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Danielle the Amazonian | 2015 | Brushing the Fifth Estate


Life inside the music box ain't easy
The mallets hit the gears are always turning
And everyone inside the mechanism
Is yearning
To get out
And sing another melody completely
So different from the one they're always singing
I close my eyes and think that I have found me
But then I feel mortality surround me
I want to sing another melody
So different from the one I always sing

-Regina Spektor

Life inside the Music Box

I have decided to visit a therapist, though I do not doubt my sanity.

I believe that I need medication to regulate my neurochemistry more than I need psychological mending. While I do not believe I am psychologically perfect, I see the point of life to deal with these quirks through experience. That said, I am not averse to talking with someone and considering their advice. I feel jammed up when it comes to divulging myself to specific people who do not live under my roof because I fear staining their perception of me. As a writer, I think so much about who I am as a character. If I were writing me, what would I think of my behavior? How clichéd is my mental state?

I may need medication because I exist at a sort of delicate equilibrium. When things seem to be going okay and I have noticed no real issues on the horizon, I can still be suddenly tipped over the edge into depression by comments that touch upon one of my more primal fears, such as that I will lose Amber. I have no indication that she is inclined to leave me-she adores me without question or, in my opinion, condition. She has been supportive and present for my depression, though it has been rare until recently.

This is my best and healthiest relationship and I want badly to be the man Amber deserves. This marriage has allowed me to bloom in a way I didn't know I could prior. I will continue working with all my ability to make sure this marriage persists and is successful.

I feel my person suit slipping outside of work. I can no longer consistently maintain the required social mores. I am aware that what I am doing is maladaptive and contrary to what I would like, but the churning in my head prevents me from doing what I would truly prefer to be doing.

All that being acknowledged, I am sensitive to medication. If something is likely to make me spacy or dulled, I won't take it. I need to be able to function, particularly to write. I would rather be miserable and productive than float on an illiterate cloud of bliss. But I have felt less motivated to write in the last few months. Though I likely could have finished a full draft of my current novel this month, the prospect seems daunting and I cannot urge myself to just put fingers to keys or pen to paper, except for small snatches of conversation or description.

My mood dysregulation is occasionally-but far from always-tied to physiological needs that were ill met. If I have not eaten in a while and my blood sugar crashed, if I have not slept well for a few nights in a row, if I have pushed myself too hard with exercise, or if I cannot sit in sunlight for a few days. Given the temperature of the Hudson Valley four months out of the year, this final point can quickly become a raging case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have a UV lamp that I use every morning the sun doesn't rise outside my window and thereafter as needed-a hand-me-down from my similarly affected ex-girlfriend, Melanie-but it is not sufficient. I also take daily vitamin-D, but that doesn't seem to have too much of an effect on regulating my mood.

It takes three weeks between making the appointment and meeting with the therapist. Most I contacted said they were not taking new patients or wanted me to complete a complicated financial run-around involving paying them hundreds of dollars upfront that they would recompense me slowly at the behest of my insurance. I chose who I did because she is a nurse (and can thus prescribe me medication as needed) and she is located in my town. Though I would love the idea of some psychological guru who can help guide me through my life with spiritual wisdom and hard-won experience, that takes time and luck I do not have. I do not think my insurance covers maharishis, though it does have a very good prescription plan.

She directs me onto a couch in her office, saying that nurses are better because they are holistic instead of diagnostic, and runs me through a psychological survey that, at one point, requires me to subtract seven repeatedly. As she asks me questions, I feel a little silly wasting her time because I have gone weeks without a relapse.

"Are you suicidal?" she asks.

"Not really. I want not to hurt anymore-ideally, I would cease to exist for a little while-but I cannot imagine actually wanting to hurt myself. I couldn't make those sorts of plans. I did once experience persistent, intrusive suicidal ideation when I was taking St. John's Wort, but it was more like a pest in my head rather than anything I wanted."

"What do you mean?"

"For instance, I would drive over a bridge and think that I could plummet off it. However, I didn't want to do that. It was more like, 'Thank you, brain. I could do that, but I sure as hell won't. Stop being annoying.'"

"When you are anxious or depressed, how long do these spells typically last?" she asks.

I hesitate. "That's not easy to answer. It's an earthquake. The outset, the shaking, that might only take minutes. The aftershocks can last days or weeks and I can never fully predict them."

She scribbles this down and continues with her profile. She raises her eyebrows when I say that I imagine I am content for about ninety percent of the time. She seems skeptical when I say that Paganism is helpful to my mental state until I inform her that I like how tiny it makes me feel as part of an intricate universe.

In the end, she blames my genetics for any unease I may experience and offers me one of the boxes of samples that litter her office to the extent that her rolling chair threatens to crush one on the floor. "These won't change who you are. They will just make you less sensitive," she tells me.

I had heard of this pill in commercials recently, mostly because Amber and I mocked the side effects and contraindicated fruit juices. She warns me against listening to any of these, even before I can mention knowing about the pill. "If it is possible that it might happen to someone, they have to warn you about it to keep away lawsuits. None of those will happen to you. Not at this low dose, especially." She hands me her card. "But, if something does happen, you email me immediately. Don't wait."

Usually, she would make an appointment for two weeks to see how I reacted to the medication. However, she wants to take a long weekend, so she makes it for three weeks and give me an extra sleeve of the pills to tide me over while she experiments with my physiology.

Soon in Xenology: Reporters.

last watched: Kung Fury
reading: Hyperspace
listening: Regina Spektor

Danielle the Amazonian | 2015 | Brushing the Fifth Estate

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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