I’m not afraid of depression. I know what it looks like, what it smells like, how it dresses on sun-filled or rainy days. And I know it usually shows up after I endure a long stretch of anxiety. Well, what do you think I’ve been doing since the oncologist declared my tumor gone? I’ve been standing on the beach peering though a telescope in search of an approaching storm I’m told, if I’m lucky, will never come. I told this to my oncology nurse and she wrote me a prescription for Celexa for anxiety. I filled the prescription. The bottle is sitting on my bedside table as I write this, more like it’s hovering. I have yet to pop one of the oblong lavender pills into my mouth. I’ve poured a bunch of them into my hand, jostled them, smelled them, compared them to their description printed on the pill bottle, called my pharmacist twice to ensure no medical interactions with favored foods, other medications, the occasional glass of red wine. I’ve re-positioned the bottle so it’s the first thing I see in the morning and then hid it behind my lamp to make space for my books and a sweet photo of my daughter. I’ve stashed them in my purse, pulled them out. I’ve done everything except take them. Dear reader and friend, stay with me here, try to imagine a mind prone to unease, such as mine, in the throes of self doubt over what my lymph nodes could be up to between now and my next PET scan in a month. Picture me picturing them as fast-talking charlatans motoring around my blood and bone surveying the best parking space for a front row seat to the Eradicate Tzynya from the Inside show.
“Hey Bill, I believe we can squeeze in here and go undetected for a while!”
“Why yes, Jimmy, I concur, fuck her little remission.”
This is what it has come to: talking lymph nodes and a map, in my mind’s eye, of my own body laid out before them like the Boston South Station Bus Terminal so full of arrivals and departures and transfers and pedestrians and cars double parked that an insidious lymph node could plant its tumor cell flag unnoticed. I’m only sleeping 2-3 hours a night. I’m not up all night sweating and hyperventilating, no, this is a polite and purposeful anxiety. The kind that’s persistent like a boy who concedes you don’t want to have sex, but maybe he could just lie on top of you with his clothes on. Anxiety is dry humping me every night and with no post-chemo libido, I can’t even enjoy it.
I know, I know, why don’t I take the anxiety dope? Again, picture me reading the pamphlet detail the possible side effect of “life threatening cardiac involvement” and being able to swallow that little pill. And what if I start taking it and can never stop? What if I expose my brain to a side of life without the occasional chaos of panic and it never learns to right the ship, organically? I mean, I’ve sweat out some bad trips man and I could do it again. But that’s the thing, dear friend, after chemo and the pain of radiation treating my pelvic cavity like a rotisserie chicken, I don’t want to sweat out anything. I don’t want to count to 10 to walk myself back from fear’s edge. I want shit to go easy. I want to go in next month for my PET scan well rested instead of upended from thrusting my head between my knees to keep from passing out in the bathroom across from the Radiology waiting room. And what if Celexa becomes my gateway drug? I’m the child of a recovered addict, is addiction hard-wired into my brain just waiting to hitch a magic carpet ride on a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor to needle park?
Breathe. Go to the lighthouse to sit on the jetty and feel the cold air lick the curves of my face. It’s not the same as taking the little pill, but I’ll be moving. I’ll be out of bed, outside of the house, and I’ll be moving. And that’s something.