I realise this post is pretty self indulgent, but there are some things I just need to get out.
The first thing I remember about being on prozac was being able to dream again.
I don’t mean having dreams or being optimistic about the future, but closing my eyes at night, falling away and having refreshing REM sleep and waking up with half-baked memories of the messed up stuff in my head. To someone who thinks of himself as creative, this was a dream come true.
That my atrophied brain (great name for a band) was thinking, sparking off and coming up with interesting ideas was a great milestone. As a person who spent most of his waking hours writing or thinking of cool ideas for doodles, this was a dream come true.
After years of going to sleep and waking up a total zombie, it was refreshing to… be refreshed in the morning.
It made the headaches, the random aches and pain, the appetite loss and weight gain, and my uneven moods almost seem worth it. Despite all of those horrible side effects, I was in some small way becoming a better, more healthy person.
And people noticed that I was chipper. The counsellor I was seeing could see a marked improvement in me.
Then one day I sat down to write. This would have been about a month into my course of medication. At the time, I was studying English Lit and took several creative writing modules. While I was never the best writer in the world, it was something that came easily to me, and I was learning to edit my work to make the splurges of text as good as possible. I could come up with interesting scenes, create characters that were believable. Was it mostly pretentious as hell? Sure, but it was something I enjoyed – and it was something I was good at, and only getting better.
I remember staring at the page, pen in hand, but nothing came. The mind fog that had hindered me in the past was back with a vengeance. I could not focus, or make clear decisions. I could not decide the first word on the page, what the scene was to be able, who the characters were or what their motivations were. I figured I was having a bad day, so left it and decided to come back to the piece the next day.
The following day; the same problem.
And the day after.
Before long, it was time to hand in the piece. I edited and handed in some of my work from the year before in place of some original work.
It was a moment of true panic – that what had been my sole outlet for how I felt was being taken away from me.
But then the side effects became worse. The aches and pains that before were barely noticeable became unbearable, the gains in weight unhelpful to my self esteem, and the crippling mood swings unmanageable. And when you are ultimately taking a drug to give your mind some relief, so that you can get your shit together, being unable to concentrate or focus is something of a hinderance.
So, six months into my course, I stopped taking the drug. Overnight. Rip off the plaster. One fell swoop.
And I felt better. My moods were more level – a pretty consistent and even low – and the aches stopped. I even began to lose some of the weight I had gained.
But the writing never came back. This is a problem that has continued on to today – eighteen months since I stopped taking the drug.
In her book Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurtzel – after much internal torment and suffering – finds relief in prozac. Sadly for me, I found no salvation in a pill. I’m sure for the millions of people out there – the members of the prozac nation – it brings them some kind of relief, and I’m happy for them.
Maybe my ability to write came from my deep-seated unhappiness with life. It’s well documented that mental health and artistic ability go hand in hand. Or perhaps prozac is a chemical lobotomy. If anyone knows, get in touch. Would I give it another shot? If it was going to help me, definitely.
These days I write for a living, and about something I have a genuine passion in. It’s a struggle, true. Whether I will one day find it as effortless as it was before will be something time will tell.
This chemical relationship lasted but six months, and there was some good to be seen – some moments of happiness. But like all failed relationships, over time you just remember the negatives.