I awake with a violent jerk, tangled inside a nest of disorganized cotton sheets and blankets.
The room is dark, with a hint of fluorescent light trickling in through the cracks in the blinds. A lone streetlight casting its ghostly rays on the quiet, chilly corner outside.
I blindly reach my hand out from beneath the down comforter, probing expectantly with grasping fingers, and wincing as the cold air strikes my exposed skin.
The tiny muscles at the base of my fluffy arm-hairs tighten. I shiver as the goosebumps erupt.
I continue my sightless search, combing the perimeter for that tiny familiar device, containing all the abstract data that comprises my existence here in the 21st Century.
Finally, my palm slaps something smooth and hard. My thumb instinctively swipes across its polished surface.
I squint my eyes as the screen springs to life.
An angry grunt bubbles up in my throat as I note the time.
I toss the phone away and scoop up an armful of blankets instead, bundling them over my face. Letting out a muffled wail of frustration into the soft, cushy fabric.
Suddenly, a sharp pang ripples through my belly, and my irritation at the ungodly hour evaporates. An impending sense of urgency replaces it.
I frantically kick my feet, attempting to free my legs from their tangled bonds before it’s too late.
My stomach bubbles ominously. I Groan as the walls of my intestines dance and writhe and twist, swishing their contents back and forth like a small child making waves in a bathtub.
Not a moment too soon, my legs have tunneled their way to freedom and I plant my feet on the cold hardwood floor.
As I rise from the mattress, I reach down with one hand and grab a handful of the elastic waistband, hanging loosely around my sharply protruding hip bones.
It’s a habit I’ve only recently grown accustomed to.
Five weeks ago, these pants had fit perfectly.
Funny how quickly the body turns on itself, cannibalizing it’s own precious tissues in a desperate plea for sustenance. Liquidating it’s own assets in a frantic attempt to survive the nutritional recession.
Cinching the fabric tightly about my waist, I stumble into the hallway and onward to the bathroom.
How many times has this happened tonight?
What number am I on?
How is there anything left in my stomach to expel?
Surely it must be empty by now?
Several minutes later, I collapse back into bed. The sheets have grown cold in my absence.
Oddly, I’m no longer wallowing in self-pity. Instead, I feel… reassured. Relieved. Vindicated.
I’m reacting to this much better than I had two weeks ago. I’m not panicking, like I did last time.
Because now, after 1 month of slowly titrating up the dosage of this new medication, I’m finally recognizing the patterns.
Patterns lead to predictions.
And predictions lead to preparation.
And preparation, leads to a sense of control.
I may not have control over my body just yet, but if the cycle continues… I will feel physically well again in about a week. My body will adjust to the higher dose, and the cramping and nausea will subside.
I just have to keep the faith and ride out the storm.
Easier said than done.
Because as much as I’ve come to accept the physical demands of this adjustment period, they absolutely pale in comparison to the hell they’ve imposed on me MENTALLY.
Three weeks ago I was out running when I passed by a garage sale.
As I coasted along the sidewalk, I noticed a spunky little clock that stood out among the rest of the mundane and perfectly ordinary baubles. It’s borders were undulated, as though someone had suspended it over a blowtorch. It was artistically melted.
I thought to myself, “That’s cool. Looks like one of those paintings by… by… by….”
You know the one…
C’mon you know this.
You wrote a research paper on him in college.
It’s a household name, for Chrissake.
You KNOW this.
You have to know this.
Why don’t you know this?
Why don’t you fucking know this?
What’s WRONG WITH YOU?
Why can’t you REMEMBER?
This went on for my entire run.
I don’t remember what route I took, what music I listened to, or what my time was.
But I vividly recall spiraling into a full-blown panic attack that didn’t let up until I arrived back at my front porch and FINALLY, screamed aloud, practically sobbing in relief…
Salvador fucking Dali.
I get it. I know it’s stupid.
Normal humans, all over the world, are probably forgetting the names of Early-20th century Spanish painters on a DAILY basis.
No one, that I’m aware of, has ever found themselves in mortal peril from their lack of useless art facts.
And more importantly, I’m not an artist.
Nor am I a curator, or a museum-owner, or someone who can dissect a famous painting for hidden meaning, or really comment on art at all, except maybe to say things like “I think this one might be a watercolor?”
So why did I let Salvador Dali and his bizarre acid-trip style interpretation of the world ruin my day?
Let me explain.
I am by nature, an extremely scholarly person.
I love to learn new things, expand my vocabulary, and binge-watch Netflix documentaries until I can recite all the exact dates of the major World War II battles for no particular reason other than to annoy you.
I tend to consume information gluttonously, eating it up like a package of freshly-opened Girl Scout cookies.
And I pride myself on retaining that information. Its a huge part of who I am and how I define myself.
And throughout the past few weeks, as my psychiatrist has slowly begun to alter the dosages of some of my meds, I’ve felt that part of myself slipping, ever so slightly.
And that scares the shit out of me.
For the last two weeks, I’ve had my own brain under interrogation almost constantly.
Insignificant bits of forgotten information have become evidence…
… that my medicine has dissolved my memory into soup.
Every perceived deviance from my normal way of thinking has been carefully monitored, cataloged, and placed in the repository of “Things That Prove I’m Now an Idiot and will be This way Forever.”
To top it off, I’ve been terrified to write anything for fear that the entire world would pick up on the fact that I’ve somehow transformed into Charlie Gordon from Flowers for Algernon.
And even if I’d wanted to write, I was having trouble finding the right words to convey even relatively simple ideas.
That burning flame of creativity that had always been raging in my mind, had been extinguished.
Needless to say, it’s been a trying 2 weeks.
But near the tail end of it, the fog began to lift, ever so slowly, as my body became accustomed to these strange new chemicals.
And I realized, much to my relief, that the change… was hardly permanent.
Best of all, I’m beginning to feel, a hint of “something else” that I can’t quite put my finger on.
I feel, slightly better? A tiny bit… balanced?
Not an overwhelming change, but enough to give me a tiny glimpse of hope to get through these next two weeks, as my dosage was increased again yesterday. It’s a perpetuating cycle of adaptation and agony.
As I lay atop my sheets now, preparing for the next round of cramping and nausea to begin, I desperately cling to the idea that this is temporary.
My body, will recover.
The atrophied muscles, I can rebuild.
I won’t live on soup and crackers forever.
My mind, is healing. That takes time.
And although this all seems so wildly unfair… in the broad scheme of things, it’s actually not so bad.
So I close my eyes… grit my teeth, and probe my struggling mind for activity.
It becomes my mantra.
I clench the phrase in my hands and squeeze it until my knuckles turn white.
As long as I can remember it… I know I’ll be okay.
My mind, is in there somewhere. Lying dormant.
It will return when it’s ready.