Avoid The Slippery Slope – Day 237

January 26, 2011 No Comments

 

365 Days to a Balanced Life Journey – Day 237

 

Quote of the Day

“People used to explore the dimensions of reality by taking LSD to make the world look weird. Now the world is weird and they take Prozac to make it look normal”. – Bangstrom

Here is a shocking statistic.  One in five women in America is on antidepressants and 6 million men are starting to take antidepressants every year.  Are these drugs really the answer to happiness and well being?  I can tell you from personal experience they are not.  In December of 2001 my doctor finally convinced me that I should go on antidepressants to alleviate the anxiety and depression symptoms I was starting to feel.  I had resisted taking them for over a year because I really felt like I wasn’t depressed but the doctor insisted I was.  I thought that I was just overwhelmed with the huge responsibilities I had at that time in my life.

This was in a period where I was running an extremely busy and stressful business with hundreds of salespeople and a few dozen staff which came with a huge financial responsibility.  My personal life had just been turned upside down when within a year of a marital change my then 11 year old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and my 4 year old daughter was still dealing with a new step father and step sister.  My new 12 year old step daughter came to me with issues having been raised by a mother with mental illness.  Within six months of my son’s diagnosis she was diagnosed with anorexia.  On top of this my husband and I were learning to live together as a blended family.  That’s all that was going on that year. :)

Why wouldn’t I be feeling anxious?  If I knew then what I know now I would have sent myself on a two week retreat to learn how to meditate and handle stress. (In my usual grandiose fashion, I didn’t think the business or the family would survive without me).   I would have started the process of learning to live with “less” – less stress, less stuff, less food, less wine, less expectations.  While at the same time learning to live with “more” – more exercise, more downtime, more time in nature, more water, more nutritious food, more meditation, and more gratitude. 

Instead here is what happened to me. 

In December 2001 I reluctantly took my first antidepressant.  Throughout the next several months the dosage was increased and decreased and finally the medication was changed altogether. Why?  Because it was not working!   

RANT COMING – Is it me or does anyone else think that there is something wrong when the drug companies have had to bring out a new companion drug for those not getting enough benefit from their current antidepressant???

Anyway, back to the story.  By August 2002 I was reaching the point where I was not working efficiently.  I was short tempered with everyone and generally felt like I was going to explode.  I was suddenly drinking up to a bottle of wine almost every day which was certainly not helping.  I went to my parent’s beach house for a week’s vacation with my family and just felt limp.  While sitting looking at the ocean I turned to my husband and said “I think I’ll take the month off”.  I never returned to work fulltime again.  I had been a workaholic all my life so this was something I never envisioned for myself.  I thought I would work until the day I dropped (in fact I almost did).

By October 2002 I knew I was incapable of leading my company so I phoned a friend in the industry and arranged for him to buy my company.  It was obviously what the universe wanted for me as the sale went off without a hitch and he met my asking price and my timeframe.  By May of 2003 the sale was completed without too many of the usual issues that accompany selling a business.  I was grateful for that because I do not think I would have been able to handle any additional stress.  Walking away from a business I founded was hard enough.

Now what?  Here I was in my mid forties unable to work, fighting my insurance company for disability benefits (I had gone on disability back in October of 2002).  I was taking copious amounts of antidepressants and feeling worse than ever.  I thought I would feel better with no work and three 90 minute massages a week but I didn’t.  

Around this time I found that my usual glass or two of wine with dinner was turning into almost a bottle (my husband usually only had one glass).  When I started asking my husband to open a second one I decided I might have a problem.   I now know how wrong it was to drink while on these drugs.  It scared me when I realized that I was relying on wine to cope with my situation.  Interestingly enough after getting off the drugs my wine consumption reduced dramatically.  In fact I may have wine once or twice a week at the most, usually less.

Fortunately my family life for all its medical issues was generally happy.  We had our share of teenage dramas and escapades but overall I think we coped better than most.  I was also lucky to continue to have the fulltime nanny/housekeeper so our house and daily activities were in good order.  This also gave me the time I needed for myself during the day so I could put on a good face for the children in the evenings.  I do not know how so many mothers cope with this type of medical problem without the benefit of a supportive husband and housekeeper (at the time if I had to choose though I would have kept the housekeeper) :)  Sorry Jack.

What did suffer the most were my friendships.  I did not have the energy to maintain an active social life.  On the rare occasion when I did get it together and socialized I was able to act like my “old” self so people really had no idea how difficult it had become for me on a day to day basis.  As a result they were not necessarily compassionate when I would bail on them at the last minute.  After awhile I just quit making plans with people.

Eventually I was forced to hire a lawyer as one of the insurance companies had quit paying my benefits and I had to sue.  This is another problem that people with depression face.  The insurance companies withhold the benefits knowing that most people will give up and go back to work or at least accept that they did not have a legitimate claim.  In my case I had spent more than 25 years working in the Insurance Industry.  I not only knew the products but I knew I had a valid claim and I was fortunate enough to have the money to hire a good lawyer.  I wasn’t going to give up until they paid me what they owed me.  After all, I had paid the premiums for 25 years so that I had the security of knowing that if I couldn’t work there would be the promised benefit. That fairytale turned into a nightmare.

The insurance companies were insisting that I go to one of their appointed psychiatrist twice a month for monitoring.  This was one of the most degrading and depressing things I had to do during this time.  This doctor did not make the process easy.  It was not talk therapy (unless you consider his rambling about his ballroom dancing and pottery classes) it was drug therapy.  He cranked up my dosage of antidepressants so high that I had to take it in two doses to avoid seizures.  When that didn’t work he decided to layer on another one.  I had a terrible reaction to that combination so he quickly took me off the second drug.  Oops.  Then since I was having trouble sleeping he prescribed sleeping pills which I did not want.  The problem was I was powerless to refuse this treatment because the insurance companies would say I wasn’t compliant and they could use it as an excuse to deny my claim.  So I soldiered on.

I knew in my heart that it was the medication that had put me in this situation.  Prior to taking antidepressants I had just had short bouts of depression (a few days at a time).  Once I got on the drugs I slowly became incapable of managing my life in the same way I had before.  I was desperate to get off these drugs but every time I had tried in the past I would have problems and have to be put back on them with an increased dosage.

Fortunately I stumbled across a book that I credit with saving me from this hell. The Antidepressant Solution A Step-by-Step Guide to Safely Overcoming Antidepressant Withdrawal, Dependence, and “Addiction by Dr. Joseph Glenmullen.  This guy knows what he is talking about when it comes to getting off this poison.  (I actually read an earlier version of this book). 

This help came into my life at the right time (funny how that keeps happening).  My law suit was just settling so I was now free to explore other healing methods.  In the fall of 2004 I started the long journey of getting off this medication.  Because I was on such a high dosage it probably took me a few months longer than most to get completely off.  In a nutshell I reduced my dose a little at a time once a month.  Then I went through a withdrawal for a few days and waited while my brain reset at this level for 3-4 weeks.  I repeated this until I was completely off it in six months.  It took another six months from there to feel like myself again.

It was during this period that I started on my quest for knowledge on natural healing modalities.  I needed to learn how to improve my physical and emotional health naturally.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  Of course like anything else I was not consistent with most of the changes but I did manage to get off and stay off antidepressants.  Given that I do not think I was suffering from severe depression until I went on antidepressants, I do not believe these drugs helped me in the least. In fact I am convinced they took three years of my life away from me.  I think removing myself from too much stress and reducing my commitments along with a healthy diet, exercise and lifestyle changes have been the reasons for my improvement.

I encourage everyone to learn about the drugs so many doctors push at us and make informed choices.  Don’t take the easy route and pop a pill as your first course of action. As you have just read, it can be a slippery slope.

What I learned most from this experience is that others can only guide us, teach us and encourage us but ultimately we heal ourselves.

DAILY POSTS

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