I remember listening in the office that first day, my eyes wet with tears. I wanted to believe this was a battle Nathan could win, but until now there had been no one who agreed. Dr. McCready and Dr. Popper were the first to validate Nathan’s experience and treat him with respect, "He can learn to manage this," they said.
We'd seen mental health units with their green hospital walls, barred windows, white-coated professionals, locked metal doors. The first time we walked into Popper and McCready's Center we were struck by the difference: framed art on the walls, sun shining through open windows with no bars, front door, unlocked, smiling receptionist, and Frederick Nietzsche's welcome, "That which does not destroy me makes me stronger."
After everything our son had been through, this was the first place someone wanted to hear his story. He talked because he felt affirmed. Because they sincerely believed in him Nathan began to understand and trust himself. They treated him as a friend, a fellow-traveler through life with challenges common to mankind. What he learned at the Center forms his behavior even today many years later. He's doing well now, supporting and challenging himself, and he has a deeper understanding of himself and other humans, truly a unique view of life."
“I had a life before these medications [ Psychiatric or Psychotropic ] and I am going to have a life without them!" "Good for you!" comes the unexpected reply from Dr. Mark Popper, Assistant Director of San Joaquin Psychotherapy Center, on the other end of the phone. For me the moment is like an epiphany. A moment of realization that a long awaited prayer has been answered.
My usage of these drugs led to the surrender of any control I had of my life. This occurrence was years before this phone conversation I am engaged in. Taking back control returned my life to me but sometimes I felt isolated without a social support system that understood the real dangers and inner havoc these drugs inflict. My present husband offers some solace because his first wife died as a result of medications inappropriately prescribed. Blood clots formed in the heart, leading to a massive heart attack and stroke, blasting friable brain tissue to irreversible damage.
During the time of this first conversation, my daughter is drugged against my will and I feel helpless, like a mother whale in the ocean watching my child flip flop in a puddle of water . The drugs are inflicting harm and I know it. I can see it as the poisonous effects give a pasty, pale color to the skin, hair falls out in larger than normal amounts, short term memory is impaired leading to increase difficulty in school, a dazed look without any sparkle in the eyes and aimlessly wandering. I can hear it in the frequent mutterings about wishing for death.( Later she tells me during that time she had forgotten what it felt like to feel happy.) A letter to Dr. Peter Breggin ( Author of Toxic Psychiatry) returns a letter from Ginger Breggin with words of hope and a suggestion to contact SJPC.
The above call and response I receive gives me the courage to give Dr. Popper a tour of my past. I talk and he listens . In my memories I wander - a bad first marriage , psychiatric hospitalizations, drug reactions, a brush with death from sleep deprivation, Choral Hydrate and alcohol, the death of a best friend,( Renee was killed when she fell into a deep construction trench and a mound of dirty toppled over her) and molestation as a young girl. Then insidiously as dreams help surface a small portion of my memory bank, as if held in a clutched hand, a deeply repressed childhood memory gradually and in pieces comes into the light, gang raped by teenage neighbors. In the nearly 3 years of using psychiatric medications and being under so called psychiatric care, that clutched hand never even got close to opening up. Dr. Popper asks me why I never told anyone. At that point it is easy to be honest with him. “ In order to talk about something like that, one first has to admit it happened to them .”
In the midst of my own mind travels a window of opportunity opens as my daughter agrees to try the day program at SPJC. She's off the psychiatric medications and is back swimming in the ocean called life. SJPC maybe SPC now and have a different executive director but Dr. Popper does honor to the legacy started by Dr. McCready. And for me it feels good to be able to really trust a Dr. again.
Truely, Judith Gooding, RN