Malaise

It feels like I might combust.

The doctor wrote something down. Probably an assumptive paraphrase or diagnosis that would be out of context within a week; if not from the doctor’s inability to fully understand the note upon rereading, then surely from Taylor’s flighty emotional state. He’d felt this way for three days, the combustion bit, but this mood was just as new and temporary as all the others he’d been through.

He knew the drill by now.

He’d feel this way for a few days, then be perfectly fine. Then erratically move on to another wildly different sensation at an indeterminate time sparked by indeterminate circumstances.

Walk me through one of your normal fits.

Well they’re not exactly fits. Like I’m not epileptic. They change, though. These emotions.

Ok, walk me through a normal period of these emotional swings.

They’re all different.

Can you describe one of them?

Sure thing, you old fuckface.

Honestly, it’s like Baskin Robbins, you got your flavor of the month. But they don’t happen every month, so perhaps that’s a misleading analogy.

But it’s never anything I can prepare myself for, you know? One time I got so giddy I couldn’t stop wiggling my fingers out of excitement over the littlest things. Like feeling the buzz of a new message on my phone in my pocket. I was like that overly caffeinated barista at Starbucks or something.

And this other mood just made me pissed off at everything. I know some people say they feel that way on Mondays or whatever, but I was becoming enraged at things like the sound of my toilet flushing. And every time I’d have to go to the bathroom, I’d get more and more angry at the toilet. It’s a normal toilet. Hardly clogs actually. There’s no reason I needed to rip off the porcelain lid and shatter it against the floor of my bathroom.

Are you able to carry on with a normal life most of the time despite these incidents?

Well it’s been this way for years, so my normal life has consisted of adapting to these swings as they come. It’s hardest when my thoughts and reality become difficult to separate during some of the moods.

How do you mean?

I fucking hate when people structure the question that way. How do I mean..or what do I mean? Faggot.

Once I feel an episode of these sensations or emotions coming on, I forget what it’s like to have felt otherwise. I forget what it’s like to be in control of myself outside of how I’m feeling in that present moment — which can be a beautiful dream, a nightmare, or just a foreign sensation I didn’t know existed. It just depends on the emotion.

Truth was, Taylor had grown to live life with these swings, any which way they took him. How could you learn to overcome an emotion that had your outlook, your life, in its grasp? To play nice when you feel like shit only makes you feel worse; getting pissed off at how he felt during a hollow mood was to fight fire with fire.

Then there were the good times. The birthday buzz type days where Taylor felt like a special snowflake. And the really fucking good times. The feeling would creep on like a morphine drip. He could appreciate anything. Talk with anyone. And if they didn’t want to be talked to, his mood was unaltered and unphased by rejection. Fear had been scared out of his life by the unicorns fucking each other on the rainbows that arched over his lifted brow. He scored girls like it was his job. Everything was a big orgy.

How often do these occur?

Hmm?

In the course of a year, say, how often do these mood swings occur?

Over the course of a year, I’d say ten major ones. Give or take.

So there are major ones and minor ones?

The fuck did I just say you piece of shit.

Well, the major ones are what I’m noticing are a problem. Why I’m here. The ones where I look back at my moods or behavior and think, ‘That’s not me.’ The problem is, I don’t really realize it’s happening until after it’s passed. Like I said, in the heat of them, I feel every bit as passionate and involved and…alive with the sensation as ever. The minor ones aren’t worth mentioning because I think they’re just a part of everyday life — everyday emotional fluctuations. I don’t think they’re part of this bigger problem I’m having. I’m not liable to go breaking toilets because I had a shitty day, you know?

So what you’re experiencing right now — this explosive headache — is it affecting your mood or is it more a physical pain?

It’s both. The one thing these phases do have in common is they’re all symbiotic with how my body reacts. A lot of the time I’ll gain or lose weight based on where my mind’s at. Right now it feels like it’s physically expanding, and my thoughts and mood are growing more far-reaching. Like they want to push out beyond the skull that’s trapping them. Overall it’s really uncomfortable.

What do you do for a living?

Fuck your mother. She pays me handsomely.

Cook. I’m a chef at Trinda’s downtown.

And that’s going alright with this condition? These conditions?

I’ve always just kept my head down and hit the grindstone as hard as I can, regardless of how I’m feeling at the time. If there’s one place I can hide emotion well, it’s in the kitchen — so long as the food comes out alright. I sometimes hear people talking this ‘it’s made with love’ bullshit about their homemade cookies like it’s a legitimate ingredient. If that were true my food would be the best and worst thing people ever tasted, depending on the day. But it’s not every day, like I said. Most days are fine. Super sporadic.

Are you close with your family?

Just the type of bullshit question a shrink would love to know.

I suppose. Phone calls with mom and pops at least once a month. They’re divorced and I hate repeating myself twice to answer mundane questions, so I stagger my calls to each of them every couple weeks.

Is there a history of anything like this in your family that you’re aware of?

No. I mean, Mom’s a hippie. I think she’s happiest since the divorce, since it seems to match her free spirited nature. Quinoa salads, yoga and meditation, painting in the morning when the lighting’s best type shit.

And your father?

Dad’s the manly contractor. He used to put electrical tape over my gashes when I worked for him during summers as a teenager. He hits the bottle after a long day, which seems to be every day. They’re both pretty stable in their own ways, though.

Have you experienced any suicidal thoughts?

How to answer this cocksucker’s curveball question? Taylor noticed the gold name plate on the desk: DR. PHILLIP DeCECCO, M.D. with the e as the only letter awkwardly shunned into lower case. Wasn’t that a pasta brand? It was. Funny to think how readily people were willing to recognize that we were all somehow related ancestrally, but so quick to deny any affiliation with those who share our names. Then again, the last name bit wasn’t always an indication of being immediately related. Taylor smiled thinking of General Lee as an Asian commander during the Civil War. Sun Tzu’s American protege.

Is that a yes?

Taylor must have looked slightly crazier than he felt, to be smiling at such a question from Douchey McDoucherson. That’s what M.D. stood for. McDoucherson. He knew his answer wouldn’t help him. Then again, if the purpose of this visit was to get better, the crazier he seemed, the more help (or pills) he might get.

Yes.

Have you ever made plans to carry out suicide?

No. I don’t actively think about it like something I want. It’s more just a curiosity, you know? Like when you’re standing at the edge of a cliff or a building and your mind starts to wander to how easy it would be to fall and how in a matter of a few seconds you’d be gone from everything and everyone.

But you’d also change the entire future of not only your own life, but everyone around you. And I tend to think less about the people who know me, like family and friends, and more about the people that have never known me and never would. But somehow, they would be affected by my essence in some way. By my tearing the fabric.

What do you mean by this fabric?

Interconnectedness. Of people and places and actions.

Can you elaborate on that?

I think you get me but you’re just trying to get me to talk. Dickhead.

Umm…cause and effect on a human level I suppose.

What would be an example you can think of where you would be tearing the fabric?

I hate this.

Ok, so this morning I went to pick up some Advil for this headache. Obviously it didn’t do much or I wouldn’t be here trying to explain this Chernobylian fire drill going on in my head. On my way to the drugstore, there was a lady in her Prius driving so goddamn slow on this backroad I took. I thought about passing her in her smugmobile, but then remembered the speeding ticket I got two weeks ago and decided to wait it out — not worth the risk, you know? It was frustrating but I just tried to ignore my headache and how slow we were going and focus on the fact that I would still get there faster than if I was biking. I did, naturally, ride her ass so that if she had the common sense to check her rear view mirror every once in a while, she might see that she was going perhaps a tad too slow — “Ok ok! For heaven’s sake, what’s the big rush these days anyway!”

Then there was this squirrel. The indecisive type of squirrel you can see being weeded out by natural selection in realtime. The things can never make up their mind about which way to go when cars are coming at them. It’s like, big decision — should I run under the tires of this huge thing coming at me…or should I run away from it? It seems absurd. And I know some people say there’s no way for squirrels to so rapidly adapt to the behaviors and inventions of humans, but there’s seagulls living out here in Denver, you know? Just saying. Figure it out.

Anyway.

This squirrel looks like its going to head back to safety, but then with no explanation scrambles back onto the road towards what should have been certain death had Prius lady not slammed her brakes. This caused me to do the same, and since I was following her so closely I came within inches of ramming into her. Literally inches away.

I could see her eyes in her rear view mirror. She was looking over her hood for the critter, which eventually retreated back to the side it had come from. She still had no idea I was the responsive driver behind her with steaming rubber tires and a dumbstruck expression.

I didn’t honk at her. I was simply amazed at how bad of a driver she was and generally wished she would die. And that squirrel too. I hated it. I feel like it shouldn’t be important enough to have survived. That’s something everyone wishes at some point while driving, right? Why don’t you just go die?

Because I didn’t rear end her and ruin her ‘Coexist’ bumper sticker clad car, she’ll end up having a relaxingly unperturbed day. She saved a squirrel’s life with her attentive driving. Nice work, Karen. She might even go so far as to spend $4.50 on a Kombucha she spots as she’s casually strolling the grocery store, since her kids and the fitness blogs she reads have all been raving about the health benefits.

And once she tries it she’ll love its bubbly personality and guzzle it down. Even the gross phlegmy culture at the bottom, because that’s where the real nutrients are. Then she’ll text both daughters, since, you know, she’s hip and all — who have long since moved out to San Francisco and Eugene — to tell them it’s her new favorite thing. And her one daughter in Eugene will hear her phone vibrating against the plastic of her car’s dashboard console and take it out while she’s driving to respond and get honked at and cut off by another driver who sees her being that dumb bitch on her phone. But she’ll humbly realize her mistake and wait until she parks her aged Civic to text back ‘I told you! What flavor?’ and the daughter’s day will go on as normal while the Eugene driver shakes his head.

Since I was responsive and tolerant of Prius mom’s terrible driving earlier, the random driver in Eugene then had to deal with the daughter’s bad driving. So really me and this Eugene guy are now connected, in a way.

And to that effect, everyone is interlaced in the fabric by both the things we do and the things we don’t. By our existence or lack thereof.

Taylor realized he had been rubbing his chin the whole time while speaking. The dandruff from his beard was falling onto the front of his black work shirt, creating a starry galaxy of dead skin. He popped his shirt front to send the space particles flying to their next dimension.

What’s interesting about your example, Taylor, is that the same turn of events would have occurred if you weren’t driving behind her. The fabric, so to speak, might have a tear, but it wouldn’t be noticed. She still would have saved the squirrel, still would have been in a good mood, and still would’ve bought the Kombuchy and texted her daughter.

Kombucha.

Kombucha.

Right, but that would be an example where if I did throw myself off a cliff…not saying I want to, of course…but if I did, then the fabric would still be there, even with my small tear in it. And that’s kind of the trippy part about the whole thing. The rest of the blanket where my tear isn’t a factor, you know?

I think that’s why I think more about Eugene guy than my family in the whole dying situation. I know how it would affect my family — Mom would probably take up more groovy hippie shit to cope and Dad would hit the bottle harder. But there’s an infinite number of consequences it may or may not have on everyone else — without them even knowing of such influence. Or even lack of influence, like me with Prius mom.

I see. So why did you wait so long to come in for treatment?

Yikes, that bad, huh?

I didn’t mean it to be accusatory. Your philosophical inquisitiveness seems to me a good sign. Means the lights are on. I’m just wondering, for your lifestyle, if these fits…er, overwhelming emotional moments you describe are distracting at best and debilitating at worst, why now?

Because my head feels like it is expanding. My ears are popping as I’m talking right now because of it.

Right. I guess what I’m asking is if this is the worst one you’ve had yet.

Just give me pills, motherfucker.

Yes.

This was a lie. Taylor had had scores of depressive bouts, each as unique and indescribable as the next. One in particular was certainly worse than this. Yes his head was imploding, but he was still functional. It wasn’t always possible for him to drive. He had thought about this before coming in, how ridiculous it would look from an outsider’s perspective for having stalled so long to get help. If something’s wrong, or you feel ill, you go to a doctor. They teach that shit in Kindergarten. If you’ve been sick for years, you should have seen a doctor years ago. But if you’re sick only sometimes, and sometimes those sometimes are being ‘sick’ with an emotion that feels like an opium high, why complain? “Excuse me doc, I’m feeling a little too good…why yes, this is urgent.” So he lied to prevent further questioning on the subject.

Do you have any history of drug use to help with your symptoms?

Yeah…mostly weed and alcohol at the moment. Tried Salvia and went through some other dumb phases when I was a kid. I’ll still do Molly at the right show.

I meant with prescription drugs. Through a doctor.

Oh. No.

I’m going to prescribe you Depakote. Are you familiar with this medication?

No.

It should help with the inconsistencies of your emotional state.

And things for Taylor became fine. And he hardly experienced any further emotional instabilities or periods of rage or melancholy or love or care over little things that no longer mattered and probably shouldn’t have mattered in the first place anyway. And sometimes the words he used to describe emotions seemed more like something read out of a book; he could relate to them and picture them, but they weren’t as tangible to him. He could put that book down whenever he wanted. And when people asked him how he was, he’d simply say “good” and meant it. And things were fine.

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