How I Found Out I Was Mentally Ill
by Cheryl Froehlich
Back in the late 60's, women were quite often presecribed Valium for any emotional complaints or what used to be called "hysteria". It became the "new normal" and the Rolling Stones, in 1966, came out with their song "Mommy's Little Helper". I was prescribed Valium back then but I really don't remember why or what my complaint was. It does the trick to sedate and has a calming effect on anxieties and that was the goal; to help, mostly women, deal with life's frustrations. I was working for the local newspaper office at the time proofreading and collating a cookbook. I would take some Valium in the morning before going to work and a couple of hours later, I was snoozing and salivating with my head buried in the hamburger casserole recipe on page 20.
I needed the job and napping wasn't listed as a job perk, so I didn't take the Valium for any length of time and don't remember having any withdrawal effects. From what I know from studying these minor sedatives/anti-anxiety drugs is that Valium has the longest half-life of all of them so probably that helped with the withdrawal and that I wasn't yet "hooked" on it. Valium, being a benzodiazipine, can be quite addictive and very difficult to get off but much easier than those with a shorter half-life. Half-life meaning the time it takes for half of the drug to metabolize and be eliminated from the body.
Help! I'm Suicidal!
My second experience with psychiatry back in the early 90's was, admittedly, a cry for help. Without going into detail, I will just say that my life seemed to be falling apart. I felt suicidal and desperate. I picked up the phone book (yes, we used them back then) and found a psychiatrist's name and dialed the number. I nervously, in panic mode, explained to the receptionist why I was calling. She told me she would have the psychiatrist called me ASAP. I was very relieved when he returned my call but was completely baffled by his response and what he asked me was a blessing in disguise. He asked if I had health insurance. I said no and his reply was "Then I can't help you". I knew little about the ''system" back then and was very confused by his response to a suicidal person. What I realized years later is that no insurance meant no treatment. Money trumps suicide. The desperation and contemplating suicide faded and life went on without the help of the "compassionate" psychiatrist. I know now that if I had insurance at the time, I would have been a psychiatric unit on suicide watch with all my rights taken away and on a regimen of medications. I thank God to this day that the psychiatrist didn't care if I committed suicide or thought I wasn't worth the bother if I couldn't pay.
I did eventually see someone for a couple of therapy sessions at the local mental health clinic and of course, given a prescription for Prozac. A wondrous drug! Emotionality gone. Sleep is good. Sexual pleasure non-existent. I joined the Zombie Nation! I have never been good at following medication regimans, so I think I eventually would just forget to take them. Prozac also has a long half-life, so with not being on it very long didn't cause any issues with withdrawal that I can remember.
Then in 2001, my son was "caught' in the psychiatry web when he had a unusual experience when he abruptly stopped using marijuana and alcohol during his third year in college. He was prescribed Risperdal, an atypical antipsychotic and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant. This brought him into a lifetime of cycling in and out of hospitals resulting in not knowing who he is anymore. His experiences within the psychiatric system led me to my "official" diagnosis of mental illness.
During one of my son's hospitalizations, I was furious what the meds and psychiatry were doing to him. I spent many hours compiling a letter to the psychiatrist, the board of directors, state officials, and anyone else I could find that might listen. I explained how the meds were making him worse and went into detail after many hours of reserch about the meds. I knew I was right. I did get a response from one agency and a patient advocate that said they would investigate my claims, but I never heard from them again. My son was eventually released, and I sent for his medical records. I found my answer as to why the agency and advocate did not follow through. This is where I found out I was mentally ill; diagnosed by my son's psychiatrist whom I never met. It read "This patient's mother is as mentally ill as her son". Wow! Did I get angry? No. I shrunk to the size of a mushroom. I was literally sick to my stomach; afraid, humiliated, and scared. He went on to state that his staff were in full agreement with his assessment of me. I learned to shut up...to be silent...not to make waves. I was the neurotic mentally ill mother. I wondered what his diagnosis of me was. Schizophrenic? Bipolar? Delusional? Paranoid? When I think about it now, I know it was the psychiatrist's way of silencing me and to ward off the agenices I had contacted to protest his harsh treatment of my son. Of course they would believe a doctor over a neurotic mother. I found out later I could have sued him for his diagnosing me without me being present for a thorough assessment but fighting these guys in court is pointless. That's another story to tell. The Court of Sham. No, I did not misspell sham.
I fell into the trap again a couple of years later when life got overwhelming again. I was taking care of my aging mother at the time along with my son being hospitalized again. I had brought her to a doctor's appointment and as I sat in the patient room waiting for her to return from them running some tests on her heart, I felt an overwhelming sensation of exhaustion and emotionality that surrounded my entire being. I hastily went to the appointment desk to see if anyone was available to talk to. They sent me to a Nurse Practitoner who dismissed my story midsentence and calmly stated "Oh, your depressed". Within minutes, I was given a prescription for Lexapro, a newer antidepressant than Prozac. She also referred me to a counselor and I engaged in a couple of therapy sessions along with a prescription for Wellbutrin!
I had not started the Lexapro yet as I was having apprehensions as to be expected. I decided to try to the Wellbutrin first. If you want an upper, this is it! Can't sleep..restless legs...a bit of akathesia anyone? Akathesia is the worst. I couldn't sit still. You pace because your body feels like it's on fire from the inside. I chucked them in the garbage.
Now for the Lexapro. By now I knew that these drugs were a disaster, but I decided to see what exactly it would do. That was a big mistake because this one is a "Big Whopper" compared to the regular "Whopper". I was so numbed out that I lost every bit of what it is to be alive. I was taking college classes at the time and studying was impossible. I would sit at the table rereading the same page over and over; not comprehending a thing I had read. My oldest son was so alarmed by my robotic, non-emotional presentation, that he insisted I throw them away. The last straw came one night during dinner with my husband. He must have said something that made me angry and my reaction was shocking. I was holding a fork and I turned it into a weapon as if I were holding a knife. I held it up with the impulsive urge to stab my husband with it. I stopped myself before plunging it into his throat. It was a sensation I had never experienced before and was very disturbing to me and to my husband, to say the least, as he stood there with his mouth open in confusion. I knew at that moment that it was a result of the Lexapro and needed to get off it. Caution! Physician's Desk Reference of Psychiatric Drugs lists homocidal ideation as a side effect! I quit taking it cold turkey which was another bad decision. My legs jerked non-stop and the brain zaps were intense. I couldn't sleep. I knew I had to go back on the Lexapro and wean off slowly. I did just that and still endured withdrawal effects but I made it through and that was the last time I took any of their dangerous drugs.
I developed severe diverticulitis resulting in a very inflamed colon and needed very high doses of Prednisone after I was misdiagnosed with Crohn's Disease around 2014. I had lost so much weight from not being able to eat and had become anemic. Prednisone is quite an interesting steroid which affects the adrenal glands. I would lie in bed and never sleep. By 2 a.m., I was ready to go grocery shopping at Walmart. I cleaned my house from top to bottom, rearranged all the furniture, painted all the walls, redecorated the bathroom, and tremored constantly. I felt a bit manic and it rather scared me that maybe, just maybe, I was mentally ill until I mentioned by behaviors to several nurses. They described having the same experiences while on Prednisone! Ok, I wasn't crazy. Prednisone can be crazy-making! I had to be taken off the Prednisone prior to colon surgery. Coming off Prednisone is a process because of it's dysregulation of the adrenal glands and the doctors were very careful in tapering me off. I have experienced such a difference in medical doctors compared with psychiatrists in regards to tapering people off medications.
Morphine Psychosis Anyone?
I was finally off the Prednisone and in the hospital for colon surgey which quite a common procedure these days but does result in a lot of post-surgery pain. Trusting my surgeon and the medical staff to take care of me was not questioned...until the morphine drip made for a wild ride. It was like being awake and but not really awake. I would see the doctor and a nurse standing by my bed conversing and the next second actually waking up with no one there. This kept happening! Relatives came to see me that were never there. My husban built a wooden fence gate on my bed! After a couple of nights of these bizarre experiences, I explained what was happening to the night nurse and asked him if they could switch pain meds. He obliged and the hallucinations went away. Am I crazy? No. These drugs are teaching me how they can mess with the brain.
From my own experiences on different types of drugs, I know that I was right in defending my son. When Big Pharma can't tell me how they "work", what in God's name are we doing subjecting so many to drugs we have no idea how they are affecting, not only the mind, but the body!
Psychiatrists only see us as a walking chemically imbalanced brain as if separate from the rest of the body. Was the psychiatrist correct in declaring me mentally ill? Nope. It was a cop out. I have little respect for them and am no longer scared of them. They practice their own religion with their delusions of miracle pills and pseudo-science. I am okay. I have anxiety at times. Who doesn't? I feel depressed at times. You too? I get overwhelmed at times. Welcome to the club. That's life. That's being human. I learned that psychiatry is all about little blue pills, green pills, and pink pills. Colorful little things that remind me of candy at the local Widman's Store with the nostalgic soda fountain when I was a kid. Aren't those pills pretty? What harm can they do?
I learned not to trust psychiatrists from my own experiences and from others who should never have been subjected to psychiatry's paternalism, narcissism, and laziness. Their belief in a science that is questionable and has all but destroyed too many lives. I survived. Thank God I did my research. I read books like Mad in America and Anatomy of An Epidemic by Robert Whitaker and many other books. I read my textbooks. I went to University to study biological and clinical psychology. In Pharmacology classes, they teach only the minor side effects and not a hint of withdrawal problems. They don't teach about the brain changes that might become permanent; creating a community of chronic patients.
I taught myself to "question everything, assume nothing". A very wise Suzy Kassem wrote "Most of the time, we see only what we want to see, or what others tell us to see, instead of investigate to see what is really there. We embrace illusions only because we are presented with the illusion that they are embraced by the majority". I agree with her. Tomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, stated in one of his blogs "We lack cures, we lack vaccines, and we lack diagostic markers. Terms like 'depression' or 'schizophrenia' or 'autism' have achieved a reality that far outstrips their scientific value".
It's like looking at the forest through the trees. The real cause is right in front of you. Can't you see it?