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My email to a student underwater in law school debt


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Man oh man! I just wrote an email (which I've included below) to a blogger who is writing about their student loan debt from law school and the fact that law school is really just one big scam since there are nowhere near enough jobs for the amount of JDs floating around. I hope people don't consider this post too off topic because, as I state in my email, my generation (20-somethings) are really getting reamed, whether by meds, student loan debt, or both. I think my email sums up just how bad it is out there, and I think older Americans need to know just how dire it is.


Hi there,


You know, I'm rapidly realizing that aside from my one long-term friend, the only people that understand what I've been going through are those online!


Now, I'm not in law school debt (thank god!). I never wanted to be a lawyer (thank god!). But I'm still about $20k in debt from my nursing program (mis)adventure. I ultimately dropped out because I realized that, if anything, the health care system is even more debauched than the legal system in this country!


Speaking of nursing, it actually has some eerie parallels with the law school scam. Nursing, as you may be aware, was the "hot job" for a long time. It was considered bullet-proof. Recession proof. One of the few careers where you could make a good salary directly out of school. That's largely why my friend decided to go to nursing school for his second bachelor's after quickly realizing there was no future for him in journalism (and if there's a field more moribund than law, it's journalism!).


But it didn't turn out that way. No, not at all. My friend busted his ass in an accelerated 18-month nursing program that crammed all the material of a four-year program into 18 months. I've heard lawyers say law school was a breeze compared to accelerated nursing programs. Anyway, the only thing that kept him going was the belief in the back of his mind that he'd have a job waiting for him when he graduated.


Then the economy tanked and everything changed. Hospitals began slashing new grad programs which are THE lifeline for newly minted nurses because these programs train these new nurses on the job and ease them into a hospital setting. But in this recession, even hospitals had to cut back, and one of the easiest ways for them to cut back was to cut the new grad programs. Suddenly my friend only saw job postings for nurses with at least one year of hospital experience.


So for the next 18 months he lived with his parents and was hideously underemployed. He resorted to shuttling mentally handicapped kids around in a van for minimum wage. He worked catering jobs on the weekends. He began saying he stopped thinking about his future and felt he was no longer growing as an adult since he was living with his parents. "I feel like I'm decaying," he said.


Finally, around month 18, he was so desperate he did the unthinkable and accepted a (per diem!) job at a local prison. For 8 months he essentially baby-sat felons and threw them pills through prison bars, all while still almost $100K in student loan debt. One time he ran across the yard with a bag of medical supplies to intervene on an inmate who tried to hang himself. Another time he found a disturbed inmate with "666" carved in blood on his chest and his blood splattered on the walls with shaving cream. On the weekends he continued to do catering jobs.


Then after 8 months of his prison work, his boss was telling him the company he was working for would no longer pay to have RNs take LPN shifts (LPNs are the less-qualified -- and thus less highly paid -- nurses) and he would basically lose most of his hours.


But then he heard from a coworker that a local nursing home was desperate for nurses because of a massive lay-off that had occurred due to a scandal. From what I heard, a CNA (basically a nurses' assistant) took a photo of a nursing home resident's prosthetic penis and uploaded it to facebook to share with their friends. There's a tremendous amount I could say about that issue alone, but for now all I'll say is this grotesque ethical and human rights violation rather perversely allowed my friend to FINALLY land a real nursing job! Yes, that's what it took. The nursing home was so desperate for staff that they didn't care about my friend's work experience. That's good, because normally nursing experience in a prison isn't really considered real nursing experience at all, since a nurse in a prison has nowhere near the range of skills as a hospital nurse. Even still, my friend's new job is $4 less than he made at the prison and he does MORE work. His take-home annual salary is around $40k, a far cry from the 50k-and-above salary promised to so many nursing students. He's very lucky he's living with his parents and has no overhead, because otherwise with that salary he couldn't make a dent in his student loans.


But what about MY story? I honestly think my royal shafting occurred not with student loans, but with psychiatry. I don't know how familiar you are with psychiatry, but it's largely a toxic sham based on pseudoscience and tremendous corruption by the pharmaceutical industry. I was put on Paxil, a potent antidepressant of the SSRI class, at age 14 for what was, in hindsight, perfectly understandable situational anxiety over my dad's cancer diagnosis. I never should have been on it in the first place but shrinks were handing out these meds like candy back then. In fact, if I were 14 today I more than likely wouldn't have been put on the med because of the black-box warning about increased suicide risk in teens and young adults who use SSRIs. Yeah, that felt pretty weird to hear that warning when I had already been on the med for so many years.


I am still on SSRIs (Lexapro now) because I simply could not withdraw from them due to debilitating withdrawal that left me bedridden. I tried withdrawing as per my psychiatrist's tapering schedule years ago and I literally woke up and felt like my brain was in a frying pan. My brain felt like it was sizzling and I would get the infamous "brain zaps" (the electric shock sensations that are similar to seizure activities) multiple times an hour. I ran screaming to my psychiatrist for an explanation and he was utterly puzzled. He had never heard of these withdrawal symptoms. That's not surprising, since the drug companies (who often ran the drug trials) did such a good job of burying any withdrawal effects. He also had no idea of what to do to stop the symptoms, other than going back on the med. I felt utterly defeated and hopeless, like I was a slave to the "medication." I'm sure you feel similarly enslaved by your debt.


I've now been on SSRIs for over a decade and the long-term side effects are now creeping in. I have anhedonia (basically, the inability to feel pleasure) and my libido and sexual responsiveness is near zero most of the time. This is utterly devastating for a young man. The anhedonia is the worst because it kills my motivation to do ANYTHING -- sure makes forging a new career in a new field VERY difficult, which I am desperately trying to do!


So I'm now at a crossroads: I know I need to get off the med but to date there are no official withdrawal protocols because there have been NO studies done on how to safely withdraw patients from psych meds. This is obviously because it is not in the pharmaceutical companies' business interests. Us long-term psych patients are cash cows for them and why would they want to fund studies on how to get us off the meds and pull the plug on their revenue?


So I'm currently withdrawing from the medication VERY slowly (10% reductions of dosage every 4 weeks). I discovered this withdrawal protocol not through any psychiatrist but through the online peer support community, which knows far more about withdrawal than any psychiatrist. How pathetic is that?


Now I am arming myself with the knowledge that has so painfully been withheld from me for so long. I'm not listening to "experts" anymore (be it psychiatrists, doctors, career counselors, the mainstream news media, etc) and listening to myself. My plan is to find full-time employment in my prospective field first as a paraprofessional (I actually have enough experience now to land a paraprofessional position in my field) and once that position is found, I will then enroll in a cheap, accredited online school for my master's so I can work full-time to keep my student loan costs as low as possible AND so that when I graduate I'll have at least 18 months' experience in my field, on top of the experience I'm now getting. AND I won't enroll in the master's program until I'm completely off my med and in the clear of any withdrawal symptoms.


What's so amazing about my plan is I devised it entirely by myself, and some of it (especially coming off the SSRI) flies in the face of conventional advice from "experts." More and more what I think our generation feels (I'm 27, how old are you?) is a tremendous sense of betrayal - by parents, various experts, medicine, society in general, and certainly in your case organizations like the ABA and US News and World Report. There's less and less safeguards for regular people like you and me and more scams and ways for us to hang ourselves than ever and tragically mainstream thinking -- and this includes experts -- hasn't begun to catch up to this.


That's why I think blogs such as yours are immensely important. Let's face it -- the major news outlets (New York Times, CNN, Newsweek) are 1,000 years too late on issues as diverse as law school scams, the overmedicating of kids with psych drugs, and the immense corruption of higher ed and health care. I truly think blogs are the cutting edge of journalism these days because they are instant and don't serve any corporate agenda.


*Oh, and I TOTALLY agree with your post ("It's life illusions I recall") about being nostalgic for mediocre times when at least you were "free." I too regret decisions I made, the most obvious one going on psych meds when I did. I am nostalgic for college because even though I felt similarly about it as you did about high school, at least I was relatively carefree and felt normal (this was before the side effects began piling up). I didn't have a lot of worries other than chronic boredom. Man, if I could just go back to that time knowing what I know now. For me, it was the era of bse (before side effects). What a great time (comparatively speaking) that was! <Sigh>.


I guess the last thing I'll say is we're all in this together. It really doesn't matter if you were wronged by student loan debt, psych meds, or something else. All that matters is our generation got a raw deal. We were ripped off big time and the results are traumatic. And the best thing we can do is gain solidarity by realizing this, keep blogging, and keep upsetting the powers that be and keep raising awareness and maybe one day things will change for the better and we'll finally get our day in the sun.


Thanks again and keep blogging!

Been on SSRIs since 1998:

1998-2005: Paxil in varying doses

2005-present: Lexapro.

2006-early '08: Effexor AND Lexapro! Good thing I got off the Effexor rather quickly (within a year).







Currently tapering Lexapro ~10% every month:



11/7/10: 13.5 mg

12/7/10: 12.2 mg

1/6/11: 10.9 mg

2/3/11: 9.8 mg

3/3/11: 8.8 mg

4/1/11: 7.8 mg

4/29/11: 7 mg

5/27/11: 6.4 mg

6/24/11: 5.7 mg

7/22/11: 5 mg

8/18/11: 4.5 mg

9/14/11: 4 mg

10/13/11: 3.6 mg

11/9/11: 3.2 mg

12/7/11: 2.6 mg

1/3/12: 2.1 mg

2/2/12: 1.8 mg

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cine, you're right, your generation is facing some kind of paradigm shift all over.

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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Great letter, cine! Thanks for sharing! ;)

1996-97 - Paxil x 9 months, tapered, suffered 8 months withdrawal but didn't know it was withdrawal, so...

1998-2001 - Zoloft, tapered, again unwittingly went into withdrawal, so...

2002-03 - Paxil x 20 months, developed severe headaches, so...

Sep 03 - May 05 - Paxil taper took 20 months, severe physical, moderate psychological symptoms

Sep 03 - Jun 05 - took Prozac to help with Paxil taper - not recommended

Jul 05 to date - post-taper, severe psychological, moderate physical symptoms, improving very slowly

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Great letter! I am preparing a letter by myself to send to the center where my GP works and were I got the poison and so many lies from...

I will definately use some parts of your letter as an example!

10 mg Paxil/Seroxat since 2002
several attempts to quit since 2004
Quit c/t again Oktober 2007, in protracted w/d since then
after 3.5 years slight improvement but still on the road

after 6 years pretty much recovered but still some nasty residual sypmtons
after 8.5 years working again on a 90% base and basically functioning normally again!


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