I was not ever one of those proud people who fought being on medication. Far from it. I begged for the medication for my mental health problems right from their onset, I refused a couple of medications based on pretty horrendous side effects, but I was prepared to lose my hair, my figure, sometimes even my dignity (drooling) to secure sanity. If I pimped my brain out, I’m not ashamed. I was suffering.
I thought the coming off/anti psychiatry movement were a truly mad bunch of people. They seem hostile, dogmatic, full of vitriol for psychiatric staff that I had never personally encountered and been wronged by. I still remember kind faces and kind words from staff on wards, it did happen for me. I have a fairly equal relationship with my psychiatrist (his medical education probably elevates him slightly) but I’m fortunate, very fortunate, that my psychiatrist treats me as a human being with a brain and a soul. Not all of them have. But I always felt that the scarce shining acts of kindness from the few psychiatric professionals that I have seen over the years meant that they couldn’t possibly all be as bad as the anti psychiatric movement was making out. I remember going to a meeting a few years ago run by Rufus May’s cohorts about coming off psychiatric medication. I listened respectfully and when my turn came, I mentioned that some of medication really helped me. An older couple flew at me with verbal rage, about how their son was incarcerated in a mental hospital on medication with no diagnosis, imprisoned, medication had turned him into somebody else, they wanted their son back, how could I approve of medication, much less psychiatrists? I left and never went back.
I didn’t think that the anti psychiatry movement had anything to say to me. I just wanted to get better. I’d met enough unpleasantly mad people who had decided to forgo medication to stay ‘who they were’ when their unchecked mental illness just made them unpleasant. I decided I didn’t want to be unmedicated and unpleasant. It felt like a false sort of freedom to be free of medication and totally enslaved to the dogma of being off medication.
I’ve recently tried to reduce my rispiridone. I know that it’s not a very healthy set of chemicals to be ingesting daily when my psychosis is all but dealt with. I didn’t know how to go about it,I didn’t know whether it was my right to change my mind about medication. I didn’t know that there was a middle ground to occupy, that I could be happy on Lithium for now and still reduce the rispiridone. Trying to navigate the shock of a discontinuation syndrome, trying to navigate the shock of my psychiatrist denying there was a discontinuation syndrome, trying to decide if I was relapsing or strung out or withdrawing or just plain imagining it has been difficult. It’s made me wonder how many other people have reached a point of stability and wanted to reassess the medication they took, without throwing their benzo’s out with the bathwater.
I’ve taken a certain stance on this blog that people should be honest with their psychiatrists. I do believe that the journey to getting better includes trying some things you might hate at first, psychiatric medication being just one example I can think of. I’ve urged people to adhere to medication regimes (gah, I hate that word) and I’ve encouraged people to go back to psychiatrists with their problems. Maybe sometimes, all of that sensible advice has been wrapped in a compliance with psychiatry, a kind of faith in the ‘system’ that it might not merit. In future I’d like to explore what it might mean to move away from the medical model, to look at alternative coping methods and look at the issue of coming off medication.
I’m on a journey and just when I think I have it all figured out, I have to reassess everything. That’s okay. I wanted to be honest about a belief that has permeated my blog (that psychiatry is nearly always right) and challenge it in future. I’d like to keep blogging about this withdrawal process, and where it takes me. I’ll still add in any topics akin to those I usually cover, though my vast font of coping strategies has nearly been exhausted, to be honest! I just wanted to let my readers know what is going on and where we are going.