Drugs? Thank You, I’ll Pass

Frank Broadhurst
21
1502

As somebody who has experienced psychosis first-hand in recent years, I have no doubt that cannabis had a large part to play. I cannot prove it, of course, and trying to talk to Mary-Janists about it is quite difficult, as I was diagnosed with “Manic Depression” in my teens. Cannabis worshipers will insist that my “predisposition” to mental illness is the primary cause of my recent psychotic experiences.

I am trying to unravel the sequence of events that led to me being locked in a shabby, overcrowded, ill-staffed National Health Service psychiatric ward in late 2016/early 2017. It is very difficult, but one must start at the beginning:

Once upon a time, I was a quiet child, who excelled in sports and could string together good sentences every now and again. I received a certificate at the end of my first year in a boys’ secondary school in east Hertfordshire, given by my departing English teacher, who was called Ms. Prole. It was certified that I was “Most Daydreaming Pupil.”

I was a child who lived inside his imagination, thought deeply about things. I had a fair number of friends, most of them being at least two years older than I. We would break into old bomb shelters, explore hard, found a small wood that contained concrete bunkers, and convinced ourselves we had discovered secret, disused American airbases. I would go on long bike rides, often finding great secluded bodies of water that contained hard-to-catch fish. I played for a local bottom-of-the-league football (soccer) team on often flooded fields that used to be paddocks.

Then something changed. My granddad died when I was 12. Losing a wonderfully wise man whose wisdom I took for granted—well, it hit me really hard. My thoughts seemed to be constantly focused on death. Over the course of the next year or so, my behaviour changed drastically. I became extremely undisciplined, argumentative. I got suspended from school on several occasions. With the help of an Educational Officer, psychiatrists and psychologists took an interest in me. After I had a few sessions with various medical professionals, my parents were informed with confidence that I had a condition called Manic Depression, and that it was caused by a chemical imbalance/deficiency of a salt in my brain. After being sure that my heart, kidney, and liver were free from defects, they prescribed me lithium carbonate.

I took the medication most days between the ages of 14 and 18.

At first, my behaviour did not improve, and it was decided that I should spend time in an adolescent unit of the psychiatric wing of a hospital near St. Albans. It was a very strange place; most of the resident children there were unwanted orphans, I seem to remember. A lot of the nurses were very heavy-handed in their restraint techniques, and doctors loved nothing more than to sedate those of us not willing to take part in various group activities. The heavy-handed ways, the use of an exclusion room, and the sedation syrup, for even the smallest of infractions: It makes me question the ethics and morals of some of the staff, but nothing I was privy to was against the law as far as I can tell. There were some stories in the news recently about the police investigating historic abuse allegations. I can’t testify to being abused, but it certainly wasn’t the holiday camp that the staff tried to portray to my parents. Maybe the memories of that place would have been a lot worse without a father and mother looking out for me.

After a couple of months, I was back to school. I was the shadow of my former daydreaming self, true, but I no longer displayed as much unruly behaviour. I had lost virtually all my friends, and I was increasingly paranoid, increasingly withdrawn. I was already behind in my schoolwork, and I wasn’t able to catch up. By the time I was 15, I had the choice of resitting the year or joining another school out of the area 18 miles away, to be in a fourth year where nobody knew me. So I opted to leave a pretty decent, boys-only comp with a Christian ethos to go to a mixed comp that used to be a grammar school but which had become a third-rate egalitarian mess.

It is safe to say that I did not respond well to the lowering of educational standards. By the final term of my second attempt at being a fourth-year pupil, I was asked to leave. I left the school at the age of 16 without the experience of the fifth year. Then I went to the regional college for two years and completed a couple of National Vocational Qualification modules in I.T. But I spent most of my college time in the library or playing basketball in the gym.

The point here is that I am not convinced I was mentally ill. Maybe I was, but I do not think that medication/psychiatric treatment helped me. The major thing that helped me become a less self-destructive force was time. I think the death of a close family member had really haunted my mind, and I did not know how to deal with it. My childish poetry turned dark and very cryptic then; unfortunately, the caring adults in my life who were interpreting my private words without my permission were totally off the mark in concluding that my literary expression was a sign of my being suicidal. I was certainly crying out for help, but my words were actually full of fear about death—not a single syllable expressed a desire to die.

I wasn’t sleeping much, and prolonged lack of sleep can affect behaviour a lot. I stopped playing football, I stopped going on adventures, I stopped daydreaming. Lack of exercise can cause serious problems, especially in a child who was once very active. Add puberty to the mix, and…

I do not think lithium was the answer to whatever was happening to me. And how did the medication affect the development of my fragile brain? I guess that question is impossible for me ever to answer.

I was lucky to have a good family GP who was close to retirement, a doctor from an older generation who was in agreement with me when I told him that I would be better off without medication. As soon as I was 18, he helped me gradually decrease my doses until I was on the medication no more.

By this point, I lacked a lot of confidence but had no problem finding work (with the occasional kick up the backside from my father). After running into a few dead ends, I eventually became a cellarman/barman in an unusually well-run small pub that was slightly off the beaten track. In my mid-20s, I moved to Manchester with my licensee certificate in hand, but instead of running a pub, I ended up working in a mind-numbing call centre on behalf of a royal Scottish bank. By the age of 30, I was a homeowner. On paper, things seemed good. I even heard from a reliable source that my parents were proud of me.

I was unhappy, though. The relationship with my supposed future wife was on the rocks. I was tired of being a battery chicken trying to get people into debt. I was drinking too much. I had put on a lot of weight. I think I might have been slightly depressed.

Then, one evening, there was a TV show on presented by Stephen Fry about living with “Bipolar Disorder” (The new name for Manic Depression). I think it was on at about the same time that the Disability Discrimination Act came into force. I’d been struggling with timekeeping and discipline at work. Home life was not happy. I was a little drunk and somehow became convinced it was a good idea to talk about my “mental health history” with my partner and to my manager at work. Things went downhill very quickly from there. I went to a doctor, got referred to a psychiatrist. After a 30-minute consultation, it was decided that I had a mild version of Bipolar Disorder known as “Bipolar II.” And lithium carbonate was being prescribed to me once again. It didn’t agree with me, and I abruptly stopped taking it. Bad idea.

I was a mess. The memories of that time are particularly foggy. I became more withdrawn, significantly less communicative. It caused me to be off work for several months. I was often described as lazy, and I had the tendency to be snappy, overly aggressive over the smallest of things whilst appearing to be indifferent to naturally stressful situations.  After about two years I had split with my partner, taken my name off the mortgage agreement. I struggled to stay in a regular job because of my erratic, self-destructive behaviour. I was on benefits for a couple of years.

Eventually, I got a job as an assistant manager— in a betting shop, of all places. It was an interesting few years, but working for a morally challenged employer can eventually take its toll on one’s spirit.

This is when I “gave up.” I would get a sick note from my local medical centre once a month claiming I was depressed, etc. I started claiming Employment Support Allowance and Housing Benefit for my “disability.” It was more than enough to exist on as part of a house share in a diverse student area in south-central Manchester. At some point, a cannabis smoker moved into the house I was barely existing in. It didn’t become long before an occasional toke turned into a regular habit. It took a year or so, but I eventually became undoubtedly mentally ill. I was not self-medicating, mind you; I smoked weed because I enjoyed smoking it. I loved getting “high.”

My behaviour gradually started changing for the worse over the course of about half a year of this. I went to doctors complaining of anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, etc. I told them about my cannabis habit, too. The young, funky doctor referred me to a young, hip psychiatrist, who after five minutes of questions decided that quetiapine (U.S. brand name Seroquel) might be the answer to my woes. I wasn’t getting any better, though, and I gradually stopped taking the medication. Instead, I started smoking cannabis again.

I was under the influence of what I’ll call acute mania not long after reading “The Cameron Delusion.” I am fortunate that was the last book I read before I became, once again, undeniably mentally ill.

For several weeks from the beginning of November 2016, I’d been displaying increasingly strange behaviour—in public, but mainly at home. At the height of my illness, it felt like I was inside a vivid daydream, like I was fast asleep and wide awake at the same time. I was aware I was ill, though, so I sought help again. It was eventually decided that I should be “sectioned” but I disagreed, so a bunch of health workers accompanied by police officers came to my front door. One policeman with impeccable customer-service skills informed me I would have to be restrained with cuffs for my own safety, and I was thus escorted into the back of a police van. The police chauffeured me to hospital, where I became a reluctant resident/client in a locked ward for about six or seven weeks.

There I was forced to take a cocktail of four mind-altering drugs on a daily basis. A psychiatrist would see me for about five minutes once a week. I was told after the sixth or seventh short consultation that I could be released under the condition that I carried on taking the drugs. A social worker visited me on two occasions in the two months after my release from hospital to ensure it.

Assured I was taking the medication, the visits stopped. I didn’t mention to the social worker that I was gradually lowering the doses I was taking. The medications I’d been prescribed when leaving hospital in 2017 were called diazepam, valproate, and olanzapine; I do not recall the doses. Reading the lists of possible side effects on the information leaflets did not fill me with optimism!  I was worried how the drugs could interact with each other, too, and I was not made aware of the possible side effects of the combination of the drugs, which made me all the more determined to not take them.

Within days of the social worker’s last visit, I had weaned myself of the medication completely. It took several months, but eventually I got a job. And I have been well, in full-time employment for about about 30 months now, or two-and-a-half years (whichever sounds most impressive). I don’t use cannabis anymore either, of course.

And I haven’t knowingly talked to a doctor since my time in hospital. Mind-altering drugs just do not agree with me.  If I ever lose my mind again, I hope that psychiatrists in charge of my care will grant me but one wish. By all means, encourage me to have a mild sedative or two if I am finding it difficult to sleep over a prolonged period of time, but please do not force me to take drugs that fill me full of fear.

 

***

Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Thrilled you made it through. Salt imbalance? Thats a good one. Terrific for putting your name to this.

    Just down the road from you, my lad hit the skids a couple of years back and was out of school, drugged to the gills for a chemical imbalance before saying there must be a better way. Thankfully there was.

    If I have one wish it is that no family member of mine falls under a psychiatrist. If I get dementia , just humour me and talk to me but don’t give me whopping antihistamines, which is all seroquel is.

    All the best to you!

  2. So you had Pot ential for damage to reputation or meaningful relationships?

    I’d pass on the drugs too Frank, but my State has authorised the ‘spiking’ of citizens in circumstances which they will not put forward, but will conceal using fraud and slander. So your ability to say No to drugs is limited because people who drive a bus have the right to ‘spike’ you if you disagree with them as a result of the need to have you assessed and see if you have a mental illness. And the ‘spiking’ can then be used as evidence you have a mental illness and more drugs can be prescribed to deal with that now exposed illness.

    This allows public officers to subject citizens to interrogations whilst they are intoxicated, and then later slander them as being paranoid should they complain about it. Documented proof of the facts will be retrieved by police and the target goes from being a victim of a known method of torture to a paranoid delusional who may be considered dangerous. I must admit it was clever to plant a knife on me after I collapsed for police to find which has resulted in me having what police call “history’ meaning I now get searched anytime I wish to speak to a police officer. It all adds to the theatre of the slanderous conduct, despite me doing nothing more than disagreeing with someone. From father and husband to dangerous mental patient as a result of one filthy slanderer, a Community Nurse who is prepared to sign statutory declarations he knows are false..

    It is however good to know that police and mental health workers have found a method to torture and kidnap citizens, because they must have a Hell of a time doing their job without these tools. I mean the reason they had to arraneg to ‘spike’ me and have police jump me with weapons ready was precisely because their reputation preceeded them and I wouldn’t under any circumstances speak to filthy verballers. Your likely to end up being charged and convicted of any unresolved matters on police books around here. Ask Andrew Mallard, Lloyd Rayney, Scott Austic ……..all victims of police ‘planting’ evidence (two of them doing more than ten years in prison as a result of this conduct being encouraged by our government, this “noble corruption”).

    Combine this with the ability to deny the victim access to legal representation and a Minister giving the green light for the conduct and you’d be surprised how well this place actually works. Most of the public blissfully unaware of the psychiatric torture program running right under their noses.

    Anyway, i’m with you one the drugs thing, i’ll pass too. If only a citizen in my State had the right to bodily integrity and couldn’t be ‘spiked’ with intoxicating drugs without their knowldge I might be able to uphold that right. Maybe even if I could get access to a lawyer who could overlook the torture and kidnapping I was subjected to while I got my share of the property back so I could get out of this place that allows such vile conduct. But, unfortunately what they do is put you in an untenable situation and actively encourage you to kill yourself, and deny thats what they’re doing, calling that type of thinking ‘delusional’. It’s clever, because we humans can’t actually see what’s in their hearts. And like the retrieval of the documented proof of the ‘spiking’ they can then claim “you can’t prove it”, despite all parties knowing the truth. Positively poisonous, and we’re paying taxes for this conduct.

    I do however wish you luck, though would give you warning that you are now ‘flagged’ forever. And don’t be surprised if this ‘history’ comes back to haunt you should you ever find yourself disagrreing with someone about a course of action. Your inablitity to see the world according to their interpretation of events is obviously a return of your ‘illness’.

    I think about when the systenm works, and when it doesn’t. Obviously it’s a difficult task for these mental health professionals. And given that situation our Minister has enabled them to conduct themselves like night club rapists and then conceal their conduct with fraud and slander of their victims. It does explain the increasing number of deaths from suicide, but won’t be noticed by the public for some time. We’re only just counting the victims of the child raping priests from the 1960s here, so these rampant abuses occuring in our ‘hospitals’ have some time to run yet. Best those of us ‘in the know’ do what we can to keep people away from the abusers until our respective governments do something to actually protect the community, other than ignore the legal protections already put in place by people wise enough to recognise that these abuses could occur.

    I had a psychiatrist who I explained what was done to me say “They wouldn’t do that”. Of course if I didn’t have the documented proof of what I’m saying, that would be a valid defence. All they have now that I have proved it is negligence (obstruct and pervert the course of justice), to maintain the fraud (see the documents provided to the Mental Health Law Centre that were “edited”. And consider that they were to be provided unredacted as a protection of my [and others] human rights), and continue with the slander (he has a history of mental illness and of carrying weapons. All manufactured to maintain a false narrative, and create the appearance of lawfullness regarding the torture and kidnapping of a citizen). Good news is there are others watching who know what has been done, and we wait.

  3. Well, I have to point out that cannabis isn’t a single standardized product like a Pepsi or a prescription drug. I’m an unapologetic pothead, but I won’t go near most of what’s available in dispensaries. The higher THC products are especially dangerous for inducing paranoia and severe depression and I don’t understand why this isn’t better understood. Most of what you can get isn’t anything like our parent’s hippie pot. Cannabis with specific properties especially useful for sleep, pain and PTS symptoms but only at very low doses, high CBD (10% and up is great), very low THC (less than 5%).

    This isn’t in response to the original poster. Don’t want to do drugs, that’s your business. But I bristle when cannabis is described as if it’s a standardized product rather than many different plants with a range of effects depending on it’s chemical constituents.

    • It isn’t generally understood that you can (to a degree) find out in advance if you’re likely to have bad reactions to cannabis and/or the hallucinogens. The old Hoffer/Osmond Diagnostic helps in this respect. Being a quantitative test, you can almost find out by weighing your “true” answers without examining what they are (it was used in Saskatchewan as a screening method for LSD therapy until the DEA got uppity and forced the province to quit therapeutic use of LSD, which was a standard treatment for alcoholism there).

  4. As to the actual content of this story:

    a) “Psychosis” is a fallacious concept, though I have no doubt that you have experienced what some refer to as “extreme states.”

    b) Lithium fucks up your thyroid and kidneys and kills you (as our recently-departed anti-psychiatry comrade Julie Greene would attest to if she could). The process of being poisoned no doubt has emotional and “consciousness-altering” ramifications as well.

    Also — and I’ve been having this “debate” elsewhere — I have issues with even referring to cannabis as a “drug.” I remember the chant from smoke-ins in the 80’s: “Pot is an herb, Reagan is a dope!” So it’s a matter of definition. In any case, if something doesn’t agree with you don’t do it. We are all in different realities, even if they have points of intersection.

  5. I would have to agree since it’s been mentioned that some designer pot (which I wonder whether could even grow in the wild) can lead to some uncomfortable states of anxiety, etc. Definitely raises your pulse for a little while, etc. I think eventually people get accommodated to this too, or compensate by ingesting less (for example). But no argument that there are very drowsy and very peppy strains.

  6. Hi frank and thanks for your writing.

    I’m glad to see that you are being skeptical and not accepting what is being crammed down people’s throats.

    Don’t mistake issues for “mental illness”. Don’t even mistake big issues for such nonsense.
    It is quite inviting to get simple answers to big problems.
    Always question simple answers to complex things.
    “mental illness” is the most simplistic answer. Just because there is not an answer today, does not mean
    we should grasp onto what happens to hang around.
    I’m surprised people still hold onto that shit that was ushered in when people thought they became enlightened lol.
    You know, there were always the enlightened and insightful who knew the depths of man’s troubles. Psychiatry believes they found the “problem” and are now looking for it in genetics.

    But they are a bit scared to dabble in that area, so are wondering how to go about it all, without it affecting them. Psychiatry can always change it’s “mind”.

    The one area psychiatry never talks about, is how come they take away your rights altogether. and it is them who do it. When was the last time a shrink went to court to free his own client?
    He pretends it’s “stigma”, yet psychiatry is the only one that can get rid of the discrimination in court by saying your faculties are intact.

    We are never talking about illness, rather differentiating between normal and abnormal.
    And there is no such thing. It is power vs non power.

  7. Frank, I’m not sure what OTC drugs are available in Britain. Over here it varies from state to state. But I’ve used adult cough syrup for one or two nights to break an insomnia cycle.

    There are a number of sleeping pills here I could buy at Walmart. I try to avoid shrinks. If I see someone I know works for mental health I’ll do all I can to stay out of their way. They’re a danger to my health, my freedom, and my life itself.

LEAVE A REPLY