“…the constant nightmares and the stress of what happened to me while on Paxil will never go away.”
I have suffered from chronic depression for a number of years, and have tried various antidepressant medications while under the care of psychiatrists, but none of these drugs seemed to have any positive effect on my condition.
However, at the beginning of this year, I thought I would give therapy another try. Unfortunately, my medical insurance would not cover psychiatric visits, so I had to be content with seeing a family practice physician. When I asked for a referral for therapy, he said, “No. How about some pills?” He later confided to me that he didn’t believe that my insurance would cover therapy by a mental healthcare professional.
He first started me on a regimen of Paxil. But after experiencing very uncomfortable side effects, including insomnia, he also prescribed Remeron for sleep. The first time I took Remeron was on a Friday. I slept for at least 12 hours. When I got out of bed and tried to walk, I was wobbly on my feet, and had to brace myself against a wall to prevent falling. I tried calling my doctor, but he was not available that weekend. It took until Sunday evening before the effects of Remeron wore off.
When I finally did get to talk with my doctor, I was ready to quit the Paxil regimen, but he convinced me to stay on the drug, explaining that it takes time for it to build up to a useful level before any benefits could be weighed.
I continued to take the Paxil, but stayed away from Remeron as a sleeping aid. During this time, I experienced bouts of sleep deprivation, increased anxiety, panic attacks, and an unusual level of anger and hostility.
I have been the caretaker of my mother and aunt for about 10 years since the untimely death of my father in 1988. My mother is 81 years old, and suffers from forgetfulness, along with other symptoms associated with her advanced age. We have a rather large piece of property on a dead-end street. It is a full-time job just keeping it neat and clean. The rest of my time is devoted to taking my only two remaining relatives shopping and to medical appointments. I am under a great deal of stress nearly every day.
I have had disputes with neighbors and their children, vandalism, malicious mischief, littering, and very suspicious activity on the dead-end street where we live. I have also found used condoms and parts of hypodermic needles lying on the ground. As I mentioned before, I live on a street with no other houses facing us, so it is very odd to see anyone parking there. I have reported incidences of unusual activity to local police, but they often do not show up to investigate.
On the evening of Easter Sunday, 2001, and just after midnight, I heard unusual noises outside of my home. Since it was not Independence Day or New Year’s Eve, noises on the night of Easter Sunday were not expected –especially after midnight.
By the time I got out of bed to investigate, I saw three cars parked on the street with no one nearby. I went back to bed, but this time heard the screeching of tires. I jumped up and looked out the window just in time to see a car speed away from an accumulation of trash at the end of the street.
I telephone police, but was told that they do not investigate incidents of littering. I hung up, but later called back to report the noise, which was a booming speaker from one of the cars parked outside. The police dispatcher said he would send a patrol car to investigate, but I saw no evidence of any police activity outside of my house.
By this time I, was becoming increasingly agitated. Out of frustration, and the lack of police response, I composed a hand bill on my computer, stating that I did not appreciate anyone disturbing the peace, littering, or any other illegal activity while parked in front of my home, and that I was prepared to make a note of the license plates of any cars that I thought looked suspicious. I then went outside and placed a handbill on the windshield of each of the cars, after which I went back to bed and tried to get some rest.
It wasn’t more than a few minutes later that I once again heard that same booming noise coming from the street in front of the property.. I had a handgun used for home protection in the drawer of my night table, took it out of the drawer and carried it with me to the front door. I opened the door and stood on my front porch. It was very dark outside, and I yelled out, “Would you mind picking up your trash and leaving my street?”
Just then, four people, who I believed to be in their late teens or early 20s, came running at me yelling obscenities. I didn’t have time to retreat into the house, so all I could do was to raise the gun in self-defense.
One of the attackers, who was particularly violent, said that he would come back later and kill me. Three of the individuals backed off, but the fourth one kept antagonizing me. I was finally able to back him down and off of my property. He said, “Go ahead and shoot me. I have nothing to live for anyway.”
One never knows what to expect when picking up a weapon. I could have killed this individual, but fortunately I did have the presence of mind to try to diffuse this very lethal situation before it could become fatal.
When the crowd dispersed, I went back into the house and called 911 to report what had happened. Apparently, some of the others involved in the dispute had called the police and reported that I had a gun. It was at this time that I became panicky. I locked the trigger guard back on the handgun and put it in a drawer. I was very disoriented. The police arrived and wanted me to come outside. I finally persuaded officers that I was not armed and dangerous, and invited them into the house. I was searched and asked to sit down. I told them that I had guns in the house, and described exactly where I kept them. One officer found two guns and confiscated them. They talked with me for a long time, asked me to write out a statement, then left without arresting me.
Four weeks went by before I received a letter from the county district attorney, advising me that I was being charged with California Penal Code Section 417(a), a misdemeanor, stating that I had used a gun in a quarrel or argument. The sentence for this violation is 3 months in jail. I was also told that the “witnesses” identified one of the guns.
During this time, I went from Paxil to Flurazepam, then to Zoloft, then to Effexor, then to Atenolol, and finally to Celexa, along with Klonapin for anxiety. I was prescribed these drugs, one after the other, without any period of detoxification.
I finally made the effort to seek out a therapist (a clinical psychologist with a Ph.D.), who has been very helpful and supportive. I trust her, but unfortunately she believes that I need to be medicated.. And all along, I still could not find a psychiatrist who would be willing to manage my medication. I stopped seeing the original family practitioner, and found a new internist who has been trying to help with these medications..
I would also like to say, for the record, that I have no history of violence or any criminal record. I haven’t even had a traffic ticket in over 3 years. But the prosecution would not let this matter rest. Since I couldn’t afford a high-priced criminal defense attorney, I had to put my trust in a public defender. Unfortunately, they are overworked and understaffed, so the quality of the defense was less than adequate.
My case was postponed for 7 months. When it did finally come to trial, the best deal I could get was to plead “no contest” and the judge would recommend electronic home confinement. A “no contest” plea is essentially a plea of guilty, but I chose to accept it only because I wanted this nightmare to be over.
When I left the courthouse that day, I was under the impression that the electronic home confinement was a sure thing. They give me the wrong paperwork; and since it was late on a Friday, I couldn’t call the probation department until the following Monday. That was when I found out that it up to the discretion of the probation department as to whether or not I will be accepted into the program. The only other alternative is jail.
I did a great deal of my own case preparation. I researched the often-horrible side effects of Paxil and other SSRI drugs using the Internet and the World Wide Web, and found evidence of much worse occurrences connected with the use of these drugs. Dr. Ann Blake Tracy of the International Coalition For Drug Awareness has provided a great service by virtue of her very informative Web page, which is devoted to the horror stories of those of us who were prescribed SSRI medications for depression and anxiety.
In closing, the only comfort I can take from my experience is that no one was fatally injured. But the constant nightmares and the stress of what happened to me while on Paxil will never go away, no matter what method of incarceration I must face.
Comments and inquiries welcome!
This is Survivor Story number 30.
Total number of stories in current database is 34