February 21, 2000
Seventy-Two Hours


David and I slept in separate rooms last night, here in The Castle, for the first time ever.

Of course, in an apartment the size of a Winnebago, that isn't saying much. From our lonely bed I could actually hear him scratching his nose in the next room, as he lay tossing and turning on the couch, fifteen feet away.

But it's the principle of the thing.

The argument last night was stoopid, of course. He'd started to giggle during sex and couldn't stop. I was in a much more ... uhhh ... intense frame of mind, at that particular moment, and it blew the mood for me. The next thing I knew I was stomping off to the bathroom in tears, while he shouted beseeching apologies through the door.

(See? I told you it was stoopid.)

The stoopidest/saddest/mostly-stoopidest part? The weekend had started out so promisingly.  Saturday morning I felt fine. I felt wonderful, in fact. We'd slept in an extra hour ... downed a little caffeine, showered, dressed ... and then headed across the Bay Bridge in the rental car, with no particular destination in mind. All of the elements were in place for a perfect day. Driving in sunshine! Listening to "Live at Leeds"! Finding the perfect parking spot! Walking around downtown San Francisco, holding hands!

Blowing money on clothes and shoes and CDs and obscure Japanese pop music fanzines!

Later in the afternoon we headed back to Oakland, and while we waited to pick up the Subaru from the repair shop, we had Portabello Mushroom Omelets at a funky little café across the street, where the walls were decorated with vintage 50's kitchenware. We drove back to The Castle and spent a pleasantly domestic evening, playing the guitar (David) and downloading PaintShop Pro Tubes from the Internet (me) and enjoying companionable companionship.


It was the next morning -- Sunday -- that I felt myself beginning to unravel a little around the edges.

I woke up with four new zits on my chin and neck: the kind of big, sore, itchy pimples that are utterly resistant to benzoyl peroxide, Maybelline ... or spackle. My breasts ached, as though I'd been lifting bowling balls in my sleep all night. My face and fingers were puffy. My stomach hurt. I felt vaguely crampy all over.

All I wanted for breakfast was a nice big bowl ... of M&M's.

As the day wore on, I could actually feel my ability to deal rationally with life's minor challenges eroding. A plaintive e-mail from my mother, wanting to know why I "slammed the door in her face" and signed off before she could i.m. me. Another e-mail, from an old pal, wanting to know where I'd moved The Gallery (and then wanting to know why her photo looks "blurry").  David pointing out a mistake on my income tax return (my first-ever attempt to "do it myself"). The new Dean Koontz I'd just bought turning out to be another boring Christopher Snow "adventure." Broken headphones. Ants in the bathtub. Basketballs in the kitchen. Flat 7-Up. 

"404 File Not Found" messages.

The snotty woman at the grocery store, who slammed down the plastic divider separating her groceries from mine, simply because I had dared to place our Tropicana Pure Premium a fraction of an inch too close to her Little Friskies (and then because I accidentally bumped her with my purse, as David hastily stepped in between the two of us).

By the end of the evening I was a raggedy emotional mess, on the verge of tears for no reason at all.

But then David turned off "The X-Files," and we turned off all the lights, and he gave me *that* look ... and I figured the evening was about to get a whole lot better.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

During the summer of 1997, our family physician briefly put me on the antidepressant Paxil.

Actually, what he did was hand me a bunch of free samples and said "Here. Try this. It might take the edge off."  It was an especially bleak period in my life. My online/offline affair had just blown up ... my marriage was in a state of suspended animation, with me essentially under house arrest ... I had just taken a hugely stressful Customer Service job at the doomed newspaper ... blah blah blah. It was nightmare time. for me and for anybody within a ten mile radius of me, basically. 

Including/especially my family.

None of my standard coping mechanisms -- humor, writing, friends, scrambled egg sandwiches, The Butthole Surfers, eight-hour naps -- were working. I felt tired and joyless. So when I went to see our family doctor, it was no surprise that he diagnosed me as suffering from depression. (The hysterical sobbing in his waiting room might have been a clue, I suppose. Or me saying "Dr. K, I think I may be suffering from depression." Either way, he got the message.)

That's when he handed me the sample boxes of Paxil. I stuffed them into my purse and brought them home and started taking it immediately, hoping for instant relief.

Unfortunately ... I was *supplementing* the Paxil with a bottle and a half of Almaden Mountain Chablis every night. So any possible good that might have come from the antidepressant was essentially flushed away. The only real effects I felt were a weird "underwater" sensation, as though I was walking around at the bottom of a swimming pool all the time, and total sexual paralysis. (Which, under the circumstances, probably wasn't such a bad idea. But still.)  I quit taking it about two months after I'd started, grumbling and griping about how "ineffective" it was ... and how I could "deal with my own problems in my own way."

(Like running off to Oregen, a month later. But that's another story for another day.)

Fast forward, a year later, and I'm living now in The Tree House ... alone, broke, newly-divorced, separated from my kids, watching my ceiling collapse ... and feeling once again like I'm in the valley, surrounded by insurmountable problems. I know I need to find a way to cope with the stress, but I'm not interested in trying the "underwater drugs" again. I'm intrigued, however, by stories I've heard about a natural supplement, St. John's Wort. I hear that it helps mild depression without a lot of the side effects associated with standard antidepressants.

It also doesn't appear to require a trip to the doctor ... something I am steadfastly avoiding, for a VARIETY of reasons.

So I do some research about St. John's Wort on the Internet, and I find an online store that sells a particular brand enhanced with ginseng and ginko biloba that sounds promising, and I place an order for three bottles of it.  When my order arrives a few days later, I immediately begin taking my 900 mg. dose (standardized to .3% Hypercin) religiously, every single night.

Washed down, of course, with a box of Almaden Mountain Chablis.

A month or two later I quit taking the St. John's Wort in disgust, grumbling and griping about how "ineffective" it is, and how I can "deal with my own problems in my own way."

(Like finally QUITTING DRINKING, a month later. But that's another story for another day.)

Flash forward once again ... two years, this time, to the here and now.

Ever since I moved to California, I've been feeling great. Probably the best I've ever felt, as a matter of fact, both physically and emotionally. I've been sober for a year and a half. My sleep patterns are returning to normal. Food tastes like food again, and my digestive system appears to have forgiven me for a lifetime of unspeakable abuse. I have more energy, and better concentration, and most of my fingernails. I'm in love. I'm writing. I'm saving money.

Life is good.

I have a little trouble with hay fever, sometimes. (I still haven't figured out precisely what it is I'm allergic to, here in The Land of Sunshine and Cheese. I was hoping it was fax toner cartridges, but now I'm not so sure.)  And I could definitely stand to lose a few of the *relationship pounds* I've put on since I moved here. (I don't know who invented It's-It ice cream sandwiches, but they should either be shot ... or knighted.)  But otherwise, I'm forty-two years old and I feel at the top of my game.

With one HUGE exception.

For about seventy-two hours every month ... I feel like telling the entire world to fuck off.

For seventy-two hours every month ... I feel like one big, itchy neck-pimple.

For seventy-two hours evevery month ... I have absolutely zero *humor molecules.* (Not even during sex.)

For seventy-two hours every month ... life becomes temporarily unmanageable again. 

And considering how good everything else is -- and how much progress I've made in all the other areas that count -- and how short and precious life is, especially for somebody who didn't actually start to feel *alive* until shortly after she hit her forties -- I simply don't have the time or the energy or the desire to waste those seventy-two hours of my life, every damn month.

I sat at the computer this morning and worked quietly for two hours, while David continued to snore on the couch a few feet behind me.

I tried not to disturb him. I know he didn't sleep much last night: I found e-mail waiting for me this morning that he'd written at 2 a.m. (Apparently he sat here in the middle of the night and typed my name into various web-browsers, seeing how many times *FootNotes* came up. Every time he found another hit, he e-mailed the URL to me, with Subject Titles like "You're famous!" and "Look! Here's another one!.")  And I know *I* didn't sleep worth a crap myself.

Basically ... we suck at this fighting stuff.

While he slept, I visited all of the old St. John's Wort sites that I'd carefully bookmarked, two years ago. I'm not sure why I saved them all this time. Maybe I knew that someday I might be interested in the subject again. Or maybe I knew that someday I would be sober, and could actually BENEFIT from something like an antidepressant. Even a "natural" antidepressant, like St. John's Wort.

The truth is ... I've already gone back on the SJW. Quietly, and without fanfare.

I started taking it again almost two weeks ago, right about the same time I was composing the infamous Resignation Letter.  I felt I needed any advantage available to me, just to stay "even" and unruffled in the midst of all that office chaos. Interestingly enough, I mentioned it to my friend Joanne the other day. Of all the women at the office, she is the one I feel the most kinship with. When I told her that I was taking SJW, her eyes lit up. "I take it every day!" she said, matter-of-factly. Apparently it is the herbal remedy of choice, amongst the Totem Pole's administrative staff. (The legal remedy, anyway.)

Plus, I figured it might help me with my ongoing menstrual problems ... at least until The Menopause Fairy finally, mercifully arrives.

It's too soon to tell if it's doing any good. If last night is any indication, it definitely hasn't started kicking in yet.  (Just ask David. Or the lady at the grocery store.) But they say it does take weeks -- even months -- before you begin to really feel the benefits. At least, that's what the websites tell me. I'm taking the full 900 mg. at night before bed, since that seems to help me avoid some of the lethargy I experienced previously. I'm committing myself to sticking with it, for at least another few weeks. Quitting too soon is one mistake I'm not going to repeat, this time around.

AND I'm not washing it down with buckets of cheap chablis. That's gotta make a difference too, this time.


David finally woke up, right about the time I finished my online research ... right around 10 a.m. We've both got the day off because it's President's Day. He's out riding bikes this afternoon while I putter around The Castle, trying to get some of my emotional equilibrium back ... just in time to go back to The Totem Pole tomorrow.


Before he left, David came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me, as I sat here at the computer. He apologized. I apologized. He said he don't know what happened last night  ...  that all of sudden, he'd just felt this incredible wave of "giddy joy" and couldn't seem to stop laughing. 

(Does that make me feel like a big cranky stoopid unappreciative premenstrual baby?

What do YOU think?)

At any rate, I'll let you know when or if I begin to feel any difference from the SJW. In the meantime ... while I wait for it to kick in ... I think I'll go make a scrambled egg sandwich and listen to The Butthole Surfers for awhile. Followed by a little "M&M Therapy."  Followed by an eight-hour NAP.

Preferably with David laying right next to me.

* Disclaimer * Disclaimer * Disclaimer *

Please don't write to me today and tell me that it sounds like early menopause, or that St. John's Wort is a bunch of hooey, or that it sounds like I need immediate psychiatric attention  ...  or that anybody who can't laugh during sex doesn't deserve a great guy like David  ... or that I misspelled "equilibrium" (I changed it already, anyway), or anything ELSE that smells even remotely like advice or correction or admonition. I will almost certainly respond in cranky fashion, and we'll be pissed off at each other for the next seventy-two hours, and then we'll have to go through the annoyance of apologizing/making up. So let's just avoid that entirely, shall we?

(On the other hand, if you've got a coupon for a free bag of M&M's ... hand it over.