As you’ll both be aware I am in the middle of changing from one Brain Care Medication to another. Last week I was just starting a week of zero venlafaxine (trades under Vensir, Vencarm, Venlalix, Voldemort, Vadermort, Vulcan Bomber — have you seen one of those things? I was under a low-flying one in Cambridge once and the entire sky went dark — Vengeance Weapon of DOOOOM, Efexor, Effuxxxor of Luxor, Venlablue, Wave Upon Wave of Demented Avengers, The Embalmer, the Death Star, &c. &c.) after a steady, three-week process of reducing the dose.
Well, today is the last day of nothing. As from tomorrow I shall be starting tiny weeny doses of a new drug, vortioxetine. The stripe I’ll be on is called Brintellix which sounds like the name of one of Asterix the Gaul‘s cousins, perhaps the Ygor-like assistant of Getafix the Druid who actually has to go out and score the Herb and the Shrooms off unmentionable shadowy woodland creatures in the wide lands of Armorica. The introductory dose – 5mg daily – does hardly anything more than step across the threshold of my weary wrung-out interior landscape and suggests politely that it might put out the trash and do the washing up. Only when it’s really got its busy scampering little feet under the table will it start having a good clear out, hoovering behind the wallpaper and inside the lightbulbs and generally bossing me about to look sharpish and Bristol fashion and not go around wearing that rag on my head (see picture top right) if only because a small girl came up to me just yesterday while I was out shopping for atonal apples and amplified heat that she thought I looked like a pirate when what Mrs Gee says is I look like an ageing biker who’s forgotten where he’s parked his Harley but what do I care now I am over 60 I have decided not to care a flying ferruginous ferrule, nay, not even for a fragmented fissile femtosecond, what anyone thinks of me any more notwithstanding inasmuch as which I shall be up to 20mg daily with the earnest sincere hope that I can pretty much stay that way forever. Yes, I have undergone this process before, several times, but it’s never been this bad, and I really really reeely don’t want to go through this again.
If a week is a long time in Popocatépetl – stratovolcanoes have gravity fields that could, oh, I don’t know, dilate time — it has been hogspittingly fartjangling expletive eternity round here, I can tell you, and no, that’s not a joke about Norfolk. For example I wrote the earlier communique just a week ago but since then I have been through a most extraordinary and not entirely pleasant series of psychic evolutions the like of which I wouldn’t want to wish on anyone except perhaps — no, I don’t want to get sued — but taken together simultaneously and at the same time seem to have been at least as long as the Benzedrene Epoch.
The best parts are when I am asleep. For certain values of the word ‘best’. Venlafaxine has always given me powerful dreams. I have been on it for so long I can’t really remember what Pre-V dreams were like, but my V-dreams, many of which seem to be about commuting (a primitive, extortionately expensive and unnecessary series of contortions that involves breathing the exhaled effluvia of others) were always directed by Tim Burton. That is, they were bright, colourful, in-yer-face and occasionally violent, though sadly Helena Bonham-Carter didn’t appear in any of them. The Dover-Beach-Style Long Wave Goodbye to Effuxxxor of Luxor (though probably Not Nearly Long Enough) has ushered in a new flavour to my dreams. They are now directed by Wes Anderson, which means that the surrealism has become more extensive and subtle as the colour palette has become more muted. I am waiting for a dream in which Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody do a double-act about their failure to find the right London tube line that goes to Cromer.
But getting to sleep has been hard, and when I am awake I quite often feel absolutely dreadful — nobody warned me that withdrawal from the Big V would make me feel quite so very actually ill, I mean, properly ill, as in having to drop what I am doing and go to bed, and sometimes when doing something innocuous like ironing the axolotl or milking the paramecia (helpful hint – you need much smaller tweezers than you’d think) I’d just be doubled up in floods of tears you’d think Noah was right on time and we’d all get washed away with the dodo and a flagon of miniature hedgehogs. So I am often asleep after lunch, or in the early evening — but around one or two a.m. I am wide awake and as busy as a hamster on amphetamines.
I hope things will start to settle down, and that the next Director of Dreams will be Taika Waititi. I could do with some light and undemanding humour. The Hunt for the Wilder People is my favourite movie. Well, actually, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is really my favourite movie, but I don’t think my brain could stand Terry Gilliam. Not that I don’t like and admire films by Terry Gilliam. I can and do. Just not directing what goes on inside my head. Oh, and Guillermo Del Toro.
One thing has happened that has made me very cross. When I post updates on my internal state on social media, most people are very sympathetic, and, thank you, I appreciate these virtual hugs, they really do help. But then there are the people with no medical qualifications or knowledge whatsoever asking damn fool questions about whether I really need to be administering these ‘poisons’ to myself. And other people, full of helpful ‘advice’ about various psychoactive drugs and shouldn’t I be looking into these? I am pleased to say that friends who are qualified have weighed in mightily about the sheer irresponsibility of such vaporings.
Therefore I should say, for the record, that I am not doing any of this for, like, fun. I wouldn’t have come off Wave Upon Wave of Demented Avengers at all if I hadn’t started to become habituated to it, and increasing the dose had no beneficial effects.
More importantly I am at all times under the care of the professionals. My drug advice comes from my Private Brain Care Specialist, and the drugs are administered by my General Practitioner, who did advise me that even the eight-week program she suggested might be extended if I found things to be a bit rocky. If I might get a bit Anglo-Saxon, Hwaet! Éalá Éarendel Engla Beorhtast! People who aren’t qualified, still less know my extensive experience as a Veteran in the Psychic Wars, can Jolly Well Fuck Off. To be serious, those who make pretzels with the insides of their brains as a kind of home-made recreational do-it-yourself science experiment, or take their medical advice from Hieronymous down the pub, are at best fools — at worst, downright dangerous.
Q: How many Veterans of the Psychic Wars does it take to change a light bulb?
A: If you don’t know, man, you weren’t there.
If there is one piece of advice I
explore deplore implore you to take home with you, especially if you are already at home, it is this
DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME.
Because doing it inside your own head is much, much worse.