28 September 2021

Sasha Keable On Antidepressants And Creativity

In this personal essay, singer-songwriter Sasha Keable discusses the taboos associated with SSRIs and how medication has helped her personally and professionally. 

Trigger warning: discussion of anxiety disorder, clinical depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation

I’ve been in so many rooms when I’ve said I’m on tablets and someone has said, “Oh, are you OK?” But it’s really not something to worry about; you should worry if I wasn’t on tablets. I probably tell everyone I meet that I’m on antidepressants because I’m trying to normalise it. So much of my early twenties was spent in bed, being sad, not being able to live a normal life. When I started taking antidepressants, I was finally able to begin getting my life together.

I had depression from when I was a kid, if I’m honest. I started self-harming when I was six or seven and I put myself into school counselling. I pretty much dealt with it on my own, but my counsellor was the one who got me into writing. She told me to keep a notepad and that every time I got really angry, I should write down what I was feeling instead of hurting myself. I’ve still got the notebooks, and for quite a few years I would write a load of shit down and hurt myself as well. When you’re a kid, you don’t really know where to put this anger.

As I got older, I stopped self-harming, but when I was 14 I had really bad anxiety disorder and was having multiple panic attacks a day. I wasn’t really able to go into school because being on a train would trigger a panic attack. No one really spoke about it and it was just a bit taboo. My parents, my dad especially, didn’t really know what it was. I forgive my dad now because if you’re not accustomed to anxiety disorder, you won’t really know what’s going on, but I would be having a panic attack, watching my dad scream at me.

“I probably tell everyone that I meet that I’m on antidepressants because I’m trying to normalise it.”

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When I was about 17, I realised that I maybe had depression, but it was difficult to accept. I’ve got entries written in the notebooks I continued to write where it says, “I feel really sad but there’s no way I could be depressed, only weirdos get depression.” Obviously, though, that’s not the case. Depression affects everyone, but no one around me was really speaking about it and I didn’t have much access to information.

After that, I went through really bad bouts of depression, which lasted for years. But I always thought that I didn’t want to go on antidepressants. No one I knew was on tablets and no one I knew had depression. I put it off and put it off until one day about three years ago. I was feeling fine in the morning and then I just had this mad mood change and I realised I needed to go on tablets. I thought, “What am I doing? I’m going to kill myself if I don’t go on tablets.”

I was really sick of being the only thing that was keeping me afloat and I needed a helping hand. I’d tried everything by that point and I was just not getting any better. I was at a point where I couldn’t do my job, I couldn’t answer phone calls, I was spending weeks on end in bed. I wasn’t a person, I was just a shell of myself. As a musician, I basically didn’t write for four years in my early twenties because of depression, and my writer’s block before I started taking antidepressants was debilitating.

As an independent artist I have to be the main source of pushing myself. I have to get up every day and say to myself, “I’m good enough, I can do this.” Even if I don’t feel like that, I have to tell myself that. Even when I have writer’s block now, the clarity I feel now that my brain is giving me the space to get up and go to the studio is better than doing nothing and struggling to even get up due to depression. Without antidepressants, I wouldn’t have been able to continue my career in music. I don’t even want to think what position I’d be in now.

I know that I need to play the long game and go to therapy, but getting to a place where I’m able to look after myself and do things for myself is life-changing. Too many people think, “Oh God, I’m going to go on antidepressants, I’m going to change completely as a person. People are going to look at me differently. I’m going to be like damaged goods.” The main change in myself from being on antidepressants is that I don’t really get the low-lows or the high-highs I would get after a depressed episode. Being on medication, your problems don’t go away. I still get bouts of depression, they’re just a lot easier to manage.

 

This feature is taken from our Taking Back Control issue. Order your copy here

Words Sasha Keable
As Told To Megan Wallace
Photography Sophie Jones
Makeup Artist Emily Wood
Hair Stylist Lauraine Bailey

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