Madness to Miracles

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At 44 I was an RN with years of experience and certification in both psychology and chemical dependency, which makes me embarrassed to tell my story. I had an excellent reputation and work history, and my hospital was offering to send me back to school for my master’s degree and the opportunity to manage a new satellite clinic. I loved my job, was happily married, had two precious children I adored, and owned a beautiful home that was often full of my friends and my children’s friends. I always had large quantities of home cooking on the stove. I was also involved in a study and meditation group, and was active in volunteer work in my community. I did my own renovations on my home. I loved gardening, hiking, kayaking, swimming, and skiing, and found time often for these activities with my children. I neither drank nor smoked. My life was rich in all the ways most important to me, especially being a mother and a nurse.

At age 45 I hit a situational depression due to several unexpected stressors in my life. My husband (a counselor), my women’s group and my doctor all suggested I take Prozac and I was happy to think something might help me through this unusual slump.

madness to miracles prozac suicidal thoughts

I began on Prozac and felt some relief. After two months my doctor suggested I stop taking the Prozac and so I did. Two months later I was feeling worse again and resumed Prozac as my doctor suggested. Again I saw some improvement and then stopped the prescription at my doctor’s recommendation. The third time I was put on Prozac was a complete disaster, and within six months I could no longer work as my memory, concentration and comprehension were failing horribly which caused anxiety and panic attacks. I took time off and tried five times to return to work and each time was worse than the last. I finally surrendered to not being able to work at present. I was devastated to lose the ability to work at a job I loved and embarrassed at my loss of skills. My self-esteem dropped significantly. Little did I know I would never hold a regular job again.

I was experiencing akathisia and irritated bouts of “mania” which crashed into an excruciating torrent of suicidal thoughts and I began trying to commit suicide. I have always been a strong person and I deeply cared about my family but I began to believe they were actually better off without me.

I was then diagnosed as bipolar type 2 and prescribed clonazepam for anxiety, and then mood stabilizers for the new bipolar diagnosis.

With my first suicide attempt, my daughter pulled away significantly and I understood as in one short year, my children’s rock had become a woman who struggled simply to take a shower. My precious son eventually withdrew also and the estrangement from both became complete years later. It was devastating and I will always miss them.

My doctor began suggesting ECT, and I resisted as I hated the idea and had watched people recovering from ECT treatments. My doctor pressured me more and more, finally telling me my refusal was proof that I did not wish to get well. After hearing his accusation several times I surrendered to prove him wrong and began ECT three times a week for six weeks. I remember lying in fear on the table being prepped for that first ECT. I remember nothing else from that time until nine weeks later when I had recovered just enough to put together a plan to kill myself by carbon monoxide poisoning. The attempt failed after four hours and I was dismayed that I couldn’t even kill myself properly.

So began my journey into psychiatric hospitals and ongoing adjustments of my medications. I can today identify 33 psychotropic medications I was prescribed over the years, including many antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and benzodiazepines. At times I was on as many as five concurrently. I was hospitalized more than 10 times and it was never voluntary. I believed I had simply gone mad and my only hope was to listen carefully to my doctors and do as they suggested.

After a failed attempt at counseling, my marriage ended as my dearly loved husband was exhausted from caring for psychiatric patients all day and then coming home to another. I was so tired of his disappointment in me, which reflected my own, that I was actually relieved to see him go.

I decided to leave my home state and go to Arizona as I wished to save my children from the pain and embarrassment of my suicide attempts. I was also hoping sunshine might magically help my deteriorating mental health.

I learned to cope with my poor condition and renovated houses as I could work for myself when I was able. I had a caring new psychiatrist and he worked hard to find medications that might help me. I was involved in support groups and tried adding a variety of alternative treatments like acupuncture, but nothing helped my state of mind. Within this blur was an overdose and a nine-day coma. Another attempt led to hypovolemic shock and the edge of death. My suicidal thoughts were then a daily occurrence, and as soon as I survived one attempt, I made plans for the next time mania, akathisia and that unbearable pain hit.

Then on a regular visit to my psychiatrist I asked that my meds be decreased in dose as I was completely “numb.” He instead prescribed a fifth medication. Standing in line at the pharmacy it just hit me that I couldn’t do this anymore, and I went home and withdrew from all three antidepressants in four months and was terribly ill for nine. I had migraines, nausea and vomiting, dizziness and fainting, tinnitus, paresthesia, lost 30 pounds and had petit mal seizures. I had no idea what I was doing, I only had my hope to stop feeling “numb.”

At the end of that nine months I was shocked to realize my anxiety, akathisia and suicidal thoughts were completely gone. I had never experienced these before psychotropics. I cannot begin to describe the utter shock I felt. I had just lost 20 years of my life and everyone and everything I held dear, including myself, due to psychiatric medicine. Why did doctors not see how drastically I changed and how rapid and brutal my descent was? Why did I not see?

Today I continue to taper off Valium and am at the equivalent of 1/18th of my original dose. Benzodiazepine withdrawal has been very tough in so many ways and yet I continue to improve. My memory and comprehension are improved. The tinnitus has almost gone recently and the paresthesia is improving. Headaches are less frequent. I grieve all the losses, especially the loss of my children. I pray they are doing well in their lives. I am looking forward to being free in the coming months. I look forward to contributing to my community once again and rejoining the human race. I am grateful for never having to experience the anxiety, akathisia, “mania” and suicidality induced by psychotropic medications again.

My dream now is to write a book, and my hope is that it might save even one person from this iatrogenic hell so that my experience may have some meaning.

May we all find healing in natural, loving and life-sustaining ways.

***

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.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Yes sometimes people do run into course of life stresses, and presumably a need for change. I don’t know what else to call them.

    Some people will say that someone is depressed. I consider this an extreme insult, using this clinical language to make like what ever is bothering someone has no objective reality, where as this imagined ailment does.

    And then these drugs and electro shock should not even exist. They clearly fall within Nuremburg precedent for Crimes Against Humanity, and they should be prosecuted as such.

    Peter Breggin writes that people are “depressed” because they are leading depressing lives.

    And as I see it that usually comes down to issues with career and marriage, and these things are usually not easy to change or remedy.

    Sometimes these matters can be well described as a mid-life crisis. The film The Arrangement 1969 is about a man who has such a crisis.

    Good trailer:
    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064041/

    He does a lot of goofy stuff. He also has an affair with an adult unrelated woman.

    I draw attention to this because in my life I encountered another man who had a midlife crisis of a nature which seemed similar, although he never admitted this.

    He began molesting his three juvenile daughters.

    I first learned of this from him proclaiming his innocence to me as he was out on bail awaiting trial.

    He never said anything to me which directly indicated guilt, but I was blown away with the degree of emotion he had invested in scapegoating his eldest daughter. I knew that that had to have come from way back. And this was his only real defense, calling the three girls liars. And I only needed to hear this once before I got involved. I would help to put him into San Quentin.

    A dimension of this was the fact that he had listened to the psychiatric system. I think this was one of his major life errors. Some years earlier he had been getting kind of silly. I guess you could call this manic. But I don’t see any reason to make a big deal out of it.

    Anyway, soon police were summoned and he got verbally stupid with them, and so they 5150ed him (CA law for 72 hour psychiatric holds). So he was in a specially designated ward of the county hospital, and drugged.

    I don’t think they should do this, drug people that way. If police wanted to they could have arrested him for Disorderly Conduct. Or they might tried just having a little talk with him and telling him to cool it.

    Usually when he did screwy stuff, it was stuff the wife and the children would have to straighten out.

    But before he got out of hospital, he was drugged, he had a diagnosis, and a prescription, and more doctor’s appointments. He listened to them and accepted their explanation that he has a brain chemical imbalance and was suffering from the mental illness Bipolar 2.

    He would continue to do things screwy, and even more screwy things, and he was terrified of more psychotic episodes.

    Most of all, he was terrified of feeling his feelings, and I feel that this was his greatest difficulty. Our culture tends to be like this to start with. But the mental health people really push this, that you cannot feel your feelings.

    As I would be communicating with the prosecution and the court, I really emphasized this, and highlighted how this refusing to live in your own skin is the basis of his church.

    I’m glad you are alright and finding your own way, and thank you for exposing how destructive the mental health system is.

    In Los Angeles CA right now they have a team headed by a “Street Psychiatrist” that goes out and drugs homeless people. I don’t know that kind of drugs these would be, but I still think this wrong and destructive. His prescription drugs still have the same effect as street drugs, and this is their appeal.

    LA Street Psychiatrist
    https://www.madinamerica.com/2022/04/saving-lives-cementing-stigma-review-just-like-you/#comment-201079

    Joshua

  2. “Then on a regular visit to my psychiatrist I asked that my meds be decreased….He instead prescribed a fifth medication”.

    I can relate to this. It’s psychiatry’s modus operandi.

    “Standing in line at the pharmacy it just hit me that I couldn’t do this anymore…”

    I can relate to this, too.

    I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through. But thank you for writing this. And I hope you also write a book because I believe someone reading it will be spared what you so aptly refer to as psychiatry’s “iatrogenic hell”. And I think “Madness to Miracles” would be a great title.

    I wish you continued improvements in your overall health and a restoration of a relationship with your children.

      • Please, one does not need to deploy the middle finger to eliminate all medications. One can just walk away, free as a bird, free to be you and me. Free, when you deploy the middle finger, you are still their prisoner; you still belong to them. Even if you never take a drug again or be involved in their therapy. Anger is a natural emotion. Sadness is a natural emotion. Deploying the middle finger takes away all the joy and happiness when the needs of anger and sadness are accomplished. If you want to be free, you must allow yourself to forgive and to love and that begins with oneself, as hard as it can be sometimes… Thank you.

    • Shiloh says, “Then on a regular visit to my psychiatrist I asked that my meds be decreased….He instead prescribed a fifth medication.”

      This is no surprise; it’s psychiatry’s modus operandi. But thankfully what followed was Shiloh’s moment of truth:

      “Standing at line at the pharmacy it just hit me that I couldn’t do this anymore…”

      Shiloh, I’m sorry you experienced so much needless suffering. But thank you for taking the time to write this essay. And please do write a book; it just might be what keeps someone else from falling into psychiatry’s “iatrogenic hell”. And “Madness to Miracles” sounds like a great title.

      May you enjoy continued improvements to your overall health and a loving reunion with your children.

  3. Because in all my pain, fear, and confusion, I was thoroughly brainwashed by the lie I was told by psychiatry (which further scared me out of my wits), the one where they tell patients, “You’ll need these medications the rest of your life.” And also because in my family, psychiatry was thought to be a legitimate resource. And I was raised to always be compliant with “doctors’ orders”.

    • I understand. That does seem to be the most common situation, a pack of lies and deceptions, and the fear that you are deteriorating and will suffer huge consequence and that drugging is best for you.

      Again, not intending to pry and not wanting to be disrespectful, how old were you when you first had contact with the mental health system? Were there any ways in which family seemed to fuel it, making you into a problem to be solved, or that there was something somehow off about you?

      It is an incredible credit to you that you did get out of it. You might not still have been alive otherwise.

      Joshua

        • I have heard other stores like that and it is very understandable. Again, not to pry or be disrespectful, if you don’t mind my asking, was a lack of familial emotional support a factor in this all ending up in the mental health system? Like say, it could be this sense that there is a mysterious anomalous wrong which has long been in play, and then these various crises are seen as manifestations of this (Original Sin) and the mental health system is seen to offer the solution, either in drugs or in talk therapy.

          Thanks,
          Joshua

    • The pressure — from friends, family, employers, neighbors — to “get help, take your medication, call your therapist, see your psychiatrist so he can adjust your meds, listen to your doctors” on and on, can be so intense. I wound up losing/cutting off all social contact, in part to escape the relentless drumbeat of “get help” even (especially) when I was brain damaged and bedridden from the “treatment” I’d already had. At least now, there is this website and others online that corroborate that the meds are very harmful and based on zero science. 10, 15, 30 years ago, there was very little a person could do to defend against the demands of a brainwashed society. How many people has this system of lies put in life threatening, terrifying situations — where the psych drugs have made them ill and they need to hide, hide that they’re ill, hide from supposedly well-meaning people who would have them be seen by a doctor or in the ER, God forbid,…just hide indefinitely, until either they recover on their own or become another statistic.

  4. Dear Shiloh,

    Your story is truly heartbreaking. My late husband’s life’s work was trying to set the record straight about our misguided belief in Western psychiatry’s medical model of “mental disorders” and how this is based on false premises–treating these “disorders” as physical diseases. And it goes further than this because science can not pronounce what a disorder of the mind IS until it can explain consciousness, which it tends to ignore. The problem extends back to the Age of Enlightenment, but I won’t go further into this here. I can’t write my husband’s book–the most I can manage is an essay and feel I must do this because it explains so much.

    I am truly glad you have come out alive and yes, hopefully you can write something that will save others from these completely unnecessary toxic drugs and other treatments as well. And hopefully your children will realize that their mother was only trying to overcome enormous difficulties but was led down a hazardous path through no fault of her own. We, as a culture, are indoctrinated into believing that unless we are goal driven and seeking personal satisfaction at all times, there is something wrong with us. I believe that nothing could be further from the truth.

    Wishing you the very best…

    • Louisa says, “We, as a culture, are indoctrinated into believing that unless we are goal driven and seeking personal satisfaction at all times, there is something wrong with us.”

      Thank you for beautifully articulating what’s wrong with our culture. It’s the result of living in a society driven by constant striving for physical, emotional, social, and “professional” perfection. And anyone who doesn’t follow the party line of “go go go for more more more”, or who falls apart from trying to conform to this social tyranny, runs the risk of being pathologized and “medicated”. I think it’s one of the reasons behind affluenza.

      People should quit depending on “results” from “studies” and instead start looking for REASONS why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling. Then maybe they’d realize there’s nothing “wrong” WITH THEM —

      • I don’t agree that this is what is wrong with society.

        I do think that it is cruel to punish people for not being able to keep up rather than to help them be stronger.

        That said, we do have unrealistic expectations for many people. To “help” or “push” people to strive for results they aren’t really capable of is a form of emotional torture.

          • Steve says, “And often results to which they never willingly agree to aspire, and continue to protest even when “in compliance.”

            This is what makes most “therapy” like obedience school; having to perform for a therapist who all the while prattles on and on about learning to be “authentic”, when, in fact, all they’re doing is a reenactment of negative family dynamics that most therapists aren’t even aware of. They just like the power. Which is why they defend their methods by hiding behind their precious “power imbalance”, that bullshit idea that allows them to control the conversation, just like mom and dad.

  5. “I had just lost 20 years of my life and everyone and everything I held dear, including myself, due to psychiatric medicine.”

    Absolutely, I agree, prescription of the psychological and psychiatric drugs to innocent mothers does destroy families.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Shiloh. And I will say, I do find hope in the fact that the nurses are now finally losing respect for the entire medical edifice. I hope your story is some day published.

    As one who also dealt with the antidepressant induced “bipolar epidemic” – who did heal from this iatrogenic epidemic harm. I will say healing is possible … contrary to the lies of the “mental health professionals” … but it’s not easy, and weaning from the psych drugs is the cure.

    God bless you on your healing journey, Shiloh.

  6. I have no idea how common this line of experience is, but I am guessing that the downward slope is quite common, while recovery by getting off the drugs is less so.

    Shiloh had an incredibly strong base of abilities and experiences before she got “sick.” I look forward to what she will write, or other ways she might help in the movement to stop drugging people for psychiatric purposes.

  7. I and so many more (too many) could have written almost this exact essay. Fortunately, after 8 years of this madness – madness on the part of the psychiatric community – I finally listened to my eldest son and weaned myself off all medication. Result: I recovered. Unfortunately, during those 8 years, I lost significant chunks of my life and relations that I cannot get back. Like the author, I feel I should have known better since I was an R.N. and had just graduated from Harvard Law School at age 48. The psychiatrists, however, see us when we are at our lowest ebb and pretty defenseless, unable to advocate for ourselves or readily believed, and desperately seeking answers wherever we may find them. I now know that ALL DSM so-called diagnoses are simply different styles of coping mechanisms and not brain “disorders.”

    • farmor says, “The psychiatrists, however, see us at our lowest ebb and pretty defenseless, unable to advocate for ourselves or readily believed, and desperately seeking answers wherever we may find them.”

      Another commenter calls psychiatry “opportunistic medicine”, and farmor’s words explain why.

      “…ALL DSM so-called diagnoses are simply different styles of coping mechanisms and not brain “disorders”.

      Thank you farmor for stating these important truths so clearly and succinctly.

    • We definitely need to free ourselves from the DSM.

      And to the extent that any of the behaviors that it attempts to describe fall into the field of psychiatry, they should certainly NOT be interpreted as brain disorders, as the psyche is not a body organ.

      However, I am very interested in “coping mechanisms” that result in criminal behaviors, and are listed in the DSM (apparently) as Anti-Social Personality Disorder. This is more commonly known as psychopathy and sociopathy. I believe that a solution to understanding “mental health” relies on clearly seeing the role of the psychopath in society and finding ways to protect ourselves from psychopathic behaviors.

  8. Another commenter called psychiatry “opportunistic medicine” and farmor’s words explain why this rings true:

    “The psychiatrists, however, see us at our lowest ebb and pretty defenseless, unable to advocate for ourselves or readily believed, and desperately seeking answers wherever we may find them.”

    Can you guess what most psychiatrists call self-advocacy? If you say “noncompliance”, you’re right!

    “I now know that ALL DSM so-called “diagnoses” are simply different styles of coping mechanisms and not brain “disorders”.

    Thank you farmor for stating these important truths so clearly and succinctly.

  9. Dear farmor,

    I’m so glad you listened to your son and were eventually able to stop all medication. I too have lost too much time listening to psychiatrists’ “bevy of lies”.

    And thank you again for your eloquence when saying, “The psychiatrists see us at our lowest ebb and pretty defenseless, unable to advocate for ourselves or readily believed, and desperately seeking answers wherever we may find them.”

  10. More power to you, Shiloh! If you ever want to compare notes and/or collaborate, feel free to get in touch with me. I was able to get off psych drugs (lithium and benzos) after 34 years. It wsa rough, and ended up being life changing, but I did it.
    Sincerely Yours,
    Tessa

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