I’m not into drugs. Never have been.
Then again, since I’ve never actually tried any drugs, maybe that’s a bit like saying that I don’t like base-jumping or storm-chasing; I’ve never felt the rush it’s meant to give you, and maybe if I had I would think differently? What do I know?
As a child I was on a lot of prescribed but experimental drugs, however.
I was very short and begun showing signs of entering puberty when I was only about six or seven, so my parents decided that they’d try to find out if there was anything to do about this. I’m not entirely sure how, but eventually they were put in touch with a Germany born specialist; Dr Westphal, and I was started on the first of many treatments in order to help me carry on growing.
This was in the early 80’s and very much cutting edge. At first I was given testosterone tablets, which I assume were meant to stop me entering puberty. One pill taken three times daily. A few years down the line, when I was around eleven, this was switched for a nasal spray called Buserelin, also on a thrice-daily cycle. Buserelin is a man-made form of the hormone gonadorelin, which initially sets off an increase in both testosterone and oestrogen, but will in the long run solely cause testosterone production and stops oestrogen production altogether. I was kept on this medication until I turned fifteen and in the last two years it was combined with daily injections of a synthetic growth hormone; Genotropine.
What does this have to do with depression and dysfunctional families you might ask. Well, “I don’t know”, is the honest answer. And, I fear, this is the answer I would get myself, were I to ask anyone else.
To the best of my knowledge Buserelin is (these days) mainly used to treat certain forms of infertility and advance stage prostate cancer, and you are advised to talk to your doctor before starting this treatment if you are suffering from depression. I haven’t been able to find an answer what the reason for this is. Is it that it may interact with anti-depressive medication? Does it tend to heighten the risk to enter depression? I don’t know.
But, it worries me somewhat that I have been on various medications for such a long period of time, and at such a critical developmental stage, not knowing what the long-term effects may be. I was one of the very first in the world, to be given this medication – especially at such a young age – and I can’t help but to wonder what this may have done to me. Has it made a difference to the way I behave? The way I think? The way my body works? I just don’t know.
Surely being put on a medicine which will increase testosterone production and cease oestrogen production must cause some sort of chemical imbalance in a person? Especially if you are a very young girl. And how do I know that I’m not still suffering from the effects? I’ve never been a girly girl, I’m attracted to both men and women and I am generally hopeless at traditionally female chores. Is the medication to blame for this? That is not to say that any of the above traits are at all things I dislike, I am only asking from an intellectual point of view. Has the medicine made me more prone to depression? Has it veered me towards more radical suicide methods which are more commonly used by men? Or is this all a psychological side-effect of the sexual abuse I experienced as a child? Maybe the answer is that both have had a profound effect on me, maybe it is neither. It’s impossible to say. But wouldn’t it be interesting to know? To have a black and white nature vs nurture chart, where you could see exactly what has made you who you are.
The medication issue also poses another important question. How do you as a parent decide that you’ll take a gamble on your child’s present and future health? A shot in the dark that you will hit the target?
I’d say that I’m about 98% happy that my parents made the decision to put me on these drugs. It has been estimated that I would have been around thirty centimetres shorter had I not undergone the treatment, and while thirty centimetres may not sound like much, the difference between being only 120cm tall and being 150cm is enormous. It’s the difference between being viewed as very short and being seen as a midget. Those thirty centimetres have made it possible to live a normal life. Yes, I have to ask Dev to reach for me, but there’s no need for custom made lowered worktops and although I sometimes struggle it is possible to walk into a shop and buy a pair of trousers that fit without being taken up. So, they have definitely made my life easier in many ways.
Still, there are those 2% of me which can’t help but to wonder – was it the right choice? Would I have made the same one, had it been mine and not my parents’ choice? Would I give up those thirty magic centimetres if I knew they were definitely the cause for my recurring depressions?
Again, the answer has to be that I don’t know.
But it’s food for thought.