A Tale of Two Stories
(original post January 4, 2014)
 
  
It’s strange how benzo withdrawal has given me perspective on and an understanding of life – not only how I perceive the here and now and the future - but also in making sense of my past and seeing how things in my past set a path before me that led to psychiatric drugs.
 
On New Year’s Day I called my oldest sister to wish her a happy birthday and happy new year. We did some reminiscing about our past. She is nearly eleven years older than I, so she remembers things about my early life that I don’t recall. She remembers our mother who died when I was only eight years old. She remembers very well what Mom was like during my first eight years. Most of those memories are at best a blur to me. Over the years my sister has described my mother to me and told me how life was in those days. I’ve heard the same things over and over, but I never put too much of it together enough to understand the truth until now – 52 years later. 
 
But first, there is a second story about me (that I was told many, many times over the years) which I first heard when I started having “issues” in 1997. In that year, our daughter began her teenage rebellion, and I got caught in the grip of “politics” at my workplace. Both situations were very ugly and caused me great stress. More and more I turned to alcohol to deal with what was becoming very traumatic. I began having panic attacks and fell into a depression.
 
I was terrified and thought I was dying, so off to the family doctor I went. He told me it was anxiety and gave me a script for Xanax and some samples of Paxil. The Xanax worked for a couple weeks but pooped out on me pretty quickly. I thought that the Paxil might help so I gave it a shot. I took it for three days and suffered through unbearable akathisia. I could not eat. I could not sleep. At the end of the third day, I was severely suicidal. So, I quit the Paxil and went to see the psychiatrist.
 
I spent the next 18 months on the psych med merry-go-round. I took well over a dozen different meds (anti-depressants, benzos, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers) and was “treated” by three different psychiatrists. The story was always the same – a diagnosis of panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder. The declaration was made again and again that my malady was genetic in origin and that I would need to be on “meds” for the rest of my life. (My mother and father both had “nerve problems” which I will describe a bit better in a while.)
 
My DNA had doomed me to a life of psych drugs. At the end of the 18 months, I was once again suicidal. I had quit drinking during those 18 months, but I resumed the drinking which had some sort of temporary “stabilizing” effect and kept me from suicide. I got off everything but stayed on the Klonopin (which was substituted for the initially-prescribed Xanax) for the next 12 years and drank more and more as the years went by.
 
The next 12 years were pretty much the color of grey. I just went through the motions of living, and I found that I “needed” more and more booze to function and go on – which didn’t add any color to my life. I was increasingly more and more concerned about my escalating alcohol consumption.
 
In the fall of 2009 I realized that, if I did not quit drinking, I would shortly be dead. I quit. Within two weeks I went into post-acute withdrawal (PAWS) as well as tolerance withdrawal from the continued use of Klonopin. I had no idea at the time what was happening to me so back to the doctor I went.
 
Over the next 15 months, I was under the “care” of five different psychiatrists. I saw at least a dozen “mental health specialists” of one type or another. My diagnoses followed me, and one more label was added – “dual diagnosis” – meaning I was not only mentally ill but I was also an addict (and was treated as one every step of the way). Of the several dozen “professionals” I met on this journey, only one recognized that there was nothing wrong with me. He was the guy who dispensed the evening drugs at the psych hospital. He told me that I shouldn’t even be on meds. He saw something in me and knew I was okay rather than label and drug me.
 
So, eight psychiatrists and dozens of other “mental health professionals” pronounced me to be a hopelessly mentally ill man who was condemned by his own chromosomes to a life of indiscriminant, scientifically groundless drugging. I was terrified and my brain was totally fogged. I believed the story they told me.
 
Since I have gotten well, I have been able to take the same information the “professionals” got from me and reconstruct a different story – the true story – my real story.
 
My father did certainly have what were once called “nervous breakdowns” in his past. He served in the Army in Korea and contracted malaria while he was there. According to my uncle, my father was never “right” after that. He had lots of physical health issues and “treated” himself with alcohol. He became an alcoholic and suffered from the mental ravages of alcoholism. When I was very young, he received ECT. As he recovered from the ECT, he continued drinking for many years. Decades later, when I was in the service, he once again received ECT (which turned him into a zombie –very sad). Before the ECT, he had stopped drinking. I suspect he was suffering from severe depression caused by PAWS (which can last up to two years) which was misdiagnosed as major depression for which he received ECT. His bouts with “bad nerves” were caused by life situations and booze - just as mine were. He certainly did not have some phantom genetic condition that was responsible for his depression.
 
My mother’s story is similar in “kind” but not in specifics. According to my sister, my mother was never well after I was born. I took this extremely personally for many years. The message to me was that I killed my own mother just by being born. Her death certificate states that suicide was the cause of death. My father refused to pay her remaining medical bills after she passed. He was adamant that the pills killed her. He maintained it was the meds that made her sick and kept her very ill. All these years I had just figured his opinion was one of “sour grapes.” He was often away from home, and I thought he was blaming the doctor for something he (my father) caused. He was quelling his guilt –or so I assumed.
 
From going through my own ordeal and hearing/reading hundreds of other stories where psych drugs have been involved, I can now paint a truer picture of my mother’s last eight years of life. It’s very clear to me now. My mother had post-partum depression when I was born. She was drugged with multiple medications (as is extremely common even today). The drugs made her depression much worse. The poly-drugging continued for eight years until she finally gave up in hopelessness. In the last year or so of her life, I do recall her spending nearly all her time in bed. She never smiled or laughed. She was weak and never spoke. She was aloof. No one knew what to do or how to help her. She succumbed to the same thing that almost killed me – psychiatric drugs. It makes me so very sad to think of her suffering that way. I still miss her. I  knew her for such a short time.
 
As I grew, I dealt with my loss by isolating myself from others and numbing myself with alcohol. Of course, that created lots of anxiety and depression, and I ended up in the bowels of psychiatric misdiagnosis and drugging.
 
Anyway, the story painted by all those “mental health professionals,” (based on the answers I gave them to a few very general questions) is not my real story. My father had life issues which he treated with alcohol. My mother had post-partum depression for which she was given psych drugs which destroyed her. I fell to a combination of life stressors and booze. There was no genetic component at all.
 
When I was under the spell of psychiatric drugs and the withdrawal from them, I felt hopeless and incapable of forming any credible opinion of my own. My self-esteem and confidence were so low that I believed an enormous lie, and I felt completely doomed by that lie. That is why I continued to search for the “magic pill” even when I was off the Klonopin. That is why I voluntarily submitted to ECT “treatment.” (Still hard for me to believe I bought into that.) I believed their lies, and all the while it was their lies that were keeping me hopelessly ill.
 
That is one of the most insidious pieces to the puzzle of recovering from the effects of psych drugging. Even without the lies from psychiatry, our own brains are writing a lie for our story – that we are never going to be well because we are surely “mentally ill.” The “stamp of approval” from the so-called “experts” only sets that story in stone and makes it a foregone conclusion…yet it is a lie told by someone who has talked to us for only a few minutes and knows just enough about us to destroy us.
 
We all have our own unique “true” story that has been written over a lifetime, and it bears no resemblance at all to the one manufactured by psychiatry…nor can it have any similarity.
 
Sadly, in the midst of benzo withdrawal, we often fear that the lie is true after all….because we have either forgotten the true story or don’t have a clear enough mind to construct the true story…but eventually we will.