The furry/fleecy/fluffy stuff is just the beginning. There's the therapy, the tattoo, the short haircut... Before you know it I'll be wearing hotpants to a Big Brother audition with Celine Dion on my imitation iPod. And okay, so the short hair stuff is out of my control, but still, it feels like everything I once held sacred has turned to cat litter. Not least because I can now add a brand new I-will-never to my list: this weekend, I took antidepressants.
It was all as a result of Friday's hospital visit, and my admission to the consultant that, since radiotherapy finished, I'd been having panic attacks and not getting much sleep (though frankly I blame the latter on a combination of 24 and Twitter). Doubtless sensing a ranting, mentally unstable, waterwork-prone idiot on her hands, she packed me off with a prescription for antidepressants, telling me to start them when I got home. Which is precisely what I did as soon as I'd settled on the sofa to write my blog post.
By the time I'd finished writing, I was seeing the world through a Chemical Brothers video, watching as my slippers doubled up, bouncing off the walls on my way to be sick and unable to recognise my husband (who had to type up the remainder of the drafted post when I zonked out). Not a pleasant experience. Actually, it was really bloody scary. If the drugs were supposed to calm my nerves and keep me from panicking, they were about as effective as a fart in a tornado. (I narrowly resisted calling this post 'The drugs don't work' - apparently I've finally learned something from years of writing obvious headlines for home-interest magazines. Apologies if you've ever read 'Deck the halls', 'Cupboard love' or [gasp] 'Wonder walls'.)
The following morning, frantically trying to keep it together for my mate's wedding, I handed over the car keys to P who, strictly speaking, should have been on a drinking green card for the day. But even some 12 hours after taking the antidepressant tablet, I was shaky, struggling to focus and generally a bit on the loopy side (which probably explains why I found it so side-splittingly hilarious when the toddler in the pew in front of me announced, 'But I need a poo' in the middle of the wedding vows). Needless to say, the pill box has remained unopened since.
To me, antidepressants instantly conjure up images of Britney's head-shave, Kerry 'I'm not drunk, it's my bipolar medicine' Katona, Arizona rehab clinics and 'my depression hell' interviews arranged by Max Clifford. Of course that's a narrow-minded – and not a little sarcastic – view, but I hope you'll forgive my frustrated flippancy in this instance. The thing is, I'm as sure as Amy Winehouse is a crackhead that I just. don't. need. them. (They tried to make me take antidepressants and I said no, no, no.)
Granted, this past couple of weeks has been a tough time. Yes, I've been feeling freaked out and, yes, I've had the odd panic attack, but that does not, thank you very much, make me depressed. Mr Marbles was quick to point out that the immediate post-treatment period is often the hardest part to negotiate, and it's no coincidence that it's also the most popular therapy referral point for cancer patients. It's the first, proper, structure-free time you've had in which to fully consider the gravity of what's happened to you. From the moment you're diagnosed, you're instantly launched into someone else's dictated schedule, forced to look no further than the next day of treatment, swept along in the process of Getting Over It. So, given the fact that eight months ago, I was having a lovely, carefree, Corona-filled time in Mexico, and I'm now flat out in pyjamas on my sofa, recovering from some pretty hardcore cancer treatment, I think you'll forgive me a few flip-outs. And, hopefully, you'll agree that a huge life change does not automatically result in depression.
The trouble now is that everyone's over-concerned about me. ('How are you today? Really? But how are you in yourself?') Clearly, the word 'antidepressant' set off the same alarms in their heads as it did in mine, and I can see them making all the wrong conclusions. Is she depressed? Should we go easy on her? Do you think we ought to say that? The other night I made some God-awful low-fat cookies that were tantamount to eating chocolate-chip jiffy-bags, and yet nobody dared admit how bad they were. All these presumptions about my mental state are, of course, making me pretty bloody tetchy. And I'm sure that my tetchiness is giving people even more reason to think that I'm depressed.
So let me say this for the record: I. Am. Not. Depressed. What I am is shell-shocked and pissed off and actually pretty angry (still) that The Bullshit chose me from its one-in-three lineup, particularly at a time when my biggest concerns ought to be wedded bliss, fun with friends, professional satisfaction and what to wear at Glastonbury. (Actually this year I've renamed it Middle-class-tonbury, since we're doing it in a huge motorhome with bedlinen, a barbecue and endless cava.) And, I'll admit, all of those crappy feelings have made me prone to the occasional mood swing, as the often-cavernous leap between blog-post subjects, clothing colour choices and iTunes playlists will attest (one minute Shiny Happy People, the next Everybody Hurts). But I'm not suddenly teetering on the brink of despair. As well as all of the above, I'm also relieved and hopeful and even quite emancipated that I've made it through such a torrid time with my relationships and values and sense of humour and health(ish) intact.
I'm not, of course, saying that there's anything wrong with being depressed. I'm well aware that depression is a gravely important issue, which is why I don't want to belittle the matter by pretending that my post-cancer-treatment freakery is actually a serious mental illness. There's nothing shameful in genuinely being depressed. I'm just not, is all. I'd be equally narked if someone tried to tell me I was a Nottingham Forest fan or bad at spelling or preferred The Stones to The Beatles. Or, indeed, that I resemble Dermot O'Leary, as P oh-so-kindly noted the other day. I naturally jumped down his throat. But that's not me being tetchy and depressed. That's me not wanting to look like a bloke.