This article is a personal account of a person’s journey with psychiatric medicines and their experience of stopping taking these medications. The author shares how she was prescribed various medicines over a span of fourteen years, starting with Prozac at the age of 18 during their time at Yale University. In the beginning the medicines helped her cope with anxiety and perform better in college, but they also led to unexpected and severe side effects and changes in her personality.
The author writes about her struggles with trying to come off the medications, experiencing withdrawal symptoms, deep depression, and even hospitalizations. Withdrawal symptoms are physical and psychological symptoms that occur when you stop taking a medicine/drug. They can be very severe and painful. Despite asking for help from doctors, she faced resistance from psychiatrists who either just gave her more pills or discouraged her from stopping the medicines. She eventually found a supportive psychiatrist who helped her successfully taper off the medications over a two-year period. Tapering is the process of stopping a medicine that the body has become addicted to – many psychiatric medicines have this addictive property.
Throughout her journey, the author says her belief in herself was important as she was fighting many negative messages from doctors and society about her ability to come off the drugs. She says she has hope that psychiatry will work with alternate approaches which are more holistic (such as looking at nutrition), and learn from past mistakes influenced by the pharmaceutical industry. She writes easy to reach clinical support is necessary for others who want to taper or discontinue psychiatric drugs.
She writes that financial and spiritual support from her parents, and compassion and understanding from her partner were essential to her recovery.
The author highlights their improved mental and emotional state after coming off the drugs, but she also says that life still has its challenges. She has a deep sense of self-awareness and spirituality, and has a desire to help others who are struggling with similar experiences.
This is a synopsis of a personal story that first appeared on Mad in America. The full version can be read here.
This is a shortened synopsis edited for a South Asian audience.
Naas has 15 years of experience in the mental health and substance abuse field in various capacities, including in peer support, training, research, clinical work, advocacy and strategic planning. Currently she is an academic writer and researcher with the Temple University Collaborative for Community Inclusion of People with Psychiatric Disabilities and works as the part time Cultural Competence and Linguistics Coordinator for the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services System of Care federal grant. Recently, as a volunteer, she co-founded and coordinated the group Spiritual Emergence and Other Extraordinary Experiences at CIIS from January 2014-June 2016 and produced Holding the Shadow, a community collaborative social commentary theatre project for survivors of the mental health and substance abuse systems. She is especially interested in exposing, resolving, and repairing disparity and discrimination issues- racism, homophobia, sexism, classisism- in mental health and substance abuse services- including power disparities between providers of services and the people receiving services. She holds a BA in Psychology, Neuroscience Track, from Yale University, and a Masters Degree in Integral Counseling Psychology from CIIS. She is a long time psychiatric survivor and is psychiatric drug free (and beyond happy and grateful about this) after 15 years of psychiatric drugging.