Tag Archives: side effects

On using psych meds

… that Sarah Silverman tweet got me thinking…

There’s so much info and support out there for people taking meds, but nothing for people who react badly to meds.

I’m not sure I ever really talked in detail about my struggles with psych meds.

I tried them briefly in college, but came off of them after a short time (can’t remember why, or how long I was actually on them). Then, 4-6 years later, I was convinced to try them again. It was against my better judgement, but my therapist at the time was adamant that I needed them. I wanted to trust that she had a less biased view of things than I did, and that she was more knowledgeable about it all than I was. I battled her about it for several sessions before I caved and agreed to try them once again.

I had trouble finding a psychiatrist I felt comfortable working with. I must have cycled through 5 or 6 before I found one who I felt listened & cared (read: didn’t try to push the same meds I reported as having not worked when I tried them; wasn’t cold or condescending; sat with me for more than 3 minutes before handing me a prescription). Sadly, she moved out of state after about 3 months, and my search began again.

I really don’t remember much of the details at this moment, but I do know at one point I was taking roughly 15 different meds up to 4 times a day. It started with one med, then another med to combat side effects, and another to augment the first, then another to help with side effects from the one helping with the original side effects, and so on.

The meds didn’t work for me. I kept getting more depressed, more anxious, and more suicidal. I cycled in and out of hospitals. Each time, they added meds, or switched them out, or increased doses, or all of the above. None seemed to help.

They started blaming me for complaining about the side effects. I was called willful and resistant to treatment. I was told I was being manipulative; that I didn’t actually want to be helped; that I was enjoying the depression; that I was not trying hard enough to get better. I was told I would never be able to live without medication; that I needed to accept it as a part of life… at one point, doctors told me that I would never be able to survive on my own because of my level of self-sabotage.

I was seriouslly depressed, constantly anxious, extremely impulsive, and actively suicidal 90% of the time, not to mention my mounting ptsd symptoms (an enormous difference from my demeanor when not on meds, but few people had seem me prior to starting them by this point. Even I was mostly convinced that I would certainly die without meds (which was honestly part of what prompted me wanting to stop them. At least if I managed to kill myself, the pain would end)).

During one of my last dozen hospitalizations, it was strongly suggested that I not be released back to my home, but rather permanently be sent to a residential facility, as I was an inherent danger to myself. The doctors were shocked that I had survived this long. Even less believable to them was that I had a successful life and career prior to my most recent hospitalizations. I had held down a full-time supervisory position, as well as 3 other part-time jobs up until that final year on meds. I would be hospitalized one week, then return to work as soon as I was released. I attended intensive therapy programs during first shift hours, and worked in the afternoons. I taught trauma informed care workshops. I attended professional trainings. I was very high functioning professionally even as I was crashing personally…

I was lucky enough to have family and friends on my side backing my insistence to receive more intensive treatment (mind you, this was 4 years after I started meds, and roughly 40 hospitalizations in by that time). I knew I was metaphorically drowning. I knew the treatment I was getting wasn’t sufficient (most psych units, even in psych hospitals, don’t offer therapy so much as physical containment), but I did not totally know what might actually help. Dr C was a great resource. She helped me figure out that a specialized trauma program would likely be beneficial. She’d also advocated strongly with the doctors at the local hospital to send me to a more intensive program. Between her, my family, and my own insistence, I was finally admitted to a trauma clinic, The Center at PIW.

There, I finally found some meaningful & intensive help. Despite reading my recent history, the psychiatrist agreed to help me come off all the meds. By the time I left there 2 weeks later, I had tapered off most of the meds. Those last ones I was able to come off of with the help of the psychiatrist at the day program I attended following my discharge from The Center.

The first day back to the IOP, the staff commented that I was doing the best they had seen since I first attended there 4 years ago. They said I seemed clear-headed, articulate, calmer… they asked what changed. When I mentioned I was tapering off the last 2 meds, they seemed incredulous. After all, how could the person who was so debilitated for so long be better not taking the thing they believed was her biggest hope at normalcy? Initially, the psychiatrist was ready to refuse treatment because I was refusing to take medication again, but upon seeing how differently I presented, I was allowed to stay in the program. I was, however, requested not to mention that I was no longer taking any regular psych meds. They claimed it was to avoid compliance problems with other patients in the program. I guess I was seen as an oddity.

After my shortest time “completing” the program (3 weeks or so), I was deemed stable enough to graduate. I returned to only doing individual therapy & the trauma group with Dr C.

Since that time (2011), I’ve only tried psych meds 3 times. Each time I noticed the impulsive drive to kill myself return in less than a week’s time. They faded just as quickly once I stopped taking the pills. The depression still hits hard, but suicide is no longer my first and only thought on how to deal with it. I’m also better able to avoid cutting (actually, I rarely think about using it as a coping tool these days).

Doctors still react with shock and disbelief when I deny being on psych meds despite my diagnoses. I’m pretty sure most believe I’m lying when I tell them I only take something for asthma and stomach issues. Even the neurologist did a side-eye when I mentioned the only 2 meds I take aside of the pot.

In a society where pharmaceuticals run the medical industry, and they are the be-all & end-all of mental health treatment, not taking meds is seen as going against medical advice. Hell, we take away people’s basic human rights when they say meds don’t work so they’d rather not take any. They are deemed an immenant danger to themselves, and not competent enough to make rational decisions… all because something we are indoctrinated into thinking is the only way to treat mental health issues harms some people more than it will ever help them.

I can’t tell you how much I loathe the phrases “you just need to find the right meds or combinations),” and “the benefits outweigh the side effects.” Sometimes there is no right combination, and the benefits definitely do not outweigh the side effects (because for some, there are no benefits). I wish medicine understood this…

Maybe we need to start another movement; that sometimes meds do more harm than good, and there’s nothing wrong with choosing not to take them. There are several notations in my records that insist I’ll die within 6 months max if I were allowed to stop all psych meds, yet here I am, 7 years later, more stable than I ever was on the meds. Oh, and check it out, I’m still alive! Who knew that was possible?! 🤔

It’s time we stop forcing everyone with mental health challenges into a medication routine. They can definitely be helpful for some, but we also need to acknowledge that they can be detrimental to others.

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It was worth a shot…

I started hallucinating this morning. I’m guessing it was the meds, since hallucinations aren’t a normal thing for me… it was quite disturbing; black holes were opening up around me, and everything got distorted. The worst was the first one. It came up in front of me while I was driving to work. It took me a few to figure out what happened, and I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of me once I realized it hadn’t just disappeared. 

Needless to say, the other side effects adding up with the hallucinations is enough for me to call it quits on this med. It was worth a shot, but it’s clearly not something my body can handle. 

I text the nurse this am, ultimately telling her I was stopping the med. She’s ok with that. I might try one of the other two next time I see her, but I’m not convinced it’s worth it… I guess we’ll see after we talk in person. 


 Fun with meds (<–sarcasm) 

So… that new med I started is having a strange effect. I’m not sure I know how to describe it… 6 days in, and it feels like my brain is short-circuiting itself. I’m simultaneously experiencing a brain fog/wanting to sleep, and racing thoughts/insomnia/feeling hyper. It’s a very strange combination. My brain feels like it’s buzzing, but also like it’s stuck in thick mud… it doesn’t make sense though, because the two feelings shouldn’t be able to happen at once. They’re contradictory… 

I’m not sure I’m explaining it right, but I don’t really have words for this experience. 

L sees an improvement. I’ve moved off the couch and started doing things again, only I feel like I can’t stop. A few days ago, it was that agitated depression. Today it feels almost hypomanic (but through mud)… 

My brain is running circles around itself. In one moment, I can’t shut my thoughts off as they race around with the million things I need to do; in the next, I can’t stay awake another minute, and I can’t form words or sentences that make much sense (even just in thought). 

I feel like I’ve taken a massive dose of sedative and a massive dose of an upper, and they are both working full-strength at the same time. One takes over for a bit, then the other overpowers it. They go back and forth like that all day & night. 

I’m toying with the idea of at least telling the APRN what’s going on, but then I wonder if I’m not just being anxious about it all… I’ve crashed so hard on meds in the past, but I can’t remember if it felt like this. Maybe this is just my body adjusting to the med, and things will calm down shortly… but what if things don’t calm down? What if they get worse, and I miss the warning signs? I definitely don’t want to end up hospitalized again. It’s such a horrid experience, and they just push more meds. That would be the last thing I need…

Other than the psych side-effects, two of the physiological side effects are sticking out as noticeable. The main one is that my heart rate is definitely up by about 30bpm on average (it’s high to begin with). The other is not really one I care to talk about, but it’s sufficiently annoying…

I dunno. 

Maybe I should just text her to describe the brain buzzing/brain fog thing? Even if for no other reason than to express my frustrations about it… I might not be bothering her if Dr C were not away this week, but not having that other objective set of eyes makes me nervous… maybe just schedule the text for tomorrow so it doesn’t go to her at midnight, and hopefully feel better about at least having mentioned it to her? I dunno…