The Crossroads written by: padhia
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There have been a few distinct moments in my life where I observed I was standing at a distinct crossroads. Deciding to get of the meds was definitely one of them. Here is a condensed version of how I came to be standing at the corner of “continue on the road that is killing me because that is what the medical profession says I must do” and “go in the complete opposite, frightening, undefined and unfamiliar direction”.

After spending 10 ½ years on every anti-depressant available, with many different combinations and dosages, I started admitting to myself that I wanted to die. I didn’t have much fight left in me; my soul was worn thin. I began to admit it the one or two people left who were close to me. I explained I didn’t have the guts to take action, but if there were a “die” button in front of me, I would push it in a heart beat. Since there was no button available, I began to secretly work on my “exit strategy”. The more I acknowledged this feeling, the more I realized how much it had always consumed me and how hard I had always fought against it. I was tired and losing the battle.

I have had a phenomena occur throughout my life where I hear a little snippet of a conversation or I see something in passing that happens to be the perfect thing in that moment of my life to get me to the next stepping stone. Sometimes my mind will store something for years and then it will suddenly pop into my consciousness exactly when I need it. I was spending a week with some family members whom I had only become acquainted with as an adult; I was on way too much medication, kept nodding off, drooled on myself several times and was spending most of my awake time admiring the timber frame of the house and how it would be perfect to hang myself from. Somewhere in the fog, I overheard a conversation that I had no particular interest in, but for some reason the title of the book stuck in my mind. It was Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves by Sharon Begley. A short while after returning home, I bought the book and started reading it. It truly was the first time in many years that I had considered that there might actually be an alternative to death.

What made the deepest impact on me was that the brain changes with our experiences. It is not a “fixed” object, and chemicals and brain cells are influenced (created, sustained, or killed) by our experiences. It also talked about Buddhist monks and their ability to control their brainwaves. (There are many more fascinating things in this book- just mentioning two of them for now).

This book filled me with new thought and that snowballed into many more new thoughts. Since I had forced myself over the years to do so many things and have so many experiences (live completely outside my comfort zone), was it possible I had changed the pathways in my brain, and was a different person than the dysfunctional person I was before I started the medication? Who was I now, without the medication? Was it possible I could learn to control my brainwaves and chemistry and create a life that was livable? What was this strange feeling creeping up inside of me? Was it HOPE? At the time, I wondered if I had possibly done enough that I had actually “fixed” my brain, and I wondered if maybe it was actually the medication (which I was clearly having an adverse reaction to) that was causing this terrible mental state I was living in. In retrospect, that not exactly true, but those were my thoughts at the time.

I began slowly decreasing my meds on my own (which I do not recommend doing without professional guidance). Later on, by the time I cut my antidepressants down to 1/3 of the dosage, I could feel the air on my skin again and tolerate things like humor and music in small doses. At around the time my cheerful complacent facade had begun to crack and I began exposing the depressed suicidal maniac I truly was, my poor helpless husband began looking for a new psychiatrist for me. He found a man who sounded wonderful. He was actively involved in psychiatry, as a medical director for several different organizations and is an international speaker for various pharmaceutical companies. The doctor I had been seeing for the last several years was more of a “clock puncher” and I always had the impression that her practice was more of a means to fund her once-a-month Royal Caribbean habit, than it was about helping people. I didn’t have much hope, and was convinced one way or another I would find a way to die soon, but I went anyway.

The doctor was very pleasant and after listening to me for a few minutes, he proceeded to tell me that I would most likely never feel “truly good” in this lifetime, and the trick would be to catch myself and adjust or switch my meds the second I felt myself starting to slip. The depression was not going to go away, but the right combination of meds would allow it to lift enough so that I could “cope” with it. It was pretty much the same life sentence that had been handed to me by my last psychiatrist. This was followed by statements like he did not feel I was on anywhere NEAR enough medication and probably needed a combination of 2 or 3 things. He then drew a picture, which I have sitting right on my desk of how he summed up my mental existence. He suggested that I might have a combination of afflictions; in addition to severe depression, I also might be a type of Bi-Polar, where instead of having highs and lows, I cycled from low to lower. I may never get higher than low, but I had to catch it before I sank to “lower”. Since I was feeling slightly better having reduced the meds, I must be in an upswing from “lower” back to “low”. He then gave me a prescription for Lamictil, an anti-psychotic, which I was to take in combination with 90mg of Cymbalta, Ambien, and Ativan. This was all accomplished miraculously in 45 minutes.

When I left there, that inner voice I had always ignored was literally screaming,”YOU DON’T KNOW ME! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IS IN MY HEART! YOU DON’T HAVE A CLUE ABOUT MY SPIRIT OR MY SOUL!” I realized something that hit me hard. I did still have an ember of hope because what he said was devastating. So my husband and I went to the pharmacy and filled the prescription. We read the box. It stated that it is not exactly known how the drug works, and that if you get severe redness or a rash on your torso report immediately to the hospital because it could result in death. The warnings went on for a mile. As a designer, I marveled at how cleverly a mile-long list of contraindications and disclaimers and side effects and warnings could be wrapped into a package design that actually made the pills look tasty and fun. This was the crossroads; sitting in the car with the wonderfully packaged starter kit of anti-psychotics on my lap. I finally listened to that teeny little voice that had gotten quieter over the years that had always told me something wasn’t right about the things the doctors told me. “I can’t do this”, I said and burst into tears. And my husband got choked up too and admitted he was hoping I would say that. We agreed we would find another way. I became determined in that moment, one of the lowest moments of my life, to figure out my own personal truth, and to stop accepting the opinions of doctors as universal truth. I finally listened to that little voice that was saying for all those years that there is a way to heal myself, I could be really happy and function on a higher level, and medication was not it. And so that day I began down a different road.

When I got home, I spoke with the very few people I had confessed my mental condition to, and told them what the doctor had said and informed them of my decision. To put it politely, they were less than supportive. One unnamed dear friend was adamant that I not make these decisions for myself, I was mentally ill, and I would be happier if I just accepted that, and just do whatever the doctors told me. This same unnamed person also went further to say that perhaps I would be happier if I accepted my mental illness, stopped trying so hard to fight it and achieve things (I have 2 college degrees, own a small business, and have co- authored 2 books.. all this while fighting the hardest battle of my life 24-7), and just went on disability. That was the most noteworthy reaction, the rest just reacted with “oh dears”, sighs of disapproval, or silence. Though we have since separated, I have never been so grateful in my life to have the support of my husband. He believed in me. He believed in me through times when I was not so sure there was a “me”. The thought of all the people out there suffering in this way without support or someone close to them is heartbreaking, and a big part of the reason why I felt it was so important to create this site.

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