Penny Arcade Aka Susana Ventura is a performance artist, author…
Antidepressants can be seen as a quick fix for a society that lacks resources to treat depression holistically OR a chemical blessing offering hope to millions. Most people seek help from a doctor, but a chance encounter with the porn star Blue Blake led me to Prozac, says Stewart Who?
Every now and then, the public are treated to a story of how research has revealed that modern antidepressants are no better that a placebo. Antidepressants, ‘a waste of time’, trumpets the Daily Mail. Antidepressants ‘no better than dummy pills’ shouts the Telegraph.
There’s no denying that depression’s a massive problem. Official figures show that a quarter of us will suffer from depression at some point in our lives. Last year, around 32 million prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in the UK – the most on record. Financial boffins reckon depression costs Britain around £17billion in sick leave and lost productivity alone.
Demons and dysfunction
Depression and dysfunction riddled my family after the death of my mother in ’85. Everyone fell apart and fought with their demons and each other. By the early ‘90s, it was hard to find out if my depression was hereditary, circumstantial, or the result of doing too much E in ’87. And ’88.
You get the picture.
To a confused misery like myself, Prozac offered a fascinating opportunity. Of course, it was licensed in the U.S. long before it reached these shores, unlike all the literature concerning the drug, which was freely available in book stores.
Porn and Prozac
In ’96, while interviewing Blue Blake for QX Magazine, in his entirely mirrored apartment in Earl’s Court, I noticed a fruit bowl overflowing with blister packs of pills. It was Prozac. He confessed, quite frankly, that many of the ‘actors’ in the industry were using the drug to combat the crashing depression that accompanies crystal meth abuse.
Meth was gathering pace as the drug of choice among the porn crowd, because it numbs emotions, fuels sexual appetite and suppresses appetite. Oh, the glamour.
Noting my fascination, Mr. Blake gave me a month’s supply of the antidepressant and a signed copy of his latest film. Always rushing to be at the forefront of stupid behaviour, I just started popping the Prozac. That’s the ’90s for you.
Most people would address their mental health issues by seeking the advice of a health professional, but not yours truly. I chose to address my depression by using a part-time hooker and the star of Posing Pouch as my personal pharmacist and spiritual guru. To be fair to Blue, he was a total gent, and a great host, as anyone who attended his lively dinner parties will attest to.
Meanwhile, the situation at home became untenable. A punch up with my sister’s homophobic boyfriend proved the final straw and left me very distraught. Obviously, the Prozac hadn’t kicked in yet, but when it did, I decided to move out, find a flat and start a new life.
This strategy proved curiously seamless, swift and almost enjoyable. It was only after the oddly sublime move, that it became clear that I was living in the House that Prozac built.
Dark and debilitating
The pills ran out, a year went by and then a harsher, more debilitating depression hit me like a cold, wet blanket. It’s shocking when you think you’ve been depressed, then a far darker, potentially fatal strain takes hold.
In much of the current press, there’s talk of exercise, cognitive therapy and ‘snapping out of it’. That’s fine advice, if you’ve got the time, determination and will power to seek help. On a practical level, attempting to get an appointment with your GP might reduce a healthy person to floods of demented tears.
Back to Prozac
Having already tried Prozac, almost recreationally, it was easy to turn once again to the green and cream pills. The doctor didn’t hesitate to prescribe them. Luckily, I had just enough motivation to drag myself to a therapist. Like the experts say, a combination of prescription pills, therapy and exercise meant that the shadows retreated.
When you’re on SSRIs, the change is tangible, sometimes physical. Suddenly, I was able to get out of bed, to catch public transport without weeping and once again feel a will to exist. Okay, so I became slightly robotic, perhaps a tad less creative and completely lacking in a sex drive. However, the medication gave me a break from my destructive self, which is all you want when severely depressed.
Hunt for happiness
Yes, I’m aware that Prozac may have contributed to a few suicides. Doctors have been guilty of dishing them out a little to readily and perhaps this practice stems from diminished resources. All I know is that Prozac may have saved my life. Oh, and my understanding of depression was useless, patronising and hypothetical until I’d actually suffered it.
Emma Cheevers argued that pill popping would be the end of us and that the hunt for happiness may be futile. Added to that bleak assessment, Prozac and other SSRIs have been dubbed a ‘waste of time’.
For others, like myself, that pill proved a life jacket in very choppy seas.
Postscript- Blue Blake was found dead in his London home October 2015, cause of death unknown.
First Published : TheHospitalClub