Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Anatomy of a Myth: Antimedication and Antipsychiatry Nonsense

I wanted to share this video with you, because it seems like an interesting, different approach to psychosis, this therapy mentioned in the video called Open Dialogue treatment. While I say it's interesting, I'm not saying I would endorse it as a good idea. But I am quite intrigued by the claim they make in the video that the majority of the people with this  treatment get better before their psychosis can truly take hold, and they only suffer one episode.

Wow, if only a couple of days of psychosis could have been the end of my nightmare, rather than seven years of psychosis, I would certainly have been grateful for the help.

Trouble was, when I was psychotic, like most psychotic people, I did not know I was psychotic. Neither did my family. So there is no way that I would have ended up getting this type of treatment even if it was available in the United States, which I'm not sure it is.

Then, the other reason I posted this video was because after watching it, I started glancing through the related and similar videos on Youtube, and they were all "antipsychiatry"diatribes. One was a song with a young man singing about how psychiatry is bullshit. You can see his lovely, "Bullshit, antipsychiatry, anti-medication song" here:

My two cents on that guy is that if he's smelling bullshit everywhere it's probably an olfactory hallucination that might be helped by a nice dosage of some Seroquel, and he needs some really fast.

But really, people posting videos like this bother me. It isn't that I'm against free speech, or the freedom to explore the dangers and the down-sides of medications. To the contrary, I know there are many bad side effects. I gained 100 pounds from medication. It deeply affects every day of my life when I look at my body and see that weight that I can't seem to shed, especially since I was anorexic for ten years when I was younger.

But for all of the truth about negative side effects, and the criticisms of Big Pharma, there are also a lot of wackos trying to convince people to go off their medications. And I see, frequently, unstable people posting on internet forums and blogs about how they have decided to go off their medication. I certainly believe you have the right to do that if you so choose, but please, please be informed of what you are doing. And please don't tell me about how medication is evil. You have not lived my life, just as I have not lived yours. And I really don't give a damn how many people think medication is evil, because, you see, I have personally lived through medication transforming my life and allowing me to function whereas I previously could not function. And my experience with that, my positive experience with medication, far outweighs anything I would believe in any book written by Robert Whitaker or the like.

I am not working for Big Pharma, and have nothing to gain by telling you this. But my truth is that when I was not on medication, I lived through years of total torment. It was hell. It was something I would honestly not wish on my worst enemy. I am talking about constant, daily delusions that were deeply held for years, constant auditory, and many visual hallucinations, and constant paranoia. I am talking about suicide attempts like buying a .357 magnum and putting it, loaded in my mouth ready to pull the trigger, about trying to drive a car over the top of a 150 foot high bridge, about overdosing on so many pills I was unconscious for days afterwards. In other words, I would be dead if I had not gotten better instead.

But I did get better instead, and I got better because of medications that worked for me.

Last semester, for those of you who read my blog back then, you might recall Iwas having a psychotic episode and experiencing a lot of problematic symptoms that caused me to consider dropping out of college. When I got on 80 mgs of Latuda, that went away. I am still in college, and I am doing fine. I get good grades, and sure, I procrastinate and do everything at the last minute, but I'm not in class hearing voices this semester like I was last semester. Because I am doing well now.

And for all the times I do well, for all the days I can simply go to work at my menial, part-time job, like anybody else could, for all the days I go to my university, for all the days I go to NAMI meetings or NOW meetings, for all the times I go shopping, or to the movies, or out to dinner with a friend or with my mom, I am grateful. I am grateful for the ability to cook and eat food and not have it seem complicated *(although I admit I mostly microwave stuff). I am grateful that I don't spend my time going to doctors trying to convince them to admit to me that they know I'm pregnant, like I did for four years when I wasn't pregnant. I am grateful for all the phone calls at my job during which I do not hear anyone talking about concentration camps like I have heard in the past. I am grateful that I have money now, and I can pay my bills and keep a roof over my head and own possessions, which I could not do when I was floridly psychotic for years. I am grateful for these things which medication has allowed me to have.

These are the benefits of medication. You might get better. You might go from hearing and seeing a total nightmare all around you and living in an unreal world for seven years to an improved state where you can function in society and live a decent life, experiencing happiness sometimes. You might be happy that you are alive when you used to constantly long for death. You might get better. I have gotten a lot better due to medication, and I appreciate that fact. I will not allow my reality to be dismissed by these people who post their anti-psychiatry, pro-scientology, anti-science, pro-myth, videos on youtube, or their rants all over the internet.

I admittedly haven't read Robert Whitaker's book. But there is a reason for that. I know what my life has taught me, and I don't need to read a book to hear that I am somehow completely wrong and these meds are poisoning my body and ruining me forever. I prefer not to read things like that. I might read it just out of curiosity and to hear whatever people are talking about when they discuss this book, but I will never buy into junk science or believe that my life and what I know about it doesn't count.


  1. Jen, I love that you have the courage to stand up and talk about the *benefits* of psychiatry.
    Nope...I'm not a psychiatrist. I'm a mom, who lost her dear sister to that bitch called suicide and almost lost her son to the Evil Bitch of SZ.
    I couldn't help my sister. If I could go back in a time machine, take her to the doctor and get her on an antidepressant, I would do it in a heartbeat. With medication and therapy, she might be here today to go shopping & out to lunch with. Instead she is in the ground.
    My son started suffering from terrible psychosis two years ago. I was fortunate in that he told me right away. We got him help. Initially, he wasn't given an antipsychotic. That wasn't our choice really...it was the doctor's call. An entire year he went with auditory/olfactory hallucinations (reduced, but there). A year later, he broke again. Now he takes medication.
    I'm thankful these things exist. Without them he might not be here.
    The anti-medication movement is really strong right now. I do like thins like the 'hearing voices' movement which allows voice hearers to meet and share experiences; but why can't those people use both? For Pete sake, get with the new millennium.
    Kudos to you. I wish you all the best in your recovery!

  2. And now I get to sigh.

    I get it, I really do, medication has made your life better, it has enabled you to do what you want to do. You do seem to be dismissing a stance based on a quite vehement stance based on personal experience alone.

    Ok, I may seem like someone who is anti meds but I'm not, they are useful and help to mediate symptoms, they aren't a cure as there's no cure but that's fine. My issue tends to be around the selling practises of these meds which is wholly inappropriate at times. Were you to read a Whitaker book, as I have, then he explains some of the curiosities of this system. By the way, don't read a Whitaker book because whilst he highlights some of the very good questions surrounding psychiatric medication, he does seem to go into frothing states where even I turned round and went "Okay, now you're being a complete ass about it".

    Am I anti psychiatry? Yes and no. There are some good doctors out there but dear god there are some bloody awful ones (as in the rest of the profession). An example from me is that my diagnosis was changed from Bipolar to a personality disorder, I went to my psych and asked for a prescription for quetiapine in order to calm racing thoughts. He refused because medications don't treat personality disorders, this despite me having been, and done quite well, on a 600mg dose of Quetiapine XR before (not to mention my quite extreme reaction to SSRIs). So now I use alcohol to calm things down because it works and I have no alternative.

    The anti meds and psychiatry movements are gaining pace because you have people who have bad experiences and for some reason no-one seems to take it seriously when these experiences happen. These people aren't necessarily anti, but they get swept up in those who have had bad experiences which then include those who go a bit bloody far. The song you post is exactly this, something from someone who (ok, he may be getting a bit wild in his behaviour) has experienced doctors who cover the same ground again and again yet won't deal with what he sees as the issue. Yes he does sound derisive of the whole system but he's pissed off with having something important ignored. If meds had worked in his situation then this song wouldn't have been made, however there are people who need more than meds which isn't happening. If patients felt they were being taken seriously then maybe the 'anti' movement wouldn't be.

  3. I'm the same as your Trouble was...sentence. Also once they put me on meds, they were meds that did not work & they just kept upping them...I was actually worse..

    The anti-medication movement has some points, but truly, not for people in our situation.

  4. Open dialogue, semantics aside, is at least an idea I think is in the right direction at least in principle.

    If you have a moment, I think you'll want to check out the 'dialogue' going on in my latest blog post: http://myuiiblog.blogspot.com/2012/03/take-hint-already.html


  5. The drugs made me worse in many ways. I don't know if it was mostly chemical or mostly what it does to a person's mind to have their experience and their feelings shoved down by a chemical harness, but in many important ways (to me) it was worse with drugs. Not to mention how it was causing terrible health problems that are now gone since I ditched the drugs. Yes, I still have terrible things that I have to deal with from time to time, but the worst of the destruction of my soul left after the drugs did.

    I learned (not easily or quickly) to REALLY LISTEN to psychotic thoughts and ask myself what they are trying to convey in metaphor. This is not an easy thing to do, but it is what I have done and still do when the problem arises.

    Example: Your welcome = You'll walk home. I would ask myself inside about such things after I created safety for myself. I would receive the answer about who said that to me, under what circumstances, and then I would be able to process it. But I could only do these things after I wasn't drugged up anymore. Like I said, it's not easy. But it can be done and it beats the drugs that will kill you. Honesty is always the best policy.

    I am so sorry you were raised in a dangerous and dysfunctional family with an unreliable mother. You deserved better. It's a hard world sometimes and this happens to a lot of us, but it can be dealt with honestly without drugging and the destruction of the body and the truth it contains. It's very hard, but real healing can happen.

  6. NullFuture: I think there is more than my personal experience to back up my opinion. The evidence-based practice of using medication is backed up with a lot of research, and not just the research funded by the pharmaceutical companies, but by other research as well. I do understand there are bad doctors - I have had some of them. And I understand bad side effects - I have had some of them. But my problem is with people saying "medication is going to kill you; it's evil!" and stuff that is outlandish at best and dangerous at worst. Particularly when they are saying it to people for whom medication is a matter of life and death, which is what it actually is in my case.

    Ethereal Highway: You seem to be assuming a lot of things about me for someone who doesn't know me. I do listen to my psychotic thoughts. But they are not all metaphors. Some of them are just psychotic thoughts that have nothing to do with reality, which is, after all the definition of what psychosis is. Not related to reality. My thoughts of concentration camps aren't metaphors. They were thoughts I had for years. They went away with medication.

    You seem to be missing something here which is that MEDICATION SAVED MY LIFE. It isn't "killing" me as you seem to think. It SAVED MY LIFE. I was so hell-bent on suicide due to the voices and delusions that I tried to drive a car over a 150 ft. high bridge, and bought a .357 magnum, bullets, and learned how to shoot it, and nearly shot myself in the head with it. I overdosed several times, and was unconscious for days at one point due to my overdose. I would be DEAD right now if it wasn't for medication. So you're telling me to NOT take my medication is like telling me to go right ahead and kill myself. I don't appreciate that. Thanks. Also, my dysfunctional family is not the root of my problems. The world is full of dysfunctional families. In my family three people have Bipolar Disorder, and I have Schizoaffective Disorder. This is genetic. It is not caused by family dysfunction. It has been proven to be a neurochemical imbalance in the brain that causes these disorders. I believe in science.

  7. I am so happy that you are alive and doing well Jen in part because you take the medications. They have helped me a great deal as well. I am no longer at the mercy of delusions and paranoia. Right now, I can't imagine not taking my meds. Frankly, it scares me. Acute psychosis is hell and so comparatively speaking even with having voices, depression, anxiety, I am in a relative heaven and I know it and I acknowledge it.

    You underestimate yourself though Jen. Since you embraced taking the medications you have put a lot of effort into guarding your sanity. The medications provided a foundation from which to work and work you have, but it's also you yourself that has gotten you to this level of recovery from severe mental illness.

    We are all biochemically different. Some people need only a small dose of anti-psychotic medication to stop their positive symptoms and others, like myself, need high doses. And then there are those who don't respond to the medications at all. So what can people who don't respond to the medications do? They, unlike us, have to become very self reliant and tackle psychosis with some other approach. Perhaps they have some success. I certainly hope that they do because the misery is great. Maybe they start to promote their non drug approach. Maybe they acquire a following by other disgruntled and/or medication resistant people. Voila -- a movement has started!

    I saw a therapist for three and a half years before I committed to taking the anti-psychotic medications. I was fortunate in that I had some insight into my illness. Still I was hard headed; it took three breakdowns in three years to break my spirit enough to start taking the medications. And now, despite weight gain and some sexual dysfunction, despite bouts of depression and anxiety, despite voices challenging me off and on, I am very glad that I take the medications. I am generally glad to be alive.

    There may come a time when I will try to reduce my medications, but for now I am grateful to have the stability to continue as I am. For those of us who are in acute psychosis who do respond to the medications, I have to say that it is better to take them and move into a recovery orientation. For me, I see taking the meds as a way of being responsible, of taking care of myself and a way of putting my family and friends minds at rest. Truth is, whether you are for the drugs or against them you cannot speak for all people. We each have to decide for ourselves...unless we are threatening to hurt others or ourselves. When we cross the line into violence, others must come forward to restrain us.

  8. Juju: I am sorry about the loss of your sister. That must have been terribly difficult. Thank you for your kind words.

    Mary: I think you're right; not for people in our situation.

    Jennifer Pettit: Thank you so much for the Liebster Award! I just posted a couple weeks ago about receiving it from someone else, but I really appreciate receiving it from you too and you have an excellent blog. You are a great advocate for people with chronic illnesses, and I really appreciate the recognition from you. Thank you.

  9. Your personal experience is important and it's nice to read of someone who truly feels medications made life livable.

    My own experience has been that medications help me get through difficult times, but my goal is always to minimize my use of them. I am not opposed to the drugs, but I do recognize their dangers and the way side effects accumulate with prolonged use. During times of stress I need support, but other times I do not. I have learned that in my case it is possible to very slowly taper off medications as long as life is not too challenging. But when the pressure builds, I'm ready to start again. This is my take on things and may not apply to what others go through.

    Neither vehement anti-psychiatry diatribes nor dismissive reactions to them help the larger community. We need to share our personal experiences and opinions. Thank you for stating yours so eloquently.

  10. Wow! My family discovered almost 2 years ago that my son is schizoaffective, did not see it coming! He is completely out of reality at the moment and on meds. My hope is dewindlng quickly! Thanks for restoring some hope into my life and best of luck to you!

  11. You want to take psychiatry's drugs good for you nobody is stopping you.

    If you support laws forcing me to take the drugs you believe have helped you, then you're attacking my basic human rights and I will fight back, simple.

    Live and let live, and we will let you live and let live. Everyone is happy except people who wish to FORCE their views on others using the force of law.

    There is an 'anti' force movement, stop forcing, and I'll stop even worrying about psychiatry, a profession that I believe to be pure quackery.

    I believe in your right to choose psychiatry however. Just support my right to say no, and we can live in peace.

  12. Well, meds have helped you. Nice for you and I am happy you found something helpful.

    But medications KILLED MANY and SCREWED THEIR LIFES. And they are dismissed. By doctors, by fellow crazies... And it's really not fair to them.

    You get so bent out of shape when somebody suggests meds are bad... yet you joke about forcing meds on somebody who experienced the trauma of being forced unhelpful meds on. Seroquel didnt help the guy in video. Other he'ď be writting in caps locks how meds saved his life.

    Meds screwed lifes of some... sorry to break your bubble, but it's so. They have also right to speak. It may help others who are struggling. To somebody for whom drugs don't work.. you can write in capslocks hundert times... and they still will not help them. Some people do better off meds. And they deserve to be heard and helped too.


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