Drugged-up Spirituality?

Via Jennifer Cusano
on Jun 16, 2011
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“Let me apologize to begin with, let me apologize for what I’m about to say. But trying to be genuine was harder than it seemed, and somehow I got caught up in between.” ~ Linkin Park

If I had known, in the beginning , that by turning my back on the fuzzy world of overpaid, pill happy,”doctors”, I would propel myself into the darkest, saddest place I have ever been, I can’t truthfully say I wouldn’t have done it. That being said, I really did give it my best shot on my own, which was kind of worse because there is a terrible feeling of defeat and failure lining the inside of me now. You see I never resurfaced from my Rabbit Hole, and I had to turn back to the prescription pad. Unfortunately I am not in a position to go on retreats, or even pay for a yoga class. We have three kids, one income, and one completely broken mother. To be honest, near the end of my surrender, I stopped reading, meditating, practicing asanas, and basically just sat staring down an invisible void, anyway. Being at war with myself is tiring, and more than a little confusing. Depression is more serious, and real than I realized. (I think?)

My almost immediate response, once I started taking  pills I HATE was so dramatic I loathe it. When I am not thinking about it, I go on, spend time with my kids, find myself stopping during the day thinking man I feel happy, cleaning, doing laundry and folding it. But when it starts tugging at my messed up brain until it has my full, undivided attention, I remember that it isn’t real happiness, but manufactured stability, I hate myself.  I have heard a thousand cushiony stories about chemical instability, and whatever other reasoning. I understand what is being said. I just don’t believe in it, buy it, agree with it, or like it. Because if control is the central path to self-realization, and I am giving up control, being controlled, by something other than me, well it must mean I have absolutely no chance. Which then reminds me about all of the shit I have to wade through if I truly want to be healed, and how it is impossible to do it without medication that chemically alters your brain. I can’t help but wonder if its worth stripping myself down to bare bone, and digging through the trenches. Especially if in the end, with no control, I am shit out of luck.

“When a person gives up all desires

that emerge from the mind, and rests

contented with the Self  by the Self,

he is called a man of firm wisdom”

(B.G. 2.55) Stephen Mitchell translation

I find that may impossible for me to do. The main reason being that the strongest desire I have is a mind that works. When I focus inward and cant climb over this initial barrier, it’s easy to give up and too hard to look at what else I don’t like about myself. Because truth be told, even if I rectify everything else there is a strong possibility that I may never be independent of drugs that are designed to make me “happy”. Those are heavy words, that will never taste right. I am willing to admit that I need help, this just isn’t the type of help I wanted, and I can’t accept that it isn’t my fault. I need to find a better route.

Returning to, being able to return to doing the things I want to do has been incredible. I am able to think clearly now, when I read, and meditate, and practice what limited amount of Yoga I can at home. Realizing that without a clear mind I can not even begin to truly work on myself makes swallowing that pill a little bit easier. Yet, at the same time everyday, I am reminded and ashamed when I swallow that pill. I went into war unarmed, and untrained. Now I know it isn’t a war at all. I should not ever be fighting myself, and I hope someday, after I have done things the right way, I can attempt a sober life again. It will be a while, but even though I took a detour, I have found the right road again. I can clearly see my path, it’s just not as narrow as it first appeared to be.

What I really need to know, is if it is possible to obtain self-realization, can I really be healed, with something foreign in my body? Doesn’t that make every move I make not really my move?




About Jennifer Cusano

Jennifer Cusano, social media aficionado, research connoisseur, and writer du jour, is a Yogi on a path of personal exploration and long overdue healing. Managing Editor for YOGANONYMOUS, Producer for Where Is My Guru, Director of Social Media for YOGASCAPES and TumericALIVE, wife and mother of three, Jenn is really a superhero in disguise—or so she likes to think. In her spare time Jenn likes to read about and search for vampires, so if you happen to know or come across one, please do send them her way. Hit her up on Facebook or Twitter to discuss the various methods of tracking down said vampires. Also she is more than a little uncomfortable writing about herself in the third person, it may just be the hardest thing she's had to do, and that's saying something...


55 Responses to “Drugged-up Spirituality?”

  1. drbinder says:

    Love it. Keep on the path Lotus Flower. Anything can heal anything.

  2. Karen Eliot says:

    There are so many chemicals influencing our bodies and behavior. If this really works for you, I say go with it. And I am NOT a fan of these particular drugs, but different things work for different people.

    I’d be curious to know if it was one of the old drugs or new ones… but that’s not my biz 😉 Take care.

    • I have nothing to hide, I am doing this as a way of asking for help, it is an older one actually I probably havent been on it since I was about 13, Wellbutrin. This is an area I know pretty well unfortunately. It just seems contradictory to be able to obtain this pure, higher state of being, while under the influence of something impure? Ya know??

  3. Thanks :))) and I am for sure a willing participant in said discussion.

  4. dan says:

    If one person is going to build a palace (happiness, avoiding future suffering), it’s going to take lifetimes. If we ourselves are not constantly conditioning ourselves against happiness, “the world” steps in to take up the task. So the best I can do is work for lifetimes, and wait for grace. Some people say that reincarnation is false, a crutch, a fantasy. Yet they have no magic wand to de-atrophy other than the imperative to “do it yourself” as if that wasn’t obvious. I’m fine with the possibility of falseness, because while I may not be living in “reality” I can still make progress towards happiness.
    Pills are a crutch, necessary or not depending on what one’s priorities are. Food is a crutch too, taken more for emotional needs than actual function of the body, but take it away without a lot of wisdom and the chaos of all those emotions can quickly overwhelm, making any chance of de-atrophication impossible. So I’m for loving crutches, but recognizing them as the tools they are- as long as one can find that often elusive place of stillness, I think you can still make progress towards peace.
    (And keep away from benzodiazepines if at all possible)

    • Dan-
      You said it best, it is a crutch, and thats a very literal way to look at it because hopefully one day I will stand on my own. I agree with you about reincarnation and have thought about doing that past life therapy thing (I'm not sure of the technical term) I almost put something about that in this post. It really interests me because I must have been terrible before in some life in some dimension, because in this life I have had more than my fair share of hell to pay. You're also right about the benzos..I have been on them, I know what they do. Mostly my entire life has been one big medication experiment, thats hard to recover from, or rather harder than I thought it would be. Thank you for paying attention and taking the time out of your day to comment here, it means alot to me 🙂

      • dan says:

        I’m glad to share, attention is all we have. I can’t say I’ve “been there” because I haven’t, your situation is yours, but I’ve certainly been somewhere similar, as have many many others, I’m enjoying the great comments the article has elicited. I’ve a few old friends who’ve been around the block too with pharmaceuticals, and feel more like patients seeking experiments than people seeking healing. Two have been unwittingly, habitually treated as lab rats (for fibromyalgia), something bound to happen when doctors are more scientist than healer. I wish I had some advice about getting off them, weaning doesn’t always seem to work (but for those I know for whom it has, it was never at the advice of their doctor, if they asked… it takes such a commitment to healing on the part of their patient, I think they’d rather see someone functional on pills than struggling off them).

        I find it useful, necessary, to have a regular time in a separate space that I won’t be disturbed to do whatever (usually meditate, though when my discipline isn’t there, I’ll read or space out, eventually people did stop interrupting me, once I was polite about it). It is a chance to validate the presence of my existence, and let “me” reassert itself; ego (though not necessarily a “large” one) is required to exist in the world, and once things are organized it’s much easier to see what can be let go of. A friend has taken up running and weights, to amazing effect, she’s still on her meds, but without a discipline, she was struggling.

        As for reincarnation, my focus is on preventing future suffering, and I’m doubtful that those pasts (for me at least) are of any use, and I’ve plenty to deal with this time around. I’ve met people who claim to have had knowledge of their past revealed, but say that these are awful and full of pain, which makes sense. The stuff of samskaras show up in the everyday anyways, so I find it more useful, at least less frustrating, to do what I can to set myself up for whatever next time around, and let grace establish itself as it will. This attitude took the “pressure” off to be enlightened, and as silly, false and self-imposed as that pressure is, it was keeping me from going deeper into my practice and pursuing it in the first place (as in, “why bother”). Deep depression may even be a part of spirit evolving, a “dark night of the soul” being common to many stories, though if it’s the result of “good” karma- no thank you!

        Looking forward to reading more of your path. 🙂

  5. Mara says:

    Thanks for your courage and willingness to share. While you need this medicine right now, I would suggest also doing deep, body-oriented psychotherapy so that any emotional blocks to well-being are being addressed. I suggest body-oriented therapy because the body does not lie, cuts through over-intellectualization, and is a wonderful source of wisdom and guidance for you on this journey. Again, thanks, and go in love!

    • Mara-I would LOVE to do body oriented therapy, I believe in it one hundred and ten percent, the problem is where I am there really isn't anyone who can do that, and the money is outrageous. I am hoping to bide time, and when my children are older I will travel, and be able to do the things I want to do. I am very literally at the beginning here, in most aspects pertaining to life. And thankyou for responding, thats why I am doing this, I need the help!

  6. Jake says:

    I think yoga and meditation might help in the long run, but in my experience, they are slow going, and not quid pro quo. They pay off, but not in the way you always want, and not quickly.

    I have thought about medication, and maybe it would have been a good idea. I respect you for doing this, especially considering you’re a mother.

    Maybe at some point in the future, you can ease off the meds, but who knows? It seems like such a fine balance between being able to function, and living with the chaos that’s just part of regular life.



  7. Ben_Ralston says:

    I want to help you.
    I'll email.

  8. jkvision says:

    Thank you for your honesty! It is refreshing to see. I am all for natural and holistic methods when they work. They do not always work and sometimes we do need medication. Thank Goddess they are available for us if we need them. Blessings to you!!

    • I would be willing to try a natural or holistic method, problem is I don't know what to take or where to go. And for right now I think its safe to say I should probably achieve some level of stability before I do anything. But if you have some suggestions for me I would love to hear them. Thanks

      • Andrea says:

        Hi, Jennifer ~ a book that worked incredibly well for me was "The Mood Cure," which explores using amino acids to help rebalance brain chemicals, including tryptophan, of which 5-HTP is a precursor — I saw you mentioned 5-HTP below. There are many others, though, too many to get into here in a comment. Anyway, the book pretty much changed my life, so I would offer it as a recommendation if you are willing to explore a new method. Peace.

  9. linneajs says:

    Girl. First things first. I have that exact image (and by exact i mean EXACT) tatoo-ed on my back for the same reasons. So there is a credit for listening to a sister. And believe me I understand your pain. I wont get into it to much here but i've had a similar path. Coming from a certified teacher (me) that it is OK. Depression wants to make everything into a problem, i know. But your medication is not a problem. But could most definitely be your stepping stone to understanding that you can lift beyond the problems. This is an excellent article http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/137?page=3

    Keep doing what you've got to do. Cheers

    • For me tattoos are therapy, I know its sick or whatever, but its like yeah its painful but you have to sit there and take it (and I am doing it willingly which is huge) and so I release alot of my anger that way. I know thats not healthy, but its all I had for a while. Plus I love the art/–Anywhoo thanks for sharing that link, and I hope you're right because I too see this as a stepping stone…a side of myself if you will, that I absolutely need to acknowledge and make peace with. Thanks again

  10. tanya lee markul says:

    Hi Jennifer. Thank you so much for sharing this. It takes a lot of courage. I have a friend who has been on medication since her mid-teens. She's a wonderful human being but has these moments of the deepest despair I have ever seen. Over the past several years she has discovered a talent for drawing (she is truly amazing at it). She has started to use whatever it was/is that lies within these dark depths in her art, even if she can only portray it in an abstract way. Just recently (in the past year) has she started to come off her medication – there are moments of great fear and also moments of great strength. I just wanted to share this with you for whatever reason. I'm wishing the best to you. I'm glad you are here.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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  11. hartistic says:

    Wow, you could have been writing about me… exactly how I feel

  12. Lurkitty says:

    Kudos to you, Jennifer!

    I'm a diabetic and have to take insulin. One evening at a yoga/kirtan retreat, my roommate saw me injecting and freaked out. It was understandable because she was scared of needles. Then she said, "I'm afraid of all Western medicine."

    Too often, the knee-jerk response of Westerner seeking enlightenment is to reject anything Western medicine has to offer. Of course, it does have its faults, but rejecting any system out of hand simply because it is Western shows closed-mindedness. Yes, weight loss and exercise could eventually reduce or even eliminate my need for insulin, but, until I have lost the weight, it would be too damaging to go without medication I need.

    There is a raging debate among psychiatrists right now about the overprescribing of psychoactive drugs, especially by family doctors who are not fully trained to prescribe them. Throughout the debate, no one has suggested that such drugs be withdrawn as a whole, but the crucial point is that such drugs were meant as an adjunct to talk therapy, not as a substitute. It has been recognized that taking an antidepressant or other psychoactive can bring a person to state where they can begin the therapy needed to eventually cope with underlying problems at the root of their symptoms.

    I encourage you to investigate low-cost sources of counseling/therapy in your area. Saying that pills are a crutch is only a valid analogy if one remembers that it is not the crutch that heals. The crutch only makes it possible to heal once the leg bone is set.

    I urge you to investigate

    • Ok so I am being forced into therapy, which is 100 percent going to be counterproductive because I absolutely do not like that I have to go (if I expect for my ins co to keep footing the bill for medication). The insurance company has made it extremely hard for me in the last week to get my medication, so much so that I went without it for a few days, and I am back to square one, and this is one of the reasons I did not want to go back to lala land. BUT you are totally correct about the family doctors, and I hate to say it even the professionals in this field, over medicating and more importantly misdiagnosing. I myself have had multiple diagnoses and they are within quite the range, which leads me to believe that these doctors are just forming opinions, if they are listening at all ( i know a few whom I can just say what I want and get it), and making their best guess. THIS IS SCARY. Most of these medications completely alter the chemistry of your brain, doing who knows how much permanent damage, so for them to be so readily available and handed out like advil is insane. They need a better process for diagnosing and prescribing desperately, but because mental illness is so hush hush nobody is getting anywhere. You say you take insulin for diabetes, and other people have compared that to this, but there is no gray area with insulin, you know it is going to work, and it does. Why is it that we have made no progress in the last, at least 10 years forming a black and white treatment to mental illness?
      I absolutely agree with you though, because there is no way I would be in any state to figure out my root problems without aid of some sort. Except I truly do not want to go to conventional therapy. I have been to hundreds of sessions with multiple doctors and have come no further than I was in the beginning, obviously this is not working….Is there another way to set the leg bone?

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  14. yogijulian says:

    for what it is worth. i think some people just do better with medication. i don't think this in any way negates or limits the transformational efficacy of yoga. i also don't think ancient religious texts knew what we know now about about mental illness (they called this being possessed or seeing god! lol) or about the real challenges of depression or anxiety.

    i say take your meds and do yoga – and drop the romanticizing of some mythic perfect state of self-realization…..

    • why do you say its mythic? I mean no offense, I am just asking because it is so different an answer from the ones I have received. Sorry it took so long for me to get back.

      • yogijulian says:

        there is no such thing as a literal state of enlightened perfection. that is not the purpose of yoga practice, it is part of it's mythology.

        myths should not be taken literally!

        it sounded to me like you were struggling with the idea that a) perhaps you could never be fully enlightened if you were on anti-depressants and/or b) that they would somehow interfere with the magical process of becoming enlightened through their icky artifiical man-made toxicity or some such…

        we can engage in powerfully transformational and healing yoga and meditation without unrealistically comparing ourselves to non-existent ideals…. there is no ultimate, perfect, enlightened state to attain – that is just a marketing pipe dream that we buy into out of our need to naively idealize ancient and exotic cultures.

        if someone needs to be on medication to make their brains function better this is in no way contradicting a contemporary, integrated, wise interpretation of yoga – it only contradicts a literalist, fundamentalist, romanticized false notion of the power of the practice…

        yoga and meditation cannot cure some cases of clinical depression and may in fact make some people's bipolar and schizophrenia worse.

        as much as i value and love yoga and buddhism – let's just be honest about the fact that we know about a thousand times more about the brain now than 5 thousand years ago, and our knowledge of psychology has come a long way too!

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  16. ManicHendrix says:

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you putting yourself out there like this. I can’t wait to read more about how you are doing! Do you know when you will post next? I printed this out and hung it on my mirror, just to remind me I am not alone. Thankyou a million times!
    The Wanderer

    • Wow, well thanks for sharing with me, I love hearing from everyone. No I am not sure when I will put up a post about this again, its not something that is timed, its sort of an as you feel it type thing, and alot like therapy for me. I just mentioned in another post of mine http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/07/i-saw-a-ho… how I put the contents up on my mirror so I can read it everyday. I'm glad I could do that for you. I was thinking that maybe my next "personal" post would be about how I am doing post meds, but I am trying to give them a fair shot here and last for at least 6 weeks. Anyway, your very welcome, and Thankyou for taking the time out of your day to respond to this!

  17. katie says:

    Dear girl, take the medication for now. It is helping you be the person you desire to be. There will come a time, possibly when your children are grown, that you can get off your meds.

    • Katie
      I am taking it, and I hate to say it, but I am feeling much better. I know this will sound unmotherly BUT I can't wait for that time, when my kids get older and I can focus truly on nothing else but this. I love having them little, but it is alot of work, and being an at home mother really cuts me off from the outside world. But I was thinking the exact same thing as you, and sometimes its that reminder, that one day I wont be stuck here, that gets me through. Thanks for sharing!


  18. randolphr says:

    What a truly good thread …. Makes me wanna give Ele. Journal a warm pat on the trunk & a handful of straw.

    Thanks for your article, Jennifer !!

  19. […] was so angry with myself when I broke down and started seeing the doctor again, and this community really helped me through that hard time. Total strangers stopped to offer me advice and helped me to realize that needing […]

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