Thursday, July 14, 2011
The death of Australian news reader Charmaine Dragun continues to haunt me.
As I wrote in Woogsworld recently: "At first glance, newsreader Charmaine Dragun and I seem to have nothing in common. Charmaine was a broadcast journalist and presenter, while I am the recently promoted Woogsworld work experience girl. Notice I said Charmaine was an Australian journalist and presenter because sadly she is no longer with us due to the negligence of our mental health system. Both our lives have been touched by undiagnosed bipolar disorder and we have been really let down by our nation's health services."
Charmaine and I both experienced the hideous withdrawal effects of a drug called Efexor XR, or the devil drug as I refer tp it.
She was in the midst of a medication change and was coming down off Efexor when she took her own life at The Gap, in Sydney.
Efexor can be a nasty drug and if you try to come off it, all hell will most likely break loose. I came off the drug under supervision of a GP (who saw me every day) and a psychiatrist. I was also in hospital for part of my withdrawal.
But that was not enough. I still managed to be incapacitated by this drug.
It was not until I came home from hospital that the obsessive thoughts about suicide, panic attacks and Exorcist-type vomiting started.
Charmaine went down that road too when, according to The Daily Telegraph, she began reducing her dose of the drug Efexor and started on a new medication, Lexapro.
Friends described her behaviour at that time as "disturbing" and "out of character".
Coming off Efexor was by far the worst experience of my life. Worst than my mother dying from cancer, worse than being jilted by my ex three months before our wedding.
I have such empathy for Charmaine. She struggled for years on anti-depressants to treat her so-called depression.
What she actually had was Bipolar 2 disorder, the same disease as I do.
Doctors miss bipolar, again and again.
Except I was lucky and the wonderful Dr E picked up on it.
But how many people have the dumb luck of finding a GP who trained as a psychiatric registra?
I was one of the lucky ones.
Charmaine was very badly let down by our health system and it is such a bloody waste.
Help is available – call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800 it is OK to ask for help – this is a strong and positive thing to do.