Olanzapine – A Recipe for Disaster

After my series of failed suicide attempts, I decided that medication was my last hope, and my medication of choice (regretfully – may I add) ended up being Olanzapine, better known by its brand name as Zyprexa.

My experience with Zyprexa was a disaster from the start. To begin with, I suffer from allergies to an array of different medications, I could be allergic to everything and anything, however, I will only find out if I am indeed allergic to a particular medicine once I begin taking it. I can also become allergic to a medicine that I have been completely fine with when taken previously, for absolutely no reason. This is where the disaster first began.

Within the first two days of taking only 5mg of Zyprexa, I was sent flying into a manic episode from the depths of depression, this part was indeed great whilst it lasted, and I am thankful that it did occur as it is the sole reason I emerged from my episode of depression.

By day three or four, I began experiencing severe and rare side effects, this included gastroenteritis, bradycardia, tingling and numbness in limbs, severe difficulty breathing, chest pain as well as a feeling of pressure on chest, tremors, blood pressure differentiating between too high and too low, and feeling extremely faint / drowsy.

Both my girlfriend and father noticed a change in my being immediately, and recognised how unwell I had become, seemingly in almost an instant. After explaining to them exactly what it was that I as experiencing, they thankfully decided that calling an ambulance was the best decision. By the time the ambulance did indeed arrive, my state had worsened further. Initially, one of the two paramedics attempted to put all of this down to ‘anxiety’, which instantly caused a rift between us, as that obviously was not the case. The other paramedic was completely understanding, and knew there was more to this than simply putting it down to anxiety.

Throughout the ambulance journey, my state continued to worsen. By this point my heart beat was incredibly low, dropping below 50bpm, and sometimes lower. The paramedic who had attempted to put my symptoms down to anxiety and claimed that I did not need to go to hospital, rather that I needed to see my GP, decided that this was because I must have been incredibly fit and healthy, rather than in severe danger due to the side effects of the medication.

When I had eventually reached A&E, I was in an horrendous condition. My girlfriend continuously asked when I was going to be seen, and they kept claiming that I was next. However, I ended up having to wait over four or five hours as they decided that as I had been brought into A&E by paramedics, that meant that I had also been treated, which I clearly had not. Shortly after this occurrence, I was finally seen by a doctor who realised that I was in far from a healthy condition. I was given fluids due to severe dehydration, and multiple other medications through two catheters in my arm. As one of the medications they had decided to give me was being administered, the doctor who had initially treated me frantically ran back into the room in order to stop the administration of the medication as it would have interacted with Zyprexa and caused severe issues with my CNS (central nervous system). Which obviously could have been very dangerous, and thankfully only 1ml of the said medication had been administered.

In the evening I was transferred to a ward to stay overnight. I had been visited by multiple doctors from all over the hospital as this was a very rare reaction that does not usually occur with Zyprexa, and they seemed fascinated by it, which I was rather unimpressed with. Those I was most grateful for was the nurses, they had treated me wonderfully throughout my stay, and ensured that I was as comfortable as possible at all times.

I never wish to experience anything like this again, and hopefully will never have to.

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World Bipolar Day

Each and every year today (30th March) is marked by World Bipolar Day, a day dedicated to the awareness and reduction of stigma of bipolar disorder. World Bipolar day is the initiative of three organisations, those being the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD). This day is appropriately shared with the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was likely to have suffered from bipolar disorder amongst other disorders and illnesses.
Bipolar Disorder (previously known as manic depression) is a condition characterised by cycling through periods of very low (depression), and very high (mania) moods which can last from weeks to months or even possibly years.

Sometimes an individual with bipolar disorder may go through times where their mood is a combination of both depression and mania, this is known as a mixed episode, and is as equally distressing as episodes of both depression and mania. An individual with bipolar disorder may also experience what is known as rapid cycling, this is when a persons mood will fluctuate from depression to mania within hours or days.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, however, it can be managed so that those who suffer from the disorder can lead a relatively normal life; though that does not mean that it ends the suffering and pain caused by the disorder, rather treatment can make the symptoms become more manageable and easier to cope with. Treatment for bipolar disorder is typically a combination of both medication and therapy. The types of medication and therapy used varies as the management of bipolar disorder will be different for each and every individual. Although rare, some individuals may find that they are treatment resistant meaning that medication will not benefit them in any way, though therapy may still be an option.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), bipolar disorder is the 6th leading cause of disability across the globe, as well as being identified as one of the top causes of loss of years of life and health in those 15 – 44 years old. It is estimated that 2% – 7% of the population of the US suffer from the disorder, and almost 10 million people will develop the disorder sometime during their lives, yet half of them will never receive the correct diagnoses or treatment. Within the UK, approximately 723,248 people suffer from bipolar disorder, which equals to 1% – 2% of the population. On average it takes 10 years to receive the correct diagnoses, with an average of being misdiagnosed 3.5 times before receiving the correct diagnoses.
Bipolar Disorder Facts:

There is more than one type of bipolar disorder, these include:

– bipolar type I: considered the classic type of bipolar, the individual will experience periods of both mania and depression of varying lengths

– bipolar type II: the individual will experience episodes of hypomania (a less severe form of mania) as well as depressive episodes equal to that of bipolar type I

– cylcothymia: a chronic but less severe form of bipolar disorder, which is characterised by experiencing episodes of depression and hypomania that lasts for at least two years

rapid-cycling: in order to be diagnosed with rapid-cycling, the individual must experience four or more episodes of depression, mania or both within the same year

bipolar with psychotic features: the individual will experience psychosis during episodes of mania, depression, and a combination of the two

– Bipolar disorder is an episodic illness, meaning that there are typically periods of stability and normal mood in the individual, however, this varies greatly from person to person

– The types of episodes found in bipolar disorder include:

– depression: a period of extremely low mood

– mania: a period of having an extremely elated mood

– mixed episodes: a combination of both mania and depression

– hypomania: a less severe form of mania

– When an individual is experiencing a severe episode of depression or mania, they may also experience psychotic symptoms

– The median onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years old, although the onset can occur as early as childhood or at any given age

– The disorder increases the risk of suicide by 20 times

– Bipolar disorder can and will effect every aspect of an individuals life

– Bipolar disorder does not discriminate, it effects men and women equally, as well as those of all races, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic class
In comparison to other health conditions, those who suffer from bipolar disorder, or any other form of mental illness, are far more likely to face stigma. Stigma may present itself in many forms, some more subtle than others, however, it all contributes to the negativity surrounding mental illness. In turn, this negativity causes people to become far less likely to talk about their problems or to try and find help. Over the years, stigma has and still continues to cause vast amounts of damage to those suffering from mental illness, it is time to bring an end to this.

Firstly, begin with yourself. Educate yourself, followed by those around you, show support to those suffering from bipolar disorder or any other form of mental illness. Learn to respond to what you do not understand with kindness rather than ignorance and fear. We all have a choice in this, therefore use your own power to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. If each and every person did this, stigma would no longer be a problem.

I stand with those who suffer from mental illness, I will forever continue to raise awareness and give my support to those who need it. I am one of you, and I will never be ashamed of that.

Autumn Days and Winter Sunsets

Although I went through some of my darkest days throughout the passing autumn and winter, nature continuously reminded me that there is and always will be beauty and serenity within this world.

As much as I do not partake in my hobby of photography as I would like to, I did manage to take multiple photographs of nature throughout the months of autumn and winter, which is one of the small things that allowed me to push through the episodes of depression and psychosis that I was experiencing.

Interacting and being around people is something that I struggle with greatly, which results in long periods of isolation where I will rarely leave my flat, if at all. However, when I am solely amongst nature, there are times when I can feel nothing but tranquillity. Of course, there are times where paranoia and hallucinations take over, but those moments of tranquillity are what I live and strive for.

The Dark Side of Mania

One of the most common misconceptions about mania, is the fact that many believe it is solely a euphoric and extremely happy state of mind in which your self-confidence flows as of that of a great river, and nothing could stand in your way. Although those feelings can and do occur, mania is not necessarily an enjoyable experience, and it certainly has its dark side.

With mania, everything can spiral out of control within the blink of an eye, the individual who is within the the state of mania may fail to recognise this at the time, although that is not always the case. The individual can and very well may be aware of the distress they are in and the damage they are causing, yet it still remains out of their control.
Mania can cause a range of symptoms which can cause a vast amount of distress to the individual, and those around them. This includes:

– irritability and agitation

– anger (to extreme lengths in some cases)

– racing thoughts

– impulsiveness

– recklessness

– a lack of attention / concentration

– grandiosity and a sense of invincibility

– psychosis (hallucinations, delusions, disorganised thinking etc – even in those who do not suffer from a psychotic illness)

– insomnia

This can cause an individual to say or do things that are completely out of character, such as making risky decisions and engaging in dangerous behaviour, being rude or aggressive, and spending money excessively or inappropriately. In a manic state, a person may lack social inhibitions to a significant degree and have an impaired sense of judgement, which is why doing the things previously stated can be extremely easy to do.

As mania also tends to cause a person to suffer from insomnia, this can create a vicious cycle where the insomnia makes the state of mania far more intense, and vice versa.

The crash is inevitable, and eventually it will come. It is most common to come to the realisation of exactly what you have done throughout your state of mania during this period. Which also adds more distress, frustration, guilt, and shame to fuel the crash, as well as the episodes of depression which tend to follow.

It is important to remember that mania affects each individual in very different ways, including the dark side of mania, therefore symptoms will present themselves differently in each individual and may not be easy to identify.

More often than not, it can be exceptionally difficult to talk to an individual in a manic state about their behaviour, as well as attempting to talk them out of bad decisions and dangerous situations. Due to the effects of mania, they may see no problems with their behaviour, especially if they are experiencing states and thoughts of grandiosity. However, this does not mean that you should not be there to support them in every way that you can, although it may be immensely difficult, you may be able to help keep them from harm as well as break through and talk some sense into them.

Depression, Psychosis, and Suicide

As you can tell from my previous article, I have been far from well during these past few months. I began entering a depressive episode towards the end of July, which continued to increase in intensity for the past seven months. This lead to some rather dangerous situations, relapses, and a lot of pain; both physically and mentally.

Although I will do my best to describe the events that occurred, I cannot remember all too much as I have suffered from memory loss for a multitude of reasons, mainly due to substance abuse, dissociation, and dissociative amnesia. Therefore it is important to bear in mind that this is not a detailed description of everything that these past few months have entailed, rather a summarisation of the effects of depression and psychosis and the damage it has, and can cause.

The following excerpts are from my personal journals, which detailed my first hand experiences as they occurred. Although these are extremely personal pieces of writing, I want to share them with you to give you a first hand view of what it is actually like to suffer with illnesses such as schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar, and depression.

– I want to crack open my skull and watch everything pour out as I drift into an eternal cosmic sleep.

13:46 21/11/2016

– All it takes is a couple of seconds to relapse and a whole years worth of work has been thrown out of the window, well done. So now that I am back to where I started, I don’t think that anything ever changed in the first place.

18:01 29/11/2016

– There is something very, very wrong with me and it is not mental illness. This goes far beyond that, this time I cannot be helped.

I feel as if my head is about to explode and that my heart will crash to the floor. I found that as I tried to speak I watched everything pour out until I was left drowning within the depths of my own thoughts.

01:23 02/12/2016

– What am I? There is not one part of me that feels human, all I can see between myself and humanity is difference.

I am not like the rest of you, I never have been; I can feel it crawling through my veins. I do not believe that I can die, physically I can, but my consciousness continues as it always has. I feel as if I have lived a thousand lives and that I will live a thousand more.

There is no end to my torturous existence, in physical death I can only rest, there is no peace.

22:16 06/12/2016

As you can probably tell from the above excerpts, I was very delusional and in an extremely dark place, which tends to exaggerate my psychotic symptoms significantly. During this period I had genuinely lost my mind and the very essence of my being, my perspective had become extremely distorted. I was experiencing an array of hallucinations, those mainly being somatic, auditory, and visual hallucinations; though I found the somatic hallucinations to be the most distressing, and unfortunately, they still are.

My drug use had reached an all time high, which was the last thing I needed at the time, and definitely contributed to the decline in my mental health. I also relapsed with self harm after almost one year of being clean, which was the worst relapse I have ever experienced.

The depressive and psychotic episode I was experiencing reached a climax after months of suicidal thoughts soon became suicidal ideation and behaviour. What was once a thought soon became an action, and my life was on the line. It had reached the point where my suicide attempts were not planned, but spontaneous actions on the days that they occurred, thankfully I came out from them all relatively unscathed.

Since this period in my life, my drug use and self harming behaviours have ceased entirely, and I am doing far better now. I hope to continue down this path of recovery, and aid those who are struggling with their own recovery along the way. Helping you, is helping me; and vice versa.

Returning from my 4 Month Hiatus

As many of you may or may not know, I am finally returning after my four month hiatus away from writing and being involved in the mental health community. My previous article, Disappearing for a While, details the reasons as to why I felt it was necessary to stop writing and begin focusing on myself.

I was in a very unhealthy state of mind and felt that I could not bring anything beneficial to the mental health community at that time, and rightfully so. I spiralled into a severe episode of depression, which caused many of my psychotic symptoms to flare up, though this went unnoticed to others. I can see now that I became very delusional, and that I was extremely far away from what most would call ‘reality’. This lead to more than one attempt on my life, as a result I began taking medication once again, though due to a severe reaction I ended up needing to be hospitalised in order to recover.

Though I have ceased taking medication as a result of what occurred, I am finally on an upswing again, and will be writing about all the events mentioned here in detail. This is merely a general overview of what has been going on in the past few months, and what is going to happen from this point onward.

Although I left on relatively bad terms, I believe that it was necessary and I am glad that I did so as I am back now better than ever. A lot has occurred in the past four months, which I will definitely be writing about in the forthcoming weeks. I will not be as active as I have been in the past with my writing, though I aim to update this blog weekly at a minimum.

I wish to use this blog as a tool for recovery and helping others once again, and now that I have become far more recovery orientated with a healthier mindset I believe that I will be able to do this. Returning to being involved with the mental health community is something that I am greatly looking forward to, and I hope those I have previously associated with have been well in my absence. You are the people who continue to inspire me to do what it is that I do, so for that, I thank you.

Disappearing for a While

Unfortunately, it’s a few months down the line and although I have done this before (Taking it Easy, Taking it Easy: Part II), I am going to have to do this again. I cannot write currently, and nor do I want to at this moment in time. I simply cannot take this any more.

Over the past few months I have been on a steady downhill slope, however over the past two weeks or so that downhill slope has progressed to being almost vertical, and I am falling into the depths of depression increasingly fast. Not only am I depressed, I have become paranoid and delusional with or without reason. I have absolutely no idea of what is going on any more, I can’t think, I can’t speak; it’s almost as if I am not really here any more.

As well as attempting to deal with and manage my illness, there are a number of external sources and issues causing me distress at this point in my life. These are things that I certainly will need to write about in time, but right now they are things that I need to process and deal with within the real world, and not online. I am beginning to find my involvement within the mental health community is now causing me problems, rather than providing me benefits. This is through no fault of the mental health community, but through my faults only.

I am hoping that my absence will not be for too long of a time, but I have no idea as to how long the duration of the break which I need is. I cannot help other people when I cannot help myself, I need time alone, away from the entire concepts of mental health and mental illness. I do not want to say or promote things that I do not currently believe; hope is non-existent, and I see no light.

I want to thank each and every member of the mental health community and my readers for everything that you have ever done for me, this is not goodbye forever, but it is for now.

Stigma within the Mental Health Community: Part II

I previously wrote an article about the ongoing stigma within the mental health community, and it pains me to have to do so once again, particularly as this time it is due to a very different matter. The first part of this unintended series detailed the ongoing stigma and negative behaviour between those who suffer from non-psychotic disorders, and those who do. Unfortunately, another issue I have stumbled across is that of the stigma and abuse occurring between those who take medication to treat their disorder and those who don’t.

Before I begin, it is important to take into consideration that similarly to my previous article on the matte of stigma within the mental health community, this is aimed at a select few people. The mental health community is a wonderful and supportive place filled with some of the best people that I have ever met, as written in a previous article of mine praising the mental health community. Yet there are still those who are letting our community down, promoting an incorrect and stigmatized perspective on mental illness.

I have personally witnessed those who take medication force the view that medication is your only effective option for treatment and that if you are mentally ill, you should be taking it. However, what truly angers me about this matter is that those who take medication are actually accusing others of not being mentally ill and completely dismissing their suffering due to the individuals choice to not take medication; I have personally experienced this. Those who take medication have avoided those who do not take medication, they are treated with great bias due to pure ignorance, and will be cast aside by those individuals.

I have found that the majority of those who choose not to take medication for whatever reason, will agree entirely with the use of medication for other individuals, and are more accepting of other individuals choice of treatment. Of course, there are some who are entirely against medication which I utterly disagree with, there are extremists within this community which solely believe and promote that mental illness can be treated or cured with homoeopathy, herbal remedies, or that their illness if in fact a spiritual awakening; whilst slating others for their choice of treatment. This is equally as absurd as those who take medication being abusive to those who don’t.

However, currently the more common occurrences of abuse do seem to be from the side of those who take medication, as they treat those who choose not to go down that route with disrespect, ignorance, abuse, and negligence; as if they do not matter or are not worthy of being in this community, which is completely untrue.

This needs to stop, we are given different treatment options for a reason, different treatments will work for different people. There are a multitude of reasons as to why people choose the treatment options that they do; medication resistance does exist, the side effects of the medication can at times be worse than the illness itself, some people cannot afford or have access to mental health services, let alone medication.

The whole point of this community is for it to be a place of support and safety, where we are not judged for our illnesses or life choices. This is the second article that I have had to write in order to address the ongoing stigma occurring within the mental health community and it is absolutely ridiculous. I am baffled as to what is going on within this community, it’s a place of support and care, not abuse and negligence; and if you are for the latter, you do not belong in this community, it is that simple.

A Schizoaffective Story Time: A Weird Experience

As all of the articles within the A Schizoaffective Story Time series are about events which have taken place a couple of years ago, I have decided to share the true story of an event that has taken place recently. This event occurred on Sunday 16th September 2016 during the early hours of the morning, 3:20am to be exact.

It all began with my relaxing as usual in the lounge of my apartment, there was not a single thing that was out of the norm, it was simply a typical night. I was alone at this point as my father was elsewhere within the apartment or its surroundings.

The apartment has large bay windows which overlooks the main road that runs into the town, as well as the river and marsh which is situated on the other side of the road; it is a spectacular view. I spend a rather large amount of time looking out of this window, observing the quiet of night; which was exactly what I was doing before the following event occurred.

One minute I was there, observing the world from the windows of my apartment, and the next I was not; everything was completely covered in darkness, there was not a thing to be seen. Although I couldn’t see, I felt as if I was wandering somewhere, not only could I sense motion, but I could also hear it. As I was wandering through the darkness, I could sense the openness and vast expanse of whatever it is I was in, which was when I began to feel as if I was walking through a Colosseum.

I began to hear the chanting of a male choir, who were repeating the words “Om, om, om, om, ne-Pierre”. I was completely oblivious as to what was going on at this point, and with a complete lack of control, I continued through the experience.

The darkness, motion, and all of the things which I could sense began to fade away. As I slowly came round, I felt a huge amount of pressure on the right hand side of my brain, followed by hearing incredibly loud and intense white noise / static also from the right hand side of my head. My entire body felt tense, and I continued to feel slight pressure and a weird feeling my head until I decided to go to sleep about twenty minutes later.

At first I believed this all to be down to a seizure, however, I have experienced seizures many times and they have never been anything like that. It would also be impossible for it to have been a seizure as when I came to consciousness, I was still sitting in the chair as I previously had been; only ten minutes or so had passed. This was a very weird experience in its entirety, I still can’t quite get my head around all of this, although it does retain similarity to both of The Murder Premonition (Part II)experiences.

I am finding this difficult to process, therefore it shall remain an unexplained event which resides in the deepest parts of my mind.

Stigma: What You Don’t Know

This article is for those without a mental illness, I aim to shed some light and clarity on exactly what it is that we experience as mentally ill individuals; and the problems which stem from stigma, misinformation, and all too common misconceptions about mental illness. Although this article is mainly intended for those without a mental illness, I would love to hear the opinions of others who suffer from a mental illness on this matter.

As individuals who do suffer from a mental illness, we hear the typical “everyone feels like that sometimes”, “we all feel like that”, “at least you’re not ______” all too often. It is the stigma, misinformation, and misconceptions that contribute to leading you to think that you know what it is like to suffer from a mental illness, which I can guarantee you don’t, whilst you downplay our illnesses as normal thoughts, feelings and experiences, which we are clearly overreacting to; we are simply lazy, unlikeable people in the eyes of the ignorant.

Here’s the thing: you do not feel what we feel, a mental illness is called a mental illness for that exact reason, it’s an illness. We are not experiencing normal human emotions, thoughts or experiences, otherwise we would not be diagnosed by medical professionals as mentally ill. Mental illness twists, modifies, and intensifies what would be normal human emotions, thoughts and experiences by a horrifically incredible amount. We do not perceive the world in the way that you do, a mental illness will affect every single aspect of your life, changing your life and the person you are entirely. However, you have to adapt to this, you have to adapt to living with a mental illness; we are given no choice. If you suffer from a psychotic disorder, not only are our thoughts and emotions being affected, our sensory perception will be affected to; leaving us to live our lives in a reality that you are not aware of.

I have found that the issue tends to be that people who do not suffer from a mental illness attempt to equate our experiences to their own, they relate our mental illnesses to the normal every day negative situations that they experience; you perceive and judge us through eyes of ignorance. Depression is not sadness, mania is not happiness, psychosis isn’t seeing something out of the corner of your eye; anxiety is not nervousness, our illnesses are not your emotions.

The following quote resonates strongly with me on this issue:

The humanity we share is more important than the mental illness that we don’t”

– Professor Elyn R. Saks

Individuals who suffer from mental illnesses should not be cast aside, declared lazy, be told that we are not trying hard enough, or that we are not ill at all; we need to be showed compassion, empathy, and care. We are all humans, our lives may be very different, we may be very different, but that does not make us inferior to those who do not suffer from a mental illness.

Until the day you wake up and know how it feels to have to fight and struggle with your mind every second of the day to simply survive, to feel the weight of the world cave in on your chest, desperately grasping to hold onto the things you know and love whilst your illness strips it all away from you, don’t you dare tell me you know how it feels.