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The Debilitating Impact of 25 Years of Antidepressant Use

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I can't prove the correlation in a court-of-law. Furthermore, I don't have my medical records so I'm forced to rely on memory and journals to establish a timeline.


However, I'm fairly certain w/in 6-18 months after my first prescription for an antidepressant (Prozac) btwn 1994 & 1996 (age 25 to 27), I exploded in rage at my father on a NYC city street corner, screaming at him w abandon for 10-15 minutes. At one point, I attempted to lift a heavy, steel-lattice trash-can over my head from the sidewalk to hurl it thru the plate-glass window of the restaurant I had just stormed out of. Eventually, still enraged, I walked away.


Several blocks from the restaurant, as I passed a pedestrian, he exhorted me to "lighten up." Based upon his voice & mannerisms, he appeared gay. (At the time, I wrestled w confusion, and still do, regarding my sexual identity).


In response, I turned to him, and screamed anti-gay epithets as he walked up the block.


At the time I moved to NYC from St. Louis in 1993 (age ~24), I was uncertain about many aspects of my identity. I felt unmoored and uncertain about who I was. Within a few months of arriving, those passive and indeterminate parts of my persona metastasized into paralysis and

withdrawal from my environment.


Nonetheless, at no time prior to my first Prozac prescription had I ever expressed anything remotely akin to rage or even discernable anger. I was largely conflict-averse and structurally passive (and am even now), yet also congenial and social.


Thus, unfolded a 25 or so year conveyor belt of antidepressants, apart and in concert, that only ever seemed to elicit my psychological instability instead of mitigating it.


My relationship w my mom was profoundly complicated. Throughout my life, I felt an inability to fully individuate from her. Nonetheless, I rarely expressed anger towards her.


One afternoon btwn 1996 & 1998, I exploded in rage at her as she drove me to the airport for my return flight to New York.


As she attempted to maintain control of the car at highway speed, I leaned into her face from the passenger seat and screamed "**** YOU" at her for 5-10 minutes until she pulled in to the departure terminal thru a veil of tears.


As I exited, I walked around to the driver-side window and punched it as hard as I could. Remarkably, it didn't shatter.


Since then, I've exploded in rage dozens of times and only felt profound shame and bewilderment after each episode.


Over the next 10 or so years, from 1998 to 2008, I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation several times. For nearly two decades, I have felt incapacitated to one degree or another, even if I wasn't actively suicidal. 


At some point in the early 2000's, each time I stepped into the subway, I fantasized about walking the length of the car shooting passengers with an automatic rifle. I can't satisfactorily prove my medications elicited such a response. Nonetheless, I'm certain they did.


How much did my revolving-door of pharmaceuticals (Prozac, Wellbutrin, Effexor, Lamictal, Remeron and many others I can't recall) influence my behavior? Would I have expressed those thoughts and behavior in the absence of medication? I don't know.


What I do know is, nearly a 1/4 century of medications have coincided w my most perverse and destabilizing behavior imaginable - behavior I never expressed prior to my first prescription on 1995 or so.


There are dozens of other narrative details I can't fully articulate here. Nevertheless, I have never experienced an appreciable benefit from medication. Furthermore, I have only experienced the most overwhelming instability including decades of insomnia, mood swings and other behaviors as a litany of psychiatrists added, subtracted or tweaked my medication.


My behavior has had vast consequences on my life and those around me. It upended and disrupted family bonds, erecting a distancing barrier between me & my mom as well as my sister, the consequences of which continue to this day.


My mom loved me profoundly and unconditionally and only sought my happiness. In turn, I loved her immensely.


She died in August.


Although she dismissed the connection, I'm certain that the traumatic impact of my explosion all those years ago as well as ones I expressed subsequently, erected a wall between us, one I readily observed after returning home to St. Louis in 2010.


As I pore over the contents of dozens of boxes containing momentos (letters, journals, photos) from my life - ones I've retrieved after a decade or so in storage - I'm struck by how profoundly lost and isolated (from my family and the world) I was for more than a decade, years consumed by instability, fractured identity and immense suffering that I directed inward and, most destructively, towards my family.


Did my medications elicit that behavior? Did Prozac et al maintain my isolation and anger, preventing me from returning home to accept the love my mom offered from afar? It's hard to say.


However, it's fair to say, at no time did they help or mitigate my behavior. To my mind, they only ever destabilized me.


On my phone is a 20 second video I shot in 2015 at 3:00 am, in which I'm sobbing and screaming into the phone over and over, "PLEASE G-D, HELP ME!"


That video coincided w my Effexor XR's downward titration from 150 to 75 mgs after my psychiatrist expressed concern about the drug's "cardiac load" after a cardiologist diagnosed me w an aortic aneurysm.


For more than a year afterwards, her unwillingness to assist me in fully discontinuing my prescription was a constant source of friction btwn us.


Each time I asked for her help in fully discontinuing my medication, she pointed to the video as the reason she couldn't fully discontinue the drug. In fact, my records indicate during thus time she attempted to add Viibryd and Brintellix to my regimen - which I firmly resisted.


One day during an appt, after expressing my profound frustration to her once again, she said, "If you're so unhappy, why don't you fire me?"


The thought had never crossed my mind. Thus, I never saw her again. Today, I manage my prescriptions w a rotating array of psychiatric residents at a local clinic.


Prior to my first prescription, I was many things: passive, isolative (at times) and uncertain about my identity. However, I was not particularly angry, nor was I incapacitated by rage, mood instability, insomnia and suicidal ideation.


Esp now after my mom's death and the death of my closest and oldest friend from opiate addiction in 2018, I have the inexorable sense of having wasted my entire life, of destroying everything positive and beautiful, of nullifying my mom's love for me and my connections to friends, illustrated by 1,000s of post cards, letters and photos I've unpacked from storage.


I take responsibility for my actions, but I'm nearly certain my medications have elicited the actions and thoughts that incapacitated me for more than two decades. I have a stack of books by my bed supporting this thesis, even if I already knew the information by heart.



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The past is gone.


DO what you can with the rest of your life which would make others in your life proud of you and make it a positive.

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@JasonBarton That’s a beautiful photo. And a courageous to open up. I can feel there is a lot of pain in your story. You might like Carl Rogers and the concept of unconditional positive regard for yourself . 

While the past might be gone, we are deeply entwined in it and for many of us healing comes from looking back so we can come to terms with the past, carrying it forward in a new configuration, to know how to go forward . Sometimes there are deep wounds that need to be healed or proceeded. Self forgiveness and forgiveness. Losing ones mother is life changing . You have not destroyed everything. We all have shadow sides. Hold onto the good memories. Your mum may have seen you in a very different way to the way you see yourself. 

Follow your instinct - I believe in it so strongly.  Look up “drop the disorder”, you. You can look for a way to pave a life of your own away from the drugs and meds.

Know we all get misguided .. your family and the meds.. 

You have found a new path now. 

I do understand what it’s like to do desperately want to go back and change the past. But trying to see the beauty in what has been will help you heal .


i can’t write well or more due to my own cognitive fog. 


Ps I do believe that the meds alter our personalities in subtle and not so subtle ways but there is still an essence that remains. 

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On 2/2/2020 at 10:37 PM, JasonBarton said:

even if I already knew the information by heart.

Always follow your heart


you are very punitive on yourself. Do you think you could find a humanistic therapist? Someone who could bring you into a more healing space. Well done for resisting the extra meds! That takes a lot of courage when you are a patient.

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