Chemical Dependance

I don’t know what made me start thinking about it.  I think it was Curtis’ off-hand comment about an actor on television that seemed a little bipolar.   I hear people talk about how they first heard their diagnosis, and the kind of crushing blow that followed.  Sometimes enough to drive them into a days-long ‘low’ – just from hearing the news.  I don’t even remember when I first heard the words, I was too young.  I just remember people trying to explain to me what ‘manic depressive’ meant, and starting me on a whole new list of medications.  This was followed shortly by a series of diagnosies.  Things I actually didn’t have, but I showed ‘symptoms of’ as a result of my reactions to the medications – no one seemed to make the connection.  The reactions would get worse as they raised the dose, so they’d put me on more.   People wonder how you can get yourself caught in one of these cycles.  It’s easier then you’d think if you’re confused and desperate to get help.  In the year before everything finally stopped, I was on much more chemicals then I should have been.  They put me on epival to stabilize my moods.  It spaced out the highs and lows, but made them much more severe when they came.  So they called me scitzo-affective, and added on a very strong anti-psychotic.  The side effects that gave me made it impossible to function, so they added on a drug which would apparently eradicate the side effects of the other ones.  Instead, the combination caused a bizarre set of breaks.  So they’d give me haldol, which is too strong to be given on it’s own, so they’d add a huge dose of ativan.  The ativan would wire me up and I wouldn’t sleep for days – so they’d give me a tranquilizer.  Because almost all sedatives and tranquilizers give me the opposite reaction then intended, I’d become manic, and eventually pass out.  They’d put me in the hospital overnight for observation, periodically pumping me with more ativan, then release me.  I was way too drugged to even know what it was they were giving me, let alone have half a mind to tell them not to.  Ativan is incredibly addictive, and I became completely dependant on it without ever knowing.  Every two days this cycle would repeat.  For a year.  I don’t remember a huge chunk of that part of my life for sake of all the drugs they had me on.  Sometimes I think I would have been better off taking illicit drugs, it certainly would have been less traumatic.

Eventually I went to a place where they said I would be taken off everything in a proper manner, under doctor supervision.  The first day I arrived they stopped everything cold.  They don’t even allow you asprin for the pain that inevidably follows.  I’d curl up and cry, and shake, and sweat – and people would just stand in the doorway watching me.  There were so many experiences there that I don’t want to remember.

It took a good year to cleanse, and begin to feel like myself for the first time since early childhood.  I vowed never to take anything again.  In the years since I’ve tried mild anti-anxiety medication a few times, but none of it ever works.  It all makes me paranoid.   “I think your body is trying to tell you something,” My doctor told me after logging another paradoxal reaction to an almost non-existant dose of anti-anxiety medication.

I function a hundred times better now then I ever could have hoped to before.  I still suffer from almost daily panic attacks, but you learn what makes it worse or better.  I’d much rather take an herb, take a shower, burn some incense, and spend an hour or two meditating then pop a pill.  Aside, no pill I was on ever took them away – and believe me I tried them all.  

I wouldn’t ever suggest to someone who has a mental condition to not take medication.  For many people it can be a life-saver.  For me it’s always done much more harm then good to take anything because of the reactions I get.   But I have learned that no one should put their trust in a medication.  There’s no such thing as an instant fix; everything needs work to succeed, medication included.  It’s too easy to get caught in a cycle of trusting the medical profession to always make you feel better.

— Babs



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  • Anonymous says:

    I realize I’m leaving a comment a couple years late. I began reading through your archives; you’re such a talented writer and a phenomenal photographer!

    This entry really spoke to me, since I recently went to the E.R. for the first time for emotional distress and suicidal ideations–after I had been on 50 mg of sertraline for 20 days. I was so desperate to get off the medicine since my instinct was that it was making me crazy and dysfunctional. Then I went to the hospital (in U.S.) and wasn’t counseled on how to get off the medicine safely, but was only threatened with being put into isolation at the psychiatric ward for “probably no more than a week.” I was so fortunate my boyfriend was there to help support my decision to leave the hospital. He talked to the doctors, and they eventually let me go (with a $895 bill).

    They had me go to a psychiatric clinic the week after. I had an appt. with a psychiatrist who slept for half of our hour-long talk, then proceeded to diagnose me with bipolar disorder, offering four different medicines (one of them was an anti-convulsant, Abilify!). I left, refusing the medicine and for the past month have never felt better!

    It makes me realize that things could have been much worse after reading your story. It made me cry so hard, because things do not have to be that way. Reading this was very important to me… those doctors make you think you’re a rare case when the drugs don’t work. Even then, they said it was all in my head. Oh well, here’s to the future! To you and your tremendous strength!


    • admin says:

      WOW this was old! I was reading it going, “when the heck did I write this?”.
      I’m so sorry for your struggle with meds. But you’re right, it does happen, and it happens more often than you’d think.

      I’m glad you’re feeling better. I think sometimes just getting free of the cycle gives you that clarity to figure out what you REALLY need.
      I’m not totally anti-meds (I hope this entry didn’t imply that) I’m just anti, “Drug you until you can’t see” route. 🙂

      Love and light for you and your boyfriend for the difficulties you’ve faced. Thank you for your note.

  • best_pirate says:

    This is so well-put. I grew up with a bipolar mother who was in the hospital for months at a time out of my life, and I watched her struggle with medications that weren’t right for her, and treatment that was going nowhere, until one day, through a rigorous combination of medication and three different mental health counselers, she started to get better. She lives a completely “normal” life now, but she has never ever stopped going to see her therapist or psychiatrists to make sure that she is getting help that doesn’t depend only on medication, and she lives healthfully- exercising as much as she is able, eating food that is natural and good for her, getting lots of sleep, and writing constantly in journals about how she feels so she can keep track of what’s going on with her psycologically and emotionally. She’s really got the balance down. My sister is also bipolar, and she still has not gotten any better, and I think that the difference is she either depends solely on medication, or solely on talking. For the women in my family, it seems to be necessary to balance medication with psychological professional help, as well as family support and a healthy lifestyle. My sister prefers to rely on chemicals, and has been known to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs.

    I know what this condition can do to a person and their family, and it is wonderful to know that you have figured out a good path to healing that works for you. Obviously, medication does not work for everyone, and I really like and appreciate how you’ve put this.

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