Life on Benzos & More – A Healing Journey (Part V)
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In 2012 the nightmare really began. My mother would often call me saying she hadn't slept, her hands were shaking, her heart was racing and she needed to go to the ER. This happened mostly on Sunday mornings. I would later learn that, since my father’s passing, this was the worst day of the week for her. On Sundays she and my father would go to church, then out for breakfast and hit the dollar stores. Now Sundays were a reminder of her days without the love of her life.
I would bring my mother to the ER, where tests would reveal no physical problems. So, a script for anxiety. On several occasions I brought my sister with us. She was also not feeling well, and I would run from one ER cubical to the other, checking on each of them in turn.
My sister has a history of prescription drug dependence, having suffered migraines all her life. After years of drugs, she almost died. In-patient drug withdrawal in the 1990’s proved to be successful, but when you visit the ER with discomfort, you're usually prescribed Oxyocodone like it's candy., so the cycle began again.
I called my mother every morning, just to make sure she was ok. As time passed she stopped allowing me to ask any “health” questions, and conversations lasted less than 30 seconds. Sometimes it took several rings for her to answer. This worried me because she was now sleeping on the couch with the television on all night, the cordless phone by her as she slept on a electric heating pad for her excruciating daily headaches.
Her garbled “hello” on the other end of the phone left my stomach in knots and my heart heavy with each morning call. I would ask a few routine questions like “how are you?” “how did you sleep?” “have you eaten anything yet?”. The answers were always the same. She never remembered if she ate, didn't know what time of day it was.
I expressed concern to my sister, her designated carer. Any recommendations or concerns were simply dismissed. “Just leave her alone.” “She’s fine.” “I don’t notice anything wrong.” Of course not, because misery loves company.
My God, how could you not notice anything, I wondered. How could she not want my help? My sister couldn’t, or wouldn't help. She was stuck in the same drug dependent cycle as my mother.
Being considered the "know it all" in the family, I was usually ignored. I couldn't fathom why my love and concern for my mother’s health turned into their anger and rage. I couldn't help but think that it must be me. After all, everyone else thought so.
My daily phone calls continued. If I didn’t like the way my mother sounded in the morning, I would call again in the evening when she would sound more awake and alert, but, always, always confused. She usually didn't even remember that I called in the morning.
If I couldn't reach my mother by phone, I would call the hospital. On one occasion, she was actually there!
“Hi Ma.” “Oh hi Pam.” “I tried to call you at home but there wasn’t any answer, so I called the hospital. Why didn’t you call me?” My mother’s response? “Oh, I didn’t even think of it.” “Why are you in the hospital?” I asked her. “I don’t feel good” she answered. I asked her what was wrong. “I don’t know, I just don’t feel good” she said. “I have to go now, the nurse is here with my medicine.”
I made her meals and delivered them, labeling everything. I offered to heat up the food, but she never felt like eating, and my meals were left uneaten. Instead, I found take out containers and pizza delivery boxes. She wasn't even leaving the house.
After a few years on the psych drugs, my mother developed abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite and the really annoying symptom of excess saliva, which drove her crazy. I later realized that excess saliva is a symptom of inflammation in the colon. Nobody made the connection. I was dumbfounded.
Doctor visit after doctor visit brought no resolution to her stomach problems, so she headed to New York City. Years prior, my mother had been diagnosed with IBS and had a colon resection done in New York. She headed back to her doctor and, upon examination and a colonoscopy, was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. The doctor prescribed bi-weekly injections of Humira. I had no idea. Everything was kept quiet, most likely because they assumed I would oppose the meds and try to encourage a diet change.
So, beginning in 2014, she added Humira to her blood pressure and cholesterol meds. Oh yeah, along with her psych cocktail, which, for most of this time, I wasn't even aware of. I wasn't told about all the doctor or hospital visits either.
I silently wished that someone would recognize my mother needed grief counseling, healthier food choices, company, not another drug. No one did.
Doesn't this raise a flag? I wondered. Doesn't anybody, besides me, realize the progressive decline in my mother’s health since she began taking psych drugs? How could it just be me?
Turns out, it isn't. This is an indication of a bigger problem. a nationwide epidemic that is swept under the rug. The United States is 5% of the world’s population and consumes 75% of the world’s prescription drugs.
We are, in a sense, becoming “Mad in America”