I am a Prozac Survivor

“I think this experience will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

 

My name is Charly, I am a Dutch man and I live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. My age is 33 years, now on 8 august 2000. After 4 years I think it’s time now to tell about my Prozac experience that have changed my belief system and my total way of living. I think this experience will haunt me for the rest of my life and I think I’m ready to face that fact now. I’ve tried to “just forget it” in all kinds of ways, but for me it’s like once you’ve been there, there is no return. I have a few good friends who really try to understand me in this feeling, but I also know that’s too much asked from them. I arrived at the place were I really wish to meet and talk to other Prozac/SSRI Survivors and I hope this story will be the start of this.

In February 1994 I visited my family doctor and told him about my depression because of a stranded relationship. Because I had heard and read about the “magnificent new wonder-drug” Prozac and it’s far fewer side effects then other anti-depressants I asked him for a prescription. I didn’t needed any psychotherapy cause I knew very well the background of my depression and it wasn’t that bad. If I had only knew then, what I know now, I wasn’t depressed at all, I was feeling down and I just wanted to feel better, happy, not sad. -later I would find out what a real depression was after Prozac hitting me hard-

My family doctor prescribed me Prozac 20 mg daily. About 5 to 6 times I took a monthly cure of Prozac 20 mg daily with intervals of a few months. My first response on Prozac was pretty good, I became more active, but looking back on that period I also became more reckless and naive, less bright and focused on my environment (people and circumstances). I was completely convinced of the innocence of this product and believed that it could actually help me feeling better. The only side effects that it gave me at first were some flu-like symptoms (like shaky), some nerve twitching beneath my right eye and a dry mouth, nothing very serious. My dream recall increased tremendously and they were more rich and vivid then ever. I’ve ended the last cure of Prozac (30 days) in April 1996.

On Friday 2 august 1996 (about 4 months later) I went to my family doctor for another 30 day prescription of Prozac because I still felt somewhat down the last few months. I took one pill that afternoon and went out of town to pay a visit to my parents. While driving in my car for about a half a hour I suddenly felt a strange kind of dizziness in my head. I felt inconstant contractions to be followed by a very painful stitch at the right side on top of my head, then followed by a feeling as if a bloodstream went down on my forehead.

A milky mist came down upon my eye sight, although I still could see, thank God. From my neck an extremely burning sensation radiated throughout of my whole body, especially my spine, arms and legs. My whole body felt like burning inside. Then a stiffening of my body followed and I had a constant feeling of “electricity pain” in my whole body. My body felt electrified, constantly. It’s very hard to explain this feeling, but it’s like goose-flesh so much intensified that it hurts and keeps your body tensed…constantly ! (-It feels like you don’t have a body anymore, but only “wires” connected to high electricity-)

I drove my car upon the verge and came in a state of shock. I remember that my first thought was: “It’s over, this is a stroke and parts of my body will be paralyzed”. Then I realized that couldn’t be the case cause I could still move my body parts and I could still talk, but inside I was completely panic- stricken. What is happening to me ? My God what if this won’t go away ? “I must keep my head cool, stay calm and drive on” were my thoughts.

I only parked for a few seconds upon that verge to check out if I still could function and drove on in the direction of my parents house. The whole incident, from the start of feeling dizzy, till the drove on to my parents, lasted less then 1 or 2 minutes. It took one Prozac-attack to blew away my comfortable feeling of self, of me in my body ! The milky mist that came down upon my eye sight would stay for days. First thing I did when arriving at my parents house was immediately calling the family doctor who tried to convince me that this was just some side effects I was going through and I should keep on taking the Prozac, which I did not, because in the state I was in, this stuff just had to leave my system, immediately. I’ve contacted 5 other doctors who all said that if this was a Prozac induced side effect at all, it would pass away within a few days. It didn’t. I was so scared, I was so shocked and unknown of what happened to me, and the responding of the doctors knocked me out. Physically and mentally I became a wreck, fractured. All I could do was lay down and trying to sleep.

From that moment on I would stay and move into my parents house for about one year. I couldn’t work anymore, I couldn’t focus anymore, I had changed from a self-confident grown man into an extremely anxious pitiful man, locked up inside, not able to function anymore. I got more then terrified, I couldn’t rationalize anymore, I just couldn’t bring my thoughts to the right proportions, and believe me, you would be terrified too, cause you think you’re going crazy, out of your mind (of course Prozac/SSRI Survivors all know how that’s like). It was very difficult for my parents, but they’ve cared for me as good as possible in that period, not really understanding what happened to me and not able to communicate with me.

The first 14 days I went straight into hell, just pure and plain hell. My body, my nervous system, became extremely oversensitive and totally out of control. It’s difficult to explain but I wasn’t in control anymore but my brains were, sending signals of pain throughout of my whole body. It was the most frightening experience I ever had in my whole life. My body felt as if it was turned inside out. It scared me so much and I had no idea if there was coming any relief of this. I didn’t committed suicide, but I don’t know what I had done if that bit of a relief didn’t came after 14 days. My ego (what you think you are) blew away into pieces. Boundaries that belonged to my personality structure were far exceeded. It’s an intrusion of your integrity that is not easily to describe but I’ll try to explain: I had thoughts and emotions that were not mine (but artificially produced by my brain), thoughts and emotions that didn’t belong to my personality, my character, that which makes me the person I am. Thoughts that were racing in the middle of my fore head like “resonating clouds of gas”.

The thoughts were extremely immoral, offensive, negative and from a self-destructive kind. I was embarrassed by these thoughts and so afraid, not able to stop them. The thoughts were extremely clear and strong, I actually could “hear” the thoughts and it’s very difficult to explain how that’s like, but “resonating clouds of gas” fits the closest description. It’s through this experience that I can better understand now how a phenomenon like telepathy might work.

Next to it I experienced exaggerated feelings of compunction. I condemned myself for “sins” from my childhood, like molesting the cat. The emotions that came up were so horrible with thoughts like: “how do you think to live on with this ?”, again, I just couldn’t rationalize anymore, as responsible as “I” made myself for these “sins”. Also I “saw” in my minds eye (and you have to understand that I saw it so clearly, like in a very vivid dream experience) symbols that scared the shit out of me, spires (like in the dark ages), people with masks, etc., all kind of bizarre and scrappy. I got oversensitive for coffee, herbs, etc.. I was extremely oversensitive for light and sound, which caused me pain upon top of my head, symptoms you can best compare with meningitis. My neck was heavily contracted. I couldn’t watch any movie with more or less contained violence. It scared me, my nervous system just couldn’t bear it.

Nightmares that I experienced were horrible, violent, frightening and so realistic that after awakening it took me some time to realize that I was already awake, and that this was a nightmare, not happening in real-time. That was another symptom: the filter between my sense of reality and my dreams got blurred. I felt like I was in a dream-like state (locked up inside) and couldn’t woke up from it. I still have this symptom occasionally, after 4 years now. In one of the nightmares I was raped by a good friend of mine, it was so horrible. Can you imagine someone very close to you, you really know well, you care for this persons integrity and you have a realistic nightmare being raped by this person. Then you “wake up” from this nightmare not realizing that you are awake already. Sometimes at night I woke up with such pressure on my chest (it literally felt as if someone was pushing on my chest) that I had difficulty with breathing. A lot of nights I even didn’t dare to sleep alone. My heartbeats were heavy and up-speeded along with the excessive sweating of my body, especially at night. I really do not understand why I didn’t drove in panic to the hospital at some nights, but I didn’t. At some nights I didn’t dare to sleep at all, because of the realistic nightmares that gave me a feeling as if something evil did came over me. I was also afraid to wake up being totally paralyzed, and the feeling of this being possible was very strong. It felt like anything could happen, I wasn’t in control anymore.

<“Recovery”> After 14 days I saw a little light at the end of the tunnel. After 40 days the burning “electricity pain” (electrified feeling) in my body had slightly changed in an all embracing itch feeling, which was a blessing compared with the hell of inner nerve pain. The “resonating clouds of gas” thoughts in my head, slightly changed into a feeling of a “stone” in my head. This “stone” is accompanied with contractions in my forehead and radiate behind my nose to my fore teeth.

After 4 years now, the “stone” and the contractions are still returning when I work behind a computer screen (indeed right now). After 4 years I still experience occasionally shivering of my body. After 4 years I still experience a kind of alienation from my emotions and my physical body. It feels like you’ve lost a part of yourself and some un-trustable stranger substitutes that part. I’m just glad that I can live a “normal” life right now. I’m still bitter, who’s gonna give me back what I’ve lost ? The battle I’m still fighting to win, is to win myself back again, and that means:

THE COMPLETE AND TRUSTED FEELING OF MYSELF I ONCE HAD.

I know I’m not alone, I’m just one of many, a Prozac Survivor, a SSRI Survivor. I do wish to meet a lot of others now who are SSRI Survivors. Here in the Netherlands I’ve had a tremendous support by Frank van Meerendonk, the director of the Prozac Survivors Support Group (PSSG) in The Netherlands. Frank van Meerendonk has gathered a lot of information concerning SSRI’s, horrible stories, trials and neuro research. His approach is very down to earth. It’s shocking to know that there are so many people on SSRI’s nowadays in 2000 – about 40.000.000 worldwide on Prozac, not to mention the other SSRI’s- after so many victims crying out to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Among those people on SSRI’s are many children. Many children are also on Ritalin and Dexedrine, a Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor, just like Cocaine or Speed (Amphetamine), and we all know the actions of these drugs very well.

There are NO excuses for these SSRI manufacturers, they just don’t care, they don’t listen, still going on producing copy-cat Prozac-clones, with a cute selling name, but with the SAME diabolical effect, working on the SAME serotonergic and related dopaminergic system in the brain, calling them: Prozac, Sarafem, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox, Celexa, Anafranil, Redux, Fen- Phen, etc.. In the month of September 1997 the diet-drugs Redux and Fen-Phen had to be withdrawn by the FDA because of their serious life-threatening action’s, damaging the brain, heart and lungs. It’s obvious what is going on here ! It’s so very important to protect the (future) children against these products, these Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and the awful arrogance of their suppliers !

I don’t know exactly how to describe this, but I definitely know that SSRI’s influence your conscience and the center of your will. I am talking by first hand experience, and after this experience it’s so very difficult to gain control back over your life again. It’s so hard to believe again that YOU are in control over YOUR mind, that YOU determine YOUR thoughts and YOUR emotions. I was not only heavily (post)-traumatized by this experience but also parts of my personality have changed. For example: I have to avoid some social situations because of my increased anxiety. I never had this before Prozac. I also have become extreme sentimental. I used to be a very bright, inquisitive individual. Now I have to force myself to be with people and to learn new things. I feel mentally raped by Prozac and it nearly killed me, but it could not destroy my essence.

SSRI’s are without any doubt the most dangerous and underestimated drugs on this planet and for what I and many other individuals have experienced, the product of pure evilness. These SSRI’s are products of pure darkness disguised as “angels of light”. It’s striking to see how they rush their “blitzkrieg”, to deceive the world, how people on them, are defending their drugs to the bone, worshipping them. It’s striking to see how our doctors have blind faith in SSRI’s and invite them to come in, like they were descendents of the Gods. It is a very frightening development of OUR future ! It’s very frightening to see the power of the almighty pharmaceutical companies, who develop and push their SSRI’s to the world, using their power by influencing the health care system and the media. It’s very frightening to watch a world of individuals fall asleep, who ridicule the cause of increasing school- and workplace shooters by using the nickname of “the Prozac Defense”. I can only hope that these individuals wake up from their dream-states in the near future, to find themselves naked and that they may see how many human lives their deceivers have destroyed in their surroundings….

–Charly–

3/11/2001

This is Survivor Story number 7.
Total number of stories in current database is 34

 1,844 total views

How Prozac Shattered My Life.

“I believe that any innocence that I held before these events occurred has now been dashed but I am never without hope.”

 

I have “hummed and hawed” for the last three days about writing to this address – people who have experienced a negative reaction to Prozac are perhaps understandably reticent about publicizing their experience, in the belief that what they will say will be treated with some skepticism, if not disbelief. These preparatory remarks are perhaps my response to the professional incredulity the medical fraternity, rightly or wrongly, give to their patients when anecdotal evidence is offered that contradicts their expected prognosis.

I had great faith in my doctor, in the treatment of what was a reactive depression brought about by work-related stress. I still have that faith, although it is not blind as it was before thanks to your pages on the WWW.

I am prompted to write because of “Patty’s” description of her husband’s course of treatment. The similarities to my own situation, after having spent some two years on Prozac, are remarkably similar. The devastation that has been wrought by my illness is now past, and I am now a sadder but wiser person. I have little to gain by writing other than to add to the growing list of patients who have had an adverse reaction to Prozac. But perhaps by writing others may persist and recognize that Prozac and the serotonergic syndrome are not figments of the patient’s imagination, but worthy of protracted study and explanation. I seek not to apportion blame, but to understand and be understood.

Without going into gross details, I had been taking Prozac with little positive effect for some 8 months from June 1994 until mid-way through 1995 before recognizing the possibility that there was something not quite right with my response to the medication. My agitation had gradually increased from the start of the prescription. It was a slow but steady rise in my tolerance of others, a deepening insomnia and above all the nightmares; nightmares that took me back to events that had happened when I had been a police officer nearly 15 years previously. I would jerk awake or my sleep would be interrupted by hyperreflexia. For some three months my average sleep was no more than one hour per night. The thought of sleep itself began to horrify me. The most obvious signs now as I look back were a feeling of electricity pumping through my body, the feeling that my limbs were charged and tingling.

I had been experiencing a tightness in the chest and was eventually taken into hospital, where blood tests showed that I had had a heart attack. Further tests eliminated this and it was put down to stress.

Sadly, I did not tell my doctor of these events, as I felt these were signs of my continuing decline into a deeper depression. My public life was no different, but my private life deteriorated rapidly as I struggled with the lack of sleep. I was prone to fits of crying and started to inexplicably want to harm myself. I banged my head against walls until I bled, tore shirts from my body, pleaded for help from my partner. My physical rage was barely controllable, but luckily for my partner, directed solely at myself. Verbal abuse at this stage became my only outlet. Anxiety became a single factor in all that I did. Whatever I thought I was about to accomplish in terms of work, I saw was imperfect. I became fearful of the most innocuous of social situations and work-related situations, although my work performance was unaffected. I hid this from all except my partner who tolerated everything believing that I would “come right”. My fear was simple – I was losing grip on reality and madness was not far away. A reluctance to communicate these events was eventually my undoing. The dosage of Prozac was increased as I related only those events that affected me physiologically.

Following some further work-related disagreements, I did not sleep for some seven or eight days. My internal rage became intolerable. I resigned from work and promptly collapsed mentally and was placed in a private hospital for sleep. Lithium was prescribed and the dosage of Prozac increased. I spent two days crying and did not sleep one bit, the nightmares returning almost the moment that I dropped of to sleep. My body sang with pain and I remember crawling into the corner of my private room crying. I saw myself spending Xmas on the streets, begging for food. I begged to be released from hospital and was. All I wanted was to go home, but my home life was now shattered irretrievably.

I felt cut off, entirely isolated from those that I loved and cared about and so three months later I left after another argument, more alone than alone. There was of course no change in my medication. Somehow I managed to obtain another job and hid my fear in work, but my private life and mental well-being was slipping beyond my grasp. Suicide was not an option that I had considered in all seriousness, but now it became a logical way out of the intense flailing that I gave to myself. I weighed up all the options and decided to take my life. It was the only way out; the only rational act that I could follow.

My fear of being found out – that I was mad – was such that I still did not report what was actually happening in my mind. Having decided on a course of action – my car with a pipe attached to the exhaust – I set about convincing myself that I could do it. Somewhere inside I could not muster the courage and broke down in tears. A call to a crisis center brought temporary relief. I still continued working, and those hours when I could deal sanely with people, were ones that held hope.

I took up sport again and played competitively, until I damaged my ribs and was prescribed a anti-inflammatory drug.

My sleep prior to this period was still plagued by nightmares and this incredible jerking of my limbs. Again, I put this down to the extreme personal stress that I was under. What other explanation could there have been? And the dosage of Prozac was evidence that I was not responding well enough.

Two days after I took the anti-inflammatories, I prepared for sleep. I felt a growing agitation and the electricity beginning to spark through my limbs. I began to tremble uncontrollably and I wanted to run and run this pain out of my system. I got to the stage where I considered jumping out of the window of the third floor flat in which I was staying. I have no recollection of anything from that night other than the fear that I felt. In desperation an ambulance was called. I struggled to keep my mind in place as the tremors increased. I kept saying, “I’m going to jump! No, I won’t. I won’t!” My heart raced, my mind raced and I saw everything that I wanted in life slipping away.

Taken to the emergency section of a major hospital, I was placed in a priority queue, strapped onto a gurney. The humiliation still rankles. I was not seen for another three hours, by which time the “panic attack” as it was described, had subsided. I told the doctor of my medication, and my suspicions that it was the combination of Prozac with the anti-inflammatories that might have been the problem. The response was luke warm, as I explained my medical history. I was told that a report would be forwarded to my doctor and I was released in the early hours of the morning, on my own recognizance”.

It was only at this stage that I began to question the use of Prozac. But who was I to correct the knowledge of the medical profession? My dose was increased. Again, because of certain delays in seeing my doctor, I gained confidence again, and submitted myself to the further dosage.

It is now some 18 months since these events, and following acupuncture treatment from my GP for the continuing “pain”, I began to seek another explanation for my continuing moroseness. Gradually (and wrongly!) I tried cold-turkey and eventually a change in psychiatrist last December, 1997. This brought a change in medication and with it a gradual return to normality.

At no stage (and this is current) has it ever been discussed that Prozac may have been a contributing cause to my continuing illness. Indeed, that it may have masked what appears to be a particularly traumatic set of events, has never been canvassed.

I now live with hope, an intuitive hope that I believe that Prozac may have been in some way a contributing cause to what on the face of it was a work-related stress problem, that had become far worse as a result. Of course, I have no empirical reason to believe that this unconfirming data is of any consequence to the scientific community.

Since being off Prozac there have been no bouts of anxiety (other than the more healthy kind), my sleeping has gradually increased to five hours per night, my nightmares have all but disappeared and above all there is a relative sense of a return to who I was.

Throughout this period of time, I have continued to work, hiding my private fears through enforced isolation from those that I care deeply about. There is a cost of course – an immense emotional cost. I am only troubled now by a search for truth, a truth for which, I may of course, never find an answer. Mental illness carried with it a stigma; a stigma about whether what we have become has any rational cause. Any self-knowledge that can be gained through the horrors of what I have gone through, from the absolute despair of confusion and loss of those that we care about the most, is tinged with intellectual and emotional frustration. It requires a faith and trust in those around us. I believe that any innocence that I held before these events occurred has now been dashed but I am never without hope.

I do not know whether these words will be of use, or my experience in anyway enlightening. I know that your work is important to a future generation, a future generation that may be educated to question more extensively than I myself have done.

Thank you for your time. May your work continue and prosper.

Two Years After Prozac: An Update

“It has been some time since this was written and you may be interested in a follow-up that reveals perhaps the more insidious side of the “idiosyncratic drug reactions” that are so often innocently missed.”

I am the “AG” who appears on the “Survivor’s Links” under the title “How Prozac Shattered My Life” on your web site.

It has been some time since this was written and you may be interested in a follow-up that reveals perhaps the more insidious side of the “idiosyncratic drug reactions” that are so often innocently missed. I have now been “off” Prozac for almost two years and, although almost back to normal, I was recently diagnosed with Left Ventricle Hypertrophy (an enlarged heart) and Hypertension in April 1999. I am currently on medication to reduce my blood pressure (which has been very successful) and lucky enough to be treated by a heart specialist who is specializing in serotonin and its relationship to high blood pressure.

I have no scientific reason to believe that there is any connection between my taking of Prozac and my heart problems, although my heart specialist (for whom I purchased and gave a copy of Ann Tracy’s book) is currently wading through the literature to see whether a link can be established. There is no family history of hypertension to the best of my knowledge, but I had left out an important medical fact from my original story.

I was briefly hospitalized for a “Heart attack” in 1995 some nine months or so after I had started taking Prozac (1994) (NB I believe that the date in my original story should read 1994 not 1995 – my fault I am afraid but the chronology is important.). Blood tests had shown that I had had a “heart attack”, but an angiogram confirmed that there had been no damage to my heart, and the tightness in my chest was put down to stress, and was dismissed as unimportant. I say “unimportant” simply because the threat (which it might have been) was dismissed, because there was no “damage” seen. My blood pressure at that stage was moderately high, but did not, at that stage require medication, as it was within the bounds of “high normal”.

In November 1998, I was referred to a sleep disorder clinic in order to sort out problems I had with sleeping, and following tests I was referred to a heart specialist as my blood pressure was high. In February 1999, I was diagnosed with Left Ventricle Hypertrophy and Hypertension following a cardiogram which identified the enlargement.

I am currently a very physically fit 46 year old and I am pleased to say well on the mend mentally. The mental scars remain and I write first to relate that recovery is slow, but it is recovery nonetheless. That four letter word “hope” is so important. Often it has been a real test of personal perseverance and a little courage. I do not believe that any of what I have achieved in the past eighteen months would have been possible without Ann Tracy’s indomitable attitude towards making us all aware of the lack of information about the long term effects of SSRIs. Again, I owe her much.

Once again my thanks to you for the life-saving work that you are doing.

Alastair Gumley

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 80.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

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