Serotonin Syndrome - The Beginning

Right. If I'm going to do this, I may as well dive in head first to the important topics. First cab off the rank: Mental Health.

Towards the end of 2016 I was working in a job I didn't really like a whole lot, and I was also going through some pretty intense personal drama with the mother of my children regarding just about anything you can think of - if you could argue about it, we did. I'm sure I'll say more in a future blog post, but it got to the point where I felt like I needed to get lawyers involved to protect my rights to see my children. The only light in my life was the time I spent with my children, and a relationship I had just started with a woman who was unlike any other I had ever met. Beautiful. Witty. Intelligent. An absolute heart of gold. Even the circumstances that led to us talking to one another were exactly like you would see in a romcom. It was fucking disgusting. It was around this time I started noticing symptoms of Anxiety in myself which ranged from irritability, lack of concentration, terrible memory, and mild insomnia. It was starting to make my work really sloppy and more stressful than it should have been, but more importantly for me, it was starting to cause some strain on my new relationship.

I went to see a GP (At the time I didn't have a "regular" GP. Cut me some slack - I'm a man. My limbs weren't falling off so I was fine) and after doing a mental health assessment he diagnosed me with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, threw some medication at me (Escitalopram 10mg), printed me out a few information sheets, and told me to go back and see him in six months for a new prescription. Holy shit what a difference it made.

In the months after starting to take it my relationship strengthened, I found myself a new job, all the personal drama I was going through regarding the kids got resolved, and life was good again. Starting to take that medication was exactly what I needed and at the time was the best thing I could have ever done - until it wasn't.

Fast forward a little over 12 months, we are near the end of 2017, and all of these symptoms start rearing their ugly heads again. It didn't take much for me to get irritated at my partner, my friends, or even my children. I would see things that weren't there. Emotions that weren't being displayed and I would somehow convince myself they were fact. Every argument I ever got involved in, whether it be with my partner or my friends, I would always find a way to turn it back around on them. It's not that I wasn't accepting responsibility for my own actions because I have always been the first to admit if I've fucked up somewhere, but I didn't think I had fucked up. It felt like the world was out to get me, and I was convinced everyone else was the problem. With some persuasion and some literal begging from my partner, I went back to a GP (a different one), explained all my issues, and asked for my medication to be increased from 10mg to 20mg. I'm not proud of how much effort it took to get me back to a GP. I can't have been a pleasant person to be around at this point, and the fact my partner and my friends stuck by me is a testament to all of them.

Things improved for a brief period of time, then went downhill drastically again shortly afterwards until she left me in September of 2018 - a few weeks after our two year anniversary. Something I will always remember is that I snapped at not only my partner but also her family, for the innocent task of preparing breakfast for my children one day. I was always a confident Father. Not once did I ever do anything wrong by my children, and both she and her family would always tell me how much of a great Dad I was, but I had somehow convinced myself that they did this innocent duty for me out of pity. They did this because they viewed me as incompetent. They did this because I was deemed incapable of looking after my own children. All I remember was feeling incredibly hurt, offended, and betrayed. I felt like I couldn't be the person I always thought I was. I knew what I felt was ridiculous. I knew I was wrong. I knew I was over-reacting. I remember trying so hard to let it go and convince myself I was being insane in my thoughts, but I couldn't stop. I feel like only people who have been through things like this will understand the immense difficulty of struggling through such an intense inner conflict like that with yourself - feeling particular emotions, not understanding why you are feeling them, and trying to stop them from coming out because you know how ridiculous it is. Kyle, meet Anxiety. Anxiety, meet Kyle.

She tried supporting me through all of this as best she could. She gave me literally every fibre of her being and I never doubted how much love I was shown, and it's not that I never appreciated it, but I couldn't show how much I appreciated it. I felt like a zombie. I tried so hard to get myself to a point where I could fully reciprocate that love and the respect I was getting, but I just couldn't do it. The frustrating part is that at the time I legitimately felt like I was - hindsight it a wonderful thing. My head was fighting against itself. I was trying to take myself off auto-pilot because I knew I was fucked up. I knew I was doing the wrong thing. I knew I was treating her poorly and taking her for granted. I just. Couldn't. Stop.

I had a suspiscion that the medication was causing all of these emotions I was unable to control, and I approached my partner about coming off the medication once I'd received prior approval from my GP and my Psychologist to do so, and she virtually begged me not to. She had her reasons, but needless to say, I made the choice to stay on them not only to support her, but because part of me felt like it was the right decision at the time. If there is any doubt, I would just like to clarify that this was also my decision and my decision was not solely based on hers. If I chose to go off the medication then, while I know she wouldn't have approved, I would have been supported unconditionally.

As heartbroken as I was, I can respect her decision of leaving me. Everyone has their limit, and everyone needs to draw the line somewhere in order to protect themselves. Relationships aren't black and white and sometimes it's not quite as simple as "through thick and thin". You enter a relationship because you see the potential for a person to make you happy and emotionally fulfilled, and they are very personal, very selfish reasons. You never enter a relationship to make the other person happy - at our core, we are all very selfish beings. You end one when you feel like those selfish reasons can no longer be fulfilled by your significant other. I was not making her as happy or as emotionally fulfilled as I had done previously, and she had lost the faith in my ability to do that moving forward. Feeling that way does not make her a bad person. Sometimes giving someone your best isn't enough, and that's OK. That's how my relationship with the mother of my children ended - I wasn't strong enough. I did the best I could and I failed. She did the best she could at the time and failed. I left her to not only save myself, but to save my children. We are all human, and no one deserves to be judged for their emotions or for where they need to draw the line at what they are willing/not willing to accept in a relationship.

The day after my relationship ended I went back to my GP and my Psychologist and put a plan in place to wean myself off the Escitalopram. Once again, because I am a stubborn man, that was a plan I promptly ignored and decided to go off it cold turkey. I'll cover the recovery process in a later blog post but that was the most difficult thing I have ever been through, and I got dragged along to see 50 Shades Freed at the cinema. That's a close #2.

I felt like I had control of my thoughts a few days after I stopped taking it. It was like something had snapped in me, and all of a sudden I was getting a flood of emotions and thoughts I had not felt for 18 months. I was me again. It was the best and the worst I had ever felt in my life. I had no idea how severe the issues were that I was experiencing, and even now some 3 months later I can feel myself still making improvements. I touched base with the GP a week or so after the fact, and he said to me that it sounds like I was suffering from something called Serotonin Syndrome which caused me to lose control of my emotions, become agitated and confused, and lose what made me, me. My life prior to coming off the medication was great, but at the time it was like I felt absolutely nothing. I was at my happiest when I was spending time around my partner, her son, and my children. Happiness equalled an increase in Serotonin, and during these times my brain was receiving a toxic level of this naturally produced chemical that was causing symptoms of Anxiety. The medication I was on to prevent Anxiety, was ultimately what was causing Anxiety. Because of course it was.

The medication that lead to me saving a relationship in the beginning, was also the core reason for its demise. The damage was done and after many failed promises I had made to do better, the trust was shattered. In the beginning I put a lot of blame for this on myself - I still partially do, but as time goes on I am learning not to be so hard on myself because there was only so much I could do given the circumstances. We are both simultaneously responsible and not responsible for the relationship ending, and we both need to live with the repercussions of that. I know I am still struggling with it, and I feel like she is as well. It can't have been an easy decision for her to make.

The public health system is to blame. The GP's who would rather throw medication at their patients are to blame. The patients who go in pushing to go on medication because they want an easy solution to all of life's problems (like myself) are to blame. I hold no anger or resentment towards anyone but myself for what and how this ordeal transpired because regardless of the actions of other individuals involved in all of this, I was at the beginning of that chain reaction.

I am not writing this for sympathy. I don't want it. I am writing this in the hopes that I can prevent this from happening to someone else in the future. If the information in this post can prevent just a single person somewhere in the world from experiencing what I experienced, it will have been a worthwhile endeavour.

Mental health is a serious issue. There is a lot of information out there about it, but there needs to be more. If you are experiencing mental health issues, please have a thorough chat with your GP and do your own research before agreeing to take ANY medication. Medication is not always the correct solution, and even if it was at one point in time, it doesn't mean it always will be.

I don't want to end this on a negative note, so let me highlight some positives. Since being off the medication I have started to see my own self worth again. I've made some new hobbies. I've rediscovered some old ones. I've lost weight. I have been open to doing things I wouldn't have done in the past. Connor also suffered from Anxiety during this 18 month period and he has improved dramatically over the last 3 months; I feel like my issues were causing his, and while that absolutely crushes me, it is so rewarding seeing the strength he is displaying to overcome his as well.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how faint it might seem at the moment, but nothing is going to stop me from charging towards it and making the most of my newly discovered me. Finally. Me.

- KD

Comments

  1. I'm curious about your relation with the mother of your children. It sounds rather hectic.
    But it's nice to see such courage from someone like you. It's inspiring I think. I applaud your ability to see yourself as also the cause of conflict, too many people are quite eager to blame it all on others.

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  2. It used to be back in the day, but we get along great now thankfully!

    It's really nice of you to leave a comment like this on an internet stranger's post, and it reinforces to me that maybe I actually can help other people in some capacity. Thank you. Sincerely.

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