When a death occurs, depending on the status of the human life at the time of death, either the attending physician or a coroner are required to list the Cause of Death. There are very specific rules for determining the cause of death. The causes are listed in order of occurrence. Nowhere on this list do you see the term “BWS and Psychopharmacology”.
Over the course of the last two weeks, two valued and loved humans have died of this cause. There may be more I am unaware of, but both of these beautiful women were active in support groups for those suffering from an iatrogenic illness caused by psychiatric pharmacology. Rather than the true cause of death I have suggested, we likely will learn that their death certificate lists Suicide or Neuropsychiatric Disorder or maybe on a far reach, Substance Disorder.
Those three causes of death put the blame on the injured and sick human. If the doctors were honest about what really occurred, the most correct of those listed would be Poisoning. These women were poisoned by following their doctor’s orders and taking medications as prescribed for symptoms that were unable to be confirmed by any labs or imaging. These women believed and trusted their doctors that the medications would not hurt them.
The most recent loss just last Friday was a woman I met, not once but twice, while both of us were inpatient in psychiatric crisis centers. When we were reunited the second time a friendship was forged. We both were in the throes of brutal withdrawals from psychotropic medications including benzodiazepines and anti-depressants. We also had become aware prior to our hospitalizations that it was the medications themselves and the withdrawal from them that was making us so sick.
This beautiful young woman was the mother of a 5-year-old daughter. She was the beloved daughter of caring parents. She was quiet spoken, sweet as southern tea, and had a heart that held enough love for all the world. And, she was tormented by the ravages of withdrawal off medications like Zoloft and Klonopin.
Whatever the method of death, the cause was the symptoms associated with BWS and Psychiatric Pharmacology. Prior to the medications, she had been a vibrant hopeful full-of-life twenty-three-year-old and the world was open to possibilities. Shortly after beginning the medications and taking them as prescribed by her doctors she started suffering from multiple horrifying symptoms. She knew it was the medications, but no one would listen.
She was hospitalized against her will, having the most terrifying physical and mental torture imaginable, and drugged more and more and more throughout her hospitalization. She had been brought from another psychiatric unit where she had been for a couple weeks to the hospital I was in. She was like a zombie yet still beautiful, in a haunting ethereal way. She cried a lot. We both cried a lot. Over the course of a week, we shared a few conversations while coloring. She drew and colored. Her art was just like her, warm and bright and beautiful. In spite of both our horrible conditions, we saw a light in one another.
Not even two weeks later, having had yet another significant run in with suicidal ideation, I was admitted to another psychiatric crisis center. Less than a week after my arrival, here comes Marrisa. Still crying, still broken, still shaking, still breathing and still beautiful. Inside and out.
We talked a lot more in this environment as it was only women and a very small setting. We both had been struggling with chronic suicidal ideation. We both knew it was because of the medications. We both agreed we really wanted to be well and live and love our families and our lives. Yet suicidal ideation is a hallmark symptom common for those who suffer from the withdrawals from benzodiazepines and other psychotropic medications.
We shared so many stories and fears and even things we were really ashamed of because of how the medications had changed us to behave in ways that weren’t in alignment with our core values and beliefs. We talked about how the medical community treats us as if it’s our fault for being sick, yet all we had done was take medications that the doctors told us to, in spite of black box warnings for suicidality for her Zoloft and for my Effexor XR. We took the benzodiazepines for months, or in my case off and on for 3 decades, as our doctors prescribed, in spite of the warnings against use for longer than 2 weeks.
The end of this month will be two years since that first meeting. My heart is absolutely shredded to bits by the news of her passing. The reasons are all over the spectrum. My heart aches for her family who may never fully understand what really happened. My heart aches for my friends who are all reeling from this devastating news. My heart aches because it could have been any one of us. It could have easily been me. I too have been in a horrifying wave of symptoms the last month. My heart aches because it feels like no one outside our groups is listening.
This is NOT due to a psychiatric illness. This is due to an iatragenic illness. The suicidal ideation and depression and bone pain and brain pain and ruminating and intrusive thoughts and akathisia and unrelenting insomnia are all symptoms because of how those medications altered our GABA-receptors and neurotransmitters. But no one that is prescribing them is acknowledging this. They want to blame it on us, the patients.
Please, whatever the listed cause of death is for my friend and the other recent loss in our support groups, please share the truth. That this was caused by medications that we did not get the full disclosure on of how they could destroy our lives and maybe even kill us.
Please reach out to those who are trusted administrators and moderators in the groups during this time of grief. Find a partner in pain and commit to one another through the bad times to call in and give encouragement. We cannot do this alone and those out in the world aren’t ready to face the truth that we didn’t cause this ourselves and we aren’t a psychiatric label. If it is a bad day and you are in a bad wave, do NOT be ashamed to share that pain with another! It is by sharing the pain that we learn the strength we have for one another and for ourselves.
There is no one to blame for this except for the medical community. That is the truth. RIP my friend. RIP to all our friends who have lost this battle. You will not be forgotten! You fought hard and we all watched. Memories of you will always make us smile.