This was nearly called The Problem with Depression, Part 4. You can only go so far, though.
But, here’s the thing. You have depression. You are prescribed super strength SSRIs, so strong that the doctor hands over the prescription with a warning. It is Really Really Important that you take them. Every Day. After food though. So the tablets cannot be taken first thing in the morning. You have to get up, get washed, dressed, eat and then take the tablets. But then add in the need to get out of the house at a certain time, along with children who also need to leave at a certain time. Mix in further complications of files, train tickets, mobile phones and laptops and the small matter of taking a tablet somehow gets missed. The irony is that you are most at risk from forgetting to take medication and most likely to forget by virtue of the condition.
I have taken to squirrelling tablets everywhere, stuffed in purses, stashed in drawers in the office or in the glove compartment of the car. But I am now on such a high dose, there aren’t enough to do that. So I use the lower dose tablets, the ones that I am supposed to have thrown away, but didn’t. However, one of these is not enough and two is too many, a bit like glasses of wine. So, I try and avoid them.
But yesterday, anxious at the prospect of a staff conference, I run from the house, desperate to catch the right train, too scared to miss it and be late and not be there for the meeting at 9am. The recent spate of grievances have made me edgy and scared, worried at upsetting someone else and worst of all, really panicky at entering a room full of colleagues. And in that maelstrom of fear and tension, yesterday was the first time I forgot my new, extra strong tablets. I remembered that I had forgotten, if that makes sense. I remembered at work, but thought I might find time later. But ‘later’ involved a trip to L’s new psychiatric team, the arrival of prom dresses, delivery of L to her friends for a weekend away. And all along at intervals, the memory that I had forgotten my medication emerged, but a tablet was never in reach and by the time I had the time to find one, the memory had gone.
As a result, I sleep quite well, actually, very well. So well, that when C wakes up drenched in sweat and unable to sleep any longer in our bed, I can’t answer him. I am so stuck in sleep, a rare event these days, I can’t form words or move. It is like being conscious under anaesthetic. Somewhere in the fog, I realise this is a meds error, and it will be worse in the morning. It is. I can hardly move. I hate saying that. I have heard people say that and thought, “Of course you can”. But I can’t. I finally sit upright and get my phone. I send some messages, delaying my arrival at work. C brings me more tea; the teasmade tea is cold. And then, the tears. By this time C has gone down stairs and I am alone and I cry and cry. I can’t describe how involuntary this is. It is like sneezing or hiccups. I hear this sound coming from me and am irritated by it but cannot stop it. There are so many tears. Eventually I call C. From my bedroom, I call him in the kitchen. He comes upstairs, holds me and then helps me to get up, get washed and dressed. He finds my medication.
J is coming to the office with me. There is a woodwind shop where I work. He walks in the bedroom as I am weeping and C is helping me get dressed. He is confused and later in the car he asks me if I am ok. I try to explain to him about medication. I drive us to work. Somehow in the office, I am able to say hello to people, ask them to take on pieces of work. I know, though, that if someone asked me how I am, in a serious way, I would start to cry again. Luckily, I am not there long.
I have other meetings in the afternoon, but it is like a performance. I have learned this more and more. It is as if my car is a travelling dressing room. I drive somewhere, and while in my car, I can be and feel however I like. But once I leave that space, I am someone else, knowing that I have to play that part for a certain time and it is manageable. To be honest, I think we all do this. We all have roles and identities that we put on at certain times and some of them feel natural while others feel forced and that can change according to how we are that day. In a way, depression strips the world bare and shines a harsh light on the theatre of life.