Last nights assignment for class was to bring in a couple of representations of something visual. An ad, a picture, anything really. Most people brought in magazine ads. One woman brought in a parody of a pharmaceutical ad for Zoloft. Now, I take Zoloft, have for about twelve years. It manages my depression well and while I do experience some side effects from it, they aren't nearly what I got from say...Prozac?? Anyway. She starts talking about this little cartoon and I can admit it was funny, but then she says, "I brought this in because I used to work at a hospital and a lot of the people that came in as suicides were on these kinds of drugs. They make people suicidal." I almost bit my tongue in half.

I am really proud of myself for the sequence of events that followed. I waited until she was done speaking and then I waited as two other people made comments. Then I spoke up. I mentioned that I am Bipolar and that I'm on Zoloft. Then I stated that for me, being on both my medications is vitally important as they control different parts of my illness. One controls the mood swings and the mania and one controls the depression. Without one or the other I risk spiralling out of control.

What I didn't do (and this is why I'm proud) is call her an idiot who has not idea what she's talking about. I didn't point out that since she isn't trained in the field of psychiatry specifically and has no individual knowledge of the specific circumstances leading up to each and every suicide attempt making a blanket statement about the fact that people are on anti-depressants CAUSING suicide was a HUGE generalization. I didn't point out that a large part of the stigma associated with mental illness today comes from misinformation spread by people just like her. People presenting themselves as "knowledgeable professionals". I was seething on the inside, but on the outside, I was the essence of civility. Score one for me.

Do anti-depressants have side effects? Hell yes! I wake up every morning with cotton mouth. I get tingling in my hands and feet sometimes and occasionally, just for the fun of it, my left eye twitches. I am also one of the lucky few that got the sexual side effect of INCREASED libido. Joy! There are studies that have shown that anti-depressants prescribed to young adults can lead to suicidal thoughts. This is why they have begun avoiding prescribing those medications to that age category. Do medications get over prescribed? Again...Hell yes! We have become a society of the "quick fix". Give me a magic pill that will fix it now. Make it go away so I don't have to deal with it. So doctors just start writing prescriptions. Is that entirely the medical professions fault? I don't think so, I think we, as the public need to bear some responsibility for creating an environment where we aren't proactive enough in our own care any longer.

Before we make hasty judgements and generalizations about these kinds of things, we need to remember that even if a course of treatment isn't right for us, or the people in our family, it may help someone else.


super des said...

You dun real good. Erupting at her and telling her the truth, that she's an utter idiot, would just "prove" her right.

I *am* a trained professional in the field of pharmaceuticals, and the only generalization I will make is to say that everything has side effects. Of course, these differ person to person and drug to drug. It's effective when the benefits outweigh the side effects, as they do in your case.

k, now I'm stepping down off my high horse.

jessabean said...

Amen, amen, amen! SOOOO glad you said something to her. I think I would have just burst out crying. Maybe I'm just having that kind of week.

Again, thanks for spreading the word to the world. We all need advocates!

amber. said...

Wow. I am impressed with your restraint. As a psychotherapist, I become dismayed by these lame, ignorant comments that are thrown around by those attempting to... what, sound informed? Cool? Interesting? Like Tom Cruise? The repercussions of this misinformation can be so damaging... I see it every day with my clients who are afraid to take meds. I'm not sure I would have shown as much restraint. Sounds like she needed a good asskicking.

Inarticulate Fumblings said...

Thanks for this post. Very honest and open. I am currently finishing my MA in Counselling Psychology. There is a huge disconnect between my field and Psychiatrists. Most people in my profession are against pharmaceuticals and I've found that most psychiatrists want to fix things chemically.

I've managed to find a small community who believe in a continuum of care. The foundation being to use counselling over drugs when possible to prevent over diagnosis, and using drugs when necessary. I couldn't agree with you more that every person, every situation is different.

(Here's where I stop before I start writing a thesis).