June 1, 2017

Stories From the Psych Ward: Why Drugs Aren’t the Cure for Mental Illness.

I was arrested, taken to the psych ward, and forcefully held down and injected with pharmaceutical drugs.

After regaining consciousness, I was constantly being pressured by doctors—and even most of my friends and family—to take medication.

I stood strong. I made it out of the hospital without taking drugs and eventually found peace of mind naturally through yoga and a healthy lifestyle.

So how did I end up in the psych ward? Well, at the time of my arrest I believed I was Jesus…Yes, I was that kind of crazy. But before we get there, let’s back up.

The week before blacking out in a hospital bed, I was living in Los Angeles and playing poker professionally. I was 23, playing in high-stakes card games with celebrities and trashing hotel rooms in Vegas. I was living the life I always dreamed of. But under the surface, I wasn’t truly happy.

I took a trip to go clubbing in Miami, but it took a bizarre turn when I met a woman who blew the lid off my concept of reality. She was exotic with curves everywhere, a tight dress, and a microscopic waist. Her name was Victoria.

I approached her audaciously on the street and we sat down for coffee, but I soon realized the conversation was going in a different direction than my hotel room. My contrived lines to impress women rebounded responses like, “Is that the truth?” She saw right through my poker face and called me out on my bullsh*t.

I rapidly developed a sincere respect for her. During our brief interaction, I transformed into an attentive student. She told me things I would have usually laughed at like, “Everything is consciousness,” but in that moment, her words hit my soul. Her presence was like a spotlight allowing me to see my true self.


It’s difficult to explain why, but after my conversation with Victoria, I felt pure bliss in every ordinary moment. I felt I was connected to everything around me, as opposed to a separate and lonely being. For the first time in my adult life—having struggled with anxiety and depression for over 10 years—I was truly happy.

I did a total 180. I was no longer interested in suppressing my emotions. My stoic poker player personality was replaced with a new eccentric charisma. I was unusually confident in myself. At one point, I climbed to the top of a 30-foot palm tree in my socks; I wasn’t even in good shape.

I knew for sure that I wanted to give up my career of exploiting addicted gamblers. I felt called to help people instead, but I wasn’t exactly sure how. When a young kid asked for a donation to support his basketball team, I took him to a store and bought him a pair of Air Jordans. I wanted my money to flow toward positive missions or well-intended people, as opposed to $500 bottles of vodka at the club.

Although partying was a big part of my identity, I was completely over it. I decided I was done with drinking and smoking weed. I felt a strong desire to heal my body and get in shape. Without any knowledge of detoxing, I naturally began eating less and drinking water and tea.

I experienced a level of self-worth that was new to me. I felt like I had the power to manifest anything I wanted. I felt I deserved everything I desired. It was like I was in a lucid dream. I didn’t understand what I was feeling, and I needed a way to explain it to myself. I had been a staunch atheist for most of my life, but atheism didn’t fit with what I was experiencing. It seemed like there was something more to life.

Feeling so powerful, combined with my new philanthropic attitude, and Victoria mentioning Christ in our conversation, led to my irrational conclusion. I thought I was Jesus! It made perfect sense at the time. It’s a psychological phenomenon called the “Messiah complex.” Naturally, believing this about myself, I wanted to begin preaching. I sounded batsh*t crazy on the phone with friends and family back home in Michigan.

Blissed Out in Handcuffs.

My parents were extremely worried about me because of my complete personality shift—actually they thought I was on drugs––and so they called the police. Six officers surrounded me in a public cafe and began strapping electrodes all over my body. I was calm and answering their questions.

They said I needed to go to the hospital, but it didn’t make sense that they could force me to go. I hadn’t done anything illegal. Eventually I realized there was an easy way, or a hard way, so I didn’t resist the handcuffs. While in the back of the police car, I was still blissed out, singing along with the cops to my favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers song.

After a few hours at the hospital—remaining relaxed and passing the drug tests—I was astonished when the doctors told me I needed to stay the night. That’s when I felt trapped and lost my cool, yelling frantically for a lawyer.

Almost immediately, a guy so big he could have played for the New York Giants entered the room and held me down to the cot. I was pleading for them not to drug me as the nurse jabbed a giant needle into my arm. I lost consciousness after that. That was the most f*cked up moment of my life. The next four days were trying for my soul.

Inside the Psych Ward.

In the state of Florida, The Baker Act says that anyone who is presumed a danger to themselves or others—or not acting “normal”—can be arrested, hospitalized, and drugged against their will.

I regained consciousness sitting at a table across from a guy in a white coat with some documents laid out in front of me. He said I needed to sign the papers. My vision was blurry and I could barely remember how I got there, let alone read a legal document. He was angry, impatient, and frustrated, raising his voice and telling me that I needed to give my signature. I didn’t sign.

While in the psych ward I was consistently told that I would remain in the custody of the state for the rest of my life unless I gave consent to take drugs. For a little while, I started to believe it.

I was the only patient who wasn’t on any medication. “You have to take your medication,” was the constant mantra from the hospital staff. “No thank you,” I would say with a smile. I knew If I could stay level-headed they wouldn’t be able to force drugs on me.

I got the sense that many of the doctors and nurses did not see me as a human being. I was labeled as just another patient with bipolar disorder experiencing a state of mania.

I made friends with my fellow lunatics. Stephen was a top chef at a flashy Miami restaurant for many years. One day, he lost his job and soon after that his wife left him. He was heartbroken from the divorce and stressed about his financial situation.

Magdalia had struggled her whole life, being bullied as a young girl. She was always getting into fights and her parents told her she was worthless. She was dealing with so much anxiety and emotional baggage that she developed a condition where she was pulling out her own hair.

The doctors were giving them pills. I’m not convinced it was helping though. As I see it, we were all people who did not have the emotional intelligence to deal with the feelings we were processing. We were experiencing the natural ups and downs of being human. I think we needed to feel our emotions, not numb ourselves to them.

There was one man who faced more severe challenges. He would run around the halls naked with a towel in his mouth screaming absurdly. His name was Frank. He was on so many different tranquilizers and antipsychotics that one of the side effects caused him to bite his tongue; it would constantly bleed. My intuition told me that somewhere behind the mask of drugs, there was a person. I wonder what might have happened if I caved in. Would I have ended up like Frank?

Getting Free: The Aftermath.

Throughout the night, I would hear random screams from down the hall and my roommate always talked to himself. It’s called the psych ward, but, in reality, it is a place full of people who are addicted to drugs. Thinking back, I find it hard to believe that I was able to keep it together.

I repeatedly expressed to the doctors that I would consider taking medication for my condition, if they let me out. It was a bluff. To my absolute elation—after seriously beginning to believe that I would never leave—I was set free. I will never forget the misty Miami air, like a diamond-studded warm blanket wrapping her arms around me as I walked away from the hospital. Freedom.

After returning to my life in Los Angeles, a part of me needed to convince my friends, family, and even myself that I wasn’t crazy. At times, I felt terrified that if I became too emotive I would end up back in the looney bin. So I adopted my old “normal and sane” lifestyle of drinking, partying, and gambling; all of the things I was so adamantly against only a week earlier.

In the state of consciousness I was experiencing, feeling the happiest of my life and accessing my creative potential, I felt misunderstood, unaccepted, and abandoned by many of my closest friends and family members. I was angry at them for a long time. I blamed them for what happened. I know now that the people in my life were simply reacting to my change in behavior in the best way they knew how. I have forgiven them, and I no longer hold to a victim mentality. I also had to forgive myself for the stress I put on them. They were worried about me, and, at the time, I didn’t have the awareness to realize that.

Six months after walking away from my One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest experience I took my first yoga class. I gave it a try because I was having back spasms, but I soon realized the benefits expanded far beyond healing my physical body. I began to practice every day. One year after walking out of the psych ward, I joined a yoga teacher training and quit my toxic lifestyle as a poker player.

Yoga means union and is the process of creating deep intimacy with life itself. Expanding beyond putting the body into physical postures, it encompasses breathing techniques and meditation. It is not a religion, but rather a technology for bringing balance into the life of anyone who practices it. It is a powerful tool for building emotional intelligence, an important skill for people with mental health issues.

Miracle Pills or a Damn Good Business Model?

Surely we can all hear the cliche drug commercial playing in our minds: A woman’s sweet voice rattling off a list of disturbing side effects while children play with puppies in the background. It’s insane to me that a “medication” can have that many negative side effects.

Pharmaceutical drugs are marketed to us relentlessly. Seventy-eight million Americans take some form of psychiatric medication including one million children under the age of five. With that many customers, it doesn’t take a math wizard to realize these guys are making a killing.

And they are literally making killings. More Americans die every year from overdoses on psychiatric medication than from heroin. These 15,000 deaths per year from “medication” are only part of the story. What about all the people like Frank who are living in hell from the side effects?

With shocking statistics like this, why do doctors continue to prescribe these drugs so frequently? Could it have something to do with doctors receiving money from drug companies? In the United States, between 2009 and 2010, there were 380 doctors who received over $100,000 from drug companies. They were the top earners of over 17,000 doctors who accepted money from Big Pharma that year.

But does this money affect their decision making when it comes to writing prescriptions? A statistical analysis comparing doctors who receive money from pharmaceutical companies, and doctors who did not, suggests that it does. Doctors of psychiatry who received over $5,000 per year were 38% more likely to prescribe brand name medication to their patients, than doctors who received no money at all. We can’t put all the blame on the doctors though. They are trained to label patients and prescribe accordingly.

The psychiatric facilities where these doctors work have been known to engage in questionable behaviors as well. America’s biggest psychiatric hospital chain is currently under investigation by the FBI. They are charged with delaying people’s release dates to milk their insurance. “Don’t leave days on the table,” is what employees are told. In such instances, a hospital will, “ignore the recommendations of its own clinicians to discharge patients, pressure the clinicians to keep patients in a hospital as long a patient’s insurance policy will pay for treatment, or employ clinicians who are complicit in the scheme,” said John Althen, an FBI spokesperson.

I experienced this kind of corruption firsthand. After 48 hours even my parents were telling the doctors to release me. Instead, I stayed the full four days allowed by my insurance—enduring constant upsells on “medication”—for what turned out to be a $12,000 hospital bill.

The Natural Health Revolution.

It’s time for a change. When something doesn’t qualify for a patent, there’s not much money in selling it. It’s not possible to patent meditation techniques, breathing exercises, or herbs that can help release trauma.

When I began to live a healthier lifestyle, my mental health flourished. I learned about proper nutrition, practiced yoga, meditated, read spiritual books, and journaled. I became more in alignment with my life purpose of being in service to others. There is no pill that can make us feel fulfilled, valued, and loved. These things can only come from within.

Depression, anxiety, and most of these mental health labels are not genetic conditions. Such unbalanced mental states are caused by our life experiences, other environmental factors like our diet and lifestyle, and most of all, a lack of good information on properly processing emotion.

These mental health boxes are dehumanizing and provide the justification for pumping us full of drugs. By seeing people free of labels—not as schizophrenics and bipolars—we can create the space for one of the fundamental healing ingredients: authentic human connection.

It is not easy to go against the grain though. Most people do whatever their doctors tell them to. We have the opportunity now to take back our power. We can begin to think for ourselves. It’s time to resist.

We have Infinite Value.

Although I was in a state of bliss when I arrived at the hospital, I was nonetheless emotionally unstable. I believed I was Jesus after all, so it’s no surprise where I ended up. I now realize my misunderstanding. I thought I was more special than everyone else. But as I see it today, we are all equally special. Most of us have simply forgotten our true divine nature.

I believe we have infinite value and that includes my friends from the psych ward. I don’t see them as lesser citizens because of their so-called mental illnesses. I was fortunate enough to escape the grasp of the medical establishment, but some people are not so lucky. The chances of finding happiness are slim for those living in mental hospitals. But what about normal people who continue to suffer, despite being on “the right medication”?

Is it possible that there is a better way to create happiness? And if there is, and we do indeed have infinite value, is it possible that we deserve it?

Click here to find out if your doctor is taking “thinly veiled kickbacks” from pharmaceutical companies.

***People who choose to go off medication need to do so under supervision. It can be dangerous. On a physical level, the body begins to detoxify from the pharmaceuticals. Emotionally, feelings suppressed by the drugs may begin to surface. It is important to have a supportive network of friends and family to help hold space.***



Author: John Miller
Image: Wikicommons
Editor: Travis May

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