My grandfather died when I was twenty-one. Upon returning home from his memorial mass where I gave his eulogy, I experienced an altered state of consciousness when crossing the Bay Bridge. My skin tingled, I felt an energy push out of my skin, and I felt a new cleansing energy fill me to replace the old energy. At first the experience concerned me, for I was driving after all, but I signalled a lane change, safely changed lanes, found that I was still aware of my surroundings, and decided it was safer to continue driving that to stop in the middle of the bridge. I went on to experience at will, usually by staring into a candle flame, a series of altered states that felt either cleansing or seductive. Ever since that time, I have identified with mystics. Since I had a history of severe suicidal depression, I realized then that if I…
I wasn’t sad to see you go, but saying goodbye last week stirred up some feelings for me.
I know it won’t come as any surprise that I have a love-hate relationship with you. Remember how much I didn’t want you either time? And yet both times, I wound up profoundly grateful. You stepped up when I needed you to. You yanked me up from the flat heaviness. So thanks. You’re really good at that.
I’m sure you knew it was coming, so here it is—I have a few bones to pick. I’m not sure if you’re open to feedback, but since we’ve had such close relationship on and off for the last 5 years, I feel pretty qualified to give it.
Do you think it’s really necessary, when lifting someone from the pit of despair, to simultaneously smash their already-ailing libido down into the mud with the heel of your boot? I’m betting you’d have a way better reception with, say, every depressed and anxious person on earth if you could figure out how to focus on the job you were invited in to do rather than mucking around with one of the most basic and sublime pleasures of life.
And another thing: I think you should consider listing anxiety as a common side-effect on your label. That way, I would have felt less like a strung-out psychopath trying to explain my symptoms to the pharmacist.
“Hmmm,” she said, eyes scanning down the computer screen. “Nope. I don’t see anxiety listed here as a common or uncommon side effect.” She read the whole list for me, none of which I identified with until the last. “Mask-like face?” she asked. “That’s what it feels like?” Well, sort of.
So here’s the deal, Zoloft. After I started taking you the second time, my body started to feel like it was constantly in a war zone. Twitchy. On-guard. The muscles in my arms, hands, face and neck were taught and achy, my mind sharp and over-alert. So sure, mask-like-face covers a bit of that, but how about just including anxiety in the list, or maybe body-like-a-war-zone? You may be surprised to know that I’m not the only one who had this experience with you. After I left about 300 phone messages and finally found a psychiatrist who specialized in post-partum mental health and was covered by my insurance, (BLESS HER) she told me that anxiety is a relatively common side effect of Zoloft.
Believe me, I know there’s a lot more to you than potential for anxiety, but you might as well be up front about it so that people like me aren’t so blindsided, you know?
I really appreciate you reading this far – if you have – and let me please re-iterate that I really also appreciate you. Small, green, ovoid you. Once we sorted out all the anxiety stuff this last time, you really did the trick. And while I’m glad I don’t need you anymore, I have to remind myself that we may meet again.
I also want to acknowledge that I know it must be hard for you. I mean, you’re this awesome little pill that saves people from deep dark pits of hell and yet tons of people dread you and talk smack about you because we tell ourselves that you are a sure sign of our failure. That must really suck, since Tylenol and antihistamines and others in your cohort don’t really get that reaction. I’m sure you wish we could just see you more like that—a tool for coping with a symptom. Just so you know, I know that’s what you are. And I’ll have to remind myself of that if I need you again. But I hope I don’t. Because—no offense—I will feel like a failure of a person when I’m filling my prescription for you. Anyway, just know that I realize that’s my stuff, not yours. You really are good at your job. I know that. Lot’s of people know that.
Thanks for reading. I do hope you’ll consider some of my suggestions. And thank you, really, for all your help.
I’m an honest mom. I live for sharing the messy parts of my life and hearing about everyone else’s. I’m a 5-year-old mother to a 5-year-old boy and his 1-year-old brother, and a partner of 12 years to an honest dad. When I’m not milking goats or obsessing over vintage pyrex or sorting train tracks and random plastic crap into their various bins, I’m supporting women through birth as a doula or working for money as a video producer or getting cheap creative thrills by writing at www.anhonestmom.wordpress.com.
Dad sent me a box. My address carefully hand-written. For the return address he wrote my address again. In essence he sent and returned it to me. He didn’t want it back. On the back of the box one handwritten sentence of scripture (not cited). My husband took it from me —it was not unheard of for the contents of packages such as these to be laced with paternal poisons.
My foolish, childish mind quickly produced images of what might come out of that box: a gift for my children, a keepsake from my childhood, a photo of my grandmother, a vile of my mother’s ashes, an apology.
“Hurry!” says Hope, clapping with excitement. “I bet everything is finally over!” says Hope. “You are loved, and he is sorry”, says Hope.
The packing—a collection of standard office paper wadded up into balls. Full sized 8 ½ x 11 pages. Each page had a different Laser Jet printed photo of him, his house, his car, his dog, him with the dog. Each page deliberately printed. Each sheet individually crumpled up and used as packing surrounding a small white box that an extra set of car keys I had given him during my mom’s hospice care. That was it. No note, no explanation. The box, the keys, and the paper balls.
The man who can’t find the time to call his grandchildren found plenty to plan, print, pack and go to the post office and send his daughter that.
And he meant it. That’s what people don’t know or believe. People like that m e a n it. Every fiber of it is intentional. Reminds me of the times he would get drunk and walk to the nearby emergency room…purposely leaving his wallet, keys, angina pills, jacket, and every scrap of his own dignity at home with me and my mom. We would wait. We would wait. Until Mom sent me out on a scavenger hunt to find him.
Or the time he disrobed, laid down on his bed, left his bedroom door wide open and overdosed on pills while I was doing homework in the next room.
“R u n” says Horror. “Run for your life and don’t let him get to you. A g a i n”, says Horror.
The sickness untamed and trained to prey on me—is it him, or is it me? The reality of receiving a box like this is forensic evidence my friend Horror attests to. But living with PTSD is a chronic sadness dosing out daily advertisements for death. The flinching when touched, the startle when seen. The nightmares. The nausea when I smell English Leather cologne, the anguish felt when the neighbor’s baby’s screams. That’s coming from me. I should really get it together and “let it go”; “get over it”. Those suggestions just mean no one wants to stick around to clean up what’s coming.
Ever try to stop the stomach flu? People don’t understand that PTSD is the hippocampus dry-heaving.
So down I will go, again. Down below the current of day to day. Down below the tides of functioning. Doing the daily tasks, keeping up appearances on the surface. But don’t get me wrong, I am down in the depths of craziness in a box sent by a dad who took pictures of himself, wadded up the pictures, and sent me back my car keys—returned to myself.
Walker is a daughter of a dad who sent her a box. She is the mother of two for whom she stopped the cycle of sickness.