Twelve years ago, in the belly of the beast of depression, I refused medication. I thought it was cheating. Plus I was using a substantial amount of alcohol as medication. It didn’t work. In fact, the alcohol exacerbated the situation but what was I to know? I was a depressed alky. The talking therapy helped at the time. It gave me a bit of space to manoeuvre. It allowed me to find some peace and gain some clarity. I started a routine and that put me on the right path.
Fast forward 12 years and I’m sitting in a doctors room pleading for medication. The meditation, exercise, sobriety, healthy eating wellness program I had adopted had stopped working. A scary proposition. Last time the alcohol stopped working. This time the wellness stopped working. It was time to try something different…
This is day 30 of the fluoxetine dream.
Medication gets a bad rep in recovery circles. “It can’t be true sobriety!” Is what they say. I didn’t realise it was a fucking competition. That’s schoolyard bollocks; “I’ve got more god than you ner ner!” It’s that kind of attitude that stops people from trying the medication they may need. Would the same people dissuade others from Insulin? “You have diabetes? Well, it should be left untreated otherwise it’s not true sobriety!” Exactly. It’s nonsense. I mean Bill Wilson was tripping balls for a large part of his alleged sobriety. What’s good for the goose…
Anyway, I digress. So didn’t know what to expect when I started taking the meds. I know what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to become a depersonalised zombie bereft of original thought. I wanted to cling to the small amount of creativity and individuality I had. Thankfully I didn’t become a zombie… brains… and did I cling to my creativity and individuality? You can judge that 🙂
What has happened over the last 30 days is a steady progression away from anxiety. Like a forcefield has been forming over my brain that deflects negativity. There have been a few strange moments. One night I couldn’t stop giggling. It was like being stoned. It was fun. I hadn’t laughed like that for a long time. It was a good release. I had a few suicidal thoughts. Although no more than normal. The increased stability has been noticeable. And due to my history of varying moods, I am waiting for the crash. I am prepared if it comes but hope it doesn’t.
15/10/20 (Day 25) was the first day of a noticeably elevated mood. Like mania without the craziness. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of mania; I would describe it as a virtual reality tornado. You get the thrill of a tornado but there isn’t actually one. It just seems like it. A constant barrage of ideas lights up my brain like a fireworks display on new years eve. This coupled with the feeling of invincibility is a recipe for disaster or action or both. An example of mania from my life would be the time I was housebound with depression for about six months. Then, one morning, I awoke feeling like a miracle had occurred during the night. I felt great. Better than great. I felt fanfuckingtastic. Naturally, I went on an all-day drinking session to celebrate. It was great fun. The future looked bright. Until the next day when the depression resumed. That’s what mania is to me. The fluoxetine is like coming up on drugs but never getting to the high. It is frustrating but better than anxiety.
16/10/20 I felt good but without the incessant thinking. Life just looked good. There was a bit of hope. There was a bit of colour in the world. The autumn colours didn’t look drab. They looked vibrant. It was nice. I was present. I wasn’t wracked with negative thoughts. I was present and happy. I had a good laugh with a friend. It was fun.
17/10/20 I went for a walk and the world looked real. It looked solid and alive. Sometimes when my brain is in hyperdrive it can appear to buzz. Almost like the leaves are vibrating and I can see it. But today it seems like I was on the cusp of that. Like I was skirting the edge of reality. The fall into mania was close but I just couldn’t breakthrough. It’s almost like coming up on psychedelics but never actually getting there. I keep waiting for the comedown but it hasn’t come yet. I am frustrated that I can’t breakthrough. There is so much to learn by removing the barrier to expectation. The ego is a block to enlightenment. The fluoxetine numbs the pain of my situation but doesn’t alter my awareness. It’s like I know what’s happening but just don’t care anymore. It’s not a bad feeling. It’s nice and warm. It’s almost the feeling I was searching for through alcohol but with more positivity. And less debilitating effects. Music seems to supercharge the feeling. I listened to Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd while walking down the street and had to stop myself from dancing. The chaotic guitar outro sent my brain swirling with it on a trippy journey. I must have looked a freak walking down the street with a giant smirk on my face. Thankfully, I didn’t care.
I still await the comedown. My life has been like the “Sound of music”; a dance through peaks. Exaggerating by my functional alcoholism. Chaos became my second addiction. And because of this, I am now programmed to believe that happiness comes at a cost. For every up there has to be a down. If there isn’t one. I’ll make one. I’ll destroy comfort in the pursuit of balance. But so far I seem to be surfing between the lows of depression and the highs of mania. It’s quite pleasant. Although a little frustrating having been used to cycling from one to the other for so long. I’ll see how it goes.
20/10/20 I have finished the full 30 days and the comedown never came. The elevated highs have levelled off but can be experienced through normal ways. Music kicks it up a gear, as it should. Movies I used to love are funny again. The world doesn’t seem as scary. The negative thoughts are scarce compared to the ferocious onslaught I was suffering a month ago. The self loathed and self-hatred has lessened. I am not skipping with joy but I have options now. I still feel lost. I just don’t care where I am heading so much. It isn’t numbness. It just feels like the anxiety door in my mind has been sealed off. The negative thoughts are visible through the glass window but their power has been taken.
This isn’t just down to fluoxetine. I have been meeting with people. Sharing my experience. Writing. Walking. Accepting. Meditating. I have replaced the morning suicidal thought with a compliment. I have looked over my life and found the moments of joy, pride, achievement, strength, integrity and I have accepted them. Before I was panning the river of gold for nuggets of shit just to feel bad. I was comparing my life to imaginary scenarios as a form of punishment. I would look at social media as if I was a psychic. I’d create an entire life from a slither of information. Their life would obviously be perfect compared to my shit existence. I would then use this stick of my own creation to batter myself into submission. Bloody and bruised I would cry out to the world in pain. Damning it for its unfairness… crazy right?! This path is bordered by thorns. There is enough suffering in the world without creating more. My days can get dark enough without added extra layers of misery. But this has been a great reminder that I have to take care of my mental health.
I have to practice what I preach and check in on myself more often. Even in the heady days of fun, exploration and adventure I still need to take a moment to reflect. Not on the screen of my mobile while creating tales of self-torture based on lies. But on the state of my mind. Without supervision, it can become delinquent and wander away from its duty. It is up to me to bring it back to the task. To focus it on the moment. And to remember that I am not as bad as I would like to believe. Life isn’t perfect but I’m not sure I would want it to be. But then again I am a chaos addict… the Fluoxetine won’t cure that but it has made life bearable. At least for now.
The NHS has been incredible in the past month. From phoning 111 and talking to the doctor in the walk-in centre it has been 30 days. In that time I have received medication, had an assessment and arranged my first counselling session. The NHS gets slagged off but it has saved my life plenty of times and helped me countless others. God bless.