Emails From Readers

Since the publication of my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, I have received hundreds of emails from readers. Sadly, many are from parents desperately seeking advice about how they can get their son or daughter help. Others are from readers whose adult children are in jails and prisons because of untreated mental illnesses. A few are from parents whose children committed suicide. But there are others that make me hopeful — encouraging notes from dedicated mental health workers and success stories written by readers who have found a variety of methods to control their symptoms and enjoy life at its fullest.

Here is an email that I recently received that I want to share with you because it provides a viewpoint by a consumer that often is not heard.

“I am in my late 30s and officially diagnosed as mentally ill at age 13 after my first suicide attempt. I had long periods of depression and had my first manic episode at age 16. I was paranoid, hearing voices, unable to sleep or read. All I knew was that I was going crazy, but there were no words for it then or any real help.

I was kicked out of high school after missing 15 days of school while I was too manic or depressed to attend classes. No treatment or help from the school system were offered (despite being a straight A honors student with advanced placement classes and not a single discipline issue) and I was told by my single parent to “get a job.” I did just that and was quickly fired for crying all day at work.


 Life went on, the depression came and went and I eventually got my GED (which I aced with absolute no preparation) and started community college at age 19. I went in-and-out of depression, severe anxiety, mania (non-euphoric, but sometimes psychotic) and developed anorexia nervosa to boot, but was untreated.

I married young, and despite severe episodes was able to have two children. I was mostly symptom free until my second child was two and then I went manic again. I tried to get help and was told to meditate and take yoga to calm down. It got worse, the eating disorder relapsed and no one noticed I was sick until I weighed 78 lbs. I was finally diagnosed in my 30s after the eating disorder was in remission and I met a psychiatrist who did a 100 minute evaluation and took his time diagnosing me. My diagnosis varied from bipolar I or II to schizoaffective disorder.

I had the typical issues with meds. Mood stabilizers did not work, I hated antipsychotics. I have been in inpatient hospital 3 times, day treatment 3 times and medical hospital 5 times for complications of the eating disorder when it relapses. Despite at one time being pre-med and having the passion and grades to meet this dream, mental illness ruined my life.

I was just yet another person who slipped through the cracks.  I am told if I was properly diagnosed 20 years ago my life might have been so much different. What good does that do me now? 

Reading your book was painful. I have been psychotic and run in the snow, barefoot in pajamas with my husband hot in pursuit as I raced to a bridge to fly, as my voices told me I could. I have had my husband pin me down and force antipsychotic medication down my throat. My husband has also at times been helpless to get me hospitalized against my will even as I tried to throw myself off bridges or in front of cars or trains or starve myself to death when the voices told me food was poison.

I went 10 days with not even fluids when the voices told me water was poison and the hospital could only medically stabilize me, not put me in a psych ward.  In my state, we now have Kendra’s Law, and my doctor and husband have thought about trying to force medication on me…   Luckily over the years,  I have developed a trusting relationship with my doctor and I try to listen to him about meds when he sees me going over the edge.

 A good psychiatrist has been a godsend. He spends 30 minutes doing med checks, makes frequent phone contact w/ my husband and has brought me nutritional supplements for him and me to drink together when I have been afraid of fluids. This week he said he’d beg me to go back on Haldol (atypical anti-pychotics have not worked) and because I trust him, I did. 

I am one of the lucky ones, really. I’ve been lucky that I have been able to successfully raise two children who are healthy, well adjusted and thriving in spite of a “crazy” mom. I’ve been lucky to have an insurance company who has paid for as much as 25 days in a private, well-run suburban hospital and stepped me down to as long as 6 weeks into a high quality day hospital (multiple times over.) I’m lucky to have had a hospital psychiatrist who would not release me even when I demanded to be let out. I remember demanding to talk to a patient advocate and a kindly nurse telling me I could do that, but that I was too sick and would likely lose the fight.

Was that against my civil rights? Maybe.

But I’m still alive because they took a risk and kept me there against my will. I hated them at the time.   Now I feel differently. I’m still here to see my children grow because of them caring more about ME than my “civil rights.”

Reading your book, I realized how blessed I am to not have ended up in a “bad” hospital, or jail. I’ve thankfully never been violent or committed a crime. But I realize, that’s just good luck, with the help of a good husband who has kept such a watchful eye so as to keep me safe, and a perhaps milder illness that has not taken me too to the extremes others have been taken. Your book made me feel blessed and lucky, but so very, very sad.

I have always been against forced medication until my psychiatrist told me how much he supports it. Disgusted, I asked how he could feel that way and he said, “Because it saves lives!”

What more is there to say? He was right. And he, along with my poor, exhausted husband, have saved my life many times over. “

Few issues are controversial in mental health as forced medication. This is why I encourage advance directives that clearly spell out a person’s wishes while they are thinking clearly.

If you want to share your personal story or your opinion of this email, I’d love to hear your comments.



About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. Thank you for sharing that powerful email, Pete.
    Thank goodness the psychiatrist took time to make an accurate diagnosis. There is so much pressure to have psychiatrists do quick “med checks” which is not helpful to the person in need. Neurobiological illnesses are complicated and people with them deserve the time to really figure out what is going on in order to provide the proper care.

  2. Yes, thank God for those “good” psychiatrists, insurance companies, well-run hospitals, and exhausted family members who won’t give up. If not for them, many more individuals with mental illnesses would likely be in jail or dead. The law and “the system” certainly don’t help. Pete, I e-mailed you recently about our experience with an advance directive/power of attorney in VA. Basically it was worthless unless our family member was completely psychotic. It shouldn’t have to be this hard.

  3. Anna Mae Garb says

    Pete, I just finished your book today. You inspired me to write to Governor Christie here in NJ requesting him to read “Crazy” before he shuts down yet another state hospital. Pearl Buck said the measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable people. Please keep me on your update list. We have got to advocate for our loved ones. Thank you and God bless you for putting so much energy into this research and sharing it so well.

    • Sbpworks says

      Hi Anna Mae,
      I want to send you a notice of my new book Removing the Habit of God Sister Christine’s Story…coming out in a couple of weeks (you are briefly mentioned) I know you are living in Holmdel but I don’t have your address. Please send it to me
      @gw:disqus Thanks Susan