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FarmGirlWorks
On Shared Stories, Art and Healing
Posted by (Inner Compass) TWP Staff on July 2, 2019.
Text that reads I Walked Through Hell and Somehow Survived It. Paxil.

ICI/TWP Contributor Cindy Olejar interviews Kelly Davis


“Withdrawal Looks Like,” digital artwork by Kelly Davis, appears at the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington 11th annual art show at the Seattle Art Museum from June 5 to July 22, 2019. Inner Compass Initiative contributor Cindy Olejar interviews Kelly about her experiences of brain injury, psychiatric medication withdrawal, and healing through shared stories and art.

~~

Cindy: How did you get involved with the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington (BIAWA) and its art show? 

Kelly: I am a two-time brain injury survivor. The first traumatic brain injury was an acoustic neuroma which was surgically removed in a 17-hour operation in 2004. I had to learn to walk, talk, and eat again. I remember that I was at a card table with three stroke patients and we all had towel bibs on and were trying to drink from a straw in a milk box. I was the worst of everyone and could not get the straw into my mouth. I thought, "This is as low as it can go without dying." 

But art has always been a part of my life. When I was a little girl, I filled up notebooks with drawings of princess fantasy stories and continued to draw through high school. My second job in 1991 was at the Seattle Times as an editorial assistant; however, I spent most of my time in the art department where I felt more comfortable. After that, I taught myself graphic design and did it professionally until I began withdrawing two years ago.


Cindy: So you also suffered injuries to your brain caused by psychiatric drugs? Was the brain tumor or withdrawing from psychiatric medications more challenging to recover from?

Kelly: When I tapered off Zoloft, an SSRI antidepressant, my body was thrown into unimaginable chaos. Symptoms included suicidal anxiety, dark depression, nausea, “burning” skin, cognitive and memory disability, head pressure, headaches, brain zaps, dizziness, inner body tension (often called akathisia), extreme weight loss, and insomnia. Thankfully, I discovered the online forum SurvivingAntidepressants.org and I realized that my symptoms were not a "relapse of mental illness" but withdrawal, and that I might be in for a long haul healing my body from the effects of SSRIs. 

With the brain tumor, even though I still have physical remnants like single-sided hearing, balance problems, and tinnitus, I always had my mind. However, now I've had the misfortune through withdrawal of losing both my body and then my mind – and the latter is far worse. People came around and supported me after the brain tumor because they could wrap their head around a physical malady. That social validation was critical. But psychiatric medication withdrawal is invisible.

The other element that is hard is wanting to believe you can "positive think" your way out of withdrawal and believing that somehow you are "bad" for not being able to. But you literally have to grow a new brain to heal! You don't expect to run on a broken leg until it's healed and it's the same with a brain.


Cindy: Your digital art piece for the BIAWA show is called “Withdrawal Looks Like” – what inspired you to make it? And how is the act of creating art helping you in your own process of recovery?

Kelly: For last year’s BIAWA show I created a felted brain that was stitched together piece by piece; it was therapy for me to express that a brain could be broken up and then stitched together, and still be quite beautiful.

During withdrawal I lost so many people from my life because for me, like for many others, withdrawal presents on the outside as unnatural fear, laziness, and bizarre thinking. This reminds me of Nina Simone’s song lyrics, "Nobody knows you when you're down and out." The horror of the withdrawal experience is impossible to explain and difficult for people to understand. I clung to the stories of recovery on SurvivingAntidepressants.org to validate what I was going through.

So this new art piece includes quotes from people about antidepressant and benzo withdrawal that were posted on SurvivingAntidepressants.org. I wanted to illustrate how the withdrawal experience is what is going on internally, inside the brain, while the pills, which I drew on the outside, are the external cause. The bold text – and in some ways the whole art piece – is a way to proclaim that there is no shame in any of this. One of the worst symptoms, I think, is the shame for having gotten on the psych drug merry-go-round. That comes up so much in people's posts, too, and is so understandable.

Plus, talking is hard for me! Being able to access different synapses in my brain through expressing myself in creative ways has helped me come to a deeper understanding of what I've been through. 
 

Cindy: What is the message you hope others will take away from seeing your art or hearing you share your story?

Kelly: I want other people who might be suffering in withdrawal to know that they are not alone and definitely not crazy! I started a Meetup group, which only met 4 or 5 times because I got too sick from the withdrawal to continue organizing it. Membership ballooned to over 50 members in just two months; more withdrawal support is so needed.  

I also hope that prescribers might see this artwork, read it, and consider giving more information to patients about the risks of using psychiatric medications and the potential difficulties of getting off them. I've had a prescriber talk to me after reading “The Challenge of Going Off Psychiatric Drugs,” the April 2019 New Yorker article about psychiatric drug withdrawal. This prescriber was truly searching her conscience; I love that she was taking responsibility for her actions.

And I want friends and family to realize that a withdrawal sufferer is to be believed. That is personal, I guess, but I count as gold the folks who have believed and supported me through this harrowing time. I want that for others, too.

Antidepressant and Benzo Withdrawal Looks Like, by Kelly Davis

"Antidepressant and Benzo Withdrawal Looks Like," by Kelly Davisgray dividing line

woman with brown hair in black shirtKelly Davis was adopted and raised on a dairy farm in central Pennsylvania and currently lives in Seattle WA. She is a two-time brain injury survivor. The first traumatic brain injury was a large acoustic neuroma removed during a 17-hour surgery in 2004. The second was iatrogenic damage caused by antidepressant withdrawal. She works in graphic design and cares for dogs. Her art is typically wool felt and she is in the process of creating pet cremation urns for LittleOwlUrns.com. However, she has created more digital media in the last two years focusing on psychodrug withdrawal and activism.

 

woman with hat on kayak on a pondCindy Olejar was coerced into taking psychiatric drugs that included Effexor and Clonazepam for 15 years. The longer she was on them, the worse her health became and not once were the drugs ever considered by the doctors to be the cause of her declining health. There are no words to describe the unprecedented, horrible experience withdrawing from these pills. You can read more about her story here. She is a nutritional therapy consultant with Nutrition in Seattle and author of several early reading children's grammar books called Find the Cat and More

 
 

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FarmGirlWorks
Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Rosetta said:

Wow.  That you were able to go to Pride!  That is amazing isn't it?  That crowd and all.  

 

I understand about the odd emotions.  They are disturbing.  Feeling good can feel too good.  I'm having very strong feelings tonight.  It's 5:20 am.  I need to distract because I'm profoundly sad, but seeing that you are doing so well helps me.  We will be ok.  

 

I haven't read the article about you.  I don't want to sign up for something else right now.  It won't let me read it otherwise.  I hope that article makes you feel heard and that it helps others.

 

Thanks @Rosetta for reminding me that the link is wonky: worked fine for some and then for others it said you had to sign up. I hear you on not signing up for anything else right now. I assiduously unsubscribe from email newsletters. Sometimes I just want to disappear digitally. I have not done social media for over a year which seems normal now. I don't miss it.

 

Pride was cheery -- gorgeous day here -- and handled the crowd okay. My friend and I went to the Seattle Center for the post-parade festival and that was crazy packed. I knew I couldn't handle that much flesh so we went to a nice cool public house where we just chatted.

 

And, I hear you on feeling sad. I'm deep down in the hole -- haven't been like this since February -- and just trying to accept that I am deeply sad and forgive myself (in the moment) for feeling that way. It could be partially hormonal (my cycle is getting more irregular) and there is a lot of grief being dredged up by meeting my bio-dad. I mean, he has been open and caring but new feelings, buried feelings are burbling to the surface and it can be hard.

 

I started seeing a therapist last week about this subject -- it is too much. I did say first off though and exactly like this, "One thing: if you ever suggest psychiatric drugs I will walk out the door. Trust will be broken."  He said, "Well, I can't prescribe." I said, "But you can suggest and I will say one more time I will leave immediately if you suggest it." He said, "Then it is safe to say you are anti-psychiatric drugs?" 

 

"Yes, yes it is."

Edited by FarmGirlWorks

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Rosetta

Yes, I suppose there would be some emotion surrounding that issue and for him, too.  The cycle matter as well.  Ugh.  There should have been research to indicate that women's cycles and psychiatric drugs don't mix well, but, of course, maybe there was!!  That wouldn't see much sunshine, would it?!  I'm glad you retreated to a quite place.  Good call, and it's good that your friend was ok with that, too.  

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manymoretodays

Oh FGW!  And wow, lot's going on for you now.

And oh my, yes, just to be believed, as well as more judicious prescribing, and information/education, understanding, alternatives,  from the get go, and changing paradigms completely, and........

 

I so hope you are doing Well too.  Life is really something sometimes!  And I mean that in a good, good, kind, kind way!

 

Where are you at with the kundalini yoga these days?

 

Many thanks,

Love, peace, healing, and growth,

mmt

 

Oh yah......women and their "moons" or cycles.  They used to have sweat lodges for that time.  I have always been a bit thankful for my early menopause!

 

 

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FarmGirlWorks

Oh hi @manymoretodays, so good to hear from you. Thanks for asking about kundalini, one of my fav subjects these days.

 

Kundalini is uprooted as well -- when it rains it pours. The studio was in this gorgeous chapel at a church. It was a half dome and had the best energy. Inscribed on the main wall were the words, "Be Still And Know That I Am God." Loved that. Tragically the church was "Seattle-ized" (demolished) and we left June 1. Lucky to have had that sanctuary during the worst of WD. It felt and was shaped like a womb. I jokingly said that I gestated in that space and then was "born" on June 1 with a trail of placenta spilling onto the street outside. Now classes are at different locations and, the biggest change of all, is I started teaching a class two days ago in my building's community room. Was feeling better when I made the decision to do this so remarkable that I pushed thru the other night and did it for the attendees. Felt like dying. But the initial purpose was to deepen my practice and also make sure I didn't fluff it because the routine was broken.

 

In September, starting a 9-month course (!!!) in Foundations. The three teachers are well-known in this world and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to study with them. And, while I accept that how I feel is how I feel, I really really hope I feel better by then. I didn't take this course before because of WD (and so glad I did not!) but now think I can even if my cognitive and memory is still impaired. Sigh.

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manymoretodays
On 7/4/2019 at 12:09 PM, FarmGirlWorks said:

Kundalini is uprooted as well -- when it rains it pours.

And ah, yet,  it sounds like congrats are in order.  The teaching.  And then the 9 mos. course, starting in September.

Ch ch changes, which honestly, do sound like you have embraced.

 

Oh yes, and the womb of the Inipi/sweat lodge comes to mind, reading your reply.

 

Good, good.

Love, peace, healing, and growth,

mmt

 

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RachelSusan

Great article.  Thank you for coming forward with your own story.  You are an impressive person.

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JackieDecides

I couldn't get the link to work without signing up and (even though I kind of want to check out that site anyway) I am just not in a place where I want to sign up for even one more thing. so thank you for copying the interview here.

 

I thought it was excellent! 🙂

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FarmGirlWorks
Posted (edited)

Thanks @JackieDecides... mainly thanks to the eloquent posters here. And thank you too @RachelSusan

Edited by FarmGirlWorks

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FarmGirlWorks
Posted (edited)

Was procrastinating for a hot second today by reading an online article in the Washington Post about a recently released documentary film about Michelle Carter, the 17-year-old who was convicted of manslaughter (and sentenced to 15 months incarceration) because she was on the phone when her friend killed himself. She was convicted of encouraging him to kill himself and blamed for it -- even though both had tried to kill themselves multiple times before, he had an abusive dad, and a generally crap situation. Dr Peter Breggin testified on her behalf because she, at 17, had her medication (drugs) switched from Prozac to Celexa. Ugh. So she is being pilloried as "evil" when she was extremely unstable AND dealing with a seriously suicidal person who presented an intense situation. On the PHONE.

 

I will just say that personally, when I was in the depths of anhedonia/SI, a loved one could have dropped dead in front of me and I wouldn't have cared... so, thank god I was not presented with a suicidal person at that time because I cannot imagine that I would have made good decisions. It makes me sick to think about but that is real.

 

I guess the documentary takes a nuanced view of a tough situation instead of just proclaiming her "evil" like mainstream media. I have not seen it but want to see if the issue of ADs is addressed. Then I read the comments where trolls live and skitter out from under their rocks. And I found myself "having" to write a short post about the reality of antidepressants clouding a person's judgement especially in A KID. I wrote that Eli Lily and Forest Labs are the real ones who have that boy's blood on their hands.

 

I haven't checked the backlash but have no doubt there is vitriol. But some people are at least seeing it.

 

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2019/07/10/michelle-carter-encouraged-her-boyfriend-kill-himself-this-filmmaker-tried-figure-out-why/?utm_term=.708570c528a3

Edited by FarmGirlWorks

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