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Interview with Hebriana
Summer of 1998
What does Hebriana say today? I asked
her to read my manuscript Love, Hope, & Brain
Science. It is twenty years
since she made the two drawings reproduced in that paper,
eighteen years since she last was a psychiatric patient, forcibly injected with
a neuroleptic drug, and fourteen years since she described her neuroleptic
experience in Should Neuroleptic Drug Be Banned?
In the latter paper, from 1984, she talked about creativity and insight. She quoted Rollo May: "What we
feel in creative moments, moments of insight, is joy . . . joy that goes with
heightened consciousness, the mood that accompanies the actualizing of one's own
potentialities." I noted that she is "a well-functioning,
breast-feeding mother," and that obviously with neuroleptic drugs "she
could never have become the alive, competent and creative person that she is
The photos shown here were taken three
years later, in August 1987. Her life since has been happy and creative. She
lives with her husband and their daughter, who by now has grown into a radiant,
intelligent, simply wonderful young woman.
Remember when you read the following
that few people are strong and truth-loving enough to face the worst. So, when
Hebriana tells us about the sorrow and hopelessness of a survivor, she is able
to do so because she is a life-affirming, joyful and creative person.
Just listen to her laughing!
After having read my manuscript she
made these comments over the phone in July 1998:
– It is alien to me to relate my
experiences to the concepts of psychiatry. It is a violation. It is terrifying.
Psychiatry is something one should stay clear of. I cannot identify myself in a
psychiatric context. That is not where I become visible.
– I still am who I am. What I experienced
then is still a reality. Those fundamental experiences are still going on. But I
have become better at relating to them. Now I don't need to be destructive when
I am afraid. The instrument that is me, "Hebriana," has improved.
– The pictures I made then were made
while it was going on. They were an anchor. They were a means to stay, to remain
present. Now I wait much longer before I do anything. Now I am much better at
staying without doing anything, just being and waiting. I can breathe even
though something powerful, something I do not understand, something chaotic is
going on. I demand of myself that I do not escape, that I remain awake in what
– I believe every person experiences what
I experience. But not so vividly and clearly perhaps. It is a question of what
we tolerate or do not tolerate in our consciousness. I think other people may
have [laughing loud] better automatic reflexes [to shut things out].
What do you say about giving
neuroleptics to you or to someone like you?
– God! It should not happen. But I know
it is being done. It is horrible. With these drugs you are deprived of your
human rights. You are petrified. You are deprived of the ability to develop a
language of your own. You are deprived of the possibility of being human.
– It was a horrible existence. I was
fettered. The air becomes thick and dense. You cannot get through. It is
incomprehensible. That state, if anything, is incomprehensible.
– In order to integrate these experiences
[of psychiatric violence and forced drugging] you have to accept how helpless
you can be. You have to realize that you cannot trust people. There are many
disgusting people around. See what pedophiliacs can do! Usually they hide it.
They are cautious. But then they stop being cautious. [When not watched. When
alone with someone unable to speak. When sanctioned by authority. Example:
personnel overpowering Hebriana to inject a neuroleptic drug]. It is horrible
how I was treated. They were so insensitive, so cruel.
– People say: "I mean no harm to you
personally." But they obey a system. Do I have to be like that, too: a
person with a professional attitude? That would mean abandoning what it is for
me to be a human being.
– I feel I am a survivor. It is
impossible to find a space or an opportunity to tell other people about these
experiences. I am not allowed to share them, because they are beyond what people
want to know. This is not fun at all to live with. People do not want to see the
truth. In a way I could just as well be dead.
– I was a witness. I watched. I was not
unconscious. But I was a silent witness, since I was deprived of any possibility
to act, to express myself. It is only recently that I have been able to begin
integrating my experiences of psychiatry. Until now they have been too
difficult. Such knowledge is hard to bear. It makes it hard to feel secure.
Society and people cannot be trusted.
– I feel a sorrow that I cannot share.
Who wants these feelings, this sorrow! The gulf between me and other people
-even people I seem close to - can fill me with hopelessness. People do not want
to believe that something so horrible can go on in our society. It would destroy
their illusion. They would not be able to continue. They would have to do
– Because of my experiences - that a
normal person is not meant to have - I feel old - I feel as someone with
responsibility for the others.
Against all odds Hebriana escaped her
neuroleptic fate. She was able to "develop a language of her own." She
speaks for millions who are silenced forever.
"I was a silent witness." "I was not
unconscious." "It is only recently that I have been able to begin integrating,"
that is, remember, express, and hope despite hopelessness – to be able to share experiences "that a normal person is not
meant to have."
Survivors of other horrors created by
humans (war, concentration camps, childhood sexual abuse, torture) have also
often needed decades, and often a lot of therapy, love, and support before they
have been able to confront and integrate their memories and begin telling us
what they have been through. Survivors need our acceptance and our recognition
of their experience in order to be able to return to the human community, and
feel that they are members of the human race.
These other groups are approved
victims. They get understanding and acceptance. They live in a society that
recognizes its duty to try to restore their sense of security.
Neuroleptic survivors, on the other
hand, live in an unrepentant society that keeps perpetrating the horror they
underwent. "God! It should not happen. But I know it is being done . ...
People do not want to believe that sometings so horrible can go on in our
Neuroleptic survivors get the opposite
of understanding and acceptance. They get denial. Such denial is a cause of
sorrow and hopelessness: "I feel a sorrow that I cannot share." Such
denial can be lethal: "I could just as well be dead." Such denial is a
Years ago in the Dagens Nyheter, 25
August 1985, I said: "Since neuroleptic drugging is usually a 'one way
street' most victims disappear from us. We never find out what they and we have
lost. We are left wondering 'What becomes of all longing that does
not find its goal?'"
© 1998: Lars Martensson. All rights to reprint and use this
paper are reserved by the author.