Update 2016: The last time my nervous system tried to go through what it’s going through now (with the heightened consciousness of having lived a long time), this is what happened: I was 19 years old and no one knew what waking up was about back then. Now I have 100s of thousands of comrades. We are here. We may still feel alone quite often but we are all here doing the work of healing and waking up…so that we might heal our selves and the planet both.
To be clear: not everyone going through such radical tranformative healing processes find themselves subjected to violent psychiatry. Many people now are finding completely alternative means of avoiding such destructive treatment and “care.” We are everywhere and we are finding one another. Many people who are also waking up don’t understand that what is going on among the psychiatrized is also a waking up process. We need to help folks understand so that the most vulnerable get the care they need.
2016: Today my body ejects the trauma within my cells from this early heinous experience. Today I am free. Today I am healed.
MY FORCED PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT — (standard violent, inhumane “care” for folks in spiritual crisis) — written in 2007
Yesterday someone mistakenly assumed I had not undergone forced “treatment” and therefore could not understand the plight of so many people labeled with mental illness. The truth is I was forcibly “treated,” restrained and left in isolation a number of times. My memories of the events are blurs, but I wish to recall as best I can what happened. I should say, some particular events are as vivid as though it happened yesterday. The memories have a wave to them, some come back in detail and others are lost in a mist. I will tell the story of one of my forced “treatments.” Probably the most dramatic and I believe it was the first of no less than three.
I was 19 years old I had taken hallucinogens; I was pre-menstrual (the only time my energies got extreme); I was psychotic. I believed I was the messiah or something like that. I did not believe I was the second coming of Christ. She was in my womb waiting to be born. This sort of fantasy is a classic spiritual emergency symptom. People make complete recoveries from such phenomena with great frequency if allowed to. Psychiatry though, doesn’t believe it’s possible. I was told I would be sick for the rest of my life.
I went to the local Psychic Institute believing I would be recognized and dealt with accordingly. I was having a rough time and wanted some help.
I went to the institute and presented myself. They balked at me and told me to leave. I refused and sat on the floor in the corner, knowing this was where I was supposed to be. I was not violent, nor was I scary, except I imagine they were scared. We are not understood when we are psychotic. They called the cops.
The cops came in yelling at me to get up and out. I didn’t budge. They approached me, big and bulky and grabbed me by both arms. They dragged me across the floor to the front door and threw me down the stairs. A whole flight of stairs. I was not fighting–I was simply not cooperating. I was dead weight and they threw me down the stairs rather than carry me. I injured my arm pretty badly, but I could have been hurt much worse.
They then started trying to force me into their car. At this point I put up a struggle. They had thrown me down the stairs, what else might they do? I was scared. I was pushed and man-handled into the car and tied up with a rope hands and feet, like a cow at the rodeo.
I was then hauled off to the community public mental hospital. I was injected in the butt with haldol. The next thing I remember is coming to on a gurney in restraints. I had wiggled around in such a way so that my arms were above me and I was splayed out in what to me felt like Jesus hanging on the cross. I did not think I was Jesus, but I identified with the torture. I was pinned down and couldn’t move. I was terrified and I was alone in a small dirty room with the door shut. The door had a window in it that was about four by six inches. I could see nothing on the other side of that door. I did not know how long I would be in there and indeed it was hours.
I called out. Screamed, really. What the hell was going on? I had to go to the bathroom. I yelled for 10, 15 minutes. No one responded. I peed my pants and cried.
For the naive among you, you may think I was out of control, what else could they have done? But this is where Treatment Advocacy Center and everyone else who supports forced treatment go so wrong. I was not violent. I was peacefully sitting on someone’s floor. Perhaps I was trespassing at that point. I’ll give you that. But I did not need to be dragged out and thrown down the stairs. I was not dangerous and I was not fighting nor violent in any way until they tried to put me in the car–after the insult of the stair throwing.
From (later on in life) having had a knife held to me by two psychotic individuals I speak from experience when I say psychotic people can be talked to. They can be calmed. They can be disarmed (literally and figuratively.) I don’t hesitate to say that I imagine that 99.9% of agitated psychosis can be quelled with love.
What if the cops had been trained to deal with me? What if they hadn’t assumed I was dangerous (since I was not.) What if they had taken the time to sit with me on that floor and have a chat with me. What if they had listened? I was not violent. I did not have a weapon. What if, god damn it, they had treated me with kindness? What was the terrible hurry to treat me like a dangerous criminal?
I loved the people who held knives to me. It’s that sweet and simple. I had compassion for them. I saw their fear and I did not respond with fear. In one instance the man holding the knife was a client in my office. I was alone in the office with him. He got agitated while talking to me and stood up and drew out a long butcher knife and swung it ominously around in the air in front of me, threatening. I became very calm and I began to speak soothingly to him. “You don’t want to hurt me, S____. Give me the knife.” I repeated this a few times. He looked confused, hurt, pained–then he gave me the knife and apologized. I escorted him out of the building and he left.
The second guy who held me at knife point was someone out of his mind on LSD. We were on the streets at 3 am. He jumped wildly about me, yelling, “I’m a crazy mother-fucking Indian on acid!! You better watch out.” I calmly started asking him questions. “When did you take the acid? Do you know that you’re scaring me? I don’t think you want to hurt me.” He too came down quickly. He backed off and also apologized. He went on his way.
I can’t imagine I hold any special secret. Granted not everyone has this skill–I don’t imagine that either. But many people can learn this skill and if they were sought after and put on teams of mental health workers, much pain, anguish and torture could be obliterated.
The late Loren Mosher ran a Soteria House for psychotic individuals labeled with schizophrenia where the staff was taught to listen and love the residents. They all lived together as house-mates and there was 24 hours care for these individuals. Only 3% of these people were ever drugged and this was only in extreme cases when they were truly violent–the drugs were also used in low doses and only until the crisis was over. Most people could be talked through whatever trauma they were going through and drugs were not even necessary. 85 to 95% of the people that stayed there were able to return to the community without traditional hospital “treatment.”
I’d like to end by saying that one not need be forced in this violent fashion to experience the violence of psychiatry. Subtle coercion can be close to equally devastating on mind, body and soul. And that is the violence that is most often endured by survivors. That is what I endured for 20 years following my forced “treatment.” I’m not convinced the coercion was terribly different in what it did to my self-esteem and belief in myself. I was systematically gaslighted to believe I was crazy and would never recover. That by itself is violence too.
More information and links on forced treatment here: Coercion, subtle or otherwise, is the rule in psychiatric care…
Spiritual emergency: one way of interpreting activity of the psyche that is often labeled psychotic — a collection of links for more info
*it is potentially dangerous to come off medications without careful planning. Please be sure to be well educated before undertaking any sort of discontinuation of medications. If your MD agrees to help you do so, do not assume they know how to do it well even if they claim to have experience. They are generally not trained in discontinuation and may not know how to recognize withdrawal issues. A lot of withdrawal issues are misdiagnosed to be psychiatric problems. This is why it’s good to educate oneself and find a doctor who is willing to learn with you as your partner in care. Really all doctors should always be willing to do this as we are all individuals and need to be treated as such. See: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up
For a multitude of ideas about how to create a life filled with safe alternatives to psychiatric drugs visit the drop-down menus at the top of this page.