Ambushed by Antidepressants for 30 Years

Jane Tholen
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Before antidepressants, I was articulate and accomplished. I could think — I could do anything I set out to do. I was a banking executive living in a beautiful apartment in Boston’s Back Bay when a home invasion in 1985 prompted my doctor to prescribe antidepressants for PTSD.

Just as my attacker slammed into me, SSRI antidepressants ambushed the neurotransmitters in my brain causing cognitive decline, severe anxiety, panic attacks and suicidal depression.

They helped me function for a while, but the debilitating mental and physical side effects of antidepressants held me prisoner. I couldn’t “decide” to get off them.

Antidepressants Led to More Drugs

When the antidepressants didn’t “work,” my doctors either upped the dosage of the one I was on or switched me to a different one. A higher dose made the side effects worse; a new drug continued the assault on my brain under a different name.

In an effort to tamp down overwhelming anxiety, which is one of the most common side effects of antidepressants, I was given tranquilizers. When I complained I couldn’t sleep, I was given addictive sleeping pills. When I was constantly wound up, couldn’t focus, and showed a terrible temper, I was told I had ADHD and was given amphetamines. In a strange way I was relieved when I got the ADHD diagnosis because what I was going through had a name. Once again the meds didn’t help and, after testing, I was told I didn’t have ADHD. When I asked what was wrong with me, none of my healthcare providers had an answer.

Over the years, I was prescribed 16 of the 25 top-selling psychotherapeutic drugs — I never got any better.

My Life on Antidepressants

Antidepressants caused innumerable mental and physical problems. I merely subsisted from day-to-day trying to cope with what the drugs were doing to me. Uncontrollable high anxiety ruled, and I thought about suicide every day.

I read self-help books and saw a therapist every week, but it was a losing battle. I was powerless against what the chemicals were doing to my brain and body. To make matters worse, my doctors made me feel as if I weren’t trying hard enough.

When I tried to read a book, it didn’t make sense. I couldn’t understand what people were saying to me. When I was talking, I’d get mid-sentence and go blank. Before I made a simple phone call, I’d have to write out a script to help me stay on track.

Physically, I was a mess: dry mouth, headaches, gagging, flushing/sweating, blurry vision, head buzzing, body aches, lack of coordination, high cholesterol and a 45-pound weight gain.

I’d get in the car and just drive around. One time, I’d written “dinner” on my shopping list and walked out of the store with a bag of carrots. When I got to a familiar intersection, I’d panic because I didn’t know where I was.

I had always been a “can-do” kind of person. On antidepressants, my life turned into a series of catastrophes: I had to close my public relations agency, declare bankruptcy and move into subsidized housing, where I live today.

The most devastating blow came in 2012, when I was declared totally disabled. Before my lawyer and I walked into court, he told me that our judge usually rendered her opinion in two weeks. On that day, she declared my complete disability then and there. As I walked out of the courtroom with my new label, I thought, “How could this be happening?”

But I could still remember how I used to be, so I decided to come off antidepressants in 2015. When I told my doctor I wanted to quit, she tried to talk me out of it. She offered a dire warning: “If you come off antidepressants, your depression could get worse.” I was already living in hell, so what did I have to lose?

My Tapering Experience

Over the years, a couple of doctors took me off antidepressants cold turkey with disastrous results. Or, they put me on a taper schedule that was too abrupt: too large a milligram decrease over too short a period of time. When severe discontinuation symptoms surfaced, they’d halt the tapering process and return me to “a more therapeutic” dose.

By 2015, the only med I was taking was Effexor (venlafaxine, an SNRI). I had been on it for three years, and it caused the worst side effects of any antidepressant I had ever taken.

When I started to come off venlafaxine, my psychiatrist reduced the dose in half in just three weeks. My system couldn’t process the rapid decrease, and I went nuts. I opened my second floor bedroom window and was ready to pitch myself into oblivion. I called the EMTs instead.

After that scare, I went back to a higher dose and started to devise my own tapering schedule, cutting back the med the least possible amount each time and staying on that decrease for two weeks. I’ve since learned that had I stayed on each decrease longer, the discontinuing side effects I experienced would have been less severe.

In order to keep track of my tapers, I started an RX calendar and noted down how much I took each day. It helped me realize what I had already accomplished and where I was in the process. Most importantly, keeping an RX calendar made me feel that I was in control — for the first time in a long time.

Getting My Life Back

I wish I could say everything got better right away when I stopped taking antidepressants. As the venlafaxine gradually left my system, I experienced brain zaps, headaches, dizziness, nausea and sweating. It took a long time for these discontinuing symptoms to diminish and finally go away, but now I’ve got my old self back.

Even while I was coping with the side effects of quitting, there was a bright light. Just weeks after I was completely off venlafaxine, the pervasive, desperate depression I had lived with for so long simply vanished. It was as if a window shade in my head had been raised all the way to the top for the first time in years, and I knew I was going to be alright.

As the months passed, my brain continued to reset itself. Gradually, things started to make sense again. I could finally understand what people were saying to me. I could carry on a conversation without having a “brain hitch.” As the overload of serotonin dissipated, I realized I wasn’t stuck anymore — I was getting better every day.

My blurry vision cleared up, my mouth wasn’t dry anymore, I stopped walking into door jams, and I slept through the night. I’ve lost 45 pounds and my cholesterol, which had been dangerously high, dropped 60 points to a safe level.

What I’ve Learned

As I tried to put together the pieces of the pharmaceutical puzzle that plagued me for so long, I came across some astonishing research:

  • Dr. Irving Kirsch, director of Placebo Studies at Harvard Medical School, concludes in his study, “Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect” (National Institutes of Health, 2014), that any benefit from antidepressants is from the patient’s belief in the drug and not from the drug’s chemical composition.

  • A study conducted by the Nordic Center in Copenhagen (reported in British Medical Journal, 2016) revealed that pharmaceutical companies inflated the efficacy of antidepressants in their trial reporting and withheld negative drug responses from the medical community and the public. After reviewing 70 trials (18,000 patients), the researchers found that the occurrence of suicidal thoughts and aggressive behavior doubled in some age groups.
  • Harvard Health reports that 24% of women in their 40s and 50s take antidepressants. From 1999-2016, the national suicide rate increased 24%, while the suicide rate for women 45-64 jumped 63% (CDC).

I’m still having a hard time understanding how this could have happened. It’s been suggested to me by a therapist that what I’m going through now is another kind of PTSD: the ongoing trauma of realizing what antidepressants did to me for 30 years.

92 COMMENTS

  1. My condolences Jane.

    Your story is a great example of the “patient shaming” psychiatry routinely practices. “Our pills are magic. Yet you gained a bunch of weight, can’t hold a job, make friends, or even clean your living space. What’s wrong with you? It can’t be the fault of the stuff we prescribe. You’re just not trying. Let me double your medication.”

  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Jane. Absolutely there has been an attack, by the “mental health” workers, on middle aged and slightly younger women, especially women who’ve dealt with some sort of crime. In my case, I was attacked by doctors because I’d dealt with a “bad fix” on a broken bone they wanted to cover up, and my child had been abused.

    I was attacked prior to my even mentally coming to grips with the fact my child had been abused, since it happened outside my home. And I didn’t really come to grips with the reality of that crime, until the medical evidence of the abuse of my child was finally handed over years later, by some decent and disgusted nurses. How pathetic is it that a mom is actually relieved to be handed over medical evidence of the abuse of her child, since it explains why she was attacked by insane “mental health” workers?

    It’s a tremendous shame our “mental health” workers, who fraudulently claimed decades ago to “know everything about the meds.” Who are now claiming ignorance of all the adverse effects of their drugs, as well as the withdrawal symptoms of their drugs, with no acknowledgement that since these doctors have been raping our entire economy for their malpractice insurance, proper amends and compensation is the appropriate course of action, to those they are now unrepentantly, somewhat confessing, they ignorantly harmed.

    I agree, healing from the crimes and injustices being perpetuated against humanity by our DSM deluded “mental health” workers “is another kind of PTSD: the ongoing trauma of realizing” the staggering in scope, systemic crimes, fraud, and injustices of what the “mental health” workers have been doing to millions of people, including millions of children, for decades, a century, if not longer.

    https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2019/01/23/18820633.php?fbclid=IwAR2-cgZPcEvbz7yFqMuUwneIuaqGleGiOzackY4N2sPeVXolwmEga5iKxdo
    https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/04/heal-for-life/

    “Ambushed” by “mental health” workers is a good way of describing the behavior of our modern day, drug pushing, disingenuous DSM deluded “mental health” workers.

    “1. A sudden attack made from a concealed position.
    2…. Those hiding in order to attack by surprise…”

    I’m sorry about what happened to you and glad you were successfully able to get off the psych drugs. Thank you for sharing your story, and I hope and pray for justice for all.

    • Hi “SomeoneElse”. I’m one of those “mental health workers” who you just attacked. I also have a life history very similar to the author. We “mental health workers” are only as good as the information we are provided; drug manufacturers have lied to us, too! I know absolutely no one who works in mental health who is intentionally harming others though I do know several personally and professionally who refuse to comprehend how manipulated they have been by big pharma. Most people I know working in mental health are working extremely long hours for very low pay desperately trying to help people in a broken system with no solutions. Of the last 3 people who did my job, myself included, one died in her 50s, one left to go into another line of work and one was deemed permanently disabled. We “mental health workers” are suffering, too. We did not intentionally create your (or our own) struggles. Please be more mindful of what you say. Thank you.

      • BothSides: Thank you for this. I think that until we learn just how fundamentally this problem is systemic and that it does damage to everyone involved we are not going to get out of it. If you can find a way to be of help and create change from the inside, more power to you. 🙂

        • Daniel, Thank you! I’m doing my best to educate professionals about the unintentional harm we have caused. Some of us are now in the horrible position of examining our life’s work and accepting our failure. For me it’s important younger generations of mental health workers look at what has happened with fresh eyes and pursue more holistic non-pharma ways to help others.
          I hope they do a better job than my generation did.

      • Hi BothSides.

        Sorry about your situation. I realize you–and many other case workers–are not medical professionals and if you spread misinformation it’s because you’re also deceived.

        While I was working out a MH escape plan I remember a worker at day treatment telling us to eat right, exercise, and always take our “meds.” I thought how sad it was he honestly wanted to help us. But taking the “meds” was the opposite of healthy and would undermine the benefits of the first two.

        No one was a winner there!

        • Hi Rachel,
          I agree with you, some times there are no “winners” in a situation. I always heard what my clients said and did my job: advocated on their behalf. Sometimes our wins were small – like getting a med reduced instead of tapered all the way off. Other times we had big wins – like the county agreeing to pay for day treatment via a senior center’s activities instead of in the contracted nursing home environment. And, some times we lost the battle but regrouped with a different plan. I say “we” because I always viewed my clients as equal partners. Every other social worker in my department did as well.

          Reading what KindredSpirit has written has hit me hard today. I think Daniel is correct in pointing out “black and white” thinking, among other things. If reform were as simple as bold walkouts things would be changed by now. I have never harmed anyone intentionally. I bristle reading some of the finger pointing here. It keeps us down. It perpetuates the problems. It splinters productivity. It reinforces misconception and reinforces “us versus them”.

          In case Kindred reads this, perhaps knowing I got in between a gun wielding, out-of-her-mind old woman client and the police officers who were called to her house for a disturbance will help Kindred understand MANY mental health workers take HUGE risks to help daily. I just don’t wear my risk taking as a bully pulpit badge of honor. I knew the woman. I knew how to defuse the situation. I knew the police did not have my training or relationship with the woman. She could have shot me. She didn’t. They could have shot her. They didn’t. This is one example of many, many times I risked my safety to help people. I’m not superhuman. Those risks on behalf of others impacted me negatively but I’d do it again.

          Thanks, Rachel, for your kind words. They helped me.
          Peace.

          • You walked into this by taking someone else’s story of harm from abusive mental health workers personally. What you did would be the same as if someone called out abusive parents as a group and you came in to defend the idea that not all parents are bad. It wasn’t about you until you responded to someone else as if you’d been personally attacked. You can’t even own up to your own participation here. This is why we call this crap out.
            SomeoneElse’s comment wasn’t about you.

          • I have rarely read so many unjustified attacks against my character in all the time I’ve been commenting here.

            This is vile and shameful and so profoundly unprofessional I’m simply speechless.

            I made so many concessions and explained how patients could even be defensive and protective of kind nurses. I thanked Daniel for calling out areas he thought I was wrong so I could explain.

            This is exactly the kind of targeting and pathologizing crap from those in the industry that I have been protesting and your words are both untrue and hurtful.

            Please do comment again, as many times as you’d like. I could care less about having the last word and will remember to avoid you in the future.

          • You never harmed anyone intentionally but how many times did you participate in harm because you’re part of the system which continually harms people all the time. I wonder how much you’re willing to look at that honestly. I know that I’m participating in harm because I work in the system. I don’t like it but don’t know what to do about it at this point. I could go work at something else but then what little I am able to give to people won’t get done. I don’t understand why you’re so prickly about this. Just because someone doesn’t automatically agree with you, you decide to quit and leave. You can’t be thin skinned here at MIA. Why did you take this so personally? If the shoe doesn’t fit let it be and move on.

          • Hi Both Sides, The mission of MIA is SO important in bringing awareness and needs all of our collective voices and support. Your work and advocacy in the past is appreciated as you sound like a genuine person with a conscience. If every mental health worker and psychiatrist had those attributes things would not be as bad as they are. I hope you stay around and keep letting more professionals know about MIA.

          • Both Sides, you gotta realize that most of us were deeply harmed either by individual carers or by institutions. Or both. I for one am proud to be opinionated and biased toward the underdog. After all, most of us weren’t even allowed to express our opinions. We were silenced or discredited. You don’t like it here on the ward? Don’t worry, it’s just a symptom of your paranoia. And so on.

          • Both Sides, I believe Julie was just repeating what was said to her when she was on a ward, “You don’t like it here on the ward? Don’t worry, it’s just a symptom of your paranoia”.

  3. Thank you for this, and especially for your (and your therapist’s) suggestion that there can be “another sort of PTSD” in the aftermath. I was “only” on them for fifteen years, and got off seven years ago, but the damage caused to my life, both while being on them and especially during a multi-year withdrawal process, is still with me. I am continuing to climb out of the hole and honestly sometimes wonder if I am even able to take in fully the scope of it all. What makes it especially difficult is that no one else quite gets it, so I mostly have to work it out in my own head–so it is very helpful to hear your story and know I am not alone. You have my deepest sympathies, and solidarity.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story Jane. It’s certainly a story of courage and resilience and will inspire others that it is never too late to reclaim your life from harmful psychiatric drugs.

    Re: “It’s been suggested to me by a therapist that what I’m going through now is another kind of PTSD: the ongoing trauma of realizing what antidepressants did to me for 30 years”.

    I would agree with ‘PTS’ – but would drop ‘Disorder’ from that. After going through Hell and losing productive and precious years from your life it would be a normal, expected reaction (not a Disorder) to have post-traumatic stress when coming to terms with it.
    Wishing you all the best! Enjoy your hard-earned freedom from psych drugs!

    • Totally agree with Rosalee. It must be hard to make sense of it all, but it’s a joy your writing is so coherent, logical and interesting. Everyone including doctors have been subjected to a huge con and it’s hard to come to terms with scale of the disaster. You made it!

  5. I missed that part about the therapist. Surprised one would admit those “lifesaving medicines” could hurt you. My guess is she or he runs an independent practice. Am I correct Jane?

    The depression lifting near the end of the taper is what I experienced too in coming off Effexor after 23 years on SSRI’s and 25+ years on one psych drug or another. But mostly “cocktails.”

  6. Hi, Jane, Thank you for telling your story. I identify IN. I was taken hostage by the “Mental Health System.” I had no job, no home, no money and no support or help coming from any direction when I returned to my home town after years trying to “launch.” I was reaping the “rewards” of having been raised by TWO narcissistic people (there is usually ONE available for SOME protection; I had NONE), having run from their dire predictions of my “need for psychiatric care including hospitalization” until I was 31. Then I caved and fulfilled their wishes to become a chronically mentally ill and permanently disabled ward of the State. I kid you not. My mother joined the despicable NAMI, and I was shunned. Getting a “Diagnosis” was the end of life as I knew it. Being drugged destroyed my ability to advocate, to think, for myself, to be myself. I became docile, submissive, compliant, very unhappy and depressed, unable to do anything fun or creative; reading was curtailed because I would read the same paragraph over and over and still not comprehend it. I lost decades of my life just doing what I call DRIFTING, going to psychiatrists, one after another and getting help from none — most are narcissists, too, so it was like going home for me — they didn’t understand the pain and suffering I had endured and just cooked up “Diagnoses” that labeled me and showed I was “sick.” I was drugged further and forced into DENIAL of my sense of what had happened to me — for their convenience. I attended psychotherapy sessions for years on end (useless idiots for the most part, too; I am sorry, maybe I just got a string of bad ones as I could only go to those who took Medicare). SO, here I am, my 64th birthday coming this month, and last night I looked at my most favorite kitty’s old collar (he’s been gone since 2004), and I just want to go see him. I am ready to die; I don’t have the resilience I used to have where I wanted to “get better” and reclaim my life with some hope for the future. There used to be a future, but it’s gone; I don’t have years left anymore; I got old in the system; my life was ruined and wasted. It has been too long and exhausting. With psychiatric treatment, they don’t mention it, but you NEVER get time off, or a vacation; you are always under PRESSURE. Who wants to live like that? I don’t, but I DID. They stole my hopes and dreams, my life. I’m done. Help from resources like Mad in America, Cymbalta Hurts Worse, and Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse of Children has come too little, too late. Yours truly, Janebeth Shulman, Bethesda, Maryland

    • “SO, here I am, my 64th birthday coming this month, and last night I looked at my most favorite kitty’s old collar (he’s been gone since 2004), and I just want to go see him. I am ready to die; I don’t have the resilience I used to have where I wanted to “get better” and reclaim my life with some hope for the future.“

      Hi, Janebeth. I just wanted to extend a virtual hug to a fellow survivor and let you know you’re not alone for feeling this way. There is a growing community of survivors of psychiatric harm and it is imperative that we raise our collective voices to the harm this industry creates and fight back together. I hope you’ll stick around.

      • Thank you, kindredspirit. Appreciate your reaching out. Unfortunately, I’m not at a point where I can say I am a fellow survivor; because, basically, I feel like I was destroyed. I did not survive. I am still here, but I might as well have been dead for all those years, and the injustice of it is more than I can handle. I am one of those “Highly Sensitive” folks, and the cruelty of the double damage and all the loss is more than I can bear. How much is one person supposed to take? PTSD on top of PTSD (but diagnosed as Major Depression evolving into Bi Polar Type II, going to Borderline Personality Disorder and — you get the idea). The cruelty of a traumatic childhood that I was seeking help and recovery for; cruelty from the fact that the agencies I went to for help were incompetent; cruelty from the drugs that are neurotoxic poisons and harmed my brain and led to high blood sugar, hypertension, high triglycerides and a gain of almost 50 pounds. Nobody cares. They tell me it’s genetics and age. Yeah, well, sure, my mother had bad lab numbers, too; so, they say “genetics,” but GUESS WHAT? My poor, dear, abusive mother (who I have forgiven because I can understand her pain and suffering) was the first generation who got drugged for their entire lives. So, all you very smart genetic scientists — it was poisoning, not genetics. She sought help for depression and got, I guess, tricyclics and Valium — the old stuff. But for forever, of course. In her 80’s they treated her with ECT at Shepard-Pratt. She hurt me, but I loved her anyway. She was my mother, and they should all be lined up against a wall and shot. I know I should not post that on a public page; but, due to my “mental health” records, my Second Amendment rights are gone, and I will never be allowed to bear arms, which sucks. I used to be slim, trim and athletic, and the quick and scary weight gain was extremely humiliating and caused me great sadness. I told the shrink (1990-1999) that I had got fat and was upset (on Zyprexa, a drug which should be banned not only as a neurotoxin but also for its destruction of the endocrine system). His response, “Welcome to the club.” Now, am I oversensitive, or was that not cruel? The shrink I went to from 2000 to 2018 (he retired exactly one years ago, so, hurray!! it’s my anniversary of good riddance of him!!), asked every session about my attempts to lose weight. (It started to really anger me and get on my nerves because I’m sick, don’t you know, my emotions are all WRONG). Although he so kindly asked (slight sarcasm, here), I never lost weight because I was pumped full of drugs that were antagonistic to that endeavor. When I quit taking antipsychotics, I immediately lost weight without even trying. He was playing expert psychopharmacologist — dumping my mood down with one drug so he could bump it up with another and add Gabapentin over top of everything for what reason I could never determine. Maybe to please the drug reps by handing out boatloads of prescriptions? At present and due to my own efforts entirely, I am only on one SNRI. It will take significant effort to discontinue. I learned the hard way about the dangers of going cold turkey and spiraled down into a suicidal sewer lagoon, so I had to reinstate the “medicine.” Another cruel joke — that withdrawal symptoms are worse than your supposed “illness” ever was. I never, ever raised a hand against myself in all those years; constantly sought ways to bring enrichment, life, into my stalled-out existence. But the eye-opening, astonishing and dismaying facts that I only became aware of recently, weigh too heavily and may cause me to simply quit trying. Sincerely, Janebeth

        • You don’t know me and you have no reason to believe me, but when you say:

          “Unfortunately, I’m not at a point where I can say I am a fellow survivor; because, basically, I feel like I was destroyed. I did not survive. I am still here, but I might as well have been dead for all those years, and the injustice of it is more than I can handle. I am one of those “Highly Sensitive” folks, and the cruelty of the double damage and all the loss is more than I can bear. How much is one person supposed to take? PTSD on top of PTSD ”

          I can only reply that you are not alone. That is how the psychiatric industry functions. It takes people with social problems and labels, drugs, and stigmatizes them as different, bad, broken, deviant, and diseased. It – psychiatry – poisons and tortures in the name of “treatment” and “compassion”. And then it acts surprised when people don’t want to live anymore, when people come to realize that EVIL is not a pointy headed devil but is instead personified in the kind looking doctors, nurses, and social workers who claim to be helpers.

          Every day of this life presents opportunities to just quit. I know how hard it is to keep going. I’m so sorry you’re hurting. You’re not alone.

          • I want to echo what kindredspirit says here. You are not alone. It is difficult to keep going and none of us will deny that.

            But I would also say that we can’t turn loose of our lives because then it means that the system won. We can’t allow them to win, not at any cost. I almost cried when I read the part about your departed cat. But I suggest that perhaps it’s time to get another cat, not one to take your cat’s place for they are such individuals and one of a kind when it comes to personalities. But I encourage you to create a new friendship with another wonderful cat. You deserve the support and love that another cat will give you, unconditional love that never ends.

      • Hello, Rachel777, and thank you so much for your kind reply. I was busy creating the huge post you may see above when you sent your comment. It is so helpful just to be able to express myself in a venue where people understand what I am saying. Thanks again.

    • Hi Janebeth,
      I also send hugs and healing vibes your way. I can relate to what you are saying as I had the misfortune of seeing a hostile, narcissistic young psychiatrist (while in cancer treatment) and she inflicted severe and ongoing harm on my life. I thought I was alone in my misery and that it was just my bad luck to have run into a really ‘rotten apple’. But I have to say since finding MIA and reading stories and comments of others who were harmed and are fighting back, and seeing the supportive blogs and work of professionals from the MH field who are also fighting these injustices, has been life affirming for me. What I learned is that psychiatric survivors are some of the strongest and most resilient people around as evidenced by their stories of survival. Please stay strong and know your voice can help bring change. God bless.

      • Dear Rosalee, Many thanks for your kind thoughts. I have at least found help for today by blogging out my feelings as comments here. I just finished a lengthy post while you were sending your reply. I really appreciate what you said. God bless you, too, and all the best. Janebeth

        • Janebeth, are you in a situation where you could adopt another kitty? Pounds are always desperate to find homes for adult cats who make excellent pets if given the chance.

          My dad adopted a stray, but couldn’t keep her because the other house cats bullied her when her leg was damaged and she couldn’t live outdoors. So Dad gave Abby to me and visits her regularly. Everybody is happy now.

          Abby is so happy someone loves her at last. 🙂 So am I.

  7. Hi Jane, there’s certainly a lot of your story that I can directly identify with, but especially the idea of recovering from the PTSD caused by the treatments devised by the very system that purports to be the medical authority on treatment for mental distress. It’s a cruel joke to learn how deeply harmful our systems of help really are. I wish you only the best in your continued recovery from psychiatric harm.

  8. Hello Jane, A big hug and…welcome! I’m so glad you wrote what you did. It very well could have been my story. After I stopped all psych treatment including therapy, I got better! Why is this story telling itself over and over and yet, mainstream media seems to ignore us. The usual story is that a person stops psych treatment and then, relapses. Now for some reason, that’s not the story! We are getting stronger and now we even have (sort of) a community of us.

    I am also from the Boston area and I was in the psych system 35 years. I’m 61 and got employed last year. I try not to look back too much. I was on “antipsychotics” and “mood stabilizers” which were to treat the Diagnosis of the Day, whatever they found most profitable, and sometimes, they chose the diagnoses that were best at silencing me. It did not work!

    It was the brainwashing that was most crucial for me to overcome. That and getting some friends in my life. It all comes back. Very slowly. Remember that, and never give up!

  9. Hi Jane
    I get it. You just sit there and say how on earth did this happen. I was a whole person, with a mind a life a place in the world. I was a successful human being. What the hell is left? I really don’t know. I’m still in it , I can’t get off of Effexor after 20 years. Tried again last year. Now it’s like what would be left anyway? I was a successful psychotherapist! And a professor. Started of in Boston too. But it’s all gone, nothing left. People are jerks about it. It’s dumb founding. I’d made it then lost it all.
    Lisa

    • Effexor is absolutely the devil’s tic tacs when it comes to trying to get off it, but it can be done. You just have to do it over a very long period of time and do it little bit by little bit. I was on huge doses of the damned stuff for about five years and then had to go off it cold turkey. I would never recommend that at all. But….I did survive it. To answer your question about what would be left if you did get off it? I get the feeling that there’s a pretty interesting individual sitting there inside of you, a person who deserves to find out what the Journey holds for you if you plant your feet in the middle of the road and decide to go find out what is out there for you.

    • I used a homemade turmeric-based product called Golden Paste when I was withdrawing from Lexapro. The active compound in turmeric is curcumin and curcumin has a moderate MAO effect and actually outperforms antidepressants in clinical trials (not that you’ll ever hear that in the mainstream press). Anyway, Lexapro isn’t exactly the same as Effexor but it’s close enough chemically for me to feel that the withdrawal effects would probably be modulated by curcumin in a similar way. Anyway, I thought I’d put the idea out there for anyone who is similarly struggling to come off any kind of antidepressant after long-term use. There may still be a way to come off – very carefully. Try not to lose hope.

  10. I lost it all before I started at age 20.

    Starting over at 45. Kind of the reverse of you Jane.

    My goal is to be earning enough to go off all benefits in another 3 years. Feeling well enough to work part time from home. I can also keep a decent home–even by HUD standards. And find social groups outside the MH ghetto.

    My health is slightly improved after being drug free for 19 months. My mysterious heart arrhythmia righted itself and I’m no longer borderline diabetic. Could be MUCH worse.

  11. I am relatively new to MIA and have been devouring the articles and personal stories for a couple of months now. I was first prescribed Prozac in the late 80’s and was told I would need to be on antidepressants for the rest of my life. The side effects were horrible, but the doctor’s response was to escalate the dose, until I just stopped taking it and lied to him every time I saw him. Since then (and up until about 4 years ago), I was prescribed pretty much every antidepressant on the market and often in cocktails – the worst being a mix of wellbutrin, seroquel and amitriptyline. I withdrew from all of them ‘cold turkey’ and experienced the full range of withdrawal effects, including brain zaps that lasted for months.

    But it wasn’t until tonight that it occurred to me – every single one of my half dozen suicide attempts occurred while I was on one or another antidepressant (or a combination). I had always had suicide ideation, so the attempts appeared to be an extension of that – and the theory was that the antidepressants give you more energy before they elevate your mood which led to the attempts. Only I don’t remember having more energy…I do remember the “flavor” of my ideation changed from “god, I wish I was dead” to a very clear “I need to kill myself”. And it wasn’t until tonight (I’m a slow learner) that it occurred to me to look up each and every one of the drugs I was on…and every single one of them (including the antipsychotics) now have black box warnings for increased risk of suicide. Every Single One of Them.

    Over the past 5 years or so, I’ve come to the realization the my “mental illness” and all of it’s associated symptoms (major depression, eating disorder, dissociation, excessive drinking, psychosis) was a direct result of trauma – and this has been a real eye opener in terms of restructuring how I think of myself and healing myself.

    About 4 years ago, I hit a slump and, at the advice of a therapist, decided to try the anti-depressants one more time. Within a month, I overdosed and spent some time in the local psych ward. By this time, the black box warning should have been on the label for the drug I was on (I haven’t checked when it was added) but at no time was it ever suggested that the drug may have contributed to the suicide attempt.

    The realization that every single psychotropic drug I’ve been on has this potential is an epiphany and I’m watching my self-narrative shift once more as I absorb this information. I feel like shouting it from the rooftop.

    • Thank you for this. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this but also, although I’ve had an easier time of it overall, I can relate to a lot that you say. The realization that it comes from trauma is life-changing, isn’t it? I think that most of the “diagnoses” are junk, but Developmental Trauma Disorder, which Besel van der Kolk has been trying hard to get recognized, is probably very commmon, and it shifts it from “something is wrong with me” to “I was hurt, or injured, very badly.” I always thought there was just something inherently wrong with me. I had “all the advantages” and a heck of a lot of gifts and skills, and just could never put it all together sufficiently to have the sort of life I thought I should have, and wanted. Then when I was 51 I found out that my mother had had a psychotic break when I was 4, and gradually came to realize the extreme degree of dysfunction in my family, of which that was the most prominent sign but hardly the only one–as always, it was a symptom, not a cause–and same for my “depression.” The injustice and brutality of the whole thing is just awful–I’m so sorry you got caught up in it and hope your new understanding makes things much better.

  12. Anyone out there who has ever experienced verbal abuse from docs, nurses, aids, sitters, specialists, whatever….This abuse stays with you. Trauma from verbal abuse can hit harder than any other type. It’s been over five years and I am still affected by it. I still get overly defensive, feel like I have to “prove” myself all the time, can’t get along with other people, and can’t stand physical proximity of other people. I am scared even when the bus drives by a mental health clinic. Sirens make me flinch.

  13. TY for sharing this story. I was on antidepressants for 30 years and recently within the past 6 months tapered off. I am feeling “blue” however seeking therapy and CBT – my therapist is awesome. I felt like the drugs masked my issues and would shortcut my ability to deal in life. I feel like it basically set me back rather than brought me forward. While I am not feeling as well as I was while on them – I am feeling better over time – and with therapy and support structures in place – will conquer this. It’s great to read about your experience – even though the experience was more or less dreadful for a long time. But it goes to show that a pill for every ill is just not a good solution and many of us have either endured it or are enduring it. Your story gives us hope that there are alternatives.