With Ginger Ale. That was my drink of choice about ten years ago. When I was a party girl. I was just out of a long term relationship and a fun filled Summer stretched ahead of me. A friend suggested I try Southern Comfort with Ginger Ale on a night out, and I was hooked. I loved the buzz it gave and my free spirit danced wildly to its tune. Of course there were blanks the next day, but I didn’t give a toss because I was having FUN. And as for depression?
That was a distant memory I’d well and truly buried. It hadn’t reared its ugly head in nearly ten years at that stage. And I felt pretty invincible. No, depression was not something that even entered my pretty peroxide blonde head. But I was in for a shock, because it was coming after me, and I didn’t have a bloody clue. I lived for the weekend, going out, buying clothes. I was enjoying my new found freedom and independence and NOTHING could stop me.
But it came back with a Bang. As I’ve since learned, that’s the way it pulls the ground from under me. Then shoves me onto autopilot, and plants a nice big black cloud down on top of my head. Oh yeah, and throw in a lot of hellishly scary thoughts just for good measure. All I knew was that one week, I was happily trying a new hairstyle. And within days I was seriously wondering what was the point of it all. It was that quick. I tried to shrug it off, but dark thoughts were coming thick and fast, and I was very very scared. Everytime someone spoke to me I’d wonder why they were bothering, because we were all going to die anyway, so really, what was the point?
I wished I could confide in one of my friends, but how could I? When all along I was the one who cracked the funniest jokes, and was generally the life and soul of every party. All I knew was that I wanted oblivion, to escape my own head, because it was killing me. I kept wishing it was two months before when I was normal, when I was partying. I’d look at my friends for any sign that they were suffering too, but they weren’t. They were young and carefree, the way I used to be.
Then I thought that if I just went out and got rat arsed, it would kick my depression into submission. I distinctly remember getting ready to go out one Saturday night, putting on my favourite tune ‘A Rollerskating Jam named Saturdays’ by De La Soul. But it didn’t make any difference. I couldn’t get the Southern Comfort down my throat fast enough, and way hey, I was having a great time…Until the next day. My mood plummeted. I just didn’t want to be around anymore. My friend phoned, and as we giggled and laughed I remember wondering how she couldn’t see it was all an act with me.
That same day a couple of us went to some Outlet store up the country for the afternoon. I sat in the back of the car, cracking all the jokes, making everyone laugh. And I knew none of them suspected. But I felt like a robot, everything was very dark. I was so far removed from them all I couldn’t think who to turn to. I wasn’t living at home, and my flatmates had their own lives. I didn’t want to see a doctor in case I was admitted to hospital. So I lay in bed and prayed it all just go away by morning.
When I awoke I knew I had to phone the doctor. I was completely overhwhelmed and sinking fast, my thoughts were pummeling me to death. It was terrifying. I’ll never forget it. I cried and cried at the doctors. He told me it was depression. I just could not believe it had come back. Because there was no reason in the world for me to be depressed. Of course hindsight is a great thing isn’t it? The doctor referred me to a councellor and prescribed 20mg Prozac. He told me to start it straight away. I did, and it scared the life out of me. It made me feel very strange. And my head was flying along in a way I didn’t like. Not in a fun way like Southern Comfort, no. This was a completely different ball game. I could not keep up with it. I felt like my voice was slurred too. I phoned the doctor and told him it wasn’t agreeing with me. He advised me to stick with it, and give my body a chance to get used to it. After a couple of days I went cold turkey against his advice. It was a mistake. Everything seemed strange and alien for a day or so, I don’t actually know how I managed to function or go into work.
I went back to the doctor and he put me on 10mg of Lexapro. He also gave me a talking to, and told me I HAD to stick with the medication. I did. But it was very hard. My head was absolutely flying again for a couple of weeks, whilst I tried to act normal in work and with my friends. I started making excuses not to go out, which they must have found odd. I had my first session with my counsellor. I told her that I missed going out, and couldn’t possibly tell my friends I couldn’t drink anymore. Wasn’t taking the mediation enough to get me better? She got really annoyed with me then. And said I had to start taking my illness seriously in order to get better. And under no circumstances was I to start drinking. It was devastating for me, but I was so sick I just wanted to get better.
I thought long and hard after that session with my counsellor. I knew she was right. I just didn’t know how to break the news to my friends. I decided I couldn’t tell all of them, just one or two. Over the phone was easier, they’d been asking and asking me why I wasn’t going out. So I told them I couldn’t go out because I was suffering from depression, and couldn’t drink because I was on anti-depressants. I was mortified. I just wanted to go and bury myself in my bed. I don’t think they knew how to react. After all, this was ten years ago, before mental illness and depression were as widely discussed as they are today. And even so, stigma is not a thing of the past.
So on a sunny Sunday morning, when I normally would have been nursing a hangover, I put on my tracksuit and went for a walk. It was early, about 10 o clock. I felt so sorry for myself as I walked along. Thinking of other people my age who were probably still asleep, or doing the walk of shame somewhere. It was hard. I wondered was I being punished somehow. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the people I’d met on my nights out that Summer, and all the laughs I’d had. What would they think if they could see me now? It wasn’t fair, I thought to myself. It just wasn’t bloody fair.
I did a six month course of anti-depressants, stayed away from partying, and focused on getting myself back on track, which I did. All those quiet weekends gave me a lot of time to think. And I began to realise that taking a break from partying hadn’t really been a bad thing. My bout of depression was a terrible kick in the back side. But it had forced me to grow up too, and after that, I never took my mental health for granted again. I wasn’t open about it however. Back then, I believed I’d kicked it for good, but it was still a shameful secret. Fortunately, I did have another five depression free years, but little did I know that the worst was still to come.