Update October, 2015 – #MedicatedandMighty continues to rage on Twitter…I’m trying to mostly avoid it because people are really getting nasty regardless of what their stance is…still I like to encourage dialogue instead of conflict…here is a piece I wrote a while ago…it’s always been appreciated by a large spectrum of folks both on and off meds. See also this post inspired by the that hashtag: Consider the possibility that sensitive folks are not mentally ill
The theme here: Everyone has a reason that makes a lot of sense in the context of their life experience for the positions that they hold about these issues. I suggest we widen our hearts to recognize this fact. And that it’s possible to come to terms with our experience in the context of our lives in such a way we no longer feel the need to try to force others to our point of view because we come to recognize there are many legitimate points of view.
Update 1/2015 – I’m reposting this article as its message needs to be said again. Below the article is a collection of posts that discuss the gray zones. The fact that context matters and that our personal experiences are all legitimate and that we all have the right to interpret our experience in the ways that make sense to us. To respect one another means allowing for this. To respect one another means not imposing our beliefs on others, no matter how dearly held. To respect one another means to live and let live.
For everyone caught in the middle and on both ends too
I often stop and wonder about the spectrum of readers this blog draws. I have readers who are interested in mental health and wellbeing who’ve never taken a drug, nor have they ever been subjected to any sort of coercive psychiatric care. I have friends and readers who take meds willingly, understanding that for them at this point of their individual, personal, idiosyncratic journeys it makes sense for them to do this. I have readers who take meds but really do not want to. They have not found meaningful supports that allow them to find a way to be free of them. Then there are readers who have been on meds but have freed themselves from them. Among those readers is a huge spectrum as well. Some were coerced and traumatized in the system. Others, didn’t have terribly traumatic experiences, but they understand that for them medications were not a long-term solution. I also have readers who were coerced and traumatized and harmed who cannot free themselves from the drugs and who have admirably and painfully come to terms with this reality. I am actually in a bit of awe of such people. They do not know what the future holds but they know that for now this is what is best for them. And they move forward like we all do in the unknown. Watching life unfold.
Oh, and I do also, have readers who are grateful for what drugs did for them. Yes. Some of these folks are still taking psych drugs and others have come off when they no longer felt the need for that support. They understand that a dialogue with all of the players must be had and appreciate the perspective I have to offer as one of the many folks who’ve been gravely harmed by psych drugs.
The fact is I hold a space for every single one of these folks. Our journeys are long and complex and individual. I was on drugs for over 20 years. I hold a space for who I was all those 20 years. If I did not I would be a self-loathing hypocrite.
It seems that on occasion there are people who imagine I am somehow demanding that people not take meds. I also can only assume these folks feel threatened by my message. I speak to a particular audience of people whom can generally hold a lot of uncomfortable tensions because, frankly, life is messy and it’s pretty much never straight-forward. I also speak from my experience. Psychiatric drugs pretty near killed me. I’m kind of passionate about that fact. That I know it can happen and that it happens everyday. I know about the harm these drugs can cause. I know it personally and I have now worked with 1000s directly and indirectly all over the world who have been gravely harmed. As long as this information is largely denied by those who prescribe psychiatric drugs, I do feel I have a responsibility to let it be known what can happen when these drugs are used the way they are most frequently being used today.
Those readers of mine who find they need to stay on psych drugs after trying to free themselves recognize, with that uncomfortable tension that, perhaps, the reason they have to stay on them is because they’ve been harmed by them. This doesn’t change their reality today at this juncture in time. (It also does not predict the future.) They know that had they been offered meaningful alternatives at the beginning that they might not be in the predicament they find themselves. Do I judge them for making the only choice, in the context of their reality today, that makes sense? God no. I admire them.
Then the folks who are not my regular readers but who are horrified by my message. People who value psych drugs to the exclusion of all other possibilities of potentially profound healing. They are terrified that everyone will come off their drugs right NOW even though I never ever have once told anyone to come off their drugs. Ever. And I never will. It’s utterly and critically important that people know what they are doing when they come off psych drugs and that they have appropriate supports. There are many good reasons to NOT come off drugs now, in very many instances. There are simply not appropriate supports available all too often at this juncture in time. We need to change that, of course. These folks don’t understand that if the system actually incorporated sane withdrawal protocols complete with trained physicians (both are non-existent now) it could create safe space for people to discuss the subject openly that disasters of sudden withdrawal and decompensation would largely be eliminated. So for these folks who don’t understand all the complexities of my message, I have great compassion because they are terrified. It’s awful being terrified like that. And given the nature of the mental health system today, it’s frankly understandable.
I also have great compassion for those on the opposite end of that controlling spectrum. Those who do think everyone should come off their drugs right now. Many of these folks, like me, were gravely harmed by drugs. Same issue. Fear. Terror. Again, very understandable.
Basically in their fear such people want to control others so that they are not traumatized the way they themselves have been. There is some genuine concern for others in their actions. It’s hard for them, in their fear, to imagine that completely other pathways are possible that sometimes incorporate aspects of the very things they are terrified of…but that will have different outcomes in different contexts with different people.
Can you see a theme here? Everyone has a reason that makes a lot of sense in the context of their life experience for the positions that they hold about these issues. I suggest we widen our hearts to recognize this fact. And that it’s possible to come to terms with our experience in the context of our lives in such a way we no longer feel the need to try to force others to our point of view because we come to recognize there are many legitimate points of view.
Still, if someone gets coercive, inflexible and dogmatic, whether they are predominantly pro-med or anti-med you can be sure that fear is at the bottom of that. Fear is dangerous and it doesn’t matter what side it’s coming from. Many times the way this fear is expressed is with aggression and hostility towards others who might be indiscriminately perceived to be similar to those who’ve harmed them or their loved ones. I want to make a distinction here. Anger is a normal, human response that holds information for us. Aggression and hostility projected at others is most often misdirected, however. There are exceptions to this. I’m writing generally now. In any case I feel strongly that even in more extreme situations anger can be clean and non-violent (again, there are exceptions to this too). I strive for skillful application of anger in my life. Anger in the name of justice is totally necessary. Nothing would ever happen in the name of progress in society if it weren’t for anger at injustice. I am not demonizing anger. Anger is part of our emotional heritage and it’s very important to be in touch with anger. Fully conscious of it. It’s vitally important if we want to become whole and congruent with our deepest self. See: The anger and rage collection: what we don’t engage we cannot transform
Ultimately the only thing that marks a mature human being is not whether they are on drugs or they are not on drugs, but are they consciously moving through life with integrity, congruency and alignment with all that lives. Doing that is every individual’s task and how they go about getting there is never going to look the same. We cannot know what others need to learn or how they are going to learn it. The most we can do is allow. Allow for the great diversity of humanity.
What I know now, is that every step of my journey has been valuable to me, even the drugged years. It was not until I could embrace and accept everything, good and bad in my life that I was able to have some peace in my being. I would not know what I know now if I hadn’t been drugged all those years. I would not know what I know now had I not been a social worker in the very toxic mental health system. That was my schooling. It made me. I can now help people make safer, healthier choices for having lived through all of that. I have often said I know things I wish I didn’t know, but I do know them and so I must do what I do. This is how progress happens. This is how in some weird way, all is okay. All is good. Life is somehow ordered and lovely even in the chaos.
This doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing. It does mean we continue to wake up and become who we are in the deepest sense and help others do that too.
Force and coercion has no place in that regardless of what our beliefs are. Everyone has a different path.
I conceived of this post as a message to those still on meds who understand the big picture because frankly, I think being in the middle of what is a sort of maelstrom is the hardest place to be…having the great anti and pro med forces coming at you from all sides is not easy thing to come to terms with for any of us, frankly. So I see that people who are still taking medications, for whatever reason but doing it consciously and reading this blog too are truly to be admired. They are truly grappling with the issues and that to me indicates integrity, congruency and alignment with their deepest selves. That is all that the process of waking up and becoming aware requires.
Some thoughts on stopping psychiatric medications – pros and cons to coming off
*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. See: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up
For a multitude of ideas about how to create safe alternatives to psychiatric drugs visit the drop-down menus at the top of this page.