Looking up, with the top of my head against the base.
Looking up, with the top of my head against the base.
Yesterday a friend of mine reached out on Facebook saying he’s hurting. And not the normal type of hurt everyone experiences. He’s become completely consumed by depression.
Comments poured in. Many gave virtual hugs, letting him know that unequivocally no matter how badly he feels he will never be alone—that our homes are open should he need to see a friendly face. Many of us explained that we also suffer from this type of depression—the all-consuming kind—and at times it can be downright debilitating.
Then someone wrote, “Better days are coming.”
And I cringed.
This is a perfectly reasonable thing to write. It comes from a kind place. It’s innocent. I have written this very sentence before. It’s been said to me before. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing this.
I found myself thinking, “Are better days coming? What if they aren’t? What if we have to figure out how to deal with these days—the days we are currently experiencing, the right fucking now days? What if a “better day” is a day where you are strong enough to post on Facebook saying that you’re hurting?”
I realize that’s horribly upsetting for many people to read. Because why would anyone want to be told, “Hey, you know what? This might be it, dude. Your brain may try and make you feel this way for the rest of your life.”
I have stopped telling people to cheer up, not because I don’t want them to. I have stopped telling people that everything is going to be OK. Because I can’t assure them that everything will be. I don’t know what their brain is like. I don’t know how deep their sorrow runs or what their inner voice is telling them when they’re trying to find the will to get up and make all the necessary mundane life shit happen when all they really want to do is sleep or escape into that book.
I know at most what fits into the head of a match.
I think the best thing we can do for those suffering from depression is to listen. Maybe tell them that they’re not alone. Definitely let a person know that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help, whether it be taking medication; seeking therapy; electroconvulsive therapy; meditation; training for a marathon; climbing Mount Everest; weed—whatever helps that brain—I say go for it.
Sometimes the quest for “better days” can become a little too overwhelming, like somehow we’re constantly failing at attaining the elusive better day.
I don’t know what to say about better days, but I do have something to say about bad ones. On bad days, I just want someone to sit with me at my empty lunch table in a cafeteria full of people. You don’t even have to talk me.
On a bad day, I just need to know I’m still orbiting another human heart.
I was visiting NYC looking for a full time graphic design job. I was 24-years-young. I was invited to stay on the floor of a one bedroom apartment in midtown for one week. It was through a friend of a friend and that apartment couldn’t have been more than 500 square feet but to me it was perfect.
A few days after I arrived, I decided to go shopping for a new outfit, something special. Something hip. I had a suit I wore to interviews and portfolio drops-offs, but I was going to meet up with friends later in the week and I wanted something other than the jeans and T-shirt I rode in on.
So I picked out this cool black pair of pants, a bright green and black striped shirt—I think it may have even been a little shiny—and a long black sleeveless cloak. I purchased it in SoHo. Of course it was cool.
Thursday evening shows up and I’m off to meet my friends at a bar on the Lower East Side, three guys I’d known forever. We talk about the latest season of Felicity and our time spent together at Penn State and they tell me that living in NYC is awesome but difficult too. There was much laughter. It was an awesome night. I left feeling like I could conquer that damn city.
Heading to the subway to catch an uptown train to an apartment owned by a couple I would never see again, a car pulls up alongside me, beautiful people inside, New York plates, none of that Jersey bullshit.
“Hey! Hey you!”
I turn and look.
“Yeah! Yeah, you! You work that shirt, girrrl! You work that bright green shirt real good!”
They laugh and pull away.
I was, of course, mortified and could NOT have gotten back to that tiny apartment fast enough. I felt like every single person on every single street and in every subway car was looking at my green shirt. My stupid bright green shirt.
When I got back to Pennsylvania that green shirt and a chunk of my ego were discarded. (The cloak survived for a few years.)
Years later, age 33. Living in Brooklyn. I am having the “good kind of cancer” removed from my upper lip. They need to stitch me up and I’m alone and I need to take the subway home. I’m a little uneasy about this, having a massive wound on my face, black stitches running from my lip to my nostril. I ask the doctor if she can give me a bandaid or something.
“Oh, honey. This is New York. No one cares about your bloody face stitches. Not a soul here will even notice.”
I took two subways home that day, my many bloody stitches in full view, and no one noticed or cared or maybe I didn’t and I guess that’s all that really matters.
There’s something youthful and necessary about falsely believing everyone around you is paying attention and there’s something comforting and momentous about realizing it’s all bullshit and letting it go.
I got Botox last week. I know. I am TOTALLY shocked by this. I’m even more shocked I’m admitting this online. But here’s the deal: I have had cancer treatments done all over my face for close to ten years. I have spent far, far too much time at the dermatologist having lasers burn my face; having MOHs done. I have had so many spots frozen I have lost count. I have had PDT done twice (which hurts like hell). I am so tired of it. I am so tired of going to the dermatologist for have-tos because of cancer. And I think one of the doctors at my clinic took pity on me or realized I’d be an easy target because she offered me a free, cosmetic procedure after my last PDT treatment. So I said, “Sure, what the hell?”
So, I got some Botox. She gave me three injections. It was simple, fast and it didn’t hurt.
She didn’t touch my forehead wrinkles because my forehead is very expressive (meaning it does a lot of work all the time every time I speak or breath or exist) so she didn’t want my eyes to sag. She didn’t touch much of anything, to be honest. But I do have a very deep crease between my eyebrows. I guess it’s from frowning a lot. Because I am an awful person. (Just kidding. I’m alright. I think.) Anyway, I can’t make that crease right now. I look in the mirror and I tell my brain to tell my eyebrows to frown. I’ll say, “Hey eyebrows! FROWN!” And they don’t listen to me! They just won’t do it! And I crack up every single time.
And then I show Toby. I say, “Hey Toby! Tell me to make a mean face!”
“Make a mean face!”
And I can’t! And I laugh (which looks weird to Tobyjoe because I was supposed to look mean). And that makes me happy.
I know that probably sounds pretty bad. Like, aren’t you supposed to be able to frown, right? (I still can.) And shouldn’t you be able to look mean? (Not a problem.) And isn’t it messed up that one of the most deadliest neurotoxins on the planet is used to treat wrinkles, migraines and backaches? Who figured that one out? Who figured out that small amounts of something so positively deadly can do such a thing? I can’t even furrow my brow at this person. At least not for a few months.
But here’s the crazy part. And the whole reason I’m writing today: Botox makes me feel really, really good. I don’t mean because it made a huge difference to my face. That’s not the case at all. You actually can’t really see much of anything unless you tell me to make a mean face and then I will just laugh. (Actually, come to think of it, I’m probably making new laugh wrinkles. This is how they make their money, isn’t it?) Honestly, no one has noticed. Not a one.
I feel good because my eyes are relaxed. Have you ever felt sleepy, like, when your eyes have that burning sensation and you shut them and it just feels wonderful? It’s like that, only my eyes don’t burn at all. They just feel relaxed. The tension is gone.
I read once that if you smile a lot, or laugh a lot, you will be happier. Similarly, if you hang out with people who laugh and smile a lot, you will as well—that it’s contagious. And I know this is going to sound positively crazy but the inability to make that mean crease in between my eyebrows over the last week? It has made me laugh more. It has made me feel more relaxed. I feel happier. Weird.
The brow muscles responsible for expressing anger and stress are on vacation for a few months after 25 years of full-time work and because of that, I feel more relaxed. It’s all very interesting to me.
Incidentally, I wish they could do the same thing for my brain. Pinpoint one wrinkle, the tense part, stifle it just a little bit and see how that goes for a few months.
I had a rough summer. I don’t like summer. Most of my friends know this and I think I’ve mentioned it here as well. I don’t know why I don’t like summer. I have spent far too much time trying to figure out why I don’t like summer. I have often said it’s that I don’t like the sun, but that’s not true either. A winter sun is something I love.
Last night I couldn’t sleep so I did what I always do and I read about space. I found myself reading about “diamond rain” which is created within the slushy oceans on both Uranus and Neptune. It falls in toward their rocky cores. This is why these icy planets are warmer than they should be even though they exist so very far from the sun. This phenomenon keeps them warm. That seems pretty clever to me.
If you can consider a planet clever.
I started taking Prozac again. I went off it in early spring because of a 30-pound weight gain and because I believed I had my shit together. It’s funny how being treated for depression can lead one into thinking they are no longer depressed. Funny how that works. Anyway, once the half-life ended—which took a while, something like 12 weeks—I found myself incapable of finding comfort in the seconds that hold together the minutes, which make up every hour and so looking ahead at years seemed horribly overwhelming. I found myself glorifying the past, even pasts I didn’t particularly like during their given present. I glorified those too. The future seemed impossible; the past was preferable; and so the now felt like a meaningless state of purgatory.
So I went back on medication and the minutes got better. The hours too.
I am not looking at the years just yet.
Uranus is on its side, which is a funny thing to say since it lives in space where there is no real top or bottom or edges, but they mean its pole faces (or doesn’t face) the sun. In other words, if Earth is on a 27% tilt, Uranus is on a 97% tilt.
(I don’t like giving out incorrect information and the percentages I gave you above came from memory, so excuse me for a second as I take a break from this stream of consciousness to check my facts.)
(Ok, so I was pretty close. I wish I could remember where Elliot’s library books are.)
There are four seasons on Uranus. But it takes 84 Earth-years for Uranus to orbit the sun. That means each season on Uranus is 21 years long.
During winter, the pole not facing the sun doesn’t see light for 21 years.
I guess summer isn’t all that bad.
People smarter than me are pretty sure Uranus got knocked over sometime right after it formed. Like, it’s hanging out all normal, one pole down and one pole up (in relation to the sun, of course) and some rogue object hit it so hard, it fell off its axis. What type of object could have done such a thing to such an enormous planet?
That object must have been huge.
Recently, I was among a bunch of other moms on a playground, moms I didn’t know. And I felt out of place and bizarre and foreign. I never know what to say to groups of people who seem to know one another or who know how to break the ice. And so I stood there hoping to blend in with the surroundings—blend in just enough to have my awkwardness not be noticed. And just as I start to feel like that’s working, like the place in which I’m standing is solid, I’m not being noticed and no one cares that I exist at all, my youngest child runs full force into my pelvic bone. A sound comes out of my mouth, a guttural sound, one I didn’t consciously mean to create at all. I think it was something like “oooooerulphurh”. I buckle at the waist, nearly fall over, but then quickly regain my composure, embrace gravity and stand upright again.
I am not sure what the years will bring me down here on Earth but there is diamond rain on a planet whose pole doesn’t see the sun for 21 years; a planet with 27 moons, rings and oceans; a planet so far from our galaxy’s heat source it’s forced to create its own diamonds in order to keep itself warm.
I hope I’m getting closer to my diamonds.
Around 3 AM last night, I was startled awake. I don’t even know why I woke up. I do that a lot these days. And any hour close to the dreadful 4 AM hour, means lying awake indefinitely.
There’s something about 4 AM.
So I’m lying there thinking about all the ways I’m screwing up my life, my kids’ lives, their future kids’ lives and the lives of people who are not even born yet because that’s what 43-year-old suburban women do in the middle of the night when they can’t sleep, right?
(No? Just me?)
Anyway, I notice that our light turns on out back. It’s on a motion sensor and I think, “Well, it’s probably just Jon Snow.” (The feral cat we have living in our screened-in porch.) The light goes off after a few minutes. Then it flicks back on again. This happens at least four more times.
I know what you’re thinking: I should get my lazy ass out of bed to check on things. But I do really believe that it’s Mr. Snow and if I get up and feed him, I’ll have to feed the indoor cats and then the dog will want to go out and I’ll never get back to sleep again. So I decide to continue lying there watching the light go on and off until at some point right around 5 AM, I fall back to sleep.
This morning, as I return from my morning run (which was absolutely dreadful because it’s hard to run after being up most of the night counting the ways you’re screwing everything up) I notice our trash cans are on their side. I move closer and that’s when I notice the sea of trash. I mean, our driveway is covered in trash.
Then I remember the light show from the night before. This animal party must have been wild. And it wasn’t some lame ass pack of squirrels. Oh no. This was a party of raccoons or opossums or possibly even dingos.
I start coming up with a strategy for how I’m going to get all this trash up off the driveway. I mean there are coffee grounds, used diapers, bags of dog poop, cat litter, lettuce, beans, rice. And right as I’m about to burst into tears, I notice something that changes everything.
Among the otherwise catastrophic mess, the shrimp I had boiled and chilled a few days earlier hoping to kill the funky smell they had had before heating—the entire pound I ended up throwing out because I didn’t trust it after all—had been perfectly peeled and eaten, tails set aside in a neat little pile like someone with opposable thumbs might do at the local Red Lobster.
It brought a smile to my face. It’s hard to get mad at that. And I mean, that was a lot of shrimp. I’m glad someone enjoyed them.
Two years ago today I wrote the following on Facebook:
“Today the kids and I found a dying baby squirrel out front on the street. It’d fallen from a nest in our tree. Its mother was screaming from above. I called every vet in our area and explained the situation, that the little fella was suffering and could they help? I must have sounded so desperate. I’d even pay them. Please? No. Because it was a wild animal. It couldn’t have been but a few weeks old.
So I ended up driving to Madison where a vet finally said they’d help.
He was too badly hurt, broken neck and head trauma. He didn’t make it.
And I wept like a baby.
Elliot came along (Toby worked from home) and as we were leaving he said, “Mom are you crying? Did he die?”
“Yes. And yes he did.”
“I don’t understand why he had to die. Why couldn’t they give him a bandaid and make him all better?”
I spent the morning writing about 9/11. I didn’t publish it because a falling baby squirrel brought all my intentions to a screeching halt, the punctuation mark equivalent to a brick wall.
When I returned home from Madison, I looked up at the nest. His mother was silent or maybe gone and I noticed a hawk circling and I wept some more.
Today was a rough day and I’m not even sure I’m fully aware of what it is I’m not quite dealing with, but man I wish that squirrel had survived.”
Two nights ago, someone wrote on our local Facebook page that a baby squirrel had climbed up her arm on the way home from the playground and so she took it home with her. She was writing to find out what she should do. Without thinking, I said I would take the baby squirrel, but it was late in the evening and it would have to wait until morning. She said that was fine.
The following morning the squirrel had been promised to a wildlife sanctuary where it could be bottle fed and then one day released. This made sense. I am not sure what I was thinking taking in a baby squirrel with three cats and a dog. But this wasn’t about thinking.
Last night, another friend posted saying she too had found a baby squirrel and that they would keep the squirrel overnight and I said that I would take the squirrel in the morning and figure out what to do with it.
When I spoke with her today, she told me that the squirrel had died at some point in the middle of the night.
This time, I was able to hold back the tears in a room full of people.
On September 11th, 2001, I was 27. I was working in SoHo at the time as a graphic designer. And I watched the first plane hit the WTC.
“What a terrible mistake.” I’d thought.
But when a coworker ran in screaming saying that another plane had hit the other tower, it occurred to me that no one makes two mistakes like that.
Planes don’t just suddenly start flying into buildings.
That was the moment life went from “before the event” to “after the event”.
The hours would continue to unfold in such a blurry and terrifying manner. My brother had started his job the day before, a job down where the planes hit, down where the buildings would eventually fall. And so I spent most of the morning focused on trying to find him. Most of the phone lines were full or down and so you’d dial out and nothing would happen.
Dead air, a signal without a receiver.
When the buildings fell, massive clouds of dust pushed up Broadway. I’ve never seen anything like that, a tidal wave of destruction. People tried to escape it, running, like that alone might kill them. People poured up toward us, they went from clean to dust-covered to finally: white.
“There is no way he could have survived this.” I said and wept into the arms of coworkers and strangers.
Most of the communication antennas were on top of the Towers, so we didn’t have much in the way of getting through to anyone. And that would continue for weeks. But that may have been a good thing, because I didn’t want much to do with anyone living outside of NYC. At least not for a while.
On that morning, the National Guard was called and we were told that if we worked below 14th Street we shouldn’t yet try and leave. I guess they didn’t want a mass exodus and there really wasn’t anywhere to go anyway. Plus, many of us wondered if more planes were going to fall from the sky.
So we waited and watched the buildings fall and the office paper continue to move up broadway, white tides. I remember feeling terrible for thinking the paper looked like snow and finding it kind of beautiful.
We inhaled polluted air. And later, after a group of us were turned away from the hospital while trying to give blood, “There are no bodies.” She had said. That’s when we realized that our lungs were also full of the ashes of loved ones.
(I’m so sorry. I wish I could have held my breath and let them reach the sea.)
My brother eventually showed up at my office and we were invited to one of my coworker’s apartments in order to wait and see when we could leave and head home. He served us drinks as we watched the fighter jets circle ahead. Many of us sat in silence. Some of us cried. Others didn’t know what to do so they acted like it was just a normal Tuesday. That was the first time in my life I witnessed someone go into shock. She had just started working at one of the towers. She joined us hours later and as she sat on his couch, she just kept laughing, the kind of uncontrollable belly laugh you sometimes get after an all-nighter. It was the craziest laugh I’d ever heard.
And she kept saying, “WHERE AM I GOING TO DO MY SHOPPING NOW? THE STORES ARE ALL GONE? WHERE WILL I GET MY MORNING COFFEE? I HAVE NO JOB.” And then she’d maniacally laugh some more. “I NEED TO GO SHOPPING.”
Friends took turns hugging her.
We waited there until midday when the National Guard started letting people return home. I think I took a subway home but that seems almost impossible.
That evening and well into the night, I sat on the roof of my three-story walk-up with my brother and watched lower Manhattan burn. The smells were strong and acidic and burned our noses. I won’t ever forget the color of that sky. Everything was still and strange and nothing would ever be the same again.
I still haven’t worked through that day and I doubt I ever will. Instead, it bubbles up to the top in the strangest ways and when I least expect it—like when I try and save a baby squirrel while also having an emotional breakdown on a suburban street in front of all my neighbors and their children. And at least two of those children have since mentioned the day “Emory’s mother cried really hard in her front yard because of that baby squirrel.”
Or like how I have to send the gift of an owl to a close friend who shares a birthday with today.
And I’m not sure where I’m going with this post. But I guess it felt good to write again.
What I want to say is, what I need to say is:
May you find love today. May you hug a stranger. May you cry if you need to cry. May you acquire an owl, pour yourself a drink and share something you haven’t yet shared.
May you save a baby squirrel.
May your air be clear and may whatever signal you send out, may it be met by a receiver.
And may you reach the sea.
There are seven, earth-sized planets around a star in a solar system named TRAPPIST-1 that would take our (current) fastest spacecraft 817,000 years to reach, yet people right this very second are trying to figure out a way to get there.
Cassini, launched in 1997, will make its final mission on September 15 by plunging to its death into Saturn’s gassy atmosphere because it’s finally run out of fuel.
I graduated college in 1997. I’ve done balls compared to this space robot.
(Look at its resume if you get a chance. It discovered potentially habitable moons!)
There’s a giant asteroid passing by us right now, closest it’s been since 1890, won’t be this close again until 2500. Her name is Florence. She’s enormous. You can spot her easily through your kid’s telescope in the backyard.
Yesterday I took two of my boys to see the 40th Anniversary rerelease of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We watched it on a big screen in an enormous movie theater. When we were finished, I told them one of my biggest dreams since I was a kid was to discover alien life. I wanted an E.T. like creature to find its way into my backyard. I still want that.
They called me crazy but agreed that if a spaceship should make its way to our house one night, they would nominate me first to go up with them.
So much has changed in 40 years.
I guess when you have cellphones, iPads, google maps, Wii U’s and Minecraft worlds, the idea of yearning for something bigger than ourselves becomes a little less immediate.
(I need to fix this for my kids. I think I fucked this one up.)
I comb through science magazines and websites every single night in order to escape the “real” news and also to keep myself in check because ultimately? We are all so unbelievably meaningless. I don’t mean that in a depressing way, but look up and out and oh my goodness.
We are so tiny. So small. So unimportant. So quick.
A blip. One pixel.
I find few things more terrifying, remarkable, unpredictable and beautiful than outer space. And I think sometimes I take it for granted and forget that it’s there and vast and terrifying.
Fall is here and that means opening the windows and listening to the chorus of crickets and letting all the moonlight in. It means reminding myself that my problems–while very real and genuine and sometimes all-consuming–they are temporary.
They have to be.
Because what a magnificent show this is.
Last spring, I volunteered to chaperone a 4th grade end-of-the-year picnic at a local park. I do not normally seek out social situations where I am thrust into awkward conversations with people whom I have nothing in common other than the fact that we have kids roughly the same age, but when it comes to my kids and their education, I make exceptions. I’m also not suggesting that I couldn’t have made a wonderful, new friend that day. But lasting friendships don’t usually blossom out of conversations had while hundreds of kids hang from monkey bars and consume watermelon like zombies do the heads of the living.
The park is really close to where we live, but I drove because I brought with me one of those giant thermoses coaches bring to sporting events. I brought this behemoth of a thermos because I was told to bring a gallon of water and I loathe plastic. I figured I would bring our industrial-sized thermos, the kids would have their own little water bottles to refill, and any other volunteers who brought water could bring those bottles back home again, allowing them a little more time on land before they end up discarded and eventually polluting the bottom of the ocean.
So, yeah. A giant thermos filled with water AND ice. This thing was not too light and its owner not too bright. I was able to get it into the car from our house and then out of the car and onto the street, but there was no way in hell I was able to get it from the car to the park benches, which were roughly 50 yards up an incline, a small one, but still: an incline.
I stood there on the street, above my giant thermos trying to come up with a plan.
“Roll it?” I thought. “No, that’s fucking crazy. You can’t roll the damned thing up there like Sisyphus. The lid isn’t secure and you’ll look like a crazy person. Also, what if one of the CrossFit moms see you?”
I was just about to put the giant thermos back in the car and give up on the environment for the day, when a woman walked up. “Can I help you with that?”
“Oh, that would be AWESOME. I didn’t think this through too well.”
“Are you a coach?” She asked. “Why do you have this thing?”
“It’s really thoughtless that I brought it. I didn’t even bring cups. I was told to bring a gallon jug but no cups. That’s odd, right?” I said, giving her way too much information, which I do whenever I am nervous. But instead of shutting up, I went on. “My husband and I occasionally do this ‘misfit soccer’ thing at Farrell field, but we aren’t coaches. It’s just for fun. We got it for that and to try and cut back on using plastic water bottles. I hate plastic.”
“Yeah, it’s kind of like soccer for kids who like soccer but are too nervous to actually play soccer because all the other kids who are REALLY into soccer are always telling them how bad they are.”
“That actually sounds kind of fun. Where is Farrell field?”
I start to answer this question, when she interrupts me, “OH! I know that field! WAIT A MINUTE! Are you the cake girl? Boudreaux? Is that your name? Do you live on _______ road? I’m Kimberly.” (Not her real name.)
I’m totally confused by this. I have no idea how she knows about my cakes and I don’t live on that road but I live close enough to it. I know nothing about this woman.
She goes on to explain who she is and where she lives—which house.
We drop the thermos off onto a picnic table and she continues, “You know, the one near the overgrown weeds? They’re a nice family, but I wish they’d do something about that yard.”
I have no idea what yard she’s talking about. I don’t know whose house she’s talking about. I still don’t even know where she lives yet.
I must have looked confused because she changes the subject and starts discussing our kids and whether or not our oldest children know one another. We decide that they do not. Other parents start to trickle into the park, kids too.
She changes the subject again to how dramatic her daughter can be and how she recently found a tick on her leg and totally freaked out.
“They’re really bad this year.” She said.
“Did you get the tick off of her? Like, the whole thing?”
“Oh, yes. Definitely.” She said. “But now she thinks they’re all over her all of the time.”
She changes the subject again. “You know what else is really bad this year? Mosquitoes. They’re absolutely awful. We can’t be outside for longer than a minute without being consumed.”
“I know!” I emphatically agree to this. “My husband and I just ordered a couple of bat houses for our yard—fancy ones, from Etsy! Some guy is hand-making these cool little bat houses. I am so excited. I love bats. I can’t wait to watch them devour the little suckers.”
“I’m sorry, but, bats.” She looks absolutely horrified, possibly even sickened by me. “Bats?”
Her voice has now changed an octave. I can’t tell if it’s fear, anger, disgust—but something inside of her has changed. And we have reached the “abort mission” stage of small talk. But it’s too late. I said too much.
“You do know about rabies, right? You do know that the treatment for rabies is HORRIBLE and it has to be done on your ENTIRE family, right? You do know all of this, right? BATS?” And then, finally, she says, “Where do you live again?”
“Um, up the street from you? Many houses away, like 7 or 10, many, many houses away.” Thinking this might make her feel better because the bats are already there to some degree only not nearly as many as I would like, I quickly add, “Our neighbors have a bat house!”
“Who are your neighbors?”
“I don’t know their name.” I lie.
“Well, please keep your bats away from my house. I don’t want rabies.”
We were in Walt Disney World last week. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and every night at around 8 PM the bats came out in vast numbers. They dashed across the sky in a choreographed madness. It was a spectacular show, a silent, magnificent army working to protect all the pirates and princesses.
I was mesmerized.
For the first few days, Toby was skeptical with my numbers, but there seemed to be SO MANY BATS. I was certain this was planned, orchestrated in some way. I suspected that the reason I was able to sit outside every single night and watch these wonderful little creatures was because of these wonderful little creatures. Furthermore, I suspected that Disney planned for this. I suspected Disney had bat houses all over the property to keep the mosquito population low and the comfort level high.
So, I finally asked an employee.
They do, indeed, house these bats. They do know they are there and they want them there for the very job they do so very well.
Two days ago, I was out for a run and I happened to run nearby to where Kimberly lives and I remembered the empty lot that sits on the same street but a bit further down and I had a thought that made me laugh out loud.
You see, a couple of weeks before we left for Disney one of the people on our local mailing list (Kimberly is also on that list) wrote to say that the plot of land is X amount of dollars and that’s quite cheap if anyone has extra cash and wants to build upon it.
When I got home from my run I told Toby my plan: we need to buy that plot of land and then hire the most talented, creative architect we can find and have him or her design the most elegant, kickass bat house anyone has ever seen. I mean, I want this thing to be in magazines. I want it to be world-famous.
And I want Kimberly to be able to sit outside for longer than a minute and not get any mosquito bites.
In December of 2015, my OBGYN put me on a dusting of fluoxetine (10 MG). I was having a rough time, not too rough, but rough enough to ask for help. I know she’s an OBGYN, but she’s been my doctor for over a decade and I feel particularly close to her. I trust her deeply. Plus, this medication was supposed to help alleviate period pain, which I experience a great deal of.
The dusting seemed to take some of the edge off, although given the low dosage, I have to wonder if I was experiencing the placebo effect. Who really knows. I was still a touch moody; felt socially inept and my anxiety was still ever-present. I still occasionally experienced periods of mania. While things were dialed down a notch, I was still very much the current version of myself.
The one thing that Prozac treated that turned out to be helpful for me was my inability to stew. All my life, since as early as I can remember, whenever something bothers me, I beat the living shit out of it, myself and all of the emotions involved. I investigate the situation from every angle. I replay it over and over again in my head. I mean, I put my thoughts to work! I abuse them. My brain doesn’t get a moment’s rest. I basically emotionally abuse myself. If I say something stupid at a party or respond foolishly during a social situation, I won’t let myself off the hook. I won’t let it go.
I immerse myself within the situation. Forgive me for the bad metaphor, but say every problem I have is a swimming pool, instead of recognizing that I can get out of the pool and approach the situation from outside of the damn pool. I stay in the pool and swim through the situation until I feel like drowning; or I become so exhausted, I have no other choice but to get out.
That’s not healthy and the dusting of prozac helped me with that. It didn’t get rid of it completely, but it definitely helped.
So I stuck with that dusting until late last summer when things started to take a turn once more.
Summer has always been a rough time of year for me. I do not enjoy summer. Even as a kid I didn’t particularly enjoy summer. I much preferred the continuity and safety of a school day. I liked to be with friends. I enjoyed having a schedule, I guess. I don’t particularly like the sun either. So the long days bug me. I don’t like the heat. I loathe pools. (Given the above metaphor, the irony here doesn’t escape me.) I can’t stand being on the beach. (I do like the ocean, however!) And the one thing I love doing most, the thing that helps me cope with my head and my issues is running. It’s my therapy. And running in the summer fucking sucks. (Although I do it! Every day.)
I am simply not a fan of summer. There’s apparently have a term for this, and I am by NO MEANS self-diagnosing myself here, but it’s called Summer-Seasonal Affective Disorder. I gotta say: just knowing that there’s a term for this; knowing that there are people who don’t particularly enjoy the summer and suffer from depression during said season, well, that alone makes me feel better.
Anyway, last summer hit me pretty hard. Things became bad enough that I ended up crying in front of my (brand spanking new!) primary care physician. I was lost. I was feeling suddenly so unhappy about living here. I couldn’t find peace. I was dreading the long days and the heat and the bugs. I felt afraid, like everything I was doing was some different color of failure.
She listened. She gave me the names and numbers of therapists. (Incidentally, I called every single one and not one person was taking new patients. I am by no means severely mentally ill, but I would definitely benefit from talk therapy. I can’t fathom what it must be like out there for someone suffering from severe mental illness when it’s so damn hard to find someone to talk to. We need to fix this shit, America.)
After we spoke, she decided to up my dusting of prozac to 40 MG. (I know, a rather enormous leap.)
I started taking it right away.
For the first week or two, I lost my mind to irrational levels of jealousy and fear. I felt like a teenager again. Even though people told me, “Give it time! You need to adjust!”, I panicked and had her call in a 20 MG prescription instead. This was all while we were in Disney. I would step it down again once returning home.
But by the time we got home, however, I felt better. In fact, I felt AMAZING. I entered some bizarre euphoric state. I felt like I could do anything. I hadn’t ever felt that secure and amazing in all my life. I felt sexy. I felt capable. I didn’t care what anyone around me thought about me, yet I worked to be positive and happy and to try and make others happy too. I wanted to be around everyone. Nothing bugged me. I felt like I could rule the world. No kidding, it was as though someone slipped me some ecstasy. Every single morning.
Toby was convinced my serotonin was set into overdrive and I was basically acting as though I was on MDMA.
I won’t lie: it was awesome. Toby was thrilled. After those initial first two weeks, I was golden. I was happy, outgoing. I made new friends. I started throwing parties—ALL the parties! So many parties! I was throwing parties for complete strangers. My goal was to overcome everything we’d experienced on the previous street and bring people together. And I loved that goal. I loved me. I showed up to events. I became a super version of myself, a version I hadn’t ever experienced before. It was outstanding.
During that time, I apologized to Toby repeatedly for having had to deal with my mood-swings all those years. I felt bad, but promised I’d continue to make it up to him. I felt worthy, excited. Guys, life was really fucking great.
I became the poster child for treatment.
Of course it didn’t last. By November, things had leveled out. I was no longer euphoric. I was still quite social. And I no longer stewed. There were no pools to mention. Instead I stood on the outside looking in and I was able to watch the problem and not give it too much thought.
I also totally stopped crying. Which is crazy. I cry ALL the time and have my entire life. But on 40 MG of prozac? Nope. I simply could not squeeze out a tear. They were gone. My brain just didn’t allow for tears.
Also gone? My disdain for the mundane. I no longer pined for something else or better or different. There were no real “ups” because the downs were gone too. Life became even.
And then my clothing stopped fitting. My face grew fatter. And I felt tired a lot.
I hopped on the scale in February: 163 pounds.
When I started taking 40 MG of Prozac I weighed 142. I had gained over 20 pounds in 6 months.
Yes, life was even. Yes, my periods were tolerable. But my hatred toward myself grew with every added pound. I was, and continue to be, miserable about the weight gain.
One morning I told Toby, “I need to lose this weight. I feel like the more I weigh, the more space I take up in the world so there’s more of myself to loathe. I don’t want to take up this much space in the world.”
Again: not healthy.
I am absolutely certain at this point that prozac ruined my metabolism. It explains why I would fall asleep at 8 or 9 PM and sleep like the dead until morning. (Well, whenever Walter wasn’t waking me up every hour.) I had such little energy. I still ran, but my pace dropped from 9-minute miles to 11 plus minute miles. It is not unheard of for me these days to run a 12-minute mile. I changed even though the only thing I actually changed in my daily life was medication.
About two months ago, I had had enough. I visited my OBGYN again. I topped out that day at 168.
We discussed tapering. She was shocked at how much that other doctor had upped my dose, but agreed that that much weight gain is likely linked to the medication.
She ran a my thyroid levels: all fine. Everything checked out as normal, the same.
I stopped the meds. I couldn’t take it anymore.
That was a little over 2 months ago.
My weight is SLOWLY going down, although nothing to write home about; I’m still considered overweight and I can’t fit into any of my clothing, which is heartbreaking for me. My running pace has moved up a minuscule amount, so I’ll take it. The bouts of insomnia are back, which admittedly sucks. I had forgotten about so much that the prozac had been treating. My periods are downright awful again. Those things I can handle.
But the biggest problem I see with the untreated me is that the insecurity is back. The fear of human interaction has returned. I am up and down and sometimes moody as fuck. There are days I can barely say hello to a person let alone have a conversation.
I know I come off rather shallow that I gave up a medication that was doing a lot of OK for me because it was making me fat. But it’s the truth. And now I am facing the fact that I am back and because I was someone else for a while, I am now very much aware of all the things I could be.
So that’s where I am now. I’m trying to mentally turn myself into that person regardless of how I actually feel. Fake it to you make it? Maybe if I force myself to rework my initial feelings, I can rewire the way my brain works? I’ve got to try something.
I don’t know why I’m writing today, frankly. I guess it just feels good to mark it down. Maybe since I can’t seem to find a doctor, and if I continue to pour my guts out online, maybe I will begin to feel better as I muddle through all of the bullshit.