Prozac Kids AREN’T Violent

When I was in hospital I was flicking through a newspaper and I came across the headline, “Prozac Kids Go Violent” in which The Sun reports that 15-25 year olds on the medication were at greater risk of being convincted of murder, robbery or assault. However the lead researcher at Oxford University says it is too early to blame dangerous behaviour on the medication which suggests that this is The Sun having another stab at mental illness and unnecessarily adding to the stigma and misunderstanding around mental illness.

I will say this time and time again: People who have a mental health problem are more likely to be the victim of crime than they are to be the perpetrator!

I am on prozac and I am under the age of 25 and I know many others who are on prozac. Prozac has not made me violent, neither have I murdered anyone, or robbed anywhere or assaulted anyone….none of these things have entered my mind. Prozac helps me by lifting the heaviness and darkness so that I am able to function to some degree. A functional me writes blog posts and speaks out about mental illness in order to reduce stigma and raise awareness and understanding.

Without prozac I would never have walked up a mountain to raise money for a charity and I wouldn’t have been able to travel to Manchester and appear on live TV. Without prozac I wouldn’t have been able to write a letter to a stranger on the subject of hope and happiness and have it published in ‘Dear Stranger’ which raises money for Mind, the mental health charity.

A Swedish study found that there was no link between prozac and violence in the over 25s and I am certain there is no link between the anti-depressant and violence in the under 25s either. The risk that lays with prozac and under 25s is that it can increase the risk of suicidal feelings in younger people but this is usually whilst starting the medication and side effects tend to disappear after a period of taking the medication.

There’s Nowhere For Me To Go

I haven’t been well lately, my mood has crashed completely, the flashbacks are overwhelming and anorexia has been screaming at me. The past five weeks have been a downhill spiral of self harm, suicidal thoughts and no energy to do anything. Unfortunately it is also summer meaning that my psychologist, dietitian and psychiatrist have taken big chunks of leave.

Last Monday I can barely remember, according to my friend I was extremely withdrawn and not well and she took me to hospital to be assessed. We phoned the psychiatric ward at 6:15 pm and I was not assessed until 4.30 am. Waiting so long in an acute mental health crisis was really not helpful. Hospital was meant to help but the entire stay was horrific and stressful. Some of the staff were incredibly rude to everyone. My friend was crying and they opened the door and said, “Off you go!” and left her crying on the curb outside.

I ended up with the wrong medication most of the time and when I went to correct them it didn’t sort anything out. I actually had to explain to a qualified nurse the difference between tramadol and trazodone. I was given one out of my seven tablets at nighttime and when I explained the nurse didn’t return with the right dose and so that was a pretty sleepless night.

I was put in a two bedded room and I accepted that was the only bed even though I struggle hugely with sharing. The staff assured me that as soon as a single room became available it would be mine. The next morning I was put in the four bedded room when single bedrooms were available. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were deliberately trying to wind me up but I just left it because the staff had caused so much stress by that point that I simply gave up.

One patient threatened to kill me with their bare hands and strangle me. It was extremely distressing for me but the staff didn’t seem to care. I came into hospital to get better and feel safe and I felt anything but.

The last straw was when I tried to use the skills we are taught in DBT to distract myself from hurting myself. I asked the occupational therapist if I could do something and her response was, “Usually people with low mood don’t want to do anything.” Her comment put me in a place of guilt, shame and wanting to give up on DBT.

I decided the ward was too stressful and was making me worse and so I asked for leave until ward round and they allowed it. I got home and sat in a chair and cried for hours. Home wasn’t the right place. If I broke my leg then my mum and dad couldn’t x-ray it, diagnose it and put it in a cast. Neither can they fix my broken mind. I silently struggled until ward round and then explained the situation to which they had no solutions and I decided discharge was the only option.

I am now at home with no energy or motivation to do anything, very poorly with depression, battling with self harm and suicidal thoughts, hating myself and struggling with my eating disorder. Home is not the right place for me at the moment but hospital is too stressful which leaves me with nowhere to go…how can that be right?

Sectioned: A Spoken Word Piece

Last August I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and spend two months in hospital. When I was discharged I decided that I wanted to do something with my life and turn a negative into a positive and so I began working with Fixers. Around the same time I noticed a lot of pro-ana and pro-mental illness posts appearing all over social networking and one comment that really stuck out to me was someone saying that they wanted to be sectioned so that they could have a hug whenever their sad. I was also shocked by the amount of comments about mental illness being fashionable and people likening the psychiatric ward to a big sleepover but that is not the reality.

I wrote a spoken word piece and used my photography along with Fixer’s filming and editing to create a piece to explain what being sectioned is like from a patient’s perspective whilst also targeting the groups in social media that aspire to be unwell. Being sectioned often feels like something I should keep secret and be ashamed of  so that’s exactly why I decided to shout about it publicly. There should be no stigma.

Feel free to share this video and spread it’s message.

In My Shoes: Mental Illness

I am a part of BBC generation 2015 and I filmed a quick selfie video for their sister project, In My Shoes.

To view my BBC generation 2015 profile and to find out more about BBC generation 2015 check out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32035883

In My Shoes can be found on Twitter: @InMyUK

It’s Not All In My Head

If this is all in my head, if this isn’t real then why do I feel it in every inch of my body? Why does my breathing change and my heart race? I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. If this wasn’t real then my body wouldn’t react and my survival instincts wouldn’t come alive as though I were a cave man being chased by a wild animal.

If this isn’t real, if this is all in my head then why do the tears roll down my face, why do I sob uncontrollably and scream and shout words because I am in so much agony. Why would I be suffering so unbearably if none of this was real?

If this is only in my head, if you are telling me that this does not exist then why on earth do I feel at war with myself so much so that I stand on the stairs of a multistorey car park unsure of whether to go down the stairs or up? Unsure of which part of my mind to listen to. Why do my arms reach for a lever, my whole body ready to depart? Why do I feel this so physically and constantly if this ceases to exist in an outsiders opinion?

If this isn’t real, if this is choice or weakness or the dreaded word ‘attention seeking’ then why do I suffer in silence? Why do I lay awake staring into the pitch black with silent tears soaking my pillow case and making my face sore? It never leaves me, it never goes away. It’s more than a full time job, this is with me every second of every day and last night six sedative tablets didn’t even get me to sleep. It seems to be my life sentence and I often wonder what was my crime? Do you think this is a choice? I wouldn’t choose this, I wouldn’t even wish this on a serial killer.

If it’s all in my head then why do my legs ache? If this isn’t real then why are my bones bruised? If this is for attention then why are there scars both physical and mental that nobody knows about and will never know about?

If mental illness does not exist then why was I crying uncontrollably and struggling to breathe yesterday? Why was my whole body shaking and my head hurting if this isn’t real? Why are the simplest of tasks like being a passenger in a car so downright difficult? This is real.

In a way, I hate that we separate and categorise illnesses into physical and mental. There’s such a cross over between the two, people who are physically unwell also have symptoms such as depression and anxiety but mental illness is incredibly physical too. This doesn’t just affect my mind but even if it did the brain is an organ, the chemical imbalances, the brain activity, the reactions. They are all physical too. Mental illness is just as real as asthma, cancer and diabetes. Illness is illness regardless of which organ it affects. I am telling you in the depth of this horrible and cruel illness that this is so real, I can feel it in every atom of my body and brain.

The Benefits Of Medication

Medication for mental health problems tend to get a lot of bad press, or inaccurate press. There are lots of stories of pill shaming, reasons why medication is bad and it puts guilt upon those who have to take these medications. Yes, ‘have to’ because I know that I do not function without medication. Do not worry about me getting addicted to my antidepressants, worry about me taking my life or ending up getting detained under the mental health act if I don’t take them. There is also the coverage that portrays medication as ‘happy pills’ and simplifies them into popping a pill and being okay, that isn’t the case either. I find that my medication makes life manageable, makes my illness manageable. It doesn’t make my life like a fairytale and neither does it make me happy or recovered. Whilst my medication does positively impact my life, I, like many, struggle with side effects.

It’s always worse when you start a medication, often side effects appear and disappear within the first two weeks of taking a medication and they take shape in so many forms. I have been dry heaving and crying in the bathroom after the sickness side effect of a medication that led to me becoming too afraid to take any tablets for a long time. I have laid in bed squeezing my eyes shut, fists gripping the duvet and praying that I wouldn’t be sick. I had one medication cause restless legs, it was meant to help me sleep but I spent the night awake with aching legs that I HAD to move constantly. The headaches, the dizziness, the racing heart, the hunger. I can hold my hands up and honestly say that going onto a new medication can be horrible and it can be very difficult to trust that the side effects will go away, it’s just a case of tolerating the side effects until they disappear. The benefits of the medication far out way the side effects though, it was worth feeling a bit unwell to feel so much better mentally and to be able to function as a human being. I still get the occasional headache and the nausea but I am at home and living my life rather than in hospital so it is worth it. I can tolerate a little bit of horrible stuff in order to have a better quality of life.

IM: Is it Always Appropriate?

IMs, intramuscular injections, a topic I never wanted to have personal experience of, I never wanted to have my own personal opinion on, but unfortunately I do. I think that IM medication is something that needs to be approached in a very sensitive way when professionals are considering using it. It should not be used as a threat to the patient, whether that be just mentioning it or actually carrying out the injection but it is also important that the professional involved thinks about the possibility that it could traumatise the patient involved and any patients witnessing the IM. If IM is the best course of action and is appropriate then it must be done in the least traumatising way for everyone involved.

I want to make it clear that there have been times when IM medication was helpful to me and was used in an appropriate way. I do, however, feel it is important to share a negative experience of ‘being IM’d’ because the way in which it was used was unfair and somewhat traumatising:

The 31st December 2014, I was detained under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act and out of fear, shame and hopelessness I ran out of the assessment and found myself wandering the streets in the dark on my own. My thoughts were racing, I was lost and grasping hold of the occasional rational thought that fleeted through my mind was nearly impossible but I ended up phoning the police as I knew they were looking for me and telling them where I was. I was taken back to the ward and it’s a bit of a blur but I engaged in self harming behaviour. I was marched up to the clinic room with an elbow digging into my spine, I was telling them they were hurting me but it didn’t stop them. They put a pot of tablets in front of me. I struggle to take tablets at the best of times and there were so many, these were not my regular medication and so I asked what the tablets were. The nurse responded by saying that she was not ‘playing games’. I took a few of the tablets and then said that I couldn’t swallow anymore before asking again what the tablets were to which the nurse responded, “I will IM you!” I was upset enough without being threatened, I’d never been IM’d before, I wasn’t even sure of what it meant. I ran out of the clinic room and went and laid in bed.

I was in a dormitory and there was another young woman in the room when the nurse came in accompanied by two or three people. I think I put up a verbal fight, but I can’t really remember. They all held me down whilst the nurse injected me. I then slept until the 2nd January 2015. Over 30 hours of medication induced unconsciousness. An entire New Year’s missed-although that was the least of my worries but it still matters to me.

In this particular situation I feel things could’ve been handled differently. Firstly, where was the protection for the other patient? I would be distressed if I had to witness someone being injected against their will, I imagine that it has affected the other patient. Also, what about my privacy and dignity? Now I am feeling more stable I’m not very happy that another person witnessed that happening, I would much prefer that it was only the staff and myself that knew about it. How could that have all been prevented? They could’ve asked the patient to leave the room for five minutes. That’s all it would’ve taken to protect her and to respect my privacy and dignity.

Should medication ever be used as a threat or in a threatening way? No. That is the simple answer, just no. There are many other ways that the nurse could’ve worded it, perhaps in a caring and compassionate way. I also wonder if the nurse would’ve told me what the medication was and would’ve listened to me saying that I struggle to swallow tablets, would the situation have been very different? I do feel that listening to why the patient isn’t taking their medication is of key importance in these situations. I’ve had other nurses say similar when medication has been refused, “I’ll give you an injection, is that what you want?!” No, what I want is for you to listen to my concerns and worries about the medication you are forcing upon me.

Yes I was distressed, yes I needed some help but was it appropriate to restrain me and inject me with something so strong I slept for two days? Was it appropriate to use IM as a threat? Or to do it in front of another vulnerable patient? I’m not so sure it was.

Mental health care services should not be causing trauma to their patients. It can be very isolating to have traumatic experiences like this. Personally I find it difficult to talk to my mental health team about the trauma they have occasionally caused me.