My tablets aren’t working.
A bold, self-conscious step into the fray that followed Johann Hari’s contention that the drugs don’t work? Or indeed the same into reports of research showing that they do?
No, thankfully. I’ve followed the debate on both intently and was thinking about an essay for a while but for one reason or another it never happened. Many have done so comprehensively enough to negate the need for any addition from me anyway.
Had I gone ahead and written that article, I would have come out fully on the side of the drugs. I remember thinking it. Citalopram has levelled me out to the point where I feel like I’m in a zorb sometimes but as I’ve got older I’ve learned to accept that the lows are too low to live with and the edge has reluctantly ground off it with time. In my twenties an absence of sensation was unacceptable. The highs too high to sacrifice, the lows a necessary, little acknowledged hellbeast.
Maybe it’s like staying up late. You just lose your tolerance to it as you get older.
But when I had that thought, I was feeling good. A gentle rolling hill of high vs. the ridiculous 38,000ft peaks of unmedicated, untethered soaring of before, but a high nonetheless. The tablets were working. Today, and yesterday… perhaps even Tuesday… they’re not. I’ve been down. I push myself a lot and perhaps the sensation is defeat; I can’t keep up with my own unrealistic expectations. I’ve allowed discrete events and perceptions to coagulate in my mind and form a nauseating pity slurry. Worse still, I can’t even be arsed to swim my way out of it.
The stench of narcissism is thick in the air.
The very fact that I feel the need to interrupt myself with an explanatory sentence feels like self-indulgence. Look, I know how privileged I am. I’m safe and warm. I’ve eaten tonight. Tonight of all godawful nights when the wind howls and snow shimmys into drifts on the pavement and I can’t even imagine the plight of those sleeping out because that’s never happened to me. Perhaps my guilt about it makes me even worse. I’m not helping so I can’t be that upset about it, can I?
You get the idea. It’s irritating. I irritate myself. But regardless, chemically, medically or genetically (I neither know nor care, incidentally although I have my suspicions about the latter) I’m depressed and it’s not circumstantial. If I could snap out of it, why wouldn’t I? My life is great apart from this and I have nothing to be miserable about. And yet? I still feel the need to say that mental illness isn’t interested in privilege or lack of. It doesn’t care about gender, race, religion or any of the other units of compartmentalisation we enjoy. We could learn lesson from its stance on inclusivity. It affects everyone.
The debate about the efficacy of tablets will continue between those with a horse in the race. I find it interesting that my view on the matter was so binary when filtered through my state of mind.
It makes me realise that my expectations of medication are too high. They always have been. I’ve been on and off it since I was twenty or so (about five years too late as it happens, but if you think attitudes to mental health are unhelpful now, the nineties was a dystopian hell). How have I not learned during my extensive, exhaustive research that there are ups and downs? That I’m never going to be ‘better’?Why can’t I comfort myself on the downward plunge into darkness with the knowledge that soon I will be bathing in the the sweet, clear water of the surface? Why’s it all so bloody miserable?
I don’t know. I have no answers. I can’t even say that had I been told about ups and downs and dark and light when I was fifteen I would have listened and it would have helped. But I felt the urge to write this. To grasp the rope ladder out of the pity slurry and try to haul myself clear.
And you know what? I have. I feel better.
Sorry about the smell.