I have been on antipsychotic medications for years.
Gradually the side effects took over.
They got out of hand,
a major concern.
I couldn’t even walk properly.
I could bear anything
except not daring to hold my grandson
in fear of him falling down, being hurt.
No! Something had to be done.
My ex-GP was not helping,
so I took things into my own hands.
Without letting anybody know
I had a plan,
I would reduce the medication bit by bit
until I could stop taking it.
When I received good results,
I would gain credibility.
I had this all planned out.
I kept a journal
documenting my mood
and my physical wellbeing
for the psychiatrist’s viewing.
After a month without medication,
I began to gain back balance.
I didn’t have reflux.
I could focus.
My memory improved.
Everything pointed to a good beginning.
This plan included
getting help from my ex-psychiatrist,
someone who had helped me greatly
in my recovery.
The plan matured.
I tried to contact my ex-psychiatrist.
Some days passed
with no reply.
Full of confidence.
That night, at my daughter’s place,
we were happily gathered,
Then I put a stop to all the joviality
by exposing my secret.
my husband, my daughter, my son-in-law,
came out from every mouth.
The Pandora’s box was opened.
Harsh words, accusations, pointing fingers
It was one of the worst times I have ever experienced.
To stop them from worrying
I offered myself up for slaughter and
sought out the help of the crisis team.
I arranged to see the hospital’s psychiatrist.
I was still hopeful.
They are experts.
Surely they’ll understand.
I’m in good hands.
Finally, they gave me an appointment
after delaying twice.
I knew my file would be huge
because it had been more than 30 years
since I was diagnosed with schizophrenia,
only to be told later
it was bipolar disorder.
Surely the assigned psychiatrist
wouldn’t see the whole picture.
Very intelligently I wanted to fill in gaps.
I told them what achievements I have had.
I told them I haven’t had depression for years.
I told them how motivated I am.
All in all
I told them how I have recovered,
information I thought would help.
But they were terribly busy.
The backlog of patients has always been huge.
All they wanted
was for me to resume taking medication.
Then my file would be closed.
They could move to work on other patients.
After three consultations,
they thought it’s time to take action,
to force me back on to medication.
After rejecting them,
the psychiatrist applied to put me
under the Mental Health Act.
The cheeky psychiatric nurse
said stupid things,
asked me to wait in the room
for security guards.
I was calm and clear headed.
My question was,
‘Will I be taken to the hospital now?’
She said, ‘No, it’s just routine.’
A staff member came in.
I didn’t really know why.
To make sure I wouldn’t fly?
However, the staff member and I
held an interesting and intelligent conversation.
Finally, someone did come.
Not the security guard,
but a consultant and another two staff.
I was read my rights.
The consultant listened to my story,
also to my husband’s.
After more than an hour’s consultation,
he turned to my hubby and said
‘I have no grounds to put your wife under the Mental Health Act.
I have no grounds to enforce her to take medication.’
He also said to me, ‘I hope time will sort things out for you.’
I felt gratified.
It’s time that I need, and not meds.
After that the psychiatric nurses called
from time to time
to check on my sleep,
to check on my wellness.
I needed to see psychiatric nurses
and consultants every now and then.
I repeated my story
time and time again.
The story was consistent
because I wasn’t lying.
They were satisfied.
My hubby was with me
at each of these meetings.
To my dismay,
he was drowning
in the idea that as long as I was taking meds
I’d be okay.
Harsh words, harsh attitudes
came my way every day.
I know he loves me and he’s worried,
but love turned out to be my worst enemy.
My loved ones worried
because they love me.
But all they wanted
was for me to resume taking medication.
They disregard the horrific side effects I am facing.
I got angry.
I fought with them all and
stuck to my belief.
All this struggle
put pressure on me,
but I held on.
I was strong.
After I convinced the consultant
that I was OK
he told me if they discharged me,
I’d be under the care of my GP.
He even said
He’d arrange a meeting
for me to meet my ex-psychiatrist
since I trusted him so much.
I was greatly relieved and
thought I would be discharged soon.
How wrong was I!
after being torn apart
by my loved ones at home,
which I had hoped to be my sanctuary,
a place to recuperate,
I decided to move out,
at least for a while.
It was at an exhibition
held in my school, an NGO.
I tried so hard to find a place
to stay but didn’t succeed.
I offered to provide entertainment
by playing on the piano
to attract visitors.
I played, not from any composition,
just let my fingers go
and depending on my ears.
I didn’t know I had this talent
I can keep playing
for as long as I want to
with no ending
and starting on any key.
And I only passed grade three
in piano training.
What went wrong that day?
I thought I was discharged.
I was so happy.
I posted on Facebook.
What went terribly wrong?
My daughter sent messages out
telling everybody I was not OK.
With heightened emotions
When it was time for the school to close,
I lost control.
I didn’t want to go,
but I had nowhere to go.
I insisted that the psychiatrists
come and see
how a genius works.
My husband wanted to take me back to the hospital.
standing across the road.
It was raining.
I was screaming.
He was on the phone talking to whoever.
I didn’t care.
‘We can’t come as the protocol does not allow it.’
That’s the response
from the psychiatrists.
Finally, I said they had to get the police to take me.
Two policemen came.
One talked to me.
I told him my story.
They talked me into going with them.
They took me back to the police station.
What they put me through,
like searching my body
to make sure I did not hide anything
which I could use to harm me,
I was tired, agitated, provoked.
I waited for hours
before two teams of psychiatrists and nurses arrived.
I talked to the first team
who seemed kind.
I told them my story.
I told them
all I needed was a place to stay
for a couple of days
till I found a place,
because I did not want to go home,
which I considered a sick place.
They seemed sympathetic
and I was hopeful.
The second team came.
After talking to me,
they at once put me under the Mental Health Act.
I was taken to Waitakere Hospital.
When I got there,
they put me in a room.
I had a good night’s sleep,
woke up and gained back my senses,
but I had already jeopardised my plan.
During the stay in the hospital,
I fought with the psychiatrist
over medication, over his diagnosis.
With a cell phone,
I searched for information.
I checked the symptoms of bipolar disorder
in the DSM-V.
Armed with research and knowledge
I debated with him.
At each meeting
I asked him questions
which he wouldn’t or couldn’t answer.
All the more I believed that I was right.
In the hospital
I talked to patients.
Every time I was with a patient
a senior staff was nearby,
listening to our conversations.
Then he told me
I have the power of connecting with patients.
I was still not discharged,
to stop taking medication.
But I made a lot of friends,
staff and patients,
via poetry, music and art.
It was time for me to leave the hospital
as I had nothing more to do
to help the others,
and I was bored.
I succumbed to resuming medication
and left the hospital.
I became an outpatient.
The dosage was high.
All the side effects resumed,
and worse than before.
I was assigned
a new psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse.
I told them my worries about the side effects,
how bad my balance was,
the problems with my heart,
how my life would be shortened.
I was fighting for my life in actual fact.
They did not listen.
My psychiatrist refused to acknowledge
all these were side effects,
not just ailments of old age.
The psychiatric nurse told me I’m very intelligent,
but for God’s sake,
why then didn’t they listen to my plea?
In the meantime,
I researched and studied my case.
I studied Open Dialogue theory.
I studied about psychosocial strategies.
I studied mindfulness.
I studied Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
I pleaded my psychiatrist to reduce my meds
in a safe environment,
giving her my sound evidence.
She wouldn’t listen.
She wouldn’t even see me
or answer my letters.
The psychiatric nurse argued with me.
She told me mental illness could not be cured.
I had no other option
but to make complaints.
I complained about the irresponsible neurologist
who rejected my psychiatrist’s request
to give me an appointment
to test if it was Sodium Valproate
that was causing my loss of balance.
To which he wrote back
and refused my psychiatrist’s request.
I made a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner
about my psychiatrist,
giving sound evidence.
They took my case.
Finally, my psychiatrist decided to discharge me
from the Mental Health Act
and left it to me
whether I wanted to take meds.
That very night
I stopped all meds.
My GP told me to make an appointment to see him
in eight weeks.
I learned that it would take at least four weeks
for me to detox.
So, during those eight weeks
I kept a journal,
documenting my sleep, my mood, my physical wellbeing.
Before seeing my GP I emailed it to him,
so he could see
I don’t do things impulsively.
I do plan.
My blood tests after stopping the meds
had never been so good.
All my abnormalities became normal.
Even my uric acid level,
though my ex-GP had bet her life
<350>it was gout
and not Olanzapine
which heightened the uric acid level.
But, since stopping the medicine,
I experienced verbal abuse every day.
And from who else
but my husband
who loves me?
And all my loved ones agree with him.
Yes, they all love me,
but they refuse to walk with me
through my most difficult times.
They believe I am in good hands
under the care of experts.
They refused to read information
I sent them
to help them understand
Every day I was under pressure.
Not happy, I would not rest my mind.
But I learned important things
like being independent,
taking care of myself,
gaining back my confidence,
making good decisions.
When I was well enough,
I went back to Hong Kong
to visit my mother.
I could even take her on a cruise
all by myself.
My balance was good.
My memory was good.
My focus had never been better.
But I wasn’t welcomed by my family,
except my mother.
She loves me.
I love her dearly.
But I began to be honest with her
for the first time ever,
which angered her,
and she was disappointed in me.
However, she still loves me,
and I love her just the same.
But I was not happy.
I couldn’t sleep.
I couldn't eat.
I was losing weight.
I cried a lot.
I longed to come back to my hubby
so I could have a shoulder to cry on.
I was in a terrible state
both spiritually and physically.
I came back.
But on the way home from the airport
we started to argue heatedly.
I was determined to leave him,
but for the first time ever
he said sorry.
Yes, for the first time.
I once again forgave him.
I needed his love.
But I was still unhappy.
He was not much help.
Instead I felt pushed into misery.
I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep.
I lost seven to eight kilos.
Until one day I decided to leave him.
I ran away.
I felt relieved.
I was happy.
I thought now my love for him had died.
I was set free.
I planned to look after myself.
That night in a motel,
I had a short relapse.
I called an ambulance
which took me back to the hospital
where I spent roughly 50 days.
When I was discharged,
I gladly went back
to my husband’s embrace.
What happened during the 50 days
needs another tale.
What has changed?
My husband’s attitude.
He has become a loving husband,
and we argue much, much less.
I’m a much happier person, and so is he.
Despite the side effects
I take my meds.
My psychiatrist is happy.
My loved ones are happy.
Though my conviction
is different from my psychiatrist’s,
I listen to her.
it makes a difference to my world,
I choose love over anger,
which helps me bear the physical discomforts.
I am waiting patiently
for the day they are convinced
of my beliefs.
There are better ways
than just antipsychotic meds
to help patients recover,
and I intend to work on this.
I vowed at my book launch
that I’ll spend the rest of my life
to help the mentally ill and the depressed,
and this promise I will keep.
I am lucky to be loved.
For every recovery
there has to be support and love.
I have reconciled with my psychiatrist.
I trust that she is fulfilling her duties.
No matter what my belief
my life has become better and better
and I look forward to a bright and happy future.