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Acting All Right

I’d Like to Thank the Academy

by MISSY BEATTIE

The antidepressants, samples of 30 and 60 mgs, provided by my doctor, are on the countertop.

“I’ve never seen you cry,” he said.  I told him it’s because I’ve been such an amazing actor these last four years.  And that I’d like to thank the Academy.  He raised the blinds in the examining room and told me to look at the beautiful day.

“You think I don’t see this?’  I asked.  I love hearing the rain at night.  I’m in awe of the ocean, kissed by sunlight or indistinguishable from the sky.  And sitting with Laura and Erma on their patio, watching hummingbirds feed.

“You have such a zest for life,” he said.  I told him he’s saying this because most of the patients in his reception area are in their late nineties.  “See, you’re funny.”  Yeah, I can be, and I’m not in the fetal position.

A friend was over the evening after my appointment, encouraging me to give the medication a try.  He opened one package, the starter dosage, and removed the cap from its bottle. After he left, I returned the lid to its position and placed the container in its tidy box.

Each morning since, I ‘ve stared at Big Pharma’s cure before making my coffee.  I shake my head no, drink a mug of the drug, caffeine, slip on my running shoes, and off I go, in and out of every enclave here, climbing the steps near the Radisson in the center of Cross Purposes, doing lap after lap in the parking lot next to the tennis courts, heading out to the main road, turning, and, then, charging the hill that leads to my condo.

Millions of Americans take antidepressants.  In fact, more than 1 in 10 people over the age of 12 are using them.  Some studies indicate that for those suffering mild or moderate symptoms, the chemicals are no better than placebos.  But placebos placate.  If you think something’s working, you’re feeling better.

For some reason I don’t quite understand, I can’t make myself swallow one of the capsules.  I’m questioning if it’s my loathing of Big Pharma, the Greed Giants, or if I just believe I should be strong, accept loss, and move through the birth canal of pain that leads to some affirmation of life.  After all, what I’m feeling resides within all of us who love and outlive the person or persons to whom we are/were devoted.

So many people have responded to my grief pieces.  Jeez, I write that—grief pieces—and see pieces of grief and she’s in pieces.  I stare at the words, my fingers, typing, and, then, think: pieces of my mind.

And, then, peace of mind.  I want peace of mind.

Just not through selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexa-this or Luvo-that, accompanied with side effects—so many that when I read about them, I become slightly agitated.   Running the spectrum of reported maladies I’d prefer to avoid are potential problems, including dry mouth, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, insomnia, drowsiness, headaches, tremors, heartburn, blurred vision, and get this:  anesthetized vagina.  Okay, the irony of that one makes me laugh, especially since one of the drugs with this particular warning is Lustral.  There’s a mondegreen for you, lust trial or lust try.  But there’s really nothing funny about any of the side effects, particularly this:  anxiety and depression that could lead to suicide.  How crazy is that—to take a chemical to avoid anxiety and depression but whose use could result in suicide?  Even though I’ve said, “It wouldn’t kill me to die.”

I know that many plagued with severe depression improve after taking these drugs, but grief is as normal as loss.  I need to walk it, brail my way, touching it, married to the wallowing, the crawling, without placing that little bullet, with all its possible demons, including suicide, inside this mouth that, sometimes, just wants to scream.  But doesn’t.  I’m neither a pill taker nor a pillow puncher.  Instead, I smile and say, “I’m fine.”  Or, “Everything’s all right.”

Again, I’d like to thank the Academy.  Because being an actor is not unlike the placebo effect.  And repeating something positive, “Everything’s all right,” is helpful, mostly, during the loneliest times, morning, night, and in-between.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland.  She can be reached at:  missybeat@gmail.com