Lance the Boil

So, Lance Armstrong has confessed to taking performance enhancing drugs. I’ll tackle his intellectually hallucinatory attitudes and behaviour to drug – taking and cycling another time (this issue isn’t going to disappear anytime soon).

But all this talk of drug taking to improve performance reminds me so much of what the American psychiatrist Peter Breggin calls ‘toxic psychiatry’. At this point I should put my pharmaceutical cards on the table, so to speak.  Abilify, Citalopram, Effexor, Effexor +, Lamotrigine, Mitrazipine, Prozac, Quetiapine, Zopiclone…. These are the tablets I have taken since March 2001 to treat my mental illnesses, to improve my performance. I can’t be sure if this is the definitive list. My long – suffering spouse is convinced that my memory has been adversely affected by my symptoms: whether she means chemically or mentally induced, I can’t recall.

I am one of the lucky ones, for whom a drug regime works. It hasn’t been exactly straightforward, however. Prozac was my debut prescription prescribed by my then G.P. the medic I first told – yes, folks, I told her – that I had depression. The next couple of weeks were not pretty. Sea sickness and dry toast featured heavily. My first, second and third psychiatrists prescribed Effexor – starting  my almost decade long romance with Effexor. Then, later (when my relationship with Effexor was under pressure – not working for me) with my new lover Effexor + But, if the fluctuation in doses was anything to go by, it was a fiery relationship. 150 mgs for long periods, but then up to as much as 300 mgs.

In time – honoured tradition, against medical advice (I didn’t bother to seek any), I stopped taking the tablets – and no one seemed to notice. Not my G.P. (the one writing my monthly prescriptions), not my psychiatrist, my family or friends. 3 months later I quit my (admittedly nightmarish) call – centre job and successfully re – entered the world of mental health work. Then I re – lapsed. Off sick for 5 months in 2010.

Weird as it my seem – once I was accurately diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder 2 (with mixed symptoms) – my (new) psychiatrist took me off the anti – depressants and I entered the wonderful world of mood stabilisers and anti – epileptics. Yes, you read that right: somehow the anti – epileptic drug Lamotrigine helps with my depressive symptoms as part of my current diagnosis. I wonder if that means people who have epilepsy are not depressed….how did they ever even find out that anti – epileptic drugs work for my particular brand of depression?

Now that I have put you in the pharmaceutical picture, let’s meet the American psychiatrist Peter Breggin. He has written that ‘modern biological psychiatry is a materialistic religion masquerading as a science. ‘  He is a leading voice in the anti – psychiatry movement.  This month a  jury in  Syracuse, New York State awarded $1.5 million to the family of Joseph Mazella, a respected basketball coach and Assistant Principal who committed suicide whilst taking anti-depressant (Paxil) and anti psychotic (Zyprexa) medication.  Dr.Breggin was the expert witness for the plaintiff.

Then there are cultural norms which fail to adhere to what western psychiatry class as mental health problems. I have written about the history of suicide in a previous edition of this blog; all right thinking people say suicide is always wrong, right? Not according to tenets of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. According to the teachings of Buddha, suicide is sometimes permitted. In an entry in the The Encyclopedia of Religion, Marilyn J. Harran wrote the following: ‘Buddhism in its various forms affirms that, while suicide as self-sacrifice may be appropriate for the person who is an arhat, one who has attained enlightenment, it is still very much the exception to the rule.’

While Hinduism holds that suicide in the vast majority of cases is wrong it is permitted in rare cases known as  Prayopavesa  – fasting to death. It is permitted to people who have no desire or ambition left, so long as they have no responsibilities.

Jainism is another religion – opposed to violence in all forms – that permits suicide by fasting.  This is known as Santhara.

Mass suicide in Judaism was acceptable in the era of the Roman occupation of the Jewish Kingdom.  In 73 C.E. 960 men, women and children committed murder – suicide rather than be taken as slaves by the Roman forces besieging their desert fortress.

Dr.Breggin questions our selective views of taking one’s life: ‘…in America, aren’t virtually suicidal acts done for the sake of one’s fellow soldiers or for one’s country during wartime thought of not as insanity but as bravery? Why do we think of such persons as heroes rather than lunatics? It seems we condemn (or “diagnose”) suicidal people as crazy or
mentally ill only when they end their own lives for selfish reasons (the “I
can’t take it any more” kind of reasons) rather than for the benefit of other
people.  The real issue seems to be selfishness rather than suicide.’

The Drugs Don’t Work

All this talk of getting old
It’s getting me down my love
Like a cat in a bag, waiting to drown
This time I’m comin’ down

And I hope you’re thinking of me
As you lay down on your side
Now the drugs don’t work
They just make you worse
But I know I’ll see your face again

Now the drugs don’t work
They just make you worse
But I know I’ll see your face again

But I know I’m on a losing streak
‘Cause I passed down my old street
And if you wanna show, then just let me know

Richard Ashcroft (1971 – )

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One Response to Lance the Boil

  1. Nicolas, my dear, I hope you’re still around to get this message. I’m always doing this Apachee dance with suicide myself (“half in love with easeful death”–was it Keates? I never remember. Drugs have killed my memory). Nevertheless, I have soldiered on so far, and I have tagged you for the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Pledge. The details are on the Canvas of the Minds page I hope I haven’t overstepped my bounds. I just think you’re amazing.

    Soul Survivor


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