Listening to Prozac -- New Book

Aug-30-93 02:33PM
By Phineas Narco

This is in response to the guy who was asking for personal accounts of experiences people have had with Prozac.

I've had problems with depression for over 10 years. During that time, there were precious few periods where I was *not* depressed. This started happening in high school. I also had auditory hallucinatory activity start up around that time, which I still have, but is more common when falling asleep or up to an hour of waking up.

On graduating from highschool, I had something of a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for depression. I was put on the drug Imipramine, an anti-depressant (also called Tofranil). Upon taking it, I noticed some lifting in the depression but after a while the depression came back and I tried to kill myself with a drug overdose cuz I felt so bad, and wanted to stop the inner pain. I nearly died, but was hospitalized for a month whereupon I was kicked out from the hospital for violently acting out.

At this point I was put on the anti-psychotic Trilafon (also called Perphenazine) for my voice activity and disordered thinking. I also took Cogentin for side-effects such as 'bouncing legs' and restlessness. This helped somewhat but made my vision blurry. I was diagnosed as 'Schizo-affective'. I spent the next several years going in and out of hospitals, board and care homes, long term nursing facilities, and residential treatment centers. During this time I made a few more suicide attempts. After awhile I got into a room and board house and eventually got my own apartment, where I had a lot of bad experience with roommates.

During this period, I started reading a lot of anti- psychiatry literature and decided to take myself off the medication. I slowly weaned myself off, lowering the dosages more and more all without telling my doctor what I was doing. One day, I went off altogether and called my doctor to tell her that I wouldn't be coming in anymore and had stopped my medication. She was concerned and urged me to at least keep in touch with her by phone.

For the first month or so, the effect of going off of the drugs was somewhat euphoric. It was rather like being high on marijuana or LSD. I had heightened states of awareness, and felt 'trippy' and 'spacy' like I was on some kind of street drug. I would also joke around in a stream- of-consciousness 'Robin Williams' type of way. I felt very happy, even euphoric really. After about a month or so of this, I started to experience mood-swings and my happy moods were punctuated, more and more, with brief intensely sad and painful feelings. This occured more and more and I became more and more depressed and spent most of my time in bed sleeping. My health started to fail as I wasn't interested in eating much. During this time when I was off my meds (about 6 months) I lost about 20 pounds. I also experienced very intense headaches which usually lasted most of the day. Light from streetlights, or even moonlight or starlight, would irritate me and intensify the pain of the headaches when I had them. I started acting very agressive and paranoid to the people around me. I suffered from stomach flu and other illnesses and many times during this period I was sure I was going to die.

Eventually, when things got bad enough, I went back to my psychiatrist. This was hard to do because during this period, when I felt sick I didn't want to go anywhere and when I felt good I didn't think I needed to go into treatment. But eventually I did. I was put on the medication I was on before, and continued on it for about a 6 months. My doctor kept wanting to put me on Lithium but I resisted, because I heard bad things about it like it caused you to be lethargic and gain weight. Around this time I learned my diagnosis had been changed to 'Major Depression' with a secondary diagnosis of 'Borderline Personality'.

Around this time a guy came to my door giving out 'Dianetics' personality tests, which I took and returned to him. I was called into the Dianetics office for my results and I scored pretty low and they said I was in desperate need of their services. I told them I had no money since I was on disability due to my depressive condition and asked if I could work there on a voluntary basis. They thought about this for a couple of days and said alright. They were reluctant to have anything to do with me since I was an 'illegal pre-clear', in their terminology, which meant that I was under psychiatric care and took psychiatric medication. Apparently they had had 'trouble' with such people in the past. 'Illegal pre-clears' could flat-out not receive their service of 'auditing' (which is a sort of hypnosis therapy by which 'engrams', or 'destructive mental tapes' are systematically 'erased' or as they say, 'keyed out'), however I would be able to perform 'auditing' that is to say I could be an 'auditor' although I couldn't be 'audited'.

Anyway, they gave me a long application to fill out, and a form which stated, among other things, that I was not working for the media, and did not intend to sue their organization. I thought that was kind of strange but I signed it. I was given an intelligence test which I scored higher than average on, and a 'leadership potential' test which I scored very low on. I worked for a number of weeks as a file clerk, in the back of the place. This was during the whole Time Magazine/Scientology/Prozac controversy where Scientology and Dianetics had taken out full-paged ads in USA TODAY attacking Time Magazine for their coverage. All of these ads were tacked up on the wall in the hallway. I was having a hard time with mental distraction, depression and apathy at this time.

I noticed in the file system that they even kept records of people who sent back angry letters saying they didn't wish to be disturbed by Scientology propaganda mailings. Other files were very very thick containing records of many auditing sessions and completed courses. All of the course completion documents featured 'remarks' from the 'students' that always contained very glowing remarks about the course they had completed. The comments were extremely similar in tone and words used and even handwriting. Some had bills of several thousands of dollars which were often under the category of 'donations'. Notations were made on these that said 'so and so bought a book but we're putting it down as a 'donation''. One guy would spend all day hand writing 'how are you doing? Why don't you come in?' notes in longhand and signing them with other people's names. There was constant gentle concern about everyone getting enough sleep and having enough to eat. One thing I found out was that Scientology/Dianetics was dead-set against Prozac.

After I soon started working there, I was very loath to go in after seeing a Larry King Show segment on Scientology on CNN. I was called and told them I was a little freaked out by the show. A woman who worked at their 'Human Rights Commission' anti-psychiatric branch-company, named Gail, told me a psychiatric horror story to show me how the psychiatric community was so set against Dianetics and its branches. It seems a psychiatrist in southern California was seeing a child as a client and wound up violently raping the child, and taped the whole thing on videotape. During one of the assualts, he actually castrated the child and recorded it on videotape. I have never heard of this story then or since, but after talking to her, she somehow convinced me to go back in and continue working. I talked a lot to her and her colleagues about my experience in the mental health system.

After a while I became intensely bored with the job and asked if I could trade credit for the hours I worked for going through their 'drug purification' process (for getting medication out of your system) or at least take one of their courses. The word came down that they wouldn't go for it, and when I told them I had no money, one of them asked me if I could borrow the money from my Dad and I just said goodbye and left.

My depression and mood problems continued and a few months later I started taking Lithium. This lessened the severity of the depression but didn't make it go away entirely. It also helped me a lot with concentration although I did gain weight (all the weight I lost during the depression period when I was off meds) and was very thirsty a lot and urinated frequently. After awhile these side effects became manageable, but the depression came back. My doctor started talking about my taking Prozac.

Well, from the Scientology propaganda I was exposed to, I was very reluctant to start taking the drug. I had also heard a lot about people freaking out on the drug and even killing people on it. I did some research--I went to the library and read everything I could about Prozac including a very good book called EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PROZAC. It dealt with this 'violent side effects' problem and showed very well that the conclusion that Prozac causes violence was a conclusion reached by very very scientifi- cally suspect methods. It took a few months, but when the inner pain got too bad, and after reading a lot of material, and talking to my psychiatrist and other people about it I thought it was a good idea to try it and agreed to go on it.

Almost immediately after starting taking it I noticed a marked lift in mood. In fact, it was something akin to the 'euphoric' feeling I described earlier. I was still taking the other drugs as well. This was during the first week or so on the drug. Along with this, was a rather energizing physical state, rather like a 'coffee buzz'. I read in the Prozac book I mentioned that sometimes people who take the drug experience just this sort of thing, but the author ascribed it to 'probably being a placebo effect'. This lasted only the first week or two.

I did notice the side effect of having headaches more often than usual, but these were no where near the intensity of the headaches described earlier. After about a month or so, my depressed state started to dissipate, almost imperceptibly. I started to be more and more active, more and more interested in actually 'doing things' instead of being in bed all the time. It was if my brain were a computer and that tons of circuits, which were previously busy, 'tied up' or unavailable, had started to 'free up' and I was free to use them, and was eager to do so. Clarity and speed of comprehension as well as concentration greatly improved as well. For a while I had trouble with violent thoughts and at first this alarmed me, due to what I had read from Scientology and other anti-psychiatric anti-Prozac literature, but I realized that I had usually had these type of thoughts mostly in response to stress and in stressful situations. It 'seemed' different on the drug though, since it wasn't occuring in such a depressed state as I was used to them happening in. I think perhaps that people on Prozac might have violent reactions, such as being homicidal or suicidal because these aspects of their depressive illness have not been affected by the drug and yet they DO feel the 'freeing up' and 'energizing' effects of it, which make one more inclined to be active. It's just in those cases, this action includes violent action. Even if this is correct, I do not believe it is the same as saying that 'Prozac causes violence'.

I've been on Prozac for about a year now, and I must say that I have never gone this long of a period and *not* have encountered a depressive episode in the past ten years. That is to say it's been about 4 months without being depressed, which is really something to me. I think the people who don't have problems with depression or mood disorders don't appreciate their good fortune. Just to be able to function in a 'normal' way, for me, is an incredible gift. Being able to get a good night's sleep, virtually every night, is a miracle for me. To be able to think consistently, to be able to use my mind, is wondrous. To be able to eat and enjoy food, relationships, sex, learning, just living itself, even in it's most simple forms is awesome. How could I have even *thought* about killing myself? I'm amazed, every day, that I actually enjoy being alive. Amazingly, I find that even aspects of my Borderline Personality disorder are starting to significantly resolve themselves.

Prozac might not be for everyone (the same can be said for aspirin for that matter) but despite with the Dianeticists and Scientologist and anti-psychiatric activists say, I believe that it really has given me back my life.

Phineas Narco

Go Back to Shy David's Depression Page.