An ENT consultant at Warwick Hospital, after a short 10-minute consultation during which he ruled out sinus pain, prescribed me Dosulepin (25mg, once a night) for “myofascial pain”. I put this in inverted commas because, at the time, I didn’t know what it meant – there was no explanation and it was a “take this prescription and go away” kind of consultation.
I had no idea when I collected the prescription that it was a therapeutic dose of an anti-depressant. I had no idea that it had been prescribed to help relax my neck muscles. And I had no idea of the effect that taking it would have on my life.
I was given enough drugs for six weeks. My next consultation did not come until two months later. Almost as soon as I stopped taking the drug, I started to feel emotional, irrational and just not myself. I started to cry uncontrollably at very inconvenient moments. For four days, I barely stopped crying at all. There was one night during which I had suicidal thoughts. I would wake up every half an hour or so thinking that I just didn’t want to be here anymore. I even thought about how I would ‘stop’ being here.
Fortunately, before I reached this point, I had referred to my only source of helpful information – the internet – and discovered that what was happening to me wasn’t just me, it was the effects of withdrawal from Dosulepin. I had read about how people had been driven to suicide by a sudden withdrawal, about how taking an anti-depressant can – for some people – cause depressive thoughts.
I was able to tell myself that my thoughts weren’t my own, that they were simply a chemical reaction to a drug. I was able to remind myself that it would pass. I was able to focus my thoughts on thinking about the people who love me. I thought about the little faces that l love and that look up to me and I focused on how I would never want to let them down.
I didn’t feel myself again for weeks. I still feel sad now, when I think about it.
I AM ANGRY. I am angry that this was allowed to happen to me without having been warned. It was only because I had had the presence of mind to go online after my second day of crying and read about the possibility of depressive and suicidal thoughts that I was able to truly recognise that those thoughts were not my own.
I am scared of what might have been going through my mind had I not done this. I am scared for the person who goes through this same experience having not informed themselves.
And I am amazed. I am amazed at the lack of information that is dealt out along with the prescription. Had I been told what I was being asked to take, had I been made aware of the possible side-effects, had I been given any clue… I would have been better prepared for what was to come.
Why was this consultant so complacent about handing me a potentially life-changing drug? Was it my responsibility to ask the right questions? Something failed here. Who failed? Do I have a right to expect to be informed? Or am I supposed to trust in this numbers game? This drug must have had a positive effect for a lot of patients in order for him to think it would suit me, too? Was I just unlucky?
I don’t really know what the forum is for me, as a patient, to really explain my experience or express my anger in an appropriate way. I don’t feel that, if I were to go back to this consultant and explain what happened to me, that it would really be heard. I feel – at least, with the doctors I’ve seen so far – that there is an arrogance towards patients, that I am not supposed to question their judgment. It feels like a one-way conversation.