Bruce Springsteen: Born to Withdraw?

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October 10, 2016 | 20 Comments


  1. OMG Yes! I remember the tears in withdrawal, you would cry and cry for no reason. I cried floods of tears in my car, at the Dr’s, at Probation. The funny thing was though I actually enjoyed the crying as I hadn’t cried for years. The Dr and Probation were both concerned but I told them “don’t worry I’m enjoying crying”, this was before all the other side effects of withdrawal kicked in. I’m sure they thought I was mad but the truth is getting your emotions back has to be one of the greatest gifts anyone can ever give you.

    I think of “born in the USA” when I think of Bruce Springsteen, I like what he wrote about his experience. I hope he can write a song about withdrawal too.

    • AM

      There is definitely a restoration of emotion after the meds stop that I’m sure could lead to tears, but as I read Bruce’s piece what happened him was more like what happened his father when the father had a stroke – this was crying for no reason.

      Having said that there is a fascinating snippet at the end where going back on the pills seems to be going back into a numb state where you wonder if will have the motivation to do anything creative – but then he has written the book


  2. I’m not sure it’s getting your emotions back – I had 7 weeks off Seroxat and spent all my days “sobbing on the sofa” as my gp put it. This was way beyond getting your emotions back, it was much too far the other way.

    I feel it was unleashing all the numbness of the pre ceding time on the drug but in a completely exaggerated way due to the way the pill worked on the nervous system.

    Re starting a few pills of Seroxat led to my David C. moment which was the pill stopping the crying but starting the akathisia.

    So, crying off the drug and not crying on the drug has to be causation.

    The Dramatic Swing is what is in Seroxat to push the boundaries taking it and not taking it…and it is pretty obvious that Seroxat has these unbelievable abilities taking our bodies through such extreme states so quickly….

    It is impossible to live through something like this…

  3. Fascinating.

    If I ever missed or forgot a dose of Seroxat I became agitated. Sudden loud noises became increasingly problematic, they still are today.

    When going cold turkey on Seroxat emotions hit me hard. Tears, laughter, sadness, anger (including violent thoughts) – I basically went out into the midle of the night in an ‘undesirable’ area of Birmingham, I was seeking confrontation.

    It’s bad enough trying to deal with one emotion but when they all come flooding back in one go, you feel like you are going crazy – Most people would probably reach for the pill bottle again, assuming the ‘depression’ was returning – once back on it they would justify that the pill was ‘keeping it at bay’.

    I didn’t have that choice as I had thrown away the remaining bottles of Seroxat liquid I had been using for the previous 19 months to ‘slowly’ taper.

    Worst three months of my life but, hey ho, Glaxo (Seroxat manufacturers) would probably suggest it was the ‘illness’ returning’ or other meds I may have been on, or alcohol, or substance abuse, or ‘circumstances’.

    It was Seroxat – simple as.

    Once the three months of practically locking myself away ended I then would start to cry at a beautiful song, a beautiful painting, an infant breast feeding or just what mother nature had to offer in general. – Just me getting empathy back, something that Seroxat had suppressed during my time on it.

  4. I found my emotions were heightened at first in withdrawal.The first month I actually felt very high and emotional but it was the two months after that that were the hardest to deal with, hence I then went onto Mirtazapine but that didn’t stop the withdrawal from SSRIs completely but I believe it lessened it.

  5. It was the crying, the ‘tears that came from nowhere, out of the blue’ that our 21 year old son described, that most terrified him after stopping Seroxat in 2001/2 and convinced him he was going mad. He was scared sometimes to go out with friends cos the tears might start and he feared he’d look a wimp. Tears rolled down his cheeks and we puzzled about why. As he said to us himself, there was no reason for them that he could explain them away with. He’d never cried like this before. So he was not understood. The beginning of 11 years of self doubt.

    ‘The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm; it is dangerous because of those who look at it without doing anything.’ A. Einstein.

    Why did no GP or psychiatrist admit it was the Seroxat, and reassure that this was not the start of terrifying madness? He can’t have been the first they’d seen like this by 2003.

    • Doesn’t it show how blinkered GPs and psychiatrists can be, Heather. It is my opinion that they KNEW by 2002/3 exactly what Seroxat was capable of causing but were totally unwilling to SHARE that knowledge. Our son rarely cried but, I do feel that if he had, then, maybe, just maybe, a pressure would have been released which would have saved him from suffering the violent rage attacks that he had. The GP had already brushed the case off to a psychiatrist who, in turn ‘forgot’ to mention to us that there was a ‘young psychiatrist just up the coast’ who was speaking up about the dangers of Seroxat and its link to rage attacks and other reactions. Not until our son appeared in court did he mention that Dr. David Healy was an expert in this matter. By then, it was too late to save our son from having to serve a prison sentence – the after-effects of which periodically haunt him to this day. Having someone you care for plead with you to know “What IS happening to me?” in the throes of a rage attack, when you have no idea yourself what on earth is going on, is devastating to put it mildly! No wonder they, themselves, fear that they are slowly going mad – you reach a point where, actually, you haven’t a much better explanation to offer yourself. No wonder we fight so hard for the whole tale once we have our eyes slightly opened to the ‘hidden truths’.

      • Mary, talking of ‘blinkered doctors and psychiatrists’ I have just read the book ‘Dear Luise’ as recommended on this Blog several times by DH. The author, Dorrit Christensen writes movingly about the fight to be listened to and change the blinkered attitudes of the medics under whose care her daughter found herself. One very interesting fact she quotes in the narrative is that people who are on the Aspergers spectrum react very badly to antipsychotic medication. Louise’s Aspergers diagnosis was missed, right from the start. How many young people who present with symptoms of slight social phobia, high intelligence, deep sensitivity about world issues, are also misdiagnosed, their possible Aspergers not taken into account, and so when given antipsychotics for their anxiety, their reactions can be even worse than most people prescribed these drugs. We long thought our son Olly was on that spectrum as he often said ‘ I feel as though I never grew up properly, I feel like I do not fit into this world’. He did an online test for it and ticked all the boxes, but no doctor seemed to have thought about the possibility for him, which would have accounted for his inexplicable anxiety which began when quite young. Now we have read Dear Luise we realise; no wonder he reacted so badly to antipsychotics, both in 2002 and then when they were given again in 2012 just prior to his death.
        ‘Dear Luise’ should be read by every doctor in training. It describes the absolute horror many parents/ carers suffer when fighting to save their loved ones, and the official cover ups and blocking they encounter when trying to show where the avoidable errors were, which caused such terrible trauma and eventually, death. Dorrit Christensen is a wonderfully brave mother and my heart goes out to her. Thank God she had the strength to write the book and raise Aspergers awareness. Two out of the 8 youngsters we know who died after taking the acne drug RoAccutane/ isotretinoin, had Aspergers.

        • Yes, ‘Dear Luise’ is a book well worth reading for sure. It gives you some sort of reassurance that the way we have been treated was not so much because of who we are but, rather, because that is the usual way of so many doctors when ‘treating’ patients and their families. It seems to be the norm for them doesn’t it? I wonder how they view the few doctors who treat us in such a different way – the way that they would like to be treated themselves, surely? Do they see them as having an ‘old-fashioned’ respect for their patients – which they feel is terribly outdated? Do they view them as being weak – for not standing up against patients and their families’ views? One thing is for sure, they neither see themselves nor the other set as we see them. Surely, if they had the respect that we have for the doctors who treat us as fellow humans then they would adjust their ways and follow the better example wouldn’t they? We all know how busy doctors are and how rushed the appointments systems seem to always be, however, listening to a patient and, where appropriate, their families should surely be the first thing that they do during every appointment.? It cuts out the guesswork and often begins the healing process – and can be followed by a short discussion of the way forward. Satisfaction for the patient and surely more rewarding for the doctor too – rather than having merely pressed a few keys and printed out a prescription?

          • Beautifully put Mary. So much of the problem is closed mindedness and lack of respect for the individual, and also I guess, the fear the doctors must have that maybe the patient is absolutely right when they report what they feel the prescribed drug has done to them, but they can see that the damage is done and admitting it will make other patients lose trust in them if word gets out. If only they could stand together and acknowledge that they too have deep concerns about these drugs and would prefer not to use them. Dr van Tullekan’s recent 2 part BBC series on being a doctor who tried not to use drugs, was really interesting. We need lots more like him. I’m very surprised that those programmes did not cause more of a stir in the Media, or indeed on these Blogs.

  6. Funny thing: Otsuka Pharmaceuticals have a “new” drug called NUEDEXTA (actually a combination of two rather old drugs) to treat this type of emotional lability. It’s known as Pseudobulbar Affect when it shows up after a stroke. Back in May, Otsuka sponsored the world premiere of a documentary about Pseudobulbar Affect called “Beyond Laughter and Tears: A Journey of Hope.” At the American Psychiatric Association convention in Atlanta. Where else?

    True to the usual script, the film tries to vastly increase the numbers estimated to suffer from this problem, going beyond stroke to “dementia” of every type, MS and traumatic brain injury. And, of course, to imply that millions can “get their lives back” once this syndrome is “correctly diagnosed.” NUEDEXTA does causes dose-dependent prolongation of the QT interval, which can lead to fatal heart arrhythmias, and its most common side effects include dizziness, fainting, diarrhea, nausea … Of course it will be prescribed overwhelmingly to people over 65.

    Back in May, I thought this was simply the typical pharmaceutical scam: inflate the number of cases, emphasize the most severe ones to make people think this symptom must always be treated to avert disaster – and make a few billion downgrading the health of seniors across America. As Mr. Trump would say, “That’s called business.” (Nuedexta retails for a little over $800 a month.)

    I still think so – but David’s remarks have given me a new thought. Using antidepressants to treat “post-stroke depression” is fast becoming standard practice. Not to mention other causes of depression in older people. What if “pseudobulbar affect” is actually on the rise as a result?

    A whole generation–not just poor Bruce–could be in for a rough ride.

    • I do not mean to make light of any circumstance but, the more I read the more I feel that the words ‘nil by mouth’ take on a whole different meaning – especially as we approach the age where, quite possibly, others may be making decisions on our behalf. Food and drink we all require – that and dignity will do me; they can keep their fancy new creations to themselves.

  7. On, we often see this kind of tearfulness (and unbidden sensations of imminent doom) as a withdrawal symptom.

    I experienced it myself.

    As with most withdrawal symptoms, tearfulness (and other aspects of emotional lability, such as irritability) comes in waves and changes over time.

    Some people, however, find the black holes of deep despair so frightening, they think they’re losing their minds and beg for more drugs to combat a deepening “psychiatric illness.”

    Reinstatement of the original drug, often at a reduced dose, stops these symptoms. After stabilizing for at least a month, the person may taper more gradually off the drug, often over a year or more, to avoid these and other withdrawal symptoms.

    • Alto

      No question SSRIs numb. No question many feel their emotions much more clearly and sometimes overwhelmingly on stopping. But this may be different. There are people who become emotional after a stroke – like Bruce’s father maybe. They cry when they should laugh. Or in my patients case when reaching into a cupboard – press – to get a tin of beans. Makes no sense. This is not emotions freed up. This is incontinence and a funny kind – tears figure rather than disinhibited laughter. When it happens after a stroke, most people are comfortable seeing it as damage – possibly irreversible. As B describes it, he seems to veer toward the damage end of the spectrum.


    • Reinstatement can be a can of worms.

      I remember imminent doom from a panic attack I had while on the drugs. I was sort of detached from it, wondering what was going on. I felt like crying, but I couldn’t.

      Black holes of despair, as I knew them (as someone who knew she’d been damaged by psych drugs) didn’t incite fear or make me think I was mentally ill. Nonetheless, if there were a drug that fixed it, I’d have begged for it.

      But I might be remembering something different. Despair has a relationship to hope; it’s hope’s complement. Dread is a better word for what I remember.

  8. Or they laugh when they should cry…..on hearing of the sudden car accident and death of a good friend we’d all known for years, he at first went dumb for a few moments, then laughed, in company, to his own absolute shame and horror. Made him believe he was even more mad than he thought.

    His words: ‘I feel like I am on the outside of my brain looking in, I see my reactions, I know they seem mad, but I can’t stop them, why, what is wrong with me Mum?’ Surely this is the worst form of torture.

  9. I remember the tears (and the memorializing)and the raging anger – and the memory loss and blackouts-and paralysis and the return of my libido only to be stamped out and the return of somatic feelings and the obsession with story and morbid thinking and the claustrophobia and the panic attacks. Struggling with weeks of terrible exhaustion at the moment. My brain still hurts and is still repairing. They don’t tell the extent of work related illness and injuries due to pills. I realize how trauma and abuse leads to brain damage to – and once more today I was treated like a mental retard by a very backward and ignorant person. I walked out of yoga today and was able to say to my self that I have been mistreated and bullied by one doctor after another. I can now see how unbelievably ignorant most of them are and they are not very smart either – and they get away with it and the dishonesty-I constantly get treated like I am dumb by these people and told I am second rate even though I get high distinctions at university. I recently saw what a life without trauma could be when I glanced an old friends instagram account. They certainly don’t grow, evolve and learn as I have – as she still does the same old art, is into the same artists and hangs out with the same people – has not evolved in ten years.

  10. So, even The Boss can’t escape the pills!

    “Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley through the middle of my soul. At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet and a fright train running through the middle of my head.”

    “I took my heart and soul, baby, and put them high upon a shelf, right next to that faith, faith that I’d lost in myself. I went down to the desert city, trying so hard to shed my skin. I crawled deep into some kind of darkness, trying to burn out every trace of who I’d been. We do some sad, sad things, baby, when it’s you you’re trying to lose. Some sad and hurtful things, I’ve seen living proof.”


  11. Bruce vinyl and dancing around with that…..

    Who I find much more interesting, in life, not vinyl, is Jeremy Paxman.

    A Life in Questions
    Jeremy Paxman

    Craig Brown


    “I would rather ride a bike than drive a car. I spent several years seeing a therapist, and several more on anti-depressants. Occasionally I sit on the loo and shoot squirrels out of the bathroom window.”

    Blink, and you would have missed the extraordinary admission in that middle sentence. And that’s all we hear of those years with the therapist and the anti-depressants: he never mentions them again.

    (And on he goes..)

    “Right at the very end, he returns to the subject of his father, who over-shadows his memoir, in much the same way as Bruce Springsteen’s father overshadows his, and for much the same reason.”

    Unease is clearly in his blood, as is a certain opacity.

    “Yes, the great inquisitor’s autobiography touches on his depression, his violent father, his broken heart, and ‘something pretty like’ a breakdown – but so fleetingly you want to scream…

    Not, necessarily………sometimes it might be better to touch on it and not allow it to develop into full blown publicity……..JP asks the stuff no one else is brave enough too, and that is enough for me…..

  12. I’ve been a longtime fan of Springsteen. I knew of his battle with depression. But I didn’t know he had resorted to pills. That saddens me.
    Perhaps this quote gets a whole other meaning now when I know he was battling depression around the release 2006 of “How can a poor man stand such times and live”:

    -“Well the doctor comes around here with his face so bright, and he says in a little while you’ll be allright. But all he gives is a humbug pill, a dose of dope and a great big bill, tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?”

    The words rings true even about a modern psychiatrist, the pills he gives just numb you up, and you are left alone to pay the bill. I’ve payed with my life though I’m still here. Ove 2016

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