A pill for happiness
Happy Birthday, you have depression
What do you do when your teeth hurt from clenching the duvet as you muffle the sounds of crying so no-one will hear? What do you do when your eyes are stinging after constantly wiping them before any tears can fall? What do you do when you spend all your time sleeping because it seems like reality is the bad dream? If anyone has the answers, please let me know.
The eve before my 19th birthday was the day I was told I had depression. It wasn’t by my doctor or concerns from a friend but a random woman who I had to visit for an assessment on my back. ‘Has anyone ever told you, you’re depressed and suffer from anxiety?’ That was it. No sugar coating, no gentle approach or soothing tones, just bang – she came straight out with it, with no warning. I never liked the woman so instantly dismissed her remarks, repeatedly telling myself she had just met me, so how would she know. But she was right.
It wasn’t until a week later when I saw my doctor that I finally accepted the inconvenient truth. I had mentioned the previous week’s events and my doctor just looked at me. She didn’t say a word, just looked straight at me with eyebrows slightly raised and that’s when it hit me, like a ton of bricks. The rose tinted glasses had been removed, veil of denial was lifted and reality was staring straight back at me. It transpired that my doctor clocked on a while back, but decided not to share. I felt a bit betrayed at first, why not tell me; it’s pretty important. Turns out she was trying to protect me. I was going through some really hard times physically and she thought delivering this blow would be too much and it would be easier for me to make the discovery myself.
That was five years ago.
I would love to say, ‘but that was then and now I am happier than ever, really embracing life and overcoming obstacles I never thought I would.’ Unfortunately, it seems to be the complete opposite.
The past twelve months have been the worst. I am at my heaviest, loneliest and battling through my darkest times. I returned home for Christmas last year and didn’t leave the house again until mid-February (except one afternoon for my grandma’s birthday). The wheelie bin goes out more than I do and the only time I would get fresh air was when I hung out the washing. I would stay up all night and sleep during the day. It felt like the perfect solution. When everyone around me slept I was at my most productive and happiest knowing nothing could harm or upset me. I would fall asleep when my body was too exhausted to stay awake, with thick curtains blocking out the sunlight, and it didn’t matter what everyone else was doing because I was in my own sanctuary – avoiding a world I no longer wanted to be a part of.
Except now it’s going to change – it simply has to.
The time between my diagnosis and now has been like a game of Snakes and Ladders or Jenga – up the smallest ladder and then down the biggest snake or juggling all the knockbacks and lows before one thing sends it all crashing down. I’ve had two bouts of cognitive behavioural therapy and been prescribed antidepressants (I take medication for everything else, so why not). There are days when I pop pills like a child with smarties, always opting for a seat at the back of the room so no-one can see how bad my prescribed drug habit is. I fear that I will get addicted or that I will become so reliant I won’t be able to function without a concoction of chemicals streaming through my veins. Yet I’ve never really felt like the antidepressants work for me.
How can one small tablet suddenly change your mood? It’s not like there is light switch and when you take it the happiness part of your brain is suddenly turned on. Maybe I just take so many things they counteract each other. Or maybe it’s like the placebo effect but in reserve – I am so cynical of the drug that any positive effects I dismiss. Whatever the reason I don’t want to be given a pill for happiness, I would want a pill to forget. A pill to erase the painful memories and scars I hide under layers of clothes and scarves.
I would see a child fall over and start crying, their parents rushing over, brushing them down, giving them a hug and telling them it’s all going to be okay. I used to be so jealous because at times when I’d fallen and hurt myself, all I wanted was for someone to pick me up and say everything will be alright. I’ve been in situations feeling like the cartoon dog at the table saying ‘it’s fine’ when the room around him is on fire. I’ve stood in darkness just waiting for light to appear, and then it dawned on me. Everyday there is light, but I choose to physically shut it out.
Why should I try and erase the painful memories when I can just use them as armour – a reminder next time life goes off-track that I’ve been through the ringer but made it out the other side. In the past five years my life has certainly not went the way I planned but I have most certainly had some of the best experiences I would never have imagined. Many were spontaneous, out-of-character decisions, like needing breathing space and ending up on the other side of the world or looking for a reason to leave the house and now finding myself spending summers in festival fields.
I may not know the answers to my questions but I do know I am not alone. Never before have I spoken out about my struggles, I’ve only tried to hide my pain. But now, after reflecting on everything I have been through I am quite proud of what I have overcome. I feel I can finally let go of all the blame, hate and regret I’ve endured over the years and re-claim back my life and mostly importantly start enjoying it.