23 May 2011

It's Not Just Me

I have been a vocal opponent about taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications for years now. For years I have been called ignorant, unaware, unkind, and by those who are more civil, just plain wrong. I come by my opinion honestly. I hail from a long line of people who suffer with depression and anxiety, not to mention alcoholism and addictive personalities. Yeah, I come from a long line of crazy people. But I am not ignorant nor am I unkind. And apparently, I am not the only one out there questioning the value of medicating ourselves into happiness. I was surprised to hear Paulina Porizkova talk about her decision to stop taking anti-anxiety meds.

I have off the chart anxiety over the strangest things. Each time I let my dogs out I am afraid there is a wild animal or predatory bird that is going to swoop down upon them and take them away from me. I can hear their cries of pain in my mind and my heart drops a few beats before taking off on a wild rampage within my chest. What do I do? I tell myself, "That's crazy" and I let them out to do their business. I do live in a rural area and there are coyotes nearby. I don't let them out alone at night when there is actually a likelihood of something happening. I don't ignore sensible danger. It's the non-sensible danger I work hard to ignore. I mean, it is pretty unlikely I am going to find a velociraptor stalking prey in my yard while honking its coordinates to its friends or making plans with other boogie monsters. I suppose it would be more likely there could be a hungry hillbilly out there that would mistake my little dogs for possums or coons, but even that is a huge stretch. But my mind wanders to strange scenarios like that- so- no, I am not unaware of the terrors of living with anxiety.

When my mother died I found 12 vials of valium in her nightstand. She had three different doctors prescribing it to her. I know that she suffered great angst and used valium to escape. Finding all those drugs made me wonder what, if anything, I really knew about my mom. Did I only know the medicated mom? Did she need relief from the secrets she kept? The choices she made? She left me to be raised by my father, a man she had shot at with his own bolt-action rifle. She placed my younger sister for adoption when she was born. Were those the choices of a medicated mom or an unmedicated mom? Or perhaps just some in a long line of choices that she had difficulty living with? Did she need someone to talk to, some way to clear her conscience? Had she known the forgiveness of God would it have made a difference? Was valium the drug of the week to treat the disease of the week? The going fad? Ever notice how people in our society are diagnosed in proportion or relation to whatever is playing on television? I used to call programs like Marcus Welby M.D. "disease of the week" for that very reason. Whatever Marcus cured the bulk of his followers were diagnosed with within 48 hours, or so it seemed. Similarly Sybil spawned an outbreak of multiple personality disorder, now known as dissociative identity disorder. We are a society identified by disorder more often than our achievements. I find that remarkably sad.

I am not unaware or ignorant. I have a degree in psychology, graduated magna cum laude as a matter of fact, and led my class in "bio-psych." I have an educated and informed opinion. It would be easier if I did not because then I might feel good about taking a pill that would rid me of the anxiety I wrestle with daily. I can't pretend I don't know what I know. Taking pills is a convenience when it comes to depression and anxiety. Not a necessity. Listen to the advertising on television. Do you hear the caveat? "We do not know the cause but we THINK depression is due to a chemical imbalance." There is a reason the pharmaceutical companies put disclaimers in their advertising. If it were scientific fact, they would take it out so fast it would make your head spin.

Now, if you are taking any medication DO NOT DISCONTINUE IT without seeking advice from your doctor. There are potentially devastating consequences for stopping medications cold turkey. I am just asking you to read up on all sides of it. Read articles. Here are a few to start with. Here are several more. Talk with someone. Please know that I have friends, people I love desperately, who disagree with me. I have people I love who take anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety meds. I am not trying to heap ridicule on anyone. I am just asking you to think about it and read up on it. It's not just me. Many people, Christians, secularists and professionals alike are critical of our 'mental health' position. Read what Dr. Thomas Szasz has to say. The fight is difficult, but it is worth it.

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