Happy pills ran out two weeks ago. Sertraline. I thought I’d try and do without it: I’d halved the dose a few weeks earlier. Today it became painfully clear to me that I can’t. The emotional lability is something else – listening to a friend playing Fauré, I can hardly remain upright. Or the end of Guilmant’s first organ sonata where the big tune is like the sun coming out.
I wrote in a previous blog that music melts my shell, leaves me unprotected, removes me from time and place, and that I would do almost anything for a fix of more of the same, to stay in that place of delight. But the effect of music doesn’t account for the disabling emotional lability, the psychic turmoil, the near despair of this morning.
There’s plenty that could contribute to all this: brexit, the fuckedupness of this country, the frank corruption of its “leaders” and their cronies, the cruelty of the church—oh, the putrid church—and so much more. But none of it accounts for the feeling that life shouldn’t be like this.
I thought that it’ll be over soon when I retire, when people no longer want some of my energy. Then I’ll be able to cope. But today I realised that I need a helping hand now. What did it in the end was another friend, well familiar with psychosis, telling me that what I was describing, no matter how I rationalized it or what euphemisms I employed, was “mental” and was “illness”. That struck home.
Now the fun starts.
I ring the GP surgery. No appointment today. “Ring tomorrow”. No guarantee that I’ll get one tomorrow. This went on for some time. I was surprisingly calm. I did not lose my kool. Eventually I said “so what you’re really saying is that I’ll see a doctor sooner if I go and play tag with HGVs on the A38”. Silence. “No definitely not. Hang on a minute—I can give you an appointment at 4.50 pm today. Is that any good?”
So that’s what it takes.
It was Chesterfield I think where I started long term SSRIs. A decade of parochial ministry. What is it about parochial ministry that is so emotionally draining?
- Feeling the energy drain from me as people touch the hem of my garment.
- People dumping their problems on me, and my not knowing how to get rid of them, especially the horrendous ones involving young people.
- People dumping their neuroses, anger and aggression on me even though it has nothing to do with me. “Get the violence off the streets and into the Church where it belongs” said Michael Bland, a notorious former incumbent of Buckland, Gloucestershire.
- After ministering for 30 years to open-minded and intellectually supple young people, now to be dealing with those, no matter how lovely, in their autumnal years, lacking vision or intellectual curiosity.
- Having legal responsibilities but neither authority nor funds to manage them.
- The feeling that however much I do, it’s not enough. This comes from diocesan staff, the assumption being that church decline is my fault, personally, and my responsibility, personally, to reverse. Bollox. As I’ve said before Lichfield is by no means as bad as Derby was.
- Observing that ministry to non-church goers is nearly always appreciated, while that to churchgoers is often, in their eyes, inadequate. One group no expectations, the other more than making up for it.
That’s enough for the moment.
Of course, there are joys and delights that I shall miss very much. But it’s a funny old job that requires one to take happy pills.