I am grateful and excited to have another guest post from Pam Witzemann ! Pam is a frequent guest blogger on Emerging from Broken and contributes her voice to most of the discussions here as well. As always please add your thoughts and comments. ~ Darlene Ouimet Founder of Emerging from Broken
Psycho-Tropic Medications Used As Chemical Asylums by Pam Witzemann
People who are treated for mental illness are led to believe that the medications they are prescribed are in their best interest and treat a specific disease. However, people are prescribed medication as a means of control and psycho-tropic medications are in actuality, chemical asylums.
I know what I have written in the above paragraph is controversial and I’m not advising anyone to go against their doctor’s instructions however I don’t think people with mental illness are always treated with their best interests at heart. Historically, treatment has been primarily about containment and even in these modern times, I believe that containment remains the top priority. In the sixties, many mental hospitals had to be shut down because of the expense required to run them and since that time, drugs are the primary method used to control the behavior of people with mental illnesses. From my personal experience and from my observation of others undergoing treatment, I see little benefit to the patient from the psycho-tropic medications being used today and often they seem to cause more harm than good. I don’t think these chemical asylums are working in the best interest of patients or for society at large.
In the late nineties, I underwent interferon treatment for hepatitis c and became depressed. I was given an anti-depressant that made me hypo-manic and I was sent to visit a psychiatrist who spent an hour with me and diagnosed me as bipolar II. I was told that only bipolar patients become hypo-manic when taking anti-depressants. I was given lithium to balance the effects of the anti-depressant and the door on my chemical asylum was sealed shut for eight years. As I continued taking these drugs, I developed many imbalances in my body that were treated as new disease with new prescriptions added to my regimen. At one point, I was taking thirteen medications, every day. I also, grew increasingly, unstable which resulted in my being prescribed stronger and stronger psycho-tropic medications.
After being in the care of a psychiatrist for eight years, I weighed over 200 pounds and I wasn’t much more than a drooling zombie. I did nothing but lay around my house all day and I never experienced such deep depressions or such intense manic episodes as I did during the time I remained compliant to treatment. I was a very sick woman both physically and mentally and my husband and I knew that I was close to either spending the remainder of my life in a mental hospital or dying. I never received any other help for my depression other than medications and all the counseling I received was for the purpose of making sure I remained compliant to treatment and took my medications. My doctors were certain that as long as I was medicated, I was no threat to myself or others and that is the bottom line in the mental health care system. I had never been a threat to anyone that I know of but my self-esteem was so low that it didn’t take much for a psychiatrist to convince me that I was born defective. If my experience was isolated, I might think that I was merely the victim of misdiagnosis but I have seen others treated the same way and some of them never emerged from their chemical asylum alive.
A cousin of mine had a very troubled life and was diagnosed as bipolar I in prison. He was given lithium and the change in him was wonderful. When he was released from prison he went to work repairing computers and for the first time since he was a teenager he experienced a normal life. Then his psychiatrist retired and under the care of another doctor, his medications were switched to newer, supposedly more effective medications. Medications similar to the ones I also, was being treated with. My cousin became very depressed and suicidal and his brother and mother convinced him to check himself into the hospital. Just as he was being admitted, he changed his mind and there was nothing anyone could do but release him. He left upset and ended up getting arrested. His brother and mother managed to get him out of jail and bring him home. He was combative and hurt his brother in an altercation. My cousin’s brother and mother called the police and waited for them outside of the house. When the police arrived, an officer went in the front door and my cousin came down the hall with a small mallet raised above his head. The officer shot twice and killed him. Later, when my cousin’s room was cleaned out, relatives found 91 bottles of psycho-tropic medications.
I have also, known two young men whose lives were completely altered because as adolescents, they were diagnosed as bipolar and given psycho-tropic medications that induced greater mental illness in them. They committed acts that I know they never would have committed if not under the influence of those drugs. One young man remains in prison and another struggles every day to overcome the past and live a normal life. I also, know another young woman who died from an over-dose of psychotropic medications. Before her death, she was also, out of control and out of her right mind with greater illness created due to the psycho-tropic treatment she received. These are my personal experiences but I have heard and read of many more accounts of similar tragedies. I am one of the lucky ones who found my way out and escaped from my chemical asylum.
All of the people who I’ve written about here including myself, experienced abuse in their childhoods and had reasons to be depressed and anxious. I have come to understand that I was never bipolar at all but instead a long time sufferer of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the trauma of my childhood. And the biggest problem wasn’t that the diagnosis was wrong because many people diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder end up being treated with the same drugs. The biggest problem is that these doctors only attempted to treat the symptoms instead of trying to treat what was causing the symptoms. When they diagnosed me as bipolar they told me that I had a physical chemical illness and ignored the fact that my problems could have been caused by abuse. They never talked to me about abuse, neglect or trauma, period. After awhile, I realize that they dumped a lot of things in the bucket marked ‘bipolar depression’ that were actually many different illnesses. Drugs definitely were not the solution for me but the doctors offered no other solution.
These others I have mentioned in this article could have just as easily been misdiagnosed, however I’m not sure that they were so much misdiagnosed as given up on. I don’t think the priority was treating disease in these cases but instead, controlling these individuals through prescribed medications and insuring that they were not a danger to others. Bipolar disease effects less than 1% of the population but many more people than that small percentage are diagnosed as having bipolar depression. There are no tests that a doctor can use to show conclusively that someone is suffering from bipolar depression, or any other depression for that matter. Diagnosis is subjective both on the part of the doctor and the patient. I believe bipolar disorder is a trash-can diagnosis, in which an entire spectrum of symptoms are tossed into a trashcan marked bipolar, whether they are the same disease, with the same cause, or not. Then the doctor attempts to treat those symptoms with psycho-tropic drugs. There are a few who are truly, helped by these medications but most are either rendered incapacitated or greater mental illness is induced. I believe that modern day, chemical asylums are not only inhumane but ineffective.
Drug companies have more influence than they should on the practice of medicine and the mental health care field is no different. Doctors are trained to order tests and prescribe medications while other treatments, used effectively in the past, are forgotten. Patients are also, trained to expect instant benefits from a pill but there are other ways to find healing. Talk therapy and psycho-therapy is a lot of work but the results are actual healing. Psycho-tropics don’t heal, they imitate health by tempering symptoms. Insurance companies don’t want to pay for years of talk therapy and prefer the tri-monthly, 15 minute medication check. The system isn’t designed with the best interests of the patient at heart. The system is designed to make money for mental health care providers and the insurance companies. This puts people suffering from mental illness in a precarious position. Many such persons have suffered from abuse in the past and are prime targets to be abused further by mental health care providers.
I feel that I spent eight years of my life as a cash-cow for that system, through my compliance and the view of myself as being born defective. While under the influence of those medications, I was very malleable and easily convinced of anything. It was only by the grace of God that I escaped the fate of my cousin or others I have known. In my spirit, I was impressed to listen only to God and look to nature for the help I needed. I found a doctor willing to help me wean off the medications and I replaced them with supplements that supported the function of my body that the drugs were intended to treat. What I learned is that those medications, alcohol, and other drugs strip the brain of important neurotransmitters and are often the underlying cause of clinical mental illness. I also, learned that there are many underlying reasons for depression and medications as a life-long treatment are only necessary in a few cases. I began to look for other ways to heal and part of that was the self-confrontation journey that led me to face the abuse in my past and it led me here to “Emerging from Broken”.
Today, eight years have passed since my confinement in a chemical asylum. I am free and I have learned to treat my symptoms by many means that are far superior to medication. I know there are instances where medication is the only answer but medications are over-used and some people might benefit from using them in the short-term but most people don’t need them at all. Street psycho-tropics have long been used by people seeking relief from reality. Prescribed psycho-tropics, I believe, work in much the same way. At first, the relief they provide seems like a miracle but later, they expose a dark underbelly of addiction and physical harm. Anything worth having requires hard work and emotional healing is no different. Psycho-tropics are a quick fix that is disastrous in the long term but the method of applying truth to one’s past that is presented here at Emerging From Broken, is true healing. The first method produces bondage and death. The second method provides freedom and life. I choose freedom and life!
Pam Witzemann was born in Santa Fe, NM and is now 54 years old. She has been married for 33 years, raised two boys and has two grandsons. Pam and her husband have had their own business for about twenty years. Pam is a painter and a writer and hopes to make these pursuits more than a hobby in her later years. Pam authors the blog Boomer Back Beat; a place where baby boomers find inspiration in the process of aging.
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