“Many studies show that depressed patients who stick to a regimen of aerobic exercise improve as much as those treated with medication.” – Andrew Weil, scientist
“…because he felt like a zombie all the time!”
Rufus arrived at his first appointment walking fast and talking fast. He was tall, friendly and had a rich red colour to his hair which I assumed was natural because his eyebrows and three-day scraggly beard, matched. He was simply dressed in blue jeans and a clean, bright-green t-shirt.
Rufus told me in the first three minutes of our consult he was thirty-five years of age, single, worked in IT, lived by himself and wanted to meet someone to share his future. He then added, he had been on antidepressants for over ten years and had decided to get off them right away because he felt like a zombie all the time!
When I asked him if he had discussed with his doctor his plan to stop his medication, he indicated he had indeed and they had a plan which he had already initiated a few weeks previous. He said his doctor told him to go easy and gradually reduce them and to contact him if anything unusual came up.
Rufus then added, it had been going well so far but something had come up he needed to discuss with a psychologist because it was not something he could discuss with his family physician.
I asked Rufus what that was and he replied,
“Ten years is a big chunk of my life…”
“Over the past several weeks I have been noticing how much better I feel…how much more alive. My head seems clearer, I feel more alert, more in tune with the people around me. It’s like I’ve passed through a cloud of fuzzy air and now I’m in the sunlight. It’s really great!” he said with his bubbly enthusiasm and big smile.
“So, what’s the problem you have that you can’t discuss with your family physician, Rufus?”
“Ken, he had been prescribing antidepressant meds for me for over ten years and I have been taking them faithfully. Now, as I realize how much better I feel without them, I’m finding myself upset…even angry that he kept me on them for so long. Ten years is a big chunk of my life, Ken!” he said, the anger rising.
“Rufus, what was going on ten years ago when you were first prescribed these medications?” I asked, getting him to think instead of just emoting.
He paused very briefly before coming out with,
“Sometimes I say the medication is even tougher than the illness.”
– Sanya Richards-Ross, athlete
“I believed I needed them to live my life.”
“Well, I had just lost my marriage and my job and my Mom was very sick. It was like my whole world fell apart within a year and I was just so discouraged.”
“So, you had a few big challenges happening simultaneously. Did the meds help you cope with that time in your life, Rufus?” I asked him, knowing psychotropic medications are invariably well-intended by their prescriber.
“Well, I did get through those times. My ex and I got through our divorce and I did change my career path quite a bit and Mom hung on for three more years before she succumbed to her cancer.” he said in a serious, thoughtful manner, slowing down the pace of his verbiage.
“Had you considered going off your meds before over the last ten years?
“Oh yes! Many times! But, the time never seemed right. I was either having a new crisis in my life or I was stressed about something I thought I couldn’t handle without…”
Rufus hesitated, then continued, even more slowly,
“Ken, the truth is, I think I came to believe I couldn’t function without them. I believed I needed them to live my life.”
“That’s a pretty common experience for many people on most medications for any length of time.” I replied.
“I kind of know that given how many people around me are taking some form of medication for something.”
“..if you rely solely on medication to manage depression or anxiety, for example, you have done nothing to train the mind, so that when you come off the medication, you are just as vulnerable to a relapse as though you had never taken the medication.” Daniel Goleman, author
“You can change how you feel at any second in time by just…”
“Rufus, psychotropic or mind focused medications are, in a sense, different from other medications prescribed by physicians because there are so many schools of thought of whether they actually work, and if they do, how they work.”
“Yeah, they are generally focused on altering the brain’s chemistry in some way so the person feels better. The biological facts are your brain chemistry is constantly changing, adjusting to whatever you are doing or thinking at that second. So you can change it by taking a walk or talking to someone or even having a nap.”
“So, I can change my brain chemistry just by doing something different…is that what you mean?”
It is how the brain works. You can change how you feel at any second in time by just changing what you are thinking or what you are doing, or both.
“That sounds too simple.” he said.
“We have great ability to control how we feel at all times.”
Check it out right now. Recall the best moment of your life so far and I bet you feel good right away because you’ve changed what you were thinking. If you tell me about it, you can hold that nice feeling even longer.”
“I just thought of the time in Grade 7, when I won a drawing contest in my class, and I was so pleased our teacher liked my work and the class clapped….It was so cool!”
“Now, if you decide to remember the worst moment of your life, you can create a bad feeling immediately. We have great ability to control how we feel at all times.”
“How does that connect to my ten years of meds?”
“Ah, your ten years of medications…did you ever consider you spent those ten years learning and demonstrating to yourself that you were in control of yourself and your world?” I asked, wondering if he was ready for the truth of his life.
“Then, I must be a slow learner, is all I can say to that, Ken!” he said, demeaning himself.
“Not really Rufus! You have the same brain as Einstein, but we each need to learn what we need for our survival, for our future in our own way. Let me offer the idea to you another way.” I said, making sure I didn’t perpetuate his illusion of being less than a genius.
“I use exercise as my medication.” -Trisha Goddard, entertainer
“… I was using the time to learn and prove to myself…”
“Since you are sitting here taking with me…that proves there are no mistakes in your past…because you obviously made the right decision at each second in your past to get you to the next second. And that decision-making you have been doing has worked out perfectly for you because you are here right now.”
“Wow! I never would have thought of it that way!” he replied, a surprised look coming over his face.
“We often forget our biological or genetic imperative is survival. We also forget that because of the natural law of balance, every second of our life has a cost…there is nothing free in life, each second of life (pleasure) will have an inherent, counter-balancing challenge (pain). This is nature’s system to motivate us forward.”
“So, you’re saying there was no mistake for me to take those meds for 10 years because I was using the time to learn and prove to myself I could run my own life?”
“Rufus, now you’ve got it! And, remember it applies to everyone else, as well. There are no victims in nature. Being alive proves you are a victor over your past challenges, smarter and strong and so, more ready for your future!”
“When I think of it that way, biologically or genetically, I feel more OK about it…and it makes more sense to me why I waited so long to act, Ken.”
“…now you are smarter and stronger and so better prepared for your future…”
“This is what we often call the wisdom of elders. As humans progress through time they collect learning which they share with those less experienced, to advance our species. Your journey reminds me of the painting that hangs outside in waiting area. Go have a look at it.”
Rufus went into my waiting room, there was silence for a moment and then he returned and sat down, saying,
“Why is that man wearing those little cages on his ears, Ken?”
Rufus, that’s, Vincent Van Gogh, wearing a pair of steel ear-guards, padlocked under his chin. It is by the Canadian artist, Michael Shumate. http://michaelshumate.com Van Gogh apparently lost his left ear in an argument with his fellow artist and friend, Paul Gauguin.”
“How is that connected, Ken?” he asked, mystified.
“It’s the title of the work that, I think, links it to your situation. It is called, “A Wiser Vincent!”
He paused for a few moments, then making the connections, said with a smile,
“So, both Vincent and I, are not victims of our experiences but victors over our experiences…smarter and stronger…I get it now, Vincent is smarter and stronger…just like me!, eh Ken?
“That’s my perception of your 10 year medical regime…now you are smarter and stronger and so better prepared for your future, Rufus!”
Then I added,
“And, if you take that biological truth and apply it carefully to every event in your past that has been upsetting you, then, you will be consciously designing your own destiny.”
“It sounds simple enough!”
“The process is simple. But, the work requires you to apply the same ‘determination’ you used for your 10 year medication regime, to learning the truth about your life and how it follows nature’s laws.”
“Then, I have lots of ‘determination’ practice, so it is just reapplying it there, eh?” he said with a soft smile.
“Exactly, Rufus!” I replied, smiling.
“There seems little reason to prescribe antidepressant medication to any but the most severely depressed patients.” – Irving Kirsch, educator
Until Next time…
Now you know, mind medications are intended to give your body time to rest and to motivate you to learn what you need for your future. They are not intended to help you maintain your current level of awareness, but to take you to the next level which you need for your future. So, talk to your physician about a plan to reduce, and even eliminate, their role in your life so you can design your own destiny. You will be glad you did.
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