I am no one special or exceptional... only another human being with stories to tell, and dreams to share. I hope that some of you at least can receive me with open minds and receptive hearts. 

Some of these events are difficult to write about. I come to you as a survivor of abuse in the home... which my family and the 'professionals' attempted to conceal with a psychiatric 'diagnosis' pinned on me from a very early age. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak. I'm not looking for sympathy... but if something I write about or share in some other manner can spare another child some of what I experienced, it will have been worth my while. 

I was born in the city of Montreal, Canada on the twenty-seventh of April, 1958. Both my parents were from Toronto, but were living in Montreal at the time they met and were married. Then I came along... then a little more than a year later the first of my four younger siblings came into the world. In March of 1960, my parents returned to the city of their birth with myself and my younger sister in tow. 

Despite a middle-class, suburban upbringing, my childhood was anything but idyllic... the emotional blackmail and put-downs were a constant factor. As the oldest, the expectations of me were higher than for my younger sisters and brother... and the consequences of failure were devastating. Despite the number of times I was whipped with a leather belt, or struck across the face hard enough to knock me from my feet, it was the emotional abuse that was the hardest to deal with... reinforced as it was by the ever-present threat of violence. The difference between physical and emotional wounds is that physical injuries heal... 

The most difficult thing is that there was genuine love in my family as well... that was what made the violence and emotional cruelty even harder to bear, coming seemingly at random as it did. Never mind the medical model... it is (in my opinion) having this kind of dichotomy in a child's life that lies at the root of so-called 'mental illness.' And believe me, it tore me apart. 

From the age of six or seven I had developed a rage inside of me that threatened at times to tear me asunder... believe me when I say that this is something no child should have to experience. Of course my family's response was to take me to a shrink... meaning I had been designated as the problem, and my family was absolved of any responsibility for their abusive behavior. 

Much of my school career was spent in so-called 'special ed' ...meaning I was segregated from the rest of the school population while classes were in session... then I walked around with an invisible target on my back at all other times. And I found myself facing additional abuse at the hands of school officials as well... the principal of my first grade school was a cruel, bullying man. Later on, I was placed in another 'school' program run by two women who purported to be social workers... their 'educational' techniques consisted of frequent screaming tirades accompanied by kicks and slaps. I was to spend three years in the company of this pair. Subsequent to that, there was a two-year period when I did not attend school at all and received tutoring at home. 

High school was no better, complicated as it was by the difficulties faced by every child entering adolescence. Plus the fact that I was going into the situation with reasonable intelligence but no self-esteem or life skills. I was to make it halfway through the eleventh grade...I didn't so much 'drop out' as I fled in terror. My family had me placed in a group home at this time. Then one fateful night I found myself in a situation that resulted in me being physically restrained by the staff - not because off any violent action on my part; I was merely trying to walk away from a conversation I wanted no part of. But I was not permitted to do so. To make a long story short, I was stuffed into a van at eleven o'clock at night, and accompanied by two group home staff, I was taken to Toronto's Queen Street Mental Health Centre, where I was shot full of Thorazine.

I was to spend only one night there... that time. The group home agreed to take me back, providing I accepted going on 'medication.' I was given a prescription for Mellaril... another Thorazine-type drug. 

I had been on some kind of trank as a child for several years... but it had felt so much better being free of this garbage. The Mellaril hit me like a freight train... the whole point of administering that stuff or other drugs like it is to immobilize people. It certainly had nothing to do with healing... my nerves felt like they were on fire, amd although virtually immobilized, sleep was difficult. (More dichotomy!) 

My relationship with the group home ended less than a month later with another (attempted) forced committal... this time I saw it coming and attempted to bolt. But the drugs slowed me down too much... once more I was wrestled to the ground and dragged off to the loony bin by force.

Surprisingly my family intervened and removed me from the situation, to give them credit. As it stood, I was to return to Queen Street as an outpatient by my own choosing - hell, I was desperately lonely and scared, and totally unprepared for life. I spent a year and a half in 'daycare' ...meaning I was on the ward during the day, Monday to Friday, while actually living at home. The drugs continued... at the peak they were hitting me with 400 milligrams a day of Mellaril, and twenty milligrams of Valium. A strong dose... but nothing compared to some of the other patients. I saw some people there receiving several times that amount. I fail to see how this is supposed to be 'therapeutic' ...the only talk therapy that went on was the daily group meetings, where it appeared the expectation was that people would parrot what the staff expected them to say, rather than speaking the truth about their feelings. I fail to see how this is supposed to 'help' people. 

I was in this situation for eighteen months. 

With the exception of one wonderful social worker who befriended me, my best relationships were with the other patients or the 'non-professional' staff... the ward secretary, members of the housekeeping staff, people from the chaplaincy department. The reason for this was simple... here were people who had no 'professional' agenda or desire for power - they were simply caring human beings. And in the patients I found many kindred spirits. 

From there at age eighteen I was placed in another group home... this one located on a large farm about 120 miles northwest of Toronto, near the town of Collingwood, Ontario. While there were some good points - being in the country, lots of fresh air, exercise, and good food - the place was like a prison. Even though I had gone there 'voluntarily,' there was no way I was going to be allowed to leave, although I tried to several times when I realized what I had gotten myself into. The program was basically work- oriented, with some schooling available. The penalties for 'infractions' usually involved extra hours of work, or some kind of seperation from the rest of the group. (In one case I was made to sleep outside in a tent for two nights - it was just before Christmas in 1976, the snow was literally ass-deep, and temperatures were below zero). 

I was there until August of 1977, when at age nineteen I left for good and returned to Toronto. After several unhappy months at home, I left and returned to Collingwood to try and find work. (I had held a part-time job at a bakery in an area community while at the farm). I did land a job washing dishes and later cooking at a truckstop on the highway just west of Collingwood where I worked for eight months before returning to Toronto, and eventually found work in the city. 

I was able to support myself (barely) for the next three years or so by working - and developed a pretty serious booze problem in the process. A fairly serious run-in with the legal system resulted in 1980... I was to spend a month in Queen Street Mental Heaklth Centre for a court-ordered assessment, and another month or so in jail before finally being released on probation. During subsequent months, I was to find myself out of work and homeless as a result of drinking... but this too shall pass, so to speak. In October of 1981 I was to take my last drink. 

I've been sober ever since. 

Over the years I had gradually become politicized, through my own experience with abuse; with being psychiatrized, and with poverty and homelessness. I met many survivors and activists who, through sharing personal perspective and experience have contributed to my own political consciousness and viewpoint on my experiences. I walked away from psychiatry for good in 1983... and I will not willingly return. 

It is my wish to go furter into my political experiences - there has been much that has been both rewarding and heartbreaking. But this has been a difficult and time-consuming article to write. Probably further down the line I will flesh out this very rough account with more specific experiences and views... maybe it will be continued in another article. Until then thank you for listening... and feel free to browse around the site.