Today we celebrated Joel’s first birthday. In the traditional way. Presents? Check. Cards? Check. Ice Cream? Check. First, slightly terrifying, dose of antidepressants? No? Just me then.
These last few weeks have been really hard. The summer holidays have stolen away our carefully crafted routine. Wes has either been away or working crazy hours. And Joel has been scarily ill with what turned out to not be measles after all. It’s been a lot to deal with.
Wes was home for a few hours between jobs at the weekend and we embarked on a conversation that predictably, considering our mutual levels of exhaustion, turned into an argument. About how much work he does and how, although he always runs it by me first, I don’t feel like I have any real decision-making power. If he doesn’t work, we don’t eat. And if he does work, I can’t cope. It’s a tough call to make.
I did make a call, in the end. To the doctor. He thinks the drugs are a very good idea. I wish I could be so sure.
I know with absolute certainty that we can’t carry on as we are. Up until now, Wes has been my antidepressant. When he’s around I can keep my head above water. Things are manageable. When he’s not here, everything is too much. That’s not fair on any of us. Something needs to change. And that something is me.
It’s annoying. Really annoying. I’ve been doing everything right. I’m talking to people. I’m writing. I’m following all my therapy, albeit a little slower than I should. I’ve read some amazing books. I’m getting out of the house.
I was brought up to believe that if you work hard, and do what you’re supposed to, things will turn out right. Not this time, they haven’t.
I don’t actually like taking medicine. I took the pill for a few months and felt as though I’d lost my mind. I have to be persuaded to take nurofen if I have a migraine. Even then I’d rather not. When Joel was born, a year ago today, I made it through to the final pushing stage on a single dose of paracetamol. And now? Now I am ‘one of them.’
One of those people who ticks the “yes, I am on other medications” box. Who turns down alcohol because it’s not a good mix. Part of the ‘Prozac Nation’ that the 90’s held so dear.
I’m scared. Scared of what the side effects might be. Scared of how you stop once you’ve started. Scared of not knowing who I really am anymore. What’s actually me, and what’s the tablets.
In all honesty, I’m also embarrassed. At being one of those people who can’t cope by themselves. ‘One of them.’ I’ve always managed anything I’ve set my hand to. As long as I really wanted to, of course. (And providing there are no over-zealous security guards with buckets of water and threats of police. Letting that one go was very much the sensible option.)
But I can’t manage this. I wasn’t sure whether to even write about it. Whether maybe it would be one confession too far.
I think it’s important. For me, and for all the others who find themselves in the same boat, drifting around with no idea which way the wind is blowing. Sometimes you have to swallow your pride, and your tablets, and admit that you need help. This is one of those times.
I must have looked a little shocked when the doctor agreed so wholeheartedly to my suggestion of medication. He smiled his all-knowing smile and said, “if you’d broken your arm, would you want me to put it in a cast, or leave it dangling around?” It’s a fair point. It’s just that it gets tricky when it’s an illness that nobody can see. And which often gets dismissed as one big self-indulgent grump.
It’s going to take some getting used to. I took my prescription to the biggest pharmacy I could find in an attempt to be anonymous. And as I waited, with the old ladies collecting their osteoporosis tablets, the heroin addicts taking their methodone and the sweet teenage girl who was also picking up antidepressants, I realised something. I can’t get up on my high horse if you judge me for needing pills. Up until yesterday, I would have judged me too.
I don’t know where I stand on the idea that ‘everything happens for a reason.’ But I’m a firm believer in dragging good things out of a crisis. Kicking and screaming, if needs be. Whatever happens over the next few months, or the next few years, I will never be the same. Neither will my view of the world. Or the people in it.
Because in reality, we’re all ‘one of them.’ It’s just that some of us hide it better than others.
Hiding isn’t much of an option anymore. Not now. Not for me. Who knows, this nasty, unexpected little adventure may yet be the making of me.
Let’s hope that’s not just the pills talking.