Ann Childers, M.D. is a child and adult psychiatric physician with a special interest in regaining the physical and mental health of children, adolescents and adults through standard psychiatric care integrated with principles of nutrition and sleep. Dr. Childers has contributed to a number of textbooks, notably among them the chapter entitled ‘Nutritional Aspects of Psychiatry’ in the book Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: The Essentials.
I remember clearly thinking, “I’m done. I’m not putting myself through this again.” I wasn’t going to settle for the side effects of a marginally better than placebo treatment again. Here is a brief look into my rollercoaster journey of recovery, returning to work, having my trauma re-triggered, finding a way through, and finally living well.
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.
My sincere message to those whose vitality and lives have been sapped and zapped by this iatrogenic dis-order: most of us DO recover! And even if it is not without some benzo remnants lodged in our cellular memory, what we learn about our own resilience will guide us to places in our lives we didn't expect to reach. HOPE was my key through the arduous path of withdrawal and recovery.
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.
How did I become someone who could barely function? I was a high-performing sales executive ranked in the top 2% of an international business communications company. But now, after using powerful psych meds for depression and anxiety for more than a decade, I couldn’t do basic things like go to the grocery store, plan a meal, make dinner, or get together with friends.
There is little doubt in my mind that many school shooters were in an antidepressant-induced state of psychosis, which is a loss of contact with reality that makes it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not real. That's what happened to me. I started taking 60mg of Paxil a day. Three days later, I planned my suicide. Then I planned a murder.
I have nothing good to say about the psychiatric drugs prescribed to me or about the psychiatrists that prescribed them. I did not have a condition that needed to be medicated. There was no informed consent about the severe and indefinite damage that the drugs caused me, and I did not have the appropriate help withdrawing from them.
The minute you sit down in the chair in a mental health professional's office, you’re no longer seen as a person. The mental health system is incapable of seeing past the solid wall of your current label. Their only cure is drugs. "First Do No Harm" are powerful words. It’s unfortunate they don’t apply to psychiatry.
The party would continue for a time, but an inevitable crash ensued. I left my family, was fired from my job for uncontrollably screaming at my boss, and gambled away whatever money I had left in the stock market. A debilitating depression soon began, of a magnitude I could not previously have imagined. I had lost everyone and everything in my life.
I began to have transient moments where I would feel oddly disconnected from my environment or wake up and feel like I was coming out of my skin. I did not know it at the time, but I was experiencing interdose benzodiazepine withdrawal and it would end up leading me down a path of polypharmacy.
In searching for answers as to what went wrong with my treatment, my family and I discovered that there is already much scientific evidence demonstrating the dangers of antipsychotic medications and why they should not be used to treat illnesses such as Tourette Syndrome.
I’ve seen people put more research into how to cook a turkey at Christmas time than previous psychiatrists did for my health. From the DSM to the prescription pad, if it wasn’t there, it didn’t exist. It’s a very cut-and-dry, mix-and-match method to modern medicine that has harmed millions of people, and it nearly killed me.
What I have learned is that benzos don’t discriminate. They don’t care that you have a master’s degree or that you are a good person in the community or that you were just doing what the doctors told you to do and you were woefully ignorant and misinformed of their dangers.
I am a former Lieutenant in the US Navy, and on August 30, I sent a letter to the US Senate and House Committees on Armed Services, and their respective committees on Veterans' Affairs. I titled the letter "Concerning Mental Health Treatment and Suicide in the United States Armed Forces and the Veteran Community." Here is what I wrote:
I have hopes for the field of psychiatry. I hope the field will redeem itself, and redeem its practitioners, because they do have clinical skill and the opportunity to learn more and grow. Many of them, I believe, were just taught bad science, influenced and infiltrated by Big Pharma.
I am an award-winning singer/songwriter with a number one record to my credit. I also owned several small businesses and founded a 501c3 non-profit for women's health. I ate healthy, swam and cycled every day and had a very active lifestyle. This was before benzos came into my life.
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.
Healing mental health issues through correct supplements as well as nutrition is, I believe, the final factor for me in my journey. This is possibly what was missing in my first attempt at coming off, and why my brain and body couldn’t handle the extreme anxiety I felt in December 2013. I am ensuring that as I prepare to taper off the Lexapro in 2015, my brain and body are being supported in every way possible.
It took surviving all of the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, including derealization, gastritis, auditory hallucinations, wasting, dementia, panic attacks and profound depression, for me to come to understand that not only had I really been a cool person before all that shit, but also that nothing was wrong with me. I was smart and a little neurotic at times, but that was it. Drugs caused me to be mentally ill where I had not been before.
It's been five years today since I completed a six year withdrawal process from a large cocktail of psychiatric drugs. Today is also my 50th birthday which, frankly, seems much more remarkable to me at this point. Inside I am only aware of eternal youth. Upon having done an informal and small survey, it seems most people feel that way though it's not talked about much among the adults of our species. That which watches and experiences our lives in these bodies does not age. It's actually a wonderful thing. So I'm here wondering what comes next in this amazing trajectory which is the life being lived in this body that my parents called Monica.
The childhood and psychiatric abuse altered my neurological, hormonal and other bodily functions and it was difficult to say which abuse left what mark. The doctors used medication to fix the changes and the taking of prescription pills became a habit. I took pills to calm me, pills to sleep, and pills to make me happy. A few months after stopping all medications, I was a bundle of nerves and I opened the cupboard for a pill. Living on autopilot as I had been doing for so long had to stop. I switched gears from absentmindedly resorting to pills, to purposefully calming myself without using drugs by breathing the way the psychologist had taught me.
There were days that I’d wake up and all I could do was cry for no particular reason, just another miserable day of withdrawal. However, the idea of taking photos would get me out of the house. Especially on those days, the absolutely only thing that would get me to move at all was the idea of taking photos. One particular day, I was just crying, crying, crying, and as soon as I got to a beautiful spot that I loved, I stopped crying, took photos, and felt at peace. I even found that the days I felt the worst were the days I took the best photos.
It was the first time in my Klonopin journey it occurred to me the problem might not be inherent in me. The problem might actually be the Klonopin. Convinced my very life was at stake, I made the firm decision to get off the stuff once and for all.
My story starts in 1976. I had a nervous breakdown whilst studying for my Accountancy Technician examination. I was then prescribed a series of benzodiazepine/anti depressant drugs for 5 years. I have been campaigning for the last 28 years at local, national and international level on this public health scandal and government cover-up. The following questions need to be asked to those responsible: Why have the doctors and psychiatrists ignored the 1988 Committee on Safety of Medicines Guidelines on the prescribing of benzodiazepines? Why are the same physicians making the same mistakes with the newer drugs?
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