.

    I want you to know that when you told me you were leaving Boston, I was incredibly sad. I also thought it was very courageous of you, and I felt a lot of respect for you in making that decision. Having you as a part of our group was very meaningful to me, and I always appreciated your voice, your strength, and your unwillingness to stay silent. It certainly inspired me, as it continues to. I’ve followed your blog, and read the posts you’ve written about me, and they’ve hurt me—hurt me a lot, actually—but I’ve done my best to not take them personally, because I know that it is really damn hard to be in this world, and that we’re all doing our best every day given our life circumstances.

    If you ever make it back to Boston, please let me know. I’d love to get together and hear about how your adventures have been going.

    With love and in solidarity,
    Laura

  • hi don,
    thanks so much for this email! i am so glad i had the chance to spend time with you the other week in toronto. your decades of commitment to our cause are nothing short of inspiring to me– thank you for all that you do. the process of deprogramming oneself of the medical model is so incredibly painful and confusing and complicated, and i completely agree that finding writings of activists who’d come before me was absolutely critical to my own process of awakening.

    i look forward to seeing you again soon, i hope!

    with love and in solidarity,
    laura

  • Hear, hear, Someone Else. Imagine if the fine arts world got even a fraction of the support Psychiatry and the Pharmaceutical Industry receive! Indeed, the world would be a profoundly different place…

    You are so right that art so oftens serves as the notifier of oppression and injustice, as well as the signpost for change and revolution and a more beautiful world. There’s no better vehicle, IMO, for making manifest the way in which the personal is political… Every time we write, paint, act, sing, perform, sculpt, build… we are offering to the world another chance to come face to face with the ways in which we are destroying ourselves, but also the pathways towards transformation.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi friend,
    Thanks for this message :). Haha, yes, that response you got from your friend when you told her you were studying philosophy is all too common. I studied social/medical/psychiatric anthropology in college, mostly because by the time I had to pick a concentration I was already psychiatrized and so completely consumed by trying to make sense of “my mental illness” that I gravitated towards a field of study that promised such an exploration; I definitely got similar responses to you when I mentioned what I studied because it wasn’t a funnel to finance, law, etc. I remember not really caring because I assumed I wouldn’t make it out of my thirties alive anyways, so why should I have even been thinking about a “professional career” at all!

    What a wonderful thing that your path through the education system mostly avoided the rat race, and that your connection to social justice, meaning, and authentic values was cultivated throughout your schooling!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Maria,
    Thanks for the question! It’s a big one… And one I get asked often. It’s always strange trying to answer this question both because I can only speculate, and also because I’m actually grateful that my life went the way that it did (if I could go back and “do it differently”, I wouldn’t!) But I’ll offer a few ideas.

    For starters, had I had a safe space to talk about what I was going through with peers and without adults, perhaps that might have helped, though honestly, I don’t know if it would have, because the culture around us was so secretive and private that I can’t imagine that space ever having existed… What I never realized was how natural and “healthy” my issues were… That I wasn’t the only one who was feeling totally messed up inside– that one is *meant* to be totally disoriented and anxious and afraid and sad when one is hitting puberty. That message might have really helped me, though again, I can’t say for sure, as I might have said, “F– you!” upon hearing it, for I was so full of anger back then.

    Additionally, NOT being labeled and drugged would have helped– really, I can’t speak strongly enough about the destructive impact that being labeled “Bipolar” had on me as a fourteen-year old. Of course, my parents were doing what they thought was best– as parents do today– so I hold no blame for them. I just wish parents were able to access the message that it’s not “bad parenting” to avoid turning to the “Mental Health” Industry when your child is struggling– of course, as long as there aren’t alternative places to go to, they’ll continue going to the MHI, even if they realize it’s not helpful, so this is a critical issue to tackle.

    Best,
    Laura

  • Dear chrisreed,
    Thanks so much for your comment. Wonderful to hear that you’re at the last stages of weening yourself off of Klonopin and Zyprexa! How are you feeling? Can I ask, how long have you been tapering for? Twenty-five years… Wow, a long time on so-called meds. I am sending you solidarity as you move along the journey of liberation from Psychiatry 🙂

    I am appreciative of you sharing some of your and your son’s story here! Thank you, and good luck to your son as he moves into his final year of high school! If I was to give one piece of advice to a high school senior, it would be this: listen to your gut and your heart as you make your decision about college. (I never did! Nor did I feel a connection to my gut or my heart by the time I was a senior…)

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the comment! I’m curious– how is that alternative charter school that you helped start going today? It sounds pretty cool :). I have a great deal to learn in the world of “alternative education”, if that’s an appropriate phrase to use. If you have any resources that you think I might be interested in, I’d love to hear about them!

    What an interesting juxtaposition between your brother-in-law and your wife. I know many, many people from my hometown, my high school (a New England boarding school), and Harvard who ended up struggling– just as I did– with self-destruction. It’s taken me a really long time to find peace with myself and to let go of the powerful relationship I had throughout my life with turning all the pain I felt inwards on myself. Years of cutting and burning myself (which served multiple purposes for me, from giving me the pleasure of sensation when I was totally numbed out, to acting as a form of punishment, to serving as a channel for all the turmoil I felt inside of me), of horribly enslaving “eating disorders” (finding freedom from that prison has been, perhaps, the most difficult of all the existential prisons I’ve worked to liberate myself from), of drinking myself into oblivion with alcohol… all of this, I see now, came into my life as a way to regulate my deep, deep, deep feelings of eternal inadequacy in the midst of the totally obsessive and overwhelming drive I felt for high achievement and perfection. I don’t want to minimize the role that being psychiatrized played in all of this, as well– in fact, it’s hard to say whether I would have become as fixated on high achievement as I did had I not been labeled “Bipolar” as a child, for I had to work that much harder to appear “put together” and “successful” on the surface knowing that I was harboring the secret of my brokenness and abnormality and eternal difference, thanks to the message I internalized from Psychiatry. But I digress!

    I think Evergreen State sounds fantastic, and I hope your youngest child has a blast there this fall! I am so inspired by this thread about unschooling and as I said, I’m eager to learn more from you guys!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear RISN,
    Thank you so much for making me aware of this movement to “rethink schools”! I’d never before heard of this, and I will certainly be looking into this history. How unfortunate that it never took off… Do you know if there are still ways to obtain the zine you mention? I bet you’re right, that we can learn from the failures of the unschooling movement… It does sound like quite a parallel to the psychiatric liberation cause, especially in so far as I imagine it is all about empowering families and communities to pull themselves away from dependence on these deeply embedded institutions of social control. IMO, it’s going to take a lot of creative and critical thinking to build grassroots community infrastructures that can sustain young people and adults in times of distress/so-called “psychosis”/etc. so that we can slowly chip away at our collective reliance on the “Mental Health” Industrial Complex (I’ve begun saying MHIC instead of the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex because I think it goes much deeper than simply Psychiatry and the Pharmaceutical Industry!) I imagine that’s what you guys were doing when you were a part of this “unschooling” movement?

    One thing you might be interested in… Have you heard of “hackschooling”? I don’t know much about it but saw a TED talk a while back from quite a remarkable kid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h11u3vtcpaY.

    I would love to have the opportunity to exchange experiences with your children… As someone who spent countless– and I mean COUNTLESS– hours consumed with thoughts about grades and scores (and spending COUNTLESS hours working hard to get very particular grades and scores!), I am very interested in hearing about a different way to have gone through adolescence and young adulthood, educationally speaking :).

    Thanks again, RISN!
    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • hi jonah,
    i SO appreciate this feedback– thank you. i do agree that the phrasing of my words is, perhaps, not the clearest. indeed, the “gift” that i’m speaking about is, really, a second chance at life and at being, and it feels like a gift to me because there are so, so, so many people who went down a similar path as i did and never came back. but perhaps “gift” really isn’t the right word at all, because it’s not as if someone/something “gave” me this liberation– it’s been a combination of my access to resources, my own will, my own human spirit, and, of course, the support of loving friends and family around me. i guess it’s just that i feel so overwhelmed with gratitude and deep appreciation for this new chance at life that it often feels like it was something given to me, not something i’ve worked really hard for!

    going forward, i will be much more mindful in how i speak about psychiatric liberation, because your point is really a good one. i am very grateful that you raised it, jonah. i wish i could write more here but i’m trying to get to the MindFreedom conference in CT and i’m running horribly late!

    in solidarity,
    laura

  • hi oldhead!
    thanks for the comment. haven’t heard of eric berne… will certainly check him out. and indeed, your insight wasn’t too shrinky– i completely agree with you that the environment i was in did not allow for my awakening consciousness to continue moving through the discoveries it needed to move through. again, i don’t think this was an intentional silencing/shutting down on the part of anyone, but it was simply in the space between me and the world around me, and in looking back, i think it’s safe to say that i was likely FAR from the only young person having these shutdown awakenings in my community… (in fact, many people from my childhood over these last few years have reached out to me through my blog to affirm this fact– imagine if we’d all known how far from alone we each were in those times of painful, repressed adolescence!)

    and yes, i appreciate your comment about privilege. needed to hear that, my friend. thank you!

    running a bit late… need to head to the MindFreedom conference… so i’ve gotta make this brief!

    in solidarity,
    laura

  • Dear Sally,
    Yes, it would certainly be even nicer to create a society in which we don’t need to create separate spaces to feel “safe” from our world! Of course, such a society would take generations upon generations upon generations to cultivate, as we’d have to slowly chip away at all the fear-based greed, oppression, violence, trauma, etc. that is so deeply embedded in our social fabric today (and that has been, well, it seems forever!) and we’d have to dismantle the various Industrial Complexes that keep us imprisoned literally and existentially (Psych-Pharma-“Mental Health”, Food/Agra, Military, Educational, Prison, etc.). It would also, IMO, take a complete re-envisioning of our economic system, but that’s a topic for another time!

    IMO, as long as human distress/suffering/fear/anxiety/altered states can be exploited for profit gain and can be taken hostage by Psychiatry (who, as we know, has absolutely complete free reign to imprison and to dehumanize and to violate and to silence human beings with no accountability from anyone), and as long as we as a society continue to surrender ourselves to the “Mental Health” Industry to “take care of us”, we will continue to fear ourselves and stay just as alienated from ourselves as ever, and thus, separate “safe spaces” will be needed.

    As we transition out of a reliance on the MHI and into a still intolerant world, these “safe spaces” will be vital, but hopefully, over time, the values and philosophies of these “safe spaces” (humility, open ears/hearts/minds, love, acceptance, patience, non-judgment, critical thinking, etc.) will seep out into society more generally, hopefully reaching our young people.

    I am realistic about what I might see unfold in my lifetime– in other words, while I believe in total social revolution and the abolition of the “Mental Health” Industry, I acknowledge I won’t see that before I die. What excites me, however, is exploring, with others, ways that we can both draw people out of the MHI, and help keep people from ever having to enter it in the first place. This, to me, needs to be done through the cultivation and nurturing of a collective consciousness of our grave oppression at the hands of Psychiatry/Psychology/Big Pharma (and, of course, broader social forms of oppression that I won’t get into here for the sake of time!)– nothing was more liberating for me than to realize (a) how gravely oppressed I’d been my whole life both by society and by Psychiatry, (b) that I’d never been the “problem”, that I wasn’t broken, and that it was the world I lived in that was causing me distress, not “faulty biology”, and (c) that with this knowledge, I now had reclaimed the power to completely transform the way I thought about myself, the world, and my relationship to the world– especially around letting go of the idea that I was a segregated, separate, individual “self”, for I now believe that I exist only in symbiosis with life around me. I want to help spread these kinds of awakenings to young people (and adults!) everywhere– imagine if enough of us awakened to our shared oppression… Revolution would be on the horizon, I’ve no doubt.

    Thank you for your kind words, Sally. I’m really grateful for your comment!

    Best,
    Laura

  • hi cataract,
    yes, there is SO much fear attached to the drive for perfection and high achievement, in my opinion. over these last few years, i’ve come to realize that fear has sat at the heart of nearly all my suffering, and all my so-called “Bipolar” experiences, and that because i never cultivated an inner sense of authentic self– perhaps authentic being is a better word, actually, because i don’t ascribe to the notion that i have a distinct self– i clung desperately and out of fear to all these outside things– grades, sports, the size of my body, etc.– to stay afloat.

    i wish there were more safe spaces in our world– especially at the level of local neighborhoods and communities– to explore the fear that we have as human beings of failure and success, of love and of being unloved, of fitting in and of feeling alienated, etc. nothing has been more liberating for me than to (1) name all this fear i’ve been carrying through my life, and (2) face it bravely and explore it to understand its roots. i know i’ll always have fear, as it’s a part of being human, so for me the end goal isn’t to achieve fearlessness. rather, it’s to learn how to coexist with life around me in a way that isn’t going to overwhelm my spirit, or paralyze me, or alienate me.

    in solidarity,
    laura

  • hi chaya,
    thanks for the comment, and for sharing this here. glad to hear this article is getting spread around to schools like stuyvesant. i think it’s great you were turned off by the cutthroat, overly competitive environment you saw around you there, and that you didn’t, as you said, “compete as high as you could” and instead found your own path.

    in solidarity,
    laura

  • Indeed, madmom, there’s a lot of work ahead of us to reach our young people, and to help them connect to the oppression they’re experiencing at the hands of the Education Industry, the “Mental Health” Industrial Complex, and society, itself. I truly believe that once they realize how oppressed they are, this will empower them to come together and create radical and revolutionary transformation both within themselves as individuals, and as a social collective. So many are deeply indoctrinated into the medical model, however, that it will take a great deal of gentle, understanding patience and clever strategy to reach them with the message that their suffering is not evidence of pathology, but of the fact that they are healthy and connected to the pulse of the world.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Carina,
    What a beautiful comment and vision– yes, I wholeheartedly agree! I think the role of professionals can be, in large part, to help people connect with their oppression– whatever that may be, great or small, visible or invisible, acute or long-lasting– so that they find their own path to liberation, not to just readjusting back to the society that harmed them in the first place. I am so grateful for your work and I can’t wait to meet you this fall at Mad in America’s International Film Festival!

    Love and solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear travailler-vous,
    Thank you for this comment. I did read Tina’s piece and found it to be one of her best; in fact, one of the best I’ve read at MIA. I’ve been meaning to write her, actually, to take her up on the offer she mentions at the end to talk further with people interested in what she has to say, but I haven’t yet!

    I think she’s spot on in politicizing healing; I, too, cringe when I hear words like “wellness” used, for they primarily mean within an individual. When I talk about “recovering” from Psychiatry (the only way I’ll use the word “recovery”), I’m talking about it in a political way—I have come to realize that I was sucked into a vortex of power that stripped me of many things and that turned me into a silenced, degraded, absent, powerless shell of a person. In cultivating political consciousness of this—and in coming to see the role that gender, class, race, sexuality, etc. play in Psychiatric Power, and how I am a part of this interplay—I’ve reclaimed my identity, my agency, and my power. Recovering from Psychiatry, for me, has nothing to do with “feeling well” or “fitting back in” or “being stable”; it has to do with becoming alive again, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and using that aliveness to fight oppression. This, to me, is healing.

    Just as you said, individualized “healing” and “recovery” have come to mean adjusting oneself back to the status quo. Politicized “healing” and “recovery” is, in fact, the opposite—it’s about transformation, awakening, revolution. It has nothing to do with “balance”, “stability”, “wellness”, and the like.

    Those of us who understand this distinction must come together to strategize. We are a part of a “Movement” that in large part is trapped within this individualized framework, and it is unfortunately giving the “Mental Health” Industry more power than ever before.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear abbot,
    Thank you for this comment! Yes, indeed, the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex, with all its many varied tentacles of “mental health” has grown to serve those who maintain power well. What a great way to silence dissidence, resistance, revolution… Pathologize that inner human fire and numb, silence, and disable it through psychopharmaceutical intervention.

    We’re on the revolutionary path, my friend… While there are huge obstacles before us– including obstacles within “The Movement”– we will get there.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Andrew,
    It sounds like you’ve accepted the status quo as a given Truth that has always been and will always be the way it is. I’d be curious to tease that out a bit with you, because I’m not sure I agree!

    While I do fully agree—as I’ve already shared in earlier comments—that there are fantastic, loving, caring, humble people who work as “mental health professionals”, to me, this doesn’t change the fact that the institutions within which they work aren’t inherently oppressive and dehumanizing. This is one point where I disagree with you, I think—you say, “The place for persons who choose to make that duty of service their life’s work will also probably not go away.” What makes you think this is so? In truth, social work, “mental health” counseling, psychology, and psychiatry are all socially constructed entities that have taken shape in the way they have because of social transactions of power and authority. How we define so-called abnormality, dysfunction, pathology, problems, etc. is all determined by who is in a position of social power to shape the language, the values, the ideals, and the spoken and unspoken rules about how to be a member of society. This also means that the institutions that have evolved as responses to those who are so-called abnormal, dysfunctional, pathological, problematic, etc. are also shaped by power. They didn’t arise in a vacuum—they evolved slowly and surely alongside the evolution of our increasingly dehumanizing and reductionistic and individualistic American society.

    Just because the “Mental Health” Industry is today a massive beast, why does this mean it always has to stay this way, and that folks who offer paid support always have to work from within it? It’ll take generations of work… But I have to believe it’s possible to topple this vast institution of social and behavioral control, just as the institution of slavery—which of course created an entire infrastructure of jobs, income, resources, personal and professional identities, etc., benefitting many millions of white Americans—toppled in a relatively short period of time (side bar: racism is, of course, alive and well in our society today, but that’s a topic for another time.)

    Another point I’d like to contest: do you truly believe that individuals are “voluntarily” coming to your organization? Or are they coming because they’ve been socialized to believe that this is what they must do when they suffer and struggle, and because there’s no other option visible in sight (or if there is, it’s been totally delegitimized by our psychiatrically and medically indoctrinated social discourse)? Imagine if there were free, reliable, safe, community-based (by community-based I mean in the hands of The People, not professionals) options… Do you think as many people would come to your org if this were the case?

    This is not in any way to delegitimize the work that you and your fellows are doing—honestly, when I remember that you and my other “provider” comrades with whom I feel aligned are out there, my heart is filled with hope. You are doing incredibly important reform work on the path to what I believe will one day be the abolition of the “Mental Health” and “Mental Illness” Industries. It’s really more to emphasize the importance of stepping back to look at the institution within which you work—how it evolved, how it maintains power (and how you as an individual within this institution have power because of your degrees and professional status), what that power is and where it comes from, etc. I do believe that in the future—unfortunately, not a future I’ll be alive to see, for this work will take many many years—the power to support someone through a crisis, to get through struggle oneself, to educate and inform others about the nature of human experience, etc., will be in the hands of The People, free from “health care” institutions that reduce people into patients/clients to be observed, written about in charts, talked about in meetings, and seen as entities on which to enact power through “care” and “treatment”.

    I am grateful for our friendship and for your important, humanizing contributions on the inside of this dehumanizing beast we call the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi cannotsay2013!
    In the future I envision, I am in agreement with you in that individuals should have the right to offer paid services as counselors/social workers/etc., and other individuals should have all the right to *choose* to pay them for these services (choice, of course, is only truly choice if there are other options in the mix, so that people don’t feel like this is their only option; and it goes without saying that there should never be force or coercion). I also agree about the total abolition of legal authority of all “mental health” professionals—a very important point. However, I’d like to add that I do believe, as well, in the total removal of these services from the medical/health care realm. In the future I envision, these services can be offered as human/social/community services of some kind, but IMO as long as they retain the ability to call themselves “health care providers”, and as long as they are trained in medical schools and inside hospitals and health care clinics, we will be oppressed. At the end of the day, there is great power transmitted through biological/medical/scientific discourse. I am reminded of Foucault here, and of his concept of biopower—basically the capture and subjugation of human beings through their reduction into biological entities that can be monitored, controlled, measured, and made subordinate. As long as we allow ourselves to be reduced to biology, there will be “professionals” who enslave us through the guise of science and medical expertise. As long as “professionals” work inside an industry that defines itself as rooted in biology/science/medicine—even if they are trained in humanistic, non-labeling, non-biologically oriented ways—they will be infused with this kind of oppressive power that is keeping us disconnected from our humanity.

    Of course, today, because of the power of the Managed “Care” Industry, it is nearly impossible to obtain “help”/counsel/support/etc. without reducing yourself to a biological entity via DSM diagnosis. Only those with access to resources and privilege can avoid this trap, which of course is a huge dilemma that many of my comrades are faced with—they are stuck with their labels and with “taking their meds as prescribed” because their health “care” and their government assistance depends on them being good, obedient patients. Thus, we must entirely reconfigure the way we think of health insurance and government assistance. While I agree with you that tax-payer dollars should no longer go towards anything “mental health”, I do believe (and this is where our politics diverge, which of course is totally OK, as I respect your position completely) that We the People need to offer support to those who don’t have access to resources and opportunities, and to those who struggle and experience altered states of consciousness. That support just won’t be under the oppressive umbrella of “mental health” in this future I envision!

    Lastly, I should add that we *must* be building true community-based alternatives like the mutual support vision I laid out here in this post that do not rely on paid professionals so that people are really, truly making choices when they do decide to go pay a counselor/social worker/etc. Right now, paid support is, for most, the only visible option in sight. This, to me, is not choice.

    Thanks for the comment here, cannotsay2013—great stuff!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • I do, as well, uprising. I know that there’s in the very least a handful of us who share values, vision, and a liberationist mission. We must find ways to come together to organize effectively so that we can make change happen and show that there’s another way forwards than simply entering into the “Peer/Recovery” Industry, and thus increasing the power of the “Mental Health” Industry.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi comrade,
    I understand your frustration and I’m glad you spoke up. I intentionally kept the word “professional” broad to encompass more than just psychiatrists because I do, in fact, believe that the answers lie entirely outside the “Mental Health” Industry and in the minds and hearts of The People in true, grassroots community. This vision I have is one of mutual support and self-help—where young people (adults, too) sit as equals with each other and without people who’ve gone to school to study “about” them (even with the best of intentions, as you and some of my closest friends and comrades whom I love and hold dearly to my heart have done!!).

    I simply don’t believe we have to exist in a society in which human-to-human support must be professionalized. I realize how ridiculous this might sound because of how vast and massive and deeply rooted the phrase “mental health” is in our social fabric… But it simply doesn’t have to be this way. And the fact that it sounds ridiculous shows how far we’ve fallen from true community. It will take many generations of work to bring ourselves as a collective human family to the point at which we can turn to each other without having to exchange money and support each other through difficult times. I mean, jeez, it’ll take total social revolution, well beyond just the realm of psychiatry and “mental health”. And indeed, it will take generations of hard work by folks like you who are trying to help people in non-pathologizing ways. I really want to acknowledge this—I believe the work you’re doing is so very important, and I am so very grateful to know that you and my fellow comrades who self-identify as “mental health” professionals are out there doing what you do. But I see your work as important reform on the path towards an abolitionist end. And I also have to name that no matter how much humility, deep respect, and human connection a “mental health professional” may have, that person inevitably has *tremendous* power—in the transfer of money, of “expertise”, and of course because of all the social and political meaning that is embedded within the doctor/therapist/counselor–patient/client relationship. That is the power that I believe needs to be reclaimed by The People.

    At the end of the day, the abandonment of the very phrase “mental health” is my vision, because truly, it is just as oppressive as the phrase “mental illness”. I recently delivered a talk on sanism in Vancouver and spoke about this false and oppressive dualism, because the two go hand in hand and if we are to leave behind the concept of “mental illness” we must also do so with “mental health”. It is a phrase that is medical in nature (i.e. “health”) and that places the locus of intervention on the mind (i.e. “mental”), thus completely disregarding the social context in which the so-called “mental health issue” arose and focusing on the individual. It is misleading and destructive and rooted in neoliberal notions of individualism, productivity, “functionality”, etc., and IMO, it is only leading to more suffering and disconnection and disillusionment and hopelessness. Unfortunately—and please correct me if I’m wrong—all of psychology, social work, and counseling uses this phrase today, and anchor their practices in it. Indeed, it is put on a pedestal as the final destination for counseling/therapy. If we are going to insist on using the word “health” (which I don’t agree with), we should be talking about community health. Social health. Not “mental health”. Because while suffering is experienced within an individual, its source is from beyond, in society.

    I’m curious to ask what issues you might have with my vision beyond the noticeable absence of professionals you’ve drawn attention to? Do you not believe in the power of mutual support and self-help? I’d love to hear more of your thoughts about this.

    With gratitude for our friendship and for your work, and in solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear AgniYoga,
    Such a great comment—thank you. Indeed, psychiatrists go through an intense indoctrination of their own, one in which they’ve invested tremendous time, money, energy, etc. While I believe that the vast majority of people who go into this work have the best of intentions—they want to help people, to resolve suffering, to get people back to their lives, etc.—the entire educational and professional infrastructure into which they immerse themselves is rooted in dehumanization (via psychiatric label), physical disabling/silencing/impairing/injuring (via psychiatric “treatment” like drugs, shock, etc.), and disempowerment. I should say that some of my closest friends, and some of the people I have most respect for, are psychiatrists, so I do believe that there are individuals who do not lose themselves to this indoctrination, but on the whole, yes, this is the case, I believe.

    Yes, the psychiatrist I saw at age fourteen had absolutely NO idea the impact that her labeling of me had on my identity, my relationship to my family/friends/society, and my future. Honestly, I don’t know if she would have done it differently had she had the foresight to see where my life would head as the result of “becoming Bipolar”… I think she really, truly believed that she was helping me by reducing my experiences to a label and offering two bottles of pills as my solution. And yes—as you say, her safety, security, professional identity, etc. all depended on me being “mentally ill”. This is a really, really important point because it speaks to a broader issue that we psychiatric liberationists face in the future. If we are going to dismantle the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex, how can we possibly bring these professionals (of which there are many, many thousands if you take into account all the various professional arteries running off of Psychiatry) on board who rely on the medical model, the “treatment”, etc. in order to pay the bills, their children’s college tuitions, etc.?

    I do think psychiatrists have a role to play in the revolution. If properly trained (likely by those of us who’ve done it themselves), they can be helpful in tapering people off of psychiatric drugs. They can engage in truth and reconciliation processes with those they’ve harmed (many inadvertently of course). They can be a kind of bridge for people to get back to their humanity, provided the foundations are rooted in a newly learned humility. Perhaps I’m being way too idealistic here… I know that this will take many, many generations of work. I know I won’t see abolition in my lifetime. But I believe it’s possible. I have to believe it’s possible.

    I’ll close by mentioning your really profound question about my first psychiatrist—what happened to her when she was in ninth grade? What unfolded in her life that led her to want to reduce human beings to psychiatric labels and pill receptacles? We need to keep those embedded within the PPIC as human beings in our mind—and as human beings who suffer, themselves!—as we do this work. In my opinion, we must come from a place of love—this is what I try to practice every day, even when I’m speaking most strongly against psychiatric oppression. Those who oppressed me are human beings who (mostly) were trying to help me. How can we hold this truth while also holding the vision of abolition? And how can this actually make our work more effective?

    Thanks again for the thought-provoking comment, AgniYoga.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear oldhead,
    Thank you *so* much for this comment. I am smiling and feeling more invigorated and inspired than ever before; hearing this kind of feedback and feeling this kind of deep solidarity (even through a computer screen!) keeps me fired up to keep fighting this fight!

    Though I am still quite new to “The Movement” (which I put in quotes because I don’t believe that there is, in fact, a unified movement!) I have been observing over these past few years the divisions you articulately capture here, and they are saddening and concerning to me. It seems that the vast majority of those who would identify as a part of “The Movement” are reformists, not abolitionists, folks who are seeking to make the “mental health system” “better”, “more humane”, etc., rather than working to make it obsolete. I will and always will be an abolitionist; while I believe that reforms must happen on the path to abolition, and indeed I support them as a means to an end, a future free from the very notion of “mental health” and “mental illness” and from the idea that medical doctors have any business interfering with the affairs of the human spirit is a vision that sits at the core of my being, and of the work that I’m trying to do.

    I should say here that I respect that people will be called to do different kinds of work (inside The System versus outside The System, in other words), and that I a stand in full solidarity with some of those who’ve chosen to go on the inside. The Western Mass RLC, for example, is an organization that gets government money but that, IMO, completely embraces the values I am aligned with. They are brave and refuse to be coopted or silenced by those who give them money, they are doing unbelievably important, revolutionary work, and I am proud to call myself their comrade. There are also folks like Deron Drumm and Greg Benson in Connecticut who are doing seriously radical and important work within traditional “consumer/recovery” settings, and I think they are planting some really important seeds, and making significant change happen.

    I also want to draw attention to the fact that privilege and access, of course, play a significant role in the decisions many folks in “The Movement” make about employment. I happen to have been born into a situation that affords me the opportunity to not have to rely on a System paycheck by working as “a peer” (though I chose to for about a year and a half while still naïve and believing I could make significant change happen on the inside of a traditional “provider”; I started to get burned out and disillusioned and had to leave about a year and a half ago). I know people who work for The System because they are struggling to find other means of employment, and because they need to pay the rent and put food on the table. I respect this and am very aware of the socio-economic-political obstacles that our society throws in front of our fellows seeking to do important liberationist work, and I want to acknowledge and name this.

    There are, as well, radical, dissident, liberationist practitioners out there like Bruce Levine, Richard Lewis, etc. who are politically conscious and who view their responsibility as workers to connect people to the sources of their oppression so that they may liberate themselves. (I recently read the complete series of the Radical Therapist and Rough Times, published in the early ‘70s; are you familiar with this publication? Fantastic stuff… All situated within an anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-sexist, anti-racist framework, all highly critical of all “mental health professions” that seek to adjust individuals so that they may fit appropriately back into the society from which they came. I hope self-identified dissident practitioners connect with this literature; it is very important, IMO.)

    I’m digressing a bit here because I get so excited talking about this stuff! Let me rein myself back in a bit to what you were saying in your comment. Yes, I completely agree with you on the need to bring “The Movement’s” understanding, organization, and strategy to a level deeper than force and coercion. While of course I am adamantly against both, it seems silly and completely fruitless to me to try to fight them while still allowing the medical model to continue on. FORCE AND COERCION EXIST BECAUSE OF THE MEDICAL MODEL. Plain and simple. There are plenty of folks who believe we should quiet down the fight against the pathologization of human experience because it’s polarizing or because it’s pushing away people who would otherwise be willing to “sit at the table”, and instead focus on finding common ground with mainstream, conventional voices around force. While some of these people come from totally noble and well-intentioned places, and are truly hoping to bring rights and justice to people, I have no doubt that this will go nowhere except making the “Mental Health” Industry more powerful. Force is legitimized because the experiences that scare, confuse, sadden, and concern society are perceived to be medical in nature. We *must* be attacking the medical model—albeit in skilled, articulate, calm, thoughtful ways—if we are to truly change anything. In fact, I believe it’s more important than ever before.

    This is the area I’m definitely finding myself most drawn to at the moment—contesting the medical model by talking about what it means to be human, what it means to struggle, what it means to experience what gets called “mental illness”. I think because of my own profound transformation along these lines—having been the brainwashed, indoctrinated good mental patient that I was for so many years—I am feeling it very important to be putting into words just how I’ve had my existential awakening in the hopes that it might help make some kind of change in the lives of others. (I do it, as well, for myself, for every word I write helps me to feel more empowered, more free, more connected to myself, and more connected to the world.)

    I think your idea about reaching youth through consciousness-raising is a great one. Bruce Levine, IMO, is doing a great job of this already. Imagine if we found ways to help young people connect to their oppression—all the various forms of oppression they’re experiencing, well beyond that of Psychiatry—and imagine if we then empowered them to actually DO something about it… Man, the world would change! And yes, making it “cool” to take a stand against the medical model is likely the way to go with young people… I like that idea. I think in order for our young people to really grasp the absurdity of the medical model, we should be positioning the message of psychiatric liberation within a broader framework of oppression, for most people end up labeled “mentally ill” because they’ve responded to some kind of oppression they’ve experienced in life, whether it be within the family system, the foster “care” system, the school system, or society more generally via racism, classism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, transphobia, etc. Really, the PPIC is the final resting stop for the oppressed… and of course, few make it out alive… literally.

    My use of the term “Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex” is indeed rooted in these other industrial complexes you mention, especially the Prison Industrial Complex. I am intrigued and incredibly inspired by the prison abolition movement, and I believe we have *much* to learn from them. Just as the vast majority of people out there simply can’t grasp what society would look like without prisons (I mean literally, they just can’t comprehend it), they are also unable to do so in regards to the “Mental Health” Industry. People say, “Well where on earth would people go to when they’re struggling?” just as people say, “Well where on earth will we put these people who commit crimes?” When I read Angela Davis’ “Are Prisons Obsolete?” I was inspired (though unfortunately it seems that she—like so many leftists—has drunk the medical model koolaid, for she talks about the oppression that people of color with so-called “mental illness” experience in prisons through lack of access to “treatment”; I wonder if there’d be a way to reach her with our message, as she’d be a VERY powerful ally, and imagine how fired up she’d be if she “got it” re: the absurdity of the medical model…)

    I talk about the PPIC all the time now because I think we need to name this beast what it is. It isn’t a “system”, it is an entire complex rooted in capitalism and in the exploitation and profitization of human suffering. We simply cannot ignore conversations about this. We must find ways to engage people at this level, for in truth, so much of psychiatric oppression is rooted in the drive for profit. I don’t think one has to call oneself anti-capitalist to participate in this conversation, either.

    OK, I’ve gotta move on to the other comments here… I would LOVE to find ways to keep this conversation going, perhaps here in this thread so that others can see, and maybe even on email? My email is [email protected]… Would love to talk further about strategy and ways to organize those of us who refuse to participate in the “peer/recovery/consumer” realm…

    Thank you, oldhead…. Here’s to liberation for all.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear uprising,
    I am sorry, too, that you got psychiatrized at fifteen. I would love to start a discussion about how we can effectively organize to implement these kinds of opportunities for our youth so that we can break the PPIC’s vicious cycle of dehumanization that we got sucked into. Any ideas about how we can get this going?

    I am so glad you’re here, uprising!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi again, Copy_cat,
    Yes, the “dual diagnosis” phenomenon is troubling to me, as well. As someone who spent about two years very active in the twelve step world (before realizing that it was just another institution giving me a label, telling me I had a life-long “condition” [albeit a spiritual one], and instilling in me the idea that I was someone “different” from “non-alcoholic” people; I left that world and the “alcoholic” label behind about two years ago), I can’t tell you how many people I came across who self-identified as being “dually diagnosed”. It was hard to keep quiet when I’d hear people speak at one month sober about how their doctor had just diagnosed them “bipolar”, and how they’d been told they’d been “drinking to self-medicate their bipolar”; of course, they sat there loaded up on the typical cocktail like I had, and it was really difficult to watch over and over and over again. Much of the conventional medical and psychiatric profession refuses to acknowledge, at least with their patients, that psychoactive drugs like alcohol, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, etc. will have significant effects on the CNS, leading to significant alterations in personality, mood, cognition, etc… Of course they can’t acknowledge this, because there’s a tremendous opportunity to be needed by these struggling folks if they’re kept in the dark about the fact that the ups and downs they’re experiencing while excessively drinking aren’t something separate (i.e. “alcoholism” and “bipolar”) but one and the same!

    The Addiction Industry– which of course emerges right out of the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex– is thriving more than ever, creating life-long dependents who are told they’ll be on disability indefinitely, can never work again, and will need to take “medications” to keep themselves “clean and sober”. I know in Massachusetts that Bain Capital recently began investing in methadone clinics… Clearly, there’s big money in this world and financial folks are realizing this. It is so tragic to see how many people get “clean” by getting hooked on “medications” that are, in fact, just as difficult to get off of as the “street drug” itself.

    Anyways, I’m going off a bit here so I’ll end! Thanks for this comment, Copy_cat!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Copy_cat,
    Indeed, the closing of TeenScreen was a really good thing, though unfortunately the “mental health” screening of young people is alive and well in America… I’ve heard stories from friends with kids who’ve had primary care doctors try to sneak in “mental health” questionnaires in appointments, and especially in the wake of all of these mass shootings, I’ve heard, as well, about schools implementing trainings for teachers to pick up on potentially “troubled” kids… So yes, while TeenScreen is gone and that is great, we must stay diligent about all the other ways that Psychiatry creeps into the lives of our young people!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Russ!
    So great to see you and Carol yesterday. What a great day it was!

    And yes, the image you paint here of human beings conditioned into zombies lining up for morning, noon, and night “meds” is one that I too know, and it is a painful one to think about. They are walking ghosts, silenced and removed from society, and it is our responsibility to keep them being fully forgotten, and to use our voices to fill their silences, and to fight so that they can have the chance to remember themselves again, as well.

    Big hug, and in solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear larmac,
    Yes, I of course remember Shane and his story and am so glad that you’ve written here. His story will help many, many young people survive Psychiatry; please keep writing and speaking out. Families all around the world– mine included– have been and continue to be denied access to the truth and we must demand transparency and the right to truly informed choices, if we are to prevent young people (and old) from heading down the same path that Shane and I went down, and that I was so lucky enough to have gotten off of.

    Thank you for your commitment to making change happen and for continuing to fight on behalf of Shane so that others have a shot at life free from Psychiatry. Grateful for your solidarity, and sending it back to you!

    -L

  • Hi Russerford,
    Yes, the “it’s in your best interest to not see this records” and the “these records might harm you” lines were the ones given to me when I tried to obtain my records (oh, and by the way, each page costs 20 cents, or something like that!! Have you had to pay for the records of your daughter’s you’ve gotten?) Really great to hear that your insistence and determination has led to success getting records. I backed off after realizing that it was in my best interest to let things lie still for a while, until I have a better strategy.

    You’re right that there needs to be better organized advocacy around obtaining psychiatric records. If only we had a lawyer committed to this cause!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi comrade,
    Saddened to know you won’t be there in person tomorrow, but we’ll feel your energy and spirit with us as we march and speak out!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Someone Else,
    We will be with you in spirit on Sunday, as well. Wow, so you’ve been able to get access to your medical records! I have about 75% of mine… The primary hospital I went to for “inpatient”/”outpatient”/”day treatment” is refusing to give me my records for all of 2010 (the year I became “non-compliant” and came off the drugs in the “Borderline Center” I was going to every day) and while I’m aware that this is illegal of them to do, I’m also aware of the time/money/effort it’s going to take me to fight them… It feels very important for me to do so, not necessarily because I care about what my records say (I’m sure they say some pretty ridiculous stuff!) but because it symbolically feels like I’m reclaiming my full self from Psychiatry if I can get my complete records.

    Anyways… Enough rambling… Your journey through Psychiatry is, while so dehumanizing, so important to share with the world… Thank you for doing so!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Carl,
    Yes– Off Label is a really powerful film (I was lucky enough to see it last year!). This is certainly on our list of films to explore. Thanks for the suggestion! And thanks, too, for all the important work you’re doing to change the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and psychiatry, and to bring justice for Dan Markingson and Mary Weiss.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Thanks for the comment, Hermes! I too love to read, especially when I’m interested in learning about something. (And listening to podcasts while trekking through the woods sounds absolutely wonderful!) Film, for some people (not all, certainly!) can provide an added layer of emotionality, connection, and resonance, because it’s brings to life the things we read on the page. But as you said, not everyone feels this way, and that’s totally OK!

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi Faith,
    I’m so glad that YOU survived, too! Yes, it really is amazing how life, self, mind, spirit, all continue to change. Some of the most beautiful moments of realization for me have been the seemingly teeny shifts– like, I remember back a year and a half ago or so that I woke up and WANTED to take a shower. WOWWWW! That was a big day. Or the first time I was in some kind of social situation and didn’t feel that pressing urge to run away. Or the first time I caught myself smiling as I was listening to Sigur Ros. (That was only this past spring!) And to have friends and comrades who GET IT– who know what a big deal this “little” milestones are… That’s one of the many reasons why I truly value friendships like the one I have with you.

    Sending love to you, and thank you for all you do,
    Laura

  • Hi David,
    Thank you so much for this comment! Wow, I love “The Caterpillar Screams”… Haha, I most definitely get that! And yes, I certainly agree that spiritual growth and human transformation can happen without having an intense crisis (and certainly without having to be dehumanized by the “mental health” system); important to say that, for sure. That being said, it’s been so valuable for me to learn from people like you that if one does find oneself in the midst of a crisis (or in a life that has turned into a seemingly continuous crisis) it doesn’t have to be an empty, meaningless experience. For me, I see that in having my entire identity, my entire self, my entire life snatched up by Psychiatry, I was given the opportunity to strongly reclaim it. I look back now and see that no moment was wasted, no experience of emotional pain felt in vain. And today, when I find myself in the middle of a tough day, I know the same.

    So glad to call you a friend and comrade and I look forward to the day we meet in person!
    With love and in solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Copy_cat,
    I once felt the same way… I’ve been able to let go of my guilt slowly over time, after I discovered that it was keeping me just as emotionally dependent on Psychiatry as when I was its patient (only in a different way). I’ll often say to people that it makes total sense that we bought into the “mental illness” narrative because it is simply one of the most powerful, deeply ingrained narratives we as a society have, taken as a Truth. That, and also because we trust doctors and medicine, and most often, never think to question what we’re told by people who’ve spent years and years in school and training.

    I know, for me, that when I found myself in such a desperate place of agony back as a teenager, I needed an answer and an explanation, which is why I eventually succumbed to the “mental health” system. Had there been other options for me– other places to go to, spaces to explore my suffering, more humanistic explanations for why I was suffering, or just the simple awareness that I wasn’t alone– perhaps I never would have had to meet Psychiatry, but in American society today, there really are very few other options (and often times, those alternative options won’t be taken seriously because they’re not medical in nature).

    I once thought of those thirteen years I spent under “mental health” confinement as wasted years, years stolen from me, as lost time… I now no longer do, because, as it turns, out, SO much good has come from all those years of isolation, hopelessness, and agony (indeed, they’ve given me my life’s purpose!). I believe that surviving oppression can end up being a really transformative, awakening, empowering opportunity to reclaim oneself– at least, this has been my experience!

    Glad to be connected, Copy_cat.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Duane,
    Yes– one of the greatest tragedies of the medical model is that it completely shuts off the idea that growth/change/transformation is possible. I remember believing so deeply that for the rest of my life– my ENTIRE life– I would be “symptomatic” and “ill”. Imagine!!!

    Glad to hear from you, Duane, and I hope you had a nice holiday!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Greg,
    Clear, simple, powerful argument against forced Psychiatry. I hope you’re submitting this as an op-ed to the Courant and/or local papers! So glad to know that you’re down in Connecticut working hard to prevent the creep of community psychiatric force.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi DruggedKid,
    I think you’ve touched on a really big, important issue– children and psych drugs, and the lack of voice and agency that children have in their own lives. This, and, as you said, the fact that the vast majority of parents out there have incorporated the Biological Psychiatry narrative that says, “Your kid has a brain disease. This isn’t your fault; you have no responsibility in their struggles. They’re not bad kids, they’re sick kids.”

    In my opinion, public education is absolutely critical if we’re to effectively tackle this epidemic of the pathologization of childhood. The more we can show parents the evidence showing that long-term use of psychiatric drugs (for adults, let alone for the developing brains/bodies of children) creates physical disease, cognitive dysfunction, emotional blunting, etc., the better the odds of building alternative coalitions of parents besides NAMI. Mother Bear in North Carolina is attempting to do this, I believe.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment!
    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear uprising,
    Thanks for this comment; I’ve been inspired by many people/books/ideas and feel as though I’m simply passing on a message I’ve been given by others. Life is really just a circle of exchanging and receiving, if you think about it! And I totally agree– nothing is more powerful that storytelling; hearing the stories of others has definitely been a critical part of the withdrawal and healing process for me too. I send you solidarity as you finish with the taper and am so glad you’re a part of the MIA community.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Alex,
    Thank you for sharing this painful and beautiful part of your story. You are spot on that a life sentence in the “mental health” system means that the ‘big picture’, as you put it, is completely blocked from view. We become our “illnesses”, and that’s that. I am so glad that you found your way out, and to freedom! I am so very appreciative of your voice here at MIA.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi S. Randolph,
    Thanks so much for this very humbling comment. I am incredibly appreciative for all the advocacy you do out there in Illinois!

    I would be curious to hear more about that “Mental Health First Aid” course you took… I’ve heard pretty, ahem, “interesting” things about it!

    And thank you for the important reminder of the inherent subjectivity of human experience ☺.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Steve,
    Wow, thanks for the thoughtful words about my post! I always appreciate your comments here, too. It sounds like the support you provided on that hotline was invaluable. It reminds me that there are people out there already listening and helping people to find the meaning in their experiences; I need to continue to remind myself of that!

    Indeed, the DSM and meaning exist in an inverse relationship. Let us continue to speak out about this!

    Thanks, as always, for your contributions to MIA.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • dear Juliemadblogger,
    Iidefinitely got labeled “Borderline”… and i, too, once was sure that my “treaters” were taking “care” of me, and that i needed to be a good patient and listen to what they said. i was scared to disappoint them, or do anything to make them frustrated, all along convinced that this would somehow help me feel OK… of course, i know today that connecting to that part deep down inside of me that yearned to say NO! was what saved me :).

    in solidarity,
    laura

  • Dear Donna,
    Thanks for your comment. Indeed, we are up against a powerful, industry-driven institution that has effectively disguised itself as legitimate medicine. I truly believe the tide is slowly turning, and that despite the tremendous forces working hard to keep the status quo (and to make Psychiatry even more powerful), change—even transformation—can and will happen. We all must continue to share our stories of liberation, because it’s at the heart, and through the power of identification, that people will truly be able to listen.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Steve,
    Great to hear from you, as always. I definitely agree that the medical model of Psychiatry today runs completely antithetical to agency, empowerment, and access to one’s sense of humanity. All of this, of course, is a perfect recipe for hopelessness, for eternal dependency and powerlessness, and for profound isolation. That more people don’t see how backwards this is never ceases to amaze me!

    I am so glad to know that you moved through your difficult experiences and grew from them. I hope our paths cross again on the conference circuit this fall!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Francesca,
    I feel the same gratitude towards you, and treasure you, too. It was really fantastic to be able to spend time together in July (hopefully I’ll be back soon!) Thank you so much for sharing that suicidal feelings are a part of your life today. Your strength in the face of psychiatric oppression is inspiring to me, and my respect for you is only deepened by your openness to talk about your search for, and questioning of, life’s meaning and purpose. The more we own these experiences and speak about them loudly and determinedly, the bigger the space we’ll create to explore the meaning of our lives, and support each other along the way. I am so glad to call you a comrade!

    Love,
    Laura

  • Dear Juliemadblogger,
    It sounds as if, despite the forces around you, you are staying true to your voice, and that is courageous. It’s hard to maintain one’s determination to stay free from psychiatric drugs when the majority of the world around us has internalized the “mental illness is like diabetes” and “you need to take meds for the rest of your life if you stand any chance at stability” narratives. It’s inspiring to hear you owning your truth!

    Best,
    Laura

  • Dear larmac,
    I am so glad you’ve connected with the community here, although I feel pain in my heart knowing that Shane didn’t make it through his attempt, as I was lucky enough to. His story is so incredibly important, and I am grateful that you’re sharing it here, and elsewhere, in the hopes that the message it carries will change the minds and redirect the paths of others who find themselves heading down the road Shane and I found ourselves on.

    Thank you for sharing the kind words you did here about my post; it’s certainly not an easy thing to write about suicide, and I found myself scared at points along the way to allow my voice to claim what it needed to say. But it is rewarding to feel connected to people through this topic, however painful it may be. I wish the sequence of events in Shane’s life went differently than they did, and I feel a deep connection to him despite not knowing him. His memory and his spirit will live on and have the potential to change the world, and it’s really encouraging to see that you’re not letting this tragic loss silence you, but in fact, amplify your voice louder than ever before.

    I am inspired by mothers like you and Mary Weiss, whose son Dan took his life several years ago after being enrolled in a drug trial at UMinnesota, and I am grateful to be connected.

    With love,
    Laura

  • Dear Sandy,
    Thanks for this article. As always, I’m so appreciative of your voice and contributions to MIA, and for your openness and humility. I really enjoy reading your posts and the subsequent dialogue.

    I wanted to link you to one of Joanna Moncrieff’s articles, which challenges the “neuroprotective” story you mention re: second generation antipsychotics. To me, this is a very concerning narrative that is simply not founded in valid science. She sums up the (lack of) science behind such claims here:

    http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/198/2/85.full

    I am certainly glad that the older antipsychotics are being called into question more and more, and I thank you for bringing our attention to this article. However, I of course am greatly concerned about the push to use newer ones in their place.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Kathy,
    Thanks for your response, and apologies for my delay in getting back to you! I have no doubt that your son’s art is greatly influenced by his emotional experiences of the world— my writing certainly is, and while I used to credit my creativity to “my Bipolar”, I understand it today as simply a part of who I am, and not evidence of any sort of abnormal “disorder” (because, in educating myself with the existing science, I’ve concluded that there simply isn’t such a thing).

    I’m curious— if you ackowledge that there’s no proof that Max’s brain chemistry is “abnormal” (and I’m assuming that you’ll take it one step further to acknowledge that there are no other biological factors that are “abnormal” in your son? Correct me if I’m wrong in that assumption… and if I’m wrong, I’m eager to hear how you’ve come to your conclusion), why do you call it an “illness”, and why is this “illness” something that makes your son “different”? And, you say, the “mainstream”… I’m curious to know what you mean by that?

    I too almost died more than once (in fact, after a suicide attempt, I’ve been told by my mother, who was with my body in the medi-flight, that I flat-lined), and doctors told my parents that they should accept that I would be in and out of hospitals for the rest of my life because of my “illness”. I now understand that the psychiatric drugs I was on, and the “mentally ill” identity I’d internalized, were completely disconnecting me from myself, and completely shutting me off from a life of joy, which is what led me to suicide and total self-destruction— this was something I had no awareness of while I was medicated, unfortunately; it is only something I’ve discovered after recovering from psychiatric drug withdrawal. As I say often, internalizing a “mentally ill” identity— of a “life-long illness” needing “life-long treatment”, etc. — becomes, I believe, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I love Huxley, and am intrigued by your use of this quote here— I take the “door” you feel your son has come back through to be his “Bipolar illness”? I once might have interpreted the quote in the same way. Now, if I were to apply this quote to the conversation at hand, I’d say that it was actually my belief in a “Bipolar” diagnosis, not “Bipolar” itself, that changed me in that way, making me less sure, less self-satisfied, humbler in my ignorance, and forever trying vainly to comprehend. It wasn’t the “Bipolar” itself— because really, that “illness” is a social construct that exists only in the minds of those who believe in it— it was the belief in the “Bipolar” that sentenced me to “never be quite the same”.

    I am eager to connect with Max! I think it would be wonderful. Email is the best way to reach me, so feel free to pass my contact info along to him ([email protected]). Perhaps our paths will cross in person in the near future?

    Warmest regards, and in solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Kathy,
    Thanks for your response. It certainly sounds like Max is a very strong person who has been through a lot. I’d love to connect with him one day and exchange stories!

    I know many people who were introduced to Psychiatry as college students (I certainly surrendered to my diagnosis and “treatment” then, too, as a freshman). I look back on that time in my life now and see that of course I was having a difficult time, having racing thoughts and debilitating obsessions about the meaning of life and death, about space and time and social constructions, about whether or not anything about me or in my world was real. Transitioning to a new environment, especially when you’re a late teen/early twenty-something is not meant to be easy. It’s a painful intersection of the past and the future in an overwhelming present.

    I know that now, and see that when I turned to Psychiatry to heal the pain and profound angst I felt during those years, I was surrendering the opportunity to understand my intense suffering as something meaningful and important. When I started to see my experiences as signs of “mania” or “depression”, I closed off the opportunity to grow from them, because they were now symptoms to be eradicated.

    I guess I’m still a little unclear by your understanding of “Bipolar illness.” I am eager and curious to learn more about how you make sense of this word, “Bipolar”. Do you think it’s a physical/biological illness that your son has? Do you think it is a condition he will have for the rest of his life? Do you think his emotional experiences of the world are somehow different than others’? If your answer is yes to any of these, what evidence do you have to support these beliefs? I would love to learn more from you about your thoughts on this.

    Really enjoying this dialogue, and I am very glad to be connected!

    Love and solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi madmom,
    Thank you SO much for showing us your truly beautiful, human, humble understandings of your daughter and the way she lives in the world. I was incredibly moved, and so encouraged. Knowing that you’re out there in the world supporting your daughter in the way you are is incredibly inspiring to me. When you recounted the interaction with your daughter’s psychiatrist, it was as though you were describing several of my old shrinks, and in particular, one of the last I ever saw. Not until the very end did I see what you see when I’d sit in hour after hour of “treatment”—my psychiatrist was a man completely power-hungry, completely closed off to any understanding of me as person besides the one he’d decided for me, which was, of course, entirely medicalized. I know my parents used to sit in our family meetings, completely controlled by him, their voices silenced when he felt like it, their words warped into whatever he needed them to be to justify the way I was being “treated.” You are a true gift to your daughter; I had tears in my eyes when I read about the language your daughter developed to communicate, which you took the time to learn.

    A woman a couple years younger than me who’s a friend of mine experiences the world in a way that has gotten her labeled “schizophrenic”. I wish her parents could read your post, because they see her as a walking disease, as a “poor girl who’s being devastated by the progression of this debilitating illness that doesn’t seem to get better even when she agrees to stay on these new medications.” When I was with them months ago, I’d watch as they cringed when she spoke about her beliefs, which they would immediately say weren’t real. They’d say, “If only you could have insight into your disease, you’d be able to recover.” By “recovery”, of course, they meant “stay on meds.”

    I don’t see them anymore, since I left my job a few months back, but I think about them all the time. I’d given them info about this website, and about Anatomy, a year or so ago, but it’s likely they never explored these venues.

    All I can do is remind myself that there are parents out there like you, staying present with their children without judging, labeling, pathologizing, incarcerating, and drugging. Of course, you’re in a horribly tough place in that you are witnessing others do that to your child instead; what a beautiful thing that you’ve hung in there and stayed with her through all of this. I have no doubt that there’s light on the other side of the tunnel for her, in large part thanks to her family sticking by her. 🙂

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Kathy,
    Thank you for your heartfelt post. As a person who once believed she was “Bipolar”, and who took psychiatric “medications” for over ten years because I’d been told I had an “illness” that needed “treatment”, I can say that I very much resonate with the pain you feel at discovering that the story you’ve been told about psychotropic drugs isn’t true. I remember when I had my “aha moment” back in 2010, after accidentally stumbling upon Anatomy of an Epidemic. It blew my mind, and I went through a period of intense shock, followed by denial, followed by rage and anger, and now, years later, deep gratitude and peace of mind. I remember looking back at my own timeline after reading the book and seeing that my life truly began to fall apart (hospitalizations, thoughts of suicide, intense highs and lows, suicide attempt, total loss of social connection, inability to hold down jobs… essentially, an inability to function in the world) at the age of eighteen… At the age of eighteen, I also willingly began to take “meds”. One became two, became three, became four, became five. And, at the age of twenty-seven, diagnosed with “treatment-resistant Bipolar disorder”, “Borderline personality disorder”, “Anxiety disorder NOS”, “Substance abuse disorder”, and who knows what else, the only thing I was, was “mentally ill.” When I saw this, I realized that only after being medicated had I acquired a “severe and persistent mental illness”. This discovery was the most painful, and most beautiful moment of my life. I am so grateful to have made it.

    A short time after reading Anatomy, I was off the five psychotropic drugs I’d been on (lithium, Lamictal, Effexor, Ativan, Abilify, plus a PRN of Seroquel was my “regimen” at the end), and some time after that, I was completely out of the mental health system. While tapering off psych drugs was an incredibly difficult process for me, one that I still find myself healing from, I can say today that I am more connected to myself, the world, and to a place of acceptance, inner peace, and joie de vivre (well, perhaps since being a young child). I know that coming off of psychotropic drugs was utterly essential for this new gift of an authentic life that I have. But there was another piece that was essential, as well. I’ll get to that in a minute…

    My parents, of course, went through their own period of shock that everything they’d been told about me and my fate (life-long “mental illness”) wasn’t true. I have never blamed them for their decision to take me to Psychiatry (even though at the age of fourteen, when they first took me, I was angry and combative, understandably so), because they did what nearly all parents do in today’s day and age— when a child is suffering, they want to help her, and Psychiatry has certainly monopolized the emotional “helping” industry. They did what they thought was best for me; I harbor no ill will towards them, and only feel gratitude that they stuck by my side the whole way, which I can see you’ve done with your son, which is such a wonderful thing. I know I wouldn’t be alive without my family today.

    I am also curious to know what your son thinks, as he is the person taking these drugs. Perhaps he could write a post at MIA?

    Now that I’ve gone along my meandering writing path, I’ve finally reached the main reason why I’m writing to you here, which is also getting back to what I said was the second essential piece of my journey back to a sense of authentic self and inner peace: I’m curious to get a better sense of your understanding of “Bipolar disorder”. You talk about it as an “illness”— again, this is a paradigm I can totally relate to, as I thought about my own experiences as “symptoms” of “illness” for a very, very long time— and I am curious to know where you’ve acquired the knowledge about your son’s “illness.” Who told you this, and where did they get their information from? This is something I never asked myself during my thirteen-year relationship to the mental health system; I’m glad that in 2010, I finally began to do so. Likely, you’ve read about the fact that there is currently no evidence out there supporting the claim that these intense and often excruciating emotional/thinking experiences are actually biological “conditions.” When I first heard this news back in 2010, it was almost impossible to grasp, for my entire sense of self was wrapped up in “my illness”, and the lens through which I saw the world was filtered through a “Bipolar” understanding of myself. I’ve slowly, over the last three years, awoken from this indoctrination (because this is how I’ve come to understand my experiences with Psychiatry), and it has been far from easy. But it has been nothing short of miraculous, and exquisitely beautiful, to have an understanding of myself today, and of my emotional and existential experiences of the world, that lies completely separate from a medicalized framework. It is a beautiful thing to see that my emotions are part of the spectrum of human experience, not “symptoms” of an “illness.”

    What I’ve also found is that internalizing a “Bipolar” identity, for me, became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I was told that I was a person who would always (literally, forever) be going through cycles of “manias” and “depressions”; I certainly went through many years of those cycles. Today, I no longer do. I have a healthier relationship to my emotions than I’ve ever had before. I believe this is because I stopped seeing my emotions as pathology, as medical symptoms beyond my control (and only controllable by inanimate pills and medical “experts”). I stopped seeing myself as a passive victim of “my disease”, and instead, I began the difficult but rewarding process of learning how to feel my feelings instead of medicate them, or lock myself up on a psych ward because of them, or go to an extra therapy session a week because of them. Today, I no longer need an answer to my emotional pain— I no longer need to say to myself, “Oh, I’m feeling this way because I’m Bipolar”, or “I’m doing this because I’m Borderline”, or whatever else it may be. This is liberating, and it has completely transformed the way I feel, think, and am in the world.

    I would love to learn more about your understandings of “Bipolar disorder”. As I said before, I resonate tremendously with your experiences, and can relate to so much of what you said, from who I used to be in my past. I would love to dialogue with you further about the construction of “mental illness”, because to me, in addition to challenging the role that psychotropic drugs play in people’s lives (and raising issues about their potential for harm), I believe we need to have extensive conversations about the way we as a society make meaning of our human experiences.

    With love and in solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Jen,
    Thanks for this comment! To me, community supports like Mother Bear can be so important to a person in the process of healing from psychiatric trauma, for both the resources and support they provide, and for the ways they can re-humanize experiences that have been pathologized by Psychiatry. During my coming off process, family and mutual support were absolutely key for me (in fact, almost none of the emotional support I received came from the “mental health” system); this was crucial for me, as it helped me reconnect with the fact that I was just another human being like everyone else, that I wasn’t “different” or “abnormal”, and that my suffering and disorientation didn’t require “professional” help. Wow, what a discovery it was for me to make!!

    You are also certainly right that coming off psych drugs can be a very unpredictable, confusing, painful process. It was for me, that’s for sure! The more I let go of feeling the need to be in control of my experiences and to understand exactly what was happening, why, and when it was going to end, and the more I allowed myself to just be in the pain, the easier it was. I know for a fact that if I wasn’t surrounded my people supporting me, I don’t think I would have had the strength to go through it. I am so, so, so grateful that I had that community around me!

    With love,
    Laura

  • Dear Jan,
    I completely, wholeheartedly agree with you about forced psychiatry. As I said in my post, I had to put aside force for the purposes of the post, which was painful for me to do, because I see it as such a key issue. In my response to S. Randolph above, I said that I, and others, equate forced psychiatry with rape– to me, it is a violation of one’s body against his/her will. I never experienced force myself because I was so indoctrinated that I “willingly” and “voluntarily” went along with everything Psychiatry said (I did have one close call with security guards in which I quickly became “voluntary”, however); some of my closest friends and comrades are survivors of needles and solitary confinement and restraint and forced electroshock and insulin coma “therapy” and their strength in the face of that trauma is profound to me. While I think that force is both overt– needles, restraints, solitary confinement, forced shock, etc.– I believe it is also invisible and insidious (I wrote about this in an earlier post of mine called “Involuntarily Voluntary”). I experienced ten years of that latter type of force– the existential force that crept into the very core of my being and trained me to surrender my agency and my body to Psychiatry. This force, too, I hope will someday be conquered; in the meantime, I am with you 100% as we fight against the overt Psychiatric force that is happening around us every day on locked wards, in hospitals, in prisons, and in the community. Really glad you made this point here, Jan.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi comrade,
    Great to see you here! I always appreciate your Twitter contributions. Yes, it was painful for me to address forced drugging with nothing more than a set of parentheses but it would have taken away from the topic of the post if I did. You are totally right– in addition to the profound human rights violations that are at the heart of forced drugging, which I and others equate with rape (for it is violating a person’s body against his/her will), there are certainly legal and political issues. While I see the figure of $800/day and shake my head in disbelief, I’d imagine that there are many people out there who’d say, “Oh, no, that is a worthy cost to pay to ensure those people keep getting the treatment they need!” “Those people”… I’d imagine you come across this kind of statement from those you encounter at work? It amazes me that despite the science showing the harm that psych drugs cause people— including the increased odds of violence towards self or other— the story that the “seriously mentally ill” “need” “treatment” and just “lack the insight” to realize it is still told everywhere. I believe at the root of this is dehumanization— people justify injecting needles into a person because they don’t see that person as fully human; they don’t see themselves in that person, they’re just one of “those people”, essentially nothing more than animals that don’t deserve the dignity of owning their bodies. I know that Jim Gottstein’s groundbreaking work in Alaska, which set a legal precedent there for the harm caused by antipsychotics, is huge. Are you connected to him? There is a dire need for more lawyers like you, Jim, and Tina Minkowitz. I commend you for your hard work!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi David,
    I am right there with you when it comes to seeing the unconscious as a very key part of what it means to be human. I guess the difference for me is that I don’t feel the need to analyze it and dig deep into it— for many years I did believe that if I thought about something enough I could figure it out; this turned out to be frustrating, exhausting, and very isolating, and I’ve since accepted that a lot of life is simply un-definable, un-speakable, un-analyzable, and that when I’m just in the world without having to think about how I’m in the world it is just so much more peaceful for me. That’s just me, though. What’s also been quite a revelation for me has been reconnecting to my instincts, and my gut, something that was impossible during my time as a “Bipolar” patient. (I should say here that I do not think of myself as a “fellow Bipolar” as you said… I put the word “Bipolar” in quotes, you’ll notice, because I am emphasizing the label-ness of the word, a word which has no valid medical or scientific weight.) I respect your right to think of yourself as “Bipolar”, of course, but it is not something I am in fellowship with you over. When it comes to being a human being, however, yes, I am certainly your fellow!!

    I really appreciate you sharing a bit of your personal writing here rather than pasting lengthy excerpts of other writers, and I think it’s wonderful that you showed such vulnerability with your story on the sidewalk. I also appreciate you mentioning trauma, which I certainly believe is at the root of most all the experiences that get labeled “mental illness.”

    Best,
    Laura

  • massager2002,
    Your story is unbelievably inspiring. Have you considered writing it for the MIA website? If you’re interested, shoot me an email at [email protected]… You have a message that many should hear!

    I am right there with you when it comes to taking care of one’s self (and by this I don’t mean “self care”, a phrase that nauseates me because of the way The System has taken it over). For me, cutting out gluten and processed sugars (although I occasionally indulge) was huge. Getting rid of artificial sweeteners. Drinking tons of water and eating organic, real food (not the processed stuff as you said). At the root of this is the belief that I am worth taking care of, of course. For many, many years I didn’t believe I was, so why should I get proper nutrition and sleep? I struggled for years with food, swinging back and forth between intense restriction and intense binge-eating; of course, the psych drugs I was on didn’t help, and greatly damaged by “off switch” when it came to hunger.

    To be in a place today in which I feel deeply connected to my body is a beautiful thing. It often feels very uncomfortable and strange, but I just remind myself that “This is what it means to be alive in the world.” Because I treat my body (95% of the time) like a finely-tuned machine that I want to take care of, I now feel an often times totally unmediated connection between myself and the world around me. No more blockages (whether from psych drugs or processed food or alcohol or whatever else). I feel tremendous gratitude that I get to have this experience, and that I have a whole lifetime ahead of me to continue learning and awakening to myself and the world.

    So, yes, massager2002! I send my solidarity to you, and please do shoot me an email if you’d like to write your inspiring story for the website!!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Donna,
    As always, thanks so much for your insightful words (“insight” is a word I love so very much and I insist on using it despite Psychiatry’s horrible cooptation of it!).

    I love reading your comments because you have so much wisdom and you deliver that wisdom in such a passionate, cutting way. Nothing to be forgiven for!! It is amazing to think that in one written statement Insel successfully delivered a message to the world that people in this movement have been carrying for decades and decades. I am thankful that at least the fraud and pseudoscience of the DSM has now gotten out there to the mainstream, although as I said I am of course worried about the neuro future of Psychiatry.

    Although I do believe that the entire “mental health” industry needs to be dismantled, I also believe that there are, in fact, some very good people working in it, who truly do humanistic work. While I envision a future with no System of any kind, I don’t inherently have any problems with people earning paychecks to support others who find themselves in painful, distressing places in their lives. I guess for me the necessary pieces are that (1) the person providing the support does not proclaim any sort of expertise on the person receiving the support; (2) it isn’t under the umbrella of “mental health” because suffering is not all “mental” to begin with and the idea of “mental health” is fatally corrupted by the current System; (3) the person providing the support is in absolutely NO position to ever take rights, freedom, or ownership of self from the person being supported; (4) the person providing the support has deep humility, and respect for the person’s inherent wisdom that they are supported, and sees him/herself as a soundboard off of which the person seeking support will figure out his/her own path forward.

    I actually do believe that there are “therapists” out there doing this work (I don’t think the word “therapy” should be used in the future; I like more human words like “support”); especially in the extensive search I’ve been on this last month and a half for “providers” who help people come off psych drugs, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are truly good people out there who do “mental health” work.

    While I have no interest in long-term reform of the “mental health” industry (I understand that in the short term reform is necessary; I am an abolitionist in my vision, though), I do believe that those working in it today do have the power to come together and demand change. I look to the UK as an example of this, with all the news coming out about the demand for the de-medicalization of so-called “mental illness.” If people in “provider” roles here in the US got together, I believe they could make significant strides, although of course we are more medicalized and pharmaceuticalized, I think, than the UK (maybe I’m wrong in thinking that, though?)

    On a last note, my awakening was not anything I could have done on my own; having my family, fellow survivors and comrades, and friends in my life to support me has certainly been a vital part of my journey. I have learned from so many people, who I’m sure learned from people before then, just as I hope to spend my life passing on my experiences to others. I see the process as an entirely communal, mutual one, which has been really beautiful for me to discover. After so many years of isolation, it feels really good to be a part of something so much bigger than myself— humanity, and the collective human spirit!

    With love and in solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Joanna,
    Thanks so much for this comment. I love thinking of an eighteen-year old woman sending that letter to her psychiatrist (who I’m assuming was male?) What a powerful testament to your spirit in the face of oppression.

    I too do not see surviving Psychiatry as the end point; if anything, I see it as the starting point for a life time of growth and continued awakening. Although I feel a very strong sense of self today, as you do, I certainly endure many difficulties, as I’m a human being, and I’ve discovered that life is meant to be hard. I think that because I know that I’m a human being today, and not a list of “symptoms” of a “life-long disease” it makes me much more capable of moving through intense pain (which happens on a regular basis), and not getting stuck in it. In the past, because I saw my emotional pain as just a manifestation of disease, I never worked to understand it or make meaning of it, because I’d been told it was beyond my control, as my “Bipolar” was a life-long condition that could never be treated. Today, when I feel intense emotional pain, I am able to embrace it and be in it because I know it’s evidence of my humanity; it no longer debilitates me or paralyzes me in the way it used to (of course, psych drugs played a huge role in this debilitation so now that those are gone and I’m relatively healed from that trauma, it’s also easier to move through these experiences). I guess I just wanted to say to you that as a psychiatric survivor, you are certainly not alone with the experience of continued difficulties; I am right there with you, and I think that many, many of our fellow survivors and human beings are, too. 🙂

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Michael,
    I’m so glad to see you at MIA blogging! I can’t wait to read your post ☺.

    I totally agree that change is difficult, and that many will stay stuck in denial. I was there in the beginning… None of my awakening and subsequent transformation happened easily, or quickly, for me. For quite some time after first waking up, I was full of rage and anger; it ate at me, and all I could think was that I’d had thirteen years of my life taken away from me by Psychiatry. After staying stuck in those thoughts for a while, I realized how toxic theyw ere, and that thinking them was keeping me just as imprisoned by Psychiatry as being on their “medicine” and identifying with their labels had… I saw that if I wanted true liberation, I’d have to leave behind my rage, and transform it into anger that could be channeled productively, as well as acceptance of my past. I still feel anger every day, but it motivates and inspires me, and no longer eats at me (well, of course there are days when it eats at me… It’s just that now I know I have a choice in the matter, and will get myself out of that toxic space pretty quickly when I feel myself slipping there).

    I definitely assumed that my doctors had my best interests in mind. For all I know, a lot of them did (definitely not all of them— I saw some pretty horrible shrinks over the years too!). I see now that they are just as indoctrinated into this false belief system as I was, just on the other side of the desk. They want to believe, and need to believe, that the “treatment” they give is helping people, and that these people have real “diseases.” This is not a justification for Psychiatry, of course, but simply an acknowledgement of just how powerful its paradigm has truly become.

    At the end of the day, I look back at my transformation and see that not a day of it was easy. The most intense suffering and confusion and fear, however, has produced the most transformative changes in me, though, so I’m glad I walked through all that pain and didn’t turn back and run into the arms of Psychiatry, which was all I knew to do for a long, long time!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Andrew,
    As I mentioned to you in an email, I am moved incredibly by your courage and your willingness to share your story with others. I have no doubt that your decision to leave your job, thus putting your financial security at stake, will be an inspiration to others in similar positions as you’ve been. If change (and ultimately, dismantling) is to happen, it has to come not just from the outside, but from the inside, too. I’m sure there are many “providers” out there who “get it” in the way you do, but are unwilling or too scared to take different action. Your courage is inspiring to me.

    You make so many good points in your comment. So many!! Among them is the bigotry inherent to psychiatric labels, themselves. Just as society has systematically labeled non-white people, non-heterosexual people, non-men, etc. as “other” and systematically stripped them of rights, respect, and freedom, it has done the same with people who experience the world in a socially determined “unacceptable” way (emotionally, cognitively, behaviorally, etc.). Those who fight to “destigmatize mental illness” and who tell us we are insulting “the mentally ill” when we challenge the very existence of so-called mental illness are so deeply immersed in the pseudomedical framework of Psychiatry that they fail to see that it is the act of labeling a human being “mentally ill” that is inherently bigoted, oppressive, and dehumanizing, not telling someone experiencing suffering/distress/altered states/etc. that they are not “mentally ill”. I recently lost a Facebook friend that way! She and I had been “voluntary” patients together on a locked ward and in a 10-month IOP for “Borderline” back in 2010, and after reading a recent post of mine, she told me I was deeply insulting her and all people with “mental illness” out there for saying it is a social construct, and that I was totally invalidating her experience. Then, she defriended me! A few years back, I would have done the same thing to me, too, so I’m not hurt or angry.

    I think it’s important, as you said, that we acknowledge that we’re not denying the reality of people with these experiences that get called “mental illness”. Often times, people misunderstand me when I say there’s no such thing as “mental illness” because they think I’m saying that people aren’t really suffering out there, hearing voices, in non-consensus reality, want to die, etc. As a person who has experienced incredibly distressing and painful states of existence, I know firsthand how real those experiences are and, like you, always say that I am not denying them when I say there’s no such thing as “mental illness”. I try to say that it is labeling these experiences as “other” and “symptomatic of disease” that does the true denying of them, for, like you said, it is a part of the shared human experience, and labeling them dehumanizes them. You are so spot on when you say there has NEVER been “us” and “them”; this is one of the reasons why I do not consider myself a part of the “Peer”/”Recovery” Movement, because even that movement further perpetuates that distinction (those of “us” who’ve had “mental health challenges” and “recovered”, and everyone else). Again, a totally BS distinction.

    At the end of the day, we are all human beings feeling human feelings, thinking human thoughts, and existing in our own experience of reality (of which there is no “normal” or “abnormal”). The more we help people shift in this conceptual way, and leave behind the notion that these experiences are medical in nature (except for, of course, when there is an ACTUAL brain disease like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, etc. at play), the better of a shot we have at making Psychiatry obsolete.

    So glad to be a part of this human rights movement with you, Andrew! I hope to meet you someday.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Emily,
    I got the chills when I read that BRAIN Initiative letter… Glad you pasted it in your comment so that we can see what we’re up against. It never ceases to amaze me that I was once a person who desperately WANTED to be reduced to “abnormal activity patterns or abnormal firing of neurons”. I mean, if that’s what life is all about (which, as we know, it isn’t), why even be alive?!?!? What’s the point if we’re just firing (or misfiring) neurons anyways?

    I’m so glad you’ve found your freedom, and continue to find yourself post-Psychiatry, just as I still am (and will be for the rest of my life, I’m sure! I think I will always be finding myself, and I don’t ever want that process to be over, now that I know I’m not faced with a life sentence of “mental illness”!)

    I love thinking about the part of your story when you met the man in India who told you “There is nothing wrong with you.” I got that message in reading “Anatomy of an Epidemic”, Dorothy got that message from that young doctor, and so have many others, and speaking for myself, it was all I needed to begin the journey back to my Self. What a gift that we got these messages (either literally or through reading a book or some other way). It’s a gift I believe each and every person indoctrinated by Psychiatry has the right to receive! The more we all write and speak and protest, the greater the odds that this gift will spread to others.

    So glad to know you, and grateful for your story.

    Love,
    Laura

  • Hi Jen,
    You are right that leaving behind an entire belief system about oneself and one’s experience of the world is definitely not easy! I wouldn’t say that “we’ve” woven it– I’d say that Psychiatry and the Pharmaceutical Industry have woven it and spread it over society– but I do agree that once we’ve internalized it, it can take time to get out of it. That’s certainly been my experience. I think it’s important to acknowledge that those in positions of power are the ones who most often construct knowledge (in this case, medicine and the pharmaceutical industry) and that we as recipients of this knowledge must always push back, challenge, and question. The tricky thing in our case is that pushing back, challenging, and questioning are seen as “symptoms” of “mental illness” (i.e. “lack of insight”, paranoia, etc.) so it makes things more difficult!

    Yes, we have much to fear with the NIMH, and, speaking for myself, I feel a human obligation to speak firmly and determinedly about these dangers (while having compassion for those still indoctrinated).

    With love,
    Laura

  • Dear Layla,
    I promise, there’s no need to duck for cover!! ☺

    It’s good to see you here, and I really appreciate your comment. You’re right that it was long (which is fine, of course!), and I’ll do my best to address all your points. I think I’m going to cut and paste certain lines from yours and respond to them, so that I can stay organized… Bear with me!
    1. You ask why I’m anti-brain science.
    I am not against brain science. There are real brain diseases out there, and people with these diseases seek help from neurology (and other specialties, I’m sure), very rightfully so (I’m thinking of Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, different types of Encephalopathy, late stage Rabies, late stage Syphilis, etc.). The “brain diseases” “treated” by Psychiatry, on the other hand, are pseudo-diseases. They are ‘pseudo’ because there is no biological or reliable genetic evidence of their existence— no locatable pathology or abnormality (of course, there are studies of “schizophrenics” that show brain shrinkage, but in these studies the participants are on antipsychotics; studies of non-medicated “schizophrenics” show no brain shrinkage). Genetic studies to this date that have claimed genetic bases to these “illnesses” are not replicable (see Jay Joseph, PhD’s writing on this).

    2. You differentiate between “persistent, extreme mental suffering” and “ordinary suffering” as though they come from different sources (at least, that’s how I interpreted it because you differentiated between them instead of saying ‘the spectrum of suffering’, or something like that). I’m curious to know what you think there are different “qualities” of suffering, and how do you distinguish between them? How could anyone be in a position to make these distinctions? Why do you think they come from different sources? Additionally, while you didn’t say “life-long”, most people who talk about “severe and persistent mental illness” make the assumption that it’s an organic condition that will be with the person for the rest of his/her life. Is this something you agree with?

    3. You say, “Experience is the phenomenon in question, the mind is the seat of experience, and the brain is the seat of the mind. Thus, the brain is the seat of experience. We are seeking to alter the nature of experience, so we are seeking to alter the seat of experience, i.e., the brain.” There is so much to say in response to this, because I disagree with so much of it, respectfully, of course. One thing we agree on, in general: our biology is at the root of everything action we take, every thought we think, every feeling we feel. Biology is at the root of love, hate, passion, grief, determination, unmotivation, etc., and it has been since the dawn of humanity. Our biology is what allows us to feel, think, believe, etc.

    And here is where I disagree (and I apologize, because I don’t have the psychological lingo that you do as I’m not studying it, and I have a feeling this breakdown of ideas might not be that organized!)
    a. From our mind come our perceptions, memories, judgments, associations, and of course, our consciousness. I assume this is what you mean when you say “The mind is the seat of experience.” Just as I believe the brain is not the mind (which I know you know), I believe the mind is not the soul or spirit. And I believe that much of our suffering comes from the soul/spirit (I do not mean a religious spirit, but the human spirit). (You can challenge me by saying this involves faith, and lack of science, and I would wholeheartedly agree, and also say that Psychiatry as a “medical” practice is constructed upon the same faith, and lack of science, because as the NIMH has just confessed, there is today no evidence of a biological basis for so-called “mental illness”.)
    b. I greatly disagree with your ‘if A=B, and B=C, then A=C’ reductionism of human experience. First, because I don’t agree that each of those things equal each other, and second, because you just can’t reduce the human experience to an equation. Using your logic, I’ll play out a made-up scenario:
    -A child grows up in an abusive household, where he never knows when he’ll be hit, what he should say to not get hit, and he never feels safe. As a teenager, he experiences deep sadness and anxiety on a daily basis (“persistent”, as you would call it) and no one can seem to help him. By this time, he’s gone to live with a foster family because his dad is in jail. He drops out of school, is completely debilitated by anxiety and depression, and starts to get paranoid. He ends up, by his own volition, at a psychiatrist, desperate for help.
    If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying that the “target”, i.e. the locus of the problem, is this boy’s brain, because, as you say, “The brain is the seat of experience.” You believe the answer is to alter his brain, and that this will resolve his problem? I’d be curious to hear your response to this… As I see it, the “target” is not the boy’s brain, or the boy, at all, but rather, his relationship to the environment around him, and the support he needs is not pharmacological in nature, but rather, a way to process his traumatic past. I’m sure his biological has been impacted by his environment (likely, increased stress hormones, who knows what else) but that doesn’t mean the solution is to alter his biology.
    You might give me a response saying, “What about people who have no observable causes for their suffering?” My answer would be that there is always a root cause of suffering, although it’s not always visible, or definable in one way. Life on life’s terms, and everything we witness in the world— the processed food we eat; the violence we witness on the news and in real life; the rise of the internet and the loss of social connectedness; high-pressured American society; all sorts of societal and family pressures in general— there is sooooo much out there that could be at the root of suffering. Just because you don’t have an explicit source of suffering, doesn’t mean the suffering is the direct result of something faulty in your brain. And I’ve found that in honoring my suffering and finding meaning in it, instead of reducing it to a target to be drugged, I’ve found tremendous peace and resolution from much of my suffering.

    3. “Surely it is the brain we alter through meditation, exercise, changed perspectives on gratitude or serenity, triumphant rejection of or liberation from an identity which putatively induced one’s suffering… no?” I agree that my biology is changed by the environment I live in, and by the actions I take (or choose not to take) in the world around me. If I’m not mistaken (and apologies if I am, because I do not have a neuroscience background), biology is not just the brain. Much of our biology is connected to our brains, but what about the thyroid (and the rest of our endocrine system)? Our gut? When I cut out gluten from my diet and noticed that my moods got better and I felt physically much better and thus less stressed out, are you telling me that was all my brain?
    I love reading about meditation research, and how the brain changes through meditation. I am a BIG believer in that and think it is WONDERFUL. But I have to believe that much more than the brain changes, and that much more than the brain is involved in shaping the way we feel in our bodies and in the world. For example, 80 to 90% of the human body’s serotonin is in the gut, not the brain… No one told me that when I was putting SSRIs in my body for a decade. No, they told me it was in my brain.
    Additionally, just because meditation, exercise, sex, prayer, etc. can change the brain doesn’t mean the brain was in a pathological state to begin with. I have no idea whether meditation is suggested to people with actual brain diseases like Huntington’s, but certainly, just because people feel better when they meditate (and there’s increased brain activity) doesn’t mean they were “ill” to begin with.

    4. Somewhere you mentioned stress response. For my lack of “expertise” in this stuff, I do certainly know that increased cortisol (especially sustained increases of cortisol) can be very damaging physically, cognitively, and emotionally. I know there are actual diseases connected to cortisol (am I right in thinking Cushing’s and Addison’s are examples of this?), and again, I am not denying that biology doesn’t play a factor in emotional/psychic well-being. These diseases are not “mental illnesses”, nor are they “treated” by Psychiatrists. They are actual physiological diseases that have an impact on so-called “mental health”, and yes, I agree that they should be treated as “diseases.” (Although I am a big believer in holistic, naturopathic healing modalities, not necessarily allopathic ones all the time, though that’s a topic for another time).
    However, if there isn’t an actual disease process at play, and really, the stress is connected to the relationship between the person and his/her environment, why do you think the answer is to target the brain (which to my knowledge isn’t what’s targeted in allopathic medicine when treating hormone-related diseases) and not to reconsider the way the person is relating to his/her environment?

    5. As to your comment on the “growing body of evidence” that an antibiotic used to treat TB can facilitate “learning and memory consolidation.” Are you saying that using a drug that will damage the body’s natural balance of bacteria is the solution to “treating” a repetitive, often very painful and debilitating set of behaviors that undoubtedly have environmental roots (i.e. at some point in a person’s life, something happened that caused him/her to begin to have fear, and that fear continued to magnify and magnify and manifest itself in behaviors that get called “OCD”)? To me, it’s like giving people with acne antibiotics (when lithium gave me horrible acne, I turned to a doc who gave me antibiotics to treat the acne, and I got sick from the antibiotics, despite having my acne cleared up). In the acne case, it’s saying that rather than help the person look at their diet, at the way they treat their body, at the chemicals in their body, their stress levels, etc., just give them a pharmaceutical agent that will wreak havoc on the delicate state of bacteria in the body’s gut and elsewhere. In the “OCD” case, it’s saying rather than look at the person’s life story and at the trauma somewhere along the way that undoubtedly initiated the series of behaviors deemed “obsessive-compulsive” just mess with their bacteria count. It doesn’t make any sense to me! Plus, antibiotics have so many harmful side effects (including death, when too much good bacteria is killed off).
    There’s so much more I want to say about my thoughts on the innate capacity we have as human beings to heal (evolutionarily, we’ve been around for 200,000 years, and behaviorially, 50,000 years… had to look that up on Wikipedia!), and that while there have been amazing advances in medicine like penicillin, aspirin, and surgery, I believe deep in my gut that it goes against our nature to fiddle with ourselves like we’re science experiments. That’s just my personal belief, I guess, and one left maybe for more of a philosophical conversation… Plus, I want to get to a few more of your points before I have to head out!

    6. You ask me, “What about those of us for whom the problems are understood to have come prior to any labeling?” Likely, you haven’t read my story, because indeed, my problems began well before I was labeled. I do believe that the majority of my problems arose from being labeled, from being indoctrinated into the “mentally ill” identity, and from taking psychotropic drugs, but certainly, I had some very serious issues before I was labeled (it’s why I ever got labeled to begin with). So, I am just like you in that matter.
    As I said in my post, there is great suffering in the world (which you call “problems”). Many people seek support for this suffering, which is a totally natural and healthy thing to do (I am certainly not saying that people shouldn’t want to get support for their struggles). I know you commented on my piece about awakening from a psychiatric indoctrination— I bring it up again because I think it’s particularly relevant to this topic: we as human beings seek answers to our suffering, and for many, there is something inherently intoxicating about getting a label to explain what is often horrendous and painful and confusing. To reduce an entire human experience and life into a label can be a very assuring thing to those who are desperate for answers! I believe it is a profound insult to tell someone his/her “problems” are in her brain (or that the focus of “treatment” should be on the brain), when in truth, suffering happens because we are all in the midst of life on life’s terms, faced with trauma and loss and pain.
    I was once right there with you, thinking that a diagnosis was going to give me resolution, peace of mind, and a sense of belonging (Lightbulb moment of “Ahhh, I feel this way and think this way because I’m Bipolar! It explains everything!”). For years, I felt this. What I’ve learned is that not only is it totally invalidating to reduce someone’s suffering to a label (unless, of course, there is an actual disease at play that is causing the suffering, not a ‘disease we have yet to discover but know we will in the future’, as Thomas Insel would say), but it is just not helpful, or healing. I believe it is dehumanizing.

    This brings me to my final question for you (I wish I had more time to write here but I need to get to the other comments). I remember you saying that you’re not on psych drugs anymore. I’m curious to know, why aren’t you? If you think you have a biologically-based condition, then why don’t you take these drugs? You said you “have absolutely no reason to think they hurt”… If this was the case, then why don’t you still take them?

    Additionally, you say that “it seems totally reasonable to [you] that some pharmacological agents— be they known or unknown at present— could facilitate the alterations in learning and memory systems that therapies like CBT accomplish.” Putting future drugs aside, what are you basing your evidence on that current drugs do this? I’m assuming your knowledge base comes from studies and journal articles you’ve read. I’m also assuming you realize that the vast majority of all pharmaceutical research is funded by the pharmaceutical industry, itself. Does this impact the way you internalize this so-called “knowledge”? Do you not question what you’re told when it comes from the mouths of people who have all the incentive in the world to tell a story of drug effectiveness that might very well not be true? As a researcher, don’t you think you deserve better than to acquire knowledge that is inherently biased and filtered through a profit-driven greed? It’s a bit tangential to the conversation here, but I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on that…

    Just like you, my response is getting way too long! One last thing to end with… You said, “My understanding of myself did not change when I was labeled “mentally ill””. I’d like to respectfully challenge you on that. Although I don’t know you and I don’t know your story, I am completely perplexed at how you think you haven’t changed the way you understand yourself in being labeled “mentally ill”. The pre-Psychiatry you likely did not think of yourself as comprised of biologically-based “symptoms” that needed “treatment” (whether CBT or pharmacological). I try to never make assumptions about people’s experiences, but I just find that statement very hard to believe. I can’t help but think the pre-Psychiatry you didn’t see herself as “different”, or “abnormal”, or faced with a life-long “condition”. I don’t want to speculate any further because it’s very uncomfortable for me to make these assumptions, but I’d love to hear more about how you think believing you’re “mentally ill” didn’t change the way you understood yourself. Just believing you’re “mentally ill” is changing the way you understand yourself!

    Layla, I’m so very glad to be having this discussion with you. I’m learning a lot, and I’m really appreciative that you hung in there the last time with the comments, and that you’ve stuck around and are commenting again. I look forward to fruitful dialogue ☺.

    My best wishes to you,
    Laura

  • Hi Duane,
    Your guess is right ;)! I am, of course, always open to having conversations with people involved with NAMI, DBSA, and other similar orgs, though. I love a healthy debate!

    When I was in college, I went to a few DBSA meetings, and then ended up doing an ethnographic study of people who’d self-selected to be a participant in my thesis, which was called: “Psycho-pharmaceuticals and Selfhood: Negotiating Identity as a Consumer of Mood Disorder Medications.” I was obviously searching for myself in that time, and I think I yearned to understand how others had made sense of themselves while on psych drugs. To be honest, I have no idea how on earth I actually finished that thesis, as I was so drugged up and miserable! I remember finishing the last chapter and not even going back to edit the whole thing… I never even re-read it… Still to this day, haven’t… I just submitted it because I “couldn’t handle” working any more on it because of how “destabilized” I was by my “Bipolar.”

    Ahh, what a nice walk down memory lane!

    Glad for your voice, Duane!
    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Faith,
    Thanks for the comment! And thanks for the kindness and compassion that I’ve felt emanate from you ever since meeting here at MIA, and then in person at Occupy APA in Philly last May.

    I know I’ve needed kindness and compassion these last three years as I’ve slowly unpacked what it’s all meant: that everything I believed about myself wasn’t true, what it meant that everything I believed about myself wasn’t true, who I was if everything Psychiatry had told me about myself wasn’t true, and who I could become now that Psychiatry didn’t get to define me anymore.

    It’s been a slow evolution: (1) I believed I was “misdiagnosed Bipolar” (but assumed it was a real “condition” I just didn’t have (I believed this because Psychiatry told me this); (2) I believed I HAD been “Bipolar” but had “recovered” from it; (3) I believed that “Bipolar” was nothing more than a social label to describe the “mental health condition” I’d had and “recovered” from; (4) I realized that thinking about myself as having had a “mental health condition” was just gentler way of saying I’d had “mental illness” (no conceptual shift, just change of words), and that all along I’d just been human, experiencing suffering and pain that had been greatly warped and magnified by the “mental health” world, itself, and that Psychiatry was the only thing I’d actually “recovered” from.

    So, yes… A slow evolution! People stayed patient with me along the way and let me figure things out for myself, which was just what I needed after being told who I was and what to think for so long. I try my best to have patience for those at different stages of the journey of awakening (by ‘awakening’, I mean waking up from Psychiatry), because had I not been supported patiently, I’m not sure I would have made it out. In fact, I wonder if I would have crawled right back into Psychiatry’s arms because it was the only thing familiar to me…

    I think that seeing the world through a lens of compassion makes for a much easier and more fruitful life. One can still feel anger— I feel anger every single day at the state of the world— but when a person operates from a place of understanding (of putting her/himself in the shoes of the other), I believe it allows that person to make much more change and transformation happen in him/herself, and in the world.

    I’m grateful to be on this path with you, for your story, and for your voice!

    Love,
    Laura

  • Hi there,
    I think people think about dying for many, many reasons, but for myself, I know in my heart that my urge to die was very tied to the believe that I was “mentally ill” and would thus be different/abnormal for the rest of my life, and only a burden on the world around me. I haven’t thought about dying since I left Psychiatry; in fact, the thought of giving up my place in this world by my own hand is, today, completely out of line with my sense of belonging. This is my own experience, of course; I wouldn’t impose my own understandings of suicide on anyone else’s.

    I completely agree with you that human communication is VITAL (for me) to a sense of inner peace, connectedness, and rightness with the world. When I was on psychotropic drugs, this type of genuine, meaningful communication was completely impossible. I of course was told this was my “mental illness”; I know today how untrue that was.

    Thanks for the comment!
    Laura

  • Hi Cannotsay,
    Yes, this woman’s post captures so much of what I used to feel, right down to saying to myself, “It has taken me a long time to come to terms with it, but I finally have, and like it or not, it is part of my identity.”

    Leaving my “Bipolar” identity behind was an incredibly painful awakening to endure, and I understand how hard it is for people to come to terms with– whether they’re labeled “mentally ill”, or trained to label people “mentally ill”. I completely agree with you that we need to help build support systems (not Systems 😉 ) for those in the process of leaving Psychiatry. It is a scary, confusing, and painful process to have to endure alone.

    Thanks for the comment,
    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dorothy,
    Since the day I first met you— when you drove ALL the way up to Freeport, ME to have lunch with me while I was at a conference last fall, which meant so very much to me— I have looked to you as a friend, a mentor, and a fellow freedom fighter. Your presence in person, and your presence in your words here on this page, and in your art work and court testimony too, are full of a life force so powerful that it’s no wonder the barbaric “treatment” you received for those three years stood no chance at breaking you. Like Faith, I often think of Susan, who you’ve so importantly made eternal in your story. Let us never let her life fade into the background; I am so glad that you’ve weaved her story into yours.

    I feel so lucky to live a town away from you and to see you on a regular basis. You are family to me, and your contributions to the Psychiatric Survivor Movement are so very valuable, and have helped me find my own voice. Thank you for your story, and for being the woman, mother, grandmother, friend, and survivor that you are!

    With love,
    Laura

  • Hi Paris,
    Grateful, as always, for your tremendously important contributions to “The Movement.” Reading this NYT piece a few days back was simultaneously saddening and invigorating for me. Saddening, because I see a woman so held back from her human potential and human spirit by a completely flawed and degrading identity of “Bipolar”; invigorating, because only three years ago, I would have felt inspired by her courage and poignant account of “life with Bipolar”, and been completely identified with her message. Her struggle for selfhood was my same struggle during my “Bipolar” years, and I feel profoundly thankful and lucky that I found a way out of that life sentence. Just three years ago I was just like Ms. Logan! How crazy (a word I love because it’s non-medical, non-psychiatric, and human) is that! My journey out of a “Bipolar” life has been nothing short of an awakening— to my Self, to my human spirit, and to a sense of connectedness to the world around me— and it makes me so sad that this smart, creative, unique woman has to be held back because of a industry-constructed, false paradigm of “mental illness”, and that undoubtedly, as you said, all those years of “treatment” have caused her significant damage. Thanks so much, Paris, for effectively capturing the fundamental dilemmas of this paradigm, and for offering a humanized way to look at things!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Faith,
    Thanks so much for this comment! Really means a lot to me. It’s been so wonderful getting to know you since you posted your story here way back when. To be honest, I can’t remember when that even was, as time has moved in such unpredictable ways in the last couple of years! The new launch of MIA in January 2012 feels like ten years ago!

    You ask such an important question: where are all the psych survivors who were thrown into The System as children? I agree with you fully that there are many more out there than those we are aware of. I wonder if many of them just got out, without ever connecting to the oppression/liberation framework in which they were a part, or realizing there was a community to go to. Maybe they just felt annoyed with their doctors, or with the drugs, and they got out, not realizing that they were never “mentally ill” in the first place, but just wanting nothing to do with The System anymore. If so, awesome for them!

    I feel this same way about people who’ve come off psych drugs— I believe that many out there just got off, and went on with their lives, without connecting to the psych survivor community.

    But going back to your question about what happened to the kids who were thrown into The System young… My greatest fear, of course, is that today, they’re going through the motions of life in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and not much above that, with obesity, diabetes, serious cognitive damage, life-long disability checks coming in the mail, in group homes, with families who’ve abandoned them, and so drugged up that they don’t even remember they were once human. All of this, of course, the direct result of Psychiatry. That is my greatest fear, and while I have no doubt that’s happening around us as we speak, by the many, many thousands, I really do hope that there are tons of ex-patients (maybe they don’t think of themselves as “survivors” because they don’t realize the The System was something to survive?) out there who are free.

    I’m curious to hear the tally you came up with…

    So grateful to know you and to know that your voice is out there in the world through your writing, your art, your speaking, your advocacy ☺.

    With love,
    Laura

  • Hi Alto,
    You say, “If you say any which way of coming off might suit, you must also take on the moral burden of explaining what happens when the bet goes bad. Otherwise, you present the benefit without the risk.” When and where have I ever suggested that a person just come off however they feel like without educating themselves first? I really don’t get how you’ve read that into what I’ve written. I am always clear that awareness of all the risks and benefits of various ways of coming off psych drugs is crucial. Your last line— that I am “hiding the risk of withdrawal syndrome”— is a complete misrepresentation of what I’ve said. Never have I once hidden anything about the risks of cold turkey withdrawal. I speak about them always and often, including in my piece. Please do not misrepresent my words like that.

    I do not understand how you or AA have somehow read in my writing that when I say there is no right way to come off, I mean that cold turkey is just fine. I have been clear from the start that cold turkey was a disastrous experience for me and many others I know, and that I never suggest it to those who reach out to me for support. Based on what you said— that people come off at different rates based on what they can tolerate— I just don’t understand how you can disagree with my point: people come off successfully at very different rates. This is not my opinion, but fact, fact that you acknowledge.

    To answer your question about whey we’re “even bothering” to create the directory: my personal opinion is that a person does not, in fact, require a provider to successfully come off of psych drugs. The MIND UK study, which you are aware of I’m sure, shows that people are just as likely to successfully come off without a doctor’s support as they are with, and that psychiatrists are regularly seen as the least helpful people involved in the process. However, I think it is still important to have whatever resources we can bring together available for the public, especially because most people assume they need to have a provider’s support to come off, when this doesn’t have to be the case for everyone. When we launch the directory, I will write more about this— that having a provider is not a necessary part of the coming off process, but that it’s one option that can facilitate the process and provide added support. Of course, things get complicated without an MD when it comes to prescription dosages for tapering, but beyond that, I truly believe that the profession as a whole has very little expertise on the matter.

    Lastly, I think the percentage of people who frequent withdrawal forums is likely small in the grand scheme of those who are coming off of psychotropic drugs. To assume that you know the capital- T Truth about the withdrawal experience because of what you’ve seen at SurvivingAntidepressants is, in my opinion, a fallacy. I say this with the utmost respect to you, because I think you work really hard to help people, and have built a powerful community of support. I know that you’ve suffered tremendously at the hands of Psychiatry, and it pains me to hear your story. None of what I say here is intended to dismiss you, or your work. Rather, I think it important to look beyond what you see in forums, because I’m sure there are many people out there who’ve come off successfully in a variety of ways without stepping foot in an online forum.

    I’m not trying to change your mind about anything; what I am asking, however, is that you stop misrepresenting my words, because your interpretation of my message is inaccurate, and, to be honest, borderline offensive (particularly where you claim that I “hide the risks” of withdrawal.) I have tremendous respect for you, and would never warp your words to suit my needs.

    Thank you for the work you do; it is very important, and much needed.

    With complete respect,
    Laura

  • Hi Alto,
    Yes, you and I have different perspectives on this matter, despite the fact that we both agree that cold turkey withdrawal can be incredibly disabling (I know this from firsthand experience, as I’ve written about several times before— a hospital stopped me cold turkey on 3mg of Klonopin, 30mg of Lexapro, and 200mg of Lamictal, just cut down from 400mg of Lamictal, and it was literally the most painful, excruciating experience I’ve ever had in my life). Contrary to what you implied in your post, I have also had extensive experience supporting people who are suffering from cold turkey withdrawal over these last two years.

    I’m not speaking as much from a “rights” perspective (although I do believe that a person has a right to come off in whatever way he/she decides), as from the perspective that you effectively articulated yourself: that people should “taper at a rate your nervous system can tolerate.” While I know you’re speaking explicitly about tapering here, I think the key to what you’re saying is that everyone is different, and can tolerate coming off at different rates. I tolerated coming off of 5 psychotropic drugs in 5 months. Greg Benson tolerated coming off rather quickly himself. Other comrades of mine tolerated coming off rapidly, too. As I’ve made clear numerous times before, other people decide to take longer, in some cases, years longer, because it’s what they feel they can tolerate. You’ve essentially made my point here, Alto— there is no one right way to come off of psychiatric drugs; it is dependent upon what each individual person can tolerate/wants to tolerate. For some, that means a long, slow taper, for others, not.

    I am sure that there are many, many, many people out there in the world who have successfully come off of psychotropic drugs rapidly and gone back to their lives. We just don’t hear about them, because they’ve done exactly that— gone back to their lives. We usually hear the war stories, the struggles, the pain. These stories are so very important— don’t get me wrong, I have one of my own— but they might not be the majority of psychiatric drug withdrawal experiences. We just don’t know. I think it is incredibly important that the psychiatric drug withdrawal process not be one wedded to fear, panic, and dread. We need to see the whole picture, here, not just the stories of devastation.

    I’ve learned a lot from you, and as I always say, am grateful for your contributions. Meeting you last fall was an important experience for me, and I look forward to our next coffee, which hopefully will be in the near future ☺.

    With respect, as always,
    Laura

  • Hi Rossa,
    If I think back to the way my family was with me through this journey, I can’t remember a single time they suggested (or even hinted) that I should go back on the psych drugs. There were certainly many moments of fear, frustration, sadness, confusion, etc. for them, but to be honest, because I was oriented towards the future and towards getting myself back, I think they hung in there with me and trusted the process. Even though the withdrawal was really awful, I never once thought about killing myself, and that was such a change from the nine years of daily thoughts of suicide that I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief, even though it was a really rough road back.

    There were definitely tense conversations with family members about the amount of time I spent sleeping (for the first several months, if I wasn’t at the IOP or in a sober meeting, I was passed out cold), or about how horribly depressed and unmotivated I was, or about how irritable and angry I was, but everyone just hung in there with me. None of us really understood at the time that this was directly connected to withdrawal. I know they were concerned, but they never expressed to me worry at the level of “Maybe you should go back on the drugs”, or “Maybe you should go to the hospital.”

    As I’m writing this and thinking more about it, I think the key piece, as I said above, was that I never once thought about killing myself during the withdrawal process. Sure, there were plenty of moments in which I wondered if I could keep going, or if my life would just be spent locked up from the world curled up on the sofa, but I never actually wanted to kill myself. That, I think, was probably a big part in helping my family put their heads on the pillow at the end of the day.

    I feel a lot of love and empathy for the families of people in the process of freeing themselves from psychiatry. Of course, family members can often get paternalistic/maternalistic and way too involved in a person’s life and decision-making, and this I think can do great harm. The process of coming off psych drugs is about reclaiming one’s agency and sense of self, and thus, if family is acting as the agent, that can really damage the process. But at the end of the day, family members have gone through their own trauma, and it is certainly a painful experience to witness someone else in the midst of struggle, so I understood that often the intentions are good. I think the more that family members can trust the person, and have faith in that person’s ability to find him/herself, the smoother the process. That trust is something the person can feel (at least, I did); it doesn’t have to be said, it just emanates from that family member’s body. I can definitely say that I felt this trust from my family, and it was HUGE in my successful liberation. I knew they believed in me, so when I couldn’t believe in myself, that kept me going.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • So poignantly said, Birdie. I too share a sometimes complicated relationship to my past– there are moments I feel the loss (of physical health during those years, of social connectedness, of passion, of hope, etc.), but more often, I feel a tremendous sense of peace and pride and excitement for my future. It is a strange thing to think that all that pain has given birth to all this joy, but I guess maybe it’s not so strange…

    I think it’s awesome that you’re sharing your story more often. I have no doubt that it’s impacting people (even the people who disagree with you or call you “delusional”, as you say). You are the only person in the world with your story, and there are many out there who need to hear it.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Sandy,
    Sorry it’s taken a few days to respond to the second part of your post. Let me see if I’m understanding what your saying correctly: acknowledging the inherent problems with categorizing people’s experiences, you’re saying that some people who come to your clinic (who experience “anxiety” and/or “depression”) really WANT to be on these drugs and thus your role becomes to inform them of the potentially damaging “side” effects of them, whereas others who experience reality in a way that’s gotten them labeled “psychotic” don’t want to be on them at all, so you end up talking with them more in a strategic way about how they can be in the world in a way that doesn’t bring unfortunate consequences. I might have misunderstood what you’ve said here… Apologies if I have.

    While I definitely don’t ascribe to the classification method you’ve used (as I know you anticipated I’d say), it seems as though you’re talking about two different groups of people who are distinguishable in the way they relate to psych drugs. This, I think, is a more helpful classification (albeit one that is too reductionist and over-simplified): there are those people out there who have been harmed (or at best, not helped) by psych drugs who identify with being “mentally ill” (i.e. “Depression” , “Anxiety”, etc.), and they continue to want to take psych drugs, hoping that they’ll eventually help; then, there are those people out there who have no interest in psych drugs, who don’t see them as an important or relevant part of their life, and who want nothing to do with them, and these people often to not want any psychiatric “help” in the first place, nor do they see themselves as being “mentally ill.”

    In terms of those who really want to take psych drugs, despite a track record of no success, I am a believer in truly informed choice (that is, so long as these drugs are on the market and being prescribed.) By this I mean that a person is told:

    (a) there is nothing wrong with your brain that’s causing you to feel this way
    (b) these drugs are not actually “medications”/”medicines”, because medications treat disease/illness (which you don’t have); these are psychoactive chemicals that change the way you experience yourself and the world, similar to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, etc.
    (c) thus, these drugs do not “fix” anything that’s “wrong” with you; these are not “antidepressants”, “antipsychotics”, “anti-anxiety” meds, etc., because they don’t act against a particular mood or state of mind (here, I would suggest they read Joanna Moncrieff and David Cohen work); these drug categories are misnomers.
    (d) here is the information on the fraudulent and deceptive nature of pharmaceutical studies of these drugs (and I’d show them Ben Goldacre, Leo and Lacasse, Kirsch, etc. etc.); when you see/read/hear ads on the benefits of these drugs, you simply can’t trust what you’re hearing.
    (e) here is a list of all the potential effects (which are not actually “side” effects, but main effects that the pharmaceutical industry has classified as “side” effects)…
    (f) here is the science on long-term use of psychotropic drugs (and I’d refer the person to ‘Anatomy’, Grace Jackson, etc.)
    (g) if you go on these drugs, it might be incredibly hard for you to come off, and the negative effects of withdrawal might outweigh anything you’ve ever experienced

    This, to me, is as fully informed as a person can be about these drugs. Until the day they’re pulled from the market, we are stuck with them, and thus, true and accurate knowledge (when that’s even available… at least, knowledge about what ISN’T true or accurate) is our best companion when it comes to the decision about whether or not to go on them.

    In terms of those who experience the world in a way that gets them labeled “psychotic”, my first instinct is to want to high-five whomever it is who’s come into your clinic with no interest in being on the drugs. Not only do we know that antipsychotics don’t actually act against “psychosis” (whatever the hell “psychosis” even is), we know that they cause “tardive psychosis” (along with the slew of other horrible effects), so in my opinion, putting folks labeled “psychotic” on antipsychotics doesn’t even make sense from a medical standpoint. I have no doubt that you have difficult conversations with folks who are acting in ways that could get them arrested/fired/divorced/committed/etc., and as a person who’s supported others in that kind of experience, I can definitely attest to the fact that it is very intense, emotional, and draining— I think it’s absolutely wonderful that you actually spend time with people collaboratively so that they don’t get committed/arrested/etc. and so that they can continue on without psych drugs in their bloodstream. I am sure it isn’t easy, but it is so profoundly important that you do it.

    There is, of course, a line between supporting someone who’s labeled “psychotic” by helping them strategize on ways to stay free, and becoming paternalistic/maternalistic/etc. I’ve supported people who’ve stopped psych drugs cold turkey and acted in ways that a traditional psychiatrist would call “floridly psychotic”. I’ve shared my experiences with these folks about what happened to me when I was stopped cold turkey in the hospital (i.e. hell on earth, and the worst so-called “mania” I’d ever experienced), and about what happens to the brain when psychoactive chemicals are suddenly removed, and I’ve shared with folks that, “Yah, if you are in the public world doing X, Y, and Z, you might get locked up against your will. Is this a risk you’re willing to take?” However hard it’s been for me to watch people make those choices, and get locked up, I believe in the dignity of risk, and in a person’s right to make his/her own choices, even if the consequences are really awful and oppressive.

    I’m not really sure where I’m going here… And I hope I’ve come close to accurately interpreting what you were saying… I think you raise a really interesting point— that different people relate to psychiatric drugs differently, and thus, that the conversations we have about psych drugs end up being very different. If I’ve missed the mark, please let me know, as I really enjoy talking with you, and am so appreciative of your hard work to change the way you are with people at your clinic. It is a noble effort, and I appreciate its tremendous discomfort and complicatedness.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi AA,
    “Letting someone know that cold turkeying is a very bad idea unless there is a medical emergency” is quite an opinionated statement. There ARE people out there who successfully come off by cold-turkeying. While the odds of this may be slim, and the risks might be exponentially high, who are we to tell them how to come off, and to decide for them how they should live their life? If they’re aware of the potential harm, why shouldn’t they be allowed to come off however they want? I know people who have successfully stopped cold turkey and had no problems at all. Should we deny people the dignity of risk? Isn’t that what the “mental health” system does to people on a daily basis?

    If you broke down my tapering experience— five drugs in five months— you could argue that I “cold-turkeyed” off. Here I am, happier and healthier than I’ve ever been in my life. For all the mistakes or lack of knowledge along the way, and yes, for all the intense suffering, should I have been denied the right to come off in the way that I did? Who knows… had I drawn my taper out for an extended period of time, maybe, for me, it wouldn’t have been successful.

    If I’m hearing you right, I think you’re saying that by not endorsing one thing, I’m endorsing something else. In other words, absence of endorsement of A means endorsement of B. Let me give an example of how this line of thinking doesn’t make sense to me. With the line of thinking you’re applying here, one could argue that by not endorsing religions that support gay marriage, you’re endorsing religions that believe gay marriage is a sin, and thus, you’re against gay marriage. Or, another example: by not endorsing capitalism, you’re endorsing socialism, or vice versa. It would be really exhausting to believe anything about anything if we were forced to endorse one belief system to show we don’t endorse another… Do you see what I’m saying?

    At the end of the day, people DO successfully come off psych drugs cold turkey. Maybe more than we realize, because maybe they just go on with their lives and we never hear about it, and only hear about the struggles in online forums. Or maybe not, and I’m wrong about that. We just don’t know. Saying this does not mean I endorse cold turkey. It’s just stating a fact about cold turkey withdrawal– that people have successfully done it. Who are we to deprive people of the full spectrum of “coming off” methods? To me, it is hypocritical to encourage people to find freedom from Psychiatry, and then to enforce strict protocols for how they can find that freedom. If they’re aware of the risks, why should they be denied the right to make risky choices?

    With full respect, and in solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi AA,
    If you read my post, you’ll see that I was very careful to not say that any one way (including cold turkey) was “OK” (or “not OK”); I was simply articulating that people have successfully come off in many different ways, which happen to include cold turkey. None of what I said was an endorsement for a particular way over another, especially cold turkey. Please don’t read meaning into what I wrote that wasn’t clearly there; I select each word I write very carefully to ensure that I do not promote any one particular way, and I also never say that a particular way “can’t” or “shouldn’t” be done.

    I, too, know the hell of cold turkey withdrawal. After my overdose in 2008 (I believe I mentioned this in an earlier comment here), I was stopped cold turkey on 3mg of Klonopin, 30mg of Lexapro, and 200mg of Lamictal (that had recently been cut down from 400mg). I wouldn’t wish the experience on my worst enemy— I couldn’t walk or stand, I couldn’t eat or drink, sleep, talk, or think. I had the cold sweats for a week straight, and was completely out of my mind. It was literally hell on earth. Never again would I ever want to endure that experience. So, wherever it was that you interpreted my writing as saying that I think cold turkey is “OK”, you misunderstood.

    Additionally, I never said that withdrawal is about “attitude”. If you look carefully at what I said, I wrote that finding purpose and meaning in the withdrawal process, for me, was the first and most important step towards a successful withdrawal. I never ever said that it’s the only thing you need to come off. I’m not sure how you read that into what I said, as I wrote out a whole slew of factors that I think are crucial to coming off, and not one of them was “attitude”.

    You are right that this is a hot button issue. I stand firmly in the place of non-judgment when it comes to coming off psych drugs, because I truly believe that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. Thus, I never push an agenda, or one particular “method”, or anything else. There is no denying that some people successfully come off after stopping cold turkey, nor is there no denying that some people successfully come off after tapering slowly over many years, and everything in between. To be wedded to one way and against others is, in my opinion, to be close-minded.

    I’m really glad you made this comment, and I hope you know that every word I’ve written here is with the utmost respect for your opinion. I wanted to be sure to correct your misreading of my post.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Sandy,
    Thanks so much for starting dialogue here; I really enjoy exchanging ideas with you.

    To answer your first question, about how I came to see that my intense suffering was due more to psych drug withdrawal than alcohol withdrawal, I guess I can’t say that I have a clear answer, but would attribute it to a few factors. I didn’t come to this realization until quite a ways into the experience, and have come to believe it to be true more and more as time has gone on and I’ve grown further away from both the alcohol and the psych drugs. The first explanation I’d give is that my destructive relationship to alcohol was very much tied to my prior relationship to psych drugs. Yes, I was a “binge drinker” in high school, but when I look back at that time, I see that my life continued on in a highly functioning way (i.e. grades, sports, social life, passionate interests in things, physical health, etc.). In other words, on school holidays, I got drunk with my friends, and sometimes got myself into trouble, but alcohol was not an “essential” part of my life, in the way it came to be many years later. I now believe that because I was very “non-compliant” with psych drugs during those years, my body was able to metabolize and handle alcohol in a way that didn’t rip my life apart.

    When I fully embraced Psychiatry as an 18-year old, and began to willingly take psych drugs every day, my life began its downwards spiral. “Binge drinking” in college was certainly a factor for me, but again, I didn’t really stand out as having a problem with alcohol, although I certainly started to face more consequences (black outs, etc.). Because I somehow managed to play a sport during those years, I’d go months without touching a drop of alcohol (we had to be “dry”), so while I did have more serious issues when I drank heavily, they were, for the most part, few and far between (other than my freshman year in college, when I drank very heavily in the fall and winter).

    Hang in here with me… I’m getting to my first point, I promise!! By the time I graduated from college, I was absolutely miserable. I had an inpatient hospitalization under my belt, had already become a professional patient, and was on a slew of psych drugs. I thought about killing myself every day. As I felt so horribly disconnected and hopeless, upon graduating, I began to drink alcohol every day because it made me stop caring about how miserable I was, and about the life-long sentence of “treatment-resistant Bipolar” I’d been given. This is when alcohol really began to be a problem. For the next four years, I drank heavily almost every day, in combination with heavy doses of benzos, SSRIs, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers.

    Of course, throughout this whole downward spiral, I believed it was my “mental illness” at play. Thus, when I got sober, I thought of myself as having a “dual diagnosis” (a concept that I think is completely ludicrous and damaging). Never once did I think the “meds” were making me worse; never once did I think, in fact, that there was actually nothing wrong “with” me. Thus, I got sober in the beginning, thinking that I would have to struggle with my “other disease”, “Bipolar”.

    I look at this history now and see very, very clear evidence that my true transformation into a miserable, hopeless, isolated, suicidal, and dysfunctional human being began the day I began to willingly take psych drugs. Alcohol came in as a true “problem” years after I started my “med regimen.” My emotions, thoughts, and experiences of the world were warped well before I began to “abuse” alcohol, and thus, I believe that the suffering in my withdrawal experience has been much more tied to healing from the trauma of my psych “treatment” than my “self-medication with alcohol”.

    I believe that had I never began to take psych drugs, alcohol wouldn’t have been the destructive force in my life that it ended up being. That being said, I have no interest in ever taking a sip of alcohol for the rest of my life, because to me, it’s not worth risking everything that’s been unfolding in wonderful ways around me.

    So, to sum up this part of my answer to your question: my relationship to psych drugs was so much longer and more damaging that I have to believe the withdrawal from psychoactive chemicals has been predominantly recovery from those drugs, and not alcohol.

    The other thing that I believe distinguishes my psych drug withdrawal from my alcohol withdrawal was the fact that along with the actual detoxification from the “meds” was the existential detoxification (i.e. leaving behind the “mentally ill” identity). This was fraught with emotional pain, confusion, deep sadness, anger and anxiety, of course, so I believe the combo of both the physiological process of withdrawal along with the existential withdrawal of cleansing myself of the “Bipolar” identity was very significant.

    The last factor I’d give to you is the fact that when I quit drinking in February 2010, I was still on five psych drugs for several more months. While I was quite a live wire in those months, they were NOTHING compared to what happened when I then started to taper off the drugs around April/May (I need to get the exact timeline of that still, so that’s an estimate). This, to me, is a sign that my body was much more impacted by the psych drugs than it was the alcohol (and of course, it was doubly impacted by the combo of both).

    So… that is the very long-winded answer to the first part of your comment. I’ll post this here now, and address the second part of your comment shortly!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Emma,
    Thanks for the message! I know, for me, that there was no way the conventional system could have ever not failed me, for its very foundation is flawed and built around a myth (i.e. that human suffering is a medical condition that needs treatment by medical doctors; or even, that human suffering is always a problem of the mind, and thus needs psychology.) I make sense of my experiences as having always been spiritual in nature, although I was never aware of this because American society never showed me a path to a spiritual life (for me, “spiritual” means being connected to my human spirit, to greater humanity, and to the earth).

    Of course, the “mental health” system had no business treating this spiritual dilemma I had (of feeling disconnected from my human spirit and from the human family), because it wasn’t a “mental” problem or a “medical” problem in the first place. While my struggles may have often manifested themselves in the way I thought (aka in my mind), this didn’t mean the problem was my mind, nor was the solution to “treat” my mind. Of course, I only discovered this by spending all that time in the “mental health” system; who knows if I would have found true inner peace had I not first had my sense of Self ripped away from me by the “mental health” system… Thus, I wouldn’t change a day of those thirteen years ☺.

    So glad to know you and so grateful for the truly alternative and humanistic work you do!

    With love, and in solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Mary Anne,
    Isn’t it amazing how the seemingly small, random encounters in life end up having the most profound impact? Just like you had a series of events that started with finding ‘Anatomy’, I did too, and many others along with us, and it’s such a testament to the incredible potential we have as human beings to reawaken and to transform, and that it sometimes only takes a book, or a conversation, or a left instead of a right on the road, if you know what I mean.

    To come to the place in which you know, in your deepest heart of hearts, that your voluntary relationship to Psychiatry is over is a beautiful thing. In the beginning, when I was doubting myself on a daily basis, there was a part of my mind that said, “You’re crazy for thinking you’re not mentally ill, and for thinking you can come off these pills. You’re gonna come crawling back to your doctors soon enough…” That voice started to quiet over time, as I healed and felt more and more relief from the withdrawal. Now, it’s hard to imagine I ever doubted myself, for even a split-second.

    I’m really grateful for your story, and for your voice, which is so important. The feeling of being in a “limitless space” is one I completely resonate with: it is evidence of freedom, and while the freedom isn’t easy or pain-free a lot of the time, it outweighs being numbed and disconnected behind bars any day, for me!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Greg,
    Ahhh, my friend, I loved reading this.

    There are so many pieces of wisdom in here. I completely agree that the psychopharmacological industry has written a mind-blowing revisionist history of humanity, and I would take it further to say Psychiatry, as a whole, has, adjusting the story it’s told about human experience to suit it needs, selling it effectively with scientific language, cleverly shifting the publics understandings in subtle and insidious ways.

    You touch on so many key components of a successful psychiatric liberation here. I agree fully that listening to one’s “innate and primordial instinct”, as you so aptly put it, is crucial to the process. This, of course, is so hard to do when you’re completely dysfunctional in a drugged life of eating and sleeping and zoning out and shutting off and being physically ill and whatever else comes with that. But like you said, you found your personal reason for coming off, which maybe was catalyzed by that psychiatrist whose path you happened to cross, and that was all you needed. It was the same for me, although the catalyst was slightly different. At the end of the day, I believe each of us had everything we needed inside of us to free ourselves from psychiatry; we just needed to find the way to tap into it.

    The other part of your comment that particularly jumped out at me was where you said, “I changed my relationship to my experiences”. I think you put that so well, and it is something I can totally identify with. A lot of the experiences I was going through (particularly the really painful ones) didn’t change; I simply changed how I related to them. The word I like to use is “coexist”— I learned how to coexist with my suffering, rather than see it as something to be scared of, or to run away from or deny. As the result of embracing the pain, it eventually started to lessen. Sounds like this was your experience too.

    I really appreciate you speaking so descriptively about what your withdrawal was like, and think it’s heroic the way you pushed through and didn’t give up. As I said in my piece, each person has his/her own threshold for pain, and it’s not as though some people are “weak” and some “strong”; people just relate to pain differently, and I very much identify with the way you related to yours— pushing through, determinedly, and not going back. Like you said, getting through intense psych drug withdrawal (particularly benzo withdrawal) makes the vast majority of the pain of life on life’s terms a walk in the park… That’s been very true for me!

    Thanks for this really thoughtful and articulate piece of writing, comrade!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Emily,
    I look forward to the day your story of recovery from Psychiatry gets blasted far and wide! You have tremendous wisdom to share.

    This directory will be an important, and much needed, addition to the MIA community. While there aren’t many who do the work of helping people come off, they’re out there, and we’re doing our best to find as many of them as we can. If you come across any in your own time— whether through Google searches, word of mouth, etc. — definitely email me their info, so that I can reach out to them as a representative of MIA.

    Glad to know you, and grateful for your freedom!
    In solidarity, and with love,
    Laura

  • Hi Deron,
    Thanks for this, comrade. If I could blush through the internet, it would be happening ☺. I can definitely say that somewhere in the future, I plan to write a book on coming off psych drugs. There’s at least one book on the horizon before that, though…

    So glad to call you a friend and fellow freedom fighter. The work you’re doing in CT is truly inspiring!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hear, hear, Stephen. If only our justice system, the media, most parents, the education system; the military, the police, and about 99.99% of our citizens were connected to this insight. I’ve witnessed police and judges defer to a psychiatrist’s declaration; parents left and right, teacher after teacher too. To paraphrase Joseph Biederman, MD, above him, a psychiatrist, is God. While we know how ludicrous this proposition is, sadly, with society so spellbound by Psychiatry, he’s quite accurate.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Steve,
    Perfect summation of flaws of the medical model of psychiatry and the impact of psych “medications”. And I agree with you that empowerment is crucial to the process of coming off psych drugs, as well as to moving through intense emotional experiences, and leaving Psychiatry. Your words are clear and concise and hit the nail on the head! Thanks for the support!

    As always, in solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi cannotsay,
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience here; it is vital for others to read. When I was in the hospital after my suicide attempt, the doctors stopped me cold turkey on 30mg of Lexapro, 200mg of Lamictal (recently down from 400mg), and 3mg of Klonopin. As I “came to” after the ICU, I was still too out of it to feel what was happening to me; a few days later, when my insurance told the doctors I had to leave the hospital, they shipped me to the psych ward, and there I faced the worst experience I’ve ever had in my life: cold turkey psych drugs withdrawal. For me, it was completely debilitating: I couldn’t walk or stand (needed a wheelchair, then a walker); I couldn’t sleep; I couldn’t eat or drink; I could barely talk because words sputtered out of my mouth; my mind was racing faster than it had ever raced before and I wanted to jump out of my skin. Cold sweats, migraines so bad I could barely open my eyes. When I went to the nurses’ station to ask why my mind was going so fast, they told me this was my “underlying condition” and that it was evidence of how severely “Bipolar” I was. NO ONE told me I was in acute psych drug withdrawal. I felt like a rabid animal, and couldn’t wait to be put out of my misery. They put me back on psych drugs about four days later, and it took me two more years until I realized I wanted to come off.

    I say all of this to show how individualized the experience of withdrawal is: you stopped cold turkey and had some really terrible weeks, but later came back. I experienced what I did (which was compounded, of course, by the fact that I’d had a really bad overdose of a month’s supply of those drugs), and I guess I can’t say what happened after a few weeks off, because I wasn’t given the chance! At the end of the day, each person experiences psych drugs and psych drug withdrawal differently.

    Congratulations on your freedom, friend! And thank you for your words about Boston. The last week and a half has been completely surreal. My apartment is a block and a half away from the bombings, so for me it was a week of fear (actually, more than fear, paranoia), anxiety, and of course, deep, deep sadness for those who lost their lives or their physical well-being. I worry that Psychiatry is already feasting off the trauma of this tragedy… and boy do I hope I’m wrong.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Francesca,
    You’re so right about the pressure. I was always classified as a “voluntary” patient (I’ve written here in the past about how I was actually involuntarily “voluntary”), so I was never faced with overt force, yet spent nearly half my life on drugs that I didn’t even realize (until the very end, after reading ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’) were hurting me, because I’d internalized that belief that I needed to be on them for life. That, in my opinion, is force, just applied in an invisible, intangible way. It’s funny— people often challenge what I say by saying, “You’re not a doctor. You have no business saying these things.” My answer is, the fact that I’m not a doctor is all the more reason why I SHOULD be saying these things! Doctors become indoctrinated into the pseudoscience during medical school, and I too was once indoctrinated into the very same beliefs. Ahhh, to think that just six years ago, I admired psychiatrists and wished I wasn’t “mentally ill” because maybe I could have become one myself…

    It’s a beautiful thing to be evidence of how flawed psychiatry’s beliefs are, isn’t it? ☺

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Darian,
    My beliefs have been almost entirely shaped by those who came before me, and by those currently fighting this fight. I’ve learned from and been inspired by all the wisdom and determination in the minds and spirits of fellow psych survivors and allies, much of which you can see on this website! All I can say is that I feel grateful to be alive, and to have my mind intact after all those years of “meds”, so that I can capture what I’m thinking and feeling in words in a way that feels satisfying and honest to me :).

    Glad to be connected,
    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi dbunker,
    Thank you for this informative, powerful comment. At the end of the day, because Psychiatry, the Pharmaceutical Industry, the health care system in general, the mainstream media, and the general public do not see “the mentally ill” as fully human, they believe “those people” don’t “count” when it comes to the application of these fundamental laws. That, to me, is a critical shift we as a society will need to make– moving conceptually to a different place, where a person’s emotions/thoughts/behaviors/beliefs/etc. are no longer seen as potential/actual pathology, in the way that one’s (homo)sexuality successfully shifted when the DSM agreed to drop that category back in the ’70s or whenever it was. Until that time, civil rights violations will be seen as “justified”, in the name of “safety” and “protection”, because the people against whom they are occurring are simply not fully people.

    I love the idea of each and every American court getting clogged with civil rights cases on this issue… It would be a great way to build a collective consciousness, if we could spread the message that if you’re psychiatrically labeled you are oppressed and stripped of rights. So many millions are not yet awake to their oppression, just as I wasn’t three years ago.

    Thank you for the wonderful comment!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Steve,
    Yes, it is certainly absurd that in a country promising freedom and equality, there are millions who are still seen as less than human. And, like you said, those labeled “mentally ill” are the scapegoats for any and all incidents/behaviors that society deems unacceptable, dangerous, unproductive, or harmful.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi cannotsay2013,
    Thanks for this. It feels pretty powerful to be connected to a greater cause like this, of which we are all a part here at MIA. It has also given me great peace with my experiences in The System, because had they never happened, I wouldn’t have found my life’s purpose, which is to fight against psychiatry and the “mental health” industry!

    Glad you’re a part of this fight, too :).

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear Donna,
    Thanks for the support. I feel the same gratitude towards you and your voice, which I see as a very important part of the MIA community.

    I also feel very, very lucky to have gotten free from The System with my mind and body relatively intact. The road back has not been easy, certainly, and it’s taken me time to heal physically from the harm of psych drugs, as well as cognitively/mentally. Unfortunately, as I was on a heavy dosage of benzos for a number of years, I still find myself sometimes struggling with memory issues, and my thyroid is damaged from the lithium; I hope this gets better over time, as I’m still only 2.5 years off of everything, but I’ve also accepted that it may be a permanent part of my life from here on in. I’m at peace with that.

    To answer your question about feedback from legislators… The only legislator I really interacted with was a freshman representative from Attleboro, Rep. Paul Heroux, and I found him to be quite a potential ally. He certainly has some learning to do, as he comes from a medical model framework, but I sense an openness, and a humility about him. At one point, I asked him whether he’d heard anything about the AOT bill, and he said, “Which bill?” And I said, the bill being put forth by Rep. Kay Khan, and he said, “Oh, if Kay votes for it, I likely will too.” A few of us then explained to him just what AOT was all about, and he said something along the lines of, “Hmm, that sounds a little Draconian. I’ll have to look more at it.” For him to be willing and open to learn a new perspective was pretty cool to see. He’s young, very smart, very personable, and I truly believes he has a good heart. Hopefully, he’ll stay humble! He’s written about civil rights issues and those with “mental illness” for Huffington Post, and I challenged him a little bit and said, “Instead of seeing it from the framework of, ‘Don’t discriminate against people with Bipolar Disorder’, try taking it a step further to say, ‘Don’t discriminate against people who have experiences that are seen by society as unacceptable and thus get labeled as ‘mental illness’ in the first place’. I truly sense potential in him… I hope I’m right!

    Anyways, thanks again for your kind words, and for your powerful voice in our community.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Thanks, Duane!

    While I certainly agree that freedom of thought is not a given on U.S. soil, I worry that freedom of political belief is starting to be censored and surveilled more and more today too… Especially in post-9/11 America… Those deemed “threats” to the U.S. because of “un-American” beliefs they speak about or write about are certainly being stripped of the right to free thinking. I can’t remember his name off the top of my head, but there was a young man who’d been decorated by the military and was writing about how disillusioned he was with America on Facebook and he was arrested with no due process and committed to a psych ward… I think that was last summer, if I’m remembering correctly. Darn, I wish I remembered his name!

    Anyways, as always, great to dialogue with you, Duane!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Jonah,
    You’re certainly right that these issues permeate the U.S. as a whole, not just in MA. I know things in CT are particularly dicey right now, with the Hartford Courant coming out today in support of AOT… And already 44 (is that right?) states have it.

    I’d be curious to know how many states have bills like these on the table… Are you aware of a resource with which you can easily look up “mental health” bills across the country?

    In solidarity, and as always, thanks for your insightful and brilliant voice at MIA,
    Laura

  • metalrabbit,
    You hit the nail on the head re: the futility of psych diagnoses… Life on life’s terms, and all that comes with it, is not “fixed”, “soothed”, or “resolved” by slapping a label on it, especially a pseudomedical social label.

    Like you say, there are all kinds of contributions that people can make to the world, whether one writes, reads, speaks, listens, is observed, observes, goes public, or stays private. I think some are meant to stay in the system and work on “changing from the inside”, while others do more radical work from without, and never go near the psychiatric beast again.

    Always grateful to see you here at MIA 🙂
    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Layla,
    This absolutely fascinates me, that you’re not on “meds”. How do you make sense of this? Is your “disease” in “remission”? I am genuinely very curious to hear how you’ve come to understand the fact that you are not on psychotropic drugs right now.

    Oh, one thing I wanted to say in one of your earlier comments (but couldn’t because there was no ‘reply’ option) is that I very much appreciate you making analogies between psych drugs and “illicit” drugs like cocaine or LSD. I am by no means anti-psychotropic drug. I’m for calling them what they are– psychoactive chemicals that alter the way you experience the world. If someone understands that Prozac is not a “medication” or “medicine”, as it is not treating an actual illness or disease, but rather is a psychoactive drug that changes one’s chemistry and has x, y, z potential “side” effects (aka effects that Psychiatry/Big Pharma has deemed are not the “targeted effect”), and he/she still wants to take it, all the power to them! I believe in the right to put whatever substance one wants in his/her body, as long as he/she understands what that substance is and what it has the potential to do to them.

    Looking forward to your response re: being off “meds”,
    Laura

    PS- I am also really happy that you’ve met the love of your life 🙂 What a wonderful thing!

  • Layla,
    Your words here remind me very much of me about three years ago! It’s amazing, actually :).

    As I am not a scientist, I cannot speak articulately using scientific language. What I did in my article was provide eight different references to back up my statements. Additionally, it’s important to note that the vast majority of psychiatric research is funded by the pharmaceutical industry, so quoting “science” doesn’t necessarily make it true.

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi Seth,
    I love how you broke this down! You are indeed right that (a) denial or (b) a claim of misdiagnosis are the two most common challenges to a story like mine (which is so very far from unique, as you well know). I particularly love the ‘misdiagnosis’ argument— it makes me laugh! In fact, in 2010, when I determinedly convinced my “treatment team” to agree to bring me off my “meds”, they only eventually agreed because they claimed I’d been “misdiagnosed Bipolar”, and really was just an “alcoholic with Borderline personality disorder” (thus, I could come off of all but one of the six drugs I was on, Lamictal, as that was “shown to benefit those with Borderline”). Ha! Because, at the time, I was still unaware that I had all the right to stop taking my “meds” if I wanted to, I was relieved to know my “team” had agreed to this. Of course, I secretly came off Lamictal without telling them, too.

    But let me go back to the ‘misdiagnosis’ argument for a moment. Let’s play along with the DSM for the sake of my argument… For thirteen years, I “met the DSM criteria for Bipolar disorder”, and boy did I meet it big time! One need only look through the thousands of pages of my “medical” records to see this. So no, I certainly wasn’t “misdiagnosed”!

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom here about the power of the PPIC and the horrendous methods of imprisonment it engages in with no oversight or regulation. It makes me think of that famous Joseph Biederman quote, when he was being interviewed around the time it was discovered he’d secretly received millions of dollars from Big Pharma… Someone asked him who was above him, and he answered, “God.” Of course he did! It’s true! As you said, psychiatrists hold power over the legal system much of the time! In fact, the legal system is dependent upon the psychiatric industry!

    Here I am, rambling… So many posts to catch up on! I should move on. First, I wanted to tell you, Seth, that your book is for sale at the Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square (an awesome, independent bookstore not affiliated with the university). Thought you’d like to know that!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Layla,
    I’m really enjoying reading all your posts, and have decided I must consolidate my responses to them as it is too unmanageable otherwise! I’m also finding that I can’t respond to some of them, as there are no ‘reply’ options (maybe there have been too many comments?), so I’m starting a new thread here.

    This is in response to what you wrote at 7:13PM:

    When you say, “Because Laura seems very intelligent and I believe she could be of great service to the movement to improve psychiatry… but she can’t do that unless she’s willing to accept that it needs improvement, not annihilation. Psychiatry will not go away, but it will be improved.”

    I simply must respond to that, as it made me chuckle ;).

    Let me start by saying that Psychiatry as an institution of social and behavioral control does not belong in the field of medicine, for there is nothing medical about telling a person that his/her emotional experience of the world is unacceptable. I have no intention of “accepting that it needs improvement”, just as I would have had no intention of accepting sixty years ago that segregation “needed improvement”. I will never contribute my voice to an institution that promotes social control in the name of “normal”.

    Some of my close friends are psychiatrists. I believe that there are many good people who’ve gone into the (pseudo)medical field believing they can help, and who’ve been led astray by the interests of Big Pharma (which is at the root of Biological Psychiatry) and by Psychiatry’s own self-interest as a medical specialty that has never been able to prove itself as valid medicine, despite how effectively it may market itself to be to the public.

    I believe that any institution proclaiming expertise on human experience is inherently oppressive, and fundamentally flawed. And certainly no such institution is legitimately medical. I have no interest in making such an institution “better”.

    Really, really enjoying this dialogue, and so appreciate that you’re contributing your voice here! I wonder if our paths ever crossed at the Hospital on the Hill ;).

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi Layla,
    You say, “You can say I’m wrong about my own experience, but I was barely able to function— that is, I was very clearly not able to live the life I wanted, which I don’t think was my fault or an expression of the “true nature” of my mind…”

    I once looked to an explanation of “mental illness” to explain why I wasn’t living the life I’d once wanted for myself. I also needed my Bipolar label to make me feel like I wasn’t a bad, unmotivated, dysfunctional person. Today, I know that I am a full agent in my own life, that I own every feeling I have and every thought I think, and that I must take responsibility for my actions. Psychiatry taught me to see myself as powerless over my “disease”— “It’s not your fault, Laura, you have serious Bipolar disorder…” And I bought this, hook, line, and sinker. Today, I know that the social construct of “mental illness” with which I built my entire sense of self for all those years only held me back from being a fully functioning, productive, responsible, accountable member of the human race.

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi Layla,
    I never said that the brain is not subject to pathology. I know, very well, that it is— Encephalitis, Meningitis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. What I disagree with is that emotions, thoughts, or behaviors are “symptoms” of pathology, unless, of course, there has actually been a diagnosable condition (like a tumor, for example, or syphilis) that has been located, observed, and measured. With so-called “mental illness”, this is simply not the case. However, with a disease like syphilis, you could argue that so-called “hallucinations” are, in fact, being caused by brain pathology. And just because certain experiences, like what gets called “psychosis”, are actually, in some cases, caused by disease (syphilis, say), it doesn’t mean that ALL so-called “psychosis” is evidence of pathology. If no biological condition is present (which “mental illness” is not), it makes no sense to pathologize deep feelings of sadness, or anxiety, or the experience of hearing voices. They are part of the human experience.

    If you were going to pathologize sadness, anger, anxiety, poor concentration, insomnia, etc., then why not pathologize happiness, focus, determination, love, and productivity, too? The answer is because these emotions have been deemed acceptable and normal by today’s societal standards. It is not because sadness and anger are “symptoms” while happiness and peace of mind are not— it is because sadness and anger don’t meet our society’s standard norm, when in truth, they are a part of the broad spectrum of what human beings have always and will always experience. There is no science in that; only social control.

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi David,
    If you notice, I put the word ‘level’ in quotes, to show exactly what you said— that it is totally simplistic to think that there’s such a thing as a “level” in the first place, which is what the word “imbalance” suggests— if something is “out of balance”, that means there’s a level at which it is balanced. So, you actually are reaffirming what I’m trying to say— that the human brain is so unbelievably complex that it is ludicrous to think it can be reduced to a measurable thing!

    I agree with you very much that our human subconscious is something powerful and awe-inspiring— I am certainly not saying that we should ignore exploring it for the sake of only focusing on what’s “out there”. My point was simply that psychiatry, very much unlike neurology, which has detected actual physical conditions like Alzheimer’s, is proclaiming certain emotions/experiences as pathology when, in fact, it’s never been proven to be true (and has actually been disproven).

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi David,
    Thanks for your thought-provoking comments ☺.

    The purpose of my title was to speak the Truth. There are already enough people who consider themselves a part of “The Movement” but are willing to compromise their values or use more “gentle” language so that their voices reach a broader audience. What’s the point in this, if the message is diluted and coopted and compromised, and thus, no longer the message? I’ll leave the watered down language to those who are OK with such dialogue; I am not one of those people, and I am here to speak what I believe, and know, from experience.

    While I appreciate your criticism, I would like to challenge your critique— where did I state that the human experience has nothing to do with biochemistry? Although I admit I often struggle to understand some of what you post here at MIA (including some of the quotes you’ve posted here), I hold firmly that I am educated enough to know that there is no such thing as an “abnormal” biochemical condition, because there’s no such thing as a “normal” one; not only this, also that it is completely ludicrous and presumptuous to think that our body’s biochemistry is simple enough to be measured, or that it stays at one “level” for any length of time that it can be deemed “normal” or “abnormal”. If I’m wrong, would you correct me, please?

    Just because I no longer buy into the fraudulent statement that certain emotional experiences are “symptoms” of “disease”, doesn’t mean that I think emotions are detached from biochemistry. I am quite aware of the fact that every thought I think, every step I take, every word I utter, and every feeling I have, is connected to my biology. I stop at the point in which Psychiatry claims there are actual “conditions” inside the body that “cause” such emotions (to me, even the biopsychosocial model is flawed, because (a) the “bio” piece is inevitably addressed as pathology, not as the omnipresent foundation of each and every human experience, and (b) because I see all models as flawed, for they are inherently subjective attempts at understanding human experience— experience that lies deeper than socially constructed language, or any articulations with said language that make generalized statements about what it means to be human.

    As for what Allan Shore said, about our need to stop focusing on “out there” and start focusing on “the world within”, I find such a black-and-white distinction to be reductionist, and dangerous. I would argue that “the world within” is not the sole locus for the creation of our experience, but rather, that the “out there” creates our experiences as well, for doesn’t “the world within” get impacted by the “out there”, too? I think of the chicken and the egg question, here. To put the blinders on and say that we need to stop focusing on the “out there” and focus only on what’s going on inside of our bodies is, in my opinion, close-minded and incredibly limiting. Of course, make such a statement to any neuroscientist or psychiatrist, and they’ll love you forever and call you their best friend.

    I greatly appreciate your comment, as it’s helped me to solidify what I believe, and what I don’t believe. Thank you for getting an interesting conversation going! And my apologies if I’ve misunderstood anything that you’ve written here… I always appreciate your comments, however hard to decipher they can sometimes be ;).

    Best,
    Laura

  • Hi Jeff,
    Yes, it’s quite ironic that those of us who question psychiatry are often dismissed as cult members, quacks, crazies, and Scientologists (as I’ve told you, I get that one quite often!)

    And yes, you are so right that this cult we’re referring to is not a small, separated collective, as most cults that I’m aware of from history have been… It is mainstream society, itself, that is under the spell of Psychiatry!

    In solidarity,
    Laura
    PS– I owe you an email, haven’t forgotten!!!

  • Hi Duane,
    What a great quote! I’ve never read that one before, but how totally true. I’m in this phase of my life in which I am questioning EVERYTHING around me, and EVERYTHING within me, since awakening from my spellbound state as a psych patient. It’s quite destabilizing at moments, but boy is it powerful to be in a place to question knowledge, and to have the power to decide what I’m going to believe about myself :).

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Thomas,
    The link you pasted here is broken but I easily found it by googling the title. I can tell right off the bat that I’m very much going to like this– the concept of the ‘Psychopharmaceutical Industrial Complex’ is right up my alley! I often call the “mental health” system the “mental health” industry, or the Psychiatric Industry, as it is not a system, but an industrial machine built, as you said, around the capitalistic drive for profit and for exploitation of resources (in this case, human experience is the resource). You are right that it is much bigger than just Psychiatry…

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear MsDiagnosed,
    Wow, wow, wow! I just devoured your comment and was nodding the whole way with a big smile on my face. You put the experience of being indoctrinated into such beautiful words. It is wonderful to hear that you are free from Psychiatry and from psych drugs, and that you have full freedom over yourself today. Like you, I am new to the experience of feeling my emotions fully and trusting my instincts— it’s often uncomfortable and frightening, but I’m getting more used to it as time passes.

    If you’re interested in writing your story for Mad in America, shoot me an email at [email protected] , as I edit the ‘Personal Stories’ section. Your words should be read by many!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Theinarticulatepoet,
    I might be missing the context about which you’re speaking here, but I believe that in terms of the third point, it is unfortunately much more invasive than preemptively “treating” a child who refuses to eat. I have witnessed psychiatrists in the US commit people who are doing NOTHING to put themselves or others “at risk” (a term that I have deep philosophical issues with to begin with, but I’ll put that aside for the sake of my point), but have a “history of safety issues”, and thus, the psychiatrist forcibly “treats” someone because at one point, in the past, they’d done something that was seen as unsafe. It truly opens up a floodgate of opportunity for shrinks to invade people’s lives and bodies, doesn’t it…

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • cannotsay2013,
    Regarding the third criterion for commitment, I actually believe that it is becoming more and more utilized here in the U.S., too. There is increasingly more emphasis here on words like “preventative”, “prodromal”, “prophylactic”, etc…. and funding is pouring in for “early onset psychosis” research, “mental health screenings” in schools, etc. etc. If you read the full article from which I quoted Dr. Insel, it’s all about “early intervention”– get people labeled faster, drugged faster, before they’ve even behaved in a way that is “psychotic”.

    With “Assisted Outpatient Commitment” already in forty-four (I think) U.S. states, and getting pushed for hard in Connecticut and Massachusetts, I have no doubt that an era of surveillance right out of science fiction has dawned upon America.

    I appreciate you providing this link– I look forward to checking it out!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • mcoma,
    We definitely do need to get our voices into the mainstream media; I too see it as being vitally important (however unrealistic it may be, given that the pharmaceutical industry funds so much of the media). I did take a look at the ‘Room for Debate’ page on NYT online and it is totally one-sided: TAC, forced “treatment”, the myth of “mental illness”, the myth that “mental health treatment” heals and supports people with “mental health challenges”, etc. etc. It would be great if an alternative perspective could join that conversation, although I don’t see it as likely happening!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Steve,
    Haha I definitely laughed when I read this! Well, I can say that from the age of five until the age of twelve, I was completely obsessed with ice hockey (and, particularly, the New York Rangers and Mark Messier). My claim to fame was getting to play against a NJ team when I was about ten or twelve at Madison Square Garden before the Rangers took ice. I vividly remember Jeff Beukeboom and Luc Robitaille coming into our locker room in their long underwear before we went out to play and giving us a pep talk. One of the highlights of my young life!
    -Laura

  • Emily,
    One of the challenges we face is that unless a person has been through the oppression of a psychiatric label and everything that follows, it’s very hard to wrap one’s mind around what that experience is like. Of course, many other people have been oppressed in the name of race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc., but the mainstream belief continues to see “care” and “treatment” and “help” instead of force, violence, invasion, coercion, imprisonment, etc. Those of us who write about these experiences are making a start, but at the end of the day, until folks in positions of power connect at the heart-level with all the harm that comes from being “helped” by the “mental health” system, things will continue on just as they are.

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • hi mjk,
    yes, and it’s always perplexed me that “MH providers” see “violence” as stemming from inside the “mentally ill” individual. never do they think about the fact that being forcibly injected, or locked up, or completely ignored, or disrespected and invalidated consistently, year after year, might impact the way a person interacts with their environment. not to mention the role that psychiatric drugs play in altering a person’s mind-body-spirit.

    onwards,
    laura

  • Andrew,
    I have tremendous respect for your decision to speak publicly about this professional and personal crisis you find yourself in. I think you are far from the only “provider” who’s awakened to this dilemma, and I believe that more and more are joining you in this place of confusion, sadness, betrayal, and whatever other emotions may come with the realization that the system that employs you and surrounds you is founded upon deep, systemic oppression and injustice. I hope that your story will inspire others in similar positions to speak out about their own internal dilemmas, and that you can all come together to create a sea change from the inside.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • letsdevelopphilly,
    I couldn’t agree more that we all need support; I personally believe that we can find that support outside of The System, although of course it’s hard to imagine in this moment what that looks like because as a society we’ve so lost touch with community, with neighbors, with open doors and open hearts. It’s as though the directions are “Blinders on, trudge forward, disregard what’s to your left and right… And then when you hit a wall and feel “unwell”, go to a psychiatrist.” We’ve lost our collective spirit, and I think that in order to get that back, we need to build off-ramps (to borrow someone’s phrase whom I can’t remember at this moment) out of The System.

    In liberation,
    Laura

  • Hi Steve,
    “The Us vs. Them is wrong, and causes most of our social problems.” Hear, hear! I completely agree that at the root of violence, of oppression, of isolation, marginalization, pain, sadness, anger, all of it… is an underlying process of separating self from other. I surely did that for many years, and it brought me to a place of pure darkness and misery. I now look around me and see brothers and sisters, and I try to stay diligent in seeing myself in those around me.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Alix,
    I definitely agree that the “problem”, so to speak, exists in the space between this boy and his environment (family, school, etc.), not in one or the other. Of course, biopsychiatry would call this ludicrous, claimed that the problem is inside of this boy’s brain; even our American social structure, I think, has a hard time acknowledging that all of our “crises” are community/public issues, not individual ones.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear PaulF,
    I completely agree that there is not a black and white, all or none, good or evil polarity between The System and outside of The System. I know many “providers” whose values align with mine. I think psychotherapy becomes dangerous when there is a power dynamic of “expert with the answers” and patient/client. When the “provider” has humility, and acknowledges that he/she has no expertise on the other person’s experience of the world, but rather he/she is there to act as a sounding board, or as an outside opinion, or as a fresh set of eyes, then I think that does something to lessen the inherent power differential. I should also acknowledge that many “providers” are awakening to their own betrayal, just as I have, by an industry of pseudoscience disguised as medicine. I have love and sympathy for those who went to years and years of school to realize all this time later that nothing they learned is based in any evidence.

    Thanks so much for adding this to the conversation, PaulF— a very important point!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Justin,
    Yes, saw this earlier! Whether or not it’s true, it brings up the issue of violence and force in the name of “care” and “treatment”. Faith Rhyne’s post touches on this, too. I have been with people during the commitment process and witnessed the utter brutality, stripping of rights, and complete disregard for human dignity. Of course, I don’t say this to justify any act of violence in response, but I’m glad the topic of “involuntary commitment” is coming more into the public “mainstream”.
    Love,
    Laura

  • Hi Political Heretic,
    I completely agree with you in challenging those voices. Because people labeled “mentally ill” aren’t seen as full people legally, socially, or medically, the majority of society sees no problem in speaking for “them” or about “them”, in making decisions on “their” behalf, in telling “them” who they are and what they need and don’t need. I believe at the root society justifies these things because they have turned those labeled “mentally ill” into Other, something not human, something that “normal” people refuse to identify with. I remember when it felt like to be seen as less than human, and what it felt like to BELIEVE I was less than human, and I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi mjk,
    It never ceases to amaze me when I see family members exploiting children by posting videos of them on the internet for whatever reason it may be (even David goes to the Dentist, or whatever the name of that old viral Youtube video is…). I won’t pretend to understand what the reasons are, but they are disturbing nonetheless.

    Wow, “Nothing can prepare you for Autism”. If I was a young child, and had a mother who was basically saying, “Nothing can prepare you for Laura”, I would immediately go on the defensive, and also into attack mode. Like I said in my post, I see it as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I once had my own “treatment team”… a lead psychiatrist, a psychopharmacologist, a DBT therapist (psychologist), and three social workers… I used to wait for them in the hallway during my “treatment review” every month or two while they met about me inside and then beckoned me in with the wave of a finger. It made me feel really good about myself… NOT!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Dear clwisehart,
    Thanks so much for this thoughtful contribution. You raise a lot of important points, about the difficulties of being an adolescent, about the role of trauma in people’s lives, and about the fact that we all need support.

    While I appreciate the kind things you said about me, I have definitely found my life’s purpose, and it is to help people leave the “mental health” system, not to make that system better. While I know much needs to change inside of it while it exists— and I plan to participate in changing that, too— I envision a future in which the “mental health” system no longer exists; in which the phrase “mental health” is no longer in our vocabulary; in which the absurd myth of “chemical imbalance”, which it sounds like you still believe in, can be left behind to fizzle out of our collective memory. A future in which people— whether they be children or adults— can find support in non-system community, where there is mutual love and respect and not a hierarchy of power that comes in the degrees behind a person’s last name. I am a HUGE believer in support— just not of the clinical variety.

    This isn’t to say that I don’t think there are inspiring, loving, open-hearted, open-minded people working in this current system. Some of my closest friends are “providers”, and I see in them humility, respect, and also, their own pain of betrayal, from being taught things that they know today are based on false science. I think they of course have a part to play in our future, only in a very different way. I simply do not believe that a person can call him/herself an “expert” on anyone else’s experience of the world, and the “mental health” industry is premised on this very idea.

    I really appreciate your openness to share your own pain and life experience; it helped me get a better sense of where you were coming from ☺.

    In love,
    Laura

  • hi ALT,
    i’m glad you appreciated this foucault quote– you are right that it can be quite difficult to digest his words! you know what’s unbelievable: when i was in college, on four psych drugs and completely identified with being “mentally ill”, i discovered foucault in my study of anthropology and his work totally blew my mind, and yet, for six or seven more years, i continued on believing i was “mentally ill”… shows how totally disconnected from my mind i was!

    i tried to figure out who this “thursday” person was, and couldn’t really get a sense of her story from her website… do you know anything about the person who posted the article you linked me to?

    in solidarity,
    laura

  • Dear Ivana,
    I too was shocked to find that your comment from earlier today was moderated… I had read it when it first went up and was very much looking forward to responding to it, but couldn’t find it when i went back later! Just like you, I was disturbed by this.

    As a psychiatrist, you likely have never had to go through the experience of being labeled as broken; in fact, maybe you’ve even been the one to make this declaration about someone else? Thus, I’m not surprised that you have deep issues with what I had to say, and I really appreciate that you shared them with me.

    You say, “… the sad reality of single divorced mothers left to deal alone in fear and despair with very difficult behavior of a child with little help from society…”. To me, this shows that you believe the myth that “mental illness” is an entity that exists inside a person– in this case, you see it as existing inside Michael. I hold a very different interpretation. He may very well be acting in a “difficult” way, but I don’t think any human being acts “difficult” out of thin air, like they were in a vacuum. It is a response to the environment, and the “problem”, if you’re going to call it that, exists in the space between people, not inside of any one person. This, of course, is backed up by the lack of any scientific evidence that shows a biological “problem” at play inside of a person (aka biochemical imbalance).

    I remember from your original post that you accused me of having a “political agenda”. I’d be curious to hear where you get that from, as I shared my personal reaction to something I’d read, and then I shared my own personal experience with being in the mental health system. I didn’t make sweeping assertions, over-arching generalizations, or accusations of people or systems that I had no personal connection to. I owned my own story, which I am an expert on. I didn’t pretend to be an expert on anything else. I’d be really curious to hear just what of my post made you think I had an “agenda”.

    Very grateful for your contribution!
    Laura

  • Jen,
    I am so grateful to know you, too! And I definitely agree that so much transformation can happen, and at so many levels, if people just came together to talk, to share, to listen, to accept, to sit with. At the family level, the local community level, the national level, and globally too. By embracing the broad spectrum of human experience rather than try to force it into deceptively neat and clean and organized boxes of pseudoscientific labels, we will free up time to be with each other, whether in pain or contentedness, and support one another in the simplest, purest, yet seemingly most difficult way we can– as fellow human beings.
    Love,
    Laura

  • Hi Rossa,
    Although I am skeptical of all media, there does appear to be a FoxNews article going around suggesting that Adam had found out his mother was in the process of getting him committed to a psychiatric hospital… (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/12/18/fear-being-committed-may-have-caused-connecticut-madman-to-snap/)

    I completely agree that most parents lack awareness of any alternatives to the MH system; I wouldn’t be surprised if a parent who does try to avoid having his/her child put into the MH system might even be seen as a “bad” or “irresponsible” parent… Just as the standard of care in medicine must change if psychiatrists are to ever stop prescribing psych drugs in the way they do (for today it’s seen as first line “treatment”, and thus any doc who doesn’t put a patient on psych drugs is scene as practicing “bad” medicine), so do the societal standards for parenting, in my opinion (or how about they be taken apart altogether, so that individual families can try out what works best for them!).

    Lastly, about the stigma of “biochemical mental illness”… The stigma I imposed on myself was far worse than any stigma imposed on me by the outside world (which I avoided as much as possible by becoming very good at acting and plastering a fake smile on my face whenever I was out in public). I stopped caring, trying, exploring, learning, growing, because I thought my brain was broken and figured I couldn’t handle anything that I used to do because of my “fragile” state. “I can’t handle…”, “I’m too symptomatic to…”, “My Bipolar makes my emotions uncontrollable and thus I can’t…” Boy oh boy, the stories I told myself, all ingrained in my by psychiatry!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • hi steve,
    i love the idea of ‘consensus’ reality. there is such presumption and arrogance in the belief that there is such a thing as one reality, and that anything outside of it is “insane”, “abnormal”, “wrong”, etc. and you are surely right that it is really hard to challenge that firmly ingrained “consensus” reality when there isn’t support around you, even if you have science on your side! i am not a stranger to being called a “conspiracy theorist”, “fanatic”, or even “scientologist”. i try to remind myself that fear is driving all of this categorization, labeling, “us” and “them”ness that we see. fear of the unknown, the unexperienced, the different. it seems to be easier to people to just build a wall between the things they don’t understand rather than immerse themselves in it with humility and acceptance.

    yes, the medical model totally denies the human experience, and an even bigger YES, “we shall overcome”!

    onwards,
    laura

  • Suzanne,
    Thank you for sharing such a profoundly beautiful piece of writing. You touch on what I see as the simplest, yet to so many, most difficult aspect of the human condition– giving unconditional love to others, with no expectation of return. I see the most important part of my life today to be my newfound ability to truly connect with other people and to give love freely (something I never had the ability to do during my years in the system). We live in a society that promotes quite the opposite– put on the blinders, think about yourself and what you want for your life, and trudge forwards, regardless of what’s happening around you. I was so blind to greater humanity because I was completely disconnected from my own, and now that I’m awake, I’m able to tap into the greater human force of which I finally feel a part, and have profound experiences like you did on your trip to Santa Barbara to remember Jake.

    Jake’s spirit and life force lives on in you, and in all of us, and I know that it is stronger than ever before. I often think of my brothers and sisters, Jake included, who’ve lost their lives to the system, and although I never met your son, he is a vital part of my life today. I am so grateful to know you, and to know Jake through you.

    In love,
    Laura

  • Russerford,
    Thanks for the comment, and it feels so good to hear that my post helped your spirit get a boost. I had a lot of fun writing it yesterday morning (jet-lagged in San Francisco, I woke up at 3:45AM and knew it was time to write!), and I am beyond grateful that I have this message of liberation to carry, because I, for many years, was convinced I’d forever be a prisoner in my life. I have no doubt that your daughter has everything she needs inside of her to find her own path to freedom; it’s just a matter of her connecting to it.

    It is a really difficult task to have a conversation with someone who has put biopsychiatry on an indestructible pedestal. I always try to remind myself that I, just three years ago, was there, too, and that I must have love and tolerance for the person who refuses to believe that the message I’m carrying has the weight of science and truth behind it, because I was once that person. I also try to remind myself that knowledge can be used as a weapon when it is “done to” someone, just as the DSM and biopsychiatry’s paradigm was “done to” me. Instead, I do my best to speak only of my own experience, and let my story become an opportunity for someone to identify with (or not, if they’re not ready). That I might have the opportunity to play that part in your daughter’s life, if she chooses to read this, is an honor!

    What a wonderful gift that your daughter, sister-in-law and friends have you in their lives, to be there as they sort all of this out. Knowing that my post has helped you play that part inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing, so thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Wow, Duane, I am speechless and beyond humbled at your comment!

    My life was saved, too, by others– Bob Whitaker, among them– and I feel the same powerful gratitude for those people that you feel for that army medic. I reflect daily on the fact that, given my story, I shouldn’t be here today, and I am always humbled at the question, ‘Why me? Why am I here, when so many others have been lost in the system forever?’ That question is what drives me to do whatever I can to help others find their own path to liberation and life; I believe that it is only through a series of very random, small, seemingly insignificant acts (for example, the fact that I happened to be locked up on a psych ward at the same time as another young woman who told me her story and changed my life; or, my decision to wander into a bookstore on a May day in 2010 in which ‘Anatomy’ happened to be on display) that I am here. And I want to give of myself as much as I can so that I might be a random, small act in someone else’s life. That’s how the human condition works, in my opinion!!

    “As long as a soul has air in its lungs, and is able to moan, “I’m still alive!” there is hope.” Duane, one of the most beautiful lines I’ve ever read. Thank you for giving me that.

    Glad to be in this fight with you, and I too am grateful for that army medic 🙂
    onwards,
    Laura

  • Hi Richard,
    You hit the nail on the head in terms of capturing the state of mind I was in when I finally embraced psychiatry. It’s amazing to be aware today of the process of indoctrination that I went through then, not just in psychiatry but in other areas as well. It’s as though I’m seeing myself and my life with clarity for the first time… and now that I’m well past the stage of “How could you not have seen this earlier, Laura?” (which was a horribly difficult time for me when I first woke up to all of this a couple of years ago), I am free to move on with my life and create a sense of my Self that isn’t tied to an institutional framework.

    Looking forward to reconnecting now that you’re back from Florida!

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Hi Ted,
    I know about the Rosenhan experiment– the psychologist I’m thinking of is David Kantor, who taught at Harvard circa 1960s, in the now defunct Department of Social Relations. A really awesome guy, who’s done a lot of amazing things in his career, whom I was lucky enough to work for a year and a half ago.
    -Laura

  • Chrys,
    You pose an interesting question about people who find psych drugs “helpful”. I think about this a lot, because I talk to many people who say the same thing. I guess the question we must ask, is, what does one mean by “help”? If “help” means detaching someone from his/her feelings, thoughts, and ability to connect with others, then yes, they are “helpful”. I can definitely say that I’ve met few people who say psych drugs “help” them who are functioning well in life, active, healthy, and relatively content. They are often sad, isolated, and disconnected, yet claim the drugs “help” them. I of course am only speaking from my own observations, and will not generalize. Would love to hear more of your thoughts about this.

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Hi Dorothy,
    Wow, my mind evoked some serious images while reading this. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been at that closing in Northampton… with the music, and the mist… Haunting, and disturbing.

    I’ve heard a bit about Mass Mental, mostly from a psychologist friend of mine who’d conducted an experiment with some of his students back in the ‘60s— they were admitted as patients and observed the ways in which they are their fellow patients were treated by staff, and I guess many of them were so deeply disturbed by the experience that they published some important writing about it. I don’t know the details, but would like to learn more, or maybe get my hands on those old papers…

    Wow, the tulips. As though filling a place of oppression and violation with beautiful flowers would drown out that evil. To be honest, I’m not surprised that they did that; I feel like that total ignorance is so commonplace in psychiatry. They have to be ignorant, to protect themselves. This doesn’t justify any of what they do, of course, but it’s how I’ve made sense of it all, I guess.

    Thanks so much for your support, Dorothy. I have much to learn from you, and it makes me so happy that we live so close to each other ☺.

    Love,
    Laura

  • Hi David!
    Wow, I am so encouraged to hear about this! I’m curious to know why you think it’s ‘risky’? Is it because of pushback from the state, or for other reasons?

    All of those preventions you listed, to me, are such obvious ones to strive for, but it doesn’t cease to amaze me that so many people either can’t see the harm from labels, drugs, and the “mentally ill” identity, or refuse to see it? Of course, there are people/institutions out there for whom a person entering the mental health system means big money, but you’d think that the overall cost— first and foremost, to that person and his/her livelihood, physical health, sense of Self and inner confidence, and hope, among the countless things I could list here; but also, from a fiscal standpoint, to the taxpayer; and from a societal standpoint, to that person’s community (family, friends, etc.)— would encourage more people like you to be working at prevention. We are on a path to societal collapse, in my opinion, and I’m grateful to know that you’re working hard to prevent this from happening in your community!

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Mark,
    Thanks so much for sharing this here. I just went to your website and listened to the two songs from your “Central State” album— beautiful!

    I’m curious to hear if folks in GA are working on identifying those graves? Or at least locating them all and giving them the proper care they deserve? I had NO idea that this vast graveyard existed. 25,000 unmarked graves. Unbelievable.

    Thanks for your powerful creative contribution,
    Laura

  • Hi Seth,
    It was so good to meet you in NYC, even if it was brief. I hope our paths cross again soon.

    The same thing that occurs often to you, occurs to me too— I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around how much human potential (for art, for writing, for activism, for humanitarianism, for science, for innovation, for discovery, etc.) has been silenced by psychiatry. It is beyond tragic, beyond scary to think about. If people at the mass scale realized this, do you think they would let it continue? In my opinion, it is one of the greatest human injustices of modern man, and it is happening right under everyone’s noses.

    Yes— you are so, so, so right about prisons, and about soldiers, too. We mustn’t forget the foster care system. The numbers are mind-boggling. Re: war, I don’t even have words for just how tragic it is that soldiers are coming home and being silenced by bottles of pills, their traumas completely ignored and shoved behind closed doors of shrinks’ offices. The greatest insult a person can receive, in my opinion.

    Haha, I LOVE that you mention the Panopticon!! I wrote about that in an earlier chapter in my blog. Jeremy Bentham coined the word in the late 18th century, and Foucault beautifully incorporated it into his writing on power. It’s funny— I’d learned about it before I was ever locked up on a psych ward, and was always so conscious of the strategic placement of the nurse’s station, the visible hallways, of the realization that at any second I might be being observed… And I was always a “voluntary” patient! It amazes me today how much I’d internalized the oppression.

    Here’s to sleepers awaking!! I love that, Seth.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Maxima,
    I feel a lot of the same frustration. I have to continuously remind myself that I, too, was spellbound, and for a long time. Waking up didn’t happen overnight for me, that’s for sure, and when I find myself feeling angry, impatient, or frustrated, I pause and look for myself in the other person (or people), because I’m in there, too. I was once so desperate to feel OK that I placed all my dependence on psychiatry. I too once wanted to believe I had a “chemical imbalance” so that I didn’t have to feel like a bad or weak person. I once gave up my agency and any sense of responsibility for myself, for my family, and for people around me because I’d convinced myself I was “too bipolar” and just couldn’t handle adult life. To get from where I was in the spring of 2010 to where I am now has been a very slow unfolding, new doors swinging themselves open as time goes on, but not all at once. Because I know for myself that I don’t want to operate my life based upon anger and resentment, I try my hardest to practice acceptance, even when I REALLY don’t like what it is that I’m accepting. This doesn’t mean I stop fighting— if anything, I write more, protest more, advocate more, etc.—but what it does mean is that I no longer become paralyzed by anger. When I’m paralyzed by anger, I’m useless to myself and to anyone else.

    I completely agree with you that everyone is at risk in this system. Literally, every person. What happened to me, and what happened to you, could happen to ANYONE. This is an important message that we must carry.

    I really look forward to meeting you “in person” in Philly in a couple of weeks! It will be wonderful to connect face-to-face ☺.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • My friend, Emily,
    Another beautiful sequence of words from you ☺.

    Your story is so, so, so common, which makes it all the more tragic. Pain from “life on life’s terms” is pathologized and drugged, creating “chronic mental illness”. You and I are both so lucky to have come out on the other side with our minds, spirits, and hearts intact.

    I spend a lot of time on psych wards these days for work or to visit friends, and boy is it a strange yet totally empowering experience to step foot on the same unit I’d once been locked up on (“voluntarily”, like you). The strangeness comes from a deep fear that’s still inside of me that I could get locked up again; I think this is a healthy fear, and one that makes sense given my past experiences. It also comes from realizing that I’m free to walk through the locked doors at the end of my visit, while the person I’ve come to see is not, and often times, doesn’t want to be. You are right that there is tremendous irony in this whole thing— I sometimes feel like I’m looking at myself from four years ago, or eight years ago, or fifteen years ago, when I first entered the system. How am I here, when I was once there? I find myself thinking. If only they knew what I now know. If only I knew then what I know now. You know the mind games I’m talking about…

    Like you, I’ve had plenty of moments in which I feel baffled by some of my past decisions. I no longer hold anger towards myself, however, because I did what society taught me to do. Although I never understood that “society” (aka all the norms I’d been taught or had somehow incorporated into the way I saw myself) was not a capital ‘T’ Truth to internalize without any questions or challenges, I get to see that today. I get to see that the belief I once had that I wasn’t acceptable as I was and needed to turn to psychiatry to fix me is a belief not founded in Truth. I get to see that the belief I once had about emotional pain as a thing to be rid of is based on a fantasy. I get to look back on all my years in the system and feel a deep gratitude for the way my life went, because I get to be who I am today, doing what I’m now doing. Today, I get to look inward for the answers I seek, because I know they’re there. So much beauty today, from so much past pain.

    Onwards in solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi markps2,
    I definitely agree with you that doctors are the ones who give diagnoses. However, I think that it’s important to step back and look at the cultural context in which our doctors are diagnosing people as “mentally ill” (which of course follows, as you said, with a lifetime of psych drugs). I think Bruce Levine’s writing about anti-authoritarianism is particularly appropriate to this conversation, because in my opinion, it is definitely those of us who’ve landed “outside the box”, so to speak, who get labeled. Of course, “the box” is a very small, very homogenous space of rationality, logic, politeness, white picket fences, regulation of thought/emotion/belief/etc, and so on and so forth. To me, it is totally “mad” that our society (and I make assumptions about America here) stubbornly persists in acting and performing this “perfect” part of success, order, productivity, attractiveness, happiness, when there so much violence, isolation, oppression, and marginalization going on all around us. Anyone who doesn’t effectively play this “perfect” part gets dropped off at the gates of the closest psych hospital to be labeled, funneled into the system, and removed from society’s view, so that it can continue trudging forward under the delusion that perfection is a real thing.

    I would challenge your claim that those people spellbound by psychiatry “seem happy enough to continue on”. Some of them might well be— I’m thinking particularly of “mental health professionals” who are just as spellbound as the people “willingly” on psychiatric drugs themselves, although in different ways. However, I don’t think we should assume that just because people continue to “willingly” take their psych drugs, they’re happy. For me, I “willingly” took psychiatric drugs for over ten years, because I’d placed all my faith in the hands of psychiatry to one day, somewhere down the road, make me happy. I was never, ever happy during my years on psych drugs; not for one day. In fact, I was constantly hopeless, lost, lonely, and suicidal. But I had enough hope (false hope, as I see today) to keep taking the pills day after day because my psychiatrists told me, “It’s your treatment-resistant bipolar disorder that’s preventing these medications from working. We will keep trying until we find the right combination. Stay patient.” Because I was so miserable, I stayed patient. That is, until I woke up to what was really going on ;).

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Hi David,
    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. You ask, “Can we recover from and be free of the human condition?” For me, my freedom hasn’t come from actually freeing myself from the human condition, but rather, from seeing myself and my humanity in a new way, through a lens of power. There is power everywhere, and no way to escape it. Beyond the visible institutions of power (government, law, medicine, religion, etc.) lie the invisible institutions— I think specifically here of knowledge and its social construction. All of this has been directly influenced by my reading of Michel Foucault (particularly relevant to the topic at hand, of course, is his concept of ‘Biopower’). Through him, I came to see that there is no way around power, but that freedom/empowerment comes from simply becoming aware of it and seeing it. Yes— I may think with words that have been socially constructed and that carry historical weight behind them, but by knowing this, I can be more deliberate in understanding the words I use to think about myself, and can always resist the urge to create definitive capital ‘T’ Truths in my mind about what is and isn’t.

    The way I make sense of Foucault’s ‘Biopower’ is that it means the controlling of people through the construction of knowledge around human biology. This couldn’t be more applicable to the case of biological psychiatry, of course, and for me, when I came to understand that scientific/medical/bio-discourse wasn’t, in fact, a capital ‘T’ ‘Truth’ as I’d always believed it was, but rather, that it was a language constructed by people in positions of power (aka “medical professionals”) to exert control over people without that power (aka “patients”, “clients”, “consumers”), everything about the way I thought about myself transformed. I should say that I don’t think this is necessarily a conscious process by doctors (to exert power, I mean); many doctors have the most noble of intentions in mind. However, it was freeing for me to realize that my human essence lay so much deeper than biomedical jargon, and that science and medicine are just one of many modes of understanding. Some of my own awakenings are definitely similar to what you wrote about, in terms of gaining perspective on one’s Self and on the stories we construct to make meaning of our experiences. I guess I now understand that everything I think, do, or say with language is a construction, and thus, only a representation of an inner human essence that lies deeper than words. I don’t think this is necessarily an imprisoning condition, however, because I see it for what it is and am no longer at the mercy of all this beliefs I once had that I saw as capital ‘T’ Truth.

    To answer your question about what I see myself writing in 20 years, I must say, I have no idea. My life has unfolded in front of me in so many amazing ways in the last two years— ways that I could have never imagined for myself— so I’d like to think that it will continue to do so, and that trying to figure out who I’ll be or what I’ll be writing about down the road is a fruitless exercise (although a wonderful thing to fantasize about!). All I know is that I’ll be writing ☺.

    Thank you for all that you contribute to the community here, David.
    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Hi Duane,
    Wow, this post brings tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing this story about your great-grandmother. I also couldn’t agree more that we need to have love and compassion for all people, regardless of what their unique experience of reality may be.

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Belinda,
    I totally agree that massive and systematic hijacking has taken place…

    For me personally, however, as time has gone on, the word “recovery” has become less and less relevant to me. I used to feel like I had “issues” that I’d “recovered” from, but I know don’t even think about what I’ve gone through as any sort of “recovery” at all. It’s really been an awakening, a re-birth, even.

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts about “recovery”– if left un-hijacked, is it a word that makes sense to you in your own life?

    In solidarity,
    Laura

  • Hi Scott,
    Great to meet you in NYC the other weekend. I have to say that I disagree with the first sentence of your comment, that “if society hasn’t seen it up until this point they are not going to see it.” Past social segregations and oppressions– of race, gender, and religion– sometimes persisted for hundreds of years (not that much of it still doesn’t exist today…). I say this to say, do not give up hope! Yes, I sometimes get mired in thoughts about an impending apocalypse, but I honestly believe that we can dismantle psychiatry. It may not happen in our lifetime, but I believe it to be possible.

    Onwards in solidarity,
    Laura

  • Thanks so much, Jack. I just couldn’t stop looking at the photo in my phone and felt like I needed to tell that story and share my thoughts about it. I’m so glad to have met you in NYC the other weekend, and so grateful for your important contributions to the MiA community :).

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Hi Belinda,
    Thanks for the comment, and I too am so glad you’ve found your freedom :).

    Yes, this question about how to help not just other individuals but our society as a whole awaken to this deeply disturbing false truth is with me every day. I know there is tremendous power in the sharing of our stories, but there is power, too, in the numbers, which is why I felt compelled to write about them in this piece. I mean, they are just mind-boggling. Almost unbelievable, really!

    The ‘Beyond ‘Anatomy” community will hopefully continue to develop as a place where we can seek answers (because there surely isn’t one) to this important question. The more we continue to stay connected around this issue, in conversation, discussion, and debate, the better our odds of cultivating solutions. See you over there :).

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Hi Ted,
    Yes, it was written during my time in Portland… I couldn’t stop thinking about that photo I’d taken a couple of weeks ago, and found it a nice reprieve to dig deep into my thoughts about it while at the conference. In fact, I felt compelled to write the piece all the more while there… I’m sure that isn’t a coincidence ;).

    Love,
    Laura

  • Hi rpbalooga,
    I love the line– “it’s very possible that the DSM-5 will be psychiatry’s coffin rather than its revival.” I hope this to be true.

    I completely agree with you that we are each unique people with unique experiences of the world and understandings of ourselves. I’m curious to hear what you found ‘uncomfortable’ about the speech, or what about the basic message of it you wouldn’t want your children to think? I am always open to feedback, especially when it’s critical!

    All the best,
    Laura

  • Hi Anonymous,
    As always, I greatly appreciate your contribution here at MiA. Thanks for the support– it means a lot to me, as I have tremendous respect for you and your voice.

    At this stage, all we have are those small mitigations of which you speak. When I feel them, I too feel much gratitude. I felt a massive one this past weekend, and it reinvigorated me tremendously. I see them as rungs in the ladder– we need them to keep going, to keep fighting this fight, no matter how daunting it may seem.

    The sheer horror is too great for words, I agree. But if you think about past horrors that seemed insurmountable but ended up being conquered, like slavery here in the U.S. (of course, I acknowledge that it still happens elsewhere in the world), I hope you can still cling onto hope, even the tiniest sliver of it, as we keep putting one foot in front of the other in this march towards liberation. I know that there are many people out there who likely could or do consider me less than human based on my psychiatric history, and I’m in a place today where that no longer affects me. If they want to see me that way, that’s their loss, and has no impact on the way I see myself; I know that the people with admirable values, admirable hearts, and true human rights-oriented spirits see me as fully human, and I cling onto that. It is their view of me that reflects how I think about myself today, and that is a beautiful thing.

    My beautiful human friend and comrade, Anonymous, keep fighting this important fight and speaking with your important voice :).

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Hi Melissa,
    I feel you on the rage… It took me nearly a year after being off the drugs to come to terms with everything that I experienced in psychiatry, and luckily, today, that rage has transformed into a healthy anger that fuels me and drives me to make change happen and to help others. It’s a different rage when someone’s been through it– like you and I both have– because it carries with it betrayal, violation, the stealing of spirit, and the loss of Self. I know that freeing myself from resentment against my doctors, the hospitals I sought “treatment” in, and psychiatry itself was one of the most important steps in my process of regaining agency and freedom. Just as I was enslaved by the labels and the drugs, there was a period of time afterwards in which I was enslaved by resentment, as well. It feels good to be freed from that today.

    I want to say how much I appreciated your recent post (and that I look forward to more!). You captured the agony, the desperation, the fear, the isolation, the hopelessness so well. I am so glad that you are a part of the MiA community.

    Benzo withdrawal is a massive beast; I know it from firsthand experience. When I step back and think about how many millions of people are out there and heavily addicted to these tiny little pills, all I can do is shake my head in disbelief. It is a true epidemic, and there are so few people speaking up about it. I’m glad you’re one of them, and that you’re doing it here.

    Looking forward to reading your next post,
    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Hi Emily,
    Always so good to read your voice here :).

    I felt compelled to open myself up in the last paragraph because I know how important it is to acknowledge my fear and own it, to put it front and center before me so that I never again get paralyzed by it and risk giving up my agency. I also wanted to make a statement about the importance of being open and honest– speaking for myself, I never again want to live in the shadows, hiding myself and my feelings from the rest of the world. I own my humanness today, even the parts of it that I find most uncomfortable.

    I must say that you have an unbelievable talent with words, yourself! If you don’t see that in yourself today, I am confident that one day you will…

    Glad you like the ‘Onwards’– for some reason it’s the word that pops into my head most when I am doing anything in this movement!

    …Onwards,
    Laura

  • Hi Edge,
    I totally agree that adding humor to darkness is an important part of storytelling. I fantasize about all the stories I”m going to write as I turn my blog into a bigger writing project– I have many memories that I can laugh about today, for their utter absurdity and ridiculousness (most of the these memories are about past “treaters”, and the things they said to me). It is an empowering act to turn one’s trauma on its head and gain freedom from it by turning it into art (comedy, in this case). I hope you write/create something, yourself?

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • John,
    Thanks for the comment. As I was reading your response I was thinking about how much evolution I’ve gone through in these last two years when it comes to how I make sense of my life’s journey so far. I started off on the “recovery” bandwagon, thinking “Yes! I am proud to say I have recovered from mental health issues that psychiatry named Bipolar Disorder! I once met the criteria for this diagnosis, and now I no longer do!” [this was in the summer and fall of 2010] As my brain cleared up during the withdrawal, and as I started to educate myself more and think more clearly off the psych drugs, I thought to myself, “Wow, I should become a peer specialist to support others as they have their own mental health challenges, which I have experienced myself!” [this was towards the end of the summer in 2011]. Slowly but surely, these beliefs have faded into the background as I continue to move further and further away from psychiatry, and closer to my truth. it’s really been in the last year or so that I’ve fully come to understand everything that I went through just as I described it in my speech.

    I need to remind myself of this slow evolution when I spent time with others who are at different stages of their journeys out of psychiatry. It is not an easy thing to unlearn a deeply ingrained paradigm of thought about oneself, and I remind myself of this fact every day, especially when I hear people use psychiatric labels and talk about psychiatric drugs as their “medications” or “meds”. I was once exactly where they are now– I am them, and they are me.

    Thanks again for the support, John! Isn’t it beautiful to know that we all share the experience of feeling distressed, and that life’s beauty comes from knowing what it’s like to feel life’s pain?

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Richard,
    I can’t tell you how good it was to read your post! I often find myself struggling very much when I hear fellow sober people talking about the “disease” of alcoholism. The original literature didn’t actually use that word— it used “malady” or “illness”, and only in the spiritual context. You are indeed right that the drug/alcohol recovery world has been completely coopted by the medical, pharmaceutical, and psychiatric industry, and in my opinion, it is causing nothing but harm, taking people further and further from the root causes of why they were drinking/drugging too much in the first place.

    I have been sober for a little over two and a half years, and 0% of it came from medical/psychiatric treatment. I definitely see my relationship to alcohol as stemming from a spiritual issue— I felt a deep emptiness and profound disconnect in myself and with the world around me, and I turned to things outside of myself to change that state, because I was convinced I couldn’t resolve the problem myself. There is nothing “diseased” about that, and when I hear people around me saying “My disease is doing push-ups in the parking lot,” or “My disease wants me dead,” I just shake my head in dismay. Talk about sacrificing one’s inner agency, and one’s sense of humanity!

    For me, personally, I choose to not drink today because I don’t have any desire to. I am amazed at the way my life is unfolding in front of me, and it’s only started to do so since I got sober, which was what helped me gain the momentum to completely terminate my relationship to Psychiatry, as well. I would rather die than go back to the enslaved life I once led— enslaved to the psych diagnoses, psych drugs, and psych treaters, and enslaved to that desperate yearning to escape from the moment because I’d come to see myself as less than human due to everything I’d been told about my “serious mental illness” (my label was bipolar).

    It’s really hard for me to see person after person in my sober community put down drugs and alcohol and almost instantaneously pick up a psychiatric label and a stack of scripts. “Oh, my doctor told me that getting sober has revealed my underlying bipolar disorder”; “Yeah, I became an alcoholic because I was self-medicating my depression and anxiety.” On, and on, and on, I hear these things. The dual-diagnosis phenomenon is something I’ve been frustrated with for a long time— of course a person is feeling depressed, anxious, “manic”, “psychotic”, or whatever else!! They are consuming large amounts of psychoactive substances every day, and that has a significant impact on the brain and body, as well as on the ability to live a healthy and contented life!

    When people ask me for help getting sober, I always suggest that they stay away from the psychiatrist’s office. I sense that magnetic pull in some people to head that way in early sobriety, when they are in tremendous pain and desperation, and get a quick answer with a quick fix to why they are feeling so miserable. I try to share with them my experiences living with a psychiatric label for nearly half my life, and that at the end of the day that sense of ease that comes from hearing “You have depression/bipolar/whatever, and that is why you are feeling this way,” is not only temporary ease, but actually is just masking a pit of despair, marginalization, isolation, self-loathing, and imprisonment, lurking in the darkness just behind the new psychiatric label and the drugs that come along with it.

    For me, coming to understand just why I felt that deep emptiness, disconnect from the world around me, isolation, hopelessness, and anger at myself and my life has brought me to a place where I no longer feel the need to escape or seek relief in something outside of me on a daily basis. It is a beautiful thing, and it had absolutely NOTHING to do with medicine, psychiatry, treatment, etc., etc. It had to do with taking responsibility for myself and my actions, coming to believe that I was a human being just like everyone else and not broken or diseased, and learning to trust my gut and my inner voice, instead of running to an “expert” to tell me what to do, or to a bottle to forget how horrible my “bipolar” life had become.

    I am eternally grateful that I got sober, because I know I would be dead today, likely by suicide. Had I not stopped seeking relief in alcohol, I never would have found the inner strength to tell Psychiatry to screw off, and to drive out of McLean Hospital as a patient for the last time. Sometimes I go back there, for work (I’m a “peer specialist”) or to help other people get sober from alcohol, and it is a beautiful thing to be on the other side of those prison walls.

    Can’t wait for Part 2 of your blog, Richard! I have a feeling I will greatly identify with it, as well.

    Laura

  • Hi Philroy,
    You raise a really important issue. Although it is my hope for the institution of psychiatry to be dismantled, it is an unquestionable fact that there are many, many people who have been funneled so deep into the system that they no longer remember any other way besides being a passive, agency-less recipient of “mental health care”, or no longer believe that it’s possible for them to find their way without “professional” help. I can very much identify with that mindset– I was there for a long time. To simply remove what’s become their “safe-haven” (again, I can very much relate– I tended to be the psychiatric patient who never wanted to leave the locked ward because I came to believe I needed to be kept safe from myself), could be devastating. I too agree that it can’t be done without “alternative” sources (in my opinion, true alternatives lie completely outside of the mental health system altogether).

    Speaking for myself, the institution of psychiatry became completely obsolete to me when I came to believe that (a) I never had or will have “mental illness” because it doesn’t exist, and (b) that I was not alone with my intense emotional suffering and that there were others who’d found meaning in their experiences (I now see my journey as a spiritual one) and learned to co-exist with their emotions in a way that didn’t leave them feeling hopeless and incapacitated by life, and that the answer hadn’t been found in the mental health system. Once I saw these things, and faced my fear of the unknown– which meant an unmedicated Self, the future, the thought of being a responsible human being with agency and self-determination, and a life without psychiatry– I was able to move forward and out. It was by NO means easy, but I knew somewhere inside of me not just that I HAD to do it, but that I COULD do it.

    I think this is parallel to what you’re saying– I educated myself with facts about the truths I’d always believed that were actually false (DSM language,”mental illness”, psychotropic drug efficacy, for example), I sought support in “alternative” venues, and I built up the courage to change the way I saw myself and my relationship to the world around me. I’m still on that journey– I believe I will be on that journey for the rest of my life, and I’m able to be excited about that today– but I do feel complete independence from the mental health system.

    I agree with you that it is a very challenging experience to be with someone who is in an extreme state– I know from personal experience of being on both sides of it. I believe that the more we dialogue about these extreme states as being part of what it means to be human, and that we don’t need to slap words like “crisis”, “safety”, “risk management”, “liability”,”lack of insight”, “danger to self or others” and so forth onto the process, but rather be with the person and acknowledge their pain and encourage that person to see the experience as part of their humanity, which they are not alone in, the odds are that we will get better as a society and as a human race at simply being with each other, without getting paralyzed and debilitated my fear. We each have “expertise”– on our own experience of reality– and the more we accept that and stop turning over our agency to outside people whom who’ve been told have some sort of power (aka “expertise”) that we don’t have, the less we will feel connected and united as human beings.

    The more we dialogue about the intense fear that you raise around what a world without psychiatry would look like, the less we’ll be controlled and imprisoned by that fear, and the more we’ll be able to move forward.

    So glad you brought this topic up. Thanks so much, Philroy.
    Onwards,

    Laura

  • Steve,
    I would very much like to hear how you think psychiatry gave up leadership in institutions… I understand of course that managed care has given tremendous power to insurance companies, but to me the more insidious power lies in the dynamics of a locked ward, a clinic, an office. In the very existence of the DSM. In the very existence of a residency program in psychiatry in every medical school. The existence of managed care relies on the paradigm of psychiatry, and on the existence of psychiatric diagnoses (which, yes, you can say you only give to people so that you can bill insurance, but it is only through your voices as psychiatrists that the message of the DSM’s complete falsity and fraudulence will be believed by the ‘mainstream’).

    Looking forward to hearing back from you, Steve.
    -Laura

  • Hi Rossa,
    Thanks for the comment. I actually think that pushing to include stories about “consumers” and “mental health recovery” alongside media coverage of physical diseases is very dangerous, and will only perpetuate the false knowledge that our society has around the nature of emotional experience as being part of a disease process.

    I haven’t used the word “consumer” in a long time, because in my opinion it perpetuates a power dynamic that I see as inherently oppressive and damaging to human dignity. To call a person a “consumer” implies either literal consumption (i.e. of psychiatric drugs), or economic consumption (i.e. of “mental health” services). To be defined by either of these two things is, in my opinion, to be reduced to a role as a passive recipient, a dependent; a person with unfulfilled needs until they are satisfied by whatever it is they are consuming from a “professional” source.

    I actually have been struggling a lot with phrases like “mental health”, “recovery”, “wellness”, “peer” (full disclosure— I currently work as one, although I have no “formal” training, i.e. CPS), because I believe they perpetuate a medical paradigm. To me, “wellness” implies “illness”; “recovery” implies that someone has gotten better from a sickness or abnormal condition; and using the word “peer” in this context perpetuates an otherness, as though there are those of “us” who have been labeled, and then there’s everyone else. Of course those of “us” who have been labeled have experienced trauma and oppression that those who are unlabeled haven’t, so we share a common bond, but in my opinion the only “peer” I feel like I am is a human one.

    But I digress… Back to your comment. I definitely agree with you that the overarching dilemma of Big Pharma transcends just psycho-pharmaceuticals, and that the mainstream, at this point, may more readily absorb a message about the dangers of drugs like statins. However, like I said above, I believe we need to talk about psycho-pharmaceutical drugs as separate from other drugs because they treat non-existent conditions. I guess, actually, that you could say many other physical conditions were created out of thin air, too…. Again, I digress… But nonetheless, to associate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors with physical conditions, I believe, can do nothing but harm to our movement.

    I really appreciate your input, @Rossa, and like I’ve said before, thanks for all you do!
    -Laura

  • Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the response. I am really enjoying this dialogue!

    I still believe that a true, open acceptance of the subjectivity of human experience (as manifested by the variety of cultural, religious, social, political, gendered, ethnic, etc. environments in which a person can grow up) is inherently paradoxical to the belief system connected to psychiatry, which implies that there is an objective, medical, and scientific Truth to human experience.

    In my opinion, a person either does believe in the inherent subjectivity of human experience (you’ve put it as taking a “cultural” approach to things), or doesn’t. There’s no middle ground. A psychiatrist’s very identity is defined around the assumption that there is an inherent biological condition (even if you’re a person who talks about the “biopsychosocial” model… “Bio” is still there, and “psycho” too, which carries it’s own Truth, but that’s a topic for another time…) determining the emotions/thoughts/beliefs that a person has. This makes believing in the subjectivity of human experience impossible, doesn’t it? In other words, if one believes that there is an underlying scientific, medical, objective basis to a person’s emotional experience of the world, at the end of the day, doesn’t that imply that that person’s subjective experience of the world (which you’ve defined as “culture”) is only secondary? And if you don’t think it secondary, why does your institution treat it as such, focusing its energy almost solely on the diagnostic, clinical, and biochemical paradigm?

    I have a couple of questions for you, that I’m really curious to hear your answers to:
    (1) Do you believe that there is a biological basis to a person’s emotional/cognitive experience of the world? I understand that biochemistry drives every single little thing that we do— every breath we take, every thought we think, every time we interact with our environment— so I’m not asking that as much as I am, if a person is experiencing intense emotions and/or thoughts that are considered by the mainstream to be outside of the “norm”, do you believe this is because there is something abnormal with their biology?
    (2) Do you believe that your Western training as a psychiatrist is more legitimate than “primitive” understandings of human experience?
    (3) If you don’t believe that the psychiatric paradigm is more legitimate than “alternative” paradigms, why do you think psychiatry has all the power it does to act as experts on human experience?

    There are so many more questions I’d like to ask, but I’ll leave it with those for now ☺.

    -Laura

  • Hi Steve,
    Yikes, the ‘comment’ thread wouldn’t let me reply to your most recent response about “primitive” cultures and “cultural psychiatrists”, so I’ll respond here:

    I’m curious– if you put the word “primitive” in quotes, why did you even use it at all? Is it because you see those cultures as “primitive”, but are aware that that word is considered oppressive, racist, and elitist? I am asking this question from a complete place of curiosity, in case the question is coming across otherwise. I decided to look up the word because I was curious, and its anthropological definition (which I assumed you were using) says:

    “of or pertaining to a preliterate or tribal people having cultural or physical similarities with their early ancestors: no longer in technical use.”

    The fact that “literate” society is considered the pre- and post- marker for the human race aside, I’m both slightly confused about your comment and also wondering if you’re somehow missing my point. You bring up “cultural psychiatrists” as exceptions to the psychiatric institution who understand these “primitive” people– and me, according to your comment– and our tendency to “do so much more” (do you mean “do too much of”?) accepting, supporting, and valuing human experience. I don’t see how a psychiatrist, even a “cultural” one (still not sure what that means exactly), could possibly believe in the validity of his/her profession if he/she truly understands the vast expanse of possible human experience, and that none of it has anything to do with having a condition treatable by an “expert” (psychiatrist in this case). It’s a fundamental paradox, in my opinion… Any clarification would be most helpful.

    -Laura

  • Hi Names,
    I am so glad that you share the energy I feel, and I know that there are more of us out there who are feeling the same way. While it is so important to continue talking about what needs to change, I think building a forward momentum towards that actual change, however slow-going it may be in the beginning, is just as important.

    When I sit with my thoughts around all of this, I find myself going down so many different paths– the loudest, most idealistic part of me believes that the entire mental health system needs to be dismantled (which in my heart I believe is the only true way to rectify this human rights dilemma). On the other hand, the more realistic part of me recognizes that this is not something that will just happen overnight– rather, it will be a slow and persistent chipping away at the system from the outside, as well as making our best attempts at creating change from within. Regarding that “change from within” part– the biggest change I believe I can create in my work as a peer specialist (a title I take numerous ethical issues with, and that my heart really struggles with having, although that’s a conversation for another time…) is to help a person connect to a sense of inner-agency and hope that he/she has forgotten exists inside of him/her. The more that I can work towards helping people connect to that (especially people who’ve been in the system for a very long time), the higher the odds that people will realize there is life beyond being “mentally ill” and reliant upon the system to be taken care of and given “answers” by (a position that is by no means the fault of that person– but rather an enforced disabling by the “treatment” and “care” that they’ve received).

    At the end of the day, like you’ve said, there really is a lot to do. I believe that the more we speak publicly about the fact that being a human being means feeling intense feelings, thinking intense thoughts, and having unique realities, and that the only definition of “peer” that is true and real is that we are all HUMAN peers, the more that labeled and system-dependent people will reconnect with their own humanity and begin to yearn for their own freedom and believe that achieving it is possible.

    Names, I look forward to fighting together to make change happen! See you over in the forum :).

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Duane,
    When you said, “People need to have the right to say, “No” to the current system, before they can say, “Yes” to the new one”, which ‘new’ system are you speaking about? In my opinion, the beauty comes in recognizing the inherent dilemma with having a “system” at all to address human experience, beyond, well, connecting with human beings in human ways!

    -Laura

  • Hi David,
    I’m looking forward to dialoguing with you at Beyond Anatomy! You are definitely right about the “levels”- I know for me that my initial transformation had to happen within myself, and slowly over time, as I evolved into a new sense of Self that was totally separate from psychiatry, my desire for change began to turn itself outwards.

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Hi Steve,
    I would very much challenge putting the politicians at the top– at the root of this is the deep-seated belief that to feel intense emotions, think intense thoughts, or have a unique reality is to be “mentally ill” and thus lacking the ability to figure oneself out without the help of a “professional”. In my opinion, this is the core dilemma– the medical/social paradigm of “normal” versus “abnormal”– and it is driven by a health care system that perpetuates the power hierarchy of mental health professionals as “experts” on human experience, which in my opinion is nothing short of oppression.

    I think it’s safe to assume that most politicians have bought this model hook, line, and sinker– and even safer to assume that few have ever even heard of resources like “Anatomy of an Epidemic”.

    Thanks for the great dialogue!
    Laura

  • Thanks Steve,
    I look forward to seeing what unfolds when this community begins to grow.

    In my heart, I know what my solution is– any institution in which one person claims the right to be an “expert” on another person’s emotional, thinking, and spiritual existence is, in my opinion, oppressive and in need of dismantling. However, I understand that this vision I have of the future is one that is going to be many years away from taking place, as the egos and very existence of countless people are at stake– “mental health” professionals, “mental health” institutions, and, at the highest peak of the power structure, the pharmaceutical industry.

    I believe that once the mainstream begins to understand that (a) there is no such thing as “mental illness”, (b) the “treatment” people have been receiving for these “mental illnesses” is actually making people more “mentally ill”, (c) at the root of all of this (manifested in the DSM and in all of psychiatry and psychology) is a destructive sociopolitical paradigm of “normal” that, in my opinion, inherently oppresses and marginalizes, even when its application is well-meaning, then and only then can we possibly stand a chance at bringing human rights and justice to each and every person who has been deemed abnormal and broken by the “experts” in their lives, and to any person who’s ever wondered whether their intense emotional experiences make them “ill”.

    While I believe that your institution is inherently oppressive, Steve, I want to say that, as I’ve said before, I very much respect you for your presence at Mad in America– you truly help to stimulate very insightful debate.

    All the best,
    Laura

  • Steven,
    As I’ve already told you, I find this piece of writing to be one of the most powerful articulations of what it means to become imprisoned by psychiatry, and more importantly, what it means to free oneself from its grasp. The journey you went on, that first led you so far into the dark that you didn’t know up from down, next led you to begin to question, and finally led you to your own Truth, is unbelievably parallel to my own, and I love knowing that there are many more of us out there who have walked the same journey.

    You write, “Such is the effect of being diagnosed with an illness that presumes to know your mind better than you ever can. You resign your voice and become a doubter.” I got teary when I read that, because that was exactly what happened to me. Still today, though I know the Truth, I sometimes find myself in moments of intense self-doubt, wondering whether I can trust my gut and my thoughts, or whether maybe, just maybe, I’m really at root just a self-destructive, self-sabotaging, less-than person with a deep-seated “death wish” (yes, four or so years ago, I got extensive “psych testing”, including the lovely Rorschach test, and this is what the experts wrote in my report, and what I was told about myself). Although these moments of self-doubt are very brief, and I am quickly able to check in with my own reality and acknowledge that I am none of those things, they are intense, and they bring me right back to the thirteen years I spent with a silenced voice and an infinitely deep well of self-doubt.

    This is the conundrum of leaving behind the mental health system– I’ve found that in order to do it, I needed a spark inside of me ignited that I didn’t even know I had, and thus that I couldn’t just turn on myself. Without that spark– which for me was one of hope, of self-determination, and of realizing that I was no different than everyone else– I never would have left, and today, I would either be dead by suicide, or still floating around like a disconnected zombie, waiting to get enough courage to end it all. Unfortunately, I can’t pinpoint exactly why it was that I got that spark, or how. I just did, at the moment I was meant to, I guess, and in my opinion it is a light that only I could turn on, despite not even realizing it was there all along.

    Your voice, my voice, and the voices of each and every one of us who has been labelled by psychiatry, are all vital to this cause, and I feel such beautiful, intense joy knowing that you’re working as hard as you are up in Vermont to spread the message it is clear we are both destined to carry. I am honored to be a young person in this civil rights movement with you, and I am excited by the future, because I believe in my heart that we all have the potential to dismantle the psychiatric institution of Biopower that has so many of our fellows voiceless, hopeless, and drowning in self-doubt.

    Onwards,
    Laura

  • Steven,
    I’m curious to hear why it is so important to designate these people as “therapists” in the first place, thus medicalizing what is and always has been (as another poster remarked) a fundamentally human thing?

    It makes me think of the years of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy I had during the time I spent as a labelled person. I used to carry the “Skills Training Manual” that Marsha Linehan wrote for “Borderline Personality Disorder” with me like it was oxygen, so convinced that it held everything I needed to be able to successfully “manage” myself and my life. When I glance at it now (which I’ll sometimes do to humor myself), one thing jumps out the most to me. Some of the “skills” it teaches– in fact, the vast majority of them– are such basic human things. Why, on earth, do we have to reclassify them in the clinical realm at all? Why can’t they just remain on the open range of human experience, untainted by clinical language and left to simply roam freely? Meditating is a beautiful human thing! Going for a walk in the woods is a beautiful human thing! Having tea with a friend, or reading a book, or swimming in the ocean are all beautiful human things! Why does psychiatry insist on reclassifying them as “skills”?

    I bring up this example because it aligns with the question I’ve posed for you. You mention that some people have a “higher than normal degree of empathy, caring, and ability to communicate…”. Leaving the question about what you mean by “normal” to the side, this phrase becomes a beautiful description of what it means to be a feeling, thinking, being human with other feeling, thinking, being humans. Why does a person have to become the “therapist”, and thus the expert giving therapy, while the other is by proxy the patient/client/consumer/recipient of said therapy? Why can’t they just remain, in your case, husband and wife, or in other cases, friend and friend, partner and partner, etc.? The second the word “therapist” is added to the mix, even if you put the word “natural” before it (those two words to me are completely paradoxical, which is a topic for another time), the relationship ceases to be mutual and instantaneously becomes hierarchical, based upon the exertion of power and the receiving of that exerted power, no matter how good the “therapist’s” intentions may be.

    There are plenty of things I do in my day to day life that could be labelled as “skills” by a DBT therapist, and there are plenty of relationships I am in which either I could be considered the “natural therapist” or the other person could with me. I choose to ignore these words, because to me, they are 100% arbitrary, irrelevant, and obsolete to me, and, I believe, build destructive and distracting layers over my innate humaness and the innate mutuality I feel with my fellows.

    Steven, I want to thank you for your participation at Mad in America. I think it is really awesome that you continue to post here, despite the fact that your views don’t align with the majority of our bloggers/posters/voices. In my opinion, the more we can all remain at the table with each other, the better our chances of making change. Although the change I wish to see may well be much different from the change you wish to see, much productivity can come from the respectful, open dialogue we all are capable of having together :).

    Best,
    Laura

  • Nathan,
    I think the parallel you raise between art and psychiatry is really interesting, and totally valid. I have to say, before I respond to your comment, that it sparked a humorous memory I have about one psychiatrist I used to see back in my early twenties who once told me, “Well, Laura, you see, prescribing medications is really more of an art than a science…”, which, at the time, sent me through the roof, as I was sitting in the office of the “best” psychopharmacologist in the Boston area (whom, I should add, had wonderful art on his walls!). I had asked this psychopharmacologist why I was still so profoundly depressed, suicidal, and “manic”, despite having been put on such a “sophisticated” medication regimen. Of course, I know today that I was struggling with the iatrogenic effects of the numerous psychiatric drugs I was on, but at the time, I believed that these struggles were nothing but symptoms of my very serious and persistent Bipolar Disorder, which was running wild and completely “unresponsive to treatment”. But I digress…

    A debate about art aside, your point about the social power structure that determines what is “legitimate” versus “primitive” and hence, “illegitimate” art is directly applicable to the sociopolitical power structure upon which the DSM and, as I see it, all of psychiatry, has been built. That a room full of white male psychiatrists, who comprised the initial APA ‘Committee on Nomenclature and Statistics’ in 1950, decided arbitrarily and without any science what was considered “normal” and “abnormal” behavior is no different than a person determining that something painted by a “primitive” person is less legitimate than a canvas painted by Monet. At the end of the day, it is paint on a medium, arranged and organized differently, but paint nonetheless. Like you said, it is entirely in our interpretation of that piece of art that its social value, acceptability, and legitimacy is determined. Its utter subjectivity is no different than the diagnostic process in psychiatry, and to the tremendous social, legal, political, gendered, racial, etc. etc. power a psychiatrist wields with each arbitrary label he/she slaps on a human being, forever changing that person’s life, and often without a moment’s hesitation.

    I feel lucky today to see this, after having been entirely in the dark about it for so many years, and on the other side of countless psychiatrists who labelled me “mentally ill”. And I feel even more lucky that I no longer feel compelled to seek validation about my worth as a person by sitting in the customary comfy leather armchair across from psychiatrist after psychiatrist after psychiatrist, their prescription pads in hand, salivating at the chance to figure out what “mental illness” lives inside of me. I know today that my sense of self-worth is the only thing that matters, and that “human” is the only label that holds any validity to me.

    Laura
    [email protected]

  • Dear Erin,
    First off, I want to say that you are very, very far from being alone with the intense fear, confusion, and lack of self-identity that you’ve written about here. I say that before anything else because it was something vitally important for me to hear when I was in my own place of paralyzing fear— to know that there were others who’d been there, too, and who were no longer trapped in that darkness and confusion, and who no longer felt like they didn’t know who they were— because it helped me to keep moving forward, towards all the pain, confusion, and scariness of the unknown, and towards a sense of who I really was, beneath all the psychiatric drugs and the psychiatric labels.

    In my opinion, you are the ONLY expert on yourself; it took me a really long time to realize that was true for me, and it didn’t help that doctor after doctor told me I couldn’t trust myself, my thoughts, my gut, or my emotions, because I was “mentally ill” and thus incapable of making the ‘normal’, responsible choices that ‘normally’, non-“mentally ill” people make in life. Eventually, I believed that to my very core, and saw psychiatry as my security blanket; to get from there to where I am today was definitely not an overnight process, either. Indeed, I didn’t just suddenly believe that they were all wrong and I was actually the best judge of what I needed; this has been a gradual process that has unfolded slowly over the last two years, and I still have plenty of growth left to do, which I’m actually now excited about. What I can say is that I no longer feel that instinctual urge to turn to psychiatry when I find myself with racing thoughts, intense emotions, or the urge to isolate. I know, instead, that my body, mind, and heart are trying to tell me something important, and that I need to take a break to reflect and sit with whatever it is I’m going through, and reach out for the proper support from friends, loved ones, and like-minded folks, some of whom blog here.

    I say these things because it seems clear to me that your body, mind, and heart are trying to tell you something, and something very important. I believe to my very core that the intense emotional experiences you have been through in your life are nothing but human— indeed, it isn’t my opinion when I say that, today, there is no science in existence that proves a biomedical basis to emotional distress. That you turned to psychiatry in your twenties is nothing to regret; you did what we are taught to do in American society— turn to doctors to help us when we don’t feel ‘well’. That you now find yourself on two antidepressants, a stimulant, and a benzodiazepine is nothing to beat yourself up over, either— our society continues to perpetuate the myth that psychiatrists practice “sophisticated psychopharmacology” when they specially cater each drug regimen to each patient, and when those patients continue to get worse, they are considered “treatment resistant”, instead of the drugs being considered “people resistant”. That you have no idea who you are beyond being “sick” is very telling of the power of the biomedical model of psychiatry to gently ease us into the position of believing that our emotional discomfort is a sign that we are biomedically sick, and that this is a condition that we, on our own, don’t have the capacity to fix. But, more important that everything I just listed is the fact that you are in a place where you are questioning everything around you; a place of dis-ease, so to speak, with where you are in your life and with the “treatment” you are being given. Erin, this is all you need to make a start. It was where I started, that’s for sure.

    I think it is beyond courageous that you posted this comment here, and I want you to know that you do not have to be alone for any step of your path from here forward, whatever path it is you decide to walk down. That you have already tapered from 1mg of klonopin to .5 is huge— I was on that drug for a long time, and coming off of it was, like you said, something harder than words can convey. The beauty is that you don’t need to convey it to me— or to anyone else who has been through the process of coming off psych drugs— because we’ve been there. That’s why communities like this one at Mad in America are so essential to people who are contemplating what it sounds like you’re contemplating— we don’t need to explain the pain because we’ve all had our share of it. And, at least speaking for myself, the pain that I do describe is something that stems from my humanness— not from any sort of underlying pathology or biomedical “symptom.” In my opinion, your pain— whether it be whatever you were going through in your twenties that first got you diagnosed, or the pain you’ve experienced since having your daughter— stems from the simple fact that you are a human being, and human beings experience intense emotions. I say this in no way to delegitimize what you are going through, and I think that is unfortunately the misconception I most often see people have when I say that. Your pain is real— very real— and that’s why it’s so profoundly dehumanizing to have it turned into a list of symptoms whose solution lies in a plastic bottle of pills.

    I would be more than happy to talk to you off-site, whether on the phone or via private email. Additionally, a friend and I have started a Google group for people in the process of coming off of psychiatric drugs (or thinking about it). I would be more than happy to add you, or anyone else reading this, to that group if you want to email me. My address is [email protected].

    Erin, the road towards the unknown— of who you are other than being “sick”, of what life might be like without psychiatric drugs, or during the process of coming off psychiatric drugs, of what it really means that there has never been anything biochemically wrong with your brain for all these years that doctors have told you otherwise— is not an easy one, nor should it be. The beautiful news is that you don’t have to do it alone, and although your journey will be unlike anyone else’s, as we are each unique humans with unique emotional experiences, it is one that you can make with others by your side. There are a lot of supports and resources out there to help you, and I am definitely one of them. Shoot me an email if you’d like to talk more.

    Your friend,
    Laura

  • Dear Belinda,
    Thanks so much for your comment. You add very important perspective to the decision-making process around coming off of psychiatric drugs. You said, ‘I totally understand people who do not do it. In many cases I do not think it is because they do not know the truth, but rather because of what they will lose if they do’, and I’m glad you said it. Learning the Truth might not, for everyone, mean deciding to come off psychiatric drugs, especially given the current absence of structure in place to support people who decide to come off. The decision is undoubtedly a very scary one to make, and one whose benefits, like you suggest, may not outweigh the costs. I hope that as we continue the fight to dismantle the psychiatric system and create alternatives, this cost-benefit analysis for people will shift, with the benefits outweighing the costs. I have faith that this can and will happen.

    Belinda, your story makes clear your tremendous strength that you decided, despite knowing all the loss and isolation you’d experience as a direct result, to come off of psychiatric drugs. I think your experience of getting to a point at which the only support you had in your life came from your mental health providers is a very common one, and creates a truly difficult choice of (1) stay imprisoned on your meds and continue to have people around you, providing you with ‘care’, or (2) find freedom from the drugs and face loneliness, marginalization, and isolation. It is truly courageous that you chose the latter, and I hope that the loneliness changes for you, which it sounds like it is.

    I can completely relate to the experience of building a new life for myself, which it’s clear you are working hard to do. It is strange to think that I was basically reborn at age 27, learning how to feel feelings and sit with them, think thoughts and not run from them, interact with other human beings, sit with myself and be OK, find meaning and joy in things, and embrace being alive, all things that many people my age who were never disconnected from themselves by psychiatric drugs had figured out long ago. Speaking for myself, if I didn’t leave psychiatry behind, none of this would have been possible. When I was making the decision to come off of drugs, I had no idea what was in store for me— who I’d be, what my values were, where I’d go with my life— and I had to basically jump into the black abyss of the unknown. I’m glad I did it, but I must say that I had the support of my family and of people I found on my journey to sobriety right there with me. Had I not had that, I can’t say what would have happened. So, thank you for helping me expand my perspective.

    I think your last comment about the double-edged sword of diagnosis is a very relevant one. All the profound issues with managed care aside, the fact that you recognize today that your suffering is something that words can do no justice to is tremendous— I feel the same way, myself. And this is what I believe lies at the root of all the trouble— this desperate need to have answers to who we are and to have explanations of why we do what we do. My ideal world is one in which we don’t feel the need to label, categorize, and define human experience at all; rather, we can just be with each other in an unmediated, mutual way, and be at peace with the indefinable essence of what it is to be alive.

    I wish you the best of luck on your journey. I am so glad you’ve connected with the Mad in America community.

    Your friend,
    Laura

  • Hi Steve,
    Yes, it was so good to meet you in Philly, as well 🙂

    And you are spot on about both psychiatry’s and much of society’s inability to see the forest for the trees when it comes to the relationship between psychopharmaceutical “treatment” and emotional distress. Until reading ‘Anatomy’, the thought had never once crossed my mind that the medication I’d been on for so long might actually be making me worse, despite the fact that the timeline of my downward spiral perfectly correlated with my introduction to ‘being bipolar’ and taking all the drugs that came along with it. Now, it’s like, DUH!! But it wasn’t that obvious to me before accidentally happening upon ‘Anatomy’.

    The majority of the time I make this point to people outside of our civil rights movement, they look at me with skepticism, and I can see their wheels turning as they decide whether I’m a conspiracy theorist and fanatic, or just plain crazy. I think a lot of it is a defense mechanism, whether because they have their own personal relationship to psychiatric drugs or because they have someone close to them who does (which is really scary to think about– that there are so many people out there connected to these drugs that it’s hard to meet someone who has no personal tie to them). Denial is a powerful thing; I know from firsthand experience that it is really painful and challenging to uproot a belief system that has grown its foundations into the very nature of who someone is.

    Whether it’s the psychiatrists, whose very existence is inextricably tied to the need for their to be a biological basis to emotional distress, or the people with psychiatric diagnoses, who have worked hard to accept their fate as being biologically imbalanced and simply can’t face the fact that maybe it isn’t so, all parties involved have high stakes in the game. The stakes in my own game were high when I walked through the fear of the unknown– of a life without psychiatry– but boy am I glad I made that choice. I get the chills when I think about where I’d be today if I’d chosen to stay where I was, “mentally ill” and medicated, subservient to my “treaters” and my IOP and the hospital on which I relied to keep me safe from myself. The word “safety” hasn’t crossed my mind since, and it feels good to be able to say that.

    We need simple analogies like yours about the swollen knee to carry the powerful message of just how backwards, ridiculous, and absolutely destructive the system of psychiatric “care” is today to people who haven’t been exposed to resources like ‘Anatomy’, and we need to keep saying it, re-saying it, and re-saying it again, regardless of whether we sound like broken records. We will reach a tipping point when we get enough of a voice; psychiatry and society at large can’t go on with their hands covering their ears forever, stomping their feet and shaking their heads. Thanks for your support and your part in this movement, Steve, and I look forward to seeing you soon, I hope!

    Be well,
    Laura

  • Hi Lori,
    Thanks so much for reading my story. All those years of feeling so disconnected had to happen for me to be a part of this cause, and writing here at Mad in America, so I am grateful for them. That being said, it feels better than anything else to be an emoting, thinking, independent human being today :).

    Be well,
    Laura

  • Hi Stephen,
    Thanks so much for your support. When I read this, I had a wonderful mental image of you (although I don’t know what you look like) shouting from a high rooftop and tossing ‘Anatomy’ copies with little parachutes over the side to all the people below :).

    I say this all the time, but I truly believe that the perpetuation of the paradigm of “mental illness” and its required pharmaceutical “treatment” is truly the biggest fraud in the world today. I feel compelled to share my story to show others out there who may feel like they’re alone in what they’re going through that they are far from it. It is vital that we all come together through these mutual experiences to accumulate enough evidence to expose this fraud at the international level, and not just in our own like-minded circles. I am connecting to this cause with a determination I’ve never felt for anything before, because I have faith in our capacity as a civil rights movement to make a change.

    Maybe we should get a Kickstarter project going to fund buying thousands of ‘Anatomy’ copies and putting them in every public place we know!!!!

    Thank you again for your support, Stephen. It keeps me feeling determined.

    Be well,
    Laura

  • Hi Rossa,
    Firstly, thanks for all you do to contribute to this movement– your family’s story is an important one.

    And onto your comment, which is so shockingly true. Other than legal status, there is no difference between these drugs– they are psychoactive, and they are physiologically addictive. I am nearly two years off of psych drugs, and although I consider myself emotionally and psychologically healed from the withdrawal, my body is still struggling in many ways to find its balance, especially my endocrine and digestive systems. I am confident that the more I continue to focus on proper nutrition, exercise, healthy human relationships, and spirituality, the faster my body will right itself. I truly believe it will, even though I was medicated for over ten of my most important developmental years.

    Each time I hear of another person who’s decided to start psychiatric drugs, my heart drops. While I do respect each person’s right to choose what he/she puts in his/her body, I believe that choice should be informed, and the vast majority of the people I know today who’ve begun these drugs are most surely not given full, accurate information, and thus, are not making an informed choice. I am full of faith in the Mad in America community and all the other powerful voices out there to carry the vital information that psychiatry willfully leaves out about what these drugs are really doing to the millions upon millions of people who take them. Once the word gets out at the mass level (which it will), we as a society must be prepared to take care of those who decide to come off and enter into the agonizing withdrawal that comes with that courageous decision.

    Keep up all your work, Rossa. I am so grateful for it.

    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear Adam,
    Thank you so much for your support– it means a lot to me. My writing, for the first time, is coming from a place deep within me that I was never able to connect to before because I was so blocked by the medications and the beliefs I had about my (lack of) capacity as a human being. Today, when I write, the words come from my heart and my inner-spirit, two forces I’d lost touch with back when I entered the mental health system at age fourteen. I am beyond grateful to have come back to a sense of self after all those years that I spent lost and disconnected.

    Sending well wishes to you,
    Laura

  • Dear Emily,
    Your comment is beyond beautiful. To see that you write from a place of joy fills me with my own— isn’t it miraculous to see the ways in which intense emotional and psychological obstacles end up becoming gifts, once we’re no longer mired in them and emerge on the other side as new, connected, and joyous people?

    One line, in particular, jumped out at me, and I had to re-read it several times because it hit me so powerfully: “He mostly told us the difficult things we did not readily want to hear: the aspects of our lives that could be improved…”

    How is it that this was so true for both of us? That the thought of improvement, of healing, of finding balance and contentedness and health, had become something we cringed at the thought of? Yet, that’s exactly what happened, isn’t it? I so vividly remember being at my own crossroads— faced with the decision of whether to continue on in the dark, numb, and imprisoned way I was, or cling tightly to that tiny part of my gut that said, “Laura, you need to leave these medications and these doctors behind and find yourself”, which meant heading towards the unknown… the un-experienced… the unpredictable path of… healing. Health. Inner peace. Fullness. Faith in myself and in life. Those concepts had become so foreign to me, both because I was encouraged to feel like they were strangers by my ‘treaters’, who wanted me to focus instead on ‘illness management’, and because I convinced myself that it was easier to simply surrender.

    It is that second reason that perplexes me most today— that I became so entrenched in self-pathologization that there was an extended period of time during which I no longer WANTED to get well. I identified as mentally ill and mentally ill alone, my sense of self condensing and compressing into such a compact little ball of intense hopelessness that I nearly collapsed in on myself and turned into a black hole. I know today that at the root of it was fear, fear, and more fear, but nonetheless, to get to a point where I’d begun to romanticize being “the 21st century Susannah Kaysen” was quite a feat. Indeed, I would have been insulted had my path crossed with Anthony’s. Insulted at the thought of self-improvement. At the statement that nothing was wrong with me. It never ceases to amaze me.

    And here we both are, free from the psychiatric grip, connected to each other through these shared experiences, and writing our stories so that others no longer have to feel alone. It is amazingly simple and uncomplicated, yet in my experience, yields more fruit than the most highly trained, highly educated, and highly accomplished psychiatrists and psychologists at that hospital on the hill whose tunnels we’ve both walked could have produced. We are simply being human— experiencing emotions, telling stories about what it’s like to experience these emotions, and connecting through these stories. Man has been doing it since the beginning of mankind, yet it seems to have been forgotten in much of modern society.

    Emily, I hope you continue to share your story, because it is vital to this civil rights movement. That you were able to successfully come off of psychiatric drugs with such little support is a testament to your personal strength and to a human determination that I believe exists in each and every one of us— it’s just a matter of awakening to it. Live your full life to the fullest, and do stay in touch!

    Your friend,
    Laura

  • Dear Catherine,
    My friend, thank you for the comment and the support! I think it’s awesome you’re reaching a point of readiness to come off your meds, and that you’re not letting your psychiatrist’s resistance hold you back. Research shows that a doctor’s support is not required to successfully come off. To learn more about this check out the UK’s MIND study on coming off psychiatric drugs. Here’s a link: http://www.theicarusproject.net/files/MINDComingOffStudy.pdf. Speaking for myself, my withdrawal was successful for reasons entirely separate from psychiatry… This part of my story, of course, has not yet been written about here. 🙂

    I’m curious to learn more about your conceptualization of and relationship to your “illness”. I believed I had a “mental illness” for many years, and that something was biologically wrong with me. Because biomedicine has tremendous power over society, it is easy to become enchanted by its language and tricked into believing that it is somehow more valid and more real than basic human language. Speaking for myself, I used to think I needed a medical explanation of what I was going through in order for it to be seen as legitimate, powerful, and real.

    Of course, this was reaffirmed by the many psychiatrists, and often psychologists and other mental health providers, who all helped perpetuate this belief that my emotional struggles were symptomatic of disease– simply because the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) said it was so– and that only medications and effective psychotherapy could successfully treat this life-long condition if I wanted a shot at effectively ‘managing’ my life.

    Today, based on everything I’ve learned through educating myself with resources and with the guidance of the many inspiring people in this civil rights movement, I know that none of this was ever or is currently accurate information. I no longer see emotions or thoughts as symptoms of physical “illness”, and I say this with confidence because there is no such evidence in existence today proving the biological nature of extreme emotional and cognitive states.

    I see everything I went through as fundamentally human, not pathological, and I see each and every person who has ever been labeled “mentally ill” in just the same way– as human beings, with their own unique emotional and cognitive experiences of their own unique realities. I do not believe that any person, let alone any institution, has the right to decide what is ‘normal’ emotional existence and what is not.

    Have you ever read Joanna Moncrief’s “The Myth of the Chemical Cure”? I suggest it as a great starting place if you’re interested in educating yourself about the validity (or lack thereof) of biomedical psychiatry. And, please feel free to email me privately if you’d like to continue the conversation ([email protected]). My transition from thinking about myself in terms of words like “illness”, “symptoms”, “disease”, “imbalanced”, etc. etc. did not happen overnight, nor was it easy. I can say today that I am completely free from the institution of psychiatry– the medications, the psychiatric labels, the psychiatric “treatment”– and I am more contented and connected to myself than I’ve ever been before.

    Be well, and good luck on your journey,
    Laura

  • Hi Michael,
    Reading your comment has put such a huge smile on my face. As I wrote above in a comment to Rossa, I knew I was going to cry when I spoke, but I wasn’t expecting it to be throughout the whole speech! Although phrases such as “emotionally labile”, “tearful”, “unbalanced”, and so forth still insert themselves into my own thoughts about myself from time to time, I’m quickly able to reorient myself and remind myself that crying deep, uncontrollable tears is not symptomatic of anything. That self-diagnostic process my mind still goes through is not my own voice, but rather the inner voice of psychiatry that still occupies a small corner of my mind, although I consider myself freed from it today.

    As I was so psychologically institutionalized for all those years, I have to accept that this self-diagnosis won’t just disappear from my consciousness in the snap of a finger. I know it will fully depart, in time, and all that matters is that when it does creep into my consciousness I’m able to recognize it not as coming from me but rather from all the psychiatrists whom I saw over the years in the “best” psychiatric institutions in the country– for indeed, I was “privileged” enough to have access to Massachusetts’ and New York’s best private hospitals.

    To be able to speak my story proudly today is the direct result of the blog I’ve been slowly writing here these last eighteen months. Writing my story has given me the courage and the self-acceptance to speak publicly from the podium and to know in my heart that this is my life’s calling.

    I encourage anyone out there with a recovery story to write it, show it to others, and be proud of each and every detail of it. There are so many people out there who hide behind closed doors due to shame, fear, and self-loathing. I know I did for many years, and those feelings held me even further back from ever finding recovery.

    Michael, you are such an important voice on this blog, and I am honored to share space here with you! I hope our paths will cross in the “real world” some day soon. Thank you again for refilling my tank of motivation and determination to keep doing what I’m doing.

    Be well,
    Laura

  • Artudi,
    What a beautiful piece of writing. As a society, we do surely try to find answers to life’s uncertainties, answers that often come in the form of ideology, and that drive to know, to gain power through the creation and acquisition of knowledge, is one that makes true equality seem nearly impossible. Today, I try to find the beauty in my life’s uncertainties, and in the freeing realization that I don’t have to have a label, an answer, a concrete explanation of who I am and of why I am who I am.
    Thanks again for this.

    Be well,
    Laura

  • Hi Steve,
    It was so great to meet you, too. I feel compelled to share my story to show that, yes, while the path that leads a person deep into the biomedical paradigm of psychiatry is very dark, it is entirely possible to leave that path and find a new one that brings emotional and physical health, agency, a genuine identity, and inner peace. Thanks for the comment, and thanks for taking time to speak with me in Philly. I’m sure our paths will cross again, hopefully soon!

    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear Mathew,
    I’m so glad that reading my story has helped you through a tough time. It’s definitely been my experience that leaning on friends who’ve walked on the same (or a similar) journey has allowed me to move through some really challenging times in a way that leaves me even stronger on the other side, instead of trapped, flailing and helpless in the quicksand, as was the case for me during the years and years of time spent sitting in a doctor’s office asking ‘What do I do?’

    Good luck on your own journey. Maybe it’s one I’ll get to read about one day, too :).
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Hi Rossa,
    Boy are you right that I cried! I knew I would, I just didn’t realize I’d be crying throughout the entire speech… It was quite a cathartic moment for me, actually. I too loved the atmosphere in the room on Saturday– it was a space of pain, anger, and frustration, but also love, hope, and healing, and all of it was shared. A really amazing experience. I’m so glad you were there, and wish we had a chance to meet in “real life”, but I’m sure our paths will cross soon enough.

    Be well,
    Laura

  • Thanks so much, Alice.

    It is definitely my hope that, one day, labeling (of any kind) will no longer be the means through which psychiatrists work to help their patients make sense of themselves. Based on my own experiences, there was absolutely nothing constructive about being told I had a “mental illness”; in fact, it was nothing but destructive.

    That being said, I am not anti-psychiatry (I try to not be anti- anything these days). I agree with you completely that listening and advocating should be two of the most primary goals for psychiatrists– not “What can I tell this person about him/herself, whether via labels, biomedical language, or some other form of categorization, to “fix” him/her?” but rather “How can I help this person connect with who he/she already is and might just be disconnected from, deeper than any word or category or classification I, as a psychiatrist, could come up with?”

    To borrow a phrase from the peer movement, I am the only expert on myself, just as each person who has ever been labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis is the only expert on him/herself. The second a person is convinced otherwise, forgets, or loses the inner-confidence to believe this, I believe that recovery becomes impossible. The second a psychiatrist becomes the expert, which happens over and over and over again because this is the nature of modern American psychiatry, the person ceases to be a person and becomes, instead, the ‘patient’– the passive/subordinate/disempowered half of the dyad. Even attempts at ‘shared decision-making’ mask the dilemma at the root- that the second a person becomes a ‘patient’, the very role itself necessitates that the individual see him/herself as carrying a sickness that only a doctor can heal.

    I am so glad we share this space together at Mad in America, and I’m so glad you’re speaking publicly about your experiences working as a psychiatrist who has been trained in a system she believe needs to change.

    All the best,
    Laura

  • Dear Robert,
    How true you are. At the end of the day, this is a conversation about power, and the acquisition of power through the construction and dissemination of ‘elite’ knowledge (medical knowledge that only doctors can create, know, and utilize). The “truth” that society holds– that emotional suffering can be explained by ‘abnormality’ (of the brain, of behavior, of thought, of communication, etc.)– is not Truth (what is, really??), but rather, one particular, entirely subjective body of knowledge that has been constructed by a particular group of individuals (medical doctors) in such a way that it has outsiders (non-elite laypeople) believing that medical language is more valid, more legitimate, and more True than any other language one can use to describe oneself.

    Have you read Michel Foucault, by any chance? A lot of his work addressed this very topic in the most profound of ways.

    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear Stephen,
    Thanks so much for the comment. I agree that the ‘Mad in America’ community is a really inspiring place. What state are you from? I’m curious to know… Policies in Massachusetts are moving more and more towards the peer/recovery model, although I do worry about the integrity of the peer position in overwhelmingly clinical settings. Maybe you can be a groundbreaker in your state!
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear T.,
    Your point about “illicit” versus “licit” chemicals is one that few in the industry will recognize, because few in the industry are willing to admit that psychotropic medications are powerful enough to form physical and psychological dependency. That the withdrawal process from these medications is so catastrophic and debilitating doesn’t seem to be sinking in to psychiatry, who still say that these meds aren’t “habit forming”… In my experiences, the medications I took for ten years did the exact opposite of ‘enlightenment’ to me. They numbed me, sedated me, shut me off from myself, and left me feeling empty and robotic. Coming off the meds, and finding meaning in my new life, free from labels and medications, is what has been enlightening.

    You are surely right that the people being diagnosed and medicated are the ones who bring creativity, progress, inspiration, discovery, and beauty to the world. Many people talk about what would have happened to art, science, literature, mathematics, and so forth, if people like Mozart, Van Gogh, Hemingway, and countless others were born in our era– indeed, they would have been medicated beyond recognition in no time.

    Thanks for your comment.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear Rogi,
    You are right– without community, without shared experience through pain, oppression, and most importantly, hope, this movement will make no progress. It is so good to know that none of us has to go it alone, and that the louder our voices are, the more people still silenced or isolated by their experiences in the mental health system will hear us and join the movement.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear Celeste,
    Great to see you here on the website. Have you considered writing your story? It has been a tremendously healing, cathartic, and awakening experience for me. You have a message, and an important one too, that you can share with others. Gaining the capacity to see life as something that is full of meaning was a huge gift for me, and it sounds like you’ve discovered it, too.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear Anonymous,
    You are so right. That a person’s rights can be stripped of him/her with no due process, no immediate access to a lawyer, no phone call, and all simply because one psychiatrist has slapped an arbitrary label on that person and his/her lifetime of experiences that was decided upon in 15 minutes is beyond a travesty. as daniel hazen so poignantly said in his speech on Saturday, there are many people right now who have been stripped of their rights and who are being forcibly medicated, held against their will on locked units, and even shocked with ECT. that we are out in the world with our freedoms and they are not is all the more reason for us to fight harder. it is a gift that i made it out of the system, and it is a gift that all of us who are free from psychiatry- literally, emotionally, and psychologically- need to work hard to pass on to those still imprisoned.

    Be well,
    Laura

  • Hi Robert,
    A really insightful comment. I do think there has been some (very slight) shift on the part of psychiatry considering that *maybe* the revisions and expansions proposed in the DSM-V are going a *bit* too far… but that “mental illness” is still real and medications are still the real solution to this medical ailment. To me, of course, conceding that ‘Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome’ is jumping the gun is not anywhere near adequate; however, at least some of psychiatry is starting to rethink the lengths to which it is going to diagnose people as “mentally ill”.

    This, of course, is no defense of psychiatry, but more a hopeful wish that should this questioning of the DSM-V latch on, however slight the questioning may be, and should the public take notice that even psychiatrists, themselves, are considering it (and not just the “crazy” people at protests like ours this past weekend), maybe this leaves us an opportunity to carry the message of ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’ and the broader mental health recovery movement to a larger audience. At least, that is my hope. Sharing my story is my small way of making a dent in the seemingly impenetrable shell that protects psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry from being disassembled by the message we are all striving to carry– that this is a CIVIL RIGHTS issue that goes so much further beyond simple over-diagnosis and over-medication. That we label people ‘abnormal’ in the first place, as America has done for generations upon generations with race, gender, sexuality, and so forth, is the issue at the root. The more we deliver the message at this very fundamental level, the more I hope it will catch hold.

    Thank you again for the wonderful comment.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear Steve,
    Thank you for your support and your kind words about my writing. I said in an earlier reply to someone that I am writing my story so publicly because I want to help others, who may be hiding behind closed doors, see that the experiences that led me to be labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis were not pathological, but human. The search for self, and for meaning in life, is a universal one, and to throw a psychiatric label on that experience is to insult the very nature of being a human being. This deep belief is what is driving me to write this blog, and, someday in the future, a book. Thank you for your encouraging words– it has been my dream for the last year and half to turn this blog into a book, and I am confident that I will make it happen. When, and how, is another matter… But I know, more than anything I’ve ever known, that I will do it. Getting messages like yours inspires me even more to make it happen.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Hi Xena,
    Wow, that is a very big question that I most definitely do not have a clear answer to! In my heart of hearts, I find that most everything about the experience of being a psychiatric inpatient is paradoxical and contradictory to the idea of recovery, so I believe it is a much deeper systematic issue that needs to be addressed, and not as much an issue of how psychiatric hospitals, as they currently are, can help people feel courage and hope. I must say that the most influential staff I’ve ever had during inpatient stays were the ‘lowest on the totem pole’– the mental health workers, who worked long hours and made little money. it’s tragic that the most powerful, highly paid staff are the ones patients see the least (my experiences with psychiatrists on inpatient units were, at most, 15 minutes a day), and that these psychiatrists, at least in my experience, were the ones who inspired the least hope in me. It was very common for me to be told I’d be a lifelong patient, that I’d need medications forever and that I’d “maybe” one day lead a somewhat ‘normal’ life (aka job, marriage, etc.). The staff who inspired the most hope in me were the mental health workers who were there because of a deeper yearning to help people (as it most surely wasn’t the paycheck).

    I see that my response to you really doesn’t answer your question at all… I think the better question to ask would be, “Is inpatient commitment, whether voluntary or involuntary, really an effective means of inspiring hope, courage, and strength?” My answer to that, based on my own experiences, is no.

    Your second question, about what gave me hope, will most definitely be addressed as I continue to write my story ;). It has been the most important part of my recovery.

    Thanks for your well wishes. I’m sending the same back to you!
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Hi Thalia,
    Wow, thank you for this comment. I really, truly believe that the spark I felt within me is something that anyone and everyone has the capacity to experience. I wish I could say I know HOW or WHEN that happens, but I don’t… Mine happened when I was faced with the most basic of decisions– life or death– and although I would like to think it didn’t necessarily have to go so far into darkness for me to have been able to find the light, it is what it is and there’s no sense playing mind-games with myself about how else it could have happened, or if it could have happened in any other way at all. It inspires me to hear that I’ve given you hope. In fact, that very concept is what drives me to share my story in the way I am, as I truly believe that without hope, all is lost. Again, thank you for your kind words, Thalia.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Hi Alix,
    Thank you for the support, and especially for this really interesting comment about your perception of me as never being fully free of the “mental illness” label. It is definitely fair to say that the diagnoses I carried still, today, play important roles in my life, although not because I feel enslaved by them or because I am still “symptomatic”. Rather, it is important that I always identify with the experience of being labeled “mentally ill” because it is what drives me today in my work as a peer specialist (indeed, my relationship to and experiences in the mental health system are the tools that I use at work to support people on their own mental health recovery journeys), and because without my past experiences as a “mentally ill” person, I would surely not be who I am today. Who I am today is someone I could never have imagined becoming, and that’s most definitely a good thing. I am a person who has experience with being marginalized, pathologized, labeled, and judged, with hiding from the rest of the ‘normal’ world in shame and self-disgust, and with believing in the deepest part of myself that I am broken and incapable of being fixed. While I no longer experience my reality in this way, I still carry the emotional residue of what that was, and of what complete and utter isolation and hopelessness feels like. I see this as a gift today, as lived experience that I can use to provide support to others who are in the midst of their own equivalent experience. I am proud that I had these experiences, proud that I journeyed into the mental health system and out of it, and, to be honest, if others choose to still see me as “mentally ill”, it is none of my business, and really, at the end of the day, has nothing to do with me.
    I really want to thank you for posting this comment, Alix, because in writing my response, I feel more full of pride and confidence in myself that I have in a while! Feeling liberation from psychiatry and everything that came with it most surely didn’t happen overnight, but what I had all along in my journey, even in the very beginning, was a deep desire to discover who I truly was, beneath the psychiatric labels and psychotropic medications. To feel like I know who I am today, especially after feeling convinced I had no true ‘self’, is a priceless gift to me that I want to pass on to others, regardless if I’m still seen as “mentally ill” or not.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Hi Erik,
    Great to see you here on the website :). It’s funny you bring up my needlepointing… I actually see both my writing and the needlepointing as a ‘mindless’ process. The mindlessness of the needlepointing is rather self-explanatory, but let me clarify why I see my writing in the same way– the act of writing is finally, for the first time in my life, coming from my heart, not my head, and it just seems to pour out of me, without me even needing to be consciously aware of what’s coming down through the keyboard. Getting off these medications, which were blocking me from myself and from the rest of humanity, was like freeing up a channel to the deeper parts of me I didn’t even know existed.

    Thank you for your identification with my writing– it’s what keeps me at it as much as I can possibly be (which isn’t as much as I’d like, given life happening on life’s terms…).

    Looking forward to seeing you soon,
    Laura

  • Hi David,
    Thank you for your support! One of the main reasons I write this blog is to bring out from behind closed doors what I think so many people struggle with but feel too ashamed about or scared of to talk about– the search for self, especially in the context of being labeled with a “mental illness”. The more people write about it publicly, as I try to do here, the more we can see that we all struggle, in our own, unique ways, to make sense of life. It is not a pathological process, but a human one.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear Emily,
    Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I can’t wait to write about finding recovery– indeed, it is the only reason why I’m sharing my story! Life has gotten so busy (a huge gift of finding myself in mental health recovery) that it’s made it more challenging to find the time to get my story out of the darkness it was in until 2010; it will come, though!

    If you want to talk further about medications, definitely e-mail me at [email protected]. I have been off of all psychiatric medications since September 2010 after being on them– lots and lots of them and at very high dosages– for almost ten years, and I would be more than happy to share my experiences with you.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Gail,
    The path I went down, even to those dark places, was meant to happen in the very way it did for me to have become the person I am today. I can say that I am grateful for all the darkness, because it allowed me to find the person I was meant to be all along but never had the capacity to see. Suffering of any kind is a vital part of evolution and progress; without it, I would have never found my purpose in life. No need for your heart to ache!! I look at those times as essential to my growth.
    Lots of love to you and the family,
    Laura

  • Dear Mary,
    I can definitely assure you that today, I feel full of hope, inner peace, and health. Of course, life on life’s terms is by no means easy, but I feel empowered today by faith in my humanity– no longer thinking of myself as a list of pathological symptoms– and faith in my newfound capacity for human connection. After feeling so isolated and misunderstood for much of my life, I find myself never feeling alone anymore, and that is a beautiful gift.

    I can’t believe you worked at Met State! One of the towns I work in as a Peer Specialist is Waltham! Just a few miles away from Met State… One building remains standing there– the Dr. William F. McLaughlin Building– and it is boarded up, covered in graffiti, and unbelievably eerie. I would love to hear any memories you may have of working there.

    So glad we’ve connected despite being ‘across the pond’ from each other. Let’s stay in touch. My email is [email protected].
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear Belinda,
    I truly believe in the power of storytelling, both for the storyteller and listener. To be able to put into words what, for so many years, felt confusing and inexplicable, fills me with a sense of purpose and provides closure to all the questions I once had about why my life went the way it did. More inspiring for me, however, is to hear that my words have been able to help you in your own life. I hope you share your story, whichever one that may be, one day, for the world to see.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Hi Tali,
    Since finding recovery two years ago, I’ve been amazed time and time again at the beauty of human connection. All those years of feeling so alone and so misunderstood have been proven entirely wrong– everything that I went through was human, and countless others have shared the same fears, thoughts, and beliefs about self. Despite the differences in the details of all of our stories (for each human being is a unique individual), the common feelings of fear, sadness, anger, insecurity, guilt, shame, marginalization, and isolation run through the blood in all of our veins, whether we’ve been labeled with a “mental illness” or not. To share my story is to feel connected to humanity, and I don’t have words to express the gratitude I feel for never having to feel isolated again. Thank you for reaching out, Tali.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear Barbara,
    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I love your “map” analogy– I hadn’t thought about my story in that way before. By writing my story of recovery from psychiatry chapter by chapter, I hope to show where and how things in my life went off-track, and how, eventually, I got back on a path of emotional, physical, and spiritual health (the part of my story that I’ll soon be writing 🙂 ). I guess you could say my compass somehow became warped during those dark years… but with the gifts of hope, faith, and a newfound sense of myself as entirely human and not ‘diseased’, it has righted itself.
    Be well,
    Laura

  • Dear Mike,
    Thank you for your wonderfully kind words. I can say, from the bottom of my heart, that today I am connected to myself, to a greater purpose, and to my fellow man more than I have ever been in my entire life. I look to my story– even the darkest parts of it– with gratitude, because I have become the person I am today only through the suffering I experienced during those years. I think it is important that we write about our journeys of suffering so that those in the midst of it, without sight of the light at the end of the tunnel, can have faith in the evidence that others have come through and evolved into people with meaning, purpose, and serenity in their lives.

    Be well,
    Laura