There are certain aspects of being off anti-depressants that are good. I feel less tired during the day for one, and hence tend to doze less. I was out riding this morning on my bike and I noticed for the second week running that I was speeding off up the hills compared to my companions. Am I able to sustain a higher gear for longer? Do I have a faster cadence? Am I more determined to push my muscles for longer and not worry about the next hill? I don’t know to be honest. I suspect my body is not particularly stronger than before as I am not doing any more exercise, but I do think there is a difference in mental attitude to push myself a bit more, perhaps to get the most I can out of the journey; to enjoy the battle with gravity. My upcoming operation and too high blood pressure readings may also have something to do with it, getting my heart pumping faster isn’t going to do me any harm.
What else has been going on? Well I seem to be more accepting of a daily routine. I am tidying up my clothes (both clean and dirty) more readily. I am brushing my teeth more. I am taking my morning pills despite the fact that they’ll probably upset my stomach. I have walked the dog a bit more. I have visited my GP surgery for blood pressure checks without grumbling. I have picked apples and made an apple pie. I have even done some tidying up without my wife reminding me. In short I feel like I am more able to conform to standard norms of behaviour.
I have also found it difficult to think of things to write about. Lying in bed doesn’t bring me a myriad of ideas and thoughts, I seem now to have to make an effort to come up with an idea and pursue it. In short my writing isn’t flowing and I am struggling to know why. There are times when I have felt manic and this has pretty much been exclusively when I have been playing video games. I join up with my friends and I am chatty, witty and risqué to an extent that my companions wonder what is going on though later in the same evening I become bored, sullen and fed up by the lack of progress. The thrill of being with friends replaced by a seemingly endless cycle of failure that everybody is at a loss as to why it is happening though it seemed to be focused on me.
At the heart of it though is my mood, I know the depression is back but I also know that if I keep busy then a lot of the time I am too busy to notice it. I first detected what I can only describe as a wave of depression when I was taking a break from work and treating myself to something to eat for a higher class of supermarket. The idea was good but when I saw the prices, I plumped for a couple of cheaper things. It was as I walked towards the checkout that the wave of nothingness overwhelmed me but also soon passed. At the time I was puzzled, perhaps a side effect of the anti-depressant withdrawal but looking back I suspect it was more about feeling worthy of spending a bit more money on myself.
I had started writing about my experiences last week when I heard about my friend dying. One consequence of this was that I was immediately released from the depression I was feeling which rather surprised me. The next day I talked about this with a couple of friends. There is a general feeling that depression is about feeling sad all the time, but in fact it is more like not feeling at all. Something sudden and shocking like a death actually triggers an emotional response and in doing so lifts the veil of depression, the cloud of nothingness, the void. And therein I think is the real consequence of being clean of antidepressants; my block on feelings as reasserted itself.
Coming off antidepressants seems to me that I am less aware of my anxieties and therefore less bothered by them. I know there are still there because the overwhelmed feeling can burst through. I am randomly angry about inconsequential things, things my wife might do or say. This morning I was sitting eating my porridge in the kitchen (I had actually managed to get up in time to tidy and eat breakfast) when my wife started putting some pots and pans away; I could barely contain my annoyance at the banging she was making. Last week I found working in the office with my wife almost impossible, it was a real struggle to get anything done when she or anybody else was around. I was shaking with anger over a social media post implying Clinton was in the same league as Hilter because of the so called email “criminality”.
The explosions are a result of unprocessed and unrecognised emotion. Until recently I didn’t even know that the inability to recognise ones own emotions was a recognised issue, it is called Alexithymia and is defined as a personality construct characterized by the subclinical inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. Something I have long recognised as an issue in myself.
It would seem that antidepressants allow me to better get in touch with my emotions. A side effect of this means that I have something to write about (situations with trigger emotions) and somehow also feel justified in blogging about it. It is all a bit bizarre really. I am better able to fit into society on the whole (from my perspective at least) when I don’t take antidepressants but I lead an unemotionally recognised life aside from the destructive angry outburst. Taking the pills allows me to access and process the emotions and to use them creatively.
Which is better? It would seem I am better on antidepressants but I want to avoid it if I can. At least now I have a reason to contact a therapist to see where that will take me.