Quitting Quetiapine

Today marks 1 month since I quit Quetiapine. For those who are lucky enough to have never come into contact with it, Quetiapine (also know as Seroquel) is an antipsychotic medication prescribed by a psychiatrist to ‘help treat’ bi-polar disorder. I use the term ‘help treat’ extremely loosely. While the medication does help soften the extreme mood swings associated with bi-polar disorder, it only does so for a limited amount of time (in my experience) and with some extreme side effects. These damages include but are not limited too;

  • Extreme weight gain and increased appetite
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Sickness
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Traumatic dreams
  • Weakness

I only list the above side effects (there can be many more) as these are the ones I suffered with. There is a reason this drug is referred to as ‘baby heroin‘ when bought illegally on the streets.

But we’re these side effects worth the relief this drug is intended to provide for bipolar disorder? No. No they were not.

But wait, there’s more! Not only are there reactions when taking the drug, there are also long lasting symptoms that continue well after the medication has been stopped, and Quetiapine is known to cause permanent damage to the patient. This includes, but is not limited too;

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Insomnia
  • Lowered metabolism
  • Visual disturbances
  • Higher risk of diabetes
  • Lowered white blood cell count and being prone to sickness
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Worsening of pre existing conditions (such as depression, anxiety and mood swings)

Again, the above is only a selection of the permanent issues faced after taking Quetiapine, and all of which I have been left facing for the foreseeable future.

‘Why did you even go onto this medication if the side effects were so dire?!’ I hear you ask. Well it’s simple really. I didn’t know. I didn’t know I would face such repercussions. When the I was prescribed this medication I was in a suicidal frame of mind (one which still haunts me) and I trusted the psychiatrist who said I needed to take these tablets to feel better. I had lost hope and was willing to try anything. I didn’t know anyone who was going through a similar situation or could warm me of the consequences of committing to this medication. I wish I had known, I wish I had been warned about the extreme weight gain, the inability to remember simple names or information. I wish I had been warned about the headaches and the sickness. The fatigue and the sickness. But I wasn’t. When I questioned the side effects I was facing I was told these would pass as my dose increased and we found the right antidepressants to take along side Quetiapine. Because, that’s right, you still have to take antidepressants with Quetiapine to experience its ‘full benefits’!!

I was on this medication for a little under 3 years. Throughout this time my dose increased several times, and my symptoms were dismissed as a necessary inconvenience. I took the tablets as I was told, unaware the poison was causing long term side effects that I may now never recover from.

Once I began counselling (thank you Tara, thank you Dad) I was finally able to see how these drugs were effecting me. They were not helping me. Sure they did alleviate my sever mood swings and depressive outbursts for the first 12 or so months, but after that their ‘effectiveness’ wore off and the side effects worsened. My councillor advised a change as soon as possible and helped motivate my doctor to take the next steps in getting me off this drug. I was referred back to a psychiatrist which took several months to come in fruition (as my doctor was not ‘allowed’ to alter this medication himself) and I have finally been transferred onto a different medication which is now slowly working it’s way into my system and gradually being increased in dose week by week.

And so it has been 31 days since I last took Quetiapine. My doctor did not however help me to slowly switch, instead he insisted I do so immediately without lowering my previous medication first, leaving me with some of the worst withdrawal symptoms you can imagine. I was unable to eat or drink, constantly being sick (up to 10+ times a day), I faced violent shakes, headaches, dizziness, insomnia and the dreaded ‘brain zaps’. I honestly thought I was going to die. I honestly wanted to die. It was a horrific feeling and even resulted in a hospital visit and getting treatment for dehydration and extreme sickness. Thankfully, I am now no longer feeling as hideous as I was before. I have been prescribed yet more tablets to help with the sickness, and the brain zaps have finally stopped. The new medication has so far been treating me well, and yes I did lots of research before agreeing to start the new treatment. I pleaded with my doctor to let me come off medication all together and see how I handled being ‘clean’ so to speak, not because I felt I was mentally well enough to do so, but because I’m terrified of what a new set of tablets could do to me. But, I have begun a new course of treatment and I am praying this one might work, alongside those wonderful people who continue to support and encourage me. So please Lamotrigine, please can you just help me a little more, and maybe hurt me a little less.

I’m writing this to hopefully reach someone who may be faced with starting to take Quetiapine (Seroquel) themselves. Please, don’t. It is not worth it. I promise you.

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Day Dreams and Death Scenes – My Battle with My Inner Demons

⚠️ Warning – this post may trigger those currently dealing with their own depressive demons. This is an extremely personal post so please don’t read on if you are possibly going to have negative side effects. ⚠️

Recently, in the past couple of weeks my personal demons have become an extremely heavy burden on me again. They are clinging onto me so tightly their claws are digging through my skin and piercing into my bones. They are leaving me covered in open scars left to bleed out and drain me dry. Extreme? Yes. Graphic? Yes. But physically painful and emotionally destructive? Yes.

My biggest issues I’m currently facing with my bipolar manic depressive disorder is the dark thoughts my mind keeps taking me too. Dragging me into a deep disturbed place and setting up camp. And I’m going to be completely honest in this post. These are thoughts of death. Thoughts of how much better life would be for those around me, if I was no longer here. No longer a burden. No longer another worry to weigh them down. Because this is what I feel like. I’m an emotional, financial, physical life size burden to those people who I love more than life itself. And I’m not writing this for pity or attention, I don’t even think many people read my posts. I’m writing this to just try and get this out of my head. Because it’s all currently stuck inside and it’s holding me captive, slowly but truly taking over.

And so back to these day dreams of death scenes that are currently reoccurring on loop in my minds eye. I am in a dark place. I want to get out. I need to get out. And my mind keeps giving me all these infectious, inspired ideas. I can’t cross the road without imagining walking out in front of the traffic. I drive my car and imagine crashing. I take my tablets and think of taking too many. Why if I swam out to sea? What if I cut myself and let go, if I hang and take my final painful breath? And I know how horrific this is, and that I shouldn’t be saying these things let alone think them but I can’t help it, my mind is warped and tearing me apart. I am lost. Death feels like escape. An end to pain and hopelessness.

And I love my incredible friends and family, my partner and our pugs. I love them so so much and I don’t want to pass this pain onto them, they don’t deserve that, but I feel like such a burden that if I was no longer here, after the initial shock and pain, their lives would be a better place than they could ever be with me in it. My friends could live their lives without having to constantly listen to my problems and tears and screwed up thoughts, my beautiful Sarah could focus on her own life and career and family, and not have to deal with my constant depressive episodes. She has been there for almost 18 years and deserves a break from my constant drama and inability to be a good best friend. I love her like a sister, but I know she deserves so much better than me. My family wouldn’t have to feel secretly ashamed at my lack of a career, constant problems, my battle with my weight and my mental health. Granted some family have already cut me out of their lives for which I don’t blame them, but those who have stood by me deserve the relief of not having to constantly worry about me and my problems all the time. And my Neil. My incredible wonderful Neil who I love more than life itself, he would no longer have to deal with my breakdowns and mood swings, my emotional and financial dependence, my over protective nature and constant need for reassurance. He could finally be with someone who not only sees how incredible he is, as I do, but who can give him the happiness, fun, freedom and future that he deserves. Because he deserves the world. Someone who will fill him with passion and excitement and incredible moments and memories, someone who doesn’t have all these issues and invisible illnesses I find myself battling with daily. I love him so so much, and want him to be the happiest he can be, and my mind tells me that’s not with me. I love you all so much, I don’t want to be the dark cloud in your beautiful blue sky’s anymore. I even feel guilty for my beautiful pups, they deserve a better owner than me!

And so, all these thoughts just swirl around and keep filling my head. And it’s no ones fault but mine and my mental health. And these are the parts of mental health that people don’t see. They don’t realise. They don’t understand or want to believe how dark and severe things can get. But this is real. And this is scary. It’s overwhelming and painful and destructive, but it is my reality. I don’t want to feel this way. To have these thoughts and imagine these different ways to die. But I do, and I’m frightened. I just want them to stop. I want the pain to end. I want the burden to be gone and the happiness to be real.

I’m so sorry to those I love. You are not to blame and not at fault, at all. You are the most incredible wonderful people and the reason why I am somehow still here today. I love you all so so much and always will.

My problem is with Me. Me and my mental health. And I’m so so sorry for it all.

E. x

Afflicted.

Today, like any other day, I’ve curled up in the sofa surrounded by dogs, and had a little flick through Netflix. I’m, like many people, the kind of person who is constantly adding to their list of things to one day watch. And of course, today is no different.

So I am perusing through and happen to spot a new Netflix original documentary series titled ‘Afflicted’. It follows various people who are battling with different invisible chronic health issues and all that comes along with them. The first was a lady suffering with EHS, electromagnetic hypersensitivity. This is where she struggles with pain caused by electromagnetic currents that are given off by things such as mobile phones, power lines and WiFi. We begin to learn about the battle she faces and the lack of recognition this health issue receives. We only gather a brief understanding of her fight before moving onto the next person however it was very intriguing all the same.

I thought to myself, well this is going to be a really interesting docu-series. I’m going to really enjoy this.

And then we met the next individual being followed.

This is a man who three years ago was fit, healthy and happy. But then he started getting tired. He started getting weak and forgetful. He started facing tougher and tougher symptoms of an illness that he and many professionals couldn’t understand. He became bed bound, unable to move, to speak, to wash or eat by himself. And then he was diagnosed with M.E.

As soon as his diagnoses was ‘revealed’ I burst into tears. It was like a train of fear had just hit me straight on. And I was devastated. Terrified. Horrified…

Is this what could happen to me? Is this what I could become?

As some people are aware I have been suffering with ME for a little over 2 years. I was only formally diagnosed earlier this year however they believe I may have been suffering with this illness for much longer. And as time has moved on, this illness has progressed, become much harder to live with, put much more strain on my everyday life and become even more debilitating. I used to be able to memories pages and pages of scripts, enjoy hours of creating and handle all night rehearsals with ease. I used to love to perform. But now, my memory is fuzzy at he best of times. I forget names and struggle to remember simple things. And I’m so exhausted all, the, time. I push myself to get up and go out to work for a couple of hours but then find myself immediately needing to fall back into bed and sleep for several hours just to be able to function. I’m no longer adventurous, and creative, and energetic. I’m lethargic, forgetful and sad. And seeing this man, diagnosed with the same illness as me, and how badly it has ravaged his entire life, really hit me hard.

Is this what I will become?

I simply don’t know how to face this prospect. I don’t know how to handle this possibility. I don’t know how to stop my mind from diving into these dark corners of my fears and becoming completely overwhelmed.

So I turned the documentary off.

Maybe it would be good for me to watch through this series, as difficult as it may be, and try to understand and learn from what this poor man is facing. To try and get my head around what could possibly happen to me if things continue to deteriorate. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. At least not right now. I’m not mentally prepared to do that. I already question myself and wether or not I am just a burden to those around me. I don’t think I can watch this documentary and face the possibility that this is only the beginning of what’s to come. Seeing so vividly how this horrible illness can destroy someone’s life, let alone the battles they have to face trying to convince those around them that they are not just being ‘lazy’!. Maybe one day I will be able to watch this series. But I guess today just isn’t that day.

Instead, I think for now I’ll head back to my F.R.I.E.N.D.S re runs. Back to my happy place.

How Do You Make Friends?

I know this must sound like such a pathetic question. How do you make friends. But to me this is such a difficult area of my life to figure out. I do have a few good friends and one unbeatable best friend, but as luck and life will have it my beautiful best friend lives a couple of hundreds of miles away and so we only get to see each other a few times a year. And this friendship was forged over 17 years ago through a combined love of acting, singing, dogs, films, games, and everything in between. (I love you Sarah!)

But how does a 27+ year old make ‘new’ friends? I mean, I can’t exactly go up to someone and say ‘hi, I think you’re cool and we could really get along, so can we be friends?’!! I mean I guess it’s like dating, (something else I never enjoyed or was very good at, thank god that stage is over!) and maybe you should ask someone out for coffee or a drink and just see how things go. But how do I navigate my way through making new friendships when I have my own mental health monsters making things so much harder. My anxiety makes it difficult to meet new people or spend times in social situations and settings. My M.E zaps any energy I may have had and reduces me to needing to sleep for over 15 hours a day just to be able to hold down a part time job. My manic depressive and bi-polar disorder fills me with such dread and doubt that people would actually want to be friends with me, and makes me go through such extreme phases of self loathing that I keep thinking how could I actually subject anyone to that? All of these aspects thrown together does not help me to make any new potential friendships. It really is hard.

So again, I ask how does a 27+ year old make new friends, alongside battling their own demons. F.R.I.E.N.D.S is and always has been my favourite Tv show, and as sad as it sounds I dream of having that sort of friendship group surrounding me, a bunch of people who are so loyal, and reliable, and are down for just hanging out at home, not needing to go out drinking or being surrounded by strangers. People who get me, and accept me just the way I am. People who can come round and see me for me, and not think I’m lazy or judge me or get disappointed with me when I’m having really tough days. People who see past my problems and appreciate that I might not be a crazy party animal or social butterfly, but see that I am just a simple, loyal, loving person, and someone who really wants to just be a good friend.

Oh well. Maybe one day it will happen, and I’ll meet some people who actually like me for the messed up person I am, and are willing to work towards that fantasy friend group of mine. Or maybe it won’t, and I’ll just stick to watching my F.R.I.E.N.D.S reruns with the dogs. Either way, at least I know that no matter what, I have my girl Sarah, and even if I can’t see her every day like I wish I could, I know she will always be their for me and love me completely, flaws and all.

But if anyone does have any ideas for making friends in your late 20s, well… I wouldn’t turn down the tips.

E.

My Struggle With Me, The Beginning

“You are a child of the Universe,

No less than the trees and the stars;

You have a right to be here.”

When I was little, my Mum would create posters and pictures for me, to help encourage me, guide me, and make me smile. Those pictures and words have remained with me, and through the various battles I have and will face, they are something to hold on to. a piece of my mum’s love to remember.

I lost my Mum the day before I turned 10. She battled with all her strength against the cancer that had spread within her for the second time, however she couldn’t fight forever, and eventually her pain dissolved into peace, and she let go. I remember at the time being told she had used all her might to hold on to see my through my tenth birthday, the big double digits, but that at the final hurdle she wasn’t able to carry on. I take comfort in the fact she held on for me as long as she could.

Of course I wonder what life would have been like if she was still here today. Would I still be the way I am? Would I still have faced the same personal battles? Would I have been stronger,  less afraid of abandonment, more optimistic about life? I don’t blame her for who I have become, in no way whatsoever, but I do often wonder how different life could have been if she was still here. Many people I have spoken with, Councillors, Doctors, Psychiatrists, Specialists, have all stemmed my problems back to a beginning trigger point, a moment of severe trauma, the loss of my mother. I suppose everyone faces experiences that shape who they are, moments that change them forever. Perhaps this was mine.

I’ve decided to start this blog as a way to help me process my thoughts, and to hopefully help other people understand who I am, and why I am.

But, through it all, I need to try to remember- I am a ‘child of the universe’, and no matter how much I doubt it, or fight against it, or even sometimes wish it wasn’t true, I do have a right to be here. I hope this new venture into the world of self-help and self-exploration can help to remind me of that.

E.

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An image created by Mum and placed in my bedroom when I was little.