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My name is Jelissa Warkentin and this is my true story. I’ve left out the heart-wrenching details because what's more important is to share an understanding of the reasons behind the rising mental health crisis and the missing link in treatment. What remains is a call to action for reform in mental healthcare treatment, long overdue.
There is a growing body within the medical community stressing the need to address the underlying causes of chronic disease. While the corruption driving Big Pharma can't be denied, the responsibility to create change in the current treatment model isn't solely in their hands; the freedom to profit in business is theirs. No, the responsibility to create change will be in the people's demand for safer, more affordable treatments. The time has come to end the era with a focus on "symptom management"—a scientifically outdated method—which shows little regard for micronutrient levels, despite the numerous studies showing deficiencies of this kind having profound implications for well-being.
DOOMED AND MEDICATED
At the age of 21, I sat in a psychiatrist's office where I was told I'd likely have to take medication for the rest of my life to control my manic episodes. In 2008, with a lot of life ahead of me, that was a crushing and devastating blow, life-altering—and dare I say irresponsible on behalf of the psychiatrist. I was devastated by his spirit-shattering declaration, necessitating medication—defeated and without control—"for the rest of my life.” I remember my thoughts then, so vividly, fixated in the conundrum of how I would ever live abroad.
The strangest part of sitting there in the psychiatry office was how, prior to that moment, my subconscious had been the only place I’d envisioned being away for months at a time. I’ve always been amazed by how my Higher Self hinted about my future at that moment. A mysterious being, this “Higher Self.” While essentially being told my dormant seed of a dream was doomed from the start, I buried the seed, in silence and in faith amidst rocky soil, determined to find an escape from the mental prison that prick of a psychiatrist had just put me in.
Thick in the aftermath of my first full-blown manic episode, I didn't know how this aspiration would come to fruition. In fact, an entire decade would pass before I even began to imagine leaving the US at all. Life was a real drag during my early twenties, and before I found my way, I was drugged with a myriad of atypical antipsychotics, psychotropics, sedative-hypnotics, anticonvulsants, and benzodiazepines. Life, for me then, was a real peach.
For a while, the resulting anxiety from the pharmaceutical concoction had me in such a mess that I had a really hard time leaving the house. Sunday morning appearances at the small Episcopal church were rare. I'd get ready to go, sometimes making it out the front door, but most often I wouldn't be able to leave the driveway. If by chance I managed to reach the church parking lot, I probably wouldn't be able to get out of the car. This is what pharmaceutically-induced anxiety looks like.
I have a box of notebooks from “the medicated phase,” filled with deeply morbid antisocial thoughts. Both pre-medication and post-medication, neither thoughts of homicide nor suicide have troubled me—but on psychotropics, my mind became a very dark, scary place. Ultimately we suffer unnecessarily with side-effects like these, considering there are other effective means of treating mental disorders.
I’m not willing to sit quietly anymore while psychotropic treatment continues to be paraded and cloaked as the “the only option” in mainstream mental health treatment. I have done terrible things to myself on these medications, and it’s shameful there isn’t a more open conversation discussing the relevance of micronutrient deficiencies in mental, emotional, and physical health. With suicide being the 10th leading cause of death in the US, and an increased risk of suicide as a well-known side effect of many psychotropics, especially of anti-depressants, there is a need for better treatment in the form of real solutions from the mainstream medical establishment.
Side effects permeate the daily lives of those in treatment and include: seizures, a reduction in the ability to laugh or cry, changes in vision, hallucinations, uncontrollable movements of the eyes, abnormal thinking, hair loss, changes in appetite, sleep disturbance, psychological disturbances, disinterest in activities, emotional numbness, slurred speech, blackouts—just to name a few. Antipsychotics, in particular, are well known for their risk of causing permanent damage by leading to tardive dyskinesia (a condition resembling Parkinson's)—which, indeed, I experienced during my early years of treatment. I just don't understand why side effects like these are labeled as 'safe' with the FDA approving these prescriptions for treatment.
Is it any wonder so many people affected with mental health issues "don't comply with treatment"? Who would with side effects like these? While prescription medication remains the main line of defense in mental health treatment, many people experience recurring episodes having stopped treatment as a direct result of these side-effects. What if there was another option?