The following I have developed based off of my own personal experience, the documentary Generation Rx (2008), “Anatomy of an Epidemic” by Robert Whitaker (a serious wealth of knowledge), and stories from PsychOUT 2011 conference.
As a personal choice I will never take psychiatric medication again. To those who do take psychiatric medication I only ask that to keep yourself informed on the medication side effects and stay alert to your body so you know when something is going wrong and not working. It is your right as a patient to deny a medication or switch medications if you do not feel they are working for you.
When I was 16 years old I was put on Prozac (May 2005). I thought that this was going to solve everything! I got my miracle drug, my happy pill, psychiatry’s magic bullet!
I felt fake. I felt like shit. “Give your body time to get used to it. It takes a month.” I waited. After a month I wrote in to http://www.teencentral.com (good site) and told them about how my medication wasn’t working. I was still sad, I was still cutting. I wanted to die. They told me not to resist my medication. Should I be able to resist medication? I can resist cough medicine…once I take it then my nose stops running. You’re telling me that I have the power to will away the supposed positive effects of Prozac? Seems backwards to me now.
My Aunt had a book called Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel (amazing book) and she wouldn’t let me read it. This made me laugh since I was diagnosed with a type of depression and on Prozac. I was looking up the book online one day and also came across research that said Prozac was found to increase suicidal thoughts and suicidality. They actually used the word violent in the article I read. I was thrown into a panic! I was supposed to be on this drug to get better! I didn’t want to die! That’s why I was on medication!
I went back to my psychiatrist and told him my medication wasn’t working. He increased my dose.
And so it went on like this. I say it’s not working and he increases my dose. I got up to 30 or 40 mg within a few months. One time he increased my dose because I told him my boyfriend had broken up with me. “Everyone needs a little extra help sometimes” he told me. He eventually added the anti-psychotic Zyprexa. It was supposed to help me sleep.
While on Zyprexa (only 2.5mg) I finally understood why they gave it to people with schizophrenia. I had read that those with schizophrenia would sometimes stop taking their medication because it was impossible to function on it due to overwhelming fatigue and living in a zombie like state. Zyprexa was worse for me. After 30 minutes of taking Zyprexa, at night, I was forced to fall asleep. My brain would shut itself off and there was nothing I could do about it until the medication wore off.
This all happened quickly! Late May I was on Prozac, doses increasing each time I saw my psychiatrist and by August I was on Zyprexa and Prozac.
Finally I decided in November 2005 that I had, had enough. I tried to commit suicide by overdosing on Zyprexa.
Even after this attempt I remained on antidepressants for about another year, deciding to end my use of psychiatric medication in late 2007. I never tried to attempt suicide before or after my use of psychiatric medication.
I experienced what should be known as Akathisia (ack-a-thiz-e-a…if that helps). I say should because people commonly, if not only, associate with restless leg syndrome. Antidepressants and anti-psychotics are known to cause akathisia which is an “inner restlessness” which causes someone to feel the need to move. This “inner restlessness” is believed to be the mechanism for inducing suicidality. An inner restlessness so strong that it makes you want to die.
On a side note: I began experiencing restless leg syndrome almost immediately after beginning Prozac. My legs because very agitated and I would tighten my muscles are shake my leg to try to make the feeling go away. I still experience this, even after stopping medication. It mostly happens later at night while I’m sitting. I take it as a sign that I’m tired and going to sleep helps but I wonder if this is a sign of neurological damage caused by the psychiatric medication I took as a teen.
I am usually deeply criticized for saying that my suicide attempt was based in medication but I am not alone in this experience.
There is research out there that proves a link between antidepressants and suicidality.
- Suicide Attempts Among Patients Starting Depression Treatment With Medications or Psychotherapy by Gregory E. Simon and James Savarino (2007), published in The American Journal of Psychiatry ( http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?Volume=164&page=1029&journalID=13)
- Efficacy and safety of antidepressants for children and adolescents (2008) (http://robertwhitaker.org/robertwhitaker.org/Children_files/Efficacy%20and%20safety%20of%20antidepressants%20for%20children%20and%20adolescents.PDF)
- Antidepressants in bipolar disorder: a case for caution (2003) (http://robertwhitaker.org/robertwhitaker.org/Bipolar%20Illness_files/Antidepressants%20in%20bipolar%20disorder.PDF)
It gets all wrapped up for you in a shameful present. SURPRISE! My psychiatrist never told me that Prozac or Zyprexa could cause suicidal thoughts or actions so I began to think that it was my fault. That I was so sick and medication couldn’t help me. It wasn’t until later, finding out on my own, that akathisia does occur in people taking psychiatric medications but because the suicide risk is already high for people with psychiatric disorders any attempts and completions are attributed to the disorder and not the medication
I’m not asking that people stop taking their medication. If you have found the medication that helps you and you are happy then I am happy for you!
I am asking that we question our doctors on the effects these drugs may have on our bodies and minds. I ask that you pay attention to what your body is telling you. I ask that you do not feel shamed if a medication does not work. I ask that you do not deny that others have horrible experiences with a drug that has helped you. I ask that we do not keep quiet about the negatives of antidepressants. I also ask that this does not be chalked up to “anti-psychiatry bullshit” because it’s not.
On Feb 8 I will be attending CTV’s town hall on children and youth mental health. I will be sharing my story briefly in order to ask the question “What is being done to make psychiatric medication safer for young people.”
I almost died. I need an answer.
I leave you with the trailer to Generation Rx. Everyone needs to watch this documentary! It opened my eyes and I hope it opens yours!