One of the side effects of the Covid epidemic has been a sharp rise in the use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. A Market Watch study back in May of 2020, already showed anti-anxiety drug sales jumping 34.1 percent and a rise in antidepressants at 18.6 percent.
And I get it. To tell you the truth, I’m still feeling a little anxious myself. Maybe just a quarter of a Xanax? Cause this week I go to my local pharmacy to get the vaccine. And I know, why worry, right? Fauci says to get it. Biden says to get it. All my friends have gotten it and are beginning to look at me askance… am I paranoid, unpatriotic, a quack?
Maybe I’m just a little more hesitant about pharmaceuticals these days… even that little peach Xanax… ever since my son’s life was irrevocably changed by a medication-induced injury called “akathisia.”
When I first heard the word “akathisia,” it sounded like one of those Greek goddesses—the goddess Akathisia. Like Athena or Aphrodite, she’d be powerful, fierce, but maybe rather… moody? Well, I’ve come to know Akathisia intimately now. She is devastating, elusive, cruel beyond belief. And for two years I’ve been battling her for what I love most in the world. Because Akathisia can take an active, bright, successful, charming, compassionate, twenty-one-year-old, drag him down to the underworld, and make his life a living hell.
But let me step back and talk about akathisia from a calmer perspective. A societal perspective. Because this story is not just personal. It’s about America’s ongoing proclivity toward antidepressants, and it’s about Big Pharma. So, while I count down for my J&J or Moderna or Pfizer, let me tell you a little of our personal story and give you a sense of the larger story as well.
For my son, Marcello, akathisia appeared suddenly in the summer of 2019, after just a few weeks on antidepressants taken for garden-variety anxiety. Unusual? Not really. After all, 13.2 percent of Americans are on antidepressants. For women over a certain age, it’s one in four. Antidepressants are the third most prescribed class of drugs in America and an almost sixteen billion-dollar a year industry for the drug companies, who make over twenty-five thousand dollars per second on psychiatric meds.
If you have not taken one yourself, surely you have a friend or family member who has, and it’s likely they are doing well. But there is a percentage of people who are effectively poisoned by them. (In the simplest of terms, think of it like a peanut allergy.) The FDA claims it’s about five percent. Other sources, such as the Akathisia Alliance, an online research site, say it’s more like fifteen percent.
There are many “side effects” listed with antidepressants. Most people toss that little paper with the side effects, just as we ignore the warnings on TV commercials, maybe because if we looked too deeply, we’d never take the pill. But one of the side effects mentioned with antidepressants is “restlessness.” And that’s basically what the drug companies are willing to tell us about akathisia, that it’s an “inner and outer restlessness.”
Google it and you’ll also find “anxiety or agitation, feeling bad or depressed, distress and panic, a feeling of wanting to jump out of your skin, dark and unpleasant thoughts, strange and unusual impulses, often of an aggressive nature, homicidality, suicidality.”
What the drug companies’ warnings are not telling us is that akathisia is not really a side effect at all. It’s a whole new condition, a neurological as opposed to a psychiatric condition… caused by the drugs themselves. Akathisia is damage to the brain and to virtually every system in the body. Sometimes, the worst of it begins to subside when meds are discontinued. Often it does not.
Sufferers describe akathisia as “like having your blood replaced with battery acid” or “like being burned alive in a locked coffin.” They say it’s “like being violently tortured from the inside out.” Some psychiatrists will tell a patient their symptoms are “somatic.” But there are people with absolutely no history of psychiatric illness who get akathisia from a single shot of Reglan, an anti-nausea drug given in hospital settings.
Historically, akathisia has been intentionally induced as part of chemical warfare. In fact, Hitler himself played around with psych meds—and the quick withdrawal of those meds—as a means of torture. Do I sound like a conspiracy theorist? I’m not. I’m a mother who watched her son’s life change almost overnight, as he developed drug toxicity from antidepressants taken as prescribed.
At twenty-one, Marcello was a student at The New School in New York with an interest in climate science and psychology. Interestingly, he now sees akathisia as akin to climate change on the level of the human organism. He recognizes that our bodies were simply not designed to properly deal with the man-made drugs we’re putting into them.
While living in New York, he was spending a lot of time at the Hayden Planetarium as he’d always loved astronomy, and in New York, he really missed the stars. As a child in Oregon, he was always getting the neighbors to look up through his telescope in the driveway. He’d had gallery showings of his night sky photography as a teenager.
Now, a sophomore in college, he was asking the questions a lot of young men ask… Who am I, where do I fit in? So, he took his junior year off to think about those questions and travelled all over Europe. And when he returned from the trip of a lifetime, he went to see a psychiatrist because he was feeling kind of anxious about his next move. Of course, a lot of folks were feeling anxious. Trump was elected just as Marcello went off to college in 2016, and the collective diagnosis of “anxiety” in America soared at that time.
Still, in Marcello’s circle, his friends seemed to be thriving despite their anxiety… often with the help of antidepressants. His best friend become an overnight multimillionaire at twenty-one by coming up with a financial trading algorithm. He bought a Rolex and began buying a fleet of exotic cars. The American Dream? Big time. He was on Lexapro. Another friend was on Zoloft and thriving in the tech industry. Several friends were on Ritalin and doing great in school.
All his friends knew what they wanted to major in, what they wanted to be, who they wanted to be with. Marcello wasn’t so sure. He was diagnosed with “Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” the most popular diagnosis in this country, and he was curious to see if meds would help. After all, they seemed to be helping his friends.
When he got to our home in Los Angeles, he started seeing a highly respected psychiatrist, and took Cymbalta for just eight days. On the eighth day, he went camping near Big Sur with his other best friend. Karen is the antithesis of the male best friend with the financial algorithm and the cars. She’s a botanist, deeply connected to the natural world.
Marcello and Karen went for a day hike, and he missed a dose of Cymbalta. During their hike, the extreme “restlessness” and “inner terror” appeared for the first time. He recalls that it felt like being “acutely poisoned”, along with full body pain and vertigo. He thought he’d picked up some kind of insect bite on the trail.
They went to the nearest ER, where he was misdiagnosed with “heat exhaustion.” In hindsight, we know that he was experiencing a catastrophic reaction to the drug—a literal poisoning. Back then, we had no idea.
His psychiatrist switched him from Cymbalta to Prozac. He took it for two weeks. One night, after a slight dosage increase, he felt that same powerful inner restlessness—and a brand new kind of anxiety that was a thousand times greater than anything he’d experienced before. He couldn’t stay still.
We called his psychiatrist, who said, “Gee… this sounds like akathisia!” She pulled him off Prozac and prescribed Xanax, which, we now know, masks the symptoms of akathisia in the short term. He took Xanax for two and a half months, during which he embarked on a backpacking trip with friends near Mount Rainier in Washington. But he couldn’t do it. He wound up sleeping in his car instead of under the stars. He felt terrified, and physically, just really off. He came home to L.A.
Something was different and very wrong. He couldn’t go back to school in New York. He wanted off the Xanax, so his psychiatrist, whom I had great faith in, put him on a taper regimen for ten days. We now know this was extremely dangerous, that he could have died, and that he should have been weaned slowly over a course of at least a year.
But he did it in days, and the day after his last eighth of a pill, strange outward symptoms started to appear. Purposeless, repetitive movements as if he’d been set on fire. Weepiness. Pacing. Gruesome images and sounds in his mind and impulsive suicidal urges he’d never experienced before. Stroke like symptoms. The onset of tortuous nerve pain… and the beginning of a Kafkaesque journey towards a proper diagnosis.
Our first stop was a brilliant and compassionate physician and homeopath who gave Marcello a homeopathic remedy. It didn’t touch the symptoms, so we went back to the original psychiatrist. She looked at him like… well, like he was crazy.
A month earlier, on the phone, she’d said, “Gee… this sounds like akathisia!” But when Marcello went back to her, rocking back and forth, begging for help, she said it wasn’t possible to get akathisia from antidepressants. From antipsychotics, sure, but not from benign antidepressants. She thought whatever was wrong was “somatic” and suggested we get a second opinion. Meanwhile, she prescribed a succession of meds designed to help with the strange movements, all of which made Marcello worse. (We now know that adding medications only exacerbates akathisia.)
We saw a second psychiatrist, who agreed this was likely somatic and suggested another antidepressant, which Marcello declined, understandably wary now of meds. He also suggested that Marcello would benefit from a month at his outpatient clinic where he’d receive various therapies, along with yoga and mindfulness, for forty thousand dollars.
My husband and I were up for it. But, in addition to being in constant pain, Marcello’s sleep was becoming extremely erratic, and he absolutely couldn’t see driving across L.A. twice a day in rush hour traffic to spend eight hours at the clinic. He’d always loved cars, loved driving, but his sensitivity to light and sound were increasing to the point where just being in a car was becoming impossible.
A third psychiatrist observed Marcello’s movements and desperate state for five minutes, and immediately diagnosed akathisia. He regretfully informed us that the only “cure” was a high dosage of the potent antipsychotic Clozapine. He added that, though Marcello was not psychotic, he’d have to be hospitalized and closely monitored, as the drug could cause seizures, heart attack, lung clots, etc. But he assured us that the clinic where Marcello would be staying was so nice, he’d put his own daughter there.
The non-refundable fee would be a hundred thousand dollars. (One “side effect” of Clozapine he didn’t mention, but which we later found on the net, is “a feeling of restlessness with an inability to sit still”… aka akathisia.)
By this time, Marcello was researching akathisia himself and becoming more frightened of medications. So, we moved on to a famous “integrative” psychiatrist and came home with a dozen supplements, prescribed via muscle testing. Marcello was told to take them all at once, which turned out to be a disaster. Unfortunately, this psychiatrist, whom he liked a lot, was busy moving houses and couldn’t handle our many emails, so she suggested Marcello see a colleague who was “a genius at micro-dosing meds”—which, she assured us, would be safe.
The new psychiatrist was only seeing patients at a drug rehab where she was on staff. But since Marcello was experiencing “withdrawal” effects from the rapid Xanax taper, luckily, he was eligible for her rehab. We filled out the forms, packed him a bag, and headed across L.A. to the clinic, a run-down old Craftsman in a rough neighborhood.
It was staffed with alumni patients, recovering young drug addicts, and one of them gave us a tour. Marcello was kind of in shock and sat it out, but the young man’s story of rehab really moved me. If only my son were a drug addict, and not allergic to medications, there’d be so much help out there! But the micro dosing psychiatrist was… well, she was a bitch. Never looked up from her computer, never looked at my son.
The house reeked of cigarettes and Clorox, and, since Marcello was developing strong chemical sensitivities now due to mast cell activation—a side effect of the akathisia—we just didn’t have the heart to leave him there. So, we drove back home in rush hour traffic. Another two-hour assault on his injured central nervous system, which gave new meaning to the phrase, “Oh the traffic was hell.”
After the drug rehab, we went to a peaceful holistic medical clinic just a few freeway exits away. They were calm and reassuring and gave him intravenous vitamins. We went to a renowned Israeli trauma therapist who diagnosed “trauma.” We got to see the leading expert on “TMS” brain therapy who offered to zap his brain for a thousand dollars a go. Marcello saw a psychologist, via Facetime, who said he had “rage” and tried to get him to scream over Facetime. Another psychiatrist suggested CBT therapy. An Arab psychiatrist felt that joining his “community” would connect Marcello to his deeper self. And another psychiatrist suggested another med.
As he went from doctor to doctor, Marcello also got involved with a Facebook group called “Living with Akathisia” and a couple of other online groups like the “Benzodiazepine Information Coalition,” “Neurotoxicity and Toxic Encephalopathy,” and a group called “Cymbalta Hurts Worse.”
Frankly, “Living with Akathisia” scared the hell out of me. People were making videos of their akathisia experience that looked like horror films. After much input from these groups and a great deal more research on his own about akathisia, he decided unequivocally that meds were not the way to go. After all, meds had proven toxic to him, causing akathisia in the first place.
His friends and ours were also weighing in, some offering their own diagnoses. The mother of the best friend with the cars had spoken to a couple of psychologist friends who’d never heard of akathisia, so she thought it was a “fake disease.” Her son, who by now had ten cars and was traveling in a private jet, texted me that my son’s blood was on my hands if I didn’t commit him to a mental hospital.
One of the most promising doctors we encountered did indeed come through the friend of a friend of a friend. This doctor was an expert in a special kind of neurofeedback called Loreta. She practiced in a town an hour and a half from Los Angeles, but she assured us we were wasting money and hope if we were doing anything else, because Loreta was “the answer.” She made a connection with Marcello, she listened, and had deep compassion. I was hopeful.
Because by this time, the outer manifestation of Marcello’s torment was scaring us, and we were, indeed, considering hospitalization. My funny, wise, compassionate son was…gone. In his place was someone I couldn’t reach, someone in an agony I could not fathom, someone filled with terror and, sometimes, rage.
The Loreta treatment was based on qEEG scans of Marcello’s brain which showed “drastic abnormalities.” The doctor was convinced she could help but would only work with him if he also saw a “brilliant integrative psychiatrist” with whom she worked as a team. And since this doctor practiced in another town, my husband and Marcello moved to a town in between the two doctors for three days a week.
Then the Loreta doctor went on a trip to Costa Rica, broke her back in the shower, and could not treat Marcello anymore. Like I said… Kafkaesque.
We did continue to see the integrative psychiatrist who was an expert on the brain and had no doubt that Marcello had akathisia caused by medication. Marcello bonded with him because he was young and open and was willing to prescribe supplements, slowly, one at a time, as opposed to meds.
At one point, the psychiatrist agreed with some folks on the Living with Akathisia site that a certain strain of marijuana might possibly help. After a few hits, it made Marcello run out into the rain in what looked like a true psychotic break—but was actually the akathisia being severely aggravated by the marijuana. Marcello recently told me that it was the most horrific night thus far, as he’d been filled with powerful urges to kill both his father and himself, and that he’d spent the night outside in the rain in an orchard to be safe.
This might be a good place to add that, before medication, he’d never gotten into a physical fight, never had a suicidal urge, and had always had a warm, close, and playful relationship with his father, who slept in his room now to keep watch, and loved him more than life itself.
Marcello was becoming sicker and sicker, developing severe reactions to foods, to supplements, to chemicals in the environment. Mosquito bites now caused anaphylaxis and sent him to the ER. But every ER we went to, and we went to several, said it was “anxiety.” Each time, a kind doctor offered Ativan. Each time, we thanked them, declined, and left.
But one time was different. While my son and husband were waiting to check out of the ER, a psychiatric social worker who had examined Marcello, took them aside to another room. She said she could lose her job for telling them, but she also worked in a brain trauma center where she’d seen patients with akathisia who’d been put on a series of psych meds in hospitals… and, frankly, she’d seen their brains and bodies utterly destroyed. She quietly urged us to find another way.
Maybe the worst symptom of akathisia—for the parent, anyway—is “suicidal urges.” And, finally, after months of incessant torture, and medical gaslighting, our son made an impulsive attempt. It was not a “serious attempt” according to the integrative psychiatrist, but it was serious enough for him to take over and call an ambulance.
Marcello spent ten days in the psych ward at UCLA. I remember looking back at him through a series of locked glass doors at the end of every visiting hour, seeing him grow smaller and smaller as we walked away. This was not like leaving my child at pre-school or summer camp. Akathisia had him. The State had him, legally. And I couldn’t run back through the glass doors, pick him up in my arms, and whisk him away.
No two doctors could agree on a diagnosis. But they all wanted to give him meds. They didn’t agree on which meds, but they were prepared to get a court order to administer… something. Interestingly, the nurses, who have the most interaction with patients, recognized his akathisia and told him they see it all the time.
When someone goes to the ER in severe physical pain, they are their own credible witness, and everyone believes them. But you’re a whole lot less likely to be taken as a credible witness in a psych ward, especially if you have medication-induced akathisia, which can look like schizophrenia or psychosis.
Marcello recently told me that he was prepared to climb a barrier fence and jump off the hospital’s twelve-story roof in the event that drugs were forced on him, as it would’ve exacerbated the akathisia to a point that would’ve been “far worse than death.” And if he were to survive forced medication, he’d have to detox from the toxic drugs all over again, prolonging his recovery by years.
This was his thinking in the hospital, which I didn’t know about at the time. Cause he was barely speaking to me. Cause I thought he should give the docs a chance.
His main doc at UCLA said, “his irrational fear of meds was a sign of severe OCD.” And, to my eternal shame, I believed him over my son. Well, for a couple of days. After all, wouldn’t OCD be better than akathisia—for which there is no treatment or cure?
We had a family meeting with the doctors, in which Marcello was not treated like credible witness by the experts. I remember he wouldn’t look at me. This was particularly painful as we’d always been talkers. I’d always felt lucky to have a son who could go deep, who wasn’t afraid of feelings, who said what he thought and felt, to his friends, his teachers, and, especially, to his parents.
He’d always been funny, irreverent, and could make people laugh despite themselves. Teachers were a bit baffled, but admired him. I heard more than once, always with a sigh, “I think we learned more from him than he could possibly have learned from us.” And now we were here where no one believed him.
In retrospect, I think Marcello took that first pill to fit in. To tamp down the edges of a personality that felt more, saw more, questioned more, and spoke more truth. “More” than what was comfortable or convenient for others.
I remember his first psychiatrist calling me to run down the checklist for “bipolar” while he was sitting in there in her office. She just couldn’t make him “fit” into a DSM diagnosis. She was the mother of a son my son’s age, and I know she gave Marcello that first prescription because she wanted to ease his pain of trying to fit in.
When Marcello’s insured days were up, UCLA suggested he go to the one private treatment center which would accept him without meds… and if that didn’t work, he’d be sent back to UCLA where they’d get that court order to medicate.
He went to a private treatment center called Balance, near Malibu. I thought it was a lovely place. Good food, nice grounds, I was ready to check in for a nice rest myself. They “did not label him with a diagnosis,” they were interested in him “as a whole person.” With our insurance, we received a discounted offer for a thirty day stay at thirty thousand dollars.
All Marcello had to do was see their doctors and attend groups with other patients. But in the groups, he had to be still and attentive… which is impossible with akathisia. After five days of reactions to chemicals in the house, strict schedules he physically could not adhere to, and pressure to sit down and share like the other patients, (who were there for psychiatric disorders as opposed to neurological injuries), he ran.
Balance reported him “missing” to the police. He called to let us know he was “safe.” He’d fled to a hotel an hour away, and we raced over. We spoke to the people at Balance on the phone, and they advised us to let the police come to the hotel and take back him to UCLA. Marcello overheard enough to know the police were on the way, and he ran again. Shot right by me with the yellow backpack he got in Copenhagen on that trip of a lifetime.
I started screaming. The hotel maids tried to comfort me. My husband and I looked everywhere, but he was gone. Then the police came.
My husband and I had a decision to make. Help them find our son and cuff him and take him in a police car to UCLA to be force-medicated… or let our son determine his own fate. There had been a lot of moments over the past months that forced us to ask ourselves, “Who are you going to trust?” “Whose counsel can you rely on?” “Who do you believe, the doctor or your son?” This moment was the hardest.
Our son was now twenty-two. Nothing, nothing we had tried had worked to alleviate his suffering, certainly no med. We went home and prayed. By this time, we believed in nothing. But you pray anyway.
Oh, this is as good a time as any to mention we had received an eviction notice from our landlady because of all the noise in our house, and the ambulance and all, but I digress.
Marcello called from the airport and said he was about to board a plane to Oregon, where he’d spent much of his childhood. But that night he showed up at our house in L.A. As I mentioned, one of the main features of akathisia is extreme sensitivity to stimulation of any kind, so he could barely make it through airport security.
Still, the next morning, I went downstairs to his room and he was gone. We got a call from Oregon, where he hoped to find refuge until he could help us understand what he knew, and what he was learning from other long-term sufferers, about akathisia. There’d be no more running, no more threat of forced drugging. And, in hindsight, his father and I know this was the wisest decision he could have made.
At the time, however, Balance suggested we call a woman in the Midwest who could organize an “intervention” in Oregon and get him back to UCLA. We declined. Our son wasn’t crazy. His brain and central nervous system were not as well as they were before Cymbalta and Prozac and Xanax… But he wasn’t delusional, and he’d managed not to hurt anyone or himself, even when gaslighted by doctors and restrained, which was a miracle.
By now, he’d studied akathisia more deeply than the doctors who’d been treating him. And beyond all that… He was a human being. It seemed to me that to force anyone to take medication, (that the FDA classifies as dangerous), against their will, robs them of dominion over their own body and mind. What more basic right does a human being have? I couldn’t call the woman in the Midwest.
Since January 2020, Marcello has been in Oregon. He started seeing his old family doctor, who, ironically, has had two family members survive akathisia and thought he could help. When he first got to Oregon, Marcello was able to do more things for himself living in the center of a small town. The disabling akathisia was the same, but he felt safer, part of a familiar place.
Karen came to live with him. He started HBOT, (hyperbaric oxygen therapy), which didn’t help but didn’t hurt either. He could even meet a friend for a short walk near the Airbnb where he was staying. Then Covid hit.
Ironically, I was the original screenwriter of “Girl, Interrupted,” and as I write this, I realize it’s “Boy, Interrupted” for sure. A young man’s life is interrupted by some pills that promised to make life better. That’s what happened.
But the writer in me is always looking for some… meaning. If I can just wrest some goddamn meaning from what’s happening, I can deal. So when I look at what happened to Marcello, I think about what we are doing to ourselves as a culture—as we wrestle with the lure of the American Dream. The pills we need to keep chasing it. The greed on the part of the drug companies that fuels our discontent and encourages our striving.
And then, in contrast to the American Dream… there’s the pull of the natural world. It’s fascinating to me that Marcello’s two best friends happened to embody these two different pulls. And maybe it’s no accident that he started this chapter of his life in New York City, where you have to take a train to the planetarium, and has wound up in small town Oregon where you can just look up and see stars.
Akathisia is an incredibly complex neurological injury. But, according to experts in the field of neuroplasticity, such as psychiatrist Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself, the brain is really miraculous. If you remove the neurotoxicity—from the meds, from our processed food, from the chemicals in our environment—even a badly damaged brain can regenerate.
If you then give the brain what it needs—real food, pure water, clean air, low stress—it can heal. And aren’t these the things that all humans need? Not to mention the poor planet? Might this be some bit of meaning we can wrest from the pandemic?
Marcello and I are telling this story in the interest of furthering “informed consent.” Because if this could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. At this time, the only conventional “treatment” for akathisia is more medications which cause akathisia. Sufferers talk of being “polydrugged”—given one drug to offset the negative effects of another—and they liken it to using gasoline to put out a fire.
They are not being cured, and, because the condition is so terrifying to others, many sufferers lose their families and friends. This loss drives many to suicide. And again, these are mostly people with no history of attempted suicide before taking medication. They don’t want to die, they just want the anguish of akathisia to end. But what about people who do have mental illness and develop akathisia on top of that? What about people of color, or poor people, who don’t have access to information and support—what the hell kind of shot do they have?
Here’s what haunts me: Could hundreds of thousands of suicides have been prevented if people had had “informed consent” before starting meds?
What might informed consent entail? There is a major Australian study by Dr. Yolande Lucire and Christopher Crotty entitled “Antidepressant-induced akathisia related homicides associated with diminishing mutations in metabolizing genes of the CYP450 family.” (Whew.) Based on over a hundred and twenty subjects, the study shows links between both suicides and homicides in akathisia patients who have the CYP450 gene variation.
The authors state that “prescribing antidepressants without knowing about CYP450 genotypes is like giving blood transfusions without matching for ABO groups.” They conclude that it’s essential to look into a patient’s genetics before prescribing. So. What if our son had had the proper tests, and someone with the training to interpret them, before being handed his prescription?
The Australian study notes that drug companies actually reject people with the CYP450 variation from their trials. They know that for these people the drug will be toxic, and they don’t want these folks to “contaminate” (lower) the success rates in their studies. They do not, however, warn the public about the dangers associated with this gene variation when the drug is marketed. (Yes, this is actually allowed.)
According to the Australian study, psychiatric drugs are “prescribed by clinicians educated by drug company representatives and key opinion leaders who receive substantial benefits from the makers of these drugs.” So, in order for the patient to be fully informed, the psychiatrist has to be fully informed… And does a multi-billion-dollar drug industry really want that?
Ultimately, the best way to treat akathisia is to prevent it from ever happening. And we know the pharmaceutical industry does not want that.
On August 19, 2021, Marcello will be two years off of any medication, after having been on meds for a total of three and a half months. He can’t drive, can’t focus on a movie or TV, can’t listen to music or read a book, can’t tolerate the foods he used to whip up into incredible meals, can’t hike or climb mountains.
His sleep has been disrupted by a potentially permanent circadian rhythm disorder called “non-24,” which basically means it spins around the clock, an hour or two later every day, if he is able to sleep at all. Every hour he’s awake is devoted to surviving the moment-to-moment torment of akathisia.
Karen, the friend he grew up hiking and camping with, was with him for seven months. When she left for a job in San Diego, his dad and I moved to Oregon, as he can’t live alone. He needs to apply for disability, but, with the disaster wrought by Covid on millions, his chances are slim.
And if he were to contract Covid? It’s not likely his system could handle it. His doctor doesn’t think he could handle the vaccine either. Which is why, despite everything we don’t know about the long-term impact of the vaccines, and everything I’ve learned about Big Pharma, you bet I’m going for that shot… to keep him safe.
When Marcello describes akathisia, he says one of the most insidious effects is that it has completely hijacked his ability to feel anything good, anything human. Yes, he can see the stars in Oregon, only now they overwhelm and agitate him, a cruel reminder of something that used to evoke wonder. Same with people. He knows he loves us, loves Karen, he just can’t feel it.
So, no, I can’t talk about a “happy ending.” Not yet. We hold fast to the research that says that in time the brain does heal. If I can’t slay the goddess Akathisia, I’ll just have to outwait her.
Meanwhile… Marcello has managed to write and produce a PSA for The Akathisia Alliance which you can watch right here. He’s a whistle blower in the making, speaking about akathisia on social media and to anyone who’ll listen. He’s not just passionate about getting this information out there, it’s what he lives for.
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.