I'm Sue and I've lost 17 years of my life to antidepressants and antipsychotics. It started after the birth of my third child in December 1996. Before that I had never had any contact with mental health professionals. I then spent the following 17 years given a number of psychiatric diagnoses, prescribed cocktails of psychiatric medications including imipramine, venlafaxine, mirtazapine chlorpromazine, queitapine, clopixol and lithium and administered over 20 ECT treatments. The effects of these medical interventions included cognitive and memory impairment, severe weight gain, blunted emotions, lack of motivation and a feeling of complete indifference. I was also admitted to an acute psychiatric ward on many occasions.
Three years ago a psychiatrist made the unusual decision of taking me off all the drugs overnight.
I was totally unprepared for what is to follow, as are my family and friends and the following 2 and a half years prove to be incredibly challenging and at times agonizing. Iexperience unimaginable emotional upheaval, anxiety and insomnia so debilitating I am at timesunable to function, I cry when I don’t want to cry, I laugh when I don’t want to laugh and I feel intensely angry when I don’t want to be angry. I experience moments of despair, moments of sheer elation and moments of paranoia – I cannot compare the experience to anything else I have ever lived through.
But however challenging the process has been I don’t regret withdrawing from medication – to remain medication free has been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life, because:
Now, despite all these withdrawal symptoms, I am “living” and not just “existing”.
Now when I walk down the street, I look up at the sky and I notice the world around me.
My curiosity, passion and zest for life are evolving day by day.
Now I can sometimes look in the mirror and smile back at my reflection.
Now I am emerging as a person capable of feeling, facing and coping with every human emotion it is possible to experience, and that feels so good.
I now have hope instead of utter hopelessness.
Now I feel empowered and have choice and control back in my life.
Now I am finally beginning to find a true sense of self and purpose.
And so, here I am today, discharged from secondary mental health services and living independently in the community surrounded by my family and friends and coping with everyday life. After 20 years out of the employment market, I am working again and I have found meaning and a sense of fulfilment – and at last I am beginning to feel human again.
It has been an incredible journey of discovery, – one of discovering myself, my values and beliefs and what the world means to me although the struggle to heal is by no means over.