Posts Tagged ‘SSRIs’

Of the many things which anger me, there is one which has most consistently brought out the Billy Liar-like angry daydreams that have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. It takes a number of forms, and I seem to come across one of them at least once a month without first getting on to the subject of neuro-developmental conditions or “SEN” myself. Yes yes, your wife worked for the council and knows for a fact that doctors cannot help but give out Ritalin to demanding mothers of egregious boys. Ok, so you read in the Daily Mail that ten minutes in a park three times an month cures ADHD. Great, so running does much the same. Wonderful, so your grasp of both history and medicine is so good that you know no such disorder as ADHD existed years ago? Oh, so you heard somewhere that Ritalin makes zombies of children?

Right now, I take 60mg of Strattera daily. I would take more. Until the summer, and for a year, I took around the same quantity of Ritalin. Before that? Well, before that I didn’t function. If all the kinds of thoughts it is possible to have were thought of lengths and thicknesses of taut wire vibrating at a given pitch when struck, my head was like a piano falling down a flight of stairs. I could go on to describe more; to describe the many ways that, directly and indirectly, added up to a situation where it would be hard to state I was living at all. I will not do that here because I don’t feel much like justifying myself to my potential detractors on this issue. I know who they are too well for that.

They can be psychiatrists I go to for help. They can be friends and family members. They can be co-workers, customers. They can, of course, be people on the internet who IMHO their way through those peremptory statements you find out there day after day, knowing exactly how perfunctorily they have been arrived at but being somehow fatigued by them all the same.

In a previous life I worked with kids with neuro-developmental disorders. I guess I have worked with hundreds who were on Ritalin, perhaps the favourite punchbag of idle journos everywhere; the scapegoat indeed of idle thinkers everywhere, of those who are disgruntled in some vague and rather hackneyed manner, most often after a fashion that is not only not radical, but manifestly operates in the interests of all contemporary elites but, perhaps, those in the psycho-pharmacological industry.

I have not generally been on the side of big pharma. I first became interested in the way scientific research is skewed by the power of big pharma when I read about David Healy’s job offer at the University of Toronto being turned down because of his stance on SSRI’s when I was at university in around 2000. Following that, I became very critical indeed of the way our understanding of psychiatric disorders is constructed by psycho-pharmacologists and representatives of big pharma. I could go into this and some other time, I am sure I will. Without making any effort to do so, in fact, I have just now brought to mind at least two instances where this very question has been of central importance in a work of fiction I have been writing, a novel that was more important than anything on earth to me for a long stretch of my life (a year or more in both cases¹).

What is important, here, is that I took an SSRI at university back in around 2000 and though it was a rough time of my life, and one I don’t well recall, it may have helped. Though the chronology of that period of my life remains sketchy to me, it seems likely that it did. Neither this fact nor my current usage of Strattera makes me into some kind of evangelist for an exclusively psycho-pharmacological approach to mental disorders. Far from it. I believe that psych-pharmacology is one part of the picture, and, in many, perhaps most cases, not the largest part. It certainly does not mean that I subscribe to some kind of chemical-imbalance take on mental health problems. In fact, I think that the most likely origin of my own problems, and of those of a majority or, at the least, a significant minority of those kids I used to work with, is metabolic and/or immunological in origin. Nutrition and lifestyle are the therapies I spend most of that part of my time and energy I can devote to thinking on neuro-developmental conditions working to further. I have talked to medicated friends recently about referring themselves to people who provide talking cures, and have given them names. I have supported other friends in reducing their medication. Still, meds have their part to play; they can, if nothing else, provide a short-to-medium-term turn-around that can help people to function in order to start putting those elements of their lives into place. Quite apart from that, nobody needs to tell me how much discipline it takes to implement my own favoured therapies and strategies day to day.

What I am doing right now is the best solution I have yet found in many years of research that I conducted in as thoroughgoing a fashion as I have been able over the more than ten years since university. This is the best I have managed with an army-level of discipline, a “brain the size of a planet” and a great deal of experience working in the field where quite aside from having regular training sessions, I was able to make observations and draw conclusions. I don’t need people who I know to have less than a simple English Wikipedia entry’s knowledge of any one of these issues at the very best, telling me their opinion on whether I should take such a decision as I have.

Believe me, if there were a way to do away with the medication that is one part of my several pronged approach right now, I would have done so. I am not a weak man. I am not an unresourceful man. Neither am I averse to taking a difficult path, if that is what it would be. My budget is tight, is stretched already with the money I have to spend on decent food, and I spend perhaps one half of my rent on getting medication right now. All else being equal, doing away with meds would make things much easier.

The fact is, though, that all things are not equal. If you think otherwise, you probably don’t know what you are talking about. Even if you have some fraction of an inkling of one of the subjects I have had to take on these last years, you ain’t me and you cannot make decisions for me. Back off.

I haven’t written here for some time and though I am looking into pod-casting right now, I might not do so again for some time. Today I had to write something because I came across a post on Twitter in which  wrote about her experiences with anxiety and depression. No stranger to abuse on the internet, she knew she would be slammed for it and that she was giving ammo to her detractors who would no doubt take the opportunity to call her crazy, neurotic, and all those other names we get called for breaching the taboo of talking about our mental health. Still, the abuse she got for speaking out in favour of SSRIs came as a surprise to her. Worse, she was disappointed, as many of us have been, by the people who slammed her for taking the choices she had, and for telling others that medication might help them.

A pox on the houses of anybody who slammed her for doing what she did today. It took guts. And a pox on the houses of anybody who would prevent anybody looking into their options for help when things become too much for them. Medication is one route towards a better life for many hundreds of thousands of people, and at the time of need, it doesn’t matter a damn what caused the problems they have, whether it may be the industrialisation of food, the presence of industrial pollutants in our environment or other civilisational stressors; the only thing that matters is getting help.

¹ I am talking here about novels I worked on under the names Call Them Soldiers and The Thaw, in case I should refer to them in the future or indeed, have in the past.