Amy’s Story

By: Amy

Source: Remembrance and Recovery Project by Mental Health America (Mental Health Minnesota)

I was hospitalized seven times in about a ten year period starting in 1994 when I was 24 years old. I had a terrible experience at the hospital and tried to get off the medications because I was pretty sure they were causing me to be depressed. I was always able to take much less than I was prescribed and still maintain my job, but when I completely stopped taking meds I would be up all night for a few days, start acting strangely, and then be put back on medication in the hospital.

Then, about a year and a half ago, I found the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. I strictly followed the dietary recommendations in the book for a month, then was able to completely get off of the medication quite easily. I did not even have one sleepless night! I wish I could put everyone on a healthy food program. I have worked as a Personal Care Attendant for mentally ill and psychically handicapped people and been a “Habilitation Counselor” for kids with ADHD. Virtually no one is doing anything to feed these people really well, and I am convinced that it is something that could tremendously help them all.

I think I am truly in recovery now. I do not obsess about my food and pretty much eat what I want, but I do notice that when I feel stressed or have been eating poorly for a while I feel much better if I go back to a more thorough and careful diet. The system people seem to want to hear from patients that even though they have been told they will never recover and that they have to take psychiatric medications for the rest of their lives that is okay and that they are recovering from their mental health problems anyway. I don’t think this is good enough. In my case, getting off medication was a goal that I reached. It does not mean that I am blissful and content or financially successful but at least I am not on mood-altering drugs! For me, being permanently on mood-altering drugs just was not “recovery.” I also wondered whether I really needed that medication or was I just addicted to it?

Why was it such a bad thing for me to be on psychiatric medication? It made me feel terrible. The medications made me depressed. I wanted to get back in control of my life and enjoy good health and feel my true feelings. I felt the diagnosis was wrong and that I could fully recover. I was angry and hurt about how I had been treated while in the hospital and I did not want my abusers to be paid by me or my insurance company or the government for being able to abuse and drug me. I feel that people owe it to themselves and society to try to recover. For me, getting well is worth the risk of having “an episode” or drug withdrawal symptoms. At one point I was threatened with being put in a state hospital for the mentally ill permanently if I stopped taking my medication one more time. Was it really so bad, seeing me laughing and crying? Was I really that much of a menace when I became disoriented and lost track of what I was doing? Leading a dismal, unproductive life is a tragedy. I would not take people’s drugs away from them involuntarily if they felt they were being helped by their drugs. But I would ask, do drugs help people avoid living a dismal life? Or do they just make people feel content with it?

I am looking at what’s next in life now. The big battle is apparently over, and I won. And I am thinking “Now what?” I should be getting on with my life, but I am still really bothered by what happened to me. Why didn’t anyone listen to my feedback that the medications were making me depressed? Instead, I was repeatedly ignored and manipulated and forced to keep taking medications that I did not want. Now that I am better who wants to hear about it? My psychiatrist felt that I did not need to be monitored any further so I no longer see a psychiatrist. My caseworker felt that I did not need case management any more so I no longer see a social worker either. At one time I would have danced if I had been able to get rid of these people. But now I feel cheated. We began a conversation. We began a debate and a philosophical discussion. I’d like to continue the conversation we began. I’d like to become even healthier. I’d like to figure out who I am and what I’m supposed to do with my life. I also want these people to see me doing well so that they know and are periodically reminded that it is possible for people to get off medication safely. I even think that people could use intensively nutritious diets to treat alcoholism and other drug addictions, problems which have been a terrible burden for many. So much work needs to be done in these areas.

I hope that my work and success in curing myself will not be ignored.