Today I am certified as Coach and program facilitator and work locally as a Smoking Cessation Specialist. I have had the pleasure to work with individuals as they wean themselves off psychotropic drugs and to present my workshop “Considering the risks: Reducing reliance on and withdrawing from psychotropic drugs” at both Iowa and Florida conferences. My 2012 presentation “Creating my own proactive plan of action” was well received here in Iowa. I am also a Blogger, having guest posted in many venues and I provide Radio-podcast that addresses many of the life issues those labeled as “mentally ill” are challenged with. You can find more information about what I do today here.
But this is not how it has always been for me.
The following provides some insight into why I founded the Proactive Planning programs and today am passionate to teach and share the kind of knowledge that became the truth that set me free….
In 1992 I sought help for my “anger” and “poor concentration”. The reality was – I was experiencing a normal reaction to some pretty not normal life experiences that today are easily identified as the normal trauma response to overwhelming life circumstances.
Prior to this time, any distressing “symptoms” I had experienced were completely temporary, situational and from what I could tell of others experiences with overwhelm – normal.
Yet once I began following this path of the medical model and believing that my brain was broken – I was given first one drug then another to counter the side effects of the first.
Then another to counter the side effects of the second one. This went on for the next 15 years as the drugs and doses changed and side effects were dismissed as necessary and the increase in “psychiatric” symptoms was attributed to this mysterious “illness”.
I went from being an active individual, a homeowner, a Mortgage Broker, a mother and wife….to being functionally disabled, unemployed and homeless. All within about 18 months.
I believed with all my heart that the doctors were right and that my brain was indeed broken. That I would need these drugs for “life” and that my life would consist only of entitlement benefits, “therapy”, doctor appointments and poverty.
In late 2007 an uninformed psychiatrist forced me into abrupt withdrawals – and changed everything for me.
This in spite of the fact that I had requested to reduce and go off these toxic drugs many times. But in one day – after 15 years of living in a chronic state of “dysthymia”, anxiety, insomnia (drug induced), depression then mania (also drug induced) and isolation…all the drugs were gone. One day.
Sadly – this happens all too often where providers of services, trained doctors and therapists, are engaging in this dangerous practice that often ends up with an increase in “symptoms” and hospitalization where both provider and user feel that it is unwise to try to “go off” these drugs.
Most providers who DO engage in any sort of taper will still taper way too fast and the patient ends up experiencing and increase of “symptoms” that are interpreted as “illness” rather than “withdrawals”.
Then there are those who are desperately wanting to be free of the hold of these drugs over their mind that they attempt to simply stop taking them. This often has devastating effects and can result in the initiation of forced “treatment”.
Or perhaps the problem is inconsistant dosing where a dose is missed, taken late or not at all. This can result also in an increase in “symptoms” are is once again interpreted as “illness” when it is really the body being thrown into chronic withdrawals by inconsistant dosing.
How do I know all of this?
Because I experienced each of those situations from 1992 – 2007 and then in again 2008 where I made the mistake of believing a primary doctor that I would need yet another drug “for life” .
This drug – upon reduction or discontinuation – threw my body into deeper withdrawals that included severe muscle spasms on top of the withdrawals and pain that I had experienced since that fateful day in late 2007 when I was first forced into abrupt withdrawals.
Thus, today part of my passion is to use my experiences to educate both providers and users of mental health services how to safely reduce reliance on or withdraw from psychotropic drugs and the how behind learning to live beyond coping, managing and shift to creating our own self directed “best life”.
What this doctor did in 2007 was very dangerous yet I knew I was free and now I am
approaching 5 years free of the initial “washout” and 2 full years free of all other drugs I was told I would need “for life”.
I have reclaimed my mind, my body and my life although still experience residual effects physically and cognitively from having my body chemically altered for almost 2 decades.
I no longer experience any “psychiatric” symptoms and now view my thoughts and emotions not as a disease but as my internal GPS, that inner wisdom that guides me and keeps me safe. I have concluded that the chronicity of the issues I faced were caused by the drugs I was told I would need “for life”.
Combined with ineffective “therapy” that focused on “behavior modification” and making me “compliant” to “treatment” and dependent on the “therapist” to “manage symptoms” – I was left feeling hopeless and powerless.
At the same time (2007) as this initial washout…I had the good fortune to work with someone who was trained in the Trauma Model developed by Colin Ross, MD of the Ross Institute.
What this person shared with me changed how I viewed myself and the world around me as I learned how to resolve my past issues and become independent and responsible for maintaining my own inner and outer well being while learning to cultivate and honor my own “inner wisdom”.
This profile (www.facebook.com/susankingsleysmith) is where I do the majority of my advocacy/activism work to share information that others may be fully informed and aware of the potential dangers and complexities of psychotropic drugs and – how to safely reduce reliance on, withdraw from them – including developing the coping and life skills necessary to resolve the issues that often drive us to seek “help” to begin with.
I do not engage in “pro” or “anti” anything; my goal and belief is that everyone deserves to have enough true and accurate information to make a truly informed decision.
A few things I discovered in my journey:
1. I believe that everyone has the right to have enough information to know that the bio medical model is not the only model out there that addresses human distress – even though it is the only one we are told about in the traditional mental health system and that while emotional/cognitive/psychological distress is real – there are often other contributing physical, lifestyle and life experience factors that once resolved can resolve these issues when approached in a mindful informed way.
2. I believe everyone has a right to know that the drugs they are told they will need for “life” often are extremely physically addictive and often the cause, not the cure, of the chronicity of what is labeled as “mental illness” as these drugs cause the chemical imbalance rather than cure it. (see Whitaker; Anatomy of an Epidemic andwww.madinamerica.com/whitaker
3. I believe individuals have a right to know that the 25 year disparity in length of life for those labeled with a “mental illness” is caused by the drugs that disrupt our metabolic system – not this “disease” and that we can turn this around by reducing our dependence on these drugs and improving our lifestyle and thus – our quality of life.
4. I believe we have a right to know that what is said to be “relapse” and “decompensation” is most often simply the body developing a tolerance level to the drugs or the onset of withdrawal symptoms from missing a “dose” or suddenly stopping them. You can read more about these issues in the book mentioned below by Robert Whitaker: Anatomy of an Epidemic.
5. I believe everyone is complete and fully capable to learn how to manage their thoughts and emotions and that by healing the pain and shame of the past – “behaviors” are no longer an issue.
6. I believe that well meaning and often desperate families who are told their loved one is “mentally ill” are being misled and encouraged to endorse “forced treatments” because no other options are provided. I also believe that families will be healed and helped when we are guided to heal as individuals and as a family unit where we create nurturing supportive environments in our homes. Teaching oppression and encouraging forced compliance to parents is endorsing and often perpetuating the issues that caused the problem to begin with. Life is much more than “rewards and consequences”. Focusing on “behavior” and drugging/managing “symptoms” only is denying the experience and emotions of those who are the presenting “problem”.
7. I believe that any health care or social system based on compliance over compassion will continue to perpetuate the pain and struggle of power and control that requires compliance vs confidence.
8. I believe that any time we are conditioned to believe we are “sick” and need “treatment” for “life…we are creating an unhealthy dependence that cripples hope, confidence and the ability to believe in our our own power be the creator of our own life.
9. I believe that the change will come as we each become the change we wish to see.
10. I believe we are all capable to learn how to become the creator of our own “best life” and a life based on “managing” and “coping does not allow for “living”.
As long as I believed I was “sick” – I could not believe I could ever be “well”.
Today my passion is to share with others the path I found that led me from viewing myself through the lens of disease to learning and living the language of life.
Welcome to my space and thank you for sharing this journey with me.
This is where I share the information, skills, tools and resources that changed my life. This is where I share the truth that set me free from the idea that I was defective, disordered and diseased.
Today I live a much different life that revolves around eating to fuel my body rather than feel “full”, regular physical activity, meditation, yoga and many other lifestyle choices and a passion to continue to learn how to live well and speak the language of life – rather than focusing on being sick or being well and managing, coping or getting by. I no longer settle for “survival”.
My name is Susan Smith. Online my pen/screen name is Susan Kingsley-Smith.
A good primer for this subject: Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America” by scientific journalist Robert Whitaker. You can find this book on Amazon.com here:http://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Epidemic-Bullets-Psychiatric-Astonishing/dp/0307452417
Another informative piece: Psychiatric Drugs as Agents of Trauma by Charles Whitfield, MD this is a link to the pdf file: http://nhne-pulse.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Psychiatric_Drugs_As_Agents_of_Trauma_JRS508.pdf
Welcome. It is not an accident that you are here.
Knowledge is power and truth sets us free and – it is never too late to become the creator of our “best life”.
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You can find me on facebook here: www.facebook.com/susankingsleysmith
Introduce yourself to me there and let me know how you found me and – welcome to the Proactive Planning Community.