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Apr 03 2014

To The People Who Love to Opinionate on Not Medicating a Mental Illness

Fuck you.

Fuck you and your sanctimonious crap about how you believe psychiatric drugs aren’t good for us, and we shouldn’t take them, because we’ll be oh-so-much-better.

Bullshit.

You know, I really wish more people cheered for the medicine, and fewer acted like it was a personal failure and a potential death sentence to take psychiatric meds. Because I’d still have a mother if she’d listened to her first and best psychiatrists, rather than the assholes who told her she could and should do without the drugs.

As it stands, I have a shell of what used to be my mom, living in residential care and never able to leave it. There’s nothing left of the person I adored. Just an echo. Her mind would still be intact if she’d stayed on her drugs. She didn’t, and now she’s gone.

So fuck you, assholes who burble about how the drugs are harming us. Fuck you, people who shake their heads and cluck their tongues and judge. I will be flipping you off with one hand while happily taking my medication with the other. I don’t want to end up like her.

I know our current drugs aren’t a perfect solution, and that they sometimes lose their effectiveness as our bodies change, and we need to adjust them. I know they won’t always keep the depression and anxiety away. But they mitigate it. I’ve reached the stage where I’ll have to be on them for the rest of my life if I want to live with my mind mostly intact, and I’m good with that. I’ve watched them help other people I love, watched them return people to life who had nearly left it, and I love them for that. I’m glad we have something. Because I know what unmedicated serious mental illness looks like, and it’s horrific.

So fuck you, with your “I stopped taking meds and now I feel so much better!” My mother fell for your schtick, and she felt great – right up until the last of her lithium and antipsychotics cleared her system, and the suicidal depression and nasty voices came back, until paranoia paralyzed her and made her terrified of everyone and everything. My mother kept falling for your bullshit, and each time, a bit more of her slipped away until she couldn’t come back. You might have a mild enough case of whatever it is you were taking pills for that you just needed the temporary boost and can now do without. Or you may be in that honeymoon period before your mind collapses in on itself again. I don’t care, to be honest. I just want you to fuck off, and leave those of us who have decided we don’t want to risk going on a one-way trip down the wrong road the hell alone.

Don’t start that bullshit with me unless you have overwhelming scientific evidence of a better way to treat mental illness. You don’t have it now. And if you try to wave some fuckwad’s pop psychology book of bullshit in my face as proof, I may do something very Not Nice.

Then again, I might be able to contain myself. As long as I’m on my medication, it’s easier to keep my temper around sanctimonious assholes like you.

Image is a finger touching a cat's nose. Caption says, "My grumpy button. Ur pushin it."

22 comments

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  1. 1
    embertine

    Bravo, Dana. I have been treated for depression and anxiety. I, by my choice and on the advice of my doctor who is a specialist, went down the no-medication, try CBT route.

    BECAUSE IT WAS THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR ME.

    Not for anyone else. Not for everyone else. The fact that drugs probably would not have been the right answer FOR ME does not mean I have the expertise to make that judgement for anyone else. The reasons CBT worked FOR ME were:
    1) My sense of helplessness was in part caused by having no concrete action to take about my illness
    2) I am very goal-orientated
    3) I do not have an underlying medical condition that triggers my depression

    Now unless every single depressive HAS MY EXACT SAME BRAIN (in which case, whoa, hi there me-clones) I have no right to extrapolate my experiences onto others.

    I am sorry to hear about your mum and what she, and your family, has been through.

  2. 2
    Ysidro

    100% agreement here!

  3. 3
    Al Dente

    I’ve been taking an anti-depressant for years because I know (and my therapist agrees) that if I didn’t I would become non-functional and probably suicidal. While there’s side-effects to Paxil that I don’t care for (my wife and I would like to have a “normal” sexual relationship) it keeps me productive and reasonably happy.

    I’ve had people tell me to stop taking Paxil. My response is I prefer to stay alive. If they get really insistent on telling me what I should do with my life I tell them to fuck themselves. I’m a retired Navy chief so I have a better vocabulary for that than most people have.

  4. 4
    rq

    I have nothing to add but my support.
    *hugs*

  5. 5
    CT Chimako.27

    Dana, your post really touched me both as a mother and as someone who once thought that MI people just needed to “act right”. I spent much of my life bipolar in the hypomanic phase without really knowing it. My kids and my husband were affected in ways I’ll probably never really know. Just last year in June or July (memory isn’t so great when these things happen), I basically went off the deep end fortunately I had enough insight at the beginning of the crazy to go to a therapist. And I couldn’t get medicine fast enough to suit me. I abandoned all my stupidity and just took my damn meds (and still do) despite all the bullshit I endure about how they affect my body. Who gives a flying fuck. My kids and my husband love me now instead of being afraid of what I’ll say or do.

    And yes, because of lithium, lamictal and klonopin, I would be able to keep my temper too instead of going all apeshit on people. Doesn’t stop me from getting angry tho, just stops the crazy anger that scares people.

  6. 6
    Marius

    Thank you for this, it needs to be said. I’ve come off medication a few times, with encouragement from others, only to end up in a much worse place.

    This is one of the many pernicious effects of dualism – with enough courage, moral strength, will power, happy thoughts or whatever, “you” can overcome your own brain chemistry. If you need drugs to cope, you’re weak, dependent, even less moral than those who don’t. I’m bookmarking this for future use.

  7. 7
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    I’ve suspected that the culprit behind the whole “mental illness is all in your head!” crap is the notion of dualism. The only way in which a mental illness differs from any other illness is that it affects your emotions and thought patterns more than other kinds of illness.

    Medication for mental illness is that same as medication for anything else. I like to use epilepsy as an analogy – your brain fails to perform exactly the way it should, causing physical symptoms. For a large number of people, medication causes the issue to at least partially resolve. This is a Good Thing(tm) and people recognise it as such, because epilepsy is seen as a physical illness.

    Now, depression. Your brain fails to perform exactly the way it should, causing physical symptoms (yes, emotions are physical too and have chemical components). For a large number of people, medication causes the issue to at least partially resolve. This is a Good Thing(tm) but people do not recognise it as such because depression is seen as a nonphysical illness.

    Kill this stupid notion that mental illness is different from other illness and we’ll see vast improvements very fast. Your brain is an organ like any other and you don’t have a magical MindSoulSpiritThing that gets magically ill that you can cure just by changing your attitude or diet. Grr.

  8. 8
    Gregory in Seattle

    Very well stated. I was diagnosed years ago with a chronic, low-level depression called dysthemia. It’s not that I’m “sad” or “just having a bad day”: this is something that runs in my family, and which is controlled by low levels of meds. It’s the same as my cholesterol and myopia: I have a chronic condition and I take steps to mitigate the condition.

    @Sophia #5 – I think it comes down to perceived credibility. If you have a broken arm, or are projectile vomiting, or have sores all over your skin, then people know you are sick. Mental illness, chronic pain, food allergies, and other forms of non-visible illness simply get discounted in a vapor of, “So you claim. Prove that you’re not just malingering.”

  9. 9
    Randomfactor

    Exactly right.

    It seems to me if someone is on the same side of an issue as Scientology, they should seriously rethink their position.

  10. 10
    geekgirlsrule

    Gregory at #6 My old boss was firmly on the side of “If she can’t SEE what’s wrong with you, you’re just malingering,” which led to a blow up in a hallway about two weeks after I’d come back from a surgery. Because I had no visible bandages or canes or crutches or anything, I had to be all better, right? And since I had to be all better, I was obviously malingering if I couldn’t get everything done.

    When I had to tell her the abuse by the person I supported administratively had put me on anxiety meds, I could just see her shutting down. Like, visibly watch what little empathy she had just check out. Mental illness was also malingering.

    I hate that attitude. It’s the one that led to me not getting treated for depression when I was a suicidal teenager.

  11. 11
    catlover

    Full agreement, Dana — and very well said! Let ‘em have it!!

    I am so sorry that your mom fell for the bullshit that she didn’t need to take meds. My heart goes out to her and to you. *hugs*

    I, too, have a mental illness that requires me, be on meds for the rest of my life. The meds work — no more black pits of depression — and I can handle the side effects, although I don’t like them. Do I wish I didn’t have to take them? Yes, but I am profoundly grateful that there is a way to treat my illness.

    I am very glad your meds are working for you.

  12. 12
    drbunsen, le savant fous

    Sorry about your mom.

  13. 13
    mildlymagnificent

    Dualism. It’s just plain dangerous.

    Let’s never forget just how physical the basis is for mood control and negative thoughts. I was shocked beyond all measure when I told a group of friends that I was now taking thyroxine to treat my newly diagnosed hypothyroid condition. One of them blithely said “You’re lucky you didn’t find out the hard way. One of the first things they do for people who arrive in hospital after suicide attempts is to test for thyroid deficiency. Quite often the only “therapy” needed is an ordinary, cheap little white tablet that nobody realised had any relevance to depression.” (She was not a nurse but some kind of coordinator for specialist hospital services.)

    There. is. no. difference. between people whose brain function is affected by this particular hormone deficiency who need medication to function better and other people whose brain function is affected by other hormonal, structural or chemical issues who need different kinds of medication to function better. Some of those medications might not be recognised by many people as having any link to mood or mental illness at all.

    As this woman pointed out, a lot of people don’t ask their doctors about their mental health issues because of fear/ stigma/ prejudice which means that doctors are blinded to some of the information they need to make all kinds of diagnoses.

  14. 14
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    Gregory @8

    I agree. I see the invisible illness skepticism as just another facet though, rather than an alternate cause. Tends to be the same folks – “You’re not sick, you look fine!” then “… oh, then you are sick but you’re just choosing to remain that way because you’re not being positive enough”. Or not being spiritual enough, or not eating the right things, or not being natural enough or not thinking with the appropriate level of fluffy woo.

    I hate this “natural is best” crap too – people are so scared of “chemicals” due to advertising campaigns and scare tactics by the woo mongers. Medication is CHEMICALS! SCARY CHEMICALS! So are food additives… they must be causing it! OH NO! I like to point out that everything is made of chemicals, numbers in food are normally just to save space on labels and there’s not really any such thing as “unnatural”.
    It’s all in the education really. And stopping advertisers from using “all natural ingredients!” as a hook. It’s like putting “arsenic free!” or “no added poo”. Misleading.

  15. 15
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    YES! This is… I’m gonna get personal, here. Without the meds, I’m an anxious, obsessive-compulsive, sobbing, vomiting (from the anxiety!), beyond-non-functional wreck.

    On the meds, I’m mostly-functional and reasonably stable. I’ll stick with the thing that keeps me alive.

    I do. not. grok. the meds-are-evil crowd. What’s the reasoning, what’s the “logic” behind that? I mean, I figure the person who prescribed the pills has the training and knowledge to do so properly, yeah, so why should I take a non-doctor’s uneducated opinion on the matter?

  16. 16
    carlie

    I’ll echo what rq said – adding in my full support from over here.

  17. 17
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    I’m so sorry about your mom.

    I wish I could still take my medication. I ended up with a medical condition that doesn’t allow me to take pills. We tried everything–crushing them up, mixing them with yogurt or applesauce–but eventually my doctor felt that it was more dangerous for me to try and keep taking them than to go off of the medication. I am waiting eagerly for the day when pharmaceutical companies come out with injectable, sublingual, or liquid forms of anti-depressants. Right now, I’m taking an Old School, less effective mood stabilizer because it’s one of the very very very few drugs that has a liquid form, and it’s basically giving me the ability to white knuckle it and try to hold on.

    Fuck, I miss Wellbutrin.

    I’m surviving (right now), but I’m certainly not thriving. I would be so much more productive (not to mention, y’know, happy) if I could take my old meds. These people piss me off so much. Especially because so many of them seem to pop in progressive circles. I get it, you hate Big Pharma. I think they do some shitty things, too. But psychiatric medication is not some big conspiracy designed solely to make pharmaceutical companies rich, or to indoctrinate us and make us docile servants of the State (or the New World Order, if you’re reading conservative screeds–same conspiracy, different enemy). For that matter, pain medication isn’t some giant conspiracy to create a nation of addicts in order to line the pockets of Big Pharma, either. There are days when pain medication is the only thing that allows me to get out of bed. Just like there are days that Ativan (sublingual, thank god) is the only reason I can walk out my front door. Literally, after I was raped, until they put my on Ativan, I could not leave my house. I couldn’t even stand on my front porch. Tried once to walk down to the street corner to put a letter in the mail for my mother…got a few steps past my driveway before I had to turn around and run back home. (And then curled up in my room and cried for a while.)

    You’re so right. Fuck those assholes.

  18. 18
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    I heard so much shit from my alt-med, woo-woo “Friends” about how psych meds “kill your creativity” or “make you less you” that when, after a big emergency room level panic attack last year, the doc prescribed Celexa with Ativan for emergencies, I cried. Hard. It had been years since I became a skeptic, and those beliefs were so ingrained that I was terrified at the very thought of taking them.

    I got over it soon after the stuff got into my system, I stopped fantasizing about walking in front of a bus. I could relax just a little bit in crowds (only just a little, but that little was sometimes the difference between anxiety or a full blown panic attack). Now, anyone coming to me with that bullshit gets their head bitten off.

  19. 19
    Fetchez la Vache

    My aunt is a retired psychiatric social worker. Her observation-based opinion: “Better living through chemistry!”

  20. 20
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I’m a tad late here but: Hugs and support

    mildlymagnificent

    Let’s never forget just how physical the basis is for mood control and negative thoughts. I was shocked beyond all measure when I told a group of friends that I was now taking thyroxine to treat my newly diagnosed hypothyroid condition. One of them blithely said “You’re lucky you didn’t find out the hard way. One of the first things they do for people who arrive in hospital after suicide attempts is to test for thyroid deficiency. Quite often the only “therapy” needed is an ordinary, cheap little white tablet that nobody realised had any relevance to depression.” (She was not a nurse but some kind of coordinator for specialist hospital services.)

    I have Hashimoto’s disease, which means that my immune system is slowly eating up my thyroid. Yes, i also have a bunch of other issues I needed to work on, but life became so much better once I got my little white pill. And funny enough, nobody argues that you really just need to convince your body that it must produce more thyroxine or that you simply need less. Because it’s a known organ that’s failing, we know how it works. But with brain chemistry it’s suddenly Magic.

  21. 21
    Blanche Quizno

    Isn’t it interesting that nobody seems determined to get diabetics off their insulin…

    Why is it that some things are perfectly acceptable, but others, very similar in terms of schedule and necessity, are slapped with a “zero-tolerance policy”?

    It kind of rocked my world one day a few years back when, during an online discussion, a friend wondered why it is that we don’t regard STDs the same way we regard the common cold or the flu. You have to go out and get those, too…

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. The burniest, screamiest circle of hell should be reserved for predators who zero in on the vulnerable. This is a time it would be nice for a hell to exist. Theoretically – I have a real hard time coming up with the sort of desire to harm that could support a pro-torture or pro-execution mindset, to say nothing of an eternal hell.

    My father was fading. And drinking too much. He was in his late 70s. My mom had died a coupla years earlier – ovarian cancer. Very ugly. His brain was misfiring – he was having lots of dejà vu episodes and terrifying hallucinations. I was afraid he’d be dead within the year – this was February-ish. But then he got on anti-psychotics and he was BACK! I hadn’t realized how far away he’d wandered… He’s still in early dementia, and it’s a one-way trip, but I am so thankful for modern medicine and psychoactive medications!

    Now if we could just change society’s outrageous bigotry against people with mental illness…

  22. 22
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    In my case, I was straight-up misdiagnosed, so I was getting medication side effects without any actual benefit. My experience emphatically underscores the need for competent, appropriate mental health care rather than refuting it, and if my actual condition (ASD) were one that medication could help, I’d be enthusiastically pursuing it.

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