It Gets Better: Neuropsych Doctor Confirms Psych Drug Iatrogenesis, PTSD, Brain Injury

Monica Cassani
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The IT GETS BETTER collection is intended to help those who are currently dealing with the iatrogenic (medically caused) injury from psych meds . . . so that they might know that we can heal. It is also intended to help educate the masses to the realities that we face. Protracted psychiatric drug withdrawal syndrome is real. It’s also sometimes gravely disabling. The fact is it’s largely denied in the medical community. We are routinely blamed and told that the experience is psychiatric . . . this leads to more drugging and sometimes forced drugging with the very drugs that have harmed us. This must end.

But yes, to those who are still suffering, it gets better. Indeed, I do not consider myself ill anymore. I consider myself HEALING, which is a vibrant state of movement and change. My limitations do not mean that I am sick. Learning to make boundaries for my well-being has been one of the healthiest things I’ve learned to do. Deeply respecting the needs of this body/temple is one of the most wonderful achievements of WELLNESS.

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#9 of the IT GETS BETTER series

From DECEMBER 6, 2010

Neuropsych Doctor Confirms Thoughts About Psychiatric Drug Iatrogenisis, PTSD, Brain Injury

(See this too: “This is a Brain Injury Situation”)

I shared the post that I did explaining how it struck me that what I am experiencing, in part, as a result of the psychiatric drug withdrawal, is PTSD – with the neuropsych doctor who has been my friend and supporter since the beginning of this journey. I’ve said before that his influence was a catalyst in my process, though he never suggested this path to me he always answered my questions to the best of his ability and honestly.

You’ll see he continues his frank honesty with me below which I greatly appreciate. I have his permission to share this.

Hi Gianna,
Thanks for sending me this notice and your thoughts. Another great post. I feel you are exactly right about what you’re saying and how you’re seeing it.

I was just presenting some data on complex PTSD at the International Society for the Study of Traumatic Stress in Montreal. I’ve gotten connected with Ruth Lanius (who does brain imaging of complex PTSD), Julian Price (who looks at emotion regulation problems from complex PTSD), and Bessel van der Kolk (who coined the term “complex PTSD”). I think it is important that you’ve come to this understanding about what is happening (it allows for that calmer witness you describe). Though it isn’t helping right now, it is a critical component for getting better.

Here’s the part that may not feel so good to hear, though. I strongly suspect, as do you, that the medications you took for so long have damaged your brain. I think your brain will repair itself over time and, despite how it feels, is repairing as we speak. I think the psychological trauma you’ve experienced has really compounded the recovery. It was traumatic to realize what had been done and most definitely traumatic to have experienced what you’ve experienced through your withdrawal ordeal. The part that isn’t good to hear is that there really aren’t good treatments yet for the combination of problems. The Middle Eastern wars are giving us a chance to see lots of people with the combination of traumatic brain injury and PTSD, but they aren’t responding particularly well to the better PTSD treatments. This was the conclusion of the world’s experts who were at the meeting in Montreal.

I think that you are having a prolonged recovery due in part to the PTSD, but I think your prospects of overcoming the PTSD will require improved brain functioning. It won’t have to be all better, but I think it’ll have to be better than it is. Lots of the symptoms you are experiencing are not PTSD related but rather are from either impairment to your brain or even the recovery of your brain (initial recovery may not feel particularly good, think about walking on a broken ankle after the break has healed).

So, I think you’re really on to something, but I think PTSD treatment is premature right now as there’s still more brain recovery that has to occur before it can be useful for you. I do think the GABA receptors will reestablish and the interneuron inhibitory circuits will get stronger, but I don’t think this will not be the end of it as the PTSD will still have to be addressed.

Hopefully, there’s some benefit in really knowing what is going on. Accurate identification is a big start on getting to where you want to be.

Again, thanks for sharing this with me. I hope my thoughts are not discouraging as that is not their intent. I have never pulled harder for anyone to feel better than I do for you.

All the best and give my best to (your husband),

Your doctor

I’ll let you all know that what he said was NOT discouraging. I’m living this and it’s obvious to me it’s going to be a long haul so it’s nice that it be recognized by someone. I also knew before sharing this information with him that treatment at the moment would be premature.

Most importantly I also have other means of interpreting what is happening to me and I’m getting help from people who share those interpretations. I see a large part of what is happening to me from a spiritual perspective and I trust that this is, ultimately, a healing journey. I will perhaps share with the readers of this blog some of those thoughts in the future.

My husband in turn shared these thoughts on what my doctor wrote:

His perspective is very useful and I doubt that you could communicate with anyone who is better informed on these issues. It confirms what I have long sensed: that time is the most important factor here. Which is to say, that the physical process of repair will take a certain amount of time yet we can only know what that amount of time is retrospectively. So a major part of the coping process requires embracing this fact that we don’t know how long it will take. Confidence that healing is possible is vital and I hope what he says gives you such confidence.

What happens with the PTSD component when your neurological healing has advanced far enough, is something I don’t have an opinion about — mostly because I suspect that the baselines for all your susceptibilities to a multitude of stressors are going to change significantly over time. (One thing I would say, though, since he brings up the experiences of war trauma, is that I would expect that you are in a somewhat privileged position compared to kids who are now bouncing between VA hospitals and trailer parks. Not only are they stuck in physically stressful environments, but as individuals, few of them can have the personal intellectual resources that you are able to draw upon, to make sense of their own experiences. And on top of that they have the burden of the idea that what they went through supposedly served their country.)….

In all of this — and echoing (your doctor) — I do think that you have been and continue to be your own guide. In other words, you have a greater capacity for self-reliance than you often believe — or would necessarily want.

I’ve shared other correspondence with this doctor here. Where he first likens this situation to a brain injury.

And, yes, it gets better! The below are posts that show how far my healing has come.

For an article with the history of my tale of wild untested psychopharma gone bad visit Dr. David Healy’s website: Monica’s story: the aftermath of polypsychopharmacology 

Please do not attempt to discontinue psych drugs without first very carefully educating yourself on the risks involved so that you might minimize the chances of developing grave iatrogenic illness if you decide to withdraw: Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal and Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome Round-Up

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This post firs appeared on Monica Cassani’s website,
Beyond Meds

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Polypsychopharmacology , that’s when the psychiatric poo really hits the fan !

    Reminds me of the children’s song There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly .

    The song tells the story of an old woman who swallowed increasingly large animals, each to catch the previously swallowed animal.

    Just fill in SSRIs for flies, benzos for spiders, mood stabilizers for birds, neuroleptics for cats, cogentin for dogs…

    Or change it to there was a young boy who swallowed some Vyvance but it made him “bipolar” so he swallowed some Risperdal … But the Risperdal made akathisia inside him so he swallowed some more stuff but that stuff …

  2. Thank you for sharing this. The opinion of your neuropsych doctor friend is especially validating and heartening – quite the opposite of discouraging. I have yet to meet anyone offline – professionals or nonprofessionals – who takes me seriously when I try to talk about the protracted withdrawal I’ve been experiencing. It’s really adding insult to injury.

  3. I think you’re a hero, Monica. And I agree, we need to try and end psychiatry’s “Whack-a-Mole” diagnoses, as boans said on a different post, or “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly,” “I don’t know why, I guess she’ll die” psychiatric crimes against patients, as copycat stated above.

    “We need to be fueled so we can stop these crimes from happening … and when they do happen so that we can get the help we need and not be faced with cruel ignorance that, yes, adds insult to injury.”

  4. I’ve had nearly 20 years to “heal”, and I think I can say with certainty that if you suffered this brain damage as a child, it most certainly does not get better. For me, it’s only gotten worse. I often wonder what happened to that DJ Koontz kid from that PBS “the medicated child”, as always the journalists never followed through to find out. I’m sure he’s “much better” by now. Probably in a near medically induced coma, or thrashing around from dystonia in a group home somewhere.

  5. Monica, Do you think that just being on SSRI’s makes us ill? Do you think it causes or exacerbates MS, Chronic Fatigue, adrenal fatigue, low thyroid……things like that. In looking back over the past 25 years I’ve been on a number of different drugs I began to get ill with a variety of diagnosis. Do you think there is a correlation?