Self Introduction from an E-mail List
I'd like to introduce myself to this list again. I'm not new but since I haven't posted anything in a while, I thought I'd say a bit about myself for those who don't know me. My difficulties with the world started prenatally if you believe that's possible. Mommie dearest lost her job trying to abort me by jumping off of tables at work. She was heavily into physical abuse but, I'll spare you the dirty details for now. My dad died when I was 2 years old. The court records reveal that he'd have been the first male parent awarded custody of minor children in the state of Ohio had he lived two more weeks. Mommie dearest remarried when I was seven hence marking the beginning of the sexual abuse I was to suffer until I was 17 years old and finally managed to emancipate from them.
My first encounter with psychiatry happened in the early 1970's when I was about 22 years old. By then, I was married and had one child. Also by then, I had managed to repress most of the memories of any of my past. When I got angry one evening, I just sort of flipped out and dissociated to nothing. My wife called 911 and the medics straightened my rigidly curled body out and got me on a stretcher and to the hospital where they managed to stop the hyperventilation. She was scared and so was I when I came to so, we gladly accepted the referral to the psychiatrist.
I went to the psychiatrist with the faith of a child. I followed orders faithfully and took the Stelazine, Navane, Sinequan and Cogentin he gave me quite religiously. I never missed a therapy session nor did I question the diagnosis of Schizophrenia, catatonic, atypical. Heck, I didn't even know what the heck it was.
Over the years, I managed to have two more children and hold several jobs in a nice career progression. All the time, I continued to take the drugs and trust the pshrinks. I managed to find a way to go to college and became student body president and quite an overachiever. It was in college that I made my first serious suicide attempt because of depression. Of course, by then, I was becoming a bit sceptical. It seemed weird that my diagnosis and the drugs would change every time I saw a different pshrink.
I managed to struggle through to law school before things finally got to be too much. I made several serious suicide attempts and became a well known figure within the Community Mental Health Center. As I became more and more sucked into the system and their attempts to "treat" me, I became worse and worse. I did some time in the state hospital and I had my share of run-in's with the Vocational Rehab system and other so-called supports such as welfare.
I put my time in as an inpatient and an outpatient on a voluntary and an involuntary basis. I did my time in individual therapy and group therapy and I've served my time in "Day Treatment" as well as all the other sorts of treatment modalities. I've had every diagnosis in the book from schizophrenia to manic-depression to major depression to multiple personality to 8 of the 12 different personality disorders to all sorts of other labels. I've taken just about all of the drugs and I've had the pain of a serious dystonic reaction as well as the embarrassment of having that reaction in front of others who didn't know what was happening.
When my memories started to come back, I only knew that I wanted the emotional pain to stop and I wanted to die. Death quite simply meant, no more pain. To this day, I have no fear of death and view it more as a relief from life than as any sort of ending. My single biggest question as I was flooded with memories of pain and terror was, "Why?" None of the mental health professionals ever had an answer to this question.
I finally realized that my "why" was mine and the only one who could find an answer to the question was me. Mental Health and all of it's practitioners held no answers to *MY* question. That was when I broke from therapy and drugs and started to work on my own healing.
I had a chance to leave day-treatment and I jumped at it. I became part of an experimental group of psych patients who were trained to work as "Consumer Case-Managers." I went through the training and just as we were graduating, I applied for a job as a Case Manager (as opposed to a Consumer Case-Manager). I went to work in Denver. Our job was to seek out those most in need of assistance and try to aid them in order to cut down on the flow of folks through the revolving door of the Denver Mental Health system.
I later went on to work on the acute locked inpatient unit. I never really fit in because I didn't follow the rules; I did things like let folks out to go for walks. I was the only mental health worker on the unit to never get assaulted. I had stoppe taking my drugs and I'd stopped therapy and I was learning more and more about the system and how it worked. I joined the local AMI group and I even served on the state AMI Board of Directors for a three year term. As my reputation as a psych survivor grew, I became more involved in different parts of the system. I served on the Board of Directors of the Denver Mental Health system (appointed by Federico Pena who went on to be Secretary of Transportation for President Clinton). I was appointed by the Governor to the State Regulations and Standards Commission. I was at the State Department of Mental Health for meetings several times a week.
I worked with the state of Colorado to obtain federal grants to build a statewide consumer network. I helped to build over 40 self-help groups around the state and to mold them into a network. I was unanimously elected the first President of that network. I helped write the grant for Colorado that got us federal funding to help mental health consumers own and operate their own businesses and I trained folks in how to do that. I built a coalition which successfully opposed a legislative bill supporting shock treatment. I helped to build drop-in centers and I fought (successfully) for housing for the homeless.
Being an advocate was easy for me. I'd started as a kid in elementary school. I ran an underground newspaper from a friends garage attacking the school for being segregated. I went on to fight against the dress code. I fought for womens rights, veterans rights, students rights, farmers rights, the rights of the homeless and the rights of folks with physical disabilities. I was with the folks in Denver when, from their wheelchairs, they took sledge hammers and made their own curbcuts. I knew how to be an advocate. Heck, I didn't know much else.
Through it all, I was working on my own healing. Along with the memories I'd repressed, I also manage to suppress most of my emotions although they churned inside like a seething cauldron. Eventually, it all caught up with me and I suffered a heart attack. The first was in 1988 and I was 35 years old. I had two more heart attacks in 1988 but, I didn't slow down. I'd get out of the hospital and go right back to work. I'd been through too much and I'd seen too many of my friends die due in whole or in part to the "system" and I was gonna try and fix it.
I moved on to California where I was a Director of a Patients Rights Advocacy Program and a Self-Help network. I worked there and I fought valiantly to protect the rights of mental patients. I joined and was appointed to committees and did all the systems advocacy of a good advocate but finally, in 1996, I retired from the work I'd dedicated myself to. I'd had another heart attack in 1993 but, I didn't stop right away. It took awhile to disengage from the various activities I was involved in but, I knew I had to if I was going to live.
I've been there/done that on many things. I tell folks my age is 107 (if you count mileage). Throughout my advocacy, I've reached many conclusions. I've figured out that each person is an individual and that only that individual has the answers for them. No amount of professional intervention or treatment of what-have-you will change that fact.
Psychiatric drugs are dangerous. Most people who take these drugs don't know this. They can read of the dangers in the PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) and yet they will continue to take the drugs. They are looking for a quick fix to complicated human problems. Some claim relief of symptoms. I claim that life isn't a symptom, it's something you have to learn to deal with. If you hear voices, learn to deal with them. If you get depressed, learn to deal with it. This isn't the same as saying to, "pick yourself up by your bootstraps." I'm not that naive. However, the fact is that depression or voices can be dealt with if you are willing to learn how to do so. If not, you'll probably go into denial and take dangerous drugs and refer to certain aspects of your life as "symptoms."
I have helped lots of folks do figure out how to deal with life and I can't do it anymore because of my physical health. However, if you want to know how, you can figure it out yourself. I started with Judi Chamberlain's book, "On Our Own" and I continued through various twelve-step programs and tried just about everything at one time or another. One of the best things I discovered is that we have a difficult time holding too many things happening at once within ourselves. In other words, you'll find it hard to be laughing and depressed at the same time. You'll also find it hard to feel depressed and sorry for yourself if you are busy giving of yourself to others. One of the best ways I found to discover how to help myself is to help others.
I've learned that we learn our helplessness. We may not like it but, we are taught to trust and have faith in doctors and professionals and the less we have faith in ourselves, the more likely we will be to surrender ourselves to others. The problem is that mental health professionals don't have the answers. Psychiatrists spend many years in school learning to view us as diseased pieces of flesh and in the process, they forget that we are people. They forget the power of intangible aspects of people such as the human spirit.
In the process of learning to treat problems instead of people, psychiatrists develop an ego problem. They feel a great internal pressure to have the answers for others. When they fail, they turn to the prescription pad to mask the problems that life presents us. Most psychiatrists don't ever follow up on the learning they gained in college. Instead, they rely upon the information provided them by the folks who market and sell the drugs. I have a real problem with this. I don't buy a car or anything based solely upon print and other commercial data but most docs (particularly pshrinks) seem to feel they are immune to market forces. This is their ego problem and not science.
I was disgusted with what I witnessed in day treatment. I saw folks who'd been there for many years and the system called them a "success" because they had learned to comply with taking the drugs and hadn't been in the hospital. What I saw was folks who did nothing but smoke cigarettes and drink coffee all day. I figured I could do better so I built drop-in centers. Folks came to the drop-in centers and guess what...they did nothing but smoke cigarettes and drink coffee. The problem was that they had been brainwashed into a dependent state of helplessness. (Granted, it wasn't everyone so don't flame me because of this.) I knew that the problems ran deeper than just getting folks away from the professionals.
I designed a curriculum and began training folks. I helped to break the brainwashing and to rekindle the hopes and dreams that existed in each of my students. I helped people to again believe in themselves instead of the system or the drugs. I helped folks to gain the tools and knowledge to cope with life. I know what's possible because I've been there/done that and I helped folks to seek and find their own answers.
Armed with experience and expertise, I went to the system and accepted three classes of 20 people and trained them. They are all better off now and no longer are dependent upon the system or drugs. I guess I've trained hundreds of folks now and by any measure the system cares to use, I've been more successful. My students have not returned to the hospital. My students use fewer psych drugs. My students are more self-sufficient and most are working. They are no longer a drain on the systems resources and in fact, are now productive tax payers for the most part.
I could no longer keep up the work due to physical reasons and this past year, I met and fell in love with a woman who has given my life new meaning. I've stopped smoking and I no longer kill myself so that others may reclaim their own lives. I retired and live a more relaxed life. I've fought with folks on this forum but, I really try not to do that. I still struggle with my anger though when I see folks whose blind following of a medical model deprives them and others of a freer way of existing.
I know of many alternatives which are taboo in the mental health field. I know of the healing power of touch which is acknowledged by most of medicine but which is particularly frowned upon in mental health. I know of the power of knowledge which is acknowledged almost universally but in mental health, many clients have never even looked up their diagnosis or questioned it as it appears in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual).
I find it interesting that the DSM is used only by American psychiatry. If it is not a fund raising tool for the APA (American Psychiatric Association) which publishes it, why isn't the ICD (International Classification of Diseases) which is used by all the rest of the field of medicine as well as psychiatrists everywhere else in the world, good enough?
I find it interesting that when they claim to find a genetic marker for depression or manic-depression (which they can't define in medical terms) that it appears on the front pages of journals but, when the results of that research can't be duplicated and the research is later discredited that those results are buried in the back of the trade publications. However, pshrinks with no time to review the research themselves are still believing in the initial claims even after they are discredited. The pshrinks pass this on to their patients who then use those arguments to defend the fact that they take the harmful psychiatric drugs.
I smoked cigarettes for over 35 years and I never defended my smoking as not being harmful. I acknowledged the harm and did it anyway. I wish if folks were going to take harmful psychiatric drugs they'd at least be honest enough to do the same. I have harmed myself in many ways over the course of my life and I can certainly think of many better ways of self harm than psychiatric drugs but, to each hir (what I believe to be the latest politically correct version of his and her combined) own.
Enough of the rant against the drugs. I want to let you in on a secret. I'll tell you how I helped people to live, thrive and survive without the system. I helped them to discover their passion. I got to know them and I asked them what they loved, what they dreamed about, now and in the past and I helped them to see that it is possible and I helped them to reawaken those dreams. If someone felt strongly about saving the whales then, I helped them to get reinvolved in doing that. I discovered that if a person is pursuing their passion, they have a will to live that grants them a strength they might otherwise not have.
I helped a person whose passion was herbs. He was an expert but had been consumed by the mental health system and had languished in day treatment and hospitals for years. I got him to talk about his passion. I could see the way he lit up. His energy was unbelievable. I helped him to write a business plan and I helped him to get start up capital to start an herb farm in southwestern Colorado. A few years later (drug and system free) he sold his little farm for millions of dollars to a little enterprise called Celtial Seasonings Tea. Not only this but, anything is possible. We are limited only by ourselves and we must not let the system delude us into thinking otherwise.
This is who I am...a believer in the power of the individual and the strength of the human spirit...a person who's been clinically dead and has chosen life instead...an advocate who appreciates the forum of madness where folks can share themselves. I'm enjoying life and all it has to offer. Thanks to you all.