I’ve been here before; it’s an old familiar corner, an imaginary coalition — The Sad Girls Club. It exists solely for the sads that sprout from nothing. Pounding hearts, jaws that clench, minds barren of rational thought and practicality, as one cries as hard as the shower water comes down and tries to get it together enough to shave an armpit (or two).
This exists in me and in the small veins in my temple, and the large veins in my opposite elbows, and it holds a weight that I imagine would crush the spirit of most humans. It is part of my being, a hysterical gift I was feathered with, for just existing. There isn’t a reason. There isn’t anything to fix. It just is.
Lexapro. A therapist pointed out to me that the only measure I had not taken to help myself was good ol’ prescription medication. For emotional coverage, she said. Klonopin. Insomnia enveloped me — over and over and over again I obsessed about him choosing her instead of me. Her instead of me. Her instead of me. Her instead of me. Again. And again. And again. Until the trash men came to retrieve the contents of the bins at the curbs in the early morning. Gabapentin. This is a better alternative, now that I was sleeping, now that I stopped being a sleepless zombie, now that I started being a placid one. This wouldn’t make me forgetful.
I had met a wall, one of cold cement that ransacked me of my breath and any sort of humor, too. I shook his hand. I sighed. I needed to decide. I could continue to cry every day in the bathroom at work, hogging one-third of the urination stations of the stalls for slightly too long, face pointed down so that drops fell onto the floor and onto my oxfords that were double knotted, instead of down my face (drops of tears, not drops of pee, that is.) Or I could swallow tiny white pills every morning before breakfast, without water because I never had any in my bedroom anyways. And so I chose the latter because everything else I had tried my entire life hadn’t destroyed my platinum membership to the the club yet.
Skin had begun to pool slightly under my chin, and I gently pinched it during first date questions and while riding public transportation with acquaintances. My thighs began to chafe when I walked in dresses without tights. And the dresses themselves became tight. The always zipped, transformed into the never zipped, and the favorites were ignored and exiled to the back of the closet. They didn’t fit the same.
I had stopped crying every day. I seemed so happy! Friends said. I was stable! They said. But really I was only half alive. I didn’t know when I was full because everything about me was numbed, including my appetite. I was suddenly the chill girl, twenty pounds heavier, and content to be celibate for the rest of my life. I had no motivation to date, or seek sex, because I didn’t care about anything. My stomach felt always empty, my vagina never hungry.
I wasn’t feeling a damn thing. So I kissed everyone I could think of, and some others just for good measure, and probably had more exposure to mononucleosis than most people do in their entire lives. I watched the Amy Winehouse documentary and my reaction was a shoulder shrug in the emotional demolishment department. Me, the woman that had previously displayed remarkable amounts of tears over fallen ice cream cones couldn’t display a visceral reaction to the portrayal of true tragedy.
I didn’t know what to write about, I didn’t know how to feel anything all the way through — the sad and the bad, the hard and the good, and the simple beauties. I wanted to be completely engaged in my life, with everything I was splayed out like lawn toys in late spring, not like a robot that dated men out of practicality and spooning necessities. I needed to experience those unspoken knowings between two people that were so anesthetized by what had steadily altered my brain chemistry.
“I want to stop taking it.” I told my doctor. “I think I miss crying.” I told her.
“Hmm.” She said.
I wanted my ups and downs. I wanted to fuck beautiful men without it feeling like a chore, like shoving half of a Powerbar into my mouth before a workout because I knew I should and not because my stomach rumbled. (I decided not to tell her that part, though, as you never know how a doctor will react to fucking and Powerbar analogies.)
“Hmm.” She said again.
(She made that noise often. It was a gesture of attempted understanding that originated far in the back of the throat.)
Emotional stability was nice while I had it, but I’m a creature that cries easily and often. I’m quick to anger, and so deeply empathetic that I’ll feel your hurt in my own chest, like a tripple splinter, as if it’s my own. Not everyone wants this, I realize, but it’s a significant part of my identity. It’s who I’ve been since first grade when I was so consumed with shyness all I could do to survive was observe the classroom and remain mute in floral clothing with crookedly cut bangs.
If you’re seen crying at work you’re weak. You’re crazy. You’re PMSing. You’re dramatic. You’re emotional. You’re too much, and not enough, simultaneously. Having feelings, and well, feeling them, is considered high maintenance as a twenty-something, high maintenance in the tech industry, and unacceptable in a society where generated terms like “emotional coverage” are a real thing.
I have to wonder if my lifestyle contributes to this unrest, this innovative, fast moving culture in San Francisco, a city where it is the norm for people to meet their spouses online, to order their dinners through an app, and even have their dirty laundry cleaned, folded and returned with a cookie. In this place there is less room for face to face human interaction, and more opportunities for eating a cookie alone with clean laundry.
Medication for anxiety certainly presented a more functional version of myself. When one is not stifled with depression that presses upon everything else, like a growing black balloon, you are much more efficient at doing your work. More keen to connect with others. Less keen to have tears in the bathroom. More keen to have sex. Less keen to shrug your shoulders at Amy Winehouse.
I was back at that concrete wall with a different perspective. This is who I am and I don’t need to change it. I only needed to accept it and probably make an addition to my online dating profile: “Hi, my name is Allyson and I cry at least six times a week.”
I decided I would tell men I was dating that I cried all the time. I cry almost every day. I told a few. Without shame. Without embarrassment. Matter-of-factly. One man picked me up and put me on his bedroom table (struggling slightly with my new sturdiness) and kissed me. Hard. “Really? He asked, “You must be really in touch with your emotions. Almost no one else can say that.” Then — more kissing. Another man’s eyes opened wide at the same moment his mouth opened, but without words coming from it. He seemed panicked. (And I never saw him again.)
Am I going to feel this same cry confidence the next time something terrible happens and I can’t get off the bathroom floor, and the pain is so intense, and I’m trapped in looping thoughts of forever and ever (and ever)? Probably not.
But right now I want the luxury of crying when I lick an ice cream cone and a $5 organic scoop of mint chip hits the pavement. I want a partner that thinks that is beautiful and adorable and that will get me another scoop (ASAP). I want to fall in love and never associate the word ambivalence with anyone lying next to me in bed. I want the black and white and confusing, sometimes debilitating gray that makes you feel alive and like you’re rushing down the street on a windy day.
p.s. What about the Rock & Roll? I’ve never liked it. That has remained consistent, medicated or not.