84 Things I Could do Once Again When I Got Off Psychiatric Drugs

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In order for an experience to create a life mission and strong sense of purpose, it has to affect you to the core. Though I was only on psychiatric drugs for a few years of my life (and the very lowest “clinical” doses available), they affected me so strongly and took away so much that I could never forget or simply leave that experience behind me.

I share this list, not to torture people who are on them or struggling to get off, reminding them of how much is being taken away (or could be taken away), but rather to validate the desire that many won’t have to take these substances, and will be supported in better ways.

I share this to validate how very necessary it is to create better systems for being with trauma and to facilitate the withdrawal process for those who would like to come off in every way we possibly can.

When I was on a psychiatric drug cocktail at age 21-22, I lost the abilities to do the things on this list with any regularity.  Many of these things I could not do at all.

Once I got off of them, slowly and carefully, which was quite tedious and difficult, all of these capacities returned to me.

1. Reading

2. Thinking clearly

3. Communicating my thoughts with others directly

4. Night vision

5. 20/20 vision during the day

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6. Eating all kinds of foods

7. Traveling

8. School work

9. Graduating college

10. Writing

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11. Developing friendships

12. Developing romantic relationships

13. Walking more than one block

14. Aerobic exercise

15. Weight lifting

16. Discernment about what to eat and which supplements to take

17. Being attractive to others

18. Showering regularly

19. Brushing my teeth twice a day

20. Changing my clothes

21. Dressing nicely

22. Understanding my own experiences and being able to communicate them

23. Empathy for others

24. Intuition

25. Grasping and formulating complex concepts

26. Teaching others from my experiences

27. Yoga

28. Doing artwork

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29. Dancing

30. Singing

31. Computer skills

32. Awareness of some current events

33. Appreciation of music

34. Sexuality

35. Leaving the house and socializing

36. Meeting new people

37. Trying new things

38. Seeing a future

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39. Caring about people

40. Caring about principles

41. Feeling sad

42. Feeling excited

43. Feeling calm

44. Being awake during most of the day.

45. Researching topics and discerning accurately what is relevant to me

46. Working for money

47. Committing to regular activities/classes/meetings

48. Falling in love

49. Having creative goals

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50. Learning

51. Grocery shopping

52. Detangling my hair

53. Expressing my feelings

54. Doing my dishes

55. Cleaning

56. Being able to benefit from subtler health treatments like acupuncture, homeopathy and organic herbs

57. Eating healthy

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58. Loving people

59. Attracting friends

60. Engaging socially and feeling (somewhat) “normal”

61. Caring what’s going on in the world/my city

62. Caring about other people’s needs and acknowledging them

63. Being able to talk about my life without using unproven “mental health” pseudoscience jargon

64. Being able to see fact from fiction

65. Writing down and finding meaning in my dreams

66. Smiling for real

67. Wanting to help others

68. Caring about my life, health and future

69. Praying

70. Believing in God/Higher Power/Angels/Being guided

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71. Having faith in myself and my life

72. Inspiring trust in others

73. Inspiring creativity in others

74. Typing fast

75. Journaling

76. Shaving

77. Wearing deodorant

78. Regular menstruation

79. Awareness of moon cycles

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80. Sexual arousal

81. Normal hair growth

82. Immunity

83. Cooking

84. Staying out of the house all day

May all beings be free to choose, and to choose with true informed consent, which cannot be expected from a doctor or medical care provider, but must be gotten with a combination of research, self study, intuition, personal accounts and fierce, unbiased logical analysis.

We must take back science from under the fist of commercials and indirect advertising.

 

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

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51 COMMENTS

  1. I just beginning a very slow taper off 75mg lamictal and 5 mg lexapro, after several years on litium, latuda, celexa, and more. I am so excited to get pieces of my “old” self back! I really look forward to smiling without forcing my face into that position.

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    • Getting off of the lithium I had been prescribed at a too high dose for three years, was like coming back to life. I had felt like most of my traits had been forever lost, but they all came back and I then managed to leave the only abusive boyfriend I’ve ever had. It was completely contrary to my nature to be in such a relationship for even a day, but on the lithium, I was unable to rally myself to do anything, even when in a dangerous situation. I felt forever stuck and permanently damaged by both the lithium and the erroneous belief that I suffered from an endogenous mental illness that needed to medicated with a chemical straitjacket for life.

      It took me a few more years to finally get it and stop ALL the psyche meds for the bipolar disorder I never had. Seven years later, I find that my moods are actually quite stable. PTSD, anemia, and drugs are the only causes of the “mood problems” I’ve had, and those were only “mood problems” because I and mental health professionals weren’t recognizing the causes of my unruly moods, which justify being disturbed and suffering, at times.

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      • Thank you, Someone Else. I have been under the care of my new doctor, as recommended here, Dr. Jodie Skillicorn (Akron, OH). She is simply the best. I am in good hands, now. She is confident I do not have bipolar, as is my entire family, and I will heal.

        It shakes me to my core to know that people are misdiagnosed like this day in, day out. And children, too. =( Oh my.

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  2. Chaya – How wonderful for you…congratulations! Good that you had the will, insight, and maybe even bravery to be yourself, yourself.

    Hard to believe that I was on various psych. drugs for over 30 years….all blamed on the fact that it “ran in the family” I was started on them at the end of a love affair….you know, sad and having trouble sleeping….

    When I finally decided that this was a ridiculous thing, and tapered off (a mess, but, oh well, it’s over now…) , the BEST thing of all was knowing that whatever I felt, whatever I did, whatever I dreamed, whatever I hoped, was all me – with no chemicals or poisons addling my brain or emotions.

    It seems especially wrong that children and young adults are given psych. drugs in their formative years – how can a human being “form” when his or her basic abilities to think, reason, and feel (let alone his or her physical self) are impacted and affected by chemicals that alter these basic aspects of life, of a living organism?

    Here’s wishing for the day – sooner rather than later – that we will be able to look back at this sorry chapter being over and that our precious selves will be treasured and, if we hit a rough patch, be nurtured to health as opposed to being hit over the head with drugs.

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    • “It seems especially wrong that children and young adults are given psych. drugs in their formative years – how can a human being “form” when his or her basic abilities to think, reason, and feel (let alone his or her physical self) are impacted and affected by chemicals that alter these basic aspects of life, of a living organism?”

      That is such a good point. These poor souls may never be able to develop into their true selves and know what it means to be off these zombifying poisons.

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    • Thanks eng! Yes, it is like being reborn. Actually, in the context of spiritual emergence, I truly had a death experience while on 7 pharmaceuticals (most psych drugs). Being reborn happened so slowly and gradually as I withdrew, recovered from them and recovered from the extreme harm they did to my body and spirit. But that death experience happened for a reason and somehow seemed fated in my life, like something I needed to go through, both to understand the harm done by psych drugs and to understand death more intimately.

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  3. Yes, I do think this article will encourage people to get off their drugs.

    I am more and more impressed by people who have the courage to free themselves from these poisons. And I have also seen that people who do this have become some of the best activists in our human rights movement. Anyone who can choose to go through the ordeal of getting off these poisons is really almost heroic.

    Thanks for this article, Chaya. It will help a lot of people.

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  4. I never knew if I would ever even recognize myself once I got of the meds., was surprised, and even elated (as much as I am able to be now) that much of my personality, interests and thought processes remain in tact. Your list is very real, and much of which is true for me too. There is still much of my old vitality missing even years after recovery from psychiatric abuse, but that which has been recovered is genuinely heartening, and gives me strength to appreciate my body and mind’s resilience to the medical trauma I was subject to. I think I would like to make a list now. Thank you for sharing Chaya Grossberg!!

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  5. Hi, Chaya,
    I really appreciate your personal story, I really do, because of its hopeful message. But I feel, it also gives the impression that getting off drugs is a wonderful panacea for all life’s ills. I suspect that there was something else going on with you – a realization, a determination perhaps, that you no longer subscribed to the old you. I have seen the best and the worst with my own relative. He was off medication but not not able to contemplate higher education, physical exercise or many of the other items you list. He was on medication (always striving for the lowest possible dose) and he is tackling things he couldn’t do before. I’m not saying it’s the medication that is the magic bullet. It is not. I want him off medication because it is a detrimental to good health. I think it’s perhaps an emotional maturity that allows him to do things he couldn’t do before. The goal in the end is to be off medication. Too many people believe,from reading MIA, that getting off the medication will mean that life returns to “normal.” I have found it is a lot more complex. (And I appreciate that you also talk about the complexity in your other posts.)

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    • Thanks Rossa.

      What do you mean by “I suspect that there was something else going on with you–a realization, a determination perhaps, that you no longer subscribed to the old you.”? I very much subscribed to the old pre-drugged passionate young me. Sure, there were things I did that were quite immature and that I wouldn’t do again, but I needed to go through them to learn from life. It would have been nicer to have more support that wasn’t pathologizing though. Most of my paranoia and fear came from living in a society that isn’t safe to go through a spiritual emergence in.
      Or did you mean the old me was the drugged me?
      In any case, I regained these abilities without all that much determination-they all naturally came back to me.
      It’s a lot more complex, as you say, since my life was never “normal,” before or after drugging… nor did I really want it to be, haha.

      I also agree that as a young adult, there were ways in which maturing helped me to move beyond certain experiences. Getting off psych drugs isn’t the only thing anyone ever needs to do to have the life they want. But I do validate those who feel it is an important step.

      Going off psych drugs won’t solve all of life’s ills. I still have plenty of problems in my life- actually more in a way. Lying in bed all day didn’t give me much opportunity to have problems other than my own health and lethargy.

      There are all kinds of struggles in my life all the time, which in fact I’m grateful for to some degree. Being drugged out of my mind to eliminate those problems didn’t really work, unless you consider inactivity to be a life goal.

      It sounds like your relative is having a different experience. My story isn’t everyone’s story. I wish your relative the best in health, knowledge and true freedom, however that looks for them.

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      • This reminded me of the recovery rates for, “Schizophrenia,” in the rich world, where drugs are prescribed, and the poor world, where on the whole they are not. Basically almost no one recovers in the rich world and the majority do in the poor world. It also reminded me of a freind who said the drugs made him fat and lethargic. Some compare so called anti-psychotics to chemical lobotomys.

        People are individaul and some people find they cannot cope without them but it is still true that drugs that turn people into zombies will make pretty much anything interesting difficult.

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    • Rossa, I am wondering about how long your loved one was on and off medication when he or she had the results you describe. (e.g. was your loved one off at first and then finally went on medication or did he or she start off on medication. Did you see the positive effects from medication pretty quickly or was did the positive effects go very, very slowly over a long period of time? I realize I should look to see if you have a personal story somewhere on this site.

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      • Hi, Sa,
        I’m in a bit of a rush so can’t answer Chaya’s question yet but will briefly answer yours. I have never seen positive effects that I attribute to the medication. The medication stinks. Any benefit I see is for emergency situations. But, I am in touch with people through my blog and other avenues who are fearful of putting their relatives on medication because of what they read in MIA and / or they think that all that stands between their relative and full recovery are the drugs and they are frantically trying to get their relatives off them at all costs, even though there is so much more to learn about how to recover in order to sustain a recovery when one is off the drugs. I’m probably not making myself clear. I think Chaya’s post is very good, because it is positive and shows how well off someone can be one day. Just a note of caution that it doesn’t work this way for everyone, and of course, most people here know that. So maybe I didn’t even need to say it.

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  6. Being completely psychiatric drug free is beautiful. As I slowly tapered off the drugs parts of me resurfaced. The horrific Akathesia stopped as the re-flux, colon spasms, shaking, bouts of hysterical crying for 6-8 hours not being able to sleep for 72 hours, muscle spasms, itchy skin rashes, being hospitalized repeatedly for nausea, vomiting and stomach upset, painful leg edema, confused thinking, loss of energy, gaining over 100 pounds, ect. More and more of who I used to be became evident as I tapered and I was surprised at my renewed inner strength to endure further tapering came into play. The drugs had caused profound emotionally instability and after tapering my emotions stabilized.

    To have so many people remark how different I am now, stable, calm, fun to be with. When I was drugged my reading stopped and now I read easily for hours . Psychiatric drugs robbed me of my life and once again I am me but a changedt me because no one can go through what I did and be the same.

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    • What a powerful testimonial aria! That a lot of dramatic shifting. So sad that this is what is called “medicine” for “mental health”. I, too, could not read and had a lot of the experiences you described including Akathesia.
      Thanks for reading and sharing your story!!!

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  7. For me the picture looked like this : trauma transfer from world war II , but mainly straight up mercury poisoning by still sanctioned ADA (dental association) via so called silver amalgam actual composition 53% mercury.In addition undetected infection under right upper most rear molar.All aggravated to beyond the Valley of Gwangi by the Fraudulent Gov Medical Industrial Electric Psych-Pharma Modality Machine. While in the background the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Struggle the Hippies (I was one) all to the tune of the best music ever.
    For me it lasted from the age of 16 till 55 including 5 escapes from various mental hospitals a terrible suicide attempt ,an attempt to go to Vietnam, a realization even the French ForeignLegion wouldn’t accept me and a determination and persistence like no other to find out why this was happening to me even though I gave up at times.The diagnosis that followed me like a shadow first the S word then Manic Depression then BiPolar Depression . The Treatments just standard – Thorazine ,Stelazine , Cogentin ( The Chemical Lobotomy) luckily only one series of 15 electric shock treatments ( they could of kept em coming) , Than the non standard— actual experimentation with (Injections stopping the ability to breathe) in a “hospital ” which used to be a prison in Acre, Israel.Back in the USA and finally Halidol the great brain shrinker. One thing that surely saved me was non compliance whenever possible. Advanced Hal Huggins Dentistry made all and the main difference. Also Traditional Naturopathy ,Homeopathy ,and http://www.Yuenmethod .com an energy healing system also helped . Knowing my parents loved me was indispensable to my carrying on.
    And then when finally after some self invented and modified modalities and mostly cause of the dental work I was finally able to come off the last of the Haliperidol . I must say I was reborn in much the same way Chaya describes . I’m not saying I didn’t lose some IQ points . But I sleep like a baby , I need no “meds”. I’m 68 years old, my beautiful girlfriend is 49 . And except that I am aware other people are still suffering (I hope they don’t lose hope and still trust in themselves) I did pray to G-D a lot. And I know that at least on the inside things can change for the way better. The outside still a work in progress depending on how much we care about each other.

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      • Alex , Thank You for encouraging me so strongly. I’ve hoped to write a book but haven’t started . It seems like such a big project but I see that it would be of help . I ‘ll definitely get started.
        The experiences I’ve had and the natural healer’s I learned from have shaped me into some kind of a wounded healer. I really appreciate your efforts to help enlighten people about the reality of energy healing. Many times have you clarified some aspect of healing with great patience. We survivors must redouble our efforts to believe each other and investigate further when one of us speaks of healing in ways unfamiliar to us . We will all become stronger and we all have important things to do using our own unique talents. Take Care, Fred

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        • You remind me of what is exciting here, Fred, that we are pioneers in uncharted territory. We’re all discovering this together, one step forward at a time. Some overlap, some not, like a tapestry weaving itself to create something new from all this. I’ve no doubt your contributions to this exploration are intended for many. From what I’ve read on here, your experience is vaaaaast! And you write about it so brilliantly and passionately, truly.

          And, it’s what I love about your writing, Chaya, and what you share, and what many on here share so openly, the exploration of new territory, post psychiatric trauma. A lot is being born from this. I think it’s very generous and socially valuable sharing.

          I’m not sure the world has ever known such transparency as those of us who share about psychiatric survivor-ship, especially given social media now. I think it’s exciting, and historic. I see pioneers, here. Gives me an optimistic feeling and strengthens the vision of change happening, as we, ourselves, heal, grow, and, transform. Feeling very grateful for what I’m privileged to witness here.

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          • I love the phrase psychiatric survivor-ship. It makes me feel acknowledged for how strong I’ve been while taking meds, switching meds, and tapering meds. Nobody can possibly understand the strength it takes to walk through drug induced depression and mania. *celexa, lexapro, lithium, latuda, lamitrogine, etc. I have survived all of this. I will continue to survive and then thrive once I am med free. =)

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    • What a story Fred. Reminds me of how much we are survivors. It’s great to hear you are doing so well now and were able to come off! And sleep well. That is a big one…I feel so rested and spiritually renewed after sleeping now, compared to when I was on those drugs.
      Thanks for reading and sharing your story here.

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    • Hi Sa,
      It was different for different things. Some of these things I was able to do again almost as soon as I started tapering while others took years to gain back. Which specific ones were you most interested in knowing about?
      Thanks for reading,
      Chaya

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  8. Gorgeous, I relate completely. To my list, I’d add 1) cry and 2) laugh.

    After I took my last dusting of the nine drugs on which I had ended up, I cried for about 3-4 days. I thought I would, literally, die from grief–a painful liberation of intense releasing, but liberation nonetheless. It was a long haul after that subsided, but at least I could feel my heart again, which to me, means feeling life. I realized how the drugs had blocked me from feeling anything in my heart, which is actually what guides me now, so in essence, they blocked my inner guidance and my connection with my own spirit.

    Eventually, I could feel joy and love again, too. The hard part had been remembering that I had once known these feelings, but not being able to conjure them any longer.

    There is no substitute for feeling life, regardless of how it feels. Life is a rainbow of feelings to experience.

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  9. Chaya,

    I too would like to know specifically when some of your abilities came back, specifically the ability to read, to critically think, to write, to feel emotion, and to relate with others like a relatively “normal” human being. I am completing my journey out of psychiatry in June in preparation for graduate school in the fall. I feel all the abilities that I listed above are going to be crucial to my success in graduate school, and I would be curious to know when these abilities came back for you. Maybe several months, or years after coming off psych drugs?

    Daniel

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    • Hi Daniel,
      I started to be able to read again while I was in the process of withdrawal, towards the end. Writing was a gradual process. I was able to write towards the end of my withdrawal, but my writing didn’t return to being clear and well received until about half a year later, or more. It was a gradual process of being able to think clearly again. Though there were a few odd times while on psych drugs that I wrote things that were coming to me from beyond and were poetic and clear. But I wasn’t able to write good essays or anything until after I was completely off for at least a few months.
      I went back to college while I was still in my withdrawal process and it was the first time in my life my writing was received poorly by my teachers, in that they seemed to think I was intrinsically a bad writer, or just didn’t get how to write.
      Feeling emotion…well that too was a gradual and complicated one, so it’s hard to say. I gradually felt more emotion with each withdrawal in a way that can’t be quantified.
      Being able to relate with others as a relatively “normal” human being…another very tricky one because I emerged from psych drugs and immediately got involved in activism, so I was accepted by that community right away and felt normal there, so that eased me back in, but I think it took me at least several years to feel “normal” around other people, especially since I was so young and my adult identity hadn’t been formed yet.
      I think age and how long you were on the drugs are important factors, as well as how much peer support you have, peers meaning people who have been through withdrawal and get it.
      Good luck with grad school!!!

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  10. All I’m on now is Effexor–150 mg. Wish me luck. I start tapering by 10% this weekend. I have already come off Trileptal and Abilify. I have reasons to believe the latter was causing me to have deep cysts continually. The other kept me from walking much at all. I have done it all myself with no help from anyone who lives nearby–certainly no medical help.

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