Monday, July 7, 2014

Why Paris, of all places?

So… here goes !

I’ve continued to be struck by the conflicting messages colleagues have posted about the idea that I might take chlorpromazine. Some appear to be saying that the adverse effects are trivial or mild –  at least when set against the benefits for people experiencing psychosis. Other people seem to be saying that the drugs are hugely dangerous. Which is worrying, since  so many people take them. Others point out that there is already plenty of documented literature on the adverse effects of these drugs. And some people continue to claim that “it’s different if you’re really ill”.

All of which illustrate the importance of the discussion, but none of which change my plans.

So why now?

The biggest issue affecting timing and practicalities was driving. I commute quite long distances for my work, and the dangers of ‘driving or operating machinery’ after having taken chlorpromazine struck me as great. Colleagues warned me not to drive, and falling asleep at the wheel scares me a lot. SO I wanted a few days (at least) when I didn’t have to drive.

Equally, I really wanted a few days when I didn’t have to work (too hard). If the medication suppresses my ability to work, I don’t want to let colleagues down –make mistakes in the supervision of colleagues or students, fail to attend to important decisions, pay insufficient attention to other people’s problems. And, since it’s good to be honest, I should confess that I wanted to avoid troubling my family.

A while ago, however, I had agreed to attend a conference in Paris – ICAP, the international congress of applied psychology – to participate in a symposium and meet with colleagues from EFPA (The European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations, where I have just started to convene the Board of Professional Development). For complicated reasons, I ended up having booked both my travel and my hotel before I knew the details of the scheduling of the conference. The result is that I have nearly a week in Paris, with no family commitments, only one symposium and a couple of informal meetings to attend, and no need to drive anywhere.

So… here goes…

I shall see, over the next few days, how the drugs affect me. I’m aware that it’s probably going to somewhat different, given that I’m in a (for me) foreign city. But it’s a city filled with wonderful experiences (normally) and at least one significant task (giving a symposium presentation in front of an audience of my peers). I think it will be interesting, at least, to see what the effects are. I’ll do – or at least I’ll  try to do – what I normally do at conferences: meet with colleagues for dinner, attend conference sessions, see something of the city (and I have the Louvre, the Musé d'Orsay, Musé Cluny, Notre Dame on my doorstep, not to mention various cafés and restaurants). I’ll also – and this might prove a test – give a paper.

I’ll report back.


  1. The more you talk the more you freak me out. Why would you put yourself in potential danger for an experiment that has zero relevance to anything. You said you want to know learn and experience what those with mental illness deal with while on meds and dealing with side effects. So you won't drive while on chlorpromazine, wont work, or anything hard, wont do anything where you could make a mistake, pay insufficient attention, not make any decisions, dont want to trouble your family and dont want to visit a foreign city. Seriously? Do you honestly thing that those with mental illness dont have to do all those things? Do you think when I took chlorpromazine I just sat in a room and did nothing because of the side effects? In what possible way will you learn what those with mental illness have to deal with. Not to mention from the outset you will be dealing only with side effects and not dealing with side effects while also dealing with very serious illness.

  2. I was forcibly injected with chlorpromazine in 1978 and 1984 after "puerperal psychosis" after sons 2 and 3, the latter episode only one day out of maternity hospital. It swiftly took me out of my altered mind state, back down to earth with a bump. Risperidone did the same in 2002 after menopausal psychosis. The 18yrs inbetween I was in good mental health, on no drugs having tapered and got off it.

    Once I got used to the chlorpromazine I was driving again but felt zombie like. I used to say to my husband that for him it must have been like the film "I walked with a zombie" although he didn't see it like that. Antipsychotics deaden the emotions, in my experience, same with risperidone which was coercively given. I swallowed the pills because I knew they would force it into me if I didn't accept them. I was non-compliant inside.

    The issue in 2002 was the prescribing of venlafaxine then lithium to lift my mood. They didn't lift my mood. I remained flat as a pancake. Had a suicidal impulse on the venlafaxine, took overdose, then was put on maximum dose. Had to eventually take charge of my own mental health, taper the drugs myself and made a full recovery by 2004, another year and I was back to full strength.

    You'll survive on the chlorpromazine, it will be useful experience, to see how it feels to have your agency taken away. I didn't like it. My decision making abilities were taken away, my systems thinking affected. I felt vulnerable on psych drugs, not myself. For a man it may be different. I've had 3 sons go through psychoses and through the psych system. They feel differently to me about it.