After I Stopped Taking Antidepressants, 2001-2008


Instead of drugging myself into insensitivity, I had to deal with the real, raw emotions of life.  There was an enormous amount of anger.  I became a student of anger, learned what it was for, why we have it, what to do with it.  I learned how to be angry, and got to be quite good at it.  So good, in fact, that doctors started kicking me out of their practices, which turned out to be quite helpful.  I discovered that they weren’t doing me any good anyway, so I broke my all-American addiction to going to the doctor, seeking salvation.  Instead, I read the Bible and learned how I was supposed to be living my life.

Paul went to hypnotherapy summer camp, came home and tried to hypnotize anything that stood still—the dog, his secretary, the rose bushes, whatever.  The American medical industry busily tells us that our problems are in our minds—they recognize the power of the mind to create illness, but now I learned that the mind could create health.  Paul and I dealt with menopausal bleeding, root canals and unstable adrenal glands by using hypnotherapy.

Dr. Ghaly did acupuncture.  He’d studied it all over the world, and now did it all over my body.  Needles in the ears and temples could reverse a bipolar shift; a needle in the chin reduced fever; needles in my left arm stopped the chest pains.

My newest best friend became Dr. Stephen Wechsler, a chiropractor.  I learned how very, very much good chiropractic adjustment can do, and let it do it.  I got better.

The idiot doctors didn’t know what to do about my low blood sugar, so I started learning about diet.  And I got more better.  I began to engage in political action; I got people fired, too.  I learned the curative power of power.  The only way you can recover from depression is by fighting back.

Then I met James.  Eighteen months after I stopped taking antidepressants, I again became desirable to men—or, at any rate, to one particular man.  I fell in love again.  And as I loved, I studied psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology and learned what damage the drugs had done to me, body and soul.  I went back to the primal animal to understand sex and the role it plays in our lives.

As I moved out of menopause and away from drugs, I became a Wise Woman.  I would wake up in the morning, lie in bed, and think.  As my brain cleared of drugs, my mind began to cogitate.  I had sacrificed decades of learning to drugs; now, I was figuring things out again.  My mind made great leaps and bounds, covering vast amounts of terrain, making connections, understanding relationships.

One of the sets of relationships that I came to understand was my sisters and how damaging they were.  All my life, they had used me as their scapegoat, their whipping person.  Subtlety and persistently, it was made clear to me by them that I was less valuable than they were.  So, while maintaining a perpetually close and loving relationship with my mother, I dumped my sisters.  It was excruciatingly painful, but if I was to grow into healthy self-respect, it had to be done.

Spring came, again and again.  I moved from a geriatric center to an elderly-and-disabled apartment building.  I moved from the city to the suburbs.  I adopted a garden, got down on my knees and pulled weeds.  I got a power wheelchair and a physical therapist.  I moved again, this time to a residence for the middle-aged physically disabled, and I planted my own flower garden.  After six years of home health aides, I began to change my own sheets and do my own laundry.  I became a volunteer on a Support Line, talking others through the horrors of mental illness.

And I never, ever got depressed again because I had learned how not to be.  After forty-four years of tormented depression, I am now a full-time happy person.

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About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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