When modern life started getting her down, Jessica Brinton refused to pop Prozac. Instead she decided to get spiritual and went on an energy odyssey.

Sunday Times Style supplement, 12/08/12

It’s been almost a month since I started ‘popping’ Prozac again and I’ll be honest: I have no idea what effect it’s having. I still have feelings that I wouldn’t even want to blog about, but then I don’t know how bad I’d feel without the pills. So I’ll keep on ‘popping’, as it were, while still attempting to make those “positive lifestyle changes which help boost self-esteem” (Step 1: avoid all magazine articles which include the phrase “positive lifestyle changes which help boost self-esteem”).

I know, I know; I should be doing better than this. If only I was a plucky, positive, pro-active depressed person, the sort who rejects wussy, socialist NHS ‘treatment’ and just gets on with life. And if only the Sunday Times would pay me to write a piece on how spending two weeks pissing about in posh parts of London is way better than slumming it with SSRIs like some pathetic sickness benefit claimant. I mean, I’m not sure it would be better. But I could claim that it was, providing the newspaper covered my expenses and offered me a small fee for endorsing the most random “therapies” known to high society.

To be fair to people who actually are depressed, Jessica Brinton, lucky author of the article I never got to write, does not report ever having been diagnosed with clinical depression. Nor was she ever prescribed Prozac. One of her mates said ‘perhaps it was time to get a prescription':

I said ‘yes’ to this, until another friend said ‘it’s your energy field’

Alas, I don’t have friends like that. All of my friends are total bastards. Okay, they pretend to care, and they make me laugh. But none of them has ever bothered to tell me that the real reason they’re not depressed and I am is because Yoda was right all along:

‘Energy is everything, it’s a life force’, [other friend] said. ‘For us to be healthy, the way it moves around us needs to be in balance. If it’s out of balance, you start to feel weird.’

I called up my friend Burgs, a meditation teacher and very sensible man. ‘It’s true. That strong, calm, rested feeling you want comes from having what they call a clear energy field.’

Now I have done yoga and meditation in the past. I have found them calming and relaxing (apart from that one time when we had to lie in “corpse pose” and listen to a song about the “cycle of life”; that did sod all for the crippling fear of my own mortality). I like the odd sun salutation and am perfectly prepared to clear my mind while perfecting my downward-facing dog; nevertheless there are only so many half-baked metaphors about life and energy I can take, particularly if the subtext to all this cleansing and healing is “fucking well pull yourself together, you loser”.

Obviously I am glad that Jessica Brinton is no longer feeling so miserable that she has “lost interest in Magnums, sunsets and the Liberty sale”. I am relieved that she no longer finds “negative energy” emanating from “angry drivers on the 143 bus, kebabs and bad hair”. I am delighted that she overcame all of these challenges without recourse to the antidepressants that she was never actually offered. Even so, I suspect I’m not the only one who won’t be emulating her. Her “energy odyssey” is, to be frank, fucking ridiculous. You do not cure depression by becoming a curious blend of 1980s sloane ranger/ Edina from Ab Fab/ insensitive writer of complete and utter crap.

In case you are curious, here are the things that Brinton does to lift her mood:

  1. Visit a “positive energy guru”, who tells her to be aware of “subtle energies”, which she should “learn to sense [with her] intuition”. It transpires that Brinton gets such “energies” from “daffodils; talking to my friend Jason; my Charles and Di commemorative Horlicks mug”. I’m saying nothing.
  2. Find a kundalini yoga teacher. But not just your average, common-or-garden kundalini yoga teacher. This one is “a former fashion journalist [who] wears white robes and a white turban. She is radiant”. She tells Brinton that “we have reached the limits of this lifestyle [...] The loss of connection to our deeper selves has created a longing that becomes stale and numb and sad”. Depressing stuff (sadly, you probably have to do no end of “disconnecting” tasks before you’ve earned enough to pay for this kind of advice).
  3. Visit the “Modern Day Wizard, aka Andrew Wallas [...] a businessman and spiritual seeker who works intuitively to release old, destructive energy”. God knows what Wallas charges, but I get the impression that as a “businessman”, he is good. He gets Brinton to leap from a cushion labelled “hiding away at home” onto one labelled “stepping into the world”. This makes her so emotional she cries.
  4. Have a hair appointment with Gary Richardson at Daniel Hersheson in Harvey Nichols. Specific, yes, but worth it, apparently. According to Gary “my job is to help people feel confident in their sexual energy, because when they have that, they’ve got it made”. In your face, Prozac!
  5. Embark on “a punishing schedule of 20 minutes’ meditation a day”. This is to make Brinton more “mindful”. But evidently not “mindful” enough to avoid writing an article which trivialises the mental distress and suffering of others.

To be clear, I don’t think for a minute that antidepressants are the unquestionable “solution” to psychological trauma. Nor do I believe alternative therapies should be dismissed out of hand. Even so, I am wondering when the “mind, body, spirit” crap that is a regular feature of style supplements got so above itself that genuine depression can be used as a prompt for trivial explorations of the therapies rich people induldge in as a means of disposing of all that weighty cash. Being depressed is not the same as not having the “right” shade of lipstick. It ruins lives, and it can kill. There is enough stigma surrounding the use of antidepressants and standard psychological therapies. Now we have to contend with the idea that the usual treatments just aren’t cool. They’re for the weak, for people who can’t afford to piss about getting their hair dyed and jumping between cushions at great expense.

How noble of Brinton to “refuse to pop Prozac”. According to the Sunday Times, standard depression treatments are for losers. But hey, not to worry; it’s not as though they didn’t feel like shit already.