I am a prescription drug addict

Two weeks ago, after 16 years of addiction,  I stopped taking a drug called Paroxetine (also known as Paxil and Seroxat).

It’s (apparently) as addictive as morphine, and coming off the drug can be as difficult as going cold turkey from any opiate.

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“Evidence has shown that paroxetine has among the highest incidence rates and severity of withdrawal syndrome of any medication of its class. Common withdrawal symptoms for paroxetine include nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness and vertigo; insomnia, nightmares and vivid dreams; feelings of electricity in the body, as well as crying and anxiety” says Wikipedia.

I’d been taking it for 16 years, with two very short spells when I came off the drug (more about that later).

Having suffered from severe anxiety attacks throughout my life, I was hit with a couple of serious bouts of depression in the late 1990s, which led to me being prescribed Paroxetine by my doctor.

Starting off on a relatively high dose, I immediately started experiencing severe adverse symptoms including ‘brain zaps‘, loss of libido, poor vision, difficulty in concentrating, periods of severe lethargy, and inability to feel fully awake. I was unable to feel strong emotion – neither sadness, anger, happiness, excitement. I put on weight. Quite a bit of weight.

During the same period my father was dying (he lived in England while I was in Sydney, NSW). My marriage failed and I went through a divorce (she was in England while I was in Sydney). I got made redundant twice in three years. I moved back to England but to the North East, where I was subjected to some severe workplace bullying and found myself living in a fairly grim seaside town that had little to offer but amusement arcades and charity shops.

Twice in that early period, between 1998 and 2005 I had tried to wean myself off Paroxetine. The first time I did it, my doctor had advised that I reduce my dosage from 30mg to zero within a week. At the end of that week I was ‘scheduled‘ – in the UK you call it ‘being sectioned’ and in the US it’s known as ‘involuntary admission’ I think.

I was in a very nice (but frightening because of what it meant in my life) psychiatric hospital in Sydney.

Coming off so quickly had resulted in me having a complete physical and emotional breakdown. I was suffering massive brain zaps, body tremors, uncontrollable crying fits, inability to eat or to keep food down if I did.

I tried a few alternative drugs, including Xanax, which made my balls shrivel, gave me migraines, made me need to pee all the time, my cum watery, and my mouth dry. And then I reluctantly started taking Paroxetine again.

A few years later, having moved to Northern England, I decided to come off again, but this time I trailed came off the drug slowly. I took about three months to wean myself off, taking slightly smaller doses each week, coming down from 30mg to 5mg per day, and then to 2mg and nothing.

But this time the problem wasn’t the discontinuation period, but the period when I’d decided to discontinue. Moving to Northern England after ten years in Sydney was difficult: my father had died a few months earlier, and I had no moorings. I’d sold all of my goods – furniture, books, music, musical instruments – to come to the UK and be with my family; in short I didn’t have the medical, psychological or emotional support to go sober, and after a period when I again suffered the tremors, the crying, the zaps and the sleeplessness, I went back to Paroxetine, where I have remained to this day.

As Wikipedia says, manufacturer “GlaxoSmithKline has paid substantial fines, paid settlements in class action lawsuits, and become the subject of several highly critical books in relation to its marketing of paroxetine … and allegations that it failed to warn consumers of substantial withdrawal effects associated with use of the drug”.

I’m clean for two weeks now. It’s not going too badly, though the biggest problem at the moment is fear. I’m scared. I’ve relied on Paroxetine so long that I can’t believe I can function without it. It’s too early to say that I CAN.

On the other hand, what really depressed me for the past few years was the thought that for the rest of my life I could be reliant on a drug that didn’t make me feel better. It just made me feel less worse, but at the expense of the joy I used to feel, the excitement I missed, and at times, just having a decent boner.

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My movies of the year 2015

#1: The Dance of Reality (Alejandro Jodorowsky, Chile)

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What little I’ve seen of Jodorowsky’s work has confused and impressed me. I don’t know what the story is about, but I love the way it’s told. I generally respond well to things that make me think “What the fuck was THAT all about?”

There’s not enough of it around.

#2: Tangerine (Sean S Baker, USA)
There was no way I was gonna be disappointed with a movie made on i-phones starring unschooled transgender actors.

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But this film delivered above and beyond. It was pacy, hilarious and made no apologies, though in the end, it was surely more about sex work than life as a trans person?

However … young filmmakers have no excuses NOT to make their work, and experienced Hollywood types have no reason to spend big bucks on theirs.

#3: Carol (Todd Haynes, USA/UK)
See that bit with Cate Blanchett raising the merest hint of eyebrow as her beloved walks across a crowded restaurant towards her? That’s the Oscar right there!

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Seriously understated and intimate, this is proof that Todd Haynes is worthy of a major award. And soon.

#4: Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller, USA)
A film that treated teenage sexual appetite seriously.

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While my only real experience of being a teenage girl was dressing as one when I was a teenage boy, DOATG just rang true. It was funny, sad, frightening and uplifting in turn, and Bel Powley turned in one of the performances of 2016.

Of course the kids want to fuck. That’s pretty much all they want to do! Kristen Wiig was just the icing in the cake.

#5: The Ecstacy of Wilko Johnson (Julien Temple, UK)
I saw this on the Beeb, having missed it at the Tyneside Cinema. And I saw it just when I needed to.

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Wilko has been an inspiration since I first saw him on the telly on Geordie Scene in 1975. And this year, for obvious reasons, he was even more of an inspiration.

May the Goddesses bless you Wilko!

#6: Dreamcatcher (Kim Longinotto, USA)
Basically, ex-hooker Brenda Myers-Powell drives around Chicago dishing out advice, hugs and condoms to street workers. Think it sounds boring? Wrong. Think it sounds grim? Not likely.

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This documentary is a stunning, uplifting exploration of how love can change lives. Heartbreaking and inspiring at every turn.

#7: Amy (Asif Kapadia, UK)
The proof of a great documentary is that it opens up a new world to the viewer. I knew very little of Amy Winehouse, and cared even less until I saw Kapadia’s film (and I saw it three times!).

She was great singer, but what I didn’t appreciate was how great a writer she was. I filled the gaps in my record collection after seeing Amy.

#8: The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, UK)

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Apart from a seriously sexy performance by Sidse Babett Knudsen, an extra ordinary soundtrack by Cat’s Eyes, and stunningly claustrophobic art direction, this had some of the most beautiful lingerie seen at the cinema. Win win win.

#9: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/UK/Greece/France/ Netherlands)
Another “what the fuck was THAT about?” movie, and so much fun.

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Colin Farrell (the poor man’s Nigel Pivaro) starred opposite the delicious Rachel Weisz and I’m still none the wiser. Dating, terrorism, over reliance on modern medicine? All of those and more (but don’t ask me what!).

NOTE: enough Ben Whishaw please. We’ve seen him now. He can go away and leave us alone.

#10: Brooklyn (John Crowley, Ireland/UK/Canada)
Cried. All the way through. Having been exiled so many times in my life, and rarely having settled, I felt this very keenly.

It hit hard and it felt like a kiss.

Cut!

Next year is the 65th anniversary of the introduction of the X certificate in British cinema.

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In 1951 the X certificate replaced an earlier H certificate (H for Horrific) and was a reaction to the increasing number of film releases (many from Europe) which featured nudity, sexual activity, or bad language.

In 1971, the age at which you could attend an X certificate movie was raised from 16 to 18 years, and the X was replaced in turn by the 18 certificate in 1982. It’s pretty much where things stand until now.

To celebrate the introduction of the X Cert back in 1951, I’ll be working with a group of sex-positive pornographers, feminist thinkers, queer activists and film makers to explore what censorship has meant to us over that period.

We’ll be exploring issues that relate to freedom of both what we say and what we watch. How we use our bodies, and how our bodies are used by others. How our bodies are depicted on screen for public consumption, and how governments, big business and organised religion and politics decide what we can and can’t do, show and say.

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We’re starting in January with a screening and discussion of the work of Swedish feminist porn director, screenwriter and producer Erika Lust (see photo above), and will continue throughout the year; talking to film makers, actors and directors, lawyers, politicians and activists.

And we’ll be watching a lot of interesting work, exchanging ideas, and … probably … arguing and debating.

If you’d like to be involved in any way, please get in touch. You can email me at minkjaguar@gmx.com

It’s Sheena Eve!

Why I should start writing on Christmas Eve, I have no idea. I guess because it’s my first afternoon off for some weeks.

Check back soon. I think this will be a place I can write about and talk about the things I find interesting and the things that take up my time. Punk rock, film, pornography, feminism, roller derby and the world of queerdom.