Dark side

I’m about to turn 40. Which doesn’t bother me in and of itself, but it does start a whole bunch of neurons firing, most of which contain my teenage expectations of what this time of my life would look like.

I miss my teenage self, actually, I miss my 13 year old self. She was so full of life, and thought that the world was her oyster and that life would only get better. She had best friends who lived across the street (lane, actually), in whose orchard she would camp out overnight with these neighbours and their dogs. We toasted marshmallows over an open fire, played sardines in the dark and picked apples off the trees. It really was that idyllic.

And then the real world intervened. The neighbours moved away under pressure of work. My parents divorced. My brother went to pieces. So I sat quietly in my room reading. And so it ever was.

But people told me I was too quiet, that I was too smart to stay silent. So I tried to be everybody’s best friend, the joker in the pack, the fun girl. It worked to a certain extent.

My real self just wanted to read, to be heard when she spoke quietly, and to be loved for who she was, not who she was pretending to be.

Twenty years later I’m finally diagnosed with depression and am prescribed Prozac. Now, I have read every book about depression and medication you could care to mention. I was in tears at Elizabeth Wurtzel’s experience on Prozac as an experimental drug. I carried around Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems for a number of months, and own more copies of the Bell Jar than any other book (except Norwegian Wood). I used to find myself in the section of the university library dedicated to mental health, even though my degree was in Politics. So I didn’t accept the prescription blindly. But you know what… I am that lucky individual who Prozac works for. Yes, it has its side effects, but it stabilises my mood in a way I can’t ever remember.

Stabilization doesn’t equal normal though. I have good days, bad days, awful days… and most days are just manageable. As in, I can get out of bed and talk to people. Oh and leave the house, leaving the house is a big deal, especially if it means meeting people, even people I love to pieces.

And why I am posting this? Well, a friend recently blogged about her anxiety, and I found it really affecting, and the response she received heartwarming. And, on the verge of 40 I figure I should start being a little more honest about who I am, because essentially most people who know me know nothing about me. And maybe its time that wasn’t true anymore. I’ve kept it working by moving on at regular intervals and leaving behind friends, colleagues and acquaintances by the dozen.

Recently though I’ve started to think I have a set of friends I want to keep forever, and that my adorable partner shouldn’t be the only one who gets to see the shitty me.

And yet I often skip out on these friends or raincheck appointments, but its not because I don’t love them and value them, it’s because I stress myself out that I am solely responsible for them enjoying our encounter. And then I miss them even more.

I’m bending my own fingernails as I think about hitting the publish button on this post. I normally read back, but I’m thinking I should just hit the button and be done with it.*

*I did read back, and I almost hit delete but here goes…

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7 thoughts on “Dark side

  1. I love you for who you are. I love you with all your issues, not despite them. I wholeheartedly accept shitty Juliet and like it or not I’ll be around forever xx

  2. I miss you so much. I feel like a know a teeny tiny bit of you, but that bit I do know is brave and smart and funny and very genuine. And I feel like I have missed a lot of important things in your life over the last 2 years. You are one of the good ‘uns, you are xxx

  3. I admire you for writing this post. I’ve never had the courage to write about my ‘black dog’ (even now I have to use a hackneyed euphemism). I’ve had it on and off for 30 years, since I was 18. It comes and seems to taint everything, then it goes. Sometimes I take antidepressants. Apart from weight gain and driving badly, they seem to do the trick, restoring the serotonin levels to normal.

    When I was a bookseller, I didn’t tell anyone about my ‘episodes’ because I didn’t trust people to understand, but I can see now that some individuals were perplexed by my erratic behaviour. For months, sometimes a year or more, I’d be one of the better managers in the company. Then, without any apparent reason, I’d suddenly appear to lose the plot and become one of the worst. Senior managers sometimes felt betrayed because they’d stuck their necks out to get me a better shop, only to be let down.

    I think I may be on the cusp of a depressive episode now, after a particualrly stressful year, The signs are all there, including a reluctance to see people I normally love being with. But on a positive note, as I get older feel less intimidated by depression. I know that there are a number of strategies that I can use and if they don’t work, a year of medication will usually set me up for another four of five years.

    Turning 40 can be traumatic – any milestone forces you to assess your life. But I think you’ll find that the 40s bring many compensations: a stronger sense of self, a stronger feeling of control and a greater ability to forgive – both yourself and others.

    (Having said that, I’m not looking forward to turning 50 😉 )

    Now it’s my turn to hit that button. Here goes…

    • And yet I admire your post-O career so much… which just goes to show we are bad judges of ourselves. My doc and I have basically agreed that I need the chemical alteration to keep me balanced so I also admire you for having periods off medication. And it is so hard, no matter how accepting the world pretends to be, actually admitting that you are behaving crazy cos your brain is screwed and then having people accept that as a bona fide reason to not be ‘normal’ is still massive. Especially when some stuff is manageable (albeit with effort). So, then the stuff that isn’t, no-one understands why you can’t manage that… Keep on keeping on… Oh and if you haven’t yet, read The Yellow Birds, it’s amazing!

  4. Thanks for the tip about ‘Yellow Birds’. Re: medication, I’d been told that once the serotonin levels are back to normal, it isn’t necessary to keep taking SRIs indefinitely. I’ve found that a year to 18 months on medication will give me at least double the time without. You’ll know when the time is right.

    Anyway, good luck and thank you for being so open.

    And enjoy your 40s!

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