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I Was A Human Guinea Pig (Hooked on Drugs)

Peter Toh Monday, March 3, 2008

Years ago, right after September 11th, I was slowly developing panic disorder. In the beginning I was terrified, didn't know what was happening, and I really thought I was dying or had a terminal illness. The worse it got the more I realized how common it was for people my age. People in general in the recent years had been reporting anxiety problems in record numbers. I'll spare all the painful details about what it feels like to have a panic attack, because it is that common. If you don't understand depression, or anxiety, or panic disorder it probably means you're one of the lucky enough people to have never experienced this feeling. Or you're one of those fucked up parents that thinks there kid is just a big pussy for not toughening up. It's something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. It's something you can't understand until you've felt it. Sheer Terror.

So once I found out what was wrong with me, I battled this every which way I could including homeopathic remedies, yoga, meditation, self medicating (various), and exercise. The darkness just grew. I eventually couldn't leave my bedroom. A couple times I heard voices and saw things, this made me accept my fate--I had to see a "professional."

I started by visiting my physician who prescribed me Xanax so I could go on touring with my band and performing etc. The first time I took one was in Provo Utah. I had a sensation of zoning out which actually triggered me to panic. I'm thankful for that because it made me cautious from the jump. I used Xanax really sparingly because I realized that when I had them with me, and had an attack, I would be able to make it through just knowing that I had them in my pocket. This helped and hurt me, I got so frustrated that a "mental" problem was so hard for me to overcome. I kept telling myself, "it's all in your head and you're tougher than this." But the snowball kept growing, and gaining speed too. I became depressed which was something I didn't understand until it happened to me. I wasn't sad it was something else. I was sick. My body broke down.

Second phase was visiting a therapist. She was a very kind woman and listened very well. She better be it was really expensive. She asked me all about my family and my life situation and how I make money and this and that. Then told me she thinks I have a chemical imbalance that causes me to have severe panic attacks. She explained what was happening in my brain and my body and assured me that 2 million Americans were now (2002) diagnosed with a form of anxiety disorder. So she referred me to a psychiatrist and said she'd like to see me take a drug called Lexapro, which she claimed had the least and most insignificant side effects. She was totally aware of my reservations against these drugs and assured me they would help more than they would hurt. Under the condition that I stay in therapy of course. Which in retrospect totally contradicts me having a chemical imbalance. My life was now in the hands of my doctors. I let them lead me. My mistake.

Next I went to a psychiatrist who sure enough prescribed me 10 mg of Lexapro daily. He even had some handy trial packets to get me started on hand. "Here's some free trials to get you started." He probably was given boxes of them and a nice golfing vacation by the company to get his patients started. He said (in not so many words) if I wasn't such a pussy I should start with 10, but since I am I should start with 5. He also concurred that there would be little to no side effects, surely none that would outweigh having debilitating panic attacks. A new guru that I must now follow. I was so desperate at this point that if a clown with those animal balloons could have sold me a solution.

I started taking Lexapro at 5 mg a day and soon moved up to 10. By the time I was up to ten I felt back to life. It basically stopped the panic attacks dead in their tracks. I proclaimed that they had saved my life. I went on taking them everyday and soon stopped going to therapy. It was hard to justify paying all the money to talk to someone now that I felt fine. The major side effects were sexual. I had no sex drive, it took a few months for me to feel confident again but I went on living. The longer I was on the pills, the more those nightmare-ish days became a memory. I went about life like it never happened and let the pills do their thing.

After two years I started noticing small changes in the way I felt. I started getting dizzy, and vertigo. I started getting sick every so often, vomiting for a few days and then it went away. I started feeling sad, not depressed but I would get attacks of sadness instead of anxiety, where I would cry for no reason.

After three years I had become a different person. Not even realizing I was not myself, I was now taking 20 mg daily. By not myself I mean I was unable to think positive. Bad but insignificant things would happen and I couldn't overcome them, or make any sense out of events. To me everything was meaningless now. I lost all of my self esteem and self confidence. I told myself how much I sucked at singing, how I lost my song writing abilities, and how I let down all my friends and colleagues. The self hatred just kept growing, and transferring to everyone around me was all the negativity that my new brain was generating. I say new brain because I'm positive that slowly the pills rewired my mind. The network that made my personality was now a whole other network. My good friends and family stuck by me, but I could sense their distaste in my attitude. As an adult I was able to realize my negative thoughts were just not me. As a child or adolescent (which these drugs are commonly prescribed to) I would have been too confused to understand that if I had suicidal thoughts, they weren't mine, they were those of Lexapro.

So after being told how luxurious these pills were, I encountered personality changes, suicidal thoughts, physical sickness, and constant vertigo. The panic attacks and depression were starting to return too, and a local clinic in Brooklyn told me I should try to bump it up to 30 mg a day. I decided to stop taking them all together instead. So I looked through the Googles about the best way to discontinue taking them and I found that there was an overwhelming amount of people experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms from them, that people who discontinue come down with "ssri withdrawal syndrome." I'm convinced that this is what the younger kids and teenagers go through when they commit suicide. That they can't handle the feeling that the drugs gave me, like the overwhelming hopelessness and low self esteem. I knew I was in for a ride. I slowly weened off until they were no longer in my system.

I got SSRI Withdrawal Symptom which no one ever told me about. Probably because they didn't know. The tests for long term usage were being done on the public. There were literally no warnings about this from either of the three doctors I saw. I couldn't move my eyes or head around, the vertigo was so bad. I vomited a lot had audio hallucinations when I was trying to sleep. It sounded like a snare drum being whacked inside my head. There was also a crazy electric shock sensation bursting through my brain down my spine every few minutes. This went on for 3 weeks. I found out that this can last up to 8 weeks.

Immediately after the drugs were out of my system, I could feel my personality coming back. I felt like myself even though I was sick, I really had a new perspective. I now have a very positive outlook on life and my confidence is back too. I am upset that I fell for it. I can't think of any other solution that would've helped at the time, but I know there's got to be a better way. I know there are chemical engineers and scientists with much credentials that have the ball in their hands but their hands in the wrong pockets. I was hooked on drugs. The dealers were acting as doctors or some type of guru. I was weak and they preyed on that. Just like the millions of other people in the world suffering from this modern problem.

No I don't have a solution, but I have a believe that the solution is out there and it's not this. Why is no one spending time or money to prevent these mental ailments or find the cause? Only BIG BIG money to "treat" them? Why are so many young people, who's minds are still forming, given anti-depressants for ADHD etc.? Why do most doctors have this on hand in free packets but have literally NO advice on how to live through it and rehabilitate your own mind? NO IDEAS THEY HAVE.

I visited a doctor when I got really sick one time and lost all the fluids in my body. He couldn't diagnose me, just gave me a shot to feel better so I could eat. He was a VERY prestigious doctor who my old managers brought me to in emergencies. He brought me in his office and said to me simply, "brain exercise." He said the pills were bullshit. He would never in a million years give his kids these mind altering drugs. Instead he decided to put his kid who suffered from ADHD through a series of left brain exercises to balance it to the right brain. He said he was cured.

I never got started on the balancing exercises, but the one thing that I now realize is the pillar of recovery is positive thinking. Seeing the good side of events however mundane they may be. Loving myself and treating myself right. This modern world is crazy. How could we possibly stay sane here in the future?


Anonymous said...

extremely insightful. keep it up guys, i love the site

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