The Undrugging of Annie (Part X)


            Paul Cohen, Ph.D., tried to prevent me from expressing anger to doctors.  He said I needed them and couldn’t afford to alienate them.  What I figured out was that doctors were hurting me.  Getting angry with them would make them leave me alone and, therefore, protect my health.

            I was angry with Dr. Jenifer Rich for damaging my kidneys.  I was angry with Dr. Nasri Ghaly for getting me addicted to Ativan.  I was angry with Dr. Paul Cohen for making me feel guilty about being angry.  I decided that I should be damned angry and I should not have to be nice about it.  I not only accepted my anger, I reveled in it.

            Doctors consider anger “inappropriate” and teach propriety by drugging people so that they can’t get angry.  In fact, anger is given to us to keep us safe.  The person who controls your body also controls your anger and therefore holds over you the power of life and death—ask any abused wife.

            Because I live in a society that says doctors know more about your body than you do, I—like most Americans—had given my body over to doctors.  Doctor knows best.  I trusted fools, and took their drugs.

            We are designed with an intuitive ability to understand our bodies.  Every cell in our body is constantly sending and receiving signals that assess and report status.  At its best, NASA will never have a tracking system as sophisticated as the one in every human body.  I hadn’t paid attention to what my body was telling me.  The pharmaceutical companies made Ativan, the doctor prescribed it, and I took it—and it had been killing me.

            By September 2001, I could walk two blocks.  It had been two years since I last did that.  I could regularly fix my own breakfast.  I discovered that I owned more nightgowns than pants.  I started getting restorative sleep.  Before, I had to be squinchingly careful about using my energy because I new that what was used would not be replaced.  Now, it became safe to get tired because, with rest, I could recover.  Before, I had stopped wearing earrings because putting them on took too much energy.  Now, I was wearing earrings again.  I took a shower by myself, and standing up.  These are the small gifts of life.

Being deprived of everything enables you to have joy in recovering anything.  My friend and I sat in the garden of my residence and I spotted a robin’s egg.  The extraordinary, awesome blue of it!  I gave it to my friend as a special gift.  She left it sitting on the garden wall.  She was taking half a dozen psychotropics at bedtime, and could not wake up in the morning.  She blamed herself for being lazy, and complained to her doctor of depression.  I explained to her about the half-life of medication but she did not cut down on her medications.

[To be continued]

I stopped taking drugs in 2001.  It is now 2011 and I can’t remember when I wrote “The Undrugging of Annie,” but here is the beginning of the end of the story.

Drugs were out of the question:  they all made me physically ill and/or suicidally depressed.  The first step was withdrawal from drugs, which began with the acute narcotic withdrawal from Ativan, however, it only began there.  My brain had been subjected to manipulation by drugs every day for twenty-six years.  Try to imagine that!  There are no physicians, research studies or textbooks to address the incredible damage done by decades of drugging. 

In the first place, nobody had any idea what were the consequences of undrugging.  Who stops taking drugs after a quarter of a century?  In America, we steadily increase our drug load until we die.  Quit?  Are you out of your mind?

In the second place, no one in the American medical industry wanted to think about the consequences of undrugging.  What they wanted was for me to go back to taking drugs.  I was sick—so sick—with things that were undiagnosed, so I kept going to physicians.  What is wrong with me, I would ask; what is wrong with me?  And they would do their tests.  Then the better ones would tell me that there was nothing wrong, and the worse one’s would tell me it was in my mind.

            There are two things that physicians never did:  admit they didn’t know, or look in the Physicians Desk Reference for the side effects of my prescribed drugs.  Dr. Nasri Ghaly was the only physician who was different.  One day we were arguing about something and I kept demanding to know why, why, why?  We both were on the edges of our chairs, facing off with each other.  Then Dr. Ghaly relaxed, slid to the back of his chair and exclaimed, “I don’t know!”  I relaxed and slid to the back of my chair my chair and replied, “That’s an answer I can respect.”

            The human body is the most complicated physical entity on the plant.  We have learned a lot about it, but what we don’t know exceeds what we do know.  Why can’t physicians admit that?  Why must these arrogant fools continue to maintain their certitude when it is patently unsupportable?  Is it the arrogance that comes from being at the top of the medical hierarchy?  Is it the pleasure of having power over other people?  Is it the fear of malpractice suits?  My computer scientist has no problem answering my questions with a simple, “Beats me.”  Why can’t my physicians accept their limitations and lay them out on the table next to my knowledge?  Why is it that the physician must know, the patient must not know, and we must never look at the problems together?  (To be continued)

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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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