issue 3

october 2015

issue 3 - october 2015

This is your brain on depression - Hamish Ansley

Wake up.

Blink yourself back to life and for the first slow beats of morning feel hopeful.

Today is the day.



You’ll start to feel better.

Crowbar yourself out of bed and pray that this feeling doesn’t fall to the floor like the flanges of pyjama bottoms twisted around your knees.

Stir this feeling into your morning coffee and drink it down. Every last gulp.

Make sure it’s by your side when you lock the door. Don’t leave it at home in your empty house to die slowly like a potted plant.

Hold it and use it but make it last. This feeling that exists because of the drugs.

Venla-this. Fluoxi-whatever.

You’ve been on so many that the names no longer mean anything. The syllables click on your tongue like poprocks. Like useless phrases of some foreign language.

But the doctor persists. Signs you another prescription with his toddler-doodle scrawl. His public bathroom scribble that wouldn’t look out of place on the same wall as a phone number and a crude drawing of a cock.

How appropriate when your brain feels like a toilet. Full of all the shit of the world and there’s piss up the walls and the sink you hope to wash your hands in is hanging broken.

But the language you use to describe this to the doctor is more polite. Like the phone manner of the receptionist you mimic every time you call to make another appointment.

Another appointment because the drugs aren’t working. Another prescription for something new, folded in a little leaflet about possible side effects.

Every time you sit in the waiting room with the part of you that really wants the doctor to help eroded just a little bit more.

Every time you sit there with all the real sick people. You’re a fraud. You’re not bleeding from the side of your head or honking seven shades of mucus into a handkerchief. Not blowing chunks into a desperately undersized vomit cup.

You don’t have genital warts, you’re not a baby with a fever, you’re not wheezing from behind an oxygen mask, and you don’t have bowel cancer.

You’ve never even broken a bone.

Your illness is inside your head and you’re sure the doctor thinks it’s hysterical. That you’re just making this shit up because your mother didn’t love you or you don’t get enough attention or something.

You’re sure he rolls his eyes every time your name comes up on his schedule and says:

– Ugh. Not you again.

And at least once a day you think you are full of shit.

You don’t need drugs.

You don’t need someone to save you. You need to snap the fuck out of this and get on with your life. But you won’t because you love this really.

Love wallowing in whatever black ceaseless inner turmoil you’re pretending is going on inside your brain.

It’s comfortable down here, in the make-believe pit of despair with everyone shitting on you from above.

It means you don’t have to try and not trying means not failing.

But then you tell yourself no.

No way. No fucking way.

You know how you feel and this is not some made up, phony illness.

You wouldn’t endure this. Sitting across from some poor bastard in a plaster exoskeleton as he tries to scratch an itch beneath his cast with a pencil.

Some guy with a nut allergy, the avalanche of his swollen brow caving in on his face and his hands red and craggy like yams.

You wouldn’t keep taking the drugs if this wasn’t real.

And you do. You take them every day and every day you wake with the same forlorn hope that.



You’ll start to feel better.

The same little embers of optimism. You tell yourself it’s up to you to blow them into roaring flame.

The drugs will only do so much.

And your psychologist latches onto this. This glowing-ember-stroke-roaring-flame imagery that you absent-mindedly brought up in one of your sessions to keep things moving and to keep your psychologist from looking at you looking at the floor.

He latches onto this image and he tells you to keep visualising it. To visualise situations in which you felt high and strong and confident.

He tells you to distil that feeling and carry it around with you in your daily life so you can conjure it up when you need it. Pull it out of your sleeve like a TV magician would a bunch of flowers.

And it works. For a while it works and you can trick your brain into thinking that everything is ok and you’re healed.

It works until you start to focus on that word. Trick.



It’s all a trick. You’re not really fixing the problem, just pretending it isn’t there. Like plugging a leak with WeetBix.

A film isn’t real, merely a representation of reality. The people and the scenery aren’t real. They’re actors and it’s a set and you’re no better.

You’re an actor on a set.

The set of your life.

This is your life.

This is your brain on depression.

The drugs are a trick too. They’re in your system now and working on your body. More than any other part of you. The act of putting something apparently medicinal into your body makes you feel hopeful that something real might happen. That you might suddenly find the toggle that inflates your life vest, and you’ll float to the surface.

But all you’re really getting is side effects.

First it’s the headache.

The kind of headache that rakes the back of your skull and turns every pulse of blood in your temples into a pervasive night club subwoofer thump.

Every time you blink your eyelids set off mini sonic booms.

Then it’s the vertigo.

Which leads to nausea.

Muscle weakness.

Sweating. Your bed sheets stick to the small of your back.

Dry mouth. All the moisture that should be here has migrated to your back and your throat is welded shut. You couldn’t seal an envelope if you tried.

That leaflet the doctor gave you with the list of side effects. You might as well punch two holes in it and wear it as a vest.

You can’t even beat off. That’s been taken away too.

All you want to do is shoot your goo. Distract yourself from your rollercoaster, rodeo horse brain.

Just a single white healing moment of release from it all.

But it never happens.

It’s been taken away and replaced with pain.

Everything has been replaced with pain.

Your fleshy blood-filled column taunts you from between your thighs. A proud soldier ready for action.

But nothing.

Like holding a beach ball underwater. You think you’ve done it. You think you’ve succeeded.

You think finally.


Today is the day.

But it gets away and leaves you with nothing. Just pain.

No sweet release.

No thundering, thigh rattling, aching deliverance.

The bath towel. The shower drain. The wadded tissue. They’ve all become strangers to your precious fluid and witness to your pain.

Everything has been replaced with pain. Hideous black unending bastard fucking pain.

And you think I’m so.


So fucking.

Tired. And I want this to stop.

I want everything to stop.

Wake up.

Blink yourself to life. Or some approximation of it. Some water-colour version of it.

Crowbar yourself out of bed and for the first slow beats of morning feel.


Contributor's Note

Hamish is a writer of short prose - mainly in the creative non-fiction genre. He is currently studying towards a Masters degree in English and began writing his thesis in 2015.


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