The light at the end of the tunnel

I had a bad night last night with very poor quality sleep. I got up several times due to inability to sleep. I did not have sleep in the first hour or so of the night the way I often do, which is about the only restorative sleep I ever get anyway. I was grumpy yesterday due to MIA comments that thankfully, have been taken down. I am glad I did not respond in any way to the comments (except to alert Steve, the moderator…).

I also felt grumpy because I realized that one of my jobs is not panning out. The pay is just way too low.

I was up at around 2am, puttering around, etc. Sometimes I get out of bed so angry over this long-term insomnia that I feel like I’m going to burst out crying or something. I don’t, mainly because it’ll do no good.

Of course, this immense frustration is not a good place to be. Not for long, anyway. Oddly, I think it was this discomfort that led me to kind a breakthrough in my thinking about kidney health. I’m not sure if I’m right about this yet. I’m still checking it out.

This would be a little more exciting to me if I wasn’t so exhausted to begin with. Maybe I will sleep tonight? I’ve been saying that for eight years now.  Maybe I should just accept that the answer will be no.

Positive stuff that happened over the past couple of days

I decided it is finally warm and summery enough to clean my bedroom rug.  I purchased a mini-vacuum on sale at the supermarket about a week ago and got to work. I vacuumed the entire rug, which isn’t very big but it’s stuck to the floor and is a overall pain in the butt. Then, I shampooed the rug. I have a small machine designed for small spaces, not one of those industrial ones that are just too big and unwieldy.

I am thrilled because I did this successfully and got out all the doggie dander odor. I got out a lot of the stains, too. Then, I washed my big heavy comforter and for the first time ever, got the doggie odor out of that, too. It is currently hanging to dry and is almost finished.

That’s the good stuff that happened. I don’t even want to think about the bad things. I have two jobs right now that are non-jobs. One is teaching, which I’ve been doing for the past two weeks, but the pay is just so low that I am ready to quit. The other is assisting students who are having a difficult time in school. That’s a total nonjob because I am still lacking the access I need to do what I am supposed to do (whatever that is!).  Administration is noncommunicative and when they finally respond, they refer me elsewhere. I had one phone discussion with a tech person and then he sent me some kind of writeup of our discussion that was full of spelling and grammar errors to such extreme that it was laughable. This person had an American accent so I know the “help” isn’t outsourced which would explain the errors. Do they even know what they’re doing? Kids lives and education are at stake here. Is this really a school?

The other very negative thing going on in my life is that I can’t sleep. I am tired of researching like mad, deciding on some miracle supplement that I’m positive will save the day, then, trying it and realizing it doesn’t actually do anything. I’ve tried weed and that, too, doesn’t do anything at all either. Insomnia is wrecking my work life because I’m exhausted and short-tempered.

I can’t believe it’s been eight years now. I still have very little in the way of answers.

Does anyone know where I can get help with this? How do you correct the organ damage that has resulted from irresponsible psychiatry? How can I find out for sure which organ was damaged? I waited an hour on the Breggin show yesterday but it was more like a Dr. Phil show with people calling in asking about how to get off drugs or how to help some relative. I’m very upset because with all callers, Breggin recommended therapy. Does he even realize that most therapists are complete crap?

I wanted to ask him, since he’s an expert on drugs and how they wreck your life, which organ got damaged and how to remedy this. I never had a chance. Then again, if he was going to recommend therapy, I would have been extremely disappointed.

I’ve eliminated a couple of things. It’s not anxiety or depression and it’s not sleep apnea. It’s not “sleep hygiene” and it’s not “too much screen time.” Something very serious is wrong. I want to know what it is.

I’ve heard of pineal gland transplants, but they’ve only done  this to animals. I’d be scared to do it, but really I’m so desperate at this point (which I shouldn’t be admitting) I’ll try anything.

Learning not to get on the defensive

I never had a problem with getting on the defensive until I was traumatized in 2011. After that, since I had endured something that was torture and a threat to my life, I became defensive way too much. I felt attacked a lot of the time, and if I did, I struck back verbally. I hadn’t been like that before. Often when this occurred the person did not have bad intentions at all. Because I had been traumatized I would perceive it as an attack. This harmed many of my friendships, because my friends did not recognize what was going on. (They claimed I was addicted to water and had invented the abuse.)

There were times, though, that people bashed me very badly, especially on Facebook. Some of these things they wrote were likely not intended for my viewing. Some claimed I had “negative energy,” which is about the same as calling a person “character-disordered.” One of my ex-friends wrote that I was “not a person anymore.” They all chimed in, saying I was dangerous and violent. Where did they get that from? They even talked about locking their doors even though I lived thousands of miles away. They said the State should take Puzzle away from me. Yes, it was hurtful.

Should I laugh or cry? I wasn’t sure. Was this comical or sad? I knew their fear of me doing physical harm to them was so irrational that it qualified as delusional. Should I feel sorry for them?

Someone I really cared about wrote me an email (and to drive her point home, also sent a replica via snail mail) saying I was a liar and an addict. She went on and on for a couple of pages saying what a shit she thought I was. She said I should dress like a proper anorexic. Huh? Looking back, I think she was just having a hard time and decided it was all my fault.

For a long time I felt that I could not forgive her. Oddly, I do now.

Another time, someone that was a good friend (so I thought) wrote to me several times, including messaging me on Facebook, using swear words, etc. Again, I suspect she was just having a hard time. We aren’t friends anymore.

One time, maybe a couple of months ago, a customer was abusive to me over the phone, using swear words and insults. I went back and looked at her history and found that every times she’d called us she’d been verbally abusive. Maybe she had been through some really bad trauma in her life. I don’t know. I felt so sorry for her.

Imagine what it’s like to be so angry inside that every time you get on the phone with a customer service person, you get upset and defensive? Actually, my life used to be that way. I knew it was from trauma, and I hated myself for it. I wondered if I’d ever be capable of carrying on a conversation. Now I do not get along with everyone, but I do get along with some people.

Sometimes, people really do attack. But what about perceived attacks? One time, a supervisor doubted my word that there was an error in the company documentation. I was insulted, feeling like she was calling me incompetent. I was right about the error, though. I’m not sure how it was all resolved, or if it ever was. There were a few times I found errors. I don’t understand why she didn’t thank me for finding them. Still, although she wasn’t truly attacking me, I felt that I had to defend myself. I did not.

I have to learn to withhold, to refrain from verbally strike back. It is not a good idea, even though inside, I might want to. I was able to withhold easily when I did customer service. Customers run out of steam. They will stop after a while. Many even apologized. This, I believe is the tactic to take when I am senselessly bashed (not that there’s a right and wrong tactic).

After bashing me over the phone, customers who felt apologetic often turned it all inward. When that happened, I told them we’re all human, that their anger (at our company) was understandable. I was surprised at how often customers apologized for forgetting stuff, such as forgetting they’d made a purchase from us. They’d yell at us for charging them. When they said stuff like “Sorry I wasted your time,” I would say, “That is what we are here for. Anytime you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call us again.”

What’s cool is that I feel sure of myself enough to be able to brush off character-bashing now.  I didn’t have the same confidence when I was in therapy. When someone bashed me I went crying to my therapist. I’m glad there’s no one to go crying to anymore!

Why is it easier to brush off over-the-top bashing, vs. microaggressions? I think when it’s way too much, it’s easier. Why? Because senseless bashing reflects badly on the basher. Worse than it reflects on the bashee. I have learned to walk away and feel very sorry for the person.

When I was a patient I thought that not getting along with another person was a symptom of my own character flaws. Actually, it’s not. Decades ago, one of my fellow patients had not accepted me as a friend. I remember complaining to the staff about feeling rejected. The staff person told me that since the patient had frequent headaches, maybe it was hard for her to converse anyway.

Interestingly, we became friends later on, for about a year, but eventually lost touch. Sometimes it is hard to be friends with married people!

You can’t get along with everyone. There will always be some people that rub you the wrong way! Fact of life. Spend a week on an online dating site and you’ll see many people you’d rather not get to know any better! They’re not bad people, but maybe just not your type. See my point?

Now that I have six years’ distance on the trauma, and the second trauma (abuse in Mount Auburn Hospital), I’m wondering if maybe next time I get too much on the defensive, I should find some way of explaining myself without using disease terms. “It is something I’m working on,” might be appropriate. I don’t want to excuse bad behavior, but to help the person understand why I acted badly. If I lash out, maybe I’m just lashing out at “them.” “Staff.” Because there’s actually nowhere to go with this. I have to let it dissipate on its own. Because it will.

Another excerpt

Coerced unemployment has drastic consequences. Sadly, people do not realize this until they try to find a job after an absence from working. Statistically, one in 200 who were put on long-term disability ever make it off disability. The Ticket-to-Work program and other initiatives have had no positive influence on this grim statistic as more and more sign up for the lucrative disability benefits. The very fact that these payments are called “benefits” makes me shake my head in disbelief!

There are many complex reasons for the permanence of disability. I believe the reason we stay hooked on it has to do with the original reasons for accepting one’s fate as “disabled” in the first place. For me, as a woman composer back in the 1980s I didn’t have much in the way of job possibilities in a field that was at the time overwhelmingly male-dominated. I had no clue what I could possibly do for work as graduation approached. If I recall correctly, my college did not offer readily visible career coaching for music students. I was literally going to be thrown to the wolves, left to figure out the career maze on my own. Some students opted for grad school. One student I knew was going to work for the family business. Several were taking up jobs in fields other than music, knowing that the money wasn’t going to be there if they chose to stay in the creative arts. I was at a total loss. The one thing I didn’t want for myself, the thing I feared the most, was that I would end up waiting on tables.

Calling myself disabled was an easy out for me, an easy excuse for not having to go through with the job search. I could avoid the inevitable sexual harassment on the job that I had experienced in the past. It was so easy to just say, “I can’t do that anyway. I don’t qualify,” and then, I was suddenly off the hook entirely.

Calling myself mentally ill made me feel special, an exception to the rule, because, somehow, I was an artist who didn’t fit in, and that felt okay to me for a long, long time. I avoided reconsidering the fact that this was an illogical and therefore, incorrect conclusion.

I wasn’t “special.” I wasn’t “entitled.” The payments weren’t “benefits” either, nor some kind of scholarship or award that I had won for being odd or unique, even though some therapists would have wanted me to believe this (to keep me coming back!).

More from Life After Lithium

Some people realize that their former diagnoses were invalid, and now, they are panicked and grieving over the idea of letting go of sicko mode. We have played the patient role for much of our lives, the one constantly who needs help, the one who needs to turn to “professionals” to stay alive. It’s so tough for some to let go of the habit-forming patient role that they cling to any lingering drug effects as proof of disability. While some of this is certainly valid, we have to stay in perspective. I strongly supported withdrawal communities that help people get off drugs safely, knowing, though, that this needed to be a temporary stop along the way. I knew there was a greater path to follow, leading a world beyond patienthood that was wide open and waiting to be discovered.

I began to read books on antipsychiatry theory and history. This excited me as much as reading about religion and feminism did when I was a young person. I couldn’t get enough of this! I loved reading about how therapy was a bad idea, how locking people up who were suffering did not alleviate that suffering, and how being called a disease-name in itself was disabling. I realized then that what had held me back in patienthood was not a real disease, but stemmed from the way I was treated by society, especially economically. I realized that I had been denied a voice, that I was regarded by many as a societal waste product. I had been denied the right to produce anything useful and was forced to consume resources as much as I could. I was a hated recipient of tax money, resented by others (including mental health workers) because I got freebees from the government, and even worse, I complained when the freebees were taken away. “Why don’t you do this for me?” Wasn’t it time I stopped?

Telling my story again and again stopped being a source of negativity at this point. I realized that it was my job to do this and that I was truly helping others. Focusing on helping the greater good of society changed the way I told that same story.

As I continued to pick up the pieces of my life something else began to happen. People wrote to me from all over the world telling me they’d secretly been following me for years, and were realizing that I was onto something. A few told me they were following in my footsteps, trying out the things I’d tried, and were finding my writing immensely helpful. If this was true, then wasn’t it also true that I had a responsibility to live well? Wasn’t I now obliged to remain as healthy as possible, to sustain well-being, instead of being in patient mode and claiming I couldn’t?

I’m not the only one who owes it to humanity to live well. We all do. Whether we realize it or not, we’re all paving the way for others. We must do this well. At the same time, we cannot demand perfection in ourselves or others. We must realize that life sucks sometimes, that its lousiest moments are opportunities for growth, learning, and true progress, not a disease we should eradicate.

More from Life After Lithium

The first time I was ever deeply traumatized was when I was deprived of water in the hospital at age 53. Afterward, I was in so much shock that I felt my life would never be the same. It was next to impossible to get anyone to believe me. Even one of my best friends claimed I was “addicted to water.” The girls at the eating disorders hospital jeered at me, thinking no one could possibly need to drink so much. In fact, most everyone I knew was misjudging me.

I felt only slightly vindicated when I was diagnosed with diabetes insipidus the following year. Still, the anger and grief I felt over the water deprivation did not lift. Why was I not getting an apology? Why did my therapist and psychiatrist continue to call me psychotic when I wasn’t? Why did they continue to back MGH when clearly, MGH had been wrong? Why should water deprivation mean I had to go to a state hospital now? I didn’t have enough hindsight on these recent events to be able to put two and two together. I didn’t realize that their aim was to silence me. These doctors were not working for my own good, but for theirs.

It took me a long time to realize that I was not alone. Others had gone through horrific experiences while inpatient and had suffered from trauma as a result. In fact, many of the patients I knew over the years were in the same situation. They appeared angry and had the same signs of traumatic stress that I had, including anger, rapid or “pressured” speech, and difficulty holding onto relationships.

What had happened? We had found the “help” to be more harmful than any “illness” we supposedly had. The “help” had harmed so deeply that many, I feared, would never fully recover. Even worse, most patients did not even know that the cause was the “help.” Most continued to call themselves mentally ill and continued to medicate away the traumatic reaction rather than facing up to it. It is the hardest thing to admit that your doctor, or a hospital, in whom you placed utmost trust, had been negligent, abusive, or was simply barking up the wrong tree. Those of us who were relatively willing participants (coercion as opposed to a court order) have a harder time admitting this to ourselves since we might feel partially responsible. Many of us were unwitting co-conspirators in the psychiatric genocide.
As soon as I realized that others had been through similar experiences, I knew I was not alone anymore. I felt much, much better knowing this, since my doctors had repeatedly called me crazy. I knew now that I was not crazy, but grieving.

A few paragraphs from Life After Lithium

We certainly weren’t all “manic” when the drug was initiated. I was not. I’m fairly certain that Gould Farm, the facility where I was initially put on lithium, was sick of hearing my complaints about how much I disliked it there and wanted to leave. In my case, lithium was initiated as a “we don’t know what else to do, so maybe the placebo effect will stop her from complaining” drug. This was not a decision based on any scientific test, but on guesswork and “last resort” mentality. If so, this was a bad administrative choice because even if lithium were to “work” as a placebo, to silence me simply because it was a pill, it would very quickly destroy my thyroid and kidneys.

I never asked what they had for my diagnosis, but I am fairly sure I was admitted and released from Gould Farm with a “depression” diagnosis. Afterward I was a private patient of Dr. Charles Capers, who clearly did not know what he was doing at all, he very well may have changed my diagnosis several times to suit his fancy. My parents, also, noted his incompetence, not only as a clinical professional, but his billing practices, they later informed me, were so sloppy they couldn’t figure out what on earth he had billed them for. I recall feeling embarrassed having to correct him on several occasions, wondering if he drank like Dr. Finlayson in Vermont. I knew he kept no written records on me at all, even though likely he was legally required to do so. But I didn’t want to say anything. I was afraid to. Maybe he was just getting old. Dr. Capers wasn’t the only clinician I went to over the years who failed to keep records. Just about all of them were sloppy record-keepers.

I also noticed Dr. Capers had this odd twitch that I now suspect might have been Tardive Dyskinsia. It’s not uncommon for psychiatrists to dabble in experimentation with the very same drugs they themselves prescribe. Maybe he had gotten himself dependent on antipsychotic pills! It was very clearly a mouth twitch, but again, I said nothing.

One day, Dr. Capers told me in his office that I had schizophrenia. He said this the same way someone might tell me the weather had turned rainy or the bus was going to be three minutes late. Like I was supposed to take it all in stride. “But you knew that, right?” he said.

I had no clue why he was saying this, as I had no signs or symptoms of schizophrenia, and never had. Should I believe him? I didn’t know. Was he some old wise fool now? Should I just pretend I take this seriously?
I didn’t want to rile him up, so I nodded and left the appointment as usual, thinking about what he had said. Could it be true? Even remotely true? I felt obliged to humor him because I didn’t know what else to do.

Have you received this spam?

A guy keeps writing to me saying my devices are all infected and that he has access to my email and all my contacts.

Later in this email he says that while spying, he saw me watching porn (implied) and also filmed my reaction.

There’s a problem here. I don’t watch porn or anything fitting the description he gave.

He goes on to demand $1,000 in Bitcoin and says if I do not, he’ll share me watching porn to everyone.

Hey, good luck to this guy. I doubt he will ever find any porn I watched. That is about the same as those folks calling you up telling you your car warranty is up, when you do not have a car. Or telling you they’re calling from Microsoft about your infected Windows computer when in fact, you use a Mac.