Psychiatric Medication: Does It Work?

Ekaterina Netchitailova, PhD
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I have had a terrible experience with psychiatry, and their medication in particular. I have an entire tale to tell, but let’s first, get the background information.

I was diagnosed as bipolar at the age of 27 because I tend to experience what is classified as “psychosis,” a beautiful, incredible experience on my part, but let’s keep it medical and classify it as “bipolar 1.”

The first time around I got risperidone (Risperdal—bear with me, the Americans and Europeans use different names, which is extremely confusing. It is all down to patents). I don’t remember the exact dose I was given, but I was playing with different ones, and none of them worked. At least, in my perception. I was determined to still lead a marvellous and successful life, and even if I was willing to try “their” medication, I decided from the first time around to do it only on my terms.

I was working then as a financial analyst of banks in Amsterdam, and while I knew the job wasn’t my dream one, I had enough of life desire to discover the right one for me, build a happy future, meet a nice man, have a child, and in general lead a meaningful and interesting life. I love life, you see. I love it with all my might. It’s amazing, life, it has so much to offer!

Risperidone was making me feel depressed, I had put on weight and felt miserable—that’s not my “normal” state of mind.

So, I stopped risperidone eventually, only to get back on medication during my next “psychosis” a few years later. I need to make a small disclosure now and admit that I love my psychoses—beautiful, amazing experiences where I am in direct communication with God, and see the devil too. I also communicate with angels. I have extremely powerful, incredible visions, but I need a safe place to process them, and go to the hospital by myself each time, where my experiences are always punished by psychiatry: it is not allowed in our current society, they say.

I was put on olanzapine (Zyprexa) which made me zombielike. Olanzapine works as a marvel to get one out of psychosis, but after it, one has to stop it at once. My psychiatrist tells me it works well on some people, but I always answer:

“Show me these people! Who are they?”

I have a PhD in qualitative research, and thus, I need to see these people, I need to hear their stories, I need to believe in a narrative. The only example I have is me, and I didn’t have a good experience, and the couple of people I know who tried it as well currently live on benefits and don’t work. If that is a successful example, then sorry, that shouldn’t be the case.

One can lead a good life with a “mental illness” and I am the case. I lead a beautiful life, and I am determined to continue doing so, where I work almost full-time, where I write, where I learn languages, live in different countries, get a PhD, raise a son, fall in love and out, build amazing friendships, and live in general well. Yes, it is possible. Even with a diagnosis of “bipolar” above your head.

After olanzapine I was put on quetiapine (Seroquel), which turned out to be a marvel, but only on my own terms. It was my holy grail when I determined my own dose: 75 ml at night, as it treats insomnia, exactly what I actually suffer from, and not the “bipolar” disorder (what’s that, can someone explain?). I came to my “doctor” with my own dosage, and he had no choice but to accept it (he even advised me to just stop any medication entirely).

Thank god that back in the UK you still have a choice, you can determine your own treatment, but you need to know what you are doing and why, and definitely not just trust your psychiatrist (they don’t know what they are doing). The dose of Seroquel that they prescribe makes you disabled.

After that, I was put on lithium (and I also tried another mood stabilizer in between—in fact, I tried all their medication, and they should be paying me for my deep qualitative research from very much lived experience). My intuition was very fast in this respect, as immediately after I was put on lithium, and started to put on weight and felt zoomed out, a friend who worked as a psychiatric nurse took me to a park, and she told me: “We had a woman who has been on it for years. Her kidneys failed her, but she is still terrified to stop it. She weights a ton, and she is miserable, but doctors told her to take this stuff.” I reckon I stopped lithium on the very same day. Thanks, K.

After lithium, I tried many other different medications. It was back in the UK. After a good break of five years I ended up in another “psychosis” (a marvellous, amazing experience on my part) and was chilling in the hospital, after I had said I was Anne Frank in my past life and had to suffer a psychiatric nightmare for two months as a result.

The doctor there, an intelligent, amazing lady with a PhD, was determined to “heal me” and we tried the rest of what was left (of the psychiatric medications) until we reached the good one: aripiprazole (Abilify), but damn it: she didn’t research that it should be taken in the morning, and definitely not in the evening (it provokes insomnia, as this medication gives you energy) and I stopped it several months after starting it, as I was going straight into another “psychosis”—induced by psychiatric drugs this time. I was given it at night in the hospital. Unbelievable, but yes, it’s true: psychiatry harms you, if you let them do it to you. But quite often, we simply don’t have a choice.

I am back on aripiprazole though, after another episode of “psychosis.” They put me back on olanzapine, but I know the dangers. One can’t work on it and lead a meaningful life. They also offered me lithium. I wouldn’t be writing this article now if I was on it. I would be claiming benefits.

I don’t want to claim benefits, no. I will continue living my life as I want, where I work almost full-time, where I raise my beautiful son, where I build amazing friendships and where I live at more than hundred percent capacity, because this is how we should live our lives, I believe. I love life, I love it with all my might. It is a marvellous thing. It is amazing!

But I have a “nice” psychiatrist now who listens. I came to him with my demand for aripiprazole and he put me on it, in a smart way, where you temper, and don’t jump. And he did the research. Aripiprazole should be taken only in the morning, which is so obvious, and yet, most of them (the psychiatrists) don’t even care.

Surviving psychiatry is like surviving your biggest nightmare, but it is possible if you do your own research. Well, I hope so.

I do it, and I live a wonderful, marvellous life. It is amazing, my life. I love it! And I wish the same to you, if you were ever diagnosed with what they call as “mental illness.” In fact, I don’t believe that “mental illness” is what is presented to us as such.

“Mental illness,” for me, is a state of mind that is presented to us as normality, where kindness is no longer a virtue, but striving for status and wealth is, where we are reduced to quick fixes via the apps and the likes, where Big Brother is sold to us as a nice show to watch, where unusual, mystical experiences, when acquired without the help of psychedelics, are classified as “psychosis,” and where we judge other people because they are different from us.

The “mental illness,” for me, is when we are asleep in constant consumption, and where no one is asking any longer the question: but how is it possible that we still believe in the Bible (well, some of us) and God, when a person who says “it is all real, and I even talked with God,” is put on the scale of classification of a psychiatric disorder?

How is it possible, how?

***

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.

63 COMMENTS

  1. Abilify gives you energy in the sense that it causes movement disorders where you are in pain or discomfort if you are not moving. All neuroleptics cause this in an estimated 25-75% of users. Serotonin and Benzo drugs also cause the movement diseases though at smaller rates.

    Neuroleptics may temporary knock out psychosis (though there isn’t any evidence this is true because all the studies have the placebo group in drug withdrawal). The problem is that the drugs disable the mind, kill, and increase long term psychotic symptoms. They are a trap with zero long term benefits.

  2. I had the common adverse withdrawal effects of a “safe smoking cessation med,” actually a mind altering antidepressant, misdiagnosed as “bipolar,” and was subsequently drugged up for belief in God, too. The ELCA religion in America, and probably many other paternalistic religions, entered into a faustian deal with the “mental health” industry long ago, according to an ethical pastor of a different religion.

    He called what happened to me, “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” I was actually misdiagnosed and drugged up because my former ELCA pastor wanted to cover up the sexual assault of my very young child, for what I eventually learned was his Bohemian Grove attending, “cocaine dealing,” pedophile “soul mate.”

    At least I was able to scare the school, where that pedophile was on the school board, into closing forever. Once the medical evidence of the child abuse was finally handed over, and that school closed forever, on of all days, 6.6.06. But I’ve since learned from my extensive research, that covering up child abuse is, indeed, the number one societal function of the “mental health” workers.

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

    As one who still talks to God, and who is still moved by the Holy Spirit, but has been off all psych drugs for over eleven years now. I’m quite certain God does not want this “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions’,” systemic child abuse covering up, medical/religious “conspiracy” to continue.

    And the “mental health” community needs to garner insight into the reality that it is NOT legal to drug up Christians in America, for belief in the Triune God. Nor is systemically covering up child abuse legal. Nor was it legal for an ELCA Lutheran psychologist to recently attempt to steal all my work and money, because my work “too truthfully” describes this “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” And because he thought there might be a market for a “Chicago Chagall.”

    I agree with you, Ekaterina, psychiatrists in general have no idea what they are doing, and they have no idea what the adverse effects of their drugs are. Their drugs are neurotoxins. Based upon my research and experience, the “serious mental illnesses,” are iatrogenic illnesses, created with the psych drugs. And the psychiatrists’ entire DSM “bible” of stigmatizations is “invalid,” “unreliable,” and “bullshit.”

  3. It depends on what you mean by “works.” If you mean, “Can I manipulate my mental and physiological states by experimenting with mind-altering drugs,” then yes, they “work.” If you are asking can such drugs improve ones’ biological well being, balance brain chemicals that are theoretically “out of balance” (with no evidence, of course), or “heal” some sort of purported “Mental illness,” the answer is a resounding NO.

    As Peter Breggin pointed out almost 20 years back, these drugs don’t fix anything. Every one of them acts by disrupting normal functioning of the brain (and other parts of the body). If someone likes the way this disruption makes him/her feel or think, that’s up to the user. But it’s past time to stop pretending that these drugs “work” in any sense of healing the body, or helping the body heal. They absolutely do not.

    • And they never just disrupt the distress. They actually prevent a process of possible meaning making. The meanings that can make sense and come to closure.

      It’s similar to disrupting grieving. I mean it really sucks if you are in deep grief for years, but the drugs do NOT deal with that process. If anything, the grieving is still going on, but it cannot be expressed. Like yelling under water.

      Yes people experience crap. But psychiatry is a liar.

      • Sam, that’s often precisely the point.
        Except these days you don’t even have to express your distress. All you need is to fall for that marketing slogan “it’s good to talk” and you might find yourself in therapy – talking-and slowly being turned into a self absorbed solipsistic bore. Or maybe just fill in tic box form… Aaaaaahhhh!
        In the past many probably escaped the grasp of psychiatry by not expressing their feelings to the wrong person in the wrong way at the wrong time. Of course they still didn’t escape whatever traumas, adversities or deprivation they suffered. Oh the injustice!
        Take care.

        • Whatuser,
          well said.
          thing is, no therapist had ever admitted to me that I talked to much about myself 🙂
          talking is highly encouraged.

          I want to see therapists offer outings. Like going out and knocking back a few beers with a game of pool.
          A canoe trip.
          Camping.
          but at $150 bucks an hour, a week long camping trip would not be a frugal purchase.
          I think it would be great if cops would show up at a needy call and take the person to an isolated cottage with fishing equipment. Loaded cupboards. Fresh bait.

          • @Sam, I don’t neccessarily like fishing even if its less unwelcome than some other activities. Indeed their might be some tasty morsels at the end of such a trip.
            @Steve, haven’t you noticed, well no doubt you have, that the mere act of attaching the word therapy can make almost any worthwhile activity a drudgery and ten times as expensive.! Indeed it may see previously free acts incurring a cost – but I suppose such is the cost of financialisation. Don’t encourage the bastards, people need an exit strategy out of psychiatry wherein they can make, cement and sustain genuine relationships.

            Do you all recall the scene in one flew over the cuckoo’s nest wherein a group of ‘patients’ visit the local ice cream parlour. Many such potentially interesting, amusing, worthwhile events take place during psychiatric care but are sometimes stripped of meaning by the deadening effect of drugs and the artifical nature of the relationships. They can be quite welcome nonetheless. These sort of events are often the nearest to genuine socialising many victims of psychiatry have in their lives.

          • I do agree. I get very upset sometimes when they take things like going for a walk and call it “Nature Therapy!” I call it, “Doing normal things that make you feel good about life.”

          • “Do normal things that make you feel good about life” whoever would have thought – I’m going to suggest that to my therapist! But maybe go for a walk in the park first.

          • We do run the risk of “therapizing” everything which cheapens it as we pay big bucks to do it. The other point of “therapizing” everything is that actually makes it “virtual” and “virtual” is what therapy is. So the conclusion, which I realize what is addressed in another article on this site is that “virtual therapy” is a “double redundancy.” We need to live life not “virtually” but in honest realness; which “psychiatry, etc.” wants to deny us. Thank you.

          • Steve the suggestion to meet my therapist in the cafe of a local museum occurs. We might discuss our shared passion for music. I shall let you know if she picks up the tab!

  4. The truth is the they disrupt the brain and the body by putting them to sleep in some way. So, I guess, in a way that makes them a narcotic or kin to the narcotic. For years on these drugs, I was in and out of “zombie” hood until one day in the spring of 2013, I could not be awaken, not even when someone called my name or a telephone ringing loudly in my ear. I think my brain and body was saying “enough is enough” with these drugs. I am awake now! Oh, by the way another problem (side effect) with abilify is that a person can have trouble swallowing. This happened to me and I had to be taken off abilify. Of course, they put me back on risperdral. From what evil to another evil. Six years next May, 2021, completely drug-free! Yeah for me! Thank you.

  5. “…. is put on the scale of classification of a psychiatric disorder?”

    Yes it’s a scale they use and they even push their hand on one side to tip it in their favor. I definitely know that people benefit from help. HONEST help. Psychiatry has drugs but the help has never been honest.
    It’s the thing that keeps biting them in the ass.
    It’s all society has now, or so we are taught… so they think PSYCH is the norm.

    Ekatarina, have you been in Trieste Italy? Have you ever looked at their system?

    The mind is not like the body, so there are no “targeted” mechanisms. Even after years of making pills for the body, there is no TARGET. Prednisone invades the whole body and brain, even though it was given for the big toe, or a chest inflammation. It hurts the heart, causes diabetes, “psychosis”, depression, and on and on.
    EVERY drug causes damage and psych drugs are the worst.

    But people need sleep, don’t they. And we sure do not need psych for the prescriptions NOR the made up diagnosis.

  6. ‘I was diagnosed as bipolar at the age of 27 because I tend to experience what is classified as “psychosis,” a beautiful, incredible experience on my part, but let’s keep it medical and classify it as “bipolar 1.” ‘ Sometimes italics are just angel wings fluttering…

    • Just to be clear:

      “psychosis”

      “bipolar”

      With the italics used to describe what’s really a spiritual experience, a breaking away from accepted limitations to see things that are real but not even considered as possible, the words: “psychosis,” and “bipolar 1” with the italics, the italics look like angel wings. And, Ekaterina, with your picture, I noticed you’re standing holding your two hands rather like people do when they make a movement with their fingers to denote what they said is meant to be in italics. Perhaps again transforming the diagnosis of who you are supposed to be to something more real, and spiritual.

      I hope you find a gentle wind to sail in, to glide in, or a gust to soar in, or a lull to gently hover in….

      Whatever it is, you have those “”

  7. “Does it work” is absolutely the wrong question. It works to do exactly what it is meant to do — to keep dissidence under control. The real question is what should be the penalty for prescribing it, and whether or not the International Criminal Court should take this up.

      • Musta been a lotta psychosis in human history. Seems then that we have so much maiming and killing, just to be sure for it not to happen, we have to drug everyone. You know, the drugs work, and since we have no clue who will murder, the drugs could be like a vaccine.

        • Much history is the history of mass psychosis and what happened next. That’s the good and the bad.

          All the obvious examples but I think the most egregious are often the most telling.

          For instance, the grieving widow I once encountered whose husband had his skull battered by a mob who were very upset about two things: their football team had lost 1-0; and that the woman’s then husband had a scarf on that vaguely matched the colours of the opposing football team.

          Wrong place, wrong time but the widow’s husband didn’t have any interest in football. He was making his way home after work. He’d gone off his usual track to detour to a florist.

          Fleeting psychosis doesn’t get much press.

          We don’t mass drug to prevent psychosis because, as I’m sure you know already, so much depends on mass delusion. Without delusion and self-deception, everything would fall apart.

          So to glue society together we agree on acceptable delusions and deceptions.

          Psychosis is non-acceptable delusion and deception. It’s only ever a situational circumstantial phenomena.

          But yes absolutely the determination of psychosis is arbitrary. There’s no escaping that. How could there be?

          But on the other hand the woman that mistook her infant child for firewood should not be thought of as simply eccentric.

          • Well there you go. Psychosis happens and so everyone with improper delusions should be drugged. But who knows when they become improper so just to be safe.

            Just curious if all matters of killing then are due to improper delusions because medicine killed a ton of people. Oh wait, so did many others.

  8. The drugs work real well if you happen to own stock in the pharmaceutical enterprise concerned.
    They don’t work to cure any ‘psychiatric condition’ but they do work on the brain sometimes by making you feel like a duvet has been stuffed in your head or otherwise disabling you.
    Mostly though the seem to work to support the idea that you are undergoing a legitimate medical procedure.

  9. In actuality, in all humble reasonableness:

    NOTHING WORKS

    Absolutely nothing.

    We humans cannot be resolved. We can’t be fixed. We’re utterly broken.

    Anyone that claims to be fixed well… you’d do well to measure their sensitivities and so on… but really, realistically, what’s been fixed? What’s been sorted out?

    There are some things that need shifting around, some energies need shifting, redirecting, refocusing but in no way is anyone fixable. You start out broken and you end up broken. There is no way out of that banal curse.

    Do drugs work?

    O yes absolutely and often they do wonders. Undeniable wonders.

    It’s why they remain super super popular and will go on to be.

    There is no right drug for you but there are drugs that are a pretty good fit for the moment so off ye go merrily with the rest of us to death.

    • If what you hope to “fix” is already perfect, then nothing will “work.”
      If a car has a flat tire, no amount of attention paid to its engine will “work.”
      If a computer program, has a bug in it, no amount of yelling into your computer screen will “work.”

      But if a being, as perfect as it is, want to get better at something, it can.
      If you fix what is actually wrong with a car, it actually will run better.
      If you locate and correct the program bug and reload it, the errors caused by that bug will disappear.

      I hear despair here. It is understandable but it need not be your highest understanding of the truth. There are interventions that “work.” To my knowledge, psychiatry does not practice any of them. Psychiatry doesn’t work. That doesn’t mean that all is lost.

      • If you hear despair then you are falsely attributing. I am not despairing and I’m not in despair. I certainly wasn’t in despair when I write it as I’d just completed a 107 mile bicycle ride and was feeling somewhat buzzed.

        You missed my overall point. A 107 mile bicycle ride or a 10 hour binge on American lager (lol!) or an argybargy meditation on argybargyness or 6 months of popping pills fixes nothing but they all bring us that little bit closer to death.

        My point is probably no more vivid than before I commented. Never mind. Happy Christmas.

          • It’s okay. I misread people too. We all do.

            Just to clarify, as you never know what scoundrels are watching you and waiting to trip you up. I’m not on holiday, haven’t been on holiday. Holidays are banned in the UK. Unless you are in the Upper or Political classes. It was a 107 mile day ride. It’s a hobby I took up a while ago. Since lockdown my stamina has been steadily rising.

            I think by Spring I’ll be doing 200 mile day rides.

            All being good I’ll be realising my dream of hiking Yellowstone National Park, albeit riding it now I’ve knackered my Achilles.

            Nothing works. But there are lots of things that can make you feel really good and give a sense of achievement.

            Cycling the English Winter isn’t for everyone but for some of us it’s a wonderful natural high and a great way to meditate on life and death and encounter the ego-driven maniacs in their cars.

          • That mileage really impresses me. 10X anything I ever do on my bicycle. Staying in good control over the body does tend to give one a “sense of achievement.”

    • I would not see what you are suggesting as a “vacation!”
      But in the presence of criminals, it is very advisable to disconnect from them as much as possible.
      Otherwise, any gain you make will prompt them to stomp down on you that much harder.
      While you are “away” I hope you’ll read some really enlightening books and then pop back in now and then to tell us what they said.

  10. l_e_cox wrote: “That mileage really impresses me. 10X anything I ever do on my bicycle. Staying in good control over the body does tend to give one a “sense of achievement.”

    Long-distance endurance cycling is an addiction. Make no bones about it. When I started out 12 months prior to UK’s first coronavirus lockdown I thought 100 miles in one day was an impossible goal. I got to 30 and felt so proud. Then I found the cycling community and was humbled.

    Everyone has different reasons to push themselves physically, which also necessarily involves pushing yourself mentally. Your body strengthens and your mind does too. This isn’t for everyone but many people wonder what it is that is missing from their lives and end up misdirecting their energies and placing all their chips on a self-defeating addiction.

    There have been blogs on here that don’t arouse much discussion or acknowledgement by people that have found the solace of endurance sport and adventuring as the answer to a gnawing pain that was slowly destroying them.

    I think that more opportunities should exist in mental health systems to point people towards endurance and fitness pursuits. It won’t cure and in some ways may arrive at similar contentedness to popping pills.

    But many people would do better to scale the mountain or hike the trail and so on, and look back on that, and experience that within themselves, as opposed to shortcutting with pill-pops and drug-induced accomplishments.

  11. My experience with Abilify for bipolar was interesting. I’d been on amitryptiline for depression and sodium valproate for hypomania for some years with cycling every one to three months. I’d tried a few other medications but all had problems. I also have chronic migraines and so need medications that work for them. Anyway, I ended up with something else that worked for the migraines, so my psychiatrist wanted me to try something else, and Abilify was the latest wonder drug. I got the talk they learn in training about how you can be better, you just have to give these medications a chance.

    Anyway, tried Abilify. First night libido went through the roof. 3 orgasms in 2 hours, which is pretty good for a late fifties man and proves the warning is correct. Anyway reduced dose in half and everything fine. Then after a couple of months start needing more amitryptiline and libido is dropping off, plus I was feeling emotionally bland. Then no orgasms at all, and combination of both drugs was stuffing my heat tolerance. So stopped. Took me two years until I felt that my sexual functioning was normal. The one thing was that my moods were more stable but the price was too much.

    I probably should do an article on all the treatments I’ve had.

  12. Steve McCrea I think it is the fact that to make it in the modern world, we must disregard and “disrespect our own (natural) instincts and rhythms.” I think this is probably one of the main reasons that people are compelled to do everything from overeating to drinking (from coffee to alcohol, etc.) to worse, especially including the psych industry, its harmful, deadly drugs and therapies, etc. I remember from as early as my kindergarten, how upset I was that the whole world seemed to care less about when I wanted to eat, sleep, or even engage in beneficial behaviors. My kindergarten teacher was so upset that I only drank milk before naptime on Wednesdays. Well, that was chocolate milk day! Actually, from a very early age, we do try to impose society’s artificial rhythms. Eventually, the person revolts either subtly or not so subtly. At the time the person chooses to engage in behaviors that are not as beneficial. Of course, it depends on the person as to whether these not so beneficial behaviors are society approved or not. What is odd or maybe actually sad and tragic is that many who do behave in society approved behaviors end up as lab rats for the psych industry, etc. I think if there is one thing we can do to be anti-psychiatry it is to claim our natural instincts and rhythms and to no longer give them away. Thank you.

    • I agree completely. School in its entirety was a total violation of any sense of safety or self-determination I had. I was in internal revolt for 13 years, but externally acted like things were OK, except for one or two incidents of acting out over the years. It is very damaging, and is only one of many ways in which we have to deny our intuitive sense of what is right in order to survive.

  13. I dis-agree completely!

    For I wonder to the extent this site, is in reflection a universe of shared learning.

    The intuition, the imagination is an incredible reality(s) to which we can realize just how discovery beyond self is a liberation of sorts. Your astute observation in the last line could be the launch pad for further justice actions. Be well, enjoy the day while orbiting along your path!

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