I went to the doctor to ask about not being on antidepressant drugs forever, and he said I can definitely come off them once I’ve been ‘feeling better’ for at least 6 months. This was in no way helpful; better than what? Completely better, or just not as bad as before I dragged myself to the doctor in the first place? If it’s the former, how am I supposed to remember what that feels like when I haven’t been for years? If it’s the latter, then should have binned the drugs months ago. It’s apt that an illness which makes a mess of your head is so badly defined that, once you’ve fallen in, it seems unlikely you’ll ever persuade yourself you’ve find a way out.
Things in General are heading in the right direction though; I’m making a graph of my moods (yes, really) and even though there’s no upward trend there are patterns which mean I can prepare for the worse times. People who see a lot of me say I seem better than I did a year ago, when I was in the middle of finals, but then the same is probably true of most people. The scale of ‘betterness’ doesn’t have any endpoints so getting completely better isn’t an option, but how am I supposed to draw the line beyond which I’m OK again?
I like things to be clear and organised, with boxes next to them that I can tick off; I can do little things to help myself until the cows come home, but the box next to ‘be better’ is going to remain resolutely un-ticked. I might feel great today (I don’t, but you never know) but then be back to square one (or maybe square two) again tomorrow. I am the worst possible person to be appointed judge of my own progress, because even typing the phrase ‘my own progress’ is making me smile derisively.
And, much as I hate it, the depression feels like part of me now; if I stopped being Clinically Ill (I’m taking drugs and everything, a doctor told me to!) I feel like I would lose some of my identity. This is ridiculously ironic, because one of the first thoughts I had after being prescribed antidepressants was that they might stop me from being myself. Having Depression gives me an excuse to call on friends (because, let’s face it, no one wants to waste time on me unless there’s a decent reason) when I’m feeling lonely and scared without needing to muster up the self confidence to think I’m just worth their time because we’re friends. I can always get sympathy, and hugs, and I always have something to write about. What would be left?
That presupposes that I do Get Better though, and I still don’t know how to measure that. I might be getting better at behaving like a rational and non-self-hating person, but there is definitely no strong correlation between how I can teach myself to behave and how I’m actually feeling. Maybe that doesn’t matter; maybe the best I can hope for is learning to conduct myself like the average person on the street even if I feel like someone has taken a mallet to my soul. I’m definitely different to how I was two years ago (it’s almost two years to the day since I first went to a doctor about this), but does different mean better? Does it even matter if I don’t ever get better? People keep telling me they love me anyway, and one day I might even believe them; maybe that would be Better enough?
Answers on a postcard…