More - A Patient Speaks: I Hate Meds

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Let's pick up the conversation:

    In a comment to a sharepost by Dr Jerry Kennard, a very frustrated Sunnyday reported that since being on meds, she has gained 100 pounds, lost her sex drive and is miserable and depressed. She is only 26, and feels that psychiatry has given up on her.

    "I will not do this forever," she wrote.

    We know the standard psychiatric response: "Stay on your meds. You know what happens when you're not on your meds." Far too often, psychiatry assumes that Sunnyday is supposed to be grateful that she has been medicated into a permanent state of no-life.

    To Sunnyday's astonishment, in my last sharepost, I responded: "Your post should be required reading in every medical school and CME course." The comments to my sharepost all validated Sunnyday.

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    "I'm amazed," Sunnyday wrote, "I was just ranting. I can't believe that anybody would listen to me and that so many people agree."

    Trust me, Sunnyday, We're all on your side.

    In my sharepost, I asked Sunnyday to imagine what would happen were she to go off her meds:

    "For a little while, you are likely to feel great. Your energy will return. Your head will clear up. Your sex drive will return. You will start thinking you have a future and planning for one ... "

    Then, of course, the illness would kick in again, and as sure as night follows day Sunnyday would be back to square one. And who would get blamed? Makes you want to scream, doesn't it?

    Let's bring Erik into the conversation: "Wow!" he wrote.  "This topic came at the perfect time for me."

    It turns out that Erik had done the exact thing that I had asked Sunnyday to imagine, namely he went off his meds:

    "My sex drive came back and I was able to achieve orgasm for the first time in years!  OMG - I had forgotten  how wonderful it was to have an orgasm! Also, I was able to carry on meaningful conversations with family members, without losing my train of thought in mid sentence."

    These are things a normal person takes for granted - the ability to think, the ability to feel. But Erik's life on meds went more like this:

    "I had a job interview to be a Peer Support Specialist, and I BOMBED the interview.  I kept losing my train of thought and would just blank out what I was saying.  Needless to say, I did not get the job ..."

    And not on meds? "I had a really nice level of energy and even managed to clean up my apartment for the first time in months."

    But then Erik had second thoughts: "I guess you could say I was hypomanic, and it felt great.  However, I was fearful that the hypomania would turn into full-blown mania, so I went back on the drugs."

    There's something about Erik's story that reminds me of Daniel Keyes' tragic "Flowers for Algernon." Charlie, a lovable simpleton, receives an experimental operation that turns him into an Einstein. For one brief shining moment, Charlie can dare plan for a better life. Then the effect wears off and Charlie feels his brain slipping. It was simply too good to be true.

    "This whole situation is SO UNFAIR!!" Erik writes. "Why do I have to give up my sex life and become a shell of a human being?  I used to be so alert and able to carry on meaningful conversations with people.  Why do I have to live my life like a slug, who no longer experiences orgasm?  All due to the medications?"

  • No doubt, Erik will go off his meds again. Let's face it, who can blame him? Too often, thanks to a healthcare system that encourages - even mandates - the practice of bad psychiatry, Erik and countless others are confronted with decisions they shouldn't even have to consider, much less make.

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    What Erik needs to do, of course, is go back to his psychiatrist and work out some kind of "middle way," that is assuming that Erik forcefully advocates on his own behalf and his psychiatrist listens. But we will save that for our next sharepost.

    Believe me, this conversation is only just beginning ...

Published On: April 22, 2009