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The smooth cascade of anti-psychotic pills rolled out of their container into the trash, slipping into the nooks and crannies of wads of paper, getting stuck inside old yogurt containers, and dribbling to the bottom of the basket.

Good riddance, I thought, as the last of them disappeared into the depths of the kitchen trash.

That prescription was Rispirdone, was one of many that I had just finished slowly detoxing off, along with Escitalopram, Trazodone, Topirmax and Estriadol.

One really nasty chemical soup.

Last summer, housebound due to a broken back, unable to exercise, and forced to cancel my beloved international travel, I slipped into a deep, black hole. Despite regular exercise, eating extremely well, and focusing on meditation, I plummeted. And nearly took my life as a result. Not the first time this has happened.

During that period, I received two pieces of information that galvanized me just in time: my A1C was 5.9, rising rapidly over the last few years. And I had hypervascular nodules on my thyroid.

“Good Management” of Diabetes?

The VA sent me a note along with my blood work that announced, with almost merry congratulations, that anything under 7.0 A1C was “good management.”

I beg to differ. Starting at 5.9 A1C the brain is on fire, and it begins to shrink. Significantly. It worsens the higher the number gets and the longer the condition continues. Cognitive decline becomes inevitable, 220% more likely if diabetes is diagnosed prior to age 65. That two health care professionals would tell me that a 5.9 A1C is “good management” boggles the mind. It took me less than one minute to debunk that patent nonsense on the American Diabetes Association website.

Here was the catch: I am the poster child for how to prevent diabetes. The only factor is my age. I am a very serious athlete, don’t drink, don’t eat sugar or bread or processed foods, am mindful of saturated fats, sweeten with stevia, the list goes on. Not a trace of the disease in my immediate family. Based on all my inquiries, I was doing everything absolutely right. Except this:

Rispirdone has a direct impact on your A1C number.

No One Questions the Meds

I tore into the research with all the gusto of someone looking to win a Pulitzer Prize. Made a list of all the mystery symptoms that had been showing up for the last three years, ranging from light sensitivity to extreme emotional bouts to listlessness to suicidal thoughts. That list expanded to 35 symptoms.

Then I began tracking which of the meds that I’d been prescribed was implicated in each of the symptoms, from kidney stones to ovarian cysts to osteopenia. The results left me stunned. Every single symptom was a side effect, sometimes a serious one, from long-term use of these anti-depressants. Each time I presented with a new symptom, the VA treated it like a brand new disease. No one ever questioned the meds.

I had stopped sweating. Then I couldn’t sleep with more than a sheet on me for months. I lost enough hair to re-rug half the men in America every time I shampooed. Developed kidney stones.The enormity of the symptoms, and the implications, were, to say the least, beyond comprehension. Here I was downing a daily toxic soup of pharmaceuticals prescribed to help me deal with PTSD, and I was getting sicker by the day, while at the same time eating extremely well, exercising up to three hours a day, and otherwise doing everything right.

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We’re Done Here

I sent a polite letter to my caregivers that included the list, the proof, the material from the American Diabetes Association. I wrote that the detoxing begins NOW. I dove into books about natural treatment of depression, invested in amino acids and melatonin to help me sleep. Committed to regular oxygen therapy. Started cutting all my pills in half. Then quarters. Then done.

In no time my mood lightened. Dangerous ugly thoughts dissipated. I felt like working again. A lot. My normal energy returned. My sense of humor returned. It’s going to take time for my brain to right itself, to begin to produce the powerful, natural chemicals after being sideswiped for too many years. That’s a journey I’m happy to take. I demand my body and brain back. My right to live a happy, healthy, vibrant life.

Stop the Drugs. Get Better.

Stop taking street drugs, you get better. Stop taking legitimized street drugs, you get better. You wonder why kids steal this stuff from your medicine cabinet? They are street drugs. And they are killing us just like they can kill our kids.

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, a study conducted by Canada’s McMaster University looked at 380,000 people and concluded that antidepressants can increase the risk of early death by 33%.

“The researchers think the way antidepressants work — by altering the uptake of serotonin, dopamines and other natural mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain — harms other parts of the body.

“They said these chemicals are vital for other major organs of the body, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver, which use serotonin and other chemicals from the bloodstream.” And we wonder why we’re dying younger?

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Sicker at a Younger Age

In an October 23, 2017 Bloomberg article, journalist Ben Steverman notes that Americans are retiring later, dying sooner and are sicker in between. People in their fifties are more frequently reporting cognitive decline, serious health problems and limitations on their daily activities ranging from bathing, eating, dressing, getting out of bed and simply walking across the room. In their fifties, no less. This is horrifying. Cognitive skills are declining fast. We cannot just blame opioids and obesity. No one wants to question the meds. According to Steverman, the only winners here are the pension programs, as folks die younger and there’s more for everyone else.

If they survive, that is.

One in seven women in America is being medicated. One in four over forty. Many of us, me included, accepted those pharmaceutical treatments because of rape, sexual abuse or other trauma. We believed those who labeled us “sick” and took our medicine like obedient children. It’s society’s way of keeping us from dealing with our real emotions: rage, anger, pain, the loss of innocence or trust. Women aren’t allowed those emotions. They’re frightening, embarrassing, “mental” and labeled hysterical. Hell, you would be too if you were serially raped without recourse. Harassed by a boss. Trapped in an abusive marriage.

A Glittering Example

Last year I conducted a two-hour interview with Margo Talbot, one of Canada’s sports “royalty.” Talbot is a survivor of sexual abuse and decades of drug and alcohol use. She literally and figuratively climbed her way out of depression by slamming her ice pick into high frozen waterfalls, and kicking her crampons into the crystals for footing. In her superb memoir All That Glitters, Talbot explained that she eschewed lithium, suggested to her at barely 22 years old by an “old, bald, unhealthy, bearded, stuffed white guy” of a doctor who proclaimed her bipolar. She said she wasn’t interested in trading street drugs for yet another street drug that was sanctioned by society.

Nothing but nothing can heal the mind better than the right food, the right exercise, the right personal work, and reconnecting with Nature. Finding our connection to the whole, from which we were cut off through violence. That and doing what it takes to get out of toxic situations. Learning to set boundaries. Talbot should know. She’s done it.

Outdoor Resesarch- Margo Talbot

Today Talbot is a champion for natural wellness, as well as an international ice climbing guide and speaker on mental health. Her vitality speaks to the choice she made in her early twenties to tough it out and find her own answers. Exercise provides plenty enough dopamine.

The Payoff for Dumping the Drugs

Yet here’s the kicker: the benefits of exercise are dulled by the drugs to the point of uselessness. Hence, obesity, feelings of hopelessness, one drug to lift, the other to control mania, another to boost SSRI levels- all of which have little basis in reality. It is all a lie. That the drugs have effects is proven. Just not the ones you want. I have a list of 35 of them. Each day that passes without them those symptoms abate. My eyes are no longer light sensitive. When I slam weights at the gym I sweat normally. I sleep without drugs. No longer need four caffeine pills a day to stave off the fatigue and listlessness- just to stay on my feet.

Talbot’s story further underscored my commitment to absolute health. The natural supplements I take are based on what is described by forward-thinking doctors who debunk the notion of pharmaceutical answers to depression. I’ve got triple the energy level and none of the brain fog. I no longer lose words and stumble on my sentences.

I’m out of jail.

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A Mind of Your Own

Kelly Brogan, MD, in her terrific book A Mind of Your Own, The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives, takes no prisoners. An MD, psychiatrist, and holistic healer, she goes after the pharmaceutical setup for what it is: big business bent on shoving more pills down our throats and damn the consequences. For a nation that is taking 80% of the world’s pills, getting sicker each day and dying younger, this book is a breath of fresh air. An honest doctor who hasn’t been bought off by Big Pharma.

Because I was distracted by travel, I was asleep at the wheel. Like too many, I didn’t question the meds. Just because a treatment is “standard protocol,” as my VA nurse said, that doesn’t mean it’s either right or good. That statement has become a rallying call for bullshit. I now know more than my VA nurse on these topics. And so should we all. Our bodies belong to us, not the pharmaceutical companies, which have little to no concern about our health and every interest in pushing more and more pills. As Brogan points out, these corporations have a long history of suppressing the results of drug trails that demonstrate that their product have no better effect than placebos. Worse, the way they are marketed on television, people simply don’t hear the side effects, even when they include death. We are pummeled with pictures of wonderfully happy, healthy beautiful actors when just the reverses is more likely. In our subconscious, we want to be that healthy person. Take the pill, it will fix everything, the ad implies.

But I Smoke Viceroys!

Vintage cigarette ad

Just like cigarettes are good for you, as bought-off doctors claimed from the 1930s to the early 50s. Just like sugar is good for you, as bought-off doctors and scientists continue to claim. As America gets fatter, sicker, and steadily sinks into cognitive decline earlier and earlier. For the first time in America’s history, our kids will not be living longer than their parents. Someone is lying. A great many someones are lying, in fact.

I am immensely grateful for shining lights like Talbot and Brogan. Talbot said that she wrote her book for the “little Margo” who needed to know someone made it through what she experienced. She needed a role model. So do we all. She is a role model now for the thousands who have seen her Ted Talks and worked with her personally. Above all we need to find that center in ourselves that is far wiser than any doctor, any social worker, any source outside us. The body wants to be well. Our damaged psyche can heal itself.

But not with the help of pharmaceuticals that damage the body, cause permanent damage to the brain, and makes us far sicker. Giving us illnesses for which our doctors give us even more pills. So it goes on forever, feeding the pharmaceutical profit machine. Freedom is freedom from illness, as well. Most of us don’t need the meds we’ve been sold as miracle drugs if we are willing to care for ourselves better.

And that’s the whole point. Taking care of ourselves.

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Joy is our Birthright

Talbot said “Joy is our birthright.” Indeed it is. It’s hard to live up to the “pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” if we are ill, suicidal, or sick from chemical soup.

For anyone on anti-drepressants, my advice would be to research the side effects. Read these books. Look at the track record of the pharmaceutical companies. Then ask yourself what you really want: a lifetime of being on the pharmaceutical umbilical cord, getting sicker and sicker? Or real health. The latter takes work.

In every way, real health is worth the work. Your life depends on it.