Fatigue; flushing; headache; palpitation; restlessness; Extrapyramidal symptoms; paralytic ileus; Abdominal pain; aggression; allergic alveolitis; cardiac decompensation; diarrhoea; hypertension; mydriasis; myoclonus; neuroleptic malignant syndrome; oedema; peripheral vasospasm; precipitation of angle-closure glaucoma; stomatitis; Agitation; alopecia; anorexia; anxiety; arrhythmia; blurred vision; breast enlargement; changes in blood sugar; chills (on withdrawal); confusion; constipation; convulsions; delusions; dizziness; drowsiness; dry mouth; dysarthria; ECG changes; galactorrhoea; gynaecomastia; haematologial reactions; hallucinations; headache (on withdrawal); heart block; hepatic reactions; hypomania; hyponatraemia; increased appetite; influenza-like symptoms (on withdrawal); insomnia (on withdrawal); irritability; mania; movement disorders (on withdrawal); myalgia (on withdrawal); nausea; nausea (on withdrawal); paraesthesia; photosensitivity; postural hypotension; pruritus; rash; sexual dysfunction; sleep disturbances; sudden death of patients with cardiac disease; suicidal behaviour; sweating; sweating (on withdrawal); tachycardia; taste disturbance; tinnitus; tremor; urinary retention; urticaria; vivid dreams (on withdrawal); vomiting; weight gain; weight loss.
So, those are the potential side effects listed for Imipramine, as listed on the BNF website. Now, nobody’s going to be stricken with every one of those – and I certainly wasn’t – but you can grab a random fistful of them and they’re going to make you feel pretty fucking weird, especially if you’re seventeen and you’re randomly falling madly in love with an endless black clad procession of equally emotionally beleaguered teenage goth girls and you’re not sleeping because you’re sitting up all night smoking pot and listening to The Birthday Party. Things – predictably – didn’t really improve. I spent a bit of time off college – then I went back and had another panic attack within minutes of sitting down in my first lecture. I didn’t know anything then about positive feedback loops, but it didn’t stop me becoming ensnared in one. I dropped out of college and settled into being a loony for a while and THEN – in an staggeringly ill advised act of catastrophic irony, I decided that what I would do with my life would become a psychiatric nurse. I can’t believe nobody tried to tell me what a stupid idea it was. I can’t believe that anyone actually gave me the job, but they did. I’m not sure what my motivations were – a little bit of compassion, a little bit of weird, dark glamour, a little bit of whatever it is that so often makes addicts in recovery go on to work as drug counsellors – a way to remain fully engaged with your sickness, just ogling it through a glass.
Things started to deteriorate pretty quickly. Lots of alcohol, lots of stress, living away from home, too far away from grown ups and nobody around me fully aware – yet – of how I’d somehow managed to get to this age utterly incompetent at being a grown up myself. I spent all my money on cigarettes and booze – on the rare occassions I ate, it would be a sandwich or an egg, boiled in the kettle in my room in the staff residence, amongst the stacks of gloomy vinyl and the murder porn paperbacks. I started to self harm. I don’t recall why that started, what first gave me the idea. I think I was becoming so unhappy with my life that I wanted to pretend to myself that I was comfortingly close to suicide. I don’t even know what I was so unhappy with – everything seemed too much. I had friends, but frequently felt I disgusted and appalled them. I probably did – I was a fucking mess. I was as promiscuous as I could get away with while simultaneously becoming hopelessly, sorrowfully infatuated with people who had too much self respect to let me be promiscuous with them. I’d sit in my room with my crisps and sandwiches and cigarettes and Leonard Cohen and weep for it all while scoring my wrists and my chest with razor blades, then I’d fall asleep in my stale, bloody clothes until the alarm went off and I’d stagger down to a ward somewhere, elastic bands round my cuffs to stop my sleeves rolling back and alerting everyone to the fact that I was as barmy as the people I was supposed to be looking after. I don’t think I was taking antidepressants at any point during this period; I don’t think they’d have helped. But I still saw my behaviour, all the incompetence and immaturity and unhappiness, as a pathology – and working in psychiatry meant that every day in every way I was getting madder and madder – and teaching myself how to do so more authentically.
Time for food. More later.