In November 2015, I traveled to Anchorage, Alaska thanks to the generosity and support of Jim Gottstein and the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights. I met a bunch of really wonderful, inspiring people, including ex-patients, folks currently in the process of coming off psychiatric drugs, and family members of people who lost their lives to psychiatric treatment. Here’s a video of my talk, Recovering Myself: A talk about journeying through the mental health system, in which I share some of my story and reflect on how I came off psychiatric drugs and left behind my psychiatric labels.
If you’re not already, listen to that voice inside of you that’s trying to say no. Nurture it, cultivate it, open up the blockages inside of you that are keeping you from releasing it into the world– NO!
We’re each born with the right to say it, but They trick us into giving it up, calling us non-compliant so often that we start to believe it ourselves. We stop trusting in ourselves. We forget ourselves.
Not only do you have the right to say no, but doing so might just save your life. It sure as hell saved mine.
I have a feeling, Dr. X, that when you told me I needed to set “realistic expectations” for my future given the grave nature of my so-called “serious and persistent mental illness”, you weren’t imagining that I’d come off the pills you told me I’d need for the rest of my life, abandon the labels and “behavioral therapy” you put upon me under the guise of science, come alive and light on fire, and find an international collective of activists who’d done the very same.
Yes, I can’t help
but think that
the life I’m living today… wasn’t what you had in mind.
Perhaps in the near future we might sit down together so I can hear what you have to say about this all; I find myself truly curious to better understand what makes you tick, what kind of childhood you had, what might have happened that led you to be the man— the psychiatrist— you were when I knew you. I find myself truly curious to know what beliefs you held tight to your chest about “patients like me” that led you to tell me the things you did about myself from behind those piercing blue eyes. I find myself truly curious to witness what and how you’d feel upon learning of who I am today, of where I’ve traveled within myself and beyond since I left your hospital less than five years ago. I find myself truly curious to know how you’ll respond when I stare back into those piercing blue eyes without wavering, like I couldn’t do back then when I was your mental patient.
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,
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.