I grew up in a fairly small town in the state of Washington during the sixty's, long before the internet, cell phones and text messaging. We had three black and white channels on T.V., and they signed out after the evening news at 10:00 p.m. My father censored our T.V. shows so we could only watch non violent content and only after our music lessons and school work was finished. At that time, he didn't even let us watch The Adams Family or The Munsters which is far from the violence we see on T.V. today. We didn't see "Ask Your Doctor" ads and didn't live in constant fear of getting sick from the latest designer illness.
As I think back, life was pretty simple back then. We played outside, rode our bikes and participated in sports. We had to share the phone with our siblings, and we knew most all of our neighbors. All of us kids knew that if we had an emergency, we could always turn to any of those people that lived near us for help. As I think about it, that was a pretty comforting feeling. Childhood wasn't perfect, but by comparison the simplicity of those days is something that I will always have fond memories of.
Very few of my friends were from broken families, in fact I can't think of any. I never heard of anyone getting cancer or ADHD, and the only thing we missed school for was a cold or a case of the flu. We were hyper and had a boat load of energy, but we were never accused of having some mental health problem. Anxiety and depression were words I never heard of until my own experience with it after the world turned up the volume knob by about the 1990's. We didn't have health insurance that I am aware of, and we almost never went to the doctor. I believe we may had had three vaccinations, and we rarely ever got sick. In fact, I don't recall ever taking an antibiotic for anything until my late twenties.
As the healthcare system grew in the 80's and 90's, and the pharmaceutical industry gained more control of what kind of treatments we would get for our "disease," drugs became a very acceptable way to treat even the most benign condition. We never even considered what the repercussion of taking an aspirin would be for even the mildest headache. This was the beginning of having drug stores on every corner and discount cards to make sure we were getting the best deal on drug prices. Despite the war against street drugs, we were slowly becoming a world of legal drugs addicts and were being told that this was an acceptable form of drug use.
I know I never thought too much about it, because I never took much of anything until my bout with some pretty bad viruses before they knew much about over use of antibiotics and how they destroy the intestinal flora and our good bacteria. I had never heard of a probiotic until after I took too many antibiotics that didn't work on those viruses, and I got very sick like many other people I know. I got severe a severe candida infection that took forever to clear up.
I didn't know much about the mental health system until someone told me I needed to see a counselor for my childhood abuse issues. I can't say that some of them weren't very helpful to me, but that was before the ushering in of SSRI antidepressants and America's total obsession with not being okay with our emotions. Because I still didn't carry health insurance, I found most of the counselors through people I knew or a referral that I got from a directory that had information about different types of therapists. At that time, they weren't pushing antidepressants for every life upset that might lead to uncomfortable feelings.
I guess I wasn't even aware that there were even any kinds of mental health facilities until in 1999 when I first experienced my first bout of brutal anxiety and insomnia. After admitting myself to a psychiatric hospital when no other healthcare practitioner could tell me what was wrong with me, I sat in disbelief that so many people were there for addiction to prescription drugs. Prior to that, I didn't even take aspirin. That first fateful dose of Ativan began my school of life education through the mental health system that sucked me dry of my soul and my free will, little by little.
Somewhere down that path a little ways further, the prescribing of psychiatric meds was doled out to mental health clinics by the new mental health model, where by healthcare mandates were imposed by managed care. I then found myself having to see a counselor that I didn't even like all that much to get my medications. Once you are in the system, it is impossible to get out unless you get off the drugs which I finally did, and it was liberating. Not only was I free from the drugs and all the problems that they had caused to my health, but I was free of the shackles of the mental health system.
By the tail end of my journey through the mental health system, Obamacare was enacted, and I was deeply disturbed by how much worse and more stressful things had gotten. I now had to spend three hours to fill our paper work that was done by a government worker who had absolutely no understanding of mental health. They were merely a product of jobs created by the government in a failing economy of ever increasing robotic employment, leaving people void of any spiritual connection to their inner creativity to find their own truth and bliss in life. The result was a society of frustrated workers that were working at "jobs" to feed their families instead of being encouraged to be independent thinkers that could contribute to flourishing creative ideas that might boost a failing economy.
Instead, we have a society of anxiety ridden, spiritually bankrupt and unhappy people. This might be great for the drug companies, but for the health and well being of humanity, not so much. We have more material wealth than most countries on the planet, but are sicker, unhappier, less connected to one another and far more disatisfied with most aspects of our lives in general.
When the economy tanked in 2007, I believe it forced a lot of people out of their complacency that the government or Corporate America was going to be there for them in the end. It appears that people are becoming more resourceful at finding new ways to make money and create a life for themselves out of necessity and just plain exhaustion. We can't keep the pace of modern life forever without their being stiff consequences. I found that out after I kept taking pills to keep going, when I should have just slowed down at the point and re-evaluated my entire life and what I really wanted.
My first real wake up call with the mental health system came after I started tapering off the lorazepam and went to a mental health inpatient facility. I was told over the phone and upon arrival that it was voluntary and that I could leave any time. Once I was admitted, I was required to stay until I saw the doctor which took almost four days. They were not at all invested in getting me off the medication I was on, but only in giving me more medications.
I quickly found how few medical practitioners really knew all that much about tapering patients off medication, only how to write prescriptions for more drugs. The tragedy is that many, many people are very sick, and they don't even know that the drugs are what is making them sick. I didn't until I found Roy Katz, the compounding pharmacist that got me off the drugs and saved my life. I didn't believe most of what he was telling me and was in a state of denial like a lot of the people who are still taking the drug. It was inconceivable to me that they could be peddling a drug legally that was more addictive than heroin. This is the tragedy we are facing as most people don't want to believe it either. Even if you want to get off the drugs, there are few people devoted to helping you, and you are really on your own aside from the online communities and support.
Most inpatient treatment centers are very expensive and out of reach for the average person. Even for the person that can afford it, this might not be a viable option for someone coming off something as difficult as benzodiazepines. The treatment centers have to charge a huge fee to cover their expenses. If you need a really slow taper due to extreme sensitivity like in my case, they would have to take you off the drug way to fast if you are on a high dose. The patient has a greater tendency for relapse because they have not acquired the stress management skills to handle life without the drug that take time to learn and incorporate into a daily routine. I was able to add various skills as I was tapering, and by the time I was done with my taper, I had become very proficient at managing my stress and anxiety. There is nothing magical that will make it go away.
In closing, I would like to say that even though benzo withdrawal was THE most hellish experience I have ever been through, I am a much better person for the experience. I'm stronger, more grounded, more aware and I take nothing for granted anymore. I didn't know who my true friends were until this happened, and I had no idea how amazing the ones were that hung in there with me. I have learned to enjoy the simplest of things in life, and I am happy to say that I am finally liberated from the chains of medication dependency and all of the trappings of the mental health system.