Tag Archives: DSM

Resisting “Children’s Mental Health Care” in America and Beyond

One in thirteen American children takes a psychiatric drug today. One in four kids in “foster care” is on these drugs, as well.  We live in an era of “children’s mental health care.”

Most call it “medicated”, but I call it what it really is: drugged.

We “medicate” shyness.
We “medicate” shame.
We “medicate” the fears that come from growing up in this world.
We “medicate” insecurity.
We “medicate” confusion.
We “medicate” the brilliant ones who see through all the bullshit, who refuse to surrender their individuality to the status quo,
who rebel.
We “medicate” individuality.
We “medicate” imaginations and daydreams.

We’ve drugged the sacred quest for meaning in our young people (and in ourselves, as well.)

We label our children “sick” and “ill” as though this were a noble (not to mention, valid) thing, as though placing the locus of the problem inside their individual minds—“This is mental illness”—will somehow “help” them. As though taking the next step of “medicating” them—putting powerful psychoactive chemicals into their developing brains and bodies, usually every day and for the rest of their lives—will somehow bring them health.

And of course, we call all of this “children’s mental health care” so that we can justify, for another day, our choice to avoid the consequences of this toxic world we’ve built for them, this world that’s swallowing them whole.

We need to put our heads on the pillow each night, after all.

If we are to truly help our children—this goes the same for our fellow adults, too— we must start by demystifying the so-called “mental health system” and naming it what it truly is: a mechanism of social control hidden behind a false veil of “medicine” and “science” and “care”. And it will take shifting our focus off of the individual mind—especially the mind of the child—to place it instead on the state of the world we live in. For we suffer and go “crazy” not because of problems within us, but because we’re intuiting and perceiving what’s around us, and responding to what’s happening to us, to our neighbors, to our communities.

To our collective human family.

As long as we believe in the concepts of “mental illness” and “mental health”, we will never truly address the real causes of our pain: this crazy world we live in, with all its pressure and intolerance and neglect and abuse and violence via classism, racism, sexism, and the countless ways that fear of difference becomes discrimination and oppression. We must stop “treating” ourselves—and especially our children—and instead focus our energies on transforming our relationships, our communities, our schools, our workplaces, our governments, our media, our use of technology, our consumption, and at the heart of it all, our ideologies.large

Quitting Alcohol, Quitting Psychiatry

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.

Photo on 8-16-14 at 11.19 AM

The Source of Suffering

If you’re out there and your mind is on fire, or your heart is aching, or you’re desperate and isolated and numb and hopeless and feeling totally paralyzed by life, there’s a reason for your suffering.  It may be a visible, tangible reason—one that can be easily named and pinpointed and located in your history or your now—or it may be invisible, intangible, amorphous, a reason lying in many years of subtle moments of life lived (for this is often the nature of oppression and trauma).  While I’d never pretend to have your answers—for you, your gut, your heart are your only experts—I know this to be true: the source of your suffering is not your “imbalanced”, “faulty” brain.  In fact, if you’re suffering, it’s likely because your brain is responding naturally—healthily—to something unhealthy in your environment.  Nor is the source of this suffering in your mind, though this may be where you feel it the most.  The source is most often to be found in your relationship to the surrounding world, and in the various webs of oppressive and repressive social structures within which all of us are entangled, often times unbeknownst to us.  The more we target the problem in our brains, our minds, ourselves as individuals, the further we fall from the truth of the matter: that the world is an incredibly difficult place to live in, rife with fear and greed and intolerance and pressure and control, and that our struggles are a response to all of this.  Our struggles are a sacred, albeit painful manifestation of the beautiful, confusing journey of being human in this dark and brilliantly light world.

Going Crazy is Evidence Not of “Illness”, but of Aliveness

There is nothing crazy about feeling—or going—crazy. It is a healthy response to the often times fucked up, confusing, lonely, marginalizing, oppressive, cutthroat, and angst-ridden world in which we live.

If you’re out there feeling desperately sad, or fearful, or so-called “manic”, or you’re wondering if death is a better option than living another day, or you’re hearing voices that others can’t hear, or you’re convinced no one around you can be trusted, know that all of this is a natural response to life, and not something pathological in your brain. Know that this is evidence not of “illness”, but of aliveness. Know that this means you are sensitive and attuned to something out of alignment in your life, or perhaps in the world more generally, that needs tending to. Know that there is deep meaning in craziness. And know that no one out there has your answers, for you are the only expert on yourself.

Going crazy is an inextricable part of being human. Those who claim to be perpetually sane and “with it”, in my opinion, are either in denial, compartmentalized and locked away into disconnected sections of self, or simply successful actors who are far from put-together beneath their bright, shiny façades.  (I tried, for twenty-seven years, to be one of those people, and boy, did it hurt.  Boy, did it lead me to hopelessness and desperation.)

To feel—or go—crazy, be it for an hour, or a month, or a year, is to be a healthy human. We must let go of the fear we collectively feel towards these experiences Psychiatry calls “mental illness”, and instead open up our minds, our hearts, and our arms to each other in times of struggle, rather than enslave each other with psychiatric labels and lock each other away on forgotten, invisible psych wards.