I work a lot. I mean a lot. So when I have free time I typically clean my apartment, take my dogs out, and sleep. Then I go back to work. I don’t make enough money to afford days off. I don’t always have enough for my bills and food. I pick up as many extra shifts as I can so I can make ends meet. It’s stressful. It’s exhausting. But I am managing. I’m managing life better than I have in a very long time.
I have been off all medications for a while. I don’t even take the tiny doses of Lexapro to ward off the brain zaps anymore because I no longer have brain zaps. My brain now functions 100 percent on its own. And you know what? It’s doing a way better job than it did with medication. So much better in fact that I’m now certain that the drugs played a huge part in my mental health decline and severe suicidal ideation.
I have had a pretty difficult last four or five years. My mental health began to fall after I went through IVF for someone I loved and wrongly assumed loved me (enough) too. After the IVF and subsequent egg donation, my mental health plummeted. I was having a very difficult time dealing with my extreme emotions as well and the added grief of my own loss of fertility, my newly acquired health problems, and the trauma of everything involved with the extreme premature birth of the twins, death of one of the twins, and sudden drop what I believed was my family life. On top of this, I had to figure out where I was supposed to fit into this new family I was promised to be a part of, but wasn’t really. It was all so triggering for me, and probably for anyone. But it was especially triggering for someone with my history of abandonment, and extreme longing to belong to a family.
Within five months of going through IVF for my friends, I was on psych meds and in therapy. It was jolting how fast I fell, and kept falling. From the day I first sat down with a psychiatrist, my mental health slide downhill. Only it was a fucking landslide.
I went to a doctor and a therapist asking for help with my present issues, as well as my past of foster care and severe abuse. What I got instead were drugs that made it even harder for me to function and mental health professionals who looked at me as a diagnosis and symptoms. When treatment didn’t work for me, I was given harsher, more judgmental labels like the ever damning, “Borderline Personality Disorder.” This is a label they give to many people when treatment doesn’t really work for them. I reached out for help, but what I got was the opposite of what I needed.
I was suicidal as a child, but when I look back, I realize that I was also on psychotropic meds then as well. I began to refuse meds in my teens and my life stabilized. I was never suicidal again, until I began to take meds as an adult.
Life has NEVER been easy for me. I have to deal with things that are far more difficult than the average person has to deal with ever in their lives--Foster care, growing up constantly moving and experiencing rejection, severe childhood abuse including rape, child pornography, extreme neglect, etc… All that comes with a price, sure, but I have always been very resilient. More than resilient. I went from being a failure to thrive baby and child, to mute, to award winning violinist, straight A student, to graduating high school in the top 5 percent of my high school class even though I went to seven high schools and spent the last six months of my senior year homeless. I put myself through college, including living in my car on school breaks. I maintained long term romantic relationships. I volunteered. I worked. I functioned. I lived.
I still struggled emotionally and I still do today. I still have PTSD. I still have anxiety. I still have insomnia. I still have nightmares and panic attacks. I still feel really sad and hopeless sometimes. The difference is, I CAN BREATHE since coming off the meds. I was drowning. My ability to cope was dying. Each and every stressor just piled on and I began to disappear into this sea of mental instability. I had no hope. I couldn’t see beyond all the pain, loss, and fear that had engulfed me. I couldn’t SEE anything. I was lost and blind without a guide.
The doctors and therapists never once stopped to question if any of my symptoms were caused by the meds. When I told them Effexor, for example, was making my vision blurry, they told me it would go away. I would have a massive panic attack within half an hour of each dose of Effexor when they first started me on the drug. Instead of taking me off of it, they just added more drugs. When I told the doctors and my therapists that I was having very scary thoughts and impulses that didn’t start until Effexor came into my life, they never once attributed this to the drug, even when my behavior and thoughts became drastically different.
The last time I was hospitalized, I told my therapist that I wanted to stop taking Effexor. It increased my panic attacks dramatically. It made my suicidal ideation unbearable. It gave me extreme insomnia, extreme nightmares, and severe dissociative episodes. I had one severe panic attack in front of my friend, that I met on this blog, which she said looked like a seizure. I began having impulses that scared me. I had the urge to push people in line at Starbucks. I didn’t want to hurt them; I just wanted to see what would happen. I had the impulse to drive my car into poles, to eat dangerous inedible things, to cut off all my hair, to do other very impulsive and dangerous things. I began to act in ways that was very unlike me, like for example, walking out of a store with pork despite that fact that I am a vegetarian and would never eat pork because of the affection I had for the pigs I raised as a child (not to mention the fact that I don’t shoplift). I was dissociating at this time.
When I told my treatment team this, they called the police and the police come to my apartment for a welfare check. They came to check on me in front of all my neighbors, put me in handcuffs, took me to the station, then took me to the hospital where the doctors and nurses there held me down and forcibly removed my clothing despite my pleading for them to let me keep my pants on because the hospital gown alone was triggering for me. When I was raped as a little girl, I had to have reconstructive surgery which required me to spend days in a hospital gown while people did very violating medical procedures to my body. The doctors treated me, not with compassion and understanding, but with force and judgment. They treated me like a “mental patient.” FYI, I have been to the hospital many times for gallbladder issues and ALWAYS kept pajama pants on without ever having a problem.
When I was hospitalized for the last two times, they kept me there for weeks, forcing me to take these same medications or stay in the hospital longer, so I took the meds plus the ones they added.
Add up all of the side effects from the meds on top of dealing with a legal case involving me as a child in child pornography, having the family I thought I’d created and built with friends tell me that they didn’t want me around anymore, nor could I see the child I helped them create anymore, losing my job, not being able to find work, my failing 7 year relationship, my foster mothers appearing and disappearing, my biological mother’s cruelty, and my severely unstable relationship with a therapist who constantly made threats of dumping me...
My obsession with suicide started at the same time I started psychotropic medication. It got worse and worse until I acted on it. I had all of these things happening in my head, all of the time. My brain was replaying my abuse in my head over and over again. I was getting raped, beaten, abandoned, abused, and screamed at over and over again inside my head. I began to have severely debilitating body memories, and long periods of depersonalization and dissociation. I was triggered ALL the time. My brain could not cope. I asked a therapist and a doctor for help, but what I got did not help me. What I got hurt me, until thankfully I could no longer afford treatment. I stopped treatment, not because of wisdom. I stopped treatment because I no longer had the money to pay for it. So in a way, homelessness saved my life.
I stopped taking the meds. That process was very very difficult. My stability plummeted. I had severely uncomfortable and alarming physical and psychological side effects for quite a long time. But now that I am off of these meds and no longer seeing a therapist who was doing more damage than good, I am once again functional. I still struggle. I still have flashbacks, nightmares, hopelessness, insomnia, depression. I still have panic attacks and dissociative moments. None of that has gone away. The only thing that has changed is my ability to cope with it. My brain is no longer so overloaded all the time. I don’t feel like I am on the verge of complete eruption. I don’t think about killing myself every moment of the day. On October 10th, it will be one year since I have cut myself or self-injured in any way. I have had maybe four drinks total this year. I have not had one sip of Nyquil. I go to work 50-70 hours a week. I get out of bed when I don’t have to. I think about the future.
When I look back at the last four years I am angry. I am angry at all my doctors and therapists. I am angry at the hospitals. I am angry at my friends who abandoned me when I was so vulnerable and alone. I lost a lot these last four years. More than most people do in a lifetime. But I’ve gotten some things back this year. I got hope back. I got myself back.