Pharmacopeia, or, The Drugs Don’t Work

11 Jun

TW for talk of suicide

Some days, as I rush around the apartment trying to get ready to face the world, I can’t help but feel like a traveling pharmacy. Inside the vast expanses of my purse, along with my laptop, my wallet, my keys, my book-du-jour, two shades of Sephora lipstick (neutral pink “charmer” and come-at-me crimson “tango”), my headphones, my phone, assorted bandaids, bobby pins and hair elastics, I neatly arrange the bottles of multicoloured pills through which I measure out my life like those metaphorical coffee spoons. Blood-red prescription iron supplements, safety-vest-orange Zoloft, dingy red-brown Seroquel, electric blue Imovane and, of course, the virginal pink birth control pills. My own private stash.

The pills are like little hand-holds to grab onto as I swing myself through my day. Orange and red with my breakfast, to keep my mood somewhere above apocalyptic-crying-level and to boost my energy, red again with supper, to keep my iron levels up over night, then red-brown, pink and blue at bedtime to respectively “enhance” my anti-depressant, make sure that I don’t accidentally bring forth another life onto this dismal planet, and then float me off to sleep the sleep of the innocents.

I’ve been on psychotropic drugs since I was sixteen, and can give you a poetic sort of laundry list of all the different types I’ve tried: Paxil, Prozac, Remeron Effexor, Elavil, Ativan, Wellbutrin, each at varying and increasing dosages. Paxil was the first one they tried on me, and when it perform as expected, they kept increasing the amount until I was a miserable wreck: twenty five pounds heavier, lethargic, awake all night and falling asleep in class. The funny thing was that my doctor kept telling me that it was working, that he was seeing improvements. Never mind that I felt worse than ever – to him, it definitely seemed as if I was getting better. It took months of arguing before he agreed to try a different drug.

The latest addition to my personal valley of the dolls is the Seroquel, typically used as an antipsychotic. I wondered if my doctor was trying to tell me something. I asked Nathan if he thought my doctor was trying to tell me something.

Me: It’s an antipsychotic. Do you think my doctor thinks I’m psychotic but just doesn’t want to say anything in case it upsets me? Am I psychotic?

Nathan: The medium isn’t always the message, Tiger. [Editor’s note: he likes to call me Tiger. Sometimes also Buddy or Slugger or Buckaroo. One time it was Tex.]

Me: But Marshall McLuhan said it was!

Nathan: Heritage Moments aren’t always right.

But then again, sometimes they are. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I’ve never really been able to tell if these drugs help at all (except for the sleeping pills, which are an insomniac’s best friend, and, of course, the birth control, thank god). Sometimes I take them and things get better, but it’s hard to know if that’s from the pills or from the natural dips and rises of my inner life. But I keep taking them, even after I swear that I won’t. They’re well-marketed, these drugs, and at my weakest moments I always find myself acquiescing. The doctors make a good case for acquiescing.

Those doctors always sell me on the antidepressants by telling me that I have a chemical imbalance, a lack of serotonin that causes my brain to short circuit and makes me want to die. That’s the best way to describe what it feels like to be suicidal – a short circuit, a glitch in the system, a design flaw. Killing yourself becomes the answer to everything. Your mind becomes like a record needle that jumps the groove, a sort of skip in your mental process where instead of going forward and thinking up solutions to your problems, all that you can come up with is, the only way out is to kill yourself. And the drugs are supposed to fix that skip, supposed to make it so that your record can play all the way until the end, and then you can flip it over, then put on another record, and so on ad infinitum, happily ever after.

The idea of a chemical imbalance is supposed to make you feel like you’re not crazy in the 19th century meaning of the word;  you’re not some kind of incurable case about to be shipped off to Bedlam. What’s wrong with you is physical – like a diabetic who lacks insulin (they’re always comparing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs to insulin for some reason), you just need a little medical help replacing something that your body is failing to make on its own, and then you’ll be fine. It’s not really a mental illness so much as it is a physical condition with mental manifestations. You’re not like those people.

By those people they mean, of course, the people with schizophrenia, or borderline personality disorder or some kind of nonspecific psychosis. Doctors never let you forget that there is a hierarchy of mental illnesses, one which you might slip down at any given moment. Doctors want you to remember that your place in the mental illness food chain is a relatively coveted one, lest you get any big ideas about going any crazier.

It’s easy to internalize the stigma against mental illness. Sure, you’re mentally ill, but you’re not like them. You don’t ever want to be like them.

Never mind that you already are one of them, no matter how you frame it. Never mind that all of your attempts to distance yourself, to other, only make things worse for everyone. Because you’re basically giving healthy people permission to other you.

You and your delicately imbalanced chemicals.

The chemical imbalance theory has been around since the 1960s. There was never much research done into the idea; it was just something that seemed like it could be right, and everyone sort of ran with it. Maybe they couldn’t properly test for that sort of thing back then. Maybe theories were the best they could go on. But now, fifty years later, it might be time to re-examine those theories.

According to Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, doctors have known for a long time that the chemical imbalance model is likely flawed. In an interview on CBC’s The Sunday Edition, he says,

And as early as 1998, the American Psychiatric Association in its textbook says we’re not finding that people with depression have any abnormality in their serotonin, but because it’s such an effective metaphor for getting people to take the drugs and sell the drugs, it’s continued to be promoted.

According to Whitaker, people who take psychiatric drugs were more likely to still have symptoms five years later than those who didn’t take psychiatric drugs. Because, see, here’s the catch – people who take SSRIs but don’t have low serotonin to begin with begin to rely on those drugs to manage their serotonin levels. SSRIs actually reduce the brain’s ability to produce serotonin.

So maybe the drugs have never actually been helping me, or any of us; maybe all they’ve done is create a population of people who are dependent on psychiatric medication.

And maybe The Verve were right after all, and the drugs don’t really work, they just make you worse.

It bears thinking about, anyway.

I’ve been reading about lobotomies recently (as any good mental health patient does, I suppose), and I came across this gem in Ronald Kessler’s The Sins of the Father describing Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy:

We went through the top of the head, I think she was awake. She had a mild tranquilizer. I made a surgical incision in the brain through the skull. It was near the front. It was on both sides. We just made a small incision, no more than an inch.” The instrument Dr. Watts used looked like a butter knife. He swung it up and down to cut brain tissue. “We put an instrument inside,” he said. As Dr. Watts cut, Dr. Freeman put questions to Rosemary. For example, he asked her to recite the Lord’s Prayer or sing “God Bless America” or count backwards….. “We made an estimate on how far to cut based on how she responded.” ….. When she began to become incoherent, they stopped.

Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like doctors take the same approach – albeit on a much smaller scale – with psychiatric drugs. Increase the dosage until the patient becomes incoherent, or at least docile. Push the pills until they don’t feel anything, because feeling nothing is better than feeling sad or confused or anxious. Don’t offer counselling, or therapy, or life management skills. Just fork over pills pills pills until some kind of effect (or affect – little psychiatric joke there for you) is achieved.

The truth is that we don’t know how psychiatric medication works – we just know that sometimes it does. If you’ve ever taken the pills, you know that it’s a lot of trial and error until you find something that gives you some kind of relief. Which is great and everything for the people who benefit from it, but where does it leave the rest of us? We become guinea pigs of a sort, choking down brightly-coloured pill after pill, praying that something, anything will work. Because, honestly, it’s better than the alternative.

The alternative is, of course, that the brain is still a vast unknown. That we are only just barely beginning to grasp its complexity, and we may never fully understand it. That those of us who suffer from mental illness are sailing in uncharted waters, with no stars to guide us. What looks like Cassiopeia or Orion to everyone else is just a jumble of unknown lights to us. And maybe for some, the drugs make the stars realign into their proper order – but for the rest of us, maybe we need to begin creating our own private constellations to ferry us from one point to another.

The thought is terrifying, and I feel unequipped to deal with it. I’m not an astrologer. I just want the same stars as everyone else.

I’m going to keep taking the drugs, at least for now. They feel like a sort of safety net, and I know that I’m not ready to walk the high wire without them. But someday, someday soon, I want to begin to chart my own inner universe. I want a map of my own personal stars, and there isn’t anyone else who can do that for me. If I’m not willing or able to play amateur stellar cartographer, well, then, what’s the point? A lifetime of one brightly-coloured pill after another, each with its own dreary side effects, none of them even remotely effective. I can’t live like that.

But I haven’t lost faith that I can, somehow, find a way to live.


37 Responses to “Pharmacopeia, or, The Drugs Don’t Work”

  1. Dreamer of Dreams June 11, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    Dear BelleJar,
    I am deeply moved, both by your story, and your exquisite handling of the narrative of your pain. I am amazed that you could deal with all that, and still be able to write so well — your style is gripping.
    I wish you all the very best in your journey through life. Keep writing. I think the way out through pain is to become one’s own observer and commentator, as you are doing so beautifully.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. londryfairy June 11, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    I “pressed this” on my blog, in a category called, “sharing-mental health”. Hope that’s alright! I really enjoyed your writing here.

  3. Martin Gerard Audette June 11, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    those who ingage in sorceries(Pharmociapia), shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

    • Charlie Manfredi June 11, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

      Who said that? Better yet, who would have the authority to say that? (not a rhetorical question)

  4. Charlie Manfredi June 11, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    There are many alternatives out there . I encourage you to look into Jungian shrinks and shamanistic healers. There are herbs and other naturally occurring remedies for most of the ills you are experiencing. You have been victimized by an evil industry. I see that you have seen the , perhaps unwitting , deception by well meaning people. Check out the CNN girl thats touting mushrooms. You’re right that all that seratonin uptake stuff is bullshit. Try cashews – no side affects paxil !!! You seem very level headed. when I decided that suicide was a waste I told myself , “that’s a dead end street , i don’t get to see how the rest of the story turns out. ” It didn’t stop me from getting that depressed but I never came closer than ideation with no plan after that. My strategies are reduced to ” self-medication” by the mental health pro’s . Their disdain in the face of success shows their entrenchment into a useless and destructive paradigm of mental health and world view. I wish you all the best.

  5. makalove June 11, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    Oh, Anne. You said so much. I also have a long history of collecting psych diagnoses and prescriptions, although I’ve also gone for long stretches without meds or treatment. My last stint started four years ago after a mixed state that was really scary for my new (at the time) husband and stepson. If I’d been on my own going through that time, I probably would’ve just ridden it out as I had for so many years, but I felt I owed it to them to not freak them out like that again. Without insurance, the state mental health facility is my only option. A new doctor and counselor every few visits because of constant staffing changes, and the usual medication shuffle, and before I knew it I was on half a dozen meds. By a year in, nobody who knew and loved me even recognized me anymore. And the worst thing was, I still got depressed, I still got suicidal, I still got manic. I’m off the meds now, for over a year, and I think I’m healthier than ever. But I also know that I might need them again someday. I think I’m finally okay with that, although I also think that from now on I will always see them as a temporary measure to help steady myself.

  6. keelyellenmarie June 11, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    I also find myself wondering, frequently, how much the drugs are really helping. I did have a dramatic, obvious response to an antidepressant (wellbutrin) once, which helped me put my faith in the whole strategy. Several years later, I still take that drug and another one (cymbalta) daily, and I still get depressed periodically. The depressions are maybe a bit less devastating, but it’s hard to know whether that’s because of the drugs, or because of life factors (better coping skills, getting older, not being in abusive relationships). But at this point, getting off of the drugs would be a long and arduous experiment which may end in getting right back on them, so it hardly seems worth it. It’s a fucking frustrating place to be.

  7. D June 11, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    I appreciate your point of view, but I do wish you’d also write an article about the other side. I suffered from debilitating anxiety and depression for years. It was hell. With the guidance of my amazing therepist I found a medication that totally changed my life for the better. It was like living in a cold, dark cave my entire existance and then finally learning what the sun and light was all about. My quality of life has improved ten fold because of my medication and of course all my hard work in therapy. I just don’t want this article to encourage people to not seek help for themselves. Medication doesn’t always work, but when it does it is revolutionary.

    • runningnekkid June 11, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

      That sounds like a super fantastic post that you should write and then share back here! I am glad that you are doing so well. Also, all Anne is doing is sharing her experience, so I don’t know how she can write a post from other than her own point of view. It sounds like the “other side” would be far better served from someone who had more encouraging things to present. (Not to say that I assume Anne doesn’t also have encouraging anecdotes / views about meds. She’s still taking them so that says a lot.)

  8. Justine Froelker June 11, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    Thank you for always being so honest in your journey. Wondering if you’ve ever looked into Alpha-Stim? I’ve used it myself and have been certified in it for use with clients for over two years now. Has been an amazing addition to medication or for some of us even gets us off the meds.

  9. Cicindele June 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm #

    This resonates with me so much. I get into the same questionnings everyday. Although only taking an SSRI and sleeping pill (and doing therapy), every time I tell my psychiatrist that I want to try getting off the SSRI, she points out that I’m still regularly getting panic attacks that leave me unable to move, or even breathe, paralazyed by fear, in my bed for days on end. She tells me that as long as I’m having those, I’m not equipped to deal with my anxiety without the meds. And suggests increasing my dosage, which I always refuse the frirst 2 or 3 times.

    And then I cave in and call, because I can’t take it anymore. I know all the theory. I know all the little tricks. It looks so easy to get under control on paper. But then then anxiety and sadness hits, and I’m just overwhelmed. I just want it to stop. So I take my little red and blue pills, and go to sleep…

    Also, as a scientist, I keep researching in depth about psychiatric medications and their effectiveness, but all I find are contradictory studies. If experts can’t even agree on one thing, how are we supposed to follow blindly?

  10. Erika with a K June 11, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    I just want to take this moment to say I love your blog. It is one of the only blogs I have followed pretty religiously. I always appreciate your honesty and bravery, in this post especially. I have battled anxiety and depression as well as an addiction to prescription (and otherwise) drugs, so I know what it is like to have a drug become a need when the need may not have been there initially. I too question the validity of the chemical imbalance point of view, not because I don’t believe our brains have chemical imbalances, but because a chemical imbalance, if it is a problem at all, is a symptom of disease, not the disease itself. And making it out to be THE problem leads us to believe that drugs are THE answer, when they are just answer. And really, any emotion is technically a “chemical imbalance.” So even though there are definitely people who need the drugs they are prescribed, these drugs need to be combined with other ways of dealing with intense emotions. No matter how much a person may need their drug, when they are given it and told to go on their merry way with no emotional support through therapy, education, etc., that person has a hugely diminished chance of improvement. (And when it comes to pharmaceuticals is improvement even the goal? That is a whole other debate.) We need to see mental “illness” for what it is, a complex combination of chemicals, experiences, one’s ability to cope, society’s definition of what is abnormal, society’s demands on an individual, etc. Watering it down to one cause does all of us a huge disservice!

    • Erika with a K June 11, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

      Ooops, sorry, a typo! I meant to say “they are just one answer.” If you approve my comment can you change that? I can’t seem to find a place to edit it.

  11. beth_may June 11, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

    I’m really sad to hear that your Dr just seems to be throwing pills at the problem (especially Seroquel – if a Dr can’t give a good reason as to why you need a drug, then he shouldn’t be prescribing it.) I’m not sure what is available to you under your health care system, but in the UK the NHS offers cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) often in partnership with medication. It’s pretty well known that a duel approach is needed for patients to get the most out of their antidepressant regimen, so your Dr should know better.
    Electroshock therapy is still the most effective treatment for severe depression available, although I don’t know much more about it than that. It sounds quite scary, but it has completely changed people’s lives for the better.
    I don’t know a huge amount about alternative therapies, aside from anecdotal evidence from people for whom they’ve worked. I wish you the best and hope you find the support you need from your medical professionals.

    On a side note:
    The industry knows the drugs don’t work for everyone but companies aren’t stalling because they’re making money from them (they aren’t because most antidepressants are off patent now, so are no longer earners for big pharma.). It’s a really tricky area to develop drugs for because we really don’t know enough about how the brain works (the mechanisms of action for SSRIs are still being debated), so quite a few drugs are failing unexpectedly in late stage trials resulting in huge losses for companies, which in turn make it harder for them to invest in new research programs. It’s not simply a case of “pharma is evil”. The combination of inept over prescribing doctors and the complicated funding structure in a megabucks industry leads to a huge amount of suspicion of medicine and big pharma which is often, but not always deserved.

    The research is happening though albeit slowly, and knowledge of how the brain works is increasing all the time, so I’m really hopeful that a lot of progress is going to made soon. For now, the antidepressants we have are sort of a least-worst-option. Although we don’t know exactly how they work, for many people they’ve made depression manageable, even if it’s not cured. I know that’s not the case for many of you, but for what it’s worth, you should know that it’s not a hopeless situation and improvements are in the pipeline.

    All the best. x

  12. Tony Single June 11, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    I just want the same stars as everyone else too. I could not have put it better.

  13. Ann June 12, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    If your doctor thinks he’s seeing improvements but you don’t feel any better, you have a problem.

    The doctor, having prescribed something, naturally wants to be right, and is not exactly an unbiased observer, but there ought to be a way to get an objective measurement.

    I think I remember reading somewhere about videotaping as a means of recording and measuring progress or lack of progress for physical therapy.

    Wonder if it would work to have someone videotape you as a baseline, and then videotape you again after your next change of drugs? Any change, whether adding drugs or reducing them. Then you could show the doc, and/or some other viewer(s), both tapes, without telling him/her which is which, and ask which tape you look better on. If the viewer picks the tape taken during the old drug regime, you’d have objective evidence that the change did not help. On the other hand, if he/she likes the new you better, you’d have evidence that the change was an improvement.

  14. glenn2point0 June 12, 2014 at 1:56 am #

    I had been on SSRI, Paxil for over a decade and I do wonder if it worsened my symptoms. Now I am just on the antipsychotic serouquel and the change in my quality of life has been enormous.

    No more disordered, racing, contradictory, delusional or suicidal thoughts.

    My doctor did add in zoloft recently as I was a bit down but that brought back the tremours so I came off it.

    The seroquel gets more effective over time and with clearer thoughts I can move on and deal with whatever life has to throw at me.

    Great post, thanks!

    • Missy M. June 12, 2014 at 7:54 am #

      Hey! Seroquel and zoloft together are my wonder combo! But I went through quite a lot of other meds (and doctors and suicide attempts and hospitalizations and therapists) to get there.

      Even though I’m pretty accepting of the idea that, for me personally, the drugs do work, the OP still resonates. Because not everyone has a

  15. Mel W June 12, 2014 at 1:56 am #

    I totally get the ‘I can see a difference in you’ spiel when I totally cannot see it at all thing. I have been on Seroquel, Epilim, Valpro, Lithium, and a bunch of other meds and the side-effects for each of them have been way worse than any perceived benefits. Sadly, I have learned to lie to my psychiatrist when necessary so she will continue to see me and let me talk it out without pushing drugs on me.

  16. princessbunnycakes June 12, 2014 at 2:29 am #

    Hmm, this was an interesting read. I don’t have any personal experience with drugs, as the only prescription I’ve ever taken is birth control (and I’m pretty sure this works on more than the placebo affect … hopefully?) but most people close to me on medications say that it was MANY years of trying different combinations of medications and doctors before they found something helpful. Also, since you brought up lobotomy, it made me think of a bipolar friend who says the only useful treatment for her was shock therapy, which she always complains has a huge societal stigma attached to it and that what she experienced is a far cry from the horror-movie patient-strapped-to-a-bed-until-her-hair-stands-on end depictions most people still have in their minds. It always makes me wonder if there are high-tech versions of age-old ideas that aren’t used because of cost, stigma, and reliance on pills as a cure for everything. Unobtrusive, precise, laser lobotomies?

  17. christianjulie June 12, 2014 at 3:01 am #

    I just wanted to say thanks. I deal with this 25 hours a day, you said it succinctly and with your characteristic humour and sensitivity. I live by, and probably will die by my daily dose of Paxil, Lithium and Seroquel, I’ve tried the Prozacs, the Resperadols the Zolofts, the … the … and right now, well the cocktail works well enough that I’m still here. I did attempt and probably will again, but for now I’m putting my life in the hands of Big Pharma, and 30 years of therapy and analysis. It’s hard work being crazy.

  18. Anne RF June 12, 2014 at 4:18 am #

    Thanks for this very important post, Anne. I’d strongly encourage anyone dealing with similar issues to check out one woman’s journey through the multi-year maze of pharmacopia and coming out stronger the other end:

    Something that those of us who have been on or are still on psychotropic medication don’t want to hear is that the placebo effect is significant with this class of drugs. Meaning, they partially work because we want them to. This has been well-researched and is a scary thought. Believing the chemical imbalance theory is so much easier than this. Unfortunately, as you point out, it doesn’t hold much weight.

    Is this frightening and rapidly growing dependence on psychotropic medication in western society about important discoveries in science or about corporate greed? Is it a solution for the long-term, or is it about our culture’s appalling inability to help and encourage people to look after one and other? In certain African tribes, when a woman seems depressed, the “cure” is a group of other women in the tribe taking her away from the group and indulging and spoiling her – telling her how much she is loved, singing to her, giving her hair and body special treatment, dressing her up. It is apparently very effective in helping to lift her out of her depression. Too bad our health care system doesn’t pay for that kind of “treatment”.

  19. C.C. June 12, 2014 at 5:29 am #

    “I just want the same stars as everyone else”–poignant and beautifully expressed.

  20. kelly newman June 12, 2014 at 6:37 am #

    Have you read “Our Daily Meds”? Why mess with your liver, kidney and other organs when they drugs are not working?

  21. thelmajam01 June 12, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    thats true..

  22. PurplesShade June 12, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

    Neuroscience, which will truly take us from old views of the brain as a mystery to actually having solid models for how our minds work, is in it’s infancy. In absence of a hard science up to this point, psychiatry has been thus far tied to behaviourism. (Which does not stand up to modern scientific scrutiny well at all.)

    I felt really bad for you worrying about the seroquel so I wanted to talk about that, and maybe an explanation of what it does will help you feel less judged.
    Seroquel is mostly a sedative, even though they class it as an atypical anti-psychotic it can’t even function as one until very high dose. Like around 250mg and above kind of high dose. Because I am rather fascinated by how the heck these chemicals work on our brain, when one of friends told me she was taking it for anxiety, I read an article by a pharmaceutical researcher on how it functions.
    I’ll give you a summary: picture each seroquel molecule as a two sided key, now these keys are going to be used to open “doors” and one set of doors have magnets in their locks and one doesn’t- now though there is a limited number of doors *most* of the doors in this metaphor have magnet locks, and the keys are more attracted to the magnetic locks, so you can’t use them in the other locks until all or almost all of the magnetic locks have got keys- the magnetic doors almost all lead to being sleepy, where as the non-magnetic doors are, well they’re more closely associated with being a little delusional… So what I’m saying is it’s mostly good at making people calmer and/or sleepy.
    There’s nothing wrong with either, but because most of it’s use is for going through “sleepy magnetic doors”, I don’t think you have to worry about the judgement you’re considering. (I hope that makes you feel better. I hope.)
    As mentioned friend of mine takes it exclusively for anxiety, and another two friends need it for it’s secondary purpose also take it primarily for sleep still. (Since the first effect is still the most prevalent one)

    I’m on the other side of your psychiatry-story-coin, all therapy, no meds.
    Unfortunately there’s no chemical help to be had for me, my reactions are clearly allergies (struggle to breath), or on the part of the ‘worry about this and contact a doctor immediately’ part of the side effects list.
    I apparently can’t do meds, and in my opinion that really sucks because therapy just hasn’t been enough. I cope, but I still struggle a lot.

    Truthfully I think the biggest problems with meds versus no meds, isn’t the meds or no meds (sounds contradictory but hear me out) I think it’s the lack of choice.
    While it won’t do me any good because my body took my choice off the table, for other people who can do either drugs or therapy or both, I think that getting to make that call, you know without pressure/stigma, is where we should be moving towards.
    INFORMED consent, because the issue is mostly that people have no clue what their options are. Consent is one of the pillars of feminism and I think the concept of continuous consent needs to come to the psychiatric world, where when you don’t want to take a pill they find a way to help you off of it, and when conditions change that you’re told about it so you can keep giving *informed* consent. (Such as a prescription you’re taking having had new research with new implications, you are informed of that.)

    Anyways, this is quite long. Thanks for writing your post.

  23. likeabeautifulday June 12, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading your blog and your beautifully articulate description of your experience. As a person in a doctoral program for clinical psychology, I do agree with a lot of what you wrote. I do want to say that medication can be helpful for many people, but research has shown that medication is most successful when used in conjunction with regular psychotherapy and therapeutic lifestyle changes. Many people notice symptom improvement or are even able to eventually wean off medication when they engage in other forms of treatment as well. I’m really passionate about this because I don’t believe that medication alone is the answer to everyone’s problems all the time. I don’t want to presume what your daily habits or healthcare regimen is, obviously, but I wasn’t sure if you were aware of that line of research. The mental healthcare field clearly has a long way to go and I hope it keeps improving in its knowledge-base and ability to provide quality, individualized care for all who need it.

    Thank you again for writing such an honest blog. I am a recent follower of your blog and I always enjoy reading your opinions on various topics! 🙂

  24. Jinx June 12, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    Ever notice how crazy people always have such strong convictions? Maybe if you stopped hating men, society, and common sense you wouldn’t be so miserable. The only person fighting against you is yourself. Nobody else has the time nor desire to bother – including your physicians.

    • Charlie Manfredi June 13, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

      @ JINX : I’m very sad for you . Anne won’t defend herself here because you haven’t even pointed a finger at her . Your blind accusations are so far off base.

    • oceangirlontheouterbanks June 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

      If you got advice like this on your blog or in life would you find it helpful? If you do not like what she has to say on her blog, there is always the choice of “not following or reading it.” Yes, we are all entitled to our opinions and free speech, but hurtful language and replies like these are anything but supportive.

  25. oceangirlontheouterbanks June 14, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    I sympathize with your life’s journey through the world of emotional/psychological struggle. I at one point in my life have tried most or all of the “anti-depressants” you mention. Paxil and Effexor (or ineffect-sor) as I called it did not work, instead making me feel even more nuts. Remeron made me sleep all day and night, Wellbutrin I felt as if I wanted to crawl out of my skin .. I finally found Lexapro that helped some along with xanex for the anxiety and insomnia. I still struggle with my depression, but it’s gotten to the point where I do not need to be on any Rx drugs at all. I hope you’re able to get there one day. I found my Homeopath extremely helpful in navigating my journey towards “non-dependence” on those nasty drugs as I called them. I take chamomile, Rescue remedy and Lemon balm at night to sleep along with melatonin if I need it. Bach’s floral remedies help a lot too. It’s something to think about and consider. Know you have another ally on your side. My friend introduced me to your lovely blog a month or so ago. Blessings on your continued journey .. 🙂

  26. sovi29 June 15, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

    Beautiful article! so honest! I suffer from anxiety and depression and the 2 things that help me the most: my therapist, who’s helping me change the negative tunes in my mind and replace it by a positive one. Plus my acupuncture treatments. They are really helpful. Meditation is also a plus. But I don’t think I would give up my medication at this point.

  27. Jacinta June 19, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    As someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I found your article really interesting in that I never realized BPD is considered as being in the “other” category. There’s a lot of misinformation about mental illness, and so I always like coming across blogs that talk about about it from a first-person point of view as effectively as you do here.
    Drugs definitely aren’t for everyone, but that’s the problem with one-fix-all solutions. I’ve never been put on drugs for my BPD, but I’ve improved hugely over the last few years thanks to a few years of therapy and a super supportive spouse, but I was lucky. A friend tried to go to a psych and they wouldn’t treat her unless she’d take medication for her depression. She just wanted to try talk therapy, but OHIP wouldn’t pay for it unless it involved medication. I guess the quick-fix solution is better than having to pay for years of therapy.

  28. July 3, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  29. Ebenezer Scrooge December 8, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    Effexor can cause mental/mood changes, including thoughts of suicide. I was crying one time, talking to my dad, wondering why I was so depressed I really wanted to kill myself, when my mom figured out it was the drug. I took myself off immediately and the depression/feeling stopped.


    I wish I knew what your case was better in terms of medication management so I could help, but I have to confess that my knowledge in that area is not as up to par as it should be.

    You sound like you’re doing well though, so keep on chugging. I really like traditional Chinese medicine (acupuncture, whatever else). I’ve had back sprains that magical Chinese tonics have worked wonders whereas American medicine just leaves you a wreck with plenty of nasty side effects.


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