Hosting a book launch is like hosting a wedding except there is only one of you. Particularly as my book is partly an autobiography and therefore of course I'm going to invite friends and family, as well as many contributors whose stories or expertise are probably the most important part of the book.
So I was both nervous and excited about the launch which took place on the evening of 12 July at Waterstone's bookstore in High Street Kensington.
I was expecting around 100 guests and some were people who I hadn't seen since the year my life had been stolen by antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs. Indeed, the last time some of those people had seen me would have been when I was wondering around in an old dressing gown, highly suicidal, dribbling and unable to finish a sentence.
And then there were many people who had flown in from all corners of the world who had generously shared their stories of loss. Of course I'd interviewed many of these people on the phone, but meeting them for the first time was a very special moment.
The evening before I had hosted a dinner at my house for Olga Leclerq and her family who had flown in specially from Belgium. Olga is one of the parents of 22 children who died in the Sierra bus crash in Switzerland. Forensic experts who were hired to examine this case have concluded that they think the driver killed himself on purpose because he was withdrawing from Seroxat.
It was an honour to meet Olga and her family for the first time
It was also very emotional because she shared with me that it would have been her daughters 15th birthday the day of the book launch. Around the same age of my daughter, Lily. Once again, I'm struck by how lucky we have been that antidepressants didn't cause a fatality in our family.
So coming back to the book launch at Waterstone's. The room filled up with familiar and not familiar faces. A woman comes up to me with a bunch of flowers. She introduces herself as one of the people I have interviewed for the book who lost her 15 year old son from an antidepressant induced suicide. She is there with her husband. We hug as there is a familiarity that transcends the fact we have never met. And this is how I feel about so many of the people who attend that night: Leonie and Tony Fennell from Ireland whose son Shane stabbed someone and then himself 19 times after taking citalopram. Stephanie Lynch who believes her son, Jake turned a gun on himself because he was suffering the side effects of Prozac. And Brian and his wife from Antidepaware who campaign tirelessly on this issue after their own son took his life after taking an antidepressant for work related anxiety.
Somehow there are all these people in my life who I have barely met but who feel like family to me now. None more so than David Carmichael, who had flown in a couple of days before from Canada. David was one of the main inspirations behind my journey of discovery, which then became the subject of my book. His story is in the Stolen Lives section of this site where he tells the tragic story of how he became psychotic after taking Seroxat. He believes this led to the death of his 11 year old son, Ian. Meeting him at the airport and then having him to stay, I felt like I had known him all my life.
Once the room had filled up, I made a speech and read a passage from the book. Its my favourite bit - its about how I was sectioned after a year of being on the drugs and they took me off all five drugs. After three weeks of agonising cold turkey I was completely better. The passage describes how Lily and Oscar (my kids) knew I was better before anyone else. It was the first time I've been able to read that passage without crying. It ends with "Yes that day, on 19 October 2013, we knew that Mummy was back". At that point, I told the audience that there are many who don't get their mums back, or indeed their dads, brothers, sisters, sons, or daughters. And I handed over to David Carmichael, who bravely stood up and told the tragic story of his son's death.
If there were people in the audience that night who had no idea of the damage antidepressants can do for the 1 % of people who react adversely, they would have left without any doubt .
The next day, I was joined by the campaigner Bob Fiddaman, Kirk Brandon, Leonie Fennell and Tony Donnelly, Stephanie Lynch and her husband, John for lunch at my house. It was a momentous and often tearful occasion as we all exchanged stories.
In the following few days I had the honour of meeting Julie and Peter Wood from Canada, who run the website SSRI stories and Rxsk. SSRI stories lists over 6000 articles where antidepressants may be linked to suicides, homicides and violence. Even if only some of these are caused by the pills, its an astonishing amount. Julie's knowledge about this issue is extraordinary as is her dedication. As is often the case when people become campaigners on this issue, she is driven by personal loss.
Its been quite a week. In September 2015 I decided that because my life had been stolen for a year by antidepressants, that I would repay that by giving back a year of my life to publicise the dangers. I'm 10 months in and its been some journey.!