It’s just been my birthday, so I have every reason to feel contemplative. More than that, though, this birthday marks five years of taking a daily antidepressant. When I went to the doctor to say I thought I might need them, it was a few days before my birthday and I remember feeling devastated when they told me I shouldn’t really drink alcohol with them (I have not stuck to this) – I was planning to have Champagne for my 21st, and somehow the loss of that seemed like the last straw, as if everything had been manageable up until that point. Not drinking would be a concrete life change I’d have to make: every time there was alcohol on the table (which as a student was most of the time) I would have to consciously admit to myself – and to everyone else, because I’ve never been good at lying – that I wasn’t going to have any, because I was on medication, because I couldn’t cope with my own life.

I still don’t want to admit that. Maybe it’s even worse now that after five years, after getting my degree and getting out of the pressure cooker of the highly academic university where it all began, I still need the drugs. Things have changed in my outlook – now when a small setback makes me feel worthless, I can step back just far enough to see that that’s a disproportionate reaction, but not far enough not to transfer the feeling of worthlessness to the fact that my self-esteem can be shattered by one little thing. This week at work has been full of little mistakes and throwaway comments and pressure and responsibilities and by Friday night I was hurting because I just couldn’t keep bouncing back and making light of things and I wish I could.

I wish I could cry when I feel sad and scared by my inability to deal with my imperfections, instead of the crushing fist squeezing my chest and the mental paralysis that means I can only stare into space for minutes at a time. I wish I could tell people when today is not a good day and I’d like them to just leave me alone. I wish I didn’t need stupid drugs that change my feelings and have fun side effects like making me feel sick most days just to be able to function like all the other people can. Last time I went to the doctor his parting words were ‘Any questions… other than ‘Why me?’?’. Another thing I don’t like to admit is it’s not fair. I understand I can make progress by doing certain things, and maybe I am, but I just want a break. But if I stop I will lose all the progress, and I can’t do that.

I was part of a conversation the other day about trials of drugs which are illegal in many places as treatments for depression. Apparently they can work. Why did no one ask me to take part in one of those trials? I hate not having ultimate control over my own feelings, how on earth am I supposed to ever have control over anything else if I can’t even do that? Will I ever be able to do that again? Will I have stopped taking the drugs in 5 years’ time? Will the SuperBetter app I’ve just started using turn out to be the magic fix I’ve been looking for, where zumba and vitamin pills and mindfulness haven’t made the cut? Time will tell. I hope it won’t take another five years.