I do not enjoy being a shadow of my former self. The people I know now have no idea how I used to be, they just think I’m just a fat schlub with no talent and no makeup and her hair up in a scrubby ponytail. And the people I used to know can’t reconcile what they see now with what they once knew.
And I never realized how much I relied on codeine and vicodin to give me that extra boost I needed especially when my depression prevented me from getting things done. Now that I’m starting to understand things in that light, I realize how completely far I’ve fallen.
My visit with Square-Jawed NP finally happened last Friday. I really hate the new practice he belongs to. The waiting room was populated by truly crazy people — I was the most normal person in the room. Understanding how overbooked he was (he’s on vacation this week so they crammed everyone in last week at the last minute), I brought a book, my Kindle, and had even downloaded a movie to the Kindle, just in case. The melange of crazy people hadn’t prepared as well and were complaining — loudly.
One particularly agitated person in the waiting room was a mid-twenties African American man adorned in gangsta gear with a handful of similarly dressed friends accompanying him. He was a walk-in on perhaps the worst day of the week for such a thing. He complained ad nauseum how “fucking unfair” it was that he had to wait. That if he didn’t get his medication, he was going to go out and shoot some people because these “assholes” didn’t realize how much he needed his meds.
Lucky for me as I sat there, we lost a few people via attrition, those who had been waiting for two hours and refused to stay a minute longer. One woman was angry and approached the receptionist demanding(!!) to know if NP had snuck out the back to go to lunch or if he was actually in with a patient. The amazingly composed receptionist reassured the woman that, yes, NP was in with a patient and had not dared to ‘sneak out’ for lunch. The crazed woman did not believe her and stormed out.
Eventually, NP poked his head out from behind the locked door to call in the next patient and (Surprise!) told me I’d be next after that. The Gangsta guy went ape insisting he needed to see NP right away and calling him a “fucking asshole” and on and on. NP — showing enormous restraint — explained calmly that he would fit Gangsta guy in after my appointment, but that he would have to wait patiently since Gangsta was a walk-in.
I sat there for a bit longer as Gangsta guy threatened to call the county mental health people as well as his lawyer. He was infuriated and was letting everyone know exactly how much.
Not long after that, NP poked his head out again to call me in. THEN the Gangsta guy really went totally apeshit. He stood up and became threatening. The receptionist called for someone to calm the man down. NP stood stone-faced and silent while Gangsta laid into him with every insult in the book. I gathered up my stuff as quickly as I could in order to get behind that locked door myself. NP walked me in.
Finally safe behind the locked door, NP apologized saying, “I’m so sorry you had to put up with that.” And he kept apologizing even though I reassured him it wasn’t his fault. After all, it shouldn’t be surprising to find crazy people at a psych office. I just wished they had a separate room for those of us comparatively ‘normal’ patients!
He had to take a comprehensive history again since this is a new location with all new computer systems and software, incompatible with the records from the old place. I was fine with going over it all over again. My appointment was 45 minutes, so however he wanted to spend that time was fine with me (as long as I wasn’t outside with the nutballs).
I discussed my continuing depression with him as we went over my medications. He was concerned that I was on too many different meds and that it might appear to be “poor practice”. I reassured him that I didn’t think it was. After all, I’m still depressed, just not as much. And besides, some depressions (dysthymia in particular) are notoriously stubborn to treat. For now, he wants me on one more medication — non-SSRI Wellbutrin — which I had run out of last month waiting to see him again. We’ll revisit the situation in three weeks after we’ve given the Wellbutrin fair time to take effect. (Honestly, I don’t think the Wellbutrin is doing jack, but I’ll keep taking it just the same.)
That being over, I told him about my new voice lessons — something that isn’t going particularly well — but apparently has his full support and encouragement. I explained to him how hard it suddenly is, and how frustrating that I can’t do what I used to so easily. It also allowed me to segue into some funny stories from my “heyday” when I was singing several years back. I even confessed to him that my biggest problem with my voice was always intimidation — brave as I was, and as talented as people told me I was — there was always someone who snuck in and scared the crap out of me. My voice would shut down (just as it is now) and be nothing but a timid squeak, thin and screechy, especially on top. And it feeds on itself — the worse I sound, the more intimidated I become which makes my throat shut down more, making the sound worse and on and on. The vicodin (or even just a few milligrams of codeine) often helped me overcome that. It relaxed my throat and allowed my voice to be free. I told him I’m not sure what’s going to happen now that I don’t have that crutch. He reassured me that I’d figure it out. NP is a lot more confident about it than I am — but I’ll keep going at it. Each lesson gets a little better.
We also talked about my potential return to school, recently approved and now up to me. We discussed old movies and a recent art exhibit at a local museum (which is my assignment — to attend the exhibit and report back in three weeks).
As we finished up, NP apologized again for the behavior of Gangsta guy, and again I told him not to worry, but wished him luck as NP still had to deal with him. “Maybe if I get lucky he’ll have given up and gone home,” he chuckled. I agreed and wished him luck again. NP escorted me to the outgoing receptionist and proceeded to head to the other door. I looked across the glass and didn’t see Gangsta guy or his cronies. Perhaps NP figuratively (and perhaps literally) dodged a bullet, I thought.
When I left, it turned out that Gangsta Guy and his friends were out on the street corner having a smoke. I had to pass by them to get to the parking lot, and as I walked by, one of them commented, “Well you sure look happy!” I didn’t realize I was smiling. Then another remarked, “So that’s what he was doing in there. Getting a nooner!” I was mortified — for me and NP — and, I admit, slightly flattered. I guess I look pretty good when I clean up, do my hair, and wear makeup. But yes, I was mostly mortified. And I was worried what Gangsta guy would do or say when he found out that he lost his place in line. Or when he got in to see NP. Good lord. Crazy people. Of course I thought of a lot of snappy comebacks after the fact, but was too flummoxed at the time to come up with anything. Probably for the best. I’m sure that some smartass remark probably wouldn’t have gone well for me.
Since then, I’ve done a lot of thinking about things — life in general. In my voice lessons, the most difficult thing for me at the moment is hitting the top notes without screeching or worse yet — cracking. My voice actually cracks! It CRACKS! What??? Something is desperately wrong. Why can’t I do it? Something is basically wrong. Do I really need vicodin or codeine in order to sing? Was that my secret — or can I sing without it somehow? And if so, HOW? It’s unbelievably frustrating to try to do something you used to do so easily and fail, discovering you’re now encumbered by some mysterious problem you can’t identify.
It comes down to intimidation. My life is full of it now. I can’t speak my mind because I’m dependent on so many people and I’ll lose their support if I get mad. If I told Mrs. H, for instance, to go to hell when she gets pushy or asks too many personal questions, I’d be tossed out on my ear and fired, leaving me broke and without that precious vehicle she lets me borrow on occasion. If I told Auntie and Uncle Crazypants to quit being so freakin’ weird or told Auntie to quit being so damned self-pitying, same thing. Tossed out with no one to rely on.
At work, I’ve learned to swallow my pride and eat a lot of crap. I don’t speak my mind or stand up for things I believe. Someone contradicts me and I just fold and shrug my shoulders. “What difference does it make?” I think — but I never used to be like that. Sad, really. So few situations give me the freedom to speak my mind or feel brave and confident that I think I’ve completely lost touch with that feeling. I feel insecure and scared most of the time. I depend on routine to keep me sane. Any interruption of that routine, and I feel like a shitball.
I’m becoming exhausted from this constant low-level depression. I just want to kick-start my brain, reactivate it, force it to get motivated to do SOMETHING instead of sitting around trying not to run out of the room screaming. I admit, the idea of popping a vicodin, for just one afternoon, is sorely tempting. Instead, I exist from day to day waiting for my brain to do something constructive. NP thinks I’m making such amazing progress, but I told him I wish I could feel that for myself.
“I don’t think ethical people deal with intimidation as a method to achieve success. Undermining someone’s self-esteem isn’t a method to achieve success.” — Dominique Moceanu