“I remember going to the pool and a friend came over, and after that, he stopped being my friend.” Michael (a name he gave to preserve his anonymity) started taking Risperdal as a preteen. By 15 he had grown breasts. “Girls would shoot me down publicly,” he said. “They would brag about how they rejected me. I wanted to duct tape my chest.”
Twice in high school, other boys touched him inappropriately. “I was sexually assaulted. One doctor thinks I have PTSD because of it.” Throughout high school, Michael struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. “I went to the hospital 23 times by the age of 23.”
Four years ago, Michael had a double mastectomy. Still embarrassed about having had breasts, he said he hides the true purpose of the operation. “I just say, ‘It was benign, and the doctors wanted it gone.’” The truth is, however, that the procedure was considered cosmetic, and Michel had to fight for months to get it covered by insurance. Just the same, he wasn’t happy with the result. “I still wear a shirt when I go swimming. I probably wouldn’t opt to have the operation again because the after effects were so painful.”
Michael hopes he can have a wife and children someday, but he’s not optimistic. “I haven’t had a romantic relationship with a woman,” he said. “It ruined my self confidence, and I’m going to pay for it the rest of my life.”
Michael didn’t make the connection between Risperdal and his gynecomastia until lawsuits started being filed. At that point, he had stopped taking the drug, but someone called him and told him he should explore the connection. “I looked it up, and it clicked.” Michael said he always suspected it was a side effect to a drug he had been prescribed, although he didn’t suspect Risperdal because gynecomastia was not on the list of side effects when he took it. It gives him small comfort, however, because the damage has already been done.
“It hurt me emotionally. It hurt my self-esteem. I’m still embarrassed. It destroyed my life.”
Michael sits in a chair he inherited from his great aunt. He asked not to have his face photographed.