Inpatient Psychiatry Without Drugs

Do you know what would happen if they stopped drugging people on inpatient psychiatric units?  I woke at 4:00 a.m. this morning and laid here in the darkness, my head filled with memories of inpatient psychiatric experiences.  It’s there; it’s there all the time, in my head, ricocheting around.  Presumably I had been dreaming about it.   One of the functions of dreams is to try to make sense of life experiences, to try to cohere what has happened.  I loved my sisters deeply and now we are estranged; I dream about that a lot.  How can you make sense of love and separation?

And so I dream about inpatient psychiatry.  How can you make sense—how can you make a coherent whole—out of the parts of inpatient psychiatry?  It was supposed to help.  It’s a hospital.  They’re supposed to take care of you and make you feel better.  Instead, what I experienced was life-threatening degradation.  The meanest, most awful things in my life were done to me—according to my tormentors—to make me better.  How can this be?  And, more importantly, what do I do about it?

I sit here now, awaiting the sunrise, and struggling with depression. 

  • Fact:  Depression is triggered by the perception of powerlessness. 
  • Fact:  When you are locked down on inpatient psychiatry and don’t have a key—when you can neither fight nor flee—then you are, in fact, powerless.
  • Fact:  You need power to ensure the health and safety of your body and soul. 
  • Fact:  On inpatient psychiatry, I was without power.
  • Fact:  You get angry when you are without power. 
  • Fact:  I feel enormous anger against all the people involved in psychiatric hospitalizations—the administrators, doctors, nurses, aides, and so on.
  • Fact:  Unexpressed anger becomes depression.

Question:  To whom am I supposed to express my anger?  Anger should be controlled, focused and directed toward those who are endangering you.  It should be used to restore safe boundaries.

The last time I was hospitalized was eight or nine years ago.  But in the decades before that, I was hospitalized about fifty times.  The memories don’t go away; the nightmares don’t stop.  The damage was deep and horrific.

Dr. Peter and Mrs. Ginger Breggin talk about the damage that drugs do.  They are missing the worst thing they do:  they put you on inpatient psychiatry.  Without drugs, you can’t run an inpatient psych unit.  It would be total bedlam—the craziest of the crazy, running wild.  You know what would happen if they stopped drugging people on psych units?  In two weeks, the staff would have quit and the unit would be run by armed security guards.

Do not for one second be misled into thinking inpatient psychiatry is about healing.  It is the prison unit of the hospital.  Where else are patients strip-searched, deprived of all their belongings, held captive behind locked doors, and ordered around by immature, uneducated guards—er, aides?  Every night rooms are searched.  Disruptive people are tied hand-and-foot to their beds—it’s called “four-point restraint.”

Without drugs that dull your mind, make you apathetic, and compromise your capacity for critical thought, who would put up with this?

In the name of God and healing, who would voluntarily stay on an inpatient psychiatric unit if they weren’t drugged into submission?


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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3 Responses to Inpatient Psychiatry Without Drugs

  1. Helen says:

    HI Anne, thank you for those kind words. I am currently hospitalised in Australia as a voluntary patient with conditions. This is a readmission since my last involuntary admission four weeks ago,the purpose I am told is to have a positive experience which include making amends with the staff that I alledgely treated badly while I was unwell and in seclusion. I however feel I am the one owed the apology but they are refusing to see it from my perspective. I intimidate them by challanging their requests and making them follow the Mental Health Act. Unfortunatley this comes at a cost of being isolated and punished for no reason. I have contacted the local Consumer Advisory Group who put me in touch with a visiting Medical Officer. My psychiatrist says that I put obstacles in the way of my therapy and am non compliant was I dont want any anti depressent to work, which is BS as I am a registered nurse and want to get back to work asap. He is compassionate about my past issues but wont stand up or validate the treatment the hospital is forcing upon me. I will talk to him again today about ceasing the medication so my physical health can return to normal and maybe this will also help how I feel emotionaly. Since starting this new medication I have felt suicidial and have become obsessed with carrying it out, but the dr says you have always had suicidial ideation so whats new. Yes very frustrating and yes obviously not listened to either. Thanks for listening to my story and I hope that soon it will all be history. Warm regards Helen xoxo PS your story and history is very inspirational to me thank you for sharing.

  2. Helen says:

    I have been a victim of forced hospitalisation, I say a victim because of the memories and nightmares that still plague me. They could never figure out what was wrong with me, but tried evry drug in the book hoping one would work and therefore it would produce a label for my so called distress. I left towns to rid myself of the system but once again I have fallen back into their care. I have many drug allergies and I is alarming how many drugs on the list I cannot tolerate but they still prescribe. I am in an hospital which offers psychotherapy, but I am medicated for this to happen. I am labelled non compliant when I refuse and spend plenty of time in lock up being allowed as they say ‘to think about my actions’. I feel powerless, angry, afraid and suicidial all because they lessen the hope I have and take away any power I feel. I have at times become to rely on the words they utter in anger and have turned against myself on many occasions. I wish for myself that I had the strength to know that I can heal myself without these so called professionals advice, support and medication know how. One day I may regain my strength and become whole again or I may just play the game long enough to fool myself well. Why do they take those vulnerable people and turn them into non thinkers and followers all in the thought that we will get better and better at what – being compliant. I know I am not alone and my thoughts are with all those struggling within the system of psychiatry. xoxoxo

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Helen, you are exactly right. “Victim” is a true and accurate word to use to describe your experience. You are wise and insightful and right. Are you currently hospitalized? If you are in New York State, have you asked for help from the Mental Hygiene Legal Service? Where are you and how can I help? All these drugs and diagnoses–has anybody actually LISTENED to you? Anne

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