In high school I was so bad at Chemistry that my parents got me a tutor, so as not to mess up my junior year GPA, or my reputation as a good student, or my chance at a successful future, or something like that. Even though a young college student came to our house once a week and sat with me at our kitchen table with my chemistry book open and that carbon paper workbook (remember carbon paper!) getting filled with numbers and letters, I still didn't understand it. Despite this tutor, I got another bad grade on a test. Honestly, it might have been a C or a C- (I don't remember)--could have been a D, but A's were always the goal.
I do remember, though, that I felt crushed. Chemistry made me cry. A lot. I'd go into my next class crestfallen. I'd go into the band room at lunch (such a nerd!) and sit in despair. I'd go to Mr. Brouhle's class at lunchtime--he was the math teacher whose own high school-age kids went to our school--and he'd help anyone who came to his classroom with their math questions while we ate. I went there a lot--Algebra II was no friend of mine, either.
We got one of our tests back on the Friday that the marching band was having our annual holiday party--who knows, in 1990, we may have still called it a Christmas party even though my best friends in the band were Jewish. I'd gotten that terrible grade and made up my mind that I simply could not go to the party because I should stay home and study until I finally got it right. I delivered all of this news--the bad grade, cushioned by the fact that I knew exactly how to punish myself and what I deserved and what I had to do to fix it--to my parents that evening. It felt like aliens had invaded our house. My mom said I should go to the party. She insisted. I remember standing in the bathroom watching her curl her hair while telling me we could work on the chemistry tomorrow, but I should not miss the party. (Who was this woman?!?! This valedictorian?!?!) My fourteen-year-old brother was getting dressed up and ready to go the mall with my mom. Neither of these people have ever liked shopping. There's no way in hell my brother would ever dress up to go shopping, leave alone without arguing about it. They were going to go. My dad would drive me to the party. I had to go. My brother, a freshman in the band, would meet me there. I begrudgingly got ready to go. At the party, which was in a rented room at a community park, my dad insisted on walking me to the door.
"No, Dad. I can walk there from here! You can just watch me walk across the grass! I'll be fine," I plead as he looked for a parking spot.
When I opened the door all of my friends and my mom and my brother jumped out and yelled, "Surprise!"
I almost missed my surprise 16th birthday party because of chemistry.
I drove down to San Diego last Wednesday to see my psychiatrist and see if she could somehow make my brain stop ruining my life.
The best thing about having my psychiatrist in San Diego--about an hour and a half or two hour drive from where I live--is the drive. That, and the fact that she is brilliant and sought after and there is no way I'd give her up after having had three or four psychiatrists that were not able to help me. I won't look for someone closer to my house until she tells me she can't see me anymore for some reason or another.
I listened to an audiobook, focused on the road, and spoke to no one.
Dr. S. listened to my description of life as I know it. The crushing sense of dread squashing my chest. The few steps from the brink of tears. The inability to keep a thought in my head that was affecting my ability to hold a conversation--even with strangers, around whom I'd like to sound competent. The way I so-much-more-than-usual could not remember why I walked into a room and what I wanted to do now that I was there.
I was so afraid she'd say, "Old Scary Medicine it is!"
But she didn't.
Turns out it's possible that the first med adjustment we did might have actually made things worse in a way. I never like to name my medications because all people are different and what works for me might not work for someone else. So, I'll say this: We upped medicine A so that it could support medicines B, C, and D that I'd keep taking as usual. Turns out more of medicine A may have indeed done what I'd hoped--increased my sense of motivation to get off the couch and DO laundry rather than just lie on the couch and STARE at it. But, a side effect may be the inescapable, overwhelming feeling of dread.
Because of course. Side effects.
I was ordered to increase medicine C that night and reduce medicine A the next morning.
The dread subsided the next day.
So, now, back to our regular scheduled programming of deep sadness and melancholy. At least there's that.