Bi-polar disorder & defying doctors orders…REALLY???

boston 2

By Kenneth Justice

I’m doing the exact opposite of what the doctors told me and I’m so much happier” she said

~ This past weekend I hung out in Cambridge, MA and ended up meeting a young woman who is in her senior year at Harvard University. Originally from a small town in Vermont, life was fairly routine for her over the years until midway through her first year of college,

About five months into the school year I realized I was struggling with a lot of emotional problems I’d never experienced before so I made an appointment with a psychiatrist. She diagnosed me as being bi-polar and immediately put me on Paxil” she said

Things went from bad to worse

If I thought my problems were bad before I was diagnosed with being bi-polar, after going on the medication my entire life fell apart” she said, “The medication made me an entirely different person, some days I felt like a robot with no feelings, other days I could barely get out of bed. Eventually, I dropped out of college and went back home. I took an entire year off from school…..and it turned out to be the best decision I could have made

During the year off from Harvard the young woman went against her doctor’s orders and stopped taking the medication, “I spent my every waking moment researching Bi-polar disorder and studying natural ways of coping with it; I taught myself skills that I put into use anytime I felt that my mood was having an adverse effect on my day. I also spent a lot of time getting my nutritional diet under control, something that the psychiatrist didn’t focus on at all” she said

The young woman is now close to graduating and is completely drug free, “I still struggle with the disorder but I’m so much more confident and happy now that I’m not doped up on drugs” she said

Let me be clear; I’m not advocating that anyone stop taking drugs that have been prescribed by a doctor. But I do believe the time has come in our society where we need to begin getting second and third opinions. Although they are in the minority; there ARE doctors out there who believe in teaching their clients practical coping skills to deal with Bi-polar, Asperger’s, depression, and other mood disorders and psych-social cognitive issues.

For too long psychiatrists and psychologists have had a strangle hold on the discussion of psychological disorders; pill popping has become common lingo in Western Culture as the percentage of people who get prescribed pills rises exponentially. At the rate we are on, it would be no surprise if in the near future nearly 100% of people in Western Culture are taking some kind of prescription drug.

A good psychiatrist or psychologist uses pills as a temporary measure to help protect their client until proper coping skills are taught to them……and then slowly weans the client off of the drugs.

I could no longer stay in the psychological counseling field myself because of the ethical problems I saw with the pill popping culture of psychologists and psychiatrists. Where is the sense in a psychiatrist prescribing pills to someone they barely know anything about?

I always thought a much better model for the psychiatrist/client relationship would be to have the doctor hang out with the client for a couple weeks in their natural environment; to see how the client interacts with co-workers, family, and friends. To see how the client copes when stressful situations occur or to see how the client handles times of loneliness. Of course, that kind of relationship with a client is ‘too expensive’ and I suspect most doctors believe they are so smart they don’t need to do that kind of legwork.

But let’s be honest; if we are going to give people mind-altering drugs, don’t we owe it to society to make sure we know everything about the situation before we start doping them up for the rest of their life?

Drugs used to treat mood disorders and other psychological disorders are often as strong as illegal narcotics. The United States spends billions of dollars a year fighting this ridiculous thing they label the ‘Drug War’ yet the U.S. Government doles out billions of dollars in grants that encourage the ‘legal’ doping up of men, women, and children.

I’m not advocating that anyone stop taking pills that have been prescribed by a medical doctor. I am however suggesting that you get a second, third, or maybe even a fourth consultation from a different doctor. Find a doctor who wants to help work with you in teaching you proper coping skills and looks at your whole self; spiritual, physical, and mental. Proper diet, being in a good spiritual state, and learning how to properly deal with the mental processes that go through your mind can very likely give you the freedom of never having to take mind-altering drugs again.

Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,


Categories: Culture & Society

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109 replies

  1. I’m fortunate to have a doctor who looks at diet, exercise and nutritional supplements as well as drugs to control my depression. I’d also like to see them promoting mindfulness courses too, but one step at a time…

  2. I would also argue that the same is true for children. We are conditioned in our society to diagnose and prescribe. I’ve recently been reading a lot about how gifted children in today’s schools are more and more being misdiagnosed with ADHD and Aspergers simply because they can be medicated for their “conditions” and school administrators don’t have to figure out what to do with the “different” kids. How many brilliant minds are we missing out on because of this? I am not saying that medication is wrong for the people who NEED it, but it seems to be a standard thing for every “abnormal,” big-emotion, likes-to-be-alone person to be told that medication will make them feel more “normal.” Normal is just an illusion.

    • Rachel; RIGHT ON…” normal is just an illusion”

      Many people with asbergers are actually highly intellectual people and yet our society wants to try and ‘normalize’ them instead of celebrate their differences which make them awesome people!

  3. Kenneth, thank you so much for telling this woman’s story.The solutions for one person’s mental disturbances can be so different from another person’s. The medical doctors will often give them the same label. I know that friends and support people can not “cure” chemical imbalances but their contribution with love, laughter and assistance with emergencies is a life line. After my friend’s suicide many acquaintances called me the first week to ask how I was feeling. Months have gone by without any more contact. How about a cup of coffee I suggested to one “well wisher”? “After the tax season he texts”. Maybe he meant next year.

  4. Now that is a very cool blog! Thank you!!

  5. Kenneth, I see this daily. I’m on my way to the pharmacy now. America is far more “medicated” than the rest of the world. People are taking way more drugs per person than they were twenty years ago when I started practicing. This isn’t necessarily a good thing.

    Behavior modification, diet and exercise are actually the best things a doctor can prescribe for certain disorders. Or at the very least, try these first! Many medications that are over-prescribed now really should be prescribed when other alternatives have been exhausted. Just my two cents as a pharmacist.

    • Right on…. and I try to be clear all the time that I’m not advocating that people stop taking drugs; but rather to try new approaches and slowly wean themselves off as they figure out a more healthy and natural way to deal with problems 🙂

    • Behavior modification, diet and exercise are actually the best things a doctor can prescribe for certain disorders.

      I’ve been a patient in community mental health services for over 25 years. One of the biggest reasons why doctors don’t do more of this is cost. Prescribing a pill is cheaper. Moreover, individualized medicine is more costly front-load investment than the current system of wide-spectrum applied medicine. The U.S. system is very for-profit, and it shows. When we already have trouble getting businesses to think long-term, say, 10 years into the future, and we have health care operating on a business model, I think things will likely stay that way, sadly.

    • Sadly, I think you are correct and I see no end in sight 😦

    • Yeah 😦 But I am hoping that it might encourage us to get or remain pro-active, and to ask for the care that we need, as much as we can manage to get, anyways.

      I consider myself fortunate to be in the safety net, on disability– I think things would be much, much harder if my wife and I were still working.

  6. I totally agree with you! I worked in the Mental Health field for over 25 years and what I experienced was the client wanting that magic pill to fix everything. The doctor and I would advocate exercise, nutrition, proper sleep, coping skills, etc, so that the client could re-claim their life without the need for pyschotropic meds. 90% of the clients wanted nothing to do with this approach, they wanted the “fix-it pill” and that was it. The really sad fact is that 95% of parents wanted this if they were having ANY kind of problem with their child. And most of the time, a child behavior problem is NOT about the child, it’s about what is going on their environment. I could go on, but this a response, not a blog! Thanks for bringing this to the blog-o-sphere. Phyllis

    • So true; I tend to focus on the doctors being ‘the bad guy’ but your right; often its the clients who want the magic pill that makes their life easier instead of doing the hard work that it takes to be a healthy person,.

    • Phyllis, I was a patient for about the same length of time, and I sincerely wish I could have been offered this sort of treatment. However, one of my long term p-docs had a SOLID reputation for pharmacological tweaking. I can remember another professional saying, “Wow, you’re on fewer medications than Dr. D normally prescribes to his patients.” (He was also well-known for being bipolar himself.)

  7. It seems we expect popping a pill to solve all our problems. Most people already are on at least one prescription, the ones who aren’t self medicate with illegal drugs and booze. To me, that says our society is the thing that has a problem, not the people in it!
    There really is no difference between legal and illegal drugs other than the big pharm and the prison-industrial state wants to lock up as many of us as it can.

  8. Another great post, Kenneth.

  9. I’m a great advocate of natural medicine and while I have to take heart and BP meds daily now, I still resent their intrusion into my life. I’ve studied and qualified in more than one alternative medical practice.

    While there is no such thing as the perfect diet, there is only the right diet for you at this particular time in your life, fresh organic food with plenty of fresh unpolluted air, regular daily movement/exercise and plenty of fresh filtered water is still the mainstay of my belief system. Give me enough white-sliced supermarket bread or additives/preservatives and my whole personality changes. Enough wrong food and a polluted stressful work & home environment and I turn into an angry, manic personality. Literally! Took me some years to also work out that I had developed an allergy to mould.

    I’ve proved it beyond all question. i’ve now proved that the bulk of my early morning heart/BP episodes are also too much of the foods I am intolerant to. Notice I said intolerant, not allergic. The worst episode in 2010 resulted in an emergency dash to the local ER via ambulance with a suspected heart attack. Unfortunately, I have inherited all the worst health problems from both sides of my family, despite many years of following the best health practices, they continue to affect my

    Being in tune with your bodily functions and noticing the slight changes that occur after meals and/or in toxic environments can erase all need for prescription drugs and specialist care in many people.

    But, there is still a need for western orthodox medicine and surgery. A Wise person is one who is open to all forms of alternative AND orthodox medicine and/or therapy. And a truly wise person knows the difference between questioning the diagnosis and prognosis, and accepting the reality of the truth.

    Even in Cancer and other serious health conditions, who knows why some people survive and some people die. I’m a great believer in the Placebo effect and the power of the Mind. I’ve had miraculous changes simply by Deep Breathing Techniques and Mindful Living.

    Since we supposedly only use 10% of our brains, who knows what we can achieve by learning to tap into the other 90%.

    As I always say, there is a big difference between an experiences qualified Medical Doctor and a genuine Healer. When the two combine you have the best of both worlds.

    • “Being in tune with your bodily functions and noticing the slight changes that occur after meals and/or in toxic environments can erase all need for prescription drugs and specialist care in many people.”


      “Even in Cancer and other serious health conditions, who knows why some people survive and some people die. I’m a great believer in the Placebo effect and the power of the Mind. I’ve had miraculous changes simply by Deep Breathing Techniques and Mindful Living.”

      I’ve heard so many wonderful stories of the power of the mind in relation to sicknesses… your so right Vicki

  10. I think that this is one of the more important blogs you have posted from your tour. I see this repeatedly. Here in the US anyway, Big Pham has a strangle hold us all. They have us right where they want us, and women like the one you spoke to pay the price.

    • I often wonder why we aren’t outraged at the BIllions that Big Pharmaceutical companies are making off doping us off…. we hate drug dealers in the ghetto… but its really white collar drug dealers on wall street that are the problem.

  11. A prescription of paxil does not make a person bi-polar. I’m bi-polar and I take a mood stabilizer, lexapro, trazadone and ambien at night. Sounds like what my doctor told me. Most people that think they are depressed. My doctor saved my life. I have a thirdy year history with hospitalized, suicide attempts, and couldn’t hold a job for more than six months. I thank God I found my doctor that wasn’t afraid to prescribe the cocktail I needed. Needless to say I was misdiagnosed for decades. I was called depressed, boarderline (which is a get out of my office diagnoses), severely depressed and a lot of different things. No one caught this until I was 45. Talking me thru it would make as much as talking a diabetic thru an insulin comma. I am wired differently

    • A prescription of paxil does not make a person bi-polar.

      I’m not sure that’s what was said. Here’s the quote (what Kenneth quotes the young woman as saying):
      She diagnosed me as being bi-polar and immediately put me on Paxil

      My understanding was that the psychiatrist made a diagnosis of bipolar and THEN prescribed Paxil as a result. Now, I find this prescription odd. Personally, Paxil led me to feel very angry and aggressive. I had trouble with any drug that was of the Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) class, which Paxil is a part of. Reuptake inhibitor drugs prevent neurotransmitters– in this case, seratonin– from being reabsorbed into the neurons. The drugs allows them to stay in the brain cells longer.

      Now, seratonin works in concert with melatonin (a hormone secreted by the brain in the presence of darkness to induce sleep) and Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone, too). To sum up, I didn’t need my seratonin adjusted to pull me out of my major depressive episodes! What worked far better was getting my D levels checked– I was deficient in vitamin D. You see, med nurses and p-docs would medicate my seasonal depression, and I’d be slightly manic by late summer. Taking a D3 supplement during the day and taking a melatonin supplement at night helped me more to regulate my mood and sleep. Antidepressants, especially SSRI ones, were BAD for me and tended to push me out of balance slightly towards the manic side.

      Now, for the most part, I cut my psych drugs back to just lithium carbonate. Along with the D3, this is appropriate– as I am of Scandinavian heritage. Lithium’s track record is good generally, but its documented record is even better for those of Scandinavian backgrounds, where lithium occurs naturally in the drinking water of some Scandinavian countries. It’s a salt, just like sodium chloride (table salt), but the molecules are smaller and more readily absorbed by the neurons than table salt is.

      I agree with you– everyone’s neurochemistry DOES tend to be different. My point is, however, that I agree with Kenneth and others that say a more holistic picture should be taken for health care– family history, physical activity, diet (as in what you normally eat, not what you regiment yourself to eat), and so on.

    • I too am on prescription vitamin D. Everyone reacts to drugs differently. I spend 30 years. Not on medication until the end of the thrity years. I tried to commit suicide more times and by different means that I can recall. Massive overdoses, driving into telephone poles, gassing myself via C2, and any other way. I tried to blow my head off with a shotgun under my chin but didn’t have the guts to pull the trigger. The thing I heard in my head was,”if you think life is touch now, try going thru it with half a face.” I didn’t have the guts. Since I have been on medication, I haven’t tried any of the above again. Talking to me does NO good. I am bi-polar. It is a medical disability. I am disabled now. I haven’t tried to kill myself since I can’t seem to get off my butt with all the medications I’m on. There is no good side to this. Medications take away the best parts of me but talk therapy does nothing for bi-polar. I know. I have been thearpied to death. I know the lingo so well, I could open my own shop. The manic part starts out so well. You are doing great!!! Then the mad parts start to take over and you’re mad at everything, which leads to the suicidal actions. So, you see, I know all about medicine and therapy. Therapy does no good here.

    • Yep, I understand. As I was saying, I can’t be completely free of meds myself.

      I figure we’ve all got to do our best and find what works, although the system is terribly broken in places. I’ve been around the block and I’ve got friends that have done the same. Our experiences are all different.

  12. I’m with Capt Jill on this one – “our society is the thing that has a problem.” Thank you for this very important post and topic, Kenneth. Very well done, indeed.

    Peace ~ Allison

  13. PAXIL! That’s the last thing someone with bi-polar disorder should be on. A second opinion would have been in order. Your last paragraph is good advice. But if a natural medicine doesn’t work, medicine is preferable to the serious problems untreated mental illness can cause. 🙂

    • Yes, exactly, Lena! Paxil was BAD news for me! As I was blathering earlier, any sort of SSRI antidepressant was bad, bad, bad. I could barely tolerate bupropion (Wellbutrin), which is about the only antidepressant considered even appropriate for treatment of bipolar. Vitamin D3, full-spectrum light or sunshine, and melatonin did much better for me in that regard.

  14. Sadly these days doctors turn your pain to business, but I also seen patient so addicted to drugs that makes it impossible to work with. Many teens and adults use drugs because they’re depressed or think drugs will help them escape their problems. The truth is, drugs don’t solve problems — they simply hide feelings and problems. When a drug wears off, the feelings and problems remain, or become worse. Drugs can ruin every aspect of a person’s life.
    Thank’s for bringing it up, very important subject.

  15. Kudos to Amanda. Too often the consumer is at the mercy of physicians and pharmaceutical companies pandering their products. The side effects of these drugs can be horrendous. We know our bodies best and often natural remedies work better than the foreign substances we are urged to introduce to them which later cause havoc to our system.

    • Right on, its sad that too often this topic becomes very heated… and I suspect the only way we’ll be able to change our culture is to keep having conversations about this serious issue.

  16. Excellent post, while there are legitimate reasons to take prescription pills I do believe Western culture is way too over-medicated for less than necessary reasons. Drug companies won’t profit if we teach people just how much of a difference a little nutrition and education can be for their health. When I was a teen I would have bouts of depression followed by bouts of way too much energy. Several doctors tried to put me on pills but I did my own research and figured out ways to level out naturally on my own. Now that I have incorporated a healthy diet to my active lifestyle I am the healthiest I have ever been, both mentally and physically. Just because something is the easiest “solution” doesn’t mean it is the best choice for long term success. Nothing worth having comes easy and that includes our health. If we could change the mentality away from a profit driven “throw away” society maybe we could stop the cycle of society encouraging disease so that it could later make money off of it. It’s a vicious cycle where society has set us up to fail (health-wise) so that it can provide us with a quick fix for our problems. If we hope to break the cycle we need to step away from the profit driven “throw away” mentality and get back to making positive choices for long term success.

    • I’m totally with you…. there ARE legitimate reasons to take pills….. but as you say; the elephant in the room is that its the Billion Dollar Drug Companies that are in control of the conversation; they are the ones who are really pushing us to become a pill popping society 😦

  17. Great post! I’m with you 100%.

  18. Paxil for bipolar?! That doctor is incompetent, corrupt, insane, or all three. NOBODY advises antidepressants for bipolar. It’s very dangerous, and could lead to suicide during a down period.

    • Thank you for repeating this– I learned this the hard way, too. It is very inappropriate.

    • Right on…. sadly this young woman wasn’t the first woman I met who was prescribed Paxil (and other similar drugs) for bipolar…. there is practically no oversight on what these damn doctors are doing.

  19. Interesting. I read a “Very Short Introduction” on Madness, where they talk about the same thing

  20. Hmm, interesting article. I wonder how long this woman will be able to keep her life going without proper medication. Many people with mental health issues self-medicate, which is really bad. My ex husband has been doing that for years, and it has never helped him. But maybe what the woman was going through was temporary (like going through a depression), or she has a personality disorder (which responds to therapy because it’s behavioral not a chemical imbalance). Either way, a true mental health issue shouldn’t go without some form of treatment. Medication is not the only way to help someone, but shouldn’t be discounted either.

    • I agree Kristina, I definitely am not advocating against medication…. but that the current discussion in our country is out of whack; doctors are more like to prescribe medication, than to consider better lifestyle and alternative medicine. Western medicine is TOO focused on drugs….i’m merely calling for a balance.

  21. I think that sometimes there are legitimate reasons for being on drugs. Just like everything, people are living longer from better healthcare. There are instances where people are wired differently in their heads. For example, take someone with a physical deformity…that’s an obvious example of something not right with the human body. Well it happens inside our brains too. Anyone who blanketly states that bipolar is not a hardwiring gone wrong knows nothing about it and hasn’t done any research. Am I bipolar? No, but I do have a good friend with it. Not everyone can be cured by natural things like diet and exercise. Seriously! I do agree, however, that some people just need intense psychotherapy, a healthy diet and exercise and that doctors are way too quick to diagnose with all these kinds of issues. Most are unhealthy emotional habits that have been learned through improper parenting. Oh no! Did I say that? There’s a lot of that in society. I know because I’m the product of them and it’s taken me lots of therapy to get to the point of not feeling so depressed. I tried anti-depressants but they only made me feel weird. I knew I needed to address my emotional issues. IT’s a work in progress. Okay, I’m off my soapbox now. lol

    • I agree Laura, what bothers me is that discussion in our society on drugs isn’t balanced. Instead of having a balanced moderate approach to the subject of mental health; its entirely being shaped by pharmaceutical companies……. and the fact that those companies are allowed to have commercials on TV is a crime as far as I’m concerned.

    • I so agree with this point. They’re drug pushers only paying taxes. I think that massage, accupuncture and therapy, especially therapy, should be paid for like surgeries are. Sometimes we need regular therapeutic massages but heaven forbid something should FEEL good. We can’t pay for too many of those, no siree. Drives me batty that way. I have a lot of health issues so I do notice the imbalance.

  22. I take anti-depressent and anti-anxiety medication; I was also taught strategies on dealing with depressive episodes when they hit. I use every last one of them to get through black days. Yes, they still slam with me, even on meds, which only do about 60% of the job. I have to give the other 40% every day. At the same, I adopted daily meditation, yoga, exercise, and a vegan lifestyle. They’ve added a great deal of peace in my mind, body, and how I react to life events.

    I understand how “hardcore” these meds can be; I take meds for RA, too, and RA drugs are among the most dangerous prescribed. The above natural, holistic measures are meant to strengthen my body against the RA and what it and the drugs do to my body. Constant research helps me feel more in control of my conditions, life, so I can question doctors, be my own advocate.

    • “constant research helps me feel more in control…..”

      I LOVE that sentence; your so right, it totally comes down to each of us doing our research 🙂

  23. Living with no feelings is not living. A drug that cause you to be lived is not living..
    Not advocating to use the natural narcotics but marijuana an old school natural mind altering alternative. if used right.

    Ooh to calm the mind or in my case sometimes enhance the state of mnd.. okay no more. never again.

    No!! We to easy grab a pill or other substance. It is not that we take away the problem we just run away from it. We just hoping to much things will go away on there own.

    • Agree with you on marijuana, at least as far as careful pain management. You know, I’m sure, that we have painkillers that are FAR more dangerous than THC.

      I’m in one of the states in the U.S. where marijuana was legalized for recreational use at the state level– Washington. However, many cities have moratoriums and there is still a lot of wrangling over how distribution should be set up. There are still many who decry it as a gateway drug– I just don’t see it.

    • I am Dutch so I do not know any better than find a shop and have me a smoke. Purely recreational. but monitored from a higher hand

    • I learned that marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but is tolerated– as long as people are publicly stoned/intoxicated, yes?

      I’m sure you are aware that many look to your country and how things are done in this legalization debate.

    • t is tolerated within the boundaries set by law. It is illegal to grow it for yourself. when exceeding a max of 10plants 😀
      The shops can only have a certain amount in the shop at all times. Distribution is done under guidance.
      Not with a 3 kilometer of a school etc. regular shake downs. older than 16

      Sure not all rules are flollowed
      i am allowed to have a max of 3 grams or now 2 on me out side the shop Surely we rather see them smoke indoors being stoned outside is allowed in the sence of not making a scene.
      We squeeze our eyes shut.and walk on.

    • Got it– appreciate the clarifications. I’d say it does make a case for some regulation as we figure it out over here.

  24. Reblogged this on Is there anyone listening? and commented:
    Definitely a point to take into consideration!

  25. This is so bizarre. I’ve been with my fiancé who has bipolar to psychologist and psychiatrist appointments. Their very quick to stick a label to a person -whether or not the label is true- and prescribe ungodly amounts of pills. One psychiatrist told her she had borderline personality disorder after being diagnosed bipolar by multiple others and he did this because of one qualification for bpd. Then the most recent was going to take an approach of treating the whole person and not just prescribing meds however at the end he was frustrated because he couldn’t convince or save her -or me- from being gay and the appointments became about upping the dosages and prescribing more pills. The psychiatrists I’ve encountered think pills are magical and can fix everything. They also don’t like to listen about side effects or how the person is actually doing on them. I honestly don’t know if my fiance will ever have a life without pills but I do hope she can find someone that listens and isn’t just focusing on giving as many different pills as possible.

    • Pills, as such, can be very helpful, and even life-saving. The problem is that most US doctors get their pharmacological education from drug salesmen. Every pharmacist (just for clarification, I’m not one) knows more about pharmacology than the only people allowed to prescribe medications, yet pharmacists are supplanted by salesmen when it comes to recommendations to doctors. Such is capitalism gone awry.

  26. Excellent post, Kenneth! Totally agree.

  27. This article is very upsetting. Despite your repeated admonition that you don’t intend to tell readers to go off meds, the very people you mean to say that to are the ones most likely to do it. I saw several lives destroyed and several others altered irreparably by one man’s refusal to use bipolar meds.

    • Jane, what upsets me is that Americans are not outraged at the BILLONS of dollars pharmaceutical companies are making off of citizens. What upsets me is that there is no outrage that we allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise their drugs on television with commercials aimed at consumers….. We need healthy dialogue in our country over drugs; not manipulation by the drug pushers.

  28. I was put on Welbutrin and Celexa after I found out my husband had an affair and asked for a divorce. I really dislike the idea of being on medication but knew that I needed temporary assistance to get through the initial shock. I got off the Celexa fast when I noticed some weight gain but am still on the Welbutrin. I am really lucky to have a doctor who really listens to what I want and helps me find other means to work through the anxiety of this phase of my life.

    • Ego, medication CAN definitely help….. especially when the doctor and patient have a healthy relationship and discuss all of the various aspects related to their mental health.

  29. Amen. People who find they have these disorders should look into genetic testing. I’m serious. Some people react badly– I mean badly– to SSRIs and related drugs. What is crazy is that there are good studies out there about this, and so few psychiatrists even KNOW about it. The only way to find this out is to get genetic tested. Hint: for women, one big hint that you might NOT want to take SSRIs is if you have severe PCOS, and the standard birth control option doesn’t seem to work for symptoms– or you have more severe emotional issues as a result.

    The standard response is to stack antidepressants which makes it WORSE, so they add anti-psychotics. Those can MAKE you psychotic. I went through a 10 year roller coaster and lost thousands of dollars– and was nearly made a ward of the state. At the behest of an old friend, I moved and got a second opinion. I got off my meds with the help of a physician. I can’t stress that last part enough. A DO who keeps up on the research is a good approach. I’m now far more functional and happy with a controlled diet and DBT or related.

    @Colormenew– that’s typical. They guess what’s wrong, then throw drugs at a person to FIND OUT what works.That’s a pretty standard procedure But of course if they guess wrong they can never *subtract* any diagnoses, because that’s calling the other doctor stupid.

    • Medicating side effects– I will never fully understand that. I’m sorry to hear that you had problems with that– I had nightmarish experiences myself. Almost died, harmed myself– and my poor wife and father found as well as I did that some doctors and therapists WOULD NOT LISTEN. They helped me put pressure on a long-term p-doc of mine (“look at him, he’s forgetting to breathe!”)… he would NOT listen. My second trip inpatient brought on by full-on logical/emotional numbing from a certain drug– they would would NOT listen. When the state said “No more off-label uses!” that finally ended that prescription, what did my therapist say? “We’re just trying to help people!” No acknowledgment of the hell I’d endured… much less my poor wife, and daughter (who STILL remembers that time!)

  30. Hmmm, I have to disagree with you on this one to a certain extent, but you already know that. 😛 I do not believe everyone can get by without medication, though I wish that were true. I think it depends on the severity of the mental illness, and I think the solution depends on the person (though everyone should focus on the things you mentioned with or without medication). Regarding the woman you mentioned, “emotional problems” and full-on manic/depressive episodes are two entirely different things.
    I do not believe I would do well without medication because 1. my bipolar disorder is severe and 2. every manic episode of bipolar disorder I have experienced occurred while off medication. It’s just too big of a “coincidence” to ignore.
    “Proper diet, being in a good spiritual state, and learning how to properly deal with the mental processes that go through your mind can very likely give you the freedom of never having to take mind-altering drugs again.” Not all psychiatric medication is “mind-altering.” I know that can be the case, but personally I do not feel like the medication I take alters my mind…I feel like myself. I also do not experience side effects that I notice and am very fortunate.
    Having all that said, I agree that medication is not the only solution, and I especially agree that psychiatrists and such become too focused on quick fixes. People in general are over-medicated…with this I agree wholeheartedly. I just cannot agree that absolutely everyone could do well without medication. That’s my say. 🙂

  31. “I always thought a much better model for the psychiatrist/client relationship would be to have the doctor hang out with the client for a couple weeks in their natural environment; to see how the client interacts with co-workers, family, and friends. To see how the client copes when stressful situations occur or to see how the client handles times of loneliness. Of course, that kind of relationship with a client is ‘too expensive’ and I suspect most doctors believe they are so smart they don’t need to do that kind of legwork.”

    Your model may be too expensive, but that in no way discounts that it would help people. How many times will people justify the wrong things because it is expensive to do what is right?

    Truth is, people are expensive. Especially those who demand money for doing nothing.

  32. You know what’s odd about doctors? They are the one service I see people use, complain about, and then go right back to that doctor. No one wants to say “this doctor sucks, I’m going to find another.”

    I know some people who are a bit crazy in their avoidance of the medical world, but I think other things can be a huge help. Chiropractic care has done wonders for me in areas other than pain, for example. I know people who use Yoga as a way to maintain daily stress. There are natural ways to control a lot of things and so much of it comes down to diet. Maybe this will come off as crazy, but I think a lot of illnesses, including mental illnesses, may have a nutritional component. That isn’t to say anyone would be cured by eating right, but that eating right might provide enough relief that other symptoms could be managed without popping pills.

    It’s scary, though. I’ve seen people on the brink of death from depression who were helped by pills. I admit that, some of these people choose, against doctor’s orders, to go off these pills and have not relapsed for year. It makes me nervous…. but if they have learned ways to manage their depression outside of medication, isn’t that better? Our knowledge of how the brain works is so limited that those medications often effect other parts of the brain that are functioning properly.

    I think the problem is that we are ignoring a lot in our studies. We study specific elements to come up with a specific pill, but we rarely study how to prevent and illness all together. Worse than it all, no one in the medical establishment will dare claim they have found a cure unless that cure can make someone a lot of money. If that cure will result in someone loosing money, we won’t hear a whisper.


    rant over. ^_^

    • Yes, yes, and yes.

      “I think the problem is that we are ignoring a lot in our studies”

      EXACTLY!!!! And there are studies that have pointed out many of the things i discussed… but confidently people like to ignore those studies.

  33. Beautiful and well written piece my brother. My daughter had the same experience as that girl. She weaned herself down to the minimum pill that she could handle and be herself, her normal self, but does not have the desire to do the things that that girl did to make herself whole again. Being a doctor is being in a lifelong Catch 22 situation. I have seen a Doctor Blacklisted in Kingston N.Y.for “Seeing” underprivileged patients for free, even though he was only giving advice and referrals (That was his undoing, the referrals ) Another in Brooksville told me at a wedding, that you either toe the line from the start and that their new addition to the group was made certain of the consequences of bucking the system. I should have made that a little more clear in my book but I just mentioned that Doctors attitude is “If your health means the world to you , then pay me accordingly “..The system made us this way.

  34. When I worked on a psych ward, one of the problems they had was getting manic/depressives and schizophrenics to continue their meds. It’s hard to face taking medication chronically, what with all of their side effects chronically. So they would often end up back in the emergency room 2 or 3 times. The fact that it seems to be working for this woman makes me wonder if she wasn’t misdiagnosed. Thyroid and other endocrine problems and many diseases can cause displays of odd behavior. And her self-imposed regimen might have alleviated this.

    • Well said….. its definitely a complex problem and all that I ask is that we don’t allow pharmaceutical companies to be in control of the discussion; they have a misplaced interest.

  35. “Proper diet, being in a good spiritual state, and learning how to properly deal with the mental processes that go through your mind can very likely give you the freedom of never having to take mind-altering drugs again.”
    –Hey Kenneth. Holy crap. Now I’m going to cry. Of course I’m sleep deprived and have been under a lot of stress lately, but this issue is such a H U G E issue. Especially for me and my son. I love Brazil and actually need to be here (or some other sunny place), thanks to the effects of raising serotonin levels. However, moving back to rainy Vancouver is very inviting when it comes to my asperger son and even myself. Brazil is sooooo behind (like 30-40 years) when it comes to dealing with autism and they just want to plug him up with meds. Unfortunately he’s on resperidon and ritilin (did i spell those right?) I hate that he is, and feel helpless.
    I want some answers on this. Like big time. I have been medicated since 2004, thanks to chronic insomnia. Still don’t have a diagnosis of what my frickin problem is. But one thing I know for sure is that if I go off of sertraline 50 I go nuts. Don’t sleep, everything pisses me off, can’t eat slowly, completely emotionally unstable. It’s crazy. And I am a very healthy person (certified in fitness and nutrition). I totally take care of my diet. Exercise daily. Am so content spiritually. So what gives???
    So sorry for my rant. This post made me want to ‘desabafar’ (that portuguese word i told you about before – means ‘to unload’).

    • Staci, my heart goes out to you. I have suffered at times with serious levels of depression and anxiety and had to rearrange much of my life in order to deal with it…… there aren’t always easy solutions, and sometimes I suspect medication is indeed necessary. However, its difficult to know to what extent medication is needed when the entire discussion on the subject of drugs is basically controlled by people with a self-interest in drugs; i.e. the pharmaceutical companies.

      Because I believe in a spiritual component, coupled with the physical and mental, I believe that the best approach to the subject of mental health is multi-faceted. It annoys me that Western Medicine ignores the metaphysical. Eastern medicine at least acknowledges other elements to mental health; yet the ego and arrogance of Western Doctors causes them to snub their noses at eastern medicine and alternative ideas and solutions.

  36. I think you’ve offered some very good advice.

  37. I don’t know if doctors like the rest of us are just too busy; but it seems like treating symptoms with drugs is always the initial response today.

    Taking the time to figure out the cause is an after thought if even a thought at all.

    It is a sad state of affairs, we are supposed to be able to rely on doctors but it seems like they are just as screwed up as the patients half the time


    PLEASE promote this, Kenneth. Weaning off drugs is nothing to be taken lightly. I’m SERIOUS. One of the things I learned from the Icarus Project (TIP) is that if someone is to take the path of no medicines, they MUST have a firm plan in place that is equally strong to the medication regimen. It is a DIFFERENT plan that has different challenges and circumstances, but it MUST be pursued with just as much seriousness and care.

    And these are guidelines that should be followed even if MINIMIZING meds, which is more or less what I did. (Steven Johnson Syndrome sucks, okay? Weaning off meds is no joke!)

    I’m not a professional, but I paid my dues, hard, in over 25 years in the community mental health system. This is nothing to be fooled around with and I do strongly suggest that you make your disclaimer MUCH stronger– that it should be done with the care and guidance of professionals, or at least a person should VERY much take it professionally serious.

    Also I must strongly say that supplements are NOTHING to fool around with, either. If misused, they can screw you up just as readily as pharmaceuticals, or at least, I met people at TIP who said as much. They should be considered medicinally, and better yet, they should be seen as an adjunct to good nutrition.

    • Jak, I agree with all ya wrote. Ultimately, my problem lies in the fact that pharmaceutical companies are being allowed to control the conversation in our culture on this subject. Drug commercials should NOT be allowed to be on television on the radio. It is reprehensible that we allow them to manipulate the public like that……. they have a vested interest in selling their shit; yet we allowed them to make manipulative commercials of ‘happy looking people’ and ‘smiling children’ who take drugs….. what kind of ‘fair’ conversation is that????

      There is NOTHING balanced about the drug conversation in America; it is imbalanced. Until the conversation becomes more balanced; I will continue to call it like I see it…..

      Nonetheless, I do agree with the points you have made dude.

    • Oh, I feel you on that point– I was talking with a friend some time back who was REALLY upset with the Abilify commercials at the time, most specifically the cartoon ones. We both agreed that they avoided the word “antipsychotic” so intensely that they were misleading, specifically that audiences might think Abilify was another antidepressant. Worse yet, I remember another blogger saying JUST that, she thought Abilify was an antidepressant drug.

      Abilify was BAD news for me. It made my heart race right away and I was on the phone to the med nurse repeatedly to say so, to get approval to discontinue it.

      Don’t get me wrong, Kenneth. I sometimes wish I had participated in some class-action lawsuits. Remember the one against Parke-Davis and gabapentin (Neurotin)? The lawsuit was about THE VERY off-label use that it was prescribed to me, prescribing it for bipolar. When my pain doc asked me if I’d tried it for pain, I basically said, “No thank you.” Then there was the lawsuit for Zyprexa, which zombified me. I remember asking my long-time pdoc about it, the one that I said liked to tweak everything and prescribe his patients long lists of drugs. He said that it was something to just line the pockets of lawyers, to go after the pharmaceutical companies. I almost said, right on the spot, “Well, can I sue you?” Then there was Geodon– I almost died on that drug and my wife and father could NOT convince that p-doc that it was killing me.

      I could go on and on, Kenneth. I have experienced FIRST HAND how these drugs can be over- or misprescribed. I had to fight VERY HARD to strip away all that crap to just lithium. My last psych doc tried to prescribe something for the insomnia and I told the med nurse “I don’t feel like playing the odds for tardive dyskinesia” (permanent facial spasms, basically) and “I don’t feel like getting stoned just to go to sleep.”

      So, please don’t get me wrong. I was most definitely affected by Big Pharma’s deceptive practices. The cartoony Abilify commercials aren’t *quite* so misleading now but that’s REALLY not much. Understand, I already AGREE with you, man! But it is by that same token that I warn your readers… because these drugs can be dangerous, coming off of them must be taken very, very, VERY seriously. I mentioned Steven Johnson Syndrome, which is a horrid rash, and that was when I was taking Lamictal, which is a drug that is NOT to be messed around with. I was told that sudden cessation can result in death.

      So don’t get me wrong, Kenneth. In *no way at all* am I asserting that the drug conversation is balanced, *in any way whatsoever*. Because it is imbalanced, any starting or cessation of drugs should be taken VERY seriously.

      I met with my pain doc yesterday and one of the things that I said to him specifically is that it is my firm policy that I do not read info on the Internet and run with it nilly-willy, and that I have taken great pains to explain that to my health professionals. He discussed some things with my father and I that we could more effectively research the clinical evidence for the treatments we were pursuing.

      Does this make sense, Kenneth? This is all I’m asking for, is that people do the very best they can to be well-informed about the treatments they pursue. And I haven’t even gotten started about the DSM5 (Diagnostics & Statistics Manual version 5)!! Allen Frances, who was on the board for previous DSM versions (chair for the DSM-IV, specifically) basically said, “I believe my colleagues acted in good faith on the DSM5, but you should take it as a guide, not a bible.” There is a specific article you can find which has been reprinted by the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and others… I strongly recommend reading it.

      I wish I could have distilled this down much more effectively, but… call it like you see it, fine, but strengthen your disclaimer. Sure, anyone going in should approach with caution, BUT I must insist, based on my own experience, that care and caution MUST be given weaning off pharmaceuticals, especially psych ones. I cannot stress this enough, Kenneth, it is NOTHING to fool around with. Yes, I do sincerely wish that many drug commercials would just be pulled from the media. They are doing great harm. Unfortunately, I would say many of us have had to become experts of a sort just to navigate our treatments. Please, have a heart– I don’t want the ugly shit I had to endure be someone else’s problem, if they can avoid it.

  39. Great post. I totally agree. The moment we stop treating people as humans, and start sorting them simply by cases and categories, we lose our own humanity.

  40. Sounds like plain common sense – and yet still has to be shouted from the rooftops because people refuse to hear. Good points well made, Kenneth,

  41. Your views on bipolar seem to have something in common with those of Tom Wootton who wrote ‘The Bipolar Advantage’. Tom believe bipolar sufferers can turn their condition into an advantage. I quoted from another of his books, ‘The Depression Advantage’ in a post of mine called ‘In Praise of Depression’ ( and he was kind enough to comment.

    • Yes…i’m very similar in my views as he. I don’t see these things as “negative” but rather that we should embrace people and not force them to look like everyone else…. its society that is effed up, not these people 🙂

    • How interesting John Keats channeled his depressive episodes… I remember telling a support group that (at the time) I found little creative genius in manic episodes– I usually feared them because I figured it wasn’t long ’til I got into trouble. Instead, I found inspiration in depression– incidentally, also for poetry– I described it as melancholy bleeding out into words on the page.

      You may wish to look at The Icarus Project– the community there sometimes describes these varying mental states as gifts, or rather, as insights that should be valued.

      I see Tom commented several times. What an honor!

  42. Kenneth, Paxil has been found to have many negative side effects and most likely was the wrong “temporary” medication to be prescribed for this woman. Thankfully, she has learned positive ways to deal with her condition. However, I caution you about your advice in the case of people who display psychotic symptoms or are suicidal. Your advice to: “Find a doctor who wants to help work with you in teaching you proper coping skills and looks at your whole self; spiritual, physical, and mental. Proper diet, being in a good spiritual state, and learning how to properly deal with the mental processes that go through your mind can very likely give you the freedom of never having to take mind-altering drugs again.” is dangerous for those who may actually be the small percentage that need psychotropic drugs in which to function. I have a relative who is schizoaffective and these drugs keep her stable and happy. Without them, she is relegated to a lock-down facility and cannot cope with the outside world. Also, when a person is in a physical state of depression, short term use of anti-depressants can help to lift them out of their physical state. I do agree, however, that drugs are much too overprescribed. But, I have seen the very serious side of psychosis in this family member for several years and I believe that her medicated stability has kept her alive, much as insulin keeps a diabetic thriving.

  43. I agree! I am a graduate of Psychology. And in what I have learned from school, all drugs for mental health issues have some unwanted side effects, such as tremors, blunt affect and the likes… so, I think, what patients need is coping skills needed for a certain issues. Just saying 😀

  44. Jaklumen, thank you for the pointer to the Icarus Project. I love their central idea which seems to be:

    “We believe these experiences are mad gifts needing cultivation and care, rather than diseases or disorders.”

  45. I took pills briefly for depression but soon stopped taking it. I went the spiritual route because one of the things I needed to start practicing was being greatful for what I have. There are so many beautiful things in this world to occupy my thoughts rather than myself and my so called problems.

    • Great Comment Ed…I’m glad that things turned around for you… and I wish that more people recognized the spiritual element as you’ve pointed out.

  46. I’m sorry to have missed this conversation – I’ve been “off the grid” (which is also good for us every so often). This is a topic very near and dear to my heart. I have a chronic form of depression. At one point I was on as much medication as the doctor thought was safe, and it still wasn’t enough. It forced me to look at my life, and see that I was compensating for unrelenting stress with medication. I changed jobs, got healthy, and reconnected with pieces of my life I “didn’t have time for,” like music and writing. I explored acupuncture and yoga and chose to acknowledge the happiness on my doorstep. I still take medication–it’s necessary. I’m also fortunate to have the choices that I have-I know many don’t. I have to wonder as a society how far we can sustain constant growth as the driver of economic stability, especially with declining population rates. Exercise is good for the body, but this hamster wheel of work is bad for the soul. How much “more” will be enough?

  47. Amen – bravo and …your site needs to go viral worldwide….
    Or maybe just one person at a time 😉

  48. Kenneth,

    I was thinking about this issue and I heard a story about a girl who people thought was bipolar. She would act up in class being hyper but, other times fall asleep. It turned out she was not bipolar but she was diabetic. When her blood-sugar was high she would act up (even attack other kids). When her blood sugar was low she would fall asleep or disengage in class.

    Can you imagine the effect of a misdiagnoses?

    Sorry to go back and flood you with more comments on older posts…

  49. I agree that there is a lot broken with the mental health system in America and I do believe that the mental health needs to be treated holistically. In addition there are plenty of issues with the pharmaceutical company that need to be addressed. It is important that all of these issues be addressed in order to promote healthy individuals. I believe a genuine dialogue on mental health needs to be conducted with medication being just one of a variety of options, but the discussion needs to happen in a way that medication isn’t villainized. Are there people who don’t need medication but who are prescribed it? Yes. But on the same token, I believe there are people with severe mental illnesses who should be medicated but aren’t. I suffered with clinical depression for 12 years, I was hospitalized twice for suicidal ideation, if not more the medication I am on, I would have killed myself. Exercising and spirituality, just don’t cut it for me. They are good supplements, but they don’t do anything on their own to lift my clinical depression. I didn’t want to be on medication because of my distrust for the pharmaceutical company, I believed and still do, that they are over prescribed. Finally my counselor pointed out I’ve been without medication for 12 years and things hadn’t improved, perhaps I needed to be open minded and consider other options including medication.

    I guess what I am trying to say with this long winded comment is that a dialogue absolutely needs to happen about the use of prescription drugs in america, alternatives to medication need to be frankly discussed, and questions about how our fast paced, highly stressful, individualistic, and economically unequal society contributes to declining mental health need to be asked. But the discussion needs to be framed in such a way that also acknowledges the validity of taking medicine. My fear is that the discussion will frame itself in such a way that those of us who need to take medication as a matter of survival will be ignored or have our stories dismissed by being told that we are simply taking the “easy” way out by taking medication.


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