Healing Journey

Anti-depressants are great, until you have an Adverse Drug Reaction


In 2005 I was prescribed the drug Citalopram for severe anxiety / panic. In Summer of 2008 I went into Mania / Psychosis while on this drug.

A big part of the past 9 years, which should have been about healing and growth, instead was about dealing with the trauma caused by the flawed biomedical approach to mental health. My life as I knew it had ended, including my career but also my trust in others. The whole experience with mainstream Psychiatry was very dis-empowering. After hospitalisation I had lost all confidence in myself.

My anxiety had been turned into SSRI induced Manic Depression after I had taken the anti-depressant. The many powerful drugs I was subsequently put on made me feel dreadful. Zyprexa (Olanzapine),  Seroquel (Quetiapine), Lithium, Lamictal, Rivotril, sleeping pills etc 9 foolscap pages of prescriptions !

I did not want to face each day and spent a lot of time in bed due to the sedating nature of the drugs. I had a very poor Quality of Life. Doctors were oblivious to the drug’s iatrogenic effects. Iatrogenic means caused by treatment.

At a time of stress and vulnerability I expected loyalty and support. Instead I had the police on my doorstep and I was locked into a building for 3 weeks and heavily sedated for 3 years, until I finally woke up out of a drug induced haze and started to question things. There is no attempt by the systems involved to acknowledge that it could have been handled more humanely. True healing didn’t seem to be a priority. Instead I was subjected to a serious trauma in the form of forced hospitalisation.

I needed help in 2008 but not of the colluding nature provided. I needed:

Being in the system and the consequences of that, including the stigma, discrimination and lack of understanding of others and the effects of the drugs, was the most traumatic part of the whole experience. In our society the general public have been indoctrinated into the biomedical model, affecting how those who have experienced mental health difficulties are perceived. Social stigma can be a trigger for the person and can seriously impact and slow down the recovery process.

After receiving my records from the public system I found it hard to trust anyone. I don’t really recommend requesting your notes unless you have good support around you, as it can be a traumatic experience reading them.

It cost my private health insurer €23,000 for the State to have me incarcerated. I had not harmed myself or anyone and had no intention to do so. I was in emotional distress and reacting to a drug, that I now know was a major factor. I never got one minute of Psychotherapy and never saw a Psychologist at that time.

I have Post Traumatic Stress from that day, which can easily be triggered by certain sounds etc. I became angry once I realised I didn’t need to be put through such an ordeal. To quote from another survivor “My rebellious nature helped me through”.

I felt my initial treatment by the mental health system at a crucial time was damaging, traumatizing and very flawed. Luckily a few years into my journey and search for the truth, I was fortunate enough to make connections with some honest and dedicated medical professionals and Psychologists. Experienced experts who do not have conflicts of interest but who want the best possible outcomes for people in distress. People like Dr Terry Lynch, Prof Ivor Browne and clinical Psychologists in the UK ~ Lucy Johnstone, Anne Cooke and Peter Kinderman. As well as studying the work of honest Psychiatrists Prof David Healy (who is also a Psychopharmacologist), Dr Peter Breggin and Dr Joanna Moncrieff.

When it comes to the initial anxiety I experienced I know it’s down to proper breathing, understanding the cause of panic, talk therapy and healthy lifestyle choices. I know I won’t find the answer in a bottle of pills as I’ve been down that road, for six years in total. The drugs have damaged me but I try to focus on the concept of neuroplasticity. That doesn’t mean I have ruled out tranquilizers completely. Very short term use I mean.

I can think about forgiveness if I know that others aren’t been potentially hurt or killed. But knowing that the delusion continues and that prescription rates are going up year on year across the Western world, including potential risks to the unborn, I find it difficult to forgive such a system.

I no longer see myself as biologically or genetically flawed. There is no benefit in feeling that way when it comes to my emotional health and it is quite dis-empowering.

It can take at least 2 years to get the effects of the drugs out of a person’s system. My experience was very much misunderstood. In my experience society’s attitude to mental health continues to be backward in many ways and it is kept that way by people who profit from others distress and vulnerability. Medication is unethically prescribed and overused.

What was hospitalization like, without an Open Dialogue approach ?

I felt dis-empowered, helpless, as if everyone had turned against me, constricted, caged, my freedom taken away, agitation, pressure of speech, my every word and action observed and judged, unsafe, distressed, no autonomy, frightened, scared, angry, violated, no one seemed to understand, no empathy, felt unfairly treated, trapped, felt like I would be there forever, could see no end, dignity taken away, disbelief, stressed, anxious, in fight mode ( seeing as flight was not an option ), adrenaline pumping, found it hard to get some relief / respite from the deep distress and emotional pain I was in (other than sleep), traumatized, misunderstood. I couldn’t believe it was like this in the year 2008 and still is today.

An asylum is supposed to be a refuge, a sanctuary, a place of safety. The Acute Psychiatric Unit felt like the opposite. There was no awareness of what was really going on with me and that I was in drug withdrawal from Citalopram, which I was asked to stop cold turkey. I was exhausted. This was not the place for me. There was no understanding of what I’d been through. The instructions on the walls of one of the offices on Electric shock didn’t help. Or the sign “ECT Suite” at the main entrance. Was it left there to scare and scar people ? There was no Electric shock Suite in the building.

My Occupational therapy notes said “Fear of detention based on father’s history” yet they use the most backward method to bring me to the hospital. 10 people at the house including 2 police, 2 ambulance drivers, 2 Psychiatric nurses and 4 ‘others’. A complete over-reaction to the situation. I hadn’t harmed myself or others & had no plans to do so.

My very sane father unfortunately became a victim of this system in 1973. He was in an out of hospital throughout my childhood and then, almost miraculously, in 1983 his symptoms seemed to disappear and did so up until his early death in 1993, age 52. As recently as 2012 I believed that Manic Depression / Bipolar was genetic as that is what I was conditioned to believe all through my life. Then, in my first session with Prof Ivor Browne, I said that my father “also had Manic Depression” and I remember his “highs” an “lows”. Ivor dropped a bombshell that day that made me rethink the whole experience. He said “Your father was around in the era of medication as well !”.

Based on my own personal experience, I realise the drugs can leave you so sedated that you don’t and won’t want to get out of bed. And can also drive a person into a high. Based on the work of Dr Yolande Lucire, I now realise that it’s not necessarily Manic Depression that is genetic but some people’s ability to metabolize these mind altering drugs. And there is a genetic aspect to that. I will get into this in greater detail again.

My father was a kind and gentle man, and deserved better than what he was put through. Up to 14 pills a days and several bouts of Electric shock. Which I now know was unnecessary. I admire how he kept going and rarely complained, unlike his daughter. His favourite saying was “It could be worse”. I get emotional writing this, realising that he should be turning 77 in just a few days. He never got to meet his grandchildren but I do feel he is still around in spirit. Even if he passed away at least a quarter of a century before his time.

Getting back to my own experience, the one thing that struck me about my own notes is the many factual errors. The private hospital more or less painted me as an academic failure even though I have a 2.1 Honors Degree in Computer Science, a Masters and a 2.2 Honors Degree in Primary teaching. It shows how things can be twisted in a person’s notes and misrepresent the person.

“No wish to kill anyone” is in my admission notes ! As if all people in emotional distress are potential killers (however there are cases where SSRIs and withdrawal from same have been linked to violence). The Psychiatrist that admitted me wrote “Having spoken to her she calmed down”. This was the crux of the problem. No one spoke to me properly and therapeutically. At one stage I wrote that I was wound up like a coil and that certain people wound me up again when I tried to unwind. I lost my job. I had bills to pay but the hospital was reluctant to let me out to pay them, while benefiting from my private health insurance !

Despite people thinking I did not know what was going on, I was hyper aware of what was going on on some level. I had the “insight” to stay and wait for my transfer to a private hospital.

It was such a cold, uncaring, unsympathetic place to be. Surrounded by strangers. With very little empathy. Just their trolley of “potions and poisons”. It shows how much damage doctors and the system are capable of doing to a person in distress, when brainwashed and indoctrinated into a biomedical viewpoint.

What I went through since August 2008 (health issues, brain damage from the drugs which hits me in subtle ways, tardive dysphoria, insomnia, loss of job, disconnection from family, ongoing Post Traumatic Stress) is actually a catastrophic grief / bereavement. I sometimes need to pause and reflect on that aspect of the experience. To process the grief and accept the pain. For quite a while I have been stuck in a phase of anger. Some of it justified but on the downside the anger can keep me stuck. I’m still processing and integrating the experience nearly a decade later.

While some may feel they had a positive Psychiatric experience, I remember my experience and the suffering of other Psychiatric survivors in the context of a system that has the potential to be very destructive to a person’s emotional well being. I also remember those that died. Any attempt to actively change such a system is met with resistance. I admire myself for hanging in there, and not becoming a statistic. The unbearable feelings do pass, if you can learn to sit with them or reach out for help.

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