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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
'I felt like a zombie'
mental health
Mentally ill patients can suffer side effects
Robert Bayley spent almost 20 years dealing with his "terrible illness" before new drugs dramatically improved his life.

Campaigners say the drugs should be available to every mental health patient. BBC News Online looks in detail at Robert's case

Robert Bayley was diagnosed as having a serious mental illness in his late teens.

He describes the symptoms of his condition, paranoid schizophrenia, as "persecutory voices and visual hallucinations" and says it left him in "crippling despair".

Roberts, now in his 40s, says: "Those who suffer from it are often left to fester, neglected and alone with little in the way of compassion or sanctuary."

I was beginning to experience a strange involuntary rippling around my mouth and tongue
Robert Bayley
The drugs available at the time, called "typical antipsychotics", were prescribed in tablet form, and he was given injections which slowly release the drugs into the bloodstream and are often used for patients who do not take their medication regularly.

"I endured this method of treatment for many years, and had to live with a profusion of side effects that seemed to spiral out of my control," he says.

These side effects included severe shaking, a curious padding motion when supposedly stationary, loss of control of the limbs and hands, and a general sensation that he was not in charge of his own body.

Clarity

He also suffered mentally, becoming unable to think with clarity and leaving everything seeming dulled and disconnected. "I felt like a zombie," Robert says.

He spent most of the time asleep, achieving nothing and reducing his self esteem.

The side effects then became worse when he developed a condition called tardive dyskinesia, in which a person's muscles move involuntarily and abnormally.

Robert, who has been helped by the charity SANE, says: "I noticed that I was beginning to experience a strange involuntary rippling around my mouth and tongue, which then spread to my limbs.

"My tongue would thrust and roll, without my having control over it. But this was taken into another sphere of terror when my tongue began to expand to the extent that I felt akin to a dog that was panting after a period of intense exercise."

Tongue

As his tongue continued to grow, his oesophagus began to constrict, so he felt he was about to suffocate.

It was only in 1993 when he began to be treated at the Maudsley Hospital in London with the new form of drugs, called "atypicals", that his condition, and his life, improved.

These atypicals have less of the side effects associated with the older drugs and Robert is now able to work as an artist, writer and musician.

"My outlook is more positive and I am able to think with an increased clarity," Robert says. "I am now in control of my body and its movements, and so socially I feel more confident."

The newer drugs are more expensive but Robert argues there should not be a price on quality of life.

His wife says his illness is still evident in the voices, visions and disturbances Robert has. But, he adds: "She no longer needs to lock me in our home for my own protection."

Marjorie Wallace at SANE said the drugs should be available to every patient who needs them.

She said: "It seems a shame if not a scandal that many thousands of people like Robert are still being given older drugs which have, as he describes, such damaging side effects when there is now a choice of medication without stigmatising side effects.

"Until people with mental illness receive first class medical care we will have the kind of unnecessary suicides and other tragedies we read about every day."




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