NYC Voices alive and well

New York City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013 1
A Consumer Journal for Mental Health Advocacy
What’s Inside…
Bruni tells you all about
her magic kiss, p6
Diana has a lot of people
to thank for her recovery, p7
Parachute NYC, a new
program for people
in crisis, p8
Tanya says she loses artistic
ability on medicine, p8
Connie’s been homeless,
afraid and almost frozen
to death, p10
Heather’s mind was in total
chaos, p10
Gayle has more than one
personality, p11
The system failed to get
Janene’s son the help
he needed, p11
Jon kept everyone from
knowing about his suicidal
thoughts, p12
Marvin says goodbye to his
psychiatrist after fifteen
years together, p12
Jessica’s hitting rock bottom
was her wake-up call, p13
Sheryl suffered with this thing
she called imagination, p13
Jessie says the undiagnosed
are people you should
worry about, p14
Jeffrey is critical of the
symptom management
mode of treatment, p14
Martha tells you about
the free things to do in
New York City, p15
Kurt reviews a book about an
amazing woman with
schizophrenia, p15
Emily tried to hide her mental
illness for as long as
she could, p16
It’s Not Only in My Head:
Physical Health Implications of
Mental Illness
By Carl Blumenthal
Where I Have Been And Wher e I Am Today
In mid-2006, I fell off a manic cliff into a deep depression—the worst of my life.
Through 2010, I couldn’t work, socialize (including barely talking to my wife and
other family members), pursue any hobbies, any creative or spiritual practice, and my
activities of daily living (ADL’s) became minimal. My physical health declined too.
Plus, two psychiatric hospitalizations left me over-medicated. I was no longer
Are You Ready for the World
of Work?
By Sharon Goldberg
Consider Some Things First
There is a lot of talk lately about consumers getting off the disability track and
going to work. Well, it is a lot easier said than done. This is especially so if you
happen to have an emotional disability like I do. I feel as if I have spent my entire life
preparing for work and living my life through work.
Plans Underway to
Get Mental Health
Consumers Out of
Adult Homes
By Jota Borgmann, Senior Staff
Attorney, MFY Legal Services, Inc.
And Into Other, Hopefully Better,
Housing Options
Many New York City adult home residents with
mental illness are unsure what opportunities they have
to move to community housing. In 2009, a federal
court held that New York’s practice of segregating
thousands of people with mental illness in large adult
homes is discrimination in violation of the Americans
with Disabilities Act. In April 2012, that decision was
vacated on appeal on a technical ground, but the trial
court’s finding of discrimination was not questioned.
Two important things have happened in the last year.
First, in August 2012, the State Office of Mental Health
issued a request for proposals for supported housing
providers to create 1,050 housing units for adult home
residents in Brooklyn and Queens. The supporting
(Continued on page 3) (Continued on page 3)
(Continued on page 4)
Carl Blumenthal Photo Credit: Elizabeth Saenger
Spring Summer 2013
Vol. XVI, No. 4
New Y 2 ork City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013
Founder: Ken Steele
CEO: Isaac Brown
COO: Janis Jones
CFO: Ravi Ramaswamy
Secretary: Joanne Forbes
Editor in Chief: Dan Frey
Business Manager:
Marvin Spieler
Chief Information Officer:
Will Jiang, MLS
Layout Editor:
Jenae Stone
Coordinating Editors:
Lisa Roma, Kurt Sass
Columnists/Associate Editors
Legal Column:
MFY Legal Services, Inc
Editor at Large/As I See It:
Marvin Spieler
Book Ends: Kurt Sass
Go and Do It: Martha
New York City Voices: A
Consumer Journal for Mental
Health Advocacy is statewide in
circulation and news reporting.
New York City Voices is made
possible through a grant from
the New York City Department
of Health and Mental Hygiene,
our subscribers, advertisers,
donors, and a dedicated
group of writers, editors and
The views expressed in this
publication do not necessarily
reflect the positions of New
York City Voices or its staff.
Copyright © 2013 by
New York City Voices
To Reach Us:
New York City Voices
c/o Baltic Street AEH
250 Baltic Street, Floor 1
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Ward Stories NEW YORK
A column organized by Dan Frey, Interim Poetry Editor
It is my pleasure to present the poems of Sarah and Gil. Sarah has been very eager to get published by City Voices
and sent us many an encouraging email. She has written many fine poems but alas we only have room for one. Gil’s
poem highlights his experiences in a psych hospital where they sent him for treatment of his drug addiction.
Bughouse Birthday
by Gil
Days before I turned 24,
I told my family doctor
I had a heroin habit
and blinking like a mosquito landed
in his eye, he sent me to Fairfield Hills
State Hospital.
There was no group therapy,
no individual sessions,
no psycho-education,
no 12-step programs.
The attendants communicated
with grunts and hand gestures
behind shatter-proof glass.
When I complained of withdrawal
the nurse said junkies
have a low threshold for pain.
A patient who memorized
Edgar Allen Poe
kept me up nights ranting:
“Ghastly grin and ancient raven
wandering from the Nightly shore…”
Another, called me paesan’
and said a Mafia hit team
was out gunning for him,
smashing the TV against a wall,
inches above my head.
My roomies boasted
how they played the skull doctors
by faking psychiatric problems
to avoid jail time
fantasizing out loud how much
dope they were going to shoot
the minute they hit the streets.
When I was discharged,
they gave me the phone numbers
to their connections.
Sobered by my hospital stay,
I stuck to wine coolers and reefer
for three months.
by Sarah
I’ve lived my life on an island
A round one, green and plush
Where my white feet shift all the white sand
And the salt makes my pale face flush
I sing with the island fairies
And make walls of tiny stones
And pretend that the clouds make me
And pretend that I’m not alone
Every now and then someone will float past
On their way to some far-off place
And I wave as the current sweeps by fast
While I memorize each smiling face
But my stone walls have started to totter
And the clouds are falling down
Still I dare not go out in the water
For then surely I will drown
New York City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013 3
“If you live in a transitional adult home and you
are a person with a serious mental illness, the
adult home’s compliance plan should provide
you with other housing options.”
(Continued from cover page Are You
Ready for the World of Work?)
After I graduated from college,
I found myself ill-prepared for the
business world. I needed skills. The
type of skills needed to succeed in the
business world are as follows: clerical
skills be it math, computer, typing, word
processing, bookkeeping, accounting,
etc. All skills not acquired in a liberal
arts college.
More important than the above skills
is the ability to deal with people in a
personable, social manner. If you are not
a people-person, you will have many
You must be flexible and able to adjust
your attitude to the politics of the office
community. You must be pleasant, noncombative,
and able to take criticism
without taking it to heart.
You have to be able to combine all
these skills into a reliable, likeable,
capable and workable employee in
order to succeed in the world of work.
What are prospective employers
looking for? From my own experience,
I recall many an employer’s want-ad.
“Must be a people-person. Must be
diligent and detail-oriented. Must have
computer skills. Must be well organized.
Must be able to take direction. Must be
a self-starter. Must be able to multitask.
Must be willing to work overtime.”
Some ideas I would suggest in order
to decide whether you are ready to work
is to decide what you are good at. Are
you good with numbers? Do you like
to write? Do you like people? Are you
artistic? Are you good with computers?
Do you need some type of skillstraining?
Perhaps you need to sit down
with a job counselor. Maybe you need to
take an aptitude test. Perhaps you want
to start with a volunteer job. Maybe you
want to start working part-time.
All of these suggestions would have
helped me a great deal but I did none of
them. To make it easier, please do as I
Are you ready for the world of work?
Think long and hard about it before you
jump in.
Editor’s Note: Please don’t be
frightened of the possibility of work
after reading this article. There are
ways of getting your feet wet before you
decide whether or not to take the plunge.
For instance, you can join a clubhouse
and participate in their temporary
employment program and get paid for
doing work that is at or below your
potential. Or, you can go to a consumerfriendly
employment program and talk
to a working peer who can counsel you
about employment based on your needs.
Two such programs are Network Plus
(718) 797-2509 or Network Plus West
(718) 377-8568. Tell them City Voices
sent you and receive a wink and a nod.
Effective Stress Relief & Wellness Practices for those
Living with Mental & Emotional Health Issues
Pathways to Wellness
A Yoga Healing Class
For Managing Everyday Stresses
To Living with the Effects of a Clinical Diagnosis
Every Thursday, 1:30-3pm Every Friday, 6:30-8pm
At The Breathing Project
15 West 26 Street, 10 Floor
Sliding Scale Fee $5-$20
The DOH lists the
following New York City
homes as transitional adult
homes that are subject to
the new regulations:
• Belle Harbor Manor
• Brooklyn Adult Care
• Central Assisted Living,
• Elm York LLC
• Garden of Eden Home
• Harbor Terrace Adult
Home and Assisted Living
• Kings Adult Care Center
• Lakeside Manor Home for
• Mermaid Manor Home for
• New Gloria’s Manor
Home for Adults
• New Haven Manor
• Oceanview Manor Home
for Adults
• Park Inn Home
• Parkview Home for Adults
• Queens Adult Care Center
• Riverdale Manor Home
for Adults
• Rockaway Manor HFA
• S.S. Cosmas and Damian
Adult Home
• Sanford Home
• Seaview Manor, LLC
• Surf Manor Home for
• Surfside Manor Home for
• Wavecrest Home for
• New South Shore Manor
• West 74th Street Home
• West Side Federation for
Senior and Supportive
housing providers who were awarded
contracts include: Jewish Board of
Family and Children’s Services, FEGS
Health and Human Services, Institute
for Community Living, Transitional
Services for New York, Comunilife,
and Federation of Organizations. Those
providers, along with Health Homes and
Managed Long Term Care Plans, should
be reaching out to residents in Brooklyn
and Queens adult homes soon and some
have already begun.
January 16, 2013, the State
Department of Health (DOH) issued
new rules about certain adult homes,
which it calls “transitional adult homes.”
Transitional adult homes are adult
homes with 80 beds or more where at
least 25% of the residents have a serious
mental illness. The new regulations say
that these adult homes cannot admit new
residents who have a serious mental
illness. They also require the homes
to create compliance plans. An adult
home’s plan must set forth how the home
will reduce the number of residents with
a serious mental illness by placing them
in housing in the community. The plan
must also identify how the home will
meet the needs of its residents while
implementing the plan, including how it
will help residents develop independent
living skills and ensure they have access
to mental health services.
The selected (see sidebar) adult homes
must come up with compliance plans
by May 16, 2013. If a transitional adult
home fails to submit a compliance plan,
the DOH will make a compliance plan
for it. The DOH has to review the plans
and decide whether to approve them by
August 14, 2013. Once approved, adult
homes must implement the plans over a
reasonable period of time.
If you live in a transitional adult
home and you are a person with a
serious mental illness, the adult home’s
compliance plan should provide you
with other housing options. This process
could take several years. Note that the
regulation does not require the adult
home to move all residents with serious
mental illness, but merely to reduce the
percentage of residents with mental
illness below 25%.
Residents at some adult homes have
reported receiving misinformation from
adult home staff about the regulations;
for example, they report that they have
been told that homes will soon close or
that they will have to be transferred to
a nursing home. No adult homes have
closed as a result of the regulations
and the regulations do not require that
residents be moved to a nursing home as
part of any compliance plan.
Note: Adult home residents in New
York City who have questions about
supported housing or the transitional
adult home regulations can call MFY
toll-free at (877) 417-2427.
(Continued from cover Plans
Underway to Get Mental Health
Consumers Out of Adult Homes)
New Y 4 ork City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013
(Continued from cover story
It’s Not only in My Head)
“Damned if I’m going to die 25 years prematurely—
the average for folks living with mental
“Our [study] results provide clear evidence that
this population (mental health consumers) can
make healthy lifestyle changes and achieve
weight loss”
suicidal. I could sleep. But, my hands
shook so badly, I couldn’t write nor feed
myself without using a big soup spoon.
My concentration and memory were
The list of other physical conditions/
symptoms included anorexia (105
lbs. for a 5’ 7” frame); psoriasis, acne,
rashes, skin cancer (2nd stage); tooth
decay and broken teeth; elevated
cholesterol and blood pressure, chest
pains (including what seemed like
two mini-heart attacks); hemorrhoids,
constipation, diarrhea, bloody stools,
gastritis; urinary retention (from an
enlarged prostate); deteriorating vision
and “floaters” (spots); a disabling ankle/
foot injury, arthritis of the knees, and
lower back pain.
Granted, I was in my late 50’s at the
time. But I had always been physically
fit, eaten well, taken all my meds
(including dietary supplements) and
seen my doctors regularly. During the
depression, I stayed indoors (even when
the weather was nice), took only psych
meds, and avoided treatment for my
physical ills. I struggled to eat; comfort
food was all I could tolerate.
Between 2011 and 2012, my physical
health improved as did my mental
health, and vice versa. In other words,
I’m here to testify: “The mind and the
body are connected!”
Unfortunately, this is a lesson the
psychiatric and medical professions
are still learning. When psychiatrists
notice that major, especially chronic
depression often “presents with somatic
(bodily) features,” it doesn’t mean
the sufferer is just a hypochondriac. I
became over-dependent on an air brace
for my injured ankle/foot. Otherwise,
I “denied” the existence of my other
physical symptoms because knowing
my body was “falling apart” deepened
my depression. Such neglect creates
a vicious cycle which most medical
doctors don’t understand either.
There’s a lot of talk about “mental
and physical wellness” these days.
The new Medicaid Health Homes
program is predicated on integrated
case management. Peers are even
being trained, and in some cases, hired
as “wellness coaches” to “encourage”
holistic healthy behavior in others with
mental illness. But, until clinicians “get
the connection” in medical school,
consumers face an uphill battle. That’s
why the personal case for mind-body
interactions is so political. We must
advocate for changes in medical
education while taking responsibility for
our own wellness.
So how am I doing with my case?
I’ve gained 30 pounds because my
appetite returned and I now enjoy
cooking healthy food for myself (and my
wife). My skin has cleared up. I shower
more regularly and had a dermatologist
remove the cancer. A dentist fixed my
teeth with root canals and crowns; I floss
and brush more often. I’m back on meds
which have reduced the cholesterol and
blood pressure to safe levels. Diagnostic
tests by my cardiologist showed my
heart is still in good condition. And I
walk vigorously for half an hour most
An endoscopy and two colonoscopies
have removed potentially cancerous
polyps from my stomach and colon,
respectively. The endoscopy also
identified the cause of my gastritis as
a common bacterium, successfully
treated with antibiotics. I now take
meds which have improved urination
and a sonogram of my kidneys revealed
cysts that need monitoring. I got new
prescription glasses, reducing eye strain,
and the floaters proved to be benign (no
retinal detachment). As for the aches in
my bones, exercise and better sleeping
posture have minimized them.
I take fewer and smaller doses
of psych medicine–a combination
of two mood stabilizers, an antidepressant,
and synthetic thyroxin for
an under-active thyroid, a contributor
to depression. Ironically, 25 years
of taking lithium caused this hypothyroid
condition, damaged my kidney
function, and gave me a permanent
case of the shakes. (Thanks to a vigilant
psychiatrist, I stopped using lithium 10
years ago, before it could do further
harm.) Even with reduced medication,
my hands still tremble, but I only need a
teaspoon to eat. My concentration is tiptop.
However, when you get to be 61,
memory could always be better.
This physical re-birth was possible
because my wife’s private health
insurance covered me. Even so, for a
long time I failed to take advantage of
it because I didn’t think life was worth
living (well). If the problem didn’t
hurt or bleed too much, I ignored it.
However, the better I felt emotionally,
the more initiative I took looking after
my physical health. At first, I would
schedule doctors’ appointments and
cancel them at the last moment, or
not follow through on recommended
treatments. Next, I showed up regularly
and did what the docs told me to do.
Finally, lately, I do my own research,
make suggestions about what I need, and
reach a consensus with the professionals
about what to do.
As for my mental health care, I was in
day treatment in 2007 and 2008. Since
then I’ve been a weekly outpatient. It
took three years to find the right social
worker and psychiatrist, and even longer
for me to be willing to work with them.
A lot of resistance had to wash beneath
the dam of denial before that happened.
Fortunately, a breakthrough came, at
the beginning of 2011, when my social
worker (therapist) challenged me to
write about a film I admired. “An Angel
at My Table” is the autobiography of
Janet Frame, who survived eight years
in mental hospitals during the 1950’s,
including 200 electro-convulsive
shock treatments, to become one of the
best New Zealand writers of the 20th
century. I entitled my article “Saved by
the Imagination.”
During the last year and a half, I’ve
gone back to writing about the arts for
a local newspaper. I’m also working
as a peer advocate again. I volunteer
for a political group and worship
regularly. I stay in touch with my
family and old friends. I take care of
our cats and car. (The computer is my
wife’s responsibility. We split the other
household chores.) These activities are
what psychologist/peer Patricia Deegan
terms “personal medicine.” Mary Ellen
Copeland, another consumer turned
professional, includes them in her
“wellness toolkit.” Whatever you call
them, they keep me alive and lively.
Damned if I’m going to die 25 years
prematurely—the average for folks
living with mental illness.
People With
Mental Illness
Can Lose
Weight Too
By Janice Wood,
Associate News Editor,
People with serious mental
illnesses—such as schizophrenia,
bipolar disorder and depression—can
lose weight and keep it off through
a modified lifestyle intervention
program, according to a new study.
Over 80 percent of people with serious
mental illnesses are overweight or
obese, which contributes to them
dying at three times the rate of the
overall population, according to
researchers. The leading causes of
death are the same as for the rest
of the population: Cardiovascular
disease, diabetes and cancer.
Although antipsychotic
medications can increase appetite and
cause weight gain in these patients, it
is not the only culprit.
Like the general population,
sedentary lifestyle and poor diet also
play a part. Lifestyle modifications
such as diet and exercise should work
for these patients, yet they are often
left out of weight loss studies.
“People with serious mental
illnesses are commonly excluded
from studies to help them help
themselves about their weight,”
said Gail L. Daumit, M.D., of Johns
Hopkins University, and the study’s
lead author.
“We sought to dispel the perception
that lifestyle programs don’t work in
this population. There’s this really
important need to find ways to help
this population be healthier and lose
weight. We brought a weight-loss
program to them, tailored to the needs
of people with serious mental illness.
And we were successful.”
The researcher noted that many
people with serious mental illnesses
can’t afford or can’t get to physical
activity programs like health clubs.
Some also suffer from social phobia
or have poor social interactions, and
are simply afraid to work out in a
public area, she said.
Daumit’s group attempted to solve
these issues by bringing the gyms
and nutritionists to places most of
these patients frequent — psychiatric
rehabilitation outpatient programs.
Under the trial name ACHIEVE
(Achieving Healthy Lifestyles in
Psychiatric Rehabilitation), the
researchers recruited 291 overweight
or obese patients with serious
mental illness. About half, 144, were
randomly placed in an intervention
group, while 147 made up the control
group. The intervention took place
at 10 Baltimore area outpatient
psychiatric rehabilitation day
facilities that already offer vocational
and skills training, case management
and other services for people with
mental illness not well enough to
work full time.
While the control group received the
usual care, which included nutrition
and physical activity information, the
intervention group got six months of
intensive intervention consisting of
exercise classes three times a week,
along with individual or group weight
loss classes once a week.
Both groups were followed for
an additional year, during which the
weight loss classes of the intervention
group tapered down but the exercise
classes remained constant.
At the 18-month point, the
intervention group lost, on average,
(Continued on page 5)
New York City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013 5
seven more pounds than the
control group.
Nearly 38 percent of the
intervention group lost 5 percent
or more of their initial weight, as
compared with 23 percent of the
control group.
More than 18 percent of those
in the intervention group lost
more than 10 percent of their body
weight after 18 months, compared
with 7 percent in the control group.
Participants also lost more
my life
can’t wait
FEGS can help you or a family member cope and
recover from mental illness, substance abuse or
emotional problems, through:
• Counseling and Psychiatry • Case Management
• Psychiatric Rehabilitation • Housing
To learn more, call today
212.366.8038 New York City 631.691.3347 Long Island

FEGS behavioral health programs are licensed by the New York State Office of
Mental Health, and accredited by CARF.
A Beneficiary of
I called FEGS for help
The Correct
Diagnosis Can
Make a World
of Difference
By Anita
Hi. I have just been diagnosed
with schizophrenia at the age of
thirty-nine, which is a long time to
be ill and not know it.
It all began at the age of fifteen. I
was in foster care with my grandma
and grandad after living with a
horrid stepfather who, looking
back, probably had mental health
issues. I thought there were cameras
everywhere and my every move was
being watched. I struggled through
college and was unable to work
because of my paranoia. I eventually
had a baby, which seemed to really
set things off.
I decided to go to law school but
only completed the first year, as life
had become quite difficult. I thought
the house was bugged, the television
was speaking to me and sending me
messages, and I was being followed
by the government. I also thought
that I was psychic and had special
The head teacher at my child’s
school was very kind and would
pick my son up to take him to
school because I could not leave
the house. Even though, being in a
house that was bugged with cameras
everywhere was not very pleasant
either. There seemed to be no
escape. I was continually diagnosed
with depression and went for
cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
but it was not helpful at all, having
been misdiagnosed. My mum kept
ringing the doctors telling them I
was ill, but to no avail. Eventually,
she spoke to a really nice doctor
who had the experience of working
with a psychiatrist and knew all the
right questions to ask.
The next thing you know she
turned up at my house with two
doctors in tow. They diagnosed
me with schizophrenia and gave
me details about the medications
they could prescribe and their side
effects. I again went for CBT, only
this time it was tailored around my
paranoia. Now I have the support of
my friends and family and they are
able to provide a friendly ear for
when I have my paranoid moments.
Thank you for listening. I hope my
story will help others.
“I thought the house was bugged, the television
was speaking to me and sending me messages,
and I was being followed by the government.”
(Continued from page 4 People With
Serious Mental Illness Can Lose
Weight Too)
weight as the intervention went on.
This suggests it took a while to make
behavioral changes, but once these
modifications took hold, the changes
yielded positive results, Daumit said.
Of the people in the study, 50
percent had schizophrenia, 22 percent
had bipolar disorder, and 12 percent
major depression.
On average, each participant was
on three psychotropic medications,
with half on lithium or mood
stabilizers, all known to cause weight
gain. But no matter what they were
on, they lost the weight, she said.
“We’re showing behavioral
interventions work regardless of
what they’re taking,” Daumit said.
Daumit thinks the weight-loss
program could be adopted by other
psychiatric rehabilitation facilities.
“This population is often
stigmatized,” she said. “This study’s
findings should help people think
differently about people with serious
mental illness. Our results provide
clear evidence that this population
can make healthy lifestyle changes
and achieve weight loss.”
The study was published in the
New England Journal of Medicine.
New Yorkers with
Serious Medical
Conditions May Be
Eligible to Receive FREE
Air Conditioners
For more information, contact
Baltic Street AEH for the program
nearest you (718) 855-5929.
To find out how to contact your
local Department of Social
Services, visit
New Y 6 ork City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013
Bruni in the
City: The Kiss
By Christina Bruni
I kissed a guy. He
leaned in. It took years
to get to that kiss.
The guy I liked didn’t like me. He
couldn’t reciprocate even though
clearly I had signaled my interest. It
was a soft spring day two years ago
and we walked in Prospect Park. I wore
Journey from
the Pit of
By Cynthia
Throughout my high school
years life was good. Intelligent and
artistically gifted, I was destined, we
thought, to have a prestigious career
and a bright future. However, another
destiny awaited me.
In my freshman year of college,
I was terrified when I began to hear
voices without any person present to
speak them. About a year later, after
several long hospitalizations, I was
diagnosed with schizophrenia, yet I did
not believe it. This denial is a symptom,
and it is one of the greatest reasons that
this disease is so hard to control.
Medications alone help to control
it; medications which make you fat,
sluggish, and have a plethora of other
side effects. So, if someone doesn’t
believe they are ill, what possible
motivation would they have to stay on
these meds? Little to none.
I was living on my own—having left
a full academic scholarship at college
due to this illness. I almost never took
my medications. They were attempts
to control my brain; things to make me
act the way “They” wanted me to act. I
worked when I could, ate when forced
to, and wandered through New Haven.
The voices in my head were abusive
“In my freshman year of college…I began to
hear voices…I was diagnosed with schizophrenia,
yet I did not believe it. This denial is a symp –
tom, and…one of the greatest reasons that this
disease is so hard to control.” .”
“We’ve come to a point in our recovery where
we have nothing left to lose. We’ve already lost
our minds so there is nothing else we could ever
fear losing.”
personal stories
and foul and I struggled with guilt at
having such irreverent thoughts. The
only prayer I had prayed in all those
years was when my heart uttered the
words, “God, if you know everything,
you know how angry I am at you
right now.” And that was a profoundly
honest prayer.
After over 30 hospitalizations, and
being deemed “hopelessly mentally
ill,” I met a man while in one of
those hospitals. He was interested
in me; something few people were.
We remained friends following my
discharge. I lived in a group home
and faced a rather bleak future. I was
penniless, approaching 30 years old
and Godless as well, when this man
asked me to marry him. I left the group
home and we embarked on a rocky yet
committed relationship, still intact after
22 years, by God’s grace.
I’d first begun to stabilize when
I had my daughter in my 30th year.
And God blessed me with 14 years
of freedom from psychosis despite
having life threatening brushes with
illness. I was completely dependent on
a wheelchair for two years as a result
of the necessary but destructive effects
of steroids needed for asthma. With a
miracle and lots of physical therapy, I
did walk again. No longer did I blame
God for my problems; rather, I learned
he is the light in my darkness.
Eventually, we moved to
Pennsylvania. I worked at a local
hospital where things once more began
to unravel. I was laid off and received
the dire diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis
which was destroying my spine and
joints later necessitating multiple joint
replacements. But worst of all, my
mind once more became infiltrated by
voices and paranoia which had, for
years, receded. Now, they questioned
the motives of everyone.
In terror, believing he would kill me,
I left my husband and went in my car
on a panicked chase over three states,
pursued only by my own fear. The
“chase” ended with a failed suicide
attempt, which was none other than
divine intervention. God has thwarted
every psychotic, sincere attempt I made
to end this life.
After six subsequent hospitalizations,
my doctor told my husband, “Your
wife’s case is hopeless. The best thing
for her and for you is to leave her in
a State hospital and to forget you ever
knew her.” And the doctor placed me
on a waiting list for that state bed. But
God had other plans.
Suddenly, I stabilized after a last
ditch medication change and was
released to the care of my husband.
There followed one more medication
change, and finally, the light came
that pierced that thick darkness. I once
more began to bathe and comb my hair.
I lost 60 pounds and exercised daily.
And God smiled. I now have several
blogs with the purpose of aiding and
educating people with mental illness
and their families, and am active in
my church, despite being severely
hampered by the arthritic disease.
God did not abandon me to the
caprice of madness, nor to the finality
of death. I still struggle, mostly, now,
with unrelenting pain. I’ve had joint
replacement surgeries, and more
surgeries loom; and there’s always the
threat of psychosis. I now look forward
to the day when I will enter God’s
kingdom with a healed body and a
clear mind.
my low-cut inspi(RED) tee shirt and a
black skirt. We parted ways at Union
Street and I smooched him before
departing for the F train. I felt giddy,
then deflated when he turned away.
That was bakery line guy #87.
Number 88 is at the counter: and holy
cannoli he knows what to do. He leaned
in. He thinks I’m cute. He tells me I’m
skinny so I know he’s not blind.
How do you get experience? I’ve
been on the dating website for people
who have diagnoses, and it doesn’t
thrill me so I closed my account. I feel
I don’t want to have to be a caregiver
to someone who doesn’t take his meds,
like the guy who messaged me and
said he refuses to ingest poisons, yet
believed ghosts were singing in his
attic. He sounded proud to be mad.
To manage my own life is about all
I can handle on most days. So I turned
instead to a networking service that
requires peers to be actively engaged at
a job, in school or via volunteer work.
It was there I met my match.
Forgive me: I kissed him goodbye.
We had a lovely time at MoMA. We
sat in the cafe at the bar looking out on
the street. I ate the three-cheese plate
with olives, flatbread and fruit chutney.
He said, “You Italians know how to
indulge.” I turned and flashed him a
smile that could light up the room.
It’s funny how easy it is to be
relaxed when you like someone and
they respond so you can be yourself.
I walked close by his side through
the rooms. We browsed the Music
3.0 exhibit. I told him I played Run
DMC on the radio when I was a disc
jockey and quoted their song lyrics
in my memoir. He told me he saw
them in concert back in the day.
I’m 46. I recommend a midlife
boyfriend. Women get bolder
as we get older, the result of a
scientifically-proven chemical thing
that happens in our bodies. We’ve
come to a point in our recovery
where we have nothing left to lose.
We’ve already lost our minds so
there is nothing else we could ever
fear losing.
This motivates me to take risks
that other people wouldn’t dare take.
Rejection and stigma and failure
don’t carry that kind of weight for
Mr. Right Now is a smooth
operator. He’s cool, warm and funny.
I give a guy credit for having a sense
of humor and effortlessly deploying
it. It also went swimmingly on our
other dates.
I don’t have a crystal ball so can’t
predict the future, yet I know one
thing: I want dessert.
Life is sweet.
New York City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013 7
Recovery Requires the Right Kind of Support
By Diana
For me, it’s all about moving forwar d
I used to think of myself as
mentally ill, or manic-depressive. I
lived my life as if I were my illness.
As I experienced recovery, I learned
that I had potential for much more. I
began to think of myself as a person
with an illness in my brain.
When the right medications came
along and fixed the broken parts
of my brain, I was able to finally
overcome the thoughts and feelings
that had defined me as an illness.
I discovered I was human like
everyone else and I deserved a good
life. I also discovered it was up to me
to make my life good and to make it
count. I began by placing a different
set of expectations upon myself.
My journey with mental illness
began soon after the birth of my
baby in 1981. I was hospitalized
for what would be the first of many
times. What we thought was to be
a short hospitalization turned into
a year and a half of medications,
psychotherapy, suicide precautions
and hallucinations.
I was dependent upon the hospital
staff to meet my every need; and I was
frightened by that same loss of control
over my environment. However,
nothing was more terrifying than my
own loss of control over my thinking
and behavior. I was tormented by
voices that shamed my every move.
I felt hopeless.
For the next fifteen years, I was
hospitalized over thirty times due to
(thankfully, failed) suicide attempts
and my inability to care for myself.
Most of that time was spent in a reality
that no one else could understand. I
often referred to myself as “Queen of
the Alphabet.”
In retrospect of those years, I
recognized a foundation of hope,
which I fiercely protected, in order
that I would someday lead a life
outside of my illness. I yearned to
be like other adults who worked
and supported themselves. I craved
financial independence and dreamt
of a home that I myself could pay
for without the aid of my parents and
social security disability insurance. I
wanted a partner to share my life with
and I wanted friends with whom I
could feel comfortable and be myself
with—friends who would like me for
being me. At this time in my life, I
am happy to say that my wishes have
come true.
My recovery from this illness did
not occur overnight, nor did it happen
in a vacuum of the right medications
and my own motivation. Granted,
I needed (and still need) the right
medications to clear my thinking
and balance my wild emotions, but
without people in my life who believe
in me and give me the chance to
believe in myself, I would not have
come this far.
There is one pivotal moment that
stands out when the direction of my
recovery changed. I had recently
started a new medication that was
working well and I asked my therapist
how to live the life that I wanted. She
began her answer with, “Well, I don’t
want to give you any false hope.”
That statement was all I needed to
hear to trust my own inner knowing. I
see now that she was focusing on my
illness instead of my wholeness and
my instinct to get well and stay well. I
walked out of her office and removed
myself from that way of thinking and
have never looked back since. There
is no such thing as false hope.
In this past year, memories of abuse
surfaced after twenty years of lying
dormant within my mind. I had to
quit my job in order to move through
the trauma. But, this time I had more
emotional and mental strength.
If I use all the resources available
to me, I trust that my journey will be
smooth and steady. I often experience
feelings of hopelessness around
recovery, but I take very good care
of myself and do whatever it takes to
rediscover hope.
My prayer is that all persons
with serious mental illness can
reach a level of wellness that they
never imagined possible. Recovery
means something different to every
individual, and while there is no cure
for serious mental illnesses, there is
support, medication, education and
advocacy available for us all.
Let us move forward to expect
Recovery—from ourselves and
our family, and our mental health
delivery system.
“…without people in my life who believe in me
and give me the chance to believe in myself, I
would not have come this far”
personal story
New Y 8 ork City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013
Parachute NYC: A “Soft Landing” for People in Crisis
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announces the launch of Parachute
NYC: an innovative citywide approach to provide a “soft-landing” for individuals experiencing
psychiatric crisis.
When someone is in crisis—but not
at imminent risk to self or others—s/he
can be referred to Parachute NYC by
calling 1-800-LIFENET. The person
will be seen at home by an enhanced
Mobile team within 24 hours of the
referral. The enhanced Mobile team
will have the ability to work with the
person as frequently as needed—even
daily—for up to one year. The team
will help the person to develop a
network starting at the first meeting.
This network will include the person
and other people s/he chooses, such as
family, friends, vocational staff, etc.
If the person receiving services
needs a different level of care than
can be provided at home—and is not
at imminent risk to self or others—s/
he can be referred to the Crisis Respite
Center. The Respite is a home-like,
warm, supportive and safe environment
for people to stay during times of
heightened distress. People may stay
at the Respite for up to fourteen days.
During their stay, Respite guests will
continue to work with the Mobile
team. The Respite is staffed with
a mixture of peers and behavioral
health professionals who are available
24/7 to offer peer support, wellness
education and skills building. At this
stage, Mobile and Respite services are
available only to people living in stable
People who are not interested in
receiving treatment from the Mobile
team may also stay at the Respite (e.g.,
someone who already has a mental
health provider but is experiencing or
anticipating a crisis). These individuals
must provide a current clinical
evaluation or consent to an evaluation
by the Mobile team.
There is significant peer involvement
in every component of Parachute NYC;
besides mental health services, peers
will work as peer health navigators
to integrate medical health into the
continuum of care.
All referrals to Parachute NYC are
made through 1-800-LIFENET.
Parachute NYC also includes a
peer operated Support Line for people
to call when they are experiencing
emotional distress to connect with a
trained operator who has had similar
experiences. Anyone can call the
support line by dialing 646-741-HOPE.
All services are confidential and there
is no need for a referral.
Currently, Visiting Nurse Service of
New York provides enhanced Mobile
services and Community Access
provides Respite for residents of
Manhattan ages 18-65. In Brooklyn,
services are exclusively for young adults
age 16-25 experiencing a first episode
of psychosis. Woodhull Medical Center
operates the Mobile team in Brooklyn
and Respite is provided by Services
for the Underserved for 18-25 yearolds
and by New York City Children’s
Center for 16-17 year olds. The Support
Line, also operated by Community
Access, is available to anyone in New
York City. Services will open in Bronx
and Queens, again for people aged
18-65, in late 2013 and early 2014,
Please visit our website for additional
I am 41. Mental health first started
after my daughter was born 14 years
ago. I got paranoid of her dad; he had
threatened to kill me and her one time. I
would throw out things he touched like
toothpaste or milk. When we broke up
I was fine.
I was fine at my next job until my ex
fought for visitation. I got paranoid and
would listen for others talking about
me. I thought I was being watched. I
thought everyone there hated me. I
was having anxiety and panic attacks. I
have had to lay down at work and take
a pill. They diagnosed me with post
traumatic stress disorder. I would cry
for no reason at work. My tears were
I went out on medical leave many
times yet trying to hold onto the job I
loved. On medical leave I wrote a book
of poetry about everything I have ever
been through. I had it published on; life is like a poem. When I
wrote the poetry I was driving around
listening to voices. I believed the voices
to be real. I would drop my daughter
off at school and drive around until it
was time to pick her up. I put 26,000
miles on my car in six months.
I drove to a police station and said I
needed to get into a witness protection
program and I did not know why. But
I heard a cashier and a voice say it so
I wound up in the psych ward and was
put on a stay of commitment. I was on
zyprexa for paranoid schizophrenia and
gained 80 pounds. My doctors thought
I would be a diabetic and changed me to
geodon. I was also on an antidepressant
because after a while I had suicidal
thoughts coming out of nowhere.
I have never attempted to kill myself,
but was close once. I tell people to not
be alone, to tell someone that you are
having bad thoughts and go to sleep.
When you wake up the thoughts should
be gone.
I went back to work three times
trying to hold onto my job. Once I
remember how strange it was that
nothing was going on after being on
medicine. My boss did not want me
back. They said I was only doing 20
percent correct work. During this time
I met my boyfriend of ten years. I went
off geodon like three times or more
because I thought it tasted funny or
would do different things to my brain.
Each time I went off medicine different
things happened.
I thought people would poison my
food. I once found a pill in my chip bag,
which I swallowed. My daughter said,
“They want you to sleep mommy.” I
only ate what my daughter would eat.
When she wasn’t there I would not
keep food in the house. I thought I was
god and wrote the bible for the future. I
was writing in different languages and
gave three of my notebooks to a church
and told them to hide them. I would
not shower because I did not want to
change things.
Someone told me I scared a lot of
people. I did not talk to anyone and
my boyfriend broke up with me and
my daughter was at my mom’s. I was
alone. I have seen angels with a bright
light behind them, a man wearing a
white robe, people who are dead, a
space ship and a cloud with a man on
it. I have also seen a cloud form a cross
and a shadow of a man walking in the
center on Passover.
Still, all of this has been real to me
and even on medicine I still think some
of this is real. How my aunt put it, “the
mind is a powerful thing and can do
amazing things, if you are ill it may
need help.” So I take my medicine
everyday and now work a part-time job
and will be volunteering at a homeless
shelter. I would like to go back to
school for social work and help others
like myself.
One thing medicine does is make me
not remember what I have been through.
It also calms my brain down. When on
medicine everything is normal yet I do
not believe I am sick and need to be on
medicine. I have always been forced on
medicine from the hospital or on a stay
of commitment.
When I quit my medicine I quit all
of it and now no longer need it. I got
over post traumatic stress disorder by
forgiving the person I was most scared
of. My daughter and boyfriend only
want to be with me if I am on medicine.
I hope this battle is over and everything
will continue to be normal.
I am trying to watch what and how
much I eat and get out walking. I also
have low motivation and energy. On
medicine I am not artistic and cannot
write like I can off medicine. This only
covers about one third of everything I
have been through.
Note: Tanya currently takes Zyprexa
every day. She has gained 70 pounds
and says she is the heaviest she has ever
been, but despite low motivation and
energy, she manages to work twelve to
twenty hours a week.
Medicine is a
Catch 22
By Tanya
You lose the psychosis
but gain weight and
feel run down
personal story
“I have always been forced on medicine….I do
not believe I am sick and need to be on medicine….
On medicine I am not artistic and cannot
write like I can off medicine.”
New York City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013 9
New Y 10 ork City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013
From Fear to Feasibility
By Connie
I was asked to write about coping
with my mental “illness.” For that
purpose I need point out that I can’t
always separate “dysfunction” from
“disease.” I’ll have to write about
My father had a violent temper
and my mother was a ‘malignant
narcissist.’ My sister was beaten
daily for being born with a birth
defect and I hid in the closet. Fear
kept me captive most of my life.
We were told what we couldn’t do,
and how we were a burden. Mother
often told us “Don’t you ever have
children or you’ll regret it, like I
In 1982 my husband of ten years
left me. I was forced to make
some changes in my life. I went
to seminars, workshops, and even
had one good therapist for a few
months until she, too, left. I put a lot
of knowledge in my head, yet felt
immense mental anguish.
Classic bipolar mood swings
began in the early 1980’s. I’d lie in
bed for weeks then I couldn’t stop
racing in circles for 4 or 5 days. I
had a phone number I found in
a newspaper and I’d pick up the
phone, dial 6 digits, and hang up.
Eventually, I found my way to
Recovery, Inc. meetings. With their
tools, I reduced the symptoms to a
manageable level and went on with
my life several more years without
In many people’s view I was
successful. I finished college
completely on my own, and went
to work in the mental health field.
I had the most incredible work
environment. When I had problems,
my supervisor told me to go into the
hospital and report back for work
when the doctors said I was stable.
The hospital experience was a
nightmare. Summer in Florida and
no air conditioning, no windows
that opened, smokers everywhere,
bathrooms broken and feces smeared
on the walls. The only night I slept
was the night they restrained me and
gave me a shot of Haldol and Ativan.
In those days it took 28 days to treat
you, if you had insurance. I stayed
home another 2 weeks to catch up
with sleep, then returned to work.
That was the only full-time job I
kept more than the length of a school
Under supervision, I was billing as
a therapist. I was a good listener, but
never once thought to express my
needs or wants to anyone. The job
had been paying barely minimum
wage, with the expectation of
licensure and better pay after 5
years. But, the state didn’t accept
my supervision because my degree
didn’t match my supervisor’s. I
moved to New Mexico seeking
greener pastures.
The move started the pendulum
swinging again. It took years to get
my mood stabilized. Eventually,
I began receiving social security
In New Mexico I was active with
AMI-NM, president of the Consumer
Council, and director of the Mental
Health Association in Las Vegas, the
location of the only state hospital.
I was also on committees in Santa
Fe with the Department of Health,
Division of Mental Health. I’d have
done fine, but I found myself in
another dysfunctional relationship.
Again, I lost myself. I was no longer
Connie the professional; I was
Connie Jean the wounded child.
I’ve been homeless, afraid, almost
frozen to death since then. I ended
up in western North Carolina where
I managed to get housing with HUD
assistance and started to get my life
together. I founded SEASCAT, which
stands for Supportive Environment
for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse
and Trauma. I thought it was for my
ex who was a dissociative identity
disorder, but it’s more. I got back
into another relationship much like
my last one at about the time my
mother suffered a stroke and needed
me to be her caretaker.
When I hit bottom this time, I
found Co-Dependents Anonymous
and, finally, a therapist who took
Medicare with a very small co-pay.
It’s been work, but the puzzle is
finally coming together. I had the
pieces, as I’d gathered them a few at
a time over the past 30 years.
I have a God of my understanding
and gratitude. I find peace working
in my plots at the community garden,
and in listening to contemporary
Christian music. No longer do my
actions come from a place of fear
and anger. The life I knew is finally
over, and a life of hope has begun.
“I’ve been homeless, afraid, almost frozen to
death…I ended up in western North Carolina
where I managed to get housing with HUD
assistance and started to get my life together.”
personal stories
Dark Night of
the Soul
By Heather
It is my hope that in sharing my
story, it may inspire some and help
others along their own journey of
recovery. Abraham Lincoln once
said, “Remember in the depth and
even the agony of despondency that
very shortly you are to feel well
There was a time in my life when
I thought I would never be myself
again. I believed in nothing and in
no one. Life as I knew it was over,
taking with it my soul. However, I
can assure you that despite all the
suffering inflicted by mental illness,
there is hope for recovery.
A few experiences I’ve
encountered during my battle with
bipolar disorder included that of
depression, mania and psychosis. I
had a relatively normal childhood.
The only person in my immediate
family who was diagnosed with
mental illness was my grandmother.
I believe my condition arose from
genetic predisposition as well as
environmental factors.
At the age of 19, I began having
unexplainable physical symptoms.
For approximately two years, I dealt
with chronic head, neck and stomach
pain. At the age of 22, I began having
bouts of depression that came in
waves, and lasted about four years.
I was prescribed antidepressants
which never had any lasting effects.
During this time in my life, I was
involved with relief work in Denver,
Africa and Venezuela. I returned
home to Pennsylvania to attend
nursing school, which I was unable
to complete due to my symptoms.
My illness began to progress
in 2006, resulting in my first
hospitalization. At that time, I began
having severe sleep deprivation,
which eventually led to psychosis.
The experience was the most
terrifying moment in my life. I
was aware of how my mind should
be functioning, but it was in total
chaos—and there was nothing I
could do to control it. I became
religiously preoccupied believing
the reason for my torment was
demonic possession.
Following my discharge from the
hospital, I resided with my parents
for one year. As my symptoms
intensified and regressed, I would
rarely leave home, and spoke few
words to family members. I felt
only fear and the absence of love.
Everything I once loved, I now
hated. Thoughts of heaven and hell
consumed my mind. Saint John of the
Cross described such experiences as
“The Dark Night of the Soul,” which
I easily identified with.
In 2007, I went without sleep for
approximately three weeks. Sleep
deprivation combined with delusions
pushed me over the edge to the brink
of insanity. Somehow, I formed this
idea in my mind that Judas Iscariot
needed to be redeemed from hell and
I was the chosen one to complete this
mission. I came to the conclusion
that in order to rescue Judas, I must
die. Keep in mind, that I was not
suicidal. This may seem far-fetched,
but in my mind it was real. I then
proceeded to jump headfirst out of a
second story window believing this
would accomplish my task.
Amazingly, I escaped with only
a few minor cuts and bruises. This
episode landed me in Western
Psychiatric Hospital for a two
month stay, where I made progress
and received the proper treatment.
I finally came to the realization
that medication was necessary to
restore my mind and normal life
functioning. With some time, the
doctors eventually found the correct
medication for my body and I began
to feel like myself again.
I cannot say all of my experiences
with bipolar disorder have been bad.
During mania, the world seems to
take on a different light. Everything
is brighter and more glorious. I feel
as though the spiritual realm is not
so distant, and I love as I’ve never
loved before. I consider my illness a
“I was aware of how my mind should be functioning,
but it was in total chaos—and there was
nothing I could do to control it.”
(Continued on page 11)
New York City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013 11
Through the
System to Get
Help for My
By Janene
I don’t want my son to
wind up in prison
II have been relentlessly seeking
help for my 17-year-old son since
May of 2011, a month before his
16th birthday. His neurologist
was the first healthcare provider
to recognize that Z was in need of
inpatient treatment. No residential
facility I have contacted thus far
would take him; jail has become
the only solution. Refusal is not due
to insurance. I was informed that
medical necessity and insurance
were approved during most of
the intakes. Our health insurance
through NYSCOPBA will pay for
residential if it is warranted. Most
claimed that they cannot treat the
mental health issues because of the
addiction, or that they cannot treat
the addiction because of the mental
health issues.
Z is non-violent. He is reckless
and self-destructive with major
impulse control issues, feelings
of persecution and social/family
problems. He does get along well
with peers for the most part; problems
with authority and continuous
“The system has failed to help [my son] and the
future seems bleak.”
personal stories
apathy are his downfalls. On Z’s
psycho social evaluation completed
by our county’s psychiatrist, the
three Axis-I diagnoses are 1) bipolar
disorder NOS; 2) generalized anxiety
disorder; and 3) cannabis addiction.
I have spent the last 18 months
watching his mental illness grow
more severe and his addiction to
pot (the only thing he has found to
temporarily treat his anxiety) spiral
into manic episodes, legal issues,
lost memory, lost time, and severe
depression. All his counselors and I
have tried to convince him that the
marijuana increases anxiety longterm.
However, he is unwilling
to stop due to the severity of his
symptoms supporting his addiction.
He believes cannabis is the only
effective medicine for his anxiety
and cannot be swayed. He was
admitted for one week (the day
after his last arrest) to an inpatient
adolescent mental health facility, but
the duration was too brief to have a
lasting effect.
Now my son has been arrested
four times for unlawful possession
of marijuana, once for petty larceny
and once for grand theft, a class E
felony he committed while under the
influence and does not remember.
In fact he signed a confession based
on what his friends told him he did.
My son’s public attorney needs to
know what facility will accept him
when the attorney meets with the DA
tomorrow, one week before Z’s court
date. Z is willing to go into treatment
if his attorney can convince the
DA to accept the completion of a
program as time served.
Most of my time these past two
weeks has been spent searching for
treatment, then gathering, copying
and faxing paperwork to the one
facility I was sure would accept
him. When I was done submitting
records, we waited 5 days to learn
Z was denied. His mental health
diagnosis precedes his cannabis
addiction so they will not take him
due to his mental health. Nor will
any of the other many facilities I
have spoken with over the past year
and a half. After this denial, I admit
I gave up looking for placement.
I had been trying for so long and I
had less than a day left before the
attorneys met; it seemed futile. I
called one more place that I found on
the internet. They said they would
accept him. I pray that there will be
a time to submit the bed letter to my
son’s attorney for presentation to the
DA, but I have less than 24 hours
left. After searching for the past 18
months, I learned it is too late to
present to the court system. Z would
have to be in the facility to get the
letter completed, which the public
defender strongly advises against
until after attending court.
I do not think 60 days in county
jail will be the best solution for
him or for his future, nor does his
attorney or counselor nor does the
victim of his non-violent crime or
the crime victim’s advocacy board.
My son is terrified that a stay in
a rehabilitation facility will rob
him of his individuality, take away
his sense of adventure and mold
him into a compliant “sheep.” He
would prefer jail except that he
knows what violation and violence
potentially awaits him. I believe his
lifestyle has taken away his sense of
accomplishment and exasperated his
learning disabilities to a degree that
he is unable to function normally,
even with an IQ of 140 just a few
short years ago.
I need to fill out the releases at
County Mental Health and to the
attorney. I have just started a new
job also and cannot take time away.
I work on this daily before work
or during my half an hour lunch.
I am emotionally exhausted and
cannot get assistance from his case
manager since he states he does not
know what to do. I am alone in this
as I have been for the past decade
of meetings, therapy sessions, Z’s
expulsion from BOCES Career and
Technology Center due to behavior
(without any mandated hearings)
and looking for appropriate care and
the supports we need as a family.
Z’s anxiety is so bad he cannot even
attend classes at his school and must
go to tutoring after school. Most
events that others find usual become
endless day to day battles with Z and
he struggles against me when I force
him. The system has failed to help
him and the future seems bleak.
Honoring and
Our Other
By Gayle D
The evil twin of my split
personality emerges when I
am anxious, can’t think, or am
overtired. She, or he, wants attention
and becomes more assertive, or
The art work I create from both
perspectives is a reflection of my
inner life. Spirituality can also
be seen as a compromise, or a
cohesiveness way to honor oneself.
My evil twin appears to hinder
me, but my true friends or relatives
understand the deeper layers of
my moods and personalities. There
are many colors ranging from very
light, almost mystical, to dark and
gloomy, like the need to get under
the covers on a cold winter day. My
moods also range from perky and
full of life to sad and depressed. The
blessing of some sort. It enables me
to see the world more vividly and
stay closer to God. It has also made
me more compassionate, thoughtful
and analytical.
Today, there remains much
controversy and stigma surrounding
mental illness. I try my best not to
allow other people’s opinions to
bother me. The majority of people
I meet either don’t have a good
understanding of mental illness, or
are just fearful of it due to ignorance.
I desire to help others overcome
their battles with this illness and
walk alongside them through their
personal journeys of recovery. I
strongly believe that with the help of
knowledgeable and compassionate
professionals, family support and
individual determination, recovery
is indeed possible.
feelings of fulfillment come out on
the other side.
Like the “shrinks” say, you’re like
an audience participant rather than
yourself, and sometimes there is
popcorn or applause after the show.
I did have some art shows. As it was
explained to me, clinicians should
know and understand that there are
many aspects of the whole person:
the human, the spiritual, the body,
and the medical. You are not the
illness; you are yourself, first.
Holistic therapy with herbs, if
you’re into that combination, is
great for the immune system and
looks good inside and out.
(continued from page 10 Dark Night
of the Soul)
New York City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013 12 personal stories
Super Hero
By Jon
My mother had me going to therapy
since the fourth grade. She always told
me that I had a chemical imbalance in
my brain and would probably have to
take “a little something.” However,
I discovered booze before psychiatry,
which kind of made me swerve off
the beaten path for a few years.
But let me get back to the therapy. I
had no idea why I had to go, perhaps
something to do with the fact that my
parents were divorced. At school I
was convinced that no one liked me.
I always thought I was “different”
and secretly wanted to be loved by
everyone. I was a smart child yet
lacked the motivation to do well
partially because I was put on earth
to do something great (first delusion).
Often I would stay up all night
watching MTV. I had incredible
energy and I could not fall asleep. I
collected knives and analyzed music
by Iron Maiden. I thought about death
and suicide quite a bit, yet I knew
enough not to say anything about it to
anyone. For years my insanity would
be my own little secret until it became
so bad in my middle twenties that I
could no longer hide it from others.
A familiar pattern began to emerge
in young adulthood that many of
us can relate to. Things would go
extremely well. I would be extremely
happy, supercharged. Then, suddenly,
with a flick of a switch, I would fall
into a deep dark depression. In high
times I would drink, be rowdy, and
sexually promiscuous. When down, I
just watched TV and read books.
Ultimately my illness did not kick
off until I was married to a woman
13 years older than myself. I met her
during one of my manic phases, so I
seemed like this great super hero of
a guy. We had two children together.
I had trouble keeping a job due to
my illness. I was in denial about my
illness at that time and thought that
everyone felt the same way I did. I
kept a journal during this time and
would record many of my delusional
thoughts in it. In a way I was trying
to “Figure things out” by writing.
That fall, I tried to kill myself. My
thoughts were too fast and too dark.
I was put in a hospital.
This kicked off a long period of
going in and out of hospitals. I was
diagnosed Schizoaffective. I was put
on the medication clozaril, but always
stopped taking it. It made me gain
weight and drool. I always ended up
back in the hospital. I was admitted
into the local state run mental health
authority. I applied for and received
SSD on the first attempt. Needless to
say my marriage fell apart after my
wife read my journal. I have not seen
my children for ten years.
After her leaving I went through
what I would call my lost years. I
was put on every medication that
ever was. I had ECT which actually
worked for awhile. I lived in a nursing
home for a year. I drank and took
pain medication. I was delusional. I
thought I was a prophet from God,
I became obsessed with the movie
“Silence of the Lambs.” I would play
head games with clinicians. I lived in
a hellish cycle of hospitals, outpatient
programs and club houses. The only
person who did not give up on me
was my father.
My last episode was so horrible
that I never want to get that sick
again. I was seeing special messages
in pictures and algebra equations.
Being in the hospital, unable to sleep,
I gave up my fight and accepted that
the only med that worked for me was
clozaril. The psychiatrist there put me
back on it. The medication did make
me drool but at the same time I was
able to focus my mind in a semi sane
My recovery has been slow and
never in a straight line. Since I have
been stable with the help of clozaril,
my life has gotten better. In fact,
I actually have a life. I have been
able to go back to work. I began as
a volunteer at a local hospital. After
a year of that I got a job at a grocery
store which I still work at. I have gone
back to school part time. I am also
taking a class in peer support. I am
honest with my psychiatrist although,
at times I miss mania. I’m everything
I hated when I first started treatment,
and I love it.
“I thought about death and suicide quite a bit,
yet I knew enough not to say anything about it to
Editor at Large: As I See It
A Column by Marvin
Some random thoughts
about our plight part 2
Goodbye Dr. Welch
Yesterday I said my official
goodbye to Dr. John Welch. I see
him one more time next month,
when he goes into retirement for
good. I have been seeing him for
the last fifteen years in an OMH
Psychiatric State Clinic.
This is a totally unusual situation
for a publicly run and funded
mental health program. It has been
my understanding that therapists,
especially, but psychiatrists as
well, usually don’t stay in any one
program for an extended length of
time. They either get a promotion,
work in a more convenient location
when an opportunity develops,
or move on to another agency
for better pay. Some mental
health professionals leave the
system entirely. The salary is not
adequate compensation for the
stress level of the job. Caseloads
are overwhelming. Because of
the aforementioned reasons the
turnover is quite high. In the end,
the client-patient-consumer is
actually the one who loses out the
most when the continuity of care
does not have a chance to develop.
The mentally ill are most often
very wounded souls. Whether due
to the nature of their biochemical
disorder, or being a victim of
(verbal, physical, psychological,
sexual) abuse, the issue of trust is
a big problem. It can take years for
a firm bond to develop between
patient and therapist or psychiatrist.
Change takes time and trust is
When therapists or psychiatrists
come and go for their own benefit,
it causes much harm to the clientpatient-
consumer. The point can
be reached where the recipient
of services builds a wall around
themselves, never more to engage
in anything less than superficial
communication with a mental
health professional. This, to my
knowledge, has always been the
case with the public mental health
For me to have the opportunity
to see Dr. John Welch for so many
years is totally extraordinary. I have
benefited from a firm relationship
that has taken years to develop
and grow. I have always hoped for
continuity of care, but rarely have
had it occur. With Dr. John Welch,
the journey together has been a
good one, with no regrets. The time
has been well spent.
Yesterday, I reminisced with
Dr. John Welch for more than an
hour. I went on and on, aware that
I was spending beyond the usual
hour he generally gives me. I also
knew he could have cut me off, if
he so desired, but he didn’t. I think
we both desired and enjoyed our
last real time together. I said all I
wanted to say to him. Thank you,
Dr. John Welch.
“When therapists or psychiatrists come and go…
the continuity of care does not have a chance to
Foreign-born Psychiatrists
Should Learn the Language
Psychiatry is an art and not yet
a science. Psychiatry requires
communication much more than
medical care. Doctors, even
specialists, rely primarily on lab
tests. It is the interpretation of
these tests that separates a mavin
from the others.
Too many foreign-born
psychiatrists think they can
speak the language. Very few do
unless they study the language
and its idioms. A case in point:
a foreign-born psychiatrist is
frustrating a patient admittedly
unintentionally. The patient throws
up his arms and says, “I’ve had it!”
The psychiatrist then wanted to
hospitalize the patient as suicidal!
Sounds impossible? No, because
it happened. The psychiatrist did
not know that idiom causing a
miscommunication. The patient
spent the rest of the session trying
to assure the psychiatrist that he
was okay.
Foreign-born psychiatrists would
be well advised to go to night
school for immigrants to really
learn the language.
New York City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013 13
personal stories
There is Help
Out There If
You Want It
By Jessica
The Mental
By Sheryl
It took a while to get a
We can’t just be happy
without a little help
I am 26 years old. I wanted to tell my
story to help others suffering through
mental illness. I would like to give a
brief history on myself but concentrate
more on things of late. Now, as I am
sure you realize, there is a stigma
surrounding mental illness.
I had a great upbringing with
wonderful loving parents who were
always there for me, and friends galore,
as well as a dedicated boyfriend.
I was diagnosed with ADHD and
depression by 9th grade and tried
multiple medications before becoming
resistant to taking them. Part of this
resistance was in me not wanting to
need medication just to function and
definitely not wanting to be labeled in
school. I was never told not to get help
from my parents but by society who
said it was bad to be different and that
I had everything— so why not just be
By 22 I went off to college and ended
up with a whirlwind of issues from
immobilization due to pain and gaining
70 pounds in one semester to trying
medications that ended up making me
suicidal. Once I flunked out, I spent
the next year-and-a-half in bed unable
to function and barely getting up even
to take care of myself. I developed
kleptomania and ended up with legal
problems and was also diagnosed
with bipolar depression and OCD. I
was prescribed Abilify and it worked
wonders for the depression when I
would actually take it, but every time
I started to feel better I would forget
the need for them until I started to feel
I continued this dance with
medication while still attending therapy
mostly regularly until finally I realized,
more recently, that I needed more help
than what I was getting. In November
of 2012, I was caught stealing for the
5th time and this time it was a felony
charge. I knew something had to give.
I went back to my therapist who
I’d told none of this to and poured my
heart out, begging for help. I knew I
had an impulse-control issue and had
tried medication in the past to no effect,
but this time needed to be different.
She increased my Abilify because, in
larger doses, although you can end up
with permanent twitches, it’s supposed
to help with impulse control. I was also
“Had I realized sooner that there was help if I
wanted it, and that there were others out there
just like me, my story could be very dif ferent
put on the mood stabilizer Lamictal,
which was also said to help with the
impulse issues. At this time I changed
my ADHD medication from my longtime
friend Adderall to Vyvanse since
at 2p.m. I would want to just pass out.
So here I am finally taking my
medication regularly, going to support
groups, and actually doing well. I
feel that if I had hit rock-bottom with
kleptomania a year or more ago—it
would have been the kick I needed to
take my medication and wouldn’t be
facing the potential to end up in jail.
Unfortunately, my rock-bottom didn’t
come soon enough and now, although
I am getting better and feeling happy
for the first time since I can remember,
I may end up at another bottom soon
If you could take something away
from my story, I would hope it would
be to seek help and that through trial
and error, although disheartening, you
can end up with that right mixture of
medication and therapy that could
inevitably change your life for the
better. There are people out there just
like you who may also feel the heavy
hand of society expecting them to just
be happy without needing outside help.
Had I realized sooner that there was
help if I wanted it, and that there were
others out there just like me, my story
could be very different today.
diagnosis that makes
I am a 38-year-old single mother. I
was born and raised in Texas. I live with
a mental illness called schizoaffective
disorder. I am sharing my story about
the struggle of waiting for the right
diagnosis and medication.
I remember growing up as a little
child I would sometimes see things.
It became serious at the age of seven
when I would see hands that had holes
in the them. The hands would tell me
to pray. My mother was frightened
because schizophrenia is common
in her family, so she took me to the
doctor. I remember the test and bright
machines. It came out negative. Maybe
it was just a child’s imagination or
maybe some spiritual event.
As a child, I could not explain to
adults the things I would suffer. I
became a little writer who wrote songs
to keep my mind occupied when there
was nothing to do. As I grew older I
had problems in academics and was
placed in lower level classes from other
children. My parents soon accepted that
I was a regular child with some delays.
Many times during my young years I
was blamed by educators for not trying
my hardest. This would depress me as
a child. I found myself being shy and
afraid to talk to others. I went through
some tough times when I would be
frightened to sleep with no light on
or would hear my name called. As I
matured into my teens I became a little
more open and just accepted this is
how life was for me. It was normal to
have an active imagination.
A year after graduating, I married my
high school love. Life felt brand new to
me. I was not alone and I was with a
great guy who would be with me til the
end. However, my symptoms would
not stop. Maybe twice a year I would
see an image of someone and would
blink my eyes. There it was, nothing
much, just my overactive imagination
I decided to attend a local technical
college where I wished to teach and
put my talent of creativity into action.
Things like art classes which I had
done fairly well in while attending
high school, I was able to put into
my student teaching. My grades were
horrible although I tried my best and
had only good intentions to do well.
Soon I was expecting my first child.
She was born a healthy seven-pound
baby girl. Although I did not complete
my degree in child care development,
the student teaching paid off for me to
get hired as a daycare teacher. Later
I began to sub as a paraprofessional
and forced myself to pay for an adult
continuing education non-credit
diploma through which I earned a
medical office diploma.
My life was changing for the
better. I was making a higher pay but
still I suffered with this thing I call
imagination. I found myself being
frightened to go downstairs at the
hospital after one night of working
in medical records. I was sent by
emergency room to find a chart that
was downstairs. I only remember the
door opening up behind me while
I was looking for the chart. Soon
I realized no one was there. I soon
began to suspect my high school love
who was my husband of plotting to
hurt me. It finally ended in divorce.
After the divorce I carried on. I did
not complain to my doctors. I earned
my certification as a correctional
officer and worked in a maximum
security prison. I began to hallucinate
and see beautiful large angels, which
was frightening. I would hear my
“I earned my certification as a correctional officer
and worked in a maximum security prison.
I began to hallucinate and see beautiful large
angels, which was frightening.”
name called. I would hear other words
other than the words that were spoken
on television. I felt that groups of
people were stalking me for things like
my creative writing and then I would
lose it. I was very suspicious and felt
that people were out to harm me. Soon
one day I wanted to end it all. I wanted
to kill myself. I found myself at the
hospital. I was later sent to Spindletop
MHMR where I was first diagnosed
with schizophrenia. After counseling,
visiting with the doctor, and blood tests,
it sounded more like major depression.
It took over two years on different
medicines to find out I have schizoaffective
disorder, which some experts
still argue is not a mental illness. I am
only an example that it exists.
New Y 14 ork City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013
My Struggle
with Mental
By Jessie
“People have misconceptions about people with
a mental illness. The truth of the matter is, they
should be more worried about the person not
This is my true story of suffering
from bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed
with bipolar disorder four years ago.
I grew up just as any normal child.
My parents divorced when I was around
five and my mom remarried around two
years later. I started working at a large
grocery store chain when I was fifteen
years old. I excelled in high school. I
was involved in French club, drama
club, key club, and art honor society.
At the time of my graduation from high
school, I held a 3.75 (non-weighted)
GPA. I received a scholarship from the
art honor society which helped pay for
college costs. The fall after graduation,
I began my first semester in college.
I had no problems adjusting to
dorm life and the new class structure.
I started a job at the college under the
work-study program to assist with
college expenses. I proudly completed
my first semester of college.
I decided to go home before I started
my second semester. I went to my
mom’s to spend the holidays with her
and then returned to college for my
second semester. About a month and a
half into my second semester I received
a call from my aunt informing me that
my dad had lost most of his mobility
due to a tumor that they had found
on his spinal cord and brain stem. I
withdrew from college to help take
care of my dad. I moved and started
care on my dad until we finally found
a doctor willing to operate and remove
the tumor.
I had to find a job to fill the void
of having a purpose in my life. I
easily found work. I had no bills or
obligations, but I felt a great burden
on my shoulders. Work went well
for a couple of years. I noticed that
I started to get depressed. I thought
nothing of it because everyone gets
depressed. I started finding it more and
more difficult to be around people and
I started making irrational decisions. I
would find a job, quit a job. This went
on until I had no further options for
employment. I eventually reached the
point of being homeless because my
thoughts were telling me that I wasn’t
good enough to have anything. I lived
in the woods for several months through
a cold winter. I had been moving from
state to state not knowing when, where,
or why I was going. I would just go
until I had nowhere else to go.
I finally got stable when I started going
to a mental health clinic. The doctor
promptly started me on medications,
but the medications only made me stay
in the town I was residing. I continued
to have some serious episodes that I
couldn’t understand. I was sent to a
state psychiatric hospital after I busted
out the windows of my car and set it on
fire. It really felt like demons were out
to get me. This was absolutely the worst
I had felt at this point. I spent several
months in the hospital and on many
different medications. They finally
found the medication that would work
best for me. I was so grateful. When I
got out of the hospital, I wanted to do
something with my life. I went to one
semester of welding, but I found that I
didn’t like it. I thought I’d take some
more college courses the next semester.
I went to all my classes the first day of
class. Everything seemed like a blur as
I sat in each class while the professor
handed out the syllabus. My anxiety
level just went through the roof and
I was more than overwhelmed by
everything that was covered in the first
day. I decided to drop all the classes.
I was afraid that I would be a failure
and I couldn’t take that. I just want to
achieve and be the best at all I do.
I decided that I would try to go to
work. It seemed as if this would be a
good productive option for me to feel
worthwhile in my life. Most people
do not understand the psychological
effects of a man trying to live off of
social security disability and support
a family. I was raised in a family that
taught me that the husband should
provide for his family. I have been
struggling with this for quite some
Now I am in a dilemma. I have not
had a stable job in years and I have not
worked at all in the past three years.
I started filling out applications and
doing interviews. I tried fast food,
factories, staffing agencies, and more.
I have yet to obtain a position of
employment. Doing all of this work and
having nothing to show for it is quite
mentally overwhelming. I would have
high hopes going into the interview and
my dreams would be crushed coming
out. There are only so many places that
a person can find employment. I feel
like I have exhausted more than 90%
of my employment options to no avail.
I probably do not need to tell anyone
who suffers from a mental illness, but
there are challenges. I have learned
to take these challenges on and not
worry about failure. I also know that
it is hard to get people to give you a
chance. If they do not want to give
you a chance, someone will. People
have misconceptions about people
with a mental illness. The truth of the
matter is, they should be more worried
about the person not diagnosed as well
as medicated who might seem to be
classified as normal.
Recovery is
the Level of
Happiness We
By Jeffrey V. Perry CPRP,
MSM, Program Manager
for Baltic Street, AEH,
Inc. Peer Bridger Program
The pursuit of happiness is something
we must remain vigilant in attaining. It
is the central core of any human’s right
to be. Recovery, in my estimation, is
solely about one’s level of happiness
in perspective to a worldview of
satisfaction, not the individual shortterm
peace we could have. I hope
my recovery will be long-term and
self-sustaining. My life’s happiness,
health, and mental stability are only as
good as the level of satisfaction I have
within, and put in place for, myself.
My life goals in recovery are for this
quality of life, which I see as what any
person with a history of diagnosed or
undiagnosed mental illness, substance
abuse, medical problem or anyone with
a compromised condition, deserves.
One’s awareness of their personal
level of satisfaction is the most
important factor in understanding if
there is a “problem here.” It is often
those undiagnosed individuals who
have not addressed their situation by
getting help, treatment, or services,
who feel their sense of satisfaction
diminished or who are in a total denial
of any problem, and fight an uphill
battle; while those diagnosed face other
struggles, such as a search for any level
of recovery, which is supposed to,
by definition, be the down-hill fight.
When you find the right combination of
treatment for yourself, there is a better
chance for recovery. But oftentimes,
treatment may not focus on any level
of recovery, and instead focus only
on symptoms management. This, yet,
at the cost of a diminished level of
personal happiness and a lackluster
recovery that takes time away for
one’s regular life pursuits, cloaked in
a stigma of social inferiority, particular
in today’s I-based “IPod” existence.
We have being fighting against
stigma on many fronts in our recovery,
yet never did we conceive that it
would in fact increase rather than be
eliminated. As technology becomes
more refined the gap between those
looking for real happiness becomes
much wider, because we have to wade
through every new wave in technology
to understand what we need in order
to be happy again. Not to mention the
high prices that we can never afford
while in economic symptom arrest.
While under symptom management,
in many instances, when our
possessions are taken away for old
safety-based reasons, they are never
accounted for, or remembered (by the
confiscator), or promptly returned.
Where others would be furious, we
become justifiably upset, yet, we, and
our possessions, may be dismissed to
So, we get to understand that life can
be cruel, even under the direct care of
others who prefer to see us however
is most convenient at that particular
time (not to single out any institution
or individual). It seems to me that it
is second nature to take advantage of
the disabled, who many look down
upon, or simply have low regard for in
contrast to their “able” selves, and who
believe that the disabled, of course, are
naturally less happy, or, at least, they
should be. It is indeed a miracle if a
disabled person is happy. When will
we each admit that we are all disabled
or handicapped in some way? Is it
not only about personal fulfillment or
about accomplishing tasks?
One of the failures of symptom
management is that it has not yet helped
people rise to the level where they can
find the kind of work that fulfills them.
Medication cannot motivate a person
or inspire them. And it certainly may
help us do that which we want not to
do, like not thinking clearly, being
irritable and bothered by everything,
or just not feel well, and possibly even
behave in a negative manner. But, all
in all, it’s about progress, isn’t it? We
must move forward like anyone else.
Note: This essay is from, A Peer
on Peer Perspective in Psychiatric
Health (In Prose and Poetry) by Jeffrey
V. Perry, CPRP available in e-book
formats. For more from Mr. Perry,
please visit http://www.jeffreyvperry.
“One of the failures of symptom management is
that it has not yet helped people rise to the level
where they can find the kind of work that
fulfills them.”
Photo credit: Ann Lennon
New York City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013 15
book review
Book Ends:
The Center
Cannot Hold
by Elyn R.
Reviewed by Columnist
Kurt Sass
A “broken brain” that
accomplished a great
In the very last chapter of Professor
Elyn Saks’ book The Center Cannot
Hold: My Journey Through Madness,
she states that the reason she writes and
speaks out is: “to bring hope to those
who suffer from schizophrenia, and
understanding to those to those who do
not.” I just have one message for her:
Mission accomplished! After reading
about all the trials and tribulations that
Ms. Saks has endured and survived,
I believe anyone who is fighting the
Go, Do It!
By Martha Seymour
“…each time she put a pill in her mouth it was a
reminder that her brain was profoundly broken
and defective, and that by taking pills she wasn’t
being her authentic self.”
We as consumers and/or anybody ar e very lucky in New York City as summer 2013 appr oaches.
Walking the High Line between 14th Street and about 30th Street is a real treat, though crowded. It runs north and south near 10th Avenue in Manhattan and it is free.
Some of the free or low cost music events in the city include:
1. Julliard-Lincoln Center:
2. Rubin Museum on West 17th Street, it’s free on Friday evenings. There are usually free Asian-type concerts on Wednesday evenings between 5 and 7 p.m.
3. Free concert Sunday, May 5 at 5 p.m. at 178 Bennet Ave at 189th Street in Washington Heights, Manhattan
4. Concerts and free events at the New York Public Library, Performing Arts Division – Lincoln Center:
Some of the free or low cost theatrical events include the Instant Shakespeare Company Productions in branch libraries during the year. A general cultural information
and referral place in New York City is at 810 Seventh Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets (212) 484-1222 and The Atrium by Lincoln Center at 58th Street
can help with discount tickets.
There are many things to do. Walking around a great city such as ours, you will have a good time.
daily battles with schizophrenia, or any
other psychiatric disability, will come
out of the experience with a renewed
spirit. Also, I believe anyone who has
never experienced schizophrenia will
find reading this book an extremely
educational, eye-opening experience.
One very strong point about Ms.
Saks’ writing is her honesty and
candidness, especially when it comes
to her struggles with remaining on her
medication. Ms. Saks points to many
instances when she is doing fairly
well, but then decides to lower or stop
taking her medication altogether and
then almost immediately relapses into
psychosis. Many writers would not
write anything at all that might shine a
negative light on themselves, but Ms.
Saks explains the reasons why she (and
many others) make these decisions
about stopping medications.
It took Ms. Saks many years to
come to terms with the fact that
the medication does help keep the
psychotic thoughts away and that she
must continue to take it, even when
feeling well. She discovered the reason
she would stop taking medication was
that she would feel that each time she
put a pill in her mouth it was a reminder
that her brain was profoundly broken
and defective, and that by taking pills
she wasn’t being her authentic self.
In addition, Ms. Saks said she had to
come to terms and accept that she had
a mental illness. She tells the story of
an analogy a friend told her about a
riptide, that your first instinct is to fight
it, and you use all your energy fighting
it. Ms. Saks was using all her energy
fighting her diagnosis of mental illness
by stopping her medication. Once she
accepted the diagnosis and allowed
the medication to do its job, things
continued to get better.
Ms. Saks also goes into great detail
about the importance of talk therapy
as well as medication in her recovery.
There were many examples in the
book when she was completely off
medication and feeling psychotic and
either reached out to others (friends,
therapists, etc) or they reached out to
Perhaps the most powerful part of
the book is the amazing disparity of
treatment she received while going
through her various psychotic episodes.
Many times it simply came down to a
matter of who noticed the behavior or
which hospital she was admitted to.
The most blatant example of this was
when she was admitted to one hospital
(she was talking incoherently, but not
behaving violently at all) and put in
four-point restraints for days. Just a
Available on Amazon:
The bestselling book about leading a
sucessful life despite psychosis
His eight books about mental health:
short time later, exhibiting the same
exact behavior, a different hospital
nearby felt that no restraints were
necessary at all. And it turns out they
weren’t needed.
Professor Saks is a Graduate of
Oxford University and is a Professor at
the University of Southern California
Gould School of Law. She was able to
achieve all this while having numerous
psychotic episodes throughout the
The Center Cannot Hold: My
Journey Through Madness has won
numerous book awards and was on the
Time magazine top ten best-sellers list
for Non-Fiction books.
New York City Voices – Vol. XVI, No. 4- Spring / Summer 2013 16
classifieds Working and Living Well
Job Opportunities/Special Notices/Roommates/Personals
Employment Agencies
(212) 785-7300
(718) 797-2509
(718) 377-8567
Legal Help
MFY LEGAL SERVICES (212) 417-3700
NYC BAR ASSOCIATION (212) 626-7373
LEGAL AID SOCIETY (212) 426-3000
CUCS (212) 801-3300
(212) 389-9300
OHEL (718) 851-6300
ICL (212) 385-3030
COMMUNITY ACCESS (212) 780-1400
SUS (212) 633-6900
FEGS (212) 366-8400
Clubs and Clubhouses
FOUNTAIN HOUSE, 425 W 47 St. (212) 582-
CHELTON LOFT, 119 W 19 St. (212) 727-
HARLEM BAY NETWORK, 4 W 125 St (212)
264 East Second Street
(212) 780-9008
EAST NY CLUBHOUSE, 2697 Atlantic Ave
(718) 235-5780
Ave (718) 852-2584
SEAMARK CENTER, 2559-65 West 13 St.
(718) 372-0450
(718) 686-3180
METRO CLUB, 25 Chapel St (718) 596-8960
The Bronx
BOULEVARD CLUB, 512 Southern Blvd
(718) 993-1078
CASA LA ESPERANZA, 717 Southern Blvd
(718) 893-0853
GEEL CLUBHOUSE, 564 Walton Ave (718)
St. (718) 361-7030
VENTURE HOUSE, 150-10 Hillside Ave
(718) 658-7201
(718) 526-8400
Staten Island
SKYLIGHT CENTER, 307 St. Mark’s Pl.
(718) 720-2585
Work and Volunteer Positions
advocates. Computer/Office skills, peer
advocacy or related experience a plus. Call
Marianna (718) 855-5929. Advocacy through
empowerment is our mission.
NAMI NYC METRO: assist with office
help, including mailings, answering phones,
organizing files, making phone calls, and
many other office tasks. This position is open
to those without prior experience. Call (212)
684-3264 or email
Telephone Resources
LIFENET: Citywide mental health referral
hotline 24 hours/7 days/week. Call (800)
LIFENET (543-3638).
NAMI HELPLINE: Mental health phone
resource and database (212) 684-3264.
RIPPD: for family members, consumers and
others who want to help consumers in jails,
prisons, and forensic hospitals. Call Lisa (646)
260-6575 or email
NYAPRS: statewide mental health advocacy
group that sponsors events and organizes the
annual Legislative Day. To join call Carla
(212) 780-1400×7726
share your experiences with mental illness
and how you achieved recovery. Inspire
fellow consumers by telling your story of
overcoming illness. Contact Marvin (212)
MHASC: coalition committed to providing
advocacy to consumers in special housing
units in jails and prisons. Call J.J. (646) 602-
THE ICARUS PROJECT: join to help
redefine mental illness as a “dangerous gift.”
The Arts
Fountain Gallery, 702 Ninth Ave at 48th
Street in Manhattan (212) 262-2756. Tues-Sat
11-8, Sun 1-5.
RITA PROJECT: Survivors of suicide
produce artwork at Greenwich House Pottery
near West 4th Street (212) 414-0773 also
NYC Metro, 505 Eighth Ave, (212) 684-3264
Free Support Groups
AWAKENINGS: living successfully with
mental illness groups. Peer-run in Brooklyn.
Call Anthony (718) 875-7744.
ZAPPALORTI SOCIETY support group for
gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transgendered peers
with mental illness. Saturdays 2-4, LGBT
Center 208 W 13 St. Call Bert (917) 286-
NYC Metro helpline (212) 684-3264.
meets Sundays in Queens at the Long Island
Consultation Center (718) 896-3400.
GROUP: monthly group for MICA
consumers. Call (212) 684-3264 for info.
call Marvin (212) 614-6339 to join this
support group.
(718) 488-7555 or Ray (646) 210-8882 for
more information.
My Story
By Emily
Hope you get
something from it
I’m twenty-six and I have social
anxiety and agoraphobia. I’ve had it
since before I can remember, although
I wasn’t diagnosed until I was twentyone.
Anxiety runs in my family.
I was bullied as a child, though I
can’t remember a whole lot from my
childhood, except for various instances
both positive and negative. I don’t
remember a whole lot of the bullying,
just specific feelings and perceptions.
I strongly suspect that I was clinically
depressed since I was twelve or thirteen
years old. I was depressed constantly,
always fighting back tears. Getting out
of bed was a constant struggle. When I
got out of middle school, I improved,
but not much. After I graduated high
school I started to get worse. I was
kicked out of college for missing
so many classes, because I was too
terrified to leave my apartment.
I had suspected I had a mental illness
since I was eleven. I was always terrified
of ending up in a straightjacket, and
would rather be dead than go to a place
where such a thing could occur. I tried
to hide my mental illness for as long
as I could. I was teased a lot for being
weak, although I still think of myself
that way. I wanted to be strong, and so
I would ‘punish’ myself by cutting my
wrists, starving myself, etc.
Age thirteen was the worst time
period, as I began to think about ending
my life. I thought about when or where
and how I would do it, what I would
leave behind, and what I would write
in my note. But I didn’t really want
to leave and searched for any reason
to stay. Right about that time I started
developing coping mechanisms. In
the end, I decided to suffer through it
because dying would hurt my parents.
My parents had sat me down
and told me I really needed to see
a psychologist. I was terrified. The
people I mostly depended on were
throwing me under the bus. But I was
too tired to fight them. When I went
to the psychologist, I could not have
gotten a better one. She was friendly,
comforting and classy. We even shared
the same political beliefs. She made me
feel a whole lot better about everything;
it wasn’t nearly as horrible as I feared it
was going to be.
I was a bit gun-shy about going back
to school because of what happened
at MSU. I went to Drury for a while,
which was great, but the same problem
kept coming up. I got panic attacks
every time I thought about going to
class. So I went on sabbatical. I got a
job at Prometric/Sylvan as a TCA, but I
couldn’t answer the phone so they had
to let me go.
My coping mechanisms included
horseback riding, my dog, Spider-Man,
Harry Potter, and Digimon stories that
exhibit humor and heroism make me
feel much better. I’ve always been
a horse nut. I feel very spiritually
connected when I’m around horses.
I still do those things now, but I also
have other tools. I cover my hair with a
tichel or head scarf, I employ lavender
scents, meditate, pray, exercise, and of
course, take my meds.
My religious path has been long,
arduous, and conflicted. One reason I
was so adamant that I deserved my pain
was I rationalized that God wouldn’t let
this happen to me if I didn’t deserve it.
When I was thirteen, I felt that God
had abandoned me and so I began
questioning Christianity. Now I’m
twenty-six, and a polytheist Pagan.
But, I’m much happier.
“I tried to hide my
mental illness for as
long as I could.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s