Fourteen years ago I stepped into my doctor’s surgery and said that I needed help. I was gripped by depression and didn’t see a way out, although at that time I didn’t know what I was suffering with, only that I was suffering in a way I couldn’t ever have imagined.
The doctor was kind and compassionate; I was diagnosed with depression and she wrote me a prescription for Fluoxetine, better known as Prozac.
My first thought? ‘I’m not taking them, I’ve got to try and beat this on my own.’ I didn’t want to take time off work and I certainly didn’t want to be taking antidepressants.
Why not? I’d never felt that way about any other tablets I’d been prescribed. Hayfever medication, antibiotics, painkillers, bring them on; anything to cure what ails yer (forgive me, I’m from Middlesbrough). Hell, I’d even let my nana rub butter on bumps on my head (although I never did take her prescription of whisky to sweat out a flu).
My reaction that day was one of fear, born of ignorance and stigma. At that point in my life I knew very little about mental health or about antidepressant medication (I’ve had plenty of experience and a very thorough education since). In spite of my lack of awareness, I was very aware of the perceptions that many people have of mental health problems.
I was scared that having depression on my medical records would stop me from getting a job in future, and would prejudice me in the job I had at that time. I was afraid of how I would be judged. I guess I felt that the problem was me, rather than an illness, and that it was me that had to fight and defeat it, not a tablet.
Taking them felt like a personal failure, an admission that I needed to take a tablet to change who I was, because who I was was clearly defective.
That was another fear, that the tablets would turn me into somebody else. Or maybe turn me into a zombie? It felt like I would be messing with my brain and surely that wasn’t right? Maybe I would become addicted?
Better Living Through Chemistry – Queens Of The Stone Age