When I first started blogging I was on blogspot and it was set on private and I deleted the whole thing before I went public. It was basically just a diary.
What I didn’t remember was that I copied the whole thing into a word document. It dates from February 2004 to June of 2006. It’s very strange to read because I start it with my withdrawal journey while doing neurofeedback. I had gone off anti-depressents before I started the journal but was actively cutting down Risperdal. I cut from 11 mg to 3 mg in that time. What I didn’t remember was that I took a detour at one point when I had discontinued neurofeedback for several months and basically started feeling really bad emotionally and started adding drugs again sometime around February 2006. I added an anti-depressant and a stimulant. I talk about this in my blog these days—that is having been on these drugs and discontinued them, but I had really gotten the chronology mixed up. In any case it’s interesting to see me struggling terribly with the initial withdrawal of Risperdal four years ago after already going off an anti-depressant, and then basically giving up about a year into it and doing a whole round of med trials again which make me really sick and completely disheartened. The additional meds obviously made things more complicated.
I should add at this early stage I had no support and knew of no one who had come off drugs—it was just a dream that came from inside me with no external support except from my doctors (the Ph.D who does my neurofeedback and the psychiatrist I started to see when I moved to North Carolina) who as I’ve always said have always supported me. I did not have my real conversion to a commitment of a drug free life and a belief that the drugs were making me worse until August of 2006. At that point I found other psychiatric survivors and people who had gotten off drugs successfully and whose lives really only began once they got off the drugs.
I began my public blog in March of 2007 seven months after my conversion and after once again resuming withdrawal during that time. At that point because I had reintroduced drugs I had cut out I had to get off Concerta and Zoloft again. I also got off Seroquel during that first 7 months.
The whole time I’m writing in my first blog, whether I’m withdrawing, or backsliding and taking extra drugs again, I’m talking about how tired I am—-the fatigue is still a major issue even then which is what led to the Ritalin and then Concerta trials. Crazy fatigue dates back as long as I can remember once starting drugs. But reading my daily journal and how I mention it every day is sobering. Granted during the writing of the early “blog” I’m still able to work out daily and I’m quite active but fatigue ruled my life even then. If I didn’t sleep 12 hours I was very frustrated. The thing is even when I slept my 12 hours I still complained of how tired I was. And while I was committed to working out, I often said that was all I could do and the rest of the things in my life suffered. If I went to the gym or on a hike, the housework just didn’t get done. I’ve always been stubborn and moving and physical activity has always been very important to me, so I was motivated by sheer will, because I really had very little energy. (strangely, though it’s on a whole different and awful level of fatigue, I remain the same—stubborn as hell with an iron will—if I didn’t have that I would be dead now, because I can hardly do anything and I have no real life—today it was anger at my predicament that motivated me to walk around the block with my dog. My body would not have otherwise cooperated. Sometimes anger really does serve us.)
Anyway, it was interesting to read this journal from several years ago. My life was not better on drugs not by a long shot. I was physically more fit and able to function, but it is really clear to me that drugs do not help me and mentally I actually showed much less clarity and patience then I actually have now. I’m so glad I read that because frankly sometimes I wonder if I know what I’m doing and how is it I’m going to make it to the other side?
While reading the journal entries last night and feeling better about my continued commitment to drug freedom, I remembered the pureness of the experience I had when I cold-turkeyed briefly recently—granted it ran me into serious trouble, but prior to the crisis it was truly an enlightening experience. It may take a while but being drug free is mental freedom. I am in prison and have been for two decades.
This is what Daniel wrote when I had those couple days of freedom:
I had always assumed that on becoming drug-free, the real psychological work would only then begin. What was a revelation was to see the immediacy with which Gianna was gaining insights, having perspective and revealing a maturity that up until then had merely been masked by the drugs.
In our conversations, a fog has often appeared between us so that the loop of exchange — listening and responding — was a broken circuit. Suddenly we were connecting.
Gianna’s armor — her defenses for protecting acute sensitivity — began to fall away, making her both more vulnerable and less sensitive. At one point she told me about some criticism she’d received through email and as she was telling me, I imagined that it wouldn’t be too long before she wouldn’t so easily be stung. I didn’t have to wait, that time had already come.
Her irritability — the ease with which she could rail against anything unwelcome — gave way to equanimity, as she started to live the meaning of that line from the Serenity Prayer: grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
While it might be true that psych meds can arrest someone’s development, it appears that even while under confinement, time well spent will suddenly bear fruit right from the first day of freedom.
It is those two days I cling to when I feel lousy these days, back in my fog of confusion and darkness. I will get my mind back and then my body should follow as I continue to feed it carefully and specially and take care of it with all my might.
I’m now on .625 mg of Lamictal (down from 400 mg) and 2.5 mg of Klonopin. That’s it. The Lamictal will be dropped completely within two weeks. I’ll probably split that ridiculously small dose one more time.
Again the list of drugs withdrawn from in the last four years:
50 mg Seroquel
200 mg Zoloft
84 mg Concerta
11 mg Risperdal
400 mg Lamictal (virtually—like I said, I’m on .625 mg)
.5 mg Klonopin
And at least mentally I’m no worse off and have the hope of being much better as the above episode suggests. Physically, unfortunately, I’ve paid a great price. I can only have faith that my body will recover.
The other day in a moment of feeling defeated but recognizing how I go on and on and do things in spite of feeling so profoundly ill, by sheer force of will, I cried to Daniel and said, “I deserve a medal.” He held me tight and agreed.
But you know what? I don’t think it’s a real life if you go untested. This is a training ground. There isn’t a human alive who does not live through hell at some point in time. So screw the medal. Let it be that I simply learn and grow from this experience. Amen.