Almost a year and a half ago, right after I graduated High School in a small town in Virginia, I had a panic attack. I was living with my grandma at the time and was on the phone with my friend, like any teenager, having a normal conversation. I felt my heart race, I felt my palms sweating, I felt like I was going to pass out and then…I started to freak out. I was so scared, because I had no idea of what was happening. Once I conviced my grandma to drive me to the ER they found that my heart rate was beating pretty fast (I want to say 144 BPM) They gave me a valium IV and a sheet of paper saying I needed to seek treatment somewhere else for anxiety. I didn’t know it then, but this was the first step that would turn me against any form of physcoactive medication.
Shortly after the emergency room visit, I went into a group home for a couple weeks and the very first day I was put on Ativan and Risperidone. The group seemed to help a bit, but I was still questioning how the panick attacks started in the first place. After medicating me, I felt like a zombie, but since everyone there was medicated, I didn’t worry so much about how this was a bad thing and just tried to move forward. When I released from the group home I was switched medications (multiple times), and there’s where everything went downhill. I was put back in the group home shortly after because the medications were not working, but making things so much worse. I stayed in there one day, but after being on paxil for about 2 days, I was losing my vision and couldn’t focus on anything. Things were blurry, I was scared that I would never see normally again and my doctors said I couldn’t go off the medication. I was sick, puking up everything I ate, from apples, to crackers.
Later at night when it was time for visition, my mom came and I begged her to get me out of this place!! If I was going to go blind, I wanted to be with my family instead of a bunch of people that thought I was crazy and suffering from all these different disorders. That night the group home called an ambulance to come pick me up and when I checked out from the hospital, I went home. The whole time I was sick I was going to the ER almost every other night. I even started going to another hospital and now have a preferrence of the two, on each side of town. I thankfully had really good insurance, the only problem was my family was starting to doubt my anxiety and kept telling me “it’s all in your head.” It had been 3 months since I was medicated and I had already been to the ER over 20 times and a group home twice. My doctors kept changing my medication around and I kept getting worse and worse. I would pace around the house, I couldn’t sleep, I thought I was dying because my body just felt like it was shutting down. I turned to god, because I felt like it was the only thing I could do. My vision got to the point that it was so blurry I couldn’t walk without someone guiding me everywhere I went. When I sat up, or walked I felt like I was going to passout, and when I went outside the lighting made my eyes hurt. I was checked into a mental institution not far from where I lived. When I was there, I realized it wasn’t some where I wanted or needed to be. I felt completely alone, and the people there seemed so much worse than me.
The first night I roomed with a woman in her 40’s that heard voices. Already having sleeping problems, the woman talked all night to the voices and kept getting up and walking around and going in and out of the room. I kept thinking to myself, I can’t end up like this! I can’t be in and out of places like this my entire life. They switched my medication again (of course!) and I was so tired of living like this! It was the lowest I’d ever been and at this point. I was hoping I had a brain tumor, or anything they could tell me for sure, that was physically wrong with me. After being in there for two days I switched rooms and was with a sweet older lady. She was there for electric shock therapy and was in bed more than I was ( and I was in bed whenever I got the chance.) We were forced into going to group classes, but I don’t remember anything they talked about,
I was so medicated looking back on it now, it seems to have all been a dream. While talking to some of the people in there, one man from the war suffered from PTSD (I too was diagnosed with that, along with anxiety, depression and split personality disorder) and he told me that I should be glad that I was here. He had been in a mental corrections institution called Marion, way up north, hours away from where I lived. Many people at the table joined in clearly stating that I didn’t want to ever be close to that place. They said it was hard to get out once you’ve been admitted and they will try to keep you there as long as possible. The man concluded “If you’re not crazy when you go in, you are when you get out.” And I was terrified at even the thought of an innocent small town girl like me, being institutionalized for life, or for a very long time, with serial killers and the violent mentally insane. How could this of happened to me? And now I not only hated where I was in life, but I didn’t trust any doctor under the sun. Being in a group home twice and a mental hospital only 3 months after High School Graduation
I started to realize most of my friends were in college and this wasn’t the direction I wanted my life going in. A couple days before I was realised we had to get interviewed, and medically checked to make sure we were stable enough for the real world. As much as I hated the place, I wanted to stay because I hadn’t improved since being there and I thought it was the last option I had to getting help from a professional. The man asked if I felt better and I told him that I thought things aren’t where I want them to be and that I’m really hating the medication I was on at the time. When I said that, it seemed as if he was threatening me to either go home on my realease date, or he would put me in a place he didn’t want to, Marion! So I sucked it up, went along and pretended like everything was fine the next couple days and was later picked up and driven back home. Every single day I was home I layed on the couch watching television, and my parents really wanted me to get a job because they didn’t believe I was blind and thought I was just overreacting, because every doctor we had went to kept telling me “you’re just imagining it.” Literally, they all said that I had such bad anxiety that it was causing me physical damage to my body and that if I didn’t worry about it, the blindness, the insomnia, and the suicidal thoughts would all go away. So a tried not worrying, but with every passing moment my vision was getting blurrier and blurrier and I was losing all sense of control in my life.
At the time I didn’t have anyone who believed me because what the doctors were saying and I felt lost and lonely. I had never pictured my life being so dark and so empty. I had my medicine switched once again for the last time after 15 or so different kinds of anxiety pills (and really wish I could remember all of the names and the order of the medications I had taken) and I slowly started to get my vision back, but still felt completely dependent on the three pill bottles I carried around everywhere. For three months I took them where ever I went. And then, a week before my insurance ran out, I talked to my shrink and my doctor (who both worked for the same company) and they said for me to try to get on disability, but even, they said it would take awhile and they promised not to cut me off. On my 19th birthday my insurance ran out (because of my age) A month later my pills ran out too and they cut me off like they said they wouldn’t. They even sent me a nasty letter in the mail telling me I was no longer in their system and that I could not come back.
So this time, I had no choice but to cope with things on my own. I didn’t realized how bad withdrawl was from medication. I had all the symptoms of a herion addict suffering from withdrawl. But somehow I prayed and by a miracle, my friends had helped me through it and I’ve learned to live without medication as a crutch. Its been 9 months and my disability has yet to go through, and I’m not expecting it to because I now feel well enough to work. Not only have I found out that the medications I was on cause multipule cancers, but the long term effects can cause a wide range of problems. All along I just needed someone to talk to, someone to listen and maybe relate, but from the very get-go they medicated me and didn’t hesitate to stick to that plan. I never knew how easy it was to get into a mental hospital and to get perscription drugs. Anyone could easily lie and get a bottle of pills that could set them on the road to self destruction.
I still have depression, PTSD, anxiety and I’m sure other problems that can be pointed out and named, but I’ve simply gathered everything I know from everything i’ve been through and realized that I can fight this on my own. I’m not going to say that antidepressants dont help anyone through a rough period, but I am saying having to use them just to get through the day for your entire life is not something anyone should have to do and nobody has to. In a case as bad as mine, I hope someone finds this meaningful and that it gives someone hope that it is possible, it’s more than possible to get on the right track, take steps and learn how to cope. There are plenty of natural things out there for you to do. Vitamins, teas, accupuncture, and many, many more are all things that help your body as well as your mind. We’ve all been raised to trust in our doctors and it’s a sad thing that I don’t have that trust anymore, but I will not trade my soul, for my sad emotion.