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Take the pill that makes you want to die

I'm really annoyed and upset about something that is completely not my story to tell and, if anything, not about me. So I'm going to talk about something vaguely tangential to what I'm upset about that happened a good number of years ago instead. Which is one of my more intense brushes with mental illness that I made it through without most people I know actually realizing what was going on. And nobody knew for good reason. Somehow it's a subject that people don't want to talk about that much, as if you somehow catch mental illness like you catch other illnesses.

Also, I've made it my goal for this year that I spend a little more time saying things that I've been too meek to say in previous circumstances.

In retrospect, the closest I ever came to offing myself was the winter of despair after my Trek 7100 was stolen right before the winter rainy season, so instead of replacing it right away, I'd figured I'd replace it come spring. By the time spring rolled around, I was roundly depressed, the fattest I'd ever been, and somewhat scared to plunk down more money on a bike. The months following, on my new bike, pretty much cemented my belief that we were not evolved / created / touched by his noodly appendage to sit on our asses all day and be transported around by motorized vehicles and that, to ignore that meant insanity. That was an important life lesson. And I didn't really realize it at the time what was going on in my head, it only made sense just how far down I was in retrospect.

This was more about the important life lesson that you needed to quit when your job was driving you nuts. Which, by the way, gives me nothing but the most undying sympathy for my friends who do not have this luxury. Because I know that I've mostly been living in a giant fucking special case here.

Now, at this point in my life that I am talking about, I was haunted by my own personal demons. I was not so much disconnected from society. I had friends outside of work and such, but I hadn't yet learn the important life lesson that my inactivity was killing me. But it was time to quit my job, except I hadn't actually come to terms with that consciously.

So I was working seven days a week so that I'd be able to get the equivalent of an average joe in five days a week. Whereas I am really capable of doing far more than an average joe without working seven days a week. And I was soul-suckingly depressed, where there was little that I could do to make myself feel better.

Eventually, I found myself on anti-depressants. Here's the part that fucked me up: Ignoring side-effects, it didn't help. It was like all of the sudden, I didn't fear that if I didn't get what an average joe could do over normal working hours I'd get fired. But it didn't help me deal with any of the problems that I was having.

And, consciously, I could see where this was going and it wasn't good. Eventually, and awkwardly, I ended up quitting and switching jobs. But even afterwards, I didn't want to fuck things up, so I stayed on the meds for a while longer.

Mostly, what prevented me from going full-fledged suicidal was that I have a wife who loves me and friends who, while I didn't burden them with the details of my mental state, I could at least interact with and not feel socially isolated.

Oh, and the side effects. I'd willingly taken these meds. But I'd never appreciated exactly what they do to a person before being on them. I was suffering what I'll refer to as 'sexual side effects'. But I also just plain overall didn't feel like myself anymore. These neural re-arrangements in a very unnatural and nonsensical way had wormed their way deep into my brain and brutally re-arranged things as they may.

I was disgusted with the whole fucking process. So I went off them one weekend when I was supposed to attend a friend's wedding that I texted him the day of with apologies and have never heard back from them. The thing that makes anti-depressants such a wonderfully popular product is that you cannot go off them without at least short-term consequences. In fact, the long-term consequences if you are on them for a long time are even worse.

And I've treated the entire psychological field with far more mistrust, especially people who espouse the simple models of biochemistry and neurotransmitter balance. I can feel the lie with every one of my neurons that was in uproar. Neurotransmitters are the new humors. Much like there is a thing called bile that your liver emits, there is such a thing as dopamine. But you cannot adequately explore the workings of dopamine without cracking somebody's head open and watching neurotransmitters on a microscope. We cannot do this. So, in a sense, your dopamine being out of whack is no more insightful than your bile being out of whack.

I suspect this would all have been much easier if I was actually nuts instead of just troubled.

Some years later, I randomly walked into a shop, picked up a new bike, and stopped driving unless forced. Besides the point where I was without a bike and a few downers that I've gotten past on my own, I've been far better ever since.

And I know that my experience might have been a bit atypical, but I do know a lot of horror stories amongst my friends who have been prescribed anti-depressants.

This is about half of my story. It needs to be told. I'm uncomfortable talking about it, even today, and that's the second half of the story.

Now, we've got the platitude that we give whenever somebody kills themselves. The 'I wish they would have said something' platitude.

Culturally, it's OK to offer somebody mild re-assurances when they are casually upset. But coming over for tea and tears every day for a year to work through a depression that defies easy answers? This is not in our cultural programming. I couldn't even dissemble through the twisted web of emotions that there was a fairly short list of things that I was doing wrong and needed to change, I just knew I was cripplingly depressed.

Also, if you are a guy, you are not allowed to cry and preserve your masculinity. And an obsessive interest in preserving whatever scraps and threads of my masculinity-as-defined-by-others I can hold onto instead of just accepting that I can be what I want to be. Which is another story, arguably for another day.

So you look around and realize that if you open up to your friend, they are in for tea-and-tears for a year and that this may not be something they ought to be burdened by. That they will start out being OK with it but rapidly want to figure out how to get you to bother somebody else. So one opts to preserve appearances even as they get more and more depressed. Having been there, I think this is what happens to the person you wished had said something after they've killed themselves.

One of the better things that psychology has tried to do, when they aren't doing modern blood-letting with neurotransmitters, is finding productive ways to take a person who is in the tea-and-tears-for-a-year state and help them. The problem is that this takes time. You might think that this is a product of our modern era, but I've come to realize that this whole thing has been going on for a long long time and we've only made baby steps past the way things were.

Now, tell your boss that you are clinically depressed and you need to take off in the middle of the day, once or twice a week. And then ask yourself... what happens?

Now, being mentally ill usually counts as disabled, which does make you a protected class, in theory. Seeking help for a problem before it becomes critical is a mature adult thing to do.

But your boss may start to wonder if they need to remove things from your plate so as to prepare for the inevitable disability leave and/or suicide. Or maybe your boss doesn't believe in mental illness and thinks you can just snap out of those things. Or maybe you'll be targeted in the next general layoff ("Sorry, we had to cut five percent and you are it. No fault of your own") Some people associate mentally ill with axe murderers. Stuff like that.

The line between just sad and depressed often lies along rationality. It's normal to feel sad when negative things happen and completely irrational to expect a life without pain or sadness. It's irrational when you are so depressed that you cannot see or feel joy, perhaps in a way that you only truly understand once you've actually been there. So take a rational assessment of that and then throw in a giant hunk of irrationality and you start to realize that when you are so depressed as to require clinical help, it's very unlikely that you'll tell your boss, even if you could do so without consequences.

I'm not entirely sure who's going to end up reading this. But I'm pretty sure that there's a number of people I know that there are people who are going to treat me a bit differently.. and not in a good way... if they read this. And that's the final fear, really... having something being part of your public reputation that you'd rather not have.

I really fucking hate other people's pity about this. If I take a good spill while cycling and break something, you can pity me then. But if somebody decides that they are going to treat me with kid gloves because of my formerly fragile psyche, I am going to fly into a rage if I find out.

Up until I posted this, even people who I am very fond of and who I consider to be good friends have not been told even these vague details, even though I normally seem to be like an open book. To them, most of all, I feel sorry. I'm only comfortable talking about this now publicly is because I've spent a good number of years not having problems. And because I'm annoyed about some stuff that's continuing to go on.

And, even now, I'm not entirely sure if I'll actually publish this article and leave it published.

But if you are wondering why somehow the Emilie Autumn concert that I've been going on about has me so raw or a few other mysteries of my reactions to things, now you know.