I’m taking something from an email I received from my childhood friend just two days ago. I’m anti-pharmaceuticals when it comes to matters of mental health. In great part because I’ve read the pros and cons of pharmaceuticals and because I have read the pros and very little cons of alternative modalities of healing, and I’ve personally experienced advancement in my awareness and understanding of what the messengers have come to say.
I’ve known my friend R since the 8th grade. He was my longest running friend and was my best friend and confidante. Well, at least he was before he got married, then I could never see him without her, and never talk to him except for the 20 minutes between work and home. He has some deep struggles in life (I won’t share what those have been, mostly because I don’t really know). And he’s in need of medications to help him. I shared my frank thoughts after researching a great deal and shared a lot of resources I’ve come across with him.
And I only hurt him, but he gave me a lot to think about:
If you had a kidney ailment, would you not take a pharm to cure it. Why do people think that just because it has to do with the brain, we cannot medicate after therapy and other methods have been unsuccessful. When I read your blog or your letters to me online I become sad. Why can’t you let the doctors employ their knowledge? …trust the doctors..? I can tell from your words that you are so unhappy, and I think you need help.i mean that in a caring way, not condescendingly.i have not seen you in years,so I can’t pretend to know you,even though you do not feel I am pathological, you don’t know what I have been through.
New medicines have brought progress. Heart meds, cholesterol meds, cancer meds, etc.have kept people living longer. Better as well. What about in your field before DNA? You are a DNA expert. You are trained and educated.trust medicine. Nature, yoga, etc has its place, I agree, but please consider an outpatient therapy program. There is one at st mags [close to where you are] and it was very helpful. you may have a fear of meds, which is fine, but they won’t push them on you. Please get some help.
I made the mistake of not believing he was pathological. I was eager to show that there are ways to heal that have less toxic effects on the bodymind. I’m not AFRAID OF meds. I just know they aren’t the panacea we are led to believe.
I realized when this mirror was held up to me, that I was hurtful (he said other things I’m not sharing here) and I must look sad and pathetic to a great number of readers who come across my writings. A LOT of people who google “complex PTSD” and “Hashitmoto’s and Bipolar link”. They come, look, but don’t comment. I wonder if they, too, agree I am in need of help.
Well, that’s the message my family has ALWAYS said to me. I’m in need of “psychological help”. This decree has been with me a LONG time. Part of my self-definition is that I’m a half a bubble off plumb. Well, so be it.
After apologizing for being a jerk and being unintentionally hurtful (I can be very opinionated at times and I’m working on that), I told him I’ve seen 4 therapists in the past 4 years:
1. A CBT therapist I saw for a total of three sessions, who couldn’t write fast enough for the amount of information I gave him, gave me a bunch of handouts and told me I must have done SOMETHING for my family to mistreat me. Um…yeah. It was my fault I was abused as a child. Sure. He recommended David Burns Feeling Good, but at that point, no medications. Even though I came in every time and had to fill out a “how suicidal are you today?” form. A low enough score meant I’m in no immediate danger to myself.
2. My second therapist? A former opera singer turned person-centered therapist (a style of therapy developed by Carl Rogers in the 70s), who had her first and only child at 41, I totally loved her. She understood the complex feelings I had and the complex experiences I have had in my life. Because she knew of my interest in Eastern spirituality, she recommended yoga, mindfulness meditation, nutrition, and energy work, among others. She gave me free recordings of things. I gave her some references and books to help in HER practice. And we talked a great deal about mothering challenging children. It was truly a collaborative effort. I had to stop going because I could not afford it when my husband lost his job for the second time in our marriage. I specifically asked her if she thought I needed meds. She said, “no, and there have been scientific studies done to show that exercise is as effective as antidepressants for mild depression, with no side effects”.
3. My third therapist was after my husband had a suicide gesture. He has his personal issues (which I won’t reiterate here) that led him to that place. She has not recommended medications to me. She tells me she is impressed with my knowledge and awareness as well as understands my struggle to believe in my self and to cope with the memories and deep grief that wells up in me from time to time and the depletion of my energy. She has NOT recommended I go on medications. She recommended I take time to consider more of the things I’ve done RIGHT, rather than focus on the things I’ve done WRONG.
4. My fourth therapist was this woman who worked in the area of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy and Internal Family Systems Therapy. She was gruff and straightfoward and compassionate and humorous and I simply stopped going when my husband’s church stopped paying my bill (I got 8 free sessions to try and help me cope with my husband’s suicide gesture and the events that led up to that).
She did NOT recommend medications for me. She recommended working to continue to strengthen the parts of me that were strongest and not to let the weaker parts of me “drive the bus”, so to speak. She recognized why my weaker parts, left alone to deal with stress and trauma, would act extremely erratically and desperately, but ultimately ALL the parts serve some purpose. Erratic and desperate or not, they all have my best interests at heart. Even if no one else could comprehend how.
Currently, my husband and I see therapist number three. We alternate going alone and going together. It’s been working out pretty well.
As far as medicines?
I experimented with St. John’s wort and it was short lived. I used it not because I’m unhappy. I used it because my energy levels were down the toilet.
I am fairly certain I am going through perimenopause, and I have an autoimmune disease. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is something that has been OFFICIALLY diagnosed…including antibody testing…which proves I actually have this medical condition.
A thyroid node specialist/endocrinologist at the University of Chicago would not give me Synthroid to treat my KNOWN condition. It wasn’t “bad enough”.
Two years later, still feeling awful, my primary care physician gave me another blood screening, and saw that my vit D3 was borderline low and everything else was within normal ranges. She recommended 2000 IU of vitamin D3 (deficiencies of which are known to cause depression) and scheduled an endocrinologist visit to confirm the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s that I got at U of C (which was simply by ultrasound anyway).
The endocrinologist at her office, checked my thyroid antibody levels, ALSO refused to give me synthroid medicine, even though I have antibodies which PROVES I have hashi’s. She said that since my t3 and t4 levels were within the normal levels based on testing, she won’t treat based on symptoms alone. Feeling like shit physically isn’t enough to medicate. Okay.
I said, but I have chronic fatigue and feel “depressed” a lot – not sad, just energy levels being depressed. When I feel sad, I usually feel sad, and I might cry (and sometimes a lot), but I do not feel physically depressed. I can feel the difference between a sad state of mind and a tired state of body.
Her answer to me? A lot of people come in with fatigue and I won’t treat just for that. She said, “I recommend taking 200 mg of selenium”.
If I want to feel better, I HAVE to experiment with alternative treatments.
I’m actually NOT completely anti-pharmacueticals. But reassuringly enough, the experts around here are surprisingly conservative. Leaving me with no option but experimenting with natural supplements.
I tried St John’s wort. Like my friend, I just want to feel better.
I went on and off a few times and realized…it’s not working.I don’t believe SJW actually worked to do what it could have for me because my problems are NOT biochemical in nature. And it does NOTHING for anxiety, and, in fact, I think it gave me anxiety, because i’ve been anxiety free for about 2 weeks now.
Before then I tried 5-HTP and Rhodiola. After a week, 5HTP gave me a facial tic and could be the reason why I have extreme tenderness when I get a massage. Rhodiola gave me energy and and a bit of manic creativity (no not THAT much). And then I got anxiety.
I’m NOT unhappy with myself (though sometimes I’m unhappy with WHO I have chosen to love and share my self with, yes).
I’m NOT unhappy with my past, nor unhappy in this moment (though I do HAVE unhappiness sometimes, it’s NOT a chronic thing).
I’m unhappy with the way our (U.S.) society is set up.
I’m unhappy with the way our society sets us up to fail and then the ONLY way to get through this life is by medicating our pain away, rather than changing our mindset, our fixed beliefs or lifestyle, or simply have friends who freaking “GET IT”, ya know? Most of my pain is not having community, no matter what “bad things” I’ve done to “screw up” my life.
My blog is NOT an unhappy place. Not for me it isn’t. I move through my feelings through my writing. There’s always a silver lining. Always.
If anyone hear unhappiness…that is only temporary. To say that it characterizes my entire being, is mistaken.
Through my thinking, my writing, my expressing, I turn my experience around. I’m HAPPIEST when I’m writing, exposing my heart and my human failings, risking rejection to share the lessons I’ve learned.
I also hope someone can glean SOMETHING worthwhile when they are here.
I made some mistakes when I tried to foist what I’ve learned on others. I’m kind of dense and can’t see that getting on my soapbox hurts more than it helps. Nobody liked Hermione for acting like a know-it-all. Even she learned to cut back on that.
Just a day ago, I just read this:
Life on earth is a whole, yet it expresses itself in unique time-bound bodies, microscopic or visible, plant or animal, extinct or living. So there can be no one place to be. There can be no one way to be, no one way to practice, no one way to learn, no one way to love, no one way to grow or to heal, no one way to live, no one way to feel, no one thing to know or be known. The particulars count.
And I’m in such agreement with that.
I’m seeing a pattern in my interactions. All the conflict I am is teaching me that I need to get out of the habit of trying to help people see a different viewpoint. It only hurts them, me and the relationship I have with them.
That’s never been my intention.
I hope I can apply this lesson from now on and keep out of things and just express happiness for others that they found a way that works for them.
We shall see if I can learn from this.