It doesn’t matter what the addiction is to, what is important to note is that the person has sought relief from something and in the process become addicted. It might just be boredom but it also might have been an unsettled sense of self that the person was trying to evade. The misery of addiction too often masks underlying mental health issues. In yesterday’s post, I was trying to point out that there are ways to tackle health issues other than drugs. I wanted to illustrate that we have been conditioned to believe in this country in the masking of symptoms because in the short run, this practice is available, quick and convenient.
My daughter was put on so many drugs, each prescription overlapping with the previous one, each one leading to the need for another. As one staved off a symptom it created a cascade of others. For my daughter, it started innocently enough with depression meds. The antidepressants made her nervous. She was in high school so hormones and general peer pressure mounted. She went to college and alcohol clicked into place. (It just takes one drink, one shot of heroin, one benzodiazepine for this vulnerable group of people to become addicted.) She had a nervous breakdown and benzodiazepines were added for social anxiety and sleeplessness. She was still restless and needed more and more benzos. Antipsychotics were added. More benzos. Treatment centers stopped the flow of the benzos (but added exorbitant amounts of mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antianxiety, antipsychotics, etc.) and she had severe withdrawal. She is still suffering from the withdrawal symptoms. Years later and back on benzos.
I seems to me that in the US, it is always meds first – often before a concrete diagnosis is made. First, my daughter was diagnosed with depression, then the diagnosis was adjusted to bipolar. Addiction was added. Finally, when the meds didn’t work, the diagnosis was shifted to borderline personality disorder. Yet, the doctors continued to medicate her. BPD is a personality disorder, not considered treatable by meds. The symptoms are weeded out, depression and anxiety in particular, and masked with drugs.
Surprisingly, I do believe in the benefit of meds for short term relief. Seroquel and Zyprexa saved the day for my daughter more times than I can remember. But, neither are long-term options.
What happened to my dog (yesterday’s post) was not magic. No more than the journey that Rupert Isaacson took his son on was a flight of fancy. ( The Horse Boy discusses the trip that Mr. Isaacson took with his autistic son and wife through Outer Mongolia to seek treatment by traditional healers – shaman) His son wasn’t cured of the illness but the symptoms became manageable. In fact, life is significantly improved for the family.
There are a variety of ways to go about healing. Doctors in this country do not have all the answers. Sometimes we have to look outside the box to find help.
I really do feel that the established medical world strips the patient of the basic right to know and make decisions about their own care. The information about bipolar and BPD was given to my daughter like it was a dirty bag of laundry. Heavy and unwieldily. Unconscionable.
We, the caretakers, are too often ladened with the burden of teaching our extended family and friends about what has happened, many of us nose-to-nose with the stigma of mental illness for the first time. It is no wonder that we embrace a quick fix. “Look she’s better!” (A little groggy, unfocused, wobbly but here with us!)
I just wish there was a better way than masking the symptoms of mental illness with truckloads of pharmaceuticals.