It's really hard to talk about suicide. We are constantly constrained by the notion that our mental health is our individual responsibility. A more collective conversation is needed.
If I had not crumbled, brought to my knees beneath the weight of the misdiagnoses and sordid side-effects of the medications, I would not have had the opportunity to rise up and gain such a strong sense of self—something for which many spend their whole life searching.
A friend said to me recently, "Oh, he suffered such a lot. That’s over for him." I know their words were intended to comfort me over my son’s suicide. Our fine, excellent son, Abraham, had committed suicide a month before Christmas 2019. Nevertheless, I bridled inwardly at the suggestion, not wanting to remember Abraham as merely the sum of his sufferings—he was so much more than that.
After suffering PTSD in the late 1980s, I reluctantly accepted antidepressants. In time, I had resolved the trauma, but when I tried to stop the antidepressants (Prozac, and later Zoloft), I assumed my desperate feelings and “return” of depression were an indication I had an imbalance and needed those drugs. I didn’t understand I was experiencing withdrawal. (I was never told that for most people, psychiatric medications need to be tapered.)
Imagine for a moment that you had a sleepwalking episode in which you tried to commit suicide. When you awaken you are in a hospital bed, having no idea where or even who you are nor how you got there. Then someone who loves you tells you that you tried to take your own life.
If I disclose my situation, then professionally, the attributional association of “the therapist with schizophrenia“ will necessarily and inevitably follow. But this is not who I am. Rather, I am a therapist with a private medical issue and I prefer to maintain its confidentiality—no further justification needed.
There is such shame and social punishment around experiencing extreme states of mind and being given a psychiatric label that is itself profoundly isolating. This is a kind of isolation that people who are merely practicing social distancing will probably never know.
My personal and professional experiences have taught me that the only way to address mental health is holistically. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, I believe it is necessary to attend to all of your bodies—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—in order to achieve wellness.
People living with psychosis—people like me—are dying because we are being discriminated against by people who’d rather see us hurt than attempt to work with us and give us the decency and respect that should be accorded us as a human right. And nobody deserves to be assaulted or shot after they’ve reached out for help.
I recalled a brief intercourse with a lady two months earlier that went something like this: “Why don’t you want to take medication?” to which I replied, “Because I think psychiatry is a sham.” Needless to say, my response hastily resulted in a temporary though adequately lengthy loss of my autonomy.
I did not suddenly develop some perverse form of mental illness out of thin air. I was a victim of repeated misdiagnoses, unrecognized adverse drug reactions/drug toxicity, and profound polypharmacy.
Some might wonder why I'm still stumbling in the desert when there are cars and jobs and museums downtown, but really, the turquoise dawn is in the canyons. The thing is, my people seem to need this nutrition, the rarified medicine of this particular cactus and that specific root that I haven't found anywhere else.
Researchers treat voicehearing as the sign of a disease or a disorder or a dysfunction of the brain. That it might be something more—a relationship of some kind with God that developed in this way as part of our evolution over eons—does not seem to have occurred to anyone who has worked in the field of psychology.
Tea is my weapon of choice for battling anxiety and depression. But its true power comes from the people behind the cup. Tea is merely the drink that brings us together.
Doctors refuse to believe psychiatric medications have caused my sibling, Pat, any harm. Over a three-year period, however, Pat's insurance companies have paid out more than one million dollars to warehouse Pat and to provide "treatment" that has caused complete disability.
Inside the hospital, I was a social butterfly and knew practically everyone on my wing, but at home, I was a nobody and a loner. If only I had the energy to fake it one hundred percent of the time, then nobody would suspect a thing.
Ten years after being fired for taking a mental health leave after the Virginia Tech massacre, I was diagnosed as "schizophrenic" and involuntarily committed to a hospital. Now I have a job and a life, but I'm still forced to take drugs and report to a social worker.
As the SNRI molecules sluggishly evacuated my bloodstream and I progressively regained my emotions, the gravity of what I had done descended upon me. I couldn’t believe I had actually been capable of committing several crimes over an extended period of time, without stopping to think about the risks to my wife and kids, or even myself.
While most of the sting is gone, even now — almost sixty years on — I can’t get through a single day without thinking about shock treatment and the state hospital. I regularly have dreams or nightmares about being lost in a strange place and someone making me feel like dirt.
After 25 years of chronic emergency, 22 mental hospitalizations, a stint at a “community mental health center,” 13 years in a "board & care," repeated withdrawals from addictions to legal drugs, and a 12-year marriage, I plan to live every last breath out as a survivor, an advocate, and an artist.
Schizophrenia, to me, is nothing more than a word. All it really means is that you experience psychosis on a regular enough basis that it’s a factor in your life. And that you actually do, as the word “schizophrenia” indicates, have a mind that you share with some sort of outside presence.
I pray for a rich life, away from the fear of job insecurity, coercive medicine, and false labels. The question still remains as to how to handle societal fears about the ‘mentally ill’. My blessed family are like hypervigilance officers on the watch for the slightest behavioural aberration.
It gradually dawned on me that my back pain was another mask that depression wore. Instead of crying and feeling overwhelmed or giving up, my body was sending distress signals to help me realize that I was in a difficult spot. I began to realize some of the metaphorical aspects of the pain I experienced.
During a period of self-doubt, I chose to see a psychiatrist because I was engulfed in negative thoughts and couldn't find a direction in life. The slightest joys came only when I was high. Though my weed addiction was likely causing all of my symptoms, my psychiatrist’s response was to prescribe antipsychotics.
Sometimes I am crazy and sometimes I need help, but that help must not be forced upon me. I need to direct my own care; I need to be listened to. ACT is a method of social control that has more to do with saving money than assisting those in need. Money is saved by turning patients' homes into hospitals.