The above is a sample of my daily diet often. I’m a stickler for getting my 7 servings of fruits and vegetables. I’m not a health nut. I wanted to cure my mental health. I was hoping to cure my body too, which i know it’s helped, but it obviously hasn’t been a cure. I always strive to not eat junk. And lots of stuff labeled “healthy” is still junk.
If you read my last post and how I couldn’t pass up sale Reese’s peanut butter Christmas trees, you will understand how I can’t overindulge or do much indulging at all. I felt physically exhausted for over a week as I had a literal sugar crash and my mental health went into the toilet.
People with trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions often take medications. How many times have you gone to your psychiatrist and said “my meds aren’t working” and you get a change, or worse, you end up on another to help the side effects, meanwhile you still feel totally stuck and mentally miserable.
A lot of people know I came off psych meds completely. People have been asking me “how on earth were you capable??”
I had a psychiatrist for a long time who would give me meds, I’d have a side effect, so I got a med for that side effect, and it went until I was on 10+ psych meds. My psychiatrist didn’t really believe my trauma, so I got labeled with “schizoaffective disorder”.
I was lucky to meet a psychologist in my short stint of part of 2017 when I had to stay in Texas with my family when transverse myelitis forced me to stop working. My psychologist didn’t believe my schizoaffective diagnosis for a second, but I was adamant. The truth is at the time that psychiatrist put me on all those meds, I was working really hard in my trauma, and it was painful and overwhelming. I was presented with the idea that all these meds would “cure” my mental health problem.
So back to Texas and my psychologist. She finally sent me to a psychiatrist she really trusted. I went to see her. She gave me the basic questions of asking about my childhood, my psych history, what meds I’d been on (literally every single one), and within 5 minutes, she looks me in the eye and says, “you are schizo nothing. You need to really get good trauma treatment and find a doctor that believes your health conditions and go live your life”. That was the summer of 2016. My psychologist confidently said to me after that psychiatry appointment, “why would you want to be schizoaffective? You never heal from that. You can heal from trauma”. Still love her so much.
We began a slow taper off all these crazy making, not crazy curing pills. It was lengthy and wasn’t done with it when I chose to go to an inpatient trauma program followed by residential treatment for trauma or my “trauma resort” as I refer to it now. They helped continue it though.
My individual therapist at my trauma resort said that getting off psych meds was going to be like an addict getting off drugs. Psych meds mess with the same chemicals street drugs do, they are just legally prescribed. You will feel terrible. There will be huge highs and terrible lows, but she assured me I could do it. She said to give it 18 months for my brain to naturally make all the chemicals that had been changed over the years.
As those meds left my system, my creativity came back. My desire to read books and listen to music and my love of writing returned. It was like there was a wall built up in my brain that separated basic functioning from what makes me unique. Best of all, I could feel again. I could cry and see beauty of sunsets. My childlike fascination of the mountains resumed just like when I moved here when I was 10 and had never seen a mountain. I remember our house when I was 10 sat on the top of a hill and would just stare at the majesty of the mountain peaks surrounding me. I can still see them out my front window, not great, but driving around, I often get teary at their beauty. Here’s a picture I took while driving to my IVIG infusion today as I just love them.
So back to being psych med free. I took my last anti depressant and official psych med December 22, 2017. I definitely caved in April of 2018 and saw a psychiatrist as I thought my grief over a very bad situation(s) was abnormal. Crying didn’t feel right. She prescribed me one. 3 days in, I guess you could say I went into a hypomanic phase. I spent a bunch of money on a credit card I couldn’t pay back, and the world suddenly felt over the top rosy despite nothing about my life circumstances changing. I immediately emailed my psychiatrist and asked how to get off of it. She didn’t say “let me call in a mood stabilizer”. She told me to stop taking it.
Getting off psych meds doesn’t come in a vacuum. I put a link here as I was SO happy to see psychology today actually publish a piece about healthy eating as a cure for symptoms of trauma a few days ago.
For me, getting off psych meds hasn’t just been healthy eating, it’s also been a commitment to mindfulness, to yoga, and other exercise as I can tolerate to get back into my body instead of the disconnect so many trauma survivors feel between their head and physical body. If you are a trauma survivor, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s also been about setting boundaries with people about what I can and can’t do. If they won’t discuss it, I get pretty done at that point. I never claim to be 100% in the right, but I have had several people hurt me and when I mention talking about it, it gets ignored. I have realized that if you don’t care to talk about how I’ve been hurt, then the message for me is “you don’t actually care about me”. Maybe I hurt the other person too? You never can know if there’s no conversation. It’s not an argument. It’s a discussion to bring you closer or closure.
So I’m not saying to run to your psychiatrist and say, “take me off these pills. Lizzie did it”. It was a very very very slow taper off. I have had to take a couple meds for some anxiety over the past couple years. The med I’m prescribed by my psychiatrist is technically for anxiety, but we both know I use it for my terrible muscle spasticity. It’s the only thing that will make my legs relax, especially when my toes curl so tight that I can’t release them. Example A:
My leg was rigid, and my toes wouldn’t move. Do I like that I have to take any meds? Not really, but most psych meds started out for neurological problems and turned into psych meds. With drug laws being what they are, she really is the one to prescribe it.
So I do encourage you to come off psych meds if you are committed to about 18 months of a bit of craziness to gain what I have, a life that is extremely fulfilling even with it being so hard and unfair.
I still have my “bad” days, but bad days just means nothing really. Anger or sadness isn’t bad just like joy isn’t bad. Emotions just inform of us how things are. We all deserve to cry in anger and enjoy a beautiful sunrise.
And I will say at 18 months, practically to the day, I felt much calmer and peaceful.
Don’t stop your meds if you don’t plan on pushing yourself in every way possible. It’s a lifestyle commitment. I was just happy to be validated by psychology today that diet and gut health are huge for mental health. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a little food indulgence. Wouldn’t you rather trade that box of donuts for some inner peace?
Just so you know I’m not full of BS. I used to eat sugary cereal for breakfast, go to work and grab fast food for lunch, and had a box of cookies or donuts for dinner. I drank 12 diet cokes a day and smoked at least a pack of cigarettes too. My quit smoking anniversary is January 5, 2018. Coming up on two years for that too.
This hasn’t been a subject I have wanted to broach as we are taught to NEED our pills. If your problem is truly a root of trauma, meaning I don’t care if they call you bipolar, schizo something, borderline, major depression, generalized anxiety, meds will never fix the trauma. Only you can do that with a supportive community of maybe a therapist or a family member you trust or a friend. I did a lot of it alone as mental health professionals kept wanting to medicate me. It’s not what I wanted.
I love that my new counselor has never mentioned medications, and my psychiatrist refuses to put me on any.
If you are truly interested in getting off your psych meds, Send me an email. It’s a commitment beyond not taking pills. It’s a lifestyle change. And definitely one of the most worth it I ever made.
And just because I cry at everything and anything now ( love it about myself), here’s a beautiful sunrise I actually went out in the cold to watch. It was amazing. My medicated days, I wouldn’t have even noticed.
Best of luck in whatever you do for healing. This has just been my way. Even if you think it’s a bunch of fluff and would never work, Ive been there, so thank you for reading until the end.