I spent more than three weeks at Yale’s psychiatric hospital in August being tortured, if not by seclusion and mechanical restraints (my PAD restricted the use of those and at least at Yale they listened) then being held down by armed security guards (only their guns removed) and injected innumerable times with a multi-injection cocktail of drugs: Haldol 10mg, Ativan 2mg, and Benadryl 50mg, despite my objections that I have a paradoxical reaction to the last one. They said I could not refuse because I would have side effects to the Haldol without it. Understand this please: They deliberately injected me with a large enough dose of Haldol (without any basis to know I needed any more than the usual 5mg or even 2mg) as to knowingly cause side effects, side effects they knew in advance would be so distressing as to not allow me to refuse medication for them before they even happened!
What sort of dastardly drug is this that it hurts as much as it “helps”? Ah, yes, let me remind you, lest you have forgotten, that Haldol is the medication political dissidents in the 1970s were given in the Soviet Union to subdue them after they were diagnosed conveniently with “sluggish schizophrenia,” an illness “everyone” in the West “knew” didn’t exist except in the Soviet political playbook, designed solely for the dissidents. The American Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike objected then vehemently to Soviet treatment measures, calling Haldol injections the dissidents were given nothing less than “torture.” None of the members of congress ever mentioned the widespread use of Haldol in American mental hospitals, though, for that wasn’t torture, was it? “Those people” – American “schizophrenics” need Haldol, they were told by establishment psychiatry, “they aren’t like you or me and don’t feel the same way when they take it…”
Now, I ask you, how can a drug torture one group of human beings but be a decent and humane treatment for another group? Answer: It cannot. Haldol IS torture, pure and simple, for nearly everyone who takes it. Just ask people! You cannot label one group tortured by a drug and the other “humanely treated” who endure the exact same effects. In truth the only group of humans who like Haldol are hospital personnel, who no doubt appreciate the fact that it in fact it does subdue patients into docility…usually. This means they have less work to do and thus they consider it an effective “treatment.” (Alas, in my case, I confess I was more likely to respond to forcible Haldol injections by stripping naked, defecating on the floor and smearing feces on the wall as by becoming more pliant or compliant. Why they managed not to see the resultant worsening of my symptoms and do something about it I do not know but they persisted in “treating me” and made things worse and worse…Indeed, I screamed more each day than not, for most of the three weeks-plus that I was at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital this past August. So how good a “treatment” was Haldol? Aside from causing me exquisite mental and physical torture, I mean? In point of fact, despite megadoses, no injection made me more compliant, made me into a “nicer,” better patient, and easier to handle. The Haldol, even when probated and regularly forced upon me, didn’t work to their purposes…I was an impossible patient for most of the three-plus weeks I was there, Haldol notwithstanding. So what was the point? And why couldn’t ANYONE see that they were making things worse?
However, that is over with, and what I want now is to tell you that things are going to change, and change radically. I may not have your support in all of it, or any of it, perhaps, but I an attaching the video below as a link because the book it is related to was deeply influential both on what I wanted and did not get at Yale, and on what and why I am doing what I am doing now. The book, as I have mentioned before is Anatomy of an Epidemic, and the video gives a good hour long summary of it. It is a good place to start if you have difficulty reading a whole book on the subject or simply would like an idea of what you are getting into.
But first of all, the video doesn’t tell you this, “Mad In America” does — Robert Whitaker’s earlier book on the treatment abuses of the mentally ill in America — the foxes are guarding the chicken house. What I mean by this is: the Big doctors, by and large the influential ones who affect how our doctors treat us, are in cahoots with the Big Pharma drug companies in developing and promoting drugs that never worked and basically never had a chance to “work” because they were pushed into production and sales before any real research was done.
Maybe you don’t know this but listen: Thorazine was never a real “anti-psychotic” drug. It was a tranquilizer, a major tranquilizer. That’s what they used to more honestly call it. It calmed and tranquilized patients so they were more amenable to hospital treatment or the lack thereof. This was good for all, because the fact that patients were quieter meant that the nurses and aides got to show their kinder, nicer, nursier nursing sides to these “sick” patients, and the “drugged up” patients stopped fighting and finally appreciated being taken care of. It seemed a better situation for all, all ‘round, at least in the big state hospitals where megadoses of Thorazine were routinely handed out to “chill” patient populations into complacency. Less violent/resistant patients meant that the nursing staff could act a bit more like their job descriptors.
But now, suddenly, because someone was calling Thorazine an “anti-psychotic” drug as a marketing ploy, as if it treated the actual psychosis itself, they began to believe that it did something “anti-psychotic,” which in fact it never did. Not really. Not if you asked anyone who was treated with it. It never really helped anyone’s core symptoms. It just dulled you so profoundly you didn’t give a damn, or worse, it made you so mad with akathisia that you forgot how crazy the voices could make you feel, because you were literally wild with internal restlessness and other “antipsychotic” side effects and you had to pace all day or rock in your chair or do other “really crazy-looking shit” the doctors told you was just a part of your illness. Once Thorazine was thought of as a treatment drug, rather than as a behavioral modification drug, it changed the game altogether. It changed everyone’s thinking about schizophrenia (and by extension all mental illnesses) in a way that seems to have altered the course of American history itself. Certainly it changed American psycho-active drug-manufacturing for good, though I can only wonder at those involved with the actual design of drugs and how they can do what they do, surely being aware on some level that what they do has no foundation in science whatsoever. Let alone in honest research…
What am I talking about? Well, if Thorazine, which was originally used for anesthesia, was really just a behavioral modification drug, really, honestly and truly, and did not, if truth be told, treat or remediate any so-called schizophrenia symptom, then what the hell was all this dopamine hypothesis and research all about in the first and the last place? Because any supposed honest research started with Thorazine’s mode of action on the neuron’s dopamine 2 receptors. Supposedly, said those brilliant researchers, looking to explain how chlorpromazine/Thorazine “treated” schizophrenia symptoms so effectively, the drug works by blocking D2 receptors on the post synaptic neuron (Don’t worry if you don’t know what I am talking about…just keep reading).
The point is, Thorazine and dopamine have been inextricably linked for and to the next four decades of schizophrenia research, and all subsequent drug development stemmed from that link. Once that connection had been made, ridiculous and wrong as it was (schizophrenia and dopamine being related, or even correlated, simply was never shown), the stage was set for the “revolution” in brain illness research that has brought us such travesties as “bipolar infants” as young as 2 years old, and the H-Bomb-mushrooming of ADHD cases that threaten themselves to cluster-bomb into more bipolar disability cases than the country can conceive enough SSDI for…And thence to such further travesties as doctors using a brutally potent “atypical” “antipsychotic” (which is in truth no more “antipsychotic” in action than thorazine) like Zyprexa for “off-label” uses like anxiety disorders. Why? For fear of using benzodiazepines, perhaps, but just as often in conjunction with those drugs from hell. Drugs like Ativan and Xanax and Klonopin that are prescribed for people with “major mental illnesses” and the walking wounded as well, both like water, prescriptions that cause devastation in their wake and much more anxiety than they resolve.
It seems to me that for every MD who knows never to prescribe a benzo for anything but occasional use and refuses to, there are 40 who say, “take this three times a day and don’t call me unless you have problems”…expecting no calls.
But I am side-tracked a bit. Or have never quite gotten to my subject, which as you know is me, my own “illness” and my own future. I do not know frankly what was done to me in the past vis a vis these drugs, that is, what was caused by what. As my good friend Josephine says everyone now says, It is what it is and you can’t change it…So I am me, with whatever I am or have. But at the same time, i cannot continue to accept the premise that medications are the only and best way to treat me.
After all, I take meds every day and you all know that I have ended up in brutalizing hospitals regularly, quite despite this. I was hospitalized just this past August, in fact and this past winter too…So what good has been my taking meds, including 2, not just one but two atypical antipsychotic drugs, if they do not work to keep me out of the hospital? Not much, I venture to say. Not much…
Well, but…If they have enabled me to do art and write poetry (when I did that) then they were very good drugs for me indeed. For that is my fear: That I can only do art or write, even if just in my journal, when I take these medications. If so, those would be two very good reasons for me to feel it necessary to keep taking them. I cannot live without something worthwhile to do, and I have no family, no children, no purpose, no career, nothing else but art and writing to live for…
That said, what is the proof that my medications are what make me ME? That they make me write and do art? Essentially and absolutely? None at all. And there is much suspicion that the meds can do harm both in the short and long-term. Nothing at all is known about what happens when people take these drugs for decades. I am not sure I want or need to be that particular guinea pig. Now, “Dr Angela” is, as you may or may not know, a psychoanalyst as well as a psychiatrist, so I told her that I wanted essentially what Joanne Greenberg’s “Hannah Green” got from “Dr Fried” (in reality it was Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, the renowned psychoanalyst who successfully treated Greenberg’s schizophrenia) in I Never Promised You A Rose Garden…No promises, perhaps, no rose gardens, but at least the opportunity for cure, recovery, and an end to treatment. And NO MORE MEDICATIONS, WHICH WOULD TIE ME TO HER PERMANENTLY more or less.
I am off the first drug, Zoloft, and have been for more than a month. But it is not easy. I am bone-weary and feel like crying every day. Feel like I have never NOT been tired, never not fought off hopelessness and the feeling that if I were told I had leukemia I would cheer, “Finally! Thank god it’s over!”. That’s the truth, people. I sit in my chair, the same one I sleep in, and I sit in it virtually all day long. And though I am not addicted and do not need to (most of you know how easily I quit smoking when I need or want to) I occasionally smoke a cigarette just to ease the pain…which is physical as much as it is mental and emotional. I may not seem depressed to those of you when you see me, because I rarely “let them see me sweat” and would never burden you with me if I can help myself. But there is also the fact that if and when I see you, just that fact cheers me, lifts my spirits, thank god, and is a rescue and a blessing, so thank you for that much! The nights are hard, but sometimes the days are harder…Nevertheless, Dr Angela has agreed NOT to speak to me of going back to the Zoloft, not unless I ask for it, because she understands that I want to tough it out, and that i believe that antidepressant drugs cause more depression than they cure. I believe if this is a relapse it is solely or largely because I started taking Zoloft again in 2007, when forced to at Mt Sinai, even though I told them I was grieving Lynn L’s death and because of Joe C’s illness and they ought to let me grieve! If I had been taken off it promptly, or never put on it, maybe I would not be such an easy prey to despondency now.
Nevertheless I am going to go on the record of the past predicting the future, and NOT take Zoloft (as of now) and “get through this somehow…” because despite everything, I haven’t died yet, not of despair, and while i have done a lot of damage to my body, I have managed NOT to kill myself so far…Chances are, then, that I will not. Of course the future is unknown, but all I can say is that I do not want Zoloft or any AD drug at this moment, and can take the pain.
I have cut down on the Topamax, to 200mg but because of recurrent migraines need to keep that where it is for now. The next drug to go will be Abilify. I would rather we stop the Geodon next, but I do not think I can tolerate taking Abilify sans Geodon — not without being incredibly irritable — whereas Geodon without Abilify basically does nothing for me. A steady reduction, not too slow, but not so rapid I cannot tolerate any symptoms that develop. The whole point, in the end, is that should I develop symptoms (and that is not a certainty) we are supposed to be able to deal with them in therapy and not go running to the hospital or back to some drug.
(Okay, this is the point in the argument where even I start getting nervous. But I am determined to do this…I want it, I want it, and I need to try it ONCE in my life before I die. I need to know what I know, what I can know about what I need and do not need in terms of psychoactive medication, if that is even possible… Some much depends on placebo effects you know, and on influences of that sort that I wonder if any of it can be sorted out, and how much is going to be sheer determination?)
Oy, it is getting late, or I would continue. But I need to sleep and so do you. I am certain there is much more I ought to have said or explained and did not. Feel free to ask questions or query me about your own concerns if you have them…I am open to any thing, except anger.
Thank you all for your love and concern and if for nothing else than for simply being there to listen and read this.
Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic video: