This post is by Katinka Blackford-Newman, who can be seen here running a half-marathon to raise money for RxISK but who also since the events described here has been involved in several criminal trials, believing that it is important that juries get to hear stories like hers when faced with the challenge of assessing what contribution a drug might have made to a crime.
There is another point to keep in mind when reading her story – the awakening she describes also happens in people who stop Statins and a range of other drugs. It can come as an extraordinary surprise to people how much better they feel if they stop poisoning themselves, and those who live with them can be astonished to see someone they know re-emerge.
Three years ago a visit to a psychiatrist precipitated the most frightening time of my life. The events that followed lost me the following year.
I was going through a difficult divorce and was suffering sleepless nights and anxiety. I visited a private psychiatrist who said I was depressed and prescribed an antidepressant called escitalopram. I had no idea that this and other antidepressants can cause a psychotic reaction.
It’s hard to describe what happened next. Within hours of taking the drug my visual senses went awry and everything appeared like a Van Gogh painting. Suddenly I was tripping as if on acid and all my senses became heightened. My recollection of this is hazy but I vaguely remember calmly going into the kitchen, taking a kitchen knife and stabbing my forearm. There was no motive for this and I can’t remember the thought process or emotion behind it. I had no history of self harm and I’ve never done anything like it before or since.
Then came the hallucinations. I was tripping so badly that in my confused perception of reality I became convinced that I had attacked the children rather than myself with the knife. At one point I was convinced I had killed them and I wouldn’t come out of the house because I was sure I was going to be arrested. The hallucinations worsened as I then imagined there were hidden cameras in the house and that everything I as doing was being filmed and being broadcast on national TV.
The children were so frightened by what was unraveling that my ex was called to the scene. He and my siblings realized I was severely ill and I was rushed to a private hospital. While I was there my hallucinations took on a different tone. I told the doctors that my suicide was pre-ordained and that I was going to die in three days time. I told them God was telling me this. By the way I am not and have never been religious. Naturally they were alarmed and threatened to section me if I tried to leave.
The hallucinations stopped as soon as I stopped taking the escitalopram. Within 24 hours I was back to normal, but I was very frightened by what had happened and very confused. The doctors never made the link between the drug and the psychosis, I was too embarrassed to talk about it and it wasn’t until a year later that I began to fully understand what had happened.
But my experience with anti depressants didn’t stop there. The doctors at the private hospital Insisted I had psychotic depression and prescribed anti depressants and anti psychotics. It’s clear to me now that anti depressants and I simply don’t get on. No sooner had the hallucinogenic effects of the escitalopram worn off than I started to feel the side effects of the new drugs. They included akathisia, (a side effect where you can’t sit still) lack of concentrations, and depersonalization, and sleeplessness, lack of concentration, acute anxiety.
After four weeks I was discharged if I promised to come back for weekly visits. As my symptoms continued, the doctors added more and more drugs. They didn’t recognise what I know now – that the symptoms were caused by the drugs. Within months I was on a cocktail of various pills – olanzapine, fluxotine (prozac). Lamotrogine, sertraline and finally lithium. Along with zopiclone sleeping tablets at night.
I’m a small build and these drugs devastated me. I became chronically ill. I had always been a keep fit fanatic but was unable to exercise. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I couldn’t wash or dress myself and had to have a 24 hour carer. If I left the house I would get lost. I put on 3 stone because I couldn’t stop eating, I started smoking 60 cigarettes per day and from being a near teetotaler started drinking dangerous levels of alcohol.
The worst thing was that I was emotionally numbed. It was as if I was experiencing the world through a thick fog and I and couldn’t even feel love for my children.
Intellectually I remembered the things I used to enjoy and made an effort to do them. I signed up for a 5 k race with my 12-year-old daughter. I had to stop after 10 minutes. My daughter couldn’t contain her feelings and said to me tearfully “What happened to the mummy that was beautiful and laughed all the time and finished races. I want that mummy back”.
It soon became clear I was unable to look after the children. They started to live with my ex and I saw them only occasionally. I tried to get a job but was sacked after just two days. Work colleagues couldn’t believe the change in me.
Things finally came to a head exactly a year later. I was on five different medications, lithium and zopliclone sleeping tablets which by now had stopped working because of long term use. I was waking at 2 a.m. and going to the supermarket to buy vodka and nytol tablets that I was I was consuming in dangerous quantities. It wasn’t just sleep I was seeking, it was anaesthesia. My life had become unbearable and all I could think of was ending it. I didn’t know at the time that a well-known side effect of anti depressants is to make you feel suicidal.
I made a decision that I now know saved my life. It was a Sunday morning and some inner wisdom got me to take myself to my local NHS hospital that has a mental health unit. I was in a terrible state and told them I wanted to kill myself. I knew if I said those words they would section me. It also happened to be true.
I was there for six weeks on a high security psychiatric ward. It was a shock. This was nothing like the private hospital with their cosy therapy sessions and haute cuisine. I had no bed for a few days and my fellow in patients included a man who pissed in the milk, drug addicts and a woman who heard voices.
The doctors made the unusual decision to take me off all the medication. Instead I was put on a very low dosage of one anti depressant, venlaflaxine. I can’t begin to describe how awful it was to come off all that medication in one go. I had no idea I was experiencing severe withdrawal. I was shaking, crying uncontrollably, had to be physically restrained from hurting myself and had chronic anxiety and insomnia.
Then something miraculous happened. After two weeks of going cold turkey, I started to get better. After a year of emotional anaesthesia, my pleasure in things returned as quickly as it had disappeared. It was like coming out of a yearlong coma.
The re-awakening of all my senses was one of the most profound things I have ever experienced. It was like a rebirth, a rediscovery of what it is to be human, to re experience the full gamut of emotions that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Joy, love, tears, laughter, sexual pleasure. all had been taken away from me for a year and the return to sentience was sometimes overwhelming.
I’ll never forget being moved to tears by a piece of music again, the joy of returning to my run along the river, being able to focus on a conversation or a film or a book. But the memory that will stay with me forever was falling in love with my children again. We had, in effect, been separated for a year. Even when I’d been physically present, emotionally the drugs had put me in another world where I couldn’t reach them. I was a zombie, so much so that my 12-year-old daughter has since told me she used to sleep in the same bed as me because when I was asleep she could pretend I was normal.
Now reunited we devoured each other physically and emotionally. They clinged on to me as if I’d returned from the dead, and I clinged on to them remembering the awful void of not being able to feel anything for them.
When I was discharged I made a decision that I was never going to take another anti depressant or sleeping tablet ever again. I’ve stuck with that decision and the low dosage anti depressant I had been prescribed went down the toilet.
I know that some people say their lives have been saved by anti depressants. I also know that the scientific research shows that anti depressants are no more effective than a placebo. The list of side effects that the drug companies openly admit is frightening. Since I’ve been talking about this I’ve come across countless people with horrendous experiences of anti depressants similar to mine and only two that say they have benefited.
What I would like to know is this woman was on a cocktail of drugs , had a year of hell and is ok now, I and many others were only ever on one drug and are still not back to normal after 8, 9 , 10 years after stopping their drug.
Ruth and whoever else:
I am convinced that nothing helps more than running and other HARD exercise to get past withdrawal/addiction. Katinka is shown here running a half marathon–I have little doubt that is what helped “fix her brain” so quickly.
I was very wrongly put on a high dose of Ativan (long story), quit cold turkey, had a tough withdrawal. Nothing helped more than going for a long, hard, sweaty run–after each run, I felt “normal”, even immediately after quitting. Of course I couldn’t run night & day, but I really think it helped me to recover more quickly.
Katinka you are so lucky to have not ended up arrested or worse gone on to kill yourself like so many others. It’s unbelievable you were taken off Escitalopram went back to normal to then be told you need another of the same type of antidepressant and anti psychotic. That bit really makes me angry because I have seen that happen to other people to, I just don’t get their logic. It only proves they don’t know their drugs and your nothing more than a genie pig to them.
They also say its “trial and era” but they don’t say that in the courtroom, why don’t they tell the judge that or the coroner when its all gone wrong. This whole subject just gets me so bloody angry.
I had the awakening you described when coming off Citalopram there is nothing like it, it really is like a re birth as you describe.
I’m really glad to hear you are well again you had a very lucky escape.
The worst part is trying pick your life up again after the damage. No one wants to employ you. Where have you been these last few years? Where the hell do you start without putting them off. Then its the CRB check thats a definite fail without the explanation reg: your mental health problem and drug intoxication.
WHERE ARE YOU BLOODY PSYCHIATRISTS NOW!!! NICE WORK WELL DONE!!
What’s in a name? Join a debate with me & @dineshbhugra on the pros & cons of diagnosis, positive thinking, more: https://t.co/kZhPkv2lWC
I think I speak for most of us when we wish you happy debating at IAI.
I think I speak for most of us that we would have preferred positive thinking advice from any psychiatrist anywhere in the world rather than ‘take this drug’ and you will be happy……
It is nonsense, and most us now know that.
Now, we have to train psychiatrists ourselves and open clinics for gps and psychiatrists who have no where to go when so many have done so much harm.
All those patients in the dock, when it should have been the doctors in the dock.
Behind every violent act/suicide is a doctor of some sort…sitting pretty like the horse with no name.
I look forward to seeing another action packed performance from yourself, as a Big Name, and, the Depression Game has brought Shame, Guilt and Suicide.
When anyone comes close to me, now, saying I am depressed, I say get over yourself…it’s just a name.
Go and buy yourself a mars bar and stop being so self indulgent.
Try being a little child living on the streets in India or war torn Iraq – that is bewildered…and the last thing these little children need is some poxy pill…………….developing an industry out of DeeeeeeeeePreshun is the most criminal and tantalising and dependently crucifying financial enterprise existing today……we know we sucked up and look how badly that went.
Those children in war zones will grow to be adults, if they are lucky, and, they will have developed a backbone so strong having seen so much blood that I pray that drug companies just leave them alone, just like we should have been left alone and not pushed and shoved and nudged by people who mostly have no idea what they are talking about.
One other thing…all the hundreds and hundreds of studies, on us, and the ensuing raised voices and squabbles, which does nothing in our favour…as, Ove, said, I swallowed the pill and I know how it affected me – so sometimes I think we feel gravely overlooked………
And, over on !BOM they are spending so much time squabbling about the comments they have completely lost the plot…………..! to their international audience……chuckle
1BOM is awesome.
And, as Altostrata famously said, if you are in front of a particularly nasty doctor, respond as if you are training a very large dog…..Snoopy chuckles
And, my very old Labrador had a violent attack on my caravan seating and ripped it apart one night..as per Elizabeth Hart….he had got new medication for Discospondylitis…if Paroxetine had not occurred to me I might not have thrown out the medication along with the vet…….
He is back to his licky, slobbering self…Snoopy Snoopy Chuckles
Happy Sunday………fab new site on DH…
I have to relocate – damaging Mental Health in Scotland – Scots Nats – it has not stopped raining in 300 years – when the world is your choice, where do you go?
Without baggage…the ceremonial burning of ones medical records?
It is all so brutal
Glad to hear you reverted back to normal. Are you aware that if you ever break and decide to go back on anti depressants your feelings might never return?
Stick to that decision like your life depends on it. Because it does.
Glad to hear you are back to normal , or as close to normal as you can be. I am returning from my own horror trip thru the western medicine blender. Basically I was ill, injured and in pain so I went to my doctor. They proceeded to drug me out of my mind. Over the next five years I was on a cocktail of drugs, a changing mix that kept me off balance constantly. I was at that time unaware of the drug companies influence of medical practice and I trusted that my doctors knew all about the drugs they were giving me. Big, big mistake! They knew very little about the drugs and the ” side effects”. They, like me, believed what we are told about side effects – that they are “mild and rare”. Nothing could be further from the truth. My drug list started with Wellbutrin, Trazodone and Flexoril. When Lyrica and Cymbalta were added the real trouble began. In all, at the end of five years my list of drugs included, among other things, FIVE major drug interaction WARNINGS for serotonin syndrome. FIVE ! And not one doctor saw that as a problem. When I went back to my PCP after coming off most of them I took a RxISK report for Lyrica to him and asked him to read and sign it if he agreed that my side effect symptoms could be from Lyrica. My RxISK score was 8. He read it and said he had never heard of any of this about Lyrica. He knew nothing about mood or behavior side effects from that drug. He would not sign the report, out of fear of being sued I guess.
What Dr Healy, Breggin and Robert Whitaker say about drug companies running the information show and hiding the truth about their chemicals appears to be very true. Very few doctors are aware of the risks involved in the drugs they so willingly hand out. And my shrink was the worst offender. He obviously did not have any clue that all of my symptoms were drug induced. He followed the DSM to the letter and I was to the point of suicide. I know that to be true since the symptoms have miraculously disappeared since I stopped taking the drugs.
Isn’t that amazing. I didn’t need any of the drugs at all. I just wish I could get my money back and compensation for everything else I lost due to the incompetence of all my doctors. But that is apparently just a wish, a wish never to be granted.
Never again will I trust a doctor until he/she earns my trust. In fact, I’m searching for a naturopath or wholistic doctor for the future and trusting my innate instincts.
I am so envious of this lady and happy that she recovered. After i cold turkey’d prozac after 16 years i have been very very ill. I never had any of these symptoms prior to antidepressants. In over a year i have seen many doctors all but one said this was a my original mental illness returning, they said this without looking at my records or asking any questions at all about my original illness. I recently saw a pychiatrist who said i was super sensitive to pychiatric medication and that i should never take one again. whilst this was good to hear he has no solution to this illness and said maybe i will recover maybe i wont.
You have no real voice when you have had any history of depression, everything you say is not to be belived. it is a crime what these medications do to people
*Servicing* the body, she said…….
As MIA, Rxisk and several *experts* discuss pill withdrawal, there is much information available to *everyone* and I would recommend, nay, insist that it is all read, digested and consumed and then a lot more might become apparent as to why we became bottom of the barrel……..and, why, none of this is penetrating the *head* of *your doctor*?
Plus = try getting hold of a *named* person to complain to in the gargantuan – the various NHS outfits across the country – and you will find it impossible.
Fill in a complaints form is required and then send your complaint to an office of juniors to be directed to whoever, maybe…….or it might just conveniently *get lost*…………
Any discussion in the real world of the patient will not be *entertained* as those of us who have tried are *side stepped* for the greater good of the benefits to society as a *whole*
One suicide is regretful, two unfortunate, thousands?
Never mind, eh.
To follow up with Rory I agree that if you take the Risk form to a Dr. or you’r own Dr. They will have dart’s coming out of their eyes. They will not read it, perhaps even handle it. I Have never taken a risk form to my Dr. because I know already how their going to react. The same old, “I graduated from Med School Not You. How dare you question Me. Find you’r self another MD.” I can’t afford my Dr. being angry or sore with me. I’ve finally been put on the right meds after many years of suffering from depression. Even though these forms are informative and the purpose of the feedback of side effects isn’t made to upset anyone but just provide perhaps a bit more insight into a drug’s possible side effect profile. As Dr. Healy said in one of his lectures “The complaint or comment would be thrown into a box, put into a shelf and disregarded as being an anecdote.” If it’s not a side effect listed in the literature or PDR then it couldn’t have happened. Then we Patients look like idiots to the Dr. treating us because they think You think that perhaps you know something that has escaped their learning or training. If it’s A Dr. that you could care a less if they get rid of you as a patient then go for it. Some of us though have found the holy grail. A Dr. that finally put us on the right med mix and can’t risk the Dr. becoming angry with us. Just curious…I’d like to know how many people have given the Risk Side effect sheet to their Dr. and had a positive response as opposed to hatred and contempt.
sometimes I think the Nazi scientists won the war after all…….heartless egos….
Yes, I think it too. There are inhuman and unethical practices going on – both in psychiatry and the disgusting pharmaceutical ($$$$$$) Companies. The almighty dollar is truly more important the people’s lives!
Big Pharma stole the best years away from my family and I.
Incredible story …needs to be told again and again…
Thank you for this story. I don’t feel alone and isolated or that it is my fault. This story also makes me feel hopeful. Thank you for sharing a story with similarities to my own. Thank you
“man’s inhumanity to man”
I found this, perhaps the root of the problem?
I too lost almost a year of my life on a cocktail of meds much the same. An upper in the morning, a downer at night – both dependent on each other to keep me in a drug dependent state. Both reduced my ability to function and problem solve like a normal human being. It shut me off in my emotions and made me want to eat nothing but sugar. I gained weight & was completely disconnected emotionally from everyone I loved. At one point I was convinced I was brain damaged because I was so slllloooowed down… I had a psychiatrist who had no intentions of weaning because he would push the weaning plan further by 2mos every time I reached that date to start weaning. He was quite the feel himself – couldn’t even show up to work on time and had an over grown hairdo like a slob (not s professional at all). Anyway I still had my intellect and read tons of articles and abstracts on these meds & eventually I got enough courage to wean myself of both meds simultaneously. I was on the low doses to begin with but managed to figure out how to tapper off both sumulatdneously. Thank God I had the education and intellect to educate myself about these meds & to learn that if I went off one or the other one at a time that it would likely be bad. Anyway I weaned off just fine. I had terrible anxiety for a while & the flood of NORNAL emotions came back – all at once & a bit overwhelming feeling happy, sad, love … etc all at once again after feeling completely nothing. I also had periods of fogginess for about 8mos but it was pretty nice to have feelings again. The psychiatrist wasn’t too happy about it and wanted to follow up. I smiled and agreed and canceled the next appointment by phone. This was two years ago and I can attest that life had ups and downs and that is what normal people have – I’ve been living a normal life. I too will never turn to that sector of the medical world ever again. I’d rather feel those painful emotions & feel than to feel nothing at all and be stupid as hell unable to think like the normal human being. I think these meds have their place but they totally should be reevaluated often and not ever approached as something anyone should tdjr life long. I feel sorry for people who don’t realize that the meds might be what it making them more sick. This is a very scared sector of “medicine”.