BY DANA VERDINO
In the event that you try a new pill and it dampens your creativity, try another new pill. In the event that that other new pill doesn’t work to your liking either, then try another pill. This is the way I would go at my life. Step by step, pill by pill. This one pill lifted my mood but made me sleepy, and this other one gave me energy but made me lonely. They say there is no magic bullet, though I haven’t given up trying to find it. I think there must be the perfect cocktail of pills that I haven’t stumbled upon, a perfect combination of herbs, vitamins, and prescription medications. Every new cocktail brings hope and keeps me moving to the next. I’m like a chemist running experiments on myself. I add this, take out that, and factor in the alcohol, the cigarettes, and the men. Without these other highs, the pills are uninspiring, and without the pills, the highs are dangerous. The pills take away the self-loathing and the guilt. The pills make the highs leave less of a dent in my heart.
“If all these pills cannot provide you with an answer, perhaps you should try therapy,” says my psychiatrist, a serious woman with blonde hair in a loose bun, round blue eyes, and large pearl earrings. “Let me recommend someone to you.”
I try to shut my mouth after she says this. She doesn’t want to analyze my inner dialogue; it isn’t part of her job description. She doles out medicine according to symptoms. She doesn’t listen to your daddy issues or analyze your dreams with you. She is beautiful. She doesn’t know that if she had what I had she would never be what she is.
“I’ve tried that,” I say.
But this is not entirely true. I went to a few of those free group meetings at the local church for people with my kind of illness. I remember floating around the church before the meeting started. There was a table with a canteen of watery coffee, those small styrofoam cups, and hard straws. I sipped on the coffee as I read signs and pamphlets. I don’t drink coffee, actually.
There was a decent turnout. Mostly there were women. Apparently, we are the ones who need to share our misery with others the most, as if we could heal through admittance of what shames us. I wish it were that simple. None of these women went out of their way to socialize. This was to be expected. Such an illness goes hand in hand with social withdrawal and excessive rumination. We were too tired to forge relationships beyond the ethereal circle of textbook therapy and empathetic nods. Meanwhile, relationships are likely what we all need the most because we hate ourselves to no end.
My shrink must have known I was curtailing her suggestion, because she then asks me, “How long did you try your therapy?”
I say, “A few sessions.” She looks at me curiously. “My point is that I just know…I know that talking isn’t going to help me. I had a fine upbringing, I have my health, my looks, education…no reason to feel the way I do, no explanation other than this faulty wiring in my head.”
“Ok,” she says.
I am not used to this sort of appeasement so early on. Normally I have to fight for this. People closest to me rarely believe me. They think I make excuses and take the easy way out. Maybe they’re right, but it doesn’t matter. I just know it can’t work. I can’t afford to entertain futile endeavors. Every hour is too long when you are sick and you can’t sleep through it. I am glad there are no prerequisites in meeting with this blonde-haired, blue-eyed prescription pad. All I need is all that I have and all I want is a new pill so I can keep moving, step by step. From my apartment to the train to her office, and the steps to the bars and the beds and the bathrooms, the steps through the sand and water and wind just to keep from breaking.
Dana Verdino‘s work has appeared in Fiction at Work, Boston Literary Magazine, Open Minds Quarterly, Camroc Press Review and Heart Insight, the magazine of The American Heart Association. Dana is an English instructor and is sort of working on a memoir. Or maybe a short story collection. She has an M.A. in English, an M.A. in Education, and lives in South Carolina with her husband and four children.