Brain science

Me: I need to nip across the road and buy some cheese.

My brain: It’s very far. You’ll have to change your shoes. The dogs will bark when you leave. It’s a waste of money as the cheese there is expensive.

Me: My dinner is literally going to be cheese on toast. I just need more cheese.

Brain: No no, just have toast. That’ll be fine. Or go to bed hungry. We’ll lose weight. That’s fine too. Look, you’re tired: don’t go out.

Me: Look, brain, you do realise that you have been in remission from all the depression and anxiety since December of last year? That means we can go out and buy things without panicking about the process.

Brain: Fucking hell. I’d forgotten. Quick: buy ALL THE CHEESE.

Sinking like a stone

I went to the funeral of Sarah, my friend who looked after our dogs when we were away. She’d been ill for about two years, the disease nipping at her heels at all times, making her forget to eat. Forget to feed her dogs. Forget to look after herself. Forget that she was loved. Forget that she was needed.

Her passing was too much for my friend Adam. He decided to join her on the day of her funeral and is now gone too. No more laughs. No more fun. No more jokes. No more politics. No more collies. No more vaping. No more stories. No more self harm. No more love.

I will carry on because there isn’t any other choice. But I wish carrying on meant avoiding how much this pain hurts.

On being too clever for my own good

I spent my teenage years in a black funk. Really: it was awful, particularly for me and specifically for the people who had to live with me (ie my mum). Teenagerdom is, for most people, a terrible hell and once it’s over we can all laugh about it. My version is no different: I can laugh about it now but at the time it was terrible.

That immature brush with depression was enough for me. I live day to day now in the sure and certain knowledge that I’ll never be a teenager again. It fills my heart with joy to know this.

And then I got together with a guy who lived with depression. We’ll call him Graham Bruce Robertson, because that was his name. For 15 years, I battled his depression with and/or for him. It won in the end, as it was always going to. But I learned a lot from it and am now a different person (not better, just different) from the battle. I certainly learned a lot from his death and the aftermath of a suicide [bottom line: you haven’t prepared your family for it; they will not be better off for it; nobody at all anywhere will thank you for it; the recriminations and hate will bedevil multiple people’s lives for half a decade beyond it].

And then, years later, I got depressed too.

There’s a whole story to be told here that I can’t tell because the internet is something mystical and scary and even hinting that you’re not stood on top of a mountain singing about joy is enough to fuck off your employer. Especially if someone finds the posts, with quite some digging, takes screenshots and then shows them to your HR department because they’re “concerned” (concerned that they could have your job’s money if you’re not happy with it). If that happened, HR would call you and have a go when you’re already starting to get ill, making you get ill for real. And then email when you called in sick to tell you that they’re disgusted by the scene you’re making (I paraphrase, but nevertheless).

So I got depression.

I’ve been there and done that. I’m smarter than depression. I might not have saved Graham, but I knew what his depression was doing even while I was unable to stop it. I’m a classic gambler, and as a gambler, I know when I’m holding the losing cards but I also know that’s not a reason to leave the table.

I’m now holding losing cards, but this time I can’t leave the table: the cards are in my head. So I went to my GP. She’s a nice GP, competent-seeming if brusque, unsympathetic without being cold. Her diagnosis was done on a standard issue checklist (in Word, natch).

The result was a course of propranolol, a betablocker that reduces anxiety. It worked in reducing my immediate symptoms – a constant sub-panic-attack – and I’m grateful for that.

But I’m done. I have taken all I can. I have survived everything that life has fucking thrown at me and thrown it back. And I can now no longer do any more.

That means, and I speak from experience, I need antidepressents. I need something, almost anything, that will make life just a bit easier to live with. Not forever. Just for a bit while I get my brain sorted. Just while I deal with the overlap between my current job and… either a new job or my current job going back to not sucking (hey hey, HR: I’ll say this to your face if you like).

The problem is that doctors really, really don’t like you pitching up already knowing the solution to your problem. Perhaps this works in the United States where television adverts tell you what’s wrong and what drug to ask for and your HMO gives it to you. But in the UK, doctors really hate that.

My non-functioning thyroid means I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I’m on pills for it. Pubmed says this is normal. My GP says it’s a mystery, but if I stopped eating junk food I’ll get better (I’m a vegetarian foodie who home cooks everything, I say. Yes yes, that’s good, just cut down the chips and burgers to 3 times a week says my GP). My mention of Pubmed made him turn purple. LESS BURGERS FIRST, he said heatedly. Uh huh.

On Monday I go back to my practice for a review. I know what I need: some sort of anti-depressant. I don’t want nor need valium (although, blimey, valium is lovely). I want and/or need an “upper”, something that will make me… me, at least for as long as it takes for me to become me again. But if I say that, I’ll get nowhere. I know this already.

So I’ve got to fake the symptoms I’ve actually got in order to get help, like a junkie pitching up at the ED, in order to manipulate her into giving me what I need. The alternative is to say, correctly, that I’m actually coping quite well: not well enough to work or to hold conversations with people, but actually quite well *considering*. She’ll smile, renew the propranolol, and send me on my way.

If I wasn’t so clever, this wouldn’t bother me. But I am clever. Clever-clever, most of the time. That’s why I’m asking for help. I suspect I’m not going to get it. That’s why I’m going to truthfully lie on Monday.

I don’t think I have a choice.