Empathic Therapy Conference: Treat with Kindness, not Chemicals


If you attended the Empathic Therapy Conference, please contact me at psychsurvivor@yahoo.com.

On Sunday morning at the Empathic Therapy Conference, feeling pretty sick as result of the damage I suffered from psychiatric medications, I pulled on minimal clothing and struggled down to the dining area for juice and coffee.  I wheeled up to the last empty table and an attractive middle-aged woman approached it.  I invited her to join me.  Just as she began to tell her story, Dick Gottlieb joined us.  He’s been a therapist for forty years.

Angie’s story, in its simplest form, is that her firstborn child—a son—was a healthy, happy, outgoing, funny, bright kid until the day he was on the school bus and said “I’m going to kill you.”  He was nine years old and this was his standard line at home:  “I’m going to kill you—in chess.”  A girl on the bus had just come from a distressing experience, so she reported the boy’s words to the bus driver.

The police were called and the boy was questioned and searched.  He was packing a pair of scissors for a school art project, and the filter from his dad’s ATV (or something).  He’s a nine-year-old boy—they collect stuff.  He was charged with three felonies, including possessing drug paraphernalia, and terrorism.

He went into the legal system, and got kicked out of school.  He went from being a happy kid to being a tearful, withdrawn child who hid inside a hoodie.  As the years marched on and the justice system slowly ground him to pieces, he was directed into the psychiatric system.  He was diagnosed with depression and drugged.  (Depression, you will remember, is precipitated by the perception of powerlessness—duh!  How overwhelmed and powerless would a growing boy feel in the legal system?)

Between the trauma and the drugging, he got hospitalized—came home from one hospitalization drooling and barely conscious because of the drugs.  His behavior became increasingly aberrant.  His parents fought, his father saying he shouldn’t be taking any of these drugs, his mother saying that they should listen to the doctors.  Surely they knew what they were doing.

The kid—now over eighteen—is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.  Can anyone imagine why he thinks “they” are out to get him?  The parents are tormented about how to care for their son; the younger children are lost and frightened.  They start to imitate some of their brother’s unhealthy behaviors.  At one point the now-adult son starts sleeping with his parents so he will feel safe.  His mother can’t handle it and leaves the marital bed where her husband and son are sleeping together.

Her son takes to carrying a bat around the house.  He stabs a knife into the wall while his sister is in the room.  “They” accuse him of being out of control and increase the drugs.  (Dick says quietly, “He was in control; he didn’t stab his sister.”)  Under the continued assault of psych meds, the kid gets crazier and crazier.

One day he walks into the television room where his father and sister are.  He shrugs and walks out to the garage.  Fifteen minutes later his father goes to check on him, finds his firstborn son hanging dead, and screams.  His wife, sitting next to me and not touching her omelet and bacon, heard him.  She still hears him.

Apparently this fits Dr. Peter Breggin’s profile of impulsive suicide that is consistent with the psych med the son was taking.

I wake up in the middle of Sunday night dreaming that I see the son walking to the garage and his death.  I can’t do this shit, folks.  I can’t listen to the horror stories.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been through so much bad crap myself and this triggers into it.  Maybe because the drug damage has left me hypersensitive and I feel the pain too much.  Maybe because I’m a human being.  I don’t know.

All I know is that I can’t stand the pain.  Dick Gottlieb can.  He sits and listens to this mother, learning forward across the breakfast table, asking occasional questions, making occasional comments to guide her.  That’s what therapists do.  I could never stand to be a therapist.  I don’t know how they do it—listen all day to the fearsome horror stories where love was not operative and damage was done.

It’s not the physical pain.  It’s the psychological pain.  It is the horrific cry of anguish from the psyche, the soul, the mind, the self.  It is the tormented howl of human agony.  I arrived late at another conference session in which another mother was talking about her teenage daughter’s suicide consequent to psych meds.

Psych meds don’t just kill.  Before they kill, they mutilate the very heart and soul of the patient—and the patient’s parents and siblings.  Love is trying to seek a solution while doctors are prescribing drugs that make healing impossible.  People search my blog looking for drugs that will “erase” their memories and I repeatedly tell them, “Don’t go there; don’t even think of going there.”  Bad memories cannot be erased; they will come and get you sooner or later.

It is unhealthy people who make us crazy, and only healthy people can restore us to health.  Healing comes from meaningful interaction with healthy people.  The vast majority of all “mental illness” is rooted in mistreatment by some unhealthy person.  It cannot be cured by drugs, and drugs have horrendous side effects that are intolerable.

Empathic therapy is all about a healthy person bonding with a tormented person and helping that person find the way out of darkness.  It works.  Happiness and healing is possible—even if the patient is catatonic.  Once you throw psych meds into the mix then the patient becomes so chemically damaged that it may be too late for recovery.

In the name of God, folks, treat each other with kindness, not chemicals.

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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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One Response to Empathic Therapy Conference: Treat with Kindness, not Chemicals

  1. Pingback: Surviving Psychiatry « Cathi Carol

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