Originally posted last January…
So I saw a doctor and he told me I’d had a panic attack. He prescribed Propananol. It didn’t seem to make a lot of difference. I went back home and had several more horrific attacks, almost psychedelic in their intensity. It felt like the floor was dissolving beneath me, like the glue holding my shuddering molecules together was failing, like I was losing structural integrity, about to drift apart and get lost on the breeze. Like I was going to be swept away by a brainstorm. My mum, struggling with that whole single parent thing, wasn’t massively interested. I went back to the doctor. I went back to the doctor a lot. I was struggling to frame these new experiences in some way that made sense – and the doctor was no doubt trying to get rid of me. So he told me I was depressed. And that, I can see now, was the moment that I traded my birthright as an autonomous human for a mess of psychiatric pottage. I went and collected my first little bottle of Imipramine and my shiny new identity as a fully fledged member of the mentally ill.
Really? With the benefit of nearly thirty five years of hindsight, I have to question the wisdom of that decision and the soundness of that diagnosis. Seventeen years old, from an utterly dysfunctional family riven by murder and suicide and all manner of common or garden domestic horrors – should not the first course of action have been to be to look at that? I think I was pretty open about it all – hell, at that point in my life I was pretty open about just about everything to anyone who’d listen. Was I ill – or was I just fucked up? And what happens when you take someone who’s just fucked up and tell them that they’re ill? At the time, it was a relief – but it was probably a relief because I was, with one scribble of a doctor’s biro, kind of absolved of any responsibility to sort MYSELF out. It was an ILLNESS – and that meant it had become a job for the medical profession, not me. I kind of think the doctor should have said this:
“You’re fucked up. That’s not necessarily your FAULT – in fact, looking around for things or people to blame is just going to waste time and energy that would be better directed towards putting things right. You’ve had a weird kind of childhood and you’ve developed some faulty ways of coping and some ways of looking at the world that are obviously not helping. I’m not going to give you any drugs that are just going to muddle your still developing brain, and I’d strongly suggest you stop fucking around with the drugs you’re playing around with. Get some exercise. Get some sleep. Take some deep breaths. Find someone to talk to. It WILL get better, but you’re going to have to work through some shit to get to the other side. You’re NOT depressed. Or you MAY be depressed, but let’s hold off with that diagnosis for the moment, because once you try that identity on for size and discover it’s a comfortable fit, you may never end up taking off. Come back and see me in two weeks.”