After much difficulty translating formal medical terms from Deutsch to English, I gathered that there was nothing much wrong with me. The stabbing pain in my abdomen was not appendicitis. The official diagnosis was “possible pregnancy.” I wasn’t pregnant. Or maybe the German doctors were right in their own way and I was forming Shiva The Great Destroyer inside my womb.
Back home I had a vivid dream that I birthed a miniature black stallion in my parent’s old bedroom. The stallion, fully matured, leapt from between my legs and, and like a cyclone, began tearing up the room in a frenzy. It kicked me squarely in the head with its perfectly crafted iron horseshoes. That was a clue, too.
The warning trumpets of utter disintegration sounded in earnest when the panic attacks arrived. Like any good American, I went to the doctor. “I’m so anxious I can’t eat,” I told him, staring at the nondescript wall instead of his eyes. Each word was measured with slow precision. I couldn't afford to let my voice crack. Cracks were dangerous, like the earthen ones that follow a bad drought. Eggs get them too—definitive cracks that, once made, are always followed by a unstoppable flow of amniotic fluid.
The grey doctor didn't meet my eyes either. He replied with some non sequitur anecdote about a daughter who was a lesbian and then, without any further ado, pulled a pen from his white lab coat pocket and wrote me two prescriptions: an addictive tranquilizer for panic “to be used sparingly” and a mild sedative for “everyday use.”
"Side effects?" I asked.
"Well, there is one side effect that some patients develop, but I’m not gonna tell you what it is. You know," he waved vaguely, "the whole placebo thing. Believe me, you’ll know it if you get it."
"Will this help me eat again?"
He paused as if he had just remembered the reason for my visit, “Mmm, it should. Come back in a month.”
And that was it.
I took the "everyday use" sedative for precisely two days. They say you’re not supposed to feel the effects of mood stabilizers for weeks, but I swear I could feel a sweet molasses stupor spreading through my body each time I swallowed a pill. It was probably some animal instinct that compelled me to bury the remaining pills in the back of my closet. Or it might have been the horror of the online prescription forums whose anxious members posted long strings of drug history in their comments like they were battle medallions on a jacket: Battle at Atarax, The Last Stand at Lexapro, Klonopin Massacre, Valium War II, and Operation Cymbalta.