jwd50 asked over on the Ask AG page why I had never spoken about medications. And I realized its mainly because I have been stable on my medication for a long time such that I don’t really give it a lot of thought.  But I know it can be an issue that a lot of people struggle with, so I thought I would share my experiences.

DISCLAIMER: I want to be very clear here that I am neither a professional therapist nor am I a medical doctor. What I am writing is based on my own experiences and reading, is anecdotal in nature and should not be taken as medical advice. Medications, their benefits and risks, should be discussed with a medical professional. People can also have widely varying reactions to this class of drugs, so I will not be mentioning the name of either medication I have used.

I was on my second bout of therapy with my first therapist when the issue of medication first came up, around the time that I started to recover memories of the sexual abuse. It was a difficult time during which I was struggling both with dissociation and trying to accept the memories, let alone process them. My therapist brought up the possibility of trying medications and I basically freaked. My family had a long and not so illustrious record of self-medicating. My father was an alcoholic, my mother at one point was using too much Valium and one sister and one brother had disappeared into a drug and drinking fog which my brother did not leave for 20 years (and then ended up hospitalized when all the pain he had been holding off crashed in on him). As for my sister, the last time I saw her, she told me with a perfectly straight face how well she was doing because she had stopped drinking and was off of antidepressants. This would have been much more impressive had she not been lighting up a joint every half an hour. Kid you not. I had lost the end of high school and the beginning of college in a haze of marijuana and alcohol which stopped when I experienced a religious conversion. So I was extremely wary of the thought of medications, convinced I would end up hooked on something. It was difficult for me to understand or accept the difference between a prescribed, controlled administered drug and grabbing whatever was handy, legal or illegal, to drown out the pain.

I was also concerned about how it would make me feel: would I still be able to feel, what was wrong with me that I was too weak to make it without drugs, etc. My therapist went back and forth for almost a year. Medication would come up, we would discuss it, I would say no, we’d go back to talk therapy. Until eventually, my case worker from the insurance company started to really push on my therapist about medication. BTW, my therapist had a lot of respect for my case worker and felt she knew what she was doing and was not expecting me to be better in a few months.

The approach that my therapist took that finally tipped me over the edge, was that medication was simply another tool in my toolbox. That I was on a two-legged stool of my support network outside of therapy and therapy, but that medication could be a third leg that would make the stool more stable. That it was taking me so much energy simply to manage my depression and trauma and face the challenges of life (I was a full-time stay at home mom at the time with two small children and later when back to work full-time) that there was nothing left over to actually do any work in therapy. That medication might provide the space in which I could heal by saving me some of the energy and attention I had to put into just coping.

So I agreed to at least try it, partially because she was making so much sense, and honestly, my insurance company was sinking a lot of money into my therapy that I felt I should at least give it a shot (I’m a lot more clear these days on not owing the insurance company anything. But considering how much my therapy has cost over the years I have wondered if my therapists have just written things like “this woman is bats$%% crazy, keep sending cash!” :)) So I went to my GP who put me on a very low dosage of  an older antidepressant (it’s not much in use these days.) There wasn’t much of an effect, but once again my insurance company stepped in and requested that I see a psychiatrist who specialized in psychopharmocology.

This entailed another round of discussions with my therapist as I was terrified of how “crazy” they would think I was. I also had no idea how I could talk to anyone else about what happened to me. My therapist was incredibly supportive and I managed to go to an appointment and although highly activated, I made it through. My therapist, bless her, then actually read me the letter that the psychiatrist wrote to her after seeing me, since part of what I hated was the thought that they would be discussing me and saying horrible things. The letter was actually a very compassionate summation of what I was facing and complimentary about how I had conducted myself.

This is where I learned what I would consider to be my first lesson about antidepressants which is to see a doctor with experience in psychopharmocology. They are much more familiar with this class of drugs than a general practitioner. The efficacy of these drugs also varies widely from person to person, it can take some time to find the medication or cocktail of medications, if any, that work for you and it takes time to build up to a full dosage. They also usually involve some side effects in the beginning that are not too fun but may not last. Someone who specializes has a much better handle on all of that. The first thing my psychiatrist did was to order blood work and it turned out I was on too low a dosage (the concentration was too low in my bloodstream) so he increased my prescription. That is when I really noticed a difference. I later switched to another medication, which I have been on ever since, with the only side effect for me being dry mouth. When I got on my present medication, the first week I felt like a total zombie, incapable of functioning. The second week I was pinned to the ceiling, agitated and feeling like I was drinking three pots of coffee a day. But my doctor was aware that this was normal for that stage and encouraged me to wait it out, with the result that I found an excellent medication for me. I still go to the same practice to oversee my meds,  although I see a nurse practitioner there now.

I am very comfortable on the medication I am on now because it does not make me feel high or euphoric and actually allows me a full range of feelings, something I feel is crucial to actually being able to heal in therapy. But it provides a “bottom” underneath me. I only sink so far, but do not descend into the depths of despair and suicidal ideation.

For a very long time, I viewed medication how my first therapist presented it: a tool I would use during recovery, but when I was “done” (hah!) therapy, I would get off of the medication. I no longer feel that way for several reasons. The first is that I am not sure I will ever be done with therapy. 😀 Ok, seriously though, one is that my (other) sister and I bear a strong physical resemblance and often react the same way to medications. She is on the same medication as I am and has attempted to wean off the drug a couple of times and ends up very depressed and struggling with suicidal thoughts. Considering the paucity of side effects for me on the drug, it just seemed more sensible to stay on it. The NP I see feels the same way; we have agreed to take a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach.

The more important reason though was what I later learned about brain development. Trauma research in neurobiology has found a causal link between secure attachment and brain development. When a child experiences long-term trauma in childhood, it has a detrimental effect on brain development that causes the brain to not produce sufficient amounts of some chemicals. So an anti-depressant is necessary in the same sense that insulin is necessary to a diabetic. You are supplying something the body should produce but isn’t. I wear glasses to correct my eyesight and take antibiotics if I have an infection, as well as medication for my blood pressure. I honestly believe that it is the misplaced stigma attached to mental health issues that cause people to view antidepressants in such a negative way. For me, its just another of my medications that I take to treat a chronic condition.

All that said, I do not believe that everyone in therapy needs to take antidepressants. I believe everyone should make their own decision about whether or not to use medications. They do not work for everyone, for some the side effects outweight the benefits and for other people some other combination of exercise, diet and natural supplements works just as well. But here’s the thing, I think a knee jerk reaction in either direction: everyone should take medications OR it’s always wrong to take medications is a bad approach. Some people are helped by them. So taking medications should be approached like any other part of your health care. What are the possible benefits? What are the costs? What are the risks? If you feel like the possible benefits are worth the possible risks, then at least be open to trying them out to see if they are effective for you.

Therapy can be a long, hard, confusing road to walk and its good to be open to anything that helps. I have used books, music, poetry, friendship, dreams, medication, journaling, exercise (ok, not so much, but I’m a work in progress) medications, group therapy, therapy support forums and blogging along the way. Medication has been a very powerful tool for me, but I am also one of the lucky ones in that I have found one that is very effective for me with very little side effects. But the more tools you have in your tool box, the faster the work goes and the less often you come up empty-handed.

  1. liz
    May 14, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Given my short and unhappy experience with medications, these are my two cents:
    never ever listen to your loved ones when it comes to making a decision about which means to use to help you feel better. Unless your loved ones are psychopharmacology experts. Seriously, a lot of people feel pressured to do something to show their families they are making some real effort to get out of a difficult situation, which is understandable but not healthy. There are times when all you really want to do is lay on your bed for days and cry and, as miserable as it sounds, you should do just that. Even if everyone else around you thinks it’s crazy and you need to do something about it.

    I can’t speak for anybody else, but in my experience, medications can make you feel numb. Which is okay in the sense that you won’t be feeling pain anymore, but you won’t be feeling anything else either. My therapist always says (and I agree with him, while at the same time I hate him with a passion) that pain needs to be felt. So, before taking anything to stop the pain, try to go deep into it, explore it, feel it, fight it, let it take over, and do all that with somebody else beside you – that is ultimately what therapy is all about, in my opinion.

    I am clearly not a big fan of medications 🙂 I’m also not an expert in medicine; this is just my opinion, and is not objective, and medications can be good for some people, I think. I also think the world is full of wonderful, not chemical, not addictive things that can help you feel better. There are a lot of other tools out there, so make sure you consider all of them before deciding which one is the best for you.

    (I didn’t mean to sound opinionated, I just don’t know how to use impersonal sentences in english :-D)


    • May 18, 2013 at 10:31 am

      Hi Liz,
      No fear of my kicking you out! 🙂 I really enjoy your input. I think what you have said about medications really backs up what I was saying. You didn’t just rule them out, you tried them. And without good results. I would not have stayed on medications if they made me numb either. It was one of my biggest fears going on them and I was very happy to find that for me, I had a full range of feelings. It just seems to help me regulate enough to not go spinning off the deep end, But I am capable of deep pain and grief and loss. In my experience, being able to allow my feelings in and experience them in the presence of BN was absolutely essential to my healing. If I was numb, I think it would have blocked my recovery. I also very much agree that there are other tools out there. That’s really what I’m advocating, which is to not rule something out based on other people’s experience.

      I loved what you said about wanting to just lie in bed and cry. I remember once saying to the doctor, ironically the one I was seeing about my medications, that some days I just wanted to pull the covers over my head, stay in bed and cry and she looked at me and said “why not?” It was really hard to comprehend (especially as yes, I had two children, a husband and full time job) that it might be ok to give myself permission to take a day for myself. Self-care can be a very complex issue for survivors of trauma. In the end, I think that everyone needs to decide for themselves what works for them. I’m very glad that you posted, I think its important to the discussion to hear from someone who didn’t have a good experience with meds. ~ AG


  2. May 14, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    I have very mixed feelings about medications, myself. I think that they can be extremely useful tools. I have been on an antidepressant long term that seems to work well for me with little to no side effects, although we had to try several before we found one that I could use. I, too, am resigned to the fact that so much early trauma probably resulted in permanent changes in my ability to produce the correct neurochemicals in the correct amounts and I also use the insulin analogy. I also take a small dose of another antidepressant that has drowsiness as a side effect, in order to be able to get to sleep, because I don’t know when I was able to sleep soundly- another decades long problem.

    So those two medications, I have grown accustomed to taking, but adding anything on, even on a temporary basis is a battle for me. I have been thinking about this, because it is a current issue, and I realized that it isn’t just medication related to the PTSD and depression that I resist taking, it’s medication, period. Yes, I will force myself to finish my antibiotics, but I really don’t want to. I even avoid taking allergy medication!

    Right now I am on a medication that helps with some of the PTSD symptoms (in particular the hyper-reactivity that helps to trigger flashbacks), and even though it seems to be helping, I am loathe to increase it to anything close to a normal dosage, because I had some very unpleasant side effects when I first tried it at a higher dosage than I am on right now.

    Also, I have taken a very short course of another medication on an emergency basis, when I was coming apart at the seams a few weeks back. The only way that the psychiatrist and my T were able to talk me into it was that I was quickly unraveling and I could tell that something had to be done quickly for me. The hope was that the 5 day course would reset my system, but the understanding was that I might have to do it multiple times. My T would like for me to talk with the psychiatrist about going back on it again, and I am not yet miserable enough where I am will to consider it.

    This is something that I am obviously irrational about. I can see how much these new medications can help to stabilize me when I am starting to go into free fall. But I still find it pretty much impossible to agree to take them, unless I feel that I am in danger of a severe crisis. I can’t just take them because I am suffering badly.

    In response to Liz, my experience with appropriate dosages of appropriate medications has been different from yours. It isn’t that they stop any of the feelings at all, it’s just that I am less likely to be drawn into emotional states where I am so overwhelmed that I am unable to function. Personally, I can’t do therapeutic work in that sort of a state. I still feel intense grief and loss, I’m just not paralyzed with it. I still feel terror, but I don’t get stuck in flashback after flashback.


    • liz
      May 15, 2013 at 3:31 am

      Thanks for sharing 🙂
      I guess it’s different for everyone, and maybe we’re talking about different medications, and you named a psychiatrist and a therapist, which means that you put yourself in the hands of people who know what they’re talking about; for me, it was my practitioner who suggested I should take medications, and he did that after a three minutes conversation during which he basically only asked me if I was feeling sad. A couple of weeks later, I was sleep walking through my life in a zombie-like state. I actually fell asleep in public a couple of times 🙂 I could have changed medications and dosages, but I never really wanted to start taking them in the first place, and I found a therapist that was not happy about the whole medications thing, so I just stopped.

      I see your point, and I know what it’s like to be too overwhelmed to function, so I understand why someone wouldn’t want to feel like that. Still, in my case, knowing that I can face those bad moments and come out of them in one piece is more powerful than knowing there are medications in the kitchen cupboard. Besides, it seems to me that all the people I know who take medications find it hard to completely get off of them even long after they’re done with therapy, and I wouldn’t want to be dependent on some drug to feel happy. Again, this is just an opinion.


      • May 18, 2013 at 10:48 am

        I am glad that you have found a therapist who supports your decision to not take medications. The first week I was on my medication I was in a zombie-like state also and literally remember thinking “if this doesn’t change, I can’t keep taking it.” Luckily for me, it was just a temporary side effect as I was building up to the full dosage. OTOH, I was recently prescribed a medication for the numbness in my hands and when I got on a higher dosage experienced some really terrible side effects, including really intense suicidal thoughts. I walked into my doctor’s and told him I needed to get off the drug and how fast could I stop taking it. And I get the not wanting to be dependent on a chemical for happiness. I think what I was trying to express was that it doesn’t make me happy, it just seems to ensure that I do not sink into despair, the kind of despair that takes ALL of my resources to cope with, leaving nothing left to actually live my life with. But if I didn’t feel like I needed it, I’d be off of it in a heartbeat. Actually at some point, I do plan on attempting to wean off it, just to make sure my experience isn’t the same as my sister’s.


    • May 18, 2013 at 10:40 am

      Your experience sounds very close to mine. I have found a medication that works really well for me, but I too am reluctant to add in anything else. Some of that is I think irrational based on my past but some of it is an honest assessment of risk. All medications have side effects and risks involved (and there is, I believe, a genetic pre-disposition to addiction in my family) that need to be considered. All treatments, including talk therapy, involve risks and we should always be an active partner in our treatment and feel free to make decisions about what seems worth the risk to us. I take blood pressure medication that necessitates doing regular bloodwork (twice a year) to keep an eye on my liver function. I have made the conscious decision that risking damage to my liver (very small possibility and one that is being monitored) to be a good tradeoff to avoid the risk of earl stroke (high blood pressure runs in my family and is increased in my case by being overweight). So I find it understandable that part of your decision making is that you want to be in a pretty bad place before adding more stuff into the mix. Seems like a reasonable approach. ~ AG


  3. May 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    AG, I believe you and I are on the same anti-depressant, and it works well for me, too. I was on it for years before I started therapy.. I was really depressed in my early teens and, recognizing the same thing that she struggles with, my mother took me to our GP and she put me on an anti-depressant and it worked very well for me, and I’ve been on it since then (getting close to 9-10 years now).

    I’ve recently considered seeing a psychiatrist to better manage my medication. I never thought it would really be worth it, but maybe it would be. I’ve also been wondering if my constant emotional battles lately are not just from therapy stuff but also because I need to have my medication adjusted.

    Like you, I expect to be on medication my entire life. I get extremely depressed and suicidal when I’m off of it – it gets bad. I seriously doubt I’d even be alive at this point if it weren’t for medication, so, for me, I’m a big believer in it, but I don’t think it’s right for everyone.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience with it, AG, and Liz and Cat’s Meow as well. xx


    • May 18, 2013 at 11:20 am

      Hi Kashley,
      It’s hard to tell sometimes if meds need to be adjusted. Even when you’re doing everything right and working very hard at therapy, the feelings evoked can feel close to overwhelming and very painful. I do definitely prefer, based on my experience, using a psychiatric practice for psychotropic drugs, they do tend to be better educated. And its not bad, I have a 10-15 minute appointment every three months. I don’t go into nearly the detail I would with BN, but I do talk in general about how I am doing, how stable I am feeling, sleep patterns, etc. I’m glad that you have found medications so helpful. ~ AG


  4. Bourbon
    May 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    I don’t really see myself coming off my anti depressant either. If I reach a point of stability then why would I want to rock the boat? Just so I can say “I’m off my medication?” I’ve been on it a decade now, starting when I was 15 and as far as I am aware it is not having any detrimental affects to my body, physically or psychologically… just giving me a little lift, you know? I don’t mind having this little lift for the rest of my life. No worries. I tried to come off it once. Horrendous. I am extremely sensitive to medication and I am on quite a high dose of this medication now. Even tapering it down by 5mg makes me feel like I am going to die lol, no exaggeration! Good post 🙂 xx


    • May 18, 2013 at 11:25 am

      Totally cracked up when I read “why rock the boat? Just so I can say I’m off my medication?” That’s pretty much the point I hit. I spent years feeling this pressure that I would finish therapy and get off the meds. I’m finally saying what’s the big deal. I am getting resigned to the fact that I find therapy really helpful, even now that I think I’ve healed, and thing occasionally still get triggered I need help with. So why mess? If it doesn’t work, medications can make things really harder, but as we’ve seen in the responses, sometimes they’re life savers. I have asthma and there is a very similar experience in that the same drugs or combination of drugs are not effective for the same people. You have to work with an allergist to figure out what combo gets your condition under control. I have made my peace with realizing that I have chronic conditions that need to be treated. ~ AG


  5. Ann
    May 15, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Great topic! I have been on antidepressants for almost 20 years and they do keep me from bottoming out. My only observation is that I think it is best to take them under the supervision of a psychiatrist. I tried to make a change in medications under a primary doctor which was a disaster. I felt like jumping out of my skin. There are far too many meds on the market for a G.P. to keep up with dosages and side effects. Psychiatrists can better focus on one group of drugs (psychotropic), and know better how to adjust the dosage and anticipate potential side effects. Thanks for your blog!


    • May 18, 2013 at 11:27 am

      Hi Ann,
      Thanks for commenting. I totally agree with what you have said and it lies up well with my experience. My GP actually carries a small book about meds because its so hard to keep up. There really are times when a specialist’s ability to focus is really helpful. ~ AG


  6. May 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Hi All,
    I have really appreciated the conversation this post has generated. I will be responding individually but have been out of town the last couple of days and have a phone shift tonight so it will be a bit longer. Didn’t want anyone worrying or feeling ignored. ~ AG


  7. Red Tomato
    May 16, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Hi AG,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and clear post about medications. It is such a personal decision and there are so many things that factor into it all. I thought I’d share something that I am just now figuring out – after 30 years of being on all kinds of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds and anti-psychotics….

    It interests me that there are several posters here who report having been on the same medication for years. For me, probably the longest period was two years. And during those two, other meds were added or subtracted or adjusted since it is all just educated guess-work and trial and error to find the right combination for a specific individual.

    When I saw my pdoc and perhaps report that I was feeling more depressed or anxious or suicidal – every one of them would want to make changes to my medication. Sometimes, though, there are just things that happen in life that make me feel bad. An argument with a spouse, bad grade in school, two flat tires, etc, etc. OK, so I feel worse, but that doesn’t mean I need a medication adjustment. So lately I have started to resist medication changes if I can trace the mood change to a specific event. And maybe, in the end, this will stabilize my meds – and me in the process.

    Red Tomato


    • May 18, 2013 at 11:35 am

      Hi RT,
      Thanks for commenting. Wow, I can truly sympathize. This are difficult medications to get on and come off. As I said earlier, I went through several weeks of bad side effects when getting on my current medication. My doctor was very encouraging that I try to ride it out as he was pretty sure they would go away. They did, so I stayed on it. But also as I mentioned, I recently had an experience where the side effects just kept getting more intense and ,more constant the higher the dosage (plus, there was no discernible relief derived from the drug for the symptoms it was supposed to be treating) so I literally walked in and told my doctor I was not going to continue. Thankfully, he totally agreed with my assessment and didn’t push back at all. Again, its a tough balance to figure out what is a tolerable level of difficult affect and what needs to be treated. For me, I tend to go on how well I feel like I am coping. If I am still able to go to work, take care of my responsibilities, and not let the house go completely to hell (my tolerance for a messy house is pretty high btw) then I’d rather deal with the feelings than change anything. As I said, I’ve been on this drug for a long time. But I do also know people who have said that a drug stops being effective for them. Sometimes our body actually adjusts to a medication, setting you back to the baseline you were trying to leave. All that said, I think its important you have a say in your own care. ~ AG


      • Red Tomato
        May 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm

        Hi again –


        Irregardless of coping, I believe that there are some things that medication just can’t touch unless you’re going with sedatives or anti-psychotics – and that’s just a temporary relief. There are some things that an anti-depressant can’t take the edge off of. That’s basically what I’m saying. And in those cases, it doesn’t seem to me like it’s really worthwhile to mess around with the meds.



      • May 18, 2013 at 5:45 pm

        Absolutely. If my reply seemed in any way to contradict what you said here it was miscommuncation. I know there are things meds can’t touch. Even though an anti-depressant has really helped me, it didn’t get me out of a lot of hard work and pain in therapy and I am aware that I am one of the lucky ones who found a single effective med. In no way did I mean to imply that it is that simple for everyone, nor that having to hunt through meds or change them more often was in any way someone’s fault. ~ AG


  8. searching
    May 17, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    Cat’s Meow :
    <p, it’s just that I am less likely to be drawn into emotional states where I am so overwhelmed that I am unable to function. Personally, I can’t do therapeutic work in that sort of a state.

    Very well said! I wish it were as simple as depending on a drug to feel happy.

    I find the insulin analogy to be a very good one. The brain is the most complex organ in the body- every other organ in the body has known/ understood disease states in which something does not function correctly, why wouldnt the brain? Sometimes, illness occurs because of environmental factors, others purely genetic factors, mostly there is some interaction between the 2. There are things that one can do to promote wellness, to compensate for less than ideal genetic predisposition, and sometimes these things are enough to keep one well, to keep from doing damage to the body, but there are times, such as type I diabetes, in which these things are simply not going to be enough. There is no diet in the world, no exercise sufficient, to make up for a complete inability to make insulin (this is what Type I diabetes is). There is no choice but to use insulin for a type I diabetic (or perhaps more accurately the choice is insulin or death). Using insulin for people with type I diabetes replaces something essential that thier body lacks the ability to do on its own. Do they still need to exercise and eat right to be healthy?… yes… and more so than people with a normally functioning pancreas, because the state of medical care is nowhere as good as an actual functioning pancreas.

    I believe brain illnesses are similar. Sometimes the illness can be controlled with rewiring achieved through things such as exercise, meditation, and therapy, and other times it cannot… maybe because either the genetic loading is too strong, or the damage done during a critical stage of development is too great, or maybe the double wammy of genetic predisposition to something like depression AND the damage to the developing brain done by problems with attachment in early life that arise from having a symptomatically depressed primary caregiver.

    Medications arent the answer for everyone (in fact I think almost never are the ONLY answer- they almost always are best used in conjunction with things like therapy, exercise, meditation, etc), They dont work for everyone, but for some they are nothing less than live saving. And yes literally as in helping to avoid suicide, but also more generally- in preventing the destruction of a life than can come from being so overwhelmed that one is unable to function. We dont live in a box… not everyone has the freedom to be able to lie on a bed and cry for days without serious consequences…I’d say probably most people dont. we have children, jobs…. things in which being unable to function for days can lead to permanent damage/ serious consequences… I think nothing more clearly than in the case of raising children. And for some people- days would not be just days- it would be weeks, months, years.

    When medications work well, they do not make you feel numb. Feeling numb is reason to make a change. I think Cat stated what they do when they work very well. I too feel I am more able to work more deeply in therapy with my medication than without, and it is very far from painless.

    I think we need to be very careful about assuming that our own experience of “bad moments” that can be worked through in one piece are anything like someone elses experience of bad moments. Type I diabetics should not stop taking insulin… they will get sick if they do, no matter what else they do instead. Some people with depression are similar. No matter what else they do, or how long ago they stopped therapy.


    • liz
      May 18, 2013 at 6:32 am

      (Sorry, AG, I’m here again, you will have to kick me out at some point :-D)

      Searching, since my comment has obvioulsy triggered some reaction, I just want to point out again that I was not assuming anything about anyone at any moment 🙂 I was only talking about my experience; I didn’t mean to sound judgemental or not careful (and I’m sorry if I did).

      It is true, though, that I have strong reactions myself, when I read all these stories of people who have been taking medications for years and don’t see themselves coming off of them anytime soon – it is a prospect that I find quite scary. But I am not saying that it is objectively scary! Ultimately, it all comes down to how one feels about taking medications: if you (impersonal you, not you you :-D) find them helpful and the idea of taking them continuously is not a problem, or doesn’t clash with your beliefs system, good for you, then.

      I wouldn’t want to have to take medications all my life because it would make me (me!) feel too dependent, and I don’t think about myself and my life in terms of “functioning/not functioning”: I prefer to ask myself whether a situation makes me feel happy or not. But then again, I am only me, I have different life experiences, I’m also probably younger (this, I admit, I have assumed from the fact that you talked about raising children :-)), I live in another country, with a different culture, and I speak a language where the word “functioning” is only applied to machines and not human beings, and I have all my hippie theories about western culture and its obsession with being well functioning and productive all of the time – theories that I won’t discuss here or AG will really have to kick me out 🙂


      • May 18, 2013 at 11:52 am

        (((Liz))) No kicking out is planned!! I very much appreciate that you come back and are willing to engage and further explain what you were saying. I totally cracked up when you said that “functioning” is only applied to machines in your language. Honestly, that whole concept of being functioning and productive does tend to be a quinessential part of the American culture. In fact, part of the stigma of mental health problems is that people totally get that physical injuries need to be tended to but with mental health problems, we react as if you just need a change of attitude. In other words, if the problem is how you are thinking, then just think differently! But those of us who have labored in the trenches know just how difficult and consuming it can be to work on these issues. But I know there have been times during my healing when I have literally thought how much easier it would have been if I was fighting cancer and going through chemotherapy. People would rally around and offer to help with housework, and meals and childcare. But because I couldn’t point to something specific, there were far fewer people who understood and helped out (I am very blessed in that I did have people who got it and graciously helped me on my way). We’ll have to have that discussion sometime about Western culture. 😀 I am very clear about your good will and good intentions and love hearing your viewpoint because it helps me step out of my comfort zone. ~ AG


    • May 18, 2013 at 11:45 am

      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. I should have let you write this post. 🙂 I very much agreed with what you are saying, especially about the interaction of environmental and genetic factors. I will also confess to a prejudice about people taking medication, but not addressing the underlying problems in therapy. I do think some people use meds as a bandaid and therefore they can be used as an avoidance technique. This is an area where I think the whole stigma attached to mental health issues makes this topic one where people tend to be more reactive. It is just as important to make room for other people’s experiences as it is to own ours without feeling judged for how we are going about our healing.

      I will agree with Liz that you seemed bothered by what she said, but do want to say that what she said did not come across the same way for me. Probably because Liz and I have been through this kind of thing before. 🙂 As she mentions below, she is from another culture and shockingly, considering how articulate she is, English is not her first language, so I think some nuances get lost in the translation. So I just wanted to add my voice to hers to express that I don’t think there is anything adversarial going on here, although I also understand why you felt that way. Thank you for your very thoughtful addition to the dialog. I really do think that everyone’s input has contributed to making this a very powerful discussion about the issue of drugs that a lot of people who are reading will find useful. ~ AG


  9. Searching
    May 18, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Oh my, Liz I apologize if I came out too strongly in reaction to what you wrote… And my goodness you do a tremendous job expressing yourself in English. Thank you for posting your reply and AG as well. I did not mean to be advesarial either. My most sincere apologies if I came across that way. I think you are very right in questioning the sanity or healthiness of the western culture and the constant drive for productivity.

    I was bothered by some of the statements obviously.. Maybe triggered sensitivities is a better description of it. Personally it has been a tremendous struggle for me to accept the fact that I need to take medication indefinitely… Something that I worked with my therapist for years on. The medicine I take works really well for me and has very few side effects… Actually has what i consider to be a perk of a side effect… a few lbs of weight loss… I went through several meds before finding this one. And clearly it works, works much better than others.. Yet I can’t tell you how many times I stopped taking it, for irrational reasons.. The same as what a lot of people have posted. I think my therapist probably cringed nearly every time. Accepting that I have a chronic illness for sure was part of the struggle, but the stigma about mental illness was definitely part of the struggle too. Even today having mostly come to a place of acceptance abt it, I still hesitate when I have to write down the name of the med at the dentist or eye dr… Places in which I think, what difference would it make for them to know this. I don’t think I would struggle as much if it were a blood pressure med. I pretty much know I wouldn’t.

    The other side of my perspective is I work in health care. So while I rationally get that the stigma should simply not be there, the fact remains that on an emotional level, when its me personally, there it is. It is that strong a stigma, In my work I see people suffering and being reluctant to seek treatment… In a way that doesnt happen with other (physical) ilnesses. reluctance towards both medication and therapy because of the stigma, because they somehow see it as a character flaw.. I see this alot. they think that tthey should be “strong enough” to be able to “face it”or “deal with it”. “Cope with it” The phrase “depend on a medication to be happy”. Actually comes up a lot too, and its just simply wrong… I wish medication could do that.. I really do, bc I would so want for there to be a simple less painful solution to this kind of unseen suffering. Even when it really works well, medication doesn’t make people feel happy… It just helps them not have to put all of their energy into simply surviving the day, so that there is something left over to work with. When you find happiness in life… Take full credit for that, bc it’s your own doing, whether you are on meds or not.

    So the echos of some of these things in your post, which I see keeping people (including myself) from getting treatment.. both medications and therapy too, it did hit a nerve. You seldom hear people talking about being afraid of needing an asthma medication for the rest of their lives, or a blood pressure medication, or cholesterol, etc. really psych meds are no different. i would even encourage you personally to keep an open mind abt that given you are young and you dont know what life might throw at you in the future…. and yes… If the need arises, you are better off going to a specialist if you can, esp when you have had a negative reaction to a med already.

    Again my sincerest apologies if my reaction to your post was too strong. May I also add… I don’t know how young you are, but for a young person, you really do express yourself so very well, and your understanding and bravery about diving into pain is quite astonishing. I truly wish you the best in your path to healing.


    • liz
      May 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      Don’t worry, A LOT of nuances get lost in translation, I come across as much much more pretentious than I actually am 🙂

      I agree with all you said about the stigma of mental illness. One of the reasons why I don’t like medications is that they seem to be more socially acceptable, at least here (here is Italy, by the way). Going to therapy means being crazy, nobody likes to talk about it. I know a lot of educated, young, generally open minded people, who have been going to therapy for years without ever telling anyone. Taking medications, though, makes it look like you have a disease, like it’s not your fault, so basically everybody takes medications like it’s perfectly normal (which it is, in some cases, but not all of them).
      A lot of people with not so serious anxiety problems go to their doctors reporting panic attacks symptoms, for example, and they’re out ten minutes later with a prescription based on nothing. The same thing happened to me twice, with two different practitioners, who only asked me a couple of questions, never suggested seeing a therapist first, and didn’t spend much time figuring out what the right dosages were, either.

      Again, I know there are people for whom medications are life savers, and that’s okay, but there are also a lot of other people who would get the same results by going to therapy (or meditating, changing lifestyle, getting a kitten, whatever) if only it wasn’t considered such a horrible thing for their reputation.

      I’ll shut up now, I promise 🙂 Thanks again for this conversation, it’s really interesting to read all of you!


    • May 21, 2013 at 9:19 pm

      Just wanted to say that I didn’t think your reply was too strong or disrespectful. I only said what I did because I picked up on your strong feelings (which I see as a good thing :)) and having went through this with Liz and knowing both of you are great people, I just wanted to add that info to the mix. And I am glad I did because your reply had so much thoughtful reflection that I think will be really helpful for anyone reading. Thank you for being so gracious. ~ AG


  10. June 23, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Anonymous and welcome to my blog. The article is The Effects of Early Relational Trauma on Right Brain Development, Affect Regulation, & Infant Mental Health by Allan N. Schore. Dr. Schore is a leading specialist in research about and treatment of long term trauma. Do want to warn you that this is a highly technical paper and somewhat heavy going at times, especially for a layman like myself. Hope that helps. ~ AG


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