Once people realise that I’m pretty open about my mental illness, and they get over any awkwardness on their part, they quite often ask me about it, human beings being naturally curious creatures and all that. I do get asked a variety of questions but the two that crop up most often are, ‘when did you realise you were depressed?’ and ‘are you taking anything for it?’
The answer to the first one is simple, I was at a party and one of my mates said to me “you’re fuckin depressed you cunt”. Until that moment I hadn’t consciously acknowledged it, but after ‘Trigger’s’ foul mouthed but wholly accurate analysis it all started to make some sort of sense.
In terms of the second question I have a stock answer which I give out, something along the lines of “not at the moment, trying not to rely on pills to keep me going but I know they’re there if I need them”. It’s a good answer, it makes it sound like I’m making progress but I know there’s a long way to go. It’s also total shit, if I was to be truthful, and the only reason I’m not is out of consideration for the person doing the asking, I’d say “no, and I’d rather fucking die than go back on those things again”.
I have already made the decision that if I ever again find myself in a situation where a doctor hands me a prescription for anti-depressants that I’ll put my affairs in order and say my goodbyes. I’d literally rather be dead than live like that again.
It’s quite difficult for me to describe my experience with anti-depressants because they fucked my head so brutally that I’m still not entirely sure what happened in the world you all inhabit and what was happened in the world inside my head. I know I was paranoid though, there’s fuck all doubt about that, I used to hide from noises, I think we can all agree that’s pretty fucking paranoid. Doesn’t mean they’re not after me of course. There was also a weird thing where the more of my skin was covered the safer I felt, used to doss around the flat wearing a hat, scarf and gloves. Looked fucking strange but it did save on heating.
The biggest issues I had was my complete inability to tell the difference between reality and my dreams. One example was the death of Osama Bin Laden; I was utterly convinced that was something I had dreamt, utterly convinced. It was only a few months after I had come off my medication that I saw an advert for a documentary about the mission (Operation Neptune Spear apparently) and I realised that after billions of dollars and thousands of lives that America had finally got their man (probably not worth it in the end). Also, in my mind John Major died in a car crash, evidently that isn’t true (please don’t analyse that dream, I really don’t care what it means). There are plenty of other cases and there’s probably a few things I thought were dreams that actually happened and vice versa.
If I have to live my life under the influence of these things then my life is not worth living.
Now of course medication is a great help to a great many people, in many cases it allows a resumption of ‘normal’ life and is quite literally a life saver. It is for this reason that I’ve put off writing this piece, I am very wary of saying anything that would stop someone going to get help. Let me be clear, if you don’t feel right, if you haven’t been yourself, go and get checked out. No matter how strong you imagine yourself to be, you can’t win this fight on your own. For a lot of, maybe even most people who feel like me, drugs are the only answer that makes any sense, they’re a marvel of medical science.
I do however have a real problem with how freely these things are doled out, I made an appointment with my GP, spoke for a bit, took a quick test and then 10 minutes later I was signed up for 6 months of powerful chemical alteration of my brain (in fairness it needed altered). I’m not having a go at my GP and I’m certainly not having a go at the NHS, they just don’t have the resources necessary to deal with such a complex problem. Because mental illness isn’t visible it’s easy to ignore, and with budgets being squeezed ever harder it’s pretty obvious which areas will be hit the hardest.
I’m not a particularly clever chap so I don’t have the answer, sometimes the drugs do work, sometimes they don’t. The only way this situation gets better and we wean ourselves of the pills is if mental illness is acknowledged as the serious illness that it is, and is accorded the relevant funding. If we can get people talking about it, if we can raise awareness, if we can increase early diagnosis then maybe we can break our addiction to all things medicinal. A doctor shouldn’t be asked to diagnose an incredibly varied and confusing disease in a quarter of an hour, they should be able to take the time to delve into their patient’s life or refer them to someone who can. You need money for shit like that though, and look around you, that’s quite clearly going to be a problem. Pills are cheap though, and quick.
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