As a teenager, I was labelled with depression and given Prozac. I took it for about a year and it made me manic, less sensitive to others, more impulsive, more of a social butterfly, less able to be still and calm. It also gave me acne. One day I just stopped taking it.
In college, I had a spiritual opening and went into somewhat of a spiritual retreat state for awhile. Childhood trauma, physical health issues, religious confusion, genuine spiritual experiences and many other things played a part in my “meltdown.” In a way, I love meltdowns. I love that people have them. I want us to all be safe to have them. My meltdown(s) from the ages of 18-21 did not feel safe, except for the spiritual aspects. I was force drugged, shot with tranquilizers against my will, and hospitalized. The drugs and “treatments” given to me made me much sicker, physically and mentally. I went from being a bright, smart, energetic young woman (with a lot of trauma), to being lethargic, sick, unable to think, drugged into oblivion, emotionally flat. I was on the lowest doses of most drugs that I was prescribed, but they still made me exhausted, dull, and sick.
Many people in my life including parents, doctors, and friends, thought these drugs would be helpful. Few guessed that it was the drugs that were making me much sicker. I experienced myself becoming mentally ill as a result of the drugs. i could hardly think at all. Others saw me as becoming more and more mentally ill, but they didn’t know why. I had a fever with no infection, for 3 months. Many antibiotics were tried, many tests given, but the cause of the fever was never found. A doctor later suggested it was a drug fever, caused by all the medications I was on. During this time, I had many other worldly experiences. It was like a long near death experience. I felt close to my grandparents and others who had ided, but little if any connection to anyone or anything on Earth. I ate the same foods everyday and didn’t leave my apartment at all for those 3 months. Songs and poems came to me from beyond; they certainly could not have come for my own brain, which was barely functioning! This time was a shamanic opening for me-I certainly have never felt the same since.
After the fever went away, on December 25th, 2002, I decided to try coming off one of the drugs I was on, a neuroleptic called Risperdal. Reducing the drug gave me panic attacks and made me feel truly insane in a way I had never felt before. So I got back on it by my psychiatrists suggestion. Then I had a dream guiding me to reduce Risperdal by even less so I tried again. I was on 6 or so other drugs at the same time including sleeping pills, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and thyroid medication (even though no thyroid problem had ever been determined).
Going very slowly I tapered one drug after another, seeing my energy, aliveness, health and strength rapidly return with each reduction. It still took me a long time to fully recover from the toxicity and damage done during the 2 years I was on all those drugs, and there may have been some permanent damage as well. During this time, I went back to college and finished my degree. It seemed like magic to me since I had not known if I would ever re-enter the outside world. Part of me knew I would recover from the whole experience and live to tell about it, but I had no idea how.
It was during this reduction period that I was introduced to Freedom Center (freedom-center.org). The Freedom Center is a group of people who identify as psychiatric survivors and I worked with them for about 7 years to provide alternative treatments for those experiencing extreme states of consciousness. I taught yoga, meditation and creative writing and shared my personal story to audiences large and small. Telling my story felt like the most meaningful thing I could do and every time I did it I felt so full of purpose, love, and spiritual guidance. Having the support of Freedom Center during my transitional period was invaluable. I got so much information from the other survivors than i ever got from doctors or therapists. I wish for everyone to have this type of communal support and hope I can be a voice of reason and confidence in all who need a perspective from someone who has been through it.
Here’s a Madness Radio interview of me telling some of my story: