Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Peter Pan Effect of Psychiatric Treatment [blog post from Nov13]

For some people their psychoses or nervous breakdowns come at the transition between youth and adulthood.  It may be in the final years of school or the moving away from home to go to university or a new job in the big city.  It was like this for many members of my family although not for me.  My psychoses were to do with hormones and body transitions.  But there could be a similarity I suppose, in terms of moving from one mind/body state into another.

I've heard from other parents who describe similar altered mind states for their sons and daughters which are translated into disorders by psychiatrists who are keen to pin the tail on the donkey or the diagnosis on the psychotic.  Quickly followed up by anti-psychotics, forcibly given if resistant, then if refusing the schizo disorders label, seen as anosognosia or lacking insight.  A no-win situation whatever way you look at it.  I got away with it in 1978 and 1984, after painful induced childbirth blew my mind, because back then there wasn't perinatal psychiatry or drug cocktails to hand.  A narrow escape.

But it's got harder and harder I think to get out of a psychosis without being tied in to the system and tied up with psychiatric drugs.  Especially if you have resisted the label and challenged the system on behalf of others.  In 1995 my oldest son had a transitional breakdown or psychosis, after leaving home to go to university.  He went into the local acute psychiatric ward voluntarily and wasn't looked after well.  We lived at that time very near the hospital, in fact on the farm that used to belong to the asylum.  I kept a close eye on my son and made complaints about his treatment when necessary.

I had head-to-head disagreements with my son's psychiatrist who wanted to pin a disorder label on him, something to do with "cyclical depression".  This was because the anti-psychotic, as with me, depressed my son.  I advocated on behalf of my son, we resisted the labels, he recovered after a year, got back on with his life and has never looked back.  I joked at the time that if ever I had to engage with them as a psychiatric patient then they'd have me straitjacketed.  Then in 2002 I found myself going in voluntarily to the same psychiatric hospital, in a menopausal psychosis, to be chemically straitjacketed.

I knew that the game was up when I tried to leave and was detained for 72 hours.  The "heavy" (large male nurse with arms folded) at the emergency door meant I wasn't going to be able to make a run for it.  I'd have to swallow the drugs and did so under duress, inwardly defiant.  Within 24 hours the drugs started to take effect and I was entering never never land.  A place I never did want to go back to.

I had enjoyed my childhood but didn't want to return there.  I had no choice.  The psych drugs entered my brain and psyche, gradually taking away my decision-making abilities, maturity and life experience.  Some folk might like to be free from responsibility but I really don't like the feeling of infantilisation.  Having to rely on psychiatric "professionals" and be dependent.  It made me depressed and resulted in psych drug cocktails, my continued resistance giving way to disorder labels.  I didn't like being Peter Pan and preferred to get back to being Wendy.

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”
 JM Barrie, Peter Pan

As a mother of 3 sons who have experienced psychoses and psychiatric treatment at transition between youth and adulthood, I didn't want them to be caught up for too long in the Peter Pan effect of psychiatric treatment.  I'd been there, got the tee-shirt, and had known other folk in the past who'd got stuck on the psych drugs which, to my mind, were to be avoided if possible, if not then tapered when possible.  I didn't ask psychiatrists about tapering and did it myself when I could, although there was a community psychiatrist in 1985 who supported my coming off psych drugs.

I've found out though that my sons have to make their own journeys through never never land in the way that suits them.  I'd prefer if they got out quick.  Easier for me I suppose because I really don't like having to engage with psychiatry in any shape or form.  Never did.  Ironically I now find myself in a continual engagement, up to my neck in it, on groups and committees, sitting next to them at events.

Even last week I attended an event and a female psychiatrist chose to sit next to me and tried to advise and direct at every opportunity.  At one point, when I was tweeting, she said that she hoped I wasn't tweeting about her.  I wondered if she thought that my world revolved around her?  Godlike.  I soon put her right.  But I couldn't put her off and she stuck like glue.  I just had to ignore her and get on with my own agenda.  I'm used to doing this with psychiatrists.

And now we have psychiatrists who are also neuroscientists and claim to have found the holy grail, the proof of mental illness by examining the brains and eyes of people who have been on psychiatric drugs for many years and been forcibly labelled with schizophrenia.  There's a group doing this at Aberdeen University in Scotland.  I sent an Email to them the other week but I haven't had a response and likely won't get one.  I'd read some of their research a while back and their "guinea pigs" are people who have been in the psychiatric system for some time.  It's obvious, to me anyway, that the psych drugs will have caused brain and eye changes.  It stands to reason.

If they could scan our brains when we first enter a psych ward with a psychosis and show us the broken bits then I might believe them.  When I broke my fibula in 3 places in 2005, not long after coming off maximum doses of venlafaxine, which causes bone loss, I was shown the X-ray of my fractured bone by the consultant.  Not a pretty sight but proof of the damage and justification of the 6 inch metal plate insertion and screw going through the ankle at right angles.  About 6 weeks in plaster and in a wheelchair followed.  I had to get the plaster changed when my foot swelled up.

The screw got taken out about 2 months later, by local anaesthetic, and the consultant prior to the op showed me the foot long screwdriver that he said had been made in Sweden.  He recommended I let him know if I could feel any pain and they would give me more anaesthetic.  During the procedure he told me he was having a bit of difficulty finding the end of the screw.  I trusted that he would eventually get a grip.  And so he did.  The screw came out, the plate stayed in.  I got physiotherapy and got back to walking and driving again.  A collaborative relationship with the consultant doctor from start to finish.  If only it could be like that with consultant psychiatrists.

I did wonder how I managed to shatter my fibula when only walking downstairs, after a job interview in a library.  I got the job and started after getting back on my feet.  Fortunately a test for osteoporosis was negative.  The mystery of the leg break was solved recently when I read some information online about venlafaxine and bone loss:

"Bone Fractures: Epidemiological studies show an increased risk of bone fractures in patients receiving serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) including venlafaxine. The mechanism leading to this risk is not fully understood." Medsafe NZ, page 10

"Conclusion: The increased bone loss associated with high dose venlafaxine may possibly be a result of synaptic inhibition of serotonin uptake" Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine, June 2010

I want to see alternative ways of working with people in and through a psychosis that don't involve psychiatric drugs and coercive treatment towards those of us who are unbelievers in the biomedical model of mental illness.  Help us transition through our psychoses with our psyches intact or restored.  Whatever trauma or crisis brought us to the point of emotional collapse please don't retraumatise us, replacing new pain with old.  Let us come to terms with our humanity and human frailty.

“Peter was not quite like other boys; but he was afraid at last. A tremor ran through him, like a shudder passing over the sea; but on the sea one shudder follows another till there are hundreds of them, and Peter felt just the one. Next moment he was standing erect on the rock again, with that smile on his face and a drum beating within him. It was saying, "To die will be an awfully big adventure.”
JM Barrie, Peter Pan


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