I sit clenching my hands, turning my ring around and around my finger, pulling it off, putting it back on. It’s a small habit that I’ve picked up. It’s a nervous tendency people don’t seem to notice. I always look calm and capable on the outside, and people generally don’t see that I’m not. I realize that the nurse practitioner is looking at my hands and I stop fidgeting. “You’re nervous about seeing me.”
I sigh, “I’m nervous about medication, not seeing you.” She asks me why I’m afraid of getting help for a brain disorder and I shrug. “I’ve never ask for help. For most of my life, I figured I could just manage. I knew I wasn’t normal, but I felt capable of pretending. And I’ve been pretty good at it. I can say exactly what people need me to say, and be what people need me to be. It’s not really something I enjoy, but I’ve gotten pretty good with it.”
She jots notes to herself, “But you’re here now. Why?”
I turn my ring round my finger. “It’s not just about me, anymore. My kids need me to be better than what I can do on my own. I am not performing for them. I am me, when I’m with them, and me changes too frequently for our comfort.” She nods knowingly.
And I spill it. In a way I never had before: the shameful story of my ever-shifting moods. A failed suicide, rage outbursts that frightened and even harmed my siblings when I was not old enough to know I was wired different, weeks of heightened irritability, a life of small fist fights and screaming matches, self-harm, addiction, the numbing aching hole of depression, and guilt, heaps of guilt. Because I’ve never actually managed it, and I know that, deep down. I’ve always slipped up because not everything is manageable. Not even to someone who would manage the country, if an angry mob of citizens handed it to her and asked her to do her best. I’ve failed, time and time again, but my loved ones were too nice to say so. They don’t have to. I remember every time, each one a needle in my skin.
The nurse asks if there is a history of mood disorders, panic attacks, bi-polar illness in my family and I can only nod. “Were your family members medicated?” I share with her, then, my fear. Of a grandmother who was always medicated but never seemed to be better, always sad or over-the-top, hurting her family and herself. “I don’t think the meds helped her. Maybe they made it worse.”
The nurse purses her lips, “Those were the beginning stages of medicating mood disorders. Those drugs were very imperfect, just being tested. It was a hard time for people with mood disorders. All treatments are imperfect, but they are much better. And…you’re a different person. It might be the best thing for you. You won’t know unless you try. But I can promise you this: your moods will not get better without help. I know you know that or you would not be here.”
And they never do. Any person with mood disorders has good times. I have those tiny stretches of sanity and they are lovely. I live, blissfully certain that my shifts are over, that I’ve concurred the beast. But I never do. It’s always there, and, armed with a diagnosis, I’m staring one of many solutions in the face and wondering: will I ever feel normal?
Well, we shall see how close I can get. I’m asking for help in a white pill too small to be scary, but it frightens me to death.
* * *
H.M. Jones is the B.R.A.G Medallion author of Monochrome, re-released by Gravity by Booktrope. She is also responsible for the Attempting to Define poetry quartet and has contributed a short story to Master’s of Time: A Sci-Fi and Fantasy Time Travel Anthology, “The Light Storm of 2015.” She is also a featured poet in several upcoming anthologies, including My Cruel Invention, and No More Shame. A bestseller only in her mind, Jones pays the electric bill by teaching English and research courses at Northwest Indian College. Jones is also the moderator for Elite Indie Reads, a review website for Indie and Self published books. Jones loves to spend time helping her preschoolers grow into thinking, feeling citizens of this world, run, weave, pull with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Canoe Family and attempt to deserve her handsome husband, who is helping pay the other bills until his wife becomes the next big thing.
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