"Would you like a pastry today? We're running a special, they're half price!"
My stomach has been rather uncertain all morning (I got sick a little first thing waking up) and I'm not particularly hungry, but I love pastries. And a good deal. So I tell the barista through the drive-through speaker, sure, do you have a cheese danish?
She asks if she can heat it up for me. She is so bright, energetic, and seems genuinely happy. I can feel her warmth and exuberance in her voice, through the brown speaker box. I've been in a hazy brain-fog all day, but hearing her speak, I can't help but find myself grinning back at the box. Contagious happiness.
How do you explain to your barista that you were in the middle of having an existential crisis, but her brightness pulled you out for a brief, glorious moment?
That you've been filled with overwhelming dread and anxiety for no pinpoint-able reason all morning (now afternoon), that it took you hours to be able to will yourself to leave the house, (that the word agoraphobic flutters in your mind, o no), that you know the root of so many of your problems but the tangled web is too much to uncover so you bury it bury it like an ugly little screaming mandrake baby
Roots of problems: I haven't taken my meds (cymbalta: depression & anxiety, adderall: adhd) in two months
Because I need to call for refills
But I also need to get a new PCM (Primary Care Manager), one who believes patients,
one who doesn't blandly tell me that I should have learned how to deal with my ADHD symptoms by now.
But to get a new PCM would be to make a phone call, or to find the website, a task, it's easy,
but executive dysfunction stands in the way, it's a symptom of ADHD,
You know, that thing my PCM said I should have just learned to manage on my own by now, because I'm an adult?
She literally told me that. That if my ADHD was really "that bad," I would have gotten diagnosed sooner.
as if huge life-changing moments,
like having a child,
or being diagnosed with, i dont know, cancer, twice,
or having one of the most invasive abdominal surgeries available,
or emergency bowel surgery,
or a global pandemic,
or just getting older and life progressing generally as it does--
as if life doesn't change and alter and so do your mental health needs?
So here's me, managing, on my own.
I eventually did get her to write me a prescription for Adderall
But so low a dose everyone else is surprised it works at all (but it does!)
(a testament to how dopamine-depleted my brain is, my therapist muses)
And with so much guilt and belittling and the reminder that if this doesn't work I'm SOL because she doesn't want to give me a higher script. Just doesn't want to. Doesn't feel it's necessary.
Went so far as to lie to me about the maximum dosages; I checked with a pharmacist, and online, and my therapist.
And well, adderall is not working well enough but goddamnit it has to! It's all I can do!
Then the Rx runs out and to refill I have to talk to my PCM and so I just go off All Medications Completely
Which any doctor or person who has taken a mood stabilizer can tell you,
Is a Bad Idea™️.
And apparently, it's my Trauma Season.
It was trauma Month (November), but I'm realizing a pattern between this winter and last:
At the end of October, start pushing away from everything and everyone.
November: trauma month! I don't know what happens here because my brain DUMPS IT ALL it is a depressive haze
In November, Stop taking my meds. I'm depressed anyway!! They're oBvIoUsLy NoT wOrKiNg! Go off them all!
December: proceed with depressive haze, act surprised when my mental health goes down the shitter.
So we're in January now. I don't remember when things got better-ish last year, when I finally called my PCM. March maybe? Spring.
Is this just my pattern until I can resolve my trauma? Shut down for five months out of the year?
Whenever that time comes this year, to get back on my cymbalta, I will also request the Provigil prescription I need, in lieu of Adderall.
Provigil was originally created to treat narcolepsy, but it can be used to treat other forms of chronic fatigue.
During the summer, before I had started the Adderall, my therapist had suggested Provigil to help manage both my ADHD and my chronic fatigue as a result of cancer.
"How like a nonprescriber," my PCM had scoffed at the recommendation, before begrudgingly giving me an Adderall Rx instead.
But now my oncologist also agrees Provigil is a good choice, he has seen several cancer patients doing well on it, and he agrees it could help manage my ADHD symptoms in lieu of Adderall--
but I don't know the recommended dose and so I feel unprepared and anxious about talking to my PCM and this thought plays out every time I think of her because the roots are intertwined
And so I become an anxious puddled mess just thinking of any PCM exchange, any notion of getting back onto my medications that level the playing field for my brain throws me spiraling. That's why I need back on the meds. But I can't get on them, because I need them to get on them. Or something. it's cyclical and nonsensical and so frustrating because I am completely, horribly self-aware of all this mess.
but I can't do the things right now.
the haziness, drifting around the house confused, at a loss, it literally adds up to hours of my day. i have no drive or ambition or purpose i am just foggy tired existing it's day to day but it's... minimal. i want to be a person again but i can't right now.
How do you explain this to your barista who sounds so genuinely sorry that you're having a bad day? I don't have to explain it. She can hear it in my voice: just as I could hear her warmth and compassion and brightness, she can hear the flood of sadness as the wall cracks in our moment of shared transparency.
Jessica, my barista, sounds also surprised by my sudden honesty, but she doesn't pull away; she comforts me. "I really do hope your day gets better--and I'm not just saying that, I really do." I can hear it in her voice, her sincerity. I tell her that, I tell her that that's why I felt so compelled to open up; she was sincere with me, so I was, too.
When I pull around to pay, Jessica and Beth greet me. Beth hands me my order with the softest eyes, and Jessica tells me she asked her manager and they are covering my order for me, they hope it helps pick me up. I choke on tears and promise them when I'm not running behind, I will come in and talk to them and properly thank them for their kindness. Jessica tells me her schedule and invites me to come in and chat.
I'm bouncing around a couple books right now, but one of them is Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking. In it, she speaks of her time as a human statue, The Bride, and how in a seemingly small exchange of money for a flower from her bouquet, she would see those strangers dropping money in her vase, truly look into their eyes and see them, their raw, naked souls, as she came to life and handed them a freshly picked flower in return.
And she would blink to them. I see you.
And sometimes, they would blink back. No one ever sees me. Thank you.
It's not about the comped drink and snack. I would have happily paid for them, was ready to. It was absolutely a kind and so appreciated gesture that really compounded the experience; love me a coffee.
But it's about the connection.
And it's about perspective.
I could easily say, "In a moment of weakness, I fell apart in front of a stranger taking my order."
Instead, I am taking this in as... in a shared moment of transparency and connection, one human who had an abundance of positive energy was willing to share that positivity to another human who was very obviously struggling. To the benefit of both of us, I hope.
She could easily have taken my cancer patient urge to overshare and groaned and said "what a drag this lady is" like i really bummed the conversation out. But she lifted me up. In such a way that... I don't know how to describe her. Jessica is brightness.
I haven't had a normal social life in over three years, since all the Medical Bullshit and the Pandemic came to fuck me up and lock me in.
My friendships, my social life, almost all live in my phone. That's okay. I'm glad to have that at all.
In those three years, what used to be "gets nervous at parties" has turned into full-blown "can't articulate words" and "railroads conversations" Social Anxiety when I'm around Actual Real-Life Humans.
It takes a lot for me to amp myself up to leave the house and I'm worried I'm going to become a shut-in and I'm terrified I don't know how to stop it.
But it's these little exchanges. These moments with perfect strangers.
(I do like hanging out with my friends don't get me wrong)
But these beautiful, unplanned, happenstance moments where a perfect stranger
can see you, and be with you, even just briefly
when you can share that humanity with just any one person
it makes you, them, everything shine just a little bit brighter.
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