Thursday, 9 February 2012

Schizophrenia and Medication

I am sure you will all be pleased to hear that I feel well this morning.  Went to bed a bit earlier than usual, after a quiet evening in front of the TV.  No dizziness today to speak of, although I still ache slightly from the fall.  I have come to the conclusion that I need more rest - once I sit down at the computer I seem to grow roots, fiddling around with this and that for hours on end (rarely any extended 'real' writing these days, which might actually be relaxing).  I think I have been overdoing things.

So, no need for a trip to the doctor today after all.  The doctor would not have been able to tell me what I have figured out for myself - all she would have been able to do is check my blood pressure, and maybe if she was concerned she would send me off for a blood test, or if she was very, very concerned, a brain scan.  I have saved myself, and at least one other person, time and trouble.  And money of course - the NHS is free from the perspective of the consumer, but the lack of payment is a bit of an illusion.  We all pay, sooner or later, in one way or another.

I have a good relationship with my GP.  She takes my worries seriously.  She knows my physical health has not always been good - my main weakness over the years has been a susceptibility to chest infections, and I have needed a lot of antibiotics to clear them up.  (Of course they always returned and then needed treating again).  I have also had niggling worries over the years, and every now and again I will be sent for an x-ray or a scan of some part of my body, which fortunately always turns out to be alright.

In the last few years, I have learned to take a calmer and more balanced attitude towards my health.  I know a chest pain can signify an impending heart attack - but in my own case the one thing has not yet followed the other.  I decided to stop taking antibiotics for chest infections - in fact, I decided to stop getting chest infections.  I took preventative measures - took a good look at my diet, bought probiotics (acidophilus) which I take regularly.  Slowed down, listened to my body more.  Took steps to get a more positive outlook on life.  Got a dog.  And these things have had a bigger impact than I ever imagined - I am well almost all of the time these days.  (After thirty years of pretty bad mental and physical health, I think I deserve this).

Whenever I went to the doctor, although I was aware that my symptoms might be in my head as much as in my body, it still didn't occur to me that medicine might not be the answer.  I trusted the doctor to be the best judge of what I needed.  So I would be reassured when I was sent for a scan, which showed me not to have some serious problem - but the symptoms would not just disappear, or if they did then another part of my body would then seem to be malfunctioning.  There was always something wrong with me - I think now that the external symptoms were indicative of an inner disorder, and the fact was that I always felt that there was something wrong with me.  (I hope I am expressing this clearly.  I always try to be as clear as possible, but what I am trying to say here is in itself slightly abstract.)

In the last year or so, added to my belief that I am the best monitor of my own health, is the beginning of a slight aversion to being looked after by somebody else.  I did not have a nice time in hospital after my bunion operation last summer.  I hated being physically helpless, and did my utmost to look after myself throughout (which involved some awkward times with the bedpan and commode for the 48 hours when my legs were completely numb).   And there is something else, which I have not mentioned before, for fear of being thought paranoid.

Before the operation, I told the surgeon and anaethestist about my mental health diagnosis.  This was because they expressly asked me, when they filled out their questionnaires.  I wish now that I had not told them, because I am almost sure that when I came round from the operation I was given some kind of tranquilising or anti-psychotic drug.

What happened was this.  Before I was put under I was given an anti-sickness drug.  When I woke up I felt nauseous.  I told the nursing staff, and they waited by me for a while, in the recovery room.  The anaesthetist arrived.  They were making conversation with me, I felt weak but did my best to talk to them as normally as possible.  After a while the anaesthetist said something to the nursing staff, and then he went off.  The nurses said they were giving me something for the sickness.   They then administered two drugs - through the drip that was still in my hand.  They put some from one syringe, then some from the next, then the first again, then the other. 

I didn't want to ask about what was going on.  I feared at the time that they might think I was not fully sane, and I didn't want to appear paranoid by questioning what drugs I had been given.  (This is a fear I have had almost constantly for the last twenty odd years - that people will think I am not normal, and it often prevents me from behaving normally!)

Anyway, I did not feel at all well after I was given those drugs.  I still felt sick, but because I was not actually sick I was taken up to the ward.  I also began to feel panicky, but I kept myself under control.  I reminded myself that there was no reason to panic, and that I would gain nothing by doing so.  When my Mum arrived to visit later I said to her, 'After the operation I felt like screaming and crying' and the staff nurse (the same one who had stood by when the medication was administered) said, 'Sometimes the drug that you were given has that effect'. 

I was not quite right for the rest of my stay in hospital.  I suspect it was the drug, or drugs, that I was given.  I was also aware that it might be my paranoia about the drug that I had been given, and that is my problem - I never quite trust myself.  I didn't want to ask any questions about what I had been given, partly because it was too late (shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted) and partly because I didn't want to seem suspicious.  I was in hospital for two nights after that, and I hardly slept, which didn't help my state of mind. 

Because what I haven't told anybody until now, is that my thoughts were definitely disturbed at times.
 I have not told anybody that before, because I didn't want anybody to overreact.  I was in control, I could just see that there was a possibility of losing the plot, which would actually be made more likely if I had confided in anybody at that time.  It was not a normal feeling of stress - it was something else, something actually slightly deranged (!) and I am positive that it was drug induced, but equally positive that the nursing staff would not have agreed and would have called in the psychs if I had told them what was happening.  This has happened to me before, and it is enough to drive you around the bend, without any other factors.  The diagosis of schizophrenia really does cause other people to behave differently - even medics, who should know better.

Most of the time I was fine, fortunately.  I had a lovely neighbour in the next bed, an ex-nurse, and I felt reassured that she was there - we talked and laughed together about all sorts of stuff.  Paul visited, and the kids, and it was lovely to see them.  Nobody noticed that anything was not quite right with me, which was a good thing in the circumstances. 

I am not good with drugs.  I hate their effect on my mind, and I think I am actually more sensitive to them than most people.  One night I was given morphine when I complained about pain, and then I had a panic attack (a quiet one, I didn't behave abnormally at any time while I was there).  I just wanted and needed to get out of the hospital - I knew when I got home that I would be fine, and I was. 

I have written all that to give a clearer picture of my attitude to medical things generally.  I am not trusting enough to be a good patient - although I gave a very good impression of being a good patient in hospital this time.  I just want to be independent, to get home, to be left alone.  And because of the diagnosis I have been treated differently for so long that matters have got even more confused.  Anybody else would have felt able to say, 'That drug had a really strange effect on me.  What was it?  Why did you only mention one drug when it was administered through two separate syringes?' 

Me, I think all this stuff, but don't let on, because if I do I think they will think I am mad.  Which they would, because it is there in the notes.  SCHIZOPHRENIC. 

I don't even want to ask now - well, I do want to, but I have no hope at all of discovering the truth.  I have asked to see my medical records on three separate occasions over the last ten or so years since I first embarked on writing my book.  I wanted to check details about medications and so on.  I have gone to the trouble of finding out the correct person in the local NHS Trust to ask, and writing her a letter, three times, and not even received a reply.  I assume that because of my diagnosis it is considered to be bad for my mental health to let me see my notes.  I will probably find the strength to challenge this one day, but I have more important things to be getting on with for now.

Like having a cup of tea.  I have been at the computer for long enough now, and it is time for a break.  More, as usual, anon.  And on.


  1. Did you read Keener's story on "Beyond Meds"? It is all about the leathal withdrawal symptoms from Efexor.It is a nice British story and it certainly "rang a bell" with me and reminded me of what my son went through while withdrawing a bit too fast from Olanzapine. He had been put on that medication because he was delirous due to a bad infection. The doctors swore that there were no withdrawal symptoms when coming of olanzapine and never admitted that he had collapsed because of that medication. They diagnosed him mentally ill instead.It was a nightmare! I could not believe that doctors knew so little about the medication they were plying their patients with. My son couldn't sleep at all and developed akathisia so bad that he could not stop whizzing around the house day and night. Doctors didn't believe it until he tried to commit suicide. I laughed and cried reading Keener's story. Mind you, I felt sorry also for the medical staff and her parents and friends. They were in a no-win situation. The psychiatrists are hampered by what they have been taught at medical school and don't listen to what patients say.