When Medications Go Wrong

For years, I’ve pretty much been medicating myself.  I take my scripts home and medicate how I see fit for my situation.  I realize that makes me medication non-compliant.  The trouble I come to is my trust in doctors.  I have been burned so badly before that I find I have a lack of faith in them to know how they are really treating me.

When I was in my teens, and being treated for Major Depressive Disorder (misdiagnosis – strike one), I was put on high doses over a slew of medications for years with little result (overmedication – strike two).  I suffered extreme side effects, with little done to relieve them.  I took Zoloft in increasing doses over a three year period.  I continued to complain of extreme fatigue, anxiety, motion sickness, and periods of flu-like symptoms.

The doctor’s answer?  More medication.  It came to a head when I found that if I sat still for too long, I would drift off to sleep.  Sitting in school became impossible, and I was sleeping fourteen to sixteen hours a day.  Eventually, I was put on 300 mg of Zoloft with Provigil to combat narcoleptic symptoms.

It was at the doctor’s suggestion that I continue to exceed maximum dose and go to 350 mg that my mother finally put her foot down.  “Put her on something else.  We’ve put three years into this, and it clearly isn’t working.”  And much to my doctor’s chagrin, I was switched to Lexapro.

Wrong answer.

Immediately, I started to have dissociative symptoms.  I recall laying in my room, laying on the floor, and staring at my ceiling in the dark.  My mother stood in my doorway, just observing me.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I answered blankly.

Yes, I was finally awake.  But, every moment was torturous.  I lost my sense of self, and started to drift away.  My memory began to fragment, and I sunk into a deep, desperate depression.  I was frantic and crazed, while feeling numb and blank at the same time.  I became paranoid, and started to assert that everyone was doing things against me.  They were intending to harm me, and I started to give meaning to harmless comments and phrases.

I attempted suicide several times in the first month.  The cutting became so bad that I was doing it in rather public places.  I was caught one time at my boyfriend’s house, and I had a dull exacto set ripped off of me and immediately chucked into the local creek.

We were unaware of all of the side effects at the time, because all of the medications I was placed on were brand new.  When a pharmaceutical representative left her office prior to my visit one day, it became clear that I had become an experiment to brand new medications.  I was taking expensive, largely untested medications for her financial benefit.  Strike three.

I had gained thirty-five pounds over a six month period.  I was 4’11” and 165lbs.  That put me at a BMI of 33.3, and in the obese range.  And despite all of my best, and even worst, and unhealthy efforts, I still couldn’t manage to get my weight below 145lbs.  I was starving myself on 900 calories a day, and I still hovered around obesity.

I couldn’t afford my medication once I was kicked off of my parent’s insurance, and I just decided that since it failed to ease my symptoms, I would stop taking the medication entirely.  They failed to mention that if I attempted to stop the medication cold, then I would be stricken with the worst withdrawal I had ever known.  It was a good thing my parents had been through this before with my father, because they knew how to ween me off.

It took me years to get the rest of that weight off.  But, by then, the medication had already done long lasting damage far worse than just weight.  I had begun to develop a drinking problem.  I had engaged in risky sexual behavior due to hypomania.  And it sent me walking with bad eating habits.

After that, I distrusted doctors and medication entirely.  I had lost faith in mental health treatment.  I was left with a feeling that I didn’t have a disorder at all, and instead, it was just me.  I was convinced that I wasn’t treatable.

It took a lot to make me realize that I was in desperate need of treatment.  I had taken psychology courses and was suggested by several psychologists in my college to have bipolar disorder.  I knew my behavior wasn’t “normal”, just as I had always suspected.  It took the my marriage, my depleting mental health of my husband, and the birth of my son to encourage me to start treatment again.

Three years, four doctors, and a another slew of medications later, and here I am, again the victim of overmedication and bad medication choices.

Recently, I stopped my Abilify.  Admittedly, it was because I noticed an interaction between the Abilify and my weekend consumption of alcohol.  I started to find that I would fall asleep soon after taking it on Friday’s while we drank.  I decided that I would just stop over the weekend, and continue during the weekdays as normal.  But, eventually, I just forgot to take it at all.  And soon, I started to notice an improvement in my worsening condition.

Suddenly, I was able to think again.  I started to feel more like myself.  I became more aware of what I was thinking and feeling, and I finally started actually living in the world around me.  It actually felt like living again.  And that’s when I noticed the weight I had put on.  I had fell victim to Abilify’s weight gain, among other things.

I can blame the dissociative symptoms on Abilify.  It had created an emotional flattening, and I started to dissociate from myself and my world.  It had robbed me of my ability to write and care for my family appropriately.  I wasn’t feeling, so I wasn’t caring.

The anxiety?  Well, I recently started to run out of a supply of Wellbutrin I can’t really afford right now.  I started to cut back to make ends meet, and I discovered that was starting to subside.  Other than rebound depressive symptoms, I was feeling better.  It didn’t matter to me anyway.  I was still going through crying jags, whether I was taking the Wellbutrin or not.  The difference was between whether they were loaded with distressful urgency to cut or not.  I decided that I would prefer to keep my near streak of four months without cutting.

I don’t blame my doctor.  He’s an old school doctor who works off of the biological model and treats symptoms.  I have declined therapy several times, though my requests to be seen since have not been honored.  All of my symptoms point to mild psychosis in general, aggravated by extreme life stressors.

I blame myself for not listening to myself and taking action sooner.  Treatment happens on both ends, and I have not been holding up my end of the bargain.  I have not been mood charting, and I have not been notating subtle symptoms.  It has become abundantly clear to me since my extreme meltdown and psychotic break during the summer that I had been probably Bipolar 1.5 all along.

Though I don’t experience full on mania, I do experience mild psychosis, practically all of the time.  I have not been pressing the issue about invasive thoughts, paranoia, “The Voice”, or any of the mild hallucinations that I experience.  Only when I had my break did I bring it to my doctor’s full attention.  And I was met with extreme medication.

Personally, I’m at a loss as to what to do.  I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t.  I noticed last night that “The Voice” has returned, even if it’s benign (right now).  I don’t want to be overmedicated, and I can’t risk gaining anymore weight.  The weight is worse for my mental health than anything else.

And it completely screws up my bodily function.  Now, I’m experiencing weight related problems again.  My knees and back hurt.  I have acid reflux near to the point of anorexia again.  Sexual dysfunction is destroying my sex life, my self-esteem, and hurting my marriage.  And I’m back to full on social anxiety, because I’m too self-conscious to function.

But, at the same time, I’m aware that I need some kind of medication.  While, for now, I’m better off without it, the day will come where I am asked to step up, and perform at a higher function.  My family, including Finn, has been very great about my general lower function and picking up a lot of the slack for me.  However, this won’t last forever.

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Just Snap Out of It

Society has developed some seriously bad attitudes toward mental illness.  It’s no surprise.  We see it attached to the stigma of it.  We’re treated like lepers, as if this were a terribly contagious thing.

Depression is no exception.  Today, a lot of people have been discussing the topic of the “Just Snap Out of It” phenomenon that occurs out there.  Honestly, there is a saying out there about how if a person hasn’t experienced it, then they can never truly know.  A person who hasn’t experienced clinical depression, either in the form of MDD or BP depression can never truly know it’s depth and breadth.  It is an all encompassing monster that claims every last bit of life and any possible joy that can come from it.

Having Bipolar Disorder, I am a person who naturally experiences some sometimes pretty obvious mood swings.  And the attitudes toward it are so completely off.  I have never had a person treat me poorly while I was in a manic episode.  Not one.  Not even when the plainly awful behaviors were showing.  Each person seemed to find it charming, amusing, or interesting.  Even when there were moments where I was so out of control that I was scared out of my wits, not a single person around me seemed to notice that there was something absolutely wrong with it.

No, my energy and spirits were high.  I would act impulsively, and people would take it as spontaneity.  I’d be overly, annoyingly chatty, and rudely interrupting others, but they took it as being outgoing.  Everyone seemed to think that was a sign that I wasn’t depressed anymore.  They seemed to think that it was some kind of miraculous recovery from “being like that”.

People only seem to take notice when I am depressed or mixed, like it’s some kind of disease that I choose to be afflicted with.  And the comments are absolutely endless, because everyone seems to have their own opinion about it.  It’s as if they consider themselves to be the authority on depression, anxiety and sadness in general. I will constantly hear phrases like, “Get over it” and “Get a grip” as if just snapping out of it were an option for me.

Meanwhile, people without mental health diagnoses start flinging clinical terms around, like they had some true application to their fleeting, shallow emotion.  For instance, “Oh, I’m so *bipolar* today”, instead of just saying that they are moody, or women arbitrarily making a comparison between PMS and Bipolar Disorder.   Or “I’ve just been so depressed lately”, to reference a little bit of discontent or sadness.

It’s not cute. It’s not funny. No one with those diagnoses thinks that it’s witty that someone is taking a serious clinical term with so much guilt and stigma that it could bring down a religion, and applying it to their BS, frivolous emotions!

It does everything it can to minimize those conditions.  It puts it in a light that we have some kind of real control over it.  As if it were something that a person can just “snap out of”.  It implies that a person chooses to be disordered.  It also puts a shameful connotation of attention seeking behavior.

Yeah, it’s the life, let me tell you. If I were doing anything for attention, it wouldn’t be this. It would probably be something more hilarious, like plastering myself with an obscenely worded banner and rollerblading through Downtown. Depression isn’t newsworthy, but that sure is.  Or maybe I’d be doing something a little more productive or noteworthy, like finding a cure for cancer.  But no, my depression is just that interesting that I would choose to gain that much needed attention from people I don’t even know or care about.

I have to wonder if the general public has to be so naive that they would actually be jealous over it.  So much emphasis is put on the “just get over it” ideals, as if that were possible. If I could will myself out of this state, don’t you think I would do it already? It would be more logical to think that I want to reclaim my life and be a productive person.  But no, according to others who are ignorant enough of mental illness, I am perfectly content to have disordered behaviors.   Sure, who doesn’t love ignoring their kid because the voices just got too loud? Personally, I love gripping my ears and screaming, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!!!!”

And as a result of this blatant ignorance, I am really starting to believe that some are just plain jealous.  Because, they seem to think that those with disorder aren’t being responsible for their emotions and behaviors that result.  I certainly have quarrels with wanting to thrust a sense of selfishness and entitlement out there, because it’s what I have to do to take care of myself and my own in this world.  It’s those same people that shove themselves and their ideals down other people’s throats, only to make them feel bad. Misery loves company, and we’re perfect targets, right?

The point is this.  If a person is out there reading this and getting offended, it’s time to take a step back and think hard.  Is it so fair to be so judgmental?  Isn’t it about time to take a look from another perspective?  Does a person with a congenital disorder choose to be symptomatic?  It would be an entirely different story if I were refusing treatment, but like anyone else, I am keeping my appointments and taking my medication according to doctors orders.  We don’t blame someone for their symptoms when they have a seizure.  Why should this be any different?

Let me assure everyone.  If could have snapped out of this disorder and been a “normal” person, I may have done it, instead of living this ongoing nightmare.

Buyer Beware: Medicating Children with Psychiatric and Behavioral Disorder

 I wrote this in college in a course.

BUYER BEWARE: MEDICATING

Buyer Beware:

Medicating Children with

Psychiatric and Behavioral Disorder

Tiffany M.

CM220-17

        If you discovered that your child had a disorder, you’d do anything to fix it, right?  Some parents are going to great lengths to “fix” their children, including extensive pharmacological therapy.  In fact, the incidence of children using prescription medication has more than tripled in the last twenty years.    However, it does not statistically make sense that an epidemic of psychiatric illnesses and behavioral disorders would present so suddenly.   This is cause for great concern when it comes to unnecessarily medicating our children.  Therefore, many children with behavioral and emotional disorder do not require pharmacological treatment, because of the questionable existence of disorder, risky and sometimes unknown side effects of medication, and serious ethical concerns surrounding the topic.

Disorder is a term used frequently in the field of Psychology and in Psychiatric practice.  Merriam-Websters defines disorder as “to disturb the normal functions of” (Merriam-Webster Online.  2010.)  A childhood psychiatric disorder or behavioral disorder would, in this vague terminology, cause dysfunction in certain aspects of their life, if not globally.  However, being met with challenges and discomfort is a recognized part of the natural process of maturing into an adult.  The way in which each individual handles these challenges and expresses themselves uniquely is part of their innate personality.  When we begin naming personality traits as being dysfunctional or part of a disorder, then we begin classifying unique behaviors as distinctly acceptable and unacceptable.  For example, there is a new birth control medication on the market named Yaz, that has been named the only oral contraceptive that will reduce mood swings during a menstrual cycle.  Many teen girls have been prescribed Yaz for a naturally occurring ailment!  Yet, many will not hesitate to classify “mood swings”, however small or brief, as symptomatic of a disorder, when it is really just a part of the regulation of hormones in the newly developing sexual system; thus, it is a part of a maturing woman’s life.  Then it will become a question of whether an active, extraverted child has symptoms of ADHD, a shy, sensitive child has Major Depressive Disorder, or a socially awkward child has Pervasive Development Disorder.  Even the DSM-IV states that “neither deviant behavior nor conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are mental disorders” (DSM-IV. 1997.)  It is a subjective point of view of what is “normal” and “abnormal” childhood behavior that makes the diagnosis.  The point is, children are still in the process of developing and their expressive symptoms are not necessarily resulting from a suspected disorder and may better be explained by environmental or physical stressors.  It may be better to take into consideration that this may just be the child’s response to their environment, provoked by their unique personality instead of haphazardly slapping on a label and pumping the child full of medication to make them comply with society’s idea of normality.

It is these reasons and more that there is a suspected epidemic of over-diagnosis and therefore over-medicating children in our country.  Labels such as ADHD, behavioral disorder, and emotional disorder are leading parents searching for answers and doctors and pharmaceutical companies to provide them in the form a pill to answer their prayers.  “American children are taking four times as much psychiatric medications as any other country in the world” (Frontline, 1999) although the rest of the western world has the same medical technology and advancements.  One of the reasons may lie with the legislation of free education and related services for those with disabilities, known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act being passed into law in 1990.  Many parents and educators saw the advantages of additional assistance, services, and educational grants.  The average number of children taking medication in two to three in each classroom (Frontline, 1999).  “About ten percent of ten-year-old American boys are taking such medicine” (Washington Post, 2006).

There are a great deal of often overlooked or negotiated risks for taking prescription medications, including cardiac arrest and suicide.  In October 2004, the Food and Drug Administration released a list of psychiatric medications suspected to increase the risk of suicide in children and young adults (National Institute of Mental Health. 2010).  The National Institute of Mental Health sought to investigate this claim further.  They discovered in a 2006 study that there were no completed suicides by a vast increase of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (National Institute of Mental Health, 2010).  However, many of these medications are fairly new, such as Abilify and Yaz, and have not had been thoroughly tested.  Yaz, an oral contraceptive used to treat mood swings associated with menstrual cycles, is now showing a higher incidence of women developing life threatening blood clots.  Even medications that are much older are starting to show new effects when prescribed to a larger population.  The Washington Post reported in 2006 that ADHD medications, including Ritilin, first created in 1955, were about to carry their own “black box” warning concerning the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.  Many medications of all varieties, including Yaz and Lamictal, have warnings about Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.  Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a life threatening skin rash resulting in an allergic reaction to a medication, therefore it is possible that it can happen with all medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers.  Plainly said, there is no safe medication.

Long term side effects and consequences of many medications are still very much unknown.  However, researchers are starting to have an inkling and the prognosis is bleak.  Anti-depressants are found to cause neurogenesis, or new brain cell growth, but the implications for children are unclear (Homes, 2005.)  Evidence from research concludes “that the use of neuroleptic and psychotropic medication makes long-term, if not permenant changes in the brain structure” (Sparks and Duncan, 2004.)  Unfortunately, there is no research available for lifelong usage effects since prescribing these psychiatric medications to children is a fairly new trend.  In fact, it is advised that long-term treatment of adults on the same medication must be reviewed, such is the case in Lamictal.  Lamictal is the only FDA approved medication for treating Bipolar Disorder, besides Lithium.  Research on the Lamictal website is provided but only for as long as 18 months.

Medications also have side effects that are not life threatening but carry huge consequences.  Many anti-depressants and benzodiazapines, prescribed for anxiety, cause weight gain and drowsiness.  This may adversely affect their already damaged self-esteem and their overall functioning, both in the academic and social area.  Oppositely, medications for ADHD may cause patients to lose weight and while that may be desirable for females, it may not be for males, who are the typical patients.  Many mood stabilizers cause hair loss, irregular and painful menstrual cycles, and acne.  Sometimes, in the cases of sleep and appetite changes, doctors will prescribe another medication to combat the side effects.  (Breggin, 2010).  Although psychiatric medications have been proven to be effective in a number of cases to treat a disorder, they may have unwanted side effects when it comes to an aspect of their personality.  Many patients with Bipolar disorder report feeling “emotional deadening” when using mood stabilizers.  Others who are prescribed these medications, particularly those who are the more creative type, feel less like themselves and the medication “completely took your inspiration away” (Smith, 2010).  This leads us back into the original argument that some dysfunctional traits associated with disorder may be an integral part of one’s fully functioning personality.

Then, there is the concern of misdiagnosis.  Often, mood disorders can be misdiagnosed (DSM-IV, 1997.)  Major Depressive Disorder may be a result of an environmental cause, such as a bad home or school experience.  Bipolar Disorder is often misdiagnosed as Major Depressive Disorder, Schizophrenia or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder when either the depressive or manic episode is more prevalent.  Most of the symptoms that occur in childhood Bipolar Disorder are atypical (Weller, 2002.)  A single misdiagnosis can cause years of agony for the child and delay the psychological help that is desperately needed.  Not only are these children still plagued by a disorder, but they are treated with potentially toxic medications that do nothing to ease their symptoms, often reaching a disturbingly high dosage.  The illusion that is created when a host of medications do not work is that these children are damaged beyond repair.  Many teens may seek to start self-medicating by using illicit drugs and alcohol.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse examples comorbid mental illness by stating that “people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders” than the general population (NIDA, 2009.)  All of these issues combined can generate the potential for more serious problems like delinquency, promiscuity, delayed development in the cognitive and social areas, poor academic performance, and dropping out of school altogether.  Worse, misdiagnosis can lead to death.  One family had both of their daughter’s lives taken, one by overmedication and the other by misdiagnosis.  Two daughters in the Hall family were both diagnosed with ADHD.  One, Stephanie, died the very same day her medication was increased.  The other, Jenny, began to have seizures and was later found to have brain tumors that mimicked ADHD.  It is wise to have a second opinion and have all of the other factors checked into before settling into a diagnosis.  According to Janet Hall, “Don’t trust your doctor. Question him over and over. If you are not happy with what he says, if you have an intuitive feeling that something doesn’t seem right, it’s not. Get second and third opinions. It may not seem reasonable to have to go to that extent, but if it’s at the price of your child, it is” (Null, 2001.)

These concerns raise a great deal of ethical issues revolving around the issue of medicating children.  Children certainly have rights, but those rights are being violated when they are forced to take medication.  One mother, Robin, went as far as getting a court order to force her son back on medication (Frontline, 1999).  Children in psychiatric wards are being dosed through “chemical restraint”. (The Columbus Dispatch, 2005.)  Children should have a voice.  Some would say that highly medicating a child borders on abuse.  Forcing children to take medicine when they refuse violates their rights.  After all, it is their bodies and their minds.  The long term consequences are their own to bear.   It should be their decision ultimately, because we cannot “discount the accuracy of the youngest voices to tell us what is working and what might help” (Sparks and Duncan, 2004.)  Honestly, professionals and parents alike only rely on circumstantial evidence, colored by personal emotion and investment.  If a parent puts faith in a medication to solve the problem, then the slightest progress can be magnified.  However, the only person who really knows is the child.

Contrary to popular belief, many children who remain unmedicated or are only medicated for a short period of time have a great prognosis.  In one of the longest research studies done on the performance of Ritilin versus Behavioral Therapy for ADHD, Ritilin patients only slightly outperformed the BT group.  After a six month follow-up, the BT group was maintained throughout the 14 month study.  More impressive, the BT group was the only intact group after the 24 month follow up!  Most parents see the best results through at the very least combined therapy, and the medication is often short-term when it is felt necessary.  That is why “nonmedical intervention particularly important because effects of stimulant medication, though beneficial in the short term, do not last beyond medication termination” (Sparks and Duncan, 2004.)  The same goes for any medication.  Once the medication is terminated, the noticeable changes and advancements seem to disintegrate.  In many cases, Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Thearpy are a better route to go.  Although they may not produce the instantly gratifying results that American’s are so accustomed to, the long term benefit outweighs everything.  As we’ve previously discussed, no medication is safe and therefore cannot be expected to be maintained for life.  Therefore, if we build the skills within the child to manage their condition, then they can live medication free and have full, happy lives.

In the end, it’s all about the happiness and health of the children.  Many parents are desperate for the quick fix to the problem, due largely in part of parental anxiety.  The other part is most likely the strain that disorder brings into the family and their lives.  Yes, medication will provide the relief that parents and children may be looking for, but will it in the long run?  Many times, we’re used to focusing in on the smaller picture, the point of the problem, rather than standing back to examine the bigger picture.  Parents and doctors do not stop to think seriously about the dire consequences that medicating their children and patients may have.  Children have needlessly died, been brutally tortured without having a hand laid on them, and suffered at the hands of medical science.  Parents beware; fight for your children’s lives, protect your children’s rights, question everything and get as many opinions as you need before taking the leap into medicating your precious babies.

References

Antidepressant Medications for Children and Adolescents: Information for Parents and Caregivers. (2010, March 16). NIMH. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/child-and-adolescent-mental-health/antidepressant-medications-for-children-and-adolescents-information-for-parents-and-caregivers.shtml#Bridge-JAMA

Antidepressant Use in Children, Adolescents, and Adults. (2010, March 2). U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273

Antidepressant Use in Children, Adolescents, and Adults. (2010, March 2). U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273

Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Disorders – InfoFacts – NIDA. (n.d.). National Institute on Drug Abuse – The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/comorbidity.html

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV). (2004, May 15). Psychology Classroom at AllPsych Online. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://allpsych.com/disorders/dsm.html

Gaviria, M. (Director). (2001). FRONTLINE: Medicating Kids [Documentary]. USA: Pbs (Direct).

Holmes, L. (2004, June 16). Should Children Take Antidepressants?. Mental Health – Information on Mental Health. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from http://mentalhealth.about.com/cs/psychopharmacology/a/kidzoloft.htm

Lanham, T. (2010, January 14). Mindy Smith on the rebound. San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.sfexaminer.com/entertainment/Mindy-Smith-on-the-rebound-81337537.html

McEvoy, V. (2008, August 11). Go slow on medicating children. Boston.com. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2008/08/11/go_slow_on_medicating_children/

Mercola. (2000, August 13). US Courts Forcing Parents to Medicate Children. Natural Health Articles – Latest and Current Health News and Information by Dr. Mercola. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2000/08/13/courts-adhd.aspx

NIMH · Mental Health Medications . (2010, February 24). NIMH · Home. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/complete-index.shtml

Null  , G. (n.d.). The Drugging of Our Children. American Family Rights Association :: The Voice of America’s Families©. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.familyrightsassociation.com/bin/white_papers-articles/drugging_our_children/#1

Pyle, E. (2005, April 25). Forced medication straitjackets kids. The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.dispatch.com/live/contentbe/dispatch/2005/04/24/20050424-A1-00.html

Sparks, J., & Duncan, B. (2004). The Ethics and Science of Medicating Children. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, 6(1). Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://psychrights.org/research/digest/ADHD/MedicatingKids.pdf

Stevens-Johnson syndrome: Causes – MayoClinic.com. (2009, April 10). Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – MayoClinic.com. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stevens-johnson-syndrome/DS00940/DSECTION=causes

Vedantam, S. (2006, February 10). Warning Urged for ADHD Drugs. washingtonpost.com. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/09/AR2006020902325.html

Your Legal Right To Refuse Medication. (n.d.). Advocacy, Inc. – Home Page. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.advocacyinc.org/IR8.cfm

Zimmer, G. (n.d.). DSM-IV, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Mental Illness, Disease, Health. Say No To Psychiatry – The Danger and Harm of the Sham Pseudoscience Known As Psychiatry. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.sntp.net/references/dsm_definition.htm


The Friday Confessional : First Edition

Thanks to C, writer at Seasons Change and So Have I, I have taken on the idea of the Friday Confessional.  There’s something so cleansing about it.  I am not Catholic, nor have I ever been.  But, I can see why confessional is an important part of their Christian denomination.

October 25, 2000

It was quite an eventful day.  Not even a week earlier, I had come out to a teacher about my cutting that had gone on in secret for two and a half years.  I was on psychiatric suspension until I was able to see a doctor.  I suppose that was probably a punishment that was meant for my parents.  Their only respite from me was school.  It was likely intended to force them into seeking treatment for me, rather than ignoring the problem, as I confessed in that principals office.  They had known about it for more than a year at that point.  And it was my father’s taunts about it that gave me the little white scar with two teeth just under the freckle on my left forearm.  That was the nasty gash that led me to this very day.

My mother cautioned me before we left.  “Don’t say anything crazy, or else they’ll put you in inpatient.”  I was going to an inpatient facility for outpatient care.  It was twenty minutes away from my home, and filled to the brim with all likes of troubled kids, far worse than me, from all around the area.  I heard the horror stories of that place from friends that had complete meltdowns and whose parents were scared out of their wits.  “I roomed with this girl who had fifty stitches around her neck.  She tried to slit her own throat.”  Talk about cutting.  I was an amateur digging at my wrists with a dull steak knife.

My father was a bastard the whole way there.  I always hated being in the car with him.  It felt like I was trapped, forced to listen to him go on and on about whatever was grinding his gears, usually me.  It seemed like there was something I had done or not done that set him off on a raging tangent.  Today, it was the fact that I was going to therapy.  “This is a waste of fucking time and money!  I’ve been in therapy for 20 years, and do you know what it got me!?  A fat sack of nothin’!  So wish in one hand and shit in the other, girl!  See what fills up faster!”  At least I can say that he was memorable in those states.

It didn’t matter.  That day was about me.  It was the overdue response to all of my distress calls.  They took to prepping me in the car.  I was not to say anything about the family.  I was not to smack talk anyone, or else I was going to get taken away.  If I lied or exaggerated in any way, they’d go to jail, and my brother would be put in a home.  It would be all my fault that they broke up our family.  The fate of the family was in my hands now, and I’d better now screw it up, or else I’d never be forgiven.  They would leave me to rot in a foster home.  Eighteen was still two years away for me.  Two years is a long time in your teens.

We arrived, and I was greeted by a woman who looked to be about my mother’s age.  She was thin and had bright eyes.  Her name was Dr. H, but she preferred Ann.  I was hesitant.  It was impolite to refer to any adult by their first name.  It was a sign of disrespect.  She handed my mother a huge stack of paperwork and told me to come right in when my mother was finished.  My mother looked through the stack, and then started thoughtfully.  I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t signing my own consent, and then I realized I wasn’t of age yet.  It looked too large to be consent.  My mother leaned in to me and asked, “You don’t torture animals, do you?”

I was astounded that she even asked!  What the hell was on that form?!  She explained it was just an assessment, and that there would be ridiculous questions on there.  Some kids were a lot worse than me, she noted.  Clearly.

I went into her office, and it smelled like lavender.  The lights were dimmed, a candle was lit, and there was an inviting sofa with pillows and a blanket next to her desk.  “How are you feeling?”  I burst out crying.  I couldn’t stop.  I spilled everything.  All of my misery and isolation fell from my eyes and mouth into her lap.  I purged, like word vomit, until I felt empty again.

She told me, “This isn’t your fault.  You have a disorder.”  It was a relief.  All of these years, I had known that I wasn’t like other children.  Children aren’t sad and scared.  People don’t go around crying every single day of their lives, wishing they were dead.  She continued to explain was Major Depressive Disorder was, and assured me that I would see a doctor about getting medicine for relief.

“Will I have to be on this medicine for the rest of my life?” I asked.

“Sometimes, medication is just a crutch until you can get better.”

Famous last words.  (I’m on five psychiatric medications as of right now.)

I went home and went to bed.  Bed was home.  Bed was the only safe place there was in the entire world.

My boyfriend showed up later, and we went out to celebrate his eighteenth birthday.  When we came home later, everyone was gathered in the living room.  My mother announced to me, “We’re taking your father to the hospital.  We think he had a heart attack.  Your grandmother is coming to watch you.”

Fine by me.  My boyfriend and I went into the game room in the basement and had sex again.  He stayed pretty late, as my mother announced he had to go into emergency open heart bypass.  And all I could think to myself was, “Good.  I hope he dies on that table.”