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Posts from August 2009

  • On the face of it

    by Daniel S on 27 August 2009

    I feel like a charlatan whenever I visit the doctor in need of assistance with my darkest moods.

    I'll wisely/foolishly (I still can't decide which adjective is applicable) come off my pills on medical advice, and then some months later I'll suffer another episode: the sort that's sometime called endogenous depression, which means it's apropos of nothing much, rather than being in reaction to some or other major emotional strife.

    So, it's back to the GP I go. While I explain to him or her about how horrible I feel, I'll assume that the doctor is disdainful of me: he/she thinks I'm over-needy, an emotional weakling who's confusing being a bit fed up with serious depression. Or my GP believes that I'm fine but want official backing to take some undeserved time off work. Maybe I suffer from Münchausen syndrome.

    The fact that no medical expert has ever voiced such suspicions has never made me feel less uncomfortable when I pay a visit, looking for advice and medication. I find talking with the doc about my emotional condition only slightly less awkward than discussing my sexual health. (A doctor once asked me how my erections were. 'Fine,' I said, 'just fine' - and it felt like I was boasting.)

    It was with some relief, then, that my current GP, the excellent Dr Choudhury, pointed out the psychomotor retardation that was so obvious to him. This, he explained, is a slowing down of physical and mental reactions in an individual struggling with major depression. It was all over my face, apparently.

  • Sounds like a bad idea

    by Daniel S on 20 August 2009

    I once knew a mental health visitor who, by his own admission, would bark at music-loving patients, telling ‘em to listen to tunes whenever they felt down. This, he claimed gruffly, would not only lead to them feeling happier, it would also make his job easier.

    The man’s ethics and attitude to work were dubious, and so was his advice. Doing something you love – in my experience, at least – isn’t always a salve for what ails your mind. You see, I adore music, but I sometimes find it unbearable to listen to.

    That’s when I’m at my lowest ebb, when indulging in something that makes stirs me so greatly becomes an anathema to me. I fear that I’ll take in some of my favourite up-tempo tracks and begin to loathe them, like I despise myself and everyone and everything around me. And if I pick or accidentally happen upon a sad song, well…

    Even when I’m able to give in to the sounds, I often don’t enjoy them as much as usual, and on other occasions I become hyperaware of their messages, which I’ll interpret in ways that aren’t good for me.

    Take, for instance, the torrid summer of 2006. The searing heat had done a nasty job on me in July - times of hot, sunny weather is usually when I feel most depressed - and I was still mentally fragile the following month (by which time I was, I now realise, teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown).

    Along came Gang of Losers, the latest album by the sometimes-terrific Canadian band The Dears. I was very keen to hear it and on first play was thrilled by the opening few tracks, particularly Hate then Love.

    Perhaps repeated listens weren’t advisable, given the lyrics during the most fervid section: “Til your last breath you will hate this heart/Just don’t hate anyone ‘cause you hate yourself”.

    I misheard the words (deliberately?) as “And you hate everyone…" and I thought, that’s uncannily and upsettingly about me. It became like a scab I couldn’t stop picking at, playing it on my iPod as I walked through the neighbourhood streets, seeing if my brain would bleed this time.

    Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    I still love that song, though. So, it’s a happy ending of sorts.

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  • Burdens

    by Daniel S on 13 August 2009

    I don't want your help. I don't want anyone's help.

    During my most recent mood-crash, when I was seriously considering doing myself harm, I had to be cajoled, bullied and nagged by my wife into seeking medical help - and I'm glad I did. My GP is a gent (hurrah for the NHS!) and he's been nothing but understanding, patient and sympathetic.

    But his caring is starting to get on my nerves. Do I really need pay you a visit every few weeks, doctor?

    Don't think me an ingrate. I'm thankful for any support, even if I don't always say so. It's just that I feel I don't much deserve attention. Also, I'm not a sharer; I rarely talk about how I'm feeling. Not even my wife gets much, if anything, revealing out of me. One reason is my being a working class male from Yorkshire - Sheffield, if you're wondering - and the other reason is that I don't want to be a pain.

    Depression is boring: for the person who suffers from it and, I'm certain, for the people around the sufferer. So, I mostly keep my mouth shut and my head down about the pain in my psyche (although I'll bang on about the 'science' of condition at anyone daft enough to mention it after I've had a couple of drinks). My family and friends have got enough on their oven-hot plates, and the last thing anyone needs is an increased risk of blistered fingers.

    A pal of mine once quizzed me about my depression: was I still susceptible? On any medication? The sort of broad, semi-interested questions that get asked under the influence of a lot of red wine. And then he barked, "You need to sort yourself out, mate".

    My friend later apologised for his remark (without provocation, I should add) - but I think he might have had a good point.

    I wish I could get over myself. I wish it were as easy as that.

  • The drugs don't work.

    At least, not in the way I've always hoped.

    When I was first prescribed fluoxetine in the early '90s, I was expecting a psychic panacea, a penicillin for the mind - and one that wouldn't simply stop me feeling deeply miserable but would go as far as boosting my self-confidence, enhancing my charisma, heightening my intelligence and even, perhaps, making me feel just a touch euphoric in a manageable and non-boorish way.

    How disappointed I was.

    These days, I'm on citalopram. I recently began a new course, having been off it (unsuccessfully, obviously) for a few months. As I was handed the prescription, I felt a familiar dismay: the jollop was going to take weeks to take effect.

    And then it would only stop me bursting into tears every day and what have you. I'd still hate myself; I just wouldn't be so constantly upset by my worthlessness.

    I no longer hanker after a cure-all that makes me irresistible and just a little bit high. What I most desire is a mental deadening: I want my feelings to be numbed, and I don't care if it's at the expense of the positive aspects of my personality (if there are any).

    Alas, I don't get even that. The only part of me that's numb as a result of the anti-depressants is an intimate one - and not in the way you might imagine.

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