Time doesn’t heal. Time is a hospital ward. Space is what heals. Healing begins as mysteriously as the depression. When depression is there it is total. There is space for nothing else. Healing begins with a crack….for me that crack was a Parma Violet pill called Wellbutrin
June 16th 2010, Wellbutrin Inauguration Day
I went to see Dr. Mishra. He was Indian, and even better, his practice was on Los Feliz Blvd, and I loved driving those long palm-lined East LA avenues. If I had written a character sketch of my perfect doctor and scripted the perfect consultation this would have been it. He was also very cute. Young, burnished, with a face both child-like and noble. He kept it simple. Was kind, precise and insightful. Most importantly, he trusted me. In all my lostness, my bump-into-the-furnitureness, my foot-in-mouthness, he trusted me to know what I needed. I would buy a boat and name it Dr. Sadhana Mishra.
He asked me some questions, treating the personal and the impersonal as one.
“How is your appetite?”
“Are you sleeping okay?”
“What was your last experience with loss?”
We didn’t talk very long, perhaps only 15 minutes. I remember saying that I was struggling to get through the day, that I couldn’t work, couldn’t concentrate or focus for more than a few minutes at a time. That I just needed some help to get back on track. He knew that I wasn’t telling him the half of it. He knew I had tried on my own. He knew I was ready to blow. Dr. Sadhana Mishra. A name that could stop wars. End famine. Raise the dead….
As he wrote the prescription (and the angels in my stomach were holding their breath) he casually asked if I’d considered seeing a therapist. I noted that he wasn’t suggesting it. Just putting the question. I said, no, not really, without feeling the need to explain why. “Well, it seems to me that you left, but you haven’t moved on.”
The words floated out of his mouth and painted themselves in gold filigree on the wall behind him. You left but you haven’t moved on.
“You’re going to have to figure out why, whether you do it with a therapist…” You left but you haven’t moved on… “…with your friends, on your own…” ..left but haven’t moved on…”I think you’re going to have to understand that somehow.” …haven’t moved on…
He wasn’t a mental health specialist. He was just a GP. But he had nailed it. He wrote the prescription and charged $60 for the visit. The receptionist checked with him about the price before she took my money. When we parted I couldn’t help telling him, “You’re very kind.” I would rescue a kitten and name it Dr. Sadhana Mishra.
An elderly woman in a creased plum-coloured hat was standing next to me, signing the register in a world slowed down to a fraction of the speed of this one. It struck me that she actually lived in a different time. She incrementally lifted a tissue out of its box and picked up a pen like a forensics expert trying not to disturb the fingerprints.
“I’m becoming a monk,” she said and winked at me. “Do you understand me?”
“What was that?” said the moon-faced Polish receptionist who hadn’t noticed her before.
“Monk. She’s talking about the TV show,” I replied, and the old woman smiled at me, eyes glinting from her decelerated world, then shuffled the ten or so feet to her seat, which I was the only one in the room to understand was to her a serious mile.
I went across the street to the Albertsons pharmacy to pick up the prescription. I didn’t even know what the doctor had prescribed me. I had to ask the pharmacist.
“Velbuu-trin”, she said in a thick Russian accent. “Are you sure zis prescreeption es right?”
“Yes, I’m going back to India. Three months with a three month repeat.
“I’m going to ‘ave to check on zat. Just a momont.”
She made a call.
I sat in the cold plastic chair next to that pharmacy like a queen at her coronation, the word ‘Vellbuu-trin’ an incantation circling my head.
It was a vote of faith in life itself sitting at that Albertsons pharmacy that afternoon. It wasn’t just the day I accepted that I’d survived. It was the day I decided to live.
“Okay, eet’s been approved.”
Russian was my favourite accent.
The check out clerk grinned as I ripped off the tab of the organic blueberry juice and swallowed my first pill.
“Thirsty were we?”
“Yeah.” I handed her a couple of bucks. “Very.”
Note: One study carried out by the University of Michigan concludes that of people suffering from depression. only about half solicit help of any kind from a priest or spiritual guide, friend or relative. Only about half of those find their way to a doctor who can address the medical aspect of their depression. Of those, only half actually receive treatment. Of the ones who get treatment, only half get effective treatment and only half of them get effective treatment for an appropriate length of time. I was one of the lucky ones.