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The Wrong Medication

Being on the wrong medication for depression is worse than being on no medication at all. But being on several conflicting medications by several different doctors (all from the same practice though) is like trying to grow fresh fruit and vegetables in toxic wasteland next-door to a chemical factory.

I have always thought of myself as an informed, critical thinking person, but depression took away that functioning cognitive part of my brain and I needed to rely on the health profession to make me better. I believed in them.

In November, 2005, I’d had my first book serialized on ABC Radio which was also due for publication in April the following year and I worked part-time cleaning our local school (all writers have day jobs). I was crying three times a day and my trusted GP put me onto Zyprexa which is an anti-psychotic. I was depressed, but not psychotic.

I developed severe motor agitation in my legs (a euphemism for shaking, screaming and thrashing around uncontrollably on the floor in the fetal position with red hot pokers in my legs). I was crying all day, in physical pain, unable to sit still.

I went to the doctors again (different doctor in the same practice) who prescribed me Zoloft on top of the Zyprexa. It didn’t work. I went to doctors again who gave me another anti-depressive Aropax (I had three medications in my system by this stage) with no relief so I went to doctor again who prescribed valium – that worked over the top of other three somewhat and my motor agitation where I was thrashing my legs around, screaming on the floor, unable to get relief started to subside slightly.

I would wake up, have one second of pure clarity before my legs would start thrashing and would continue to thrash for the next eighteen hours. I would go for walks to ease the pain, but only round the nearest block because I was agoraphobic and only with someone else, I could not be alone, the psychic as well as the physical pain was unbearable.

During this time we could not afford therapy. I was however in email contact with my therapist and I would listen to a meditation tape of hers that was the only thing that could calm me internally. Her mellifluous, hypnotic voice would send me to the edge of sleep during this crazy time.

Dad came and stayed with me most days and just talked to me which was calming. My two pre-teen boys never left my side for the entire Christmas holidays, they would talk to me, massage my legs, sit on my lap and we’d just watch TV all day. They grew up in those holidays.

Unable to eat, I lost a lot of weight, yet Zyprexa is notorious for weight gain. I ended up in a psychiatric hospital. The narcissistic Psychiatrist immediately took me off valium against my wishes, increased my dosage of Zyprexa and told me I needed to relax and prescribed some relaxation exercises which made the motor agitation worse. I was a mess in hospital, trying to lie still was not going to happen. I was toxic by this stage and didn’t know it. I spent a week in there trying (and failing) to do craft at a grade one level and trying to get rid of the devils dancing in my legs.

I tried telling the psychiatrist that this was not me, that I was a freelance writer, author, had a radio spot where I talked about mental illness and was a very informed client, but something was causing this and I didn’t know what. But most of all that this was not my normal behaviour, it was aberrant. The worst part of all is that I was not listened to or taken seriously.

After a week I was sent home still in the same agitated state (even though this was a private hospital and we were paying). A day later I was in emergency at another hospital, pacing up and down like a wounded lioness for seven hours, after which another psychiatrist prescribed me Inderal on top of Zyprexa on top of Zoloft on top of Aropax which took away the motor agitation but I could not sleep so I went back to my GP who gave me Stilnox.

It did not occur to anyone in the health profession to check the list of side-effects on the box or the fact that I was on a potentially lethal cocktail of drugs. In a brilliant moment of unexpected clarity it finally occurred to me. The penny dropped and I threw the Zyprexa in the bin and weaned myself off everything else, and I was so relieved to just go back to being horribly depressed and nothing else. I was still catatonic with depression and grief, but no longer toxic.

Still my thoughts were focused only on survival and nothing else; housework was out of the question; taking son to school was a job beyond my capabilities; so was making a cup of tea, having a shower or cleaning my teeth. My chair and the TV was my only distraction and comfort zone.

But now I was detoxified, and I forced myself to get better without any medication. I spent much of February watching Discovery channel on Foxtel, but come March I was starting to function. We desperately needed the money and so, in between tears and tantrums, I got a job, wrote for ABC radio again, launched and promoted my book, got back into therapy, wrote another book and have never looked back.

This was three months out of my life. Some people have a lifetime of this. I had health insurance and family support. Many people don’t. Medication does work, but not all the time. Always, ALWAYS check the box for side-effects and never, EVER take it for granted your doctor, psychiatrist, health professional worker knows more about your condition than you do. Become an informed client.

Above all else, question everything – and everyone.

The Wrong Medication

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2009). The Wrong Medication. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Jun 2009
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