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"We shall rise and fight again"
Note: This is my story and mine alone. As a Christian, it was inevitable that I would look at things in a different light perhaps, than someone who was of another Faith, or of no Faith. I could have edited my story to include only those things that may have been generic in nature and of interest to all. However, to do that, it would then have become someone else's story and not mine alone. There was never a way for me to tell my story without the faith in God that I had, because to me, God is in everything that I am.
That said, my story was written for all, Christian or not, with the hope that something here might be of comfort to someone. I must say I have found some non-Christians, in my journey off psych drugs, to have more faith than some of us Christians exhibit. Many people have been able to look down deep inside themselves, find the strength to get off these hideous drugs, and go on to have lovely lives. Watching the everyday struggles of people on the support groups led me to attach my favorite quote to many of my posts:
"I am wounded, but I am not slain. I shall lay me down and bleed a while,then I shall rise and fight again." Scottish Proverb
Yes, we shall "rise and fight again"...as many brave people on these groups can attest to.
Debra - Owner / Yahoo Benzo Group
Should Christians Use Psychiatric Medications?
This is my journey into the world of psychiatric medications and mental illness, what I experienced and what I learned in the last 17 years, and why I believe that no one, especially Christians, should be on these drugs.
I was prescribed Prozac and Xanax in April of 1989. I had gone to see my doctor over a minor medical problem and the nurse, who was a friend of mine, asked me how I was doing. My first grandchild had died a few months before and I had tears in my eyes while we were talking. Within 5 minutes of the doctor entering the exam room, he decided that I was depressed and needed some medication to help me get through this time. He prescribed Xanax and Prozac. I must add here that I had no signs or symptoms of clinical depression. I was keeping my home in order, experiencing fulfillment in my work with nursing students, enjoying my home, husband and kids, interested and involved in life, and happy.
Although I wasn't a Christian at that time, I really didn't like taking pills and questioned the doctor repeatedly about why he felt I needed them. I asked many times when I could quit taking them but was always told to give the meds a few more months.
After the Lord saved me in 1990, I went to my pastor and asked him if he knew anything about psychiatric medications, and if I should be on them. I kept feeling like something was just wrong about these type of drugs, but my pastor had no answers regarding my situation.
After a few more months, I still had no clear answers but without saying anything to my doctor, I quit taking them. Within 2 weeks, I was so horribly depressed I could barely function. I felt as if I was in a black hole from which there was no escape and became absolutely terrified that I was going to die. I could barely get to work. Back home, I immediately went to bed to face the next horrid day.
I called my doctor and he said to start taking the Prozac and Xanax again. He also had me increase the dose on the Prozac and mentioned that I might have 'chemical' depression. Within a few days I felt better.
Over the next 2 years or so, I went through the above scenario several times. Each time I 'crashed and burned' when I quit taking the meds, and each time my doses were increased. I became used to hearing that this 'proved' that I needed these meds and that I had "chemical depression". I even talked to a psychiatric nurse who was a friend of mine, and she said I was most likely 'dysthymic' and would be on psychiatric meds the rest of my life.
Over the next few years I became convinced that I was indeed suffering from "chemical depression" and was mentally ill with a depressive illness. I was told this over and over by the doctors who provided my medical care, so I gave up trying to get off the Prozac and Xanax.
Even though I always took my medications the way they were prescribed, over the next few years I suffered horrid bouts of depression that were only relieved when more and more psych medications were given. The Prozac was increased and then replaced with Zoloft until the maximum dose of Zoloft was reached and then the Zoloft was replaced with Paxil and so on. This pattern would continue for the next 11 years until I had been on almost every antidepressant on the market. Lithium was added in to 'help' the other antidepressants to "work" and then antipsychotics were added in to "help" the Lithium to "work." At one point in time, I was on as many as five psychiatric meds at one time - four of those over the maximum recommended doses.
The last few years I was on the psychiatric medications, I was seeing a psychiatrist who initially verified my diagnosis of "chemical" depression. She told me that she saw many people like me, and all she really needed to do was find the right drug in the right combination and I would be fine.
At first, I was hopeful that I had found someone who could "cure" the depression. On my first visit with her, I had explained to her that while I did agree and understood that I needed these medications, I could never agree with her model of "therapy." I had read the book by John Owen, "Christian Psychology's War on God's Word," and had explained to her that I didn't believe in her system. She had agreed that I didn't need "talk" therapy, and that I was indeed only suffering from a chemical imbalance in the brain, which she could help me overcome through the proper medications.
Six years later, in 2000, after one drug combination after another failed to help my depression, the psychiatrist began to tell me that she believed something else was going on. She started hinting that I was hiding things from her and wanted me to get a second opinion. We also started discussing ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) as an option since the medications were failing to take care of my depression. It was also suggested that I start seeing a therapist who had an office in her building.
I loved the Lord so, and I tried and tried to understand why I was constantly depressed. I couldn't think of a thing that I was 'hiding' and in reality, I was happy with my life. I had a wonderful husband, great kids, and loved the Lord with everything in me. My life was truly blessed by God in every way, and even when I had a problem, I knew that God was there and would help me though it. This was what upset me the most - having depression for no reason I could explain.
I was terrified about what was going to happen to me. The psychiatrist was insistent on therapy, along with the medications. I had considered this doctor to be a friend but now felt betrayed. I had come to believe that I would go into an untreatable depression and commit suicide without the medications, but getting those medications now hinged on submitting to therapy - therapy that I believed God would never be pleased to see me participate in. I didn't know it then, but my entire world was to be rocked to the core in the next few days. God would work to at least reveal the truth about the psychiatric drugs.
I went home one day from yet another disturbing visit with my psychiatrist and decided to call a dear friend of mine, Bret C., pastor of a small church I attended when the Lord first saved me, Bret was in California at that time attending the Master's Seminary. After I explained the situation to Bret, he suggested I try to find a NANC counselor to appease the psychiatrist. NANC counselors counseled from the Bible only. I had never heard of NANC counseling and was very excited about this, so I went to the NANC website, but was unable to locate one close by.
I did however come across Sid Galloway's website while perusing the NANC site, and this is where I first read the name, Dr. Peter Breggin. I clicked over to Dr. Breggin's website, and saw his book "Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications." I purchased the book at my local Barnes and Noble, and by the time I had read a few chapters, I knew why I was depressed all the time for no apparent reason. I was in "tolerance" withdrawal from the psychiatric drugs and not mentally ill at all! Dr. Breggin's book explained that once you become tolerant to a drug, the drug itself would cause the very problem it is supposed to be treating. His book also explained how to taper slowly off psychiatric drugs in the hope of holding back the worst of the withdrawal reactions.
With Breggin's book in hand, I made an appointment with my family doctor, who happened to be the doctor who put me on Prozac and Xanax initially. I thought he might help me taper off my current medications, Nortriptyline and Xanax. He did agree to help me, and I spent the next 4 years struggling to get off these 2 drugs slowly enough to not suffer horrific withdrawal. It would be impossible to describe completely the horror of withdrawal from antidepressants and benzodiazepines. One can find a comprehensive symptoms list at www.benzo.org.uk. There are over 300 documented benzodiazepine w/d symptoms, all of which can also be present in antidepressant withdrawal.
My own symptoms were anxiety, agoraphobia, apathy, severe constipation, depersonalization, derealization, dysphoria, depression, heart palpitations, insomnia, rage, irritability, panic attacks, photo sensitivity, weakness, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, muscle and joint pain, GI distress, headaches, poor concentration, memory deficits, night sweats, urinary dysfunction, vertigo, and many more.
Due to the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, I was in bed 20 out of 24 hours a day for a period of about 9 months during the initial tapering process. I am now over 5 years off benzodiazepines and 2 years off antidepressants. Until about 15 months off the drugs, I continued to suffer with mild to moderate depression, apathy, muscle pain, severe fatigue, and memory deficits. If I had seen a neurologist at that time, I have no doubt that I would have been diagnosed with CFS or Fibromyalgia or both. Many people, while in tolerance withdrawal to psychiatric drugs or while attempting to taper off these drugs, will receive a large number of misdiagnoses, only to find themselves having none of these illnesses once off the drugs and past the severe w/d state.
I have to say that in over 11 years, I never questioned that the psychiatric medications might be the problem. I questioned over and over if I should be taking them, and was always told that I had a mental illness and I had to be on them, but not one doctor ever said that the problem might be the medications themselves. And pastors who I came in contact with over the years simply did not know anything either.
I think this is a shame, as the Church is supposed to be different from the world, and yet we are as duped as everyone else. Psychiatric drugs alter the mind by putting the Limbic system to sleep or by activating the nervous system to "get us off the couch." Since we don't 'feel' the depression, we assume we are cured. But what does that say to the Christian on these drugs? Does God want us to be spared the feelings we have, based on what He has wrought on us this day? Is it ever ok to escape what we feel, no matter how terrible, by taking drugs that are known to contain the same chemicals as many street drugs?
I have gone to a NANC counselor the last two years to get help with my daughter, who was having some problems. We don't have a NANC counselor close by, but the church I attend feels so strongly about true "biblical" counseling versus some of the so-called "Christian" counseling, which often mixes the Bible and psychology together, that they fly in a NANC counselor several times a year to counsel church members who have a need.
That is how I met Bill H., who is the first person in the world to lookat me when I explained psychiatric drug withdrawal, and say he knew about the psychiatric drugs. It turned out that Bill was instrumental in bringing Dr. Peter Breggin to speak to his ministry students in the Fort Worth/Dallas, Texas area. So, for two years now, I have been able to speak to someone who believes in psychiatric drug withdrawal and what the horror means for many of us. That has been a priceless addition to my life - to be acknowledged, because unfortunately, we have a very ignorant medical profession when it comes to tolerance withdrawal syndromes associated with psychiatric drugs and the need for a slow taper.
For instance, most doctors will categorically deny ever seeing anyone have a problem with benzodiazepines, and yet, the medical literature says that 40-80% of people taking benzodiazepines will become dependent. It is thought that many of these people will not be recognized as such, because when tolerance withdrawal symptoms begin, these people are often diagnosed with anxiety/panic disorders or depressive disorders and will be put on even more psychiatric drugs to "treat" their "supposedly" newly acquired "disease". Dr. Peter Breggin in his book, "Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications", and Dr. Heather Ashton in her manual on benzodiazepine withdrawal both address the issue of tolerance withdrawal and the ensuring misdiagnoses quite thoroughly.
My story is really too long to tell here in this short essay. But it is a story that is no different from many who are suffering today to get off the psychiatric drugs and get their lives back. Many online support groups exist simply because people have no support from their doctors and live with families who are in fear of what is happening to them. The UK has been at the forefront of recognizing and treating benzodiazepine dependency. They have clinics where people can go to get the proper support they so desperately need to get off these drugs. Unfortunately, there are not enough clinics even there. The US has lagged far behind in even admitting there is a problem with benzodiazepines, much less the antidepressants, which will be another long battle. We psychiatric drug survivors attribute this to "Big Pharma."
Today, two years off ALL psychiatric drugs, I am very close to well. I still suffer some mild intermittent withdrawal symptoms and an occasional day of feeling quite ill out of the blue. I was put on psychiatric drugs in 1989. I lived through over fifteen years of Hell because no one ever said, "Maybe it is the drugs" or "Maybe you are in tolerance withdrawal." I have yet to understand this, as benzodiazepine tolerance withdrawal is discussed extensively in the medical literature, and has been well-known for close to thirty years now.
For me, I will never again take a psychiatric drug. God has taught me a hard lesson, but a necessary one. I remember when I read Dr. Breggin's book and knew that my only recourse was to get off these drugs or live in tolerance withdrawal until I possibly committed suicide. I was terrified to think about the tapering process. I did not know what I would do if I went into that dark hole called depression and couldn't get out.
The courage to survive the tapering process off these drugs came from the wisest man I have ever known, my first pastor, Bret C. His answer to my fear of killing myself while attempting to get off the psychiatric drugs went something like this: "Did I not remember that Charles Spurgeon suffered with dark depression off and on his entire life, but yet preached to audiences of over 10,000 people, and that his life work would fill about 27 volumes of Encyclopedia Britannia? If God took care of Spurgeon, did I not think He could/would take care of me?"
Well, that was what won my soul over to getting off these drugs without fear. I saw that God could and would help me through this, and He could handle whatever state I was left in, when all was said and done. Surprisingly enough, or maybe not so surprisingly, I never suffered the deep, dark depression, the one I so feared the most, while tapering. I did suffer with depression as one of my main withdrawal symptoms, but I never again entered the black hole from which, for many, the only escape is death.
My journey off psychiatric drugs is not over. Yes, I am off ALL the drugs, but my journey in healing and helping others will continue until God calls me home to His heavenly place. Perhaps that was God's plan all along.
December 21, 2006
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