From 20 months ago—only slightly edited:
My story begins at the tender age of 19 during the summer after my first year at UC Berkeley. I was an enthusiastic, adventurous young adult full of idealism and a burgeoning excitement for my future and what I might do with it. In my first year at university I became deeply involved in the on-campus fight against Apartheid in South Africa. UC Berkeley was heavily invested in South Africa and much of the student body at the time were opposed to this. A lively protest developed at my school, as it did at many of the colleges and universities in the United States.
With my keen sense of idealism and a nostalgia for the 60’s (during which, of course I was an infant and young child) I threw myself into the mire of protest. I was involved at the very heart of it, attending meetings daily and when the time came, camping out on the steps of the administration building to block business, the result being two arrests and a brief period in jail. (All charges were dropped—I am without a record) All this was done with a sense of righteousness, as well as being great fun. (I would not have said it was fun at the time–it was all very serious–but in hindsight, I see that I was having a great time)
During my political engagement I was introduced, through the people most deeply involved in the movement to the classic drugs of the 60’s. At the end of the school year, for summer, I moved into an infamous student coop. This was a student co-op, run and owned by students. It was part of a large group of co-ops, but it was known to be the wildest one….both for its’ political radicalism, as well as for it being the hub of all drug activity on campus. Not everyone living there was into the drug scene, but if you were interested in drugs it was an open gateway into that world.
With my romantic notions of the 60’s, I began experimenting with hallucinogens. The classic LSD and mushrooms, as well as the new-comer on the scene, MDMA, better known as Ecstacy. I experimented with other drugs as well and smoked pot daily.
After about a month of heavy experimentation I took MDMA, got high and then didn’t “come down.” I was having my first manic episode. The wonders of the world opened up to me–all things were possible—I was one with the universe. I was charismatic and people were drawn to me. I was not, at first, out of control. Instead I had a confidence I had never experienced before. I associated with people from all walks of life and felt a deep love for all of humanity. In this altered state I had many exceptional experiences. I will share one with you.
I came out of my suite one day to the sounds of people yelling. I looked down the hall and saw a young African American man wielding a gun pointed at someone who had done him wrong in a drug deal. A veil of peace came upon me. I calmly walked up to the man who was still yelling at his customer with gun in hand. I gently put my hand on his shoulder. He turned to look at me seemingly disarmed. I said “you don’t want to hurt anyone…come on let’s go.” I took his arm and led him away to the stairwell. We walked down to the first landing and stopped. I spoke to him about love and peace, we hugged and he left. I don’t remember exactly what I said and I know if sounds terribly cheesy, but it worked. I felt a huge sense of power and oneness with humankind.
Okay…so that’s the romantic element. Things quickly went downhill from there. Without a break in my mania I took LSD. Everything becomes a blur at this point. I ended up in the psych ward and was immediately diagnosed bipolar. They wanted to hold me past the 72 hours they could hold me without a legal hearing. They strongly encouraged me to stay and not go to the hearing. I went to the hearing and appeared before the judge completely lucid in my presentation. I was released. I threw away the medications they had given me.
This repeated two more times that summer. All three times I was floridly psychotic. The last time I crashed into a delusional depression and had to return to my mothers house, as I was in no shape to go to school. I missed one semester and came to the conclusion I could not take illegal drugs anymore. I discontinued my medication and went back to school.
The story of my illicit drug taking should have ended there, but I had the delusional idea that I simply had to become “psychologically strong enough” to use hallucinogens. I was convinced that they held the secrets of the universe. I waited a good year and a half before I decided I was “strong enough.” Rewind, repeat. Rewind, repeat. Yes, it took two more episodes to finally and completely say no to hallucinogens and all other illicit drugs.
Okay I got it now. It was now 1988 and I was again med free. Much of these experiences were dramatically frightening, but I was convinced that the mania and then the ensuing depression were drug induced and I did not have a mental illness. A conclusion I am again revisiting.
In any case, that of course was not the end of the story. In 1992 I began to experience a fairly serious depression. I went to some sort of “holistic healer” who prescribed various herbs as well as an enema that was to be administered every other day. The enema had water and various other substances in it. (I realize now she was giving me excitatory amino acids which are not safe for people with a history of mania—I now take only inhibitory amino acids which I find very helpful) Within a week I was manic as a result of this holistic docs treatment. This time I was not psychotic as I had been on all other occasions, but I was very frightened. The docs in the hospitals had previously brainwashed me well and it was at this point that I started to believe them, when I was in the grips of terror. Was my conclusion that my previous episodes were only drug induced wrong? (I knew nothing about amino acids at that point, so imagined my body was doing this on it’s own) In my lucidity I ran to a psychiatrist fearing that I would fall into psychosis once again. This mania, however, was not, I repeat, psychotic at all. I was very lucid. No one had a clue that I was manic except me and my doctor who took me at my word which was probably not altogether accurate. I was loaded up with drugs, this time willingly. 2500 mg Depakote, and 800 mg Thorazine. He kept increasing the Thorazine by 25 mg every night I did not sleep a full 8 hours. I believe I got up to 1200 mg. As I was often sleeping a solid 7 hours I think this was rather extreme.
At this point I changed doctors–this guy had me totally freaked out–I was willing to take drugs, but I’d heard about Thorazine and wasn’t comfortable being on so much when I didn’t even feel sick.
I changed doctors. He weaned me down to 100 mg Thorazine. I crashed. He added an anti-depressant. I got anxious, he added a benzo. And so began my kaleidoscope journey into multiple meds.
Now, 15 years after that final manic episode I am questioning everything again. I’ve been followed by a psychiatrist the whole 15 years to this day. In the course of time I tried 37 different psych meds. As of three years ago I began cutting down what ended up being 11 mg of Risperdal, 50 mg of Seroquel, 400 mg of Lamictal, 200 mg Zoloft and 3 mg Klonopin and at the end of the experiment gone bad a course of various stimulants so that I also came off of 84 mg of Concerta.
You might imagine I was terribly ill during all this time. That I tried so many drugs because I was so sick I couldn’t function. This was not the case. I was working full-time and I’ve come to believe that all I was treating was drug side-effects. The neuroleptics made me depressed, hence the anti-depressant. The anti-depressant made me anxious, hence the benzo’s. All the drugs made me tired, hence the trials with multiple stimulants. Finally in 2001 I had a minor manic episode. I came off the anti-depressant, got depressed, went back on the anti-depressant, got manic, went off the anti-depressant and started a therapy called neuro-feedback. My depression went away. I did not go back on anti-depressants and I’ve not had a manic episode since; all the while withdrawing from my meds. (I’m on less than half of what I was on before starting neuro-feedback) (and at this printing 20 months since I first wrote this piece I’m off of everything but 2.25 mg of Klonopin)
My neuro-psychologist introduced me to the idea that I might not need meds for the rest of my life. He had successfully treated hundreds of bipolar patients who got off their drugs. They were not on as many as I was and he promised me a long journey. I started it 3 years ago. (4 1/2 years now) It was my neuropsychologist who used neurofeedback with me that got me started on my withdrawal journey. I’ve since added many more tools to my toolbox for healing and wellness during this last several years.
Written today: I remain psychologically stable, but physically ill. I’ve been posting some old stuff because I can’t really write right now because I’m so tired. Since most of my readers have picked me up quite a while after my starting this blog I hope reposting is entertaining.
My next Klonopin cut is tomorrow. I will cut another .25 mg. At that point I’ll be down to 2 mg of Klonopin. Just one drug and 1/3 the way off it. Pretty darned exciting. Physical recovery from the harsh reality of the withdrawal is still a way off.
as far as Label Me Sane goes…I’ve known some people to like them, but I think you can do better and cheaper catering to your individual body…
that being said their main stuff — raising glutathione, and taking fish oil is sound practice…you can just do it much cheaper and I think even more effectively with other products…(well fish oil is fish oil, but theirs is very over priced…)
if you want some suggestions for alternatives write me an email:
giannakali (at) gmail (dot) com
without knowing more details about your withdrawal from benzos I can’t say what is going on with you…well, frankly, I still probably couldn’t…
I can say, however, that in general people come off drugs way too fast and don’t support their body/mind/spirit as well as they should…
25 mg of Lamictal is ALOT…I cut down so slowly that when I finally jumped off I was on .125 mg …yes point one two five!!
I was cutting up 5 mg pediatric pills and still feeling it!!
please visit my About page for lots of info on safe withdrawal…and try to be patient…
taking it slow and doing it right with the proper supports is not only good for you but your daughter too!! very important thing to remember…
Lots of info on that page…use it!!
and welcome to my blog! nice to see you…please stay in touch.
Hi, Just found your site and am excited to find someone who tracks their progress and shares it with others. How amazing! Have you heard of anyone having success on the “label me sane” program? I have been benzo free for 3 months and suffering withdrawal. I am still on 25 mg lamictal and wanting to reduce this. i tried last week, to go down to 1/2 of that and wow – I felt great a few days and then BAM, felt horrible. I went back up to the 25 mg and will wait until after christmas. I have 2 little girls and I am so sad that they don’t have a mommy who is consistenly stable. My physical symptoms have improved soooo much after getting off of the benzo’s, BUT I am experiencing so much irritabiltiy and my mind can not hold onto a thought…I wonder if this happens when you increase the dose? It feels kinda like the way I feel when I miss a dose for 1-2 days. Can 25 mg really cause this many symptoms, or should I suspect it is still the benzo withdrawal?
Any insight would be sooo helpful.
I wish I could calm down my mind and be able to sit still but I can’t. I did order the label me sane products 20 days ago (it is an amino acid product “glutathione” and a few other products) and was feeling great. I’m not sure what these episodes of TERRIBLE irritability are related to. Is it the increase of lamictal 15 days ago? I’m so confused.
Thanks for your advise.
Boy, that was a lot of Thorzine. It’s amazing you ever got out of bed. I weighed 300 pounds and several hundred mg of Thorazine had me in a complete fog. You have come a long way. Keep up the good work.
wow Gianna, thanks for re-posting this for latecomers to your blog… You’ve come a long way, baby! Thank you for sharing your journey & here’s to getting a little bit stronger every day.
There’s a visitor to my blog who had a somewhat similar experience that she’s currently writing about, in regard to ending up in a psych ward after an Ecstasy high/crash, and being misdiagnosed as bipolar. http://www.auntychrist.wordpress.com
Might be interesting to you.
You’re the first person I hear saying the same of antidepressant. I went to a psychiatrist in search for help to take off klonopin.
He prescribed me Tofranil and it has caused me indescribable anxiety.
I remember watching 80 km but it looks the car was at 200 km and I felt terrible the day I went to another psychiatrist who diagnosed me I don’t know what and prescribed me 5 psych-drugs. So a became a psychiatric patient…..
“The neuroleptics made me depressed, hence the anti-depressant. The anti-depressant made me anxious, hence the benzo’s. All the drugs made me tired, hence the trials with multiple stimulants”.
Thanks for telling your story….It’s one that needs to be told…and understood.
Your pointing toward the illegal drug use as the start of these episodes builds on what I tried to say in the last email…on yesterday’s post….about the physiological (drug-related – either rx or illegal) connection….(oftentimes, not always)….
Congrats on coming down on the Klonopin.
You’re almost there – The energy level will come back when the last of the Klonopin is out of your system, and you’re drug-free….
My best guess?
They’ll be no holding your spirit back….You’ll do whatever you set your mind (psyche) on doing, and you’ll love it!
Yours in wellness,
Yeah, thanks for re-posting! Hadn’t read it yet, me neither. A lot of “recognition”, so to say. Protesting against, also, Apartheit. Moving in certain circles. I never tried anything else but smoking pot, though (well, apart from the booze, and nicotine, that is). And only about ten times, all in all. The last two times ended in anxiety attacks and paranoia. So I decided, pot wasn’t good for me (and that I better not try anything else along those lines; I was a chicken).
In my teenage years I was very depressed. I used hash and marijuana to get the ability to laugh. I needed to laugh. Long term use of the drug led to paranoia. and its hard to laugh if you are paranoid. The drug failed to make me laugh, yet like a gambler seeking the payoff/hope of winning, I kept looking to it to feel happy.
I like Gianna, finally figured out I can’t handle the drugs.
not sure what to make of your comment?? lol…
Hallucinogens are the beginning of some people’s spiritual journey…certainly the enlightened folk don’t continue taking them…
although that might not be said about tribal people…
Ram Dass is one who started his journey on LSD…
I highly recommend the documentary “Fierce Grace.” In which he is an aging man after a stroke…he is really a beautiful human being.
In any case I do think it’s safer to stay away from them, but they did open a world for me and seemed to be a part of my destiny somehow…though I also think I was by nature open to the spiritual I think they sealed my fate. I cannot ignore my spirit and no longer have the option to do so…
Thank you for sharing this (again–since I’m a latecomer). I should be glad I never got around to trying mushrooms or LSD, which I’d long been curious about.
This is quite the story Gianna.