Are There Alternatives to Psychiatric Medication?


What a beautiful summer day to lie in the grass and watch a soccer game. When I was younger, I really didn’t factor in the fact that your body decays (in most people) as you get older. I had read a few articles about people in their 80s running marathons, and athletes having comebacks at 50. I started to decline a long time ago, and it likely had to do a lot more with my bull-headedness not wanting to listen to advice like not running in excess of 5 miles, not running on pavement, getting proper shoes for every type of exercise. That was the beginning, I destroyed my knees at the age of 20 years old. But what really got to me was not just this disability, it was also the medications I took. They made me drowsy, lazy. They made my hands shake and messed with my balance. Getting through this was one of the more difficult times of my life. I was good at a few sports as a youngster, I was a decent basketball player, but for all of my teen years I was a smoker which made this nearly impossible. I also loved to play pool, going to the pool hall every morning instead of the second half of my Law 30 class. I dreamed about one day having a pool table at home, and I think I could have been on my way. But medications derailed me. What could I do?

Medications have gotten better since then, and I even know of a few people who take what I do and it works for them and also their hands don’t shake at all. I really don’t ever want to recommend people to go off medication, but there are instances where a person can be on too much, a Doctor can usually spot this in a moment. This is why sometimes it is useful to get a second opinion, especially when you find your medication side effects debilitating. My mom, near the end of her life, was on a lot of medications, but my parents put a lot of faith in her psychiatrist. It hurts to think she could have had a better mental state or a better quality of life if she had been on less. One thing I want to emphasize is that in her final years, she would never miss a psychologist’s appointment because in her mind and my dad’s, that was the only treatment that helped anything.

There are two sides to this coin, one is that I have encountered (and I am no therapist or doctor) studies that said therapy alone is better than medication alone. Of course as I said, I don’t recommend going off meds, but if you can somehow combine your treatment there are chances of feeling better than you are now and any time healthy means you are headed towards a time when new and ‘better’ medication can be developed. My former Psychiatrist, an amazing man named Bishop, whenever I asked about a new medication he would say that what I had was working well, he didn’t like tinkering with people who were doing well, but left it up to me, emphasizing the question, “do you want to take a chance at going back where you were?” Well, for me that was no option. Last time before I saw that doctor that I had been in the hospital I was in a terrible state, being beligerent and abusive, deluded into thinking the world revolved around me and having people respond in kind with everything from flat out insults and threats to a severe beating from a guy who didn’t like the way I crossed the street. No, I did not want to go back there.

Some time later, with a doctor that my old doctor recommended, a decision was made to try a newer medication, and I got very ill and spent a month in the hospital–after I had worked so incredibly hard to build my life back and show stability and such. All at once I was delusional and paranoid to the extreme again. Sadly, this is something anyone with a mental illness must come to expect and prepare for. For more information, look into something called “The Wellness Recovery Action Plan” or WRAP. They have an app for phones that allow you to outline things like trigger warnings, ways to help with symptoms and more. The app is based on a course that I found very helpful, and attribute my quick recovery from the relapse of my condition too. It also helped that I had gained a great deal of knowledge about my condition, perhaps mostly by being a part of the Schizophrenia Society.

So, today’s blog is getting pretty long, I will sum things up and try to explain more in a future blog. First off, look into funding or affordable therapy. In Edmonton there are even free therapists as I am sure you can find in any major Canadian city. You drop in, fill out a form, and wait and see someone confidentially who is qualified. But this is a quick fix. When you find you care stable enough, I recommend things like the WRAP course and others, but I also recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Just as a warning though, I believe they state that it takes a commitment of around 16 (if I remember correctly) sessions to read benefits. If you are having any problems finding resources, please email me and I will see if I can help connect you. Look for services you are insured for, and also for services operated on a sliding scale. I once spoke to a hospital counsellor after my mom passed and she wanted me to pay $20 or $30 a session, not so much because she needed the money, but she wanted to make sure I was able to commit and consider my treatment a priority.

I will just sum up and say, if you are having mental health difficulties, first try and contact your psychiatrist, then any psychiatrist, then a medical doctor, learn all you can about your illness, get active in learning (books) and groups (Wrap and many others). Find out all you can about your medications, then find out about counselling. And don’t worry if you seem to take one step forward and two back in your mental health journey, we all have good days and bad days.

Leif Gregersen

Link to my first memoir:

Through the Withering Storm



  1. Thank you for this post & the WRAP app [which i will look into]. I’m currently off any antipsychotic med because I kept going toxic. [one particular med worked great for 20 yrs] Which none of the dr’s recognized and in sheer desperation I discontinued the med & my physical health is better [more tests to find where the cancer is] It was such a bad reaction both times (two different tries at meds). Since my body didn’t go toxic till on it for months they didn’t even consider it being my medication. Once i got to feeling better [off the med]. I was forced to do an online search & comb through my records to see what had happened to me. I had EVERY symptom of being toxic on seroquel & NO DR CAUGHT IT….If i hadn’t taken a wild leap of faith in my own intuition I would be dead my Dr. was writing it off as Somatization …she would have let me die…..Ty for letting me share……Much Love & Ladybugs….I hope u are able to enjoy your sunday.


    1. Thanks for giving me feedback. Please keep me updated on your situation. I hope you can find a workable alternative to seriously, there was a class action lawsuit against the makers of it because it was found to cause diabetes. I tried it for a short time years ago and felt better on it except I ended up sleeping about 20 of every 24 hours. I really hope you will be okay, cancer is such a scary thing. Best to you,
      Leif Gregersen

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, in your personal experience have you ever noticed how when a new dr see’s you & mental health is brought up their whole tone & demeanor changes? I’m 47 now and had an early dx @ 13yrs and my sister (RIP) was dx’ed paranoid schizophrenia at a young age, 15yrs. I am struggling w/some of the mental health issues arising; since off for a spell [thank goodness I have one friend in my life who does their best to help me cope–i’m very much a hermit & divorced for 10+ yrs. and I don’t go out much; unless in nature]. With being a mother of 2 (almost grown) I have stayed VERY faithful & vigilant to not go to those dark places & to be written off, as my symptoms being a “mental issue” has taken a serious toll when it was, in fact, THEIR err. I appreciate your kindness, support & experience. [Plus, I’d NEVER advise anyone to get off their meds…but we all need to LISTEN to each other regardless…that is a dying art] Abilify worked great for about 20yrs & then my platelet count plunged to 36…. 140 is considered low. The dr’s didn’t even know how i was walking around. [Abilify now has a blackbox warning of serious platelet count issues]. Lethargy and fatigue are synonymous w/mental health….we struggle till we can’t take it anymore….far from a hypochondriac…LOL Ty, sorry this went long again! Much Love & Ladybugs!


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