Five years ago today, while locked up on my last psych ward, I made the decision to give quitting alcohol a shot. By that time, booze had become the one and only reliable thing keeping me from killing myself: it made me stop caring—for a few hours at least—that my life with “serious and persistent mental illness” was as numb, empty, lonely, disconnected, and hopeless as it was… until it didn’t anymore, and there I was being kindly escorted by two security guards to the double-locked doors, where they offered me the “choice” of going “voluntarily” or “involuntarily.”
Choosing to give up alcohol gave me enough clarity of mind to realize I had no idea who I was on the five psychiatric drugs I’d been taking since I was a teenager. This realization (and the discovery of a book by Robert Whitaker) would soon spark in me the determination and courage necessary to come off all those “meds” and say goodbye to psychiatry, psychology, the rest of the “Mental Health” Industry, and, most importantly, a “Bipolar” identity. I am forever grateful for the unconditional love and support I received during the time it made sense to me to say, “Hi, I’m Laura and I’m an alcoholic”; though it’s been a few years since I identified with that label or with a twelve-step institution, I still choose not to drink today. This choice is entirely my power and agency at work—the power and agency that was stripped from me the moment my behaviors, emotions, and thoughts were medicalized into “symptoms” by “experts.” Never again will I turn myself over to any institution or ideology that tells me who I am and how I need to be in the world.
While I don’t know what the future holds for me, I do know that I spent enough of my past in a chemically induced haze thanks to a desperate fear of myself, an unlucky encounter with a psychiatrist’s gaze, and a handful of arbitrary words from the DSM. I also know that for the first time since early childhood, I have no interest in escaping the pain of my day-to-day life, or running away from myself. And as I continue to heal from “mental health treatment”, I know most of all that I have this newly discovered realm of my human being to explore, and that it feels way better than a case of Harpoon IPA ever did, now that I’m free from a psychiatrized existence.