A year ago, famed clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, a popular proponent of free speech, abruptly disappeared from the public eye. Over the last few months, Peterson’s daughter, Mikhaila Peterson, has provided some troubling updates on the family’s struggles, including the revelation that her father was suffering from addiction.
On Monday, she released a new podcast episode in which she and her father, seen for the first time in months, discuss in at-times excruciating candidness why he “vanished:” his benzodiazepine dependency, which, the Petersons explain, nearly cost him his life.
“The past year was the worst year of my life,” Mikhaila states in the introduction to the episode. “Both of my parents almost died repeatedly, first my mon then my dad.”
She goes on to explain that she and her husband have spent the last six months trying to find help for her father, “looking everywhere, traveling around the world.” The episode, she explains, is a discussion with her father about the traumatic events of the last year. “This was a very difficult interview,” she states. “It flattened both of us the evening we recorded it.”
“Dad’s been in the public eye for years now and his sudden disappearance was definitely noticed,” says Mikhaila. “He disappeared due to a benzodiazepine dependency. We both thought explaining what’s gone on in the last year could help other people avoid the same hell that we’re just, hopefully, barely getting out of.”
Asked by his daughter to explain what happened since he last appeared in front of a microphone about a year ago, Peterson responds, “Well, you know, an accident is when three or four or five unlikely things happen at the same time, and I would say, that’s what happened.” He goes on to explain the painful revelation that helped trigger that awful sequence of “accidents:” the revelation that his wife had a fast-growing almost certainly terminal cancer.
In a February podcast, Mikhaila opened up about her father’s struggles.
“The last year has been absolute hell for the Petersons,” she said. “Dad was put on a low dose of a benzodiazepine a few years ago for anxiety following an extremely severe autoimmune reaction to food. He took the medication as prescribed. We weren’t aware that he was developing a physical dependence on the drug until last April when my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and the dose of the medication increased. It became apparent that he was experiencing a paradoxical reaction to the medication, meaning the benzos did the opposite of what they’re supposed to do. These reactions are rare but are not unheard of.”
She then described the most excruciating symptom of the addiction, akathisia. “Akathisia is an absolutely god-awful condition where the person feels an incredible, irresistible restlessness, and an inability to sit still,” she explained. “It was so severe he was suicidal. For the last six months, he’s been in horrible, unbearable discomfort from this drug, made worse when trying to remove it because of the physical dependence. We took him to several hospitals in North America where he experienced multiple cases of misdiagnosis, and the addition of more medications to cover the response he was experiencing from the benzodiazepines. He nearly died several times.”
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