Well, January has been exceptionally shite. I love a bit of New Year , there is no greater joy than sitting down and writing your New Year’s Resolutions , thinking about all the shiny ways you are going to be a better human this year. That said, fate has dealt me a swift triple batch of issues in several areas of life, and I am just crawling towards the last weekend of this wretched shit-show month like a sloth that’s been hit over the head with a two-by-four. My resolutions lie upon the scrap heap, and I’m postponing the New-Year-New-Me until February first!
Something I’ve been incredibly grateful of during this time of strife is my antidepressants (and peanut butter). A lot of people seem to be under the impression that my use of antidepressants means that I am somehow numb to the tribulations of life, which is hilarious. That’s right, hilarious! I can actually still laugh on antidepressants! You don’t pop a pill and turn into the Tin Man. What people need to understand about depression is that it’s like a full time job, except you never go home or get any satisfaction or money from having it, and you don’t get to choose your days off, and sometimes actually you just don’t get any days off…Antidepressants don’t take that away they just make it so that the terrible periods don’t last as long, or you can at least predict them before you reach hanging-off-the-back-of-Titanic scenarios, and go talk to someone.
I saw a drama recently on Netflix, it had some reputable actors in it, so I was shocked when I discovered that it’s depiction of mental illness was the kind of dross that wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of the Teletubbies. I won’t name it, because I don’t want it’s ratings to go up (for the same reason I’ve never seen Fifty Shades of Rape) , but there was a character, I shit you not, who was cured of his depression and anxiety, by love. Imagine! I am positively drowning in love! Left right and centre! I have lifelong friends, a really excellent family, sisters and soulmates -if love healed depression I could be selling bottles of my own wee as a magic tonic! Behold the wonder cure!
This show actually portrayed the guy triumphantly throwing his meds into the bin. I assume that what occurred off camera was that he hyperventilated until he shat himself, and fell down the stairs because his legs gave way under the weight of his own emotion. If a show depicted a diabetes sufferer who quit his insulin and turned into a unicorn, they would be brutalised by Ofcom, but apparently, putting it about that you can just bin your mental health meds is fine! NB- you cannot do this, it will send your brain on what Bill Bryson called “an express elevator to Mars”.
The same character also pushed over a giant Jesus statue made of pills in the vestibule of a pharmaceutical company, so I guess the writers weren’t big on subtlety, but having been the triumphant-pill-binner in the past, I know how irresponsible that is. Me and all doctors , and scientists, and experts who actually know what’s up, unlike say, some screenwriters. I too, was once one of these plebs that said things like “I don’t want to take meds because I want to like, experience life” like SSRIs would turn me into an actual rock. I am definitely still fully involved in my own life ; when you cut me, I still bleed, if you leave me on read, I still feel pain, and if you cross me I will still shout at you. I have not turned into buddha, but, on antidepressants, I want to kill myself a lot less frequently and that is what I’m here for.I do wish serial killers would stop saying “ I did it because of the prozac” as well. It’s really not helping us depressed people at all.With that in mind, I’ve created this nifty guide:
So, You Think You’re Mentally Ill?
Go to a doctor. They will do a peculiar little test on you which can be found HERE. Be honest.
If the first doctor says you don’t have depression, see another just to be sure.
I love and cherish the NHS and the medical profession but the first time I went to get help for depression I was told to “drink more water”. Things have improved a lot in the last decade, and hey, maybe you don’t have depression, but get two opinions because those “drink more water” doctors are still out there, ruining things for everyone
Don’t JUST take medication. Medication is the least of your worries! My lifestyle before and after committing to managing the ol’ mental health could not look more different: I don’t drink in January or February, I’m in bed at 9 most nights, I eat right. It’s not exciting but it’s better than bouncing up and down on the see-saw of terror and nothingness until someone finds you, shrivelled and disgusting under a sweaty duvet.
Under no circumstances should you stop taking the medication on a whim, even if you feel completely better. It is impossible to overstate this. So many people experience a rush of positive feeling when they start to medicate and they’ve felt so awful for so long that they convince themselves they are “fixed” and stop the medication. You don’t need to be fixed, you aren’t broken, and taking antidepressants doesn’t make you broken either. Take the damn pills as prescribed and follow your doctor’s advice.
Tell your job- keep a record of all correspondence regarding your mental health. After the initial conversation, try to speak almost exclusively about it in written form. Your work has an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to help you, and if you feel they are not doing so, then go here
Tell a friend, and choose wisely. You can’t do this by yourself, family and romantic partners are too close to the situation, but friends are best. In the beginning I told a couple of mates, and they were incredible, like, Desperate Housewives, making me Shepherd’s pie, coming to Sainsbury’s with me because I was too anxious to go alone, talking to me late at night when I was afraid of my own shadow- INCREDIBLE. Now, several years down the line, I’ve told everyone. I’ve made that decision lately because I want the stigma of mental illness to just die, horribly, but also because I know that this is going to be a problem for probably the rest of my life. If this is your first trip aboard the crazy train, you don’t have to tell everyone, it’s a very personal decision, and you should do what’s right for you, but for God’s sake tell someone.
Always remember, the great words of Albus Dumbledore:
“just because something exists only in your mind, doesn’t mean it’s not real” .