On the Monday before Christmas, the black dog came around again and I couldn’t get out of bed. I lay all day staring at the wall. Depression has little to do with sadness, I think. It’s blankness. The same thing happened to me about 15 years ago. I was like a prize gonk for the four or five weeks it took for the Prozac to work, which it did, and since then I’ve managed to foster and sustain all the illusions I need to keep me buoyant.
I couldn’t get out of bed on the Tuesday either. I was adrift in outer space. But I knew I must pick up the phone and make an appointment to see someone with a prescribing pad. It’s easier said than done, though, getting an appointment to see a doctor during the festive period. I got through to a doctor’s receptionist eventually. ‘How can I help?’ she said. ‘I can’t get out of bed,’ I said, too ashamed to say the word ‘depressed’, and hoping I wouldn’t need to elaborate. ‘You can’t get out of bed?’ ‘No.’ ‘Why can’t you get out of bed?’ ‘I think I’m depressed and would like to talk to a doctor. And I’ve got a chest infection.’ I added the chest infection to add weight to my application to take up a doctor’s time with something as insubstantial as a frame of mind.
The best she could offer me, she said, was a phone call from the duty doctor. I expressed infinite gratitude. An hour later the phone rang. A young male introduced himself as a nurse. ‘How can I help?’ he said. ‘I can’t get out of bed. I think I’m depressed,’ I said. ‘And you think you have a chest infection?’ he said, looking, I imagined, at his list.