Sunday, 28 March 2010

No Light Please, We're British

Having suffered from depression on and off all my life, I decided to visit my GP, who is not so much mad as a box of frogs as a few frogs short of the full box. He prescribed anti-depressants - but not before he suggested that my melancholia might be due to Seasonal Affective Disorder and suggested a Light Box would do the trick.

Okay, I thought. This is one of his more sensible suggestions. (As opposed to telling me when I complained of bloating once that it was because the roof of my mouth was too high and I was swallowing too much air. 'You could go into hospital,' he told me, 'and have your hard palate smashed and rebuilt...' I rest my case).

However, I have to admit that, nuisance though it can sometimes be, I am, admittedly, quite attached to my bouts of melancholia. They are, alas, part of my identity as an artist. When I explained this ambivalence to my GP he replied, 'but it's just lack of serotonin. Now,' he continued,shuffling through mountains of paperwork, 'you can pretend you're on a beach.'

'Oh no!' I replied. 'It's not going to give me a suntan is it?' (I have always prided myself upon being pale and interesting. It goes with the melancholy disposition...)
'No,' he said. 'It won't. But it will take the misery away.'

This got me thinking: has all the angst of the poets in generations past simply been a result of chemical imbalance? And that's not even the ones who took drugs....

Keats' 'When the melancholy fit shall fall, sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud'? Was that the lack of serotonin talking? Hamlet's famous 'antic disposition: 'to be or not to be'. Would the Serotonin version be: 'to be. No question. I'm loving it...'

Then there's the wonderfully rich tradition of English folk music, with its minor chords and melancholy lyrics, generations of it. The Smiths, who I have always considered to be quite folky sounding in their more pensive moments - were, according to Morrissey - only formed one dark and rainy night and because it rained too much.

Imagine if he had been treated by the Light Box when he wrote 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'. ' I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour and heaven knows I'm...happy now.' It's just not right.
Inevitably, I never did pursue the light box. Misery suits me. I am British, after all, a product of this dark and rainy climate, maybe - but that's the way I like it. Without lack of serotonin, the world would be a poorer place, without the dark musings of the Romantics and the listless but beautiful musical meanderings of artists such as the Smiths...It really is a case of, 'no light please, I'm British...'

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