Tina* used to wake up most mornings wishing she was somebody else.
The crippling curse of depression, curdled with a dash of bipolar disorder, made many days feel as if they were particularly tedious episodes of some dreary midday soap.
“Sometimes I’d be alright for a while,” Tina says, “thanks mostly to medication.
“But, even then, on my good days, there was always like a black cloud over the horizon.
“You couldn’t see it, but you always knew it was there, waiting to come over and ruin everything.”
Then along came COVID, the global pandemic, and another ghoulish fiend was added to Tina’s weird gallery of psychological tormenters.
“I suffer paranoia pretty badly sometimes,” she says, “and it doesn’t take a lot to set me off.
“Like, if I see a police light flashing way in the distance, I can become convinced that they’re looking for me. It can take me a whole night to settle down.
“So, when the Coronavirus came along, I naturally got all anxious about it. I was sure I was going to get it.”
Things got worse when the COVID vaccines became available, along with a deluge of misinformation that belched from the internet on a daily basis: you’d get blood clots, they said; you’d never feel the same again; it was all a government plot to take us over and then steal our precious things.
“I’m not a conspiracy theorist,” Tina says, “but I guess I was a bit susceptible to some of the rumours that were flying around.”
But when Tina read that the vaccines were part of a conspiracy to knock us unconscious so that Oprah Winfrey could steal the blood of our babies, she’d had quite enough.
“I just thought; ‘This is ridiculous – the people spreading these rumours are more screwed up than I am’. So I decided to get vaxxed, just to put a stop to these stupid voices that were getting too much airtime in my head.
“I just decided to take control, I guess.”
Her first jab was uneventful.
The second was anything but.
“I spewed,” Tina recalls, “and then they made me lie down for a bit. But after about an hour I felt OK and went home.”
It was the next morning that Tina felt a rainbow had struck her fair in the fundament.
“I woke up feeling great,” she says. “Just really happy, not down at all. That dark cloud thing … I just wasn’t aware of it anymore. I felt like it had just lifted.”
Day after day, Tina awoke expecting those big black clouds to return and dump their load, heavier than before. But, so far, it hasn’t happened.
“Everything seems better,” she says. “I’m happier, my relationship’s better, and I’ve even got better at guitar – although I think that’s probably because I’ve had more time to practice in lockdown.”
University of Sydney Associate Professor and immunisation expert, Julie Leask, doesn’t discount Tina’s experience, but believes we should be careful not to go thinking the COVID vaccines have magical properties.
“I can’t think of any mechanism by which a vaccine would act on whatever chemical imbalance brings serious depression that comes with bipolar disorder,” she told Barrier Truth.
“It’s clearly going to be a ‘plus’ placebo effect, where you think you have something acting on you and it’s not, but it’s still a very powerful psychological effect anyway.”
Professor Leask says post-vaccination sensations of “well-being, security and relief” have been common around the world, and, COVID or not, placebo effects have been demonstrated to exercise command over an individual’s mental state.
“Placebo effects have documented psychological effects on people and they can even make people just feel less pain, for example,” she said.
“In fact, interestingly, in the trials of the COVID vaccines, they had a placebo group, which just received sterile salty water and needles – they didn’t know whether they got the vaccine or not – and a lot of them experienced similar side effects to the vaccination group, like the tiredness, the aches and so forth.
“So, having a vaccine has a psychological effect on us, and clearly, in this unusual instance, it’s had a really positive one for her.”
Tina’s not worried.
“I don’t care what’s causing it,” she says.
“All I know is that I got vaxxed and now life isn’t crappy anymore.”
*Not her real name
This article was first published on 18 September 2021.