An exterior cold and plastic, a viscera of raging panic demanding that I succumb

As I sat on the edge of the bed trying to peer through my veil of imagined despair, my lovely wife, Millie, walked into the bedroom pensively, and asked, “How do you feel this morning?”  She is an early riser and I am not.  Millie is an amazing cook and loves the art, so a busy morning in the kitchen is her routine.  Her other morning routine is to check on me around 8:00 am, I rarely sleep later.  My response, “I’m ok”, was less than convincing, a dreadful dead pan answer with no conviction.  

“You’re in a bad place, then?”  

I responded, “Yes, I have the veil.”  Millie, having received the answer, knew the next 14 hours would go one of two ways:  the veil would lift around noon due to labored rationality or, an entire day and night of semi catatonic absence.  I could, on bad days, be no better than a mannequin with the ability to answer simple questions; an exterior cold and plastic, a viscera of raging panic demanding that I succumb.  

Millie, with true sadness and pity in her voice expressed recognition, “I’m sorry, Sweety”.  That’s all she could say and do.  As she returned to the kitchen, I said, speaking softly, “I have work to do today.”  Staring at my feet, a repeated thought cycled once again, ‘this won’t work much longer’.

We had errands to run.  Movement usually helped but in varying degrees.  Today, there was no relief as I got ready to head into town with Millie.  She drove while I sat silent staring out the window at everything and nothing.  In the mannequin’s irrational dimension, I was dying.

I had sat with my psychiatrist several weeks before.  After he learned of my diminished ability to cope, he upped my daily dose of Duloxetine from 90 mg to 120 mg and added a new drug, Buspirone at 10 mg daily.  I was already on a 2 mg dose of Alprazolam XR.  As he wrote the scripts I thought, with disgust, ‘more drugs more dosage’.  I do not like meds but fighting for existence superseded my principled stance on “a pill for every ill”.

Sitting on the bench in the pharmacy of our local superstore, waiting for scripts to be filled, surrounded by an abundance of cheaply made stuff that is emblematic of our enlightened culture, I thought, maybe, hopefully, the Buspirone will help.  The metal pharmacy bench was uncomfortable, I’m sure.  That reality was not noticed, however, the veil was drawn down and untamed bad thoughts spun through my head like a dust devil.   


The Veil

As a black hole feeds on light, consuming all logic and rationality

This morning, like all other mornings, as I moved from dreams of perpetual stress to the reality of awakened existence, I opened one eye and thought, where have I landed?  Is this a place of terror or a place of peace?  Will my brain chemistry empty a cauldron of doom into my consciousness or will I get a reprieve and see rationality.  

This morning was the cauldron.  My thoughts immediately began racing to an illness I knew I had, cancer.  I knew it, I could feel it.  I had lost a few pounds recently so, what else could it be?  It didn’t matter that my diet had changed dramatically or that I had been physically active more than usual.  No rational thought mattered even though, as far as I know, I do not have cancer.  

As I spiraled, familiar effects began to ooze through my senses.  The top of my head felt the pounding of my heart, I lost focus, not in sight but in perception.  Objects I could see lost their meaning as if staring at a painting with no means of interpretation.  All became diminished because my brain allowed only one thought.  I was dying.

This scenario was nothing new, it has played out over and over again throughout my adult life but worsening as I age.  Whether it be hypochondriasis, bad work scenarios or relationship issues; a segment of my brain’s nature is to focus on one bad thing, displace all else as a black hole feeds on light, consuming all logic and rationality.  This is the domain of my anxiety; mind bending irrationality; the veil.

With both eyes opened now, I knew I had only one choice; movement.  Movement made sense, it was rational, yet it seemed like a herculean task in my immediate universe.  I, a man who has raised two children, held both parents as they ventured into the next realm, and thrived as a corporate executive for 30 years, was now challenged with the mission of swinging my feet over the edge of the bed and onto the floor.  A mission as difficult as anything previous.   

My feet now resting on the carpet and my head cradled in my hands, I was all too familiar my day’s objective, an objective that has become my routine.  To push past the veil of despair and panic based upon nothing real, but seeming real.  That is, to poke a hole through a sheet of imagined ice while holding my breath.