On my 20th birthday, late in 2012 – the 23rd of September, I made a conscious decision to do something that I had wanted to do for what seemed to be “many” years. Before I detail what I did, I want to start somewhere near the beginning of the story. In 2009, I was advised to start taking prescription medication for the depression and anxieties I had been having difficulties with in that past year. The pill I had to take every day was called Paroxetine (what a devil of a thing to get used to). In hindsight, I made a mistake agreeing to take that medication. I honestly feel as though it didn’t do much other than act as a placebo, with an added side effect of “fogginess”. I was a zombie for quite a while. One of the hardest things to keep my mind at ease about was the withdrawals that I would experience, had you missed just a single days dosage. That would happen a lot. You would finish your prescription, or just simply forget to take your pill after dinner, and boy would you suffer for it the next day. Being chemically dependant on one stupid little tablet – in order to avoid crazy brain zaps and dizziness – made me hate it for so long. I was trapped. I had tried and failed many times, to get off those tablets. I tried weening off. I tried the method of cold turkey. I just wasn’t strong enough to endure so much withdrawal symptoms. It is incredible, how intense and strong the withdrawals can be. I remember reading somebody’s online journal about their time getting off the Paroxetine pill (or otherwise known as Paxil – Prozac’s ugly cousin). I suppose for many, it can help. But for me, now as I write this in retrospect, it only caused me more problems than necessary. On my 20th birthday, having had dinner at my grandparents house (tablets left at home) I gave up on taking what had been controlling me for so long. Fuelled with determination, I stopped cold turkey.
For months, maybe only for two or three months, I went through the roller coaster ride with withdrawals – dizziness, brain zaps (overtime evolving into crazy zaps throughout the whole body head-to-toe-tips), nausea and just feeling off most of the time. I felt like some kind of heroin addict trying to detox. It was the end of the year at TAFE and I remember talking to my Printmaking teacher who has a daughter around the same age as me. She had known about what I had been through in those recent times from some artworks I had made, influenced by my experiences. She was concerned and interested in hearing about how I was, as her daughter was about to start or was thinking about taking depression/anxiety medication. I made it so clear that she should try and find all information possible on all the kinds of treatments, because had I known more about Paroxetine prior, I would not have gone on them. You really have to be smart and consider all options available.
In the weeks before Christmas, I remember feeling an awareness of something different. A clearness of sorts. My surroundings felt as if they had spread out and become sharp; like the fog had subsided. Colours were more vibrant. Red’s in particular really stood out to me. It is partly why I have been leaning towards colour photography more and more these days. Just seeing the red blush seeping through the cheeks on people’s faces after a hot sumersdey, among other things, became visually very apparent. In my painting class, to end the year on such humble and peaceful terms (because of the government situation), we were lucky enough to have had a lady come in and pose for us – a life study session. I made the decision to concentrate on colours, and contemplate how I would exaggerate the different hues. It was an ongoing process of decision-making. Throughout the painting sessions, I chose to focus on all the different colours before me. Although to some, it was just a touch too quirky; for me it represented a new way for me, visually – how I use my eyes.
After spending such a time hindered, with the world around me, faded; I realise how much of an impact mental illness can have and has had, on oneself. It takes time, but you can evermore use experiences like this to learn from. I suppose ‘life’ is just that. An educational journey.
Six months or so after ending my time with Paroxetine, I came across a film titled ‘Limitless‘. It tells the story of one Eddie Morra who takes a Nootropic drug, NZT-48, after stumbling across his ex-wife’s estranged brother who hooks Eddie on NZT-48, chemically making him dependant and addicted to the drugs effects. The funny thing that I felt that I connected to, was how the drug affected the character in the movie. It was similar, yet the complete opposite in effect, to what I had been on. I had fogginess instead of clearness. Going through and overcoming withdrawals somewhat emulated in real life, figuratively, that skewed “360” lens array (in fact, a 420-degree panoramic view).
The fall, the rise, and fall, and ultimate rise once again, takes you on a journey parallel to the infinite line of time, travelling, moving, steadily morphing (fractal zooming) from place to place. This trippy layout of space in the world that the character Eddie, lives in, reminds me of another film that challenges your mind and thinking process. ‘Enter The Void‘, a film by Gaspar Noé, although obscure and graphic, really stands tall as a strong piece in my eyes. Cinematographically (among many other things), a masterpiece. Once again, the combination of colours and drug-induced brain activity, intrigued me. The very idea of the story in this film, renders me speechless. All the different themes make you think deeply.
So many things in all these films remind me of such things as the bizarre “brain zaps” and warped senses that I experienced while on Paroxetine. In the end, the following quote shall symbolize the message for this posting.