Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Some People Find Psych Meds Harmful. Stop the H8.

I received an email last month that came at a low time in my life. It was just the burst of sunshine I needed. I write to express myself, but I also write to be read. It's always nice to know that somebody is out there reading. It is even better to learn that something I wrote touched their lives in some way. This email was from a reader who appreciated my voice out there warning of the potential harm of psychotropic meds (Wary of Psych Meds? Here is My Personal Experience with Them). That is why I feel strongly that the email I received needs to be shared with others. Perhaps it will touch them the way my original article touched her.

It is very important to remember that not all people who struggle with mental health issues find solutions at the pharmacy. Some of us fall within that group where the meds have no more effect than placebos. Some of us fall within the group where they cannot afford to buy meds. And some of us are in that other group where side-effects counter any benefits that medications have to offer. Personally, I belong in all three groups at the moment, but usually I simply find psychotropic meds useless or harmful. That is why I find alternative methods to alleviate Depression and ADHD's burden.

Belonging in any one of those three groups earns a person instant membership in the "Mental Health Pariah of the Week" club. Take a stand and tell others dealing with Depression or ADHD that you can't use meds because of the side-effects, and you will be barraged with accusations, insults, and lectures.

Oh, you just need to keep experimenting until you find the right dosage combo.

You're just one of those stupid Scientologist idiots!

You are irresponsible! Think of the poor example you are setting!!

Good luck with that, loser…

It is sad that you are in such denial. I hope you can get help before it's too late!

You don't have real [Depression/ADHD/whatever] if you can manage it without meds.

And on and on and on. That last one is particularly offensive and hurtful to me. A more stunning display of clueless audacity you cannot find in the mental health community: online diagnoses by reading blogs

Folks, there are more experiences out there than those defined by our narrow lives. Each of us is different. If there has been anything I have learned by writing this blog for seven years, it is that my experience is not the same as somebody else's. We must learn to allow some people to need meds, and some people to not need them. We must especially learn to allow some people to find psychotropic meds dangerous and harmful. Then we need to stop forcing our limited experience onto others.

I write to reach those who cannot pop a pill and find relief. They still need help managing ADHD or Depression. They shouldn't be made to suffer because they can't drive on the anti-depressant highway, or wear the proper ADHD suit and tie. There are viable alternatives, like Cognitive Behavior Therapy and reams of self-help books, to help them without the dangers of side-effects. If my strong words are not enough to convince you to back off, read Erika's:

Dear Douglas Cootey;
I just stumbled upon your blog today, and was a bit surprised to see your page concerning psychiatric drugs; unlike most mental health bloggers, you had not written a piece on the importance of compliance and taking medication, you had written one on the damage of taking them. When I finished reading it, I couldn't help but simply stare blankly at the screen, stunned into silence. You may or may not read this; however, if you do, I want to thank you for speaking out. You not only send an important message - that medication-free recovery/regained functioning can be done - but also let others with similar damage know they're not alone. You've let me know I'm not alone, certainly.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I with psychotic features, or, if you listen to some doctors, Schizoaffective Disorder back when I was 13. I was also at various points labeled with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, ADHD, borderline traits, and so forth. Without any doubt, I was in awful place and ended up being hospitalized twice within four months, with an intensive outpatient program in-between. I received therapy once a week from my psychiatrist (surprisingly enough, he gave it - in fact, he prefers it to drug therapy and bashes his field for over-medication). Of course, I was also put on pharmaceuticals: an anti-psychotic (Zyprexa, then Serequel), a mood stabilizer (Lithium) and an antidepressant (Paxil).

To cut a long story short, in less than a year, I had gone from a healthy adolescent to a scared girl suffering spasms/tics and Long QT syndrome (a heart condition that can be fatal and was causing symptoms - which it usually doesn't - that were interfering with my life). My doctor did wean me off of them; however, the withdrawal process left me experiencing seizure-like events (spasms accompanied by cognitive symptoms, moments of absence/blanking out, etc), balance problems, memory problems and other cognitive effects. That was quite some time ago and, though I have healed some, the heart condition and many of the neurological ones have become chronic.

I have tried telling this story so many times; but each time, I have been attacked by those in the mental health community - both patients and professionals. They don't want to hear it or, if they do, they become defensive and throw insults. During the weaning process, I was active on a message board for psychosis sufferers and, when I announced I was going off, I had other members saying that I was going to relapse, that this could never work, that I was just going to end up back on them, and was accused of being anti-psychiatry. A few months later, a member actually messaged me with the comment, "So, are you still lucid?" The answer was yes, I was, and more stable than ever before. My life has since continued to improve and I am about to start college where I will pursue a pre-medical curriculum; I hope to become a psychiatrist, so that I can stop what happened to me from happening to another.

Anyways, thank you again for sharing your story. I only wish that I had a place to do the same. Those of us who have been harmed have experiences that are important to hear. If they are not heard, things may never improve.


Thank you for writing, Erika. And thank you for letting me share your email with others.


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