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.
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…