Reply To: HELP! Stuck in the Passive Aggressive, Spiteful and Vendictive Cycle

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I am so sorry to hear that you’ve been living in this toxic environment. I too have had to cope with these kinds of behaviors and emotional upheavals, and it is far from pleasant. That said, I wanted to share what happened to the individual who was remarkably similar to your husband, and how his relationships and family life improved.

He had been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as a child, but stayed active enough in sports and academics throughout his schooling that medication was not required for affective management. It was not until he had graduated from college and entered his career field that his condition began causing real problems.

Not used to the confines of 8-10 hrs. per day sitting still at an office, he would have to get up and go outside regularly throughout the day, and bothered coworkers by approaching their cubicles to try to engage them in discussions about whatever he had been daydreaming about most recently. Nearby employees complained of his pen-clicking and toe/foot tapping as a distraction, as well. He would be rewarded by his supervisors for creative problem solving and outside the box thinking, which only led to more resentment within his coworkers.

Since he already had below average emotional awareness, it took awhile for the fact that he was not lined by his peers to sink in. When it did, he became depressed, and his work suffered. He found excuses to use up his leave and sick days, and was always the first to volunteer for individual assignments, or projects that required travel (solitude). When his supervisors became concerned enough, they recommended that he utilize the EAP, and see someone who could help him get out of the rut he was in.

That visit would eventually lead him to a psychiatric evaluation. The provider prescribed Vyvanse for the ADHD, and Wellbutrin XR for depression. At first, the combination of meds and therapy seemed to be working wonders, but, over time, the behaviors you describe your husband as having began to creep in, until he was a person I could barely recognize.

He became manipulative, paranoid, controlling, and agressive. He barely slept or ate. He used the “good feelings and adrenaline rush” brought on by the drug combo to fuel a workout routine, and when his confidence returned, it quickly manifested into an unhealthy obsession with himself and his image. He began sleeping around, and seemed to take some sort of perverse pleasure in lying to his multiple partners about his intent to settle down with them, when he was really only interested in the ego boost that the sexual conquests and manipulation of others brought him.

With his newfound “swag,” improved physical appearance, and newfound desire to be part of the group, his coworkers seemed to change their opinions about him. The “rewards” he was reaping in the workplace reinforced and justified his poor treatment of everyone outside of work. He was unable to take responsibility for the emotional pain he was causing to his family and friends, so they began to withdraw.

Unable to hold himself accountable, and rendered almost emotionless by the drugs, he became ever more promiscuous, and engaged in riskier and riskier behaviors. If his former friends and family would not recognize his greatness, he could find others who could. It wasn’t until his fiance found out about the cheating that she finally decided to leave; despite having endured escalating emotional and verbal abuse throughout their time together.

I think it was her decision to leave that prompted him to return to a therapist. He had beem relying exclusively on the pharmaceuticals and workaholism to stave off the depressive/ADD symptoms, but his new therapist suggested that he consider titrating off of the Wellbutrin and, eventually, Vyvanse.

He was initially vehemently opposed, and stormed out of the therapists office after an angry tirade where he essentially accused the doctor of trying to steal his thunder out of jealousy or some desire to otherwise harm him. He had already been expressing paranoid ideations to the few of us who would still socialize or recreate with him, but had kept that information from his psychologist. Witnessing this demonstration solidified the therapists position that the 1st order of business was decreasing the amount and frequency of the prescriptions. After months of resistance to that suggestion, when his fiance finally left him, he agreed to give it a try.

The therapist suggested that he look into Neurofeedback and Interactive Metronome as adjuncts to his talk therapy as he was weaning off of the Wellbutrin. His psychiatrist was consulted, and the process of rediscovering his true-self and inner-happiness began.

The first few months were grueling. Who knew that Wellbutrin could cause such radical, sometimes violent emotional swings when it was removed from the system- even in small increments?!

I’ll cut to the chase: the Wellbutrin/Vyvanse combination had warped my adult friend into an insatiable, hormone/sex/attention fueled prepubescent monster, and it wasn’t until these artificial inputs were removed that he was able to honestly evaluate himself, accept responsibility for mistakes made, and learn to manage his conditions without the crutches of powerful psychoactive pharmaceuticals.

With the help of Neurofeedback, Interactive Metronome, and CBT/Psychodynamic talk therapy, the man who was once much like your husband is now has returned to the funny, caring, honest, and empathetic soul he has always been, but which the drugs had (for a time) stolen.

Talk to him about any medication that he’s on, or any self-medicating he may be engaging in covertly or overtly, then see if you can remember if the change in personality and behavior coincided with his beginning the drugs. It may be that alternative therapies are your only chance at saving the man whom you once loved from his hideous, drug-induced “shadow” self.

I sincerely hope that no matter what course of actions are taken or not-taken…that your family, especially the children, are again able to live in a stable, loving environment, and one in which they are not forced to model these alarming behaviors and additudes into their own psyches. Best of luck, and may the answers you seek soon reveal themselves to you!