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Hand it over.

April 23, 2009

pharmI despise big pharma. I really do. I have seen so many peoples’ lives messed up by the pharmaceutical companies, and the doctors who support them, that I have very little compassion left with regards to them, especially after having so much success with alternative therapies. Of course, there is the disclaimer: everything mentioned here is solely my opinion. And the balance (which I have yet to see but still somewhat believe): Western medicine works for those with stronger, more resilent, less sensitive constitutions, whereas alternative therapies work much better for sensitive people. And then there is the rant:

How many peoples’ lives need to be ruined by western medicine for the world to take a look and say “hmm, maybe this isn’t right”. How many rivers and oceans need to be polluted beyond repair by the products of big pharma– antibiotics, hormones, strange chemicals that are designed not to break down in our stomachs, so they hardly break down at all even after years in the water. How many frogs need to become asexual, how many children need to hit puberty before the age of 10? I ask because I see so much of this already that it’s quite overwhelming to realise that this isn’t a problem for most people. Maybe most people don’t encounter it, or choose to ignore it because it isn’t so prevalent. Maybe most people have SO much faith that even though there are lots of mistakes and oopses they are perceived as the exception because those white coats are just so damn clever and trustable.

My faith was broken a few years ago, when I finally got myself off all the medications that I had been put on.

I went to see a psychiatrist. I wasn’t feeling good. I was crying too much, not feeling good about myself, acting kinda strangely. The doctor gives me five minutes of talk time before he tells me that I have bipolar disorder and that I need to go on medication.
But I thought I was just odd.
And then two things happened:

1. I stopped resisting the label of ‘bipolar’. Bipolar had a nice ring to it. All of the silly stuff I do, well ‘bipolar’ is actually a nice out. Oops, sorry I messed up– I’m bipolar. Sorry I forgot your birthday– I’m bipolar. Sorry I missed half the semester of school– I’m bipolar. Yes, I decided to stop taking responsibility for myself– it made my life a lot easier for a while.

2. I trusted the doctor. I thought that I must be bipolar, and that this ‘bipolar’ was the REASON for my life being a mess before that.

So I started taking a medication. I don’t remember the name of this one, but I do remember that it threw me into a pit of depression so deep that I even get chills thinking about it now. My mum was worried. I wouldn’t leave my bed and it’s been 3 days. Oh, stop taking them the doctor says– here’s another one. So I start taking another one. After a few weeks I start to feel slightly better. Slightly less upset by things, slightly less sensitive. And then after a few months, I start to feel worse. I start crying again. “Double your dose, the doctor says,” and I do. I won’t get into the minute details of the story, because it carries on for four years. But at the end of the four years I was on a cocktail of different anti-depressants, mood stabilisers, and anti psychotics. I was 23. At the end of four years I hear (because I remember none of it) that I was in such a state that my mum was considering putting me in a mental institution.

Luckily she didn’t. Luckily she had more mistrust for these drugs and labels than I did at the time. Because I was convinced that I was completely messed up– that I was a weak and crazy girl who had no hope outside that craziness. My mum moved me back to her house, and pulled me out of school. She took me to a doctor who told me how to get off these drugs. And then the hardest part started.

The withdrawal from these medications was the most difficult and painful thing I have ever experienced. I got through it because I knew that I would die if I didn’t.

NOTE: My sister had committed suicide about nine months before my psychiatrist visit. Note that this was not taken into account with this diagnosis. Something that, in my opinion now, is a very important little fact when somebody comes in depressed as hell. A good doctor would have worked on un-repressing my pain at my sister’s death.

NOTE: This is when my interest in non-western methods arose. Partly from doing so much Bikram yoga (all the sweat helped to get the drugs out faster… I stopped after six months or so: it was like walking into a torture chamber every day), partly from working in a health food store (my boss studied Chinese Medicine and had given me herbs that stabilised my moods more than the pharmaceuticals had in four years!), partly from switching jobs to a small organic kitchen, where I was encouraged to learn about nutrition.

NOTE: In learning about nutrition, I found that many people with hypoglycemia are often misdiagnosed as bipolar, because blood sugar peaks and dips can so often mimic bipolar symptoms.

Fast forward. I am not bipolar. I don’t suffer from depression or any kind of mood disorder. How can it be that a doctor was SO convinved that there was something seriously wrong with me, when I am the healthiest I have ever been now? Well, I learned a few things about myself–

1. I love sugar, and that the more sugar I eat, the less grounded I become. If I eat nothing but sugar for a few days I start to get manic.

2. I need to exercise almost every day or I start to get depressed and moody.

3. I need to eat good quality meat and fats, and saturated fats too. And to keep my blood sugar relatively stable. If I don’t then I start to get irritable and spacey and headachey and ungrounded. (I was vegan at the time I was diagnosed, for the entire time that I was on these medications… I only started eating meat when I worked at the organic cafe because I was craving it so much).

4. I need to get out into nature at least twice a week or I feel disconnected and ungrounded.

5. I need to meditate often.

6. I need people who I am close to and can trust. Not many of them, but a loving family and loving friends are unbelievably important for maintaining mental stability :).

7. I need to try and keep my stress levels down as much as possible.

That’s it. My personal formula for mental health. If I let one of them slide then after a while I start to feel kinda funny. Not bipolar funny, more like “not at the peak of my health” funny.

My point is that the doctor was wrong. I was not bipolar, I just wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle, and I wasn’t dealing with the death of my sister very well. And I was too scared to adapt my lifestyle– in fact, if somebody had told me that all I needed to do was change seven small things, I would have taken the pills anyway. Why? Because I wanted an out. I wanted to feel good without changing anything. I wanted my cake and I wanted to eat every single slice of it without it going to my hips and without having anal leakage. In retrospect I don’t see what was so good about the lifestyle I was living– I didn’t get much done at all, and didn’t feel good at all, and didn’t really have much that gave me joy in life other than getting wasted with my friends on weekends. But who knows why people don’t want to change. I think I had this idea that if I changed things then I’d lose all my friends. In fact, now that I think about it, I pretty much did. Not that I mind it. I had to hit my rock bottom before I realised that the path I was on wasn’t working. I had to realise that my choice was to change or to die. In some ways I am lucky that I learned this so young.

My doctor was wrong. I believed him because I wanted to. That doesn’t make this situation okay. Although my story turned out well, many don’t. It doesn’t just apply to psychiatric drugs either. How many people take statins because they don’t want to give up their daily donut? After a month of no donut they’d never want a donut again, but that donut symbolises something that none of us have access to.
This is why Big Pharma got so big. Because we want to shut our brains off and hand the responsibility for our lives over to someone else. We want to hand out power over.

Meanwhile, these medications have such toxic effects on our lives and the environment that it is in no way sustainable. Something’s gotta give. I just hope that it’s the companies, not the water sources.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2009 07:14

    I cried when I read this, you are one hell of a girl.
    I’m proud you are my sister…

    ps I’m the same, exercise-tick
    no sugar-tick (i love and crave sweets, especially the really tacky ones, I fight it constantly)
    good food-tick
    nice people-tick (well, I’m working on it)

  2. marcodante permalink
    April 23, 2009 07:18

    A nice post and a good reminder that we can all take more responsibility for our own lives. We should all try to eat better, exercise more often and meditate. The problem for those of us who truly are bipolar is that our mood swings make it difficult to stick with any kind of regimen. But I for one am determined to live life more fully without drugs. And while drugs do provide (at least a temporary) solution for some people, the big pharmaceutical companies are not our friends. Thanks for the reminder that life doesn’t have to be that complicated, that it’s the simple things that make life worth living, and that we have more control over the situation than we often think we do.

  3. May 24, 2009 08:46

    i know exactly what you mean about the horrible side effects. when i first moved away from home, i started having terrible panic attacks, to the point where i wouldn’t leave my dorm room for days. i went and saw a psychiatrist, who said that i had panic disorder, and would need medication for the rest of my life. he then proceeded to put me on a medication that was not only a poor match for my problem, but whenever i tried to go off it, i had such horrible withdrawal, that i stayed on it for an extra few years after i got the cognitive behavioral therapy that fixed the panic attacks (no meds, just learning to understand your body’s signals and heading off panic attacks before they take off). i finally ended up going cold turkey a few years ago, but it was horrible. i felt electric shocks all over my body, and couldn’t walk in a straight line. i feel like that doctor was so irresponsible! some people do need medications, but my problem was easily solved without them. i have the same dealie, where i have to exercise, and if my blood sugar drops, i get all depressed, and when you’re in that frame of mind, it’s hard to tell yourself ‘oh, this is just my blood sugar talking, i’d better have a snack and jump on the elliptical’- so i need close friends and family around to give me a reality check. i’m still working toward having a healthy lifestyle- it is more of a time commitment, and when i get busy my habits all go to crap…

  4. Joseph Clarke permalink
    November 2, 2009 08:39

    Strong, honest, fearlessly beautiful… this post is stunning.

  5. fairybekk permalink*
    November 3, 2009 08:48

    Thank you.

  6. December 31, 2009 07:29

    I love this post. I found it from searching chinese medicine and bipolar which I am looking into for my son who has been diagnosed as bipolar. Starting in the new year we are removing all refined sugars from the house as a part of our natural program to help him and we work very hard to keep his stress level down as well. We are also working to teach him to read his body’s natural signals.

  7. Bessie the Buddha cow permalink
    June 4, 2010 15:29

    Great post. I was told I needed meds for the rest of my life, when in fact, I had an adrenal fatigue problem that created all the other horrid symptoms, plus a vitamin D deficiency that caused all sorts of pain that added to my stress levels. The real cause was grief and stress. And like you, the grief was a natural expression of loss (not depression that needed to be medicated). I’m only on vitamins, good food, I’m vegan (vegetarian for 30 years), walk for an hour every day, and I’m supposed to meditate and do yoga, but that’s hard to fit into my schedule. I wish you the best!


  1. 2010 | Raising Bipolar

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