The Enduring Damage (Part I)


A letter to my doctor’s partner:

Dear Doctor, I need you to understand.

In 1974 my fiancé, a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps, died when his plane crashed and parachute didn’t open.  Thereafter, during the perfectly normal depressive phase of grief, my doctor decided I shouldn’t be supported in my grief but should be treated as if grief is a sickness.  He prescribed antidepressants.  Trusting him, I took them.

Over time, I was transferred to psychiatrists who told me that I had a “chemical imbalance” and would have to take antidepressants for the rest of my life.  I took antidepressants every day for the next twenty-six years.  During that time, I did not finish my education, develop a career, marry or have children.  What I did do was become hospitalized for depression about fifty times and attempt suicide a dozen times, each time getting worse until 1999, when I spent a month on life support with no expectation of survival.  When I would get suicidal, the medical response would be to increase the dosage of the antidepressant, or change to a different antidepressant, or add another antidepressant, or just to blame me for not trying hard enough in therapy.  I was being poisoned and they said it was my fault.

We know, now, that some antidepressants in some people cause suicide.  Nobody told me.  According to one psychiatrist, I took “every antidepressant known to man.”  I would propose to you that it is not “some antidepressants” but some people—and nobody has correctly identified which people they are—who become suicidal on antidepressants.  I would guess it is patients with a compromised immune system, as mine already was.  Also, psychiatric medications cause something called “medication spell-binding.”  The drugs dummy down your brain so that you neither can critically evaluate your own status nor do anything about it.  The patient becomes passive, compliant and exactly what doctors and families want.

After twenty-six years, in 2001, I stopped taking antidepressants.  Then we discovered that every drug I took caused me to become suicidal—diuretics, pain-killers, sleeping pills, etc.  I learned to treat my illnesses with air (severe obstructive sleep apnea), light (seasonal affective disorder), liquids (nephrogenic diabetes insipidus), diet (diabetes mellitus), exercise (high blood pressure), chiropractic (arthritis), hypnotherapy (root canal), and acupuncture (pneumonia).

I also learned about psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology (PNIE), which explained what was going on:  the psyche is connected to the immune system.  Dr. T and I have figured out this much:  I have immune dysfunction, type unknown.  The immune dysfunction causes hypersensitivity to medications, and chronic fatigue syndrome (which is why I use a power wheelchair) and the chronic fatigue syndrome leads to depression.  When I take drugs, my immune system pitches a fit.

Last year I had a blood sugar that averaged around 450.  I spent most of the year lying in bed staring blankly out the window.  When I was in the hospital the last time, I finally told Dr. T to go ahead and hit me with whatever drugs he would normally use to treat diabetes.  I could not continue to live the way I was; it had to be all or nothing—kill me or cure me.  Prescribing for me is a crap shoot.  We know for a fact that I was poisoned by a doctor who prescribed lithium for seven years but never monitored it.  There is absolutely no literature on the effects of a toxic dose of lithium on the immune system. 

While residents rushed in and out of the room, confident that if they got the right diagnosis then they could prescribe the right medication and heal the patient, Dr. T and I sat and looked at each other, knowing that we had no idea what would happen if he prescribed medication.   He prescribed insulin and the second or third day I woke up with symptoms consistent with a stroke—headache, slurred speech, visual disturbance, etc.  After extensive testing and evaluation, it was ascertained that I had not had a stroke:  it was my immune system pitching a fit about the insulin.  Nevertheless, we kept at it because I was too healthy for a nursing home and too sick to remain at home alone.  I was discharged on 40 units of insulin daily.  I tolerated it for about six weeks, then reacted.  Ultimately the dose was reduced to 30 units every other day, and I tolerated that.  Until last week.  (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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