SUZANNE HARRINGTON: Normalise mental ill-health to make the pill easier to swallow

I WAS a bit late filing this column today because I got held up at the doctor’s.

Nothing serious, just a repeat prescription for fluoxetine — Prozac — without which, I would still be in bed.

So actually it IS something serious, except I take good care of it, and keep it at bay.

It’s nothing to do with my external life — which is utterly charmed, if a bit tatty — but because my brain chemistry is such that no matter how five-star my self care is, I still don’t have enough serotonin.

I’m swallowing a pill as we speak, as I do every morning. Cheers! Down the hatch.

See, I used to belong to the Henry Rollins school of self care (“Get some vitamin C! Go outside for a walk! Get over it!”), and before that, the drown-it-in-drink method. Neither worked. Yet for years I thought anti-depressants were a cop out, a chemical sticking plaster over some unknown problem (which for me, was getting out of bed, brushing my teeth, functioning).

So I made all the changes.

I stopped drinking, stopped smoking, went vegan, bought a bicycle, took up daily hot yoga, started doing voluntary work (not to be Mother Teresa, but because working with others gets you out of self, which is great when self has gone back to black).

I did meditation and learned I am not my thoughts, that feelings are not facts. I took anti-depressants.

I felt great.

After several years of feeling great, I kept the lifestyle but ditched the Prozac.

I was cured.

Except I wasn’t — within two months, I couldn’t get out of bed. Couldn’t function.

Back to the doctor — via the homeopath, the Buddhist centre, the yoga studio, you name it, I did it — and back on Prozac.

After a fortnight the sun was shining again, and I was living normally.

I felt great.

The reason I’m saying all this is because it took me YEARS to realise I had depression.

YEARS to realise how to treat it, via lifestyle and medication together.

When I was younger, I dealt with it via booze and self-harm.

Maybe if I had known more about mental ill-health, how ordinary it is, how treatable, how peacefully happy life can be when it’s looked after properly, I could have saved myself a lot of days spent unable to get out of bed.

Teach this stuff in schools and it won’t take people years to self-discover how to sort it out.

Teach it in schools so that it is normalised, ordinary, run of the mill.

So that there are no more generations growing up not knowing what is wrong with them, thinking it’s their fault, that they are to blame for their inability to function.

Young people don’t do stigma — it is put upon them by us, by our inability to have ordinary conversations around mental health.

Teach it in schools.

Make it normal.


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