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Bear

Happy Mental Health Awareness Month, everybody!

In February, I weaned myself off of my mood stabilizer after 13 years of consuming psychiatric drugs — 17 of them at last count. If they help you, you should take them. They didn’t work for me, however. It’s been 13 years of twists and turns that mostly felt like a labyrinthine trip to nowhere.

In 2006, a doctor diagnosed me with obsessive compulsive disorder. So far, 10 or so health professionals have kicked around the word “bipolar.” Cool. Hemingway was bipolar, and so was Kurt Cobain — two heroes of mine, and they both did very well. At least at first.

I started off on Lexapro. The first time I swallowed the white pill, I felt an immediate wave of euphoria. I would find out 10 years later that such a reaction is not good and I should never have taken that drug. Lexapro also gave me chronic diarrhea and weight gain and ushered in what has now been 13 years of invasive suicidal thoughts, every 15 minutes or so, every goddamn day.

When I quit taking Lexapro, electricity shot through my hands and face for six weeks. One time, I tried to bury myself in the backyard under some yard clippings.

I don’t know the clinical significance, but benzodiazepines — I’ve been prescribed four kinds of those — flick on the same little switch in your head as alcohol. Hi, my name is John and …

I flushed the last of the Ativan down the toilet after hallucinating that the cat was dead.

A fun side note: The doctor who described Klonopin as being “very smooth” and something I’d “like” was busted six weeks later for prescribing quart-size jugs of promethazine cough syrup — the primary ingredient in “Sizzurp” — to anyone with $20.

The drugs have all been fairly unpleasant, some more than others. Paxil felt like a jolt of lightning. Seroquel made me feel like I was watching myself happen. Tegretol caused a painful, red rash to erupt across my arms and chest. My throat swelled closed when I took trazodone. Also-rans include doxepin, Celexa, gabapentin, Abilify and lithium. I’m not sure what any of those did.

Prozac made me experience an emotion I can only describe as equal parts joy and rage. A relative said to watch out for joy rage. On occasion, she believes she is a savior come to save humankind, so I listen to her on matters of mental health. Prozac also caused erectile dysfunction but only after I’d already had sex five times in the past two hours.

The last drug I’ve taken, Lamictal, made my vision blurry for six years. And it didn’t work. I’ve punched myself in the face, screamed myself hoarse and made too many tearful middle-of-the-workday phone calls to my mom than I’d care to remember. Sorry, Mom.

When I went to the psychiatrist two years ago to say the Lamictal didn’t seem to be working, he recommended more drugs. Some of them require quarterly blood tests to make sure your liver isn’t exploding. At least one causes drooling, and another will make the user gain 100 pounds.

I’m just saying no.


Read more Bear: coloradodaily.com/columnists. Stalk him: twitter.com/johnbearwithme

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