A few days ago I offhandedly mentioned to my husband that I would speak to my pusher on Monday about increasing my meds. “Why did something happen?” he asked with poorly veiled panic in his voice. “No” I answered breezily. “Just….I’m anxious at bedtime. Having trouble sleeping the night through. And I’m tired in the morning because of it and now that I’ve decided (a sudden declaration-do you see where this is going?) that there will be no more TV, days playing with Jack are very hard when I’m so tired.”
Yesterday was a normal day. My Facebook status bragged about how my dad delivered breakfast and cappuccino. I considered spending the entire day watching Star Wars parody videos on YouTube. I added several expensive watches to my Amazon wish list because I can’t find the most excellent watch I got for Christmas in 2002 and besides, the new ones never need batteries and are water-resistant to 99 feet! Isn’t that worth getting a new watch even if your old one isn’t broken?
But then sometime after 4 o’clock for no reason in particular I wandered around the house restlessly for a while and then went into the bedroom and threw myself onto my bed like a petulant teenager, put in headphones and listened to a Grateful Dead album. I tried mightily to transport myself into a TV show about a girl who is listening to this album for the first time. I wanted to be listening to American Beauty with virgin ears, failing in love with each note. Instead I found myself wishing they’d recorded the album on MTV Unplugged because really it’s so fucking overproduced and the backup vocals are distracting. And also why couldn’t I have been alive to hear them sit around and play these songs with just guitars a bag of weed? I mean I was technically alive but I was in primary school and I didn’t have a ride to California.
I lay there staring off into nothing while music shuffled for a couple hours. Every few songs I considered a trip to the grocery store which I was convinced would at least give me a barometer of how bad off I was. Plus we were out of cheese, plus if I’m at the grocery store at bedtime I’m not an asshole for skipping it. I hate bedtime. Coffeeshop or “shopping” during family stuff=you’re an ass. Grocery store, Car repair or other important tedious errands during family stuff=taking one for the team and Getting Stuff Done.
I wish I could explain how incredibly hard it was to move off the bed. I can’t. What I knew is that I needed to be away from My People – there’s no graceful way to make this transition, and no matter how many times my husband watches me go through it he never gets used to seeing the woman who was perkily drinking espresso and rooting for Yoda at noon morph into the person who can’t be trusted with the task of reading a bedtime story without turning that bedtime story into a lesson on capitalism or the futility of formal education.
I was stuck to the bed as if I’d been pranked by college freshmen with a huge roll of saran wrap. When I heard the dinner dishes rattling I made my move, mumbled “grocery store” and lit out.
Catatonic isn’t the right word, and that doesn’t explain what caused me to go back three times to the soup aisle for vegetable broth or why I stood in front of the empty vegetable broth slot for 10 minutes trying to make sense of why they didn’t have it or why I cried because our local grocer doesn’t carry Quorn. I still don’t know what I’m going to make in place of the two recipes that are on my menu that need it. I can’t think about it because I might still cry. I was there 3 hours and I forgot to check expiration dates on the milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs.
I talked to myself, little pep talks like “listen, you can do this; you’ve been here 400 times. You just have to get through 4 more aisles. It’s no big deal. Don’t let that broth thing throw you off. Just get it done.” I wore my headphones the whole time so that the white noise of the refrigerator cases and the incessant hum of the fluorescent lights wouldn’t stress me out, and I tried to hurry but it felt like I was walking through a moat of elmer’s glue that was drying as I took steps.
And then I ran into someone I knew which is my absolute worst nightmare when I’m like this. Instantly, impossibly, I shifted gears and carried on a conversation as that Other Summer who had occupied my skin 12 hours earlier.
The strange thing about this illness, I thought today while fighting back tears at the pharmacy, is that when you’re like this you can’t imagine you were ever like that. And I wondered if the people at the pharmacy can tell when I’m not doing well based on whether I’m wearing makeup and if I smile at them or make eye contact.
You have your good moments though, and this-pretending that I wasn’t just murmuring Tony Robbins-style motivation to myself in the peanut butter aisle to get myself through the fact that Skippy Natural wasn’t on the shelf and I had to get peanut butter with sugar in it-was one of them.
So For 15 minutes in the middle of a three-hour disaster I spoke normally to another human being except for the voice in the back of my head yelling “See? What the fuck is wrong with you, drama queen! Pull it together! You’re fine! Get to the checkout NOW NOW NOW!”
So I said goodbye to her and got in line and the girl said “Ma’m? Ma’am? Are you ok? Sick? Or just tired? Ready to get home, huh? Can I help you put those bags into the basket, I need the space here on the rack. Can you sign this? Here’s your change. Ma’am? Ma’am? Don’t forget your change.”
Sometimes people ask me what it feels like when the pendulum swings. It feels like this.