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’….
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.
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…