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Andrea DoSantos

"What led to the mania was actually an antidepressant. I was prescribed "PROZAC," which after a month or so got rid of the depression but lead to a full blown manic episode. The fact that I had the mania as a side effect of Prozac was what made me decide that I couldn't accept their diagnosis as bipolar."

Born:

25 January 1977

Contact info: Victoria, Australia

Currently doing: Andrea is an artist, personal empowerment trainer, and is studying to be a community development worker.

Mental health experience: Inpatient, Commitment, Psychiatric Drugs, Solitary Confinement

Psychiatric labels: Bipolar Disorder

Psychiatric drugs taken in the past: Aurorix, Prozac, Lithium, Retinol, Tegretol

Off psychiatric drugs since:

1999

Recovery methods: Self-Help, One-on-one Therapy, Diet, Exercise, Psychiatric Drugs, Social Activism, Spirituality, Meditation, Art/Music Trusting my own understanding of what lead to my manic episode (a reaction to Prozac) and dismissing the Bipolar label that had been placed on me by the Mental Health system here in Victoria, Australia.

Greatest obstacle: (none stated)

Brief History:

I just came across the Mindfreedom site and was delighted at what I found there! Personal interpretation of mental illness experience and informed decision-making of treatment are key factors to recovery and I believe the only way to turn a breakdown experience into a breakthrough. It leads to self-empowerment and a new way of living life :) I can not express the relief that someone has set up a project to share and encourage this kind of self work -- and that others have come to the same conclusions that I have come to through my own recovery!

For now I concentrate my efforts on consciousness-raising mental health issues via art and articles. I recently wrote a book about my experience of Manic Depression as a spiritual journey. Anyways, I've included some of my testimony from a web community I run...

I understood the chemical imbalance which lead to depression, etc. as created by my life experiences: traumatic childhood, chaotic youth, as well as lots of drug use. I figured these were the factors that lead to the depression equation. What lead to the mania was actually an antidepressant. I was prescribed "PROZAC," which after a month or so got rid of the depression but lead to a full blown manic episode. The fact that I had the mania as a side effect of Prozac was what made me decide that I couldn't accept their diagnosis as bipolar.

I was told I would never have a normal life again and to expect to be back in the psychiatric ward within 2 years... I don't think relaying this kind of information to people who have been diagnosed actually benefits the person any. If a professional person in the field of your condition is telling you that there is little chance of recovery -- it tends to destroy any hope you have of getting better.

After experiencing the wonders of mania: quite a rush (sort of like running on pure light realm), I was given Lithium for the first few months after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Lithium managed to help me withdraw into a world of silence and immobility -- the natural depression I felt after having had mania for a month (what goes up must come down after all) was not eased by the Lithium. Instead I had to go through the depression and the impotency created by the drug. I did not speak a word for 3 months and barely left the house in that time. Things were very foggy and the only thing that was real was my desire to end the darkness.

I eventually stopped taking Lithium and was put on Tegretol. In total I took Tegretol for 2 or 3 years and it did what it was meant to do: created emotional/psychological/chemical balance so i neither had mania or the depression to contend with. During the first year of Tegretol I also did behavior changes- things like assertiveness training, changing the people I hung out with, getting off all the other drugs- I figured let the Tegretol take care of the chemical factors so I could work on the outside factors that I saw contributing to the disease.

I think its been 3 or 4 years now that I've been off all medication and have had no relapses of the bipolar condition. Not everyone is the same and not everyone is meant to be off all medication.

The other thing I need to say is I had my doctor's support in getting off medication. The process towards being able to be medication-free was not an easy one -- it really meant I had to look at my life and identify the factors that lead to chaos and unhappiness -- and then systematicly take those factors out of my life and build up the skills so I could cope with the day to day. But I did make it. I do get depression from time to time (when I first noticed a pattern in my depression I got really scared thinking the bipolar had come back- but I soon realized it was PMS and now take a herbal medicine for that.)

The only other time I have had anything suggesting my bipolar condition was when i was in Uruguay. I think this is more because the circumstances over there with my living arrangements were very similar to the envioronment I grew up in and hence this triggered the same symptons I experienced when I was younger. Interesting how in my expeirence there is as much environmental factors to this condition as there is chemical- but that's a whole 'nother rant.

Year told:

2002

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Geetha Rathnamala, psychiatric survivor

Geetha says, "I am an Indian-American psychiatric survivor from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am proud to be a MFI member because I believe in the power of individuals working together to bring about a better world in which uniqueness, fundamental human rights, and different states of consciousness are treasured." MindFreedom launched a MindFreedom Shield campaign against the involuntary psychiatric drugging and lock-up that Geetha experienced in 2010.
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