I’m so happy, cos today I found my friends were in my head…

 (with apologies to the late Kurt Cobain)

I started taking Lithium just over a week ago, increasing the dose last Friday, and I’m sitting here wondering when, when, when it’s all going to kick in and I’m going to achieve, what that ad I saw in some American magazine promised me so many years ago – A Better Kind of Normal.

The slogan speaks to me in a million ways, not the least of which is this idea that “normal” is something completely different for everyone.

If I knew I could get “normal” would I grab it?

Let me define my depression. It’s not the sort of depression that used to get people locked up in padded cells in ye olden Victorian days, nor the sort for which people have (involuntary) ECT, nor the sort of mania that sees you buying a boat and a first class trip to London (that you can’t afford nor want) followed by a black crash.

I’m talking about the kind of depression where all of the above are possibilities but you’re just teetering on the edge – a cross between McMurphy and the Indian.

mcmurphy and the indian

I feel defined by depression and mania. You know, like Winona Ryder will always be defined by the Saks incident (even though in my eyes she will always be Veronica.

Winona BSI*

Winona ASI**

So what would happy look like? Would I be satisfied with normal?

There are a few questions I ask myself regularly:

1. Is there really something wrong with me? People tell me I’m fine. I seem normal. Did the doctor’s prognosis free me by giving the first 37 year of my life some sort of definition or did the definition create it? This is like that old chestnut: Is the table really there or is it only there because I say it is?

2. I’m a bit of a drama queen so perhaps I like the attention that depression affords me? Er, no.

3. Will this shit every go away? Well that would depend. And no. “It depends” is what I have to look forward to. Jeff and I were walking along Birrarung Marr recently and there was some music blaring from a bar. You could hear a bunch of people singing loudly with the song, whooping and generally having an ace time. I turned to Jeff and said: “You know, I just can’t imagine ever being that happy again.”

4. If I had a choice between living a long life with depression and living a short, medicated, life without depression, what would I choose?

I often wish that I had more mania than depression and that it was more like dementia than alzheimer’s.

Let me explain:

  • Mania can be fun – unless you buy a boat and a first class trip to London (that you can’t afford, nor want). My mania causes me to sleep less, be creative, feel inspired, do tonnes of stuff and dream up lots of awesome ideas. Depression’s not fun.
  • When you have dementia, you don’t realise you have dementia. When you have alzheimer’s, you have moments when you realise you have alzheimer’s. I don’t wish for either of these. I just wish that my depression was more like alzheimer’s.

And soemtimes I just wish that i could be locked in a room and didn’t have to wake up and wonder about things or figure out how to navigate my life. There’s so much pressure to show up. To be ok. To be nice. To turn it on and off, up and down. To go to work. To do the job. To get up and not waste time. And that way others could get on with things too.

In the meantime, I’ll settle with antidepressants and my new mood stabilisers that beg the question: what if my “stable mood” is bleak?

Whatever. I’m off to count my plastic bags.

* Before the Saks Incident
** After the Saks Incident