Stay away from cults, Part 2

The following are illogical arguments:

“If you do not follow [____] (their guru), then the alternative is burning in hell forever.”

“If you do not follow [____] (their guru) then you will continue to suffer or be unhappy.”

“If you do not take what we are offering you, then you will never get anywhere in life.”

“If you do not get the program, the program will get to you.”

“If you do not pray for [___] (you name it) you will go to hell.”

“The Bible was written by God because it says so in the  Bible.” (This line will work for whatever the cult’s given text is.)

“Anyone who hasn’t read [insert name of cult’s text] isn’t very wise. These are the standards by which we judge others. All other education besides our specific teachings is meaningless.”

“You are a sinner, therefore, admit it, you need us.”

Ever notice you cannot engage in meaningful dialogue with cult members? They either try to convert you or they tell you they are super happy but you really wonder when you see that glazed over, drugged look in their eyes. They tend to not leave their cult. Know why? It would be far too scary for them. How could they turn their backs on what they believe in so passionately? I can only imagine it’s as painful as it was for me to walk out of the mental health system. You bet it was hard!

“If you do not follow our treatment plan, you’ll become unstable.” I’m waiting for that to happen. What the hell’s unstable, anyway? Pssst: It’s a meaningless scare tactic meant to keep you stuck in treatment and out of work forever. You don’t need to believe it.

What if a friend is being deceptive, thinks you’re nuts, wants out, and is afraid to admit it? What if you have been aware of this all along?

Imagine this: Two people following vastly different paths. One gets more and more into the MH system, more treatment, the other, who was previously entrenched in it, leaves.

We were friends, good friends, at the point where those paths met, very long ago, but now, she’s in the System, and whether she knows it or not, stuck in it, and I am doing fine completely out of it. Our worlds are vastly different.

Sounds like a great topic for a novel, doesn’t it? I think I’ll write it. A YA novel.

I’ve made so much effort but nothing works. We used to be much closer. Now, I have to twist her arm for a conversation. I don’t like doing that, because I feel like an imposition in her not-very-busy life. She won’t open up anymore, and we never share like we used to. I’m well aware of the distancing and ridiculous boundaries.

She’ll only discuss neutral topics. Some people cannot discuss certain things, and that’s fine, but now it’s down to “How’s the weather?” and not much else. I feel insulted because she acts like I don’t notice.

She does call sometimes, or states that she’d like me to call. I notice that she only talks to me when she’s lonely. I know she’s bored with her life. She has other people to chat with and I know I’m on the bottom of her call list.  Does she realized I’m aware of this? She dumps me when the going gets rough, and comes back when I’m okay. When I noticed the pattern, I made a point of only calling her when I felt terrific and everything was fine. However, I’d call or write and let her know I was concerned every time bad luck came her way, if she let on.

I feel I’m banging against a door that’ll never open again. I told myself this two years ago. I even told my minister, who suggested maybe I shouldn’t be friends with this person whom I call “my on-again, off-again friend.” But I told him if I laugh at her rather predictable pattern, I’ll put up with it. He didn’t think it was a good idea to stay in a friendship that wasn’t working anymore.

Then there’s the credibility bit. She’s always seen me as delusional and paranoid. Every time I say something I hear that skepticism. “I see….” like a shrink who is listening to a patient talking about hearing aliens.

However, when you’ve been through the mass exodus of friends like I did, you put up with unsatisfactory relationships. I spoke with one guy who told me his solution was to “hang out with oddballs.” I feel that this is all part of the lowering of standards that happens due to psych labeling. After years of being told we have a brain disease, we think we don’t deserve quality relationships anymore. So we settle for anyone. Often, we put up with abuse longer than an undiagnosed person would, because we think, “This is all I deserve.”

Sadly, people like me might appear to be abuse magnets, but that’s not true. I was convinced by therapy that I deserved superficial, limited relationships, and had no chance at ever meeting anyone I could really talk to and enjoy hanging out with. This is yet another way that diagnosis does serious harm.

My friend is in therapy herself. I remember when she started, I was all for it. Now, I see the changes and I’m saddened. Some therapists will encourage their clients to label their friends. They will say, “Your friend is off meds so do you really think she’s credible?” Therapists, and especially psychiatrists, will compare psych meds to insulin.

Hint: In medical school they learn that the analogy is completely false. However, they learn in psychiatry rotation that this lie will convince most patients to take their pills and stop questioning.

Sadly, Big Pharma has us all convinced that anything but their drugs isn’t strong enough to control severe depression, severe psychosis, ADHD, or many other things like that. I have been depressed, too, horribly depressed, and was also convinced that the only solution was drugs. I thought, rather incorrectly, that if it was a drug, it would work better than a “natural” cure.  The mentality of drugs being the cure-all had me convinced that I needed a complete arsenal daily, that my shrinks prescribed.

What if you learned there were methods that worked better? Wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity? Sadly, we tend to get so defensive about the drugs, that we insist that this is the only way. Of course, I was a true believer myself for decades till I realized the lie. Now, I look back, remembering how pissed off I’d get any time anyone suggested an alternative, or even, “Maybe you can get along with fewer pills.” Of course, I was just like anyone else, convinced that my life would be miserable without drugs.

It saddens me that my friend used to tell me, years ago, “You are so much more than a diagnosis.” That was before. Now, she only sees me through the lens of this invented diagnosis she’s concocted for me. Sadly, she probably discussed it with her therapist, too, who undoubtedly reinforced the idea that I am sick and there’s nothing she can do. So my friend decodes everything I say to fit the diagnosis she made for me.

No matter what I say, it goes through a set of filters now. Automatically, she assumes everything I say is delusional. But if by rare chance she believes me, I feel validated. I tell myself maybe the friendship can be saved. This doesn’t last long because she reverts to her usual disbelief once more. I hate feeling like this, like I am gasping for air in this relationship.

I’m in a much better situation now. I have quality friendships, people who want to spend time with me. I need to let the old stuff that’s so damaging out of my life.  I think I’ll be happier. When something’s staring you in the face, you can’t keep pretending you don’t notice. I try to act polite on the phone but it’s sometimes so obvious I just want to hang up.

Personally, I think anytime a person diagnoses another with a psych diagnosis, it’s a way of gaining power over that person, belittling her, and excusing your own actions.

“I act distant because she’s crazy. Why believe her? What she says is ridiculous.  She needs treatment. I’ve tried, but there’s nothing I can do.”

Whenever I heard that disbelief of everything I said, my reaction was to feel an intense need to “prove myself.” No one should ever have to prove themselves like that in ordinary conversation. I kept backing up everything I said, just to make sure I didn’t get that obvious “I see,” that roll of the eyes on the other end of the phone. Why do I bother? I have been asking this for a long time.

I can hear that “Julie is crazy but I will hold my tongue” from her when we speak.  I hate to inform her, but her silence has been giving her away all this time. I have to face up to this because I’m tired of yet another fake friendship.

+++

I hesitate to publish this but I know she’s disgusted with my blogging and never reads what I write. That figures, huh? If by chance she reads this, I’m not ashamed of my opinion on the topic, and have no need to hide how I feel. I say all this because I feel others might benefit.

 

 

 

The credibility, or, rather, non-credibility, of “mental patients”

I have been struggling with this for a while. A nurse or doctor or “counselor” will say something, and instantly, it is believed as gospel truth by a majority of the public. Why shouldn’t it be believed?

But whenever I say something, my word is doubted. I am assumed to be delusional, mistaken, or inaccurate. Why? Because I am, or rather was, a “mental patient.”

Here’s what’s probably one of the best examples I can give. I was at Massachusetts General Hospital’s psych ward in 2000. The place is called Blake Eleven. I have no clue when the Blake Building was built, but I’m sure it’s been around a while. It’s a tower near the White building, etc, quite similar. The Blake Building has an elevator, too, just like the White building and the Wang Building.

Blake Eleven is MGH’s psych ward. Inside this ward is another ward, that is, an inner ward where they keep the patients they consider more “dangerous” or more “inappropriate.” The ones they want to watch more closely.

I was kept in that inner ward for five days in 2000. I didn’t mind actually. I had a private room, and did nothing but write all day. They let me keep my laptop.  I had a private phone right in the room.  A large “treatment team” came in now and then. They were nice, especially the psychologist. I ignored the other patients and pretty much any other goings-on on the ward. I never thought about it again.

Early in 2011 I was in McLean and the other patients were saying they’d heard MGH had the best care in the world. They said MGH had won an award. I had just come from that horrific ER at MGH (the psych one) where I’d been kept for 24 hours, slept on a cot in the hallway, and wasn’t too impressed with that.

Then along comes mid-2011 and I was stuck in MGH again. I was on the medical floor and then put into Blake Eleven. They put all ED patients into the inner ward. This time, it was a living nightmare being in there. I’ve told you of the horrors. One of my friends begged me to do everything I could to get out of there because he was afraid I would die of dehydration.

After I got out, I couldn’t believe the response. People on my treatment team were saying I was delusional that there was an inner ward. I’m not kidding you! Even my psychiatrist who worked at MGH! Had she never been there? My therapist had come onto the ward, but that inner ward wasn’t exactly staring you in the face with a big sign on it saying, “We keep the patients we are torturing in here.”

One day I was at Alcott and even the other patients were telling me there was no inner ward. They told me they’d been patients there and had never seen it. So were they doubting my credibility? Assuming I was delusional? Then, the staff interrupted our conversation and said it was “inappropriate.” Of course. They were always doing that to further invalidate me.

This kind of discrediting that happens to mental patients is a form of torture. I am not blaming the other patients, who simply didn’t see the door there. However, our society puffs up authorities such as hospital personnel, who are just as likely to be mistaken or give out misinformation as I am.

I have a friend who, through no fault of her own, doubted my word until she heard it from another patient who had been through the exact same tortures in ED treatment at MGH, came out terrified and wanting to sue the pants off the place. Could two people who have never met have the exact same “delusion” with the exact same details? Not likely.

How many times have you been told something by a doctor or nurse that wasn’t true? Such as the following:

“This medication won’t make you gain weight.”

“This won’t hurt a bit.”

“It couldn’t possibly hurt that much.”

“There’s no reason you should be in that much pain.”

“There are no side effects.”

“There are no other treatments besides what I am offering you.”

“We don’t have a bed.”

“Your levels are fine.”

Of course, I have developed the bad habit of qualifying a lot of what I say by backing it up with, “My doctor even said so.” This I might say to boost my own credibility. Why? People assume I don’t know what I am talking about, and the doctor certainly does just because she’s an MD.

Experience means nothing to the general public if it’s the experience of a “mental patient.” However, every human experience has incredible value, far beyond “expertise.”

What’s more valuable, a doctor’s word on a drug, or the word of a person who has actually tried it, a person who has felt what it feels like in their body? Or several people? Do you go check out the studies conducted by drug companies whose interest is in marketing the drug, or do you ask your buddies? Or do you put the pill in your own mouth and see what happens?

Take me with a grain of salt. But please, take those medical “professionals” with a grain of salt, too. They lie, they cheat, and they are mistaken. They often don’t admit when they can’t answer a question. They cover up mistakes to avoid lawsuits. Don’t tell me they are more credible cuz at this point, I don’t believe it.

Telling a person over and over that what she is saying is a delusion is a form of torture. That’s what I went through in 2011, 2012, and 2013. I’m awfully glad I left the MH system. It was killing me. I don’t fault the other patients or general public who doubted my word, but I certainly fault the MH professionals who should have known better, and in some cases, were deliberately discrediting me due to their own fears.