After finding a cop at my door, I learned it wasn’t safe to talk about my feelings of wanting to die. As a result, I spent the better part of the next decade not telling anyone when I was suicidal.
I have stayed on the same daily, 10 mg dosage of Abilify for the last few years. Although I am compliant, I am not satisfied: I do not feel whole. I do not feel authentic.
What my doctor had told me would be a two-week withdrawal from Seroquel turned into a 14-month nightmare with lasting repercussions: the movement disorder tardive dyskinesia.
After suffering PTSD in the late 1980s, I reluctantly accepted antidepressants. In time, I had resolved the trauma, but when I tried to stop the antidepressants (Prozac, and later Zoloft), I assumed my desperate feelings and “return” of depression were an indication I had an imbalance and needed those drugs. I didn’t understand I was experiencing withdrawal. (I was never told that for most people, psychiatric medications need to be tapered.)
I watched my son’s life change almost overnight. He developed akathisia from antidepressants, taken as prescribed for just a few weeks for garden-variety anxiety.
Take every horrific feeling you’ve ever had in your life, all at once. Now, times them by 200, right in your gut. That is how akathisia pain feels. When I tell doctors I have drug-induced akathisia, and that it's incredibly painful, they do not believe me. They say my pain is a mental health issue, and they have all methodically undermined my credibility in my permanent record.
Many have asked: “Why doesn’t my doctor/provider know what is happening to me?” Benzodiazepine tolerance and withdrawal are not new. So, why isn’t it simple to diagnose and treat? As both a health care provider and a withdrawal sufferer, I’d like to offer an inside and outside perspective on this question.
Going into psychiatry as a naïve 25-year-old, I had no idea what I would discover. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have chosen this field.
I was desperate to get off the medication. I wanted to be in control of myself again; independent and capable. The label of Bipolar Disorder made me feel like I was seen as a crazy person who did not fit into society. I wanted my dignity back!
The horrors I was forced to undergo to “treat” my homosexuality are now unthinkable, but continue to raise questions about psychiatry’s ethics.
My childhood was stolen by systems focused on labeling and medicating me instead of healing the effects of abuse and neglect.
I’d like to share a bit about what happened to me after being placed on these medications, and how I successfully got off. Until recently, I was embarrassed to talk about my personal experiences publicly, as I’m a professional who specializes in anxiety and depression. Today, medication free, I feel better than ever before, and I am now on a mission to help my current clients get off medications, and to inform others through my writing about the dangers and pitfalls of starting antidepressants.
I was told that I had only two choices: Do not have children, or take lithium while I was pregnant—the drug that posed the least amount of birth defects, and the very medication that had killed the painter in me years ago. I refused both options and set out on my own, and luckily found a willing psychiatrist to help me taper off the meds.
We were caught in a tug of war. They wanted my voices gone. I was not going to let go of my voices, my confidants and protectors, regardless of what they did to me. We have the right to hear voices and no longer be hidden away in the attic of taboo and misunderstood experiences. The freedom to hear voices is truly a fundamental human right.
When I was 17, I took Prozac for five days. Ever since, I have been completely unable to experience sexual pleasure.
My doctor insisted that my symptoms could not be associated with withdrawal – they had to be symptoms of an underlying condition. I have since learned from legitimate sources that protracted withdrawal syndrome from benzodiazepines can intensify long before it abates, with some symptoms lasting for years.
I now am more conversant with the latest literature on the medications I take than my prescriber is. While I consider his opinion and clinical judgment, I no longer accept every word as the Gospel truth.
My therapist and I jointly made the decision to wean me off of the drugs. In the beginning, it was a very scary process for me. Since I had twice gone off medications on my own, I knew how bad it could get. The good news is, I am alive. I feel alive, and I now have emotions, both good and bad. I am very grateful to have all of them.
Through journaling, I realized that my lifelong confusion surrounding my memories of traumatic events was the direct result of the psychiatric labels and drugs I swallowed alongside years of parental abuse.
Although I have usually been the one suffering from side effects, with others watching on, the roles were reversed in this incident. Seeing my mother impaired caused me heartache, and I am now rethinking my treatment regimen. Is this stuff good for me for the long term? Is this the only stuff that can help me, or is there an alternative?
What I want to share with you, dear readers, is how spiritual experiences like mine have been reflected in so many people’s stories of being labeled with psychotic disorders.
How long would I have to be off meds and stay safe and out of the hospital before my story would mean something to you and the advocates for chemical interventions?
The amount of anxiety I felt on these medications — and for a couple of years after — was unfathomable. I felt as though I was trapped in an air-tight vat, constantly gasping for breath. And my thoughts were guided by my state of constant worry and panic.
I’m alive. More than 30,000 veterans in the past decade alone are not. I was not warned of the risks of this drug. I was not told that once on it, I might never be able to get off it, or the nightmare that would ensue when I tried. I know millions of others were not told either.
Once, for a brief time, there was an outrage over child drugging, in particular the use of child protective services and the schools in forcing or coercing this drugging on children. Today, instead of continuing to sound an alarm, most of society considers this normal.