Crazy Pills and Brain Storms


I am going off my medication.

There are several reasons for this.  The first is the Perfect Storm I unwittingly rowed into.  Without going into too much detail, I ramped up the Crazy, quit my job, lost my insurance, all in the middle of finding out my doctor was retiring from patient practice. Without insurance or a job, I’ve been unable to get a new doctor or have my prescriptions refilled. With the Crazy running increasingly out of control, I’ve had trouble searching for a new job and have ruined the few potential opportunities that have come along. Perfect storm.

So, I’ve known for about a month that my prescription would be running out. I started taking half doses for the last couple weeks in an effort to wean myself off physical dependence. I did try every avenue I could think of to try and maintain these medications and to obtain medical advice, but the medical system in this country is still faulty and broken and plenty of people like me get dropped through the cracks. No biggie, it has happened before.

Regardless, getting off of these particular medications is something I feel I would have chosen to do even if not forced into it by circumstance. Events in my life of late have led me to a great deal of introspection and self-reflection. Certain psychological and emotional issues that I mistakenly assumed were extinct assembled in hordes below the surface before finally coming unleashed upon the world in horrible misery a couple of weeks ago. We’ve weathered the worst of it, I think, but that leaves the hard part: sifting through the wreckage.

What I am trying to say is, I have been looking back, tracing lineages, and introspectively dissecting my own history of madness to try and get at the sources, the core of what is housing and feeding these festering demonic creatures that insist on destroying everything I try to cultivate in my life.  While it is clear that my issues go back ages into the Ryan’s troubled and ancient history, I have truly come to believe that this psychiatric wonderdrug coarsing through my veins, while intended to help curb and treat the problem, has in fact only been compounding it.

Evidence of this is as follows. After having been off psychiatric meds for several years (following the previous meltdown), I finally got myself enrolled with medical insurance and back under treatment for anxiety and depression in the Spring of 2014. During the time I was without treatment or medication, I maintained by either self-medicating or isolating and “powering through.” Most days were okay. Some were bad. The worst were relatively few and far between, but are what drove me to get back under medical care.

Following the initial month of physical acclimation to new medication, during which the drug’s active properties build up to effective levels in your system, I started to feel pretty damn great! Some of the potential side-effects were potentially troublesome, but with Crazy pills they all potentially are. I remembered feeling some apprehension when I read about the difficult withdrawal symptoms patients have when stopping use of one of the drugs, but it seemed to be working so well that I decided the risk was worth it.

Unfortunately, the apparent effectiveness of the medications quickly tapered off, even declined. At first, I just assumed my body was acclimating to the drugs, and that what I was feeling was me growing accustomed to this newness, settling in to “normal.” Soon, however, I could tell I was doing worse. It was not long before my Crazy was back to the level I felt before starting treatment.

So, of course, I discussed this with my doctor. And, of course, the solution was to increase my dose. Makes sense. Everything followed in due course much as one would expect: the acclimation period; effectiveness; plateau; descent. It seemed my body was just too good at adjusting itself to new levels of drugs, my Crazy too proficient at adapting and overcoming. After all, I was an active drug addict for more than half of my life. I have tolerance, yo.

Again, I went to my doctor to discuss. Maybe at this point it was worth it to abandon this pharmaceutical cocktail and try something else, I thought. Unfortunately, I found my doctor in the last week of retiring from direct patient care. Apparently I had missed the notice in the mail. It was just my last bit of good luck that I called to schedule an appointment a few days before his last day. All he could do was refer me to a new provider and give me adequate refills to get through a three-month waiting period. New patient problems, yo.

In the meantime, while waiting until I could get on the panel of another medical provider, all hell decided to break loose in my brain. Confusion. Mania. Depression. Whirlwind of thoughts. Paranoia. Bewilderment. Anger. Violence. Defensiveness. Scorn. Anxiety. Lashing out. Self-loathing. Misanthropy. Suicidal ideation. Hallucination. Destructiveness. Ruin.

What started as a slow and gradual decline soon sled steeply into full-on maddening descent and downward spiral. I get the sense it was painfully slow and toilsome for the people around me. In here, subjectively, from my perspective, the whole thing happened so quickly I couldn’t even see or feel to get a grip until the worst of it was done. Hindsight and all that.

I woke up to find myself physically and mentally bruised and bleeding. Alone. Bridges torched, relationships in shambles. In my madness and loathing, in those moments of lashing out trying to stay afloat, I severed some vital ties that I fear in my darkest moments might never be mended. I found myself having dug in, burrowed, hidden myself below the surface of all beauty and magnificence. I had led myself to the lowest point yet in a pit of despair that had become so comfortable as to feel like home. I didn’t want out, subconsciously. And so I hurt everything, everyone that tried to lead me towards the light.

This Shadow has always been a part of me. It always will be. I made the mistake of believing I could separate from the darkness through sheer willpower and focus. I know now that belief is a fallacy. It is not about separating from the diseased parts of ourselves. It is about reconciling those parts of ourselves with the whole, with finding balance and harmony and seeking healing through the whole, the absolute, with becoming complete and not separating, dividing, or removing. Nothing will be gained with trying to cut diseased flesh from bone, with dividing or fracturing. It is about rebuilding.

In any case, I can see now that my issues extend outside and beyond the realm of pharmacological interactions or biological side effect. However, in looking back, in searching clues recovered from the wreckage of this latest subjective event horizon, it seems clear to me that the medication I have been on has not done me any favors. If anything, it felt like the medication was water on the Gremlin of my Crazy. I need to get back to a baseline, to find out what “normal” feels like for the Ryan at this point.

I feel like doing that is the only way to move forward.


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Brief History of the Addict

I had my first panic attack over Thanksgiving holiday 2009. This is the first experience that I can recall which I would identify as a panic attack. The problem is, most of the preceding decade is full of blank spots, gaps of memory burned and washed away by drugs and booze. When this initial anxiety experience happened, I assumed that my lifestyle and bad habits had finally caught up with me and that the chemicals were to blame for any neurological issues. I am realizing now that the things I have been putting into my body have been a pursuit of oblivion, a meager attempt at self medication for much deeper problems.

I was driving through the Salt River Wilderness area of Arizona, on my way to Tucson from Farmington, NM. Having not visited family in Tucson nor seen Southern Arizona in years, I was excited for the quick holiday trip. A few miles back, a sign advised of a 6% gradient for the next several miles, and also indicated the narrow, twisting pass through Salt River Canyon was approaching. Just as I rounded a turn in the road and saw the vast, suffocating expanse of the canyon open up before me, a sudden tide of doom and foreboding overtook me. I knew I was going to die.

I’ve never had an issue with heights, driving mountain ranges, flying, any of that shit. For as long and deep into my childhood as I can remember, any time I’ve found myself staring over the edge of some daunting precipice, the only thoughts in my head are of leaping – not necessarily dying, just relinquishing control. There has never been fear accompanying those thoughts. In this moment, though, I don’t know if it will be because I pass out, lose control of my limbs, make a mistake in navigating, intentionally cut the wheel or what but I know I will die and it will be horrible and that is in this moment the only Fear and it is upon me and within me and crawling up my spine, infesting nerve coils, consuming me, it Is my brain it is my entire being and-

I am fortunate to have made a quick cut into a pull-off and shifted into park before I lost consciousness. When I come to seconds or centuries later, I am sitting in my Jeep still clutching the wheel in numb white-knuckle fists, drenched in sweat, the blood and cries of all things pulsing through my skull. My face is numb and bone-white. I can’t feel my hands or legs, or anything really, save for the seismic pounding of my battered heart in my chest. Nearly two hours later I am finally calm enough to continue driving, having to chant mantras and breath in patterns to get myself through the canyon and the rest of the several hundred miles to Tucson.

The next six months were a dizzyingly fast downward spiral of pills, booze, erratic behavior, and increasing isolation, until a group of friends and family intervened and got my ass into a psych hospital and drug rehab program.  May 20, 2010 was my first day “clean” or “sober” in as long as I could remember.  I went through the program and following eight months of rigorous addict step work with vigor and promise, a soul reborn and swelling with hope. Then, suddenly, New Years weekend, I bought two bottles of whiskey and a handful of Oxy and relapsed in glorious fashion, including breaking my fibia and tibula on an icy driveway whilst attempting to fetch my cigarettes.

The downward spiral anew. Nursing a freshly fractured leg and a glorious supply of pain killers, I was soon without a job, losing my home, and eluding the authorities all over again.  More booze. More drugs. No sex. A suicide attempt. A 24 psych hold. Rinse, repeat.

Relocating from Farmington to Tucson permanently in August 2011, building new bridges even as I torch the old ones, I eventually managed to start getting my shit together. A job. Then another one, because the first one sucked balls. A meager social life. I started doing things other than chemical suicide.

I met an angel. I fell in love.

I put together a few days free of drugs and booze. Then weeks, months. A year. More days.

But the Crazy kept bleeding through. The things I was addressing and resolving in my life still weren’t getting at the root of the problem.  Even without the chemicals, I soon began to unravel, a downward spiral anew that would prove to be the most destructive yet.

My head exploded on Sunday, March 1st. Hardly believable thay date is only a week ago. I had been lashing out at those closest to me for weeks, months, testing their boundaries and their affection for me. I can always see in hindsight that what I am doing in those moments is passive aggressive and destructively co-dependent and insane, but as it is happening it is as though I am operating outside of my own conscious control. A tasmanian demon of emotion and resentment and weakness and loathing. A black hole.

I pushed Jenn away so that she would cling closer to me. Her and I had discussed this behavior at length, she knew that it was something I did in moments of weakness and self-pity, and I knew it was not a game she was keen to play. In a realm of logic and reason, I am always aware of these things. But when the noise in my head is so loud, I do not operate in a world of logic or reason.

I pushed her away hoping she would pull back closer. When she didn’t do the thing the way it happened in my head, I got angry. I got desperate. I put too much pressure in and my head exploded. Insanity and fear and loathing and psychosis and scorn and violence and absolute unrestrained wrath was unleashed and rained down upon my world.

I screamed at her. Called her a fucking bitch. Pleaded with her. Grasped, desperate and clinging. Assaulted her with my words. Destroyed her.

And then, with more pills, and more booze, and more suffering, I tried to destroy myself.

I still don’t know what is at the core of what is wrong with me. It makes me fearful and hateful and vengeful and paranoid. Sometimes I can see it. Lately, always I can feel it. It is a shadow that lives in my spine, a slithering grub nested in the base of my skull. When it takes form and spreads its wings the silken sound it makes is so loud and it is all I can hear. It is the only thing. The pain is consuming.

Just keep digging?

© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.