Surviving Psychiatry: A User’s Manual

Surviving Psychiatry


A User’s Manual

Anne C. Woodlen

The great jazz bassist Ron Carter once described good jazz as a delicate balance of the predictable and the unpredictable.  Too predictable and it bores the listener, too unpredictable and it leaves the listener bewildered.  Anne C. Woodlen has produced in these pages that delicate balance.  She applies a superb intellect, well-articulated insight, and decades of experience that instruct us about the world of psychiatric services.

It will be uncomfortable to read her work.  But, if your commitment to your patients is as well-developed as you think it is, you will go on this journey with her as your guide.  I can state without hesitation that your patients will benefit, you will benefit, and she will not let anyone kill you.

Richard F. Gottlieb, LMSW, LMFT
Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Anne Woodlen spent a total of three years incarcerated in various mental hospitals and has since then devoted herself to psychiatric reform. She’s a vivid, cogent and uplifting critic of psychiatric power and its terrible effects upon herself and others.

Peter R. Breggin, M.D., Director
Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education & Living
Ithaca, New York


Surviving Psychiatry:  A User’s Manual


Anne C. Woodlen


Selected essays from the blog “Behind the Locked Doors of Inpatient Psychiatry”


 March 2012

Syracuse, N.Y.


  To the doctors in my life: 

Milton C. Woodlen, Ed.D.

Paul M. Cohen, Ph.D.

Nasri N. Ghaly, M.D.

Stephen O. Wechsler, D.C.

 And to God and Elizabeth C. Woodlen

For their infinite love.



About the Author


Hutchings Psychiatric Center
Benjamin Rush Center
CPEP:  Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program
St. Joseph’s Hospital
        About Michael
        Mary Corbliss
Fire and Freedom
A Choice, of Sorts

Recovery and/or Healing
            Speaking of Healing
            After Antidepressants
            “Chemical Imbalance”

Fixing the System
            About CPEP
            PAIMI and the MHLS
            Blame the Physician
            Good Ideas

Lessons Learned
            Ativan, Sleep Apnea
            Sex, Drugs, Pheromones
            Exercise or Naps
            Cause of Death

Psyche:  Mind/Spirit/Soul
            A Survivor’s Birthday
            After the Anger
            The Spirit without Drugs
            Soul Murder


 Surviving Psychiatry:  A User’s Manual contains essays about me, my observations as I journeyed through the psychiatric system, and some of my conclusions about what went wrong and what should happen next.  The purpose is (a) to inform naïve patients about what happens when you enter the psychiatric system, (b) to continue the education of those who would help them, and (c) to tell their family and friends what happens after a person is diagnosed with a mental illness.

I became depressed after the death of my fiancé in 1974; thereafter, I was put on antidepressants, which I took every day for twenty-six years.  Unbeknownst to me, the antidepressants were causing the suicidal feelings that I was having, as well as causing physical damage.  Because I was so often suicidal, I was hospitalized about fifty times; we never suspected that the antidepressants were the cause.  I spent about three years of my life locked down on inpatient psychiatry.  I also was one of the patients in the NIMH study that lead to the deceitful theory that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance.

In 2001, I stopped taking antidepressants, got my brain to function again, discovered that the cure for depression is action, and became an activist in transportation, housing and medical care for people who are old, sick and/or poor.  My last hospitalization was in 2004.  I no longer see a psychiatrist.  Testing reveals no sign of psychopathology.  I’m fine, thank you—except for the hospital bed, breathing machine, wheelchair and indwelling catheter that have been made necessary by “psychiatric medications,” i.e., drug damage.

Please read my blogs, “Behind the Locked Doors of Inpatient Psychiatry” ( and “Notes in Passing” ( for additional stories of my journey.

Anne C Woodlen
March 28, 2012
 Syracuse, N.Y.

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
This entry was posted in Benjamin Rush Center, Community General Hospital, CPEP, depression, doctor, drugs, Hutchings Psychiatric Center, Inpatient psychiatry, mental illness, NYS Office of Mental Health, patient, physician, psychiatric patient, psychiatrist, psychiatry, St. Joseph's Hospital, Unit 3-6, Upstate Medical Center and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Surviving Psychiatry: A User’s Manual

  1. incredible story and utterly believable…alas…

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