This is Survivor Story number 44.
Total number of stories in current database is 77
Trust in God, Not in the Drugs
“I believed that Satan was living in me.”
I have finally decided to write and tell my story. The reason it has taken me so long to do so is that I was so afraid of being sought out and persecuted for knowing the truth about these drugs. I was living in absolute terror for about thirteen months from the third day I took Paxil. Then after experiencing all kinds of strange brain/emotional reactions for another two years or so I just wanted to run from the memory for a long time. I am writing today because I realize that I am still suffering from the trauma of what happened to me in the summer of 1997 sort of like PTSD. I am okay finally but I still feel sad (it used to be rage) when I see antidepressants advertised on TV, and I still feel very, very sad when I hear of a suicide of someone who was recently “diagnosed with depression, and when someone dies mysteriously in their sleep at the age of thirty-six and there is talk of that person having been depressed.
My nightmare began in the winter of 1997 when I was 44 years old. I came down with a bizarre bronchial virus that hung on for weeks and gave me the worst asthma I have ever had (I have a history of virus and allergy induced asthma). I relapsed with the virus and nothing seemed to help the asthma. I developed severe anxiety about it (my asthma had always given me anxiety, plus I have a history of anxiety and depression) and my lung specialist gave me Ativan which helped me sleep. However, within a month I went into a severe agitated depression from the tranquilizer. I’m sure it was the tranquilizer because the depression started right after taking it but I developed more anxiety from the depression. It was then that I asked my primary doc for something stronger than a tranquilizer and I was sent to a psychiatrist. He gave me a trial of Paxil and sympathized with my angst. He said the only side effect he was worried about in my case was agitation as I had a history of anxiety and agitation and rumination (obsessive compulsive disorder). He explained how the Paxil would help my brain turn off it’s planning center and not be unduly concerned about things (asthma).
It’s funny, I took the sample home but had reservations about taking it. I had seen a few of my friends go through personality changes on it even though they said they couldn’t function without it. One of them had begun driving like a maniac and she had always been the safest driver on the road. When I asked her to slow down once, because I was afraid, she snarled some derisive comment at me. It was during that period of time that she also threatened her daughter with slitting her throat if she didn’t go to school one day. She (was) a very loving mother but that’s another story.
I continued to get worse, barely getting through each day, my asthma was a little better but I had developed psychological breathing problems by this time which I had never had before. One night while in a state of panic I just took the Paxil. I cut a ten milligram pill in four parts as the psychiatrist had advised and took it. So I was getting only 2.5 milligrams. I was terrified to take the drug but couldn’t stand my agony any more. I was so scared of having an allergic reaction and having my breathing even more compromised.
Within ten minutes of taking the drug I started to cough like something was in my throat but I couldn’t feel anything. It didn’t get any worse and I didn’t feel like I couldn’t breathe. I coughed for about 30 seconds and then I felt this tingling all over my body like heat, but I didn’t itch. Then that calmed down after about five minutes. The really strange thing was that I didn’t react emotionally to what was happening to me. I thought Gee, I’m okay.( Before I would have flipped). And I should have flipped. From that night on I never took another tranquilizer.
I watched something on TV for the first time in months that night and became really engrossed in it. I was able to follow the story without losing my attention and I felt very calm. I was very aware of feeling no anxiety and kept thinking “am I having a placebo reaction because this isn’t supposed to work yet”. But I felt so strange, it’s very difficult to describe. This was no placebo reaction. I went to bed without showering, doing the dishes, checking the door, or taking my inhaler to bed with me. For six months I had never had that inhaler out of my hand .
When I woke up the next morning I felt different than I had ever felt in my whole life. I thought this must be like what other people feel like. I felt like I could fly, very euphoric. I went to the bookstore, which I had always loved to do, but hadn’t done in ages and I was so happy and I mean happy. On the drive there I noticed that my throat felt weird like it was full or swelling up but I really didn’t care. (I can tell you that anybody in their right mind would’ve gone to the E.R.)
It was a glorious day. That night at the same time I took another quarter pill and thought, “Well I can’t believe it, this pill has changed my life”, (even though my house hadn’t been touched work wise all day and we ate takeout). I went to bed so relieved and happy.
When I woke up the next morning, the first thing I noticed was that my face felt weird and I felt very strange like empty and dull. I looked in the mirror and my face was swollen especially my eyes and lips. I could hear my chest wheezing in a way I had never heard. I didn’t have the euphoria at all just felt very ill but was incapable of feeling any fear about it. My first thought was, I am allergic to this pill but I guess I had to take two doses for the allergy to hit like other allergens. I still had the weird feeling in my throat. I really didn’t know what to think. I went to my lung specialist that day thinking,” well I have to use my intellect about this even though I really don’t care”. By the time I got there some of the swelling had gone down and he said the asthma was normal. When I told him what had happened he said, ” well it’s biochemical” and blew it off. So I blew it off, easy to do because I had no emotions) but I knew something was wrong. I figured I’d just wait a few hours or a day or two and I’d be back to my old fearful self.
But, I didn’t get over it. Within five days the glands in my neck were so swollen that if I touched my throat at all I couldn’t breathe, my tongue was swollen with purple lines carved into it, I would get these giant hives that took up half of my thigh, I felt buzzing in my forehead and couldn’t keep my equilibrium and felt like I had cotton in my head. I was starting to panic without any emotion because I seemed to be damaged permanently. I felt like I had the flu and felt like I had cotton in my lungs. I called the psychiatrist and told him that I was waiting for the side effects to go away but that it had been five days. He told me that they might clear up if I just kept taking it. I thought, if these side effects get any worse I won’t be able to breathe at all so there’s no way I’m gonna keep taking it. I also was having euphoria again (sort of attacks of euphoria and when having them thinking that it would be so much fun to slice the meat off of my bones.) I developed a fever, shivering, euphoria, and this horrible discomfort that I truly can not describe. I told him everything except the wanting to hurt myself part because I was starting to get afraid that if I needed help to control the physical symptoms (I was worried I might die from the swelling) he wouldn’t believe me and then help me.
He said to me (and he’s a psychiatrist dealing in these drugs every day) “Call me in three months because your confounded now”. When I hung up the phone I knew I was on my own. I went in tears to get help from my primary care doctor and he icily said ” That’s between you and the psychiatrist”. The next three months was a hell I never thought I’d live through. My throat kept swelling out of the blue, my temperature was always 101, I had a heart rate of 110 at rest (It had always been 60), I became numb all over my body, I couldn’t get food near my face or I’d gag and lost almost thirty pounds. I was allergic to almost every food I did manage to choke down, the glands in my neck were swollen, and had the strongest desire to kill myself as though it was a good idea or something and, I wanted to kill myself violently but I had no depression. However I knew it was the drug unlike some poor souls, so I thought I’ve got to get over this. But the horror of thinking you will never be normal again was so scary. I wanted to cut off my flesh so I could get out of my self and the discomfort. I can’t describe the feeling of not being depressed but of being in despair at the same time. I developed some strange bronchial thing (like being paralyzed) that I can’t describe either except it surprised me every time I took a breath that I could take one.
I was truly in hell as though my body had been taken over by evil spirits. I believed that Satan was living in me.
It is vitally important that whoever reads this understand that I’m not talking about wanting to die because of being so down and hopeless you can’t stand it anymore. I’m talking about a feeling of desiring a bloody death. I felt like one of those horror show weirdos who go after their victims with glee. I thought slicing myself up would be great plus be an escape from the horrible discomfort I felt physically (and I thought asthma was the worst thing I could feel).
At one point I got the number of the drug company (whoever makes Paxil), and called them. This was a couple of weeks after I’d taken the drug. I finally got through to someone I deemed high enough up on the totem pole to have any clout and began ranting about what the drug had done to me and begging to speak to one of their researchers so I could have him/her tell me when the drug would wear off. How naive!
Another thing that happened was that any drug I took to try and help myself backfired. When I took Benadryl for the swelling I would get horrible headaches and blurred vision even if I reduced the dose to 6 m. I took a dose of Atarax again hoping to help the swelling and woke up covered in sweat and gasping for air because I likely quit breathing in my sleep.
These drugs intensify the effect of anything else taken (of course no one had bothered to tell me that). This brings me to an interesting point and that is that I can’t believe that doctors are as callous as they seem. I believe that the intensity of these side effects are not made aware of to docs. How could I have been treated so poorly and why do docs tell you “oh maybe you’ll have this one side effect” when the list goes on and on. I had to try and figure things out while I was sick and piece things together on my own. Also, if the psychiatrist had asked pertinent questions about my family history (personality types, etc.) he would have suspected I might have a tendency toward mania, not to mention that anyone with a history of allergies as bad as mine should never be given these drugs. I blame the drug company for these conveniently overlooked side effects.
The bad thing is also, who is going to believe anyone who has to go on these drugs to begin with? There’s the rub!
I haven’t even gotten to the part of the story when I withdrew from the Paxil.
I had a few months when I had enough mania still to feel pretty good and wasn’t having physical symptoms anymore except for a sensation of swelling whenever I had a happy attack. I was so relieved as I knew I was recovered and would have been happy to stay at that new found place. However, It wasn’t to be and at about the 13 month mark I entered a withdrawal that scared me so much. I started feeling like I wanted to run people down with my car. I again felt like killing myself and the temptation to blow my head off was very strong. I had my husband hide his gun and get rid of the bullets. I started cussing at telemarketers when they called and I thought anybody who crossed me was a “fucking asshole”. I devoured so much sugar that I rapidly gained forty pounds. I was very lucky in that I had a lot of insight into what was happening to me and realized that it was another dimension of the drug (as I had just recently still had euphoria attacks). I have always been one of the most compassionate people I know but whenever I heard about horrible things happening to people I would feel very delighted inside. I was sick. I was paranoid that people were tapping my phone and following me. This went on in varying degrees for almost two years.
I lost three years of my life to Paxil in a sense and feel lucky not to have lost my whole life. I believe everything people tell me about their lives now as I lived a nightmare a person would have to live to believe. I do believe these drugs are as dangerous as LSD as it’s impossible to know who will react like I did. It is criminal that we poor souls who do have horrible reactions have no where to turn because you don’t plug into help, like the drug awareness web site, until you have enough of your marbles back to seek the help out. I believe that the drug companies know full well that these drugs don’t just give energy to a person at risk for suicide but change brain chemistry in a way in some people so that they crave death in a way they never would have been able to before. I was at risk for suicide when I was much younger because I was in so much pain from clinical depression and I never came close to having any of the type of desire for a violent death as I had from Paxil. A suicidal depression is wanting to end the pain. A death wish from Paxil is wanting as much pain as you can imagine. There is no comparison.
I now cry when sad things happen, I feel sorry for people, I feel insecure sometimes about myself because I don’t have that drug induced self-righteousness, and I am once again the way God made me. (I also completely lost my connection to God on the drug).
It has taken a lot of courage to write this and it isn’t even everything. If you are suffering from one of these drugs know that you are not alone. Hang on and believe in God even when you can’t feel God. Or if you don’t believe in God believe that you will get better. I believe that you will.