Charles Spencer

Trip switch

The drugs don’t work sung the Verve on one of their best songs, and I’m feeling the same myself at the moment.

The drugs don’t work sung the Verve on one of their best songs, and I’m feeling the same myself at the moment.

The drugs don’t work sung the Verve on one of their best songs, and I’m feeling the same myself at the moment. The stash in my bedside cabinet aren’t drugs of the recreational variety but anti-depressants that I have been taking, on and off, but mostly on, for 30 years now.

Depression for me always starts with acute anxiety and sudden rushes of panic. Indeed, I was first prescribed the pills, and sent to a day-care psychiatric hospital for several weeks, when I became so stressed out by my job on the Evening Standard in the early Eighties that I ran away from both work and home for several days, pitching up in the Devon resort of Dawlish, where I sat in a deckchair, drank a lot of beer, read thrillers and between chapters watched elderly men and women playing bowls. My mind, after months of tension, became a blessed blank.

Every so often depression returns. The first signs are always the same. My brain starts churning like a washing machine that won’t switch off, and every morning I wake up in a panic at dawn and can’t get back to sleep again. By the evening I usually feel better but the fear returns each morning, gradually giving way to a grey, listless fatigue. The smallest task becomes a huge labour and all I want to do is read P.G. Wodehouse, drink cups of tea and sleep. I used to self-medicate with booze, but have found that the bad patches last less long without it, and don’t go so deep. One of the worst things about these dark interludes in an otherwise contented life is that I can’t even enjoy music any more.

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