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Callalily

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A personal testimony of the healing power of psychiatric non-compliance.

This is quite a long article but I found it incredibly powerful and resonated with me a lot, I wanted to share in case it could be of help to others also :)

A personal testimony of the healing power of psychiatric non-compliance. | Recovering From Psychiatry

This post is written especially for those who live with psychiatric diagnoses and who perhaps are just starting to ask questions, or to wonder whether there might be a different way forward into the future than “mental illness” and life-long “treatment”.

I’m watching the sky turn slowly from black to deep blue as I write this from a coffee shop in San Francisco, where I’m visiting my sister, as well as my friend and comrade, Leonard Roy Frank. I have to say, it’s really quite fantastic to be awake so early, with the city life slowly starting to stir, folks getting ready to go to work, or perhaps for a morning run. Many years ago, I used to sit awake at this hour too, but for very different reasons. I was a prisoner of the night, the darkness and quiet of the Boston city streets in the early morning hours an agonizing reminder of how desperately alone I was. Towards the end of my “Bipolar” life, “illicit” drugs were sometimes involved with these sleepless nights, although more often the primary stimulus was my racing mind (and, of course, the three to six psychiatric drugs I was on at any given time). Either way, the nights and early morning hours were tortuous reminders of how the world around me slept and awoke to healthy, productive, meaningful lives, while I sat in my own empty, numbed “Bipolar” hell, a supposed “life” that felt increasingly unlivable to me.

What a beautiful thing to be through that chapter of my life’s story, although it is one I would never change, even if I could.

There is a stark contrast between the ‘me’ of five years ago, who saw no other logical conclusion to a “treatment-resistant Bipolar” life than to end it forever, and the ‘me’ of today, and it’s thanks to non-compliance. People I’ve met in the last couple of years sometimes don’t believe me when I say that for nine years I yearned to die nearly every day because of how hopeless and alone and disconnected I felt because of my “illness”. People often say, Well, if this is true, how did you get from there to here? Do you still have Bipolar symptoms and you just don’t use meds anymore? Or, did you recover from Bipolar disorder? While of course these aren’t the kinds of questions I can answer easily, I’d like to talk a little bit about how my transformation started. If you’re out there living with a psychiatric diagnosis and wondering if perhaps there’s another narrative out there for you, I can completely identify with where you’re at. It is a scary, confusing, and disorienting place to be. But in the midst of the struggle, isn’t it a beautiful thing to realize that, perhaps, there’s another way, however foreign and unknown it may feel, and however baffled you may feel about how to get there?

I believe in the power of self-education. Indeed, my own journey out of Psychiatry’s grip began when I stopped passively receiving and unquestioningly accepting the information I was being given by the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical Industry about who I was, what was “wrong with me”, and what I needed. On the flipside of this, I also believe that one shouldn’t passively or unquestioningly accept that the Psychiatric-Pharmaceutical narrative is wrong, either. Just as I slowly came to believe this for myself through my own exploration and self-education, I believe that others should, too. In other words, don’t take my word for it that there’s no such thing as a “chemical imbalance”, or that long-term use of psychiatric drugs creates numerous kinds of harm. You are the only expert on your own life, and on what external narratives make sense for you. It’s up to you to arm yourself with the facts about what’s true and what isn’t, and about what’s based in science, or in myth. Figuring this all out for myself has been a sacred process of empowerment and identity reclamation and I believe each and every one of us deserves access to this profound inner process.

The narrative of Biological Psychiatry is powerful, intoxicating, and promising. It says, You’re not a bad person, you’re a sick person. It says, Your emotional distress can be explained and treated by medical experts. It says, You don’t need to fight anymore. We’ll take over for you. I want to acknowledge how powerful these promises are. I remember how deeply I believed in them, how hopeful I felt when I first started to embrace them. That (short-lived) hope I felt in the beginning was so real and so invigorating, although I see today that it was all in forces beyond me. I see that the moment I placed my faith in Psychiatry, I surrendered the chance to have faith in myself.

I embraced my “Bipolar” label for ten of the thirteen years it was put upon me. Indeed, it took me a long time and a lot of pain and darkness before that deeply ingrained “illness” narrative was dislodged from my psyche. While my Aha Moment was in discovering Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic, the real change started for me when I reclaimed my non-compliant and anti-authoritarian roots— those deepest, most human parts of me that resisted Psychiatry when it first called me “mentally ill” as a thirteen-year old. This was the integral part of my humanity that I’d slowly forgotten as I progressively began to suffer more through my teens, my lens increasingly clouded by a desperate need for answers to my pain.

In order for me to truly stand up to Psychiatry, it took connecting to that non-compliant intuition, which I’ve come to realize was always there, however repressed it may have been by the countless drugs and doctors and psychiatric labels and programs and hospitalizations. Hand-in-hand with this, however, has been self-education. I’ve needed to arm myself with the facts in order to stay standing because of how profoundly my mind had been institutionalized by Psychiatry, and by my decade of surrender to the “best” Harvard-trained psychiatrists that Boston had to offer. It was totally foreign to me to have a voice, to trust in myself, and to stand up against MDs who claimed expertise on me, and who, for so long, I believed knew me better than I did myself. I’d forgotten that I was my only owner—that a human being is meant to own her body, mind, and spirit, no matter how much she suffers. I’d forgotten that I once said No to Psychiatry, that once something deep down inside of me knew that they were wrong when they called me “Bipolar”. Indeed, on a daily basis in the beginning of my psychiatric awakening, I struggled with the profound discomfort of standing up for myself, and to Psychiatry. I needed information on my side. Sometimes, I still struggle with this; I still feel the residue of my psychiatrization on my skin, my mind, my spirit, though it dissipates just a little more every day.

If this is all totally new to you, and you’re scared out of your mind and confused beyond belief, know that you’re not alone. And know that there’s hope. Also, know that the only expert on your experience of the world is you, no matter how many doctors have told you otherwise.
 
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Well-known member
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Jun 1, 2012
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Thanks for this, it's a very powerful piece of writing.
 
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ramboghettouk

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american bipolar i think spike milligan coped with bipolar without drugs though from seeing him on tv talking about what he put his family through
 
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