Play depression at its own game

A little over two years ago, I was off work with depression.

One day or night, I sat and watched 8 Mile, the Eminem movie, and took some kind of small hope from the underdog rapper’s never-say-die determination and ultimate triumph over adversity. My own determination wasn’t putting in an appearance at the time, and triumphs seemed in short supply.

Here in the present, it’s more than a month since I took my last antidepressant and there’s a part of 8 Mile that now seems particularly significant.

The film’s climax is a rap battle between Eminem’s character, Rabbit, and his enemy, Papa Doc. Now, I am no battle rapper or gangsta MC – I’m more Yorkshire Tea than Ice T – but I do know that the basic gist of such battles is to brag about your own greatness and insult your opponent as wittily as possible.

Except in this contest, Rabbit catches his opponent off-guard by confessing to all his own flaws and secrets – all the things Doc was about to hurl at him. It leaves his nemesis impotently lacking ammunition. And then he exposes him for the coward and fraud that he is. You can read the full lyrics here.

So, what’s this got to do with me and depression?

  • Depression is a cowardly bully that skulks in the shadows and messes up your head – and it thrives on the shame and stigma that comes with it. It knows everything about you – all your flaws and weaknesses – and uses them against you. By talking to someone about what you’re going through, you expose it and weaken its power.
  • You can also get to know your enemy, through counselling, talking to others (either in person or online) or reading about it. This helps to arm you against its dirty tricks. Stopping my antidepressants has been like taking down my shield. At times in the last few weeks, members of depression’s gang have roughed me up – stress, anxiety and insomnia have all had a go – but I am better able to fend them off than I used to be, because I know what they’re up to.

I’m not naïve about this, and will have to keep a look-out for future attacks, but for now this underdog has triumphed. I celebrated my first medication-free month with a glass of bubbly that had been at the back of a cupboard since before I started taking Citalopram.

Recovery from depression is slow. Even when you feel well, coming off the medication is tough. For an impatient patient, it seems like a never-ending war. But liberation from depression is possible.


7 Comments on “Play depression at its own game”

  1. rmwk100 says:

    Super blog as ever, Paul. You are doing really well. I’m following your example by very slowly reducing my Ciralopram too, after a good discussion with my therapist. Love from Ruth XXXXX

  2. Sarah says:

    Hi Paul, I have just started to read your blog and it is very helpful and supportive. I have been taking citalopram for eight weeks. One month at 10mg per day now the second month 20 mg per day. I have been suffering with headaches almost continuous for two years, they have felt like a huge constant weight or pressure in my head as if my brain was a lump of concrete. Naturally I felt tired and just going through the motions of life. I have a job that I enjoy but it can be stressful and it is easy to take on more that is sensible. I am lucky that I haven’t needed to take anytime off work. I went to the doctor about my headaches, firstly I tried amytriptyline (this made my heart pound) although it reduced the headache by about half. Then I tried nortriptyline (this didn’t help me). Now I am taking citalopram. After eight weeks I am starting to feel much better, brighter in myself and positive about the future. Also my energy levels have increased. My headaches haven’t gone yet but they do seem a bit better, my head feels lighter. I think I have some depression but hadn’t realised it. Can you remember how long it took for your headaches to go? I intend to take citalopram for as long as I need it, I am very grateful for the support and help my GP has given me,
    Best wishes for the future and thanks for this great blog,

    • paulbrook76 says:

      Hi Sarah
      Thanks very much. I’m really pleased you like my blog. I started on 20mg Citalopram and went up to 30mg. I think the headaches lessened then stopped – it wasn’t an immediate end to them but it certainly helped a lot and they did go away.
      Good to hear you’ve noticed an improvement. Long may it continue!
      All the best

  3. Jon says:

    What about beating depression without medication? I don’t want to be stuck on some anti-depressant. (I’ve taken Effexor XR and Zoloft before and didn’t like the side effects).

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