Polydrugged With 12 Different Drugs… For Insomnia


My name is Grace Tan. I am 46 years old and living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My grandparents fled from China during war in 1920; I am third-generation Chinese-Malaysian. Until my nightmare with psychiatric medication began in June, 2020, I was a successful multilingual legal and business translator with more than 50 professional certifications. I am fluent in Malay and English as well as many Chinese dialects including Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien, and have translated at many international conferences. I was also a widely sought-after court interpreter, a licensed tour guide, and a senior lecturer for a university course on business management. I have also worked in banking and was a certified corporate trainer in management and marketing. I have run in several marathons and have traveled to thirty-eight countries. My name is listed in Successful People in Malaysia, an anthology of the most successful entrepreneurs in Malaysia. I hold a Bachelor’s degree and an MBA.

Before June of 2020, when my psychiatric medication nightmare began, my life was full and happy. But since being prescribed 12 different psychiatric drugs in one year, all for what started as simple insomnia, I have become bedridden, ill and jobless.

insomnia drugs

I am now anhedonic (unable to feel pleasure), suicidal, and plagued with pain and physical issues related to withdrawal from these medications, including diabetes, dry mouth, heartburn, digestive problems, excessive sweating, bladder urgency (incontinence), and eye floaters in my left eye that impair my vision. I still have insomnia, and now also suffer from confusion, agitation, muscle twitching, shivering, loss of appetite, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, stiffness, shakiness, akathisia, tardive dyskinesia, slowness, cognitive impairment, slurred speech, body weakness, memory problems, rage and irritability.

In addition, I now experience torturous tinnitus that sounds like a thousand cicadas 24 hours a day. I am sensitive to sound and to light. If I try to take a nap, I am jerked awake by dyskinesia; my arms and mouth jerk uncontrollably at times. I have heartburn and constantly feel stabbing pain. I stutter now and can’t find the right words when I want to express myself. My brain is foggy; I am unable to focus, unable to organize my thoughts or to concentrate when I try to read. I suffer from memory loss and cognitive impairment. My thoughts loop constantly; I feel numb and have no motivation to do anything; I feel as if I have completely lost my intellect. Translating and interpreting court documents have become impossible, so I had to close my translation company. I am now completely physically and financially dependent on family members, who do not believe that my symptoms are the result of damage caused by the medication.

How did this nightmare begin? In June of 2020, my right eye became inflamed and was not healing. My physician prescribed steroid drops for inflammation. After I began using the drops, I began seeing black smoke and black spots and felt like I was looking through a dark veil. I was worried about losing my eyesight and developed insomnia because of this. After I did not sleep for two days, my mother insisted that I see a psychiatrist. Since I did not know where else to turn and, at the time, still trusted psychiatrists, I did so, hoping psychiatry could help me with the anxiety that was causing me to lose sleep.

The first psychiatrist prescribed three antidepressants—Remeron (mirtazapine), Lexotan, and Lexapro—although I had never had depression. I took them as prescribed. While they seemed to help me sleep, they immediately caused me to have severe headaches and heart palpitations. My mother called the psychiatrist and reported this. He told her that these symptoms were normal and that I should continue taking the medications. When I was still experiencing these side effects after six weeks, I stopped taking the medications, but now I could not sleep at all, as these drugs had caused changes in my brain. The psychiatrist had never mentioned that I should taper the medications or that insomnia could result if I discontinued them. I did not sleep for an entire week, so my mother urged me to see another psychiatrist for a second opinion.

The second psychiatrist asked the name of the drugs I had been prescribed before and assumed that I had depression. He prescribed Cymbalta, Rivotril (clonazepam, a benzo), and Ambien, a sleeping pill. This time, my husband hid the name of the drugs from me, as he trusted the psychiatrist and did not want me to do research on them. I only knew I was taking Ambien as the name was engraved on the pill. I researched Ambien and discovered that this drug should not be taken for more than a month, so I reminded the psychiatrist of this, and he changed the prescription to Seroquel (quetapine) without informing me that Seroquel is an antipsychotic; I thought it was another type of sleeping pill. I did not know that I was taking Cymbalta and clonazepam until a month after I had started taking them, when I learned that these drugs are also very harmful. I called the psychiatrist and told him I wanted to discontinue them. He said, “No, you cannot stop these drugs, I want you to continue taking them.” I told him I had learned that Cymbalta is for neurological pain, but I had no pain. He said, “If you want to discontinue these drugs, then you do not need to see me anymore.” I stopped the Cymbalta and the clonazepam but continued to take the prescribed 25 mg of Seroquel because I needed to get some sleep; I still had insomnia.

So my mother sent me to see another psychiatrist, who put me on Xanax and other psych drugs. I took the Xanax, but now I was experiencing withdrawal from the earlier psych drugs. My mother directed me to see the first psychiatrist again. Not knowing what else to do, I went to see him. He increased the Seroquel to 100 mg and added Epilim, Valdoxan, nitrazepam and olanzapine (Zyprexa). Epilim is an epilepsy pill; I do not have epilepsy. Olanzapine is an antipsychotic; I did not have mental health problems. I simply could not sleep. Since taking the drugs, however, I experienced extreme depression and many other symptoms. The psychiatrists, who denied that there was any need to taper the drugs they had prescribed or that the drugs cause neurological damage, just continued to hand out drugs like candy.

Finally, having exhausted my life savings on private psychiatrists and now very ill, my mother urged me to see a psychiatrist in public hospital. Due to my withdrawal symptoms, I was admitted to two different hospitals for day-long visits. The psychiatrist there continued to prescribe Seroquel, olanzapine, Epilim and clonazepam. He assumed I had bipolar disorder without asking any questions related to bipolar disorder. He just increased the Seroquel to 400 mg and Epilim to 1200 mg. I told the psychiatrist that I am not bipolar, as I have read the symptoms of bipolar and I do not meet any of the criteria. I asked him whether I could taper the clonazepam and the Seroquel. He told me that there was no need to taper the clonazepam, and advised me to take Seroquel for the rest of my life. He said he never tapered his patients; he only continues to up-dose from time to time. I asked both the private and public psychiatrists whether I needed to slowly taper the psych drugs that I was discontinuing when they prescribed new ones. They told me, “No need, you just stop the earlier psych drugs and take the drugs I prescribed to you.” This was the “professional advice” they gave me. They just cold-turkeyed my psych drugs, leaving me damaged and suffering intense withdrawal symptoms. They had no idea how to taper safely as they have not taken psych drugs themselves.

My family members have never taken psychiatric medications, so they do not understand what I am going through. I told my mother that these psych drugs caused damage to my brain, my organs and my central nervous system. But she believes the psychiatrists, who say that once the medication is “out of my system” there are no side effects and I should be back to “normal.” She even asked my husband to open my mouth and force me to swallow each pill. Unfortunately, she underestimated the danger of psych drugs and trusted the psychiatrists implicitly even after I began to do research and realized that the terrible side effects I was experiencing were caused by the drugs I was prescribed.

Except for the eye inflammation that resolved on its own shortly after I started the first prescribed psychiatric drugs, in June of 2020 I was physically and mentally healthy. My original insomnia was caused by my anxiety about my inflamed eye, so that likely would have resolved when the inflammation did, if I had not taken psychiatric medications. Instead, because of the medications, it became worse, leading to polydrugging and all the severe side effects that the psychiatrists diagnosed as “mental illness.” Now, after taking all of these psychiatric medications, I am mentally and physically disabled. I have contacted the local media, but they dare not write my story because they are afraid to criticize professional psychiatrists. My only emotional support and practical advice in tapering this medication and dealing with these withdrawal symptoms comes from a social media support group. With no outlook on when my brain will heal and these symptoms will subside, especially the tinnitus and eye floaters, I find it difficult to feel hope for the future. I hope to use the life and energy I still have to warn people who are mentally healthy to consider carefully before they take any psychiatric drugs.


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


  1. Thank you for sharing your story, Grace. It horrendous what the psychiatrists did to you, I’m very sorry. A similar thing happened to me, except I was eventually slowly weaned off the drugs. But I still had withdrawal effects.

    I will say, however, many of the withdrawal effects do subside with time, although perhaps not all of them. God bless on your healing journey. Have hope.

  2. Grace I am really very sorry how you got caught. Quite innocently like millions of others.

    What I do hope so much for you is to research as much as possible, for anything that might help. If there is money, perhaps travel to a country where you can receive genuine support and nutrition. You don’t have to tell your family why you are leaving.

    But before you travel, make sure you have connections that are genuine.

    You also don’t want to share your psych experience with ANY medical people, even regular doctors, in other countries.
    They cannot be trusted, no matter how kindly they sound.

    I REALLY wish for some recovery from the damage psychiatry did and no, media is not interested, mostly because the owners, editors are all scared of backlash.

    Psychiatry sits and waits for opportunity to undermine people who might get in their way. Even though psych causes masses amount of injury, broken families and lost lives, they like the public to believe they save lives.

    It is a powerful cult. Absolutely NOTHING medical about psychiatry.
    They have no business handing out drugs.

  3. I comment a lot how this sort of tragedy happens in the US; but, sadly your article shows how this abuse from psychiatrists, etc. is a worldwide terror. I am sorry for all that you have gone through and continue to go through. It seems to be so many times a simple thing that causes people to damaged by these drugs; insomnia, job loss, job and career confusion, grief from the loss of a loved one, etc. What your article highlights is how the psychiatrists “assume” from your body’s and brain’s response to these drugs the diagnosis they should give you. I now think that a poor response to a drug in some way actually means you did not nor ever had that alleged disease (and since they are mostly made up diseases) it seems more and more probable. What you are going through took many years to get to until my body and brain just said no more, you’re not giving these horrific drugs to me anymore. The psychiatrists did not like that. I walked away from them forever. I do pray that you will get through this and come out on the other side. I also pray your mother will open her eyes to the dangers of psychiatry. I do think it does get better, but each one of is so individual (which psychiatrists, other doctors and even educators and others want to deny for their laziness, not ours) I just am unable to give you any timetable. But, please take heart, since you published your article, many now will be praying for your success and wellbeing. Take care. Thank you.

  4. Grace, thank you so much for making your story public. I am very sorry that you, like many people, fell into the trap of psychiatry disguised as medicine.

    I want to tell you briefly about your symptoms. You are a smart lady and maybe some cognitive explanations can help you a little.

    All these pills are legal drugs and like illegal drugs they also lead into altered states of consciousness; a special kind of trances. That is why you are unmotivated, have blurred visions and problems with your ears. Trance is needed in meditation, when you sit still and guide yourself in calmness. In everyday life we do not need trances unless we use them specifically for creativity.
    And, in normal life we can switch between waking consciousness and trance. This ability seems to have been taken away from the brain by these drugs.

    I don`t know exactly what you mean with “eye floating”. I only know blurred vision, ringing in the ears, lack of drive, sometimes the widening of the body, which actually becomes wider especially in the chest region, are signs of trance states.
    Especially the symptoms in the eyes and in the ears are driven by the Vagus Nerv, with its function to calm us down.
    When I understood all these symptoms, I could better deal with them and reduce my anxiety.
    The trance state is expressed by the brain through our senses. Blurred vision, ringing in the ears, some people even smell odors that do not exist and are completely unknown to them.

    If I may make a guess, I would say the best help is exercise. Exercise grounds the nervous system. You have to try out what kind of sports you like. I don’t think it’s good to put too much stress on the body. The brain has stress enough with the trances. So we should help the body moving with moderate exercises. Walk a lot and be in nature a lot. Nature is the best doctor. See if moderate stretching is good for you.

    You can try breathing therapy, but make sure it’s a good therapist, maybe someone who also has trained as a singer. It is an attempt to rebalance the nervous system through breathing.

    Very important is to motivate yourself with positive thoughts. I have had the experience that the more depressed I thought, the deeper the trance became. It’s like you are keeping on giving the brain the drug food.
    Finally, a note. There are actually medical problems with the eyes. There can be “fogginess” in the back of the eyes. But this is normally the case in older people. To be on the safe side, you can still go to an eye doctor to have it examined and to see if it is something specifically physical.

    I wish you all the best. Stay strong and be sure that things will change. But I know it takes patience.

    Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

    • Grace, You commented about “eye floating.” I think there has been some confusion as to what that means. I am not sure what that means to you. However, I do know that when I was on these evil psych drugs, I had cataracts much earlier than anyone else in my family. My uncle just had cataracts and he is in his eighties. I was much younger, being in my late forties/early fifties. Honestly, I don’t know the year and my exact age; because the years I was on the drugs, are basically “lost years.” As I have very little memory what happened in those years. What few memories I do have are a real blur. Of course, even before that and after that, my memory has always been very poor on dates and specifics like that. But, I lost that important memory that sustained me—the memory that I could at any time, at any age, close my eyes and be in the actual place and time of that which I had experienced in the past. I lost that for those years and it has been vague since the years I have been in withdrawal from the drugs, etc. However, that may be good, but the withdrawal years weren’t so great and rather confusing in so many ways. But, I do have a lot of the memory back that was prior to the years I was so heavily into these psych drugs and going to these therapy sessions and the other hogwash they put me through. If you can find an eye doctor, you can trust, you may be able to have them test for cataracts. Unlike other doctors, at least in the US, eye doctors don’t seem to ask a lot of unnecessary, intrusive questions and are mostly intent on just the eyes. Other than my cat’s vet, they are about the only doctors I still trust. Thank you.

  5. What a nightmare. I’m so sorry for your experience. Since you found your way to this site, hopefully you’ve also found your way to resources that can help you recover from the excruciating side effects of the pharmaceutical torture inflicted on you. I wasn’t sure from your piece whether you’re off all meds or still in the process of tapering, but it’s good that you recognize the source of your current disability. Clearly your mom has no understanding of what’s going on but – what about your husband? your close friends? I hope you have at least one person in real life who understands, believes & can support you; a social media support group can be helpful but it’s not enough. It’s amazing how much damage can be inflicted in the course of a single year (June 2020 to now!) – but at the same time, because it was a year, not a decade, I think you do have a good chance of recovery. It will be like recovering from any kind of traumatic brain injury, slow & steady with occasional backslides. Thank you for sharing your experience here and best wishes to you as you heal. Regarding insomnia: there are a number of non-pharmaceutical aids for that, as well as cbd oil under the tongue (legal where I live but maybe not in Kuala Lumpur), but one other thing that often helps is reading a vivid short story immediately before bed. It primes your brain for restful dreams.

  6. Grace, so very sorry to hear your story. I also was poly-drugged when I entered a private clinic to begin my taper off a large amount of Serepax ( short half life benzo) which after 14 years prescribed use put me into four years of living hell with inter-dose withdrawal. My psychiatrist misinformed me during those years of prescribing by telling me that I could just stop taking the medication at any time. As of this time of writing I have completely tapered from the benzo which had to be crossed over to a stronger version ( Valium) before I could stabilize on the taper. Now after a five and a half years slow taper I managed to get off them completely but still have to deal with two antidepressants as well. I still have tinnitus, cognitive impairment, balance issues and little motivation. However as time goes by the symptoms are lessening in their severity. I believe that we can heal given that we are willing to do whatever it takes to heal after this psychiatric assault. When I left the clinic I vowed I would never go near psychiatry again. Give yourself the time you need to heal and recover and thanks for sharing your story. Our stories need to be told even if only to warn others not to go down the same path. Wishing you all the best for your recovery.

  7. Dear Grace

    Thank you for generously sharing your account which sounds incredibly harrowing.

    I am familiar (briefly) with Malaysia/its history and culture.

    Noting the writings of James Davies, Sami Timimi and Joanna Moncrieff et al, I am also interested in the influence of parents/family, political-economy (e.g. neoliberal capitalist policies/laws) and social environment- culture with regard to why people turn to the ‘mental health’ system and DSM Big Pharma biomedical psychiatry (with a focus on implications for professional ethics e.g. legal profession).

    Your account is thus potentially also helpful from a political-economy and socio-cultural perspective.

    You share that your mother seemed to be a constant key figure in your experience as she insisted you see a psychiatrist, sent you to another psychiatrist, then urged you to see a psychiatrist in public hospital. You write that you agreed to do so, because you had no-where else to turn. You also share that, ‘she even asked my husband to open my mouth and force me to swallow each pill.’

    *Are you able to also share a bit more context with MIA readers (including me) about any possible socio-cultural influences on your adult decision to turn to and consent to biomedical psychiatry?

    Some questions below might help generally.

    For example, what influence did your mother-parents/your ancestral (Chinese) culture have had or might still have, on your adult decision to see psychiatrists and agree to prescribed drugs? (Or does your account say that you did not consent but were forced to take pills?)

    Or, what might have happened in your family, if you had refused your mother’s insistence, that you see psychiatrists and ingest psychotropic drugs?

    Do parents in Malaysia, normally insist that their children/adult children, see psychiatrists?

    How are painful emotions regarded in your country/culture and family, and how are medical doctor professionals treated in Malaysian society? (e.g. do people routinely ask their doctor questions, or do they tend to obey medical-doctors unquestioningly, as elite authority figures?)

    Do parents comfort their young children, such as when they cannot sleep (because they are afraid of the dark, have had some bad dreams, are experiencing bullying or other similar issues at school).

    Do parents in your country-culture, show patience, warmth, empathy, presence, unconditional love-acceptance, time and compassion for their children and other fellow adult aged people’s emotional upset, sadness, tears, worry, fear and all other forms of distress?

    Or, do parents and other adult authority figures (e.g. teachers) admonish children and fellow adults’ painful emotions, such as with directions like, ‘don’t cry’? (Is corporal punishment, like caning, administered in Malaysia?).

    Also, you share details of your credentials and career/business achievements.

    Are you able to also share with MIA readers, what pressure (if any) there is in your country-culture, on: ‘achievement,’ career performance (without taking time off such as for physical illness or other unexpected contingencies), work-employment-money, obtaining prestige credentials and material ‘success’? Is there any pressure not to reveal ‘weakness’ or to suppress a need to rest/take time off to recuperate etc.?

    If there is any such pressure, where does that pressure tend to come from? (Parents, employers, teachers, politicians-government, religious or other authority figures, peers, family, communities, oneself)?

    Finally, when you initially consented to see a psychiatrist-doctor because you could not sleep due to feeling emotional worry about your eye, could you share with MIA readers what medical services you expected or hoped to receive from the psychiatrist – for your emotional worry?

    These are just questions which might prompt ideas for you to perhaps share some further context with MIA readers. Rather than reply here, you could instead pen a follow-up blog article for MIA, which considers the above or any other questions that might come to mind?

    Thank you again for sharing your personal account, which hopefully launches an important opportunity for much needed (regulatory) change to prevent such iatrogenic harm being inflicted on other citizens.

    May you find unexpected fortuitous ways to heal and in so doing, gain great wisdom to share with others.

    Best wishes, Magdalene

  8. The problem is that people don’t wish to come near any of this BEFORE they have a mounting health anxiety issue causing insomnia. How do we inform – and they take on board and believe us through our experience – such people BEFORE they come into contact with a psychiatrist, that this is a pretty dangerous thing to do when they are programmed to believe they are doctors that there to help you get better ?

  9. Hi Grace –

    Oh, how my heart goes out to you. I know you wrote this a while ago but I wanted to reach out and thank you for writing your story. It is SO important for people to know that psychiatric drugs can potentially cause so much harm. What is so appalling is that these psychaitrists have NO CLUE as to the contraindications of these drugs. There are NO STUDIES at all related to the mixing and matching of these medications. When these drugs are tested it is ONLY when they are the only drug in the system, so it is pure recklessness for them to hand these drugs out as they do. It is literally like they are whipping up a stew and throwing in this or that spice without any idea of the taste of the spices. Even in something as harmless as cooking reveals the intensity of just a spice – But these so-called doctors are improvising with serious medicines NOT spices that affect human beings and their WHOLE BODIES.

    My story is very different. i was diagnosed with bipolar, but nobody ever identified me as dysfunctional. I was “high-functioning” because I have always been good at adapting and figuring out a way to fit in. But when after years of struggling with off and on depression and mania – I did go into a psychiatrist to get a diagnoses. With my bipolar disorder diagnosis I was handed 1 pill. Probably because I had no money and was resistant to taking more than one drug. Just lamictal pushed me toward my one and only psychotic break. And that was enough for me. After years of knowing my emotional volatility very well – I knew that the drug was the cause of what I was experiencing because it was something SO strange and irregular to my previous experiences prior to that one medication.

    I did go cold turkey, but I was lucky that lamictal does not seem to be one of the drugs that causes terrible side affects to withdraw from. Although I would never advise any one to go cold turkey off of psych meds in general! My psychaitrist gave me another med to calm my anxiety – but it truly made me loopy – I shifted from one emotional state to another within seconds. This volatility happened within an hour of taking it.

    Anyway – I vowed from that point on to figure out how to heal my bipolar symptoms without relying on meds or the practitioners that believed in them. I have been 5 years symptom free after study, exploration and implementation of everything from meditation, supplements, therapeutic friendships, yoga, energy medicine, and so much more. During this time I have become a Health Coach – leeladavis.com – and am devoted to sharing knowledge and spreading the word that there are ways of healing insomnia, anxiety, depression and even bipolar without having to rely on toxic chemicals. I am starting a podcast called What I didn’t Tell My Therapist – with Jude Gorini (another coach who received a diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder) – he has a podcast called Healing with Jude – If you are interested in telling your story, please reach out to me at [email protected]

    I hold you in my heart!