Editorial: This is the first of four posts by Krista Hartmann
I am a real Unicorn, something whose existence is suspect, rarely sighted, and discussed even less…by the psychiatric industry, who are, ironically, my creators. My existence throws a wrench into their meta-narrative; truths inscribed on everlasting stone tablets…. until the next edition of tablets descend from the mountaintop as…. truths inscribed on everlasting…..well, you get the idea. It’s awkward for them.
I’m the girl that ‘ran the table’; safely, painfully withdrawn off over a decade of neurotoxins, abandonment of a “chronic, acute, life-long” bipolar 1 diagnosis, and decertification of an additional SMI designation…with the paperwork to prove it; a psychiatric trifecta. It did not drop out of the sky with a note of apology or explanation. After 11 years and a degree of suffering and loss that I never thought would find me in this life, I was medically ‘compromised’ so egregiously (again) that my options became binary; make them erase it all and give me written evidence, followed by running for my life, or…. run for my life.
I went from a 2004 bipolar 1 diagnosis (ICD-9, 296.42), result of the bipolar “gold rush” years, and a NOS Anxiety state (ICD-9, 300.00) to a final exit diagnosis of Unspecified Mood Disorder (ICD-10, F39) and Unspecified Anxiety Disorder (ICD-10, F41.9) in 2015. I said I was fine with both as I was outraged, sick, and fearful during the 2.5 years it took to conclude. My exit doctor and I agreed it was a rational, appropriate response to having been put in harm’s way for over a decade.
Privately, I likened it to having toilet paper stuck to my shoe leaving a filthy gas station bathroom; they couldn’t let me leave as they found me; untainted.
The diagnosis and certification were ‘disappeared’ by the CMO/VP psychiatric MD of the largest MH provider in my state. I had been his only patient for over 2 years as he guided me safely out of his industry; thoroughly and quietly. As he had been complicit in the psychotropic dumpster-fire that put me in mortal danger (again) AND was poised to ascend to his company’s corporate offices, it was the smart play. I also believe his ethics were somewhat challenged when he listened to me clearly elucidate the timeline and evidence regarding my diagnosis, history of ‘care’ in the industry, and his clinic’s long, troubling involvement.
And then Poof, it was gone as if it had never happened.
Not for me: I had been in a relationship with an iconic, respected billionaire; lied to, beaten up, isolated, hospitalized, threatened with death, and wooed back with promises of improved relations and restored trust, while drugged…for 11 years. I had nowhere to go for help; there were no ‘safe-houses’ or support systems to address what was being done to me. I had no credibility and was advised by all to ‘stay the course, for my own good’. No one challenged the billionaire. There was nothing left to take, as it had all been stripped from me; worldly goods, my former excellent health-body and soul, any sense of safety, and my identity; who I was, at 53 years old.
It was replaced with a morbidly obese, stress-eczema plagued, balding, palsied, sickly thing with facial tics; gulping for breath while staggering down the hallway, afraid of every single day and what new hell it would bring me.
In 2013, another casual horror managed to rouse me from my dissociative fugue state (thanks DSM!), saturating me in adrenaline, fueling a primal response; fight AND flee.
Just a note: I viewed the use of seeming hyperbole in my ‘former’ life as melodramatic hand-wringing and easily dismissed. I hadn’t experienced too many difficulties in life, just the usual, and was old enough to be grateful for it. I thought I had a balanced perspective regarding the highs and lows along the way. This experience changed everything, including my vocabulary, introducing me to language common in psychiatry; suffering, despair, depression, trust, betrayal, fear, and much more. Ironically, it was language that was also instrumental in saving me.
The industry had to know that sooner or later someone like me would turn up, happy to put them on blast on a subject that psychiatry refers to as the ‘possibility of misdiagnoses’ (never ‘false’) as if it’s purely hypothetical, ‘has never, could never, would never happen’….and the absence of protocol to clean up the mess when it did. More to the point “Who’s going to believe a mentally ill patient? We’re the unchallenged medical and legal authority on this subject and we declared her…mentally ill”. Full Stop.
They already knew what I came to learn; credibility was the first victim of a mental health diagnosis, the industry’s faux outrage at stigma notwithstanding.
A review of the data addressing the explosion in diagnoses following the publication of the DSM-IV (1995) and its expansion of criteria for bipolar, corresponding with pharma’s blanketing the DSM publishers (APA), their members, and every remora fish attached to their carcass with truckloads of cash, is now viewed as irrefutably damning. Coupled with a master-class marketing blitz effectively ‘normalizing’ bipolar, newly approved drugs, and ‘re-branding’ older stockpiles, it was a fait accompli. When you bribe psychiatrists to create a “lifelong” customer base with contrived diagnoses resulting in “lifelong” prescriptions….well, you have to tip your hat. Who was going to stop them? It was genius, breaking profit records in any drug category for over a decade that included factoring in the record-breaking fines pharma paid to the government for the damage the drugs did to people who should never have taken them, but were prescribed nonetheless. The ‘risk/reward’ was built into the economic paradigm; no problem. There was that much money.
I was in the wrong place at one of the most dangerous times in psychiatric history; surgical lobotomies win every time, mine was chemical.
I have found one other individual who shares this situation. He’s a Harvard grad, a former Navy and United pilot, who was diagnosed the same year as I was (2004), remaining in that “lifelong” diagnosis for 10 years (like me), was ‘re-defined’ and is now suing the VA for $35 million. I do not speak for him whatsoever, but… Yippee.
I’m a chatty monkey about this subject at every opportunity. I view it as a PSA, countering what the APA, NAMI, MHA and all the other incestuous alphabets serve up as gospel…….simply because they say so.
This essay’s purpose is to share what I learned along the way about language and ‘mirroring’, self-control while drugged, and studying who my adversary was….their motivation, intent, and vulnerabilities, being effective in my tactics to fulfill my strategy.
It concerns redefining the relationship between the industry (service providers) and the patient (client) that is collaborative, not parental. It is a complete repudiation of Plato’s ‘Noble Lie’.
It might assist people who are having doubts about their diagnosis’s credibility and the hypocrisy of a ‘healing’ philosophy and ostensible expertise in human behavior whose written and spoken rhetoric, combined with their actions are always painfully contradictory, textbook Catch-22; troubling behaviors pervasive in the experts on behavioral health.
This essay can serve as a tool to use if you are in the system and feel that you lack power; the relationship has successfully infantilized you and you have no voice.
Figuring out how to get out on my terms using their tactics was the most important thing I would ever do.
If I ran without the vacation of my diagnosis, it would always be ‘open’ in my records and that could potentially affect any traffic accident large or small, any legal issues, self-determination as I aged, and my will after I’m dead. Self-withdrawal-gone-bad presented the frightening seizure, coma, death scenario…or… reporting to an ER would ensure I would never get out and result in more drugs, institutionalization and death. None of these options were acceptable and my brain could not, would not accept one more pill.
The frightening, formidable DSM notwithstanding, Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” became my bible.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”
Or… “You either win or you learn” Michael Jordan.
I was going to do both.