a) Yes, and no. A big, fat no.
I had a friend over who tried to make me do some yoga poses with her. She gave me some bullshit about connecting with something or other to make myself less of a miserable, self-destructive twat. I had partaken in a few cans of lager by that point, so I humored her, but only because she had promised me a take away if I did at least a little bit of exercise.
She’s worried about me, apparently. I don’t eat right, I drink too much, I smoke, I prefer sitting on my arse to being up and moving around and I take so many anti-depressants that I rattle.
She is one of those annoying people who tell me that if I ate more greens, joined a gym and spent less time in the pub then I wouldn’t need to live off Prozac.
She’s very wrong. I know this because – and this will shock the shit out of you – I used to be really healthy. For years, all throughout my twenties, I was a vegetarian. I used to go to the gym everyday, and I even used to be able to run for an hour at a time on a treadmill. I was a tiny size eight and I used to ride bikes and walk. I can count on one hand the amount of times I drank alcohol in all those years.
Yes, that’s right. I was a gym wanker.
But I was a gym wanker who was depressed as hell and intermittently in and out of hospital with crippling stomach problems. No amount of exercise made me feel less like killing myself every day because it’s not lack exercise or endorphins or pixie dust that’s the problem: The problem is, my brain doesn’t work properly without the help of a seriously hefty daily dose of artificial serotonin.
Green juices and brisk walks didn’t stop me from wondering what it would be like to jump off a bridge, Prozac did. Actually, it didn’t – it just made me not care too much about anything that I got too down about it.
People don’t like to hear that about mental illness, but it’s the truth. There are some people who do need medication to live because they are not wired up like everyone else.
You still have your moments on Prozac. Some days it’s a bit like being on a roller coaster where one second you could be told that your entire family has been wiped out and you feel so detached that you’d just shrug your shoulders, and the next, someone says something perfectly innocuous but it has you sniveling like a baby and planning to block them from ever contacting you again.
But mostly, you are just numb. And after you have experienced proper I-want-to-be-dead depression, numbness is very, very good.
People who don’t know that I take anti depressants always tell me I am laid back. I am really not. I am the most highly strung, irritating, insecure idiot you will ever meet – the Prozac just makes me numb and calm and most of the time, unable to care enough about anything to get upset. Apart from the random times when it does let me get upset and then watch out. Actually, you don’t have to watch out, I will still be nice to you; I’ll just be an utterly evil bitch to myself.
There are drawbacks to being on a high dosage of antidepressants (80mg of Prozac for those interested). My memory is shot to fuck, I can’t sleep for more than two hours at a time and when I do, I have horrific, vivid nightmares that seem so real that I recall them as memories and have to stop and ask myself if that actually happened, or did I dream it once. I can’t write properly because my mind goes blank and I can’t remember the simplest of words. I get so tired that I can fall asleep at random times, I have absolutely no filter in what I do or say and the worst bit is, Prozac makes you fat.
Prozac makes you really fat.
Although, you don’t actually care that you are fat, so while you are on it, it’s not that much of a big deal.
But – these are all the symptoms I get when my brain isn’t being helped along by chemicals anyway, and when they are symptoms of depression rather than the drugs, they are worse.
It has taken me years to understand why I can’t remember most of my childhood. You know how most people have memories of their childhood, families and school? I only have a few and they are pretty sketchy.
I can’t remember doing my GCSEs.
I can’t remember my mothers funeral when I was 12.
I can’t remember anything of my first two years of secondary school or anything bar three things before the age of 8.
I can’t tell you the amount of times that family or childhood friends have said to me “do you remember that time when you….” And I have no idea what they are talking about. It’s actually quite frightening. I have huge gaps that I can’t account for that should be there and it’s infuriating and it’s part of the reason I have no contact with my family; I don’t feel any connection to them because they are like strangers.
It was only recently, when I was doing a top up course in my field of study (which is ironically, forensic mental health. I’ve worked with clinically insane people who are on lower doses of medication than me) that I had to write a paper on the effects of depression and serotonin imbalance in childhood.
One of the symptoms you realise as an adult is that you can’t remember anything after a depressive episode.
When you have episodes of depression, you do tend to block things that will hurt you out, and it was only when I was researching that paper, that it all clicked into place and me not remembering much of my childhood made sense.
Plus, I was a miserable little sod, so it comes as no surprise that my brain was wired the wrong way from a young age.
For clinical depression, there is nothing wrong with accepting the help of medication, it is needed, your brain has an imbalance which the medication can go someway to correcting. No amount of going to the gym will make a suicidal person not jump in front of a bus, but medication might.
Anyway, do you want to know what happened when I tried to do yoga?
- I farted really loudly when I had to put my leg up to my chin.
- I couldn’t put my leg up to my chin, I’m too fat.
- That made me laugh so much that I fell over and whacked my head on the fire place.
- I gave up and ordered a curry.