I knew it was the paroxetine; I knew, but I didn’t want to admit that, because then the bliss could leave at any moment, the childlike and childish joy in my heart would be contingent on this daily capsule. I knew it was the paroxetine, but secretly hoped that I’d got plugged directly into the heart of God. That it would be as I felt; eternal, oceanic, forever and ever.
Plans that either come to naught
Or half a page of scribbled lines
– Pink Floyd, ‘Time’
You, but on a really good day
– Advertising slogan for Berocca vitamin drink
“Do you ever make plans?”
This seems a curious question from the psychiatrist. I assume he’s making a suggestion – maybe if I made more plans to do stuff, I’d feel less listless, less detached from life. Less like a spectator, bored by the spectacle.
“I do, sometimes. Nothing ever comes of it. All sorts of projects; I get a bit into them then nothing happens. I just forget about them, leave them to one side”
“Hmm”, he hmms.
It’s true, and it’s always frustrated me. I can never maintain focus long enough to see any of my projects through. It’s not just projects – those bursts of energy; after I quit Leeds uni (the first time), I spent about a month with a pristine bedroom, polished surfaces, reading voraciously about world religions and Buckminster Fuller (this is entirely reasonable; world religions are fascinating and it’s a good bit of cultural knowledge to have – and Buckminster Fuller was just an all round brilliant guy). Got into Timothy Leary and devoured the experience vaults on Erowid.
“It makes sense”, Emily commented recently, when I told her. “I’ve often felt quite jealous of the way you can seem so connected to the world”
It made it hard to believe I’d ever been really depressed. I was just being daft, dramatic. I carried on thinking that way about my depression until I was at least 24 – which is to say, almost 10 years since it first clearly emerged. Joy can delude as sure as despair. But the world just makes sense, you see? You just need to stop worrying, and let it all fall into place.
Around my 30th. My birthday’s in January and London was brisk and, in my mind, sunny. I’d just got a Kindle – present from brother #1 – and every now and then I’d see another with one. “Aren’t they great?!” I’d enthuse to them, shockingly unbritish. Spend a few minutes singing their praises with a complete stranger. And a sale in Habitat! Christ only knows how much I spent, but I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so delighted by homeware.
That stunning few weeks, a handful of years ago – looking gorgeous and feeling free. New clothes, new look, new body (seriously, I looked smoking). Fierce kissing and fucking; finally I’ve got this whole thing figured out.
And more recent – tellingly, just before my most recent fall; the grace was singing in me. All my neuroticism evaporated, the happy realisation that I’m fine, just me, myself. No need to worry about other’s opinions, other’s lives are not yardsticks with which to judge your own. Happy. Spring in my step and spring in the air, blossom, me blossoming out. Lab book filled with extraneous scribbles and commentary, flourishes. It all fell into place.
I compared all this, you see, to the ferocity of paroxetine. The hypomania induced by paroxetine was more probably mania – mania without grandiosity or delusion, but with a brilliant, blinding, childish energy; impatient, white water energy, all song and dance and singing and dancing, through the streets, cigarettes and cream. Bliss over every hair on my flesh, fluttering through every cell in my body. Bliss… bliss falling asleep, bliss upon waking. Bliss unlike any other. And compared to that – compared to that, everything else faded, everything else fades. Drugs, sex. Love. Nothing compares.
Setting such a high bar for hypomania, it’s no wonder I didn’t catch all these other moments. Or casually dismissed them, only accepting that SSRIs pushed me into a very, very mild state.
Turns out my very, very mild state is actually just a state.