Yes, doctors do give you medication that makes you worse.
Yes, misdiagnosis and mental illness stigma are real.
Yes, I spent the better part of 4 “lost years” on the psychiatric wards of beaten down hospitals that had been slated for closure decades before.
Yes, I left the system an order of magnitude more traumatized than when I first “sought help.”
I survived sexual abuse, emotional, psychological and physical abuse by multiple perpetrators. But I also survived what I call, for lack of a better word, institutional abuse within the mental health care system.
South Street Hospital in London, Ontario has now been torn down, demolished to the ground. The psychiatric wards were the last ones to be closed, years after all the medical inpatients had been relocated to a newer and more adequate facility. Once the building was abandoned I re-visited the grounds, the building stood like a ghost, an empty shell, holding the untold stories of so many people just like me. Some of them, like my friend Darlene, didn’t survive those years and lost their lives to suicide. But I made it out and I now provide feminist based peer support to survivors of violence as my full time job.
So many memories from those years mix together with memories of the other traumas in my life and have been resurfacing more than usual recently as intrusive flashbacks. Sometimes I worry that those around me tire of my ongoing struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it is difficult to share the memories. At times I fear I will face disbelief, dismisal or disgust rather than validation and acceptance. I’ve decided the memories are surfacing for a reason and they have to go somewhere. Better out than in? Why not share them with the world?
I am a psychiatric survivor.