After nearly five years, I am trying to come off seroxat for the fourth time. I plan to keep a diary of my efforts and to discuss a few issues relating to the greed and lies of GSK, the makers of the drug, the woeful ignorance of the real effects of this drug amongst the medical fraternity and hope to find out what help is available to the thousands of people who struggle to come off it.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Visit to the doctor

It was time for my precription to be reviewed last week so I made an appointment at the local surgery. There are two doctors I normally see: one when I want to discuss something and ask for advice, the other when I just want to get my prescription no questions asked. The former was on holiday, though, and the latter was off sick so I ended up with a locum. Most of the locums I've met are young and quite keen but they have a tendency to want to go through my history of depression. Now, depression is depressing, not something you'd necessary know from all the stuff about tortured geniuses on the TV. I have never experienced explosions of intense creativity while depressed, I've not dashed off a brilliant novel, or composed a great piece of music that tells us something Fundamental About Humanity, much less transformed the visual arts despite the presence of a large piece of cotton padding taped to what used to be my ear. (That said, I have been known to go on manic cleaning sprees when I'm feeling particularly fed up.)

No, my 'vanilla' experience of depression has been one of loneliness, boredom and fear. My worst two years of depression (ca 1999-2001, until I started on seroxat) are almost a complete haze. Depression is staying in on a Saturday night with the curtains drawn, being afraid to be alone but being more afraid of being with others, holding back, settling for second best, avoiding risks and worrying about everything. Being depressed is by far the most boring thing that has ever happened to me, as well as the most insidious. Just when you think you've got it licked, it can creep up and smother you again. I know keep a sharpened key in my pocket for every time it tries to assail me.

So anyway, whenever I see the shiny enthusiasm of the young doctor so recently let loose on the general public, my heart sinks as he (or she) probably wants to know all about my depression. Having been brought up to be polite to my betters and to regard the medical fraternity with a deference normally reserved for HM herself, I always used to answer their questions, no matter how banal, in the hope that perhaps this is the doctor who will be able to fix me. Now that I feel tricked and betrayed by the entire pharmo-medical complex, the GP, as the gateway to the health service, has, probably rather unfairly, become something of a hate figure in my mind. This poor guy is going to get it.

I say that I have to have my prescription reviewed and tell him I am on 3.25 ml of seroxat.

I have to repeat the quantity three or four times.

"3.5?" he asks.

"3.25.' I reply. He clearly thinks I'm a fruitloop for knowing how much I'm taking to 0.01 of a millilitre.

He takes a look at my notes onscreen.

"So you were given seroxat for irritable bowel syndrome?" he asks.

Oh dear. "No, I got irritiable bowel syndrowm when I tried to come off seroxat."

He nods. "I see. It's just that we do prescibe it for irritable bowel syndrome."

I only just smother my snort and control the urge to hurl myself to the floor and start beating it in horror and disbelief. You simply could not make it up.

He tells me most people manage to come off seroxat in about three weeks so he's surprised I'm taking so long to do it. I tell him about the palpitations and he says he wonders if this is being caused by something other than the seroxat. I tell him that I didn't get these kind of feelings even during panic attacks and that Glaxo themselves have said that it can be part of the 'discontinuation' syndrome. I ask him to get out his big white book of drugs that they all have but he's happy to take my word for it. Besides, my allocated 8 minutes must almost be up.

He does my blood pressure - text book - and then prints off a prescription for two bottles or magic honey juice. He says he will put '3.5ml gradually reducing' on the label. Can the system not cope with 3.25?

I raise the subject of half-lives and possibly going onto prozac later and he seems fairly receptive to that idea. I'm not sure why I bother. I'm unlikely to ever see him again.

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