Friday, April 28, 2006

Me 'N the Scientologist Agree!

Until 1990, I'd never even heard of anti-depressants. Then I briefly dated a guy who started taking them after a slight emotional jolt sent him "over the edge" (into depression?). While my then boyfriend was poppin' whatever the pre-cursor to Prozac was, his speech was slurred, his driving skills were terrifying and his over all ability to roll with day-to-day life evaporated. Eventually his sister, who was a nurse, flushed his meds and life returned to relative normal.

In 1995, I had a couple of college friends who were on Prozac. One liked to cut up her wrists with car keys while on it because she said she 'couldn't feel anything.' The other calmly told me she had lurid nightmares of murdering her parents and dismembering their bodies ... but that was just part of the 'process of adjusting to the meds.'

When I moved to Seattle in winter 2003, I (very) briefly rented a room from a 58-year-old, unemployed Boeing engineer who had been on Zoloft for about three years. This was the same amount of time he'd been unemployed. His doctor had initially prescribed the drug for just three months while my roomie was recovering from a mild heart attack but he had since found other ways to get his Zoloft fix.

My roommate's favorite pastimes included: sitting in the living room by himself with the lights off for hours, getting up at 4:30am every Saturday and Sunday to "meditate" and watching the Home Shopping Network. Every day. At a certain prescribed time. He told me he had no doubt that he was "addicted" to Zoloft but that he loved how it had made his life "fuller." His aging Filipino girlfriend was on something similar, Celexa, I think. They enjoyed swapping meds and playing around with the dosages just to see how it would alter the high.

Jesus fucking Christ in a hat.

Recently, I worked a month-long temp assignment for a guy who was on Paxil. This abrasive Yuppie asshole admitted he was addicted to it and he gleefully recounted how he'd mixed up his indigestion meds with the Paxil and "accidentally" taken triple his prescribed dose for several months. He said despite the liver damage, he'd "never felt better." And the guy was twitchier than a monkey after a triple-shot espresso. He was incapable of concentrating on anything for more than three minutes and paranoid? His paranoia made every cocaine or pot user I've ever worked with pale in comparison. They're all plotting against me was his personal mantra.

A five-minute trot around the Infobaun reveals a whole bunch of things about so-called mood stabilizers. First of all, psychiatrists -- a profession not historically known for it's open-mindedness or long attention span -- have admitted that they "don't know exactly how Selective Seratonin Re-uptake Inhibitors work."

There's tons of stuff out there arguing against SSRIs (Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, etc.) at least until doctors have a clue what they do to our brains ... or the pharmacutical corporations admit what they know (it burns holes in your head, your brains fall out your ass, whatever).

Ironically, I'm in agreement with the Scientologist. One of their celebrity darlings, Giovanni Ribisi, said it best: "You're taking a pill not to feel an emotion."

My own psychologist of a half-dozen years was opposed to mood stabilizers unless someone was screaming crazy. He said essentially the same thing that actor said that our culture tries to medicate depression and sadness rather than understand it.

Here's a small list of just some of the side effects of taking these sketchy drugs: irritability, aggression, nightmares, dizziness, extreme nausea, psychological dependency, physical dependancy/withdrawal symptoms, crying spells, light headedness, coordination problems, sweating, vomiting, agitation, memory/concentration difficulties and general fatigue.

And Number One on the Top Ten List of reasons why you shouldn't ever take it: a marked increase in the likelihood of extreme depression and possible suicide attempt.

Oh, I'm sooo stickin' with a Friday night cocktail and a joint ...

-- Mz M.


Jammer said...

I used to think the way you do, Mel, but let me tell you my story.

My mom died in 2000. My girlfriend at the time became a sort-of surrogate where I transferred my attachment. Then she dumped me. Hard.

At the same time, I was bored at work, and had hurt my back.

I don't know how I kept my job after that because I took a lot of time off "working from home," with my back and legs in serious pain.

The depression I was in kept me from even thinking of going to the doctor and looking at answers. I gained weight, slept as much as I possibly could, and just withdrew into my shell.

At one point, my sister realised in conversation that I was contemplating killing myself, and she immediately sent me some antidepressants and called my doctor.

(My plan was to jump off the tallest parking garage I could find -- easy access, and anything over 6 stories is 99% certain death. I'd surveyed a few places and walked by them on a regular basement.)

When I went on the antidepressants, I was able to start to get my feet back under myself. Eventually I went to a doctor for my back, and had two back surgeries to remove floating chunks of broken-off disk material and to clean out bone spurs and stenosis around nerves.

The depression continued, but I was able to live well enough to find Karrie, get married, have a kid, move around to a better position at work, and generally live life.

Now I am on 300 mg of Wellbutrin a day (150 2x daily), and 60 mg of Celexa. I still have depression, and the urge to stay in bed all day sometimes, and I definitely still feel sadness and happiness.

What I _don't_ have, though, is the overwhelming murk that made me physically unable to get out of bed and face the day.

I also haven't thought of jumping off of a parking garage in at least a few years.

Mz M. said...

You're one of the few I've ever heard of that it has helped. Seriously, I've known of more people on that stuff that were either 1)taking it and didn't really need it or 2)taking it even after a doctor had asked them to stop (buying it on the 'Net).

My problem with just taking a pill not to feel depressed is that it doesn't involve any work vs. psychological therapy, which does. Granted it doesn't usually have any immediate affects but it does and can work. I was in therapy for three long years before I noticed some changes -- not in my life -- but in me. It took a total of 7 years before I really made some changes. And the changes/self-analysis are ongoing.

This country's medical establishment will do anything to avoid spending money and time on valid psychological treatment hence we are all currently inundated with ads for anti-depressants, which are making almost as much money for the pharm corporations as Viagra. Meanwhile, since the Reagan Administration, hundreds of thousands of legitimately ill mental patients roam the streets while not on meds usually because they can't afford them and/or haven't got the mental clarity to take them. And state and local out-patient counselling programs that could help people like yourself continue to lose funding and disappear.

Again, a pill is only a temporary fix, not a cure, when it comes to the human mind. I'm dreading the coming day when independant researchers discover that anti-depressants cause some sort of brain damage thus creating a permanent market of people who have to take them for the rest of their lives.

I've got a friend in Reno who started taking meds in 2005 because she "couldn't deal with (her) husband". This may have something to do with the fact that he regularly beats her!!! Her doctor's solution? Put her on Paxil!

Yeah, that's the ticket.