Resisting Meds

As I briefly mentioned in my Initial Impressions post, while I am on meds now, I avoided (or actively resisted) them for a long time. Many, many years. I decided that I do, indeed, want to go into more detail as to why I did so.

Bad experiences

I have had issues my whole life (obviously, what with undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder). I’ve seen mental health professionals as early as elementary school, and at various times throughout my life. And I have had some *very* bad experiences. In middle school some doctors who didn’t know me well decided that I had ADHD and stuck me on meds, without telling me what they were or what they were supposed to be doing. Surprise, surprise, they didn’t work. (also, I hear a number of stories from people on the spectrum in their late 20’s and early 30’s who were misdiagnosed with ADHD. what’s up with that?)

A few years later I was put on Zoloft. I would get 15 minute med checks occasionally where the doctor would check my pulse, ask me how I was, and at least occasionally raise my dose. I never really knew what I was supposed to be doing, but the zoloft never helped. Not one little bit. Additionally, in retrospect, I suspect I was on MUCH too high of a dose.

So I wound up with an aversion to meds.

I also managed to get an aversion to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. On top of the two previous stories, I once knew someone who was in school to be a mental health professional (of some sort, I don’t remember what exactly) who enjoyed using what she was learning to deliberately tweak and hurt me. She had nothing but contempt for me and my rather obvious psychiatric issues, and wanted to have fun with her schooling before she had to be nice to her patients. Kind of horrifying, to think that people who need help might have a doctor who feels contempt for mental illness.

I have also heard altogether too many stories of women on SSRIs who found themselves dealing both with frustrating sexual side effects to their medications, and with psychiatrists who did not care or made it clear that they believed that women didn’t really need orgasms or a sex life.

Anyway, all that added up to a huge aversion to both psychiatrists and the meds they prescribe.

Control

Tangential to the above issue is one of control. I am fairly insistent that I be in control of what happens to my body, and I respond very poorly if other people try to tell me what to do with myself. This means a couple different things. One is that I am doing much better now that I am an adult and am in charge of my own medical matters. As a child, with the decisions often being not in my hands, or not even being allowed to be part of the process at all, that was quite horrible. Also, I have learned that it is important to find doctors that respect my no’s. If I say no to something, some mental health professionals will respond by trying to change my mind or otherwise convince me that I should agree to whatever they are proposing. This is not at all acceptable. Any doctor I have needs to be willing to work within any boundaries I set, and if I say that I am not ok with a thing, then try other methods. I find that I am much more willing to try things that I am not entirely comfortable with when I know, beyond a doubt, that I can stop at any time and be supported by my doctor.

Identity

There was also a matter of identity. By which I mean, depression and anxiety has been with me for pretty much as long as I can remember. I have definitely lived with them for much, much longer than any period of time I was without them. To be honest, while the idea of being without them was appealing, it was also scary. Who would I be? Would I still recognize myself? Much of my identity had been attached to these constant feelings – and really, it would be surprising if it hadn’t. Those feels impacted pretty much everything.

Mind altering drugs

As if all that wasn’t enough, there is also the fact that I’m just a little leery of throwing chemicals at my brain and hoping something works. We can’t test brains to see what chemical is off, or perform any biological test to see what exactly needs to change. All we can do is take an educated guess based on what you tell your doctor, what we know about what different meds do, try one, and hope for the best. It’s considered normal to have to go through multiple different meds before finding one that works, and spending a few months on each one. That’s just the process!

Ultimately, I’m still a little suspicious of doctors and drugs. I spent a lot of time re-working the way I saw myself, to move the depression and anxiety into things that were attached to me, rather than things that were me. Yet I still find myself needing to re-think how I view myself, and I suspect that I will continue to do so. I still think psychiatric medications are bigger deals than most mental health people treat them. I think that it is only reasonable to find other ways to deal, if possible, and only use meds if other methods aren’t working. In my case, I needed meds. But there was a whole process to go through before I could reach that conclusion, and it’s probably one that will still tweak me now and again.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Resisting Meds

  1. I think your suspicion is well-founded, because most medical professionals have no idea what they’re doing either, and just throw different stuff at you to see what works. It’s called triage. And it’s valid. Except when it doesn’t just deteriorate your health, it affects your brain. And that’s like… the way my brain works affects my entire life. I know health issues are no ballpark either, but it doesn’t screw around with the entire way you perceive things. So.

    Example. I quit smoking. (I keep coming back to that because it’s just SO ILLUSTRATIVE). Smoking is a recognised way to excite dopamine production, reward for being addicted, all that. The method I chose to quit smoking was to take a drug (Chantix/Champix) that mimics nicotine so your nicotine receptors still signal the reward triggering function. I quit the actual smoking with no problems whatsoever. When I stopped taking the drugs, I became non functioning. Couldn’t cope with loud noises anymore, general anxiety went through the roof, couldn’t make eye contact, couldn’t concentrate at all. Like. Literally. Within one week of stopping the drugs.

    As soon as I went back on, those issues went away. So I did some initial research on dopamine and neurotransmitters, figured that a lot of my symptoms corresponded with what schizophrenics report when getting put on a dopamine antagonist, and some overlap with ADHD symptoms. So, logical conclusion: I have dopamine uptake problems, which the smoking served to mask. My psychiatrist hears “sensory overload and anxiety” and tells me she wants to try anti psychotics. “Because some autistic people have reported that their sensory overload gets less when on anti psychotics.” SHE SAID THAT IN THOSE EXACT WORDS. Never mind my own experiences. Just because I’m autistic, let’s throw anti psychotics at me, even though they do the exact opposite of what the dopamine drugs did for me.

    They are so bloody clueless.

    I’m on Wellbutrin now, thanks to my arguing very heavily in favour of a DRI, and it’s definitely helping me, although I suspect the dosage is too high (something which I also predicted and that the psychiatrist told me was an unfounded fear). I’m slowly edging into serotonin deficient territory. But so far I’m managing. I think that’s what bugs me about the cocktails. Should I really have to take SSRIs just because the dosage of the NDRI I have is too high?

    • Yowzas. Yeah, those are exactly the sorts of experiences that sent me running. I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. I wish more psychiatrists treated the meds they prescribed as big-friggin-deals because seriously, mucking around with my brain is a big-friggin-deal.

      I hope you are able to advocate for yourself and try a lower dose of your Wellbutrin. One thing that seems to be true for many people on the autism spectrum is a sensitivity to meds – I am on a very low dose of Lexapro, lower than what is generally claimed to be the lowest therapeutic dose. If you want to try a lower dose of your meds, you should definitely get to do so.

      • With the Wellbutrin, they simply don’t produce lower dosages, at least not in the time-released form I’m taking now. There are nearly no basic DRIs available (except cocaine), and ADHD meds are geared towards norepinephrine moreso than dopamine.