Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You bet I’m pissed. Tuesday, December 7, 2010.

“The ‘mental illness’ brigade always talks about how much suffering ‘mental illness’ causes, and that everybody who doesn't buy into their ‘mental illness’ denies their suffering. Well, maybe their suffering really isn't that bad. Or they might bring up the courage to face their trauma, instead of hiding behind their ‘mental illness.’” – Facebook status of an anti-psych

Let’s get three things out of the way:

First, I’m no fan of Big Pharma. I’m disgusted by their profit margin; I believe they should not be allowed to advertise; I’m concerned about drug safety; and I feel vulnerable because I depend on corporate health insurance to afford my medication.

Second, I don’t believe in throwing drugs at everyone who complains of being depressed or anxious. Most of the time, feelings of sadness and fear are normal reactions to the trials of life, and they’ll pass when the situation improves.

Third, as someone who has experienced Haldol Hell I know what it feels like to trust a doctor only to be prescribed a harmful drug.

But I know something else. Somewhere along the line, something in my mind and body went haywire. My mind would get stuck in a loop of thoughts I could not control, and my body pumped out so much adrenaline that I couldn’t eat or sleep for weeks. This has happened to me a few times over the past 30 years – sometimes when I was under stress, and sometimes not – once culminating in a suicide attempt.

And I know that medication has helped lessen the severity of my symptoms.

The anti-psych movement (not all of them are Scientologists, BTW) believes there is no such thing as “mental illness,” simply people who think and behave outside the norm. They feel that diagnoses such as schizophrenia and bipolar stigmatize and dehumanize people. They believe psychiatric medications are worthless at best, and deadly at worst.

They’re free to their opinions, but I start feeling defensive when I read posts calling people who take meds ignorant “sheeple” who simply “believe the ads they see on TV” and “want to be compliant ‘patients’ to please their doctors.” I get angry when I read that autistic behaviors should be blamed on faulty parenting, and that people who are delusional are simply acting out their individuality, regardless of their safety.

Most of all, I feel dismissed and stigmatized by the very people who claim that society is dismissing and stigmatizing me by labeling me as bipolar. To me, personally, understanding that I have a disorder that is biologically based and can be treated makes me feel less ashamed and gives me hope. It gives me a feeling of solidarity with others who have bipolar disorder as well as the many people who are recovering from mental illness with therapy, medication or both.

I tried, for many years and on several occasions, to control my symptoms without meds. I got a BA in psychology. I delved into my past in talk therapy, and I’ve used CBT, EMDR, EFT, Magnesium, Vitamin D, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and prayer. There is nothing wrong with any of these therapies, and in fact I am trying several of them again.

But the severity of my depression and anxiety was such that I did not begin to recover until I was on the right meds. And I ask the anti-psych people: Does that make me some kind of failure…? Because when I see words like “sheeple” and “ignorant” and “compliant,” I sure feel like one. No one who believes in the “biological theory” is calling me names like that. No one else is putting “mental illness” in quotation marks, or dismissing my suffering as “not that bad,” or saying I “lack courage.” But I didn’t choose this.

So long, and thanks for the stigma.


  1. Amen friend, amen.

  2. Excellent post. There are many (like you) who believe in the medical model of mental illness but also believe PharmCo and treatment providers are often harmful and abusive. But we don't want to throw out baby with bath water. We have to reform the abuses and make the benefits avail to all.
    OTOH, I don't know anyone who claims to be anti-psychiatry who will acknowledge any benefits of medications. They may claim disingenously to respect someone's right to take them, but will then go to great lengths to describe why they are harmful or poisonous.
    Thank you for an original post
    dj jaffe

  3. My pleasure! No need to anonymize, btw, I stand by my words.

    Just for the record: It's not a theory, it's a hypothesis. And I never called you a "sheeple". You did that yourself.

  4. Marian,

    I’m in contact with 500 people on Facebook, not just you. You didn’t call me a “sheeple,” and I didn’t call myself one. Someone else used the term when condemning people who use psychiatric medication.

    I’ve also seen the terms “ignorant,” “stupid,” and “brainwashed,” among others. Everything I referred to in this post is based on an actual conversation that I read or participated in.

    I’ve gotten to know people on both sides of this issue, especially over the last couple of weeks. Several people who disagree with my views have, nevertheless, been very respectful and friendly. I’ve appreciated our conversations, I think fondly of them, and I have learned things from them. Maybe they’re learning something from me too, or maybe not; either way, I’m looking further into some topics that were suggested to me, and I appreciate the information.

    Several other people, though, have been nasty and condescending. They don’t endear me to their point of view.

    Flies, sugar, vinegar.


    PS. If you really consider us victims of the psychiatric system, why not save your venom for the doctors who are misleading us, and approach us with concern and compassion? Some of you seem to detest the people who take meds as much as you detest the people who prescribe them.

  5. Venom? What venom?

    All you're doing here is trying to, once more, drag me into the same drama you tried, and, admittedly, partly succeeded, then, to drag me into on fb. Your "argumentation" is circular, and for some reason you're unable to listen to others than yourself. That's not the recipe for a fruitful discussion, it's the recipe for hurting others. And it's probably something you've learned from the system. I for one didn't and don't appreciate that kind of "conversations", and I only came here to put a couple of facts straight. Not to play the drama again. So, have a nice life, Alizah -- setting up double bind after double bind for everybody who can't see beyond your "compassion".

  6. Marian,

    I assume you won’t be back to read this, and that’s fine. This is for the benefit of others who may not have been reading all along and who might not know where I’m coming from.

    You did come to my blog; not the other way ‘round, and you did assume a particular comment was being attributed to you when it was not. No drama; simply fact.

    I’ve been very clear that I resent a lot of things about Big Pharma; that I’ve had negative experiences with medications; that I am in favor of, and practice, a variety of non-medical treatments. I’ve pointed out that almost a decade passed between my diagnosis and my decision to take medication (which I did not, and do not, take lightly).

    I’ve blogged about my belief that it is inappropriate to prescribe medications to someone who is in bereavement or other situation-based depression.

    I’ve stated that I am not in agreement with the widespread drugging of children, and that I’m shocked by, and oppose emphatically, medicating babies and toddlers.

    I’ve agreed that much of the time, emotional anguish is the result of trauma or abuse. (I simply leave the door open to the concept that biology can play a role as well.)

    Last, I’ve made friends with several individuals from “your camp” (I’ve been advised recently that “anti-psych” is a pejorative, which I didn’t know or intend). I’m reading books they’ve written or suggested to me, and we’re able to have very civil discussions. I’m not sure why I would bother with this if I was incapable of considering others’ points of view.

    I’ve stated my views, which (as I’ve said repeatedly) are based on my own personal experience. And I admitted that being called names (ignorant, stupid, sheeple, brainwashed) made me feel angry and stigmatized.

    So I actually share some of your views. I disagree with others. If this makes me some kind of “extremist” in your book, that’s interesting, but it’s simply not reality.



  7. The only logical, rational comments I can see are made by Alizah. And you're right Alizah they seem to detest those who take medication more than those who prescribe it. FACT: At 21 I went to a psychologist, all I did was cry for 2 years. No talking. She could not get me to talk. I had no idea what I was crying about. TWO YEARS wasted. She begged me to get on medication so we could sort out the problems for those 2 years. I refused, thinking for some reason I deserved to just cry. Finally, I couldn't bear the suffering anymore. I agreed to Clonozapan... I was finally able to speak. Crying ceased. Did I make a mistake? No. I probably would be dead, unable to say the words my soul was feeling...