Replying to Debra

Dear Debra,

Thank you for writing—hang in there, girl, we’ll all make it through.

First, you say you “should” find my story inspiring.  “Shoulds” come from expectations that other people put on us.  I should:  stop smoking, call my mother more often, and be inspired.  The fact is that you appear to be really bummed out.  Don’t worry
about what you “should” do; just do what you can do and be comfortable with that.

Second, I am so very glad that you weaned yourself off the Abilify.  Good for you!  Be proud of yourself!  It is immoral to compel someone to take mind-altering drugs and you should certainly
feel free to lie, cheat or do anything else that is necessary to (a) get out from behind the locked doors and (b) get away from taking drugs.  As long as you do not engage in violence against others, you have the right to be free in body and mind.  If you don’t meet other people’s expectations or desires then that’s their problem, not yours.

One of my favorite stories comes from a woman I met on-line a decade ago.  She slowly, methodically and carefully weaned
herself off all her medications—none of which had been appropriately prescribed—and then, after she took her last dose, she dumped all the rest of her pills into the toilet, pissed on them, and flushed.  Hooray for us!  The woman had a certain flair.

It appears that you are, indeed, delusional—you persist, despite powerful forces against you—to think that you are a valid human being and should be treated with respect.  I think so, too.  The psychiatric system will never see you as “the real me” but who really gives a crap what the psychiatric system thinks?  Your letter demonstrates that you are rational, reasonable and very, very perceptive about the irrational behaviors of those working in the system.

My advice to you is simple:  stay as far away from the system as you can.  The prescription for happiness is (a) a good night’s sleep; (b) a healthy diet; (c) challenging exercise; (d) mature spirituality; (e) creativity; (f) a foundation in nature, and (g) doing things that will benefit others.  Start with a good night’s sleep, and slowly work yourself along through the other steps.  Take your time.  Whatever mess you are in, you didn’t get there overnight.  My rule of thumb is that for every two months your life has been a mess it will take one month to get it straightened out.  It really is a do-it-yourself project.  You do not need a psychiatrist, therapist or pills.  You may find it useful to engage in short-term relationships with a sleep specialist, a dietician and a physical therapist.

For spirituality, read the good books:  Bhagavad Gita, Holy Bible, Holy Koran, and so on.  Be a learner; listen to all the voices until you find our own.  Creativity is your own thing—I write; do you
paint, sing, dance, do photography?  Whatever you enjoy is the right thing for you.  Creativity unifies you in your world.  Go back to Mother Nature, put your feet on the ground and find sustenance.  Hike, garden, swim, or simply lie on your back and watch the clouds.  Doing things that benefit others can be anything from crocheting blankets to running for Congress.  The important thing is to end up other-directed and aware of your gifts and other peoples’ needs, but don’t push it.  First you have to get yourself on an
even keel.

Please note that Richard Gottlieb is not a doctor; he’s better than that.  He never needed the prestige and paycheck of a doctor; he just wanted to help people so he became a clinical social worker.

I, too, have found support groups to be utterly useless.  All the people in them are so committed to taking drugs that they cannot sit and listen to someone who is trying to find healing without drugs.  They have put their faith in doctors and drugs and by denying those things you are threatening the very basis of their life.  If they let you into their consciousness then they will have to engage in freedom of thought and that is too frightening.  They must discredit you in order to justify their continuation of drugs.  You are capable of independent thought; give yourself credit for that.

Thank you for your kind words about my writing—they are worth very much.  Indeed, I am writing a book and it is tedious and hard to stay on task, so your encouragement is very valuable.  I will
drive myself forward with the words, “Annie, this one’s for Debra; you’ve got to finish the manuscript.”

Debra, you are an intelligent and courageous woman.  You are standing against an entire dehumanizing system that is strong
and deeply embedded in our society.  You are crying, “I am real!”  Yes, indeed, you are very real.  Write to me anytime you want to.  I got through it and you can to.

Go in peace.  You are a good woman and can see the battle through to success.


About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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