Prone Position – Mental health unit induction

Another episode from Keener’s  experiences of withdrawal from effexor. This is a story worth following. I know some of you are reading each section. If you’ve missed the first installments you can pick them up here: Part 1 and 2 here and part 3 here, and part 4 here. By the time this is over I think that Keener might have a novelette. Have you thought of that Keener. It’s an incredibly compelling story. These were first posted on her blog but the final chapters will be posted here as she is completing the saga as I post the first bits. Stay tuned.

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.

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…

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

5 Responses

  1. Givesmehope

    “`I sat and wrote and wrote and wrote, my beautiful warm cat jumped onto the computer and blip….
    all words gone. Forever, I could never even begin to know what the words were that I wrote.

    It is not hard to find more (words) as I sit here in my bedroom. I have been in my bedroom now for ten years. My house has 12 rooms. Including this one.
    I sit here, it is now 2:47AM typing to you ….. you the person/s who reads this….. ah I just yawned. Maybe I should cut this machine off and try…. to sleep. Today is day three of being awake. I am coming off of meds by myself. I trust no doctor. Maybe someone here can help me. I was diagnosed with Seratonin syndrome by a Neuro/Psycho/Pharmacologist. I stayed with my original doctor just to see if he would do right by me. Why I continued to have faith in that doctor I don’t know.
    It is my nature I suppose. I always try to do what is right and expect the world lives by the same rules as me. I know that is wrong, yet I wanted to trust my doctor.
    I am working with an Internist who is also my Lyme doctor, yes I have Lyme disease too. Part of being a nature lover. That is an entire other entity of itself. Another part of the medical communitry that needs a complete overhaul. I tested neg 6x while my dog was tested postive and treated twice. I knew I had it because we go everywhere together. I eat and breath nature. I spent my entire life in the woods. Through Mystery Diagnosis (TV show) I found a lab that did PCR testing and after thousands of dollars. Tested postive for lyme. I had had it for years. I begged doctors to give me Doxycyline. Like I said, another entity in of itself.

    I just read your Effexor story. I too have been on EffexorXR. I’ve been on EffexorXR for 10 years. I have gone from 120mgs to 37.5 today. However have not taken it for two days. I’m getting ready to open a capsule and half the 37.5. What is that then? Almost 19mgs.
    That is pretty darn good. I’m giving myself an atta girl since I have no one to do it for me……….
    CLUELESS PEOPLE IN MY LIFE. I’ve exhausted my breath trying to explain. They, including my mother hear very little from me now. I have come back. I am angry with the people who treated me like a lunatic for years.
    In Jan 09 of this year I was diagnosed with seratonin syndrome. I have been under the treatment of a doctor who is so bloody clueless it makes me sick. It makes me sick to think of how many other people he has made sick. In December he increased the dosage of the Cymbalta I was on. His words were, “Miss. B…. Christmas is coming, it is a sad time of year, I think we should increase your dosage of Cymbalta….. just in case”. Had I of been of sound mind I would have told him to f’ off….. but I complied. I was so drugged at this point.
    I am bi polar and was on Cymbalta 120mg and EffexorXR 300mgs. This doctor who had my diagnosis of bipolar put me on high dose of two anti depressants. I have been on anti-depressants since 1997. Starting with Zoloft min dose to max dose, then to Paxil min dose to max does, no dryout period between meds…….. then to Prozac.
    Prozac. Prozac Prozac…..
    Yes Prozac sent me reeling into mania. The doctor (internist) who started this mess sent me to a psychiatrist who put me on Xanax to temper my mania. Do you think I got addicted to Xanax? You know I did. It was the only thing besides alcohol and pot that would stop my mind from racing. Pot is illegal and costs a fortune compared to Xanax. $10.00 for a vial of 30 or so, no matter what mg.
    At the end of the xanax period I was being freely prescribed 2mg Xanax and I would take 4 or 5 a day.
    I don’t like alcohol. It makes me sick. So Xanax was the drug for me in 1998 1999 2000….
    The doc…. prescribed as much Xanax as I wanted. My husband wrote a letter to him pleading for help. Pleading to help his wife. “Please, he said, take her off of the medications’> I’m losing her.

    I sat in the office while the doctor read the letter to me. He made light of it and we laughed. The doctor told me to put a lock on the door so I could be on the computer without interruption from my husband.
    He knew. My husband knew I was talking to someone online. Several months previously he had stepped out of the marriage. I found condoms and KY jelly in his pocket when I did the wash. Those were not things we used. He had gone out on me. I thought I could handle it.
    I handled it with Xanax……..

    …………………we separated. The man I met online left his wife.
    That was Y2K.
    I was in the Keys for that New Year to meet the man I had been involved with. We had met previouly several times. Oh I was so in love…..in lust. In mania…. bipolar mania
    I met this man that I left my husband for. I met him in the Keys during that Y2K celebration.
    He proceeded to tell me that he had met someone else.
    I sat dumbfounded in one of earth’s most beautiful places devasted.
    Crying. Alone. No more best friend of 15 years to hold me.
    To carry my pain. Rock me cradle me. No, now all alone and I deserved it.
    I had left him for another……. during this bipolar mania. OMG the tears are soaking the gown I wear tonight.
    I am glad tears do not stain, for if they did I would have no tops, my gowns would all be stained. I would have stains down my face, my neck, to the crease between my breasts. All those places are wet with salty moisture as I write this to you. You who are reading. I try not to make noise, crying noises upset the animals. The ones who have sat with me for years, comforted me when humans could not. The animals, they get so upset. I can not upset them anymore.
    Emma dog is watching me now. She knows. I must not make a sound. She knows my pain, she feels my pain. I have written tonight of just one of horrible things that has happened to us…. me, my ex-husband/best friend, my mother, my dog, my cats, my family, my horse, my ….. once friends.
    When I arrived home,,,,,, my “new” home. I was A L O N E
    I could not handle the pain, the drugs (antidepressants). I took many pills and ended up in the psych ward. Not once.
    Not twice
    but three times. Now they had me! Once stay was just over three weeks. I was put on Depakote. I have to say….. that calmed the mania. Now I slept non stop. No less than 12 hours maxing to 18 hours a day. For 5 years I was on Depakote. For five years I slept.
    I tried to find a doctor to help me come off of Depakote. No doctor would advise me, no doctor would help me.
    I did it on my own, with no help from the medical community. No help from anyone.
    I did it myself. Slowly. It took almost one year to come off of that drug.
    Prior to being put on “medication” (antidepressants) I competed horses. I am 50years old today. I have been schooling on horses sinces I was 6 years old.
    I am an eventer. I ride dressage, cross country and stadium jumping. It takes dedication. It takes strength. It takes a sound mind. Horses and antidepressants do not mix well I am here to say.
    My last accident nearly killed me.
    Because I had weakend in my body and mind I wasn’t riding much anymore.
    I found happiness thru sharing my boy (Eldin horse)with children.
    I took many kids to ride Eldin.
    The last ride I gave was a disaster. I gave lessons and this particular day was warm. The child wanted to go in the woods.
    I am blessed that he did not get hurt.
    We came to a small ditch. I was leading Eldin while Little Andy (9y/o) rode. Eldin would not cross a ditch so I got a stick and tapped him behind the saddle. He took a flying leap and his left foot caught my right ankle and down I went. Under the horse. My left leg has metal rod in it from a previous compound fracture …. my first thought, my God he’s going to step on my leg. I covered my head with my hands as the horse tried his best not to step on me.
    If you know horses…. this is called being scrambled.
    Human’s arms and legs caught up with four horse legs. That is being scrambled. He stepped on both wrists which were covering my head. He missed my head by inches.
    Stepped on both ankles, breaking the left one. To get out of the woods I removed a lead shank I had on Eldin’s neck, tied my hands together, and tied my hands to a piece of leather on the saddle. Eldin dragged me home one step at a time. Go Eldin, …. stop, okay Eldin go. He stepped and stopped stepped and stopped until we reached the barn. He knew, animals know. My boy Eldin took such good care of me. He is gone now. My “friends” convinced me I could not care for him anymore. I gave him up. He is 1000 miles from me tonight while I cry. I miss sitting in his stall listening to him chew his hay. Smelling him. Smashing my face into his neck and drinking his smell. I love him dearly and my heart breaks as I am much better now. I want him back….. I signed a form, he is no longer mine. He loved me so. He would follow me trotting behind me as I ran around the field playing with him….. when I was well.
    I loved him so. I can no longer be around the humans that convinced me to give him away. You must understand my Eldin was in a barn that provides full care. Feed, turnout, blanketing when needed. He was being cared for,,,,, but my “friends” didn’t think that I deserved this wonderful animal. I didn’t go to see him daily, 2x day like they did. They did not believe I was sick. I was called lazy and pathetic. I cried all of the time.

    No person in my world understood but one. (He had been on antidepressants for two weeks and pitched them). He tried to tell me over and over. A…. it’s the antidepressants. How could I believe this guy who had no medical training? Shaking my head….. if I’d only listened. I would have those years of crying and sleeping back.
    My boy Eldin would be carrying me through the forest tomorrow. OMG the pain of loss is still so unbearable I think of suicide tonight. My face contorted pain.
    One thing that I have never lost through this ordeal is my connection to nature, animals, gardening… The only time I left this room was to see Eldin and walk my dog and cats. Eldin is gone. I stay in my room. I trust no human. My mother thought I was crazy, my friends still think I’m crazy. I stay away from people, but have this bi polar thing. I hate people but I love people. I love to talk, I love to communicate. Most recently after coming off of meds since Jan of this year I am opening up again.
    To strangers. Strangers that understand. No one understands but you. The people here.
    I have locked everyone out. I cannot be hurt again. I think this is what inspired me to write tonight. Your love of gardening Keener. I share that with you. God blessed us with many beautiful things on this earth. It is so mighty powerful to be able to see and feel again.
    I have healed from the broken ankle. Bones are easy. I have had many broken bones through years of riding horses. Broken bones are so easy, compared to this now going on 13 year nightmare with anti-depresants. BTY I got off of Xanax 10 years ago. I’m on Klonopin now. Klonopin has helped me off the antidepressants. I try not to take it. I wait as long as possible…. until my muscles start to tense up. Last night my left foot was bent way to the left, my right foot was bent to the left….. cramping, It was happening in my feet, legs and my back. What is that? Does anyone know? My guess is it is my body craving Klonopin. I (my mind) gave the body 1/2mg of Klonopin and it went away. I’m afraid of these drugs, but know I have to take them because my body is addicted.
    Thank you so much Keener for helping me to open up.
    a little smile here now….. writing helps. It helps to know I’m not writing to blind eyes……
    ……………..talking to deaf ears.
    God bless all you fellow polar people….
    Many many thanks for this site to let my soul speak and be heard.
    It’s now 5:09AM here on the east coast of the US….
    It’s raining, it’s beautiful, I love the rain, it soothes my soul.

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  2. I know that was horrible… but it would make an incredibly funny science fiction story with only a teeny bit of rewriting… and I could probably get my employer to buy it…

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  3. nomad365

    I’m sorry to hear about your painful ordeal but glad that you survived it. I’m an Effexor XR (extended release) survivor. I took this drug for nearly 8 years and experienced many severe side effects and adverse reactions including: night sweats, brain zaps, short term memory loss, inability to access longer term older memories, skin picking and self mutilation, emotional numbing and blunting, a suppression of my personality, loss of desire to be close to other people, anxiety so severe it resembled paranoia, an overall intensification and deepening of my depression. It was a glimpse of hell. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I tapered off according to the advice of a physician in late august 2006. I thought my withdrawal was brutal but after hearing your story my experience almost sounds lame. How can we mental health consumers/patients make sure that doctors are better informed about the reality of taking and tapering off of these drugs? I guess writing about our experiences and sharing them in forums like this one are a first step. Thank you for sharing your story and for expressing it with such humor.

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  4. Hi

    Thank you all again for your comments.

    Givesmehope – I am so sorry to hear of the pain that you have been through and continue to go through, but I am so glad that you have found Gianna’s blog. There is so much great information on here about coming off psych drugs slowly and safely…. I am really glad that you felt able to write down your story and share it with us, that is a powerful thing to do. I really, really hope that you find peace. Not sure if you know about the forum inspired by this blog: http://beyondmeds.ning.com. Thought I’d mention it because you might find further solace in a place where people have experienced similar things. Each of our stories are unique, but I guess we find comfort in solidarity. Take care

    Moss Bliss (great name!) – I am a big sci-fi fan. Perhaps I do have a sci-fi story sat in my brain somewhere ready to write – its a thought. cheers – i shall ponder…

    Nomad365 – hello to a fellow effexor eradicator. Good to hear from another survivor. Hope things are more peaceful for you these days….

    Cheers Keener

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  5. Ollie

    I was on lexapro for a few years but finally got off it after a long spell of therapy and also because a lot of my problem was alcohol abuse. It is possible to fully recover from depression but it takes time. Good post.

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