I see it was World Mental Health Day yesterday! (A Sunday in October? Yes, good time to be aware of it!)
I have some thoughts
I take an anti-depressant every morning! I started early 2020, I think? It was after Xmas 2019 where my full-blown Dad grief came back and I thought, gladly, that it was no longer “productive” or “meaningful” to go through that much pain again. See, I had to go through it for the first six months or so after losing my dad because that was a normal or healthy response to what had happened, I suppose. I don’t think anyone would have prescribed me anti-depressants then, nor do I think they would have been a good idea. But I “resurfaced as myself” at some point after that, so when all that pain came back again full force it was like, “Alright, enough of this.” I truly don’t think I would’ve survived another round of it.
I’ve also had pretty bad seasonal affective disorder my whole life too, and at the very least I never want to go through another winter without anti-depressants. (Given that you need to take them months after you feel better, and start taking them pre-emptively again before the winter starts, I might as well just take them my whole life. Who cares if I have to?) I even told my family I wanted to switch my birthday, December 13th, to my half-birthday, June 13th, because I never had anything to celebrate in winter. They managed once but Mum took it as a personal insult that she didn’t get to celebrate my birthday on my actual birthday. Mum disclaimer, she was great etcetera, but I didn’t know about boundaries, growing up.
Side note: I knew advanced calculus but I didn’t know about boundaries? What the fuck were they teaching us? And why were so many of them such dicks? No wonder it took me so long to realise that what I was feeling WASN’T NORMAL when school life was so boring, petty, alienating and often run by people who have let the teeny tiniest amount of power go to their stupid heads. But I don’t let adults off the hook for not realising that life is what we make it, not what it appears to be. Experiencing bad behaviour is no indication of “how things have to be done.” It’s not an excuse for its perpetuation.
I mean, what could be more mine than my birthday, right? Still today I celebrate it on my actual birthday out of not wanting to cause a fuss, on a day to me that has more often than not felt like “The lights are out, the world is over, ALL IS LOST, DEATH DEATH DEATH” because I’d hate to be impolite. (Doesn’t feel like that anymore though: anti-depressants!)
Maybe all this does surprise you. It’s scary to me how little people notice the difference between my medicated and unmedicated versions. It’s more of a reassurance to them, not me, when they say I “have never been that bad.” Trust me: I have. It’s my depression, so I guess I can say I am glad to have spared others the pain that was in my own head (thus far, here’s hoping the pills keep working), though it probably came at my own further expense. It also makes me feel I really am alone in my vigilance against my own depression, because most people either don’t want to see it or they can’t. If this is new to some, I’m sure they’re very sorry I ever had to feel that way now, but they weren’t at the wedding/birthday/dinner/party when I was ever so quiet or mopey or legitimately-unable-to-attend-leave-me-the-fuck-alone-not-everything-is-about-you.
- You’re so quiet, Leo!
- You’re welcome! You did not want to know what was going on in my head.
- Why did you stop drinking? Was it as a personal challenge to my own alcohol consumption?
- What a weird way to have thought about it! Actually I stopped because PAAAAIIIINNN and DEEEAAAAAATH and AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHSTUPIDSTUPIDSHAMESHAME.
Some people around me know all this. Some might be surprised to hear that I still take anti-depressants, because I tapered off them during the summer. It didn’t last! The depression came back, and in a way that was different enough from how it had previously presented for me to not immediately notice. It’s a sneaky one, I tell you. Luckily I still had anti-depressants left so I started taking them again on the off chance that what I was feeling was a new expression of depression—a leap of faith as big as having taken the pills in the first place. Before the pills started to work again, I was fully convinced that they wouldn’t and nothing would ever be the same again and I was trash and all that. Everything I thought I had “learned”, I hadn’t. It was what the medication gave me. Anyway, the only success is my own healthy mental wellbeing, not how it is achieved. If I had stopped taking medication for good, it would have been no kind of victory.
In telling you all this, I don’t feel like I’m “confessing” anything. FINALLY! Depression has had me in a shame-bind for too long! “Confession” assumes I had something to be ashamed of. Should you be ashamed of having to wear glasses? No, your eyes just need a bit of help to see clearly. My brain has an aversion to its own serotonin for some reason. Unfortunately the symptom, unlike poor eyesight, is not that everything looks a bit blurry, but that the world is drained of hope and possibility, the past and the future disappear and all there is is the ever-painful present, OH LORD WHAT A CURSE IS CONSCIOUSNESS, EXISTENCE IS A MISTAKE!
I was reading this non-fiction book by a therapist recently where he was like, “Anti-depressants might keep you in a life that is non-ideal by making you numb to signals that your body is giving you that something is up and you need to fix it.” I think you can agree that’s not the case for me. I’d wake up in my own bed, in a flat I own, beside my husband and cat, about to go to my stable job and think “PAIIIINNN!! ENDLESS PAINNN!!” I’m not really sure what that signal was supposed to mean, do you? I think it’s best to get that out the way so I can go about my day, frankly!
I don’t know who invented anti-depressants but they are all absolute geniuses. It’s like self-worth in a pill. Some of us can’t affirm ourselves happy in the mirror. Going for a walk is a nice idea but to do it you have to get out of bed. Some of us can’t. And when we can’t, you can’t argue against our perfectly legitimate reasons for not bothering our arses.
In my writing, where possible I’ve tried to create sympathetic mentally ill characters. I was particularly pleased about my own character in TrutherNet when audience members said, “No, I don’t want to sympathise with him, he’s so toxic!” Yeah, cause he needs it most!
It’s a toughie! Our horrible behaviour is protection against the love and support we feel we don’t deserve. In earlier parts of this post I might have given voice to my frustrated depressed self who wasn’t receiving the help he needed, but the truth is, we are crafty at avoiding it.
So no, I don’t know the answer, and overall really I am saddened that all of us, either experiencing mental illness or being around those who experience it—everyone, then—are burdened with this thing we have to deal with, without which life would be so much more… joyous, I guess. I don’t know about you but there is this oddly idealising wee guy inside me who can’t stop wishing life wasn’t so damn unfair.
If you’re able to read this, I love you (in some way) and I know you’re doing your best. Keep it up. The world is so much better with you here