This is the story of a lesson I learned the hard way. I write this with the hope that it will serve as a testimony to alert others and to help those who are in trouble.
A little over 4 years ago, my mom was not doing well. She felt sad, without strength, and disappointed by life, so she decided to seek help. She had had trouble sleeping for years, but for the last year, the problem had become unbearable. She felt relieved when she could sleep a couple of hours, because there were nights that she spent completely awake; insomnia had become karma. One day she told me she was really worried about her emotions, because she could not find any appeal to her days and was afraid a day would come when she did not want to get out of her bed. Seeking alternatives, my mom started seeing one of the best psychiatrists in Colombia.
The chemical imbalance
From the first medical appointment she returned saying that the doctor had told her that she had nothing to worry about. She was depressed, and the depression was the result of unfortunate conditions plus an already existent chemical imbalance in her brain. According to the doctor’s diagnosis, my mother was not producing enough serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter necessary to eliminate anxiety and sadness. The solution was within reach at the nearest pharmacy: a daily pill of Prozac and another of Xanax was all that was needed to restore balance. The doctor said he needed to do some tests to confirm the diagnosis, but that since my mother was claustrophobic, she needed to calm a bit before she could undergo a PET-Scan. It sounded sensible, so my mom and everyone in the family believed in the eminent physician’s diagnosis.
Pill treatment began along with a pair of weekly psychoanalysis sessions. With the pills she could sleep again and improvement began to be noticeable. She was calmer, more relaxed, and felt happier. Those were 4 wonderful months. I had not seen her so happy in a long time, every day was amazing and her joy was contagious. My parents decided to go on a trip for several weeks and my mom felt so good she decided to stop taking the pills. She also decided to terminate her sessions with the psychiatrist.
Soon her behavior began to change. She was furious, got irritated for no reason, responded rudely even to the simplest questions; she was losing her equanimity and patience. Insomnia returned and one day she told me she had not taken her pills in more than 6 weeks and had stopped going to the psychiatrist. I had heard that suddenly stopping psychiatric drugs was a dangerous mistake and could cause serious problems, so I pressed her to go back to the doctor. I have had enough time to repent for having intervened in this way. I would not wish anyone to go through what happened next.
Welcome to Hell
The psychiatrist said he disagreed with the way she had acted, he said there was no reason to stop the treatment and now he had to redouble efforts to return to her initial position. He doubled the medicine dosage. From then on a downward spiral began that no one knew how to interpret and that threatened to end our family. My mom spent the day sleeping, never wanted to do anything and everyday her memory diminished. Where had she left her reading glasses? Where was the sudoku she was working on recently? Had she taken her pills? Did she already have lunch?
She became a different person, an unrecognizable being. Where was this vibrant, intelligent woman, able to solve the most perplexing problems, able to face the world if necessary, able to face any challenge, to find alternatives and solutions where no one else saw them? What happened to that loving person who had comforted me in the most difficult times, who was able to give me back strength and harmony with her wise words, who for many years had shown me the power of love, the strength of will, the magic of a hug?
My mother arrived shattered after her psychiatric appointments. She cried incessantly, and the pain in her eyes was hard to imagine but gave me goosebumps. For several nights, my boyfriend and my friends had to endure my tears, moments in which I hid my head on my knees insistently repeating, "I do not know what to do", "I do not know what to do." I spent sleepless nights racking my brain, trying to find a way for my mom to be happy again, a way in which her memories and ghosts would leave her alone, to find a way to show her that life was not this scene of pain and suffering in which she was submerged and could not find the exit from. It was frustrating not being able to make her see how wonderful our life was because of her.
Suddenly, she decided she wanted to leave. She shut herself in her room for hours, and the housekeeper called me desperately saying that she did not know what to do. My sister cried at the door, banging, pleading her to let her in, begging her to open the door. One day, she packed a suitcase, and the only thing that prevented her from leaving to do who knows what was the courage of the housekeeper. My mom tried to convince us that our lives would be better if she walked away from us.
It was the worst of nightmares. I was never at ease, I was afraid to leave her alone; every time I went to work I was expecting the worst. I slowly felt my heart breaking and anguish taking hold of it, leaving few avenues of escape, dismembering happiness and optimism. If I felt that way, how would she feel? It was a living hell, a burning, suffocating, endless mist slowly gnawing at my sanity. And at our whole family.
To make things worse, my mom started making wrong decisions. Psychiatric medications clouded so much her judgment that she jeopardized the economic stability of our family. It was inexplicable. A woman who had always excelled because of her numerical and financial ability, for her frugality and shrewd business skills, almost lead us to bankruptcy. But at that time, money was the least of our problems.
A Hope is Born
A few months earlier my boyfriend had proposed. I had always said I did not wanted to get married; that marriage meant little to me because I opposed the church and the laws of men seemed to me equally or more offensive. However, I wanted to do a special ceremony to celebrate love, something very small but significant. One day, talking about the possibilities for the "marriage", I said that maybe I wanted to have a party. My mom's eyes lit up. At that moment I knew that regardless of what I thought about wedding parties, if that was what was needed to brighten the live of my mother I was willing to make a sacrifice.
Preparations began. My marriage filled her with strength, perhaps because through me, she would have the party with which she had dreamed and was unable to have. She started dieting, worrying again about her appearance, going out to visit hotels, shops, bands, and all the things you can possible need in a wedding. She went in a trip to buy my wedding dress. She had a new dream; a reason to get up in the morning and make an effort to feel better about herself; a reason to dream of a future. Between shower parties, appointments, events and announcements, a few months went by in which, though my mother was not well, she was much better. Given everything she had to do every day, she began to unintentionally reduce the dosage of her pills and took them intermittently. I married with all the pomp which I had always feared.
At that time I wanted to pursue a PhD. I knew I should write a research proposal and obsessed as I was —and still am— with the theme of illegal drugs, I decided to find out the most recent publications. While researching, I came across two books that immediately caught my attention: Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker and The Emperor´s New Drugs. Exploding the Antidepressant Myth by Irving Kirsch.
I started with Whitaker's book and as I read, tears rolled down my cheeks. One by one, in the stories in the book, I recognized all my mom’s symptoms; all those terrible symptoms that the psychiatrist had attributed to her "illness" were nothing more than the effects of antidepressants. How ironic, drugs that are called antidepressants have the power to tear the soul of those who seek help, to take them out to the deepest circle of hell, to destroy the brain and cloud consciousness, to the point that whoever is taking them loses the ability to analyze what is happening and just feels pain, anxiety and nervousness.
With this book —and the long research I started doing in the months afterward and I'm still doing— I discovered the fraud with which Prozac went to market; the counterfeit studies; the suicides and senseless deaths of many healthy people who had participated in these studies just to earn a little bit of money; the irreparable damage generated to so many others; the multiple lawsuits against Eli Lilly and Company (producer of Prozac); the FDA’s complicity; the high profit margins that these drugs give to the pharmaceutical industry; the farce that is the theory of chemical imbalance —scientifically indefensible—, and various other things that convinced me that malpractice had taken over what we know today as psychiatry (and medicine in general, but that's another story).
I ran to tell my mom what I had discovered. As we talked, she wept, grateful to discover that she was not crazy, that it was not her soul which had drowned her in a black abyss, that it was not her but the numbing effect of the drugs that had made her take those turbid, perverse and devastating ways. But she also wept with rage, pain and disbelief, as she understood that the person she went to for help, far from helping, had started her on a path which would be a real challenge to leave. A challenge which would include sleepless nights, accompanied by new fears, depression, intolerable anguish, attacks and other difficult and heartbreaking moments.
Frightened by what I had told her, my mom decided to stop taking her drugs at once. Although the recommendation is to reduce the dose gradually, 10% each week to let the brain readjust, her fear to continue intoxicating herself made her stop once and for all. Another serious mistake, no doubt, but the fact is that although there are some guidelines and recommendations to stop psychiatric drugs, nobody knows for sure what is the best way. However, abruptly interrupting them is very dangerous and could endanger the life of those already accustomed to them.
Back to life
The detoxification process was not easy. The abstinence syndrome related to heroin is child's play compared to psychiatric drugs. Each body is different and the effect of a particular substance is different for each person, but in general, a few weeks of continuous use are sufficient to create metabolic changes that prevent the user from suddenly stopping psychiatric drugs. For a few weeks of peace, which are nothing more than a powerful placebo effect accompanied by a gradual mental dullness, too high a price is paid.
The psychiatrist never warned my mom that he was prescribing drugs that could have some undesirable effects. Just as her problems increased, he increased the dose of antidepressants and anxiolytics, and the terror that choked her became deeper and more corrosive. With the higher doses also came more anxiety, misunderstanding, loneliness and pessimism. With each pill the motives that drove her to seek help increased, with the difference that now her mind was clouded, evasive, and acted against her.
After suspending the psychiatric drugs, my mom was slowly recovering. All the qualities and defects which make me idolize her slowly returned, attributes for which I shall never cease to be grateful to life for giving me the infinite privilege to have a mother like the one I have. Day by day, and with much effort, we overcame the crises, fears and the residues of all those disordered hours. Again, my mom showed me that when the mind is left free to act, there is nothing you cannot do, no obstacle you cannot overcome. She showed me again what an indomitable spirit can do.
I still shudder remembering those years. I decided to tell this painful and personal story, because the number of adults and children who are medicated daily with these very toxic substances in doses that can only be described as extremely dangerous is overwhelming.
Unfortunately, too many psychiatrists consider pain and suffering as an illness, diseases that do not exist and are just difficult stages that all people go through, some more deeply than others, some more frequently than others.
Many people have been deeply traumatized throughout their lives. We need to devote all our efforts, all our intelligence, all our capabilities to effectively help those who desperately need it. When psychiatrists perceive the pain of the soul as chemical imbalances in the brain, they lose the ability to generate empathy with the suffering of others, to perceive the essence of every human soul and help those who come to them because they are tired of living in the torpor of sadness, because they crave to live life fully and do not know how, because they want to know if they can do something to achieve that happiness they long for but have not been able to find.
The alleged mental illnesses are no more than idle conjecture, mere labels that have claimed too many victims. Antidepressants are not for the depressed person as insulin is for diabetics. They are a prison that can provide temporary relief but which is very hard to leave. It is unacceptable how many people have seen their lives destroyed because of the greed and ambition of a few, which is compounded by constant propaganda that feeds the blind faith in "medical advances and science" and paralyzes the critical skills of the population.
I know it's hard to believe that what I am writing is true. I am leaving a list of references for those who want to investigate for themselves and understand the masterful deception that we have been submitted to, but particularly for those who are having to cope with the effects of antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, neuroleptics, metals (such as lithium) and other substances with which psychiatrists often experiment in other bodies.
I can only say that I hope that all those who are sad, who have problems or who are going through a similar hell to the one my mom went through, know that in their heart, in their spirit, in their mind, are all the tools they need to succeed. Lean on family and friends, all the people who love you, in your purposes, desires and dreams, in the endless possibilities of your mind. Exercise and eat healthy. Having competent professional psychological help would be ideal, but the problem is that it is scarce today. However, although most professionals agree with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and their lethal drugs, there are always exceptions; you just have to find them. Finally, do not forget that will conquers everything, that the world is full of possibilities and if you have not found them yet, you should not despair and continue looking for them.
BOOKS ON THE HISTORY OF PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS AND PSYCHIATRY:
BREGGIN, Peter, Toxic Psychiatry
KIRSCH, Irving, The Emperor´s New Drugs. Exploding the Antidepressant Myth.
BOOKS/GUIDES TO QUIT PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS:
THE ICARUS PROJECT Y FREEDOM CENTER, Comming Off Medications Guide Second Edition