Date: Tue Feb 27, 2001 8:55am

I started noticing that things weren't right with Prozac after being on it for what I think was about two and a half years because I just didn't feel right. Everything is quite vague and I find I have problems with my memory when it comes to dates, times, birthdays and generally short term memory.

When I first went on it, I was on what I can only describe as an unnatural high. I was apparently (according to friends and family) acting quite bizarrely, in ways that were totally out of character and spent 3000 in half an hour on credit on one occasion. I went to my doctor one day saying that I thought "the whole world should be on Prozac" and that "the laws should be changed so that everyone should have to eat Prozac for breakfast". He just laughed and said he was "glad it was working" and failed to pick up on the fact that I was manic -a known side effect to Prozac. The worst of it is that I honestly thought that I was OK and the whole world was going mad! After six weeks of being on the drug, I became actively suicidal, taking the first of many overdoses.

My doctors said that was the depression and as I trusted them at the time, I believed them. I had no idea that prozac had been linked to suicidal ideation and akathisia. I felt incredibly restless, I could not settle (I stayed up for three days with no sleep and cleaned the house from top to bottom, even though it was not dirty and when I finished, I just started again), my mind was racing, I couldn't sleep; I just kept pacing. It was awful. I lost a lot of weight and eventually weighed 5 stone 3 pounds (UK size 2 in clothes).

I completely lossed my appetite. In fact it was so bad, that I used to get really bad muscle spasms in my stomach if I tried to force myself to eat. I had to build myself up gradually. To start with I'd have soups, then sandwiches and other light snacks.

I constantly suffered with colds and flu type symptoms for which I was prescribed antibiotics. It was a vicious circle and my life went downhill from there. After what I think was about 2 1/2 years of being on Prozac I started voicing concerns regularly as I had never felt like that before and I just was not getting better. I was assured that it was not the Prozac causing the problems and that I would get worse if I stopped taking it (they were saying that I needed it as opposed to informing me about any withdrawal effects).

I kept believing them until I ended up in hospital after having over 20 seizures in one day where people had witnessed my lips and nails going blue, the colour draining from my face and other physical symptoms that I could not have made happen. The medical professionals involved in my care were adamant that Prozac had nothing to do with it and labelled me as an attention seeker, anorexic, paranoid litigant, borderline personality disorder and deluded. I consider their attempts to label me in this way in order to discredit me as a medal of honour for daring to speak out as, although I didn't realise it at the time, I must have been rocking a few boats and rattling a few cages. During this stay in hospital, I was set up to see a psychiatrist who I thought was a neurologist and I was also told to "back off and stop asking questions as I was getting people's backs up".

That was when the penny finally dropped that there was something wrong as I had not been threatening - I was just voicing genuine concerns that I had never felt like this before Prozac. I decided to start researching the drug and that's when I realised that all the symptoms I had been complaining about were linked to Prozac.

When I stopped taking Prozac, I did not have the knowledge I have now and literally stopped taking it overnight. I know that this can be dangerous as you're supposed to come off them gradually and just stopping them can be more harmful than continuing to take the drug. I went through approximately three months of absolutely horrendous withdrawal. I became even more suicidal but this time, I was able to understand why I was feeling this way and it became easier to pick up the phone and talk rather than trying to end my life. I also developed flu type symptoms. My whole body ached. I didn't realise just how many muscles I had until I went through withdrawal. If you think about your worst possible dose of flu, it was like that but a hundred times worse. That's the only way I could describe it. I also experienced horrendous anxiety, panic, terror, fear and nervousness, couldn't stop shaking and got really bad headaches. My seizures increased initially but then started coming down. I had irregular vaginal bleeding (which I still get over three years after coming off the drug).

The good news is that it does get better, although it can take time. Since coming off the drugs and getting through the withdrawal, I have not looked back. I have seen an alternative therapist who looked at the nutritional aspect of my diet and gave me some lifestyle advice and within three months of seeing her, the seizures had come down to less than half. I do still have seizures but I am no longer suffering with depression, and am able to cope with everyday life. I am currently in the process of trying to resume my career. I still have flashbacks and nightmares relating to my experience and the abuse that I witnessed during my two and a half day stay in a psychiatric unit subsequent stays in hospital. Since setting up the UK Prozac Survivors' Support Group, I have come across cases that make mine look mild! I still have scars from the injuries that I have incurred through the seizures - a constant reminder of what I have been through which will always serve to remind me of why I am doing what I am doing.

Ramo