19 May

Does Prozac help authors?

Interesting article takes a look at the effects of creativity while on antidepressants. I tend to have two reactions to this back and forth.

1) I hate seeing antidepressants derided as a ‘crutch’ as no medical doctor has ever said to someone with a broken ankle ‘hey, that’s just a crutch you’re using to keep the weight off your ankle.’ And no one in public would say ‘you should quit using crutches.’ Crutches, by definition, allow the break to heal. I think society is a bit hard on people with mental health fractures. We are ourselves as well. It may be that an artist needs to stop creating while they let themselves heal on something like this (much like you can’t play football if you broke a leg, but no one would mock you for being out for a while on crutches while waiting for it to heal. Not so in brain health. Also, I think it’s at least feasible that some mental health breaks could be career ending, much like an athlete who’s so beaten up they need to retire. A though).

2) I’ve seen many creative friends experience both the ability to write and who have lost it. Most of my friends, anecdotally, seem to find it helpful (and continue being creative) after dropping the fear that antidepressants would kill their creativity. It’s a big fear, articles like this, which don’t use double blind tests and scientific data, but collect a bunch of anecdotes, don’t exactly help. That being said, it at least talks about those who are able to write again thanks to antidepressants. But I do know some who get hit with the fog effect. Hey, people are varied, and it’s not surprising medicines have varied affects. But if you’re super depressed, or suicidal, I submit that taking care of yourself is the most important.

“Within three weeks of my own Prozac fog lifting, I was writing again. Yes, I still felt down, so down some days that I couldn’t work and buried my head under the duvet, but the trade-off was days when my fingers couldn’t move fast enough over the keyboard, my pen struck sparks from the page. In Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home, the heroine, Kitty Finch, has just quit Seroxat. ‘It’s quite a relief to feel miserable again,’ she says. ‘I don’t feel anything when I take my pills.'”

(Via Does Prozac help artists be creative? | Culture | The Observer.)

After my heart defect and the pulmonary embolism almost dropped me in 2009 I tried SSRIs, but they had side effects with the other meds I needed at the time to treat those things. I’ve used xanax off and on to treat physical side effects of stress (my face goes numb, I get disembodied) that came from the change in life in 2009. Stayed off them most of 2010, 2011, and most of 2012.

Early this year I had to reup my prescription due to the stroke-like symptoms of stress I got after a doctor’s visit (and I’ve always used Xanax to help me get on a plane, because flying terrifies the fuck out of me).

As far as I can tell, the main effect has been to let me write because I’m not sitting in a corner obsessing about what’s stressing me out. I’m getting better about not needing it (am off it again after that period early this year) over time, but apparently in 2009 the fall out from almost dying fractured my mind a bit, and I’m still getting over it.

I don’t in the least bit feel ashamed or worried about talking about it. You try almost dying a few times in a short span of time and then move forward with a heart that somedays feels like a landmine in your chest that could go off from too much moving about, and you get a sense for how my brain interprets my daily life some times. Most of the time that doesn’t hit me, but laying stuff down on top of that tends to burst through the energy I spend managing that stuff.

I’m grateful I only occasionally have to resort to Xanax. Hopefully in another few years, I won’t even need that except for on flights (and I’ve always had to use Xanax or copious amounts of scotch to fly happily. My old routine used to be three rum-n-cokes, pour self aboard flight, fly happy!).