Psychiatric Industry

It is lunch. Hurrah!

Back in the regular world of living with insanity, I noticed some things recently.

I had called the HealthLine when The Rash showed up. The nurse I talked to was very thorough, although I still felt that she didn’t know much about lamotrigine. Still, she made sure I wasn’t having some really serious complications, which was good. And when I said I had bipolar disorder she didn’t treat me like I was a child, which was nice. She told me to go to a walk in clinic to get it assessed, so I did.

The doctor I saw at the walk in clinic had VERY little knowledge about what issues I was having. He didn’t know what lamotrigine was. He had to run off and look in a book for what I was talking about. And then in the end he just told me to go make an appointment with my regular doctor and lower my dose. I don’t think he realized that the rash could be a sign of a serious complication. It was so frustrating.

I’m lucky in that my regular doctor does know a lot about what I’m dealing with, and what she doesn’t know she isn’t afraid to go and independently study. She really doesn’t muck around with me. And she takes my File that now follows me for the rest of my life with a grain of salt. Even though it says there are certain drugs I should be on FOREVER, she doesn’t follow it. And it has helped a lot, she helped me get off one drug which had dramatically reduced my quality of life for three and a half years. I can finally feel emotions again, and think, and be creative. Before my hospitalization I averaged one short video a year. After hospitalization I only made ONE in four years. So as you can imagine, I was glad to ditch olanzapine forever. Fuck you Zyprexa!!!

But I also noticed some other things. When it did look like I might have to go to emergency I realized I didn’t want to. And the reason was that if I went to emergency and I did have to be admitted and they did find out I was taking the medication for Bipolar disorder, I was worried I would be put into the psych ward again. And it’s a very real possibility. And it made me realize why many other people with mental illnesses have poor health care. It’s not that we don’t notice something is wrong with us, or that we don’t know we urgently need health care, it’s that we’ve been seriously wounded by the psychiatric industry and the possibility of getting sent to the psych ward again for a non-psych related health problem is so terrifying. One of the reasons abuse is permitted in psych wards is because if we’re punished then we might not have the audacity to go crazy again and therefore end up at the hospital. But what really happens is that ex-inmates go to such lengths to avoid the hospital that other health problems aren’t addressed later on.

I am using the words Psychiatric Industry rather than mental health system or psychiatric system because those words imply that healing is actually possible within them. The fact is, psychiatry is founded on principals of capitalism. My 6 week psych ward stay cost $20 000. That’s more than I paid for five years of tuition at film school. Old timey wards like Bedlam housed inmates who were paid for by family or husbands who didn’t want to deal with their relatives or wives who were eccentric or acting out. Often times people imprisoned in these places didn’t originally have mental health problems, but they did after they lived there a while. And it was a very profitable industry. You could charge a lot of money and provide substandard housing, there were no mattresses, only piles of straw. The food served was the cheapest stuff they could find. And people running the wards made a killing. Later on mental patients made great experiment subjects as well, and I’m sure someone was getting money for recommending various inmates for studies (this still goes on). Currently psych drugs account for a multibillion dollar industry, and the fact that the drugs go on to create more health problems like diabetes, tardive dyskenesia, high blood pressure, Parkinsons, etc, makes it MORE profitable because then additional drugs will be required, made by the same companies. And since psych drugs cause brain damage and often create MORE mental health problems, people can justify keeping us on them because we keep getting crazier and crazier.

If we do get off our drugs, we get worse, not because that’s who we really ARE, but because the drugs have been designed to worsen our condition if we withdraw from them. Quitting a drug your brain has become dependent on can seriously flip you out, and it would flip out anyone irregardless of whether or not they were mentally ill.

In Mad In America the author notes that people who have a mental health crisis in third world countries fare better than those of us in “Developed” nations. The simple reason being there are no drugs, no wards, and no psychiatrists. A person having a schizophrenic break will often remain in their community and be cared for by the local shaman. In fact, in an experiment in the sixties down in the states had a supervised home for people in the midst of psychotic episodes. There were no drugs used, just supervision. People had episodes lasting on average three months and then got out of it ON THEIR OWN. The people running the home noticed pretty much everyone went on to have a normal life afterwards. They said people did do things like run outside with no clothes on, but for the most part there wasn’t major trouble. And they also noticed that people were having life changing spiritual epiphanies, and letting them go through that process made them feel stronger and more capable once it was over.

The psychiatric industry is not about healing people, no matter what the people working within it may think. It has always been based on the principles of behaviour modification, on making sure the insane just don’t bother the normals. We may think we’ve advanced because people aren’t institutionalized like the olden times (although a lot still are), but the drugs are working in very similar ways. A patient may not have a manic episode again on Olanzapine, but neither will they feel deep emotions like love, compassion, anger, or sadness. Neither will they be able to think, or to effectively live a regular life of working, or to create, or to challenge the psychiatric industry. The people around them will be happy with the way they have changed, but the person who is really living that life will not be happy, and even worse, they won’t even know they aren’t happy.

Possibly the thing which frustrates me the most is that while I have done extensive research on the history of psychiatry, psychotropic drugs, neuroleptics and their origin in Fascism, the causes of bipolar disorder, etc etc etc, I still have to deal with people whose education is, to put it gently, limited. And yet they still assume they know better than me how I should be living or being treated because they are sane while I am crazy. It’s getting to the point where I want to make up bibliographies and hand them out to people and say “Look, before you start telling me this shit, you have to educate yourself by reading these twenty books, forty of these articles, and at least ten of these medical studies. Oh, and I also want you to spend a week in a ward.”

And to them I also say, it doesn’t take much to step over that line. Anyone could find themselves on the other side of a locked door, whether they have a mental illness or not. And once you do end up on the other side, you will be dogged by the psychiatric industry for the rest of your life.

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