Psychiatry Poured Oil Down the Hill I Was Climbing


In the summer and fall of 2007 my body was under a lot of physical stress. In early June, I fell down stairs and broke my foot. I spent the next few months maneuvering up and down the four levels of stairs in my home on my rear, using my hands to support my casted leg and foot. Within a month, I was exhibiting signs of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in my hands. The diagnosis was confirmed in early August and I was prescribed anti-rheumatic drugs, as well as Prednisone to control the pain and inflammation. As a corticosteroid, Prednisone can cause anxiety and jitteriness. In September, I had a very severe panic attack like nothing I had ever experienced before. As is common, I thought I was having a heart attack or stroke. I was given Ativan in the ER and a short RX of Ativan to take home with me.

Upon following up with my primary care doctor, I was given a prescription for Xanax to use as needed. For whatever reason, I became susceptible to panic attacks after that and had a few more that fall. My primary care doctor then sent me to a psychiatrist, with whom I made the ill-fated decision to take Ativan on a nightly basis—to prevent future panic attacks—because I did not want to have the sexual side effects of an SSRI. This was the worst decision I ever made.

At no time during my intake appointment or future appointments did the behavioral health providers suggest that my history of adverse childhood experiences (e.g., trans-ethnic adoption, multiple forms of abuse, abandonment, parental death from ALS) could have impacted my developing neurobiology in such as way as to predispose me to a lower threshold for anxiety and panic, nor did they suggest that I could retrain my body to calm itself through mind-body interventions without the use of psychotropic drugs. Had I been told—given the chance to give INFORMED CONSENT—about the possibility of a protracted withdrawal syndrome with extreme neuromuscular dysfunction resembling Parkinson’s disease or MS; dysautonomia; central sensitization including nerve pain and intolerances to chemicals and some of my favorite foods; derealization; depersonalization; Alice in Wonderland syndrome and other visual distortions… essentially feeling like I was having a bad acid trip while simultaneously being poisoned on a daily basis for 14 MONTHS… followed by residual symptoms at a lower level INDEFINITELY, along with susceptibility to more severe SETBACKS following future physical trauma or surgery due to central nervous system KINDLING, you can be sure I would have left that psychiatrist’s office without a prescription and never come back!

Between 2008 and 2012, I was in undiagnosed tolerance withdrawal, resulting in multiple ER visits and being tested for cardiac, neurological and pulmonary problems due to the palpitations, vertigo, esophageal spasms, and hyperventilation I developed each time I became tolerant to a particular dose of Ativan. I never had these symptoms prior to being prescribed benzos and they were very different from the panic attacks that had led to the benzo RX. Multiple times, my psychiatrist diagnosed a worsening anxiety disorder and increased my dose, going from an initial 1mg at night to 1mg three times per day. I remember asking my doctors if the Ativan could be responsible for my symptoms and was assured that it could not.

As a result, I had multiple CT scans and MRIs of my brain, stress tests, and was eventually prescribed an SSRI (Prozac)—polydrugged to treat symptoms of the neuroplastic changes my body was making to compensate for having my GABA receptors increasingly down-regulated by Ativan. At one point during an exceedingly bad episode of tolerance withdrawal with undiagnosed akathisia, I was prescribed Seroquel as well. Thankfully I took that for only two nights because it made me feel like I was drifting into a comatose state and becoming paralyzed. Years after my second and final benzo withdrawal in 2012, I had Genomind genetics testing and learned that, due to my genetic makeup, I should not be prescribed SSRIs or atypical antipsychotics like Seroquel due to heightened risk for adverse reactions.

Because I understood that Ativan could be addictive (which in my mind meant craving the drug—something I never once experienced), I decided on my own to come off it in Fall of 2011. I came off Prozac too, tapering over the course of a few months. I did not have severe symptoms right away but by January of 2012 I started to have increasing anxiety. I thought it was related to life events and I began to take the Ativan (but not the Prozac) again at a lower dose. I guess the first withdrawal had sensitized me to Ativan withdrawal because when I reinstated, I began to have severe withdrawal symptoms (shakiness, paresthesia, anxiety, breathing trouble, blurred vision, feeling like I was having drops in blood pressure) within a few hours after each dose. I did not understand that these were withdrawal symptoms at the time but I found that Ativan helped, so I increased my dose over time and was back up to 3mg per day by April of 2012.

Unfortunately, Ativan did not work as well as it had previously and I continued to have symptoms in between doses. At this point, I told my primary care doctor what was happening. He told me that I was having an “adverse reaction” to Ativan, that I should not have been prescribed it for as long as I had been on it, and that I needed to get off it. He then direct-switched me to Klonopin because of its longer half-life. When I went back to the psychiatrist to update her on what had been happening, she treated me like a drug addict and accused me of taking more than she had prescribed. I lost any trust I had left in her at this point because my health had been turned upside down in an extremely frightening way, and she had treated me like I was to blame for it. I also made the mistake of thinking that “adverse reaction” was the same as “allergic reaction” and that I should get off the newly prescribed Klonopin as quickly as possible before I had the same type of reaction to it as I had been having to Ativan. At no time did either the primary care doctor or psychiatrist suggest to me that I had become physically dependent on benzos and was experiencing withdrawal!

I was terrified of benzos at this point, only took half the Klonopin dose prescribed to me, and tapered off that over the course of 6 weeks (last dose in July 2012). This was essentially a cold-turkey withdrawal and could have caused me seizures at the very least (I did have two abnormal EEGs a few months after my last dose, showing slowing in the left frontal temporal lobe and beta spindling, which have returned to normal years later). I experienced depersonalization, derealization, gait disturbance, fast heart rate, paresthesia, palpitations, visual distortions, metallic taste, and phantom smells such as ammonia and smoke throughout this taper. And this was only the beginning. ALL HELL broke loose a couple of months after my very last dose, when I developed nearly every symptom associated with benzo withdrawal, including the rare ones.

By some miracle, during my taper I was able to finish the final semester of my part-time, online MA in Sociology, maintaining my 4.0 GPA, but within 9 months had to go on long-term disability leave from my employment as a research associate conducting evaluations of federal education programs. This was the competent life I had been living when my psychiatrist and other doctors began treating me as if I was a recreational drug addict or someone with severe psychological problems! Because they did not understand my tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, they even suggested that I had somatoform disorder. I later got detailed copies of all my medical records, including the psychiatric records, and saw they were describing me as someone with a “long history of psychiatric problems.” I assume this was because I had informed the doctors about having seen therapists on and off since adolescence. This was not evidence of a mental disorder, but the result of a history of traumatic childhood experiences that led to an anxious attachment style, which in turn led to emotional devastation over relationship breakups as an adolescent and adult.

The biomedical model of pathologizing victims of trauma has to stop. I did not need a drug prescription! I needed someone to tell me about normal emotional and behavioral responses to abnormal circumstances, to explain attachment dynamics and the repercussions of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). I had to become knowledgeable of these topics on my own. Compelled by the additional trauma I went through due to benzo damage and the way I was treated by the healthcare system while trying to get help for that damage, I stumbled onto and then fervently pursued everything I could read about adult children of alcoholics/dysfunctional families; attachment styles; ACEs, and the neurobiology of trauma. I learned that the issues I had been experiencing BEFORE being damaged by psychiatrists and their drugs of choice could be managed with education and behavioral changes. But it’s a much higher, harder hill to climb AFTER suffering iatrogenic physiological damage. was a lifesaver for me. I had spent months trying to figure out what was causing my bizarre symptoms, having yet more medical testing, spending more money on that, and becoming increasingly fearful and frustrated. The doctors’ refusal to acknowledge that my withdrawal symptoms could be so bad and all-encompassing left me questioning if there indeed was some other medical condition to account for my experience. I finally Googled “adverse reaction to benzodiazepines,” found Benzobuddies, and learned that my “adverse reaction” was actually withdrawal symptoms due to physical dependence. At that point, being a research professional, I found and printed multiple documents from benzo withdrawal support websites, detailing the very symptoms I was experiencing, along with peer-reviewed journal articles about benzo withdrawal, and delivered these to the doctors I had seen. Bewilderingly, they continued to dismiss me and told me repeatedly, “withdrawal symptoms only last a few weeks.”

I had 14 months of severely disabling symptoms daily. My symptoms got much worse before they got better. During this time, I also developed sudden-onset intolerance to foods, drugs, and chemicals I’d tolerated my whole life. I haven’t been able to eat pizza or ice cream since a few months into my benzo withdrawal because of the severe anaphylactic-like (not true allergy but perhaps mast cell activation) reaction I developed to cow’s milk products. I had a similar reaction to my RA medications. From 2007 until benzo withdrawal in 2012, my RA had been very well controlled; but because I had to stop taking my RA drugs for almost 6 months, I developed deformities in my hands. I tried to take Prednisone for the pain and immediately felt like I was experiencing an extremely severe wave of benzo withdrawal symptoms (perceptual and sensory distortions, extreme anxiety and agitation).

In a misguided attempt to help with my withdrawal symptoms, I was prescribed Lexapro from September to December, 2013. Within two weeks, I developed extreme sexual anhedonia, and I continue to have post-SSRI sexual dysfunction to this day. I’d maintained normal sexual sensations well into my benzo withdrawal syndrome until Lexapro took that away from me. I believe this extreme response to Lexapro was likely the result of my nervous system having been compromised by benzo withdrawal. I remain intolerant to cow’s milk, MSG, aspartame, and volatile gases. My compromised and highly sensitive nervous system frequently responds to these with dystonic reactions, derealization, perceptual distortions, vibrations and other paresthesia, blood pressure drops, and near syncope. I never had any of these problems before.

I was able to go back to work in early 2014, functioning at my new, compromised normal. Unfortunately, in April of 2015 I had a cycling accident that required surgery to repair a broken elbow with a metal implant. I made sure they did not give me any benzos. I was given Propofol, Fentanyl and Decadron (a strong corticosteroid for inflammation). I also had a week or two of Percocet for pain after the surgery. I went back to work within a week, but by the third week after my accident, I felt like I was going through acute benzo withdrawal all over again, only 1000 times worse. I firmly believe that a good part of what happened after my surgery was due to central nervous system kindling from sedative-hypnotic anesthesia drugs, which involves a worsening with each exposure and withdrawal.

Unfortunately, my symptoms worsened in a cascade of debilitation, including new symptoms such as chronic nerve and bone pain in my legs and spine, dysautonomia (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and orthostatic hypotension), orthostatic intolerance with sensations of near collapse, exercise/exertion intolerance, intolerance to weather changes and more. I was eventually diagnosed with a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

I have been on long-term disability again for 2.5 years but am no longer bedridden, as I was for the first year of this severe setback. I have been further devastated socially and financially, but I am now able to work part-time again and have begun a part-time, online MSW program. I also attempt the occasional social or recreational activity, even though I again feel as if I have MS or Parkinson’s disease in addition to dysautonomia and fibromyalgia. I do not have an anxiety disorder. I do have neurological damage. I now take a beta-blocker and get acupuncture and neurofeedback to manage and try to correct the heightened sympathetic nervous system responses and reactivity I developed due to iatrogenic neuroplastic changes in my inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters and neuroreceptors. These responses and reactivity involve symptoms I never had before being damaged by benzos.

I have nothing good to say about the psychiatric drugs prescribed to me or about the psychiatrists that prescribed them. I did not have a condition that needed to be medicated. There was no informed consent about the possibility of severe and indefinite damage that the drugs caused me, and I did not have the appropriate help withdrawing from them. I was a healthy, intelligent, energetic, fun-loving young woman who had not only survived a very traumatic childhood, but was thriving in many ways—and the mental health system poured a perpetual oil slick down the hill I’d been successfully climbing. The psychiatric system caused me to slide nearly all the way back to the bottom twice, but I’m still climbing.

I think of myself as now having a pair of high-traction shoes, and I’m going to continue to climb all the way through an MSW and a PhD in Social Work so I can advocate for people with experiences like mine—to prevent them from being damaged by psychiatry where possible, and to bring validation and justice to those who’ve already been harmed.


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.


  1. My condolences, Mescelle! As if a broken foot and arthritis weren’t bad enough those quacks put you on addictive drugs and played mind games with you.

    I remember how frightening it was when my first shrink claimed Anafranil NEVER caused insomnia, hallucinations or mania. Either he was ignorant and too lazy to check his pill manual for side effects–all the things
    I described were listed. Or maybe he was just gas lighting. How many shrinks are into this kind of emotional abuse?

    • My condolences, too, Mescelle. I had a broken ankle with arthritis, then the quacks put me on opioids, NSAIs, and antidepressants … then antipsychotics, rather than the benzos. But I have a very similar story of staggering amounts of egregious iatrogenic harm to cover up easily recognized iatrogenesis.

      And when I went outside my insurance for a second opinion, I ran into idiot “mental health professionals” wanting to profiteer off of covering up the abuse of my child, as opposed to your personal experience of child abuse.

      But this means I absolutely agree, “The biomedical model of pathologizing victims of trauma has to stop. I did not need a drug prescription!” And overcoming is “a much higher, harder hill to climb AFTER suffering iatrogenic physiological damage,” and I’ll add psychiatric DSM defamation and iatrogenic harm.

      An ethical pastor eventually confessed to me that “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions” is that the primary functions of today’s “mental health professionals” are covering up easily recognized iatrogenesis by the mainstream doctors and child abuse for the religious leaders.

      And this is true, even according to today’s “mental health professionals” own medical literature. If you can believe, the “mental health professionals” are now even trying to claim “schizophrenia” is caused by child abuse. So they may explain away, and try to cover up the fact, that most of the “seriously mentally ill” are actually child abuse victims.

      My abused child, because I kept him away from the overly intrusive “mental health professionals,” who want to drug up all the well behaved and intelligent children, did heal and become the valedictorian of his high school class, then graduated with highest honors (Phi Beta Kappa) from college.

      No, child abuse does not cause the DSM “mental illnesses.” There’s a paternalistic “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions,” which is that the two primary functions of today’s scientifically “invalid” “mental health industry” are indeed, turning child abuse victims into the seriously “mentally ill” with the psychiatric drugs on a massive scale, and covering up the easily recognized iatrogenesis for the incompetent mainstream medical doctors.

      God bless you in your healing journey, Mescelle, and thanks for sharing your story of the insanity of today’s psychiatric system. The inmates are running the asylum.

  2. I feel sick reading your all too common account of medical malpractice Meschelle.
    Sadly, all Allopathic drugs (not just psych drugs) cure nothing, mask vital symptoms that alert us to what is wrong, create imbalances and cause real disease in the body. Worse, conventional “medicine” fails to find or address the underlying root cause of what is ailing us as you said. For many this has nothing to do with past trauma but is simply misdiagnoses of a “medical mimic” IE: thyroid or some 60 other diseases that are labeled “mental illness’s”.
    I am happy to hear that you will be advocating to protect the millions who are misdiagnosed and mistreated (insurance fraud) by conventional “medicine’. We are in dire need of people who understand what is really going on and why despite wasting so much money on sick care, we suffer so much disease and continue turning to “medicine” as if it is the answer as opposed to the problem. If you are not already familiar, Dr. Kelly Brogan’s work will resonate with you.
    Best wishes in healing your mitochondria. You strength is an inspiration.

  3. meschelle—you really have been through awful stuff…thanks for sharing your suffering…
    I still believe tho that there are some psychiatrists that are helpful…and all of psychiatry is not bad..
    but the psychiatry system is very badly broken down…I was taken care of by a psychiatrist and psychologist
    a long time ago that were very good and helpful…psychiatry used to pay attention to psychology and sociology together with biology….not just drugs drugs drugs….

  4. Have heard such stories re benzo withdrawal akathisia so many times. It is horrific and THE most diffiuclt situation I found myself in. When I studied the glutamate system and long-term potentiation, I discovered that magnesium ions regulate the transmission of the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system: glutamate. Also that GABA is synthesized from glutamate usung the the enzyme glutamate decaboxylase plus a co factor B6, the active form there of. Hope that helps if you still suffer anxiety.

  5. Mescelle, those of us who’ve been ‘there’ in that world of pure psychotic mental torture of benzo’s don’t just read your words, we feel them, we relive them. The left over trauma sees to it. But I have never heard anyone describe the unrelenting hell we have to go through all in the name of Psychiatry, where the ‘Hippocratic Oath’ does not apply, as articulately and eloquently as you just did. I have nothing good or positive to say about Psychiatry. They stole decades from me, they even went after my soul, in the end they stole everything from me they could steal. All psychiatric drugs, especially the benzo’s take your mind places you never even knew existed, and once you get there you quickly realize you’re living in for the worst nightmare imaginable, living in abject terror every waking second absolutely terrified we’ll never be able find our way out of this nightmare we’ve found ourselves in with no help from anyone in the medical field. I equated my c/t Klonopin withdrawal to taking 10 hits of pure LSD, went completely insane which most people can’t understand what this feels like, let alone believe it. And those lucky enough to survive are never the same again. My motto is and will always be – ‘benzo withdrawal have any hero’s, it only leaves survivors.’ And I’m ever so grateful that you are one of them. Although you suffered endlessly and needlessly, your beautifully written words is the best gift we psychiatric drug survivors could ever hear. They provide something no one in the Mental Health field ever gave me, and that is – hope. And thank you for that.

  6. Meschelle,

    Your story is so poignant, moving me to tears as I recall my 45 year old daughter’s experience that began in 2011 and ended on June 16, 2016 with her suicide as she fell victim to the ravages of poly psychopharmacy . There is a place in hell for physicians who, out of their realm, misdiagnose and treat patients with psychotropic drugs, creating a chemical imbalance that the fragile brain struggles unsuccessfully to correct throughout their sadistic “drug trial” without informed consent. I am telling her story to everyone who will listen from consumer watchdog agencies to medical boards and government officials. In fact, today I sent an appeal to the Florida division of the American Academy of Pediatric Doctors to urge them to reexamine the use of psychotropic drugs like Aderall on children diagnosed with ADHD. The sale of this drug has recently realized an increased popularity among college students as it offers enlightened euphoria.
    Psychiatric meds are a scourge on the culture and are the precipitating factor in the mental health crisis we are experiencing. I, too, suggest you acquaint yourself with the works of Dr. Brogan, Dr. Gotzche and Dr. Whitaker. Please align yourself with these and others who are in an uphill battle to shine the light on this travesty occurring because of the greed of Big Pharma and the willful ignorance of the complicit medical community and FDA/NIH. I too would like to contact you and share my daughter’s story if that is permissible. I am so grateful you survived and will be a voice for those who did not. God bless.

    • grievingmother, can relate so very well to your words for Meschelle. Big pharma has every one of my family members in their clutches. Every one is on 1 or more psychiatric drugs, and I am forced to watch the quality of their lives go from happy, spontaneous people to anxiety ridden, depressed and sickly. But it’s the hardest watching my 41 year old daughter who’s been polydrugged for decades. It’s hard watching my grandchildren neglected and abused by a mother who can no longer function in any capacity of the word from taking so many toxic drugs. Psychiatry made sure she followed right in my footsteps. Dr.’s told her the same old lie they told me over 35 years ago, chemical imbalance and the need to take drugs for the rest of your life. I have to watch the drugs literally destroying her life, and that of her children’s. It’s heartbreaking. It’s more heartbreaking listening to someone who’s lost a loved one due to our so called ‘medicines’. I mean how many lives have be sacrificed to Psychiatry? How many lives do they want? expect? The mental torture the drugs put us through is very difficult to live through. Extremely difficult. Most have no idea. Dr. Brogan, Robert Whitaker, Dr. Breggin are fantastic advocates, but my all time favorite is Peter Gotzsche. I love that man beyond words. Keep up the good fight, and in the meantime, us psychiatric drug survivors will continue screaming from the roof tops until some one actually hears us. God Bless you grieving mother.

      • Thank you Sandra for your compassionate response which only other victims completely understand. We must be the voices for those without the capacity to express how they have been victimized by our medical/pharmaceutical model of healthcare. I am working with an organization that is serious about informing the public and putting an end to this abuse under the guise of therapeutic intervention.
        The CCHR (Citizens Commission on Human Rights) has offices throughout the world and they are filing a complaint with the Florida Medical Board on my behalf regarding my daughter Lori’s mismanaged case. I just completed the application one week ago but many other complaints are being filed with their local office in Clearwater, Fl. (800-782-2878). Parents whose children are being removed from classrooms and taken to mental health facilities at the behest of teachers without parental consent and placed on psych drugs. They are somehow circumventing “informed consent”. Parents and in fact most people have little grasp of the long term consequences of these mind altering psychotropic drugs irregardless of the age of the patient but their effects are particularly egregious when used in the children as young as 3-4 years old. We must speak out against these atrocities as we are literally allowing ourselves and our children to become guinea pigs for the pharmaceutical industry as we provide them with long term study statistics.

        Please consider joining the fight alongside CCHR and if you wish to report negative effects of these and other drugs you are aware of, please contact the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research to file your report. It remains to be seen if they relent, but I ask you to join me in contacting your US Congressmen and request they hold hearings to bring this abuse to light. We should consider starting a nationwide petition. Perhaps this website would host and submit to the…? I will not be silent because I don’t want other families to experience the grief that I have lived since my daughter’s death. May God bless and comfort those who share this this painful legacy.