Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A bit of a rant, part of my story...how I became suicidal

Ok; typically I do not get on a soapbox about medications. While I have my own opinion about using "medications" to manage the symptoms of emotional and cognitive distress, I don't consider it my job to tell anyone else how to live their life or walk their journey.

But - today over at Bipolar Blast there was a post about how the use of medications corrolates too often with the suicidal thoughts that become the reasoning behind using them to begin with.

So I am not going to go into a rehash but ask you to take a look at the post over there.

What I am going to talk about here today is how I began searching for help while going through an unbelievably difficult year.

The details are not important in this context but on the list of "life stressors" I had a 100% score - no wonder I was feeling overwhelmed and shut down ie what the doctors called "clinical depression" (which was an iatrogenic drug induced depression caused by the stimulants I was prescribed - see the story below for the details). 

 What I have since learned is simply my brain and body telling me enough already - take care of yourself. (the stages of grief/loss/change)

But back to the post I mentioned...

What I realized as I read this post was that I was not the only one who had NEVER had a suicidal thought in my life before taking these "medications"... and here I learned that I was not the only one who had had this experience.

My story; I got connected with a well meaning woman from NAMI (who by the way is funded by the pharma co's - check out Senetor Grassleys recent report here) - in order to help me to receive "treatment" she COACHED me to tell the nurses and doctors at the hospital that I was having suicidal thoughts in order to be admitted to the inpatient ward (where I thought I would find help, compassion and solutions...instead I learned how to be a "compliant" patient.)

I remember the day very clearly; it was December 1993. About 10 days before Christmas. In fact it is one of the last days that I remember clearly.

It was the day I gave up.

As she coached me to tell the nurses that I was feeling "suicidal" and having "those thoughts", I remember thinking that I did not want to do this, but - if doing this would help the doctors tell me what was wrong with me, help me find an answer to what was going on with me, then I would do it. I was willing to do anything to find relief; even lie about feeling "suicidal". I remember feeling completely defeated and ashamed to having to resort to lying in order to get "help".

How did this all start?

Several months earlier (fall of 1992) I had seen a psychiatrist who told me that if I took the powerful stimulant medication Dexedrine that I would no longer have an anger problem (duh - abused, violated, neglected and then asked what I had done to "make" the abuse happen, told I had "made it up", was lying...good cause for some anger wouldn't you think?).

After talking with me on the phone and a (very) short meeting in his office he instructed me to try the Dexedrine. He told me that this would help me to "concentrate" and it would calm my "anger". (Another post another day on my experience with ADD/ADHD issues perhaps).

The Dexedrine started a downward spiral into psychosis and depression. I quickly dropped from a healthy size 12 to a near skeletal size 0/2. I'm 5'9" tall. Do you think I could look pretty psychotic and like I was abusing these drugs? Yup.

I began experiencing insomnia that led to more psychosis, paranoia and in time, mania that was eventually diagnosed as "bi polar" "disorder". At the same time my husband was stalking me and harassing me with "hang up" phone calls several times each day and his presence in my life was always just beyond the reach of the restraining order.

I wasn't sleeping. I wasn't eating. I experienced my first panic attack and thought I was dying. I paced my home in a state of hyper-vigelance not knowing when my husband might surprise me again or what to expect. I blew through $10,000 in less than a month at one point. (this was my first serious run in with drug induced mania).

This was the beginning of how these "medications" created this serious "mental illness" that had to be "managed" with "medicine" for the next 15 years. Years that I will never get back.

The next "medicine" that this Psychiatrist prescribed was Desipramine. An old time anti depressant. Within a few months I ballooned up to over 200 pounds. Along the way Ativan was added to the mix for the drug induced anxiety that was being fed by the panic attacks and hyper-vigelance of being stalked 24/7 for nearly a year. 

Between these 3 medications and the level of extreme stress I had experienced over the past 12 months - well, we had the makings of a future psychotic, paranoid, unemployed welfare recipient and lifetime subscription to the revolving door of the psych ward.

Over the years, more medications were added to the cocktail, doses were changed periodically when I complained I was not seeing improvement since as I was told by my doctors, "psychiatry is more and art than a science". If only I'd known then just how true this statement was.

That afternoon as the sun shone outside and I sat sobbing on the corner of my couch in the home that would soon be foreclosed on (I had not been able to work during this time as I could no longer think or function in this capacity since beginning these "medicines").

That afternoon was the end of my life as I knew it as I gave away my own power and accepted what I was told; that I was simply "broken" and irreparable. That this was the best I could hope for now.

I am not going to tell you or anyone else how to live your life or go off meds. I am not saying that anyone is out to "get me" or that there is any conspiracy going on.

What I am saying is check your gut. Don't trust blindly. If that is where you are, then thats where you are and there is nothing wrong with that.

But for me - that was no longer enough.

Is there a "biological" component to the cognitive and emotional distress we can face when we are overwhelmed with life or having come out of an abusive or traumatic experience?


There is a physical and chemical stress response that is a NATURAL response to feeling overwhelmed or threatened. (This can be especially difficult for those who have experienced child abuse since we don't develop the skills to manage life and the related stressors. Survivors of child abuse or neglect may not develop that internal sense of power that we are in charge of our life and can live in a chronic state of hopelessness and helplessness, dependent on things outside ourselves to guide our lives.)

But this is a NATURAL response to some not so normal life circumstances and I have concluded that I am not "ill", "disordered" or in need of medications to "fix" me as I am not "broken" but rather injured. I was not in need of "medicine" as much as to simply feel safe.

Medications in low doses may have their place in helping us to cope for the short term. UPDATE Nov 2013: I no longer believe this after spending 6 years in horrible withdrawals from psychotropic drugs and learning how to resolve my distress as normal human experience; there are numerous ways to bring a state of calm to an individual that do not include neurotoxic chemicals. But - when they become the answer to an invisible "disease" that has no biological beginning and no ending - they become more of a life sentence than a solution. ****

When the pills we take create more and new symptoms to be managed with yet another prescription - perhaps it is time to look deeper for our answers.

It is possible to mend or "heal" from the emotional and cognitive distress that has become known as "mental illness"?

It is not easy to face what I would rather forget.

It is not easy standing up for myself in a system that tells me I am less than someone who is "normal" or if I complain that this "treatment" or "therapy" is not working and I am labeled as non compliant, resistant, paranoid etc etc.

It is hard work to go through the emotional healing and learning the developmental life skills, experiences and education that I did not get in my upbringing.

But as one who has become a mentor to me in this journey has put it - it became more painful for me to NOT change than it was to go through this pain in order to get out of that dark place.

caveat: I do not expect everyone to have the same opinion as I do. This has been my journey. Thank you for respecting that.

DO NOT STOP YOUR MEDICATIONS ABRUPTLY. There are some serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms when psychiatric medications are discontinued even with tapering off over an extended period of time that can lead to an increase in both emotional instability and cognitive distress. 

To safely withdraw from psychotropic drugs one must be responsible to understand both the process and consequences of this choice. 

For more information and resources to safely plan and prepare to reduce or withdraw from psychotropic medications please visit www.proactiveplanning.us or send a message requesting information to: proactiveplan@gmail.com

****October 2011 - I am going to update this and change my position. I no longer believe that these drugs have benefit other than short term reduction of symptoms that may allow someone in distress to sleep and regain their footing. Long term use of these drugs can result in severe and life threatening iatrogenic (doctor induced) disease and physical metabolic disruption Ref: the 25 year disparity in life span that is caused in those who use them. Not to mention the loss of quality of life caused by living in a drug induced state of chronic sedation.****


Moss said...

I had a similar journey, taking myself off psych drugs (Zyprexa, Topomax, Lexapro) in about 2.5 weeks. I had already started a regimen of supplements (lithium orotate, fish oil, B vitamins) and I'm not sure I would have made it without those. It took me about 5 months before I started feeling I was "human" enough to spend much time outside my apartment, but it now has been 6.5 years drug-free.

Please note that, unlike what the pharmaceutical establishment preaches, lithium is a mineral, not a drug. It only has drug-like effects at toxic levels -- which lithium carbonate exceeds with one pill. (I had earlier taken up to 2400 mg/day of lithium carbonate before my kidneys almost failed -- that's over 1100 mg/day of elemental lithium. I am currently taking 360 mg/day of lithium orotate, resulting in less than 45 mg/day of elemental lithium.) The orotic acid carrier (chelator) also enables the lithium to cross the blood-brain barrier, which carbonate does not, leaving virtually no lithium to be processed by the rest of your body. OK, I'm ranting now, I just so seldom get a forum... LOL

Susan said...

Thanks for sharing your story here, Moss. I completely understand and hear the struggle as well as that sense of accomplishment when you found success:)

I'm not informed on the "mix" that you found to support your withdrawal process although it sounds like you found what worked for you.

Best wishes on that continued journey to creating your own best life, Moss!

Anonymous said...

I look forward to your readings, its great to know that I'm not on my own (as often we are silenced by society because all they understand is that medication is the answer to these so called labels...not ever taking the time to look a little bit deeper into previous enviromental and situations that made us up as the people that we are today.I have only been off my meds for a year now... unfortunately have had to go back on Tegertol, Allergon for post operative management of pain after having a spinal fusion and Lexpro for my depression that has crept in!!!I found it extemely hard taking these medications again because it sits parallel to some similarities previous to my Bipolar medications ..But they, the medical world, that I don't trust due to the fact that they have robbed me of 16 years of my life by medicating to a point that I was a walking ZOMBIE not intouch with reality!!!Tell me that they use the same drugs for nerve pain as they do mental health!!!I'm going with this for now to get me through, but at least this time around my awareness is well in touch with where I'm at with my journey to re-discovering myself. I have only just gained insight that it is the history of child abuse, martial abuse that I have experienced that has brought me to where I am today..I previously thought that I was crazy and having the Bipolar label whacked upon me just concreted this belief!!! But now I understand and have insight and hope to re-discover myself with me being the driver and not the medical world.
Thanks for sharing your story becausee it just gives me strenght and hope that a rainbow sits at the end of my journey!!!!!!!

Susan said...

ANON - I'm sorry to hear that you are needing to be back on the drugs...but really glad to hear that you've found the insight to manage it and the determination to conquer the situation!

Thank you for sharing your story and letting me know that you found this to be supportive of you in your own journey!

Be well and stay in touch!