“Citizens Commission on Human Rights”

Here is an organization that some of you may be familiar with.  It’s CCHR, the self-proclaimed “Citizens Commission on Human Rights.”  It refers to itself as a “watchdog investigating and exposing psychiatric human rights violations.”  www.cchr.org.  A review of its web site and claims provides a valuable lesson in prejudices and falsehoods about mental illness, as well as fallacious reasoning.

The group purports to “expose” the harmful effects that the supposedly bogus psychiatric drug industry has on Americans.  They deny the usefulness of psychiatric drugs to millions of people.  Indeed, they deny the very existence of psychiatric illness, as remarkable as that is.  Their web site is full of inaccuracies, distortions and hokum.

Here is a juicy piece from their web site that powerfully demonstrates their extreme ignorance of the uses and benefits of psychiatric drugs:

“Once reserved for the mentally disturbed, today it would be difficult to find someone—a family member, a friend or a neighbor—who hasn’t taken some form of psychiatric drug. In fact, these have become such a part of life for many people that “life without drugs” is simply unimaginable.”

“Mentally disturbed”?  What does that mean?  Would I find that in the DSM?  It’s also not a particularly flattering or respectful term for people with brain illnesses.

An excerpt from their web site incorrectly and disingenuously denies the very existence of psychiatric illness:

“Psychiatric disorders are not medical diseases. There are no lab tests, brain scans, X-rays or chemical imbalance tests that can verify any mental disorder is a physical condition. This is not to say that people do not get depressed, or that people can’t experience emotional or mental duress, but psychiatry has repackaged these emotions and behaviors as “disease” in order to sell drugs. This is a brilliant marketing campaign, but it is not science.”

This is a classic false premise fallacy.  If you cannot “prove” by a concrete lab test or “chemical imbalance test” that someone positively does or does not have a particular illness, it does not exist.  There is no “disease.”  False.  The presence of an illness need not depend upon a litmus test.  Brain illnesses are real medical diseases.  They do have roots in genetics and brain functioning, as well as personal history and other factors.  And they are diagnosed subtly through a process of rigorous questioning and psychological and medical treatment.  Diagnosing and treating mental illness is not as easy as this group makes it sound, but that does not detract one iota from the scientific nature of these processes or the illnesses they concern.

Here is an outright lie:

“Authors Richard Hughes and Robert Brewin, in their book, The Tranquilizing of America,warned that although psychotropic drugs may appear “to ‘take the edge off’ anxiety, pain, and stress, they also take the edge off life itself…these pills not only numb the pain but numb the whole mind.” In fact, close study reveals that none of them can cure, all have horrific side effects, and due to their addictive and psychotropic (mind-altering) properties, all are capable of ruining a person’s life.”

While some medications may cause a numbing effect in some people, it is totally misleading to suggest that all or even most psychiatric meds “numb the whole mind.”  It is even more outrageous to state that “close study reveals that none of them can cure” mental illnesses.  True, many mental illnesses are not “curable” as such, but neither is diabetes.  The point is that these medications help improve the lives of people living with real, devastating, and sometimes life-threatening illnesses.  Millions of people.

Here is a classic guilt by association fallacy:  “Consider also the fact that terrorists have used psychotropic drugs to brainwash young men to become suicide bombers.”  First, the term “psychotropic drug” could mean anything from prozac to heroin.  Just because some criminals or violent radicals use drugs to influence people to nefarious purposes has nothing to do with drugs used to help people.

Here they claim that 78 million Americans are taking psychiatric drugs:  http://www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-drugs/people-taking-psychiatric-drugs/

I have not been able to find the specific source of this alleged study, much less examined the results.  I would appreciate anyone who has a lead.

Here is another “source” that has worked its way around the internet:  “We do not know the causes [of any mental illness]. We don’t have the methods of ‘curing’ these illnesses yet.” —Dr. Rex Cowdry, psychiatrist and director of National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1995″

I see this exact quote on many web sites, with the same brackets.  But I can’t find the full text in which this edited statement occurs.  If I can’t find the full text, I don’t know the context. In any event, even if it’s correct, it’s use is misleading.  We do not know with 100% accuracy the specific roots of mental illness in a given individual.  But science has a pretty good idea of the range of causes for mentally ill people in general.  They include, variously depending upon the individual: genetics, family history, personal history such as sexual or physical abuse, trauma such as the loss of a loved one or involvement in war, other stressors, alcohol or other substance abuse, and other factors.  These risk factors often work in combination.

Do we know everything about what causes mental illness?  No, of course not.  But neither do we know everything about cancer, but that does not mean that cancer is not a medical reality and that there are not treatments for it.  The point is that for both mental illness and many other medical illnesses–including cancer–we know just the tip of the iceberg.  But science is learning more and more people every day.  And it is able to help more and more people every day.

This is all not to deny that there may be some over-medication.  It’s also not to deny that there is a large, powerful corporate complex profiting from pushing all kinds of drugs on people.  But what it does mean that we cannot deny either the real, medical nature of psychiatric illness or the genuine benefit that many drugs do provide for millions of people.

In any event, I’ll finish my screed by pointing out the lesson of all this:  beware of bullshit and the many forms in which it comes.

Funny listicle

I’m on a roll today.

Funny listicle about 25 things only someone with bipolar would understand:


Checking in

I’d like to check it since it has been a while.

The only news to report is my depression has been continuing. I’m in a transition in my therapy, which may have something to do with it. I left my old therapist months ago. She was capable and well-meaning, but did not have any expertise in bipolar. I felt our sessions were going nowhere.

I recently began working with another therapist, but due to work commitments, have not had a consistent schedule with her. I’m trying to settle into a regular routine with her. So far, my therapy has been ineffective due to this inconsistency. But she is a good therapist with experience with bipolar. So I am trying to be hopeful.

Another source of instability is the fact that I am still in between psychiatrists. My psychiatrist was excellent. But he left private practice. And I’ve been looking for a new one for months.

I tried a well-respected psychiatrist for a while. But it took ages to get an appointment with him. I had to see his RN first. Then I was told I could see him at a later date. But just before that later date, I received a call informing me that I would once again have to meet with an RN. So rescheduled for a month out.

Finally, I met with the his eminence in the flesh. And what a disappointment. The epitome of the disengaged, aloof psychiatrist that one finds sometimes in the field. The entire session last for no more than 5 minutes, which is remarkable giving that I was seeing him for the first time. (Short sessions are sometimes appropriate for follow-ups if there’s not much to discuss.)

He stared at his computer for the first few minutes. Then told me he was upping my medication. Almost no consultation. He asked me one or two questions. That’s it.

It was an enormous letdown.

So now I’ve located another shrink. I will see him in a month. He wasn’t available sooner, unfortunately. I need a change in my meds now though. So I will have to suffer for another month unfortunately. Not sure what I can do at this point.

I’ll update later.

Keeping away from the future

This post is about focusing on the present as best as one can.

One problem many people with depression and bipolar struggle with is hopelessness about the future.  It can be irrational, but often attaches itself to real world events.  It’s a kind of inflationary problem; it takes real world concerns and balloons them up to an absurd size.

One subject of my recent hopelessness–actually, one that I’ve had for going on 10 years now–is my work.  In short, I hate my job.  I don’t like to whine.  I’m luck to have a job.  Last year I lost my job and didn’t have steady work for almost a year.  As the only income earner for my family, that was a difficult time.

But still, even while I appreciate my job, I still hate it.  I feel that I made some important mistakes years ago by falling into my line of work.  Trouble is that when you get on a particular career path, it is difficult to switch course.  And since I’m still the only bread winner, it’s even more difficult.

So what should I try to remember?  How does a depressed person keep a realistic, and not pessimistic, view of the future?

One important fact is that my wife will hopefully be getting a professional license soon and can go back to work after a long period as a homemaker.  Of course, the job market is terrible and it will likely take her a while.  But I trust her abilities and know she will be persistent.  And we are looking for something for her in the interim.

Another fact that I try to remember is that I am a capable person.  It’s so hard to believe this, though, deep down.  One consequence of my depression and dissatisfaction with my job is that I feel that I’m incompetent.  So I try to remember times when I excelled at my job.  The flip side is that my bipolar affects my ability to do my work.  I get depressed, distracted; I make stupid mistakes.  It will be a challenge.  There’s the “realistic” thinking.  Not overly optimistic, not pessimistic.

So if I am capable, though, I may be able to make the transition to another job.  I just have to be persistent.  When my wife begins working, I can afford to look for something that pays less but that I enjoy.

It’s a struggle.  That’s why I have to try to keep my focus on the present.


I wrote the last post a while back but only just posted.  Since then, I’ve gone through a period of feeling relatively well.  My meds were working.  I was writing again and getting a lot done.

Now I’m back in a low period.  My mood has sunk.  My book again is on the back burner.  There’s a lot going on in my life.  My wife is taking the bar exam, so I am picking up the slack around the house.  That has taken a toll, especially since I am simultaneously busy at work.  It all adds up.

I can’t wait for some time on my own.

On the bright side, I picked up an old volume of Chekhov’s stories.  I haven’t read Chekhov in years, perhaps more than a decade.  It’s like returning to an old friend.  It’s good to enjoy something again, no matter how minor.

As Joel and others have pointed out here and elsewhere, our medications do not erase our personalities.  They allow to take control of our lives and develop ourselves and our personalities.  They are in that way empowering.

But for several years, now, I have felt on and off the meds that I have lost part of my personality.  I used to read and love it (though it has always and remains an excruciating and slow process for me).  I used to love art.  There was a time when I was involved in activism.  And I loved talking about all of these things.

Now, my life is dominated by preoccupations, both external and internal.  In my head, the mindless, futile, obsessive thoughts are an ever-present part of my inner life.  At times they overwhelm everything else, until I feel little else.

And I seek mindless activities to fall into and obliterate myself.  YouTube videos.  Silly films.  Television.  I seldom read.  I seldom watch challenging films.  My writing is on the back burner.

My malady is probably not the result of my meds.  As noted, it started before I entered upon a course of bipolar treatment medication.

Perhaps it started as a feeble shield against my illness.  Now, I fear, it is the fear of dealing with the world that keeps me from shedding my passivity and numbness.

Does this happen to others?  Is it a “primary gain” in the Freudian terminology (as an external motivator to rely on one’s illness to avoid responsibilities or as an excuse for one’s actions)?  I don’t know.

When I was on a roller coaster of emotions, I wanted the obliteration of avoiding my emotions and reality in general.  Part of this was avoiding thinking about and dealing with the consequences of my illness on my life (financially and otherwise).  It was painful.  But a part of me just couldn’t face it.

Life is a delicate balance.

World Bipolar Reminded Me of Why I Want to Find Myself

Of course my illness is not me.  I often struggle to find myself.  There are so many selves I have hoped to be, hoped to find.  I feel that, one by one, I have had them drain away from me.  Perhaps they were stolen, perhaps they were never there.  Recently I had gotten to the point of not caring, of withdrawing into nihilism.  I had resigned and checked out of life.

But then my wife kept reminding me of the one thing that I absolutely must hang on to:  my daughter.  “If you do it for no one else, do it for her.”  My daughter is achingly attached to me.  And I am equally attached to her.

As I descend into depression or withdraw into my racing mind, I become distant from her.  I lose my time with her and she loses her time with me.  More frightening, I have been experiencing explosive anger lately. I have yelled at her more than once and snapped at my wife.  This was a wake up call to me like no other.

I got on Klonopin and told my wife she was not to leave my daughter alone with me in the house.  Not because I feared hitting her, but because I feared yelling at her.  Twelve step programs often speak of the need to “hit bottom” before rising up again.  I always believed that term so indeterminate as to mean almost nothing.  And I have had days when I have felt far worse than I have felt recently.  I’m not sure what kept me from checking into a hospital those times.  But when you have to tell your wife she can’t leave your daughter alone with you…

My illness is not me, but perhaps recent events, losing my job, getting a proper diagnosis, and realizing the importance of my health to my most precious daughter, may lead me to myself.

I am taking steps.  I am considering changing a career.  I’m picking up an instrument.  The last twenty years of my life cannot be regained, but perhaps the next forty can be a time of blossoming.