Thursday, September 11, 2014

Antidepressants and ADHD

You know what really makes me mad? Pointless fear. I'm actually one of those sticks in the mud who don't like practical jokes that scare people, because it's pointless fear. I don't understand extreme sports that mostly amount to recreational fear, especially since there is no accomplishment at the end of these activities to mitigate risk. You go cliff diving, which means you throw yourself from a height and the big accomplishment is that you managed to avoid rocks! Yay! You risked your life to see whether you could aim! At least these sports don't have a huge cost outside the grief you cause loved ones when something goes wrong.

Using recreational fear to sell a product is unethical. Taking advantage of the intrinsic instincts of human survival is unethical. Attacking mothers by placing blame on them for the failings of their child ought to be criminal, but Dr Mercola uses each of these tactics to sell a lifestyle of consuming his pills.

I've been receiving emails from this quack from a well meaning relative for years. I usually just read the headline, shake my head, and delete. Why is this? For the simple expedient that (and go ahead and read these italics as if I'm yelling) you never EVER trust the research of someone who is trying to sell you something. 

Furthermore, knowing that someone has something to gain through misrepresentation pales in comparison to the damage that he can cause to countless vulnerable people.

Let me illustrate this with a story, and then we'll get into the specifics of why I'm so mad right now:

When I gave birth to my first baby, I fell into a deep depression. I have a genetic predisposition to depression as it is, and there was a huge stack of risk factors besides that which most certainly contributed to my affliction. I went to a doctor and complained of my symptoms to be told that I was depressed. I was surprised/not-surprised, and enormously dismayed. I didn't want to be sick with the beast that consumed my father for most of my life and I felt that I had failed my efforts to distance myself from him and it. I was given a 30 day starter pack of Zoloft and asked to return shortly before I had finished consum it.

My well meaning relative heard about this, and warned me that if I did so that it would hurt my nursing baby, and nursing her was far more important than taking these pills anyway. I was young, depressed, and vulnerable, so I listened.

I regret that decision to this day, over 12 years later.

I never took one of those pills and felt good about protecting my baby. But that good feeling didn't allow me to get out of bed most days, and that good feeling didn't help me shower more than twice a week or feed myself. That good feeling didn't keep me from weeping daily or give me the ability to smile into the face of my beautiful child.

You see, the damage that was caused to myself and most of my relationships was far worse than any harm my baby would have experienced from any exposure to Zoloft, or harm she might have endured from (gasp!) baby formula. She ended up on formula anyway because, yes, thanks to the advice of this well meaning relative I also didn't use any birth control because God would just send me the babies I was meant to have. My second pregnancy began just six months after the first ended which dried up my milk almost immediately. My depression began to lift but I felt a blow to my womanhood, since so many mamas out there were able to nurse through pregnancy and then enjoy nursing both of their babies at once! All of the risk factors for depression from the previous pregnancy were still in place, and then we moved to another state.

My son was born 15 months after my first child. My daughter was still a baby. B had many health problems but none of them was significant enough to for the doctor to pay much attention. All those problems did was estrange me from that child in every way possible. He had staggering eczema across his scalp and joints; reflux which kept him from sleeping for longer than 30 minutes at a time; asthma which kept me from visiting most of my family nearby and removing a lot of that branch of my support network; a complete inability to self soothe or take a pacifier which meant he was either latched to me or screaming; and the worst issue for both him and me was that he was severely tongue-tied. I couldn't nurse him. I was depressed again, sleep deprived, and dripping blood after most feedings. Once again, I couldn't smile or even look at my own child. Once again, I felt good knowing that I could breastfeed my child and not expose him to harmful antidepressants.

Well, the tongue tie led to early weening when one night I was trying to nurse and all I could do was sob and pound the arms of the chair I was in. I realized that any time B was near me or hungry that I would become nauseated. I couldn't even hold him because of the pain I associated with that child. And thus I fell from womanhood by "voluntarily" formula feeding.

Fast forward another 8 years, through two more babies, many more moves, and many other risk factors for depression piling up one after the other. I got to the point where I could not get out of bed for days at a time despite all of the spiritual healing I sought or herbs I tried. By now I was used to the idea that taking antidepressants was somehow giving up, somehow a flagrant show of my lack of faith in God or natural healing.

I needed help, most desperately.

And that's when I went to my doctor again. This time, I found myself a nice, overtly practical nurse practitioner who felt very strongly about women's issues. She put me on Prozac immediately and, after the second visit and my continued failure to set up my own therapy, walked me to a nurse case manager who set up an appointment for me to see a professional as soon as possible.

The medicine was a revelation. Staggering bouts of extreme irritation, days of crying, and other painful and shame-inducing symptoms began to lift by degrees. I eventually found a therapist who is a good fit for me and I still see her a year later, and portions of my debilitating anxiety are slowly being identified and coached out of my psyche.

I spent 10 years in periods of intermittent emotional agony because someone told me that antidepressants would hurt my baby.

My children still bear some scars from this experience but they are slowly healing as well. It turns out there my first two children also have some developmental disorders. My oldest has a sensory processing disorder called Dyspraxia (with emphasis in Oromotor and Constructional Dyspraxia). This also contributed to bonding issues early on. My second child has severe ADHD an Aspergers. My second two children are both normal, and the difference in how easy it was to care for them at any stage was completely stunning. Neither had feeding issues, sleeping issues, potty training issues, or any major health concerns at all. And yet I took no chemical supplements for any of my four pregnancies or periods of nursing. I even had worse nutrition for the last two pregnancies since I had far worse morning sickness for both.

I'm finally stabilizing. I'm finally organizing my time and environment in ways that begin to approach my satisfaction. I have depressed feelings, possibly pathological depression, moderate to serious anxiety including social anxiety, and my own sensory processing issues arising from diagnosed PTSD.

I curse the day I listened to this well meaning relative. If I had had the strength to seek help and listen to a professional all those years ago, I would not be dealing with nearly the heap of fallout that plagues me.

Today, I learned that a different well meaning relative has posted a link to information from Dr Mercola that says there is a link between the use of antenatal antidepressants and ADHD in the children resulting from those pregnancies.

Here are two other links that talk about that same study, but are far more inclusive of relevant information from said study. I don't entirely trust the first source since I don't know what its motives are, but the second lays out information in a way that I find entirely reasonable (inclusive of all of the information from the study, instead of cherry picking) and relatively unbiased, and also has a history of the same. Also, medicine in the UK tends to stray as far as possible from chemical intervention if possible, but is also amenable to its use if less invasive methods prove unhelpful.

The Mercola article uses just a minute portion of the information available to prove its selfish point, a point that furthers its own agenda which doesn't appear to include the truth. Whatever. I can roll my eyes all I want but Mercola didn't deeply bother me until today, when I saw that he would dare post an article that would dissuade mothers from seeking or utilizing help that could very well save their lives. Not only that, but it was posted by someone in a position of religious influence over hundreds of people who would regard him as an inspired man, a trusted man.

And I suddenly wonder how many other women will labor with emotional illnesses that will cripple them for years to come because one man wanted to sell pills.

A bit of wry humor here, as I quote from the article under discussion:

Kirsch reasoned that when a person experienced a side effect, it tipped them off that they were taking an active antidepressant rather than a placebo, and this is what gave them the slight advantage.
To test this, Kirsch then investigated trials involving an "active" placebo, meaning one that causes a side effect, and low and behold there was absolutely no difference found between the antidepressant and the active placebo. Maria Angell, former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, noted:5"Everyone had side effects of one type or another, and everyone reported the same level of improvement. Kirsch reported a number of other odd findings in clinical trials of antidepressants, including the fact that there is no dose-response curve—that is, high doses worked no better than low ones—which is extremely unlikely for truly effective drugs.‘Putting all this together,’ writes Kirsch, leads to the conclusion that the relatively small difference between drugs and placebos might not be a real drug effect at all.Instead, it might be an enhanced placebo effect, produced by the fact that some patients have broken [the] blind and have come to realize whether they were given drug or placebo. If this is the case, then there is no real antidepressant drug effect at all."

So think about this. Mercola has kindly laid out the very psychology he uses to sell his own compounds! I don't personally believe that my antidepressants are a glorified placebo, but the fundamental philosophy Mercola points out damns his own product in a gallows irony I find absolutely appropriate.

The point of this wall of text is this: Never dissuade someone from seeking or utilizing help based on the self-serving information of an evil quack.

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