Saturday, 28 February 2015

Encore: "I'm not mental, I have a virus."

It is Saturday, February 28th 2015 and I have just read a report about scientists finding evidence that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME has a biological cause.

Many of you will know that this illness can be controversial, more so than others.

I sighed with frustration. It is THIRTY years since I experienced this illness. In 2011 I wrote about my experience on my first blog. I have ‘cut and paste’ it for this blog.

"You're mental!" No, I am not, I have a virus.

A feeling of deja vu came over me, as I read another news report on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). This can also be known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Yet another article about whether it's a psychological disorder or a physical illness.

I do not condone the stupidity of violence and death threats. But feeling extremely unwell and being told that it all may be in your head eg: "You're mental", does raise people's emotions and 'emotional arousal causes stupidity'.

This is a tale of two women:

In May 1986, Ruth was 37, a mother of two children and a part timer worker in a supermarket. In fact her birthday had been part of a busy weekend organising a local fun run, 'Run the World' for Sports Relief. The run was a success, but Ruth felt physically exhausted after three weeks of concentrated organisation. The following week she started a cold.

The cold didn't go away as quickly as usual and two weeks later, Ruth's legs started to feel a bit wobbly, like jelly. No aches or pains, but something not right. Something she'd never felt before. She still felt tired, very tired.

Twenty years before, Ruth had been laid low with anaemia, so she knew what extreme tiredness felt like, but this tiredness was different. An all over fatigue with wobbly legs and now some muscles aches.

Ruth had to take sick leave from work and spent most of the day on the sofa.  Her arms were feeling like jelly too. She would make a meal for the family in the evening, but that was all she could manage. She felt a bit of a fraud, as Wimbledon tennis fortnight started and she could sit and watch it. Except she didn't. She lay for hours on the sofa dozing, doing nothing, not even interested in the tennis. She knew then that she must be very ill.

The GP did all the blood tests and heart tests too, but everything came back okay. Ruth was getting worried. She didn't seem to be able to think straight, her head felt like cotton wool and she couldn't finish sentences. She begun to think about Multiple Sclerosis.

The daily routine was the same. Get up to see the children off to school, collapse on the sofa, drive to local shop, get some food, cook a meal, collapse again. The ironing piled up and her teenage daughter was offered payment to do it. The garden was neglected.

There was going to be another royal wedding in July, this time between Prince Andrew and Fergie. Ruth had helped organise the Silver Jubilee street party and was fresh from organising the fun run. A neighbour rang the door bell. She asked Ruth, whether she could organise another street party. Ruth apologised, but said that she wasn't well enough. The front door closed and Ruth thought, "I don't care".

"I don't care". The words haunted Ruth. She had always cared. Now she didn't. It was at that point that Ruth recognised something was very wrong. Now her brain was affected too. 

A pattern was emerging. If Ruth was still, the jelly arms and legs felt okay. Then she would do a tiny bit of activity and the muscles would ache again. The feeling frightened her, so the temptation not to move was enormous, but she had to do something, even if it was only the evening meal.

Now it was August and the family had planned to go on a camping holiday around Europe. The GP told her not to go. Ruth didn't want to deprive the family of their holiday and told them that she thought they should go, but everyone was going to have do a bit more work than they usually did. The children were certainly old enough and didn't mind.

The holiday turned out to be a success. Ruth rested and on her return was feeling slightly stronger.  She went to the hairdressers. She was given a copy of Vogue, not a magazine she would normally read. There was an article on the Round the World sailor, Clare Frances. Clare had an illness called ME. She described her symptoms and something she described as brain fog. Ruth nearly leapt out of the chair. "This is me", she wanted to cry out. 

Tearing the article from the magazine, she took it to her GP, who said that ME was a possible diagnosis, but not much was known about it. Ruth was slowly getting stronger, but the GP told her that if her illness had been triggered by a virus, then it would be possible that if the virus came back, then so would ME.

Eventually Ruth returned to work, but any over tiredness, would cause the leg muscles to ache. This was frightening, as Ruth didn't want to go back to the state she had been in the summer months. So her recovery involved a great deal of 'two steps forwards, one back' and battling with the very real fear of the fatigue returning. 

Two years later, Ruth was climbing in the Lake District. 

The left leg muscles did ache every so often, but acted as a barometer for overdoing things, which has proved very useful.

Around the same time, a friend, Anne, had also developed a mystery illness. Her limbs ached, her head felt fuzzy and she, too, couldn't move off the sofa. Fortunately she didn't have to, as her mother was able to come round to look after her, when her husband wasn't around.  Every time Anne tried to do anything, the muscles would ache, so there was no point of doing anything at all. Her mother and husband wouldn't let her anyway. Not even make a cup of tea. Days, weeks and months of doing nothing at all. Anne developed clinical depression. Her ME and depression lasted for years.

So is ME just a psychological illness or is it viral illness? The arguments raged in 1986 and they are still raging.

Amongst the controversial, but proven treatments is 'graded/phased exercise' and talking therapies. 

Every day, because she had to move, Ruth did some graded exercise. Due to the care the Anne received, she did not.  Every day, Ruth had a challenge to meet. The evening meal, 
made all but one night. Anne did not. Ruth was a naturally optimistic person,  Anne was a bit of a moaner. Naturally, Anne told Ruth that she had ME and that Ruth did not. 

Some people said that Ruth's family should have been more caring and done more to help. Ruth is very pleased that they did not. There's an expression, 'killing with kindness'. Maybe, with all the best intentions in the world, that's what happened to Anne.

A great many illness will have depression listed as a consequence. For instance, depression is often listed as a result of heart disease and cancer. Many people believe that because they've got one, they will have the other and there's nothing that can be done about it. I don't believe that to be true. 

It reminds me of an elderly relative, who lived with her unmarried daughter.  She developed shingles. A painful condition. The GP said it would last three years.  She took to her bed and stayed there for three years, waited on hand and foot by her daughter.

On the other hand, my father-in-law was an active man, became paralysed at the age of 55. Due to an overdose of some treatment, he then became blind. He cooked and did the gardening and had regular carers. He was never depressed, despite his wife slowly developing Alzheimers and having to go into a home. When age eventually led to a weakening of his arms and thus a need for residential care, he died after six weeks. No challenges, no point in living.

Any illness (and life event) can lower the mood and lead to large amounts of introspection. The person's needs will change and need to be attended to. Taking medication can alter the mood and taking more than one medication needs to be properly controlled. ( I always become weepy taking anti-biotics, but now recognise it's the medication, not the infection.) 

I believe that most cases of ME/CFS can be attributed to a viral infection.  
I do not believe that ME/CFS is a psychological/mental illness.
I do believe that the fear of exercising and making matters worse, can override the necessity to do some exercise, even a little.
I do believe that how ME/CFS is managed by the patient, family and the doctors can make an enormous difference to recovery.
I do believe that any illness, including ME/CFS can lead to emotional problems. Fear being the primary emotion.
I do believe that mental illness, should be re-named emotional illness.

Remember, 'Life is a terminal illness'. It's how we manage the ups and downs of life that is the clue to survival.

If you hadn't already guessed, Ruth is me.


Anonymous said...
Surely, you are not suggesting that severe mental illness i.e. that of genetic origin is an emotional illness as that would be to trivialise the unquantifiable suffering these people experience despite their "needs" being well met?

I said...

Thank you for writing. 

I could never trivialise severe mental illness, because I have observed the distress that befalls the person experiencing it and their nearest and dearest. It's a question that I don't think has a straight forward answer, but I will answer as honestly as I can.

I feel that the genetic aspect of diagnosis for many, may touch the 'nature or nurture' argument, to which there is no resolution. I have seen hundreds of people diagnosed with severe mental illness and had family given that label too. 

I believe that someone can experience brain damage and develop a severe mental illness. Brain damage can occur through accident, intentional harm and substance abuse. There are people born on the autistic spectrum and those who develop PTSD. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). 

I believe that each person who has been given a severe mental illness label should be looked as at an individual. In the majority of cases, I believe that there could be evidence of an emotional trauma, often from childhood.

The majority of these emotional traumas are connected with a person not having their needs met in childhood, actually or perceived. The trauma can cause emotional problems, sometimes severe, rather than severe mental illness.

I dislike the term mental illness, which has a stigma attached and is often dealt with inappropriately. Emotional distress on a varying scale, leading to cognitive and behavioural impairment would be a more accurate description. 

I am by no means alone in believing there to be a scandal of misdiagnosis and prescribing in the field of psychological medicine.

Thank you for your interest.

Monday, 9 February 2015

"Why an I always so 'last minute'?" - Procrastination.

This is the extended Wellbeing column from the York Press on Monday, February 9th.


As I promised last month, here is a column on procrastination.  I’ve had all month to write it and while it’s not quite the eleventh hour, it’s close. I’m writing a book too, but that’s not as advanced as I hoped it would be by this time. What stops me writing? In fact, what stops me doing all sorts of things until the last minute?  Why am I easily distracted?

My procrastination is no doubt rooted in childhood. Could it be that nothing was good enough for adults? Why finish something when it wouldn't be as perfect, as demanded? Fortunately, I have rarely been bothered about something not being ‘perfect', but there may be an element of , “why bother, it won’t be good enough.”  I certainly delayed finishing the first book, being overwhelmed by feelings of fear of failure and “who do you think you are, thinking you can write a book?” 

That’s not happening as I write the second book, but I still procrastinate. The upside? Cupboards and drawers have been de-cluttered, garden tidied, admin is up to date, there’s no pile of ironing and 20lbs of homemade marmalade are in the cupboard.

A family joke is that I have "the attention span of a flea". In many ways, it hasn't been a hindrance, in that adaptability and spontaneity can be helpful at times. But there are other times, when not completing tasks or leaving jobs to the last minute has been a pain and I probably, no, definitely, could have been more successful in various ventures through my life.

1. I’m a Gemini. Geminis have 'butterfly minds'. Really? All of them? 
2. I had a head injury when I was a toddler. Well, there you are. Damage to my frontal cortex. Just think, I could have been a grade 'A' student, but for that accident. Unlikely.
3. It’s genetic and as part of my personal make-up as are my height and eye colour. I can't change it. Nature or nurture?
4. I'm a woman. Women multi-task.

So, there are some of my excuses and there's nothing I can do about them. "It's not my fault". Whoopee! I can carry on in the same old ways. Wrong! Excuses or reasons? They may be possible reasons for procrastination, but they should not be used as excuses. As an adult, I could take responsibility for my behaviour and learn how to change it. After all, isn't adaptability one of my resources?

I have learnt managing strategies over the years.
Breaking up tasks into small pieces of time makes me far more productive. Taking rewards in-between the tasks, such as meal breaks, reading, social networking and TV is helpful. My timetable isn’t unlike those we had at school. It helps me and it may help you.

Column finished. Now what treat shall I have?

I had an idea that I had written about this subject before. A search revealed something I wrote exactly five years ago on my old blog. I adapted it for today's column. So no change? Some change because I have more control over my own time. I've had to be more self-discplined.

From January 2010

Is it really that many weeks since I last wrote a blog? Not in my plan at all. In fact I see there are two incomplete drafts, that could do with my attention. I started them before Christmas.

I really enjoy writing the blog and think up at least one subject a day. So what stops me writing it? In fact what stops me doing all sorts? I'm certainly easily distracted and...

...and there's a case in point. I wrote the previous paragraph 90 minutes ago. I have hardly moved out of my chair, but have managed to find other things to do. Help! I've just got up to put the kettle on. The umpteenth break. Now this has got to stop. But what is causing this behaviour and where is its roots? Can I use my own learnings to find out the cause and thus find a solution.

A couple of years ago, I was at a demonstration of techniques to reduce emotional arousal. The speaker asked for someone in the audience who procrastinated. My hand shot up all too readily.

It was hardly surprising that my memories of procrastinating went back a long way, deep into childhood. The conversation took me back into some connecting childhood experiences but my emotional arousal levels hardly rose. Whatever it was, didn't bother me that much. I was able to re-tell the memories as stories and not re-live them. The latter being one of the signs of troubling , if not traumatic memories.

In the end, I uncovered some feeling of anger at writing thank-you letters after Christmas. These had to be perfect and I had to re-write them many times. So it was decided at the demonstration, that my procrastination was down to not wanting to finish anything because it wouldn't be perfect. But I have fortunately, very rarely been bothered at all about something not being 'perfect', so I didn't think it was that. Everyone was satisfied at the outcome of the demonstration. But while the process had been of interest, I knew that it hadn't really uncovered anything new and was unlikely to change the habits of a lifetime. It didn't.

It has always been a family joke, that I have "the attention span of a flea". In many ways, it hasn't been a hindrance, in that I am adaptable and also tend to be quite observant in whatever surroundings I may be in. For those reasons alone, I have no doubt that I don't want to lose those resources and so unconsciously will not allow any change to occur. I can also convince myself that if I leave things to the last minute, I will be more productive in the end. A dubious justification.

But there are other times, when not completing tasks or leaving jobs to the last minute has been a pain and I probably, no, definitely, could have been more successful in various ventures through my life.

But I've got some good excuses haven't I? 

1. I'm a Gemini for starters. Well, that's it then. Geminis have 'butterfly minds'. Really? All them? It reminds me of the friend who told me that she had grown up a nervous wreck because her sisters had teased her in childhood, saying she was "Wednesday's child and full of woe". I asked her whether she thought everyone born on a Wednesday was full of anxiety and whether her sisters' characters were true to their birth days of the week? She hadn't given either possibility a thought and had held on to that one unhelpful, childhood belief all 40 years of her adult life. A great shame.

2. Another excuse is that I has a head injury when I was a toddler. I ran into an iron girder and caused a dent in my skull. Well, there you are. Damage to my frontal cortex. Just think, I could have been an grade 'A' student, but for that accident. Unlikely.

3. Yet another excuse, is that I was just born like this. It's as part of my personal make-up as my height and eye colour are. I can't change it.

4. I'm a woman. Women multi-task.

So, there are some of my excuses and there's nothing I can do about them. "It's not my fault". Whoopee! I can carry on in the same old ways, because it's not my fault.

Wrong! They may possible reasons, but they should not be used as excuses. As an adult, I could take responsibility for my shortcomings and learn how to adapt. After all, isn't adapaptability one of my resources? 

I have learnt managing strategies over the years. Do I use the carrot or stick motivational methods? The carrot is what works for me. But while I know what works, I don't always put it into practice. I hear my internal diologue shout, "Can't be bothered", "Why should I?" Neither are expressions used by emotionally mature adults.

If I break up tasks into small pieces of time, I'm hugely more productive. Whether it's a work or domestic task. (Parkinson's Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.) The stick of self regret and verbal abuse doesn't work. What does work for me, is the carrot of another small piece of time waiting for me with a treat. Could be a coffee, reading a newspaper/magazine, making a personal call/text, social networking, going shopping etc: 

My conclusion is that there certainly are reasons why I have a butterfly mind, but there are no excuses. My impulsiveness to switch from one thing to another is based on an emotional immaturity and I can change that by stopping myself. As a client one said to a colleague," Wow! I know now that I can't ever stop the first thought, but I have the choice to change the second". It was a powerful insight for that person.

The saying goes, 'Procrastination is the the thief of time', as if it is a negative force. But I don't ever feel that the things I do are a waste of time, just that I perhaps need to prioritise a little better.

So, four days, yes, four days later, I have reached the end. Some interruptions have been necessary/urgent, some have not. 

The mini me whispering in my ear, "I want it and want it now!" will have to 'grow up' and use some of her more adult, working practices. Will it work? 

You will know if you see more regular blogging. But not yet, I'm off to get my treat of reading the morning newspaper.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

Medication - why do I feel so strongly on this subject?

At the beginning of this blog, I will state that anti-biotics have probably saved my life twice and certainly saved my husband's life.

On Tuesday, January 27th,  the first item on the news was about some medication and dementia.

I also heard on a newscast this week, that GPs will be paid to prescribe statins. What?

I felt as I did when writing this blog last June:

I need to write from my own experience. I wanted to express my views on the pharmaceutical industry in the book, but the editor thought that my comments would look like a rant and decrease the efficacy of the content. Begrudgingly, I took her advice. I wrote the book to help people and left much out. Hopefully, I can include something in the new book in progress. Something suggesting that they question and research the medication that they and their relatives have been prescribed and it helps just one family, then the job is done. The ripple effect can be powerful. 

When did I start to question medical matters?
Seriously, in 1978. Though in 1968, I had experienced unpleasant side-effects from some medication I was taking for period pain. But then it was a given and you didn't question doctors. I'm only too grateful that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was not known in my childhood, as I feel that Ritalin would have been prescribed. Too scary to contemplate.

In 1978, I underwent a small gynae op. On the follow-up appointment, I mentioned that I was still in extreme discomfort on occasions. I told the surgeon that it seemed to be every month and around the time of ovulation. He thought it was nonsense and memorably said, " If you don't buck your ideas up young lady, you will lose your husband." You don't believe me? It's true. 

So I carried on, in extreme discomfort every month, until one day in the library, chance (?) led me to a book on a condition I had never heard of before, called Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, (PMS) or Pre-Menstrual Tension (PMT), as it became known. A book that changed my life for the better. The contents made sense and the recommendation was for taking extra Vitamin B6.  In our small town was a small grocer's shop and he had a comprehensive sideline in vitamins and nutritional supplements. He was helpful and I was soon feeling better, though he mentioned that GPs didn't like what he was selling. I mentioned my Vitamin B6 purchase to  my GP, he laughed and said, "You're flakey." Some years later he offered me large bottles of Vitamin B6 on prescription.

In 1981, I was getting fed-up of diets and thought I would try some slimming-pills. I didn't go to my own GP, knowing he wouldn't give me any medication. But the grapevine worked well and everyone knew of the GP who would give you anything you asked for. He did. I was prescribed slimming pills, though cannot recall what they were, except I went as high as a kite when taking them. Life and soul of the party. Until the day I had a road accident on my way to work. The Ford Transit van hit a bend, mounted the pavement, knocked over a wall and I was fortunate to be alive, when the vehicle stopped, with my head having smashed through the side window. I didn't tell anyone what I was taking, but I knew the pills had made me more reckless than usual. I stopped taking them.

It was around this time that the TV presenter, Esther Ranzen, ran a campaign on her programme, 'That's Life' about the addictiveness of some anti-depressants called Valium and Librium. That made sense of what some of my friends were experiencing. The pharmaceutical industry created another type of medication. One in daily use today. Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRIs), claiming they were not addictive. No? Fifty million prescriptions for anti-depressants alone, last year?! The majority of these drugs are unsuitable, if not damaging for the under 18s. Does that stop them being prescribed? No. It's scandalous. 

At least ten years ago, I heard a radio programme where some British medics were attempting to make the World Health Organisation (WHO), recognise that while Big Pharma was saying that some medication wasn't addictive anymore, the withdrawal effects from SSRIs could be so bad, that people didn't want to come off the medication, thus creating a dependence. Not so different from an addiction?  The WHO didn't listen.

In late 1990s, I thought I would research the menopause, before it occurred. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) was beginning to get wider publicity and I started to read up on the subject. This was also timed with another TV personality, Dr Miriam Stoppard, visiting the local town extolling the virtues of HRT and promoting her new book on the subject. It was a powerful presentation and I doubt there were many women in the room who did not feel motivated to "find the HRT that suits you and stay on it for life."

I heard this presentation before learning about how the brain works, trance states of learning and how emotional hijacks occur. Twenty-four hours later, with my emotional enthusiasm calming down and therefore beginning to think logically, I started to look at the consequenses. One question loomed large in my head. If every woman over 50 took HRT for the rest of their lives, who would really benefit? Only one answer. The Pharmaceutical industry. I researched Dr Miriam Stoppard. She sat on the board of a Pharmaceutical Company and they had sponsored the luncheon we'd all enjoyed. The scales fell from my eyes. 

I have never believed anything I've been told since then. Not without researching and becoming informed. It is no coincidence that when I found the following quote on a drinks coaster, I  adopted it for my readers too.

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. " Attributed to Buddha

So, a couple of years later, when the GP told me that for a variety of reasons, I should take HRT, I told him that I was making an informed decision (and by that time I was very informed) and declined it. He told me that I was foolish and "not to rubbish HRT." This is the same GP, who a few years later, asked me why I needed a bone density scan. When I said it was due to family history and my refusal to take HRT, he told me that I was correct in not taking it. Gobsmacked, I reminded him of what he'd previously said. He slid his hand across the desk, placed it on top of my hand and said, " Things change, my dear." When the scan showed the I had stopped the bone density deterioration with nutrition and exercise, this was excused by, "it must have been a faulty machine." My bone density is still okay.

Around this time I had been working for a number of years on a psychiatric unit. My views haven't changed in nearly twenty years, except the situation is far worse. 

In 2015, I could replace HRT with Statins. 

I was at a post-play conversation with an actor last month. The actor was recovering remarkably well from a severe stroke. Also present was a consultant from the local stroke unit. At one point the subject of statins arose. The consultant said that, "everyone over 60 should be taking them." There was a slight murmur in the room, but no-one said anything. I couldn't keep quiet, so just said strongly, "No". At the same time a woman at the next table, also made a negative comment. The consultant looked daggers at both of us.

Afterwards I went up to the woman. She said, " Statins nearly killed my husband. My daughter is a doctor and wants me to take them, but I have refused." She then turned to her companion and asked her if she was taking them. The companion uttered these words, " I don't know. I just take what he gives me." *knocks head against wall*

That's the attitude of the majority of patients. Doctor knows best. They don't. As one said to me, "we can only guesstimate." But if HRT was originally sold to be taken by all women over 50, what about the profits from everyone over 60 taking statins?

Doctors are also exposed to an onslaught of advertising and sponsorship. Have a look around the surgery next time, let alone the names sponsoring medical training, hospital units etc:

Back in the nineties, we visited Centre Parcs. It was Friday afternoon and walking through a cafe, I bumped into the practice nurse for the GP surgery I attended then. (The HRT one). She looked very happy and told me that she had been attending a course on diabetes. The course had finished, but as Centre Parcs couldn't sell the accommodation for the weekend only, they were being allowed to stay on. I jokingly asked (I guessed the answer), whether she was paying or the Pharmaceutical Company? Her reply was, "Oh, it all free, the Pharmaceutical Company are paying, but it doesn't influence our prescribing." No of course it doesn't, advertising never works does it?

A Surgery Manager attended a seminar on the psychology course I was taking. It was held in a large, draughty, faded ballroom in a faded hotel. "I wish my doctors could hear this, but last week they were guests at Blenheim Palace, why would they come here and pay?" Fortunately, some did and still do.

I was asked to give two workshops to the staff of a day centre for adults with mental health problems. After I had spoken, the consultant asked the staff to stay behind for a talk by someone from a Pharmaceutical Company about a new anti-psychotic medicine. I was furious and naive. That's how my fee was being paid. I refused to take it, though people said I should have taken it and given it to charity. Emotional arousal had shut off logical thought. 

I have stated that my life was saved by anti-biotics. Twice. On two occasions I had pneumonia and ended up in A&E. The first time was on Millennium Eve, so I definitely remember how I celebrated - not! Except I was diagnosed with kidney problems and sent to the urology ward. Atypical symptoms and one mistake. Okay, but two? Eight years later, the same thing happened, but this time after I had told the doctor about the first time and was pretty sure the atypical symptoms were the same. On the second visit to hospital, I was given oral morphine. It should have been bliss, but the pain didn't go away, so I was given another dose. The pain was indescribable and I thought I was going to die. I should have been given a stomach liner beforehand, but wasn't. The same thing happened to my 90 year-old father with a pre-chemotherapy drug he was given. That's my father who was given no more than six months to live at the most, due to the 'off the scale' reading he had on a test. He lived for forty-four months, all them lucid, but frail in the end.

Common-sense takes me back to my chemistry lessons. I wasn't very good at the subject, but I do recall the layout in the workbook. We had to draw a diagram and write, Method, Result, Conclusion.

Medication is full of chemicals. One chemical interacts with another. In turn, they interact with the chemicals in our brains and bodies. A great deal of research has been done about the side-effects from each medication. There is sizable research about taking two medications together. There is little or no research about more than two medications taken together, but how many people do you know who are taking more than two medications every day?

Another question came to me, when working on the psychiatric unit in the 90s. It can still be asked. Anti-depressants are taken to reduce depression and anxiety conditions, that's why they use the word, 'anti'. So, why do so many people say, without thinking it through properly, "I'm depressed and taking anti-depressants."? Having spoken to several paramedics in the UK and Australia, they inform me that most of the people who have committed suicide or attempted suicide are taking anti-depressants. Not working then are they?  Ah, people will say, but they were depressed. 

An acquaintance died by suicide. He was having some bad symptoms, physically and emotionally. He was taking medication. Except that it turned out that he wasn't taking it regularly. He didn't realise that he was going cold turkey on a regular basis, with distressing consequenses. It must have been awful for him. So awful, he hung himself. Not that the Coroner knew that's what he'd been doing, because he didn't ask and wasn't told.

Just withdrawing from caffeine is bad enough, let alone strong medication with harmful withdrawal effects.

The information about side-effects is out there, researched and written about by qualified people. But Big Pharma shout louder or rather, have the bigger advertising budgets.

Okay, I'll stop. You have the idea. I could write an entire book on my observations and experience alone. At present I do not take any medication, something that made a hospital doctor recently ask, "How did you manage that?" If I took everything I've been told to take, I would rattle, be severely overweight and exist rather than live. I'm not negligent, but have made informed choices. 

Far more accomplished people have wrriten about the subject. An excellent start is Ben Goldacre

NB: From Thursday, February 2015