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Personal Stories

The MindFreedom Personal Story Project collects histories from psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers about their experiences of survival, resistance, recovery and self-determination in the mental health system. Many participants in the project have struggled through difficult emotional times, and all have suffered through psychiatric labeling and an often abusive and patronizing mental health system, yet they survived, and even thrive. Thank you to psychiatric survivor Oryx Cohen who first initiated this MFI program as an intern in the MFI Eugene office. (Please note that these are the personal stories of those who shared them, and do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of MFI.)

Personal Story Joe S Baletta
"The most important thing in a person’s recovery process is to know that someone cares for you, someone outside yourself, and that you can care for yourself and that you can love yourself and get over those demons that haunt us all, that drive us crazy. You have to get up with some love in your heart and you have to be able to know that you can do something that you love."
Personal Story Beate Braun
"If you are diagnosed with schizophrenia, they talk with you like you are not there. They talk about you but not with you, but you have to hear it. But if you really want to talk, the doctors and nurses in the hospital don't have time for a conversation."
Personal Story Ted Chabasinski
"When Miss Callaghan had discovered enough "symptoms," I was sent to the Bellevue children's psychiatric ward, to be officially diagnosed and to made an experimental animal for Doctor Bender. I was one of the first children to be "treated" with electric shock. I was six years old."
Personal Story Oryx Cohen
"Meeting so many people who have fought through an oppressive mental health system, who have been forcibly electroshocked and drugged, who have been treated as less than human--and who are now leading accomplished and fulfilling lives as authors, directors of organizations, social activists, etc., has been inspiring and empowering. I just hope that eventually the general public will hear our stories and take them as their own."
Personal Story David W Oaks
"Through a Haldol haze I meticulously printed out the legal letter and filed it. I found out later that the authorities reacted by contacting my parents, asking them to either commit me, seek guardianship, dissaude me, etc. My mother told them, 'If our David wants to try freedom, we support him.' I managed to stumble out of the institution when the taxi arrived, and that was the last time a psychiatric institution held me."
Personal Story Donita Diamata
"I didn't get better because of anything that the clinicians did for me. I got better because I surrounded myself by people who showed that they cared about me who got me laughing again."
Personal Story Andrea DoSantos
"What led to the mania was actually an antidepressant. I was prescribed "PROZAC," which after a month or so got rid of the depression but lead to a full blown manic episode. The fact that I had the mania as a side effect of Prozac was what made me decide that I couldn't accept their diagnosis as bipolar."
Personal Story Robert D Ewbank
"I got to Clinic 3 in the morning and I was on the floor crying because I didn’t want to see anybody hurt. It was like a zoo. It was like a weird, toxic, horrible, blown-out nuclear plague that you couldn’t wake up from. It was unreal."
Personal Story Leonard R Frank
"We have to be witnesses for those millions who are not speaking up now for whatever reason. That’s the role that I feel our movement needs to play right now in society--to speak up, tell the truth about what we have known, what we have experienced in our own lives."
Personal Story Victoria D Gaines
"I am just naturally an energetic, passionate, playful enthusiastic, non-conformist weirdo who can be taken for a nut when it so suits peoples' fancies. Once I realized what was going on in my life, I made sure I got away from those in the mental health system and others who wished me harm, so that I was able to settle back into my peaceful, uneventful life."
Personal Story James B. Gottstein
"To me the main thing is that I have learned to recognize the warning signs and have been able to work out things that work for me. I could just quit taking assignments that lead me into the situation where I need to take the medication. But that wouldn't be a full life for me."
Personal Story Robert J Gray
"At first, I was tricked into voluntarily taking Navane and Haldol by being told that I had to take them as a condition of having shelter."
Personal Story Barb Greene
"Looking back, I realize that I was heartbroken because I was in this horrible living situation and not getting any support or validation for how I was feeling. Instead of dealing with that, they shocked my mind. This treatment was completely and totally irrelevant to what was going on for me. What I was going through was an emotional thing and not a mental thing."
Personal Story Jody A Harmon
"I'm a psychiatric survivor, and I don't use that term loosely. I have been stored in warehouses labeled hospitals. I have endured weekly lectures termed therapy. I have been zapped until my brain burns white. I have been held down, tied down, put down. I have had pills forced down my throat and needles plunged into my flesh. All this to make me 'normal,' a mold I will never fit."
Personal Story Leah I Harris
"How wrong it all was I wouldn't realize until over a decade had passed and I began to educate myself about the psychiatric survivor movement. Now that I look back, I think it's obscene that a traumatized little child would be drugged up. It makes me sick. I want to reach out to that 7 year old child, to hug her and hold her to me and tell her that it was going to be OK, that she would get through it and she would be a better person for it."
Personal Story Mike Hlebechuk
"Why did the doctors tell me--an intelligent, gifted person--that I would never work, would never get through school, would be on medications for the rest of my life, and should stay on social security disability indefinitely? I tend to excel at whatever I do, but I was told I'd never do anything beyond a social security check."
Personal Story Susie K Irwin
"I want to be a part of connecting to other people--letting them know they’re not alone, and helping them discover within themselves that they can do whatever they can set their minds to."
Personal Story Janet Foner
"My children were not born until a few years after I was in the hospital, so they did not know about it until I told them. My younger son immediately started crying. He was outraged that anyone could have treated me like that. My older son made a very insightful cartoon about how bad the mental health system is."
Personal Story Paul Levy
"We, as a society, need to recognize the existence of genuine spiritual emergences. It is crucially important for us to do this, for those who pass through this process successfully and become accomplished shamans, healers and teachers, have enormous gifts and blessings to share that will benefit us all. I had been doing Buddhist meditation for a full year before that lightning bolt flashed through my mind."
Personal Story Anthony S Lipinsky
"The worst part of the mental health system is that there are so many well-meaning professionals that look at you as a lesser order human being--a human being who has to be controlled, made dependent, ordered about. That is not the way to treat a person who has a tendency to be depressed and suicidal. That is the perfect way to create depressed people by making them dependent, making them different, and making them feel that they stand out in a negative way."
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Paula Joan Caplan, PhD

Paula Caplan, PhD: Psychologist, author, playwright and activist who is challenging the harm caused by psychiatric labeling. Paula is a long-time member of MindFreedom International. Author of 12 nonfiction books. Her latest book, "When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans," uncovers the way too many people traumatized by war are told that that makes them “mentally ill.” Her book won the 2011 American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE Award) in the Psychology category.
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