A casual conversation at the park with a neighbor became enlightening when the subject turned to anti-depressants.
The park across the street boasts graffiti-covered playground equipment, a çay bahçe (tea garden), a fountain the size of a small pool, and a friendly dog named Buddy. Most Monday and Wednesday mornings you will find me nursing cups of black tea fountain-side while writing my book. I wear dark sunglasses. Avoid the nosy glances of neighbors who talk loudly in my direction. In the afternoons, my kids run around trying to score loot from the tea garden canteen.
A neighbor suffering from a recent divorce flags me down on one of the first warm days of May. She tells me she’s tried all sorts of things to deal with the pain (and the stigma) of being a Turkish divorcee, even praying evening mevlüt, but nothing’s worked until Prozac.
She’s less angry now, she tells me. Nothing bothers her. There’s beauty in her life, she says. Before, she never heard the birds sing. Now she hears them. Now she hears everything, she says.
I listen for the birds, too. I can hear them. I can also hear a car siren wailing and the fountain tinkling in the background. I don’t need Prozac to help me hear things. I wonder if Prozac would have the opposite affect on me – maybe I’d hear less traffic, deal with 2-yr-old temper tantrums better, wake up craving Caillou instead of coffee.
“Did you go to a psychiatrist?” I asked. “Are you seeing one regularly?”
Yes, she says, but she only went once. I tell her I’ve been really tired, cranky, low on the self-esteem pole. She tells me nothing except Prozac will help her out of a funk. Medication is the trick. It’ll work for me, too.
My neighbor goes inside the çay bahçe to buy some overpriced water. Or to talk to someone. I don’t know. I watch my daughter pet Buddy and think about my non-medicated life. When my neighbor comes back, she sits down with a plop.
“The woman inside. The one who sells the tea. She’s on Prozac, too.”
“She is? Does she go to the same doctor as you?”
“No, she just gets it from the pharmacy.”
“Without a prescription?”
“Without a prescription.”
Suddenly, I don’t hear the birds anymore. I’m stunned into silence. I realize I could go buy over-the-counter Prozac from the same people who sold me two positive pregnancy tests. I’ve bought migraine medicine without a prescription, but Prozac?
I ask her how long she plans on taking it.
Oh, only another three months, she says. Then I’ll stop. I’m not addicted, she assures me.
The temptation to buy it just-because-I-can is overwhelming. Sure, on most days I relate to this book more than I should. I’ve enlisted energy healers, spiritual consultants, and life coaches to help me on my path. I’ve been nearly-medicating for years. Rescue Remedy. Good Mood Elixirs. Whiskey lemonades. St. John’s Wort-infused herbal teas.
But I’ve never crossed that line. You know, the prescription-only line.
Only now I can. It might take the edge off, relax my knee-jerk defensiveness. Make me more tolerant of stuff I can’t tolerate. Smooth out the hyper-sensitivity. Ease off the fatigue. But it might also mess with the groove I’ve got going on. The one where I make things and write things and feel things.
When I look back at my neighbor, she’s staring at the sky.
I’m not angry at my daughter or my ex anymore, she says.
Something sinks inside me. I crave her feeling-less bliss. The look on her face that says everything’s all right. The one that says extremes could be a thing of the past. When I stand up to go back inside, my daughter screams for ice cream. It stops me, stuns me, like it always does. How can someone so small be so loud and demanding? We hover for a few seconds while my daughter tugs on my hand and threatens to fall into a heap on the ground. I contemplate joining her. Instead, I grab her hand, hike her up, and wave goodbye to my neighbor. At least for now, too much is just enough.