Category Archives: depression

Freeway Funk

Leslie had never wanted to drive on the freeway. She never wanted to go that fast. She didn’t ski, she didn’t bike, she didn’t rollerblade for the same reason. Going fast wasn’t desirable. Going fast risked being out of control, at the whim of gravity and unpredictable factors like angry drivers, roads in poor condition and stray animals. No, freeways were laden with dangers, rife with the chance of pain and death.

Not that death was that scary. There were plenty of days that death seemed appealing. A way to stop all the hopelessness and anxiety. What if I’m in this job forever?  How will I ever find another job if I lose this one?  How can I have a PhD and be so unqualified for anything?

So, most days she was open to death. It was the pain that worried her. Dismembered, brain damaged, these were the real dangers of going fast. A rock on a bike path could throw her off balance and crack her skull. A mogul, coming up too soon, could incite a swerve into a gully and break her legs. A bear, wandering onto the freeway… and so on. So many scenarios that could bring pain and a longer, more miserable life than the one she had now.

Fairytales would have her meet a man or take up a hobby that filled her soul and brought her joy. She wasn’t keen on either of those.

What brought her a reluctant sense of relief was to stop going on about how depressed she felt, get up from her desk and fucking do something like, for example, get dressed and go to work.


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Funny Pharm


It’s my boyfriend, standing in the doorway of my studio and speaking softly. “Jennifer?”

“What?” I say. I had left the studio door open. He’s allowed to talk to me if I leave the door open. If I close the door it’s understood that I’m in the ‘Red Zone’ and he has to leave me alone unless the house is on fire. ‘Red Zone’ is supposed to mean that I’m deep in a groove with my painting and shouldn’t be disturbed. In reality it means I don’t want him bothering me. Today I forgot to close the door.

“Jennifer?” he says again, his voice still soft.

“What?” I say, looking up from my magazine.

“Well, I think there’s something you ought to see.” His voice stays soft, but his tone rises in urgency. It sounds panicky, fearful.

“What is it?” I ask.

“You better come downstairs.”

I follow him downstairs to the kitchen. He walks around to the far side of the breakfast bar and points at the counter. “See?” he asks.

There on the counter is a tiny white pill. It’s one of the many pills I take every morning. There are the supplemental vitamins and minerals, and there is the medication for my glaucoma. There’s the blood thinner, the cholesterol lower-er, and the one to stave off my IBS. And that’s just the starting line-up. The really heavy hitters don’t even make sense. First, I’m not epileptic, but the anticonvulsant levels out the swings of my bipolar fairly well. Second, I’ve not been diagnosed psychotic, but it’s an antipsychotic that picks up the slack where the anticonvulsant leaves off.

And there, on the counter, is the latter, the one that kept me out of the hospital last winter. That bad johnny is $125 a month, but last winter the cost wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I really didn’t care if I took it or not. When the shrink said, “But it will make you feel better, Jennifer. Don’t you want to feel better?” my response was sullen silence. Ask a manic depressive who’s scraping the bottom of the ‘will to live’ barrel if they want to feel better and that’s what you get. A non-answer from someone who doesn’t give a damn about feeling better.

You’d think such a life changing pill would be bigger. It’s even smaller than the flea pill we give Mr. Buckles. It’s tiny. So tiny that an extra one could easily slide out of the bottle when I tipped out my dose, so tiny that it could slip right out of my hand when I popped a fistful of meds into my mouth. Either way, the pill had landed on the kitchen counter this morning.

So which was it? Was it a wayward extra that I didn’t need to take? Or was it the one I should have taken? If I took this pill and I’d already taken one, I’d be doubling up for the day. If I didn’t take this pill and I hadn’t had one already, I’d miss a day. There was a 50/50 chance that I’d guess correctly, and my action based on that guess would have serious ramifications. How I chose to proceed would determine on whom disaster would fall. It would be me, or him.

If I took the pill twice, it would be hell for me. The known results of doubling up on this particular drug were well known. There had been medical studies done, and there were warnings on the package. I would experience dizziness, uncontrollable shaking in my extremities, blood in my stool, and an urgent need to pass said bloody stool.

In contrast, if I didn’t take a pill at all, it would be hell for my boyfriend. I would become ‘irritable’. Last time I missed a pill was on Valentine’s Day. I wanted to serve fresh grapefruit for brunch, but grapefruit is out of season in February, so it was impossible to peel. I couldn’t get a grip on it, and the tiny shards of rind got all up under my fingernails. It hurt. It made me angry. My boyfriend walked into the kitchen whistling ‘happy days are here again’, so I hurled the grapefruit at his head. It grazed his shoulder, bounced up, and smashed against the wall above the bay window. I had to pay the maid an extra twenty to climb up on the table and clean up the pulp and juice that had splattered on the glass.

So, my choices were to either inflict bodily harm on myself or to traumatize someone I cared about. It was a tough call. I stared at the pill and pushed it around the counter with my finger. I picked up the bottle and looked into it. I thought about sitting on the toilet all day, and then, as I looked into the eyes of my anxiety ridden boyfriend, I considered the certain end of our relationship. I knew what I needed to do. I picked up the pill, lifted my hand, and



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Her Stinking Promise

I had smelled my way through every airplane-bottle-sized vial of scented oil in the St. Louis Galleria’s Bare Escentuals store. My head pounded from the onslaught of floral, dusty, musty and rainwater-fresh fragrances. And still, nothing.

The strategy of the store was to lure you in with the essence of redolent oils and then for a perky sales clerk to sell you a scent blended into every kind of body wash, shampoo, conditioner and hand soap she had stocked on the shelves.

They all stunk to me.  And there was only one left to smell.

It was called simply, “JM.” Those are my initials. “This could be perfume kismet,” I thought as I closed my eyes and lifted the bottle to my nose. It smelled soapy and clean. It smelled like fresh starts and new beginnings. It smelled the way I wanted to smell, the kind of smell that I thought, if it were exuding from my pores, would make me hopeful and happy. I wanted to smear it all over my body, and Ingrid, eager for her commission, was more than willing to work her alchemic magic to ensure that I had enough product to drench myself in morning, noon and night.

“And,” Ingrid said, “the owner’s daughter’s initials are ‘JM’, so you can be sure it’ll never be discontinued.”

“Thank God,” I said. “I haven’t been able to count on anything lately.”

Ingrid had promised.

She lied.



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Hall and R-Oates-ies

I hate sitting outside when it’s hot, but it’s better than sitting inside where it’s freezing. Freezing in summer, blistering in winter, that’s the thermostat setting in my office. So, I always eat here, outside at a table near Quizno’s. At least the temperature matches the season out here. No way am I eating at my desk. Lunch is supposed to be a break, not an opportunity to type formulas in a spreadsheet with one hand while holding a sandwich in the other.

I wish I had a sandwich today. Today I’ve got last night’s creole salmon, which tastes good in my mouth but smells horrible sitting there in the Tupperware. Note to self: no fish in the lunchbox.

I hear chanting, so I look up. It’s a little girl, probably four years old, skipping across the parking lot and reciting, “Baby come back, baby come back, baby come back.” Skip, “baby come back.” Skip skip, “baby come back.” As she ducks between the parked cars, I catch flashes of a frilly pink tutu and shiny black and white saddle shoes. She makes it to the sidewalk and ducks into Quizno’s. Her mother comes jogging behind her, and as she opens the door to the sandwich shop I hear her daughter and she sing in harmony, “Baby come back.”

I think of Nancy. When we were teenagers living in St. Louis, Nancy and I rocked out to Hall and Oates. We had all their records. We saw them when they came to St. Louis, and when they played Chicago, too. We even drove out to Lexington to catch the last stop on their Midwest tour. We were roadies. “The Hall and R-Oates-ies,” we called ourselves. So of course I had to text Nancy right away.

I pick up my phone and hit the “Kakao” icon. Nancy lives in Vietnam, teaching English to Vietnamese law students; Kakao is the international texting app we use to keep in touch. I notice that the last conversation we had was on May 16, the day Ian died. Today was August 16. It was six months to the day. Today was the three-month anniversary of Nancy’s boyfriend’s death.

“Sweetie,” I type. “I know this is a damn hard day for you, so I’m sharing something fun: I just saw a little girl in a pink tutu and shiny saddle shoes skipping across the parking lot and singing “Baby come back.”

I read over the text and draw in a sharp breath, then I hit the “Delete” button seventeen times. “!kcab emoc ybaB”. I type in “Maneater!” instead.  It’s a lie, but the truth would be cruel.

The little girl and her mother come out of Quizno’s, holding sodas and bags of sandwiches. The girl isn’t wearing a tutu with saddle shoes at all, it’s just a short pink dress with black and white sneakers that light up as she walks. I look down at my text. The whole thing is a lie, but I hit “Send” anyway.


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Morrissey Knew

“And if a ten ton truck crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.
And if a double decker bus kills the both of us, to die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.”

At the close of our session last night, I told my therapist that this was the best song ever written.
She told me that at our next session we’d have to “talk about that.”


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