Wednesday, August 03, 2005


So, Goody (I would totally make her name into a link if I knew how), a most prolific blogger has often waxed on the state of mental health care in the United States. I have learned quite a bit that frightens me about the way things are down south, and I thought I would share some of my own experiences and thoughts here.

I was diagnosed with depression a few years ago, when I was quite young. I clung to this diagnosis, it made me special, and it explained why nothing was my fault. I was quite pleased to know that I, like many other people out there, had something wrong with me. Now I know that I probably was not depressed, I was a teenager, I was lazy, and I wanted an excuse. Anyways, I ended up moving away before they could prescribe me medications, but any time I ran into trouble, I comforted myself with the knowledge that "It's not my fault, I'm mentally ill." A couple of years ago, when I was about 24, I went to my doctor and complained that I had a headache, and was tired. He asked me a couple of questions (Do you sometimes feel like you can't accomplish things? Are you often tired? Do you cry sometimes?), and diagnosed me with depression again, and prescribed Effexor. No, he didn't think that perhaps I was a little stressed out, as I had recently moved to a different city, and started a new job. He didn't ask if I had someone to talk too, nope, just prescribed the drugs, and sent me on my way.

So, I started to take the effexor. Yikes. That was a trip. The only way I can describe the first two weeks of taking that stuff was that I had stepped sideways. It was like I was totally out of sync with the rest of the world, I didn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I was constantly jittering. Eventually these side effects faded, but if I missed a pill by even an hour, I was heaving my guts up over the porcelain throne. Then one day, after about 2 years of taking the stuff, I decided I didn't want too. I still feel the withdrawal effects, though they are tolerable now. I really thought I was going insane, it was like someone was electrocuting my poor brain, my skin crawled constantly, and I had fainting spells. I actually went to my doctor and told him I thought I may be addicted to the drugs, and he said "No no, Effexor isn't addictive, although it does have some mild withdrawal side effects at times." Oh My God! How can something not be addictive, but have such terrible withdrawal symptoms that after a week, you want to take a whole bottle to make it stop.

After the wee fuss-pot was born, I had problems again. It was well known by my health care practitioners that I had problems with depression in the past, so they were watching me and counting the days till I cracked. I admit that I went a little crazy after Mary was born, but it turned out that I was able to work through it by altering my behavior, eating, and getting out of the house...Of course those things didn't happen till after I was prescribed two different antidepressants. According to Goody, if I were in the USA, they could have forcibly medicated me, or even worse, locked me up and sent Social Workers to watch Mary. It kind of blows me away.

One last thought, apparently they are starting to diagnose men with Post-Partum Depression. Um. Can men actually be post-partum without some sort of surgery?


Anne R. Key said...

No, they can't be post partum. But the other thing men can't bear is to be left out. Of anything. That's why you hear about male bellydancers nowadays, and men who get yeast infections and breast cancer are much more prevalent. Oh, yes, it *could* be that some of these medical conditions are getting more attention because the medical establishment is becoming more open-minded *cough*.
Or it could simply be that society is in a state of flux, and that men are feeling more and more insecure about their changing roles. Perhaps they feel marginalized in some way--rather like we women have for...well, since forever. I'm not whining, honestly: I just think that diagnosing men with post partum is seriously bogus.

Raven said...

I s'pose it depends on how you define "post-partum" - do you mean the state of hormonal imbalance, the physical injury of major abdominal trauma (and sometimes surgery in the case of C-sections)? Then NO, guys can't get post-partum depression the same way women do.
But if you define post-partum as "That time after the baby is born when you are subjected to severe sleep deprivation of the sort forbidden by the Geneva convention, and you must endure screams which nature has specifically designed to cause serious emotional trauma, and you are simultaneously separated from your usual social support network while being expected to help out the love-of-your-life who is slowly going insane, while worrying how you will manage financially, and you aren't getting any WooHoo to compensate for the past months of famine" then I guess men could share in the post-partum diagnosis.

Anonymous said...

A number of years ago, I was diagnosed with depression. And I don't argue with the diagnosis: at the time I was weeping all the time, I had terrible mood swings, it was affecting my work and my friendships.

But I do argue with the 'cure'. I was put on Paxil, and I also had a miserable time. It didn't help the crying or my work; it didn't help how unhappy I felt. All it meant was that I felt equally bad all the time, instead of up and down.

After nearly a year, I went off the pills, cold turkey, without talking to my doctor, and had terrible withdrawal symptoms. I was feverish, nauseous, dizzy - so sick I didn't even notice I had the flu two weeks later.

I finally went to my doctor, and she naturally told me that Paxil wasn't addictive so it wasn't withdrawal. And after that point, any time I went to her, she would try to get me back on the pills. Which would make me cry. Which would give her more ammunition.

I switched doctors, joined a choir, started exercising more regularly and going outside more, and voila! problem basically solved.

I think depression exists; I just think that the 'hard' cure (sunlight, activity, social interaction) is a hell of a lot more effective than anything chemical.

So what I'm trying to say it, I completely agree, and bravo!


Dave S said...

I was once on effexor myself. It did help me out with my depression at the time. I was also taking a rather large dose of the stuff to keep things 'level'.
I was on it for about a year and a little bit and decided to stop taking it after the perscription finished. Man, that first week was very bizarre and disjointed. The month after was not much prettier. Two months later, I was over the withdrawl and doing fine. Guess all I can say is, chemical therapy can work...if you can find something else that isn't chemical, so much the better.

Just my two cents

Layne said...

Depression, Bipolar Disorder, ADD and ADHD, and a few other psychiatric "disorders" all fall into a deplorable category of non-proven "diseases".

ALL proven neurological diseases in existance are characterized by either a) a detectable chemical imbalance or b) CLEARLY identifiable symptomology. Since NONE of these so-called diseases can be tested for chemically, the diagnoses always rest upon point b. Tests have shown that in the vast majority of cases of the above mentioned "disease states", diagnosis will vary drastically from health professional to health professional... which means that the symptomology is NOT clearly identifiable.

The fact of the matter is that psychiatrists have invented "diseases" to represent normal human behaviours that are distasteful to us. When one has been stressed, has no friends to talk to, feels trapped, one feels sad. But we don't want to feel sad... so something must be wrong with us. When our children are difficult to control and must be taught to behave, we find ourselves too lazy or too overwhelmed to take them to task, and therefore something must be wrong with them. And the response is always the same; the bread-and-butter of the medical community, drugs.

I'm not saying that there are NO justifications for using drugs to control mental problems. I'm just saying that the combination of a) a society of people that do not want to actually deal with their problems, b) a medical profession that is trained to see diseases where there are anything remotely resembling a symptom, and c) a big-business attitude towards drugs and treatments, results in a very dangerous place.

Doctors are NOT infallible. Don't let them trick you into believing that they are.

Ok, sorry. Done ranting now.

Goody said...

Thanks. I appreciate you giving this topic a wider audience and am so sorry you had to suffer through Effexor withdrawl (and yes, gosh, what do you know, those darn drugs were addictive after all).

I should have mentioned a few decent resources in that post;
(You can get information about addiction and withdrawl as well as support forums).
(more on the dangers of seretonin drugs)
(Activism and information from psychiatric survivors).

And some (darkly) comic relief for survivors;

Thanks again for spreading the word.

Kugel said...

Excuse me, "Anne R. Key", but do you really think men get yeast infections and breast cancer because they don't want to feel "left out"?
The first one is caused by bacteria and the second is caused by a virus. I dare you to go up to a man who has suffered from either condition and tell them that they "just wanted attention". You have an appalling lack of sensitivity.

And apparently you are under the mistaken impression that male bellydancers are something new. Uh, no. They've been around for centuries in the middle east. Just because Western society perceives bellydancing as a female-only activity doesn't mean that male bellydancers just recently sprang up out of nowhere. I have two males friends who are middle eastern belly dancers and they tell me it is a very old tradition in their country.