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Healing from Psychiatry's Excesses

Because I was determined to live fully and deeply, I weaned myself off psychiatric drugs. The suffering was intense but worthwhile. Emerging from what I thought were the final throes, I achieved a mental clarity I hadn’t had for 20 years. I regained energy and spirit. I built my strength through exercise. Purpose, focus, and direction were not far behind.


But the damage lingered. I had endured almost 50 years of toxic stress, which, because I had no outlet, no understanding, and no voice, I internalized. The treatment I was given, an overdose of psychiatric drugs, about a dozen a day, antidepressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, and controlled substances, were more suitable for tranquilizing a barnyard animal. Since I was told by men with impressive resumes that I would destroy myself without these drugs, of course, I paid for them and I swallowed them, pathology and all. Always on the verge of losing consciousness, I was incapable of much movement or exercise. The fascia in my body which was supposed to slip and slide with ease solidified into something hard as concrete, as stress and immobility made my once supple body rock-like.


There is not much knowledge about the long-term side effects of psychiatric drugs, and what knowledge there is wasn’t disclosed to me by my physicians. I’m sure they thought they were doing what was best for me, and that any discussion of side effects or long-term consequences would merely become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is only recently that patients who have weaned themselves off psychiatric drugs such as SSRIs are talking among themselves about the legacy of damage, particularly to bladder, bowel, and sexual functions. Some doctors listen and admit their ignorance. Some doctors staunchly defend the drugs at the expense of the drug takers. And nobody quite knows how to help people who, though they no longer take these prescribed medicines, still suffer from their consequences. There is very little research, very little interest beyond the sufferers, and very little professional expertise to actually bring people relief.


I tried everything and everyone I could find: supplements, exercise, an incredibly restrictive diet for more than a year. I tried to appreciate my vigor and clarity while coping with the indigestion, the nausea, the constipation, the bladder irritation, the sexual dysfunction. I finally settled into a pattern of exercise, physiotherapy, acupuncture, and massage. And time. And more time.


It is sad to think that the world can damage people in ways it takes a great deal of time to heal. And I am teaching myself, always teaching myself, new ways to live. How to breathe and how to move. How to relax and how to be at peace. How to feel safe and how to risk. How to help myself and help others. How to celebrate and how to mourn the price I have paid for being alive.


I am determined to be well for my own sake, for the sake of the people I care about and who care about me, and I am also determined to be well out of gleeful spite for the men who counted me out, who wanted only to manage my unruliness and despair. To damn them to hell, I am going to live one fabulous life.




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