Things People Said Here About Mental Illness That Were Extremely Helpful »« On Being on Anti-Depressants Indefinitely, Very Likely for the Rest of My Life

“The drugs are hurting us more than they are helping us”: How Not to Talk to People With Mental Illness, Episode 563,304

From Facebook, a comment responding to my post, On Being on Anti-Depressants Indefinitely, Very Likely for the Rest of My Life, in which I discussed my diagnosis of depression and the meds I’m taking for it.

If you haven’t read Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker it’s a must. The director of a leading psychiatry association finally acquiesced and said he was right. The drugs are hurting us more than they are helping us. I’ve been on a slow ween and feel so much better. I drive my husband crazy sometimes, more than I used to, but it’s nice to be me again.

(I’m not going to name the person who said this, since people on Facebook often expect marginally more privacy than they do on blog comments and other public Internet spaces. If they want to disclose who they are, they may do so.)

Here’s my response.

I realize that you probably mean well, but can you please not tell people with mental illness to ignore their doctor’s advice? Unless someone tells you that their health care provider is prescribing actual quackery (like homeopathy or something), or unless you have some more substantial evidence for your position than “I know that the established standard of care is (X), but this one guy disagrees and wrote a book about it,” it is seriously fucked-up to undermine people’s relationships with their health care providers.

What’s more, people with chronic illnesses, especially mental illnesses, get a bellyful of unsolicited amateur medical advice along the lines of “I know better than you how you should take care of yourself.” It is really not helpful.

If the preponderance of hard medical evidence starts shifting away from “A combination of meds and talk therapy is often effective at treating depression, and right now for most people it’s the best we’ve got” and starts shifting towards “Meds are not generally effective and they can actually do harm,” I will reconsider my treatment plan. In the meantime: There are appropriate places for debates about how the medical establishment should be dealing with depression and other mental illness. A personal post from someone with depression talking about their experiences with it is not one of them. Thank you.

Comments

  1. cluelessrube says

    What if they said you were suffering from hysteria, and because you had had previous episodes of hysteria, you needed to be medicated for life?

  2. Dana Hunter says

    You know, I really wish more people had 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 psychiatrist, 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.

    I will respect Greta’s wishes to be polite here. But I will soon be putting up a post of my own, where my uncensored opinion of your behavior will be available. In the meantime, I hope you will endeavor to do your part to make the world a less awful place. Hint: it begins with closing your cakehole before certain bits of advice fall out again, and continues with you taking advantage of Google Scholar in order to educate yourself.

  3. Greta Christina says

    What if they said you were suffering from hysteria, and because you had had previous episodes of hysteria, you needed to be medicated for life?

    cluelessrube @ #1: What is your point? That medicine in general and psychiatry in particular has some horrors in its past… therefore, we should ignore it, and give unsolicited and unsubstantiated amateur advice to other people telling them to ignore it?

    My psychiatrist did not “say that I needed to be medicated for life.” He explained that this was the current standard of care; explained the thinking and evidence behind it; discussed the pros and cons with me; made it clear that the decision could be revisited at any time; and made it clear that it was my decision. I made all of this clear in the original post. Given this, are you saying that it is reasonable for some stranger on Facebook to advise me, with no solicitation from me, that they know better than me and my doctor how I should manage my mental health?

  4. says

    I get this same crap about my epilepsy, actually. I used to have a roommate who kept telling me he’d read about people who control their seizures via diet, and don’t use medication. Actually, that is a legitimate thing. It’s called a ketogenic diet, and it’s extremely restrictive. It’s kind of like the Atkins diet turned up to 11, and it’s usually used for children who don’t respond to medications, or can’t take them for some reason. People don’t understand, too, that there are a lot of different kinds of epilepsy, and each individual case has unique characteristics.

    Same thing with depression. First of all, there’s this bias against anything that’s “not natural,” like medication. Second, with depression, unlike with seizures, there’s a certain feeling among people that if you don’t “get over it” by yourself, you’re weak, if not a spoiled brat. That stigma allows people to feel a lot more liberty in giving their advice.

    There is a little bit of hypocrisy, here: I was resistant to taking antidepressants for years, partly because I’m already taking so much crap for my seizures. My GF is the one who nudges me to keep taking the antidepressants, even though my brain is totally okay with them in theory.

  5. xmnr says

    Funny, I never seem to get unsolicited advice on my diabetes meds, and only a modicum of fat shaming. I must not hang-out with the right people.

  6. nightside says

    Thanks for this post, Greta Christina. I’ll be on antidepressants for the rest of my life and glad my psychiatrist prescribed them. Life has gotten so much more fun.
    I would not have made it this far without them.

  7. says

    What’s more, people with chronic illnesses, especially mental illnesses, get a bellyful of unsolicited amateur medical advice along the lines of “I know better than you how you should take care of yourself.” It is really not helpful.

    Greta, you are FAR more civil about this than I am. Between being a part of vaccine research (as a study participant and as a member of the CAB for a vaccine trials unit), work as an HIV educator and a having an extended family history that includes cancer, I have heard all too much bunk. I will keep my voice down and use little words so the person being addressed has a greater chance of understanding, but I am NOT civil. At all.

  8. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Funny, I never seem to get unsolicited advice on my diabetes meds

    Yep. Nobody has ever implied weakness on my part when the pinched nerve in my neck flares up and I take medication, but mention I take anxiety meds…

  9. quanticsakura says

    I was gonna comment on Facebook, but I prefer some anonimity.
    Thank you so much for writing this. My sister has severe problems with mental health (something along the lines of bipolar and schizofreny, we never got a definitive diagnostic) and between bad doctors and her own distrust of medicine, it took having a psychotic break and getting interned in the psyh ward for her to start getting medication. And yes, it zombified her at first, but for the first time in my life i felt like my sister was there, lucid, listening to people and not living in her own closed off world.
    Then she got a boyfriend who convinced her to stop taking her meds. I tried and tried to talk her into at least going to see a psychiatrist, to no avail…and now she’s back at the psych ward, worse than she’s ever been, sleeping in restraints and has slipped from a prognosis of “needs therapy and meds for all her life” to “will never be stable enough to live alone”.
    Mental illness is a bitch. You wouldn’t tell a diabetic to stop taking insulin (I hope) so don’t tell mentally ill people to stop their meds!

  10. Lea says

    My psychiatrist did not “say that I needed to be medicated for life.” He explained that this was the current standard of care; explained the thinking and evidence behind it; discussed the pros and cons with me; made it clear that the decision could be revisited at any time; and made it clear that it was my decision.

    That sounds great. I dealt with severe depression in childhood through early thirties and used medication for a few years with therapy, which is what finally helped me. Both aspects were important and I’m doing well and in my 50’s now.

    The point is: Dedicated, caring doctors and scientists are continuously working and doing studies that continue to improve treatments. It’s the best and most trustworthy approach and we are wise to follow it even though it’s not perfect yet.

    You mentioned cancer in the other post, same thing with that. When I got ovarian cancer, after the first chemo treatment the side effects felt so bad, I wondered if I’d made a terrible mistake and considered not having any more. I thought, “this is poison, this is barbaric! People in the future will look back at us and shudder at our primitive methods!”. Then I thought, well, but this is the best thing we have right now, and it does work fairly well on the cancer even though it causes other damage. My doctor is fantastic and I’m going to follow her advice. Fortunately the subsequent treatments weren’t as bad as that one, I got through them and six years later I’m still healthy so far.

    We use the state of the art we have. I’m confident that in the future, treatments for both cancer and mental health will be drastically better still and people won’t suffer nearly so much because of them, just as we aren’t suffering as much as people did in the past.

  11. Emma says

    I wrote a blog post on this recently, so I just wanted to reiterate what I said there:

    Let me tell you what you’re really saying when you tell someone to stop taking their anti-depressants. You’re saying, “I don’t believe you.” You’re saying, “You’re weak for taking what makes you feel better.” You’re saying, “I don’t really care about how you’re actually feeling, even if these medications are making you feel better.” You’re saying, “My opinion is more important than your health.” You’re saying, “I am not someone you can rely on for help in these, or perhaps any, troubling situations.” You’re saying, “I need to be right. I need to have the last word. And I am willing to do this at the expense of your mental health, even though I’m now aware that that is an area in which you are experiencing problems severe enough that you and your doctor have decided to put you on medication. In other words, I don’t really care about you or how you’re feeling, and I am the most important person right now, and your actual problems don’t really matter to me.” Most of all, you are saying, “I am not someone who can be trusted.”

  12. says

    Greta Cristina, I respect your writing and your activism immensely, and I wish you would understand that many if not all of the people suggesting that you question this model sympathize with your suffering and are encouraging this out of concern for you.* I won’t link to my blog again, as I’ve done so several times in the past. But I will ask respectfully that you take just a month, perhaps, in which you set aside the question of how people should talk to you and ask, seriously and in good faith. whether you might be wrong about what the “hard medical consensus” is on biopsychiatry and its drugs.

    In addressing the question fairly, you could read some sample of the following: Robert Whitaker, Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic; James Davies, Cracked; Marcia Angell, “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?”, “The Illusions of Psychiatry,” and “‘The Illusions of Psychiatry': An Exchange” (all available free online); Joanna Moncrieff, The Myth of the Chemical Cure and The Bitterest Pills; Irving Kirsch, The Emperor’s New Drugs; Stuart Kirk, Tomi Gomery, and David Cohen, Mad Science; Gary Greenberg, The Book of Woe (I can’t speak to the quality of this one); Brett Deacon, “The Biomedical Model of Mental Disorder: A Critical Analysis of its Tenets, Consequences, and Effects on Psychotherapy Research” (available free online); Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey Lacasse, “Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature” (available free online); Ethan Watters, Crazy Like Us. (Please retain in mind David Kupfer’s public statement last year, which included “We’ve been telling patients for several decades that we are waiting for biomarkers. We’re still waiting.”) Much information about the current state of the evidence and the issue of psych rights (with some woo scattered in occasionally) can be found on the Mad in America site.

    If you make this commitment to question your beliefs (and your doctor’s authority) and engage with the evidence and emerge with your beliefs unscathed or stronger than ever, well, I’ll be gobsmacked, but I’ll appreciate that you respected me and others enough and cared enough about the issue as it relates to science, social justice, and helping people to give these criticisms a fair hearing. It’s no more than you expect from the defenders of religious faith in Why Are You Atheists So Angry?.

    * And others. Whether you recognize it or not, you’re writing from a position of privilege on this issue. You have a choice about what if any label to apply to yourself, and haven’t been forcibly detained or drugged on the basis of your alleged illness.

  13. ceesays says

    sure, but it’s not that simple.

    the wrong drug is worse than no drugs at all.

    There’s no really clear way to pinpoint which drug is the right drug. you try one, and it might work, or it might not.

    It is not typical for the most common prescribers of mental health medications to have a clear understanding about what makes a reaction to a particular drug negative, nor is it common to take a mere patient’s personal experience into account, respect it, and patiently try something else.

    it took 25 years for me to find a medication that wasn’t worse than being crazy. I only found okay but not the best 5 years ago. holy crap is this what it feels like to be not-depressed? that happened three months ago. twenty-eight years for find the right med.

    When people complain to me about their struggle with medication, that’s valid. And it’s valid when they complain to anyone else, for that matter.

  14. Greta Christina says

    SC (Salty Current), OM @ #12: Are you kidding?

    There are times and places for this conversation. A blog post by someone suffering from depression, specifically and explicitly saying, “I do not want to have this conversation right here or right now” is bloody well not one of them. How many times to I have to say it? And do I really have to say it to my long-time allies?

    You are not asking “respectfully.” You are asking with great disrespect. You are showing no respect for me, or for my blog, or for my right to operate my blog as I see fit. You are treating your wish to have your say on this topic — a say which you yourself acknowledge having had several times in the past — as so important that it trumps my wish to bloody well not have my relationship with my medical provider undermined. You are doing exactly what we’re always ragging on the Slymepiter for doing — acting as if your right to speak somehow implies your right to force other people to listen.

    I am very sorry to do this, as you have been a longtime participant and supporter here. But I am putting you into comment moderation. Future comments from you will have to be approved by me before they are posted.

  15. Greta Christina says

    ceesays @ #13: I am not asking people to not complain about their struggle with medication. I am asking people to not read my writing about my own care plan and my own issues with my medications, and respond with, “Your plan is wrong! Don’t trust your doctor! You shouldn’t be on meds at all!”

  16. AMM says

    SC @12

    I was starting to do a full fisking of his[*] comment, but decided it was a waste of time.

    I’ve had random strangers and acquaintances give me unsolicited advice — about my health, about my life, about how to handle my kids — and it’s always been rubbish. (Actually, so has a lot of the solicted advice.) When they realize I have no interest in taking it, they usually get all concerned (cf. SC’s “out of concern for you”) and try to get me to consider the possibility that they’re right and I’m wrong.

    The thing is, I (or in some cases, my kids) are the ones who will suffer if they’re wrong, not them. If I listen to SC and stop my son from taking his Lexapro, and he kills himself, is SC going to give me my son back? No, he’ll make up some excuse as to why he’s still right. And I’ll be left with the funeral and the grief.

    If I’m going to be the one who will suffer, then I’m going to reserve the right to decide what advice I’ll take. Random strangers who know nothing about me and who don’t have to live my life, but are arrogant enough to tell me I’m Doing It Wrong, well, they can just f— o–.

    I don’t know if Ms. Christina feels the same way, but she’s welcome to do so if she wants. When it comes to ‘attitude’, I’m always willing to share. :-)

    * I’m assuming SC is male because “he” has the arrogance and Dunning-Kruger self-certainty of a dude. My attitude would be the same if SC were female, though.

  17. says

    AMM (@16):

    I’m assuming SC is male because “he” has the arrogance and Dunning-Kruger self-certainty of a dude.

    Whoops! Bzzzt!

    Let’s not inadvertently give those who would bullshit about humanist-feminist “misandry” any ammunition, shall we?

    My attitude would be the same if SC were female, though.

    Just so. So why add the gender filter at all, eh?

    ****
    Greta:

    I know the cubed root of fuck-all about depression, so I’ll just offer unconditional support for your plan, and for any future changes thereto. You clearly have a doctor you can trust, and whom you are in fact trusting. I think that’s wise.

    Take care of yourself.

  18. says

    [GC: I'm writing a post about this for my own blog, which I may or may not publish. I sincerely hope that you post this comment because it is fairly urgent. If you don't wish to post it, then please in your own words make absolutely clear that no one here is suggesting that anyone abruptly stop taking psychiatric drugs and that no one should do this.]

    If I listen to SC and stop my son from taking his Lexapro, and he kills himself, is SC going to give me my son back? No, he’ll make up some excuse as to why he’s still right. And I’ll be left with the funeral and the grief.

    All else aside, I want to make one thing absolutely clear. I am NOT suggesting that people themselves abruptly cease taking these drugs or that they stop anyone in their care from doing so. DO NOT STOP TAKING THESE DRUGS ABRUPTLY OR WITHOUT CONSULTING A PHYSICIAN, OR CAUSE SOMEONE ELSE TO DO SO, EVER. That is very dangerous.

    I don’t know you or your son, and even if I did there are very few examples in medicine of any course of action being 100% effective/benign/wonderful or ineffective/harmful/terrible. No decision is ever guaranteed. I am not suggesting that anyone change their personal course of action with regard to these drugs based on my say-so or on anyone’s authority. I want people to do the opposite. Making these decisions for yourself carries a responsibility. Making them for other people carries even more, as does writing about the question. My request has always been that as people go about making these decisions for themselves and others or influencing others they don’t do so based on authority but engage critically, to the greatest extent possible, with the evidence. (Of course in emergency situations people can’t do this, which is why these issues need to be addressed on numerous fronts….)

    Note from Greta: I am allowing this comment to post. It’s pushing the boundaries I’m setting in this comment thread, but in this particular case, I’m going to let it pass. SC or anyone else: Do not take this as an example of what content I’m okay with in this comment thread.

  19. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Greta, from reading this and the other posts it sounds like your psychologist is intelligent, competent, and actually gives a shit. This is a very good thing and I congratulate, and envy you. I, unfortunately, have had a personally and uniquely very different experience with psychiatric services in general, and while I think it ultimately supports your position here, I’m reluctant to go into it, both because I’m worried about giving the denialists ammunition, and because I don’t want to give your Jerkbrain anything to latch onto. How should I proceed?

  20. says

    Thanks Christina for your thoughtful postings on depression and the issues it brings up. This is about unsolicited medical advice. I have a number of chronic physical medical issues….the most oppressive and persistent being my adult-onset NON-allergic asthma. Because of substantial use of prednisone to dampen my many and prolonged flare-ups, I now have osteoporosis and avascular necrosis (a condition in which blood supply to the bone is cut off). The latter led to a hip replacement and a revision of the replacement…all in less than 12 months. I have several other medical conditions that impact my life. But what drives me bonkers is the onslaught of “advice” one receives from “well-meaning” people on how to treat or “cure” my issues. Most of what people tell me is pure non-scientific bunk (I am a proponent of evidence-based medicine). And while western medicine is not perfect (or else there would be better options than prednisone for folks like me…..but the logic is that you have to be able to breath and stuff like hips can be fixed)….I still think it is the best option available. I do not have the energy, money or health to gamble on all the quackery people throw at me, some of which could be potentially harmful. I don’t care if “X cure” worked for your husband’s uncle’s friend who allegedly has what I have. I have lived with my medical issues and know what has and has not worked for my particular body. Unfortunately, because my medical stuff impacts many aspects of my life, it’s not something I can keep from disclosing for any length of time so the subject inevitably comes up. Nowadays I just give the same “not enough health, energy, etc…” spiel to “well-meaning” supporters of quackery. For me, acceptance of my physical reality and adaptation are what works to make my life better.

  21. Timothy Matias says

    Just my two cents:

    “It is seriously fucked-up to undermine people’s [efforts to improve the lives of mentally ill people] for the sake of preserving their ” relationships with their health care providers.”.

    Here’s a bit more than two cents, based on my experience:

    http://nspyraishn.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/my-views-on-mental-illness

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinions. When you call them “fucked up” for expressing their opinions about medication, the only “fucked up” person is you!

    This kind of closed-minded, self-righteous response is no different than a Christian telling an atheist that it’s fucked up to suggest that a person should quit God. HOW DARE they risk damning the person’s soul to hell because of personal experiences of feeling better living without God. HOW DARE they undermine the relationships and trust between Christians and their church elders and leadership?

    This kind of closed-minded approach to medicine, and the application thereof, is nothing short of RELIGIOUS :/

  22. Greta Christina says

    Timothy Matias @ #21: I am writing a longer response to your comment, which I will probably post as a blog post. In the meantime, I’ll just say this: You have every right to express your opinions about mental illness and mental health care. You do not have the right to offer these opinions in personal spaces, to people who have not asked for them. And you definitely do not have the right to offer them in spaces where people have specifically said that they don’t want to host that debate.

    You have violated my clearly- and repeatedly-stated request about comments. I have put you into comment moderation. Future comments from you will have to be approved by me before they are posted.

  23. Silentbob says

    @ 21 Timothy Matias

    What Greta actually wrote was:

    Unless someone tells you that their health care provider is prescribing actual quackery (like homeopathy or something), or unless you have some more substantial evidence for your position than “I know that the established standard of care is (X), but this one guy disagrees and wrote a book about it,” it is seriously fucked-up to undermine people’s relationships with their health care providers.

    The “unless” would seem to scuttle your ridiculous analogy to belief in the supernatural.

    She also wrote…

    There are appropriate places for debates about how the medical establishment should be dealing with depression and other mental illness. A personal post from someone with depression talking about their experiences with it is not one of them.

    … which seems to dispense with your charge of closed-mindedness.

  24. Silentbob says

    … What she’s warning against is giving unsolicited, inexpert advice to vulnerable people whose health could depend on following the professional advice they’ve received. That’s a completely different thing to saying “everyone should always have blind faith in authorities”.

  25. Greta Christina says

    For the record: Timothy Matias has attempted to post another comment here. This time claiming:

    a) that Freethought Blogs are not personal spaces, but are entirely public spaces, and that the bloggers who host them do not have the right to moderate the discussions*;

    b) that saying “Here’s a bit more than two cents” and then posting a link to a site arguing against the mental health care profession does not constitute making an argument against the mental health care profession;

    and c) that he hadn’t seen my specific request to not give people with mental illness unsolicited amateur medical advice in this space. You know — the request that constitutes this entire blog post, the one that he’s commenting on.

    If he wanted me to reconsider taking him out of comment moderation, this was the wrong way to go about it. My comment policy is clearly linked to in the sidebar, and “Respect my right to moderate my blog” is one of its key ingredients.

    No, I am not letting this comment pass. Timothy, if you want to post a comment that will go through moderation, try posting one that acknowledges my basic right to moderate my own blog as I see fit.

    *For the record, for those who might be unaware of this: Each blog in this network belongs to the individual blogger hosting it, who has the right not only to say what they want in it, but to moderate comments or not as they see fit. I am not a public utility, and neither is my blog. I enjoy hosting lively discussion and debate with a wide variety of opinions and perspectives, and I give a lot of latitude to commenters here, but commenters are nevertheless guests in my space.

  26. Greta Christina says

    For the record: Timothy Matias has attempted to post another comment here. This time:

    a) saying that he didn’t see my comment policy stating that I had the right to moderate my blog, and saying that I should place the policy someplace more obvious, such as at the top of the page. Despite the fact that this very post, the one being commented on, has a very specific request not to tell people here to ignore their doctor’s advice or to debate here about how the medical establishment deals with mental illness — he didn’t see the comment policy stating that I expect my requests about comments here to be respected.

    You know, I once worked in an office where some equipment that tended to overheat was placed near a window, with a sign saying, “Please keep this window open unless it’s going to rain.” And next to that sign was another sign, with an arrow pointing to the first sign, saying, “Please do what this sign says.” Do people really need to see the sign that says, “Please do what this sign says”?

    b) saying that his link didn’t criticize the mental health profession, it criticized the mainstream implementation of mental health. Entirely missing the point of my injunction — which is that it’s fucked up in general to tell people with mental illness to ignore their doctor’s advice, and that I didn’t want a debate here about how the medical establishment should be dealing with depression and other mental illness. Whether that criticism and amateur medical advice is about the very idea of mental health care or how that care is implemented is beside the point. It is fucked up to give people with mental illness — or any illness, really — unsolicited amateur medical advice telling them to ignore their doctor. And it is fucked up to debate any topic in a space where the host has requested that this debate not take place. Splitting hairs over the exact content of the debate and the unsolicited amateur medical advice is irrelevant.

    c) saying that his advice isn’t amateur, since he’s had years of relationships with mentally ill people, and has had years of study and analysis of psychology. Unless those years of study took place in the setting of professional health care training, and resulted in a degree, then “amateur” is still the correct word. If “years of study” means “reading lots of books about it” — well, that’s a fine thing to do, but it’s not a substitute for professional training.

    d) saying that he didn’t give advice, only opinion. I see. And the difference between “I advise you that medications are the devil, and any people on medication should get off of them as soon as possible.” and “It is my opinion that medications are the devil, and any people on medication should get off of them as soon as possible.” is…. ????? It’s still telling people to ignore their doctor’s advice.

    Fail. I am not seeing any recognition of the problematic behavior, or any understanding of why it’s problematic. I am seeing defensive hairsplitting in an attempt to avoid admitting wrongdoing. As such, I’m not seeing any indication that this person will behave better in the future. Still in comment moderation. Teetering on the brink of just being banned outright.

  27. Nataly Voskanian says

    Greta I think you should calm down and live less aggressively than you do right now. it’s actually very funny how you react to people expressing opinions about things they want to express. if you have mental illnesses I can clearly see you are not treated yet. maybe you need to get a life ;-) because you obviously don’t have any. if I see you are healthy and aggressive no more I will believe doctors helped you ;-) but for now you are sick. I hope you get well soon.

  28. Greta Christina says

    Nataly Voskanian @ #28: Right. Because drawing clear boundaries, asking people to respect them, and creating consequences when those boundaries are violated is a sign that I’m not handling my illness well. Whereas letting people walk all over me and treat my space as a public utility, and buying into the “freeze peach” crap in which other people’s right to speak somehow implies that I’m morally obligated to host an unlimited amount of abusive bullshit, is somehow the epitome of healthy self-care.

    m-/

    This one doesn’t even get to be in comment moderation. Banned.

  29. flask ehrlenmeyer says

    greta, i very much believe in psychiatric medications and their life-saving benefits.

    at the same time, you SHOULD question your doctor and the medications. you should observe carefully how your body is reacting and if that reaction changes over time.

    some o’ them meds are serious chemicals and they can do serious, deadly things.

    and there’s a sad thing about how mental health patients are often treated: we are often not taken seriously.

    not so long ago i was given a medication that caused me to be unable to control the muscles i needed for focusing my eyes, for swallowing food, for voluntary breathing, and for sitting up. these were KNOWN side effects, although not known to me until after they happened.

    when i said i did not want to take this med any longer, i was offered instead two other medications: one that MIGHT counteract the inability to control my muscles, and a heavy sedative so i wouldn’t care so much. i said i would rather not take the medication.

    they labeled me noncompliant.

    it doesn’t help much to alleviate your depression if the cost of that is a physical life that makes you wish you were dead.

    so it’s a cautionary tale. psychiatric meds can be bad for you, and they can turn bad for you even after years of using them without problem. they can also make your life very much better.

    so just be careful. be a good advocate for yourself, and have someone who will advocate for you. take what meds help you, and be happy they work for you.

    it will be ok.

  30. Greta Christina says

    flask ehrlenmeyer @ #30: I am truly sorry that you had such a lousy experience with psych meds and doctors. And I appreciate that you probably mean well. But “you SHOULD question your doctor and the medications. you should observe carefully how your body is reacting and if that reaction changes over time” still counts as unsolicited amateur medical advice. Anything starting with the words “you should,” when your opinion has not been sought, counts as unsolicited advice. (Especially when “SHOULD” is in all caps.)

    As it happens — and as I made clear in the original post, On Being on Anti-Depressants Indefinitely, Very Likely for the Rest of My Life — I am very much engaged in my medical decisions, and my decisions are being made with my care providers, not by them. But people with mental illness get a bellyful of “You should do this, you should do that, you should do this other thing” — from family, friends, strangers on the Internet. As I wrote in my follow-up piece, Why You Really, Seriously, No Fooling, Should Not Give Unsolicited Amateur Medical Advice to People with Mental Illness (Or to Anyone, Really), Episode 563,305:

    It is depressingly common for sick people — people with mental illness, with chronic non-mental illness, even people with common colds — to get deluged with unsolicited amateur medical advice. At best, it’s annoying; at worst, it undermines your ability to make your own decisions, and your confidence in that ability. When you’re trying to make medical decisions for yourself, it’s already difficult enough without a barrage of uninformed, under-informed, and ill-informed advice filling your head. And it’s already difficult enough without advice that amounts to the message, “You’re doing it wrong. I know better than you. If you want to please me, you’ll do it my way.”

    And for people with mental illness in particular, this is especially difficult. Mental illness has tremendous stigma, which people with mental illness often internalize, and we often (a) feel like we’re letting people in our lives down by having mental illness, (b) feel like having to get treatment for mental illness is a sign of weakness, and (c) are barraged with paternalistic messages telling us that simply having mental illness makes us incapable of making any decisions about our care. Unsolicited advice in this area is more than just annoying. At best, it is patronizing and demoralizing, which itself undercuts our mental health. At worst, it can lead people to make terrible decisions about their mental health care, with devastating results.

    And it’s especially frustrating to get this kind of advice in a post that specifically says that it’s unwanted, and that asks people to to offer it. People with mental illness get their boundaries disrespected on a regular basis. Please don’t add to that. In this blog, unless your advice is being sought, please limit your comments on this subject to discussions of your own experiences. Thanks.

  31. geocatherder says

    Greta, I appreciate this post. I take psychotropic meds, and have to deal with the Concerned People (some of whom are in other ways good friends) who insist on fussing at me. Generally I can get them to shut up without too much love lost between us, but still.

    To the frustrated ‘splainers out there who insist on ignoring Greta’s point, she is totally right in whacking your comments. Grow up.

  32. A. R says

    I’ve been both a provider and a recipient of mental health care, and I can assure you that anyone who says “X is always bad for everyone” or “Y is always good for everyone” is talking out of their arse. Medications work for many people, but not everyone, and some medications may be harmful for some people, while others may be very helpful for those same people. Mental health, more than any other branch of medicine, must be tailored to the patient, due in part to the lack of objective measures of wellness in many cases. Although I now work in emergency medicine, I have considerable experience in psychiatric emergency care and inpatient acute care hospitalization for patients with unstable depression. Antidepressants and other medications are life-saving interventions in these cases.

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