This is Survivor Story number 23.
Total number of stories in current database is 77
11-Year Old Becomes Violent on Paxil
“We will never know the extent of the damage done.”
My name is Eileen Shivak. I live with my husband, Tod, and our two children in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The following is an account of our experiences when my son, Michael, began taking Paxil, as prescribed by his psychiatrists.
Throughout most of his childhood Michael was happy, active, friendly, and loving. He was a Cub Scout for 5 years. He played softball, hockey, soccer, swimming, karate, gymnastics, and golf. He also enjoyed mountain biking, kayaking and indoor rock climbing. Michael has a sister who is 6 years younger than he. He has always been a loving, playful, involved, caring, protective big brother.
When Michael was about nine years old he began to change. Occasionally he would cry at night and could not say why. At these times he would say, Why was I born? I just want to die. What is the point of being here? Over the next two years this behavior became more frequent. Michael started refusing to participate in sports and family activities. After he spent a whole soccer game curled in a ball on the sidelines we decided to get him professional help.
We took Michael to Dr. Albert J. Sayed. He diagnosed Michael with depression. June 21, 2001, 19 days after his 11th birthday, Michael began taking Paxil. I do not know the exact dates Michael was in treatment with Dr. Sayed because the doctor has refused to give me copies of my sons records.
October 2001, Michael began treatment with Dr. Howard M. Weiner. At this time he also began therapy with Scott Weissman. Michael continued to take Paxil. Dr. Weiner gradually increased the dosage, and then added other drugs to Michaels therapy.
Michael was taken off Paxil because I refused to have him on three drugs at one time. I decided to take him off the other drugs when he started refusing to take them. We began taking Michael to another therapist, Rob Moesta, after only a few months with Scott Weissman. However, he continued to see Dr. Weiner for medications until September 25, 2002.
By September 2001, Michael had become more emotional. He was unusually clingy with me and angry and difficult with his younger sister. September 29, 2001 he refused to go to school and threatened to take all of his Paxil as a way to kill himself. I took him to see the school social worker who recommended he be taken to the hospital emergency room. The hospitals mental health professionals evaluated him. They were able to get him to contract for his own safety and he returned home with me.
Over the next few months Michael became increasingly agitated and confrontational with his family and other relatives. He swore frequently and threatened his father and me. In December 2001 he threatened his father with a large kitchen knife. When I encountered the situation he handed me the knife and began to cry. There were several other times he threatened his father and me with knives. Once he placed a long serrated knife on my arm and began to saw it back and forth. He asked me if it hurt and did not stop until I said, yes.
In late December Michael became upset during a family dinner at a local restaurant. He became angry when told that as a punishment for something he had done earlier, he would not receive his allowance that week. Michael began to bend forks and eat napkins and straws. We left the restaurant and went home where Michael began to kick our mailbox. Michael then went to the garage, grabbed a cinder block and raised it as if he were going to throw it at our car. When his father tried to stop him, Michael hit him in the chin with his head. Michael then ran into the front yard and began to tramp the word F-U-C-K into the snow. His father yelled at him to go into the house and cool off. Michael then shouted, If I go into the house, Ill jump out the upstairs window. I followed Michael into the house where he grabbed a knife. When his father entered the house Michael threatened him with the knife, saying repeatedly, Go away! I hate you! I approached him from behind and hugged him. He began to cry and eventually let me take the knife away from him.
January 6, 2002 was the first time Michaels behavior was so extreme we had to call the police for assistance. During dinner Michael refused to use a fork so I removed his plate from the table. When I tried to prevent him from retrieving it, he started to push and hit me. When his father intervened the situation escalated into a serious physical altercation between the two of them. At this time I called the police. When they arrived and attempted to talk with Michael, he swore at them then hit and kicked them. The police handcuffed Michael. The police called an ambulance and he was transported to St. Joseph Mercy hospital in four-point restraints. Michael was screaming, swearing, and trying to punch and bite the paramedics throughout this whole ordeal. At the hospital several security officers transferred Michael to a bed with leather restraints with nurses in attendance. After a time Michael became calm enough for the restraints to be removed. He was evaluated by the Behavioral Services Specialist and released to go home with us.
Nine days later Michael became upset during a therapy session with Scott Weissman and ran out of the building onto a partially frozen pond. When the police arrived at the scene Michael refused to come off the ice, telling the officer to fuck off. The officer called for fire/rescue. They arrived, suited up, and entered the ice to retrieve Michael and an unknown woman who had joined him. Michael ran off the ice with several men in pursuit. He was caught and handcuffed in the parking lot. As they were walking back Michael kicked one of the rescue workers. Michaels head was held by the police officer while he was placed in restraints on the gurney because he was attempting to bite the emergency personnel. He was transported to St. Joseph Mercy hospital. Michael was screaming, Kill me! Kill me! Theres nothing good in this world! I was told to leave the room while he was transferred to a hospital bed and placed in leather restraints. When I returned to the room Michael had a large bruise on his face. He was crying and said, Mom, they hurt me, they hurt me. Once again, when he calmed down he was evaluated and released; this time with the recommendation that he be placed on a mood stabilizing medication.
January 28,2002 I called the police again to our house. Michael had been fighting with his grandmother and me repeatedly throughout the day. Police asked his grandmother to press charges against him, however she refused. He was transported to the University of Michigan Psychiatric Emergency, evaluated and released. Several days before he had held a knife to his throat, threatening to stab himself. That day he also strangled himself with a rope until he choked and turned blue in the face.
On the evening of February 17, 2002 the police were again called to our house during an altercation between Michael and his father. Michael had become enraged when we would not let him watch a video of the movie Gladiator. He was punching and hitting us with furniture. When the police arrived Michaels father was holding him down on the floor while Michael kicked and screamed for them to kill his parents. Once again he was transported to a hospital in restraints. This time he was taken to the psychiatric emergency clinic at the University of Michigan hospital where he was evaluated and released.
Over the next few months Michaels oppositional behavior continued both at home and at school. I called the police several times for assistance in subduing him. However, when the police filed assault charges against him we stopped calling and let his anger burn itself out. During this time we tried to keep Michael from hurting anyone, rather than trying to control him. His behavior was both opposition and self-destructive. The following events illustrate this:
He chased me with a baseball bat and threatened his father with a pitchfork.
On one occasion he was hurting me; when locked out of the house, to protect his sister and me from him, he tried to break the windows with a large tree branch.
He started fires in the house and tried to cut down the front porch supports with a handsaw.
He punched me repeatedly even though I refused to fight back, stopping only when I began to cry.
Michael punched holes in walls. He punched and tore a door into shreds when we locked things away from him. He could not stop tearing at the door until it was in small pieces.
Michael tried to strangle his father while he was driving the car on a family trip.
Michael also tried to hurt himself. He locked himself in the bathroom and threatened to take an overdose of medication. Luckily, the one he chose was a laxative and he was not seriously affected. He lay down behind our car and begged me to run over him. He climbed onto the roof of our house several times and once he jumped off the roof of the garage. One afternoon he stopped traffic on our street by trying to jump in front of moving cars. He wanted to be run over. He would cry in my arms and ask: Why cant I just die? Why was I ever born? Frequently he spoke of building a coffin to sleep in.
During this time Michael had significant problems at school. He got into fights, swore, kicked lockers and cut his knuckles punching them. He stabbed his wrist with a pencil and cut his wrist on a blackboard tray. Because of this behavior one of his teachers voiced serious concerns about him remaining in her classroom. Once he became upset and walked away from the school alone.
Michael experienced other side effects during the time he was on Paxil. He had difficulty sleeping, heard voices, and complained of strange physical sensations.
July 2002 Michael stopped taking Paxil but continued to take Effexor and Risperdal. Since this time Michaels mood and behavior have very slowly improved. His social life has improved; even his friends noticed he seems happier and less reactive. There were no more fights at school this past year. As of summer 2003 the oppositional, aggressive, and self-destructive behavior have disappeared. Michael is now able to accept limits set by his parents and teacher and is more cooperative in general. He is also better able to accept responsibilities and do chores. He even baby-sits his younger sister now.
The lasting effects of Michaels experiences on Paxil are more subtle. He has yet to regain his self-confidence. He will not discuss the events recounted here. His relationship with his father has become strained by the altercations and misunderstandings between them. His academic and social experiences of sixth grade, his first year of middle school, were unnecessarily difficult and will undoubtedly have negative repercussions on his future development.
As a result of the events I have recounted, Michael now has a criminal record. On May 28, 2002 Michael stood up in a courtroom and pled guilty to charges of domestic assault. He was sentenced to six months of probation, which were completed without incident. If we had been unable to hire a good lawyer I fear his sentence would have been harsher. The trial was a frightening and intimidating experience for me. I can only guess what it was like for my eleven-year-old son.
Michaels behavior while on Paxil was a great strain on our whole family. His father came home early from work many times and was called away from work when Michael was out of control or at the hospital. His relationship with Michael has become strained and filled with tension because of the confrontations that occurred and the necessity of restraining Michael. He hopes to rebuild his relationship with his son. Michaels sister was in counseling for a short time. I was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome. I suffered flashbacks and panic attacks for several months as a result of being a victim of Michaels aggression and watching his mental suffering. We will never know the extent of the damage done.
Eileen and Tod Shivak
3682 Fieldcrest Lane
Ypsilanti, MI 48197