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19 January 2013

Almost Dying

Well my friends.  It's been some months since I have shared with you.  My life has gone on quite the roller coaster ride and it has taken some time for me to settle down from all the excitement.  A lot has happened since my last post in November.  I was waiting to hear if I had lupus as I had developed new symptoms that seemed to be more than just fibromyalgia.  It was Election Day, November 6th, when I had gone to see my rheumatologist about the increased pain, TMJ, leg and ankle edema, and very dry eyes that was plaguing me.  I had voted before driving to my appointment and had been feeling very tense and nervous about possibly having something new diagnosed.  It occupied my thoughts as I was in the voting booth.  I remember being told that I had carpal tunnel in both wrists and to buy wrist supports and to wear a mouth guard to keep me from clenching my teeth when I sleep.  I barely remember driving home or the rest of the day for that matter.  What I do remember is that I woke up in the ICU hooked up to a ventilator six days later.

I had no idea how or why I was in the hospital.  I woke up to my mother's face and instantly questioned why I was in a hospital in Florida and then asking her what the hell happened (in those exact words).  I see my husband's face and all the life has drained from it.  I had no clue what was going on but I was very scared to find out.  I probably dozed off and on for some time because the rest is a bit blurry.  I am not sure if I was told what happened at that time or after I was taken off the ventilator but here's the reason why I was there.  On Friday morning I had a small disagreement with my husband.  I had taken my bottle of Wellbutrin XL into the bathroom and proceeded to swallow all of the pills (around 60 I think at 150mg each).  

Let me make this disclaimer - I was in no way severely depressed or feeling suicidal at any time prior to this event.  Yes, I was upset and stressed but in no way to the point of wanting to end my life.  I had been taking the maximum dose of Wellbutrin (450 mg/day) since September but had been on the antidepressant for about two years or longer.  Looking back I can see that my personality was different.  I was getting more and more short tempered and angry a lot over the course of being on it and much more so after the increase to 450mg/day.  Until finally, something snapped where a very small and insignificant event caused me to react with an overdose.

After I took the pills I walked out of the bathroom and told my husband that he didn't have to be bothered with me anymore.  He asked me why and he said that I told him what I did.  He called an ambulance and I was rushed to the ER.  From what he told me next I almost couldn't believe my ears.  It was so bad by the time I got there (and they got me there FAST).  I started having seizures - small ones at first and then a full-blown seizure.  When it was over I lay limp and unresponsive on the table.  I was intubated and given charcoal but my blood pressure was dangerously low.  The doctor didn't know if I was going to make it through the night.  He told my husband that it could go either way and gave me a 40% chance to make it out of woods.  This is all so very hard for me to type.  As I relive these moments I feel very sad but this is a story that I must tell, so I'll go on.

I was put in a medically induced coma and taken to the ICU where I remained until I started to wake up out of the coma on Sunday.  It was like I literally woke up in hell.  I had no idea what happened or why and was past the point of being confused.  I was hallucinating and was seeing and hearing things that weren't there.  When the doctor and nurse told me that no one was in the room I broke into tears.  First I'm told that I tried to, and almost successfully, kill myself and now I'm hallucinating?  What next?  Well, how about being told that they found cocaine in my system.  You've got to be kidding me!!  I've never done drugs in my life.  Not marijuana, cocaine, crack, heroine, ecstasy, PCP, speed - not one!  It felt like my entire world had fallen apart and didn't know how much more I could take.

A nice surprise was seeing my family from Buffalo.  It was a bit jarring though because their presence spoke to the magnitude and seriousness of the situation.  I also felt a lot of love and that helped to soften the experience a little.  Later that day I was moved to a regular floor.  That made me feel a bit better.  When I got to the room I realized that I had a catheter, which was sewn into my crotch.  And thanks to my terrible veins, I had a line put in my neck.  I could barely walk to the bathroom as I was extremely weak.  However, I knew that the worst was soon to follow.  Being babysat 24/7 and talked to by behavioral health.  I had to convince them that I was not depressed nor suicidal and that it was the medication that caused a personality shift.  I was myself and very clear headed about my mental stability and I wasn't going to let them send me across the street to the inpatient psychiatric ward.  I had to endure multiple visits by judgemental and insensitive know-it-all assistants from behavioral health and one with the social worker.  Every time I had to explain that I was not depressed or suicidal at the time and that it was the medication.  I was very angry at the way I was being talked to but had to remind myself not to get too upset or it will give them reason to ship me to the psych ward.  It was hard not to react angrily when being asked things like, "How long have you been doing cocaine?" or "You don't remember telling me that you wanted to die?"  I wanted to take those women and slam them head first into the wall.  I never prayed so hard in my life for God to keep me because I was seconds from going off on them.

Besides, all that mattered was what the psychiatrist said and not his little minions.  It was after two days of being on the patient care floor before I saw the psychiatrist and thanks to my and my family's daily prayers, he got it!  The first thing out of his mouth after I explained everything to him was that it was obvious that I wasn't depressed.  Hallelujah!!  I didn't have to go across the street and as soon as my liver enzymes were normal I could go home.  I hated being there and wanted to go home to my children and love up on them and my husband.  I was discharged on Wednesday, November 14th.

I was removed from all medications except the propranolol which I was taking for my fibromyalgia.  Because of my blood pressure bottoming out and it being a blood pressure medication I was kept on it.  I weaned myself off of it three weeks after leaving the hospital because it was giving me terrible headaches and making me dizzy.  I was very weak and could barely walk from my bed to my bathroom without getting out of breath.  It was a struggle.  Coming to grips with what happened was even tougher.  Although this had just happened to me, most of it I did not remember.  Having to live through a trauma through someone else's narrative was, and still is, difficult to accept.  I see the scars and bruises and feel the effects of what happened but I have no memory of how or why it happened.  That's a difficult thing to wrap my head around.  But most of all, I'm very upset that this happened again.  I meant it when I said that I would never put my family through this again.  I've done all that I can over the years to be proactive about my depression so as to not ever go to that place of desolation and hopelessness again.  I feel like a huge let down and it does make me feel embarrassed at times.  I worry about anyone questioning my mental stability now more than ever and I have been labeled as a drug addict.  I didn't ask for this.  My life is already difficult.  Why did this have to be added to my long list of struggles?

I am now learning to live with my depression and cope with it naturally along with therapy.  Now that I am no longer taking any prescriptions I have found a new path to healing.  I am seeing a bioenergetic practitioner who is helping me to heal my body and find out what the root cause(s) of my health problems are.  It's a hard road that I'm traveling down but I have made a lot of progress in just two months.  I have a lot more to do but I feel better about how I'm taking care of myself.  I've made a major life change and I expect nothing but positive results from it.  There are still many obstacles that I have to overcome but I'm sure that I'll get through them.  I have new passions and ideas and hope to make something out of them.  

The one highest on my agenda is the state of mental health in this country and the danger of antidepressants, anti psychotics and anti anxiety medications.  My best friend sent me this article about Wellbutrin a few days after I was released from the hospital and it got my blood boiling:  
Generic brands of the antidepressant (or of any drug) only need to show bioequivalency to the name brand, which means that the generic can be comprised of ingredients that are not equal to the name brand or can be completely devoid of the main ingredient.  This could be why cocaine came up in my blood work when I've never done illegal drugs.  I've only consumed those approved by the FDA and prescribed by medical doctors.  Which is more dangerous?  I never should have been prescribed Wellbutrin being that I had a previous attempt.  Why didn't any of my psychiatrists know this - or did they and didn't find it an issue?  

And after the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newton I haven't heard much talk about mental illness.  Everyone is focused on gun reform but not on what truly led to this happening.  No one is having heated debates about how to approach mental health and the implications of medications, non- and under treatment, and the shadow of stigma that shrouds it entirely.  How many know that the shooter was on an anti psychotic known for causing violent behavior in patients that took the drug?  This article does a good job in discussing this very important aspect to the situation:
My experience I'm sure is not a rare one.  I choose to share mine to open up people's eyes to what really happens when it comes to mental health, the prescribing of medications, and the treatment of mental health patients.  Living with one or more mental illness disorders is hard enough.  Having to be subjected to judgement and pure ignorance makes it virtually impossible.  I hope to change that one day.  Right now, I hope my story at least starts the conversation.

I am interested in hearing if anyone had similar experiences with taking antidepressants or any other medications used to treat mental illness disorders.  Please leave a comment below.  They can be left anonymously so your privacy and dignity will remain protected.

God Bless


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