Reluctant volunteer

effexor20kneesKeener’s continued story:

I made my way back to the ward, ignoring my key-nurse who walked behind with a most unhappy look on her face. My Mum was waiting for me on the ward. She suggested that we should go immediately and that I could collect up my belongings later. I eagerly agreed with her, chomping at the bit to try out my new freedom as a fully fledged citizen. I was so happy, I thought that all of the agitation and fear that was eating away at me insatiably, would stop now that I no longer had to stay on the crummy ward.

However, this was entirely different to the first hospital, attempts were going to be made to persuade me to stay. I returned to collect my belongings later with my friend and I was asked to meet with the ward manager and my doctor, with my friend encouraging me to do so. I sat in the meeting room listening to them, all trying to persuade me that I needed to stay in the hospital on a voluntary basis. Apparently they wanted to help me gradually return home. I was incensed by this, as I listened to them trying every trick in the book to get me to see sense. I told them that I absolutely did not want to stay and that I did not want any support from them, I simply did not find it useful. I repeatedly referred to the findings of the tribunal. The spectre of compulsory detention once again loomed ominously over the room – would they try it again? So I stayed rooted to the chair, fending off their suggestions that I should see myself as sick and needy. Although I just wanted to stand up, tell them to $%^& off and leg it, I was worried what sort of reaction this would provoke in them. I looked at my friend for support, but his eyes were not saying ‘go for it keener, you tell ’em”. They looked at the floor and avoided my searching eyes. Then suddenly he spoke up, telling me that he agreed with them and that I should listen. Betrayed.  I just could not take it all in, I was so confused and angry. They clearly were not going to stop bombarding me until I gave them something. They must have realised that I could not be swayed, so they came up with a deal. So I agreed that I would go away for the weekend, take some medication with me, that they would keep my bed open and that I would be visited regularly by the crisis team..

I stood by the door leading outta there, ready to walk as soon as the ward manager came back with the slip of paper with the crisis team number on it. He came over and then began reading out the phone number to me in that excruciating patronising tone that was so familiar to me those days. I interrupted him, the anger I felt left me unable to allow him to complete his recital, I snatched it out of his hand and told him “I CAN READ”.  I turned on my heels and got the hell outta there.

The weekend did not go too badly really. I spend the day around Beener’s and the night-time I would be awake most of the time on my computer. Searching, searching for a sign, for some information that would lead me on the right path. I was still convinced that my computer was linked in to a secret network and that spiritual beings and humans were secretly communicating with me. I kind of half thought about my promise to let the crisis team visit with me, but I really couldn’t face talking to yet another person about my life and my state of mind. Besides my house still filled me with dread and I felt safer when I was at Beener’s house, with her dogs and her children. I relished the normality of it. So I didn’t bother to answer the calls or ring them back, quickly deleting their answer machine messages, as if there precense in the background wasn’t really happening. Although always dreading that they would turn up at Beener’s to cart me away.

I returned to the ward after the weekend with Beener. I went straight to my room and unlocked the door, wanting to compose myself first before running the gauntlet and talking to staff. My belongings had gone, my stereo was still there but in a different place, but everywhere else other stuff was where mine should have been. A  man walked into the room and also began to look around, shocked at what he saw. He asked us what we were doing in here. It transpired that he had been admitted over the weekend and been given this room. His friendly ways, meant that I chatted to him amicably for a few minutes. I then flew out of the room in a fury, I walked up to the desk and told them my belongings had gone missing and that I wanted them back right now – all of them. Staff scurried around eager to get me to quieten down, as a group of patients were forming to watch the spectacle. My belongings had been placed in another room so I checked through the huge amount of nick nacks I had brought in to make myself feel more comfortable. Net curtains, photos, quilt, cds, dog ornaments, books and so on. All there except for my cacti, now these weren’t just any old cacti, I had been using them to keep me safe, their spikes breaking up bad energy in the room. I told the staff that they had better find my plants or I was gonna kick up one hell of a stink. Several searched the ward, it seems they had ended up in the TV lounge. They carried the big pot over to me smiling and laughing, I was not amused. We’re so sorry, this never should have happened, we should have told you about changing rooms. Blah, blah, blah. I swung round and pointed to the new guy and said “you haven’t even bothered to tell this man that he is entitled to a key to his room, to keep his belongings safe.” I said to him – “here have mine” and just walked back to my new room. I despised their incompetence and thoughtlessness.

Days went by and I would come back to the ward now and again to pick up medication or meet with someone as arranged. They wouldn’t discharge me and my practical head was telling me that I need to keep them sweet, as I need medical notes for welfare benefits and the like. Ever the social worker. There was also the slow drip of all the staff telling me you are ill, and trying to convince me that I need a long-term medication regime. What if they were right? These things combined, meant that I did not feel brave enough to just leave. I basically did what I liked, I would not let them dictate my movements and I couldn’t understand why they thought that they could. Many of the staff were deeply suspicious and annoyed by my ‘grandiose attitude’. Yet still they would not discharge me. I guess I didn’t help matters the day I made a ludicrous plan to get home at around 9pm at night. Beener had phoned, she was ill and could not pick me up. I sat in my room, energy surging through my body, absolutely adamant that I could not sleep on the ward that evening, that I simple couldn’t bear it. So I went up to the nurse on desk and said that Beener would be coming soon and that she was going to ring me when she was outside. In the mean time, I’ll just wait in my room. Five minutes later I came out of my room and said that Beener was outside. I then started on the long walk back to my house, which was around 10 miles away. As I marched on to my destination, it suddenly occurred to me that the only way was via a motorway. I didn’t contemplate for a second that it wasn’t such a smart idea, such was my determination to get away from the ward. I began to walk along the verge of the motorway, Lorries began to honk their horns at me, I guess urging me to find another way of reaching my destination. So I walked further into the mass of shrubs and trees that lined the verge, hoping to be out of view from the traffic.  I stumbled as I pushed my way through brambles and other obstacles, it eventually became clear to me that this journey was impossible. I made my way back, keen to not be picked up by the police and have to explain myself. I was pretty sure that it would be enough to get me sectioned again. So I made my way to a 24 hour supermarket to phone a taxi. As I was driven home safe and sound, the taxi driver asked me “so how come you got yourself stranded out here at this time of the night?”. I looked at him and said “don’t ask, it’s a long story”, what else could I say?

My friend was at my house and I woke him up, as I had no keys or money, I got him to go and pay the taxi. He came back in and was furious with me – “what the hell was I playing at”? I was jubilant after my epic journey and once again pleased as punch that I had gotten away from the ward. He demanded that I go to bed and told me that he could not handle this anymore. I got taken back to the ward the next day and snitched on to the staff. I met the doctor and explained that I had done it because I hated being on the ward so much. He looked at me perplexed, it seemed that he did not see why that would cause me to walk down a motorway. I explained to him that I know it’s a dangerous thing to do, and that is why I went to the supermarket to get a taxi. We finished the meeting in the usual way – that I should stop working against staff and that I was in denial. I made things harder for myself on the ward with some of the staff, who interpreted the incident as being evidence that I was a disgusting little liar – for telling staff that I was being picked up, when I wasn’t. Some of them now barely hid their contempt for me and would almost hiss at me if they were put in the unfortunate position of having to talk to me. Goading me, saying “well why should I believe you?”, no matter what the topic of conversation. Their disdain for me made me feel even more scared about spending any time on the ward.

When at home I kept looking and hoping for contact from the person that was going to save me and take me away from all of this. Where was he? I took medication to help me sleep because the darkness all around me in this house was still causing me to feel constant terror and dread. I didn’t take it properly. I think I taking too much in one go. I was using it to blot everything out for a while to get a rest. Despite this, I was still getting a few hours of kip a night. I would dose myself up half an hour before I wanted to sleep, taking enough to make me unconscious. This technique of managing your life was clearly unsustainable, as pointed out to me during one of the meetings that I had with the junior doctor. I was told that you cant just take medication when you feel like it, it doesn’t work like that. You have to take it consistently, to see if it works. We’d like to try you on a mood stabiliser – depakote. I agreed, thinking yes I would like to have some stable moods, that sounds ok. He said that he’d write me up and that I could begin tonight. Before that, Beener picked me up and I went over to hers. I asked to borrow her computer and looked up the medication that I was to take. I read through the list of side effects and the reasons people might be prescribed this medication . Once again, a familiar feeling of anger welled up in me, as I considered the fact that the doc had said nothing about all this. The regime they wanted for me read like a life sentence. I saw my life in 6 months, a year and so on stretching ahead of me and I said no way, I am absolutely not taking stuff. I will wait, I will feel better soon.  I did not go back to the ward that evening, I slept on Beener’s couch.

So both sides waited, watching one another for signs of a change. Nothing did, until the miracle worker, Dr Wally returned from his holidays. I now knew what we had all been waiting for. Now as far as I was concerned I was still waiting for a change in consultant, as per my request when I first got to this hospital. As it turns out my right to ask for a change of quack was not being processed, it was being seen as a sign of my high level of mentality.

I was subjected to an onslaught of a few hours of intense pressure when he returned, to agree to see him. Various nurses and my social worker telling me that I had to see Dr Wally. All attempts to advocate for my rights completely thwarted at every turn. I was becoming increasingly agitated that not a single dam person was listening to me, was I speaking a foreign language, why could nobody hear me or understand me.

I eventually buckled and stormed into the room to come face to face with him again. Several other ‘professionals’ were seated next to him. My eyes darted angrily around the room, trying to suss out who the hell are all these people and what the hell do they want with me now.

Dr Wally is Scottish and he fitted the cultural stereotype of having a no-nonsense attitude. It wasn’t that he was aggressive, just that he would be controlling the parameters of this conversation, not me. He told me that he and his staff team had concluded that I was suffering from Bi-polar (rapid cycling). I sat meekly in the chair, looking around the room looking for hope, scanning the faces of those sat before me. I was told in no uncertain terms that the diagnosis was universally agreed upon. I gathered some strength, fired back, telling him –  I am not manic, I am just extremely anxious because of being in this horrible hospital. I said I know all about anxiety as that has been my diagnosis for as long as I can remember, I listed my symptoms – racing heart, can’t sleep and so on. The wall of faces did not flinch – unconvinced by my protestations. I told him about the effexor and that I was in withdrawal from it. He asked me – how did I know this. I explained that “I know I am addicted to it because when I forgot a dose previously it made me feel extremely ill. I told him I am physically ill too, as I keep telling everyone, but nobody pays any attention to this. I haven’t eaten properly for weeks, how long do you think I can go on like this before I just collapse.  I need to be on a medical ward, I need an IV drip”. I told him straight, “I don’t want any medication”. With that being said he asked the obvious question, –  “so what do you want, why are you still here?”. I thought hard about his question for a moment and then I began to cry as I realised, for the first time myself, why I kept letting people bring me back to the ward. “I just need some time to get my head together and then I’ll go home and get on with things. I just want somewhere to stay for a while where I know that I’m safe. When things are tough at home, it is nice to just know that I can come here and not be alone – a security blanket”. He looked at me sympathetically, it seems that he did not have a heart of stone and he asked me how long I thought I needed, I said a couple of weeks.

I was gone within the week, discharged. I was obviously delighted to be deemed fit to go, and thought that this knowledge would free me from the anger and frustration that I was experiencing. It didn’t, it takes a little to get over the things that go on during a psych ward admission. Also the withdrawal symptoms, whilst certainly much less intense, were still there monopolising my mind.  I was paralysed by fear most of the time, too scared to sleep in my own bed and having short fit-filled sleep on the sofa. The sense of dread and fore-boding about some unknown dark danger persisted and I was still left with the nagging feeling that there were people outside my house and that they wanted to look at my bottom. I wasn’t washing. I wasn’t eating. It was beginning to dawn on me that no-one was coming to rescue me. It had been three months since this had all began and not a single helpful person had shown up. I told myself over and over – ‘the only person who can save you is yourself’. Although from what exactly, I still didn’t know.  A few days of this, left me exhausted and frantic, my body and mind continued to surge with racing thoughts and energy. I needed a break from all this. I really wanted something to help me sleep. I decided to phone my GP. I spoke to the receptionist and told her I needed to speak to a doctor urgently. I told him that I was experiencing a severe withdrawal from effexor, that I had been in hospital but I have no after-care in place. I need some benzos to help me calm down, whilst I am waiting for the withdrawal to finish. I desperately hoped that he had heard about antidepressant withdrawal. He questioned me at length and reluctantly agreed to write me a prescription, on condition that I came to see him tomorrow. I agreed and picked up the medication. The next day I went to see him and he told me off like a naughty school girl. Telling me he had phoned the hospital and that the reason I have no medication is because I wouldn’t cooperate and that I need to wait until a care plan meeting is called. You cant just keep taking lorazepam, you have to have long term treatment. I scurried out of there, with my tail between my legs.

A few days later, similarly, I felt out of control and unable to cope with the constant agitation that I was feeling. This time I decided to call the crisis team, who told me I was still under the ward. So I phoned them to explain and before I knew what I was doing, I was jumping in a taxi on my way to the ward so that the doctor could admit me before he went off shift. I didn’t want this, but I wanted an ending. I saw him straight away and once again I was being asked “what is it that you want”. I sobbed and sobbed to him, explaining that I want to go back on the Effexor, I can’t take it anymore, I’ve had enough, I give in, I give up. Please just let me take it, so we can see. I have to know, I have to know if its that that’s done this to me. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll hold my hands up and take any of the medication that you recommend to me. I just have to know first”.  I had no idea I was going to say that when I walked back on the ward, it just tumbled and flowed out of me. I had run out of options and this felt the only viable option left. He agreed and said that I must stay on the ward more this time and allow staff to monitor my progress. They would be watching for a placebo effect, they knew how desperately I wanted the effexor to work. So I agreed to stay consistently for a couple of weeks. He knew that I wouldn’t protest, that had been clear from the minute I had entered the room – dishevelled, grossly underweight and rather smelly, waving a white flag.

That evening a miracle happened, as I lay on my bed in my room. Around an hour or so previous to that I had swallowed a small little pasty pink tablet. I felt a shift in me, a shift downwards. Things cleared a bit in my mind and I was shunted back into reality. I was in that room and I knew exactly what was going on. I smiled and sighed with relief, so very, very glad that I had been right all along.  EFFEXOR withdrawal. I now had to convince the staff of this.

Links to the first several chapters are here if you’ve missed them pick them up here: Part 1 and 2 here and part 3 here, and part 4 here, and part 5 here and part 6 here and part 7 here and part 8 here and 9 here and part 10 here and part 11 here.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

5 Responses

  1. I was on Effexor, then Celexa, then Lexapro. I kept complaining to my doctor, how can this be an antidepressant when I’m unable to be awake outside of the 10-14 hours it’s making me sleep? I couldn’t do anything, and got more and more depressed by that.

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  2. Laura Borst

    Much of what the staff might have labelled as “manic behavior” might have been attempts to get free from the psychiatric institution. Also, both the drugs and the withdrawl from them might have produced the nervous tension the writer is talking about. However, I sometimes think the staff or other professionals might have been provoking things,perhaps simply to justify continued incarceration or a tighter rein. If someone is addicted to a benzodiazepine or other psychiatric drug, sending them home without it could also provoke “symptoms”. However, the symptoms are caused more by an addiction/withdrawl type effect rather than “mental illnesses”. However, many in the psychiatric industry will spread the propaganda that it’s the “illness”,rather than the drug or the withdrawl from it.

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  3. Nomad365

    Keener,
    You’ve been through so much and again I have to say I admire the fact that you can write about it with such humor. I took Effexor XR (extended release) from late autumn 1998 until August of 2006. I went through withdrawal after tapering off over the course of two weeks. My withdrawal was hellish. I’ve come to the conclusion that most doctors have no idea of what to tell their patients to expect during the withdrawal process. Once you no longer have the drug in your system cognitive and neurological problems can start to surface. I wish doctors were legally required to tell their patients about all of the possible side effects and adverse reactions associated with a medication before they took it. They also ought to tell patients about tapering off and withdrawal. I can’t help but think that if more people knew about these issues they would opt to either not take meds or only take them for short periods of time.
    I also experienced extreme anxiety during withdrawal does anyone know if this is a common side effect?

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