Archive for the ‘panic’ 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.


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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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…


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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…


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.


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’….

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…

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The UKs National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) amended its depression and anxiety guidance on April 25th 2007. This was in response to safety information issued in May 2006, by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for prescribing Venlafaxine/effexor.


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This post tells more about my experience of withdrawal from the antidepressant, Effexor, and my less than positive experiences in the mental health system.

A quick recap first. At this point in my story I am in severe Effexor withdrawal – I was psychotic, manic, physically ill and volatile. In the space of a few hours I had taken a little sojourn up my local high street in the nude; burst into a community hall of unsuspecting meeting attendees (still naked), scared off an ambulance (partially naked) and been escorted by her majesty’s boys in blue to the local station (fully clothed) only to be told by the doctor that I was fine. Last but by no means least – later that day I physically attacked a dear friend of mine while he lay sleeping.

If you would like to read about how I got to this point, then see my earlier blogs:

Entry into the mental health system – how I came to a point where I needed help from the mental health system and why I first started to take anti-depressants

Induction into mental health system – My first experience of help from the mental health system and how my condition deteriorated as I continued to take anti-depressants.

Sabbatical and re-entry into the mental health system
– My time away from psychiatry and the things I tried to improve my quality of life. How and why things went wrong for me and how a severe withdrawal reaction from antidepressants saw me propelled back into the mental health system.

Explosion back into the mental health system – How quickly I became acutely psychotic and manic when withdrawing from my antidepressant – Effexor.

The alternative title for this blog is ‘For goodness sake, will somebody lock her up!’. I will attempt to explain how difficult it was to get me sectioned and the all-consuming devastation that Effexor withdrawal brought about in my mind, body and life. This is also a story about how difficult it was for my family and friends to go through, as we all struggled to accept and understand what was happening to me. I was confused and confusing…

The morning after I smashed my fist into my friends face, was spent with me whizzing around the house – trying to burn most of my possessions, but keeping those items that were imbued with mystical energies. The world was being destroyed, we had messed up and ruined Planet Earth, and humans were now reaping what we’d sown so arrogantly, selfishly and hatefully.

But the good news was that I had an important role to play and some humans were to survive and we were all going to meet up. I had a lot of work to do and not much time, as I needed to turn my home into a sorta good vibe energy magnet defense complex.

Meanwhile, back on the reality channel, my friend was having a rather stressful morning. He was tired and in shock and needed help. He had managed to make a few phone calls, Beener was on her way over and a GP was coming to do a home visit, but their arrivals were a few hours away. It would be a few days before the ‘Community Mental Health Team’ and Rapid Response Team rode into town. And you know what they say ‘things will get worse before they get better’….

My friend tried to encourage me to eat, to relax in the bath, to stop making fires and burning my things. So I sat in the bath, purifying myself with flower petals and magic water – which was actually mass-produced, cheap, gaudy pink, pot porri that I must have found at the back of a cupboard somewhere when ransacking the house. Perhaps it was at this point that my friend managed to reconnect up the various TV wires that I had removed to stop the Freemasons and other ‘bad’ humans from beaming into my house. I was on to them – they were evil and scary and hurt people and did mean things- they had no place on ‘new earth’.

My friends recall now that at first they thought that I had been brain-washed by an online cult. I was saying such strange things and was obsessed with the computer. I had been on the net in the last few months reading about ‘spirituality’ and yogic philosophies. Now, my friends aren’t daft, but to them that seemed more logical than believing that I had somehow just got mental and flipped.

My friend sat me down to watch TV. I sat captivated watching a steam engine program, telling me all about energy lines that had been involved in the time-line that had brought earth to its destruction. How clever of the ‘good’ guys to make a program for me that would explain exactly what’s going. By this point I believed that my friend was somebody else and he was there to help me. This is known as Capgras delusion.

The GP came round and the TV went off. I don’t really remember what he said to me – but I recall that apart from the fact that he looked real strange, he also looked a bit frightened and wary of me. I don’t think he stayed very long, it really didn’t take much time for him to agree with my friend – yep she’s crazy. He left medication with my friend for me.

I was reluctant to take the medication and when my friend did get me to take some it had absolutely no effect. Beener and my friend stayed with me, keeping watch over me and trying to get me to just ‘chill out!!!!’ Nothing I said was making any sense to them and I was having violent mood swings from one minute to the next. I would be sobbing my brains out and then threatening them or trying to attack them in the next breath. No pattern, no warnings. I had super human strength at this time.

I was completely unrecognizable as me, my voice, my facial expressions and my body language. I was scared and scaring people. I threatened Beener with some golf clubs at one point, pacing the room, swinging them around randomly, with a disturbingly ‘evil’ look on my face. A lot of the time all Beener could do was sit absolutely still, as she realised that even a slight movement could be perceived by me as threatening.

The point about all this un-gratuitous description of violence is that it was so out of character. I could sloppily and lazily categorise myself as a lefty social worker type, who does not believe it is right to raise your voice to someone, let alone whack ‘em round the head with a golf club. I was underweight at the time (although I possessed super-human strength during this period) and had a history of being ‘bullied’. I was not known as a particularly assertive person.

My friends were in bits – tired, scared, worried, confused and outta options. The emergency GP was rang again. He hid from me in the kitchen, talking to me as I paced the lounge (there is a hatch between my lounge and kitchen).. He looked a bit scared too, but he was kind and it seemed like he wanted to help me, so I agreed that I would go to the hospital in the car with my friends. I questioned him furiously about this so-called local hospital – I’ve never heard of it, is it real etc. My friends were told to take me to the local hospital emergency department immediately. It was suggested and agreed that an ambulance would take too long. My friends were given a letter and were told that the mental health team were waiting to assess me.

We whizzed down the motorway, me realizing that I was transmitting my thoughts out to the whole world and that everyone could hear them, my friends in stunned silence, hoping I didn’t freak out in the car and not wanting to trigger anything off.

I was seen pretty quick and taken to this room where I was seen by a psychiatrist and a social worker. It didn’t go too well because unfortunately I didn’t like the look of them and found their questions irritating and pathetic. The delusional context was that I had to keep all of my secrets about armageddon so that they would give us some ransom money so that we could go to Maderia and live in the mountains.

They began to ‘assess’ me. First off the Psychiatrist – one of the opening question ‘do you believe that the television communicates with you”. It was all I could do not to laugh – this was gonna be easy peasy! His questions continued and he irritated more and more. I guess I began to smirk at him and later on I was told that I was displaying ‘inappropriate laughter’.

They brought up the Effexor – no, nope, incorrect, I’m not thick I didn’t just stop cold turkey – I withdrew properly – I was already starting to feel very heavily that I was being spoken to like I was a moron and I felt extremely offended by this. At that point I didn’t believe that Effexor could/did cause it – more’s the pity. My friends continued to state (in private chats with the doctors) that it must be that, Beener had been researching withdrawal from Effexor – besides it was inconceivable that I had suddenly gone ‘mental’.

Next up – Mr social worker – talked about my job as a mental health service manager for a bit, discussed my life with me, looking for stressors and problems in my life and my ‘history’. But there were none that would readily explain this, except for the cessation of Effexor. As he spoke to me I noticed his red, sallow face and noted to myself that he was a drinker. I triumphantly told him that I had stopped drinking some years ago and that in fact I was managing my depression and anxiety very well thank you very much (thinking to myself unlike you – you cheeky bugger)!

And so it went on. I smirked at them, they sniffed about for a problem and my friends sat with tears in their eyes thinking she’ll slip up soon and say something or do something gooky. But I didn’t – I guess because I had been trained and worked in the system it didn’t require too much concentration on my part to pull the wool over their eyes. Also I was as far as I as concerned fighting for my life – I couldn’t afford to slip up on my quest.

The upshot of the assessment to my friends disbelief and amazement was that yes I was a bit ‘high, but are you sure it’s not ‘behavioural’. In other words was ‘I acting up’. My friends desperately told them that I was normally a very polite, well-mannered person and not the obnoxious, arrogant creature they had seen. My friends said they couldn’t cope and couldn’t keep me or themselves safe. We were sent away with some medication.

Besides “there are no beds anyway”.

It seems that the treatment that I was being offered, the drugs, were steadily getting stronger. Eventually I was given Largactil, an old medication first used in the 1950s, with a knock out punch effect. Chemically, it is classed as a phenothiazine; experientially and to the observer it is classed as a chemical strait jacket. It produces an effect commonly known as the Largactil shuffle. This is an extremely controversial drug, with many side effects and huge potential for long-term damage to mental and physical health. I was given this drug steadily over the next 24 hours . I am not arguing here that something didn’t need to be done, it clearly did. But that’s where the horror, the frustration and the disgust at the mental health system comes in.

I have several conclusions, observations and realisations about this nightmare scenario:

1) The most obvious and anger-inducing thing is why didn’t any medical people realise that I was going through Effexor withdrawal. If I had started back on the Effexor then, rather than three months down the line, I would have been right as rain (ish) in a couple of days. They had my medical history and I’m told a lot now ‘oh yeah everyone knows Effexor/SSRIs can do that psychosis/mania/bi-polar thing’. Grrrr! lol

2) I continued to race around my little home and garden, preparing for armageddon, despite the Largactil. Over time my body and mind started to slow down – I took 400mg in 24 hours but I was still flying and racing. I was very thin, with no prior experience of tranquillisers – so no habituation or tolerance. Bet you didn’t think Effexor could do that now did ya!?!

3) The fact that I was being given a major tranquiliser without my consent or knowledge. This was largely because I was unable to understand what was going on, although I had also clearly stated that I did not want to take ‘tablets to help me sleep’. My reaction to the mediation was not being closely monitored, like I said it is heavy duty. This was an intolerable situation for all involved. I should have been placed under the provisions of the Mental Health Act immediately. My friend was administering the drugs to me and I was very vulnerable – the potential for abuse was massive…

My mum also came down and was shocked to see the state I was in, again inconceivable to her that this was happening. She is a trained nurse with years of experience of supporting people with mental health problems and administering psychotropic medication. She was horrified at the levels of drugs being chucked down my neck without adequate medical support and monitoring. She was not going to allow this to continue.

I felt safer when she was around – but I was so worried about her – she really didn’t look right – sorta upset, so I carried out healings on her and randomly spoke about things from my childhood to console her, she was upset that I was going to Madeira but I had already decided to take her with me. But in the blink of an eye I was demanding that she go back to her own house – what was she doing here on a week-day morning anyway for goodness sake – maybe she’s betraying me to the Freemasons…

More phone calls…

Eventually, the mental health squad team arrived. They introduced themselves – an approved social worker, a psychiatrist, the GP and a Community Support Worker. I am not entirely sure how the conversation went. I guess I spent the whole time smirking at them, disbelieving that they really where who they said they were – more tricks! I was not acting rationally, I was pacing and raging at them. In my own home I found it impossible to hide my insanity. I don’t suppose it was a difficult assessment to make – insane -tick; dangerous -tick. The decision was made and various little looks and nods went on between them – by the way not a good idea when in the presence of someone who is paranoid. The psychiatrist then looks at me with a faux-concerned voice and face and said ‘what can we do to help you right now’. Her disingenuousness was apparent and clear even through the muddle of psychosis and Largactil – I remember that much and feeling an intense level of irritation, as they all sat there gawping at me, looking edgy. Apparently, I walked over to her, picked up her bag and thrust it at her and told her she could get out of my house. I then frog marched her off the property. Its a shame the Community Support Worker left too, she had made me feel at ease when I looked at her, she had smiled at me..

They hadn’t gone far, just outside the house. There were still murmurings amongst the mental health mob that I was ‘acting out’. That I knew that I was psychotic but was being ‘arsey’ – lol. The psychiatrist, who is apparently an expert on early intervention in psychosis said to Beener that I was very rude! The information from my family and friends about my ‘premorbid’ personality completely ignored. Comments like that did not ease the distress of my mum and friends.

Incidentally, whilst they were licking their percieved wounds, they were missing a vital clue – a complete personality change has often been reported by loved ones of those experiencing severe withdrawal from anti-depressants.

Anyways to me – they were gone – problem solved, I had successfully defended myself from more ‘baddies’, from more bad energy.

Now they had to find a bed and arrange transportation for someone who had clearly stated that she ain’t going nowhere.

A bit more Largactil was thought to be in order there, as there was no-where for me to go. I eventually ran out of steam as I hadn’t really slept for a number of days – ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz

A number of hours passed and mental health people sat outside my house waitin… I was sleeping like a baby…

The ironic thing is that just as I was in the middle of this much needed sleep that had eluded me for 7 days, the transport arrived to whisk me off to the looney bin. A large vehicle turned up with 4 escorts and a driver. It was a contract firm, who clearly hired most of their staff on the basis of brawn, rather than being skilled or highly trained in supporting people in emotional distress.

They marched into the house and went up to Beener, leant over her and said (as she recalls) in the most pathetically, nauseatingly patronising voice ‘hello ####, how are you?’

I just wanna say – people who are psychotic/loopy whatever have not suddenly become stupid/deaf etc etc. Just because they’re saying/thinking stoopid/crazy stuff it doesn’t mean they don’t know when they’re being talked down to. If someone is in a florid phase of psychosis, or to put it more clearly if they’re proper crazy and distracted and confused, the best thing to do is to say their name loudly and clearly to capture their attention/divert them from harm or doing a bit of harm. That’s not shouting or aggressively – believe you me, some people do need the basics pointed out! lol. Its an ingrained response from an early age to respond to your name being called – it grabs your attention, a beacon in the fog of muddled thoughts, feelings, voices, visions. It worked on me loads. Also you need to be aware of your body language. Like I say, basics. Dr Iain Bourne is a great trainer in this field and his site has got oodles of research and guidelines for mental health workers when dealing with what he describes as Difficult, Disturbing & Dangerous Behaviour. His definition gives a refreshing emphasis, it is not that the nutter is disturbed so much, rather the focus is on how workers react and interpret things – how they become ‘disturbed’ and react in unhelpful ways. His approach ultimately urges practitioners to understand the perspective of the patient and to work in ways that keep both workers and patients safe.

Anyways, sermon over. The ‘Rapid Response Team’ do exactly what it says on their black people carrier with the black tinted windows and what it says on their lovely coordinated uniforms- there’s a load of ’em and they don’t wanna hang about! The imagery of their company was very reminiscent of the hollywood smash hit film ‘Men in Black’ – the MIBs. But I digress…

I was woken up and told it was time to go. Where I was going, I hadn’t a clue. The social work squad team was a distant memory, a vague mirage. So I hopped in the van. It felt ok because my friend was with me. The radio was on, so I could sing along to the songs in my head and communicate with my dad via telepathy. I watched out the window, as thousands of people were flooding out of the cities of the United Kingdom, aliens had landed and they were fleeing in panic. The ‘baddies’ were all going in the wrong direction. I was being taken to a secret safe place, there’s going to be a party, everyone I know will be there, because I am the saviour of the world. Hang on a minute – how embarrassing! And, I don’t like parties and I’m scared. Luckily the vehicle registration plates had coded messages in them that I understood.

The strangeness of the situation kept me quiet and relatively content except for brief confused conversations: “Yes I want a cigarette, no I don’t want a cigarette, yes. no”. My friend and the ‘Rapid Response Team’ advised me to sleep. But there was no way I was sleeping I wanna see where they’re taking me, besides I’m not tired….

Two hours later, I arrived at a private clinic in London – apparently intensive care for acutely disturbed female ‘clients’, including from within the criminal justice system. At first I thought it was a hotel we were gonna stay in for the night. It certainly cost my local health trust a fair whack of cash, but it took less than an hour for me to realise that this ain’t no hotel…..

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The Drugging of our Children  is a documentary film highlighting the increasing pathologisation of child-hood and the use of psychotropic drugs to ‘cure’ these ‘conditions’. An increase in violence, suicide and psychosis has been some of the results of this.

The documentary explores safer and more humane ways of helping little ‘uns to cope with mental distress.

It is available to watch on google videos here

Please spread the word about this film…

cheers keener

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