Letter to Pete Feigal. . .

I’ve been reading your column for almost a year now.  Before rape changed my life and caused me to “seek […]

I’ve been reading your column for almost a year now.  Before rape changed my life and caused me to “seek professional help,” I worked as a journalist.  I thought it my duty to tell all sides of the story and let the reader decide.  To do other than that is to engage in propaganda.

NAMI’s viewpoint on mental illness, which is what you seem to promulgate, is not the only one. That is that if everyone who has been traumatized by life would find the right psychiatrist and take their meds faithfully, they would “live happily ever after, amen.”  If that’s true, why is it also true that the suicide rate in America, is about the same as it was in 1950, long before antidepressants were discovered.  Why also has it been known, since 1995, that placebos perform better than SSRIs in more than half of the cases studied?

I took those meds faithfully, for almost a decade before I began researching side effects.  After reading Toxic Psychiatry, Talking Back to Prozac, and Prozac Backlash, I tapered myself off.  I did so while seeing the last psychiatrist with whom I will ever have a professional relationship.  I wanted to see if he could detect any change in my affect, so I told him for six months I was still taking those meds.  The only valid information to acquire from a therapist is how to detach from common human feelings for other human beings while smiling and telling them how much you care.  It’s all a big act.

Within six weeks of tapering off, my fibromyalgia disappeared.  Next, my irritable bowel syndrome, sleep apnea, tendonitis, diverticulosis and toenail fungus also vanished.  Fibro is such a painful malady, desperate people go to faith healers.  For that reason alone, I believe battery acid would be safer than any SSRI.

Best of all, my PTSD got better.  And trauma has not stopped plaguing me.  Since leaving psyche meds behind, I’ve had laser surgery for vaginal cancer twice, and last year after Christmas, my brother committed suicide.

Yet, my first novel was published in 2001, the second will be published after Christmas, 2002, and I have an agent for a movie script I wrote about the Second World War.  I sleep like a rock most nights, and wake up without any medication lag.  I love getting up in the morning, bright and alert, and able to move my bowels.

I challenge you to publish this as there is a growing revolution against these meds.  Parents of thousands of children who have been crippled by these so-called safe meds are “mad as hell.” Movement disorders in children are so incredibly painful, they can barely move at all.  And NAMI gets huge donations from psyche and med makers every year.  Their propaganda has been very effective.  Too bad the drugs aren’t effective at all.

Name Withheld

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Feigal’s Response

I’m sad to read of the terrible struggles you’ve had to face in your life, but inspired by your continuing strengths and victories.

Just to clarify, I am not a journalist or a reporter for Access Press.  I don’t collect or report news. I’m a storyteller, writing about what personally living with mental illness has been like for me and for the people who tell me their stories.  I do this because through the years the only point of view I ever heard was from doctors and legislators, never from the consumer, and I think when we hear personal stories, it opens people’s hearts, and that’s where real change and mercy begins.

Meds and therapy don’t work for every single person, but what medical treatment in any field of medicine does?  I do believe that they can help many, perhaps most, people, and have helped me. Much of what the focus of my Access Press column is about is a different element of recovery, intangibles that have tangible weight:  spirituality, creativity, volunteering, building new dreams, finding new meaning and purpose, forgiveness, kindness, basing our lives not just on our wounds, but on what we love.

I have also experienced terrible setbacks in my recovery from bad meds, ineffective treatment situations and insensitive professionals—setbacks that also embittered me for decades against all medical help.  But I won’t “throw out the baby with the bath water” any longer.  I was lucky enough to find help from wonderful therapists and doctors, effective treatment that saved my life.  Your words that therapy is “all a big act,” and that “drugs aren’t effective at all,” are blanket statements that are as much “propaganda” as saying that meds and therapy are the ONLY treatments people should pursue.  There are effective treatment situations and professionals—the trick is to find them, something that grassroots organizations like NAMI specialize in:  bringing consumers and family members together in support situations to share experiences like ours, good and bad, to help weed out the bad, and cultivate the good.

Your anger at your poor treatment situations is justified.  I hope if you learn more of my work for consumer rights you may see we have the same ultimate goals.

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