Safe. Secure. Reasonable. Informed: Coming off Sertraline

DISCLAIMER: The following post took place over the course of several days of teeth gnashing. Its contents are intended for my own amusement only. Any medical advice adhered to that results in your own suicide and/or the murders of your loved ones in the most bloodthirsty and inhumane way conceivable is neither my responsibility nor anyone else’s, you fiend.

Bruce Wayne had other rather more exotic coping mechanisms than psychotherapy.
Bruce Wayne had other rather more exotic coping mechanisms than psychotropic medication. He also had Vicki Vale and the Batcave.

If you get treated like a patient, you’re apt to act like one.

– Frances Farmer

So I made up my mind and will not be going back to Teesside, nor will I complete the year. From here on in, this guff comes straight from the heart.

I’m going to mention mental health now but I promise I will touch upon it as briefly as I’m able; then we can get back to talking zoo animals, gig reviews and reasons why the white man will be the death of us all.

I’ve had some awful stomach cramps this past week, which I’ve been thinking may have been part of the withdrawal symptoms of coming fully off of the Sertraline; that along with the almost frightening electric night spasms and the homicidal antipathy that admittedly could simply be the result of answering my mum’s phone calls.

Put simply, in an existence of multiple universes – all once identical but for subtle changes, here and there, that formed strange or delightful or terrifying mirrors to our own – I would be surprised if there were any more in which my mother has, for misguided reasons known only to herself, not cut the family to pieces like the pigs we are.

I digress. Now it’s hard to write about mental health without coming across either as a whining cunt or a boorish know-all. There’s a horrible stigma that comes with asking for help and seeking answers; especially with maladies that have no physical symptoms, which are very much open to interpretation or the whim of fashionable understanding.

Yet surely coming to know yourself, in being aware of why you behave in a certain way, is good for everyone; and of course there will be countless avenues where people have knowledge and savvy that you lack so it stands to reason you need to open your mouth, rather than simply sit beneath a tree.

Four years or whatever ago I’d taken to interpreting drinking and the dick I became to be self medication for my personality. These days I know I’m just agoraphobic, paranoid and hyper-sensitive, and that appears to be pretty much it; but it’s taken a while to come to that (self) diagnosis – one that those who know me could’ve told you without the need for all this navel contemplation.

They would no doubt also add ‘arrogant’, ‘stubborn’ and ‘tiresome’ to the list.

Various terms have been mumbled at me in surgeries and clinics, and in the end it seemed the only way to get help was to take the psychotropic carrot offered; because drugs will always trump booze in kick and effectiveness, and what’s not to trust about Big Pharma?

In order to be fully effective, medication needs to be taken in tandem with psychotherapy, yada yada, and believe me I’ve tried. In spite of the massive waiting lists – indicating either a criminal shortage of psychotherapists or the fact that feeling at odds with the world isn’t such a minority bent after all – I’ve been fortunate enough to get some proper sit down time with several professionals.

The trouble is, each one contradicts the one before and the last one couldn’t even remember our appointments. Here you are, vulnerable yet still managing to open up and trust, yet the cunt can’t even get his schedule sorted. You know you’re an arsehole when even your therapist doesn’t want to listen to your shit.

So, inevitably, I spent a lot of time online. The internet is a fantastic place not only for information, but also for anecdotal evidence of how everybody else is feeling and reacting. Most pros will tell you to avoid such forums, because when people read something that fits their experience they tend to fast-forward through a decade of medical school and start second guessing their GP.

Regarding medication, people online seem to only ever complain about side-effects or symptoms; those that offer help are often on the shit end of the same stick; but, in my experience, although many return to update on their condition, it is seldom that anyone for whom treatment is working from the off will elect to seek out these forums and throw their hat into the ring. They’re probably too busy off flying kites or making love in rose gardens, the swine.

The thing with being a hypochondriac who can not only make it to the end of a text only Wikipedia entry, but whose ex was addicted to House, M.D., is that I realise that maybe I’m twisting symptoms I recognise into conditions I feel I have, in order to be prescribed medicine I believe will if not cure me then point the doctors in the right direction before my liver gives out and an enraged dragon with sarcoidosis performs a lumbar puncture with its scaly barbed phalus.

Possibly a hallucination.

Family history tends to come up in discussions about the mind and even in as small a control group as my immediate family, it gives me pause for concern. I know almost nothing about that side of the family but as I understand it, my father’s mother was a probable schizophrenic; institutionalised some time after single-handedly ‘thanking’ every serviceman returning to Portsmouth at the end of World War 2. My mother’s father was a Royal Marine who, after doing some beaucoup bad shit for Queen and country, returned with PTSD and that didn’t end well for anyone.

Not to suggest that the fallout of warfare should be placed in the same realm as not-enough-hugs, only simply to suggest that one man’s picnic is another man’s purgatory. Gone unchecked, mental illness can wreck generations; it can define a family, and it will spread like a virus; like begetting like. Mental illness doesn’t only effect the ‘weak.’

I would say more about my family history but I’d better not, as some of them can read.

And if anyone is thinking: ‘Well you wonsta think yerself lucky – plenty a kids in (insert whichever country is getting proper fucked lately) wood be glada the life you got.’ then please, allow me to retort:

Go fuck yourself, idiot; that’s not how this works.

I’m no more depressed than the next guy and I’m pretty sure I never was. I’ve certainly never felt sorry for myself outside of the terms of childish heartbreak – I’ve just got one of those frowning faces, like most people from Portsmouth with any sense.

I was simply led to believe that a few pills a day could make me more content and therefore a more productive member of society; these two states spiralling upward together; a double helix of self-satisfaction; secreting tax and well adjusted offspring until the world was better off for the bloated carcass I eventually left for some poor bastards to winch into an oven.

This isn’t about people who sit about feeling sorry for themselves – neither of us wants to hear about ‘those sorts’ (cough) – but there are a hell of a lot of people being prescribed SSRIs, apparently more than one in 10 in Scotland and a few years back it was something like 400,000 Danes; and that lot are supposed to be the happiest in the world. Go figure.

Some people just have a harder time getting it together than others; power to you if you’re a happy bunny but there’s no need to be a dick about it. Nature, nurture or some creepy shit that happened in the school showers – we’ve all got our cross to bear; but it’s not to be judged and pigeonholed like a talent show. Any person, in the moment, dealing with their tribulations, finds them all encompassing, depleting of spirit and robbing of rational thought.

If anyone made it this far looking for an answer or perhaps advice, I’m sorry but I honestly couldn’t comment on whether or not taking the pills prescribed to me was a good thing or not. I’ve tried various different types, and all ended up at a maximum recommended dose. I remember at times swearing by them, and other times when they tuned me into a manic, jabbering buffoon. All I know is, I didn’t taper down this time, I just cut off, and I’m still here, so if you’re having a bad time then take a week off sick and just come right off them (See Disclaimer Above.)

To be honest, the only way I know I wasn’t taking a placebo, is the almost comic kickstart of my libido and that now I’ve started biting my nails again, it ends a little before the second knuckle.

I still have no idea what’s ‘wrong’ with me, and to be honest I’m tired of asking. SSRIs effect different people differently; and you should certainly use them in tandem with talking with a professional. Don’t avoid forums and discussion groups, but don’t come to rely on them either. Doctors are fallible and at times plain incompetent, but I’d have them over a priest any day.

I’m going to try cod liver oil and vitamin D for now and see where my unadulterated brain takes me. I hope the Chris Parlett that has developed over the past four years isn’t just a phantom that will vanish in a puff of smoke at the first sign of trouble.

Finally, a message to all you parents out there: Children are like sponges; and if you use them to soak up your shit, don’t be surprised if when you squeeze them you end up with shit all over your hands.

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