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I’m Helena and this is my story…

I was a sensitive child and suffered from abuse which I was told to keep quiet about. By 13 the stress of what had happened to me meant my jaw was locking tight over night. The family doctor put me on valium. She might have asked me how things were at home, I don’t remember.

At 13 I quite liked how valium made me feel and I was to take it periodically for the next 40 years. Not once did any prescriber tell me it shouldn’t be taken longer than a month.

Aged 22, battered and bruised from years of alcoholism, a history of abusive relationships and physically unwell with something that wouldn’t be diagnosed until I was 40 as “fibromyalgia”, I was told by my GP I had a chemical imbalance in my brain and that a new drug called Prozac would help.

I wasn’t aware of the law suits being settled in America for the people who had killed themselves taking this drug. I was very happy with the weight loss Prozac gave me, given I was borderline anorexic at the time. It soon stopped working though; I developed terrifying panic attacks and ferocious headaches too and eventually I was told to just stop taking it and all hell broke lose. I entered the psychiatric system and became trapped there, and on the psychotropic medication that was to destroy my life; physically, mentally and spiritually over the next 30 years.

I was then cycled through every antidepressant drug there was. Every time I tried to quit the antidepressants I would spiral into worse and worse states of catatonia and suicidal ideation. Doctors shouted at me there was no such thing as antidepressant withdrawal. And that I was a hypochondriac. I gave up any hope I could live without the drugs.

In my 30’s I decided that maybe private psychiatry was better than the NHS.

I ended up spending a month in the Priory Hospital (having had previous traumatic experiences of NHS mental health hospitals) under the care of a young psychiatrist. He validated the pain I was in and put me on fentanyl and valium. It helped. Over the next nine years I saw him I got further diagnoses of Major depressive disorder and ADHD. I also had several more suicide attempts (one after an antibiotic for a chest infection) and spent a year in total in a clinic abroad after a catastrophic stay at the Priory in 2014 where I walked out after a week. I suffered repeated and prolonged gaslighting from doctors over my physical ailments. My beloved son at age 15 cut off all contact with me for 6 years as he couldn’t bear to be around the mess I had become; I would take overdoses as he played playstation in the next room. I couldn’t get out of bed, I often slept 20 hours a day.

In 2019 I was on two antipsychotics (Abilify and Seroquel), 3 antidepressants (Mirtazpine, Vortioxoitne, Venlafaxine), two benzos (Valium, Lorazepam), sleeping pills (Zopiclone) an ADHD drug (Modafinil) Co-codamol, thyroid meds, statins, a PPI, antihistamines and a bucket load of OTCs and vitamins and supplements. I was obsessed with suicide, exploring euthanasia

I was told to begin ECT but instead of that I started taking myself off all the drugs, in batches. In May 2020 I discovered the online groups and words like akathisia and aphasia as well as the hyperbolic tapering method and that is how I came off the last drug I was on, Venlafaxine- taking the last crumb on May 17th 2021. I had multiple trips to hospital by ambulance in this period, to be told there was nothing wrong with me; my labs were normal. For well over a year I felt like I was dying every single second 24/7. Physically these drugs have left me with possibly permanent debilitating neuropathy; I’m going for a “good enough” recovery.

I have had no depression though for nearly 4 years despite my dog dying in my arms and myself cheating death in an accident this year. I'm writing a book about what happened to me and on the 20th June this year I am finally well enough to stand outside the Royal College of GPs and hand out flyers on akathisia and safe de-prescribing. In the hopes of stopping what happened to me to just one other person.

Click here to read more accounts of stolen lives.

Helena took her last antidepressant in 2021 after years of iatrogenic harm

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