In 2008, I found out that my son’s daycare provider had been hiring unlicensed, undocumented workers to transport half of the children to an unlicensed site without our knowledge or consent. At the time, I was also taking care of my dying grandmother all night, every night, before working during the day. I started having trouble sleeping. I sought outpatient psychiatric care, but before I could be seen, my anxiety level went through the roof. My heart was beating very fast for a prolonged time, on top of severe sleep deprivation, so I went to the emergency room. There, the ER doctor decided that my problem was psychiatric in nature and put me on a three-day involuntary hold at the local psychiatric ward, even though I did not even meet legal criteria for such an extreme loss of liberties.
The doctor on the ward, Dr. S________, introduced himself to me this way: "Hello, I am Dr. S_______, and I looked at your records, and I think you have Bipolar I Disorder.” I was stunned. I had assumed the psychiatric hospital would help me with counseling and organizing my life to help deal with the stress better. I did not think they would give me a "crazy label," let alone a serious and permanent one. I started to cry profusely. The doctor went on to say, "The good news is that we have a lot of treatments that help." In my case, that turned out to be utterly false.
Once a person is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, psychotropic drugs are highly likely to be prescribed. Over the next ten months of pursuing various drug treatments that were prescribed on the basis of the Bipolar I Disorder, I experienced the following, serious problems:
· I left my highly paid, well-respected career to go on disability, because a social worker at intake on the hospital’s psychiatric ward told me that, due to my Bipolar diagnosis, I was going to have occupational difficulty, and he recommended that I go on disability. When problems are assumed to be due to a medical disorder from the DSM, it commonly happens that the future seems dark. If I had found a way to get enough sleep at night, I would have been able to function very well at my job. But the application to me of the Bipolar I Disorder label, which was not scientifically validated, seemed unsurprisingly to lead the professionals to “explain” my difficulties by referring to my alleged mental illness and thus neglecting to notice the importance and effects of my serious sleep deprivation.
· My savings dwindled, and I went into debt, due to my decrease in income from being on disability. I had to leave the high-cost area where I was born, grew up, and spent my whole life up to that point. I moved to a more affordable area 1,800 miles away, where I am very isolated. It is still possible that I will have to declare bankruptcy.
· Going on disability because of supposedly having a severe mental illness caused me not only serious financial harm but also a serious loss of self-confidence, a sense of self-worth, and a sense of being effective and able to provide for my son and myself.
· I had many medical providers refuse to work with me because I had been diagnosed with a very serious mental illness. They would not come right out and say this, but they just started dodging my calls or dismissing my concerns. This happened in the fields of podiatry and orthopedics, two specialties that are very necessary to my well-being as a person with Cerebral Palsy.
· My alma mater refused to offer me "talk therapy" services without the consent/permission of a treating psychiatrist who would certify I was on psychiatric drugs. In order to get that therapy, I had to stay on drugs. This would not have happened if Bipolar Disorder did not carry the weight of supposedly being a scientifically-grounded, serious mental illness.
· I lost many friends or had them suddenly write off my normal reactions as “mania” or “depression,” because they knew I had been labeled with Bipolar I Disorder.
· Eventually I lost my marriage, because, although my husband stated repeatedly that he did not believe I was mentally ill, having the diagnosis upset me so much that he didn’t want to be with someone who had to deal with psychiatry in any way. I understandably fear that I will lose custody of my child. Often, my ex-husband will make comments during arguments to the effect of, “I don’t know, maybe it’s because you’re Bipolar.” In addition, the statistics on “Bipolar” women losing custody of their children because of “expert” psychological evaluations in court reveal a dim picture. There are many times I have let him get away with misbehavior bordering on abuse, simply because I am afraid that he will commit me (as he has threatened) or take my child because I am a “Bipolar mother.”
· For many years, my self-confidence and self-respect suffered, because I believed I had been found to have a scientifically-proven, serious mental illness, and these problems affected my activities of daily living. I went from being a confident socializer to someone who could hardly look people in the eye.
· To this day, I still have a potentially serious side effect from a drug I was put on for six weeks, although I have not been on that drug for more than three years now. The side effect is blepharitis, which is swelling, itching, crusting of the eyelids. Many sources call it "psoriasis of the eyelids." I have now had it for three years, after taking Seroquel for six weeks. Ophthalmologists are trying to ban Seroquel due to so many serious eye-related effects. This condition is very hard to cure, and if my eyelids get infected due to the condition, it would threaten my eyesight.
· I experienced my psychiatric diagnosis as very harmful and damaging, yet it is on my permanent medical record. I still live in fear for the next time that it will be used to deny me care in a medical setting or that the next time I will receive subpar care because of it. The whole experience of being forcibly hospitalized when I went for “help” has made me wary of medical situations in general.
I never once felt better from the treatments that stemmed from the diagnosis. The fact is that counselors can and do implement certain forms of care and deny other forms of care based on someone's psychiatric label and based on DSM diagnoses having been presented so often and so powerfully as though they are scientifically grounded in proof that they are medical disorders. This is coercive and traumatizing to people who are already wounded by the pain of living. The whole idea that the diagnosis is specific, medical, and scientific in nature is deceptive and even fraudulent, but for many years after I was given my diagnosis, I believed it to be scientific, and much of the harm that has come to me followed from that mistaken belief. That belief made it more difficult for me to learn that I needed to get away from the psychiatric system and the harm it was doing to me. In my case, I lost so much due to psychiatric diagnosis, and I am still not sure I can ever recover fully. I persist and remain hopeful, though.
On a positive note, a friend who is a psychiatrist has continued to be supportive of me and my efforts to recover from what the psychiatric establishment subjected me to, their labeling and their contention that I would never recover, only manage as a sick or biologically defective person. He told me that he is always there for me and that psychiatrists are wrong to claim to know what the future holds for people. He also revealed that it disgusts him when psychiatrists tell people things that crush their spirit, making them needy and ensuring their continued dependence on psychiatry. He told me that it is a testament to my strengths that I was able to escape from psychiatry’s prediction of lifelong debility and illness. Additionally, he said, “I am an expert, too, and experts don’t know jack about what people are capable of. Psych is so caught up in ensuring its survival it uses people up and ruins them just to ensure the neediness is perpetuated.”