The Enduring Damage (Part II)


To my doctor’s partner:

When I take medicine, the first thing that happens is major fatigue.  I usually don’t notice the increase in fatigue; I am, after all, chronically tired and not a wimp.  I keep pushing myself forward to do what needs to be done no matter how tired I get.  The second thing is shortness of breath.  I have the autoimmune disease pulmonary fibrosis; exertion causes shortness of breath.  When my immune system is struggling then the pulmonary fibrosis re-activates but doctors don’t notice.  After all, I am in a power wheelchair, sitting in the doctor’s office.  No doctor asks me to stand up and walk, or watches when I try to put on my shoes and socks.  You are not assessing shortness of breath upon exertion, which is pretty frightening.

After the fatigue and shortness of breath comes what doctors call “irritability.”  Regular folks call it “bein’ a bitch.”  I am irritated by everything, and return the irritation.  Nobody can work with me, and I can’t live with myself.  Then it escalates into being suicidal.  I never told anybody before because of the terror of getting locked up again.  When I refused drugs to treat a urinary tract infection, one of your hospitalists tried to get me transferred to inpatient psychiatry.  Most doctors pitch a holy fit when it becomes apparent that a patient is suicidal. 

They immediately retreat into their doctor-holes and call 9-1-1 to transport the patient to the hospital; they think of this as “an appropriate referral to psychiatry.”  What it means is that the police come, put me in handcuffs and take me to CPEP (Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program), where I am strip-searched, put through a metal detector and have all my belongings taken from me.  Then I am subjected to psychological degradation, the likes of which you can’t imagine, in the name of psychiatric “treatment.”

I will not, ever again, give up my soul to the malicious machinations of psychiatry.  Besides, what do they have to offer?  More pills, which was the problem in the first place.  My suicidality is not a behavior problem; it is a medical problem, caused by psychiatric medications.  I took antidepressants every day for twenty-six years.  Imagine spending that long training a rose bush to grow over a trellis.  What happens when you remove the trellis?  After twenty-six years of artificially altering my brain and central nervous system, what is the damage that remains?  Nobody knows but me—and doctors typically don’t believe me.  They want this freaking psycho out of their offices—fast!  And they don’t want to look at the possibility that their colleagues caused the problem.

A couple months ago, I twisted my sacroiliac.  Dr. T proposed a painkiller.  I declined on the basis that it would make me depressed.  Dr. T gave me the shrug—depression or pain, it’s your choice.  I replied, “When I say it makes me depressed, I mean it makes me suicidal.”  There’s the heart of it, my friend.  Your drugs make me suicidal.  Suicide is far more apt to be fatal than a heart attack or kidney failure.  I have an illness with a high degree of lethality, and I can’t tell you for fear you’ll lock me up.  All I can do is ask you to stand with me, not refer me out.  I have a life-threatening illness, caused by psychiatrists prescribing pharmaceuticals, and I need you to understand.  I know it doesn’t make any sense to you but you’ve got to accept it anyway.

The last dose of insulin I took was six days ago.  Yesterday was the first day I wasn’t suicidal.  I have spent a week in hell, only minutes away from dying, and all you could talk about was cardiac issues.  Nietzsche said that what doesn’t kill you makes you strong; my psyche is now so strong that it can bench-press a Buick.  Being suicidal is terror and torment, and I go through it alone.

Can you accept me as I am, walk with me, and not turn me into the prison ward of inpatient psychiatry?  Can you go one step further and find someone who can help me, someone who understands the immune system?  As I write this, my blood sugar is 305 and there is no treatment available to me.  Acupuncture probably would work, but my insurance (Medicare and Medicaid) won’t pay for it.  Come on, I need you to think creatively, talk to your colleagues, find some research money—do something.  Somebody’s got to care about the damage done by psychiatric medications.  You became a physician because of your interest in the mind/body connection.  Well, here it is.

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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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