On your mental health

The person I’m sleeping with is convinced that my mother is a monster. He’s never met her. All he knows is that at the age of twelve, I was taking paxil, lamictal, Ritalin and 200 mg of trazodone to sleep.

All of those drugs were prescribed by a psychiatrist and I don’t believe my mother wanted to hurt me, but I’m starting to think my boyfriend has a point when he says she “poisoned” me to make me easier to deal with.

He’s convinced that this “abuse,” which lasted for years, has permanently altered my brain. I have been mostly unhappy since I was 12, so I wonder if he’s right: I have a lot of trouble with my emotions and relationships; although I’ve never done anything intentionally cruel, I am not an easy person to know. I’m sure I meet the criteria for being a toxic person.

He thinks I should find a doctor that will help me detox and deal with underlying problems. I agree. I had been thinking about that exact thing for years before I met him. But I actually don’t know how to live without drugs. When I’ve tried coming off them before, I was overcome with despair and self hatred. I have been hospitalized twice, both times after coming off the meds. (Mental hospitals, by the way, are incredibly dehumanizing and abusive, as you probably know)

So I’m not sure what to do. On some level I’m choosing between my loyalty to my mother and my trust in this man, right?


I’ve got a bad feeling about this guy. He sounds awfully controlling, especially for someone who rises to the level of “the person I’m sleeping with.” As a general rule, I don’t let dudes I’m regularly fucking have any kind of opinion about my mental health. Who is this guy you hesitate to call your boyfriend? Where the hell does he get off telling you jack shit about your medication or your mother? Seriously, if he’s making you feel like you have to choose loyalties between him and a family member (particularly one he’s never even met) then stop sleeping with him and run.

Also, we need to talk about how you use the word toxic. Stop referring to yourself like that. You have a mental disorder that causes emotional dysregulation, and yeah, it’s probably wreaked havoc on your past relationships, but that doesn’t mean you’re toxic. It means you’ve got some problems with your neurochemistry, some of which might best be solved with medication. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with being on mood stabilizers. It doesn’t mean you’ve been poisoned. It doesn’t mean you need to detox. (Again with the idea that you’re somehow toxic.) Clearly, you’re someone who benefits from the meds, and again, you shouldn’t be made to feel bad about that. Quite frankly, this guy is kind of an asshole for thinking he knows better than your treatment team.

I understand the desire to live life without the drugs, but you have to consider what that has meant for you in the past and what that might mean in the future. If you spent the next couple months slowly coming off your medication under the strict supervision of your doctor while concurrently starting some kind of behavioral therapy, that might prove to be a worthy endeavor. At the same time, you might have another episode and have to go right back on the medication, perhaps even involuntarily. You have to be in the mindset where that isn’t failure, where it’s okay to need a little medicine to live your best life.

Oh, and one final note. Your mother was not an abusive monster for taking you to a psychiatrist at age twelve. That was her taking care of you. That was her loving you. That was her dealing with a difficult situation as best she knew how. I’m not hearing that she whacked you upside the head with a bunch of chemicals just to make you docile. I’m hearing that you have a genuine disorder that bears significant consequences if left untreated, one that has continued into adulthood. Again, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re broken or toxic or somehow less worthy of leading a normal life. It just means you were dealt a shitty hand, and you have to take care of yourself thoughtfully, responsibly, and without the input of douchebags who think that sharing your bed somehow grants them a medical license.


39 thoughts on “On your mental health

  1. M says:

    Perfect response. It made my heart hurt to read that this guy would actually call your mother a monster. There’s nothing wrong with needing medication. I hope you ditch this guy – or at least stop taking his terrible advice.

  2. LW says:

    I ditched him after he called me a whore for having had ten sex partners. This was after I declined to have sex with him. I’ll never see him again.

    • The Coquette says:

      What a piece of shit. Good for you for kicking his ass to the curb. Be wary of any dude who wants to “fix” you, because damnit, you aren’t broken, and you deserve so much better.

      • coskel says:

        or who try to slut shame you.
        I have had um *cough* a lot of sexual partners and a current gentleman friend told me he was proud of me, because he likes sex with experienced women. We have great sex and a very open communicative relationship.

        10 is a very small number. If someone tries to shame you over 10, that points to their own sexual insecurities.

        Find a guy who will revel in the fact that you own your own orgasms/love BJs/kink/whatever your flavor is.

        Fuck that noise for real.
        Guys, the reverse is true as well.
        Don’t assume all women want a big one and multiple orgasms at the drop of a hat.

        Find your flavor and be GGG as another advice columnist wisely says.

    • Kelly says:

      We all start taking damage of one kind or another the very moment we implant in a womb. It doesn’t have to define who you are, though.

  3. Betsy says:

    I mean… whatever issues/broader questions you may have with medication (speaking for myself, it’s something I question with my own treatment), this dude is definitely not the right catalyst for that sort of reflection. And if you decide to keep taking meds, that’s your call. But I hear you dumped him so hooray!

  4. Ashley says:

    i somewhat disagree with coketalk’s response, out of personal experience with my ex girlfriend who was in a similar situation that the OP is in, as well as my own personal mental health struggles. my ex was put on heavy duty benzos and other mood stabilizers from a similar age and although she was very, very smart, she struggled in college because she couldn’t stay awake in class or awake enough to do her classwork/homework, etc, which made her life even more stressful since she’s here in the US on student visa and can’t fail out or shell be sent home to her abusive mother (her words, not mine). because of ridiculous US drug laws, she couldn’t be weaned off the meds properly since they’re a controlled substance and her script (and meds) were from another country. so she tried to do it herself, while we were dating, which was an absolute nightmare. the amount of times she told me she wanted to kill herself during this time period was completely nuts. and that was more so from not properly taking benzos (trying to wean herself off it without supervision) than her innate feelings. psych meds can really fuck you up especially when youre trying to get off them, is essentially what I’m saying here. and her mom (in her words) drugged her up so shed be easier to deal with. both of her parents are psychiatrists in her home country. i ultimately ended up breaking up with her after the drama in her life was overtaking my own (we were only dating a few months at this point, and the relationship was TOXIC) and she attempted suicide and blamed me in her note. thats enough of that for me, i wont be blamed for someones suicide attempt especially when i did nothing to her to deserve such a thing. i myself have anxiety problems, and I’ve avoided seeing doctors about it because all they want to do is fucking put you on addictive medications that fuck your brain up. some people need that to function, I’m doing my best to avoid it. i don’t want to be a profit margin for big pharma my whole life – i know quite a few people with benzo addictions, who were prescribed them for medical reasons (just like painkillers) and then ended up being unable to live their life without them. benzos aren’t meant for long term use, they’re meant for acute use. i think its really telling that the US is the largest consumer of medication that outpaces every country out there – why?! how is it that someone in another country can handle their mild to moderate mental health problems without resorting to pills, yet here in america were told to sit down, shut up, follow the doctors orders, and swallow the pill? $$$$$ thats why. thats what a for profit medical system creates.

    now, i notice youre not on benzos, and thank god for that since that shit is pretty much as bad as opiates if youre trying to get off them (and unlike opiates, withdrawal can actually kill you). but it seems like half the drugs youre taking are just to combat the side effects of the drugs. paxil makes sense (and comes with its own problems), but why lamicital? why seizure medication, do you suffer from seizures? if youre bipolar, which is its off label use, why are you on paxil or trazadone, both of which have warnings about bipolar? and then, the ritalin, is it because your brain is in a fog from the drugs and can’t focus / youre tired from the exhausting zombie inducing seizure meds and need energy to function (that was my ex’s problem with benzos, she needed uppers to function)? or do you actually have attention problems that are unrelated to the other drugs? and then you write that your take trazadone to sleep, well duh, thats because ritalin is legalized speed and you need something to make you sleep after that shit. youre taking drugs to mask the side effects of other drugs. thats our healthcare system today, taking drugs that don’t even work well (antidepressants are no better than placebo for most people, meanwhile talk therapy actually works) and then taking more drugs to combat the side effects. god forbid our health insurance industry would actually cover talk therapy – nope, only pills.

    medication is the answer for some people, and theres nothing wrong with that, but its certainly not the answer for all people. and just because a doctor – a person in position of authority – tells you that you need something, doesn’t make it true. i was hospitalized in a mental health ward for suicidal thoughts after taking a benzo for a panic attack (my ex girlfriends benzos that she left for me since i had panic attacks but no health insurance) and then waking up to a suicide note via text from the ex. “Mental hospitals, by the way, are incredibly dehumanizing and abusive, as you probably know” is the truest statement out there. the amount of fucking pills they put me on (none of which I’m on now) was ridiculous. coming up with all sorts of diseases i don’t have. and then worse, blaming my problems on my weed use? unbelievable. i had a stressful life, that was the disease. stress. take stress out of your life, your mental health symptoms will improve. its not easy, i made major fucking changes in my life, but I’m doing a lot better. i moved away from a home life that was miserable, to a state where I’m happy, and a job that doesn’t stress me out too much, and lots of nature. nature is the cure. but you can’t put a price tag or profit margin on that – yet.

    if you want to live your life without being on meds, by all means try to get off them with medical supervision of an open minded doctor (hard to find!!!) and non medication therapy from a CBT therapist (a good one is also hard to find! most therapists just want you to a psychiatrist to go on meds, and worse, insurance wont cover it). its not going to be easy, I’ve had a few friends over the years who were medicated young for mental health issues who struggled to get off the meds as adults. the withdrawal symptoms are very real and way worse than advertised for most people. a few days of flu like symptoms my ass. more like a few months of brain zaps and emotional instability, is the way my friends put it.

    some substances i would look into, to get off the prescription drug train, include 5-htp (supplement found in drug stores and supermarkets) and psychedelic mushrooms. 5-htp has been extremely helpful for me in dealing with anxiety (and as a welcome side effect, i haven’t had migraines since I’ve been on it which is great because you can’t mix it with the migraine meds prescribed to me), costs me $15 a month and i haven’t noticed any side effects besides helpful ones, and I’ve gone a few days without it and i didnt feel any withdrawal symptoms either. but its helpful, 5-htp converts to l-tryptophan in the brain, which is the same substance that you get from eating chicken or turkey – leading to that full, tired, happy feeling after thanksgiving dinner. since I’m a life long vegetarian, i do not get much l-tryptophan naturally. also look into vitamins in general, particularly the Bs, they have an effect on mood. we don’t eat well in this country – lots of shitty processed food full of fat, sugar, and salt, and little nutrients. we need those nutrients not just for our organs to be healthy but for our mood as well. and as for psychedelic mushrooms, theres a lot of promising research on that regarding depression and mood disorders, tons of anecdotes as well on sites like erowid. i personally had one good experience and one bad experience with mushrooms, proper dosing (start small) and your environment and who youre with are key to having a good experience. of course though – to have a successful time with psychedelic mushrooms you have to have anti depressants out of your system for a few weeks/months or they don’t work at all – something about the anti depressants blocks the psyclobin from working, so you get no trip at all. and also, consider weed. it helps some people greatly, and other people it doesn’t work well and creates more problems (particularly with anxiety). it might not work properly until after youre off the pharmaceuticals. and the biggest, best drug of all in terms of treating mental health is not even a pill: it is the chemicals released in your brain after exercising. so exercise more, find a sport you like and go with it. runners high is real (and not limited to just runners). be outside more, and away from screens. nature, exercise, and eating well (more colorful fruits and vegetables, less packaged garbage) will solve most of your problems or at the very least make them more manageable.

    sorry, not sorry, for my dissident opinion regarding the “trusted” white coats. doctors aren’t gods, they’re just as human and prone to error (as well as corruption and bribery by pharmaceutical companies) as everyone else. their white coat and years of group think education about treating diseases in a compartmentalized fashion doesn’t make them right (as proven by the rest of the world not popping pills like we do). only you know yourself best, and if you think its time to get off the meds, youre probably right. just don’t do what my ex did, DO IT UNDER SUPERVISION. read up on what to expect regarding withdrawal symptoms before you start so you can rationalize what your feeling and hopefully not panic and instead be prepared for a few weeks to months of struggle. do not be bullied by the white coats telling you that you NEED the medication, or that their way is the only “right” way. only you will know if you need it. and maybe you will, but you wont know until you really try to get off them and plan it out well so that you hopefully don’t end up back in the hospital. and do cognitive behavioral therapy or related talk therapy. don’t skimp on that. youre going to need it during this time of transition.

    • Ashley says:

      btw, i meant to add, before anyone calls me a quack because i suggest a lot of things quacks suggest (like supplements) – my own white coat highly regarded neuropsychiatrist was the one who told me to take a bunch of different vitamins to help with migraines and mood stabilization, and my good friend (who suffered from severe depression and ultimately passed away from drug addiction) who was a Phd candidate in neuroscience at a major research facility was the one who told me about 5-HTP years ago when i was having a bad comedown from MDMA. MDMA can cause serotonin syndrome, 5-HTP helped alleviate it. i didnt take it again until this summer during a stressful breakup, i can’t believe how helpful it is with anxiety. and unlike anxiety meds, it doesn’t dull or tire you out (at least not for me, i take 200mg time release).

      • Kittyninja says:

        Then you must know to take green tea extract along with 5-HTP. But yeah, you do sound a bit quackish. Less is more, ya know. As someone who isn’t on medication but doing a lot of therapy, there are ways, but seriously try linking to the research instead of asking us to look on erowid for our data. It removes the quackery.

        Go get some green tea extract and take some time off 5-HTP (your friend probably forgot to add that you don’t want to be on it all the time). Let’s hope OP is able to wean to the level medication that is comfortable for her to lead a happy, successful life. She sounds like a smart lady that knew to question some bullshit, controlling guy.

        A somewhat valid opinion behind a shitbag dude doesn’t mean she should take it up. It’s covered in shit.

        • Ashley says:

          well i wasn’t saying hey do all these drugs, but more like hey, look into this list of drugs, maybe one will work for you better than the shit that is NO BETTER THAN PLACEBO and comes with awful side effects.

          the dude she’s dating can fuck off, and she already knows that.

          oh, and erowid isn’t a legitimate source? its the only legitimate source (well along with blue light, which is more for party drug safety) for information on illicit drugs that obviously don’t get government funding for research since they’re schedule 1. I’m sure the OP has google, she can look up the more solid research from researchers in the 1960s who have gone back into the research more recently. but again, theres no double blind long term peer reviewed study on it, stamped and approved by the establishment, so therefore its not legitimate to people like you. marijuana has no medical use either, being schedule 1. lol.

      • RocketGrunt says:

        I’m just going to respond to a bunch of random things in your comment in one paragraph. Lamictal is commonly used for bipolar disorder (I’m taking it) and people have sleep problems without it being a side effect of Ritalin (I took trazedone for a few years). When I go off my meds (which I periodically try every few years), I don’t become unstable because I’m withdrawing from medication; I revert back to how I was before I started taking meds. There’s a lot of discussion and research about cultural differences regarding mental disorders that’s way more complicated than a conspiracy theory about drugging the population (and there are plenty of people in other countries who need and use these prescriptions). It’s pretty common knowledge that exercise and proper nutrition help with mental disorders and doctors recommend that as well as medication. Also, are you seriously suggesting that someone go off her medication which, as far as we can tell, is working for her and instead experiment with halluncinogens as a treatment? I’ve done LSD, and a mood stabilizer it is not.

        • Ashley says:

          “When I go off my meds (which I periodically try every few years), I don’t become unstable because I’m withdrawing from medication; I revert back to how I was before I started taking meds.”

          thats you. youre one person. plenty of other people, after a few weeks of being off the meds, feel better. some people get shit doctors who write them prescriptions on top of prescriptions to combat an issue that could be solved with therapy, because THATS WHAT INSURANCE COVERS. most insurance doesn’t cover therapy! and if they do, its for a handful of sessions when you need months of sessions to make any improvement. i would know, because my broke ass fucking paid out of pocket. some people really do need the meds, i guess youre one of them. but the US over medicates plain and simple. we outspend everyone on medication per capita, we take more pills than anyone else, and yeah – it is a culture problem. other cultures accept that a pill isn’t a magic bullet. other cultures have free universal health care and actually care for their mental health patients instead of 15 minute prescription writing appointments.

          and i specified psyclobin mushrooms, not LSD. big difference. bigger difference – i suggested a smaller dose, and while i didnt outright say it, i meant to say microdosing so that theres no trip at all, just the medical side effects that help alleviate mental health problems. although theres an argument that having a larger dose (one that someone would do recreationally) also works if done right, but is more likely for someone to have a bad reaction to. hence the start small.

          and the meds aren’t working for her. “He thinks I should find a doctor that will help me detox and deal with underlying problems. I agree. I had been thinking about that exact thing for years before I met him. “

          • WhoAmI says:

            Psilocybin sounds extra risky to me, microdosing or not. Some people are totally transfigured – for better or worse – after just one small trip, and you can experience effects even years afterward (with higher chances of it happening the more times you take some). I mean I don’t know jack shit about the real virtues of microdosing, I’m very doubtful about it and all, but even LSD sounds safer a drug to microdose, mood and personality-wise.

  5. Kimberly says:

    I agree that this person sounds controlling. Our knowledge of how children’s brains work and how to help those who need it is changing quickly. Close attention needs to be paid to young people because of their brain development and changes that can require changes to medication.

    I have lived with potentially life threatening interrelated chronic conditions. Once a year I have a sit down meeting with my doctor to review all medications prescribed by all doctors and dentists, new research findings, and my overall treatment and emergency action plan. For me it has meant little tweeks here and there. I recommend anyone taking any type of medication regularly set up some system of reviewing this with your doctor including lists of medications you can’t take while on your medication. Our knowledge is always expanding and something that was thought ok when you start a medication might be a known problem a couple years later. And there are always new medications and new doses.

    A similar review for 2 different older relatives found their mental decline/dementia was actually drug interactions. Adjustment to medication that was compatible for the different conditions resulted in increase mental compancy. This contraindicated prescriptions happened even though all doctors were given a list of medication.

    I had a 2nd grade student who had a beak down and thought snakes were falling from the sky because an antibiotic prescribed by a dentist was contraindicated when taking another medication he was on all the time. It got by the dentist and the pharmacists both had lists of all the medications he was on.

  6. Chris says:

    Going to a doctor is above and beyond caring. Was the medication too much? Probably, but I’m not a doctor.

    When my second child was 6 we brought her to a doctor because she was having night terrors. The solution – ditch the trundle bed (with the super scary dark space underneath the main bed) and get a bunk bed.

    It helped, and without going to a shrink, we’d have never thought that her sleeping situation was part of the sleeping situation.

    Writing that, I sound stupid, but I generally contend that parents are.

  7. Marg says:

    I’m glad you’re not with this dude anymore – really sounds like you’re better off without him. Kudos on looking out for yourself on that one!

    When I think of a 12-year-old on a lot of meds, I think – immediately – about parents who are struggling and trying their best to find solutions. Sure, there are biological disorders which could underpin some really difficult behaviours (see: ADHD, ASD), but that cocktail of meds you were on? My best guess is that your mom struggles a whole heap with others’ (and HER OWN) ‘negative’ emotions. You’re upset? Don’t be. Crying? Stop. Angry? Get a hold of yourself. And you know what? I bet she was doing her goddamned best and that your and her pain was just unbelievably overwhelming for her. Unfortunately, her responses also told you that you shouldn’t be feeling the shit you were feeling. This = emotional invalidation. Emotional invalidation over a long enough period + sensitive temperament = emotion dysregulation (source: Marsha Linehan).

    Makes sense that in a romantic relationship you keep looking to the other for validation. You haven’t had a good training ground in finding out what YOU think and looking after your own needs.

    There is nothing wrong with you.

    There is nothing wrong with you and also you have some work to do on your mental health. I’m a big advocate of DBT programs – they work. Or even therapy + mindfulness practice if you can’t access DBT. And hey, maybe medication helps you get there too.

    There is nothing wrong with you and you are loveable and also there’s some work to do.

    As someone who also has a sensitive temperament, I send you hugs: The world isn’t always an easy place for us. x

  8. Soobs says:

    I was surprised to hear someone describe themselves as toxic. In my experience toxic people would never consider themselves toxic. Usually they think everyone else is the problem.

  9. Damien Otis says:

    ok so…. tbh you need to tread carefully with this med and mother business. I can’t tell from the post itself, but I had a gf whose parents pumped her full of medication to keep her docile. it’s something a lot of psychiatrists support, actually , depending on where you are. usually happens with old dementia patients getting anti-psychotics but eh it happens with kids too.

    tho the dude’s attitude is equally suspect. he sounds like one of those “perfect nature” ideologists who thinks the “natural” body is without flaws and thus requires no augmentation. well fuck that. all bodies (I include the mind here) are imperfect, some more so than others. it’s just life.

  10. apricot says:

    I wasted a considerable amount of my adult life blaming my moms parenting skills for my issues. I was so angry, it leaked into every aspect of my personality. Then it hit me: it doesn’t matter. It happened, and now we are here, and we can choose to go forward in whatever way we want. I can be happy, if I work hard enough to undo my brains patterns. It’s freeing. Scary, but freeing.

    Glad to see you dumped him, sounds like denying sex from him brought out his true, ugly colors.

  11. Recovering codependent says:

    He is controlling.

    Been there. It’s disguised as wanting to help or fix you, but don’t trust it for a second. A good person does not make you second guess yourself or divide you from your family. Never, ever, ever.

    Your med situation is distinct and your own to figure out. You will know what to ask your doctor. You are good and whole and doing the best you can.

  12. Strangely Rational says:

    I wish my parents had sought medical attention for me when I was 12 and depressed. Part of the issue was that this was in the 80s, and my parents had little experience with or information about my illness – this was in an era when you are told to ignore problems, cheer up because look at all you have to be grateful for, don’t dwell on bad feelings, etc., none of which help with clinical depression. (I also had – still have – ADHD that went undiagnosed because it was only the 80s and I was a girl who was academically gifted, shy, and well-behaved in school, so it’s not likely it would have been caught even when ADHD started becoming a “thing.”)

    I have a 10-year-old son who is having some issues right now, and I’m on the verge of psychiatric intervention if I can’t get control of it. Fortunately, I’m seriously experienced with this stuff (life experience and reading, not formal training) and can give him a level of understanding no one ever had for me. So I have some things to try.

    If it doesn’t work and he needs more, I will try therapy first, and I will absolutely be hesitant about medication, but I will not refuse it for him if he truly does need it. Because I need my medication. The fact that he’s a child makes it tough to make that call, but it also makes it more important to. It’s not good for your mind to be developing around a mental illness, so whatever you can do to ease it and allow your mind to grow normally will be helpful in making you a stronger adult. If that’s correcting a chemical imbalance, then yes to that.

    I’m pretty sure that most parents struggle hard with the issue of putting a child on medication. Of course there are exceptions, but I think for the most part they are just doing what they think is best – and what professionals are recommending – for their child. And in many cases, it is the best course of action.

  13. roschen says:

    “As a general rule, I don’t let dudes I’m regularly fucking have any kind of opinion about my mental health.”

    Why though? Isn’t it kind of inevitable to have an opinion about the personality of someone you’re intimate with?

    Or does “mental health” here imply something stronger i.e. disorders and Coke’s sentence means to stay away from people who think you are broken somewhat?

        • Nat says:

          Even though mental health clearly can/does effect your personality – even personality disorders don’t define it, surely? I would think that people can form an opinion about your personality without forming an opinion on your mental health status/diagnosis/treatment.

          • WhoAmI says:

            Even without a clear personality disorder, your personality forms itself around what happens to you, your environment and your own body. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You can’t isolate it. There’s no “true personality”. When the mental issue becomes so pervasive to your life it can actually make up for the majority of your personality. That’s actually a huge part of the problem for some people : feeling they’re “becoming the disease” or wondering where they end and where their medical issues start. On a more positive side note, it also means you can totally fight back that mechanism (alongside your mental health problem) until it turns into a minor, negligible part of your life.

    • Nat says:

      Mental health isn’t personality and some dude your fucking isn’t necessarily also a friend.

      I think it’s good for friends to talk about their mental health and look out for each other. On the other hand, if it’s mostly a sexual relationship, the person you’re sleeping with doesn’t have to be involved in that. Maybe for some people their mental health is just between them and mental health professionals – I prefer everything to be a little bit more open, but people are entitled to their privacy.

      If your mental health is effecting your sexual encounters, perhaps there is some need to be more open… but if it’s not relevant, it’s not relevant.

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