Won’t be many jokes in this one.
Every once in a while, I work it all out. I cure my depression. I look around at my life and concede that I have it made. I accept that I have nothing bad going on in my life. I happily celebrate the fact that I am now officially, medically, happy.
I mean, do I even have depression? Do most people? Really, I mean? If you’re struggling to pay your bills, if your benefits have been cut and you’re not sure if you’re going to be able to feed your children, are you really medically depressed? I deal with clients who have had to flee the only country they’ve ever known and witnessed everyone they’ve ever loved be slaughtered, now forced to live on the barest minimums in a country they have never had explained to them and surrounded by a culture and language they don’t understand. They’re also diagnosed as depressed, but… are they really? Are they not just feeling shitty because shitty things are happening to them? Is this really ‘depression’ or just ‘completely rational sadness’? Aren’t we far to quick to medicalise sociological problems? Wouldn’t these people’s ‘depression’ be ‘cured’ if they were simply treated as human beings by those in power. I mean, yeah, right?
Who am I to have depression? In the past, sure, I was unemployed, struggling with a recently acquired disability, occasionally in relationships that might be deemed abusive, alone, lonely and generally fucked. I was an alcoholic as well, wouldn’t that play a part? Everything’s changed now, none of these previous triggers exist in my life anymore. I’m ‘alone’ but I’m certainly not ‘lonely’ – I have an absolutely correct number of fantastic close friends and I love my colleagues and clients at a full time job that I am incredibly respected in. I didn’t need to ‘cure’ my depression because it never existed. All I was left with was the crux of my 40mg antidepressants each morning, making me more sluggish and more fat.
So I stopped taking my antidepressants. About three weeks ago. And it was amazing.
For a while at least.
Of course, the definition of ‘amazing’ is doing a lot of work here. By ‘amazing’ I generally mean a reverse placebo affect*, being all excited at how good I was feeling without antidepressants, how this was now obviously the real me, and how – hey! – I didn’t want to kill myself at all! I was also incredibly horny, which I’ll accept is perhaps neither amazing nor necessarily unamazing.
(*for other examples of the ‘reverse placebo effect’, I refer you to the difficulties that Brian Molko had launching a solo career. OK, that’s one joke)
I still did 30 minutes on my tDCS machine each morning, now convinced that this was all I needed. Listen, I’m not stupid, I know that perhaps I am a little bit prone to getting a little bit gloomy sometimes, so I’d need something just to keep my brain above water and at normal functioning level. The last time I quit antidepressants, in early 2016, it was because I just knew that my at the time copious psilocybin intake had ‘cured’ whatever might be labelled as ‘depression’. I will not be subdued by the pharmaceutical industry! I’m not even sure that I had depression! Sad shit was happening, so I was sad! We don’t need to medicalise that shit!! In 2016 though, I was blissfully happy. I wrote and published two books in two months. In the third month, I found that I was struggling with the third in the series. I wasn’t getting out of bed early enough. Sometimes sleeping all day and doing nothing productive. This was obviously the fault of the antidepressants making me sleepy. So I stopped taking them.
I never did finish that third book.
Now, in 2022, I thought about what had convinced me to attach myself back to that faithful old serotonin drip. It was when my ESA disability benefit payments were stopped. I went from having £200 a week and the freedom to pursue any artistic venture I wanted, to having no money, a six week wait for Universal Credit to start, and no means to afford to contest the ESA decision without any income. That’s not depression! That’s me being bummed because I was fucked over by the government! Going back onto antidepressants was the easy option of a fucking coward! I wouldn’t be making that same mistake again. See this through, Alex, you’re normal now!
I didn’t talk to any doctors. I didn’t last time, I didn’t this time. Why would I need to? I’ve already done all the research back in 2016, I know what to avoid, I know what the fucking deal is. It’s always been hard for me to accept that GPs, doctors, consultants, psychologists could possibly be any help. They have no idea what’s going on in my brain. How could they? Only I know. I remember after my first suicide attempt when I was 14 (15?) years old – drinking bleach and then quickly regretting it – I was assigned a child psychologist who simply threw words at me while I absentmindedly nodded. I didn’t tell her anything, she didn’t reveal anything to me. It was a completely useless exercise that was a waste of my young time. Then, in 2013 – my third suicide attempt but second major one – I simply lay in a hospital bed for six months and never mentioned the word ‘suicide’ because I knew it would just lead to more useless aching buttocks sitting opposite a psychiatrist telling me something I either already knew or just exposing how little they could possibly know about me. I learned to (kinda) walk again, I (kinda) potty trained myself again, over a six month period where I learned I would likely be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Nobody ever mentioned ‘suicide’ though. It was just shit that happens. And isn’t everything? I wouldn’t even build up the courage to ask my GP about depression until a couple of years later. And was that really depression? I had a lot to be pissed off about!
So, yeah, boom! No more antidepressants! Whatever was bumming me out back then certainly isn’t doing so anymore! Since that six month stay in hospital nearly a decade ago I’d quit drinking, I’d become a qualified Immigration Advisor (one exam away from a registered solicitor), I’d sorted my fucking life out! And ditching the citalopram crux was the final piece of the puzzle of me fully actualising myself. I was done. I was complete. And it was wonderful.
For a while at least.
I got shit done! Not completed, but, like, started! I spent all weekend filming clips for a YouTube video I later decided never to release. I presented my friend with detailed plans of the podcast we were absolutely about to launch. I ordered five separate books I planned to read immediately, but only after finishing the 700+ page ‘Companion to Marx’s Capital’ that I also decided to start reading. Look at how well I’m doing!!
Then, an Eventbrite invitation to something I’d purchased tickets for some time in the past when October 20th seemed to be impossibly far in the future. A fucking singles night. Designed for people ‘tired of dating apps’ which, yeah, I guess I’d fall into. It’d involve a group of single people mingling together while we learned about synesthesia (basically ,painting sounds) and all do a lovely painting each that we’d get to keep at the end. I, obviously, really didn’t want to go, I have no interest in just meeting someone for the sake of courtship – I’m not lonely at the moment and would only really be interested in relationships happening more organically (with, erm, specific people, if I’m being honest…). Did you not hear about all those books I have to read?? But, fuck it, I’m all or making connections with new people, I’d already paid my money back in 2015 or whenever, so what’s the worst that could happen?
I should have noticed the first red flag. I went to work beforehand, wearing what I wanted to wear. During the day I started to question my shirt. Sure, I like it, and I can wear it to work among the people who know me, but is it too loud for new people? Won’t they judge me? Won’t they think I’m weird? After work, I changed it to a far more dull all black affair. I couldn’t remember the last time I was so conscious of what other people thought of me. Looing back, I was obviously debilitatingly nervous about interacting with people I didn’t know. I was pushing away the fact because I didn’t want to accept how this new anxiety didn’t really fit into the new self that I was convinced I was now inhabiting.
I went to the event. I spoke to a few people, but didn’t make as good of an impression as I would have liked. The event finished at 10pm but I snuck out at 9:30, not really feeling it.
That’s it. That’s all that happened. I didn’t embarrass myself, I didn’t offend anyone. Really, nothing went wrong. Keep that in mind as I try and explain the painful spiral that my mind was launched down. Launched from fucking nothing.
People were speaking too quiet. Was I going deaf? Am I that old? Who’s age appropriate for me? Do I look like a desperate old man? I put my walking stick in my rucksack. My rucksack’s too big. I purposely went for the smaller rucksack, but it’s still too big. When I turn around a bash people with it. What the fuck am I doing with a fucking rucksack? Am I in secondary school? I can’t go without my rucksack though, because then what would I do with my walking stick? I can’t just use it, because then they’d all know that I was disabled, that I was damaged good. Sure, they could all see the limp, but they don’t have to know I’m that disabled. Not stick disabled. A woman introduces herself to me and a guy I’m standing next to, but then she comments on the other guy’s necklace and I decide that she’s obviously chosen him over me and I just let them speak to each other without interrupting for a good five minutes that feels like five hours. Not knowing where to look. Do I concede defat and completely turn away? Do I try and interject like a fucking pathetic duelling animal? I do not find this woman attractive physically nor soulfully, yet her rejection makes me want to die. I can’t start conversations. How do humans talk? Why have I forgotten how to talk? We are sat down to do our paintings, I can’t concentrate on what the host is saying, and have no idea what we’re supposed to be doing. I keep asking what’s gong on and looking like an absolute idiot. I make people laugh, but not as much as I’d like to, not as much as I know I’m capable of. People seem to be finishing their paintings. I just quickly paint the word ‘art’ over mine and declare it done. Then we’re encouraged to mingle. Mingle! I can’t fucking mingle! Who are these people?? At work, the balance of power is in my favour, I can confidently chat and joke and smile knowing that my status is already set in stone! Here, how do I tell these people who I am?? Who am I? My brain empties. I have nothing to say. I am nothing. One of the hosts notices me aimlessly wandering with dizzy eyes and asks if I’ve found a partner yet?! Found a partner?!?! The fuck is this place?? I can’t explain, I can’t joke, I can’t even fucking speak! He obviously pities me me but I don’t need fucking pity I am fucking better than this I am fucking OK I am fucking OK I am fucking OK I am fucking OK!!
I leave early, painting in hand still wet. I walk in the direction home possibly is. I can’t check Google Maps, I’m carrying too much stuff in my hands. Stuff like my fucking stick. That fucming stick. Where the fuck am I going? What is this? What was that person in there? I was suddenly that 14 year old boy again shrugging at psychiatrist’s questions, nothing to say and nothing in my brain. Is that who I am? Is that this real self that I’ve been so desperate to unleash. Pathetic. Pathetic. Fucking pathetic. All my life, is that who people have been dealing with?
I really needed a drink. For the first time in more than six years alcohol made perfect sense to me. That was the difference. That’s how all those other people made it look so easy. My stomach was/is twisted, my body ached/s, I couldn’t/can’t eat. I stayed up all night promising myself that I’d write this article. At least document how this feels so perhaps I’ll remember next time I’m convinced that my depression has been cured. Document the self hatred, document the stinging sinuses, document the real physical pain that my whole body is in.
I didn’t embarrass myself, I didn’t offend anyone. Really, nothing went wrong. Keep that in mind as the reason begind the painful spiral that my mind was launched down. Launched from fucking nothing.
OK, I accept, maybe I do have depression. I still believe that so many people diagnosed with depression is largely a medicalisation of a social issue, but also that not everyone diagnosed with depression has tried to commit suicide four times and is carrying around the disability of their most significant failed attempt like a constant Mark of Cain. And so what? Can I solve these social issues? I truly believe that depression is curable with proper psychiatric care, but who can afford that? Are the NHS’s mental health services even close to having the resources.
No, I went back on antidepressants again this morning, hoping that I’d be back to normal son, because I simply don’t have time for anything else.
On the way out though, I did promise that I’d be going to their next event, a pub quiz in November. I’ll fucking kill it that time, I know it…
Which all to say that I am now launching my art collection, starting with the painting above. That Lowry painting recently sold for £7.8million, and it’s not that good, so I’ll start the bidding at £5mil.
Have a good weekend.
(I’l wrte a funny one tomorrow, I promise)