Does anyone have Bernard’s Watch?

I don’t know what it would look like if my psychological distress showed itself physically. It’s 12:35pm and I’m back in bed after being up for four hours, achieving nothing and feeling like rubbish. I have no idea how to make myself feel any better. F*ck it, I can’t even be bothered to write this blog.

I wrote that 5 hours ago. What have I achieved in that time? Absolutely nothing. I have laid in bed, wrote a few depressing paragraphs in my notebook and battled with endless urges to hurt myself. I feel so broken and I am not sure there are sufficient words to describe it.

Do any 90s kids remember Bernard’s Watch? Oh how I wish I had one. Bernard’s fancy pocket watch would stop time so that he could do things whilst the world was paused. Then he would be able to continue time. What would I do if I had this tech? I envisage spending months recovering from all the hell of the past 10 years. I would take my time and do the things that I wanted to. I would read the books I want to read, visit places I want to see, write a novel, become a yoga expert, meditate, all whilst time was frozen. I would have no work commitments, no PhD deadlines, or medical appointments to attend. My energy would 100% be invested in finding a way forward.

Alas, B’s watch is not available to me or anyone (unless you know something I don’t). So with time passing by how can I focus on myself with so many other things to think about? I don’t have the time to be feeling this crap. I have spent 9 hours today battling the monsters in my mind and feeling frustrated by physical symptoms. On the outside I must look like a lazy de-motivated woman. On the inside I’m an extremely distressed woman desperately trying to hold on each and every day.

I know there is no quick solution, no magic wand, no magic pocket watch. This is it. I only have this day, this moment, this breath. Although I remind myself of this every day I cannot stop the past from strangling me and chaining me to the floor. Making it impossible to get up, move forward, or live.

If anyone has a solution or owns their own Bernard’s Watch please do share. I would be forever grateful.

Prescriptions have Dominated

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I never wanted to go on anti-depressants. I never thought a tablet could help my sadness or anxiety. Seven years on and I have been on: citalopram, sertraline, escitalopram, venlafaxine, and fluxoetine. I have had various side effects and still feel dire. I am stuck on the medicine because of the hell of coming off them. Some would say this is because I need the medicine but I disagree. People who take illegal drugs experience a withdrawal if they try to stop. Coming off anti-depressants is similar, although for some reason these drugs are legal.

I am reading an excellent book called Lost Connections by Johann Harri. Here’s an extract from page 30:

The clinical psychologist Dr Lucy Johnstone was more blunt still. “Almost everything you were told was bullshit,” she said to me over coffee. The serotonin theory “is a lie. I don’t think we should dress it up and say, ‘oh, well, maybe there’s evidence to support that.’ There just isn’t”

I’m only 40 pages in but I am already gripped by Johann’s exploration of the history of anti-depressants.

The history seems very much like gossip. Let’s pretend, someone at school says ‘Tom has chickens in his garden’…after a few people have overheard this, incorrectly, and spread the tale it’s not long before we learn that ‘Tom has a chicken for a girlfriend’. The two phrases are completely different and almost incomparable. Similar to the serotonin story…

We begin in 1952 when hospital patients with TB were given a drug which made them dance uncontrollably and then spurred scientists to try this drug with depressed individuals. Just over a decade later in 1965 and after a range of drug trials, Dr Coppen, asked ‘what if all these drugs were boosting serotonin?’ Then, add corrupt Big Pharma to a range of (inherently flawed) drugs trials and you have a field of biased studies reporting the benefits of anti-depressants to restore a ‘chemical imbalance’ in the brain. But we don’t even know what the optimum balance is. We’ve gone from Tom having chickens in his garden/dancing TB patients to Tom dating a chicken/70.9 million NHS prescriptions for anti-depressants in 2018. (An article by Iacobucci (2019) discusses the massive rise in prescriptions.)

Where is the evidence for these drugs? There doesn’t seem to be any.

Earlier today I found something I wrote:

I have finally picked up my prescription for the new antidepressant….I’m willing to give it a go I just hope that it helps a little bit. I know that antidepressants can make you feel worse before you begin to feel slightly better. I really don’t know how much more I can take. I feel like a completely different person I’m so sad angry hopeless and disinterested. I am a nightmare to be around, I think my partner must have the patience of a saint. I wish I knew what started this. It’s like I woke up one day and someone had swapped me with some complete and utter walking disaster.

It feels like I could have written it yesterday but in fact it was from 8th August 2017. Where have the past 2 years gone? Anti-depressants certainly haven’t helped my brain. I feel like the years have vanished and I am no closer to feeling okay.

 

References

  • Hari, J. (2018). Lost connections: Uncovering the real causes of depression–and the unexpected solutions. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
  • Iacobucci, G. (2019). NHS prescribed record number of antidepressants last year. BMJ, 364, l1508.

 

Palaver Has Developed

Day 1 of my PhD and things have not gone to plan…Firstly my supervisor told me on Sunday that they have to attend an emergency eye appointment and therefore cancel our meeting. I’m more concerned about my supervisors eyeball than the cancelled meeting, so I was happy rearranging things and attending my first day anyway. My bag was packed, outfit chosen, documents organised…but I found out at 7.30am that the university closed today due to random pre-spring snowfall. Day 1 is spent working from home and all those first day nerves will have to be recycled.

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I am starting my PhD in my comfort zone. I have spent the past 3 years working mainly from home on a range of psychology research projects. I am used to sitting at my desk, staring out the window wondering what I’m doing with my life, and making minor amendments to the organisation of my post-it notes. Everything is the same but everything feels different. Today I begin doctoral study, what? What does that even mean? What do I do? Can I do it? I have to keep telling myself to pipe down. These anxious queries are not helping but they are very common in the world of academia. I don’t think it is helpful to try and ignore them, perhaps acknowledge them and then let them go. It’s like the mindfulness river analogy of noticing leaves (thoughts) and letting them drift onwards. In this situation I keep having logs of inadequacy drifting along the river…I can either:

1) stop each one of them, examine them and ruminate. Before I know it the river will be blocked and overflow OR

2) I can notice the wretched logs and let them be on their merry way

Option 2 is the healthier plan but it’s easier said than done. It is worth a try.