This is an interview with Chaya Grossberg who was disabled by psychiatry and then recovered. She now spends her time as an intuitive healer, public speaker and yoga teacher who helps others withdraw from psychiatric drugs and revover if that is what they want to do.
To check out her website and get a feel for her work, read this article: The 4 Less Mentioned Obstacles in Coming off Psychiatric Drugs, and How to Overcome Them.
If you are questioning being on psychiatric medication and want to start thinking about getting off of them she can help. Or can help you find support and provide resources. She is on Twitter, Facebook and has an active YouTube channel.
1. Your story is so incredibly inspiring. You were made disabled by the psychiatric treatments you were given, stating on your blog that you were given diagnoses of psychosis, OCD, depression and anxiety disorder and by the age of 21 were taking seven different pharmaceuticals.
The infamous ‘drug cocktail’ that has become all the rage in psychiatry.
Note from Molly: Back when I was diagnosed with Manic Depression in 1984, there was no such thing as a drug cocktail. That madness – and making millions of Americans disabled with phony bipolar spectrum labels – began in the late 1990s from my understanding with the need to market the new class of antipsychotic medications.
Can you share what propelled you forward, to move away from that form of care that was not helping but making you worse and severely ill. A book? A friend sharing their experience? Other?
I never really believed in pharmaceuticals as an approach for emotional suffering. So the first time I was on psychiatric drugs when I was on Prozac as a teenager I had an intuitive feeling that I didn’t want to be on it anymore, and I just stopped taking it.
Later on I when I was older I knew more about the pharmaceutical industry and a little bit about the mental health system, still not very much, but enough to know that I didn’t want to be hospitalized or put on any drugs.
So when I was put on drugs I went off cold turkey as soon as I could. As soon as I was out of the
hospital and didn’t have anyone forcing me to take them I just stopped taking them. But this time they were more heavy duty drugs like neuroleptics and benzodiazepines so I had severe withdrawal effects without knowing.
Then I was put on a whole bunch more drugs and after a while I didn’t know what was going on and I started to believe that I actually had these mental illnesses and that I would need to be on these drugs for the rest of my life as I was told.
So what inspired me to get off of them and try a natural approach was that I heard others share about their experiences.
I happened to be walking down the street in Northampton, Massachusetts when there was a Freedom Center speak out going on and individuals were talking about how they had stopped taking psychiatric drugs and how they had recovered from the damage that they had caused.
This inspired me to realize that I too could come off of these drugs. I had always been interested in natural health alternatives, and it was only when I was on these pharmaceuticals that I lost my will, motivation and drive to take good care of my body.
2. What resources were available to you when you started to withdraw from psychotropic medications? Can you share the basics of what you did and how long it took?
After my drug fever went away, I decided to try coming off one of the drugs I was on, a neuroleptic called Risperdal. Reducing the drug gave me panic attacks and made me feel truly insane in a way I had never felt before.
So I got back on it by my psychiatrist’s suggestion. Then I had a dream guiding me to reduce Risperdal even more slowly, so I tried again. I was on 6 or so other drugs at the same time including sleeping pills, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and thyroid medication (even though no thyroid problem had ever been determined).
Going very slowly I tapered one drug after another, seeing my energy, aliveness, health and strength rapidly return with each reduction.
There were also all kinds of withdrawal effects including panic, psychosis, fatigue, nausea, lightheadedness, insomnia, loss of appetite, akathesia, etc. It still took me a long time to fully recover from the toxicity and damage done during the two years I was on all those drugs, and there may have been some permanent damage as well.
During this time, I went back to college and finished my degree. It seemed like magic to me since I had not known if I would ever re-enter the outside world. Part of me knew I would recover from the whole experience and live to tell about it, but I had no idea how.
It was during this reduction period that I was introduced to Freedom Center. The Freedom Center was a group of people who identified as psychiatric survivors and I worked with them for about seven years to provide alternative treatments for those experiencing extreme states of consciousness.
I taught yoga, meditation and creative writing and shared my personal story to audiences large and small. Telling my story felt like the most meaningful thing I could do and every time I did it I felt so full of purpose, love, and spiritual guidance.
Having the support of Freedom Center during my transitional period was invaluable. I got so much information from the other survivors than I ever got from doctors or therapists. I wish for everyone to have this type of communal support and hope I can be a voice of reason and confidence in all who need a perspective from someone who has been through it.
3. Your mission now is to “help every single person who wants to come off psychiatric pharmaceuticals do so”. That’s a pretty big goal! In making steps towards turning that dream into a reality what do you think is most important?
Great question. As with every goal, I need to approach it in bite sized chunks and do what I can each day. I meditate and journal and tune into my spiritual guidance most of all. Often times I feel a spirit or intuition guiding me in a certain direction. I also hear voices that help guide me in my work and in helping others.
It’s always a balancing act between serving others and staying healthy and well myself, since none of my sensitivities have gone away and I still have trauma and all of that. The concept of the “wounded healer” works for me for the most part: I can use the medicine from my own trauma as a source of healing for others, and that heals me as well.
Writing everyday is important to me, and getting outside, communicating with nature, plants, etc. this helps bring perspective.
I also take every opportunity to speak at conferences, go on podcasts, make videos, and participate online in ways that can get my message across to as many people as possible. I’d like to hire an assistant soon because I’m learning that doing everything myself has its limitations in terms of reaching the whole world.
A lot of it is based on faith and intention. I believe if we have strong enough of both of these, nothing can stop us from reaching our goals! Though there may be setbacks, having patience, connecting with others on a similar mission, and sticking with it year after year are important with a mission this big. I need to be in it for the long haul.
I’ve also moved around and traveled quite a bit, which, while stressful, gave me opportunities to connect with many people and see many ways in which people struggle with psychiatric drug withdrawal, what can help and what makes things harder.
I also read up on strategies for getting messages out there and have started participating in local business activities in the town I am living in now which doesn’t have a psychiatric survivor’s movement.
I find that talking to ordinary people, everywhere I go, creates a ripple effect. Everyone I’ve ever met has either been through psychiatry themselves or has someone close to them who has, and everyone on psychiatric drugs has mixed feelings about it (or completely hates it).
4. How can others, like myself, who also want to be the counter-voice to what is primarily Big Pharma propaganda about psychiatric medications help?
I find myself getting angry quite a bit, and uncharateristically lashing out at others who want me to be quiet, want to keep promoting the ‘Chemical Imbalance’ theory as that is what they were led to believe is their problem and they think more drugs, more reseach etc. is the answer.
I’m seen as a threat, and my guess is you have had this reaction at some point to some extent as well.
How did you get beyond that? If someone wants to believe the sky is green, regardless of all evidence it is blue, not much you can do to educate and change their belief.
That’s how propanada works – by instilling false beliefs in those who are not able to discern reality from the fictional lies being used to manipulate them. And psychiatry led by Big Pharma has decades of success with their propaganda efforts.
I’d recommend all of the above such as writing, podcasting, speaking at conferences and talking to ordinary people. Meditation, going for walks in nature and journaling can all help you to find your voice and tune in with which direction is calling you.
Continuing to network with others who have a similar mission both online and in real life can help a lot too! Sometimes online connections can also become real friends who you talk to on the phone or even meet in person, which can help to feel less alone.
I’ve definitely, of course, encountered a lot of the push back you refer to here. I used to want to yell at everyone and bash them over the head with the truths I’d learned about psychiatry. It can be very hard to listen to people spew propaganda.
Over time I have become used to it, and learned to discern who is ready for my message and who is not, or who is ready for a little bit of it, and who wants the full story.
When people ask me what I do, I often start by saying something benign such as, “I am a consultant in an alternative mental health niche.” Then of course they want to know more, and I try to answer their questions, eventually revealing that I support people whose lives have been ruined by psychiatry.
It can be very awkward or very affirming for people depending on where they are at.
The main thing is I can’t educate everyone, only those who are actually interested and open to seeing things differently than the mainstream medical model. Sometimes people have never heard of an alternative model before and it takes them time to digest.
One tactic is to talk about different cultures and how the Western medical model is only one way of viewing emotional distress. There are many other models in different cultures, time periods etc.
You are right though. We are up against a big industry with a lot of financial clout to spread their propaganda. We need to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves as we bring out our messages.
Another strategy is to share from personal experience, which may be less threatening and help people see another way of approaching things.
5. I feel a sense of urgency about this issue and from reading your blog I know you do too. You and I know the way ‘business as usual’ works now in psychiatry is to keep covering up side effects and the dangers of psychotropic medications while creating more and more of them.
And we both know it means more people becoming getting sicker, more dying from suicide and adverse effects from these medications triggering more acts of violence and other forms of criminal behavior in some who take these meds.
Folks need ways to heal (both physically and emotionally), not be drugged and overloaded with toxic chemicals.
What do you think is the most important first step towards withdrawing from psychiatric meds? What advice would you give to someone who is reading this and wants to take steps towards becoming med-free?
I feel this way too. I have lost countless friends and colleagues to psychiatric drugs and psych drug induced suicide. It truly is heartbreaking and can make us feel helpless, and of course be retraumatizing.
I think the most important step is to find and/or gather a supportive community. There is so much power in our collective beliefs for better or worse. Sometimes the biggest obstacles are the limiting beliefs of someone’s family, friends and community.
I would recommend fortifying oneself as much as possible with friends, psychiatric survivors and others who get it and will be supportive in the withdrawal process. Read as much as you can and reach out to those whose writings resonate with you.
Finding a good naturopath, herbalist, nutritionist, acupuncturist, hands on healer, intuitive guide and/or other type of holistic practitioner can also be useful. This person should have experience with psychiatric drug withdrawal either personally or through helping others.
Being patient can also help. Finding a larger sense of purpose in life is invaluable. Using your own experiences to reach out to others who are isolated can give a sense of meaning to help get through difficult withdrawal symptoms.
During withdrawal, being very easy on yourself, and taking as much time off as possible, to rest and recalibrate is key. Reading spiritual books, sleeping, gentle movement (or vigorous exercise when anxious) and some form of meditation during withdrawal, when possible, can offer moments of peace during the process, which may be grueling at times.
Studying different forms of holistic medicine such as Ayurveda and Chinese medicine or even Western herbalism can help to feel gradually more empowered about healing our bodies, and feeling more empowered over our emotional states.
We will never be fully in control. Prayer in whatever way makes sense to you, or simply setting intentions can be a good daily practice as well.
So much of what you share above resonated with me and I am sure it does with others as well. I love the ‘ripple effect’ analogy and I hope this article contributes to that with making more aware of the work you do, and the Freedom Center you mention above.
The death by suicide from psych meds making someone’s emotional-physical-mental-spiritual suffering worse needs to become better understood. They give a changed chemical state in the body from ingesting the drug but treat nothing identifiable, are not treating any validly diagnosed illness.
Related post: Understanding the Placebo Effect of Antidepressants.
And you speak so well to that above, thank you. I’m learning so much and you are a bit ahead of me in some ways, as you’ve been learning and participating for decades in these issues and speaking about them in so many forums.
Thank you for all the work you do and so glad to connect. Hugs, Molly