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  • Writer's pictureClaire Freeman


Towards the end of the year, I started experiencing pain in my hip related to a fall in the shower. After a few weeks in hospital and word that I was ‘too hard’ to fix, I ditched my GP and went scrounging around for a new one; hopefully, someone who wouldn’t ‘chuck’ me in the ‘too hard’ basket. I eventually found a new GP and after a really good consultation, I was referred to another orthopaedic surgeon and was topped up with a new cocktail of pain relief drugs including liquid morphine (redheads feel the pain I’ve heard).

Included in my new menu was quetiapine, an anti-psychotic for my problem with sleeping. Although it’s been wonderful in helping me sleep, I started wondering about quetiapines other properties. I wondered whether the ‘anti-psychotic’ element of the drug would be a problem as I don’t have psychosis. So far, I’m not convinced it has affected my mental state but then how would I really know?

This all came about after some digging into the drugs I’ve been on. A few things have started me wondering about drugs and their side effects. Admittedly, I’m not a chemist so can only go on what is tagged as ‘potential side effects’ and a few offbeat academic articles, but it’s enough to stir me into questioning my behaviour this past decade.

To give you some context, I sustained a broken neck as a result of a car accident at the age of 17 that left me paralysed from the neck down. I admit that the first two years were difficult and I did have suicidal thoughts, but eventually, these thoughts dissipated and I went about creating a life I could be proud of and love. During this time, I limited my drug intake and although not a great sleeper, I got by.

Then life became difficult. I moved cities after getting a job, and a year or so later, experienced a catastrophic earthquake that rendered me ‘fractured’, both physically and emotionally. I began to experience night terrors regarding the car accident when I was 17. The old memories from the car crash started rolling into being trapped in a building, a classic case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

I was put on a cocktail of drugs including clonazepam and eventually, tramadol and a few other funded ’treats’ to help with pain and problems sleeping. I started sleeping, although combined with my hectic lifestyle and erratic decisions, for the next ten years, I would attempt suicide four times, ending up in hospital in a coma.

Afterwards, with no counselling or addressing the real issues, I’d be sent on my way, only to find myself succumbing to the dark thoughts and trying again.

I eventually decided I was ‘at risk’ of suicidal ideations and after neck surgery that forced me to give up my beloved career as a designer, I puddled around and finally created a ‘new life’. However, the thoughts didn’t completely disappear so I asked my GP if I should go on anti-depressants to help combat my desire to die; she put me on citalopram, and later, escitalopram.

Recently, I started perusing the ‘side effects’ list of the drugs I’d been on during the past decade. I noticed that all of them cautioned that a potential side effect was increased suicidal tendencies. What made me more alarmed was that together, a few of the drugs warned of extreme risk when combined with other drugs, drugs I was on, and had been on during my suicidal attempts. It said I would need to be ‘closely monitored by my health professional’. Excuse me?

After I cracked my hip recently, a few of the Doctors in the hospital picked up on my ‘toxic combination’ and I was slowly weaned off the tramadol. One down. Yet still, I’m on three drugs that primarily deal with mental health issues (all of which I had been put on to help me sleep) and a combination of hard-core pain drugs that also affect mood.

Here’s what got me thinking….

Who have I been this past decade? And why for nearly ten years after my ‘tragic’ car accident, was I not suicidal? Yet while on my cocktail of drugs, I’ve become an unstable person with intense mood swings and a trigger-happy brain that self-destructs at a moment’s notice?

I have since wondered why did my GP not know that there might be a possible connection regarding my behaviour and the drugs I was on? Even if the chances were ‘slim’ regarding a correlation of drugs igniting my erratic behaviour, surely the fact I had been admitted to hospital after attempting suicide, might there have been questions raised regarding the medications I was on?

The cynical side of me wonders whether the health professionals ‘assumed’ my depressive behaviour was an ‘inevitable outcome’ from my broken neck so never pursued other motivating factors. This cynicism is not entirely founded on brain-farts, after every attempt, I had been told ‘given my health condition’ it was little wonder I wanted to die.

I also found that asking health professionals had been met with ‘what would you know, you’re not a Dr..’ yet my life story has been a somewhat linear path of being ok, then not being ok when on drugs. Taking into account the environmental factors which I realise and acknowledge haven’t helped, how much have the drugs dictated my erratic behaviour?

Is having a ‘disability’ mean I am more vulnerable to assumptions regarding my quality of life? And does this impact how I’ve been treated during my ‘spells’ in hospital? Was I overlooked because of my disability? Lastly, is there any ‘medical’ truth to my suspicions regarding the psychological impact of drugs and how they interact with each other?

I certainly have a few unanswered questions. In the meantime, I will try to wean myself off my medications and try living a more holistic life, perhaps one day, I might even feel like the old me again, here’s hope. ing.

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