To me, there was no dignity in dying by overmedication, especially for my father.
But once again, what got in the way of hearing my complaints as the one family member who had known the most about his medical care before he went into their custody? Stigma.
No they didn’t hear me because, well I was the daughter of that crazy man, so I just had to be guilty by association. Treated as though my concerns were a matter of mental vulnerability or weakness not legitimate medical concern. Never mind that I might have just simply been right that he was overmedicated for the fourth time. Any time he had been before they would back off on the meds and he would get better.
But this time, my complaints went entirely unheard and there was nothing I could do. I tried calling people, reaching out, finding anyone who could help me in any way, but the clock was ticking. I knew it would only be a matter of days, which quickly turned into hours. And as always and of course it all fell on the weekend.
I will never forget the look in my dad‘s eyes as I saw the meds taking over his entire body and inhibit his ability not just to move but in the end swallow or even speak. The look in his eye was that of a man trapped in his own body unable to get out and without understanding exactly what was happening to him or why, pleading with his eyes to help him. The opposite of the empty eyes I’d seen those many years before. This time they had all the presence of a man screaming from the inside in utter helplessness.
I knew unquestionably at that point it was the meds. I’d seen their affects plenty of times before. I could only ask myself why they would give an increasingly fragile old man even more drugs he was already potentially toxic to?
Desperately trying to walk that fine line of not losing my mind - once again - that line between not going absolute apeshit crazy pissed off and telling them all to go fuck themselves to attempting to peacefully placatingly quietly and ever so patiently tell the doctors and care-givers with as much seeming compassion as I could possibly muster that they and their drugs were yes, about to kill my father. The kind and compassionate approach didn’t make a bit of difference.
So, yes I finally went maybe a little apeshit crazy. But not enough to make a difference, nor for them to take me away thank god. It didn’t matter anyway. Wouldn’t have, guess that’s finally why I let myself go temporarily insane for that moment. I had to, or I’m not sure I would have survived it. I might have then for the first time in my life maybe actually even gone legitimately crazy.
But it didn’t matter. Nope, nothing did. None of it changed a thing. Not the slightest impact. One way or the other.
I finally lost the battle. Yes, the bastards actually won.
My beloved and devoted father died. The one who no one could ever entirely take down even against all odds, finally got not just knocked out but entirely taken down. My butterfly pop’s wings were finally broken, gone. Forever.
By the time the doctors even began considering that I just might be right, it was too late. They didn’t even bother to call us to tell us he was getting that close to death despite my having been there for the past four days knowing full well that I would have wanted to be there along with my oldest brother. No, instead they reassured me that hospice had been there to help “make his passing more peaceful” by having given him a little added morphine on the way out. My dad hated drugs. All drugs, except maybe a little occasional pot with best friend Drew, the only friend and definition of a real one, who’d remained a friend even after the label.
They knew we wanted to be there at his time of death and that we cared. We were not an unloving family. But somehow they couldn’t be bothered enough to give us a call to let us know he was getting close to death. And possibly weigh in on what he might have wanted for his death. How he might have wanted to go. No, they made that decision for him just like the rest of the ones they’d made for him in the second half of his entire life.
And once again - what had gotten in their way of making that potential call to the family, that call that most families have the dignity of receiving? Stigma – how and why you might ask? Stigma renders us inhuman, unworthy of that consideration.
And that was the beginning of my journey back.
I did not shed a tear when the rest of my family showed up. I was determined to be strong for my dad, not an emotional basket case. I have never felt so alone in my entire life. And that’s what psychopharmacology did to my family and me. It destroyed it.
Long gone were the days of my once happy childhood. But my love for my father remained as it always had - and was now only stronger than ever before. Because see, love can’t be killed. Bodies can - but not spirits. And I was still alive. And my dad’s spirit alive in me, perhaps even stronger than ever before. Death has a way of bringing us closer to our loved ones. And perhaps even more able to see what I might not have before and – him – at last and more clearly than I’d ever been able to before.
Now, the anger of a lifetime of not being seen or heard rose up in me and transformed itself into sheer determination. I would find out what had happened to my beloved father and give him back the dignity he and we deserved. I knew these drugs had hastened his death and I was going to get to the bottom of exactly how and why. And that’s when the world changed and shifted in a way I would have never imagined possible. I knew what I had seen with my own eyes and ears and nothing and no one could or would ever convince me otherwise. The drugs had killed my father.
THE JOURNEY HOME AND A FINAL UNEXPECTED TWIST:
Just previous to my father’s death, I had begun doing something I never did before and that was finally talk about what it was like to grow up with a father who suffered from “mental illness”. And I credit this in large part to one man by the name of Douglas Crawford and his non-profit organization thecrookedhouse.org. It was a day and conversation I will never forget. His website is devoted to bringing voice to children affected by parental “mental illness”. It was then that I began realizing that this had affected me and my family more than I’d ever imagined.
Because I could finally begin to speak my truth about exactly what had gone on. I didn’t have to pretend I didn’t have any problems anymore, because when required I could be queen of pretending all was ok when and if I needed to. One had to in order to survive it all.
Doug and I shared many similar things, even a common language of sorts, much the way Al-Anon folks do - but an experience all our own and quite different than that of AA or any other group I’d ever known. It was like finding a long lost tribe member. We mostly shared what it was like dealing with the stigma and chaos brought on by erratic behavior.
But when it came to the meds and diagnosis, we had a slightly different experience. His mother was never officially diagnosed. My father clearly had been. And while we did share similar experiences, I realized that this distinction was important. Not better or worse per se, but critical to my own internal voice.
Why? Because once again, my dad’s label had been societally sanctioned. It carried with it a certain power as did his involuntary hospitalizations. And they impacted me. I couldn’t hide that reality away, even if Doug and I had suffered a similar silence. I knew of a power few people would even believe existent, and I had witnessed it with my own ears and eyes. It wasn’t the family secrets of chaos that can be hidden away. It was about knowing a reality few people would even believe and if you tried to explain or share it, most would just think you were crazy or be too scared to hear more about. It wasn’t something most people wanted to talk about much less know about.
And it’s coercive threat could be and often was used against me, albeit silently. It was the ultimate subtext – getting put away and drugged against one’s will. It didn’t need to be asserted by anyone. It just was - a reality I never wanted to know. Maybe even scarier in my own mind than reality but I had no desire to test it. The silent threat of that potential living nightmare always loomed in the background and it wasn’t an imaginary one. My father’s life, the evidence.
And I had seen it destroy him. The idea that it could potentially do the same to me terrified me. So I railed against it – and got called “so angry” all the time – only furthering the set-up. And trap of being damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.
I could never accept his involuntary treatment as “normal” despite everyone wanting to paint it into pretty pictures of “loving treatments for his own good”. “Loving treatment” that came with an insistence that felt like it was being shoved down my throat whether I liked it or not. And if I didn’t accept it, the price was to be cast out in one way or another. I was essentially robbed of any voice. The price of admission into that world meant the negation of my own self, my very existence.
Their “for his own good or safety” explanations never entirely worked for me, mostly because I saw it not work for him, even when I had to employ them for the seemingly same reasons. My dad only went along with it to survive it -out of pressure and pressure alone, not his own free will. And that is what bothered me most of all. It robbed him of a voice, a self-determined destiny.
I was the youngest in my family and the only female. So, this made me an easy target for the next generation of scapegoat. I had also witnessed the long-term use of drugs that had out right disabled him. And now to my mind killed him.
So, I continued my journey researching the drugs and that’s when I came across Robert Whitaker’s lecture on youtube and later his website, madinamerica.com and award-winning book “Anatomy of an Epidemic”. When he described these drugs as potentially addictive in nature and that there was no real scientific proof of the “illnesses” listed in the DSM, all the pieces finally came together for me of exactly what had happened to my dad.
When I began to understand exactly how these drugs worked. Everything I’d ever seen and questioned over a lifetime finally came together. This was the explanation I’d been searching for- for so long: The answer to the eternal question of whether my dad was actually ever really even crazy at all or not.
His normal rebellious reaction to the abnormal treatment of being stigmatized and coerced alone explained a lot of his initial so-called “crazy” behavior. But the meds cemented it in. And this new information explained exactly how. When he would go off the meds, he would get so much worse. Thinking back I could almost put a graph up to it in relation to his meds and hospitalizations which always involved the further tinkering of his meds. In retrospect, it made total sense that much of his so-called “crazy” behavior could have very easily been in fact, a withdrawal effect of coming off the drug, not “his disease returning” as the doctors said it was.
It was the most plausible explanation. It just made sense. It was the truth of what had happened to my dad and finally explained it all. It was in my mind exactly what had happened.
Wow! It was the answer I’d been forever seeking and that no doctor could ever explain. Now I understood why I’d spent a lifetime half believing that my dad was crazy because he was!!! Half crazy - and why in large part he’d never returned to normal again.
Now I could see how he had in large part been crazy due to the effects of the meds, the on and off again cycles, the hospitalizations and then simply slightly tranquilized once he leveled out. Not to mention the effects of “the diagnosis”, the stigma and coercion. It was also why he never really got back to normal.
In the end, my dad was right he wasn’t crazy, we were and certainly without a doubt, the mental health system and its treatments! And why it alone had felt so crazy-making, because it was! In more ways than one!!It also explained why we’d always somehow inherently disliked the drugs and treatments so much, no matter what the doctors said. Our reservations always remained.
This explanation fit. It explained the previously persistently inexplicable.
This also meant that I too was now equally vindicated. Welcomed back into the human family again as even potentially a credible member of society. And maybe even a chance to get my own family back - that family I and we had always yearned for from so long ago. Only time would tell.
I knew as the proverbial scapegoat it would be difficult to provide a convincing argument. The stigma once again overshadowing and upstaging my own voice. In fact I would go so far as to say it replaced my voice. But it wouldn’t stop me from at least trying. I’m a fighter, remember? After all what did I have to lose? Pretty much nothing. This experience had already taken most everything away. I had only to gain.
Meanwhile, I also had the incredible luck of coming across Al Galves, an activist and therapist from mindfreedom.com. When I met him, I could only have wished he could have been my father’s therapist and if so it would have been an entirely different story. It would have changed our lives. He would have never given him a diagnosis. He didn’t believe in the benefit of them.
I also soon thereafter discovered Dr. Peter Breggin, the legendary man who was behind stopping the lobotomy. That in and of itself told me a lot - after all which doctor would you trust ? The one who stops the lobotomy or the one who advocates for it?
From what I understand he did so nearly single-handedly. Apparently at the time he tried to reverse the lobotomy, there were plenty who supported it, just like those who today support the continued use of these psychiatric drugs, while he once again - against the grain - warns against them and psychiatry’s treatments.
This told me all I needed to know as far as whose medical word to trust. When I then went on to listen to his “Simple Truths About Psychiatry” on youtube, and ordered the pluthera of his books, from Talking Back To Prozac, to Toxic Psychiatry to a host of many more and read through his website, it only solidified this newly discovered information. It was the origin of much of it.
I’d discovered the doctor, I wish my whole family had known. It even felt as though he and my dad could have been buddies. If he had met my dad, he would never have let happen to my father and family what did. It was all both tragic and a huge relief to find all of this out. Yes, tragic in what had happened to us, but it also provided a vindication and validation of what I’d always known to be true in my heart about my father and my family - and now that previously shattered heart sang with joy and victory.
When I went onto Robert Whitaker’s website, madinamerica.com, and began listening to the Dr. Peter Breggin Hour, (Dr. Breggin’s radio show) I discovered a whole host of working professionals and experts in the field who agreed with my perspective, which only gave it more professional credibility, especially because they were driven mostly by integrity not profit.
And all this time I had felt so alone in my struggle, too consumed by it to even look up or around to discover the many more like me. And I couldn’t get enough of them. This was indeed the exact long lost tribe I’d been looking for.
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