Comments on
Extreme Hazards


Several months ago I quit my final psychiatric medication after a long, slow reduction in my regimen. In the bad old days with the psychiatrist who treated my moods between 2000 and 2006,

16 thoughts on “Extreme Hazards

  • August 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I find it odd that you felt sedated and emotionally numb and not able to do things on your medications. Whereas for me, this is exactly how I feel when I am very depressed, unmedicated. In fact, I immediately felt relief once I was put on a non-SSRI antidepressant and a couple of other meds. The combination along with therapy, gave me much more energy, allowed me to feel much more of my emotions, both positive and negative. I am still learning to deal with my low moods and extreme emotions, but I don’t feel that would have been possible without medication, because I before the meds, I would’ve just experienced numbness and the feel of being l overwhelmed. I feel minimal if any side effects from the medications.

    Also, it seems that the meds have allowed me to bounce back from really bad moods, whereas before I would have probably spiraled into another depressive episode.

    Due to my history of long-term, severe depression, I don’t expect to ever go completely med-free again. For me, taking the meds is a small price to pay for being free of depression. But of course, it’s not the only thing I do to combat my depression.

    Reply
    • August 14, 2010 at 3:03 pm

      LS–

      The antidepressants were not causing the sedation. That symptom resulted from the mood stabilizers and (especially) the so-called ‘atypicals’ (drugs such as Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify, and Risperdal) that I was also taking. As for emotional numbness, many people on SSRIs report that they no longer cry. Although I did not notice such a change with simple SSRIs, it did occur when I took SSRI/SNRI agents such as Cymbalta and Effexor. In any event, not everyone experiences this reduction in tearfulness, and not everyone who does objects to it.

      You are fortunate to be free of side-effects. I was not, and some were dreadful and permanent. But I was truly overmedicated and probably would have had fewer problems with less aggressive treatment. Without such devastating side effects, the goal of getting completely off medications would never have occurred to me. Like you I have a long history of severe depression (thankfully, I have felt it to be less intense and more manageable for several years.) If I could have taken a few pills and felt fine, I would have been thrilled, and would have considered it a small price, as you say. However, despite all the medications I was taking, my moods remained pretty low. The terrible changes in my body, when combined with the limited effectiveness, made getting off meds seem like a priority.

      But as this post shows, I now see that I overreacted. The benefit I get from the one drug I currently take is truly dramatic, and I feel perfectly comfortable about continuing it. Of course, like you I do many other things to manage my moods, which is what this blog is all about.

      Thank you for your comments. It means a great deal to me when people write.

      –Will

      Reply
  • August 14, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Dear Will,

    I have discovered the perfect antidepressant for me. It is side effect free and gives me much joy and pleasure. It’s walking the dog in the bush, around lakes and rivers and the sheer joy of discovering a new walk.

    I take many photos on these walks and when I get home I make a slideshow out of all of them and relive my adventures. I have been doing this for about a year now. It starts off my day well. I still cry and have intense feelings but they are far more manageable now.

    I notice my mood goes low when I haven’t walked for a couple of days. I hate the gym, I hate formal exercise, but walking for me is my medication.

    And the photos I use for my blog on Psych Central, which gives me that warm dopamine rush.

    Sonia
    Therapy Unplugged

    Reply
    • August 14, 2010 at 3:51 pm

      Sonia–

      Sounds great! My wife and I walk our two dogs each morning, and like you I find it delightfully uplifting. In my first post on this new site I made the point (in passing) that creativity is helpful in dealing with mental health issues. You have a creative, effective solution in hand, and I congratulate you. Pets are marvelous, of course. I don’t know if it has ever been studied, but I bet it could be demonstrated that pets alleviate depression in most people.

      –Will

      Reply
  • August 14, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    I think it has been studied. Or at least the results have been seen enough to have “therapy” dogs go and visit the elderly(a lot are depressed) where they can’t have pets.

    I read about a study where pets can increase one’s life span. Can you tell I have 2 dogs? Now, children that’s a different story. Ha!

    Reply
  • August 14, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Hey Trish,
    I hear you about the children. I have three teenagers.
    Sonia

    Reply
  • August 15, 2010 at 1:10 am

    oh ok. In addition to an antidepressant I take an ADHD drug and a mild anti-anxiety drug as needed. I would never try atypicals. I’ve read and heard so many bad things about them. I am shocked Abilify was even approved as an “add-on” treatment for depression. I suppose it may help some people but there are so many better options as an add on and Abilify and drugs like it have numerous troublesome side effects from extreme weight gain to tremors.

    Walking outside is good too. I don’t have a dog (just 3 cats), but I find that antidepressants are still necessary because I’ve very prone to seasonal depression. Once I get busy or the weather gets nasty or I don’t have the energy, I don’t walk or exercise enough or at all and it all goes down hill from there. I walked/ran for 2 hours today and swam for another 30 minutes. I felt great but unfortunately I can’t do that everyday! I usually need at least an hour of light exercise like walking to get a noticeable antidepressant benefit.

    Reply
    • August 15, 2010 at 9:20 am

      LS–

      When I first got out of the hospital in 2000, I decided to trust my psychiatrist. Doctors are notoriously bad patients because they think they know best, don’t do what their told, and second guess their care. It seemed like just letting go and allowing my psychiatrist make the decisions would be a way to avoid sabotaging my own recovery. At that dismal time in my life, I had zero confidence in my choices anyway. But it turned out the doctor had only two tools in her kit: drugs and talking about my childhood. And every time I hit a bad spot, she would add more medication. Since I wasn’t reading about the meds (trusting my doc) I didn’t know anything about the toxicity of atypicals. I was a dutiful western physician with faith in the system, and I assumed that since the drugs were approved, they must be safe!!! I’ve kind of abandoned regret and self-judgment as policies, but you can imagine how tempting it is to berate myself for my naivety.

      –Will

      Reply
  • August 15, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Hey LS,

    You could always attach a lead to your three cats and take them for a walk. đŸ™‚

    That would be too much fun!

    Sonia

    Reply
  • August 15, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Sonia-
    I tried that with my kitten and she just proceeded to roll around and remove the harness.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Dr. Meecham, your post is a breath of fresh air. What I like about it is that you’re careful to share your experiences without using it to say what other people should do. I wish more people would follow your lead. It gets so polarizing with the anti-med camp and the pro-med camp. There’s certainly no one size fits all answer here.

    I identify with your post in many ways. I was also way overmedicated. I went from being a depressed but functional human being (i.e. still working, going to college, etc) to once I was on all the meds being nonfunctional to the point where I was not working at all and even given a script to attend adult daycare. That’s how bad it got. I’m not sure if that was my personal wake up call, or if it was having an astute family member who recognized that I had significantly worsened since the addition of all the medication and gently stated the obvious. But, I chose to go off all of them permanently, and for me that’s been the correct decision, although I’m sure those who were treating me at the time were convinced I “lacked insight.” I have been successfully off all meds for over 7 years now – working full time, obtained a grad degree,etc. Again, this has nothing to do with anyone else, it’s just what was right for me. These are very individual decisions. I have friends on meds, and friends who aren’t. I respect their decisions.

    It’s interesting when you talk about the numbness. I remember that feeling and I didn’t like it either. I remember sitting on my bed in the psych ward after having experienced something pretty terrible and being completely disconnected from emotion. Intuitively my brain knew I should hurt over what had just happened to me, but I couldn’t connect the logic with the emotion. There was no emotion. I felt like a robot.

    Again, kudos for your post and for the necessary reminder that we’re all different. What works for one may not work for someone else.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Anon–

    Thank you. I try to maintain an open mind, which means not assuming I know the final truth, ever. I have my ideas, and I consider many of them valid, but they are all subject to change and the certainly don’t apply to everyone. It would be a mistake to generalize from my experience to anyone else’s.

    In a way, I envy your success at getting off all medications, and if I could get there without too much misery, I would do it. Someday, perhaps. On the other hand, I’m feeling good now, and I believe my body is safe from damage. That’s what counts.

    The most important thing is that people learn their options, and not believe that anyone has all the answers. The mind is far too complicated for simple solutions, though it’s often tempting to look for them. We learn and we choose. That’s our responsibility. My biggest complaint about certain methods in psychiatry is that they discount the ability of the ‘patient’ to make his or her own choices. Yes, delusion exists, but so does wisdom. It’s important to respect that everybody (whether mentally ill or not) has a measure of both.

    –Will

    Reply
  • August 20, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks for your reply, although I don’t know that you should envy me being off meds. I wish I had found a med that helped. Unfortunately, I just got worse. I’m for whatever brings relief. Depression is brutal. So, while I wouldn’t say it’s all peaches now that I’m off the meds, at least I’m now functional and can support myself which is better than it used to be.

    My heart goes out to anyone who struggles with depression.

    Reply
  • June 1, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    It was like I was reading my own story…

    And I especially like your reply to anon, when you stated, “My biggest complaint about certain methods in psychiatry is that they discount the ability of the ‘patient’ to make his or her own choices. Yes, delusion exists, but so does wisdom. It’s important to respect that everybody (whether mentally ill or not) has a measure of both.”

    Will they ever hear us?

    I did not taper off. I took myself off all the meds immediately when my family and I both realized what a zombie I had become. And when the “good doctors” told me to go on permanent disability! When the truth was, I was over-medicated! And you can imagine what this shock was to my body… Horrific! But, I did not trust the docs anymore….

    And when I did finally have to go back, I had the same problem. They will *not* hear me when I tell them that I am *very, very* sensitive to medications. My GP understands; other doctors do, like my dentist, my gynocologist, and my gasteronologist. They all act accordingly. they prescribe low, and if needed, add up, (which is very rare.) Why, then, can’t a psychiatrist?

    I just went through another problem this last winter. (I have seasonal depression now.)And I have made a decision, in concert with my new therapist, that I will NEVER go on another anti-depressant again. Because it was this last winter when I got a false diagnoses placed on my health record, and I have had to call a a lawyer now to get it removed. They will not cooperate, even though they admit that they did not do the right thing and that I was not told pertinent information about a program I entered for stress. It turns out it was a dual diagnoses program for drug and alcohol! And I have THAT on my health record now!

    EAST BAY CENTER, who runs the program, will not remove it, even as I have two letters from the therapist who sent me to the program stating I have no problem with those issues, and that she was not aware that it was a dual diagnoses program until AFTER she sent me there — her administration failed to inform the counselors! So, now *I* have to pay a lawyer to get this removed, or I will not be able to get health care, should I lose my health coverage I now have, (a very real possibility, since I have back problems and will probably have to leave my job.)

    So, this is what anti-depressants have done to me. They created the *original* “mental health” problem, when I tried to quit smoking, (on another post of yours, Will), and now, a false diagnoses of substance abuse! Nope! Never again! The cost is WAY TOO HIGH!

    But, your story here is so very much like mine when I was a zombie… Eerie… And thank you for sharing… Because your story makes mine real.

    Peace!

    Reply
    • June 1, 2011 at 11:32 pm

      Sunflower55–

      I actually do have a dual diagnosis (to the extent I believe anymore in the diagnostic system). When I was admitted for my first psychiatric hospitalization, I informed the attending psychiatrist of my twelve years of sobriety and of the importance of not prescribing benzodiazepine sedatives because of my history of alcoholism. But he refused to listen and insisted that Ativan be placed on my order sheet. This turned out to be a disastrous choice, and led me back into a cycle of trouble with substances. It took me years to regain my balance after that. I remember literally begging this doctor not to give me that drug, but he would not listen. And that’s the whole problem, like you say. They do not hear us when we tell them about our own minds. As if they know better because what, they went to medical school? Well so did I, and I can guarantee it doesn’t make a person God, even if some doctors seem deluded in that regard.

      –Will

      Reply
  • June 2, 2011 at 12:31 am

    WOW! The behavior of your doctor there is tantamount to medical malpractice, in my thought, Dr. Will! I’m completely amazed that another doctor would prescribe a benzodiazepine to a recovering alcoholic!

    I’m no doctor, but, because of my own son’s drug history, (he’s a heroin addict, and I’ve done lots of research, formal and informal), even I know better than to give a benzo to an alcoholic! So, who’s the delusional one in your case? It’s the DOCTOR!

    I am truly sorry you had to endure that “treatment.” Ugh! I hate to use that term, under those conditions! “Mistreatment” is a better term. No one who has struggled to overcome SA deserves to have it stolen away due to the complete ignorance and arrogance of a doctor who “thinks” he knows best.

    BTW, the “stress” I was dealing with, was once more due to being over medicated. And once more, I stopped cold turkey, as a direct result of this “program.” I found out, on my own by going on the computer, that it was a dual diagnoses program. All requests that I’ve made for a co-operative resolution to this error have been met with stone walling and, (I’ll be polite here), lack of accuracy or more “misinformation” from them. Hence, the need for the lawyer, since they have refused to remove this libel they have caused against my name on my health record.

    That’s the “mental illness” clinic methodology, if you ask me. Its goal is to make the person more ill — at least on the record, not better! Then, they can increase their funding. (Just look at the explosive growth of the DSM IV, soon to be V.) The “mental illness” model is the opposite of “mental health.” And they want it that way, in my experience. Seems to be in your experience, too, from what I’ve read thus far — though I do not want to speak for you.

    Thanks for the feedback. Once more, your experience makes mine “more” real.

    Peace!

    Reply
 

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