Bree... Thats Me!! Part 2

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She began sweating so much that she could wear only black. If she turned her head quickly, she felt woozy. Her body ached, and occasionally she was overwhelmed by waves of nausea. Cystic acne broke out on her face and her neck. Her skin pulsed with a strange kind of energy. A month later, she went off Effexor, the antidepressant. Her fear of people judging her circled her head in permutations that became increasingly invasive. She began to experience emotion that was out of context—it felt simultaneously all-consuming and artificial.

Later, she found a community of people online who were struggling to withdraw from psychiatric medications.

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The Web forum Surviving Antidepressants, which is visited by thousands of people every week, lists the many varieties of neuro-emotion: neuro-fear, neuro-anger, neuro-guilt, neuro-shame, neuro-regret. For many people on the forum, it was impossible to put the experience into words. It took Laura five months to withdraw from five drugs, a process that coincided with a burgeoning doubt about a diagnosis that had become a kind of career.

When her aunt Sara updated the rest of the family about Laura, the news was the same: they joked that she had become part of the couch. Her family, Laura said, learned to vacuum around her.

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Others in her situation might have lost their job and, without income, ended up homeless. It took six months before she felt capable of working part time. Laura had always assumed that depression was caused by a precisely defined chemical imbalance, which her medications were designed to recalibrate.

She began reading about the history of psychiatry and realized that this theory, promoted heavily by pharmaceutical companies, is not clearly supported by evidence. Genetics plays a role in mental disorder, as do environmental influences, but the drugs do not have the specificity to target the causes of an illness.

Wayne Goodman, a former chair of the F. Few studies follow patients who take the medications for more than a year. A decade after the invention of antidepressants, randomized clinical studies emerged as the most trusted form of medical knowledge, supplanting the authority of individual case studies.

For adolescents who go on medications when they are still trying to define themselves, they may never know if they have a baseline, or what it is. Antidepressants are now taken by roughly one in eight adults and adolescents in the U. Industry money often determines the questions posed by pharmacological studies, and research about stopping drugs has never been a priority. Barbiturates, a class of sedatives that helped hundreds of thousands of people to feel calmer, were among the first popular psychiatric drugs. Although leading medical journals asserted that barbiturate addiction was rare, within a few years it was evident that people withdrawing from barbiturates could become more anxious than they were before they began taking the drugs.

They could also hallucinate, have convulsions, and even die.

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Valium and other benzodiazepines were introduced in the early sixties, as a safer option. By the seventies, one in ten Americans was taking Valium. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or S. There had been other drugs used as antidepressants, but they had often been prescribed cautiously, because of concerns about their side effects. Concerns about withdrawal symptoms emerged shortly after S. A third of the patients said they felt suicidal, and four were admitted to a hospital.

One had an abortion, because she no longer felt capable of going through with the pregnancy. Internal records of pharmaceutical manufacturers show that the companies have been aware of the withdrawal problem. At a panel discussion in , Eli Lilly invited seven experts to develop a definition of antidepressant withdrawal.

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Guy Chouinard, a retired professor of psychiatry at McGill and at the University of Montreal, who served as a consultant for Eli Lilly for ten years and did one of the first clinical trials of Prozac, told me that when S. Chouinard is considered one of the founders of psychopharmacology in Canada. When he reinstated their medication, their symptoms began to resolve, usually within two days.

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Most people who discontinue antidepressants do not suffer from withdrawal symptoms that last longer than a few days. Some experience none at all. Giovanni Fava, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Buffalo, has devoted much of his career to studying withdrawal and has followed patients suffering from withdrawal symptoms a year after stopping antidepressants. A paper published last month in a journal he edits, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics , reviewed eighty studies and found that in nearly two-thirds of them patients were taken off their medications in less than two weeks.

To some degree, that makes sense: no one wants to deter people from taking drugs that may save their life or lift them out of disability. In a paper published last month in Lancet Psychiatry , he and a co-author reviewed brain imaging and case studies on withdrawal and argued that patients should taper off antidepressants over the course of months , rather than two to four weeks, as current guidelines advise. Such guidelines are based on a faulty assumption that, if a dose is reduced by half, it will simply reduce the effect in the brain by half.

Three months after Laura stopped all her medications, she was walking down the street in Boston and felt a flicker of sexual desire. The sensation began to occur at random times of day, often in public and in the absence of an object of attraction. When she was thirty-one, she began a long-distance relationship with Rob Wipond, a Canadian journalist. Everything was new to her. It felt synthetic.

I did it! She felt fortunate that her sexuality had returned in a way that eluded other people who were withdrawing from drugs. Although it is believed that people return to their sexual baseline, enduring sexual detachment is a recurring theme in online withdrawal forums. Audrey Bahrick, a psychologist at the University of Iowa Counseling Service, who has published papers on the way that S. There was this assumption that the symptoms would resolve once you stop the medication.

I just kept thinking, Where is the data? Where is the data? Laura felt as if she were learning the contours of her adult self for the first time. When she felt dread or despair, she tried to accept the sensation without interpreting it as a sign that she was defective and would remain that way forever, until she committed suicide or took a new pill. Laura tried to find language to describe her emotions and moods, rather than automatically calling them symptoms.

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She wrote several letters to Dr. Roth, her favorite psychiatrist, requesting her medical records, because she wanted to understand how the doctor had made sense of her numbness and years of deterioration. After a year, Dr.

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  7. Roth agreed to a meeting. Laura prepared for hours. How do you make sense of that? Roth opened the front door. She had always loved Dr. By the time Dr. Roth walked into the waiting room, Laura was crying. They hugged and then took their usual positions in Dr. But Laura said that Dr. It was only when Laura left that she realized she had never asked her questions. Laura started a blog, in which she described how, in the course of her illness, she had lost the sense that she had agency.

    People began contacting her to ask for advice about getting off multiple psychiatric medications. Some had been trying to withdraw for years. They had developed painstaking methods for tapering their medications, like using grass-seed counters to dole out the beads in the capsules. Then, you chose the dip. You could have your pop dipped in caramel, milk or dark chocolate or a mint coating- and choose if you wanted a full dip or a half dip. I opted for a hazelnut pop, coated in dark chocolate and coconut shavings. Aaron got a coffee flavored pop dipped in caramel and crushed waffle cone.

    Turns out Aaron knows me pretty well by now- because afterward, I was a very happy Bree.

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    And what does Bree like just as much as ice cream? So, the next stop on the list was the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. The park can be broken into two different sections. The botanic garden is essentially a nature walk through both indigenous and introduced plants and flowers of Texas.

    The Japanese garden, conversely, is less school-educational, and more calm and zen. It, unfortunately, had an entry fee the regular garden is free to walk around in , but it is absolutely a must see. Pagoda statues are lined along the walkway and traditional oriental plants are planted everywhere the eye can see. This is without a doubt one of my favorite places to go in Fort Worth. I have only gotten a chance to visit twice but the amount of natural beauty in this park calms my soul and really makes me slow down to enjoy the scenery. Every time I have gone, I have noticed something different.

    The work here is monotonous and not very rewarding, but the beauty of the city itself is rewarding to be around in its own way.