In September of 2013, I was having problems with my roommate at university. I thought going to a counseling office would help. Instead, I was proclaimed to have had a psychotic break and was sent away to a mental hospital. I was put on Risperdal, Zoloft, and Depkatote. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I spent the next two years being switched around on many medications.
My reaction to medications was not good. My grades plummeted because of the medication I was on. Zoloft gave me manic-depressive cycling that lasted over the course of a few hours. Ambilify made me very hypersexual and I ended up sleeping with 6 guys – something that was out of my character and I had considered I would never do. Yet the blame was put on my Bipolar Disorder.
I was also having bad periods. The periods were blamed on the sex I was having, not having any physical conditions checked. I was on Lithium and another mood stabilizer at the time. I was getting so lethargic that I would pass out on the floor of my dorm room. Later, I found out that my psychiatrist had hidden my low thyroid results away from me when I could have had medication for thyroid problems and was also diagnosed with Endometriosis. I had to get off my medications because my doctor refused to admit anything was wrong with my thyroid or he would be accused of medical malpractice. He was the only doctor in my small town that could help me and thus, I was forced to get off my medications.
Things did not work out for me at university. The reputation I had acquired there from my medications precluded me – that I was a slut, that I was mental, etc. I had to leave the school and move back home with my mother, which I am not proud of. However, I’ve been off medications for two years. I thought then that I could help other people who have been through mental illness.
I made a Quora account in Spring of 2016 and started to write about my experiences with medicine. However, I was met with immediate opposition. I was told that I couldn’t give advice about my experiences because I was not a doctor and that I should feel ashamed for what I wrote about the dark side of psychiatry. It seems that those who get on medication do not want to have the dark side of psychiatry talked about and it is their loud opinion, in the name of “decreasing mental health stigma” that get promoted over the opposition. It was clear to me after a while that nothing in the immediate future would change in the realm of psychiatry and mental health.
Yet I still do think that things could change. I think that those who are on medications and those who are now off medications have a lot of things in common. Those who are on medications are having to gamble on drugs that haven’t changed significantly since the 1980’s and those who are off medications have to both manage their mental health symptoms without medications as well as try not to appear crazy when they criticize psychiatry. My sister has her own blog about her experiences with anxiety that people comment on and I’m happy that medications have helped her, they just haven’t significantly helped me. I would like to be recognized for having to learn more about psychiatry, psychology and mental illness as well as for what I’ve been through as a psychiatric failure but I do not get any attention or praise for what I’ve been through – I’m essentially ignored.
It’s okay. I don’t need to be paid attention to. I understand the importance of people like Carrie Fisher and Demi Lovato speaking out on Bipolar Disorder and trying to decrease the stigma of mental illness. I know then that I’m not the most important person in the world and that my opinion doesn’t matter as much as those who cannot be without their medications.
Yet it hurts me when others shame people for not knowing about the dark side of pharmaceuticals. Sure some are better on medications but there is still a long way to go for pharmaceuticals causing the least harm to the individual. We cannot shame others because they were not indoctrinated by medical school. We should not alienate people because they were announced as “medical failures.”
Yes, pharmaceuticals do work for many and many are happy and don’t want to do anything different. Yet there are some for whom it doesn’t work. We shouldn’t ignore them or silence them because we do not want to hear their opinions. It is only by the public opinion pushing pharmaceutical companies to do research that the medical industry will change.
We need to find ways to prevent psychosis when there is a medical change so that the Germanwings accident doesn’t happen. We need to find more effective medications that do not strain the heart so that people like Carrie Fisher didn’t have to die from heart failure.
So please try to be a little more open-minded. Telling people to shut up because they aren’t credible in your eyes doesn’t change the situation. It is only when we push for pharmaceutical change that people can receive the help they need. Yes, as a society we need to be more aware regarding mental illness. Yet we also need to focus on wholistic wellness of individuals. Even those who have brain injuries can be spared pain by being put on effective medications, not just put on many psychiatric medications and have a deteriorated brain state.
I hope some day psychiatry can get better than where it is. I hope doctors are pushed to go farther than before. I hope school shootings stop happening. Let’s work together to make it happen.