|I've spent a great deal of time thinking about the mistakes that I made when I was recovering from my first major depression, and suffering through a relapse. Here are 10 of my mistakes:
Taking my mental health for granted
I've always been aware of my physical health. When I started to experience symptoms of mental stress, I used to think that rest was all that I needed. For more than a month before my relapse (In July 2004), I was putting in excessive work hours. I took the lead on organizing an Action Sports Fun Zone event (involving BMXing, skateboarding, and Inline skating) at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. I was setting up and taking away ramps in the middle of the night. During the day, I was getting a new day camp ready for the summer. I was putting in more than 100 hours of work for at least 5 consecutive weeks before my relapse. I wasn't taking care of my health. I thought that I could simply catch up on my sleep after the camp opened.
Not making time for me
My life revolved around my family and work. I neglected me. I've always known how important it is to find time to relax. I just didn't make time for me.
Not exercising regularly
My wife and I have always supported our children's interests. In the fall 2001, Ian was becoming more-and-more passionate about BMXing, so we hired a couple of teenagers to build a half-pipe in our backyard. They needed to stay over, so they slept in the fitness studio in our basement. When they finished the half-pipe, they helped us renovate our kitchen and other rooms in the house.
Before our fitness studio became a bedroom, I was exercising early in the morning 3-4 times a week. As soon as the boys moved in, my workouts stopped. I only exercised when they weren't sleeping. I wasn't exercising regularly.
Shortly after the renovations were finished, and the teenagers left, we decided to let a young man move in. Like Ian, he was a passionate BMXer. It was an easy decision, since we had already set up a sleeping area in the basement. Once again, I neglected my own fitness.
There is, unquestionably, a strong correlation between the deterioration of my physical fitness and my mental health in 2003 and 2004.
Getting caught up in the stigma
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), the stigma surrounding depression is real. CAHM has launched Beyond the Label, an educational kit to promote awareness and understanding of the impact on people living with concurrent mental health and substance abuse problems.
As a consultant, I got caught up in the stigma. I was juggling several contracts at the time of my relapse. I didn't share my mental health problems with any of my clients or colleagues. I was afraid that they would think my mental illness was a mental weakness; which would result in fewer contracts.
Not asking my doctor questions
I never asked my doctor any questions about Paxil, the antidepressant that I was prescribed.
R&D, an umbrella group for Canada's research-based pharmaceutical companies, produced Knowledge is the best medicine: things to know about medicines you take. Their brochure identifies several questions that people should ask their doctors about prescription medication, including:
- What is the name of the medication?
- Why am I taking it?
- Are there any side effects? Which ones should I report?
- Do I have any alternatives?
- Do you want to see me while I'm taking this medication?
- What if I need a refill?
- Is there any patient information available?
- Will this medication affect any of the other medications that I am taking?
Not seeing a psychiatrist
I assumed that my doctor had extensive knowledge about the side effects of antidepressants.
Doctors are general practitioners. Although they are knowledgeable about the drugs that they prescribe, they are not always aware of the rare side effects.
Not researching the rare side effects of Paxil
I've spent most of my career researching. I should have researched all of the side effects of Paxil. I assumed that the Paxil printout from the pharmacy listed all of the side effects. I was tragically wrong.
Weaning myself off Paxil
In February 2004, eight-months into my first major depression, I forgot to take my medication for a few days. I was feeling fine, so I decided to cut down to 20mg. of Paxil for 3 weeks. After 3 weeks, I took myself off the drug. I scheduled an appointment with my doctor after I had weaned myself off Paxil. I should have consulted my doctor when I was considering taking myself off Paxil.
Going back on my previous prescription
My last prescription of Paxil was filled in February 2004, just before I decided to wean myself off the drug. In July 2004, I put myself back on my 4-month-old prescription. I should have consulted my doctor. It's important not to go back on a previous prescription of any drug.
Increasing my dosage
A few days after I started taking a daily dosage of 40mg. of Paxil again (in July 2004), I was having suicidal thoughts. I thought I could get rid of the thoughts and recover more quickly if I increased my dosage. On July 17, I started taking 60mg. of Paxil a day. Three days later, I planned my suicide. I went from planning my suicide to planning a murder-suicide to planning a murder. Less than two weeks after I increased my dosage, I killed my son.
Any changes in dosage should be made by a doctor.