Getting off Medications

So today, I’m going to be talking about my experiences getting off medications and how to get off yours.

Here’s the first problem with getting off your medications: there is a reason why there isn’t much research that is being done about it. The reason is that currently – there is a biological perspective on mental illnesses. Conditions like personality disorders and even minor conditions like internet addiction, are signals of an underlying disorder of the brain.

I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that mental illness requires treatment based on the idea of it being a biological illness but that goes into a whole plethora of issues in the realm of comorbidity. In psychiatry, comorbidity is discovered while you are in the process of treating another illness. In “antipsychiatry” language (which I will call in the future “alternative psychiatry”), comorbidity is the idea that as you are treating a mental illness – another illness comes about as a result of treatment.

I don’t mean to scare you but this is a reality of conditions like Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and many other illnesses.

. You want a drug to remove psychosis but it can accelerate heart rate and cause imaginary stressors even when the intent was preventing delusions.
. You want depressed people to be happy but the reality is that the treatment of antidepressants, which can cause an uplift in mood, can create symptoms of mania and unpredictability that is socially awkward to everyday behavior.
. You want to help one with ADHD to become more focused in school but in the process you suppress them connecting with their emotions, and perhaps they believe in result that they are asexual or non-gender binary.

This is a reality. It’s not to contribute to the stigma of those with mental disorders – rather it’s to illustrate that if you are going to a psychiatrist to see about treating a mental disorder, you will face challenges due to side-effects of meds. It may be that you have a mental illness responding to the meds, but it doesn’t mean that you are solely responsible for your reaction to said meds.

There’s been a lot of controversy then about getting off one’s meds and we generally as a society do not support it. Certain instances of Dylan Kleobold, Elliot Rodger and the Germanwings airpilot follow suit. For that, here are some alternative medicine interpretations of the mass homicide incidents.

I don’t really care whether or not these individuals had a mental illness or not – that would be to either insinuate that medications cannot cause psychosis or that people with mental illnesses aren’t naturally psychotic. However, finding these instances that are ignored by the mass public are something that I particularly identify with.

When I discovered that Elliot Rodger was on the drug risperdal, had withdrew suddenly and then wanted to die by overdose before deciding to kill others – I understood how hard Risperdal was as well as the challenges of medicine withdrawal a way others could never understand. The media likes to portray that if we help individuals seek treatment, they will always be better off and then deliberately ignores when the drug is the cause of the impairment. Drug psychosis, withdrawal psychosis and med change psychosis (as in the case of the Germanwings pilot) are realities of medication and/or mental illness.

When I was in a dark bathroom of my dorm room having another psychotic breakdown, I knew I had to get off my meds. I saw a woman on the other side of the room – Asian, dressed in 40’s garb and she was angry at me. I started having memories of past lives and whether or not I thought this could be signs of what he spirituality community sees as a Kundalini awakening or just signs that my “treated” Bipolar Disorder was developing into a more Schizophrenic-like condition of hearing things and seeing things, I knew I was far in the ether of my mind and had to get back to reality.

There’s something comfortable in having a grasp on reality. In a way, we all want to feel comforted. We look at our phones, we talk to each other about the weather, we get upset on the roads and we get mad at things we watch on the television. There’s nothing wrong with secularism in my opinion if it keeps you in a comfortable place. Plenty of people without mental illness don’t realize the privilege they have of hanging onto their normal lives. That’s what I wanted – to escape my diagnosis and be a “normal” person again.

Psychiatry works by assuming your illnesses require lifelong treatment – therefore there was only 3 psychiatrists in my own state that were alternative psychiatrists. I went to a very inspiring one that I will call Dr. Whiteside. He lived in a hippie house with his wife with plants in the windows and a greenhouse out back. He had written several books. In his discussion with me, he determined that I had PTSD from my experience and needed treatment. He started me on two anti-anxiety medications.

I was not thrilled to be diagnosed with another condition. It didn’t help me to be on these meds – except for the sake of withdrawing from my Bipolar meds. I then wanted to get off all my meds – cutting them into halves, and quarters until I was officially off.

Yet oh, the irony. I got back on a pill I had to take for my laporoscopy – a birth control pill. You’d think that after the first time of being on birth control, my gynecologists would realize that I don’t do well on it. That I get depressed and psychotic. It affected my mental stability and ultimately affected another relationship.

I had to eventually leave the school I was at and go back to live with my parents. I also had to take a break off school because I signed up late. I didn’t have the best time doing nothing and reflecting on the ways thing had failed, but eventually after 5-7 months I began to recover from manic-depression symptoms.

The way you have to do it is different for everyone. Therapy to correct or at least stabilize underlying thought patterns. Also I was extremely lucky as to not be addicted to drugs or alcohol which can greatly spiral a Bipolar condition with or without medications. You need to be fully ready to take care of yourself to get off medications and find someone who can help you. The problem is that I don’t really know your situation and I don’t think that gives me absolute authority to be able to help you because you might be experiencing psychosis and that requires immediate medical attention. There are certain co-occurring disorders that can occur with our without medication and that can greatly determine whether you need to be on medication or not. You also have to understand (cause this is really important) that even a stable Bipolar/or other mental health condition can relapse. You have to understand that your moods are controlling your thoughts which are controlling your decision making. If you ever got into a place where you thought of harming yourself or taking your own life, you have to realize medication and therapy would perhaps be okay and not to feel ashamed about it. What else? Do not eat carbs and drink carbonated drinks, particularly caffeine, because these are some of the things that can spiral you in a manic state. Do not take steroids. Understand that certain medications even treated for physiological conditions can effect your psychological state: meaning that you must practice holistic wellness to be sound in mind and body. Go to sleep on time. If you are using your mania to dabble into something obsessively, it can throw you off your circadian rhythms. Be like the Buddha and meditate. Practice mindfulness to control your impulsivity. Understand that depression can control your thoughts. Find a support system. In short, I am neither for nor against psychiatry but because extreme psychiatric conditions cause for careful methods of treatment, it gives you permission to use everything to help yourself.

Then, of course, there is the idea that everyone should get on and stay on their medication. Little evidence or research has been done to prove otherwise, instead research promotes continuing a patient’s dependency to psychotrophic drugs when their careers, relationships and health are at stake from an increase in medication. Some have found it better to get off their medication but until we recognize this as a society, there will continue to be laws barring people from freedom to make their own choices in regards to their life and a scare in the population to try to convince others that they are not crazy or mentally ill. Then of course there is the unaddressed question of the stigma of mental health in getting people jobs or keeping them in their positions of power. Many presidents have had mental illness as well as writers, celebrities, etc. Until we recognize that mental illness is mental genius in some respects, these people will continue to refuse health and get sicker. So yeah there are a lot of problems. If you are interested, visit: Mad In America – Science, Psychiatry & Community or Beyond Meds. I like to believe that we will find new ways to treat mental illness beyond the use of mood stabilizers, anti-depressants and stimulants. A way of treating the mentally ill and the seriously mentally ill without putting their health at such a serious jeopardy. Until then we are unfortunately stuck with this system of psychiatry.

For getting off meds, Alternative Mental Health is a good resource. You can find people on Youtube and other areas of the web to help as well. Never embark on this journey without the help of a psychiatrist, but make sure he/she is open-minded in helping you. Traditional psychiatrists, though they are versed in the treatment of mental health disorders, are not as versed in getting people off medications. Find an alternative psychiatrist.


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