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Aine's story: 'I was unaware of potential adverse effects to my prescribed antidepressants'

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Aine O'Beirne

Aine O'Beirne

Aine O'Beirne

"I've suffered from anxiety most of my life. About 10 years ago I started to get panic attacks. I was prescribed the antidepressant SSRI Citalopram and was on it for about three years. Initially it did seem to help. However, I was unaware of potential adverse effects.

In the summer of 2008, I went into mania psychosis while on the SSRI. Psychosis is a temporary loss of touch with reality. There was a spiritual aspect to my experience. I wasn't violent. I live in a culture that lacks empathy and understanding of such experiences, even more so seven years ago.

I ended up admitted to a psychiatric hospital without being involved in that decision. I did have more insight into what was going on than people seemed to realise. I found the initial admission to hospital very traumatic, even more distressing than the symptoms I was experiencing.

Stigma

I was never told that antidepressants could cause these symptoms, despite the evidence that is out there. Knowing this would have helped immensely, especially with the social stigma.

I was quickly given the label "bipolar", which should not happen when the drug can be causing the symptoms.

While some tranquilisers can offer relief to a person when used short-term, I was unnecessarily put on several strong and potentially damaging drugs long-term. These drugs were very sedating.

I slept half the day and had a poor quality of life.

A turning point was when I connected to the right doctors and went to see Prof Ivor Browne who listened to my human story and gave me a new perspective. Ivor worked in a methodical way. He told me I was not "mentally ill", which was quite liberating.

It's been a difficult seven years. My career ended, which created another set of problems.

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The whole experience has affected some of my personal relationships. I use WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) in my recovery and benefit from self-awareness, rest, yoga, meditation, exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, journaling and talk therapy. Support from others is vital.

Relapse

Any changes to the drugs a person is on needs to be made slowly and under the supervision of a doctor.

I am now off most of the drugs nearly four years. In the first two years I was prone to relapse as my body readjusted to being off prescribed psychoactive drugs.

I no longer go into mania psychosis, which is a major step in my recovery journey.

I'm hoping others may learn from my story. I engage with the mental health system through a number of initiatives in the hope of bringing about change.

Certain changes such as an open dialogue approach can make such a difference to the person in emotional distress."

Aine O'Beirne was prescribed an SSRI antidepressant 10 years ago.

*This story was amended on 22/03/2022


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