The archaeology of depression

Five years ago - when mental health wasn't 'hot' - I started a public diary of depression. It changed my life.

Tanmoy Goswami
It's time!

Hello. As those of you who showed up for the community meetup earlier this month know, I'm finally off to Oxford for my fellowship. (Those of you who couldn't join in - it was great fun and we missed you. Fingers crossed, there will be another one soon.)

For the next six months, I will be researching and writing a paper on mental health in the media. Between settling down in a completely new place and adjusting to the rigours of the programme, I fully expect a lot of chaos and stress.

To make sure all this doesn't overwhelm my already groaning brain, I'll need to take a few breaks from writing here and there – something I haven't done in the past two years. There's a lot of good stuff lined up on Sanity, and I'll of course send updates on my project when I get a breather, but please cut me some slack in case I need to take things a wee easy? πŸ₯ΉπŸ™πŸ½

Thanks – not just for understanding but for being a big part of the reason I am going on this adventure. From losing my job two years ago to this moment right here – it feels surreal, and it wouldn't have happened without you by my side.

Be well, and do keep writing to me. And I hope you enjoy today's special, nostalgic edition.

Love – Tanmoy

In September 2017, US researchers discovered traces of antidepressants in 10 breeds of fish in the Great Lakes region. Via wastewater, active ingredients of drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft had burrowed their way into the brains of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rudd, rock bass, white bass, white perch, walleye, bowfin, steelhead, and yellow perch.

That same month, I launched a forensic study into my own brain on antidepressants. In hindsight, as a fish lover, I find that parallel sentimental. The poor fish hadn't asked for it. Neither had I, having agreed to seek a chemical cure for my lifelong malaise only at my father-in-law's insistence. (Five years later, I am mostly grateful for modern medicine. The fish don't get a vote – which is just as well because if they did, I can't imagine they'd have anything pleasant to say.)

On September 22, 2017, on a whim, I started an online journal with serialised findings from my self-investigation. I called it my 'Twitter diary of depression'. I thought per my usual style, I'd lose interest in it in a month. I didn't. Today, it's a document of over 400 entries, each a #nofilter snapshot of a struggle that seems to have no beginning or end, only a vast continuity.

What started as a desperate attempt at self-preservation and sensemaking at the most confusing and terrifying time of my life has received millions of impressions, en route to becoming my gateway into the world of mental health advocacy.

It brought me new friends, drawn by the power of shared epiphanies and a common nakedness of being.

It acted as a release when my head threatened to fill up with an explosive silence.

And it pushed me to accept that I'd never be happy with 140 (later 280) characters. My pursuit of sanity needed a bigger canvas.

Today, on my Twitter diary's fifth anniversary, I present you my favourite notes to myself.

It is easy to forget that 2017 was an antediluvian time in the mental health world. There was no pandemic-fueled surge of public interest in the topic. So I guess you could look at this edition as an archaelogical exhibit from a different era. It's a long list and you don't need to read it in any particular order. Feel free to bookmark and return to it as you please. I'd be happy if you found in these entries a little bit of the succour that comes from knowing you are, clichΓ©s be damned, really not alone.

Trigger warning: Contains references to suicide. If you need help, this website provides contact details of free helplines around the world.

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