There were so many like-minded people from Irving Kirsch, Peter Goetsche and David Healy, to Joanna Moncreiff, Bonnie Burstow, Lisa Cosgrove, Sami Timimi, David Oaks, Kelly Brogan, Nicholas Rose, Alan Frances, Jennifer Bahr and an endless number of them, even with their differences of opinion – their root message was on point. The need to save the human experience and stop pathologizing it.
I discovered one after another, from working professionals to experts by so called “lived experience”, which was the category I came under. I’d wished so much that I could have discovered this when my father was alive, but once again even the stigma had gotten in the way of that. And I don’t say this to berate the point but to expose the many layers of its persistent existence and to highlight the need for it’s removal.
Because when I came across Robert Whitaker’s website, madinamerica.com, I remembered it from my previous days researching on the web years before my dad died during my Thomas Insel days when I was led to believe it was a “brain disease”, yet another explanation that only half worked.
But it’s name with the use of the term “mad” steered me away from investigating it. At first glance, my stigmatized state made me not want to get anywhere close to anyone that used the term “mad”. I hated that word or any like it as much as I did the drugs, if not more. But, after what I discovered once I was into the website, I more fully understood what and why the term “mad” was chosen. And I was mad.
Mad at what had so tragically happened to my family. Even rageful but I used that anger to fuel me to find out everything and anything I could to learn more. I now understood why they chose to keep the term and it fit, perfectly.
If I couldn’t help my dad, perhaps at least I could help someone else. Others in the same unknowing predicament.
I signed up for their webinars and joined as many as I could. And within that process, I discovered yet more experts like Bruce Levine. And even more that aren’t on the MIA website, but on their own journeys with very similar messages, like Harriet Fraad and Dr. Hammerschlag, most of whom I’ve had on my radio show. And I continued to discover only more via madinamerica.com-Another of my leading favorites is Daniel Mackler, a film maker and outspoken critic who is the visionary and boldly leading the way for this next generation, you can find him at wildtruth.net. And others like Laura Delano, and Debra Lampshire.
Most recently I had the distinct pleasure of meeting yet another extraordinary woman, via Dr. Peter Breggin’s radio show who I define as a psychiatric miracle… Sarah Price Hancock, who has an amazing unbelievable story where she survived over 100 electroshock treatments and is now a psychiatric rehab counselor and circuit lecturer in charge of training working professionals to become better educated on “trauma-informed” care: the treatments that can actually cause more harm than helping. She can be found at psychiatricrecoveryandrehabilitation.com and has her own podcast every Wednesday.
And there are so many more extraordinary people like Emily Sheera Cutler from MIA and revolutionary pioneers bringing things like Open Dialogue into this country like Louisa Putman and Kermit Cole, and others like Kevin Hennely who works specifically with people who hear voices, and Ron Coleman founder of the Hearing Voices Network. And artist Rararabbit who uses lucid dreaming to help deal with his hearing voices. And cutting edge assisted living facilities who work to de-stigmatize people suffering mental distress like Casa Milagro in Santa Fe, New Mexico, founded by Meryl Lieberman where they encourage art, ownership of pets and community belonging. The list goes on and on.
Another ground breaking book for me that was helpful was introduced to me via a madinamerica.com webinar and that was “Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis and Drugs”. It is written by Doctors Stuart Kirk, David Cohen and Tomi Gomory. And the reason I like it so much is because it is THE comprehensive view of exactly what happened to my father, family and me. It is the entire explanation on paper.
There’s a great interview about it all on Madness Radio with Will Hall, another pioneer helping people withdraw from the drugs in his internationally acclaimed “Harm Reduction Guide To Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs And Withdrawal”. And you can find my interviews with both Cohen and Gomory in my archive files from my “Dialogue” radio show.
Kirk, Cohen and Gomory’s “Mad Science” book brought all the pieces together for me in a way that summed it up. They use the term “biomedical industrial complex” to describe the overall mental health system. Dr. Breggin describes it very similarly.
Also, important to my journey out of a life of misinformation ironically was an incredible therapist who was his own person and who always treated me with an equal voice and who helped me find and hone mine. I’ll never forget his words, “you may be bent but you’re not broken” and who among us isn’t a little bit broken if they’ve lived at all? But just as central as all this information was to me - was the whole host of extraordinary people I have met in this process that are my peers. And critical are the friends in my life like my dad’s friend Drew who loved and accepted me despite the labels, for whom most never endorsed. And supported me in fighting them.
I now have a community. Sometimes we talk to frequently, other times not. But those of us previously silenced and shamed - at least now know that we are out there in the world. I would mention their names but I haven’t okayed it with them yet. I’ve encouraged them to tell their stories and am still waiting to hear them. This has been an incredibly therapeutic process to me, just finding people who understand.
And I find that most people out there in the world do - to my still great surprise, not unlike my real friends. Ironically, I have found the people in the mental health field the most resistant, except for the visionary and bold ones. My colleague calls those resistant to this information “learning averse”. What does it reveal about their own agenda, fears or shame when people are so resistant?
And education in mental health is not necessarily a sign of superior knowledge or expertise. In fact in many ways it is a sign of only further indoctrination which is difficult to unearth, especially when people’s professions rely upon it and their sense of safety.
It’s unfortunate when education actually leads people down the wrong path yet, because they have it, are led to believe they are on the right path - but isn’t that the way it should be after all? Isn’t that the very purpose of an education? To learn more and become an “expert”. You have only to read the book “Psychiatry Under The Influence” to understand the level at which the pharmaceutical companies have infiltrated our universities and governmental agencies with their billions of dollars in budgets to influence and literally help shape public opinion on “mental illness”. One that has led many “experts “ to unknowingly cause a lot of damage in the one area they went in to try and fix.
Yes, there are still plenty who just don’t get it nor have any interest in doing so. But, I’m not so worried about those folks anymore. I just figure we walk in different circles and for now, I’m just interested in walking forward together with my new community and keeping my eyes on that prize. And what a prize it is! We are finally now all free to be ourselves.
There are still those suffering within the system, but at least they don’t feel as alone as they did once before. And hopefully even that is a move in a forward direction. Extracting oneself from this system can be a very difficult process, especially the drugs, but equally the learned helplessness and addiction to labels that have enabled our literal identities albeit mistaken. What’s most important to me, is that I don’t feel stigmatized anymore. I understand that I am not the problem, the system is. And I don’t care what others think of me anymore even that small percentage that may call me “crazy”.
I now realize that in many ways because all this began happening to me when I was a child, I literally became unquestionably “indoctrinated”. This is why I now use that term to describe what happened to me. And I believe even rob my family from me whether any of them might or might not agree with me.
My mother had been a nurse and herself came from a generation where you trusted what the doctors say. And as a type 1 diabetic, insulin had allowed her to live a rather normal life. The same was in some ways true of my father only he also knew better, being a doctor himself. He was a medical whistleblower in some senses by calling out or questioning the system as he went along. But there is a reason whistleblowers usually don’t survive well. He had no real support. This is what the mental health system so often exploits. It thrives and profits from it. Isolation.
But there was one thing that I am thankful for that allowed me to find these answers - and that is a somewhat still childlike heart - the part I never let the system get a hold of. The part I was determined to protect - no matter what it cost. And my mother’s advice to always listen to my intuition, which I believe is it’s seed.
Because it was my heart that read the plea in my father’s eyes at the time of his death. And the desire to reinstate his dignity and find the evidence for what I’d seen with my own eyes. And now I have a renewed sense of life I would never have imagined existed. The opposite of that previous nightmare – and now a community I would describe in many ways as the best definition of heaven on earth, simply from the hope and new life it represents.
And I followed that child-like yet wise heart regardless of what the doctors had said, or how much they denied it. I trusted it after a lifetime of swallowing their maybe well-intentioned but rather useless and in the end deadly explanations.
Sadly this new information has only further ruptured my relationship with my mother. That is another story to tell for another day: the nightmare of waking up from the worst nightmare you’d already had to discover it never needed to happen in the first place and the resistance people have to that awakening and/or even information. In some ways it introduces a new loneliness. The family I thought I could get back didn’t happen.
My mother still doesn’t believe the information I have discovered or that it might have the level of legitimacy that it does. I attribute that to her own unfortunate shame and guilt about everything that happened, which I believe the biomedical industrial complex only makes worse, maybe even helps create and most certainly enables.
And it works to protect them from lawsuits. Because if we could unite, we could sue the bastards for the damage they’ve done. But, the stigma is too cemented in, my mother’s perception of me too skewed to even give me or her own self a chance for reconciliation yet only more fall-out from the bio-medical industrial complex and its biggest weapon - stigma.
But they can’t stop me from speaking the truth and as Janis Joplin says, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. My retribution to the bio-medical industrial complex will be hopefully the lives I may deter from going into that system. One life alone is worth far more than any settlement I might incur.
I wonder about my mother’s inability to process what I have to say, perhaps it is just simply too much to process at the end of an already long and too difficult life, too much of a lie to comprehend, too great a betrayal. My middle brother is most likely gone forever. The rift between us too great to potentially ever mend.
However, my oldest brother and I have reunited in a way I never imagined. And now I even feel as though I have a piece of that family that I lost so long ago. We talk almost every day and he is a huge piece of my network of support. And I feel extraordinarily lucky to have him and his wife and their children in my life. They are a literal blessing that does not go uncounted – EVER.
And I have a new family of sorts, as they say a chosen one.
I have my new answers, the ones I have sought for a lifetime and along the way as I have shared this newly discovered information with people, I have found many more like me. And that’s why I am here.
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