When we experience trauma in our lives it often leads to PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD involves anxiety and if you seek out the help of any professionals, such as a psychiatrist, their first line of help will usually be medication.
When I sought help for my abuse history ten years ago, I had never seen a counselor, let alone a psychiatrist. Over the past ten years I have learned many lessons about how the medical field and the therapy field treat PTSD. It is quite different.
Therapists or counselors are not certified to prescribe medications so they work with what they are trained to do which is – for trauma survivors – usually a mix between talk therapy, sensorimotor therapy, EMDR, and Dialectical Behavior Skills (which I will discuss more in later posts).
This post is not either for or against medication. I have been on both sides of the line. I have been in a place where there was a time I only had to tell the doctors I was taking a multi-vitamin. Now, when I go to the doctor I have an entire page listing my medications, procedures, and surgeries so I don’t forget anything.
I believe medication can be helpful when it is needed. However, I also believe, now that I’ve experienced it, that some psychiatrists over medicate patients. They are doctors and doctors prescribe medication. That’s how they know how to “fix” the problem.
It has taken me my entire life to start to become an advocate for myself in this area of my life. With the encouragement of my therapist, I began to speak to my psychiatrist about cutting back some of my medication.
I was on a medication for sleep, two medications for anxiety, a medication for mood, and a depression medication. During my suicidal times, which ended about 4 years ago, I learned for my body, I have to be careful which medications I take because they increase my suicidal thoughts. If I take too much of certain medications, my suicidal thoughts start up.
So, I began to advocate for myself that I needed only half of the dose of depression medication my psychiatrist wanted me on because otherwise I would have suicidal thoughts. I knew I still needed some right now as I work through the trauma, but not a heavy dose.
Then, as I began to do my own research on the affects – not just side-effects, but withdrawal and long term effects of my medications, I began discussing going off my sleep medication.
My body needed to learn to sleep on its own without the dependence of medication if possible. It had depended on medication for so long to sleep, and the effects in the morning were so strong I didn’t feel safe driving. Turns out once I was off, I did fine without it.
Next came going down on the nighttime anxiety medication which also affected my driving during the day. I also did fine off half of it. I left half the dose, only because I knew if I was to work off my regular anxiety medication I needed to be on this med still to reduce the possibility of seizures.
Right now I’m still on four medications which fall under my psychiatrist, but over this past year I have worked off three-fourths of my daily anxiety medication. So, though I’m on four, I am on lower dosages than I ever have been.
Four weeks ago, I had to stop weaning off of Klonopin, used for anxiety, because of severe withdrawal symptoms. (Stay tuned for a post on this serious issue.) Since then I have had to stop going off any medications for now, because of the withdrawal.
Once you are on a medication your body becomes dependent on it and you need to follow your doctor’s advice and go off of it slowly and monitor how your body reacts. This is another reason I wish I had known earlier what all these medications were actually doing to my body.
Though some of them are helping me cope, some are causing me more harm than good. The Klonopin made me so foggy and unemotional I couldn’t work through my trauma or express emotion. Some of the other medications are still doing the same thing.
It is a catch 22. I don’t have the answers, but I do know what I have learned. Advocate. Advocate. Advocate. Do your homework.
It is hard when you are emotional and depressed, and dependent on others like your doctor to do what’s right, but you know what’s happening to your body too. We have rights as patients. We don’t have to take the prescription right away just because it is given. We are allowed to do research and we live in a time with the resources available to us allow us to know more than ever before.
Learn what happens when you’ve been on the medication for a long time. Learn the side effects. Weigh your options. I can say now I wish I had been encouraged by my psychiatrist to use the skills I was learned on “how” to deal with my anxiety rather than medicated knowing what I am dealing with now going off the medication. Though I know sometimes we need medication for anxiety the amount I was on was ridiculously high and addictive for my body.
However, for me, I have skills now to work through anxiety, but because my body is dependent I am stuck with some medication until my body can handle going off of it completely.
Again, this is not for or against medication. Only my experience, and yes, I am still on medication. Sometimes is a necessary evil. Just as a heart patient takes heart medication sometimes we need medication for our minds. Just remember, to do your part, advocate, ask questions, know what you’re taking and why. Your health is in your hands.
The advocate page is also found directly on my homepage.
What in your life do you need to start advocating about today?
Note: I am not a professional and this should not be taken as professional advice. This is the experience and opinion of the author.
© 2018 Susan M. Clabaugh. All Rights Reserved.