About a million years ago – circa 1990 – I began to experience a slightly more intense level of looniness.
That said…I didn’t attribute it to a whacky brain – I’d attributed my walking into things; my inability to focus; my feeling of other-worldliness to a virus…or possibly pregnancy…
My GP at the time put this down to stress – as such he put me on a course of Beta-blockers.
My only previous knowledge of said medication was that it was taken by snooker players to keep their hands steady.
My understanding was that it stopped blood vessels from constricting during times of stress – this constriction ordinarily caused blood to shift round the body at a racier pace…giving the person the experience of stress.
The body gets stressed – then the mind gets stressed – causing the body to become more stressed and so on…
Your Beta-blocker stopped this constriction of arteries and veins – so, when the mind says, ‘We’re stressed!’ the body responds with a dozy, ‘Sorry, what? Are you talking to me?’
It’s quite a useful short-term fix.
At the time I was pretty fit – playing sports and running distances up to half marathons.
Unfortunately, the Beta-blocker buggered that up.
The same mechanism that gives the experience of stress helps with runny-aroundiness.
After a couple of months I decided I liked running about more than I disliked absent-mindedly walking into things.
I’ve got to say that, having a degree in psychology, I was less than enthused about treating mental maladies with pills.
That said, I wasn’t doing much in terms of talking therapy type stuff either.
A year or so later I was welcomed into the loving arms of Edinburgh’s bin of loons suffering from a particularly bad case of not wanting to be alive any more.
That particular crisis floated by – again, I refused medication because, for the reasons above, I didn’t subscribe to the medical model.
I wandered my way through a variety of therapies – finally arriving at, what I felt was, the inevitable pill-popping conclusion.
It had taken some time to get to this point because I actively sought evidence that steered me away from the antidepressant solution.
As a hospital social worker I worked as part of a multidisciplinary team – one of whom was Norman the pharmacist – a man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things pharmaceutical.
It was he who told me that the word pharmacology is derived from the Ancient Greek word for ‘poison’ and that all drugs had side effects – we just hoped that the desired effect outweighed the detrimental possibilities.
So, I started out on my road of taking medication long term with Paroxetine.
Yes, that’s right, the very medication that was linked – paradoxically – to an increased likelihood of suicide.
As I understand it – the mind and body experience depression at the same time. At these times folk can feel suicidal but, quite frankly, they can’t be arsed.
Seemingly your Paroxetine has a positive effect on the body before the mind – which means there’s a time where suicidal thoughts overlap with the physical ability to act on them.
Needless to say that’s one particular bullet I managed to dodge.
However, I did experience the delights of weight gain and, a particular favourite of mine, anorgasmia – difficulty – sometimes the impossibility – of reaching that groovy sensation at the, er…climax of sex.
I explained this to my GP – who told me he’d never heard the like.
Interestingly, this information is available all over the interweb…
Ok, let’s say he didn’t surf the net – surely his patients would point him in the right direction?
The only thing I could put his lack of sexual side effect knowledge down to was his devout religiosity – and that perhaps his punters were somewhat reticent in talking about hanky and indeed panky because of this.
Anyway – because of these side effects – I moved onto the house wife’s friend, Fluoxetine, otherwise known as Prozac.
Unsurprisingly, since this belonged to the same antidepressant family as the Paroxetine, my side effects remained the same.
Not to worry though – as long as I wasn’t experiencing any of those nasty ol’ thoughts, I could put up with a lot of side effects.
They didn’t do what they said on the tin.
To be fair, I didn’t have what they said on the tin.
The disappointment that came with the return of my loony symptoms was palpable.
As years passed I was promoted to Venlafaxine – slightly different from my earlier pills with its fancy modern ingredients – with the same satisfying certainty that this didn’t work either.
Not to worry though, my manly parts were still being effected and I was still guaranteed that weight gain.
All this pharmaceutical fiddle farting around took the best part of 20 years until I met the psychiatrist who told me to stop taking antidepressants.
Being an idiot, I stopped immediately, introducing me to the whacky world of pleasure/ pain that is the brain zap.
The good news though was that the world became a more vivid and vibrant place – no longer was I permanently perceiving the world through frosted glass.
However, this took me back to square 1. Certainly, while I was waiting for psychotherapy to begin, I needed a little something.
We mucked about with a few medications in an attempt to keep the demons at bay.
A number of them, including Resperidone, did, what’s known in medical circles as, bugger all.
Finally we agreed on the antipsychotic – Quetiapine – a drug that helped, and still helps, my mind to shut up – which means I can sleep without being absolutely exhausted.
It’s a drug that I can vary in amounts to respond to my varying craziness. It was a drug that I could take in small, therapeutic amounts so as not to have a negative effect on my therapy.
So, a pretty funky drug.
Unfortunately, like all mental meds, Quetiapine is not without it’s side effects.
We have our good old friend, weight gain – thank goodness, I personally struggle to keep weight on….er….
If I take too much, I lose the ability to swallow which isn’t entirely pleasant…
Some folk taking the drug have, er, died…others develop liver disease, diabetes, shaky limbs….
Is it worth it?
Well, yes, I think it is. I’m happy to endure a bit of fat bifferdom instead of that incredibly unquiet mind.
I enjoy sleeping though.
Imagine if I’d lived in the black and white age of psychiatry…
A world of frontal lobotomy, of chemical koshes, of electroconvulsive therapy, of long term incarceration, of imprisonment has escaped me.
So in that way I can count my blessings.
Please feel free to pitch in with any of your own experiences.
Walk a Mile