An interesting side note about my trip to California was that I spent a bit of time, (I wish I had had more) with my cousin, who is a psychiatrist. My father immigrated to America as a young man and this is a cousin from his country. Twice while growing up I spent a year in this country and later as an adult I traveled there a number of times to visit family. (My brother also lived there as an adult for 20 years)
This cousin is old enough that he was a young adult when I was a child. He was always incredibly kind to me and once I reached adulthood we became friends. I once traveled to this European country when I was very ill and on multiple meds immediately following a manic episode for which I was hospitalized. At that point in time he was the first person who truly understood and he showed an incredible amount of compassion. He did not treat me differently because of my diagnosis and for what was clearly a time of obvious struggle for me. He, in fact, is much like my brother in that he seemed to truly admire me for my struggles and how I dealt with them. Over the years I’ve only seen him a few more times, but I’ve always felt a profound love for him and have felt that he is an unusually kind man. He has simply been one of those rare people who has impacted me in a profound way simply by sharing his gentle, kind spirit with me.
Seeing him this time around, I was looking forward to telling him what I’ve become involved in and how my views about psychiatry have made a 180 degree shift. I wasn’t sure how he would interpret my decision to come off meds and my activism against the mass drugging and coersion of individuals, most of whom would do much better without meds if given the chance and opportunity for alternatives. After all, the last time I spoke at length with him I was a social worker in mental health and we essentially spoke as colleagues when we discussed our work (though we didn’t really get into specifics about treatment in terms of philosophy.) I now trusted that he would be open to my explorations and my committment to withdrawing from meds and helping spread the word about psychiatric abuses. I was not disappointed.
First of all, it seems he is very conservative about his medication practice and then he also expressed horror at the stories I told of children, even toddlers, being given anti-psychotics and stimulants. He told me he had heard of such treatment in the US, but that his country did not have this practice for the most part. He expressed concern, however, that it was the wave of the future. He said psychiatrists in his country look to the United States with increasing frequency. He asked me lots of questions. He was very interested and didn’t for a second doubt my experience was anything but legitimate. I told him the massive doses of meds I was on and he was shocked telling me the highest doses they ever use in his country for the most part were approximately half of what I was on at the end. I told him how I believed that after the initial hallucinogenic induced manias, I should have been left to heal without meds, but that instead the meds ultimately led to iatrogenic illness.
Sharing all this taxed the limits of my fluency of this foreign language, but I managed to express myself quite well and I was thrilled to share this with someone who perhaps needs to know about what I told him. Before I left he asked me to call him, and that he would call me. He wanted to talk to me more often in part because of a mutual sense of family and wanting to connect as kindred spirits, but also to learn more about what I am learning and about my journey. I want to talk more to him and learn more about how much he knows about iatrogenic illness associated with psychiatry. Unfortunately I cannot refer him to literature in his language, but perhaps I can be a catalyst for him to look into it himself. He did say he uses alternatives to some extent but it was unclear what and how much. I actually did most of the talking and he asked questions. We were only able to talk about all this during one relatively brief conversation and I didn’t get a chance to ask him more about his practice–I do know he works in a public clinic. At all other times during his visit there were other people around and it was not appropriate bringing the topic up in mixed company. I actually only had a day and a half with him before I left today. I do wish that all psychiatrists were as open and trusting of my experience. It’s hard to tell how much I made him think about his own practices–I think that he is a careful and compassionate practitioner in any case.
I know that with my prescribing psychiatrist I am often frustrated because though he chooses to trust me and follow my instructions about withdrawal, I know he continues to drug children and believes in psychiatry in general as a first course of action. I suppose I can’t expect to thoroughly convert him–but I have mixed feeling about supporting his practice–I need him though and I know I’m lucky to have someone cooperate with me. Also, though he practices what he knows, he is open to alternatives. He teaches a course at a Chinese Medicine school about Western psychiatry and had me come to his class to talk about my experience–at least he let me spread my beliefs to a very receptive audience. He is not threatened by my challenging his profession–though I had to do it diplomatically. So…along with the new consulting holistic psychiatrist I travel to see, I now have three relatively cool pdocs who stand to learn from my journey. I suppose in general we make our mark one person at a time.