Armchairs, Tarantino, And A Certain Brand Of Laundry Detergent.

by Bec Hawkings

A year ago, I was slumped in the waiting room of my university’s Medical Centre, picking absently at my already-demolished fingernails. I’d not slept in three days, nor eaten in two, and in my brain there was a constant, muted, destructive whirr. The chrome seat was cold against my legs, and the pile of magazines next to me told me of Angelina’s tiny thighs (envious) and Madonna’s latest beau (less envious).

An extension on the essay is not a problem, but I’d like you to get a medical certificate anyway. 

A small, blonde woman peered at me. “Rebecca?” I nodded, and retrieved my laptop bag from under the chair. We turned left down the corridor. Her office was comfortable and bright, the window overlooking the trees of the central courtyard.  She indicated to an oversized armchair, and sat back.

Please go and see someone. 

It took her less than fifteen minutes to (re)diagnose me; another five to make an appointment with a GP  for me to talk about medication. We turned right down the corridor. He was a burly, gruff man. His window overlooked a car-park. I sat in a swivel chair as he drew me diagrams of synapses and neurons, and used Tarantino film references to explain just what what happening in my whirring, muted mind.

296.34. Major recurrent depressive disorder, severe, with psychotic features.

I’m one of the lucky ones – it only took three months, and minimal trial-and-error, to find a medication that worked for me. An SNRI, which is much like the more common SSRI but less mainstream. Even in my medications, I am a hipster. It’s not perfect; the depression snaps at my heels on occasion, and the psychotic symptoms still bare their teeth menacingly, but from an increasingly greater distance. To assume that a pill can cure mental illness is naive at best. It is, instead, a cushion with which to buffer against the worst of the illness, and with which to smother the most extreme and debilitating of symptoms. My particular brand of depression, for example, comes with auditory hallucinations: I don’t hear voices in my head, but rather I hear external voices as if someone was standing next to me, or as if I’ve left a television on in the next room. Essentially, I lay in bed, feeling utterly miserable and hopeless, and I can hear someone sitting near my wardrobe, telling me how worthless and pathetic I am. Fantastic way to pass the time, I assure you.

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises.

I promised myself that I’d write something one year after that first appointment with the small blonde lady and the large gruff man. No matter how I was, no matter what had happened, I’d write it down. So I have. I eat, and I sleep, and I write, and I socialise, and I don’t listen to nearly as much heavy metal music. I’m not reading Helen Razer’s Gas Smells Awful: The Mechanics of Being a Nutcase on a daily basis, and I rarely spend all day staring at my bedroom wall any more. The whole process has left me with the remnents of some odd and somewhat endearing symptoms: the smell of a certain laundry detergent will leave me giddy with delight, while a specific brand of pasta sauce can still reduce me to a weeping, shaking mess. It’s hard not to be amused by the black humour in such ridiculousness. But such side-effects are gradually fading into background noise, and I am increasingly exhibiting signs of mental stability that are distinctly uncharacteristic. Most remarkably, I feel like a person, rather than a shell or a zombie. My default setting is no longer sadness, but rather a vague sort of contentment in which I take great pleasure. I’m so much more productive than I have ever been; far from losing whatever ability I had to write or study, I have instead gained the most unexpected energy and concentration. I am, in short, breathing and living and thriving and bustling along nicely.

About fucking time.