I said the name in English but he’d never heard of it. I did a quick google search for a French translation, which I should have done before I even entered the pharmacy. After a few seconds of silence, he asked if I could explain what it does. I hesitated. I searched for the words. I found them. Yes, I knew exactly how to say in French – what it is meant to do. The word is déprimé. I couldn’t bring myself to say it.
I thought of what he would think of me ‘What on earth does she have to be depressed about?’
Even though I knew he didn’t know me or anything about me and had no reason to judge me, especially with him being a medical professional and all. Still….
‘C’est un vitamin peut être…’ I said, sheepishly
‘Ou peut être ç’est avec les vitamins?’
In Walgreens this is the case, nestled between Vitamin E capsules and Vitamin B complex that’s where I’d see it. I’ve never bought it though. The times when push came to shove I tried the real thing. It didn’t work. Too strong. Never got around to going back and trying to find something that did work. I had this crazy idea of fixing myself. Thinking my brain into calmness.
D’accord he said with a tone of resignation. He seemed to accept that he wasn’t going to get that far with me. When he glanced down at his hands and inhaled then exhaled quickly, I realized that he probably could read my mind a little bit, and could sense my trepidation of saying out loud what I wanted. He looked up carefully and asked quietly ‘Maybe it is for when you feel a little bit sad?’
Un peu triste
As he said those last three words he looked at me with such understanding and caring it reminded me of the time years ago in Port of Spain when I woke up from my first spinal surgery and Dr. Toby was rubbing my toes asking me how I was feeling.
‘Oui, oui! C’est ca.’
I was barely able to contain my relief that I didn’t have to say it myself.
He didn’t have the exact thing but said he had something very similar. It was completely natural. I paid 19 Euros for a bottle of 60 capsules, got instructions on how often to take it and after thanking the pharmacist, high tailed it across the street to buy a bottle of water to swallow the first dose. For the rest of the day I felt reflective and relieved.
Why was I so moved by this encounter with the pharmacist? And why did it seem to have an immediate affect, a sort of relief from the feelings of despair that had shrouded my existence for the past 4 weeks and grew more suffocating with each passing day?
Depression is a strange phenomenon. If that’s what’s wrong with me in the first place. Whatever it is, it manifests in a type of loneliness that is so pervasive it seems as if I am constantly sinking into an abyss with no chance of ever escaping. It is as if darkness is a force and at the same time a location.
Imagine being pushed away from everyone towards yourself, and then folding in upon yourself so that everyone else and the rest of the world is nothing but a stifling cloud that keeps getting closer and closer, and you feel as if you must escape it. But the further you retreat the darker it becomes and the less air there is to breathe.
Now imagine all of this is happening but to the outside world you seem perfectly fine, with a perfect maybe even enviable life.
Maybe you have your dream job or healthy hair and flawless blemish free skin. Maybe you drive a luxury vehicle and live in an enviable zip code. Maybe to everyone else you dont have anything valid to complain about. First world problems, if even that.
When you wake up in the morning you feel lucky that nothing on your body hurts, but still, your mind is in flames.
This battle is not new to me. In fact my first foray into the depths of such despair came when I was merely 7 years old. But over the years the episodes have become more frequent and much more devastating.
It was after I had that encounter in the pharmacy however when the pharmacist phrased it, with no judgement, with no mocking as being ‘just a little bit sad’ that a weight of shame was lifted off me. No I wasn’t just a little bit sad, but him phrasing it like that was like a recognition of whatever it was that ailed me was real and nothing to be ashamed about and perhaps even something that could be managed. The same way when you are a little bit sad it’s not the end of the world. Maybe, I thought, whatever it is going on in my mind might also not be the end of the world, and it’s just a matter of identifying if and then figuring out how to deal with it.
The pills did something for a few months. It was like a volume button to turn down the tormenting voices in my head. But they are stil there, rendering me almost incapable of doing anything productive and certainly preventing me from doing anything creative.
When I think of how many quizzes I’ve done online and how many Wikipedia pages and Psychology Today articles I’ve read trying to diagnose myself, it’s laughable. Well, today I decided that enough is enough. Maybe in France is where I will find some real help. Some guidance. Some answers. I have an appointment in 2 days. I hope it will be a step in the right direction.