Technically I suppose I could be classified as a prescription drug addict. I take a tablet every night. I need to take it. If I don’t take it, within 12 hours I start hallucinating and experiencing nausea, dizziness and an overwhelming desire to sleep.
I have an anxiety and depressive disorder which is managed by low daily doses of desvenlafaxine, commonly known as Pristiq.
A few, entirely unrelated, people have remarked in the past few weeks that they wish they could be as confident and calm as me. It’s not something that is easy to throw into a casual conversation, but here’s what you should know: without chemical assistance, I’d be rocking in the corner. You wouldn’t even be standing there talking to me.
In fact, about a year ago I tried coming off my antidepressants and within 4 weeks I was doing exactly that – rocking in the corner of my kitchen, my body racked with massive sobs that I tried to hide from my two young sons, who were watching television in the next room.
‘Mum, are you okay?’ my 5-year-old asked tentatively, standing awkwardly over me.
‘I’m just a little tired, hon. I’ll be okay,’ I managed to gasp, my hands shaking, gutted that my child had to find me like this.
I’ve suffered anxiety and depressive episodes since a traumatic event at the age of 15 left me with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I managed them, with varying degrees of success, by smoking (late teens, early 20s), sleeping, exercise and completely withdrawing from social interaction for days at a time.
Then I had kids. Sleeping, smoking, avoiding human contact and even exercise become either extremely difficult or deeply frowned upon.
I held it together – though not well – right up until my youngest was about 13 months old. Then I pretty much lost the plot entirely.
I’ve been on antidepressants for 3 years now. I’m incredibly fortunate – Pristiq and my brain are like Mike and Carol Brady. Together they are the very model of stability and calm. Divorcing them would shatter the very fabric of the universe’s equilibrium. Well, the universe of 1970s television, anyway.
My ‘happy pills’, as I call them, don’t make me superhuman. They also don’t turn me into a foggy, smiling Barbie, ergo Valley of the Dolls.
After my first week on Pristiq I nearly burst into tears all over again because I realised that, for the first time in nearly 20 years, I felt like my normal self again. No more and no less.
So if you find yourself wishing you felt as confident and calm as I seem, please remember that I have a whole lot of chemical support. I didn’t get here by myself.