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Snapshots of Spring: Graciela’s journey off psych-meds after 20 Years

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Thanks, India. Please quote the sections of the article that are most meaningful to you.

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@Altostrata. Thank you. This is what I can manage right now. Here they are: 

A critique of the Psychiatric system “recovery”


“After my parent’s divorce and my first suicide attempt, I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder in the spring of 1998. Since then, I have been diagnosed with ADHD, borderline personality disorder, psychosis, etc… I have attempted suicide and been hospitalized many times. For about 20 years, I tried my best to adjust and comply with the diverse medication cocktails I was prescribed. They immediately sent me far away in and from my mind, and for the enormous cost of treatment, the system never taught or encouraged me to heal myself. Instead, I was told my condition was incurable. The term ‘recovery’ within the system was a confused and confusing concept. It didn’t mean I was going to recover my true self, but I kept falling for the bait, desperate for relief while remaining treatment resistant. Recovery meant I was integrating into society as a shadow self, my brain invaded by foreign, hardcore psychotropic drugs that supposedly knew how to run my life better than I did. A few scripts with lifelong refills provided ephemeral first aid, but rather than addressing my original problems, stifled and added to them.”

The seeds/beginnings of healing 

Once online I was instead guided to buy A Promise of Hope by Autumn Stringam and Med Free Bipolar by Aspen Morrow. My mother and I owe a debt of gratitude to these women. The first story slowly restored my hope and the second gave me instruction on how to get off the medications which were likely contributors to, if not the causes of, my suicidal ideations and dark psychosis. With the help of Aspen Morrow’s book, I started addressing what I was putting into my gut and by January of 2017 I added micronutrients to my new treatment plan. I wanted to die and be someone else and little by little that is exactly what is happening. The necrotic parts of my life are slowly falling to the wayside or being restored back to health.

Through the years, the worst part was the ongoing blurring of the line between what a side effect was, what a response to a stimulus was, what a symptom of the so-called disorders was or even what my personality was. It was challenging to be myself, if that even existed anymore. I was no longer able to fully engage my prefrontal cortex — and everything connected to it. Some meds made it very hard to swallow. My body has fluctuated form like a blood pressure cuff. I’ve had terrible adult acne. At night, I have felt paralyzed, unable to move my body in bed with much difficulty breathing, consumed by fear, feeling things crawl on me and stalked by demons. Most days I believed I was being punished by God because I was such a disgrace to humanity.

I’ve been arrested. I’ve had to report to probation officers. I’ve done so many things that make no sense to me right now. I have left home to be homeless, I’ve slept on the subway or in the Port Authority, I’ve asked for money from strangers. I have been on disability. I’ve picked up cigarette butts off the sidewalk to smoke them. I have felt lower than the cigarette butt on the sidewalk that got trampled on all day. Most of me seemed to have checked out and whatever semblance of self and self-worth I had left was negative. Once a bright young girl, I had turned to trash. Like most folks, I have also had countless experiences of flying high through life followed by crash landings. I’ve lost good relationships with my unruly behavior. I’ve lost jobs and opportunities as if they were grains of sand slipping through my fingers without being able to adjust my grip. My college transcripts are filled with all sorts of letters and I remain without a degree.

I’ve hit “rock bottom” countless times to find that it is, in fact, a bottomless pit. As long as there’s a pulse, life can always get worse. I’ve endured akathisia and tardive dyskinesia as a result of my medication regimen, but the worst side effect of the medications and the system was the loss of my sense of agency. I never addressed the issue that catapulted me into the system in the first place. I never found meaning in my life experience. I just became a “mentally ill” person and I saw myself as an untrustworthy stranger who had to consult therapists and psychiatrists about every move I made regarding my life, which was worse than the brain damage, memory loss, cognitive malfunction, threat of developing diabetes and organ failure among all the other adverse effects from the medications I was prescribed.

In spring of 2017, I took a Narrative Healing class online with Teleosis Institute, taught by a coach, author and a high school English teacher of mine, Reggie Marra. The class helped me improve my footing on the track to a “new way of being.” The writing assignments were like physical therapy for my mind as I was working through mental scar tissue on lower doses of meds in a supportive environment. One of the assigned readings in the class was by Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D. Ph.D. who holds degrees from Stanford University and the Psychological Studies Institute. He is a prodigy, psychiatrist, geriatrician, author, etc. with decades of experience helping many heal from mental and physical illness. A lifelong student, he integrates indigenous, eastern and western medicine to help activate and assist each client’s system’s innate ability to heal itself.

When I was one month off meds, Dr. Mehl-Madrona agreed to doctor me, and in our sessions, he treated my mind, body, and spirit without partitions by using Narrative Medicine, Osteopathic myofascial release and ceremony within a community. Integrating the Native perspective into my recovery offered my starved intellect a potent dose of common sense that has resonated deeply and taken root. The First Nation healers’ way of acknowledging the environment as well as the individual who is afflicted makes more sense than the dissection of the afflicted (and affliction) from its environment and mistreating it independently from its context, which had mostly been the case for me in mainstream care. Everything is connected. Dr. Lewis also introduced me to The Red Road. Its profound simplicity makes it a practical way for me to get back in alignment with what is important when I feel myself getting off track. Even though my time as his client has been brief, I can testify that while his combination of practices is atypical, this ex-treatment-resistant consumer is more proof of the effectiveness of his methods. Recently, his partner and wife Barbara Mainguy, MFA, MA has agreed to become my therapist. A Canadian creative arts psychotherapist among other disciplines, she is well versed in Quantum Psychology and has implemented with me a variety of modalities that in my two-decades-plus of attending therapy I didn’t even know existed. A hard-working, forward-thinking professional, she is not alarmed when my supposed “psychosis” surfaces.

It is long overdue that the numerous longstanding and effective “unconventional” therapies be covered by insurance. They need to be brought into the mainstream so more people have the resources to recover from mental illness instead of continuing to perpetuate their dis-ease within the current system’s confined parameters. As I stand amid the ruins of my past, parts of me that I thought were dead somehow keep crawling out from the wreckage. My life has much room for improvement, but I could not be happier with this homecoming — that mainstream psychiatry overcharged me for and was unequipped to offer me. In spring 2018 I was even strong enough to go on a pilgrimage along The Camino de Santiago in my deceased mother’s name, nine months after her death and six months after quitting psych meds. This mission fortified me in many ways.”


Message of hope.

Now, in spring 2019, I am reconciling my past with my present with the intention of better tomorrows than my yesterdays. I’m 39 years old and have been living medication-free since my mother’s birthday, December 2nd, 2017. Off the meds, I do not recognize my life as my life. I feel like a survivor stumbling around her own ground zero, looking over her shoulder, unsure what just happened, how I’m still alive or how and if it’s safe to build a life worth living. No matter how much I would have preferred not waking from that hell and possibly reincarnating as something else, I managed to escape the system and here I am in the same lifetime, alive and well. My prayer to be taken out of my misery was answered, just not the way I used to envision. I feel out of my depth with my new lease on life. I’m slowly getting acquainted with this new setup and am eternally grateful for yet another opportunity at life, which I hope does not slip through my fingers.”




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