fingerlakeswanderer

fingerlakeswanderer
Birthday
May 09
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cassandra
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Lorraine Berry lives in the Fingerlakes region of New York, although it's her transplanted home. On weekends, she can be heard throughout the area, cheering on her beloved Manchester City F.C. When not writing at Does This Make Sense? or Talking Writing, she can be found hiking with her two dogs, hanging out with her two daughters, eating what her beloved Rob has cooked for her, or teaching creative writing at a small college in the area.

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NOVEMBER 17, 2011 6:29AM

In Defense of Taking Psych Meds

Rate: 55 Flag

As someone who must take a combination of antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds to control the uncontrollable in my body, I refuse to consider myself a drug addict. 

And I find myself, once again, wondering why there is such stigma in needing to take these drugs.When I saw the EP-award winning article on being a 21st century drug addict, my heart sank a little. Not because I don't have sympathy for anyone who has to take the meds, but because it seems we cannot take these drugs without there being a sense of shame that comes attached to them. 

What makes it worse, I think, is that many people still believe that anxiety, depression, bi-polar, and other mood disorders are "all in your head," (excuse the pun) and that somehow, you can either think your way or alternative medicine your way out of the problems. 

If only it were so. 

I have no doubt that people mean well, but I have been taking various antidepressants--finally finding Cymbalta about six years ago--and Ativan or Klonopin for nearly as long. 

Without these medicines, I would be dead. 

I have suffered panic attacks since I was a child. I remember being nine, and being so overwhelmed by the sensations that my body was under attack, that spiders were under my skin, that I wouldn't be able to catch my breath, that each night, alone in my room, I fantasized the dozens of ways that I could kill myself. 

My parents had no idea what I was going through, and assumed I would outgrow it. That I just needed to "get over" whatever it was I was going through at school, and I would be better. 

And I was, for a couple of years. But at age 13, 15, 19, 22, I had periods of such intense anxiety that all of the suicidal feelings came back. 

I didn't really want to kill myself. I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted to stop feeling as if I was about to get hit by a Mack truck. 

I remember that, unable to figure out any other way to cope, I would walk or run for miles. Running and running until I had exhausted myself. Sleeping to escape the feelings. Jolting awake as the next bolt of adrenaline went coursing through my system, and then starting the whole cycle again. 

Things were relatively quiet for a few years. My next spate of panic attacks began a few years into my marriage. Their constant companion was a bone-numbing depression that allowed me to function, but which took all the joy out of my life. Literally. Nothing could penetrate the fog of Eeyore-like dis-ease I felt. 

In my late thirties, things came to a head. I had fire ants in my blood stream. I had crying jags. I threw up constantly as food refused to stay in a stomach that was churning out of control. I began to lose weight--17 pounds in four weeks. And I could not stop thinking of ways to kill myself. 

I went to see a psychiatrist. 

It took a while to find the right drugs for my system, but Cymbalta, which controls both anxiety and depression, and Ativan, which helps me sleep and avoid the bolting awake in the middle of the night with a panic attack, have made my life relatively sane for the past several years. 

I have also accepted that (as I tried in the past), if I go off the medication because I'm afraid I'm addicted, or I feel better, my symptoms will return Oh, not immediately. Not like going through withdrawal. But rather, as my brain chemistry returns to its usual fucked-up patterns, the depression and anxiety will creep back into my life. 

I have an illness. A chronic, life-long illness. I no longer feel ashamed to tell people that I take antidepressants. I no longer hide the fact that depression and anxiety robbed me of some of my younger years. I wonder sometimes what I might have accomplished if, at 22, I had not been crippled by depression when certain opportunities arose and I was too sick to take them. 

I know now that I feel like "myself." It's not that I'm happy all the time, and antidepressants have not saved me from having to go through tough emotional times. Normal tough emotional times, like people dying, or losing things that are important to me. 

What antidepressants have done for me is to bring my brain chemistry to a level that makes me feel as if I can function every day without fear that I'm going to set off a panic attack. (And if you have never had a true panic attack, count yourself lucky.)

 

I am not an addict. I take medication to control a chronic disease. I would do the same if my thyroid didn't work, or my pancreas didn't work, or my heart didn't work. And no one would try to tell me that I could just will myself out of this. 

As it turns out, I exercise every day. I practice deep breathing and mindfulness. I watch what I eat and drink. I make sure I get enough sleep. I'm in excellent health (except for migraines).

I don't sit home and sit on my couch thinking "woe is me." I'm writing. I'm working. I'm happy. 

The alternative is suicidal ideation and a fear that at any moment, I'm going to be debilitated by symptoms out of control. 

Don't call me an addict. 

Call me lucky. 

 

 

 

 

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Lorraine, so many of us can relate. I said it on the other post too: I exercise daily, practice yoga and meditation, eat well, have friends and family I adore, yet in spite of all my best efforts, I still have a glitch. Anxiety has been my constant companion since childhood. My own mother used to say I was "born nervous."
Thank you for writing this so honestly and openly. I hope many people read it, not just those of us in the choir. ~r
Joan--I was reminded how "pray away the gay" and "pray away your depression" share some similarities. Like I would CHOOSE this.
Thank you so much for writing this. I have a dear friend who suffers from depression and I must admit it is hard for me to understand. Thanks for making it clearer to me. r
Lorraine this is very close to home. If my beloved were not such an 'addict', she would scarcely be here.
Bless you for this.
r.
Kudos for this. I've been breaking down the stigma for 18 years since my car wreck, subsequent PTSD, anxiety and clinical depression. What I take makes life manageable and I've tried life without them and it's unmanageable. WE don't choose this, it chose us. Like diabetes or high blood pressure, we have to take them. Thanks again for posting and I hope you are well.
Thank you all for the support. I manage my mood disorder like the chronic issue that it is. Life is good. It's still hard at times. But it's good.
When people say they are addicts because they need sleep medication, I say,"So what?" Where would you be without them? A sleep deprived maniac who is unable to function daily because of the lack of sleep. If people need these drugs to function they should have them and not be put to shame. And those damn insurance companies with their pre-existing conditions, well don't get me started. Great post. -R-
This was well written. Thank you from all the children everywhere who watched as a parent was slowly slipping away. I can tell you as I stood in the hallway of my parent's home watching my Mother lie in bed, unable to rise, I felt as if she was never coming back to me. Selfish of me. As a young adult her mood swings made me angry. I did not understand. I believe my Mother died w/o a
diagnosis that could have made her life easier, brighter.... she displayed every symptom of bipolar disease. Nothing more than a physical illness - never acknowledged or treated. As an adult my heart breaks for the endless difficulties she faced with no support or understanding. Even from her daughter. Be nice to you. Be pleased that you have sought out and achieved the treatment for a physical illness. You are not an addict. You are a woman who found the treatment to adjust her brain chemistry to normal. Or for what passes as normal these days. . This information is sweet for me, to know that an illness of this sort is treatable , finally. Blessings to you. My Mother, a complicated, brilliant woman, would have understood you. Hell, she would have been proud for you. I am sure your family is quite grateful for your personal courage.
Any type of chronic illness takes a toll that most people can't fully understand. There shouldn't be any special stigma attached to mental illness. I'm glad that you were finally able to a combination of treatments (medication, meditation, exercise, etc.) to keep everything in balance and be able to survive and thrive.
I am also a choir member. I need the anti-depressant I take daily to correct the misfiring brain synapses commonly called a chemical imbalance. I view it exactly the same way I view my multiple pills to regulate my high blood pressure. No shame here.

Lezlie
I wonder sometimes if we all just came out of the closet, whether we could remove the stigma of depression. You know, it's not just for artists and crazy people. :)
And by crazy people, I mean me, of course.
I too cannot function without my meds. For depression, for anxiety, for chronic pain. The people who have known me all of my life still like to call me a "drug addict". Okay, I will admit that the opiates I take for pain are addictive. How can they, without living in my body make a judgement about the level of pain I suffer and ignore the years of being forced to try every non narcotic pain reliever in existence? The number of those drugs that made me sick or did nothing for my pain? Do they understand what it is like to live in pain constantly? No, they do not yet even strangers feel like they can call my use of these legally prescribed drugs in to question. I do try to educate but most are unwilling to accept that my pain can be worse than their own, and thus decide that I am just using the drugs to get high or something.

Depression is truly a different bag of cats as it were. I have suffered from this all of my life and without treatment I dissolved into a jumble of nerves and sadness that often propelled a desire to just die to end the misery. Still, I encounter the people who do not understand that there is a physical cause for it. Some refuse to believe it. Without the meds for anxiety and depression I would likely be dead.
Lorraine,
Thank you for such a powerful and needed post. The message you've articulated here will help many who have suffered with both pain and stigma more than you may ever know.

There's truth in the maxim that authors are present in most of what they write. The courage and integrity which motivates so much of your writing lives within this piece.

Rated and appreciated.
I am glad that you have found the right solution for you. I feel similarly about cancer meds that I took, but did not want. Powerful and extraordinarily unpleasant chemicals, but I believe they saved–or we'll see, at least prolonged my life.

Our brains are complicated organs. I've studied and rewired mine through daily meditation over a couple decades, and cannot begin to describe the difference that single practice has made. I've also watched students suffering from deep depression emerge into light with therapy and medication. Self care is up the individual. The worst possible choice is to do nothing, to be that tough independent I've got this bub kind of person. So much of life is suffering to begin with, why not whittle off the suffering that you can.
I wish these drugs had been available in my youth, when I suffered from crippling anxiety. I eventually outgrew it (in my 50s!), but that meant a lot of half-life before then. Psych drugs are as valuable as antibiotics.
I appreciate your perspective here. Unfortunately or fortunately for me the med thing is more complicated. I can function fairly well without psyche meds, relatively speaking of course. Sure I have significant issues with ants --automatic negative thoughts which often plague me when I'm at work or in any public setting. There's also the impulsivity and extreme mood swings. I can't stay focused long enough to get out of the house on time. Also, I can be suddenly and intensely irritable which impacts my relationships with daughter and husband. These are significant issues for me, but I can hold down a job, care for my kid and do all the basic things I need to do to get by. I can't help thinking that 100 or even 50 years ago, before big pharma arrived on the scene, I would have dealt with my problems without chemical help.

I do take the meds because they increase my quality of life tremendously, but do I really need them? I've spent the last several months trying to get fit, hoping a better overall health picture will "cure" me. So far it hasn't. I will always feel a little guilty taking mental meds mostly because I know they are over-prescribed and so often used as a crutch for people who just don't want to do the hard work on themselves. Am I one of those? As long as I take the meds I will never know.
Many of us will be on medication for the rest of our born days to balance brain chemicals. I just happen to take them to reduce the physical manifestations of my chemistry. I cannot imagine what life would be like had I been born before these meds were available. Shedding this mortal coil would've been right there staring me in the face. I am grateful every day for advances in pharma that make our days liveable.
Sorry for the double comment. @Bluestocking babe, I've done the work. I know after the long battle what my needs are and I don't need to try "on my own" anymore. That this is a question for you is a symptom of the societal prejudice of depression. Those people who tell you that you can master depression on your own do not know what they are talking about. Depression is not a "state of mind" it is directly linked to chemical imbalances in your brain. If you had high blood pressure would you be told that you can "master " that without meds? If you had heart disease would they tel you that you can "master" that without drugs? No, so why is it that so many people, physicians included, seem to think that a disease of the brain can be cured by sheer will?
Hi Lorraine, you are lucky! Lucky to be born in an age where we have these meds to take care of the chemical imbalances. It's sad that some people think the need to replace missing or interripted brain chemicals an addiction. Its like saying a diabetic is addicted to insulin or heart failure patients are addicted to lasix amd digoxin.
Ignorance is hard to cure, so is stupidity. Unfortunately a lot of ignorant stupid people make ridiculous statements about what is a real disease. If I had a dollar for every family member of patients that said they need to just snap out of it, or I dont want them taking mind altering drugs, I would be a millionaire.
The joy that returns to a life plaqued by chemical imbalance is a miracle of our modern times. I swear some folks would prefer to return to the dark ages than have a loved one have a chance at life.
Mind body and spirit must maintain balance to be healthy. If a daily pill is needed to keep that balance, then so be it.
Thank you for this honest post. I support what you do and have learned to not be flippant about these drugs. They save lives.
Wonderful and honest post.
I think there's a stigma attached to the word addiction that needs to be lost in some cases. Not every addiction is a bad thing, and in cases like this where it saves lives, it's definitely a good thing.
Excellent post. I see people daily who would not make it without the benefit of these drugs. And you obviously are pro-active in your life, not just hoping a pill will do it. The stigma in this country around mental health care is ridiculous. Bravo for shedding needed light onto it.
Excellent piece. People take medication for all kinds of different things. It shouldn't matter whether it's for diabetes or depression. I wish the medication that I'm on now had been around when I was a teenager so I could have actually enjoyed my childhood instead of being terrified all the time. And I wish my mother had been on medication too -- she, and we, were often at the mercy of her mood swings.
AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!
THE CONSTANT ASSAULT ON PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS IS ONLY A SIGN ON THE FALSE STIGMA THAT STILL CLINGS TO MENTAL ILLNESS. WHY NOT ATTACK HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE MEDS, OR LIPITOR?
Lorraine, I too go through debilitating depression, anxiety, and guilt. You have said it so well here. I'm glad you've put words to it. I have tried to explain it to others and at times succeeded. But have never really gotten rid of the guilt associated with it. I do know that the Western lifestyle choices make us more prone to depression, and we do have to make the right lifestyle choices, too. When bad ones make it worse, I have become very aware that good ones are essential. Thank you for your insightful article...I have shared it.
FingerL,
I joked in a most insensitive way in my egregious post about ,oh what was it, uh, “hating my sisters”, yes, about being an addict to psych drugs, but that was my usual hyperbole fuelled by diet coke. I do not at all feel that way. Gabapentin, an off label mood stabilizer for my bipolar, has probably saved my life these 10 yrs of being properly medicated for bipolar 2. I was only diagnosed at age 33. You can, or perhaps you can’t, imagine how much of a mess I made of my life in my 20’s and 30’s, bounced between immobilizing depression and semi-delusional mania.

I take 6 meds. I take a clonopin when my heart is racing 20 yards ahead of my brain. I take paxil and wellbutrin to get that sluggish brain up to snuff, get that serotonin flowing. Also the other chemicals. For some reason my neural configuration is, well, off. I admit it proudly. I am bi, I say, hi! No, not that kinda bi. Actually, dipolar means the same as bipolar. So I am di. Whatever. I am ill.

I prefer not to call it an illness, just for semantics’ sake. I call it a disorder. Whatever. It is lifelong, and if not treated it will utterly destroy me in one day’s time, I know.

Terrific post.
james
Groucho Marx said he wouldn't want to join a club that would accept him as a member. I, too, am a member of the anti-d club, Prozac (generic) keeps me functioning. Without it, I go off the rails. The worst part, for me, is I don't recognize I'm going off the rails. It is the people around me, loved ones, friends, and others, who get to see that part of me. For years, I would go on the anti-d's and off them, thinking that this time I'm "cured." Why did it take me so long to figure out I "simply" have a chemical imbalance and I needed these meds like a diabetic needs insulin or an angina patient needs nitroglycerin? Because of the stigma society places on mental disorders. Oh, and Lorazapam for the times when I can't stop the anxious and negative thoughts. I'm sorry if you've suffered but so glad we now have access to what might have seemed like wonder drugs on the status of antibiotics to someone like my grandma, who told me she got so depressed that she would go out and sit under the chickens in the coop (back when people kept their own chickens) and let them poop all over her.
Bravo for writing this excellent post! For many, medications are miracle drugs.
@bobbot--just to clarify, I didn't mean to suggest that everyone on mental meds could do without them and cure themselves by "force of will." I was only trying to articulate my situation, which I'm sure is not unique. Having suffered from various psychic abnormalities that no one outside my head could ever fully understand, I would never judge anyone else in that regard. For those here who have found the right meds to keep them stable, I say good for you. It's not always easy to find the right brew.

For those of us who are relatively high functioning without the meds, is it so wrong to ask the soul searching questions? Meds make life much easier for many of us, but is there another way to cope without them? Isn't it at least possible that doctors are too quick to prescribe a problem away? Clearly the growing trend we're discussing here has at least as much to do with convenience for patients/doctors and profits for Pharma as anything else. Shouldn't that concern us? Yes, take the meds if you need them, but we should be careful establishing need. That's all I'm saying
The thought that you "refuse to consider myself an addict." strikes me as similar to saying "I refuse to consider myself green."

I could say that I am addicted to indoor plumbing, but that would strike most people as nonsense. Perhaps I would say that I prefer it or couldn't see living without it. The later meaning that I couldn't see myself wanting or choosing to live without it.

My only point is that part of the the rationale of this post is a reaction to sloppy, imprecise use of language.

Just saying.
Don't call me an addict.

Call me lucky.


Amen, and amen. I have friends and family for whom psych meds have been a very real lifesaver. Lucky, indeed.
This is a beautiful and necessary post. I had a similar reaction to that post, because, like you, I don't see any shame in taking the medication that allows us to be who we *really* are. I've been managing my bipolar disorder with medication quite successfully for some time now, and I have a friend displaying classic, textbook, DSM-IV symptoms of the same, but he refuses to go to a doctor because he "doesn't want to be a drug addict." Look, buddy. You're barely functioning right now, and on the edge of a total collapse. Would you rather be a quivering pile of depressive mush, or a drug addict? Makes my blood boil. You're right: I wonder what would happen if there was less stigma, more awareness? What a world we could live in!
Great post, and so true. I need various things in small doses to focus and sleep and deal with pain, and I'm not stressing about it. I know what it's like not to sleep for days on end because of pain, and I see no virtue in toughing it out. I was frankly appalled by the situation of the guy who called himself an addict. Not only is that a harshly judgmental term and one that makes it harder for someone to come to terms with their problems, but it also seems to so overwhelm the guy that he can't tell that he's putting himself in terrible danger. Taking meds for any condition--cholesterol to bipolar--requires you to try various ones and adjust dosage until you find something that works for you. This guy assumes that because he needs a sleep med, he has no option but to be a victim of Ambien amnesia, a rare and dangerous side effect, instead of doing the obvious, complaining about the side effect and trying something else. Placing this issue into a moral framework means that you cannot deal rationally with it. I just hope they guy doesn't get in his car and drive while in an Ambien fog.
I think many of us are on the same page with this issue. My choice of the word "addict" was in response to a headline. I don't believe the person who wrote the article *is* an addict--I see that person as taking a medication that he needs to lead a normal life.

Addiction is marked by a lot of things. And, to me, there's a difference between a physical dependence on a medication and an addiction--which is compulsive behaviour combined with a physical craving and is much more complicated than simply needing to take a med to stay healthy.

I also agree that people who take pain meds have been unfairly characterized. Last night, debilitated by cluster headaches, I went to the ER to get a shot of toradol, and the triage nurse intimated that she thought I was engaging in "drug-seeking" behaviour. Given that my pulse rate and my blood pressure were sky high--clear indications of the level of pain I was experiencing--it took a lot of calm on my part not to tell her to go fuck herself.

Today, I feel great. And I haven't taken any pain meds. If I were an addict, I would have eaten the whole bottle between last night and this morning.

I really am encouraged by people coming forward and talking about their antidepressants. We really do need to lift the stigma for getting help with what some people simply see as "the blues," but which for some of us is a matter of life and death.
Of all the thing one may wish could be improved about the way we live, probably the thing to be most grateful for is the advancement in both understanding how the brain works and what can be done to correct it's imbalances.

I can't imagine what horrors were bestowed on people for millennium due to a lack of understanding that and even if there was an empathetic perception, any ability to heal it. I know from personal experience and observation of people close to me, how many people have resorted to self-medication of addictive, destructive and grossly inaccurate in their effects, substances, both legal and illegal. How many issues of health impairment, death and damage to others has that resulted in?

As with most issues which tax the capacity of humans to allow for any perception of that in others which is different, or might be interpreted as "weak" (and thus a threat to the herd) mental illness will have to endure the inadequacies of human adaptation as much as anything has in the struggle to reach a place of rational understanding and efficacious treatment.

I've seen the tragic results when those who adhere to the macho bullshit of "toughing it out" cause others to not have been provided with the help they needed (help those who did that to them, needed as well). I've heard lines like, "It doesn't matter if you get your drugs from a psychiatrist, you're still an addict." I know just how stupid, stupid can be, and sadly, stupid frequently rules and destroys a lot of people's lives.

Thank science for the development of brain scans which provide physical evidence of how brains function differently and the development of medications which can compensate for that. And please, do not fly fearfully in the face of ignorance when some asshole says something to you about "toughing it out" or "meditating to calm yourself down". Yes, many other things can help and one should entertain them, from meditation to exercise to cognitive therapy.

But when you need to have the intervention of medication to compensate for structural or chemical brain functions which are screwing up your life and tormenting you, DO NOT allow some ignoramus or fear of being labeled interfere with reclaiming your life!
While I support the use of these RXs to help, we still as a society need to examine why so many people need that much therapeutic intervention. This is not patient blaming, but really looking at the deeply ingrained social patterns (related to sex, work, marriage, food, self realization) that have made it so difficult for a person's physiology to function within a range of, well, functional. There is absolutely no doubt that the expectations to work harder, do more, exceed, excel, achieve, control, punish, and go for "rewards" is part of how we are wired and how we rewire ourselves- with drugs (all sorts), stimulants, food additives (because they are neurostimulants, after all), environmental toxicity. I think about the social expectations we create that demand our psychology and physiology respond- or fail- rather than allowing for more variation and thus, less conflict. I am glad for you that your meds are helping, so few people get the relief they are looking for through meds, and with that, the added pressure to have to do more and more personal inventory of what they are not doing. A friend who is a pharmacist said once, if antidepressants were really giving people what they needed, they'd be selling them on the street corners instead. Sigh. We know that our Dept of Agriculture and the FDA really have very little interest in promoting what is right for people's health versus what they desire for money and profit. Of course, if all of us really were totally paying attention, more of us would need the meds just to cope with reality.
I'm not an addict, I have a medical condition. I've had it for years and I'll continue to have it. Without meds, I'd be in bad shape. Very bad. I want my book to be out there to show people what it's like to have a mental illness. Meds saved my ex's life, though cancer got him in the end. They've saved my life.
I'm not an addict, I have a medical condition. I've had it for years and I'll continue to have it. Without meds, I'd be in bad shape. Very bad. I want my book to be out there to show people what it's like to have a mental illness. Meds saved my ex's life, though cancer got him in the end. They've saved my life.
you completely rock Lorraine
"Call me lucky." Fuck yeah.
Drug-seeking behavior with toradol? It's a damn anti-inflammatory. It's not even a narcotic! I've had similar issues with certain nurses, getting attitude for wanting pain meds while in the hospital after surgery. I just had a new hip. They cut a hole in you, saw the top off your femur, and pound a spike into it. I normally don't get much post surgical pain, but I got a cramp in my leg. The very day of surgery, I got this attitude because I asked for an anti-spasmodic. I was given the cat dose of valium, which didn't help. Ugh. I really suggest anyone with a moralistic attitude toward drugs not become a nurse.
i completely agree that taking psychotropic drugs should not be stigmatized. I take them, my mother does, my father...without them, i wouldn't be here. life before venlafaxine had become to painful to endure.

that said, i have a slightly different take on the addict label. i see it as a term to help those fortunate souls who aren't dependent on them understand that i *need* them, that this isn't some phase, and no, i don't need to "ween myself off of them" as one misguided friend told me once.

i certainly understand your point and don't disagree. i just see it as an opportunity to educate.

here's my pet peeve on the topic: people who think that antidepressants "make" me happy. i know some people have had the experience of having their emotions dulled; i am not one of those. i try to explain that taking a pill doesn't make me happy, it allows me the opportunity to be happy.

anyway,

bon chance
I don't disagree with those who see environmental components to mood disorders. As a friend of mine says all the time, "We are hard-wired to hunt, gather, and move all day long. What must it do to our systems that we sit still for eight hours a day at work?" And we live in a world that beats the crap out of us. That having been said, I don't have explanations for why I have memories of panic attacks from a time before I was even in kindergarten other than to say that something was there from when I was born.
Ha! I was coming back to read comments and had to laugh at "drug seeking behavior" with Toradol! I see Sirenita beat me to it.
Having spent the last third of my professional career in and around physician offices, I can say that the great benefit of worldclass medicines has been overshadowed by the drug-seeking culture. Yes someone used that phrase and it is absolutely true. Sit in a doctor's office for an hour with a phone nurse and you would be horrified by how many drugseekers there are. It's awful and makes life worse for those who are truly in need or in pain. Add that to an insurance industry that makes "step therapy" the choice, patients must "fail" on certain meds before they can move on, and its a sad situation.
Great post. I finally went the Lexapro route a couple years ago, and like you, wonder how much better things could have been in my earlier years. I love it. It saved my life. I'd shout it from the rooftops if I could. No shame, all gain.
Good for you- and yes I believe it is still stigmatized- but not by everyone. The people who think it's "all in your head" have obviously never experienced the mental anguish that these medications are needed to subside. Bravo to you
Lucky, yes but most of all you explain it so clearly and so well!
"I didn't really want to kill myself. I wanted the pain to stop."

It's just that simple. It's funny how that sums up what has been written in in volumes of exquisitely wrought, glorious prose (Noonday Demon, Darkness Visible, etc.).

Thank you.
It's not the patients I have an issue with, it's the casual culture that pharmaceutical companies have created around these treatments that bothers me. Instead of giving patients realistic information about the benefits and drawbacks of these drugs, they minimize side effects and suppress studies that don't follow the marketing narrative they want to create. In my case, Paxil nearly killed me, and I say that knowing the full implications. Not while I was taking it, but when I tried to stop. As medical companies, pharmaceutical companies must adhere to a higher standard of reporting and care for their customers, not market their products like soft drinks. Paxil was a useful treatment, but it caused the greatest mental health crisis in my life. It was a preventable crisis, too.
Look at what happened to David Foster Wallace. He ran out of medicinal possibilities to pull him out of his dark place. There is only so much strength in the will to survive. Thank Scientology sheeple and others of their ilk for aiding in keeping the stigma alive.
I am not ashamed either. Maybe it's like with athletes- if they do too much heavy activity there muscles or bones give out. Maybe us depressives(anxiety sufferers too) just use our brain too much. Or not . Either way, enough is enought with the stigma-- too many of the finest of humanity have needed these medications. I think those who persist it acting as if depression is some whiny weakness are just nasty, and like to make themselves feel superior. I would go so far as to say that we should stop calling it "mental illness."

You make me want to try cymbalta. I thougth that it didn't work. Thanks for the tip.
I am right there with you. :)
You might like this site:

http://crazymeds.us/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage
Crazy Meds: The Good, The Bad, and The Funny of Neuropsychopharmacology

A brilliant and charming hub for people with disorders and those suffering to find the right meds and testimonials on the meds that worked and OH SO VERY did not.
FLW, in a way I think the semantics of the issue are almost beside the point. The body chemistry of some folks is out of whack and if they need remedy A or remedy B+C to function, so be it. It's not a perfect analogy but I need a few cups of coffee daily and I can't remember the last time i didn't have a glass of wine in the evening. Am I a caffeine and wine addict? Beats me but I won't argue the point if you think so. I guess the term 'addict' has enough baggage that I wouldn't be critical of anyone who rejected the term. But to me whether it's fair to use the term "addict" is beside the point. You need them to function so you take them. Too bad you need them but it's not your fault and good on you for realizing that you have to have them

I hope this doesn't come across as critical of you. That isn't my intent.
@Abrawang I think you explained better than I perhaps did with my original post. There are people who will be on medication for the rest of their lives, whether that is for physical reasons, or issues of brain chemistry, myself included. While I don't know that I made my points as clearly as I could, it was more the definition of addict versus the stigma. I consider myself an addict because I'm probably going to spend the rest of my life on some sort of medication. But that word automatically brings up evil connotations to many people. My own family raised me with 1950s values, so having something wrong in the head was hard enough for them to accept without the idea that I'd be on meds for the rest of my life. That was their issue, not mine.
My issue was to break the stigma that "addiction" doesn't necessarily mean you're in the street trying to score, just that there's something you need to function daily and you'll need for a long period of time.
I don't know if I hadn't made that clear previously, but that's all I was trying to point out: how strange it is to wake up one day and realize you're an 'addict.'
I'm an addict to good writing, I'm lucky I found this story. All the best to you. Cheers!
I'll call you lucky about the meds working, especially that you found the right combination. It's horrifying to think of a small child feeling such terrible physical sensations much less an adult. I never experienced anything like that and yet I've been on so many different meds over 40 years, including an anti-pyschotic, I gave up keeping track. If anything I'd ever been given had made me better instead of worse I'd still be taking it.

The over prescription of all kinds of drugs when they aren't going to help have made the pendulum swing the other way. There was a time when everyone had therapy and for some people there were no childhood or adult problems, it was brain chemistry. Now everyone is treated as if it's brain chemistry and behavioral therapy is out of fashion. Everyone has grief, everyone has stress, if a person has a reason to be stressed or grieve then drugs don't change anything. It's the same with trauma like PTSD, drugs don't change normal responses to abnormal situations.

I think the fact that so many who don't need it are medicated, instead of learning what's wrong and how to change our responses, that it's assumed drugs don't work on anyone. The reality is they don't work if that's not the problem. Not everyone is identical, doctors noticed men and women having different anatomy, perhaps some day psychiatry will notice not all humans are wired the same. May it be soon. I think of the 40 years I wasted not knowing what was wrong with me and taking drugs that did nothing or made me worse. I refuse to feel ashamed that I have PTSD and attachment disorder, it's my life and I'll get well if I want, no one else has a say in it.

I'm grateful that last year I finally figured it out and I too have started to get well. Never stop doing what works, I won't. You are very lucky. You are alive.
Lee - you're right that there's a stigma about "addict". But so many people are on one medication or other that I'd hoped it would have lost its negative connotation. But it probably hasn't, at least not completely. Earlier this year for a couple of months I had to take some pills for a minor but irritating condition. I never thought of myself as an addict because it was medicine. The condition went away so I'm off them and while it's easier for me to say, I wouldn't fret over whether it's an addiction or something else. Do what you have to to function in the way you wish to and get on with life. Really, what small-minded person would ever hold that against you?
"Call me lucky" and courageous!

Websters definition of courageous: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

I'd say you're doing a good job in all departments.

It's that connotation of being crazy that adjoins the subject of mental illness. Public awareness, education and understanding of mental illness seems to be growing, albeit at a frustratingly slow pace. Here's to hoping that one day soon, crazy will no longer tag right behind mental illness.
I should say that I am also a fan of the talking cure. I spent several years in therapy, talking about the things that may play in the panic attacks and depression. I learned a lot about myself, and I learned a lot of coping skills (breathing, focusing on the "now") that help a lot. I think a combination was the best thing for me. I have discovered that the talking cure was not enough, and that's part of why I am on the meds I'm on.

Lee--I think your post is courageous. I just don't want you to ever feel shame that you have to take drugs to correct whatever chemical imbalance causes your mood disorder.
You are lucky, except for all the crap you had to put up with to get where you are. I'm back on the search for the right combination of chemicals that can stop my brain from torturing me every day. Also back in therapy because the meds are never enough. Our miraculous brains have some serious defects.
Mumbltypeg: I recently added Abilify to the mix. It's made a huge difference. It's activating, but it was countering the depression end that was outweighing the anxiety.
So pleased to wake up to this on Cover. :)
We think and therefore we are. Or as they say during intense sales training IASMS - I Am Sold Myself. Stay sold! You are more convincing than Patty Duke! Life is difficult today. So many choices, and that is good.
The guys I met from the methadone clinic feared kicking in jail more than death. My father chose to die rather than go to the hospital after being nearly beaten to death - he knew that he would die if he couldn't have a drink.

How ever we choose to manage our "issues" is up to each of us. The stats show what the stats show. What ever trips your trigger (or keeps your trigger from tripping) is up to you. Call it your mother's little helper, a disease, or addiciton - It is your right, as it was my fathers, and my buddies from the clinic who choose to stay on government subsidized dope forever. What is dependency? What is addiciton? Rationalization? Delusion? What can't we convince ourselves of ? God bless us, every one!
Cymbalta is a wonder drug, Lorraine. My wife takes it to control a chronic pain in her neck (no, not me) which she thinks might come from a bone spur she doesn't want to mess with. The Cymbalta has been a blessing. I've been taking a small daily dose of Ritalin for about 10 years now (ADD).

I guess technically she and I are both dependent on our drugs, but they're for maintenance, not pleasure. We're lucky, too.
Of course you are not a drug addict. There is a world of difference between taking medication for health and well-being and using medications for recreational or escapism. I'm an RN and I also take Cymbalta. I had a head injury in 1980. Just because somebody implies you are a drug addict doesn't mean they have a clue what they are talking about.
Thank you for your words, Lorraine. As I read, I am in too many places all at once to say anything here that will make much sense. Remembering the not-knowing of what was wrong with me when I first experienced an anxiety attack and thought I must simply be losing my mind as all of my body was shouting and pounding and screaming at me ... I am in the room with the child you were ... not knowing ... and I ache for her. I am grateful for the woman that little girl became ... and grateful that ... she feels herself lucky ... for having found her way.
The brain is part of the body; it makes no sense to think of a mental condition any differently from a heart condition. I do think there's far less of a stigma attached to mental illness than there once was. And with so many people either affected by it themselves or knowing someone who is, plus the willingness of those like you who speak openly, the stigma will eventually vanish.
Loraine, you remind me of how lucky I am. It is an act of self-respect and self-love to do what you have to do to take care of yourself. I'm glad you are.
I comented over on Patrick Hahn's site to his article on taking psych meds being different than diabetics taking insulin. I think that discourse is good. So, books that foster conversation and thinking are a good thing. However, taking on an author's or a scientist's point of view in toto, without looking directly at the literature is not so good.

Psych meds aren't for everyone. But, I've seen how they can change lives. Thank you for letting us into your life to see how they have helped you.
You have no idea--no, wait you have some idea--how much I can relate.

I cannot BELIEVE, in the 21st century, that you would feel you had to explain why you wouldn't apologize.
Great post. You obviously hit some nerves.
Oh wow I'm really late but I JUST wrote about this. Not as original as I thought I guess...