I was a cult member in the cult of psychiatry

Of mental hell: “I had tried prescription drugs from time to time when I was a teenager and in college. My family doctor very casually gave me a prescription for Cymbalta, and it didn’t really last. But when I was 24 I was diagnosed with OCD I was in such mental pain that I was not at all critical, or an educated consumer of the thought of suddenly being put under four different prescription drugs, one of which was to manage the side effects of the other three. I think I really I believed when I was told that there was a chemical imbalance in my brain, that my brain was innately structured, that I had an overactive amygdala that sounded like a constant fire alarm, and that my brain didn’t did not know how to filter these alarms. Today, I believe that OCD is a response to trauma. But at the time, I believed what the psychiatrist told me and thought there was something structurally wrong with my brain. I was very dedicated, even eager, to be a docile patient. I would make silly little jokes like “when it comes to serotonin, if you don’t have homemade serotonin, buy from the store is fine” or “my brain was put together by a committee”.

But over the 10 years of prescribing these drugs, my life just got worse and worse. What I know now is that there were a lot of underlying childhood traumas and messages I was told about myself that led me to make bad choices. But I really bought into the idea that the reason my life was bad was the chemical imbalance.

. . . I switched drugs when I was 26 – I was taking 300 milligrams of Zoloft, which is a ridiculous dose, 150 milligrams of Wellbutrin, 4 milligrams of Ativan a day. And when I think back to that time in my life, I see myself as being chemically incarcerated. I was on so many drugs that I had no idea how drugged I was and how bad the side effects were. From age 26 to 32, I was sedated to the level of Elvis Presley.

A new GP I saw said, ‘I think you’re on too much medicine’, but I really trusted my psychiatrist and he knew what was best for my broken brain. I interpreted my GP’s comments as ‘drug shaming’. I was a cult member in the psychiatry cult.

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