Funny story – well, it’s funny now and my sister doesn’t come across too well but fuck it (sorry, Rachael).
On St Patrick’s Day, this year I was in the local shopping centre to watch my niece do some Irish dancing. It was packed, as it always is on that day and I was boiling. It was a long wait and after the first watch of the performance I told my sister I wasn’t feeling well and had to leave. She was not pleased. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I had to wait until the next performance to take a video of my niece dancing – because apparently Rachael had lost the use of her hands. I mean, she hadn’t but I blame her for my humiliation so let’s pretend she’s as mean as I’m letting on here.
After that I can remember thinking: “Oh, God I’m going to vomit in the middle of the shopping centre and this is going to be the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Oh, how wrong I was.
As I struggled to find my sister’s handbag to vomit in, as retribution for making me stay in this hell hole, I started to get dizzy and that’s the last thing I remember. I woke up to the sound of a very loud Belfast accent asking me about drugs.
I was completely and utterly confused as to where I was and why the hell there was a man asking me for drugs. He wasn’t of course, it was a paramedic asking was I on any (I wasn’t, mum). I hadn’t vomited; I had fainted in the middle of the damn shopping centre and now was being wheeled out of the place on one of the busiest days of the year in Newry. This was a whole new level of embarrassment and I wholeheartedly blame my sister for this and will do until my dying day.
Turns out, I’m anaemic. No big deal, I have to take an iron tablet every day or I’ll end up on my ass again. It’s necessary and not something I’m remotely ashamed about, although I could stand to eat more spinach now and again. So, why is it that, up until about a week ago, I was still very ashamed to admit that I was taking daily antidepressants?
I mean it’s very simple: the chemicals in my brain are a bit skewed and this sorts it out. I’ve been very forthcoming with my battle against depression. When it comes to the worst times I’ve been through because of this disease, you can find it rather quickly on this website but as for the day-to-day reality of living with it I shy away from admitting things.
I was getting into bed and taking the iron tablet and the Sertraline (my not-so-secret-shame drug of choice) and something just clicked. What’s the big deal here? I have been on these tablets for 15 months; I quite literally need them to keep things on the level and I’ve worked damn hard to get to a place where I can accept these ‘failings’ in my brain.
Don’t get me wrong, they don’t solve everything – not by a long shot – and that’s where CBT comes in. I still have depressive episodes but the difference is I know there’s an end to it and I can bounce back a lot quicker than I would be able to do if I was going without them. I want to have complete transparency with my children when it comes to all things mental health related, especially because I am terrified of the hereditary nature of the disease. I can’t do much about that, but I can be a positive role model on how they can deal with it.
The conversation about anxiety and depression is much more open one these days but I was still ashamed to admit that I needed help of the pharmaceutical variety. I’m not anymore. I’ve just accepted that I need a little help, be it medication or practising the skills I learned through CBT.
I’ve no intention of going off them anytime soon in order to prove to myself that I can do without the cushioning they provide, why would I?
My point is: if you’re reading this and are worried about having to take the step and get help for dealing with this disease, don’t be. Fuck it, nobody is getting any medals for doing without.
I’m not ashamed of being on prescribed antidepressants in a fight against a disease that is literally trying to kill me, should I let it get on top of me again.
I’m not ashamed of who I am, not anymore – and neither should you be.