Book – life story

I have written a book about my life and it is now available to buy in print or ebook format at the links below (Lulu & Amazon).  I am happy to provide a free copy for Kindle, Apple iBooks or in pdf format but to do  this I need an email address. If you leave a request at the bottom of this page I will get back to you.

Rossendales book image

My story is one of sadness and tragedy but interspersed with laughter and humour. I hope it will inspire others never to give up, however bad things may seem. Something wonderful may just be round the corner, we just never know.

I was born and brought up in the north east of Scotland, a shy and studious young girl. From a typical working class family, I excelled at school and achieved the accolade of being Dux (best student) of the school. The transition from school to university was fraught with difficulty and my first attempt lasted only a matter of weeks.

There followed a year working in London, before deciding to attend teacher training college back home. At the end of first year, I was diagnosed as having myoclonic epilepsy. It was 1975 and I was twenty-one years old. The neurologist prescribed nitrazepam, one of the benzodiazepine class of drugs which has wrecked so many lives. Within two months I had lost two stones in weight (8.5 to 6.5 stones), returned to a state of pre-puberty and tried to commit suicide. No link was made between my sudden decline in health and the drug I had started taking.

The next ten years were sheer hell. Diagnosed as having depression, I spent most of the time either in bed at home, in hospital or attending day hospital. Just trying to function was a daily struggle. Agoraphobia, monophobia, paranoia, compulsive eating were just some of the symptoms, Several more suicide attempts were made, one so very nearly successful. Anti depressants appeared to do little to help although I did feel that they ameliorated my suicidal feelings.

The psychiatrists had theories. It was the close relationship with my mum, the sudden departure of my elder sister when I was eight years old, my immaturity, my fear of pregnancy and childbirth. When depressed, one will believe almost anything about oneself especially if it is negative. I had my own thoughts on the matter. My paternal grandfather had committed suicide, my mum was often depressed, perhaps it was just genetic. Whatever it was, I realised it was not going to get better, I would just have to learn to live with it, whatever the cause.

In 1984, I started to claw my way back into life. I went to secretarial college a few times a week, then progressed to a full-time secretarial course. Four years of stable employment followed and my confidence grew. In 1985, my mother died and in 1987 my ten year marriage to a fellow patient came to an end. Children had not been an option due to our mental health problems.

I bought a studio flat and returned to university for my third attempt at gaining a degree. This time I was successful. Graduating in 1992 with upper second class honours, exactly twenty years after leaving school, I was very proud at my long awaited achievement. I was spurred on by my success and joined the high IQ society, Mensa.

Twenty years of continuous employment followed in the NHS. However, I was never free from depression or from prescription drugs. Every single day was a struggle to function. As I grew older, my physical health and cognitive abilities declined. My work in research required a great deal of intense concentration and ability, and these were both diminishing by the year. I managed to cover up these difficulties most of the time. Ten years after graduating, I started to experience stomach problems. These were diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. I tried many pills and exclusion diets to no avail. At age 59, I was forced to take early retirement on health grounds with a modest pension.

Soon after retiring, I consulted a chiropractor about my stomach problems. Within six weeks I was completely symptom free and this has continued to the present day. I had endured ten years of misery for no good reason. My spine had been misaligned and pressing on nerves leading to the gut. No GP seemed to have any idea that this was the case.

At this point, I decided to change GP practice purely for reasons of convenience. At my first appointment it was suggested that I stop taking nitrazepam. I was upset, frightened and angry. I knew there were very good reasons to come off the drug but after forty years, who knows what would happen. Against my better judgement, I decided to give it a go.

I started tapering in January 2013. One quarter of a pill each month seemed reasonable. By April, I was finally off the drug and had had no withdrawal symptoms. Even better, I had no symptoms of epilepsy. I was ecstatic, or at least I would have been if I had not suffered from depression.

The next six months were bizarre. I became sexually aroused most of the time and guessed this was due to the cessation of nitrazepam. I started to contact men on the internet and arranged to meet a widower of similar age to myself. All went well and I visited him several times. He lived 200 miles away. I was also very weepy, crying myself to sleep at nights. By September I was confined to bed, extremely ill physically and there I remained for the next two years. The most astonishing development was the total absence of depression for the first time in almost forty years.

It is impossible to adequately describe my feelings at finally being released from the prison which had surrounded me for the whole of my adult life. I could feel my emotions again. I no longer felt cut off from everyone, I no longer felt alone. For forty years I had wondered where this feeling of aloneness came from. Now I know, It came from a little white pill called nitrazepam. I was free at last, I was free to be me, I was once again that person I had been forty years before.

15 Responses to Book – life story

  1. madamshome says:

    Hi Fiona, its iHope from BBs. Just wanted to say I admire your strength & focus on the future. My grandmother was from Gaerloch in the Highlands but I have yet to visit. Am a fellow babyboomer & love the Rolling Stones. Wishing you all good things for your benzo free life.


  2. James Sharp says:

    Thanks for your story. I’m tapering from sporadic use off and on for 25 years. I know that my mental mood is directly related to the physical symptoms I feel. My stomach has been bad too and i’m interested in what chiropractor did. I’m here in the states,i’m 63 years old.

    P.S.-My dad’s from Kilbirnie-By for now-Jim Sharp


    • fhfrench says:

      Hi Jim. I cannot believe how unwell those drugs made me feel for so many years. I really do believe I will make a full recovery but of course I am not there yet. I just get glimpses of feeling well, very brief but very good. I never had glimpses like that whilst on drugs. I hope your taper goes well and hope you will feel much better too when finally drug free. All the best.


  3. James Sharp says:

    Thanks for replying Fiona and I will stay with your blog for sure. I found it through BenzoBuddies-JIM


    • fhfrench says:

      Hi Jim. Have we chatted before on BB? I know I have chatted to someone called Jim.


      • James Sharp says:

        i don’t think so Fiona. I just kinda lurk around. This is my second try at tapering so I’m kinda familiar with how things go-if one can get familiar with this sort of thing which I really doubt. I actually got off for a year then re-instated-big mistake! Hopefully reading your blog can kinda help me out. Didn’t have too good of a day today-stomach problems-think I might try a chiropractor like you did. Well I think the dog and me will be headed for bed-Nite Fiona-Jim


  4. fhfrench says:

    I am sorry you didn’t have a good day. Stomach problems seem to be common in withdrawal. It is strange that my stomach has remained virtually unaffected. The only part of my body that has not been touched for some strange reason. My IBS was clearly caused by sitting at a computer for 20 years – no wonder my spine became misaligned. It is just a pity I had to suffer for 10 years before finding out the cause. I don’t have much faith in doctors any more though I am sure they do manage to help an awful lot of people.


  5. James Sharp says:

    Fiona-Wanted to find out where I can buy a hard copy of your book.-Good morning-It’s 9:02am here in Michigan.–Jim


  6. fhfrench says:

    Hi Jim. I have just posted another link in the article above as book now available via Amazon. Might be cheaper than paying for delivery from the UK via Lulu but I’m not sure. You are very kind to think of buying it.


  7. integratedspirit31 says:

    Hi there a way to contact you..I’m in sunny inverness and in withdrawal from antidepressant..interested in your campaign 🙂


  8. Terry says:

    Hi Fiona,I would be interested in a copy of your book for my iPad,
    Best regards Terry,


  9. Patricia O'shaughnessy says:

    Please may I buy a copy of your book please
    I know how it feels to be on medication
    Not needed
    Late diagnoses
    Feel years lost
    But never lost Hope
    Wishing you all the happiness and best of health now
    And always xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • fhfrench says:

      You can buy my book on Amazon. Just type in my name and the title of the book. It isn’t a great book, just a summary of my life. I was in the middle of benzodiazepine withdrawal at the time and had difficulty thinking clearly. When I wrote it I fully expected to recover but that hasn’t happened if you read my account of symptoms and progress here. I am now 4 years 7 months off Nitrazepam and remain disabled physically though still making little bits of progress. My spine, neck and legs are the main problem now, making walking difficult. I hope you can find happiness and better health too. Take care xx

      Liked by 1 person

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