Thomm Quackenbush, author

In the Cards | 2010 | The Tomorrow After That

11.03.10 7:24 p.m.

You can turn back on a person, but you can never turn your back on a drug, especially when it's waving a razor sharp hunting knife in your eye.  

-Hunter S. Thompson

 


The Gospel According to St. John

Xen  
"WHY IS EVERYTHING TERRIBLE ALWAYS?! Wait, could it be these pills? ...Nah."

Despite my prior praising of St. John's wort, I have rid my system of it. As I write this, I think I am feeling the feather light tendrils of its withdrawal, which is nothing compared to the suction hooks of having it fully in my bloodstream.

My depression and anxiety, for situational reasons, became more pressing, so I decided to try closer to the recommended dosage of a pill with each meal (I had been taking one with breakfast, I increased it to a pill with dinner as well) in order to manage what I was feeling and react to things with logic and forethought rather than the current flood of dopamine plaguing my brain.

This rapidly proved a mistake, much as I wanted to attribute my initial gains with the herb to the placebo effect. I felt this compelling tension behind my eyes, as though my brain were racing in neutral. The gospel according to St. John's wort echoed through me: Nothing felt good and nothing ever would again. Melanie and I - who are having growing pains - were headed for enmity. I will never get a better job and I will never be able to do anything more than survive. I am poor and always will be. I am a burden on all of my friends. I cannot trust people enough to tell them what I am going through. I cannot write. I am not able to teach. And so on and so on at a frenzied pace, each neurosis blending into the other. I had ideation of suicide, which is quite different from wanting to end my life (I didn't want to die, I just couldn't drive over a bridge without thinking of the plummet).

(The strange bit being, though I was troubled by obsessive thoughts, the pills still made me functional. I felt like I was about to cry at any moment - though I couldn't purge myself of the accumulation - but behaved normally in public. I felt very much like a social robot with a virus. And, until I fully became aware of the correlation, I figured I needed the pills more than ever to help alleviate the very feelings they were causing.)

Yesterday, after an early morning freak-out culminating in calling Melissa and crying that I was broken, I calmed down around noon and spent much of the day hanging out with her. We talked about politics, ghosts, and books at length, as we hadn't in months. I felt more myself than I had in at least a week. I felt, if not happy, at least stable and whole. She dropped me home around seven so I could eat and shower (her hypnosis to quit smoking has been less than effective and she just got a shipment of cigarillos that reeked like cough syrup, which I did not care to smell like). I felt slight twinges of anxiety, as it was uncomfortable to be alone after having spent so much time with a friend, but I had promised Dezi and Annie that I would play Ultimate Frisbee with them that night and was not going to disappoint social obligations because my head was not quite right.
Xen  
Something isn't quite right...

Along with my dinner, I took a St. John's wort in hope of soothing the twinges. Within minutes, things felt impossible again. The whole world was insurmountable and I wanted to sit and fix it all, or just sit and never move from my apartment again. But, instead, I went out to meet my friends, hoping that I had enough food and liquid in my system to dilute the effects of the herb.

I felt nervous once I arrived, though I think I was appropriately social (I can't actually figure out if I behaved normally around them). Cristin brought brownies and my brain told me to eat them all, because the sugar rush made the anxiety quiet for a few minutes (I constrained myself to only a couple; I didn't need body image issues on top on whatever else was bouncing around in my head). When we left in separate cars to go to the playing field, I thought about just driving back to my apartment and waiting out the effects, if indeed I wasn't not wrong about the pills being the cause. I played a few round in the dark (our team lost) and then parted from them. Though I think I probably behaved as was required, I felt like I was dying inside the whole time.

I have never been a fan of substances. When I was younger, I excused my non-use because I pursued studies into the paranormal (which is to say, I didn't simply read book on the subject but froze my fingers looking for ghosts and aliens with little success) and didn't want my senses impugned. You do acid just once and no one is going to believe that you saw a UFO and not a flashback. (I've never known a person to have flashbacks more stunning than hand trails, incidentally.)

To an extent, that reasoning is still the case. I want to be able to trust the totality of my experiences, which the pills made me doubt. It influenced who I was rather than assisting me in being that person without impediments. Neurochemicals are dicey enough and I vividly recall the near total pissiness that resulted from being an adolescent afflicted by the same hormones everyone else gets. I have no doubt casting uppers and downers into my homeostatic ocean results in erratic waves I struggle to navigate.

Further - going out dancing as I do on occasion, being pawed by drunken people - I don't want there to be anything that is going to even fractionally limit my ability to decline unsavory situations. I do not want to slip from under the burden of my conscience or my learned wariness. I don't want the excuse that something is overruling my brain, especially after this latest attempt in artificially tweaking its chemistry. I have to own my actions and statements or I am shirking the duty to lead my life. There should be no easy outs in the bottom of a glass, pill bottle, or ashtray.

One of my main issues here is that I can't trust a drug. I can trust people perfectly well, but the introduction of some third party in the form of a bit of blotter paper or a bottle creates a variable that fills me with discomfiture. Addictions, especially, I cannot trust. They change who a person is. They subsume the identity. Someone who needs to down three martinis before they can be my friend is someone who is simply alcohol (and olives) in a skin suit.

I don't want to let a chemical stranger infect me until I no longer remain, until I am simply a disciple of a drug rather than my own savior.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, therapy.

last watched: 30 Rock
reading: The Mothman Prophesies
listening: Yann Tiersen

In the Cards | 2010 | The Tomorrow After That

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



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