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How to survive the psychiatry? Some ideas from a mad person who likes being mad.
Hello Everyone, let me start with introducing first myself before I will go on with that treatise on how to survive the psychiatry. I will have to limit the amount of words though, since discussion on how to battle the psychiatry should be a subject of a PhD thesis.
I am a Russian woman based in the UK, with the official diagnosis of being bipolar which I acquired at the age of 27 while working in finances in the beautiful city of Amsterdam (which is in the Netherlands), leading a miserable life. As the majority of the world population I thought that one’s happiness had to be found in acquiring things, going to the gym, following some diets and labouring in a job of totally not my dream.
It all changed one day when I got my first psychosis, after I didn’t sleep for 11 days (stress, and drinking some Chinese remedies to treat my gastritis triggered it off, I believe). I still remember that feeling of absolute happiness and freedom, something which the New Age field tries to sell us as enlightenment. And yes, it does exist but you need to be first psychotic in order to reach any enlightenment and therefore, the journey is much more difficult than what the numerous spiritual gurus attempt to present you as truth, while asking for some good money at the same time.
I was talking with Gods, I was laughing, I did see that magic is real and that there is powerful spirit world all around us. I was so happy that when I landed in my first psychiatric hospital and a not so kind doctor told me that I was ill, I thought that my life was totally ruined. Walking around the hospital, while still being in the euphoric state of mind (medication takes time to quick in), I was observing with increasing sadness the approach of psychiatry towards madness. Patients with dropped shoulders and depressed smiles were all trying to process the reality of the society today: being mad is not accepted and you get a label for the rest of your life with that ongoing nightmare of stigma attached.
For some time I joined them in their sadness and was depressed as well, especially that psychiatrists prescribed me that absolutely awful risperidone medication and it was only thanks to my friends and my parents that I survived. They would literally drag me out of the house and take me somewhere where I could forget about my misery.
After a while, however, I sat down and thought profoundly about what to do next. You see, my psychosis was so beautiful that it became a reminder that being happy is possible and that maybe, just maybe, everything I saw and experienced in it, was totally real. And it was up to me to decide whether it was indeed real, and not up to the psychiatrists. I mean, how can they know if they are unable to experience the same things? Who was right there, I wondered, me or the psychiatrists?
And so I began my search. I, obviously, dropped that medication after I read everything about risperidone and how it can ruin lives (if I were in the government, I would just ban this medication totally, it’s poison). Then I read everything on psychiatry, diagnoses and moved promptly into reading more on spiritual things. I studied all religions and belief systems, I moved from my job to another one, changed a country of residence, then another, did a PhD in philosophy and gave birth to an amazing son. I also had relapses in terms of being bipolar, as I have the tendency to get psychotic if I am over-stressed and stop sleeping. The only problem it causes is that my family is over-concerned and that I have to deal with psychiatrists on some occasions, which isn’t a nice thing any longer, but I will elaborate on it more in the next paragraph. In this paragraph, I just want to conclude that with my search I finally arrived at the destination I want, which is walking in the state of semi-psychosis and managing to lead a fulfilled life. The trick is to adjust your own medication (I am on quetiapine/seroquel now), and make sure you sleep, eat and relax properly. But it is doable and it is even possible to have a normal, good job and still be able to see the fairies and magic around at the same time.
But so, the psychiatry. I don’t want to end up in the psychiatric hospital ever again, unless they change their rules (at least in the UK where I am now) and start treating the patients as human beings rather that some sort of criminals guilty of being mad. Having managed to avoid dealing with psychiatrists for good 6 years, I had a small relapse last year because of major stress in personal life and forgetting my own rule that I do need to increase the dose of quetiapine if I start sleeping badly. And therefore, I ended up in the hospital where I was 6 years before and which I had liked then to an extent, that I went there myself and did convince them that I was psychotic and needed help.
This was a big mistake on my part. You see, everything has changed in the last 6 years, and now 7. Either NHS (medical care in the UK) is really struggling or there aren’t any appropriate campaigns going around trying to improve the rights of psychiatric patients, but I was shocked to discover that the hospital became more of a prison rather than a place where one should receive some help and be treated nicely. I can’t really blame the main doctor-consultant even if he thought that switching me to lithium would be fine, despite the fact that Quetiapine worked for all these years and I was just stupid about the dosage when over-stressed, since he was running around the hospital like a totally mad person himself, trying to ‘treat’ 20 people at once, and having time to see them all only once a week for the maximum of 5 minutes, because the rest of the time he has to spend on administrative tasks and updating the computer system, the pick of stupidity in terms of why doctors started to hate their jobs and explains as to why NHS is facing a major crisis.
His doctor assistants though were terrible. One doctor, the one who convinced me to try lithium (I dropped it, obviously, once out of the hospital, and went back to quetiapine) said to me that getting pregnant on lithium is fine, and while I have no plans to get pregnant, once I researched the medication, I quickly discovered that she had lied. Another doctor assistant not so kindly told me that if I managed to remain sane I could then get a job and even keep it, without first checking that I actually have a PhD and 2 jobs on the go, and that no one was planning to fire me because of my bipolar disorder (thanks god). To another female patient she said that she should never get pregnant since she was schizophrenic and like totally mad. You can bet, that this girl is still shocked and since we remained friends after our stay in the hospital, I am wondering whether we should sue that doctor for the things she is telling to patients.
Yes, it became terrible to be in a psychiatric hospital. I only still like the nurses (most of them are really kind) and staff which works in the kitchen and makes meals and cleans. They are all wonderful.
But because of the cut in the budget, due to the fact that there are no good reforms in the field of mental health, and insistence on medicalization of society as a whole, staying in the hospital is a total nightmare. You can’t go out any more, they are building fences as in prisons, care workers talk loudly in the corridors while you try to sleep and don’t care that you need to sleep in order to recover, they section you despite the fact that you come there voluntary and then keep you just for the sake of it, while on is walking already being totally sane for more than 2 good weeks.
And therefore, to conclude this quite long article, I will just address the mental people (I won’t talk to psychiatrists ever again unless they make some reforms). Please, do avoid the hospitals. You don’t need to take the dose that doctors prescribe but you better take some, because the alternative (ending up in the hospital) is much worse. Also, believe in your own truth and not in what the doctors tell you. No one can dictate you which thoughts and visions you should harbour. What you see and hear is real, and in case you hear bad voices, tell them to go away and invite good ones into your head. You can take control of your own madness and still enjoy it.
Because madness is a gift from God.
Ekaterina Netchitailova, PhD
Ekaterina Netchitailova is a Russian woman residing in the beautiful UK town, Sheffield, where she works as an associate lecturer in media studies, writes in her spare time on madness (check her blog: HYPERLINK “http://porcupineswisdom.blogspot.co.uk/” http://porcupineswisdom.blogspot.co.uk/), spends quality time with her lovely son, walks in the park in order to see the fairies, likes different cafes, coffee and music, and is thankful to this universe (and Chinese medicine)for making her mad.