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Archive for the ‘mental illness’ Category

I wrote this post a while ago, but decided not to publish it. I have changed my mind after seeing that people do stop by here and read my story now and again…

So this is part 10 (phew it was never meant to take this long!) of my account of what happened to me when I experienced a severe withdrawal reaction to Effexor. Previous posts can be found on the ‘Mental Health Story‘ page. This posts describes the Mental Health Review Tribunal, which led to me being released from Section 2 of the Mental Health Act. Unfortunately I was no more sane than when I arrived. My freedom eventually proved to be short lived, but that is another drama entirely, to save for another day.

Time plodded on, but never linear, it whizzed around in a most precarious manner on the unit, speeding up, slowing down and sometimes going backwards. Nevertheless the day of my Mental Health Review Tribunal finally came.

I had managed to keep out of trouble, no incidents, no therapy and most importantly no drugs. Smiles and ‘yes thank yous’ were my armour.

I met with my key nurse the day before, who needed to fill in her report for the tribunal. I kept up the pretense that I had been very sick when I had come to the clinic but I was feeling much better now. I bitterly regretted the ‘incidents’ that I had had with staff in the first few days, acknowledging that it must have been very scary for them, but protesting to her that I had not intended to hurt them. I told her I wanted to go home so that I could sort my life out, that I hated it at the clinic. The reason that I don’t talk to anyone is because I am so damn happy and well and so on. To be honest I don’t think that she was buying it, that everything was as rosy for me as I was making out. She scribbled things on her note pad…

The night before the tribunal, was unremarkable in this context. No sleep and an acutely distressed patient shouting and raging until the early hours – her islamic faith distorted into her personal battle to save us all from all our hideous attitudes and behaviours. I was told to stay in my room as the night staff tried to reason with her, – just go to sleep. It started with her wanting one of her cigarettes that were locked in the staff room – it ended with talk of teams coming down from other floors and injections. I desperately wanted her to be quiet, her shouts about the voice of Bin Laden and everyone perishing were scaring me.

I hid under the quilt in my room trying to read the ‘Flower expert’ book that I had with me, brought in for me by my parents. As I read, I realised that this manual had been written specifically for me and that I was in telepathic contact with the authors. They were filling my head with nurturing thoughts, explaining how to look after myself – water regularly, full sun and provide nutrients.

My neighbour eventually gave in and went quiet. She had goaded them for a while daring them to “get your team and your injections”, but she seemed to think better of this and thankfully the screaming and shouting stopped before any possy arrived. Then I had work to do, to cleanse the time line of the possibility that my neighbour’s declarations and visions of the future would come true. My symbolic tool-kit at the ready – out came the toothpaste, chewing gum and cleaning products

Sure enough morning came. With sun light, the fear that the darkness brought lifted, encouraging me to have hope and courage. The morning staff came on shift and I made myself presentable for the tribunal. I was called to meet with the Tribunal’s doctor. We met in the TV room of the men’s part of the unit, GMTV chattering innanely in the background as we discussed my mental state and my problems. Well when I say discussion, it was more of a game/quiz whereby the doctor would look at file notes, tell me what was going on in my mind and my life and then ask me a question. I would then put it into my own words and repeat his pet theories back to him. Fairly quick and painless, nothing too probing or demanding.

I then met with my solicitor. The fourth one from the firm that were dealing with my case. He had all the notes taken by his colleagues in front of him and had about ten minutes to talk to me and figure out how we were gonna play this. He asked me what had been going on – so I told him. As he was on my side, an agent from a secret organisation that were trying to help me and save planet earth, I gave him the truth. He struggled to gain any sort of grip of the parameters of the conversaton and I became more and more animated, grateful to offload to someone who knew what was really going on in this clinic. I guess he could see that I was frightened and that suggesting none of this was true was making no difference to what I believed and felt. So he tried to make me feel better, telling me that the computers and TV in my house had been sorted out and that I was no longer being bugged and manipulated. He knew I needed to be calm and quiet in the tribunal if we had any chance of ‘winning’. He told me not to speak in the tribunal unless I am directly asked a question and he suggested that I let him field the questions. I don’t think that he had high hopes of the outcome being to let me go home. As I got up to leave, he suggested to me that I ask the staff to borrow a hair dryer. I looked at him quizzically, hanging on his every word, my saviour. He said “Your hair’s wet, its just that I don’t want you to get cold.” It wasn’t until much later that I realised or even cared that I had become so frail and why I provoked concern in people’s faces.

It wasn’t too long before I was finally taken off the ward, along the corridor, down the lift and into the clinic’s reception area. Many long days and nights since I had made the reverse journey. My mum and a friend had come to support me and we waited as people milled around. I stayed quiet, confused by what was happening. I looked at my mum and friend, they smiled at me, reassuring me that everything was going to be ok.

A gaggle of us sat around a huge table:

  • three on the panel- the chair who was a legal eagle, the doctor that I had met earlier and a lay person
  • Dr Teddy – my psychiatrist
  • A Nurse – the one who had lent me the hair dryer
  • My legal representative
  • An empty chair – which should have been occupied by someone from my Local Auhority’s mental health team ….
  • My Mum, my friend and me

I don’t think that I said more than a few words and my legal guy may have beaten me by a smattering more, but not by much. We didn’t seem to be in there a long time and I didn’t really understand what was being said. My ears pricked up when Dr Teddy spoke, telling everyone that I had suffered a psychotic break but that I was on the road to recovery. He felt that I should be transferred to an open ward, for further assessment and support. He then said something crucial – that I was not displaying any symptoms of a mental illness at present. The nurse confirmed and corroborated it, saying that apart from in the first few days, there had been no big issues or problems with me or my behaviour.

The chair- persons attire dazzled me, a real natty dresser, with his braces and purple shirt which seemed to glow. I tried to understand what the head of the Freemasons was saying, he was very wise and had many old books that he read from – rules and regulations of how a Freemason should conduct themselves. I cocked my head, leaning in to listen, trying to make sense of what he was talking about. I looked around the room at people, they all gave me a little smile to pep up my spirits.

Then all of a sudden the Grand Master told me that I was being released from section 2 of the Mental Health Act. He was grinning and smiling at me, I looked back at him, confused, I had only one question – “does that mean I can go home right now?”. He confirmed that I could, again beaming at me warmly, that guy really loved his job.

Although I was still in acute withdrawal from Effexor, and wildly delusional and manic, I had successfully hidden it from the staff team and therefore the tribunal. This meant that I did not satisfy the two grounds for detaining someone under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act. I was behaving within ‘normal’ parameters. The wording of the Act is that a person:

  • is suffering from mental disorder of a nature or degree which warrants the detention of the patient in a hospital for assessment (or for assessment followed by medical treatment) for at least a limited period; and
  • he ought to be so detained in the interests of his own health or safety or with a view to the protection of other persons.

FREEDOM.

We were kept loitering in the lobby for a while before we were taken back up to the ward so that I could collect my things. I burst into my room, with my mum and friend following me. A big male nurse came up to me and tried to interrupt my super quick packing, grunting at me in that ridiculous prison warden stance that many of the staff have: “patients aren’t allowed to have visitors in their room”. He seemed unaware that I had been in a tribunal or perhaps robotically dedicated to his role as rule enforcer. His tone of voice and my plan to leave immediately, resulted in me snapping at him something like “I’m not a patient anymore, so yes I can, I’m getting out of here”. I was no longer afraid of the staff here, with their cheap voodoo tricks and their bullying ways, no further need for politeness and smiles, I did not hide any of my contempt. He shuffled off and left us to it.

I crammed my clothes into bin liners, exclaiming that the rancid smell coming off the dirty ones weren’t down to me, the horrible staff must have come in and done that to them when we were downstairs. I was getting mouthier by the minute. We didn’t hang around. We stopped when we had some food in a cafe close by. The freedom left me giddy and excited, I chattered at my Mum. Pontificating about the world, what was wrong with it and what was wrong with her. Not what you would call polite dinner conversation. Delusions upon delusion began to leach and then crash into my brain. Today is the end of the world, judgement day. All these people have come to see me and hope to have healing from being near me. They all know who I am, I am the second coming. I was not confused any more. I kept my more wacky thoughts to myself, but it was obvious that I was still very disturbed. I was determined to go home, so my mum reluctantly agreed that my friend would drive me. She returned to her home miles away with my soiled clothing to take care of instead. I, on the other hand was very excited – I would be safe as soon as I got home and there was a lot of work to be done to prepare for the new world.

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This is my story of severe effexor withdrawal. I have already written much about how I started to take effexor and the consequences of this. Links for the first ‘chapters’ can be found on the ‘mental health story page’.

After a three month withdrawal from effexor I became acutely psychotic and manic and ended up being sectioned under the mental health act. This particular blog details the therapeutic interventions that I had with staff and how they made me feel.

I did not take medication during this hospital stay and as my word and my story will eventually bare out – all of my symptoms were caused by effexor withdrawal. It just took a bit of time and struggle to get this rectified.

I am currently 10mg shy of being effexor free and would consider my story to be one of success.

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I met the consultant in the dining room, a room often used when a patient is being ‘seen’ – by doctors, nurses, family, and solicitors – everyone trying to find out what’s gone wrong. The ‘dining’ room was beautifully constructed for its primary aim and ambiance of being observed, with windows totally covering the wall of the room, which was shared with the corridor of the ward. Enough to make anyone feel paranoid or ill at ease. So all meetings that took place were not only overseen by staff but provided entertainment for patients, as we looked in on each other trying to work out who was who and what was going on, some would shout in or bang on the reinforced glass. This was more of boredom and frustration than ‘craziness’, something new to look at, a break in the monotony. It wasn’t until I neared the end of my stay that I learned there were private meeting rooms – family rooms – this privilege was never offered to me.

I really liked my psychiatrist at the unit. He had a warm and non-condescending disposition, something I rate highly in a person. I never once felt threatened or bullied by him and he did not seem hell bent on telling me I was ‘wrong’. He reminded me of a teddy bear, he was a portly chap, had a semi-scruffy beard and attire – he looked very cuddly basically. l felt safe with him. I explained that I had suffered from depression and anxiety for many years but that in the last few years I had really made progress through yoga, healthier eating, gardening and so on, that my experience of life had been getting easier and happier. He explained that he was a great believer in so called ‘alternative’ approaches and that he knew the things I was describing greatly improved quality of life/ ‘symptoms of mental illness’. I had no explanation as to how I had ended up in this state, why I had felt the need to run around naked and had been acting so out of character. He smiled and listened, after a while he told me that we would meet again and that I should try and get involved with some of the ward’s activities. He made no mention of diagnoses or medications. He was getting to know me first. He felt on my side and I felt validated.

The graffiti on the wall of the smoke room said different ‘DR TEDDY IS A MURDERER’, aptly written in blood red. Similar protests were daubed all over the room, charting months of people expelling their fear and rage over dirty walls, as they sought sanctuary in the smoke room.

But like I say, I liked Dr Teddy and took up his advice. I attended the group meetings held every morning for a few days. On my first day I was allocated to the garden group, which I was obviously pretty pleased with. I followed everyone through corridors and waited patiently at each locked door – ‘open seasame’. I finally got out in the fresh air and I think there were words of encouragement to ‘stretch my legs’ and the like from the staff. I looked around the slabbed yard, peppered with cigarette butts, in disbelief. There were a tiny child’s handful of small flower beds with absolutely nothing in them, not even a stray weed. A dog being let out the back to relief itself. Desolate surroundings, but not alone. The yard was dominated by the high walls of the clinic, each ward having a corridor looking down onto the ‘garden’.

I felt uncomfortable, enraged, patronized and confused more than ever as my addled mind continued incessantly telling me this was all a sick joke at my expense. It seemed so cruel, and the clinic and its sinister agenda became darker and darker in my mind. I went back inside as soon as I could – I was not playing for their amusement.

The next activity of the morning was to shoot some pool – a game where my attention span lasts for the time it takes for me to start blatantly losing! I humored the staff as they encouraged me to play and tried to chat to me – these two oozed sympathy which although unpalatable went down a lot smoother than the general ‘don’t bother me nutter’ attitude or the ‘because you’re psychotic you are a moron’ stance. I smiled and nodded in all the right places, still desperately trying to fathom out what the point all of this was.

I also attended ‘art therapy’ which was a most depressing and sinister experience. The felt tips and glitter and the pots of half-dried pva glue, oh and the stencils of bunny rabbits. Jeez, how did it all come to this. Then we were all asked to make a valentines day card, for goodness sake. I quickly rushed up a design, some trees, a river, a bit of glitter to jazz it up, ta da. We then had to ‘share’ – why we chose our design and how valentines day made us feel. And people started spilling, these people had seen some scary stuff – guns, drugs, knifes, open arm combat. I began to shake. It came to my turn – I told the therapist that I believed that it should be valentines day everyday and that you shouldn’t need to be told to be thoughtful to your loved ones. How very pious of me! I meant it as a some sort of lofty statement about the ills of society – in other words valentines day is bull. Overly cynical for some’s taste perhaps. However, with a little jiggery pokery on her part she explained to me and the group that a lot of people find valentines day difficult and perhaps have felt loss or have an increased awareness that they are alone, she looked at me smiling kindly, in an all knowing way. I feebly nodded in agreement, my eye lids bulging, struggling to hold onto the salt water in case a humiliating water fall began. I felt miserable, I knew I was beat, there is no room for discussion, there are templates that one must simply fit into. The added problem was that there really were no issues going on in my life that would explain what had happened to me. Except for the effexor withdrawal of course.

Ok, so art therapy is out, as well as gardening.

Next day, I was allocated to cook. I was told to write down the ingredients for a meal that I would cook at home. The staff would then go and out and purchase the ingredients as I was not allowed any leave, and I would then cook it. Simple. Unfortunately I got a little bit confused as to the purpose of the exercise. I couldn’t work out why they wanted to see me cook and when they do see me cook, what exactly will they then know. However I worked out that I didn’t want to ‘fail’ the test, so I cooked up a spaghetti bolognase from scratch whilst paying full attention to health and safety/food hygiene regulations. As I began I said to them to clarify once again “what you just want me to cook and you’re just going to watch me. Do I have to talk to you, tell you what I’m doing” – “no, not if you don’t want to”. It made no sense to me at all but I cooked and they watched. After a while they gave up trying to elicit conversation from me. I was always polite in my response but never giving. So they chattered to themselves, about where they lived, their partners, where they liked to drink. I listened and saw very clearly how I must seem – a disheveled crazy person, who clearly needed to reach out for help. These chinks of reality were far and few between, Effexor withdrawal done wrong is a tenacious beast and so I continued to throw obscene amounts of garlic into my signature dish to ward off energy vampires. The smell of garlic lingered in the ward for a good few days and was a source of comfort to me, as the relentless attacks from seen and unseen beings continued.

As you can see I was still really not getting it – that I was in a hospital and was acutely not right in the head. This incidentally, I find to be as accurately descriptive diagnosis as any other.

One particular night, a week or so into my stay, I became so petrified and once again those little chinks of clarity whizzed through my brain, so I decided to talk to a member of staff about what had been happening to me. It was around 4am and I had been up all night, warding off spiritual attacks from another patient who was trying to destroy me. There was a lot of telepathic noise in my head that evening. I thought I heard her reporting me to the night staff, asking them if they knew anything about spiritual warfare. I panicked and thought I would be punished, then another part of me was saying ‘how long can I go on like this, I’ve gotta trust someone’. So I knocked on the office door and asked if I could speak to someone. I zoned in on the guy wearing Christian cross earrings, latching onto an overt sign that this was not an evil baddie. He agreed to talk to me in the dining room. He commanded me to stop crying – or how else are we going to have an adult conversation. Interesting position to take. But he wasn’t confident, he kept backing away from me, I noticed how he was keeping tables and chairs between us as I edged toward him, desperately hoping that he could help me. Realising that he was scared of me I implored him to see that I wasn’t going to hurt him. I stopped trying to choke and gulp back the panic attack, remembering that it never works to try and stuff them back inside. His chastisement reminded me to focus on slowing my breathing – good old yoga. As I’ve tried to explain throughout my writings, I really was well practiced at calming myself down, which is why I was withdrawing from the effexor, albeit way too quickly.

Anyways, we finally sat down and the floodgates opened. He asked me how I had ended up in here. So I told him, about my boss and my yoga teacher stalking me, about my television and computer communicating with me, about the free masons. On and on, purging my self, telling him my big secret. He told me that it sounds like I have been having delusions and that I’m not very well and that they can give me tablets to help. But I could not bare to hear this and did not even contemplate for a second that he might be right. I rather rudely retorted that if I’m going to talk to anyone about medication then it will be a doctor not a nurse – it was not his place to prescribe to me. I don’t trust this guy one little bit SLAM. I retreated back inside myself, resolving never to open up to ‘them’ again. Our conversation drew to an end when he explained that he was going off shift and that he could sit and listen to me all day, its so interesting. Then he bounced out the room, I was shocked how this bloke could find my personal pain intellectually stimulating, a clinical conundrum pure and simple, no human touch at all. I was looking for kindness and compassion, but apparently it doesn’t come in tablet form.

Over the next of couple of days I mulled over my predicament – that I had outed myself – that they had something on me. I dismissed trying to tell dr teddy that I had said no such thing to the man, realising this would get me in deeper. So the next time I saw the doc I told him that yes at that time I had thought the TV was communicating with me, but of course this was a problem with my perception at that time. He smiled at me, I was pleased that he was pleased with my response. No further questioning. Phew, my secret can be re-buried.

And so life on the ward went on and I got myself into a little routine, otherwise known as institutionalization. I managed to keep my head down – away from fights, therapy and one to ones. Just occasional chats with Dr teddy. Biding my time until my mental health review tribunal…

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Its cold and wet and dark outside and the allotment can wait til tomorrow! I have used my time wisely and sat down this afternoon to write a bit more about my EFFEXOR story. This is a story I need to tell – so once again in the vein of better out than in – here goes.

Quick recap – I experienced a severe withdrawal reaction from the antidepressant – Effexor. Within days of finishing a three month (ish) withdrawal I became acutely psychotic/manic and physically ill. I ended up being sectioned, which was rather unpleasant.

The beauty of freedom is that you can believe whatever the hell you like. So my offerings can be read and interpreted in a myriad of ways. However its not a manifesto or advice, i’m just telling ya what happened when I stopped Effexor and why I shunned help from the mental health system.

After two tussles with staff and subsequent sedations, I quickly learnt to keep quiet and to be as unnoticeable as possible. Most of my days were spent swishing around the ward following the thread of one delusion after another and another… Desperately searching for the person that I was destined to meet who would show me the way onto the next part of my journey.

I felt that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me whatsoever thank you very much. I spent a lot of time watching, looking, observing, and being very upset by the distress and pain that the others on the unit were experiencing. Most desperately wanted to run, run, run – anywhere, so they fought their corner, mentally and physically – they passionately told staff exactly what they thought of their drugs and their ‘therapeutic interventions’ . They could not see that the result was that they were held and squeezed tighter and tighter.

Within the first week I had been on the receiving end of some very one-sided deals with other patients – tobacco and clothes being the main coveted items. I had given most of my clothes away and was being sent on numerous errands by patients much higher up in the pecking order. Most of these women had spent time in prison and had a history of full on Class A drug consumption. I heard many of them say to staff that they would rather be back there – more freedom, better conditions. Whilst of course we were all in the same sinking boat, mentally drowning and gasping for air, in many ways we were coming from completely different stratospheres.

I was too scared to stay in my room and hide from the increasing bullying and tormenting, as my family and friends pleaded with me to do. I whispered to them trying to explain that I was under spiritual attack and that the room was so dirty, dark and full of evil spirits. I saw the look in their eyes, they were so very sad and upset. So I tried to console them – i’m ok, i’m gonna win, i got special powers. My confidence, along with the fact that I was clearly pulling the wool over the staff’s eyes did nothing to allay their fears.

At other times during visits, which I received on a daily basis despite the miles of travel, my family and friends would be confronted with me trying to out them as impostors. I would ask random questions or bring up obscure anecdotes that only they would know, looking at every flinch and squirm that they made in their chair and drawing random conclusions. Aliens and evil beings regularly shape-shifted into my mum and dad, trying to trick me into giving them information about the end of the world.

Still I stayed quiet, trusting no-one but myself, believing that my eternal existence and that of all humans was under threat. The windows were boarded up, I was inside but n0-one was coming in. The notion that I was going to get through this unscathed and win the game burned very strongly in me. I was terrified constantly but was sure that the trick to all this was to stay calm. Reality is perception and such like. I was in a conundrum and I had an unnerving sense that someone/something was taking the mick. My brain ratcheted out bizarre fears and even more bizarre explanations.

It was such hard work being in that bed room, as I had to continually perform cleansing and exorcist type rituals for hours on end – night after night – holy water and magical items such as a shoe or a piece of chewing gum to fend off the obliteration of my soul. No rest for the wicked.

So in the day I ran the gauntlet and sought the sanctuary of the communal areas. Up and down the corridor, into the lounge, into the smoke room, round and round, hour after hour I flitted about, desperately looking for a kind face, an ally, anyone who could coherently explain to me ‘WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON’. But the other patients were fighting their own battle and like me, were doing anything they could to protect themselves. No saviours amongst them. Oh yeah and the staff – well most were too busy on there mobile phones or blatantly chatting and gossiping about each other and what a terrible place to work this ward was. Agency staff came and went – a constant mirage of changing faces, approaches and ring tones. Permenant staff were tired, jaded and over-worked – locking themselves in the office drowning under a sea of paperwork. An atmosphere of fear, aggression and self-preservation at all costs oozed from staff and patients. My friends and family feared for my very being and a sustained campaign of phone-calls to various health and social services factions ensued- from the foot soldiers to the big chiefs. Not a returned phone call or single reassurance about when I would be moved to a more local, more open ward. Shame on them.

Any good story of this subject matter, will talk about what drugs the person was given and how they made them feel. This will be over quickly because I wasn’t really given any on a sustained basis, well not in this hospital. I received yucky rapid tranquilisation a couple of times when I first arrived, but after that I munched down one benzo and that was it. This was my first bit of good fortune. A day or two after my abysmally poor escape attempt, I approached a nurse and asked him for a knock-out pill, explaining that I felt scared and was worried about what I might do. He was a man of few words and few facial expressions, but I liked him – he said ‘ok i’ll give you one this time, but you don’t want to get into the habit of taking these, try and manage it yourself, most of the women in here are hooked on these and that just causes them more problems. He gave me the pill and walked off. Ching – a flash of inspiration – I took his divine message into my plan of escape. I look back thankful that he didn’t say ‘yeah why not have a anti-psychotic in the mix too baby, that’ll really sort your head out’. Fifteen minutes later the same nurse approached me and said ‘ would you like to change rooms away from jemima’. I jumped at the chance Jemima was in the room opposite and had clearly endured some real horrific things in her life, she was one feisty lady! She wasn’t allowed to leave her room – two staff were posted on the door – so she’d shout out to me and get me to bring her things, much to the exasperation of the agency staff who wanted a quiet shift so they could play with their mobile phones, seemingly obsessed as a child is at christmas with their new toy, except they never tired of it. Jemima scared me – she said such strange things and was very edgy. I was glad to be moved to the room next to the office. It turns out that this room was haunted too and I could now hear the staff laughing at me and plotting to destroy me, but I did not fear physical attack now as I had put my self in stealth mode. So I persevered with my plan, stay quiet and pursue legal recourse to get out of there, and not put a stinking obliteration pill past my lips…

The other stroke of good luck was the way in which I was able to get a solicitor and request a Mental Health Review Tribunal. It would have taken a lot longer if I had waited for my named nurse to empower me to do this. She didn’t bother to do the ward induction which involves telling you about your right to a tribunal, until several weeks into my stay. Anyways, what happened was I was completing my usual rounds of the communal areas, when I walking into the dining room and saw this guy, he looked up at me and said something like ‘ do you want a solicitor, do you want to get out of here’. His spoken English wasn’t too great, I think he was an African fellow. To this day, I’m not sure what he was doing there or how it was that I sat with him for quite a while filling out forms without someone interrupting us. I don’t believe that solicitors or legal assistants sit about or are allowed to tout for custom in mental health unit dining rooms, so he must have had an appointment with someone, but they didn’t turn up, perhaps they weren’t told. Who knows! I seized the opportunity with both hands and both feet… The bureaucratic wheels were started in motion and the delusion that I was receiving Godly support was reinforced…

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The alternative title for this post is how not to escape from a locked mental health unit. Part of the sporadic telling of my experiences in the mental health system. Previous posts are listed at the bottom of this page – Antidepressants.

The story continues on from my first days in the mental health unit – where a rather distasteful and negligent approach was taken by nursing staff – which resulted in me being pinned to the floor and forcibly injected…..

My parents came to visit me later that day and were faced with an appalling sight. I was told by mum months later that she had rang the clinic in the morning and was told that she would not be able to visit that day because she had not made an appointment. My mum did not accept that absolutely ridiculous statement and explained that she would most definitely be visiting me later that day. My mum has worked in the mental health system for decades and was not fazed by the rude, surly and unhelpful responses the ‘carer’ gave her. Eventually someone had the good sense and knowledge of human rights to confirm the visit could take place. Good job really, she probably would have driven the 100 odd miles anyway – two of us locked up wouldn’t have been the best start to 2006.

They were shown into the visitors room and told to wait.

I was shaken awake and told “you got visitors”

I shuffled and mumbled and drooped into the room. Crying and pleading – terrified.. I choked and spat and retched out the details of my ‘rapid tranquilisation‘. I’m not really sure what they said back to me. A part of me was floating above, watching this crazy, disheveled creature wailing and gasping. She looked sorta like a cave-woman. She was traumatised and she didn’t understand what the hell was going on. She needed help but at this time and for a few months yet – nobody could- she was lost AWOL.

The visit spewed to an end and I shuffled off to join my new house-mates. All of us where having a very sane reaction to this environment – we all wanted to get the hell outta there.

My parents immediately went to have a little chat with the staff. They had several queries. Why was I so clearly and unashamedly over-medicated? Why on earth was I refused oral medication when I asked for it? I am confident that my mum explained a few things to them – primarily how their approach was severely lacking and letting them know that she would be visiting frequently. Ward managers were spoken to.

Thank goodness because the next time it was felt that I needed rapid tranquillisation was a much less severe experience. I was given different drugs altogether and I wasn’t wrestled and pinned to the ground and forcibly injected. Funny that almost sounds like I’m grateful – which just goes to show how warped a mind set a mental health unit can produce.

My parents intervention was good for me – but my comrades continued to be used as pin cushions – their screams and the screeching of the ‘panic alarm’ was the background noise to our care and treatment at this unit.

Anyways – so a few more days in and me and this other patient decided to make a bid for freedom. It was a really poor plan. You could say it was insane.

The thing was I was never really convinced that it would work but my mate was very confident and even showed me the cars that we could use to make our getaway. I peered through the tiny pin-prick holes of the grate covering my bedroom window. I would spend a lot of time peering through the tiny holes in the metal sheet, shocked at how unbelievably cruel and pointless it was to stop us looking out of the window. This fostered anger which I desperately tried to choke back down and a conviction that this was a torture prison, where they are performing voodoo on us all. Evil trying to swing the balance of the universe into its favour.

My friend grabbed a book and flicked it against the window enthusiastically, somehow communicating with the parked cars. She excitedly urged me to pick out some clothes to wear for our grate adventure. I wasn’t convinced – these were powerful beings holding us and I didn’t want to rouse their rath again. She chattered on and I asked questions – so she was the old planet earth and I was the new. We needed to leave this holding area together and put an end to this destructive time line. On and on, our delusions, fears and hopes spilling out and melding into a right old kerfuffle and what was basically a crap plan.

I spent the morning on reconnaissance duties. I quickly worked out that all exits were locked. Unsurprising since it was a locked ward for severely disturbed people, but my mind was unable to hold onto that obvious fact as terrors and the bogey man crowded my thoughts. I paced and scurried around trying to think of a way out. I looked at the fire exits and the fire alarms, daring myself/being dared and urged to press it. But I was all out of bravado and self-preservation kicked in. I wanted to disappear, not create havoc.

The morning progressed and we both were just loitering around the corridor and the ward’s main entrance – or exit depending on your perspective. A student nurse came onto the ward and so my pal seized this miniscule chink of opportunity and legged it toward the door. She grabbed the door as it was just about to slam shut. So I ran forward confident that this was the divine intervening to secure our freedom. Yipeeeee, we’re outta here.

I didn’t get to leave, as the nurse grabbed my arm and starting yanking and pulling on it – like she was trying to flush a toilet with a dodgy chain. I resisted – I wasn’t getting any nearer to the door but she’d not wrenched me any nearer to her either. Stale mate. Unsure what to do I looked at my mate who was kinda bouncing up and down holding the door open. She was looking at the nurse and was jabbing into the air with a clenched fist. I was worried that she was going to punch her and that attacking the nurse was the only way we could escape. I looked into the eyes of the nurse, she looked angry and irritated that I’d decided to make a run for it – she didn’t say a word. I didn’t want to hurt her – its just that she wouldn’t bloody let go of my arm and I desperately wanted to leave – So I decided to tickle her.

It must have been very scary for that student nurse. She didn’t know I was trying to make her laugh – you could say she didn’t see the funny side of things. Of course I feel remorse for hurting her, although at the time I honestly thought I was helping her. But then again to this day I have no idea why she risked her personal safety, by single handedly scrapping with a patient. We weren’t going to get very far, there were at least another two locked doors to get through, as well as the external locked gate. She was not ‘last man standing’ – she should have waited for back up.

We both made choices that day.

As was for the best, two of her colleagues came down the corridor to rescue her, as I excitedly tickled her, giving her healing positive energies. I was so utterly sure that I was following a divine plan and this involved escaping. However, two guys put me in some sort of wrist lock and marched me down the corridor and into my room. They exerted a lot of pressure and my wrists seared with pain. Once again I was screaming and wailing. My mate shouted out ‘hey man take it easy on her’ , it seems no-one realised she was part of the escape team. They released some of the pressure and saw that once again I was offering no resistance to being taken to my room. I was definitely sobbing because of the pain and because I was unsure what these two blokes were going to do to me. However, I was mostly crying out because for the first time I fully realised that there was no escape.

The nurse spoke to me warmly in my room and said ‘we just want you to take these and stay in you room’. Relieved, I took him up on the offer. Whilst the tablets were doing their magic, I paced about, frantically scared and appalled that I had messed up – the Earth was doomed now and its all my fault. I dared myself to hide in the cleaners trolley which had been left in my room – perhaps thats what ‘God’ wants me to do. Instead I crawled up and went to sleep.

After this when I was able to direct or have any ounce of control over my mind, I thought of very little else but how to stay calm and quiet and get away from there. So I hatched a more realistic plan to escape by convincing the system that I was sane. Half of me frantically being swallowed and consumed by outrageous delusions of universal battles between good and evil that all pivoted on my actions. The other part playing their silly game that this was a ‘hospital’ – so I tip toed round the ward, politely smiling to all and I got myself a lawyer…

keener

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We have a mate called Sue.

Yesterday she experienced a life changing vegetable moment up our plot…

Hang on, let me explain….

Sue is always enthusiastic about pretty flowers and was happy to hear that actually her lawn wildflower meadow is very much in vogue.

Sue is a great friend – she always heartily enthuses with us when we retell our gardening adventures.

Sue is also very annoying! She is one of those green-fingered types! The plants in her garden alway thrive with little effort and her hanging baskets are to die for! She is a natural, intuitive gardener – she sticks things in the durt and they grow!

However we are talking about a lady who a few years back was given strawberry and tomato plants, but didn’t eat the fruit. The reason being that she didn’t realise that they were real strawberries and tomatoes. Upon realising her error she rectified the situation immediately, she couldn’t believe the lovely tastiness of her produce.

Sue is more of a low-maintenance kinda gardener so her veg growing career was short…

So fast forward to yesterday – Sue goes up to our allotment for the first time. She was chastising herself later that day for leaving it so long. We could see the look in her eyes – that of an allotment junkie in the making…

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She ambled along the wood chip paths, with Beener enthusiastically giving her the ‘grand tour’. Sue stood there, hands on hips, and in true Bristolian style said ‘never! that ain’t never your allotment’ .

We are also very lucky to have breath taking views of Bristol and the plots are near to woodland- a splodge of country-side in the city..

Sue could instantly see why we spend so much time at our beloved allotment.

Then crunch time, Beener approached the mange tout, plucked one off the plant and eagerly tried it. Sue looked slightly horrified, as if Beener was eating raw sewerage. Sue knew it was inevitable and her heart starting thumping, Beener thrust a mange tout toward her.

Now Sue was in a dilemma. Her body and mind screaming “I aint beeping eating that”. But like I said Sue is a great friend and put aside her misgivings for the sake of her grinning friend.

The rest of the story, like a crap film, is obvious – she beeping loved it. Sue declared that they had a lovely nutty taste –  she is partial to a bag of assorted nuts (always with raisins). She then progressed to runner beans and pledged that she will come back -often. She snapped away with her phone camera, wanting to show the plot to her family and friends.

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She felt good and in turn so did we – a crescendo of giggling, smiles and excited chatter floating away from our plot – allotments/gardening/veg growing tends to have that affect on people don’t you think?

So here’s to Sue – she never fails to make us laugh or amaze us… and we really hope that she spends more time up the allotment with us – from the look on her face I think she will. And we will keep plying her with succulent fresh veg, until like us, she can no longer live without it.

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Another blog on my experiences of withdrawal from effexor. Previous posts on this topic are listed on the page, Mental Health Story.

This blog recounts my first two days in the mental health unit. Around a week after my last dose of effexor, I found myself acutely psychotic, manic, and banged up on a ward for acutely disturbed women. Unfortunately I didn’t know this at the time… I thought the world was coming to an end and I was part of a new breed of human beings…

So we arrived at my lodgings… A lady took us through the reception area, along some corridors, up a lift.. It looks quite posh here – nice decor, quiet, very relaxing. I was smiling and happy, I thanked the driver for his skill in getting us safely to the secret hide-out.

Then my friend and I arrived on the ward – ker chink, slam. The carpets and chintz gone – it is amazing how rooms can look both chillingy clinical and disgustingly grubby and ill- kempt at the same time – real design skill.

We were taken to the dining room and instructed to wait, bits of paper to be signed… Two women were sat in there too, I caught snatches of their conversation, ‘the only way out is to do exactly what you’re told”…

The rapid response driver came into the room and told my friend that it was time for him to leave. My friend was not so sure that this was a suitable place or time to leave, but was told that ‘it’s for the best that you leave now’. It was clear that there was no scope for debate – my friend wasn’t allowed to help me to settle in…

So he was turfed out into deepest, darkest, scariest East London .. He went to a well-known inn for travellers and was told that he couldn’t stay because he only had cash and no credit card to hand in. When he went to leave, they exclaimed ‘you really don’t wanna do that – its really rough round here” and immediately booked him a room for the night..

One is left wondering whether relatives/friends of people with other major health problems/illnesses are treated in such a manner …

I was taken to my room – and thank goodness I had my own – many don’t and often with horrific and traumatizing consequences…. Two blokes came into the room with me and I excitedly chattered to them as they tried to elicit my details from me – name, d.o.b., allergies, date of last period (nosey buggers!!) etc etc. So it seems that the new race of humans are being put in a holding area for their own safety and they were trying to discern what was happening on a physical level – I know my sci-fi/alien hollywood genre – the humans always bring in the scientists to test and monitor…

I giggled and bounced my way around the ward until beddy byes. Making a bit of a nuisance of myself I suppose, bursting into a meeting and suggesting to another patient that we should leave – she wanted to and agreed with me, but stayed put… I also gave ‘healing’ to some poor woman with acne and advised her on ‘how to live her life’.

Bounce, boing, bounce..

Thankfully, one of the patients took pity on my predicament and decided to help me, before I got in serious trouble… She encouraged me to sit down with her and chatted to me, guiding me down to a safe altitude, so I was under the radar of the staff… She explained that she was leaving soon and that I shouldn’t worry because I will catch on to how it works soon. She told me that the staff are bastards, but don’t listen to what they got to say, its the psychiatrists who decide whether you can go home… I felt better, finally someone is just talking to me and not looking at me like I got two heads… I didn’t really know what she was going on about but her kind, heart-felt reassurances that I would be ok and get through this, settled me. However one thing was very clear – I had fallen into the hands of the ‘baddies’….
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The next day, I woke up bright and breezy ready for the day ahead. I mosied around the ward, quickly realising that there was nothing to do and no-where to go. So I made my own entertainment..

I decided to cheer the ward up. I armed meself with various brightly coloured felt tips and set about drawing rainbows everywhere to change the energy of the building. I was left quite happily doing this for some time – getting higher and higher and higher… I wasn’t bothering anyone so the staff left me alone. …. When I began to chatter nonsense at the cleaner, who had kept smiling at me warmly, I was grabbed by the arm by a woman who thrust a plastic container of pills at me. She grunted at me ‘we think you should take these’. She scared me.. so I declined.. So she commanded me to go to my room. No formal introductions, explanations or any clues to me as to what the hell was going on..

After a while of cleaning and exorcising my room – using coffee to paint my healing rainbows – I decided to venture out again. I saw the cleaner again, and approached her – she seemed to be the only person giving off ‘positive vibes’. At this point several squad members began marching at speed down the corridor toward me. I paniced and threw the coffee (cold) toward the cleaner and what followed was an intervention that mental health units often excel at.

They grabbed me and dragged me into my room. I immediately went limp – I saw little point in fighting. Several (at least four) pinned me down on the floor, face down and they yanked my trousers and underwear down. Several minutes past with me splayed on the floor, as they talked over me and about me in a most derogatory manner. I cried out what’s happening, what are you doing to me – I still had no idea I was in a mental health unit, although it was pretty clear that it was medication time – Please let me take the tablets, please – NO, its too late now, you had your chance. just be quiet… But I can’t breath, please remove the hair from my mouth – NO ..

This was not compassionate, skilled mental health care, this was punishment..

Finally someone came in the room – I felt the sharp prick and pain of the liquid enter my posterior – and then the weight on me lifted as the squad team legged it out of the room.

There was no fighting this med, no staying awake. Zzzzz

Obviously my story is not unique, and its quite tame compared to the assault and abuse that others have faced…

People die (are killed)..

Adam James in Psychminded reports on the death of Geoffrey Hodgkins, who died after being held in the prone position for 25 minutes. The article ‘Death for no reason?‘ discusses the issues surrounding the need for staff skilled in de-escalation techniques, ultimately arguing that forests of guidelines and policies stating that the prone position is only ever a last resort, does not change the day to day ward reality.

Mental health services staff simply do not do their jobs properly – various guidelines state that the prone position should not be used for more than three minutes. In Geoffrey’s case it was and members of staff involved were not held responsible for his death. The staff may very well not have received the training they were entitled to, but to be fair if you can’t tell that you’re squashing someone to death then ….

In my mind – no excuses – assault is assault is assault.

EFFEXOR

However all of this is a red herring as the villain of this particular piece – Effexor/venlafaxine and its disappearance from my body, is not mentioned. It would take some weeks for me to fully suss out that I was absolutely bonkers and that I am in hospital. A mental health review tribunal, another sectioning, another hospital, another tribunal and finally a voluntary admission instigated by myself, saw me back on the Venlafaxine and pretty much instananeously back to reality. A slightly different one as that kinda stuff changes your outlook somewhat! I have clung to gardening and the allotment and it has nurtured me back to health – hooray!

So as in other blogs I’ve written so far on my ‘experience’ I emphasise and shout out at the top of my lungs – every single symptom and medication I was given was due to effexor withdrawal and not a single medical professional I saw recognised it.

I look back and thank my lucky stars – mental and physical freedom tastes sweet!

So I write it down when I feel able to, hoping its of use to someone – just because I can…

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I love this research study, published in the ‘International Society for Horticultural Science‘.

It is entitled Horticulture, well-being, and mental health: from intuitions to evidence.

From a review of the literature this article shows that many of society’s ills could be reduced by more people picking up a shovel.

Kuo writes:

“Can horticulture contribute significantly to human well-being and mental health? Increasing evidence suggests it can. This review presents findings from scientific studies with diverse populations, including residents of poor inner city neighborhoods, ecological restoration volunteers, and children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Moreover, the findings come from studies of diverse outcomes, including lower rates of violent and property crime, lower incidence of aggression, greater ability to cope with poverty, better life functioning, greater life satisfaction, reduced attention deficit symptoms, greater strength of community, and others.”

Fair enough!

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