blood simple

Byron died.

It was sud­den and com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed; one after­noon we noticed that he kept to him­self, curl­ing up in dark spots that he was­n’t known to fre­quent. We knew there was a prob­lem when he would­n’t eat, then he passed away at the vet that day. That was almost three years ago, but I haven’t had the strength to prop­er­ly eulo­gize him. It’s too painful when I already spend my days either cry­ing or cried out.

Byron in a ball of yarn

I did­n’t even have a chance to say bye.

That’s why these drafts keep pil­ing up. I miss writ­ing as much as I miss the hairy lit­tle com­pan­ion who would jump on my lap for atten­tion every morn­ing, but tak­ing the ener­gy to cre­ate feels so mean­ing­less when I bare­ly have the spoons to cook for two peo­ple and keep a clean house. I don’t even know if I’ll be alive in anoth­er year. The jury’s still out, and I’ve decid­ed they can take their time for now instead of rush­ing towards a ver­dict.

It’s also why I’ve been on a reg­u­lar dose of seda­tives since last win­ter. I used to have to lie down for blood tests1, while vac­ci­na­tions were total­ly fine. After all, there’s noth­ing being drawn, no crim­son essence I can see rush­ing from my body into lit­tle vials. But when I almost passed out, then vom­it­ed, at a clin­ic for a boost­er shot last year, I knew mind­ful­ness tech­niques and breath­ing exer­cis­es could do only so much.

It’s hard not to see this new depen­dence as a sign that I’m fail­ing in my recov­ery. Compared to my last major depres­sive episode, I’m still func­tion­ing rel­a­tive­ly well. But the thoughts and mem­o­ries I try to keep buried in the back of my mind even­tu­al­ly man­age to make their way out, and even­tu­al­ly I need to sedate myself just to be calm enough to keep my food down.

Still, I have to admit that, as a tool, the tran­quil­iz­ers are a game-chang­er. The effects of a sin­gle 0.25mg tablet will last half a day, with a pleas­ant­ly calm (though grog­gy) hang­over last­ing anoth­er 12 hours. Little frus­tra­tions don’t build up in that time, and it gives me the abil­i­ty to accom­plish so much that I momen­tar­i­ly for­get I’m a bro­ken man.

Which makes the risk of addic­tion all the more scary, espe­cial­ly since I’ve start­ed plan­ning my ven­tures out­side around them. It often feels like I’m just pass­ing the time until it’s safe to take my next dose, keep­ing track of the days with a pills—weed—booze—weed cycle. I asked my psy­chi­a­trist for more dos­es per refill when I last vis­it­ed him for a renew­al and he was resis­tant to the idea, explain­ing that drugs work well for issues like schiz­o­phre­nia and depres­sion but are only a band-aid solu­tion when it comes to anx­i­ety. In order to recov­er, I’ll need to learn how to be sober when fac­ing the fear and pan­ic that over­comes me — even nor­mal­iz­ing them to a degree.

Getting past my trau­ma at this point seems like an impos­si­ble task when I was already in a place of rel­a­tive sta­bil­i­ty and doing every­thing I could to take steps towards bet­ter men­tal health. Maybe I should be embrac­ing it instead, along with all the things I use to cope. If drugs, alco­hol, vio­lence, and insan­i­ty kept Hunter S. Thompson going well into his 60s, maybe they’ll work for me too.

  1. I’d get so light-head­ed that I’d faint. []

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