I’m 25 years old, I am from Las Vegas, Nevada.
I started seeking mental help after I became an adult. But before then are other notable factors that contributed to this. My birth mother was addicted to drugs, anphetamines specifically. She took them while pregnant with me up until 8 months. She only stopped at the 8th month to not get caught at the hospital. When I was born, my aunt and grandmother adopted me. They said I didn’t cry when I came out, instead it sounded like I was complaining. It was my Aunt and my Grandma who raised me, and I consider them my parents. When I was 11, my grandma was diagnosed with cancer in her lymph nodes. When I turned 12, they said she was beating the cancer and should live. While she was beating the cancer, she got an infection from the tube that was put into her stomach to help her eat. She died from the staph infection. This was my first grief, I had lost a parent. But my friends didn’t understand, because a parent can’t be a grandparent. I know they didn’t understand because of their age, but it hurt. My aunt (adoptive mom), tried to get me therapy. My first therapist, who was supposed to help me overcome this grief, told me in the second session, “It was just a grandparent, you’ll get over this.” I quit therapy. I didn’t want to deal with the rejection. Fast forward to when I’m 17, I’m a senior in high school. I am tired, I am depressed, I am also a single mom of a 3 year old. I had her when I was 14, and her father abandoned us when I was 16. I’m trying to finish high school, and I just want help. My mom takes me to a psychiatrist, who prescribes me an anti anxiety med that I cannot recall. All I know is that I took it for about a month, and all it did was make me more tired and fall behind on my homework. I quit. I finished highschool, I got a boyfriend at that time. We took an online personality disorder test together, and it said I potentially had Borderline Personality Disorder. I read into it more, and my behavior and feelings made sense. I started reading self help books to try to improve myself. I eventually sought for therapy and a psychiatrist again. I am about 21 when I seek help. I go down to Alliance Mental Health, a psychiatric office here in Las Vegas, I tell Raven Ennis, my psychiatrist, what I am feeling and that I think meds might help. She prescribed me Effexor. I was either 21 or 22. Around this same time, I start therapy with Ann Russo, who was working as a therapist down at All About You counseling. We had made it in a few sessions, finally starting to unbox everything. However, the Effexor prescribed to me was starting to work. I could feel it within the first two weeks. I had more energy, more sex drive, and I had some basic symptoms that come with starting the medication. However, that energy turned into hostility and mania, and the increased sex drive was met with an inability to have an orgasm. By week 4, my brain feels like it’s on fire. I have never wanted to die so bad. I hated everything, I hated everyone, I could not act normal. My ability to function or participate as a normal human being was out of my control. I had no way of escaping my body, which was torment. I had vivid nightmares that left me waking up in sweats and with no grip on reality. Not even sleep could be a peaceful experience. I had to quit taking this, I felt like I could kill myself or do something that was not going to be good. I stopped taking the Effexor. This is when my life goes to shit, because the withdrawals were worse than the drug itself. The nightmares became more real, more violent, more horrific. Brain zaps, any thought I could possibly put together was met with a cattle prod to my brain. In a way I could relate to the people who received electroshock therapy. It seized my brain, I could feel it in my face, it killed my brain and functioning every zap. I had at least 6-10 brain zaps a day. After each brain zap I was confused, irritated, and completely scared. I could not go to work, I could not enjoy life, I could not do anything. For 3 weeks I spent most of my time on my garage floor on my yoga mat sobbing, smoking, and drinking to try to cope. My boyfriend and my mom had to baby sit me for these weeks. I have never had such a loss of control, that was not me. I go back to the psychiatrist and tell her what happened to me, the way it made me feel, and how it almost took my life. How harsh this drug was and that I thought she was insane for prescribing it to me. She just insisted that she couldn’t have known I’d have a reaction to it, that it was my fault for not taking it longer, and that I shouldn’t have just quit it. While part of the blame can be put on me, I learned a few years later that there could be blame placed on her. I came across reports and studies stating that Effexor should not be prescribed to anyone under 25, because the risk of them developing mania, hostility, and an almost 70% increased suicide rate is likely to occur. There are more than enough cases showing that patients under 25 ended up killing themselves at the 3rd or 4th week. These studies and foundings were already proven by the early 2000’s, well before I was ever prescribed this awful drug. This is something she should have known. Yet she still prescribed it to me, as the first prescription she ever gave to me. But I didn’t know better at the time, and who was I to fight with someone who went to school for this? So she prescribed me Prozac and something else. I had too many symptoms from those two, and quit. I decided to focus on therapy with Ann Russo. I spent a few years in therapy with her, I also read a lot of philosophy books and self help books, and I even tried going to church for a while and also read a lot on Buddhism. I graduated from therapy earlier this year. Ann was the best therapist I could have ever asked for, and I attribute a lot of growth to her work with me. She agreed that I was Borderline Personality Disorder, but as far as getting properly diagnosed she explained that if I really wanted to I could get properly diagnosed, but at the same time if I did get diagnosed then I could possibly lose benefits. Many insurance companies consider BPD untreatable, and since many therapy offices have their own rules they can also choose to not work with BPD patients because it’s a difficult mood disorder similar to bipolar. She also said it could potentially affect future employment if it was on my record. So I decided against it. I’m happy I didn’t, I worked through it with therapy and my own reading. I had an incident last year where my life went to shit for many reasons, and I tried to kill myself. I took 30 morphine and about 15 of 3 types of other pills. The people I was with called the ambulance. I woke up in psych at Mountain View hospital. They transferred me to Monte Vista psych ward. While I was there, I received no individual therapy. There were group therapies scheduled, but they never occurred. They dosed me up on some meds that made me sleepy. I only woke up for smoke breaks and to eat. I would over eat so going back to sleep would be easier. When I got released, I received a bill. On that bill it stated I received daily individual therapy, multiple group therapies, and other “amenities” that I never received. This was a suicide bill. I was not there because I wanted to be, I did not personally sign up, and obviously I was not expecting to live through it. When I got the bill and the calls from the collectors, I couldn’t help but be furious with them. I told them how they are trying to make a profit off my suicide, that they are coming after a suicidal person for wanting to die, and that obviously this new debt does not incline me to live further. I still have the bills, I just don’t see myself paying them because I think it’s incredibly fucked up. Anyways, I worked through it and worked with Ann more and now I am here. My mom is the one who found out that Effexor shouldn’t have been prescribed to me recently. She also found out that it can cause permanent brain and neurological damage. Especially since around that time I was cycled through about 4-6 different medications. There are a lot of problems with the psychiatric meds that are on the market, and long term use of them can mean that you will never be able to get off of them from the way it damages and reconstructs your brain and it’s chemicals. Only about 1% of the negative reports from patients actually get reported to the FDA. Unless you specifically, as a patient, tell your doctor that you have a right to file a complaint through them will they actually file it. This is a huge issue, because unless these things are filed more then the FDA nor any other organization will actually look into the real results of these drugs and their true long term impact. Now, I understand that for some people these meds really help and work as intended. That is great for them, but at the same time there needs to be more safety in the prescribing of these medications. There is proof that neurological/brain/stomach/etc problems can develop from these meds. It is proven that a mother who takes anti depressants can increase her odds of having an autistic child because of these meds. These meds affect in many ways that aren’t properly discussed with you by psychiatrists. These meds are proven to deplete certain essential vitamins your body needs to function which can cause problems from this lack. Right now we are facing a huge problem with mental illnesses around the world. More people than ever before are suffering with anxiety, depression, bipolar, BPD, PTSD, C-PTSD, and more. There are a lack of resources, there is a lack of funding, there are problems with insurances in many countries, there are social issues impacting people, there are a thousand problems and millions of sufferers. The suffering of one can turn into the cause and continuance of suffering for others. Hurt people hurt people is how the saying goes. Hurt people need help, and when the system is demoralizing or ineffective it can cause more problems than the help it gives. I would not have been able to survive my adulthood if it wasn’t for my therapist. I would not have been able to survive of it wasn’t for the books I read, the lectures I listened to, and the resources I found and created. I have both benefitted and suffered from the mental health industry. From my experience, if I had any tips to offer or advice to give on it, it would be this:
For the person suffering:
1. Try therapy before psychiatry. While medications can help to make life easier, there is no med that can get rid of the source of your suffering. This suffering can only be healed by paying attention to it, listening to it, working with it, working through it, accepting it, and becoming better for it. The mind you want to escape from is the one you are bound with forever, you must come to peace with yourself, this is the goal and only way out of your own head.
2. Therapy is great, and it is worth finding a good one. There have been a few I’ve spoken to that only killed my hopes further. But man, I am telling you, when you find the right one, it can significantly change your life.
3. Don’t be afraid to try silly things. You may not be religious, but every religion and spiritual sector has something worth of value that can help you. You are a spiritual being, you have a soul that is complex and yearns for connection, take no shame in how you connect to the world and the things you take from the parts of it for yourself. Don’t be afraid to try different jobs, take on weird tasks, try hobbies, or interact with different forms of life. Sure, there is gonna be a lot of sucky things in all of those, but in order to get comfortable with life and it’s unpredictability you must subject yourself to it.
4. Look into any medications you’re prescribed. Look up the horror stories. Look up how it can affect you by your age, race, gender, with your other medical issues (Ex: I am hypoglycemic, Effexor can cause or worsen diabetics), just anything and everything. Look up long term side effects for taking it. Be weary of taking a med and switching to a new one, there is proof that switching meds over a period of time one after the other causes more damage. Even though when you are coming off of a medication it may say to taper off for 2-4 weeks, it is proven that your body may need more time to taper off of it. I read 6-10 weeks is a better time. And try to have at least a few weeks before starting a new medication so you can properly recognize the symptoms and effects of that new medication.
5. With any medications you are on, learn what vitamins and other things that medicine may deplete. You should try to make up for what you are losing through supplements and diet. So that you can protect your body and mind the best you can.
6. Any adverse side effects you have with a medication, you need to have your doctor report it. You need to do this so that the mental health industry can get better. Even with medications you do not take for mental health, you should also report those side effects to that doctor to report. There is a lack of reporting across the board.
A photo of the vitamins your body loses on many common medications: