Give Us Your Body, We’ll Give Your Mind

I wish I could go back time and never have taken psychiatric medication. I’m not even sure how much I credit it with my stability. There are definitely times that it was helpful, but did I need to take it always, forever?

When I was prescribed carbamazepine when I was 16, nobody told me why, or what it would do, or what side effects it did. I was so drunk and dizzy on them, so sleepy, I’d fall over. I was 16 and my life should not have been like that and if it had to be I should have been told why. You take them because an adult told you to and your life was falling apart and you were scaring everybody with how you were behaving.

When I was 17 I was prescribed olanzapine and again nobody told me why or what side effects it had. I gained a frightening amount of weight in such a short space of time that I stopped recognising myself, I felt like my body was being inhabited by an alien.

I’ve been on antipsychotics my entire adult life so far. I never got to know who I was without them, except for the periods I’d stop taking them to see how I felt, and naturally I got ill (ill or withdrawal? I still don’t know). It’s not as easy as just going, “I’m not taking them”- you get labelled, “non-compliant”, “difficult”, and when you’re trying to live your life, rocking the boat is scary.

Now I’m 30 and I’ve been off them for about 6 months. I had tried many times to, and I was okay to stay on them postnatally as I could see how they’d help (even if it meant I could do no night feeds, and miss out on that special, defining parental experience).  I came off them, finally, when I had to go back to work and realised I couldn’t take them and parent, and work, and that I’d had enough of weight gain. It wasn’t as hard as it had been before because I was in a good space mentally, I’d titrated down, and used antihistamines to take the edge off.

I’ve only lost 7lbs since being off but it is the first time in years the scales have gone down.  I am almost 5 stone overweight and the only time I’ve been slim in my adulthood was when I had an eating disorder. I wasn’t a slim teenager either but I wasn’t fat, and I wasn’t the antipsychotic fat I am now, with a bloated face and huge tummy.

Doctors have never taken me seriously about this. Despite gaining 3 stone in 3 months on a dose increase.  Nobody was ever honest about this with me, about side effects in general. I was always made to feel it was my fault, that I was just stuffing my face, when I wasn’t. Always told to do more exercise when my medication made me so tired that I could barely get up in the morning, and when I said that I was told to go to bed at 6pm.  Whenever diabetes was mentioned, it was always with an apologetic shrug. Despite the fact that due to my medication I was supposed to get annual health checks and blood sugar tests, I only got one- my first one- last week.

Now the inevitable has happened, what I’d hoped to escape by getting off them, but I haven’t. I have prediabetes and now I have a fuckload of work to do to try and undo this, to avoid diabetes, if I can at all, I don’t even know.  I need to, what choice do I have? I am already on my knees with exhaustion, I commute 3 hours a day, I work full time, I have a baby, I am trying to manage my mental health without medication and it is hard.  But I am not going back on it ever. I am petrified of getting diabetes, of anything that will shorten my lifespan. I’ve always known the 20 years younger statistic,  I’ve quit smoking, my cholesterol and blood pressure is perfect at least.

I’m not blaming the medication entirely, but I wouldn’t have gotten to this weight without it, and I have no idea what it’s done to my body. And I’m scared and worried, and wondering- was it worth it?

25 Responses

  1. I’m going through all of this at the moment. I’m trying to taper off with the frown of my psychiatrist, but he is helping me. I need to know who I am—unmedicated. I’m also prediabetic and the Abilify I’ve been taking doesn’t help matters. Sounds like you have a pretty full schedule and I’m rooting for you and your successful medication free life!

  2. Hugs, I’m having a lot of trouble with my liver which is going into cirrhosis and is being blamed on my anti-psychotics & anti-depressants, and weight so I feel your pain very clearly!

  3. I get very nervous when I read that someone has decided to go off their meds, primarily because they gave me the life I never had. However, we all react differently to different meds so I can’t condemn anyone for making that choice.

    As far as weight goes, I gained 100 lbs after going on meds. but I do have the 20 year statistic hanging over me, which makes me feel I’m in a no win scenario. I’ve lost 40, but I’m struggling.

    I’m impressed with how you balance family and work with a 3 hour commute. I couldn’t imagine having to do that.

  4. […] Source: Give Us Your Body, We’ll Give Your Mind […]

  5. Some years back I was on a “cocktail” of Trazodone, Seroquel an Zoloft. Let me tell you something. I LOVED that combination because it calmed me down to the point that I was akin to being in a catatonic state. I’m not on any medications due to the fact I am unemployed and have no medical benefits. I feel awful because I am so filled with anxiety and depression that I can rarely leave my home. I only wish I could get meds but, alas, the healthcare system in the States is awful. I cannot get Obamacare because I don’t have income–yet I’ll get fined. I can’t get medicaid because I’m not old enough and I’ll be damned if I’ll let the government take my home in lieu of paying for medical. You are lucky if you can get meds.

  6. I’ve experienced the same thing, only it was a trade off between my mental health and my cognition and intelligence. I seem to have found a happy balance now but I know that I would be much more brilliant off medication.

  7. Metformin can help with insulin resistance. I lost massive amounts of weight on it. I miss being able to take it (conflicts with a more important medication), especially as my meds make me chunky.

    My wife and I have both had metformin for the insulin resistance/pre-diabetes caused by PCOS, so you don’t have to be a diabetic to get it Maybe your GP would try you on it?

  8. I can’t taper off mine, sadly, but they do work well for me despite weight gain. It’s so frustrating though. Have you heard of Gary Taubes? He writes on insulin resistance, carbs and sugars, and why we get fat- and how to lose weight, ‘Why We Get Fat’ is very good and fairly straightforward and he has tons of recorded seminars and such on YouTube.

  9. I have not been on antidepressants for long but the goal is as little as possible. Not only for me but my doctor as well. That’s the way it should be. I know it’s otherwise often, specially some years back but it disturbs me that it is still so common.
    Sometimes there is no other way then taking meds even fucking weightgainmeds but there are options now and different meds.
    I hope it will work for you I absolutely understand that you want to be off🙂
    But keep an open mind. But I would probably hate it as much if I was in your shores. I am so glad that I had/have always the feeling I have something to say in what I take and in the changes. Otherwise I would loose all my trust and how should someone with a mental disorder get better when he/she doesn’t not feel trust towards his/her doctors because they wont take.
    Sorry to hear that. Idiotic of them.

  10. Shore= shoes
    Take= talk.
    Damnyouautocorrect.

  11. First, I want to apoligize for my english, because I’m from Chile and its hard for me the writing

    I think that probably, doesn’t worth it, but It was part of a proccess you had to live. Maybe, if you didn’t take them, you wouldn’t do this reflection about yourself. I think it better not to blame anything that we had lived, because the things always happend the way they has to be. Try to do your best now! without thinkg about the past, only thinking about your future and a better you for your baby. I give you the best wishes in entire world, because I know what is like living with the guilty of every mistake that I’ve done. Be proud of yourself now that your are not taking medication now🙂

  12. After 20 years on various combos of psych meds, I developed diabetes which is no fun. I do believe I would have developed it at an older age due to family history, but in my mid 30s I was told I was one of the youngest type 2s in my GP practice.

    Knowing what I l now know, I would have still taken the psych meds since I do believe they have saved me, and helped me function.

    Living with diabetes and psych stuff is really hard. On the days when I struggle to function then the last thing I am able to do is watch my food intake and exercise.

    The 2 things that have helped my blood sugar the most are intermitent fasting and exercise, although I don’t want you to put you under any pressure to try those since you have enough to deal with already.

  13. I feel exactly the same. I have severe depression. At one point i was so ill i stopped taking my meds. The psychiatrist put me on an anti depressant and an anti psychotic and said nothing about side effects. I was a walking zombie for a year. I have almost no memory of that year. I also put on weight – about 3 stone. I realised one day that i felt ill all the time so decided to come off the risperidone.the withdrawal was hell but the psychiatrist scoffed at me telling me there are no withdrawal symptoms from such a small dose of risperidone! I’m off it now and i’m never going back on it.

    • I was put on risperidone as well when I was first given an anti-psychotic, and it turned me into a zombie as well, sleeping for 16 hours a day and unable to stay awake for longer than half hour. I was always tired and felt really cold all the time. I started wetting myself as well and after 6 weeks I’d had enough of the side effects, so I came off them myself and was put on Olanzapine after that. That worked really well and didn’t put on too much until I went on Sertraline a year later and I went up 2 stone in a few months. I was ALWAYS hungry and just wanted to eat. I was hungry before, during and after a meal. I couldn’t sleep, I had to have 2 lunches and a million snacks. Then after a few years I’d had enough, and started exercising and dieting to lose the weight. I also had therapy and came off Sertraline altogether. I still take Olanzapine but on its own it doesn’t make me hungry. It took me 2 years to lose 2 stone, but this year I finally managed it and I know its possible for everyone, so don’t give up. Carry on working hard and it WILL happen. Good Luck everyone!!!

  14. Hello Seaneen,

    Good luck with it! I’ve contemplated being off meds, but my life works well enough that I haven’t wanted to rock the boat – plus taking meds has, so far, been my access to care.

    I’d really recommend putting together or reviewing your Wellness Action Recovery plan — or its equivalent — so you know what steps to do when depending on how your mood goes. Congratulations on all your hard work.

  15. I agree totally. I have wrote about this on depressionandbipolar.net before myself. I take serequel now and have tried to come off of it but the withdrawal is awful. I too am pre diabetic and scared. Benn on psych meds since early 20s now late 30s. I need to get off this stuff it’s killing me.

  16. Great post and very helpful, I was looking for something like that and I find what I am looking for in this post. Thanks.

  17. Thanks, excellent post and very helpful

  18. Finding the right meds is enormously difficult. Mostly because doctors don’t know the cause or treatment of many psychiatric disorders, they also don’t know you bodies chemical makeup with enough specificity to accurately prescribe, they don’t know how the drugs work (just some vague theories on seratonin), and because they have little training (although this is not true of psychiatrists).

    In America we have about one psychologist per 1000 diagnosed mentally disordered persons. (I tried to find the graphical display from SAMSHA for you, but it is lost in Google somewhere)

    It seems to me that in the USA medication is a trial and error process and if you are not very proactive in helping yourself than the doctors will be happy to ignore you. That’s right, I said that the people who are least able to advocate for themselves must, or they will suffer permanently. Many times the patients families won’t or don’t advocate for them because they don’t understand what is going on or they have opinions that are not supported by medical evidence.

    It is hard to be “whackadoo” in a world like this.
    Jobs are hard to find and even harder to keep. Medical care sucks. And most of us are poor so we have no voice and no options. People care about us when we are right in front of them but forget about us after 2 minutes. Many of us do not even have homes so we must sleep, eat, drink and emit, and practice hygiene in the streets.(I am lucky, I do have a place to live)

    At least Lepers had colony’s.
    The system we are stuck in is total bullshit. There is a buttload of talent in the crazy community but no one is interested in letting us use that talent to succeed. We are the lost people, not messed up enough to be on socially security but far too weird to hold down a job without a little help. Not a lot of help, just a little, every once in awhile. so we can manage whatever the latest malfunction is.

  19. The tricky part is that while taking psychotropics one is under a spell whereof he is not aware that his very decisions and thoughts are all, EVERY LAST ONE, rendered by a person under the influence! Of course by “under the influence” I don’t mean the same thing as “drunk” or “high.”

    I am presently taking zaprasidone, which suits me well, as I am somewhat a paranoic. The trick is: when my “system” has become acclimated thereby rendering the doses even if ever-increasing to be ineffective, HOW WILL I KNOW? Who will tell me? Not the psychiatrist, eh?

  20. At last you won. Sure, you are at a higher stage of health now due to your own mental activities, not because of using chemical medication.

    Your mind fought and fought. I was here ten years ago. I created a link. I never popped in. I wondered why you might surrender your body to get back your mind. It is self contradictory.

    Congrats on coming off the drugs. Now you can focus on your own potentials. Ten years ago I found those potentials very powerful in you.

    I suppose I popup more frequently now. Wish you all the best of luck.

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