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Ewout Kattouw: author of 'Who is actually crazy? The client, psychiatry or society?'

On World Tapering Day, Ewout Kattouw will read two chapters from his book Who is actually crazy? The client, psychiatry or society? He describes his tapering and withdrawal process in the context of the 22 years he underwent psychiatric treatment.


Ewout: "After the reading, I hope to have an interesting dialogue and discussion about tapering and withdrawal with the viewers/ interested parties. Hope to see you there!" 

'Who is actually crazy...?'
preview of the reading

By Ewout Kattouw

Chapter 6.1

During the first months of withdrawal, I suffered mainly from physical withdrawal symptoms. The cognitive aspect of the withdrawal controlled my daily functioning. Reading, writing, thinking logically, planning, maintaining structure, making decisions, reacting to my environment: everything stopped working, my head was broken. As soon as I had to focus on a conversation or on reading something, I would start to feel very sick physically. Sometimes after just a few minutes of reading or ten minutes of watching TV, or while I was trying to think about something or make a decision. I would get a headache, get nauseous, start to feel flu-like symptoms and my head and limbs would start to tingle. I was physically unable to do anything. If I could go for a walk and do some washing up or vacuuming, it was already a good day in that regard.

I couldn't do odd jobs, gardening, drawing or painting at all. This was physically impossible and I also lacked focus. For someone who is eager and ambitious and feels he has so much lost time to make up for, that is very frustrating and demotivating. The will and the drive are there, but the possibility to do anything is lacking.

My emotions were completely mixed up and amplified (this is also called neuro-emotions). Just as I could no longer tolerate stimuli such as sound, touch and light and felt them almost literally as pain stimuli in the brain, so did emotions. My emotions were probably ordinary emotions, but greatly amplified. The withdrawal process is similar to Rubik's cube, shifting continuously, sometimes things fall into place, only to merge into chaos moments later. Not a week, not a day, not even an hour was the same. It was a constant stream of withdrawal symptoms that seemed to have no end. The day could start with extreme fear and burning skin and muscles, then transition seamlessly into a cry of intense sadness. Later, my head would become empty, as if a lobotomy had taken place, which left me only to stare aimlessly in front of me. This alternated with nausea and headaches, then again merging into tremors and a heavy hopeless feeling with suicidal thoughts. This went on and on.... Every day was a unique struggle.


6.2 The psychological process
Parallel to the physical withdrawal, a psychological process began to take place. Slowly I came out of my muted consciousness and emotional world. I started to get more in touch with my inner world again. As a result, I slowly started to realize what I had been in all those years. It felt as if I had been absent for over twenty years, I had been an empty shell with just a tiny bit of content, far, far away in the distance. Now this content resurfaced and the empty shell was filled again with my own personality, including memories, emotions, dreams, desires, worries, fears, pain and sadness.

I started to look around me and all of a sudden everyone seemed so old. In my experience, everyone around me had suddenly aged twenty years. When I looked in the mirror, I realized that I had suddenly become a lot older myself. When I started to feel again and my inner world came alive again, I initially continued where I left off. In my experience I was eighteen or nineteen again. My brain was unable to move from being an eighteen-year-old boy to a grown man in his forties so quickly. It didn't feel right and it certainly didn't feel right to me. I had experienced my childhood very consciously and it lasted a relatively long time, but I had never experienced or had  been capable of fully experiencing my adult life. Memories of my childhood are bright and clear, memories of my adult life are vague, devoid of feelings and anecdotes, more like the memories of a stranger than my own. My childhood has color and depth, my adulthood is gray and flat.

I cycled to my native village and cycled through the streets and past houses where my friends used to live. I was looking for something, but didn't know what. I was probably looking for bits of myself before being sedated by the pills. A starting point from which I could continue. But I was not that boy anymore. The realization of the lost twenty years hit me hard. Full of disbelief, I had to accept emotions such as sadness, anger and feeling lost.

I used to have dreams, ideals, a vision of the future. I would become a father and spend a lot of time with my children, I would become a lovely husband to a lovely wife. I would be there for friends and family, do meaningful work. I would buy a house and work on it myself, I would enjoy gardening and so on. Instead, I now cycled through my native village alone, without a wife, without children, without having built a real life for twenty years. I have not been able to build a pension, wealth, career or a family. And soon I will be cycling back to my council house.


I realized more and more how my life had turned out and why it turned out that way. Had this all been necessary? Was I really that sick? What have all those pills done to me? Anger and sadness washed over me. Sadness at how my life had turned out, anger at the psychiatry that had ruined my life. How do I build a meaningful life now? How do I catch up with my peers, after having lost twenty years?


This is no longer possible. But what is still possible? And will that be enough?


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