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HOW I FOUND OUT I WAS MENTALLY ILL

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How I Found Out I Was Mentally Ill

by Cheryl Froehlich

 

Back in the late 60's, women were quite often presecribed Valium for any emotional complaints or what used to be called "hysteria".  It became the "new normal" and the Rolling Stones, in 1966, came out with their song "Mommy's Little Helper".  I was prescribed Valium back then but I really don't remember why or what my complaint was.  It does the trick to sedate and has a calming effect on anxieties and that was the goal; to help, mostly women, deal with life's frustrations.  I was working for the local newspaper office at the time proofreading and collating a cookbook.  I would take some Valium in the morning before going to work and a couple of hours later, I was snoozing and salivating with my head buried in the hamburger casserole recipe on page 20.  

I needed the job and napping wasn't listed as a job perk, so I didn't take the Valium for any length of time and don't remember having any withdrawal effects.  From what I know from studying these minor sedatives/anti-anxiety drugs is that Valium has the longest half-life of all of them so probably that helped with the withdrawal and that I wasn't yet "hooked" on it.  Valium, being a benzodiazipine, can be quite addictive and very difficult to get off but much easier than those with a shorter half-life.  Half-life meaning the time it takes for half of the drug to metabolize and be eliminated from the body.

Help!  I'm Suicidal!

My second experience with psychiatry back in the early 90's was, admittedly, a cry for help.  Without going into detail, I will just say that my life seemed to be falling apart.  I felt suicidal and desperate.  I picked up the phone book (yes, we used them back then) and found a psychiatrist's name and dialed the number.  I nervously, in panic mode, explained to the receptionist why I was calling.  She told me she would have the psychiatrist called me ASAP.  I was very relieved when he returned my call but was completely baffled by his response and what he asked me was a blessing in disguise.  He asked if I had health insurance.  I said no and his reply was "Then I can't help you".  I knew little about the ''system" back then and was very confused by his response to a suicidal person.  What I realized years later is that no insurance meant no treatment.  Money trumps suicide.  The desperation and contemplating suicide faded and life went on without the help of the "compassionate" psychiatrist.  I know now that if I had insurance at the time, I would have been a psychiatric unit on suicide watch with all my rights taken away and on a regimen of medications.  I thank God to this day that the psychiatrist didn't care if I committed suicide or thought I wasn't worth the bother if I couldn't pay.

I did eventually see someone for a couple of therapy sessions at the local mental health clinic and of course, given a prescription for Prozac.  A wondrous drug!  Emotionality gone. Sleep is good.  Sexual pleasure non-existent.  I joined the Zombie Nation!  I have never been good at following medication regimans, so I think I eventually would just forget to take them.  Prozac also has a long half-life, so with not being on it very long didn't cause any issues with withdrawal that I can remember.

Mentally Ill????

Then in 2001, my son was "caught' in the psychiatry web when he had a unusual experience when he abruptly stopped using marijuana and alcohol during his third year in college.  He was prescribed Risperdal, an atypical antipsychotic and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant.  This brought him into a lifetime of cycling in and out of hospitals resulting in not knowing who he is anymore.  His experiences within the psychiatric system led me to my "official" diagnosis of mental illness.

During one of my son's hospitalizations, I was furious what the meds and psychiatry were doing to him.  I spent many hours compiling a letter to the psychiatrist, the board of directors, state officials, and anyone else I could find that might listen.  I explained how the meds were making him worse and went into detail after many hours of reserch about the meds.  I knew I was right.  I did get a response from one agency and a patient advocate that said they would investigate my claims, but I never heard from them again.  My son was eventually released, and I sent for his medical records.  I found my answer as to why the agency and advocate did not follow through.  This is where I found out I was mentally ill; diagnosed by my son's psychiatrist whom I never met.  It read "This patient's mother is as mentally ill as her son".  Wow!  Did I get angry?  No.  I shrunk to the size of a mushroom.  I was literally sick to my stomach; afraid, humiliated, and scared.  He went on to state that his staff were in full agreement with his assessment of me.  I learned to shut up...to be silent...not to make waves.  I was the neurotic mentally ill mother.  I wondered what his diagnosis of me was.  Schizophrenic? Bipolar? Delusional? Paranoid?  When I think about it now, I know it was the psychiatrist's way of silencing me and to ward off the agenices I had contacted to protest his harsh treatment of my son.  Of course they would believe a doctor over a neurotic mother.  I found out later I could have sued him for his diagnosing me without me being present for a thorough assessment but fighting these guys in court is pointless.  That's another story to tell.  The Court of Sham.  No, I did not misspell sham.

Deja Vous!

I fell into the trap again a couple of years later when life got overwhelming again.  I was taking care of my aging mother at the time along with my son being hospitalized again.  I had brought her to a doctor's appointment and as I sat in the patient room waiting for her to return from them running some tests on her heart, I felt an overwhelming sensation of exhaustion and emotionality that surrounded my entire being.  I hastily went to the appointment desk to see if anyone was available to talk to.  They sent me to a Nurse Practitoner who dismissed my story midsentence and calmly stated "Oh, your depressed".  Within minutes, I was given a prescription for Lexapro, a newer antidepressant than Prozac.  She also referred me to a counselor and I engaged in a couple of therapy sessions along with a prescription for Wellbutrin!  

I had not started the Lexapro yet as I was having apprehensions as to be expected.  I decided to try to the Wellbutrin first.  If you want an upper, this is it!  Can't sleep..restless legs...a bit of akathesia anyone?  Akathesia is the worst.  I couldn't sit still.  You pace because your body feels like it's on fire from the inside.  I chucked them in the garbage.

Now for the Lexapro.  By now I knew that these drugs were a disaster, but I decided to see what exactly it would do.  That was a big mistake because this one is a "Big Whopper" compared to the regular "Whopper".  I was so numbed out that I lost every bit of what it is to be alive.  I was taking college classes at the time and studying was impossible.  I would sit at the table rereading the same page over and over; not comprehending a thing I had read.  My oldest son was so alarmed by my robotic, non-emotional presentation, that he insisted I throw them away.  The last straw came one night during dinner with my husband.  He must have said something that made me angry and my reaction was shocking.  I was holding a fork and I turned it into a weapon as if I were holding a knife.  I held it up with the impulsive urge to stab my husband with it.  I stopped myself before plunging it into his throat.  It was a sensation I had never experienced before and was very disturbing to me and to my husband, to say the least, as he stood there with his mouth open in confusion.  I knew at that moment that it was a result of the Lexapro and needed to get off it.  Caution!  Physician's Desk Reference of Psychiatric Drugs lists homocidal ideation as a side effect!  I quit taking it cold turkey which was another bad decision.  My legs jerked non-stop and the brain zaps were intense.  I couldn't sleep.  I knew I had to go back on the Lexapro and wean off slowly.  I did just that and still endured withdrawal effects but I made it through and that was the last time I took any of their dangerous drugs.

Hello Prednisone!

I developed severe diverticulitis resulting in a very inflamed colon and needed very high doses of Prednisone after I was misdiagnosed with Crohn's Disease around 2014.  I had lost so much weight from not being able to eat and had become anemic.  Prednisone is quite an interesting steroid which affects the adrenal glands.  I would lie in bed and never sleep.  By 2 a.m., I was ready to go grocery shopping at Walmart.  I cleaned my house from top to bottom, rearranged all the furniture, painted all the walls, redecorated the bathroom, and tremored constantly.  I felt a bit manic and it rather scared me that maybe, just maybe, I was mentally ill until I mentioned by behaviors to several nurses.  They described having the same experiences while on Prednisone!  Ok, I wasn't crazy.  Prednisone can be crazy-making!  I had to be taken off the Prednisone prior to colon surgery.  Coming off Prednisone is a process because of it's dysregulation of the adrenal glands and the doctors were very careful in tapering me off.  I have experienced such a difference in medical doctors compared with psychiatrists in regards to tapering people off medications.  

Morphine Psychosis Anyone?

I was finally off the Prednisone and in the hospital for colon surgey which quite a common procedure these days but does result in a lot of post-surgery pain.  Trusting my surgeon and the medical staff to take care of me was not questioned...until the morphine drip made for a wild ride.  It was like being awake and but not really awake.  I would see the doctor and a nurse standing by my bed conversing and the next second actually waking up with no one there.  This kept happening!  Relatives came to see me that were never there.  My husban built a wooden fence gate on my bed!  After a couple of nights of these bizarre experiences, I explained what was happening to the night nurse and asked him if they could switch pain meds.  He obliged and the hallucinations went away.  Am I crazy?  No.  These drugs are teaching me how they can mess with the brain.

From my own experiences on different types of drugs, I know that I was right in defending my son.  When Big Pharma can't tell me how they "work", what in God's name are we doing subjecting so many to drugs we have no idea how they are affecting, not only the mind, but the body!

Psychiatrists only see us as a walking chemically imbalanced brain as if separate from the rest of the body.  Was the psychiatrist correct in declaring me mentally ill?  Nope.  It was a cop out.  I have little respect for them and am no longer scared of them.  They practice their own religion with their delusions of miracle pills and pseudo-science.  I am okay.  I have anxiety at times.  Who doesn't?  I feel depressed at times.  You too?  I get overwhelmed at times.  Welcome to the club.  That's life.  That's being human.  I learned that psychiatry is all about little blue pills, green pills, and pink pills. Colorful little things that remind me of candy at the local Widman's Store with the nostalgic soda fountain when I was a kid.  Aren't those pills pretty?  What harm can they do?

I learned not to trust psychiatrists from my own experiences and from others who should never have been subjected to psychiatry's paternalism, narcissism, and laziness.  Their belief in a science that is questionable and has all but destroyed too many lives.  I survived.  Thank God I did my research.  I read books like Mad in America and Anatomy of An Epidemic by Robert Whitaker and many other books.  I read my textbooks.  I went to University to study biological and clinical psychology.  In Pharmacology classes, they teach only the minor side effects and not a hint of withdrawal problems.   They don't teach about the brain changes that might become permanent; creating a community of chronic patients.

I taught myself to "question everything, assume nothing".  A very wise Suzy Kassem wrote "Most of the time, we see only what we want to see, or what others tell us to see, instead of investigate to see what is really there.  We embrace illusions only because we are presented with the illusion that they are embraced by the majority".  I agree with her.  Tomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, stated in one of his blogs "We lack cures, we lack vaccines, and we lack diagostic markers.  Terms like 'depression' or 'schizophrenia' or 'autism' have achieved a reality that far outstrips their scientific value".  

It's like looking at the forest through the trees.  The real cause is right in front of you.  Can't you see it?

 

 

 

 

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If I can help be a beacon of light in your own struggle, help ignite even a spark of questioning about where and what your own situation might be and lead you closer to your truth. Then, I have done my job. Thank you so much for the incredible time it has taken for you to read this.

I apologize in some ways that it was long, but there’s a lot to say after not being able to speak for a lifetime. And if your story is just as long or longer, that’s fine with me. I just think it’s important to tell it. It’s important to our human community. And you never know who may resonate with it and find a piece of themselves in it.

Now you also know why I have a website called nomorelabels.us. Because in my world it was the labels that did and continue to do the most damage. It is that which ultimately has and continues to divide us. Because as long as you don’t have one, you’re safe. So who would in their right mind ever willingly give up that safety zone? The problem is that it’s a false safety zone and no one knows that better than those who have been given a label.

I survived without ever being given one except for by my family, which did enough damage to make people believe I’d been given one. And those who’ve been given one to feel a certain kindred spirit with me. What does that tell you about the power of them?

So why not then listen to and learn from those who have had the strength to come out the other side of those labels? It may be just like getting stuck at the top of the Ferris Wheel… they may have the best view of all.

So I encourage all the “experts” to let go of their labels and all the letters after their names that give them supposed greater and more credible value and try going without for a while. You might find that it just might be the greatest view you’ve ever seen. You may just see your own authentic self. And finally see that of others. As my dad used to say, “try it, you might like it”.

If there is anything you get from my story I hope that is it. Beware of labels both “good and bad” and beware of taking them on or dishing them out. It is human understanding to me that should be sought the most, not labels.

I realize in telling this story, yes I’ve gone into the past. But there was a reason. I wanted you to understand who my father was from the beginning, not at the chapter when he became two words. I realized as I was writing it, I needed to rewrite his history, if not, just for the sake of my own family and posterity. So that-those after him who maybe didn’t know him pre-diagnosis understand he was so much more than a diagnosis and also what he went through as a result of it. But mostly that they know he was a rich and full human being with so many incredible life-giving qualities.

In many ways, my dad was pure love. Yes flawed like all of us but just if not more beautiful, deep, rich, funny, kind, incredible, inventive, creative, filled with a passion for living at the heart of which was a desire to simply and truly connect.

I’m not interested in rehashing tragedy, but moving out of it to rediscover ourselves, the parts of ourselves that got shutdown or hurt along the way. To open the door back up to them again and allow them to live again, free of judgment. And injected with a renewed sense of purpose and meaning – and to understand the real definition of power.

The purpose of this website is to chart a new way forward for us. Only to revisit the past, in the sense of moving beyond it and getting validation that the problem may not have ever been YOU! It is a very flawed system and it needs our help to improve!

If you are in the system and being massively medicated. Your behavior may be explained by the effect of these drugs. Yes, these drugs may have made you act crazy or feel crazy. Read “Anatomy of An Epidemic” to find out exactly how and why. Or find Peter Breggin’s “Simple Truths About Psychiatry” on Youtube or go straight to his website and begin reading his books!

The only problem is that coming off of these drugs is incredibly dangerous and must be done with a doctor’s supervision. In fact with some you can actually die if you come off cold turkey and they state it in their black label. It is true of benzodiazepines, and it is a condition called “status epilepticus.” Also you can look up “drug-induced parkinsonism” which these drugs can also cause along with a host of other horrific side effects. This is what my father suffered from and I believe died of.

And this is where we still have much head way to make. Because while there are plenty of doctors who will get you on these meds, few actually really know how to take you off of them safely. So we have to work together as a community to help support each other in finding ways forward whether it be on or off the drugs.

Hopefully this can bring to you what it did for me and my father-a vindication I could never have imagined and a new life of greater freedom and choice - one where I have felt welcomed back into the human family and a community I didn’t know existed.

It is a literal international movement calling for change. And I definitely no longer feel alone. You can find much of that community at madinamerica.com...and on the Dr. Peter Breggin Hour and hopefully here too in growing numbers. And all the places they refer you to.

This information literally gave me the ability to do again what I imagine my father would have wanted most for me - the ability to self- define. My hope is that what you find here will do the same for you.

I am putting together a group of people to present these stories in in theatrical format. If you are interested in getting involved, please let me know.

I have considered starting support groups for families and consumers alike like AA or Al-anon, one for each, but I notice that we are not a community to whom group activity comes easily, perhaps because of our backgrounds, or our fierce independence by necessity or nature, and the traumatic experience of coercion.

This is why I have just created it as a gathering place and leave it up to individuals to reach out to each other and each build their own support networks that work best for them. Some people you may click with more with than others. But support is the salve to the isolation born from shame and stigma. It is the belonging that we all need as human beings. Thus my latest definition is we are “the human community”.

If you have or know of any resources for information or alternative treatments, please post them on our resources page, share your information. Reach out, or just visit occasionally whatever works best for you.

Above all at least you know we are here. And you are no longer bound by the label you may have been given. It’s time to free yourself, re-invent and redefine! SELF-DEFINE!

The goal of this website is to be a resource center and place of support where you can come to find empathic support and understanding, not societal judgment and isolation. We do however support children so if any of your content is mature, this would not be the place to explore those kinds of experiences. Thank you for your consideration and time!

I hope you will check out our #metoo/NOMORELABELS! social media campaign and participate! Simply write on your hand, “NO MORE LABELS!”, snap a picture of yourself and post it in our gallery, then onto Facebook or do it using one of those fancy apps on the phone like Wordswag or Over, which lets you superimpose words over a picture of yourself. Or feel free to also save and share any of my memes like “the definition of crazy: EVERYONE”…

I’ll be working on getting a line of t-shirts out with my different sayings soon that are in the t-shirt/meme gallery! And feel free to tune in any time to my radio show, which I will also be posting on the website here, but also on my youtube channel, “comealivewithmk” in my “people’s radio show playlist”.

If you’d like to come on my show as a guest and tell your story I welcome you with open arms! That’s in large part what it’s for! And please stay in touch or join our community to find and meet other people like you. That’s what it’s about! I’m paying out of pocket to host it, I hope you will use it!

 

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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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MK'S STORY - THE RESURRECTION (PART THREE)

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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MK'S STORY-POST DIAGNOSIS (PART TWO)

I remained protective I suppose of my father. All too often it was used against me. It has been said because I was the youngest, I was the most affected. I would say it affected all of After being diagnosed, I saw a man fighting like hell – for the rest of his life - for his life. I mostly saw a man struggling to regain his previously hard won credibility after having been given an officially and certifiable “crazy” label. A man of many degrees and accolades that had all been stripped away overnight by one word that came to define him.

I needed only to put myself in his shoes for a second to understand the justification for his anger, even rage. Who were these people who had the “authority” to tell him what and who he was? After all, he was a doctor, let’s not forget, with multiple degrees that now meant nothing. But he understood the limitations of medicine. I saw what it did to his pride and sense of belonging. And I saw what it did to my family - and to all of us as children and former wife who were now also potentially guilty by association.

After all, we’d been told by the doctors of the potential “genetic implications”. My eldest brother was lucky enough to escape by being old enough to leave home before the shit really hit the fan. The rest of us just imploded, nearly eating each other alive or deteriorating mostly from externalizing or internalizing the exorbitant shame. And our monetary status dwindled down to living off of my mother’s income alone as a public health nurse. We went from living in a three story house to what we used to call the “shack” down the street. In the long run, it devastated us as a family financially - all of us including my father and his career.

But we knew how to put on a good front - always good at first impressions.To this day I have to believe there was something good at the core of my family – yes, love. But psychopharmacology and it’s “biomedical industrial complex” as authors Cohen and Gomory call it made sure to obliterate it.

My father went in and out of hospitalizations from the time he was diagnosed. He went on and off drugs, that “worked” and then didn’t, even a bout of homelessness on the streets. It was, as some have put it, like “waking up into your worst nightmare only to find it had become your life”.

And all the while, you were supposed to just go with it, definitely not talk about it, swallow what the doctors said, despite your own internal reservations and questions, pretend it wasn’t happening - talk yourself into solutions that never seemed to make sense, and treatments that seemed to do more harm than good – and ones that seemed to steal his soul. Mostly because they were always presented as the lesser of two evils, a crazy seemingly out of control father or a medicated one with “potential” negative side effects.

I will never forget visiting him in the hospital and he wanted to get out so badly. He was wound up about being in there and hated it. He pled with me to help him get out. And I could nothing to help him. In frustration, he laid down on the bed falling back in resignation. I looked over at him to discover, he’d gone blank. His eyes suddenly empty. There was no one in there at that moment. I tried to talk to him, reach him. His eyes fully open but he just simply went away. To where, I have no idea, but anywhere was better than As the children of a divorce, we were also left to deal with it ourselves, no extra parental support from my mother. Not to say she didn’t help because she tried too. And even as a divorcee she couldn’t escape the stress it vicariously put on her through us. And it had clearly exhausted my mother who did her own best to survive it, fighting off her own trauma which I think only worsened things for her. And in many ways – made her own demons grow.

It was a battle too big for us to fight - A force and system too great to penetrate.

The scapegoating that ensued robbed everyone of their best and greatest potential. It just enabled everyone to get sicker, offering us no way out but deeper into solutions that didn’t work and only ever worsened problems.

My only advice to anyone considering entering this system. Don’t do it. Run as far and fast as you can and do anything and everything but IT. IT, the biomedical industrial complex is a well-oiled very profitable recipe for disaster. Where your pain will only become a resource for endless profit.

But that’s what this biomedical industrial complex is founded upon, exploitation of the vulnerable, scapegoating and gaslighting where they blame the victims, from the “patients” to even their loving families who often get demonized in the process. And definitely shut out.

Despite things never entirely adding up to their proclaimed “diagnosis” in an absolutely undoubtable manner, we and he complied, or at least attempted to do our best. He remained a loving and devoted father and yes flawed like the rest of us with meanderings that some wouldn’t approve of, not even me. But many things he thought or did just seemed to be bad decisions made by a father going through a hard time – and yes there were others brought on by what seemed to be the so called “illness”.

Now I know better - what it was really all about - but that comes in the latter part of this story. But initially what got him into the system in my mind, was no worse than the rest of us - making stupid decisions - he was just more honest about it all. Looking back I have to wonder if it was his honesty above all that got him in trouble.

I remember him talking about the need for it and just how important it was and how fed up he was with all the lies. He agreed to take his meds only for “the love of his children”, because we were convinced that was the best “medical “ option despite his strong disapproval of them. And even our own internal reservations. Deep down I always hated the drugs right alongside him. But did my best to follow the “medical protocol”.

He often protested, “I’m not crazy, you are!” And there were more times than not, I silently agreed with him especially when dealing with the insane reality of what his treatments consisted of. His anger far too often felt like quite simply righteous indignation. Only I was too pressured by the power and influence of coercion to ever really see straight enough to find the words to advocate in a legitimate way for him or myself.

And I didn’t’ even understand that I was under the influence of coercion, I just knew I needed to follow the doctor’s advice on how to help my father, even if it didn’t seem to make much sense. Follow the rules or end up in the lion’s den right alongside him.

We asked for proof of his illness but the doctors said there really wasn’t any – but that the best way to describe it was that “it was like insulin for diabetes” and he needed to take his meds just like a diabetic. My mother was a type 1 diabetic so we knew the importance of taking her meds.

My dad spent years going on and off of them, when he would go off, all hell would break loose. And the doctors would tell us it was “his disease returning”. So, it seemed to make sense on that level. But something deep down never registered for me about any of it.

The mental health system seemed in too many ways more insane than my father. It was the only area where they seemed to dictate what was to happen to him, where he had little choice, voice or input in the matter, nor did we. That didn’t seem like any kind of genuine or quality health care model I’d ever encountered before and both my parents were medical professionals.

If anything, we, the family, were pushed out of the process, literally locked out, unable to see him. And the “mental illness” never really added up in my mind. Something was amiss. Not only did I not like the term, as in nothing was wrong with his “mind” that I could see, perhaps his judgment or behavior at times, but I didn’t like the term and all that it implied.

I still cringe at the word “mad”, even in the “mad” rights movement, I hate it and all that it implies or any words like it. It is far too one-dimensional and somehow still seemingly permanent. It is too “othering”, placing him outside the human race. A serial killer I might describe as “mad”, but outside those rare extremes it’s a word that feels too charged and above all irrelevant. It seems an internalization of the stigma implied it implies that invites the fight it claims to ward off, rather than just making it irrelevant which is exactly how I see it. Inaccurate at the least.

My father’s actions never added up to being entirely mentally “ill”. They were too inconsistent, and didn’t add up to the father I’d known. It felt like being on a merry go round of confusion trying to figure it out, there were times, he seemed full blown undeniably crazy and still others not, sometimes the most sane one alive. It was hard to keep track of, all I knew was that my life had turned into an anxious ball of concern over his safety.

Within the moments of highest stress, there was little else one could think of. It’s hard to get a call from your father when you’re miles away trying to start your new young adult life when his update is that he’s just had a bout of electroshock treatment and “didn’t mind it at all” - literally willingly offering himself up as a scientific guinea pig - when in my heart I knew better. Electro-shock treatment was the last thing my father would have ever wanted for himself.

No question he became “difficult to manage”, but every time I would have a heart to heart, he always made sense. In many ways, it seemed since the system had rejected him, his only way to reclaim himself was to reject it in return. His crazy behavior in many ways, was a big “fuck you” to the system that had fucked him over.

But, he never put it that way. In fact, while he was going on and off his meds, in and out of hospitalizations, there was no question he was erratic, but the true nature of my dad to me, was always that steady eddy. He didn’t get really riled up about anything that didn’t make sense to get riled up about. He was actually pretty easy going.

But he didn’t like being defined by others that was for sure. Yet who does? And that’s what with this label had done - it had defined him and robbed him of his exquisite ability to self-define – the very thing that had given him his confident and playful identity.

And this is why in many ways, he always somehow continued to make sense. But, I was helpless to help him. I couldn’t talk about it to most people. Most people had no idea of my experience, no frame of reference.

I used to wish my dad could just be an alcoholic like the rest of my friends. I had to pretend it wasn’t happening or that it was all okay despite feeling exactly the opposite. It caused its own trauma in me and in many ways rendered me useless in being able to help him in the ways I had often so desperately wanted to. And even myself.

I was too busy trying to rectify following rules that made no sense to me and survive my own stigmatization. Fighting back the stigma placed on me seemed to become my new full-time job - from something I hadn’t even earned except via the natural innate compassion a child has for their father. Silently fighting the depth of the injustice of it all ironically only rendered me all the more useless in defending myself against it - until my fight resembled their accusations just enough to keep me in a perpetual state of panic – unable to escape. And just enough to be the next generation of scapegoat.

It would become so ingrained, it would be many many years before I would even understand what stigmatization actually even was. And what it’s effects would be on not just my dad, but me and my entire family. I didn’t realize in many ways it was the reality of my own experience that made me feel the way I was, but instead I all too often simply viewed it as my own failing and flaw. The system had trained me to do so. Offer myself up as the ever-willing scapegoat. I internalized it all as my problem. And I was simultaneously resented as “the martyr”. All the while, all of what was happening never made entirely enough sense.

And so we all hung in there in the best way we knew how, but it was a massive disruption and a far cry from that near ideal childhood I’d once known and the father who had helped create it - or family that came with along it and/or any sense of stability I’d ever experienced.

It was replaced by anxiety and a hyper-vigilant need to defend myself from potentially allowing myself into the hands of that system. And standing watch over my dad was always in the background of my life which it just simple overshadowed.

My life became secondary to his “illness”. His life lost to it. It was all consuming. I vowed to myself, I would never let that happen to me. In fact, I unknowingly made it my full time job to fight against it, out of what felt like sheer necessity - which became its own all consuming battle on the forefront of my own life. It would be years before I would understand it’s full impact.

But in the end, I did escape that system. I did survive. And never got snatched up or “caught”. I did escape. But not unscathed.

Post diagnosis, my father became one word, “bi-polar”, not the man I described to you in all his full dimensionality, and enough incredible traits, previous accomplishments and accolades to fill sheets of paper with, not to mention just an incredible rich human being. No, he became “someone and something to manage”. Or at least that’s how the world viewed him. And in many ways it also became the new reality. But to me he was always my pop. I never stopped seeing him, the person who had been, still was and always would be my loyal and devoted father.

He was flawed like anyone, obviously not perfect but who was? As “unstable” as he might have become, I can say that in all of it, I never doubted his love for me. What else really matters?

Now looking back, I can say there was a lot of unnecessary drama, mounds of it, most of which was battled out within my family’s walls, but mostly born not from my father or family but us trying to come to grips with this horrific event that had basically ruined our lives - stolen our father and he from himself.

There was enormous wasted life energy and loads of lost potential. Not just in his life, but all of ours, I can certainly say there was in mine. It shattered my family - The burden too great to carry. And this is why families burn out. It puts too much stress on any family to withstand, even the closest. It certainly challenges everyone at their core. The “treatments” didn’t work and often only either complicated things and in my case definitely made them worse in every aspect.

But as we were going through it, we talked ourselves into believing that it was working, well, it was better than my dad off the drugs. But on them, he never became “normal” again and it wasn’t the drugs to me that truly destroyed his soul. They devastated his body and physically hastened his death without a doubt, but it was the label that really killed him and his spirit.

The stigma was too hard to fight against so in many ways he just gave into it and became the walking personification of a rebellion against it. In some ways it was the only intelligent choice if his life was to remain his own.

Trying to win against the system of psychopharmacology is a battle most don’t want to take on for good reason. In retrospect, I now look back and think that in many ways, my loving adventurous fun father was replaced by literally the power of the state and its threat of coercion.

After all, look at what they’d had the power to do, take down my almighty father and destroy my family. But that didn’t stop him from at root fighting. Perhaps in some ways it made him fight harder. We’ll never know.

And at root I fought along with him in my own way. We all did perhaps in each of our own ways. I came from a family of fighters after all-of course most always for justice only now justice seemed to become somehow strangely remote and newly and strangely unreachable.

I took the heat of what it meant to advocate for him, the equally questionable stares and stigma incurred from whomever, family and people, alike looking at me as though I just might be crazy too. But I never let that system get a hold of me. I made sure of it, I knew better. It was worse than prison as far as I was concerned. And how or why we’d ever had to enter it was beyond my comprehension.

On more than a few occasions, my mother would urge me to take the doctor’s “suggested drugs” to help me keep my sanity, but I never took the bait - even in my most temporarily insane moments, and I had plenty of them. If there’s anything that can lead one to it, this system is it. It knows how to deliver all the right goods.

Despite his hating the drugs and his on and off again compliance, in the end, he did comply until they made him too sick to ironically ever get off of. And in the end, he declined and deteriorated until his “illness” was replaced by an entirely new one - the inability to move from the meds he was taking. Those so long ago partially mentioned “potential negative side effects” had now become his new disease.

By that time, the children he’d “taken them for” were in large part too busy trying to catch up on the lives they missed out on to give him the visits he now yearned for that many miles away in his now near paralytic state. Locked out and away for the rest of his life. It was a wonderful facility as far as they go. But nothing replaces the salve of human connection. His doctor’s medical notes reveal checkmarks by “isolation and loneliness” as two of his largest ailments.

They called his deteriorated state the “paradoxical” effects of the meds. I prefer now to simply call them ineffective, harmful, disabling, dangerous and even deadly – and not just to the person taking them.

He never got his life back as they once promised. And neither did we. We never returned to so-called “normal” or anything close to it.

It ruined our family in more ways than I can count. I now blame psychopharmacology for its intrusion into my life and credit it for not just having ruined the second half of my father’s life but the first half of mine. By the end of his life, my father became so toxic from the drugs, there were very few he could even tolerate anymore, making him nearly impossible to deal with – his judgment so clouded by the effect of the long term use of the drugs. I tried desperately to implement alternative treatments which were costly and pulled money out of my very limited budget to pay for them.

I saw little improvement. And I’d done research that had told me that his “mental illness” was a “brain disease”, Tom Insel head of NIMH made the speech. I still have it recorded. So along with the mainstream treatments, poor guy was willingly loading himself full of all sorts of additional vitamins and alternative health smoothies, concoctions I put together from the incredible amount of time I spent researching to try and help my father. But by then, there was little left to do, he was so damaged.

And for the most part, I was on my own trying to deal with it. One of my brothers had entirely stepped out because he couldn’t deal with it, my mother long gone and my other brother far away. It was like a continual battle upstream that literally went nowhere. By the end of his life, he was so unmanageable that we had to put him away forever for his own safety. Yes take away all his rights and give him over to the state, where we would have no more say in any of his care. None of us had the resources to give him the care he needed. And I wanted to take care of him, but it was just simply impossible within the limitations of my own life.

He would have brought over all sorts of people to my house including drug addicts, prostitutes, and other dangerous types. I just couldn’t risk putting myself in harm’s way as a single female. And as much as I might have been his ally, he was ultimately never going to follow anyone else’s dictates but his own, and as a latin male certainly not his daughter’s. Perhaps his pride was too great, nor could he really trust me. After all I was part of the group of people who had been putting him away on and off throughout his life.

It wasn’t as though I could be entirely trusted even despite my best efforts. I was too restricted in what I could offer him. There’s nothing like testifying against your own father in court to put him away forever which you know will result in the removal of his civil rights, the ones he’d spent so many years helping others fight for and cherishing as an proud and legal immigrant to this country. He demanded to be sent back to his native country “Colombia” during the court proceedings as they courted him away.

By the time he was an old man he could hardly move anymore due to being mostly consistently overmedicated. By that point, it was no longer questionable as to whether my father was “ill” or not. He was diagnosed yet again with “Lewy Body Dementia” which was news to me five days before he died. A dementia that I believe and had often argued was mostly brought on by the long term use of the drugs which continually landed on deaf ears and usually only invited additional strange and suspicious looks about my own mental state from his practitioners.

Clearly all my life, I struggled with whether or not my dad was certifiably crazy or whether it was the system itself that seemed to cement it in.

Just before he died, I received a call about the fact that he was experiencing a steady and rather rapid decline.

When I showed up to see him, of course, I could see that he was once again clearly overmedicated, which I’d been trying to tell his caretakers for months. Later when I looked at his records his dosage had significantly increased from when he had entered the home. They said they needed the meds to “quell his aggression”.

To me, he was just still fighting for his own self determination and didn’t want all those drugs. The nurse even said that he’d held his hand clenched shut with the meds and wouldn’t open it. Wouldn’t that be a sign one would pick up on that would tell a person he didn’t want the meds?

Of course, my complaints went unacknowledged as usual and I was once again treated as though I was the one with the problem-I was accused of “just having trouble accepting my father’s imminent death”. I’d already experienced the loss of my husband. Death was a familiar thing to me. Certainly I knew my father was going to die and on some level none of us are prepared for it ever. But that wasn’t the issue, it was the manner in which he was dying that I had the problem with. Death by overmedication.

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MK'S STORY - PRE-DIAGNOSIS (PART ONE)

My Story (coming soon on video also)

I Begin with My Story: Most Importantly May It Inspire The Telling Of Yours

Hello! Welcome to our website! The ABOUT US page talks about our mission which also informs my story.

I hope it may inspire you to write yours here! That’s what this website is about! Finding our words, correcting our language and sharing our truest selves in celebration of the community that can be found.

My story comes in three parts:

First: Recognizing the ability to speak at all by lifting the shame. Listening to the moments I felt muted by other’s dictates, and finding accurate words to express my truest self.

Second: Listening to my gut brought me to a truth I couldn’t imagine existed and that I had always wished for.

Third: Finding that there really were people who spoke my language and saw the world in a very similar way. And that books and independent education was the best therapy I could ever find. One really good therapist didn’t hurt either, who was more importantly an independent thinker and who honored mine. All allowed me to not just see but transcend the limitations of very flawed mental health system.

My story centers around unraveling the effects and ravages of a lifetime of stigmatization and un-indoctrinating myself. All of which provided a return to my truest self and re-entry into the human community from since I could remember.

I start by setting the stage.

CHARACTER: Young female me, only female in the family and the youngest -yet more adult in her posturing, serious, intellectual leaning, not very playful except for her dolls who were like her best friends.

PLACE: Home

TIME: Childhood, somewhere around the age of 10 - coming to terms with the not so great things about the adult world and the seeds of what would become my adult truth.

SITUATION: A rather happy household, not perfect, but in the realm of whatever “normal” might have represented – life was at least filled with the usual daily adventures of living headed by above all my father. My father was the epitome of success - a self-made oral surgeon/dentist highly educated Yale man, always adventurous immigrant and worldly man, a lover of life, the ultimate romantic, yet quintessential family man, loving and attentive father – And he was a highly contributing community citizen, forever interested in politics and in his own way always proudly pushing the edge.

THE EVENT: My beloved father, lover of life was DIAGNOSED - BIPOLAR - late 70’s early 80’s as a result of becoming involved with a counter culture movement and I believe what was a mid-life extreme spiritual crisis.

THE AFTERMATH AND POST DIAGNOSIS: My family who had always valued “family” above all - broke apart. My parents divorced. Our world shattered into a quietly controlled war zone filled with shame and blame... too much to go around or for anyone to single-handedly process. It got whittled down into an “us versus them” mentality - where it became a war of my mother and brother against my father and me. It set a new silent but strong unspoken undertone that seemed to move in and take over. Me, all the while fighting for my life against getting a diagnosis like my father so as not to suffer a similar fate.

CONCLUSION: I now understand that yes there is a select small group of people in the word that just might actually believe I’m crazy. But it isn’t my job anymore to prove to them that I’m not but rather their job to find out that I’m not. What they miss in the meantime will be their loss and my new and only job is living.

THE STORY: I begin at the beginning and it’s central character – my father and the person he showed himself to be to me.

I will never forget when he brought the militant brown berets (guns and all, which on the face of it might scare people, but the punchline is exactly the opposite). The Brown Berets were the very origins of the chicano movement. They stayed with us for a few days, and never for a moment did I feel unsafe. If anything just mobilized, even at my young 6 years of age by their larger call for justice, unity and equality. As they paraded through the streets, chanting their cause, I hailed alongside them. My father invited them to an event at the church’s coffee house - hosted by the little old white-haired church ladies and their coffee cakes. I’ll never forget the brown berets, their speeches or their clap, which started slow and steady and sped up to a collective vibration as they chanted “Viva La Raza!” That was where I also learned the “code” handshake, the proverbial “bro” handshake of today without the fist pump. Back then, it was a sign that you were “on their side” or “the inside” as it were. By the time they left, the little old ladies were shaking hands right along with them.

My dad helped make that happen. He prided himself on bridging divides-recognizing our similarities not differences. He loved stirring things up, for the sake of something grander– if only to not take ourselves too seriously-ever. And that was his essence – a lover of life and of people - mostly the underdog; always combining compassion and politics to help bring voice to those who had none. He traveled the world with my mother, spoke a variety of languages, from Spanish to Portuguese to French and Italian.

As a father, he was the ultimate playmate, helping us set off rockets in the back pasture, taking us camping and on a variety of adventures. But it wasn’t just what he did but what he taught us as he took us along. There was always a purpose behind anything he embarked upon.

For example, he would take us treasure hunting (literally) with leads from his archeologist’s friend’s maps. It was a reminder that anything was possible… and what did it hurt to keep the possibility of magic alive? What if we did find the treasure? Besides which, we would learn the names of plants and animals and collect goodies along the way. I even remember him sifting through abandoned red ant piles because he’d figured that the ants were the greatest archeologists of all, he uncovered enough tiny glass beads in the old ant piles to make my mother a pair of earrings.

And that’s not the only thing he made, he made jewelry for my mom out of gold he’d extracted from his left over patient’s teeth (which some might see as gross, I saw it as inventive and non-wasteful, besides he was a doctor and understood the importance of sanitation).

He often saw opportunity where there seemed none and encouraged us to do the same.

He would walk me through my fears to the other side until they were not just irrelevant but useless, and finally cumbersome. He was a master at redirecting and helping me keep my eye on the prize. In essence he taught me the meaning and importance of following my passion. It wasn’t just about living passionately but rather the passion was living. He would exclaim, “Everyone is so busy making a living, they’re not living!”

I remember my first time on a ferris wheel sitting beside him, in willing yet anxious trepidation. He made sure to keep my focus on how far we could see - when we reached the top and got stuck - that was the best view of all!

From then on, I loved Ferris Wheels, same with lightening storms. He allowed me count so that I could know just how far away the lightening was to enjoy the beauty of the natural light display until I no longer even needed to count. To this day, I love lightening storms! Fear took second seat to the adventure in front of us, until fascination replaced and upstaged it.

He taught me that my limitations were my greatest assets.When I finally got my first acting role in college, it seemed to take forever, and it was only a bit part with only one line. He told me, “there was no such thing as small parts, just small actors”. I put my all into it, got a standing ovation and my entre into lead parts.

He helped make my brothers award-winning derby cars for their Boy Scouts’ tournaments. But it was never about winning, only the joy of building the best car possible. He loved the challenge of anything new or even old if he could bring new life into it - like fixing up an old military Jeep when he knew nothing much about cars or making a go-cart with my brothers out of an old lawnmower motor.

For Halloween he made me a witch’s nose out of dental nose putty to go along with my mother’s home-made costumes. While most of the kids had the cheap plastic fake vampire teeth, we had real ones! They were actual dental teeth custom fit to our mouth where we could mischievously hide them from everyone until we opened our mouth to reveal them with an evil smile and laugh with a Bua ha ha!

On rainy days, he’d build us boats out of scrap wood and nails hammered into them with strings tied to the front so we could pull them upstream against the currents of the gutter - where we played outside for hours on end.

He showed us that something could always be made from nothing or what most might throw away. There was opportunity in everything, it was our job to find it.

He taught us to embrace nature and never be afraid of it – Praying Mantises were his pets and he let Tarantulas crawl on his hands. He even once caught a wild cotton tail rabbit by hand to breed it with my domesticated one so that I could have baby bunnies.

Our backyard was a natural Disneyland-like petting zoo with every kind of farm animal you can think of; from goats to chickens and ducks, ponies, horses, bunnies, cats, dogs, hamsters, salamanders, chameleons, parakeets and even a wild sparrow hawk – and our pet family seemed to always be somehow forever changing and expanding.

Our backyard was filled with wild fruit trees, something like 13 apple trees, one pear tree, one apricot tree, a plum orchard, wild rhubarb, raspberries and asparagus growing along the ditch where we often safely played. Not to mention our own garden, swimming pool, a swing set, a treehouse he built with us out of scrap wood and even a clubhouse in the attic.

I don’t say this as a means of bragging but as a means of saying my dad didn’t skip a beat - and of course don’t forget the sandbox.

Family time also consisted of dancing to Colombian and other music in the basement where we would dance and play percussion instruments. There was no need to play them “right” or perfectly - it was just about having fun. His favorite was the bongos which he played with the confidence of a musical oficianado, despite never having had a single lesson.

We regularly had barbecues whenever possible. And he was forever exciting our taste buds with interesting things like hormigas otherwise known as army ants, and no - not the American way- “chocolate covered” – but instead the “Colombian” way - just a little salt and a whole lotta natural flavor. Yum! And of course all the other South American treats like obleas with dulce de Leche, plantains, caldo con huevo with arepa, guanabana and more.

For lotion, he rubbed the leftover chicken oil from his food into his hands with a satisfying grin at breaking a little American etiquette. He never let us forget our Colombian heritage. He loved to rebel, keep us on our toes, never let us get too spoiled or comfortable.

He nurtured our international palette and honored my mother’s Swiss heritage with cheese fondue and strudel she slaved over for Christmas. Family dinners often included foreign exchange students, traveling performers, and even one mentally challenged friend, Gonzalo (our age) who had to wear a helmet at all times for safety.

Forever active in campaigns, meals would often involve political discussions, a global perspective on things, and fighting for the underdog. He gave far more free dental care to those in need than he ever asked credit for- because it needed to be done and he could do it.

My father was a lover of life and he was the engine that drove it! My mother and he had been married more than 20 years. He was forever innovative, forever throwing out new and inventive ideas or ways of doing things or just new things to do! And my mother his willing and sometimes not so willing cohort, and seeming unspoken solid base.

Life was the adventure and he made sure we were along for the ride, always encouraging us to create our own. There were conflicts like any other household but nothing that ever stood out as particularly pathological - Or at least nothing that I could see from my child perspective.

He valued being unique and made sure we did the same. With a huge sense of humor, he laughed at anything and everything possible. A continual practical joker, he never took himself or anything terribly seriously. Nothing was ever a big deal, not even death. It was all just life, something to make our best way through, no matter what we were given. Making people laugh he later considered one of his “missions in life”, even long after his diagnosis. His spirit was unconquerable.

His uniqueness was in many ways a huge source of pride for him, a fun contest of sorts and he’d made it work for himself-quite successfully. You could even say that was exactly what made him successful in all the ways that mattered most.

But once he was diagnosed-everything changed. Life would never be the same.

 

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HOW I FOUND OUT I WAS MENTALLY ILL

How I Found Out I Was Mentally Ill

by Cheryl Froehlich

 

Back in the late 60's, women were quite often presecribed Valium for any emotional complaints or what used to be called "hysteria".  It became the "new normal" and the Rolling Stones, in 1966, came out with their song "Mommy's Little Helper".  I was prescribed Valium back then but I really don't remember why or what my complaint was.  It does the trick to sedate and has a calming effect on anxieties and that was the goal; to help, mostly women, deal with life's frustrations.  I was working for the local newspaper office at the time proofreading and collating a cookbook.  I would take some Valium in the morning before going to work and a couple of hours later, I was snoozing and salivating with my head buried in the hamburger casserole recipe on page 20.  

I needed the job and napping wasn't listed as a job perk, so I didn't take the Valium for any length of time and don't remember having any withdrawal effects.  From what I know from studying these minor sedatives/anti-anxiety drugs is that Valium has the longest half-life of all of them so probably that helped with the withdrawal and that I wasn't yet "hooked" on it.  Valium, being a benzodiazipine, can be quite addictive and very difficult to get off but much easier than those with a shorter half-life.  Half-life meaning the time it takes for half of the drug to metabolize and be eliminated from the body.

Help!  I'm Suicidal!

My second experience with psychiatry back in the early 90's was, admittedly, a cry for help.  Without going into detail, I will just say that my life seemed to be falling apart.  I felt suicidal and desperate.  I picked up the phone book (yes, we used them back then) and found a psychiatrist's name and dialed the number.  I nervously, in panic mode, explained to the receptionist why I was calling.  She told me she would have the psychiatrist called me ASAP.  I was very relieved when he returned my call but was completely baffled by his response and what he asked me was a blessing in disguise.  He asked if I had health insurance.  I said no and his reply was "Then I can't help you".  I knew little about the ''system" back then and was very confused by his response to a suicidal person.  What I realized years later is that no insurance meant no treatment.  Money trumps suicide.  The desperation and contemplating suicide faded and life went on without the help of the "compassionate" psychiatrist.  I know now that if I had insurance at the time, I would have been a psychiatric unit on suicide watch with all my rights taken away and on a regimen of medications.  I thank God to this day that the psychiatrist didn't care if I committed suicide or thought I wasn't worth the bother if I couldn't pay.

I did eventually see someone for a couple of therapy sessions at the local mental health clinic and of course, given a prescription for Prozac.  A wondrous drug!  Emotionality gone. Sleep is good.  Sexual pleasure non-existent.  I joined the Zombie Nation!  I have never been good at following medication regimans, so I think I eventually would just forget to take them.  Prozac also has a long half-life, so with not being on it very long didn't cause any issues with withdrawal that I can remember.

Mentally Ill????

Then in 2001, my son was "caught' in the psychiatry web when he had a unusual experience when he abruptly stopped using marijuana and alcohol during his third year in college.  He was prescribed Risperdal, an atypical antipsychotic and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant.  This brought him into a lifetime of cycling in and out of hospitals resulting in not knowing who he is anymore.  His experiences within the psychiatric system led me to my "official" diagnosis of mental illness.

During one of my son's hospitalizations, I was furious what the meds and psychiatry were doing to him.  I spent many hours compiling a letter to the psychiatrist, the board of directors, state officials, and anyone else I could find that might listen.  I explained how the meds were making him worse and went into detail after many hours of reserch about the meds.  I knew I was right.  I did get a response from one agency and a patient advocate that said they would investigate my claims, but I never heard from them again.  My son was eventually released, and I sent for his medical records.  I found my answer as to why the agency and advocate did not follow through.  This is where I found out I was mentally ill; diagnosed by my son's psychiatrist whom I never met.  It read "This patient's mother is as mentally ill as her son".  Wow!  Did I get angry?  No.  I shrunk to the size of a mushroom.  I was literally sick to my stomach; afraid, humiliated, and scared.  He went on to state that his staff were in full agreement with his assessment of me.  I learned to shut up...to be silent...not to make waves.  I was the neurotic mentally ill mother.  I wondered what his diagnosis of me was.  Schizophrenic? Bipolar? Delusional? Paranoid?  When I think about it now, I know it was the psychiatrist's way of silencing me and to ward off the agenices I had contacted to protest his harsh treatment of my son.  Of course they would believe a doctor over a neurotic mother.  I found out later I could have sued him for his diagnosing me without me being present for a thorough assessment but fighting these guys in court is pointless.  That's another story to tell.  The Court of Sham.  No, I did not misspell sham.

Deja Vous!

I fell into the trap again a couple of years later when life got overwhelming again.  I was taking care of my aging mother at the time along with my son being hospitalized again.  I had brought her to a doctor's appointment and as I sat in the patient room waiting for her to return from them running some tests on her heart, I felt an overwhelming sensation of exhaustion and emotionality that surrounded my entire being.  I hastily went to the appointment desk to see if anyone was available to talk to.  They sent me to a Nurse Practitoner who dismissed my story midsentence and calmly stated "Oh, your depressed".  Within minutes, I was given a prescription for Lexapro, a newer antidepressant than Prozac.  She also referred me to a counselor and I engaged in a couple of therapy sessions along with a prescription for Wellbutrin!  

I had not started the Lexapro yet as I was having apprehensions as to be expected.  I decided to try to the Wellbutrin first.  If you want an upper, this is it!  Can't sleep..restless legs...a bit of akathesia anyone?  Akathesia is the worst.  I couldn't sit still.  You pace because your body feels like it's on fire from the inside.  I chucked them in the garbage.

Now for the Lexapro.  By now I knew that these drugs were a disaster, but I decided to see what exactly it would do.  That was a big mistake because this one is a "Big Whopper" compared to the regular "Whopper".  I was so numbed out that I lost every bit of what it is to be alive.  I was taking college classes at the time and studying was impossible.  I would sit at the table rereading the same page over and over; not comprehending a thing I had read.  My oldest son was so alarmed by my robotic, non-emotional presentation, that he insisted I throw them away.  The last straw came one night during dinner with my husband.  He must have said something that made me angry and my reaction was shocking.  I was holding a fork and I turned it into a weapon as if I were holding a knife.  I held it up with the impulsive urge to stab my husband with it.  I stopped myself before plunging it into his throat.  It was a sensation I had never experienced before and was very disturbing to me and to my husband, to say the least, as he stood there with his mouth open in confusion.  I knew at that moment that it was a result of the Lexapro and needed to get off it.  Caution!  Physician's Desk Reference of Psychiatric Drugs lists homocidal ideation as a side effect!  I quit taking it cold turkey which was another bad decision.  My legs jerked non-stop and the brain zaps were intense.  I couldn't sleep.  I knew I had to go back on the Lexapro and wean off slowly.  I did just that and still endured withdrawal effects but I made it through and that was the last time I took any of their dangerous drugs.

Hello Prednisone!

I developed severe diverticulitis resulting in a very inflamed colon and needed very high doses of Prednisone after I was misdiagnosed with Crohn's Disease around 2014.  I had lost so much weight from not being able to eat and had become anemic.  Prednisone is quite an interesting steroid which affects the adrenal glands.  I would lie in bed and never sleep.  By 2 a.m., I was ready to go grocery shopping at Walmart.  I cleaned my house from top to bottom, rearranged all the furniture, painted all the walls, redecorated the bathroom, and tremored constantly.  I felt a bit manic and it rather scared me that maybe, just maybe, I was mentally ill until I mentioned by behaviors to several nurses.  They described having the same experiences while on Prednisone!  Ok, I wasn't crazy.  Prednisone can be crazy-making!  I had to be taken off the Prednisone prior to colon surgery.  Coming off Prednisone is a process because of it's dysregulation of the adrenal glands and the doctors were very careful in tapering me off.  I have experienced such a difference in medical doctors compared with psychiatrists in regards to tapering people off medications.  

Morphine Psychosis Anyone?

I was finally off the Prednisone and in the hospital for colon surgey which quite a common procedure these days but does result in a lot of post-surgery pain.  Trusting my surgeon and the medical staff to take care of me was not questioned...until the morphine drip made for a wild ride.  It was like being awake and but not really awake.  I would see the doctor and a nurse standing by my bed conversing and the next second actually waking up with no one there.  This kept happening!  Relatives came to see me that were never there.  My husban built a wooden fence gate on my bed!  After a couple of nights of these bizarre experiences, I explained what was happening to the night nurse and asked him if they could switch pain meds.  He obliged and the hallucinations went away.  Am I crazy?  No.  These drugs are teaching me how they can mess with the brain.

From my own experiences on different types of drugs, I know that I was right in defending my son.  When Big Pharma can't tell me how they "work", what in God's name are we doing subjecting so many to drugs we have no idea how they are affecting, not only the mind, but the body!

Psychiatrists only see us as a walking chemically imbalanced brain as if separate from the rest of the body.  Was the psychiatrist correct in declaring me mentally ill?  Nope.  It was a cop out.  I have little respect for them and am no longer scared of them.  They practice their own religion with their delusions of miracle pills and pseudo-science.  I am okay.  I have anxiety at times.  Who doesn't?  I feel depressed at times.  You too?  I get overwhelmed at times.  Welcome to the club.  That's life.  That's being human.  I learned that psychiatry is all about little blue pills, green pills, and pink pills. Colorful little things that remind me of candy at the local Widman's Store with the nostalgic soda fountain when I was a kid.  Aren't those pills pretty?  What harm can they do?

I learned not to trust psychiatrists from my own experiences and from others who should never have been subjected to psychiatry's paternalism, narcissism, and laziness.  Their belief in a science that is questionable and has all but destroyed too many lives.  I survived.  Thank God I did my research.  I read books like Mad in America and Anatomy of An Epidemic by Robert Whitaker and many other books.  I read my textbooks.  I went to University to study biological and clinical psychology.  In Pharmacology classes, they teach only the minor side effects and not a hint of withdrawal problems.   They don't teach about the brain changes that might become permanent; creating a community of chronic patients.

I taught myself to "question everything, assume nothing".  A very wise Suzy Kassem wrote "Most of the time, we see only what we want to see, or what others tell us to see, instead of investigate to see what is really there.  We embrace illusions only because we are presented with the illusion that they are embraced by the majority".  I agree with her.  Tomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, stated in one of his blogs "We lack cures, we lack vaccines, and we lack diagostic markers.  Terms like 'depression' or 'schizophrenia' or 'autism' have achieved a reality that far outstrips their scientific value".  

It's like looking at the forest through the trees.  The real cause is right in front of you.  Can't you see it?

 

 

 

 

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The Monster In Our House

 

 

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The Monster in Our House
How psychiatric medication brought my father to the brink of madness


Roberta Connors
Jan 2, 2019

My cell phone rings.
“Is this ‘Robik’?” someone asks.
“That’s my nickname,” I answer, confused. “Who’s this?” It’s a police officer.
“We think we have your father here. He says he’s trying to get into your house.”
“I’m in my house. Where are you?” They’re outside, down the block. My mother and I run out to the street and approach the unforgettable scene: my father, old, grey and stiff, arms bleeding in handcuffs, is sobbing and yelling, surrounded by officers.
“You hurt me!” my father yells. “Why do you hurt me?” My mother and I, mortified and scared (please don’t shoot him, I pray to myself), run up to them.
“Does he have dementia?” an officer asks.
“Yes, I apologize for this.” I’m relieved to have an explanation. They take him out of the handcuffs and allow us to walk him home. My father tells me that he’s sorry, that he decided to take a walk but coming back he couldn’t discern which house was ours. So he started entering neighbors’ houses. We cry as we hold each other.
We had already warned him not to leave our house. We had already taken his car away. We were making plans to take away his cell phone. We were battling with the million little details of dementia. So we thought.

My father’s transition from being an independent person to one who could no longer care for himself was messy and prolonged. It took years for us to truly recognize his decline. We knew he was on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications and that they didn’t seem to be successful. We supported his decision to sell his small business and go on disability because of debilitating stress and anxiety. He was nearing retirement age anyway. We agonized over his deteriorating driving skills and his increasing disorientation. We worried that he wasn’t taking his medications properly, or might even be over-medicating himself. But since he lived on his own — an hour away from family — we couldn’t be entirely sure what he was doing. To make matters worse, he was being sued by his downstairs neighbor for making excessive noise while walking in his home. We hired lawyers and acoustics experts and negotiated a settlement, but this is where my father seemed to spiral.


No one tells you when it’s time to take over for a parent’s care. You just realize that someone’s at the end of their rope, and they’re about to fall.
My realization came when my father’s housemate called us to let us know he had driven my father to his first electroshock treatment.
“Why is he getting electroshock treatments?”
“He says he’s depressed. He says he wants to die.”
When I called the clinic that was performing the “emergency” electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) on the advice of my father’s newest psychiatrist, it was clear to me that they did not know what medications he was taking, were expecting him to get himself to and from the clinic without driving (he planned to drive himself until we intervened and paid people to drive), believed he would actually follow their instructions (you’re not supposed to drive for at least a week after your last treatment), and believed he was on the brink of committing suicide. But my father was almost 70 and had never attempted suicide. I was alarmed.
Another important note: an MRI later revealed that my father suffered a mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack) some time before his psychiatrist signed him up for ECT.
“Do you know that my father is showing signs of memory loss and confusion?” I asked the clinician. “Are you sure electroconvulsive therapy won’t exacerbate this?”
“Although there can be mild memory loss from the ECT, your father is suffering from treatment-resistant depression, and the ECT can help him.”
He was wrong. It didn’t help.

You may have already heard that the statistics behind short-term and long-term effectiveness of psychotropic drugs are dubious — that for many people they simply don’t work or are harmful. You may have heard that the shifting emphasis on prescription drugs for mental health has not necessarily improved mental health. You may have heard about the hidden evidence that some anti-depressants can increase a person’s risk of suicide. So consider this anecdote as a warning, with one important message: psychotropic drugs do not “balance” a person’s brain chemistry. They alter it, sometimes to an astonishingly harmful degree.
Disclaimer: There are people who have psychological/neurological impairments that require medications. But I believe that number is far smaller than the number of people actually being medicated for psychological/neurological conditions.
I never believed my father was clinically depressed. To the contrary, my father was gregarious, energetic and hard-working. He was a born performer, playing guitar, singing, performing as Santa Claus, emceeing wedding receptions, or reciting one of thousands of memorized poems and jokes. He had a witty, if caustic, sense of humor and he was always “on” in the company of others. The term “bi-polar” or “manic depressive” would more aptly describe him, though his highs well outweighed his lows. I featured some of my father’s antics and talents in a compilation of old home movies — an entertaining glimpse into his typical disposition.

As I grew up, I recognized my father’s personality in people like Robin Williams (I’ll return to this point later). Like him, and like so many creatives with “dangerous gifts”, my father had demons. His marriage to my mother was deeply dysfunctional. He was a serial adulterer. His drinking of alcohol was likely influenced by his Russian genetic and cultural heritage. (Alcohol, I should note, is one of the most potent depressants a human can ingest.) And, as someone who had a family to support after immigrating to America at almost 40 years old, he shouldered immense levels of stress. He worked constantly. And the career he fantasized about, one full of music, singing and poetry, never materialized.


My father’s first foray into psychiatric medications coincided, not surprisingly, with the collapse of his marriage. A therapist prescribed Zoloft for depression. This was twenty years ago, before the term “chemical imbalance” was in vogue.
Following the Zoloft, two strains of a pattern emerged. Either my father would feel better and stop the medication, or he would feel worse and a doctor would increase his dose or introduce new medications. Throughout this pattern, my father continued to drink and never went to any sort of therapy. This lasted for close to two decades. He altered his mental state with pills and alcohol, which resulted not only in no improvement to his mental or emotional well-being, but ended with him abandoning his business and feeling worse than he ever had.
For me, there are a few clues that my father was misdiagnosed and mistreated. Medical professionals were probably rarely, if ever, exposed to the reality of my father’s bi-polar personality, because when he was manically “happy” he was not making doctor’s appointments. It’s doubtful he confided in them about his level of drinking, partying and dysfunctional relationships with young women. Additionally, there was a language barrier. It was easier for my father to make simple statements, like “I’m depressed” and “I don’t want to live”, rather than try to find the appropriate English words to delve into his mental state and his manic lifestyle. He also probably became unable to differentiate between what might have been a side effect of one the multiple prescriptions he was on, and what was his own self-diagnosed mental health issue. Most people, including doctors, don’t really know what the behavior they are seeing indicates. Unhappiness, sadness, boredom, stress, these can all come across to a doctor or patient as “depression.”
When he signed himself up for the ECT because he “wanted to die” and could hardly move his limbs, I’m betting his doctors and nurses didn’t stop to consider that a recent stroke and his self-medicating with alcohol and multiple psychiatric drugs might be contributing to his psychosis, or at least to cognitive impairment that could have lead to the emotional devastation and anxiety he felt at the time.


One other thing I’m sure of: my father was a hedonistic pleasure-seeker. With his doctors, he found a high that could dull his senses and lift his mood. Although medical professionals may believe they are treating someone’s illness, my father, by ignoring things like therapy or sobriety, was enjoying the drug effect and sedation, the chemical fix for the unhappiness that came with the collision of his dreams and his reality. Meanwhile, the drugs wreaked continuous havoc to his brain.
Over the course of twenty years, my father was treated by or consulted with at least 16 different medical professionals who prescribed him a total of at least 21 psychotropic medications. He was frequently taking more than one medication at one time. Eventually, the anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications were not strong enough for him. His prescriptions were increasingly for anti-psychotics, drugs that are used to treat schizophrenia and other psychoses, as well as anticonvulsants that are typically prescribed for mania.
Additionally, my father was taking medications for other maladies, like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood clots. It wasn’t until this year that someone pointed out to me that a statin can have neurological side effects, including depression, confusion and memory loss. My father had been on statins for years.
And, this is the hardest part for me to accept: It’s well-understood that SSRIs, along with several other drugs, increase the risk of a stroke. This is particularly true if a person has been on blood thinners, which my father had been. I’m still a bit enraged when I think about the fact that doctors didn’t warn my father that he could increase his chances of a stroke by being on blood thinners and anti-depressants, especially considering that his blood pressure and cholesterol levels already made him a stroke risk.

Upon completing a whopping 11 ECT treatments, my father only became more disoriented, more forgetful and less coherent. We could no longer let him drive, so we sold his car and asked his doctor to notify the DMV that his driving was impaired. Having evidence of my father‘s recent mini-stroke and memory loss, the doctor surmised that it looked like he was beginning to suffer the early stages of dementia.


From then on, my father was ping-ponging between my sister, my mother and me as his caregivers. We prepared every meal, eliminated his access to alcohol, supervised nearly everything he did and dutifully took him to his medical appointments. This included an almost monthly visit with a psychiatrist. By 2018, my father was taking Lithium for depression/bipolar disorder, Lamotrigine for bipolar disorder, Clonazepam for anxiety and sleep, Donepezil for dementia, plus his statin and other medications.
Meanwhile, I became more and more alarmed by my father’s mental and physical decline. After reading a well-known tome about caring for someone with dementia — “The 36 Hour Day” — and joining a 20,000-member Facebook group for caregivers of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, I was introduced to many symptoms that I recognized in my dad. He was emotionally volatile, frequently sobbing for no reason. His physical movements were impaired: he had trouble moving his limbs or bending his body in any way, which meant he never wanted to change his clothes, nor shower. His mental decline was staggering. He no longer understood basic facts, people’s names, ages and relation to him. He had no ability to read, play guitar, or even watch television. All technology became a frustration to him. He had hand tremors. His writing ability regressed to the point that he couldn’t spell basic words and would write painstakingly and slowly, like a child. He asked the same questions over and over, compulsively agonizing about small facts. He had trouble seeing. He did damaging things on accident, like pour liquid soap into a cup and drink it, or leave a faucet on.
Worst of all, he developed extreme combativeness and aggression, even physically lashing out, and yelling angrily at the top of his lungs, often in public. We began to fear him and the increasing frequency of “catastrophic reactions” that are well-known in the world of dementia.
One thing “The 36 Hour Day” and all medical professionals seemed to agree on was the obligation to treat a patient’s depression, even if (and maybe especially if) the patient has dementia. But this did not make sense to me. His treatment for depression had all but failed for 20 years, I couldn’t understand why medical professionals pursued this unicorn of a cure. While they were busy experimenting with his brain, my father was becoming a monster, and it agonized us that he was behaving so wildly and dangerously with everyone who cared for him (and in front of my small children — who hated being around him). The only reprieve we got was when he slept, which was often. After all, the majority of the drugs he was on had major sedating effects. But when he was awake, it was like dealing with an aggressive, 200-pound zombie. We were nearing the end of our ability to manage him. We considered two end-of-the-road options: a memory care facility and/or much heavier medications. We toured some facilities and asked the psychiatrist for Seroquel. Seroquel is a “black box” drug, which means it comes with the FDA’s most serious warning for serious or life-threatening risks. It also increases the mortality rate for dementia patients. Even though it’s specifically not approved for dementia, it’s well known as an off-label treatment. To my shock, after all the hand-wringing we did about the Seroquel, I found out that my father had already had a prescription for it several years earlier, before the dementia diagnosis.
Between all the appointments, medications and terror in our home, a thought continued to nag at me: how could this man suffer such a massive decline? He was barely 70 years old. The people at the memory care facilities were wheelchair-bound and decades older than him. There was no way he could sit alongside them. He never wanted to sit. He stood and paced frantically, he could walk for hours. If he went to a facility, they would only sedate him more, because he would be a combative nuisance.
When we took my father to a neurologist to see if there was anything new to report on his latest MRI, we learned that nothing had changed. There was nothing more going on in his brain than his original scan showed two years earlier.
“Can you at least test him? Find out how bad his dementia is? We don’t understand why he’s behaving this way,” I said. But the neurologist said my father seemed to be past the point of being capable of sitting through testing. He couldn’t sit at the appointment, he was complaining and yelling from the moment we entered the room, to the moment we exited.
“You know, the dose of Seroquel you have him on is not that high. You might consider increasing it,” the neurologist offered. I felt so defeated. Not a single drug was improving his condition.
“Ok, but can we at least take him off some of these other pills? They’re clearly not helping.”
“That’s a conversation you need to have with his psychiatrist.”
We’d already had that conversation. Her response was to replace Lamotrigine with Trileptal. She didn’t even know, and then was fairly unconcerned, about his dementia diagnosis. She asked him how he felt, he talked through his mental fog about how depressed he was and how it was the worst day of his life, and she typed on her tablet and tweaked his prescriptions. It was a textbook case of what I later learned is referred to as the “15 minute med check.” After a few of these appointments, it was clear to me that my father’s brain was a problem no one could solve and no pill had ever seemed to solve. Not only that, the fact that he was making life in our home impossible seemed not to register with anyone.
I came to the conclusion that because doctors are always going to aim for “treatment”, it’s very difficult for them to accept the concept that drugs are doing more harm than good and that abandoning them might be warranted. They are not thinking about discontinuation, tapering and the complicated nature of a body’s and brain’s withdrawal symptoms. When the medical professionals had seemingly no interest in my father’s completely “insane” behavior, I looked more closely at his medications. The side effects were staggering: blurred vision, tooth pain, memory loss, muscle stiffness, depression(!), suicidal thoughts, drowsiness, insomnia, aggression. I read about the tragic misuse of sedating medications on people with dementia and small efforts to end the practice. I read about the use of these incredibly strong psychotropic drugs on children in the foster care system, on prisoners, on migrants. I read in the caregiver-Facebook group how many caregivers were sedating their loved ones with hardcore drugs, and treating them for depression and anxiety, and yet still experiencing agitation and violence, just like we were. A study even shows that long-term use of benzodiazepines leads to a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. “Unwarranted long term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern,” the study concludes.
I also read about “polypharmacy”, which is typically defined by a patient taking more than five medications at one time. Polypharmacy is associated with an increase in adverse drug events, reduced functional capacity and several geriatric syndromes.
What are we participating in, I wondered? Why aren’t the doctors who are seeing my father get worse and worse scrutinizing the medications more closely?
I’m going to cut to the chase here:
My father now uses Skype on his own to talk to friends. He has a tablet to watch YouTube. He reads. He plays guitar. He’s memorizing new poems. He recently transcribed, quickly and with perfect spelling, the song he sings in the YouTube video. He plays with my children almost daily and laughs uproariously. We got him a dog and he walks her and loves her. He rarely sobs. He almost never yells. He changes his clothes and can shower by himself. He can walk to the neighborhood pool by himself, swim, and walk himself back without getting lost. His memory has markedly improved. And his severe muscle stiffness is gone. Hand tremors, gone. He can hop, skip, even sprint. He does push-ups and sit-ups in his room every day without prompting.
How did this happen?
Well, three months ago— without any medical professional’s knowledge or assistance — we eliminated his last psychotropic prescription.* We have him on a healthy diet and a routine of physical activity. And no alcohol. And a little THC.
It was as if my father, the one I knew, came back from the dead. As the months go by and I watch him emerge from his chemical stupor, I am in disbelief that such a profound change can happen in a person simply by removing the side effects of medications (by removing the medications themselves). It occurs to me that for so long what we thought was his declining mental state could actually have been a state of disinhibition, the way one might feel when they’re high or drunk. His wild and impulsive behaviors, his disorientation, the loud and combative aggression — in hindsight they seem like that of a person who spent his waking hours inebriated. And now, in a matter of months, he’s sober.
Just imagine if we had let my father stay on the medications, as doctors prescribed. We would have assumed, for example, that his inability to write was a symptom of his dementia. If we had told his psychiatrist “he’s no longer able to write”, she would have chalked it up to the recent dementia diagnosis we told her about, and would have continued right on keeping him in the chemical cage that took away his fine motor skills. He would have spent years in the stupor, unable to write his poems and songs. How many other people, I wonder, are stuck in a chemical cage, not realizing that their mental and physical well-being has deteriorated because of side effects? A mere six months ago, we were considering memory care facilities for my father, and would have put him on more sedatives to manage him, which now seems truly absurd.
Now the flip side: He did have a mini-stroke and we do think there is some mental fallout from that. He is, and will always be, a drug-seeker, looking for the magic fix. He tells us often how terrible he feels, how depressed he is. The more coherent he becomes, the more aware he is of his loneliness, his sadness, and his boredom. A pill — I’m convinced — won’t fix that. It never did. As his voluntary caregivers, we do what we can to keep him active and stimulated, as well as safe and healthy. We’re not going to let him drive, and we still supervise him almost everywhere. But — and I’m not exaggerating — all of the monster-like qualities that we thought were severe symptoms of his dementia have practically disappeared. The spectrum of his emotional volatility narrowed substantially. We’ve found ourselves questioning whether he has dementia at all.


So a word about Robin Williams:
When Robin Williams committed suicide in August of 2014, within days the world began talking yet again about the need to treat depression. Everyone seemed to gloss over the fact that Williams was misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. His wife wrote about “chemical warfare” in his brain, the symptoms of which went far beyond depression and into confusion, memory loss, paranoia, intense anxiety and insomnia. She was keen to pinpoint the final diagnosis — Lewy Body Dementia — as the culprit responsible for his suicide. Few talked about Williams’ multiple medications as a potential issue. Like the fact that he had taken two medications for Parkinson’s, which not only can lead to psychosis, but are specifically flagged as inappropriate for people with psychiatric disorders because they can lead to psychosis.
On top of the Parkinson’s drugs, Williams was also taking an anti-depressant called Mirtazapine, a “black box” drug with noted suicide risk. Additionally, Williams had taken out a prescription for Seroquel mere days before his suicide. Williams did indeed have “chemical warfare” in his brain. But we can never truly know how much of the culprit was his dementia, and how much was the number of psychosis-inducing, sedating, debilitating chemicals that the doctor who was “treating” him prescribed.
Susan Schneider, Williams’ wife, made clear that Robin Williams was being treated for depression. He was, after all, a star with the best medical resources and treatments available to him. It’s not like they weren’t going to treatment. Schneider described at least a year of doctor’s appointments, of trial and error with medications, of worsening symptoms, of a “terrorist” inside her husband’s brain. It was as if she was speaking about my father. But my father got better. He may still call himself depressed, but he’s sober, stable and coherent, the value of which he will probably never admit nor appreciate, because he doesn’t remember what the monster in him was like.

Having had this experience, the way I look at psychiatry and psychotropic medications has completely changed. Of course, I understand that they work for some people (though time and life changes also work.). I know stories of people who have had specific mental conditions and behaviors that certain medications helped alleviate, usually in combination with self-care, psychotherapy and eventual discontinuation. Anti-depressants might be an important tool in certain situations, though the benefits have repeatedly been shown to be small, especially when compared to a placebo.
However, I can say with certainty that doctors and psychiatrists often don’t really know if they’ve got the diagnosis, the treatment, or the symptoms right when it comes to mental health. They often aren’t taking time to understand the brain they are altering. They are often unaware of what other medications the patient might be taking. They don’t know if they’re treating the patient, or the patient’s side effects. And they can’t be sure that the cure isn’t worse than the disease.
If you are being treated with psychiatric medications, please consider my warning:
They are experimenting.
Every time.
On you.
At the end of the day, the psychiatric drugs you or your loved one is on are sedatives and chemicals. Some go so far as to call them neurotoxins. The longer you use them, the weaker your brain gets at being able to regulate itself on its own. The higher your risk of deleterious effects. And the harder it is to get off them. But sometimes that’s exactly what needs to happen.

*If you’re interested in weaning yourself off or helping a loved one to wean themselves off psychiatric medication, please remember that the body’s and brain’s dependence on psychiatric drugs is a very real possibility. Temporary withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, tremors and depression. Abrupt discontinuation is not recommended.

Thank you to Laurel Martin-Harris, Ph.D, and to Charles Nelson, Ph.D, MFT, for their input and advice.

DementiaDepressionPsychiatric DisordersMedicationAnxiety

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Ten Hospitalizations in Three Years


Ten Hospitalizations in Three Years

By Abrianna Peto
January 12, 2019
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Hi. I’m a 25-year-old newlywed woman. I’ve been detained in mental hospitals ten times in the past three years and I survived two suicide attempts. Before I was 22, I had no mental health issues.
The first time I was in a mental hospital, I put myself there. I wanted to kill myself, but I didn’t want to kill my niece’s aunt. So, I put down the shotgun and picked up a phone.
The suicide hotline referred me to Seven Hills Hospital in Las Vegas, NV. I agreed to bring myself in for a consultation. I didn’t know then that had I refused to come in for the consult, there was a good chance the police would be sent to my house.
My main memory of the hospitalization was crying. A lot. Constantly. Now, I’ve become emotionless. I can’t imagine caring about something so much it would make me cry.
Now, I have almost nothing left to care about.
At the time, my forehead was swollen with acne. It was so intense it felt like a third-degree burn. That’s what happens when you’re only able to sleep a couple of times a week.
I found the other patients more relatable than any peer group I had ever been a part of. One of my closest friends was a young overweight man in a wheelchair. Eventually I asked why he was in the wheelchair. He was currently hallucinating so badly that he couldn’t stand. He told me he was schizophrenic, and I was fascinated.
“What’s it like?” I asked.
“I wish I could explain,” he responded.
“Well, what kind of things do you hallucinate?”
“You see that wall behind you?”
I looked over my shoulder.
He said, “It’s melting.”
Then he asked, “Why are you here?”
“I’m suicidal.”
We had the freedom to say anything we wanted. Thanks to HIPAA laws, it was illegal for us to reveal the identity of anyone we had met there. I only got therapy talking to the other patients, I did not receive any meaningful therapy from the hospital. Even though I got therapy from some patients, other patients were dangerous for me to talk to. They would trick me, for amusement, into further believing in my delusions, for example.
I wasn’t embarrassed during that hospitalization: almost everyone was in the same boat. I wasn’t afraid of losing my reputation. I could finally just speak.
My friend understandably opted not to ask why I was suicidal and changed the subject.
“What do you do?”
“I own a business.”
“Wow, really?”
I nodded my head and looked down.
“How well does it do?”
“I have five employees.”
He just stared at me for several seconds and smiled.
“What business?”
“I can’t say.”
“What do you do?”
“We manufacture patches for the police and stuff.”
“No way! Didn’t you say you were only 22?”
“Yeah.”
“What are you doing here? If I had a business, a way to make my own money, I wouldn’t be here.”
I felt ashamed. I had everything going for me. I had spent the last ten years of my life transforming from the destitute fat kid to a martial artist with impeccable health. I owned a house. I had a six-figure income.
But I knew exactly why I was there. The shame quickly melted into grief and I started crying again.
He didn’t say anything else. I cried all the time and he was used to it.
I received an incorrect perception of the mental hospital. I liked it and it was helping me — I didn’t realize how much it was hurting the people around me until much later.
I was diagnosed with psychotic depression. After five days, I finally felt stable enough to check myself out. I had never been there by force, as far as I knew.
When the psychiatrist prescribed me Zoloft, he did not warn me that it could cause a manic episode.
So my second hospitalization was a disaster.
There are two wards in a mental hospital: the psychotic ward (“upstairs”) and the suicidal/depressed ward (“downstairs”). My first time in a mental hospital we heard loud noises coming from the ceiling all the time.
I asked, “What is going on up there?”
They said, “Upstairs is for the truly crazy people.”
The second hospital was called Desert Parkway in Las Vegas. The rule about upstairs and downstairs was the same. I was upstairs. I would finally learn what it was really like.
Everything was different.
No one was there by choice (including me). Most had been brought in by the police (some even facing charges). A couple people were forcibly committed by their family.
My mom had committed me because a month after my first hospitalization, my Zoloft dose was doubled and I was sent into an incredibly intense manic episode. I had driven from my brother’s place in Utah to my house in Las Vegas. I was convinced that God was talking to me through everyone and everything. That I was the next prophet of Mormonism. I sped with my hands off the wheel of my car, “trusting God to keep me safe.”
I also believed that demons were following me and inserting thoughts into people nearby. I thought they were forcing people to try and kill, hurt, or kidnap me. Since I was later kidnapped (not that anyone believes me) maybe it was true, on some level.
Psychiatry is atheistic. Which makes it incredibly difficult for religious people to navigate. You are told that everything you have ever believed in is delusional, not just the parts that are negatively affecting your life.
Well thank God he really was looking out and I didn’t die driving back.
The manic episode was my first and it was induced by Zoloft. The doctors knew I might be bipolar and if so, the Zoloft could cause this. But they had not warned me or my family.
If they had, my family would have easily seen the warning signs for an incoming manic episode and had me see a psychiatrist on the outside to be weaned off and get emergency therapy — before it got that bad.
But they didn’t inform us. They do that on purpose because they want people sick.
This time I was in the psychotic ward. Everyone there was enraged.
Many had been held there for over two weeks against their will. There were only three phones and 25-35 adults were fighting over them during the few hours of the day we had access to them. Because people there were losing pets, cars, houses, jobs, personal property, airplane flights, and more. And everyone NEEDED the phone.
The majority of the patients — correction, detainees — were substance abusers being detoxed against their will. All patients in mental hospitals truly are detainees. What I have seen in hospital after hospital (and in statistics too) is that roughly 75% of all patients in mental hospitals are substance abusers, with only a quarter of that 75% diagnosed with just a mood disorder. That leaves the other 25% completely at the substance abusers’ mercy.
For the most part, people don’t check themselves themselves in to hospitals. Substance abusers forced into treatment generally aren’t nice people. They can be sadistic, manipulative, and violent. That doesn’t mean they are worse people or that they don’t deserve treatment. However, their treatment should be separated from people with just mood disorders as they are incredibly vulnerable. These are the worst two groups of people to house together for weeks at a time.
Often, that 25% is turned into substance abusers upon release. I was offered illegal drugs by at least one patient during each hospitalization: cocaine, meth, heroin, and more. In one hospitalization, two of the patients became my friends. I told them I was a web designer and they tried to convince me to create a website to sell drugs on. When I am psychotic, I am so easy to manipulate. Fortunately I didn’t try any illegal substances, but I know many people ended up doing so. Which is why a quarter of the substance abusers have a mood disorder as well. I fully believe that the drug epidemic is mostly caused by mental institutions.
Group therapy largely consisted of alcohol and substance abuse discussions. I had no issues with addiction, but there wasn’t an alternative group to attend. These discussions were also aimed toward personality disorder therapy rather than therapy for psychosis (each should be approached in complete opposite ways).
My largest qualm: we weren’t allowed pens. Which is understandable. They provided tiny wooden golf pencils as an alternative at every hospital I ever went to. Even that I could consent to (I did not want a psychotic person there to stab me with a pen or a long pencil).
Sometimes there was a big box of assorted washable Crayola markets. However, most of the thin-tip markers had been taken and hidden in other patients’ rooms because there wasn’t enough for everyone. It’s pretty impossible to write or draw anything with the big fat broadline markers. Anyway, most of the dark colors like purple, brown and black were either dried up or missing.
So we had pencils. They refused to sharpen the pencils. So, we had no way to write or do art. In desperation I sometimes picked out pieces of lead from the pencil and sharpened them by rubbing their sides against paper, until the pencil was finally somewhat usable.
I desperately need to write and draw while manic, or I can’t sleep and will even start tearing my hair out. This could be easily remedied — they have specially designed bendy pens for prisoners. Apparently, prisons are better equipped to give detainees more comfort than the hospitals are. Which is unacceptable when you consider that the hospitals are paid thousands of dollars a day for you to be there.
Thousands of dollars and they can’t afford to give you a $5 pen.
We only got one hour of recreational therapy a day. Some days it was an hour in the art room, other days it was an hour in the gym. Aside from the gym we were in cramped hallways and a small dayroom. We couldn’t get physical activity for days at a time.
When I was able to work out, it was difficult. I didn’t have any shoes because my shoes had had laces in them. Some patients wore laceless shoes and the rest wore socks. I can’t walk or run much without shoes — without the arch support I get very bad shin splints. I also slipped and fell many times playing basketball or jogging in a small circle.
Why, when it costs thousands of dollars a day to stay there, can they not provide laceless shoes to patients who don’t have any? Some of the hospitals did do something: they gave us socks with rubber patches on the bottom. But I can’t imagine that cheap shoes cost much more money. Other patients often stepped on top of my feet on purpose, since they were wearing shoes and I wasn’t.
For all the hours of the day, I had nothing to do except sit in the dayroom watching TV (but never having a choice of what we watched), playing cards with insane people, talking to insane people, and walking up and down the hall.
I did want to read, but if our families brought in hardcover books, we wouldn’t get them. My family didn’t bring in any, anyway. I usually desperately wanted the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Most of the time, they didn’t have any (which is against the law).
Also, when I was admitted I was usually wearing something I wouldn’t be allowed to wear in the hospital. So, they would give me AWFUL clothing to wear. Once I was in a hospital gown that wraps around you three times. Usually it was scrubs. In one hospital it was nice, we got plain grey sweatpants, a shirt, and a matching grey hoodie.
However, in most hospitals there wasn’t enough underwear. They give you the cheapest, thinnest pair of grandma underwear ever, but they can’t afford to have enough? I was only given one or two pairs of underwear.
We did our own laundry, but they didn’t have enough machines, so we fought over that as well. With only one outfit and two pairs of underwear, I had to wash my clothes at least once every three days. Some people had the luxury of only having to wash their clothes every five days or even longer. Sometimes I would go several days without being able to snag a washing machine and smelling bad was another huge embarrassment in the ward.
Families were able to bring in outside clothes deemed safe by the hospital. Most patients wore them. My family wouldn’t do this. This would signify to the other patients that your family didn’t care about you (which usually meant you must be a bad person). In a hospital gown or cheap scrubs, it was even more embarrassing. It was also cold, sometimes difficult to hide your private parts, and left you easily attacked for the amusement of other patients.
A mental hospital is like a deranged dystopian high school.
You had to attend every single group. Your attendance was marked and if you didn’t attend group you were absent. Absence of more than one group a day meant that you “weren’t complying with treatment” and they could use it to justify keeping you longer to your insurance company. Groups were six hours a day.
The upstairs was chaotic, dangerous, and emotionally and physically violent. Sometimes people were yelling and throwing things. But these weren’t the most harmful moments.
Even during the quiet, “calm” times there was still constant emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse from other patients and staff. A psychotic person is in a fragile state: they are easily manipulated, paranoid and incredibly vulnerable to emotional attacks. They are forced to live in this state with criminals and drug addicts who are bored, very bored, and angry.
When my mom admitted me, I was so manic that I had no problem with it. I thought it was a test (I had to prove to God that I was submissive and positive or he would stop helping me and demons would kill me), and if I passed all of the tests the leader of the Mormon church would come get me and take me to my life of painting for them.
I baptized myself in an intake room with a styrofoam cup of water while my mom watched. I then did cartwheels in the hallway (I hadn’t done a cartwheel since I was like six years old). I had period blood running down my pants, which the entire ward saw when I was first brought in to change in my room.
For the first two days I was convinced that at any moment the leader of the Mormon church would walk into my room to collect me. Everyone would stop acting like they didn’t know I was the prophet. I just had to stay committed to the act.
I made up my own sign language and took a vow of silence.
That night I had a delusion that I was being possessed by an African slave. I hallucinated being on a slave ship, including banging my arm on the bed to create a song in unison with the other slaves slamming their hands.
They put me on “one on one” — this is when one of the nurse practitioners always sits near you and watches you. She sat outside the door to my room while I acted out these hallucinations.
Eventually I became convinced that God could hide me if I snuck out under a sheet. Then I could wait, invisible, at the locked door at the end of the hallway until someone opened it and I could escape.
Remember, this manic episode was entirely induced by a high prescription of Zoloft. I had never had a manic episode before.
When I ignored my one-on-one nurse’s demand to go back to my room, things changed. Two other nurses grabbed me and threw me into the “quiet room” which is a closet-sized room with a bed with restraints on it in the middle. I wasn’t tied down to the bed this time, but they left me locked in the room.
I continued to act out hallucinations, stand on top of the table, etc. Eventually they decided to give me a shot. They came in, held me down, pulled down my pants in front of three men, and administered a shot to my butt. I don’t remember much after that.
I woke up the next day feeling too sick to do, say, or think anything. They had taken me off a medication cold turkey and I was going through immediate withdrawals. I was not warned that I would be going through withdrawals.
I was so sick the room never stopped spinning, I vomited several times, and it felt like I had the flu. I did not know I was going through withdrawals, so I assumed the new medications they had put me on were making me that sick.
I refused to take my medication. Anthony the nurse warned me that he would give me another shot if I didn’t take it. I had no choice. I took it and I felt even worse.
I became so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed. Any movement hurt. I was freezing cold, but they didn’t have any more blankets. To make it even worse, my roommate was completely out of her mind and was up talking to people that weren’t there all night, walking around in circles and turning the lights on and off. I desperately needed to sleep but she wouldn’t let me.
My roommate was also violent. She had multiple personality disorder and was completely psychotic at all times. I was terrified she would kill me in my sleep and she threatened me verbally and physically all the time. She should have been in her own room, alone. I had seen it done at other hospitals.
The ward didn’t have one single open bed. They were doing a good job of turning a profit by being full all the time.
I went to the nurses’ station and asked if I could leave because it had been more than 72 hours. They said they needed my doctor’s approval and that they would ask him.
A few minutes later the practitioner came to my room and told me that because I had not been attending group, I was not participating in my treatment, and I couldn’t be considered for release until I started attending all of them. I was so sick that all I could do was lay in bed all day. I wouldn’t even go downstairs for meals. At first they brought them up to me, but eventually they said if I wanted to eat I had to go to the lunch room downstairs, or I would go hungry. I went hungry. I was barely eating anyways.
One of my delusions was traumatic: I became convinced that the medications were designed to make me so sick I couldn’t get out of bed. Then I wouldn’t be able to go to group, so they could tell my family and insurance company I wasn’t participating, so they could continue to give me poisonous medications, so that I couldn’t get up to go to groups… basically I thought I was in a program designed to keep me locked up for years while they milked my insurance for money.
It literally felt like the sickness would never end. For days I was convinced it wouldn’t. I thought I was going to die there — after years of torment.
After I was finally able to force myself out of bed, I started attending group. I remember how impossible it felt to sit in the chair. I was so sick I needed to lay down, but I had to get out of that hospital ASAP. So, I forced myself to go.
I had to listen to drug addicts and criminals tell stories hoping to win validation from their peers. This is one of the most boring, obnoxious discussions you can listen to. I had to do it for hours every day feeling so horribly ill.
That’s when I had to start socializing with the patients who had witnessed all my psychotic episodes for the past three days.
There were many incidents of major abuse from other patients and staff members during all of my hospitalizations.
For example:
An old fat man started hitting on me. I told the staff I was uncomfortable. They did nothing. He gave me a piece of paper with an email that said something like Slave_Master_Mike@whatevermail.com.
I brought it straight to staff and begged them to move him to the other psychotic ward or transfer me downstairs. No beds. They refused. He was friends with two women, who started to try and take my personal folders from me. My folder had my full name inside of it and a list of family members and their phone numbers.
I was incredibly paranoid they would take it from me. All day every day I had that folder in my hand or underneath it. I wasn’t allowed to take it to meals, so I had to slide it under my door where it would be locked away.
But in the daytime all the rooms were open, and I couldn’t safely leave it there. So instead I had to be incredibly paranoid about it all the time. Which this man’s friends exploited for fun. I was 23 years old at this point and these people were all in their 30’s to 60’s.
Once the man cornered me in a poorly designed wing (there was a group room that was open around a corner where the staff couldn’t see). He cornered me there and it was terrifying. Another 20-something man stepped in and got him to back off.
One woman told the twenty or so people I was forced to live closely with that I was a meth addict. She convinced everyone that all the delusions I came in with were my fault because I was a drug addict. Thus it was fine and fun to ridicule me. I had never done an illegal drug. All the emotional abuse was devastating. Later she punched me and another time she threw urine on me.
There were never any beds open downstairs, even if you were stable enough to be there. Near the end of all my forced hospital stays, I would finally be moved downstairs, and being in that environment would help me again. Like it helped me the first time. But at that point I was so tortured from captivity I just wanted out.
The 72-hour hold is a lie. The police or the family can demand a person be held for at least 72 hours — after that, the doctor can keep you for as long as they want or until you request to go to mental health court.
After you make the request it can take up to two weeks (and usually does) before your case is heard. If the mental health court doesn’t find you competent and you are court ordered to stay in the hospital, you lose many rights permanently, including the right to own firearms, or to not disclose your diagnosis to employers, etc.
So at first, you don’t want to go to court because the doctor says you just “need a few more days.” Why take the risk? You’ll be out of there before the court date anyway, right?
Then a week passes, and you start to panic — the doctor is finding all these tiny reasons to keep you, and now it seems the only way out is through court. From that point, you have to wait another two weeks.
This is how I met people in the hospital who had been detained there for over a month without any sort of hearing or appeal process.
After witnessing this happen consistently to hundreds of people, I know this is a fact. All the psychiatrists at the hospital care about is: Liability and Insurance. They do not care about your mental health. I have met over 12 different hospital psychiatrists and every single one of them were the same.
There are good psychiatrists in the world. None of them work in mental hospitals. They see what is going on, and they quit. And they do everything they can to keep their patients from ever going to one. I know this because I now have a good psychiatrist and he was appalled that I had been in so many hospitals in the past three years. He told me he was aware of how awful they were, and that we would work together to not let it happen again.
I had the same conversation with two other not-so-good psychiatrists. Even they agreed.
If you have good insurance, the hospital will use anything they can against you to prove to the insurance company that you need to be there. Health insurance is the true decider — if they think someone is at risk, they will opt to continue paying for the hospitalization. This is because if they refuse someone treatment and they hurt themselves or someone else, the insurance company can be held liable. Also, if they let go of someone prematurely, they think that person might get worse and need to return for a longer stay or make costly trips to the ER, etc.
The standards that insurance companies require to continue paying thousands of dollars a day for your bed are incredibly low for this reason.
HUGE TIP: If you find yourself or a loved one in a mental hospital when you shouldn’t be, call your insurance company and ask for your case manager. You will have a case and a case manager as soon as you are admitted to the hospital. This person is who really decides if you stay or go. You and your family will have a much easier time persuading this person rather than the doctor. No staff or patients at the hospital will tell you this. I figured it out myself, and it worked once. (Other times I couldn’t get anyone to give me the phone number to my insurance.)
The doctors know the game. Many hospitals are privately owned with the doctors earning a percentage. If all their beds are full all the time (which they are — every time I have gone in, they were at max capacity) they make a good profit that quarter. Profit = larger dividend. There is a clear conflict of interest.
Most hospital psychiatrists are purposely harming their patients to make money off their insurance. It’s like a doctor in the ICU prescribing the wrong medications on purpose to keep a person there just to make money off them. They do it, it hurts the person, and that ends up helping them make even more money later when the person relapses and must come back.
The hospital is not liable for letting a person leave early — the insurance company is. Which means that no one will be held responsible when an uninsured person walks out of a hospital and kills themselves. Which they often do since a person is 100-264 times more likely to kill themselves within one week of being released from a mental hospital.
No uninsured person stays for longer than three days. That kills people, too. The doctors say they are good to go because they can’t pay to stay.
It’s written in the law: If someone was held at least 72 hours the state/hospital did all that they were required to do.
However, if an insured person was forced to leave by their insurance when the doctors disagreed with the course of action, the insurance company will be held responsible. So, you must make a good case to your claim manager that you are stable and there is absolutely no need for you to be hospitalized anymore.
I did not know this for the first two years of hospitalizations and instead felt helplessly at the mercy of my “doctor.” This would lead me to later lose my health, my teeth, my house, all valuable possessions, my dog, my cat, and my family.
On top of that, my business has been completely ruined and will go bankrupt soon. Website traffic to my eCommerce store fell during and after my hospitalizations. I had to lay off four employees and now operate the business alone.
One miracle happened: I got married.
This is just what I experienced during my first two hospitalizations. I have eight more hospitalization stories to tell.

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