To all my readers,
I feel the need to warn you up front that this post confronts some of the harsh reality of dealing with the anxiety and depression that often occurs in people living on the spectrum.
In my last post, I wrote about how music has been a healing force in my life. However, it was not the only thing I leaned on. There was a time when it was necessary for me to be prescribed anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication to counteract the mental and emotional difficulties that often come with living on the spectrum.
Here’s what I have to ask you: Was there ever a time in your life when prescription drugs were an absolute necessity? Did you discover that you were so messed up inside that you needed pills, only to find out that they would only treat the symptoms and not the root causes? Have you ever felt like you were taking so many drugs that unless you had them you couldn’t function? Feels nasty, doesn’t it? It’s just a teaser for living in a Hell-on-Earth stupor, right? In case you’re wondering why I ask this, I’m speaking from experience.
There was a time in my life when prescriptions were a necessity. The anxiety and depression that I have been dealing with for the past four months was much worse when I was very young. I feel that prescription drugs have their time and place to be used when simply speaking of a problem is not enough and a chemical imbalance needs to be corrected.
I was on at least four different drugs that I can recall, and it was not an easy time for me. Come to think of it, I hardly remember some of those days ‘cause of the side effects that the drugs caused. Every stupor has to start somehow, and it was in 1998 when my own experience with that way of living began.
I was sixteen when my already questionable social skills were dealt a serious handicap. It was the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome that would forever change my world. Even though my mom was still a student nurse at the time, she knew enough to know that drugs were not the only solution. Still, she got me to see a psychiatrist who started me on Paxil to curb the more negative aspects of Asperger’s, or High-Functioning Autism as it’s also known.
No easy times were ahead. One time in class, I made a simple social blunder that escalated in my mind into textbook paranoia. After a girl chided me for some silly remark, I attempted to lash out, but couldn’t get the words right. I soon became aware that I was rambling on about people being out to “get me” and that “they’d regret messing with me.” After school, I took mom aside and explained what happened.
The psychiatrist recommended that the prescription dosage be increased to lessen the chances that such outbursts of paranoid ramblings would ever occur again. In all honesty, I was one mistake away from becoming a probable suspect in a Criminal Minds episode. I give credit to my best buddies and an understanding mother for creating a new “normal” around my everyday quirks and nuances.
The worst of these times came in 2001 when my symptoms grew worse and the psychiatrist prescribed the drug Risperdal on top of the Celexa and Paxil I was already taking. The first night I went to sleep after taking it, I had these horrible nightmares that came out of nowhere. I saw images of a psychotic woman with a knife coming after me and screaming that I was just who she wanted to kill. There were also images of sinister, robed figures with markings on their clothes that told me they were Ku Klux Klan; what was even scarier was that the Klansmen had glowing red eyes and their voices sounded like wild animals.
I woke up from the nightmare and called out in a panic. My mom was able to bring me down from the adrenaline coursing through my veins. The next day, she called the doctor and had the Risperdal prescription removed from my list. Loads of fun that drug cocktail! Turns out that I had a paradoxical reaction to the Risperdal; it increased my feelings of losing touch with reality instead of eliminating them.
Fortunately, I decided that enough was enough. By changing my eating habits and getting more physical activity, I was able to lose the sorry-ass load of seventy extra pounds I carried and decrease my dosage of medications to the bare minimum. Later on, I put away my video game console for a while and started sleeping better. So much better that I was eventually taken off of all the prescriptions in 2006. But the best thing I did was finding an excellent therapist who I trusted with my life.
Today, I can honestly say that I have had a few difficulties dealing with occasional bouts of feeling trapped and being unable to change things. Lucky for me, I have taken my life back into my hands, and I’m now able to find alternative resources on my own to help me bring to light the feelings I have and finding a way to deal with them. By doing simple things like healthy eating, exercising, and writing this blog, I am able to find therapy in moments of personal crisis. I’ll tell you one thing-I love thrill rides like roller coasters as much as the next guy, but that’s a ride I never want to get on again for the rest of my life!
In writing this, I hope that maybe I can save a life. I know that there is support for everyone who has suffered in the way I have. You may not see it at first, but it is there, somewhere in your life! All you have to do is reach out; suffering is not a life sentence. The worst mistake that I made was thinking that I was weak when I was asking for help. I still deal with that foolish pride. It may even be difficult to reach out for help if you hit rock bottom, but for some aspies, rock bottom could mean death. It doesn’t have to be that way!
It has taken me a long time to reach this point, and I am never going to stop believing that things can be better until my natural life is over. Having the knowledge and tools that I have now, I know that I’ll never get to a point where prescription drugs feel like my only lifeline to sanity. Even now, I feel a catharsis for putting these collected thoughts of mine out into the world. As cliché as it sounds, no one is ever really alone, especially not in this ever-expanding community.