Psych drugs and brain damage

There is an unfortunate belief in some parts of critical psych communities that says that the brain injury that many of us sustain as a result of psychiatric drug use and withdrawal is permanent and irreversible. That we cannot heal from it. The other day I came upon an article written by a highly respected member of this community who was saying that, indeed, what we have on our hands, quite often, is permanent brain damage. Several people spoke up about this prior to my response as well and took issue with this powerful idea and belief because it’s simply not true across the board and it can cause a lot of harm if people believe it. I am sharing only my response and one comment from another member whom I was able to ask permission to print here.

here are the comments with a bit of editing for clarity on this site:

by Monica: I too find this repeated talk about permanent brain injury to be extremely unfortunate as well as irresponsible. It’s clear to me that many of us not only heal but transform into something healthier and more whole than we ever were before psych drugs. Forget recovery…there can be much more, much better than whatever we were before psychiatry.

Please stop stripping people from having hope…you are listened to and people trust what you say. This is a destructive narrative you’re putting out there. Things are plenty bad without adding “permanent brain damage” as icing on the cake from hell. When you say people cannot get well it’s yet another injurious story…like when we were told we had to be on drugs for the rest of our lives. That, too, was a lie.

There are many outcomes for everything always… I can imagine anyone hearing about permanent brain damage in the throes of the aftermath of a nasty withdrawal believing that it will be completely hopeless and futile to even try to get better…all of us feel that way in any case…to be told that we will be permanently injured in such a state may very well be a death sentence. I am serious about that. It’s a reckless thing to say given it’s simply not true across the board. People need to KNOW they can get better.

I was bedridden and nonverbal and had over 50 symptoms EACH OF WHICH would have been disabling all on it’s own for a couple of years. I was homebound for about 5 years…I’m not some ridiculous pollyanna….I have lived through years of one of the worst tortuous hells a human being can live through. I’ve helped 1000s of people get better in the time I’ve been doing this work and healing myself. I didn’t do that by telling people they would have permanent brain damage.

I speak explicitly about it being a brain injury but I have come to witness neuroplasticity in action far too many times…with multiple miraculous healings (my own included) to think that generalizing about permanent damage is anything other than reckless and frankly, ignorant.

If you tell people in your care that they won’t get better I bet you’re not going to see much improvement among the people you’re supposedly trying to help.

I also have never claimed to have a crystal ball and shit happens…people die coming off these neurotoxic poisons…I do not sugar coat anything and yet, I know, and have seen many transformative healings…

Holding many possible outcomes and thus the present experience of the people we are serving is very important. People come through this and get healthy. That I know. It helps if we believe we can do it. It actually may be necessary to believe we can do it. That doesn’t also mean that some people may not…it’s simply not a reasonable generalization to talk about permanent damage being the norm.

Oh…and I was on the drugs for 25 years…a monstrous cocktail of ALL the classes of psych drugs at higher than what is considered maximum therapeutic doses. So yeah…I’m your worst case scenario…in the above article (from another site)…and yeah, my outcome was also pretty worst case scenario for some time…and I’ve found healing that blows my mind daily… everyday, my mind is blown away by what amazing healing machines we are. Amazing creatures of nature…part and parcel of all that is around us.

Also, PTSD, from forced treatment is also part of my history…that can also be transformed…it’s not an easy thing to do and I’m sorry that so many others have been subject to such violence. PTSD from being heinously sick (with the actual psychiatric drug withdrawal syndrome) continues to be slowly transformed for me as well…once the trajectory is obvious there is some joy in the process even while some issues remain.

Post Traumatic Growth really does happen…it’s really possible. I’m sorry so many people don’t have circumstances that seem to allow for such things to happen and that is why I continue this work that more people might have the resources and environments required to get healthy. Resources include everything internal within us as well as external … we need profound supports and that is largely what is lacking.

and YES we are the only authorities on us! and we do, certainly, all have our own paths. And so your experience is absolutely just as valid as mine and everyone else’s going through life…

I wish I knew how to help everyone. None of us know how to do that…

and then another commenter:

by ALEX: Monica, thanks for being so direct and unambiguous. I agree with absolutely everything you say here, and my experience speaks to this as well. Neuroplasticity is vital in this healing, and that is a limitless process, a game-changer. There is no predicting the future, but we can influence our own in the best way by staying open to all possibilities.

Like so many of us, I was told a lot things during my withdrawal that turned out to not only be completely false, but which at one devastating time in my life, led me to believe I had no hope of ever being functional again, so I tried to take my own life, thinking that must be true, because life had become hell, and I was asked to accept this. I guess because none of the many and varied clinicians around me had a clue how to help me, so to them, that meant that there simply was no help for me. If they couldn’t do it, no one could.

After recovering from this profoundly dark period of my life, I was eventually inspired to learn all I could about self-healing, because what I was offered by the “mental health” field was just not good enough for me. In fact, I discovered ultimately that it was undermining and destructive to my well being–both, the drugs and the “therapy.” All of this was driving me crazy, in every sense of the word, and I had to heal from what I’m now calling “post-mental-health-system-traumatic-stress” (PMHSTS). That takes clever and creative healing. It’s new ground, with extremely rich and fertile soil.

Since then, 14 years ago, I’ve had a fruitful practice which has helped many people heal and grow and make their dreams happen, I’ve made two well-regarded public service films about healing through truth-speaking and music, I have a band which performs as community service, and my partner and entire family have done remarkable healing and growth, spurred on by mine. I have two business partners for my Healing Academy for the Performing Arts, which is now growing, both of whom learned about new paradigm healing from me, and have applied it to themselves and their families, with tremendous benefit.

Had I believed this bullshit about permanent damage, it wouldn’t have been just about me. There are many of us who would have been affectedly adversely by this pessimistic version of reality.

We have a choice–keep hope alive, or kill it. It not only affects the person in question, but absolutely everyone around them, and their extensions, filtering in the community, then society, then the world. Think about how this ripples…

in another comment Alex also says:

That’s why I stress self-healing. That was the most important thing I learned in all of this, that we are our own healers. Starts with self-compassion and heart-healing.

(YES, Self-Healing has also been my journey, documented on this website here)

and lastly, again from me, Monica in response to someone speaking about intuition. Intuition goes hand in hand with self-healing. It’s critical that we learn to develop it for profound healing:

hear hear to intuition!! it’s amazing what the body knows when we listen…this is the source of all the mind-blowing stuff I’ve learned (and yeah, this is our inheritance…it’s what we’re SUPPOSED to be…if we hadn’t had our core-selves conditioned out of us from the moment we’re born…and in this way we come out ahead of pretty much everyone in society…”normal” is a highly conditioned and unconscious state of being!)

See:

SEE also:

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*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

It’s become clear to me that whenever it’s possible that it’s helpful for folks who’ve not begun withdrawal and have the time to consider a carefully thought out plan to attempt to bring greater well-being to your body before starting the withdrawal. That means learning how to profoundly nourish your body/mind and spirit prior to beginning a withdrawal. For suggestions on how to go about doing that check the drop-down menus on this blog for ideas. Anything that helps you learn how to live well can be part of your plan. That plan will look different for everyone as we learn to follow our hearts and find our own unique paths in the world. Things to begin considering are diet, exercise and movement, meditation/contemplation etc. Paying attention to all these things as you do them helps too. The body will start letting us know what it needs as we learn to pay attention. 

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. 

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters