I am pleased and excited to have guest blogger Susan Kingsley-Smith sharing about dysfunctional relationships within the mental health system while I am away on vacation. Susan is my friend and fellow truth seeker, as well as the author of “A Journey” and I’m also blessed to have her as a frequent commenter here on Emerging from Broken. As always, please contribute by adding your own comments and feedback ~ Darlene Ouimet
Dysfunctional Relationship with Mental Health Providers by Susan Kingsley-Smith
I’d have never imagined that in my healing journey I would find myself healing from not only the original trauma’s of my childhood but that I would also be faced with mourning the life I lost to a second trauma; that of becoming victim to those I’d turned to for help.
I’d been conditioned from an early age to not question authority. To do as I was told; and especially to view my doctors and other health care professionals as the authority over my health. In hindsight though, what I discovered, is that my early life experiences of abuse had set me up to become a victim to any relationship or system that was based on my sacrificing myself in order to appease those in authority. Continued..
At first I didn’t think anything of it when the psychiatrists would tell me, and the therapists would reinforce this message, that there was something “wrong” with me. That I had a chemical imbalance in my brain, that there was no cure. In hindsight though, this was just the beginning of a fifteen-year journey into, through and finally out of the mental health system. This was a journey that would change me forever.
The mental health “professionals” had successfully stripped me of any hope when they informed me that my brain was broken. They had laid the groundwork for my lifetime dependence on them; telling me that they, and only they, knew the answers and in order for me to “get better” I needed to submit myself to their care.
My power was taken from me in the numerous drugs I was prescribed as the doses were adjusted and more drugs were added. Slowly, like a toad in pot of water coming to a boil, the drugs overtook my mind and destroyed my health. I found that I could no longer think or communicate coherently. I gained enormous amounts of weight on one drug; then lost it rapidly on the next. I had no energy, I was constantly fatigued yet I suffered from insomnia and couldn’t sleep. I developed irrational fears and began to isolate myself.
I felt even more ashamed of myself. The professionals were validating what I’d been convinced of all along. That I was defective, something was “wrong” with me and I felt powerless to understand or change it.
The side effects I was experiencing were legitimate side effects of the drugs yet it was made clear to me that any negative effects were caused by a defect in my character and motivation. I was told to eat better and exercise more.
Fear was used to coerce my compliance. The threat was always there that if I stopped taking the drugs that I would “get worse”. What I forgot was that before the drugs, I’d never been “sick”.
I had been conditioned to believe from the beginning of my entry into the world of mental health that when the “therapy” was failing that it was my fault; that something was wrong with ME not that the therapy or “treatments” were not effective or in fact abusive and oppressive – but that I had done something wrong to have cause this failure.
There was a fear that was always present that I would be rejected or that I might be “fired” by my providers if I was not compliant and cooperative. This often unspoken threat was often the thing that kept me in line. I saw these relationships as my only hope. This I’ve since learned is another way abusers control their victims in many different relationships; threatening the loss of the relationship if there is a lack of compliance.
Shame was never far away. In my time in the mental heath system I at first resisted. I insisted that something was wrong, I reported that the drugs I was being given were not working, that I felt worse. But instead of listening to me, my complaints were dismissed. I was told that I was being resistant to the therapeutic process, I was non compliant and difficult. In other words, these therapeutic relationships were telling me the same thing I’d learned in the original trauma and abuse: that whatever the problem was in this relationship, it was stemmed from me.
And when the biological approach did not prove to be effective is when I was told that I had “personality disorders”. Now, besides this chemical imbalance in my brain my personality was also defective, that I was broken through and through to the core of my being. There was no hope offered and because of my “defects” it was justified to treat me as “less than”.
One of the most crippling things I was told was that one of the “symptoms” of this “disease” is an inability to see it for oneself. In other words – if I could see and admit my “problem” then I was a compliant patient. If I did not agree with the way others were defining me I was non-compliant, difficult and resistant and this was further evidence of this mysterious “illness” that even my own psychiatrist admitted there were no tests or true scientific evidence of. I was broken simply because she said so. In her own words; psychiatry is more an art than a science.
In hindsight after I’d escaped the drugs and left psychiatry behind me, I realized that what I had experienced was exactly like the other abusive relationships in my life; and that I was a perfect victim for being defined in this system because I had not yet learned how to define myself.
Thankfully, like Darlene, I had the good fortune to connect with a therapist trained in trauma who supported my hidden belief that it was possible to live beyond diagnosis. This was someone who was willing to show me a different way and offer true hope. Over the next 2.5 years I was shown a healthier therapeutic relationship defined by clear boundaries vs. control and compliance. Here is where I came to understand that by learning to recognize the original lies that said I was not good enough and changing the core beliefs that told me I was powerless over my own life this – is where I began to learn that I could learn to live far beyond that place of broken.
**Note and disclaimer from Susan: It is very dangerous to discontinue these or any other drugs without a clear understanding of the process and what happens when we go into the withdrawal process. I discontinued them because I was forced into it and I had an understanding that I was dealing with a physical withdrawal. But anyone who doesn’t understand that process could be at risk for suicide.
Doctors do not know how to go off these drugs safely and will use the withdrawal symptoms to say “see. You’re mentally ill”.
There’s plenty of research and evidence on this issue but there will always be those who can’t get past this part of their belief system.
Susan’s Bio: I am a trauma survivor…but I no longer live only to survive. In 1992 after a lifetime of trauma’s ranging from physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect as a child to two violent marriages, I entered the mental health system seeking help where my lifelong history of trauma was dismissed. For over 15 years I was given a variety of “diagnosis”, numerous mind altering psychotropic drugs and a routine of weekly “talk” therapy. In the fall of 2007 I was abruptly taken off of the drugs I’d been prescribed all those years and began to reclaim both my mind and my life.
Today, I no longer accept any labels for myself and live the life of my choosing, following my dream and passion to share a message of healing and hope as I write and speak about this journey that has been my life.
The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing. Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing –