Wednesday 4 February 2009

Never say never again.

I'm starting to think I should be more careful about sentences that begin with 'I will never'. I've spoken before about my aversion to pets and Ugg boots and daytime TV, and look where that's got me. I've spent much of today watching my kitten scale the TV unit to place a paw on Phillip Schofield's forehead while listening out for a knock at the door with a certain footwear delivery.

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. 


Anonymous said...

Definitely not Dermot O'Leary. Sinead O'Connor or Demi Moore (G.I. Jane phase) maybe - but definitely not the very male Dermot O'Leary.

Us blokes - we're just a bit crap sometimes aren't we ;-)

Daniel Edlen said...

Anti-depressants have such a wide range of applications, it's not really fair to call them that given the social connotation. My wife took Lexipro for a scant 3 months after her brother suddenly died last February (see my blog for how I handled it with aplomb) simply to even out her emotional swings so she could exist in society. Not because she was clinically depressed.

And she had a weird initial reaction too. Anxiety medication causing anxiety... hmm.


Unknown said...

Y'know, a lot of people see their symptoms intensify on the first few days of an SSRI. My doctor says there isn't much scientific explanation for it, but he has a good theory. He reckons that the drugs have to find what's bothering your brain and poke at it for a couple of days before they can go about fixing it. When I took Prozac for a short time a few years ago, I spent the first three days crying nonstop. Just when I was ready to scrap the pills forever, they started to kick in.

The reaction you're describing, however, doesn't sound exactly like intensified anxiety or panic. I'm no doctor, but I'd guess that you're not on the right medication. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to find the right medication. (I was lucky; the oldest and best-known one worked for me. For some of my friends and colleagues, finding a suitable SSRI meant cycling through several different types and dosages.)

The hair looks good. Who knew you had such a good-shaped head under those long blonde tresses?!


Anonymous said...

um actually I loved 'Wonder Walls', although Karen's 'Bowl Selector' may still reign supreme. xx

Anonymous said...

I always said I'd never wear Uggs. But since I read this I can feel myself wavering towards them...

And shame on your doctor for giving you the prescription without the "here's what can happen" talk. Bad doc. Baaaaad doc.

Unknown said...

Talking of chocolate chip jiffy bags, I have been on the gluten free biscuits... it is a minefield. The first type you try taste blooming lovely, the next like sawdust.

Perhaps we should forget about it and go back to the good fattening cookies, the ones that are gooey and chewy and scrumptious.

Anonymous said...

I’m no doctor either (!), but look at your brilliant hair! You’ve got loads of it! And it looks so healthy and nice and thick. The D’O L is way off. And I know, remember that night lipstick made me look a bit like Michael Jackson? x

bipolartink: said...

You may not be depressed but there's nothing wrong with a helping hand to control the panic attacks :) Why leave yourself dealing with them when they can be controlled?

Unfortunately the meds used to treat them are all lumped into the catch-all of 'Anti-Depressants' whereas they cover a lot of difering aspects. Just like a Nurofen Plus isn't just for headaches :)

Meds do funny things to you - re: Kerry 'bipolar/drunk' Katona - you could try and get a coherant conversation out of me for the first 2 hours after I wake up but it would be easier to persude my teenage daughter that Facebook is better than MySpace :)

I like the new hair :)

Anonymous said...

Yep, some of those medications do have odd effects at first. In most cases they take up to two weeks to kick in and sometimes Valium is prescribed to cover that initial period if the anxiety gets too much. Go figure.

Alex said...

You could do worse than be a Forest fan. I mean Leicester...?

Kirses said...

Nothing wrong with Uggs on their correct place - that is indoors only (your own home, they should never leave with you!)

But then I'm form New Zealand and we have been aware of the uggs proper function (as slippers) for many many years now.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

I think doctors are far too quick to prescribe antidepressants rather than actually taking time to listen to their patients' concerns. Some people need them. They're obviously not for you. I think you should keep being angry. And I'm angry for you too.

Anonymous said...

What the hell kind of anti-depressants did they describe you?! I suffer from depression and have been on and off Prozac for the past few years, and they take 3 - 6 weeks to kick in! And then all they do is relieve the feelings or worry/anxiety/sadness/anger to the point where you feel sort of cushioned from the bad side of life. Whatever you got sounds like some pretty trippy hardcore shit! lol. Depression comes in many shapes and forms, don't be too quick to reject it. But I can also see where you are coming from in terms of just freaking out post-cancer-treatment vs. being down & out for no reason, cos you have one good damn reason to be able to panic a bit without needing meds.

Hope you're feeling calmer soon! - Erin. x

Anonymous said...

So you have got some Uggs Ugh, is this a safe place to fess up to being a closet crocs wearer?!!
LL back to her best, loved this post! love ya too! (one half of the millenium party wardrobe incident!!) said...

I went through a major Thing too (endless endless details on my blog) and my doctor thought I was depressed, particular as a lot of people who have what I had ARE depressed. It takes great strength to evaluate objectively whether you are because I too had a great aversion to taking antidepressants. in fact a blog post dedicated to it is here

Anyway I think if you're not demotivated, you're not numb or insecure etc then you are not depressed. It is perfectly reasonble for anyone in your situation to be this way and you may be depressed but not CLINICALLY. I.e. it is perfectly normal and will go away as you adjust. This is what I found anyway.

lady macleod said...

As stated above - I go with G.I. Jane; and I can't tell you how good it always made me feel to blow something up - but these days ( for now she said slyly) I'm restricted to reading Vince Flynn for relaxation - try that love, much better than those crap drugs apparently.

WONDERFUL BLOG! Wake Up and smell the Coffee has sent us all over you know.

I'm just now having a breast cancer scare and I'm almost 60, and it's only a bloody scare so I relate a teeny tiny bit.


Anonymous said...

I have never left comments on a blog before, so please excuse the rambling. My mum has terminal cancer and been through a lot of this. So for the record. You are perfectly entitled to be shell-shocked and utterly angry about the whole situations. And to be honest, you sound like the time of person who needs to do something positive to combat this (sorry for jeremy kyle mumbo jumbo. You quite intitled to sit and hope, but may try something to combat this. My mam went to thai chi and massage at her local cancer hospital. She is not into "hippy crap" her words not mine, but she felt proactive. She also went to a counciller, which is brave for a non-nonsence yorkshire woman - who thinks talking about ur feelings is soft! All through treatment you are working towards something. Afterwards your left with the annormity of what has happened. Doing nice things may help you focus on getting yourself back on track.
sorry for the ramble
Little yorkshire pudding

DJ Kirkby said...

Hi I came over from Wake up's blog. I think you were right to stop those anti depressants,e ven if you did need some those were clearly not the right ones for you. Oh and you are def enttilted to a few freak out sessions after what you've been through. Middle-class-tonbury sounds like a dream, enjoy!

Anonymous said...

bloody hell you're an incredible writer. That sounds well scary, sorry to hear about it.

You are far too pretty and inherently ladyfaced to ever look like a fellow.

Once, when walking into Brixton Academy, I walked up to the woman to be searched, and she said, "I'm searching women", when I said yes, she re-iterated, "women only". I said, "I'm a girl". She raised one eyebrow and said, "Seriously?". I was wearing a mini skirt. That was only about two years ago.

You're amazing, well done..


Anonymous said...

Have you heard about this?
Fran Drescher is on Twitter as well. Perhaps you could plug it.