Book review: “Freedom from Psychiatric Drugs”

By TINKY WEISBLAT

For the Recorder

Published: 04-29-2023 1:26 PM

“Freedom from Psychiatric Drugs,” by Chaya Grossberg

Chaya Grossberg is easy to talk to. She makes her living talking and listening to people. We spoke last week in anticipation of her first author appearance in Franklin County.

Grossberg, who lives in Easthampton, will discuss her book, “Freedom from Psychiatric Drugs,” on Tuesday, May 2, at 6 p.m. at The RECOVER Project at the corner of Federal and Osgood streets in Greenfield.

The book is a memoir of sorts about Grossberg’s own life journey. It’s also a handbook/workbook for people who are contemplating getting off the drugs of the title.

As Grossberg explains in the book, as a very young woman she was diagnosed with depression. As time and doctors’ opinions went by, she was put on a series of psychiatric drugs that were supposed to help her. At one point she was taking as many as seven different medications at the same time.

She felt worse and worse while taking these drugs.

“I was physically debilitated, but it was actually the drugs that were doing this,” she said.

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She had a moment of epiphany one day in Northampton. The Freedom Center staged a “speak out” on the street, and a young woman described her own experiences.

“She was on a whole bunch of meds, and somehow she managed to get off them,” Grossberg recalled. “When I heard that, I realized that I could get off these meds. It was like a flash of intuition.”

She explained that the process wasn’t easy. Withdrawal from the drugs took its own toll.

“Nobody in my world, including myself, even knew about psychiatric drug withdrawal,” she said. “It wasn’t really common knowledge then.”

She believes that her pathway to freeing herself from the drugs was helped by her relative youth; she was in her early 20s at the time. She was helped by her family members as well. She told me that they had been uncertain at first whether the drugs were helpful or harmful.

“When I decided I needed to get off of [the drugs], and I was very certain, they were supportive,” she remembered.

Her path to better health was clearly also aided by her determination and spirit.

Once she was free of the psychiatric medications, she felt impelled to share her experiences. Grossberg and the support group she joined spoke about their recovery journeys around the Five Colleges.

She also studied yoga so that she could teach that; she explains in the book that she firmly believes that keeping one’s body healthy through proper diet and exercise is an essential component of the struggle to free oneself from psychiatric medications.

Eventually, first through a variety of organizations and then on her own, she established a practice through which she acts as an empathetic advisor to people considering weaning themselves from psychiatric drugs.

Most of her clients consult her by phone or computer (they are in various locations), but for some she creates an in-person plan.

“I help them to formulate a plan of how to safely and slowly get off of the drugs that they’re on,” she said. “Sometimes it’s more emotional support. They may not have people to talk to about it.”

She made it clear that she doesn’t give medical advice or make any claims to practice medicine. She gladly shares her knowledge, however.

“I’ve done research over the years,” she elaborated. “I base everything on the individual person. I ask them a lot of questions and then get the full picture. It can be easy for me to see what’s going on, what would be the key things that are supportive for these people. ... Sometimes they’re simple dietary things.”

Her book is an extension of her practice. It shares some of the experiences that have brought her to her present life and lifestyle, along with poems. It also presents myriad ideas for becoming healthier and drug free. Most of the chapters include worksheets one can fill out to analyze one’s situation.

As time goes by, Grossberg told me, she would like to lead group sessions in which people go through the book and its lessons with her. Meanwhile, she continues her practice and tries to share her knowledge both through the book and through conversations like the one at The RECOVER Project.

She plans to talk on Tuesday, May 2, both about her own story and about some of the techniques she has cultivated in her career as a consultant. She will also have copies of the book available for sale. “Freedom from Psychiatric Drugs” normally sells for $24.95, but she will sell it that evening for $20.

For questions about the event and Chaya Grossberg’s presentation, call The RECOVER Project at 413-774-5489, or contact Grossberg through her website at chayagrossberg.com.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer. Her most recent book is “Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.

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