The third in a series of stories sent in to me from readers of Seroxat Sufferers. This one is quite brilliantly written and, unlike the previous two stories sent in by readers, comes from a male perspective.
If any doctor or employee of the MHRA wants to know about risk/benefit, then read the following:
"Prior to Seroxat use, I was lucky enough to have enjoyed 40 years of decent sleep, albeit until my night time panic attacks. Since using the drug and more particularly since I started tapering, sleep is truly elusive. At best, I will get 3 hours per night."
My Seroxat story started in 2001, not long after the birth of my son. I was going through a particularly stressful time at work, combined with two other major factors. Lack of sleep and a slow erosion of self confidence, following 10 years, supporting a partner, who was abused by a relative, as a child. It seemed that in order to make my partner feel safe, loved and comfortable, I had to make such huge emotional sacrifices, that in the end, all combined to result in a negative, depressive impact on my health.
I started experiencing strong night time panic attacks, then decided to visit my GP. I can honestly say, at that point, that I would have taken anything to feel better. This was a complete reversal of my normal prescriptive opinion ie; I was always ultra cautious as a rule, taking any drug of note, my motto being, stiff upper lip and determination will see me through.
I recall what followed, as if it were yesterday. My GP listened to me, then introduced what he called " a new breed of super drug", called Seroxat.
To be fair, unlike previous occasions, where I would normally say, no thanks, I listened enthusiastically, thinking, I just needed some form of relief from symptoms being suffered. Then, my GP made a comment, which I will never forget. As he printed off my prescription for 20mgs (tablet formulation), he stated, that I could be on this medication " for the rest of my life ". Amazingly, given my traditional outlook toward Doctors and their medical suggestions, I let this comment go, without further questioning!! This was a massive and devastating mistake.
Fast forward 3/4 weeks, my panic attacks had gone, associated use symptoms were pretty normal ie sexual issues, headaches, some stomach and bowel changes, along with an initial carefree feel, in myself. Nothing seemed to be a worry, I was able to cope well in the early stages, using this drug. Moving forward to month 10/12, all was well, or at least I thought it was. I will be fair and balanced in this respect, Seroxat did seem to have worked at this stage, but little did I know, that as each month passed, it was starting to ingrain it's Jekyll & Hyde DNA, well and truly into my system.
I did have follow up GP appointments from time to time, but when at 2 years of use, I was advised to start thinking of coming off the medication. All was well, my mood tended to be blank at this point, certainly comments had been made domestically, that I seemed to have changed. Describing why I know they were right, there were several family orientated losses, that would naturally have been emotional and tearful. ABSOLUTELY NO FEELING AT ALL, NO UPSET NO MATTER HOW HARD I TRIED. Think this was the start, when I knew something was wrong. Yes, I am perfectly aware of popular SSRI perception ie; they mask our original issues, through their cocktail of components, that leave us robotic and an empty emotional shell.
It was when my GP, tasked me to reduce in chunks of 5mgs per week, that things started to go pear shaped. He kindly advised me that "coming off Seroxat makes users feel exceptionally ill" A very kind and helpful gesture!!! So, I tried making suggested initial reductions, then reported back, 4 weeks later. After my first 5 mg reduction I was left in such a state, that I reverted back to same, so no progress made.
A period followed where I was again under pressure at work, so things were put on hold for a spell. When things improved, back to the GP, where I was now advised to opt for a new method. Reduce my dosage but experiment at each level, in the form of missing alternate days Seroxat intake, eventually trying to extend time without the drug in my system. This at every dose!!!! 18 months followed, trying this fantastically dangerous suggestion. I can safely say, that in my life, I have never EVER, felt the urge to take my own life. I have a beautiful son and I love life.
During this spell however, I ended up in a low that was so strong ie; of a level, way beyond any I had experienced in my life, that I continually considered ending my life. In addition, absolutely no relief from intense insomnia, which again was new to me. Little did I know, that my Doctor had given me pathetic guidance. It was at a point, where I decided to carry out my own research. I joined a large Seroxat forum and one lady member in particular, able to guide me in the early stages, back from severe withdrawal symptoms. This was the start of my learning curve, I immersed myself in all things Seroxat, taking in half lives, poop outs, advised withdrawal techniques and, in general, wakening up to the nightmare and mess I was in.
Waited 8-10 weeks to stabilise, then, just stayed there for a spell, thankful that my dark experience had gone. Extremely scary.
What followed was and is, without shadow of doubt, the most life changing, devastating nightmare. Two quality jobs lost, a partner of 16 years gone and symptoms so severe, that life has been virtually impossible to predict, plan and cope.
Rather than detail each 10% drop, how if felt and time scale, all I will do now, is detail symptoms I have suffered, changes in my normal persona and any other points of note:
Rage & Aggression - My now ex-partner, says to her family/ friends, when looking back on our last couple of years together, "that the man she knew and loved, had gone, taken away by a drug that had utterly changed him, into someone, she felt very scared of" Rage, confrontation and aggression, were not part of my normal day to day character, in any way. Yes a tad lacking in general patience, nothing major though.
I recall a particular event that overviews things well. I took my son to a children's play area one weekend, for a relaxing break!!! A typical squabble took place between my son and a slightly older girl. I ended up screaming at her to come down to me, in front of shocked onlookers. I was eventually asked to leave the building, in complete fury!
These symptoms are tough, very tough to battle. I try to explain how and why to anyone who is interested. I first noticed increasing rage and aggression, round about 17mgs, and is still there at 3.8mgs, 5 years later!
Irritable behaviour - This associated, unwanted Seroxat withdrawal symptom, is one that is hard to live with. Close family in their latter years, my son and friends, all know when things are bad or I have reduced my "medication". No logic to this, it just feels like everything is an invasion of personal space, requiring instant short shrift. My normal behaviour, most probably is stereo typically British ie; last to complain or kick up a fuss.
No chance of this using Seroxat, I will pick an argument with anyone, or stand my ground over the most stupid insignificant issues, it beggars belief!
All I try to do is apologise and hope people understand. Similar to above ie kicked in, round about 17mgs and is increasing, as I reach low levels.
Risk taking behaviour - One of my largest changes in normal persona, has been Seroxat's elimination of user inhibition. Although still an issue, I can feel some twinges of restraint, now. Put simply, Seroxat withdrawal, produced a person who was willing to break the law. My partner dreaded me going for any weekly shop, such was my uncontrollable urge to steal when at a supermarket. This again, completely out of character, I am a law abiding citizen, without a police record!
It didn't matter if it was a bottle of anchovies, t-bone steak or alcohol, nothing was safe!!! No explanation for this, other than I wanted to do something wrong for the hell of it, even when it was produce we had no need for!
I recall one particular day, prior to the split with my ex, we were having a BBQ and I took a total of 9 bottles of top wine in one visit!!! To say this is not me, is an under statement. Naturally I mentioned to my GP. In my opinion, this emotional void, where one is totally unafraid of consequence and implication, should be sufficient evidence alone, that this drug, changes and destroys lives.
Severe and sustained insomnia - Prior to Seroxat use, I was lucky enough to have enjoyed 40 years of decent sleep, albeit until my night time panic attacks. Since using the drug and more particularly since I started tapering, sleep is truly elusive. At best, I will get 3 hours per night, wakening at 2 or 3 am then no matter how relaxed or rested I am, never any chance of nodding back off. Rest and sleep in my opinion, are essential components when withdrawing, in order to refresh determination and focus. Needless to say, this symptom is highly draining.
Zaps/whooshes/dizziness/loss of balance - One of any positives that result from a long withdrawal programme, has been that to date, I believe I have avoided zaps. That said, from 7mgs down to 5, I started taking excessive dizzy spells, culminating in an episode, one Saturday morning, that was truly frightening. I was in bed and after getting up and making my son's breakfast, I lost all sight in terms of focus, all I saw was a blur, passing horizontally, no clear imaging or shape ie; just an eyeful of wallpaper moving right to left!!! All of a sudden I told my son I had a problem as I felt the most incredible dizziness and nausea. I literally couldn't stand up, I just had to lie where I was, on the kitchen floor and hope it ended. This lasted for what seemed a lifetime, but looking back, some 3/4 minutes, then things seemed to rectify. Intense nausea followed though, for a good 2 days.
This was not normal at all, what if I had been driving with my son on a motorway, we would have been in severe danger.
Worrying irrational thoughts - It concerns me detailing this associated change in persona. I am sure though, most of us can relate to similar. If involved in any Seroxat related heated debate, or, just going about daily business, from time to time, urges arise to inflict real harm on someone.
Terribly violent and gory thoughts result, I have had to talk to my ex partner and family about it. Again, this portrays myself as a budding Ted Bundy!!!! This is not me at all, I am a devoted family man, who puts family before all else. This emotion I believe, is linked to one's lack of inhibitions, caused by Seroxat use and withdrawal. Not talking an every day happening, but nevertheless, not nice to have a lack of cerebral control, to this extent.
High blood pressure and raised cholesterol - Never experienced either in my life. No family history and consider myself to be health conscious. I enjoyed a semi professional sporting career at International level, so keeping fit is a matter of pride for me. Seroxat intake has changed both, over the last 9 years. Not sure what else to say, other than when working, just prior to Seroxat use, all employees over 35, were granted free and complete medical check ups, at a BUPA clinic. With regard to blood pressure and cholesterol, both were prime.
Totally different whilst using Seroxat. No point in checking at the moment, both show irregular high levels.
Morose depressive episodes - During my extended taper, I have suffered, what can only be described as lowest of the low, depressive ruts. This medication was supposed to enhance life, recovering from any depression and anxiety, experienced pre-Seroxat, NOT present users with scenarios, where they have to overcome moods, that are SIGNIFICANTLY worse than any of us could ever imagine!
These intervals are regular for me, and tend to last 24 - 48 hours, have lasted 5 years and ongoing.
Joint pain/restless limbs - A difficult and particularly tiring symptom, noticed mainly at night. Never actually entered the London Marathon before, but thanks to GSK, have managed to complete training for it, without breaking sweat!!!! Nights in bed can be torture, such is my need to move, both arms and legs in particular. I notice this symptom, either after I have become stressed (which is often) or for a 2/3 week period, following a reduction. Again this has lasted for years, nothing suffered in this area, prior to Seroxat use.
Knees also seem to play up, for no apparent reason. Really problematic aches that feel so strange.
Strange muscle spasms - Started to notice this, during withdrawal. Totally out of the blue ie; in bed or relaxing, strange muscle pulls/ severe stiffness occur. These tend to manifest themselves in such strange areas ie; neck, below the shoulder blade and liver region. The only way I can describe these being, similar to taking cramp, down the back of a leg. These Seroxat cramps resulting from no physical exertion or activity. Never had episodes of this type, pre-Seroxat.
Suicidal thoughts - As previously mentioned, I had never had any such thoughts in 40 years, until I used Seroxat. Won't add anything to this, other than to say, I am thankful for my reputation ie; strength of character and determination. This has helped overcome these unwanted, chemically introduced thoughts.
Cravings - Never felt the need to binge on bad fatty foods or sugar overloads, pre-Seroxat use. Since taking the drug, a cocktail of, are a daily must have. No logic to this whatsoever and obviously sits very uncomfortably with me.
Other symptoms - Listed within this section, are a number of other symptoms, which I suffer regularly or, changes I have noticed that make no sense!:
deterioration of sight
increased urinary frequency
brain fog / memory issues
Summary and conclusions - Without shadow of doubt, Seroxat has had a devastating impact on my life and those around me, who wished to show support. Whatever my medical issue, prior to Seroxat use, symptoms were certainly not going to lose 2 jobs and long term partner. My situation was not life changing or devastating. Seroxat use has turned my situation into financial and domestic ruin, not to mention, loss of self!!!
I have faced many challenges in my life, but nothing comes close to withdrawal from Seroxat. I can understand why so many fail. So difficult at times, to explain to family, friends and workmates (if you are working), how this all feels. I will try to do so now. In life we all have choices, choices we hope, reflect our personalities. We try to follow our chosen routes in sport, education, love and health, which will ensure we live life, as successfully and happy as possible.
Being on Seroxat, takes all choice away. All users, know in themselves, that something is significantly wrong with this SSRI. GlaxoSmithKline, state, as part of their Mission Statement, that their primary objective, is to improve lives.
I have no idea, how long I am going to be on Seroxat, all I know is that the damage is done. Users crave normality, back to their pre-Seroxat self. This does not exist. In order to remove oneself from Seroxat, so much changes, is lost and is suffered. How can we ever be the same again.
5 years tapering, in the knowledge, that someone in a Glaxo Boardroom, either tried to concoct a drug, so powerful in it's additive qualities, that it would result in use for life or, if the drug was not pre-destined in its defective nature, without doubt, it is one of the largest medical cock ups in history. Either way, both we and GSK know the score.
For me, my inspiration is my son. No matter how tough this may pan out to be, he deserves to live with his father, off Seroxat. Problem being, no user knows, how he or she will heal, after years on this drug. I just pray that if and when, I get to the point of discontinuation, where my doctor's initial words regarding use for life, are as ill advised as his original tapering advice.
Thank you for reading my story
Previous Reader's Stories:
Seroxat Stories - 'Angela's Story - 2mg away from safety'
Seroxat Stories - 'Annie - My Story'
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