I wonder if I can spot the beginning of a downturn. Much of the point of this daily self-interrogation is to help me know whether I am well or not. Sounds a bit daft written down, because surely I’d know. Yeah, you’d think. But due to a fairly narrow focus on “right now”, I tend to assume that however I feel right now is the same as I felt yesterday. It’s some mental trickery and deception, obviously, and it makes me blandly unprepared for a shift up or down along the various axes of mental health (like a graph, not weaponry). Being able to compare today with yesterday or a week ago is the point. Ultimately, with months ago I guess.
It’s a curiously boring project, or it has been this week. Obviously it’s tedious for other people, but then they don’t have to read it, do they. This is for me, but if I don’t put it somewhere then I probably won’t write it either. Even writing this now I’m feeling a slight hint of trepidation, because in recognising that this series of mental health entries is somewhat lacking in thrills I’m building a set of reasons for not doing it any more. I also think that’s a bad idea. This isn’t supposed to be interesting, that’s not its purpose. The aim is self-defence, and in the same way that if a knife or can of mace might take up a bit too much room in my bag, asking “do I really need to carry them at all? I’ve felt safe for a couple of weeks” is the wrong question, or at least it leads to the wrong outcome. Mental health – my mental health – is not stable. Looked at for the right couple of days or weeks might give the impression that it’s OK. Examined on the bad days – the days that came before this reinforcing routine would have looked a good deal worse – and those I don’t have a record of, I wasn’t making myself do this track every day. Maybe it would have helped; hopefully it will help the next time. A few weeks of being all upbeat while working on new routines is not a new normal. The routines are the new normal, which the fucked up internal trolley car will rattle along, occasionally jumping off the tracks but hopefully staying largely contained. I have to build new routines when I feel good, because doing them when I’m in a worse place is utterly impossible. The cloying embrace of the darkness reinforces all my biases towards being in the present, occludes the past and future and chokes me in its smog.
So why am I writing this now? Because these little temptations, to just skip the exercise one morning at the weekend or to skip this mental health track – almost as a kind of retreat, a reward for feeling fine – are, I think, indications that the darkness is returning. Its first task is to dismantle the defences. Once gone, infiltration is easy. It’s better for me to think of these methods for controlling and maintaining optimal normal performance (that feels like a lot of buzzwords in one go, but all I’m aiming for is to enable me to be basically happy and stable, able to love, laugh and work – I’m not aiming for superhuman creativity or radically reshaping my life) as being exactly the same as the drugs I take for asthma. I don’t stop taking Symbicort, InCruse Ellipta, monteleukast or salbutamol because I could breathe alright yesterday. Of course I could breathe yesterday, I took all those fucking drugs that enable bronchodilation and let me inhale fucking oxygen. That’s not to say I won’t test the limits – I might be a bit wheezy but still head off to cycle and swim without taking an extra hit, but I have the damn thing with me when suddenly can’t fill my lungs any more.
I’m getting angry because I’m angry with myself for trying to weasel out of looking after myself. There’s no sound equivalent of the nice asthma drugs for mental health, other than the regular doses of antidepressants. And I am of course fading those out. Tonight I slide down to a third of my usual dose. This is, or I have thought it to be, my safety net. Except it doesn’t work properly. As I’ve noted before, even as a sleep aid it failed me about 20% of the time, but I’ve clung to it fiercely/apathetically regardless. Over the years I’ve reduced the dosage anyway, so I don’t wake and move like a zombie, but it’s going to be a few more weeks till it’s entirely out of my system. Withdrawal symptoms vary widely, but I’m definitely getting the headaches that are common. I’m trying not do anything about them since my favoured painkiller combo of co-codamol is also quite numbing and appealing. Eventually the headaches do – and will continue to – fade and they’re a far cry from cluster headaches or migraines, more like a running hangover which kicks in randomly during the day. Other awesome withdrawal effects include a recurrence of all reasons you might be on such things in the first place. I suppose I am gambling that in the decade or so that I’ve been taking these little tablets quite a lot has happened, and many of the factors which led me to the point of really really needing them have faded away or (optimistically) been resolved, and thus I don’t merely not want them any more, but don’t need them either. Even if I perhaps do kinda need them, I’m hopeful that I can better grasp and deal with them than I could as a younger version of myself. We endlessly swap one crutch for another, so what is this thing: a bum brain knee? I guess that level of self-awareness is somewhere on a quantum scale where you can actually watch your brain work and respond. This is the closest I can get at the moment.
The medicalisation of my daily life happened a very long time ago, even if I didn’t really notice it, perhaps because until now it’s just been inhaling some stuff or popping a bunch of pills at specific-ish times. I should accept, and embrace, that the entirety of my routine which borders day and night are also medical interventions. They are good, they help, and even if I might feel slightly bored of them, I do actually like them because they help me to be well.
I was just trying to figure out what triggered this minor freak out. I woke up feeling a bit thick-headed, but OK. A bit annoyed that I had slept through my alarm. Spotted the random news article about that guy who’s fathered 500 kids through sperm donation (“fathered” really not being the right word here) and immediately was horrified that 500 kids are going to risk being lumbered with whatever narcissist impulse drove him to wank in all those jars. I guess it reminded me of all the times I’ve wondered what I could possibly pass on to a child that was actually worth having.