it’s a right lemon

I am always saddened when hearing the myriad of stories about the ease with which GPs in the UK put patients on prescription drugs for ‘depression’. In a 10 minute appointment, with no physiological validation, supportive counselling, strong suggestions of sunshine, exercise, sleep, or complementary lifestyle change… anti-depressants are dished out with little follow-up, clinical observation or real therapy. I shld know. I am what used to be called a Manic Depressive.

People around me, feeling low, blue, sad, tired, lazy, or just experiencing what we call life, instantly given pharmaceuticals instead of being allowed to cry or not cope, really scares me. Those tiny daily little white pills have kept me alive. Literally kept me alive at times in my life when the chemistry was so fucked up I didn’t want to be here. I know my triggers, my patterns and I know how to ask for help. Many people who suffer crippling Depression do not. But to just hand the drugs out like candy… this, this continues to perpetuate so many assumptions and ideals about our society, conceals and misrepresents, promotes such dangerous messages. And this makes me sad.

You are lucky if alternatives work for you – finding a peace however you attain it is precious. In some people, Depression is not curable. It is a permanent state, managed carefully. There are pathways that do not function properly. There are incredibly important chemical imbalances that sniffing ginseng wont help.

I am in no way advocating that pharmaceuticals are not a solution. Far from it, sometimes they are the ONLY fix. However, I do believe that as a society, expectations, pressures, shitty days, crappy periods in our lives, sleep deprivation and lacking basic serotonin should be managed first, with real thought, support and holistic care (not alternative but holistic in the 360 management sense).

Critical or acute Depression is dangerous and requires instant response – these are not the people I am talking about. There are some incredible drugs available that keep people suffering from the most severe manifestations of the disease alive. Every day.

It’s been a condition I have lived with since my early teens; possibly linked to hormonal changes back then… very likely a predisposition (genetic). It manifested itself in my ‘unnatural’ desire not to “be here any more”. My triggers? Seeing the grotesqueness of humanity, the cruelty and the destruction… I remember crying inconsolably watching Hillsborough on tv. And never recovering. I’ve had a few serious infrequent periods of Depression since then, not many… but they have included hallucinations and attempts to take my own life. Luckily I have the wonderful, productive, soaring ups sometimes too. My Depression feels very different from the shitty, heartbreaking, frustrating, bits of life that we all feel, process, work through, heal, and learn from…

And that numbness? The nothing that accompanies ingesting anti-depressants on a daily basis? Horrible. I’d rather my heart ripped out and feel all of every second of it and know I will live through it than that creeping invasive numbness. I would rather feel the pain and the gut-wrench falling, and the loss than loose myself in the stupefied zombie existence of the drugs. If I have a choice.

My recent experience has been incredibly difficult… I went from lots of shitty days to days that scared the shit out of me, and I had to ask for help. The exhaustion of not letting other people know my struggle was a learning I shall remember.

And yes, there is definitely a piece about society allowing people to ‘not cope’, to ask for help, to not always be at their best… to want to ask the world to stop for a bit. All of us know someone who needs to just be given permission to breakdown and it be ok. Perhaps it is the loss of the extended family, or the pressure for us all to function ‘high’ 24/7. Whatever it is, we need to make it ok for people to not be ok. It’s a crappy world. Love sometimes isn’t enough, sunshine, exercise… may not be the answer. But the pharmaceutical response shld always be the last resort.

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lemon sherbet

Reason

The ‘things happen for a reason’ mantra is beginning to grate.

I am not a fatalist. I do not believe in any gods. Higher beings or predetermined events are not part of my belief system. Things happen because of a billion wonderful crazy sad beautiful coincidences, a chain reaction of decision-making, and the way in which we respond to all of it. Things do not happen to ensure we learn something, but instead we should endeavour to learn from things that happen. The wisdom is in the taking of a combination of happenings and knowing what you can influence and what needs to be accepted.

It is your own journey. Make shit happen.

lemon squash with vodka

I recently held a wee soiree at my house. A little celebration of my 15 years in the UK. Well, 14 if you count 12 months living on the Isle of Man. So. Party invitations disseminated. Vague responses, demographic of attendees sways wildly over the RSVP period. By the evening we had a strange mix of random acquaintances, theatre-friends, a couple of couples, and a sprinkling of colleagues. New people. Lovely, all of them. One or two somewhat socially inept. Another struggling with making conversation with the female contingent. One not really fitting at all. Still, a fine diverse complement of the people now in my life. Many, about whom I care greatly.

Funny to watch the dynamics. And a little disconcerting. Not the best gathering I have ever hosted. Far from. In fact, I was quite worried that both the majority were happy to sit and chat and there wasn’t a kitchen clique. How is that possible? I have never been to a house party that was lacking a kitchen clique. It unnerves me. Even in my later years this has been a staple escape destination should the conversation flatten, escalate or disappear – and salvation is always found in the kitchen. Even when someone is shuffling about amidst the kitchen-dwellers cleaning. That is where the banter is. Or the covert eye-lash fluttering. Or the full-on groping while occupants laugh and harass. And friendly repartee with the one who has just entered the room.

Anyhoo. It was a strange party. An affirmation that there are indeed some beautiful, caring, funny, special people in my new world. But also that… well, no one looked at my books.

Not a single one of the 20-odd people that could actually make the date of my party, that moved through the rooms in my flat, looked at my books.

This has made me reflect.

Imagine. A whole bunch of people in my life, most of whom have never been to my home before, have no idea how I live or what goes on in my ‘not with them’ time… and not one thought it interesting to have a look. Even a cursory nod to literary homage on the shelves. And these books, carefully culled and curated, more than anything else, are the greatest and most intimate display of who I am.

Also I am a book snob. Did no-one want to check out my clever or ironic or classic titles? My indie, rare, or challenging collection?

One thing did happen. The Kids sang Let It Go from the Disney movie Frozen. A few times. So that was lovely. But I didn’t point to my beautiful early 1900s edition of Hans Christian Andersen stories, including The Snow Queen, sitting on my bookshelf.